The Project Gutenberg eBook of Two American Boys in the War Zone

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Two American Boys in the War Zone

Author: Levi Worthington Green

Release date: July 24, 2020 [eBook #62747]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Demian Katz, Craig Kirkwood, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at
(Images courtesy of the Digital Library@Villanova University



By Worthington Green




Boston and New York



Title page.




Publisher's icon.

The Riverside Press Cambridge



Published October 1915




In writing this story the author has been indebted, for suggestions of local color, to George Kennan’s illuminating article in the National Geographic Magazine, “An Island in the Sea of History,” to Stephen Graham’s fascinating book, A Vagabond in the Caucasus, and to Ruth Kedzie Wood’s excellent guide, The Tourist’s Russia.


I.The Journey to Russia1
II.The Arrest14
III.The Flight down the Volga26
IV.An Involuntary Contribution to the Russian Army39
V.Night Prowlers53
VI.A Desperate Encounter64
VII.A Lesghian Jail75
VIII.An Escape86
IX.A Chase101
X.In Hiding112
XI.Without Water125
XIII.Their First Game151
XIV.Lesghian Hospitality162
XV.A Blockade176
XVI.Snowed Under188
XVII.An Arctic Camp199
XVIII.From Midwinter to Midsummer211
XIX.Good-bye to Russia224
XX.A Great Disaster240
XXII.A Rescue270




After the Porter brothers, Sidney and Raymond, had escaped from Mexico in their flight from Mexican rebels, they proceeded as rapidly as possible to their El Paso home. There they found their father, who had succeeded, several weeks before, in reaching El Paso from Chihuahua.

Mrs. Porter declared that the boys should then remain at home, at least until they had ceased to be boys. She said that her nerves were not equal to another such strain as they had endured while the boys were in the wilds of Mexico, and that she would have no more wandering in dangerous foreign lands.

Her husband reminded her, however, that there seemed to be nothing in the boys’ recent adventure that would justify so[2] drastic a prohibition. The boys had successfully made a difficult journey without harm, and had proved that they were quite able to take care of themselves under unusual conditions of great danger, as he had all along maintained that they were.

There was no question, though, of their going back to the Mexican mine. The entire State of Chihuahua was so unsettled by the frequent changes of the revolution that even Mr. Porter admitted it would be the wildest folly to attempt to return there. So the boys entered the El Paso High School for the rest of that year and the next, and their father gradually reconciled himself to the idea of losing his entire Mexican investments.

It was difficult for Mr. Porter to settle down quietly at home, where he had no regular business, and, moreover, he possessed in a high degree the American mania for travel. The result was, that one year of inactivity was as much as he could endure, and as the second summer approached he began to long for a change of scene. Being cut off from his accustomed Mexican stamping ground, he was forced to look farther[3] afield. One day he read an account of the great Russian Fair at Nizhni-Novgorod and that reminded him that he had long wished to visit that wonderful mart. So he proposed that the entire family should make the trip. It would, he said, be a liberal education for the boys, and it was providential that the date of the Fair and their summer vacation exactly coincided.

Mrs. Porter was plunged in despair at the proposal, for to penetrate to the interior of Russia seemed to her like invading one of the wildest and most impossible countries on earth. In vain her husband assured her that Russian hotels were notoriously comfortable, and that, indeed, to attain comfort in every department of his living was the ideal of the Russian. To begin with, there was no more delightful course of ocean travel than that supplied by the steamers of the Russian-American line from New York to Libau. And to visit any of the peaceful countries of Europe was a very different matter, anyway, from a journey in strife-broken Mexico. Mr. Porter was obliged to admit that it would necessitate a long journey, but he was sure every part[4] of it would be so delightful that his wife would never regret having gone.

Mrs. Porter was not in the least convinced, but experience had taught her that when her husband once fixed his mind on a thing he seldom gave it up, so she proposed a compromise. She would make one of the party as far as New York, but would remain there with her sister, whom she had long wished to visit, until Mr. Porter and the boys returned in September.

The boys were clamorous that their mother should go with them, and reminded her of the Eastern silks and rugs which she would undoubtedly see, and might buy, at the Fair. They also made a great deal of the delightful long voyage, knowing their mother’s enjoyment of the water; but Mrs. Porter remained firm, and it was finally arranged as she had suggested.

In a very short time, really, though it seemed an age to the impatient boys, they were on the pier in New York ready to board the fine steamer Kursk for Libau, Russia. Mrs. Porter gave the boys final instructions about their clothes, and told them just where, in their trunk, she had[5] placed the box of sewing materials. The boys, besides being crack shots with the rifle and six-shooter, an accomplishment which they had found so valuable in their Mexican adventure, could replace missing buttons, sew up ripped seams, and even put on patches, if necessary.

“Oh,” said Raymond, “I wish we had brought our rifles, though I don’t suppose we should be allowed to use them anywhere. But, mother, if we should get switched off into mountains where we couldn’t send you word, you mustn’t be alarmed if you don’t hear from us for a long time.”

“If I thought anything of that sort would happen,” said his mother with a worried look, “I should refuse now to let you go.”

“Ray is talking wild, as usual,” said Mr. Porter. “We are going by rail direct from Libau to Nizhni-Novgorod, and then back by way of St. Petersburg. I imagine there will not be much chance for a wild mountain trip on that route.”

“I wish it were a mountain trip, though,” said Raymond.

“I guess we’ll have to travel in a civilized[6] way this time, Ray,” said his brother, “and I believe I shall enjoy it more.”

“I am sure,” said Mrs. Porter, “there will be no war, as there was in Mexico, so I don’t see how you can get into any trouble.”

“Of course we shall not get into any trouble, my dear,” replied her husband.

“I told father,” said Sidney, “that we ought to go through Germany, to give him a chance to use his German.”

Mr. Porter’s mother had been a native German, and she had insisted that her boy, during his childhood at home, should speak her tongue. Learning the language in that way he had never known any difference between it and English. He had not, however, been as wise as his mother, and had not taught it to his own boys.

“I should like to do that,” said Mr. Porter, “but it would take too long; you boys would not get back in time for school.”

“Which wouldn’t bother me any,” declared Raymond.

The last good-byes were finally said and the travelers stood on deck waving their handkerchiefs to Mrs. Porter on the fast-receding pier.


While the boys had been great travelers by land, they had never before made a long ocean voyage and the novel scenes and sensations were of constant interest to them. The greatest interest began, however, after the ship had traversed the English Channel and had passed through the Strait of Dover into the North Sea. There the ships which they encountered were numerous and made a pleasant variety after the broad expanse of the Atlantic.

On the eighth day after leaving New York they made the port of Rotterdam and the boys could give a day to quaint Dutch scenes. Then came the delightful voyage up the North Sea, around the north end of Denmark, through the narrow strait into the Baltic and to their destination, Libau, three days packed full of pleasure and charm.

With the Great Fair in prospect there was little in Libau to detain the travelers and at the earliest possible moment they were aboard a train for Nizhni-Novgorod with three days of what they feared would be tiresome travel ahead of them. But the boys found, to their delight, that in the[8] first-class coach they were given a compartment for three. As Raymond said,—

“It’s just like having a private car.”

“And we even have our own bedding,” said Sidney, “which makes it still more private.”

They had followed Baedeker’s instructions and had provided themselves with traveling-rugs and pillows, which is the wisest course to pursue on Russian railways.

However, even the charms of a private car may become tiresome, and all the party were glad when, on the afternoon of August 1, their train pulled into Nizhni-Novgorod. That city is situated along the right bank of the Volga River, and of its great tributary, the Oka. The most important part of the city is on the high bluff that borders the two rivers along that side, and the hotel which our travelers selected was on the bluff near the Kremlin.

Climbing the bluff in a cab they had tantalizing glimpses of the magnificent view, and the boys did not want to go into the hotel until they had seen more of it. Their father, however, suggested that they had better help him select rooms. When that[9] was accomplished and they were alone Mr. Porter said,—

“I asked you to stay, boys, because I want to arrange an important matter. I think I should make a better disposition of our money; it does not seem to me wise for me to carry it all.”

“I don’t want to be bothered with money, father,” expostulated Raymond.

“I think you ought to have a reasonable amount, though,” said his father. “You might want some badly when you were not with me.”

“I would rather have some,” said Sidney. “We should have been up a stump in Mexico, Ray, if we hadn’t been able to use Ramon’s money.”

“What I propose is this,” said Mr. Porter: “I will turn over two hundred dollars to you, Sidney, and one hundred dollars to Raymond. I will keep a couple of hundred myself and will place two hundred dollars in the trunk. I think I had better divide my express checks with you, Sidney, too, and I will place a portion of those in the trunk.”

“Now that’s fixed up, let’s hurry out,”[10] urged Raymond. “I want to see that view before dark.”

Mr. Porter insisted on dividing the money and checks first, but when that was done they went out to the Alexander Gardens, near by.

While there are high bluffs along the right banks of the Volga and the Oka, on the opposite side extend level plains. From the Gardens the travelers saw at their feet the two broad rivers, and on the peninsula formed by the junction of the two streams was situated the great temporary city of the Fair, connected with Nizhni-Novgorod by a bridge of pontoons, transitory, like the community it served.

Beyond the Volga stretched plains, farther than the eye could reach toward the Urals, hundreds of miles of cultivated fields and meadows.

“Gee!” exclaimed Raymond, “that looks like Russia, all right, without any limit.”

“It is evident that one must travel in Russia,” said his father, “to comprehend the size of the country.”

“Those plains look broader, somehow, than our own Western prairies,” said Sidney,[11] “but I guess it’s because we know they are bigger, for often we can’t see across ours.”

Near them stood a gentleman who was also regarding the view. He must have understood what had been said in English, though he turned to Mr. Porter and spoke in German.

“We Russians are used to vast expanses of country, and a view like this has a great charm for me. I have often wished that I might see the American plains; they must be wonderful.”

“The American plains, no less than the American mountains, are wonderful,” replied Mr. Porter in German. “But then, America is a wonderful country.”

“And the Americans are a wonderful people,” said the stranger. “They have accomplished marvels in an incredibly short time. Are many of them linguists like yourself?”

“I can hardly be called a linguist,” replied Mr. Porter. “I speak only German besides English. My mother was German.”

“Ah, your mother was German?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Porter, surprised at the rather significant tone of the stranger’s voice.


A policeman who stood a short distance away, approached in response to an almost imperceptible signal from the gentleman and placed himself at Mr. Porter’s side.

“Will you have the kindness to come with me?” said the gentleman; “there is some business that I wish to transact with you.”

“But, my dear sir,” said Mr. Porter, “why should I go with you, who are a stranger to me? I must beg you to excuse me.”

“I am sorry that I cannot accept an excuse,” said the other, very courteously; “it is absolutely necessary that you should go with me.”

Mr. Porter saw that he was probably being placed under arrest, and concluded it was for political reasons of some sort. Though he believed that any objection on his part would be futile, he determined to make an attempt to at least obtain information.

“I beg of you the favor of an explanation,” he said.

“I cannot give you an explanation,” replied the other, “and I must request you to come with me at once.”

“I have a passport issued from the office of the Secretary of State, at Washington.”


“That will be examined later.”

“May I not appeal to the American Consul, if there be one here?”

“The United States has no representative here.”

“Well, sir, I suppose at least my sons may go with me.”

“It is not desired to detain the young men,” replied the gentleman with considerable impatience. “You must come with me at once.” And he said something in Russian to the officer, who stepped up and placed a hand on Mr. Porter’s shoulder.

“Sidney,” said Mr. Porter as he was being led away, “I am arrested, but this man will not tell me why. I believe I can clear myself of any suspicion, but of course I can’t be sure. You boys go back to the hotel and I will try to send you word. Don’t follow me, it would not be allowed. Good-bye; keep a stiff upper lip.”



Sidney and Raymond, not understanding anything that was said, had listened in great suspense to the conversation between their father and the stranger. At first they had supposed the gentleman’s remarks were merely politely casual. They were made uneasy when he began to show impatience, and when the policeman stationed himself at their father’s side their wonder and fear grew. They recalled tales of arbitrary Russian political oppression, and imagined they were all about to be thrown into a dungeon. Their dismay was hardly allayed by their father’s brief explanation as he was hurried away, and there was only time for Sidney to call after him,—

“Don’t worry about us, father.”

When Mr. Porter had disappeared with the officer, and the man who was, apparently, the officer’s superior, the boys were left gazing at each other in consternation. The whole affair had occupied so little time[15] that they were dazed, and could hardly believe that it was reality and not a dream.

“Wouldn’t that jar you, Sid!” exclaimed Raymond finally. “What do you suppose they have arrested father for?”

“I can’t imagine,” replied Sidney. “It must be a mistake. I am sure he will be released right away.”

“I guess mother was right when she thought Russia was a dangerous country; here we’ve come straight from the ship without stopping anywhere, and couldn’t have done any mischief if we had wanted to, and yet father has been arrested before we have been here an hour.”

“Well,” said Sidney, “it will probably come out all right, and we will be laughing about it to-morrow. But we’d better go back to the hotel, so if father sends a message we shall be there to receive it, or maybe he will come himself.”

With that idea to encourage them, the boys hurried back to the hotel and went directly to their room. Mr. Porter had selected connecting rooms, and their one trunk was placed in the room which he had expected to occupy. When the boys entered[16] they found a man in uniform directing the removal of the trunk by two porters.

“Has my father sent for his trunk?” asked Sidney eagerly.

“Yes,” said the officer with an amused smile, and in English with a strong foreign accent, “he has sent for the trunk.”

“Did he send us any message?”

“No; he sent no message.”

Meantime the men had carried the trunk out into the corridor, and the boys followed in their eagerness to get news of their father. The officer turned and said sharply,—

“Do not follow. Remain here.”

The boys stopped with the sensation of having received a blow, and returned to their rooms feeling very forlorn. There everything looked cheerful and homelike. The windows were suffused with the soft light of late evening in a high latitude, and the prevailing aspect was so peaceful that they were more than ever inclined to think they were dreaming. When they looked about them, however, and saw the trunk was gone, the reality of the situation returned. When they had come from the train the[17] traveling-rugs and pillows had been thrown across a couch, and there they still lay, not having been noticed by the men who took the trunk. Mr. Porter’s handbag was gone, but a small one which Sidney had carried was on the dresser in the boys’ room. That bag and the rugs were all that remained of their belongings.

“I don’t believe father sent for his trunk,” said Raymond; “the authorities have simply seized it.”

“I’m afraid that is so,” replied Sidney; “but I can’t think of any reason unless there has been a mistake, and father has been taken for some one else. Let’s go down to the office; the man there speaks English, and we may learn something.”

Accordingly they descended to the office and found the English-speaking clerk.

“Do you know the officer who just went out with our trunk?” asked Sidney.

The clerk looked at him hesitatingly for a moment without replying; then after a cautious glance about the lobby, where there happened to be no one within hearing, he said,—

“You are not Germans, are you?”


“Of course not,” replied Sidney; “we are Americans.”

“But your father speaks German.”

“Yes, he does, but we don’t. His mother was German.”

“Ah!” and the man shook his head dubiously; “Germans will not be safe in Russia now.”

“But we are not Germans,” protested Sidney. “Anyhow, why should they not be safe here now?”

“On account of the war.”

“I didn’t know there was a war.”

“Germany declared war on Russia to-day.”

“That’s just what is the matter, Ray!” —and Sidney turned to his brother excitedly. “They think father is German because he speaks the language. But they must have known before that he speaks German, for that man who spoke to him in the park must have had everything arranged to arrest him.”

“Don’t you remember, Sid, that father replied in German to a man who asked him some question when we left the train?”

“Yes, I believe he did. I am greatly relieved,[19] Ray, for I am sure father can prove he is American. He will show his passport and that will settle it.”

“Your father’s passport is here in the safe,” said the clerk.

“Did the officer who arrested father see it?”

“Yes, he examined it before he followed your father to the park.”

“And yet they arrested him!” exclaimed Sidney.

“Many Germans,” said the clerk, “will be coming from America now, and some might come directly here as spies.”

“Do you mean they have taken my father for a spy?” And a vision of Major André of Revolutionary times rose before the horrified boy, whose face turned pale at the thought.

“I do not know,” said the clerk, looking with pity at the distressed boys; “but I would advise you to wait quietly and your father may return in the morning.”

That seemed to be good advice and the boys determined to follow it. It was then time for dinner and they tried to eat something, but with poor success. They were so[20] uneasy about their father that they could hardly think of anything else, and they had not yet begun to consider what they, themselves, should do. All thought of the Great Fair, which they had come so far to see, had entirely left their minds. Their trouble, however, did not prevent them from sleeping well, and when they went to bed they knew nothing more until long past daylight the next morning.

After such a night’s rest things did not appear so bad to the boys as they had seemed the day before, and they ate a hearty breakfast. Then they hunted up the English-speaking clerk again, for they had received no message from their father. That person could tell them nothing and they went out on the street. The evening before they had noticed nothing unusual in conditions, or if there had appeared to be great activity, they had supposed it was only the ordinary business of the city. With their knowledge that war had been declared, however, the boys plainly perceived an air of suppressed excitement everywhere. Automobiles raced through the streets, and the boys noticed that the cars always carried[21] men in uniform. Private automobiles seemed to have strangely disappeared, and the boys did not know that all such cars had been commandeered by the Government.

There were groups of people talking earnestly on the streets, but not a word that the boys heard could they understand, and they felt very much out of everything and very forlorn. In their far Southwestern home their ability to speak Spanish besides their native English had been all that they ever needed, but in Nizhni-Novgorod both English and Spanish seemed to be unknown. They felt finally that they could no longer endure the suspense of not knowing what was being done, and determined to return to the hotel and seek their English-speaking friend again.

“Has our father sent us any message?” asked Sidney when they had found the clerk.

“No,” replied the man; “we have heard nothing from him, and I think you young gentlemen ought to leave the city at once. If you stay much longer you may not be able to get out of the city at all.”

“How can we go,” cried Raymond, “and leave our father here in prison?”


“You cannot help him by remaining,” said the man; “and when he is released he will come here and will learn where you are gone.”

“I think that is right, Ray,” said Sidney; “and I am sure father would want us to get away where we shall be safe. We had better take the first train back to Libau and then sail for New York by the first ship. Mother must be feeling pretty anxious, for she probably knows a good deal more about the war than we do. When is there a train for Libau?” —and Sidney turned to the clerk.

“You cannot go to Libau; the Government has taken all trains to transport troops. You cannot go either west or north from here.”

“Then we can’t get away at all,” declared Raymond petulantly. “Why did you advise us to go?”

“You can go by boat down the Volga and across the mountains to the Black Sea. You would be almost sure to find either American or English ships there.”

“Would it be difficult to cross the mountains?” asked Sidney.

“Not very; there is an excellent road by[23] the Dariel Pass, the Georgia military road. I have been through there.”

“But how are we going to get away?” asked Sidney dolefully. “I have heard that one cannot move a step in Russia without a passport, and we can’t take my father’s passport, for he will need that when he is released.”

“No,” said the clerk; “we could not let you have this passport, which is made out in your father’s name, but I think I would be allowed to take it down to the boat and show it to the purser, who would probably be satisfied with that.”

“What should we do when we had to make a change, and would need to show a passport again?”

“There are steamers here that bring up petroleum from the Caspian ports of the Caucasus. Some of them carry passengers, and I think I can find a boat that will take you directly to Petrovsk where you would leave the Caspian to go across the mountains. By one of those boats you would not have to make a change, and showing your passport once would be all that was necessary. Those steamers are not so fine as the[24] regular passenger boats, but they are comfortable.”

“It seems pretty bad, Sid,” said Raymond, “for us to run away and leave father here in prison.”

“I know it does, Ray, but I believe he would want us to go. If we could help him by staying I shouldn’t think for a minute of going, but we should probably only be a burden to him after he gets out. If we reach home, perhaps we can help him more there.”

“I think you should go at once,” said the clerk; “we can’t tell what may happen before to-morrow. Already twenty of the waiters and porters have been taken from the hotel to serve in the army.”

“There is one thing, Ray,” said Sidney; “we must first cable mother in New York what we are going to do. I don’t believe we had better tell about father, though, except to say that he has been detained here.”

“I am sorry,” said the clerk, “but it is not allowed to send any private telegrams out of the country.”

“Could letters be sent out?”


“Oh no; I am sure the German fleet in the Baltic will intercept all mail.”

“The only thing we can do apparently,” said Raymond, “is to get out ourselves, if we can do that.”



The boys were not sure that they were really going to be allowed to leave Nizhni-Novgorod until the boat had actually started on its voyage down the river. Even then they feared that it might be stopped and they would be taken off and thrown into a Russian dungeon. When they found, however, that they were truly leaving the city where their father was held in some sort of mysterious restraint, his plight seemed more dreadful to them than it had before. The thought that they were deserting him when he might be in great danger made them so miserable that they almost determined to ask to be put ashore and then to make their way back to the hotel and stay quietly there until their father was released or they received a message from him.

“It makes me feel positively sick,” said Raymond, “when I think we are leaving father in an awful Russian prison.”


“It does me, too,” said Sidney, “and I’ve a good mind to go back.”

“I expect it would be pretty tough, though, Sid, to stay at the hotel, maybe for weeks, without hearing from father.”

“And then when he got out perhaps we shouldn’t be able to leave the city at all, and mother would think we were all killed.”

“That’s so,” said Raymond; “if we reach some place where we can telegraph, it will be a great relief to mother.”

“You know, Ray, when father was shut up in Chihuahua by the rebels he sent us a message to get home the best way we could, and said he could depend on us to take care of ourselves. I believe he would want us to do the same thing now.”

“I guess that’s right, Sid, and we are doing the best thing after all.”

When the matter was finally settled and the boys had decided that they were doing the right thing, they felt easier in their minds and were able to enjoy the strange sights on the boat. Their cabin, in the bow on the upper deck, was very comfortable, and with their soft rugs and pillows they[28] made up an excellent bed, for on Russian steamboats and trains bedding is not supplied without extra charge, so most travelers take their own.

While the boat was classed as a freight carrier there were really a great many passengers, and all were Russian, or people under Russian rule. Many of the latter were decidedly Eastern and gave a very Oriental atmosphere to the scene.

Down on the lower deck, squatting about on the floor playing various games, were many brown-clad Tatars, their brown garb extending even to the heavy brown cloth head-coverings. Less socially inclined were gaunt Kalmucks with shaven heads. All showed their Mongolian origin by their narrow, slant eyes. Of Mongolian origin also, but Russian in appearance, were several Mordvin families going back to their homes in Simbirsk and Samara. These people, as well as nearly all the Russians, were preparing their afternoon potation of tea, made from pressed tea bricks and hot water which they obtained from the waiters.

The current of the Volga is very slow and even, the fall being slight, and as the boat[29] stopped only at large towns, which on the river are widely separated, the boys on going to bed slept as soundly as they would have done in their own home.

On the right bank of the Volga there are usually bluffs, sometimes quite high hills, while much of the country on the left bank is low and flat. The boys spent the greater part of the next day lazily gazing out over the level fields, or inspecting the villages past which they steamed.

On the third day, August 5, they reached the large city of Kazan, where the boat stopped several hours to make a considerable change of cargo. The boys stationed themselves near the gangplank to watch the unloading, for the city is some five miles from the landing and they thought it too far away to visit. There was a great deal of animated talking between the men of the boat and the men on the wharf, and the boys wondered if the Russian roustabouts were always so vivacious. Presently one of the Russian sailors, whom they had not especially noticed, addressed them in excellent English.

“I suppose you young gentlemen don’t understand what these men are saying.”


“No,” said Sidney; “we don’t understand a word.”

“They are talking about the war; it’s going to be a big fight.”

“Then Germany and Austria will both fight Russia?”

“Yes, but Russia is backed up by England and France.”

“Has England joined in the war, too?”

“She joined yesterday; she and France are Russia’s allies, and they are bound to help her.”

At that moment the officer in charge of the unloading called out sharply and the sailor hurried along with his load. After the boat had left the wharf at Kazan, the boys took every opportunity to speak to the sailor, it was so pleasant to be able to talk English with some one. They asked information about the country through which they were passing, and about the strange people on the boat. The topic that would have interested them most was the war, but the sailor could tell them very little about that. The man, though a Russian, had served on English ships, and had been in many English and American ports, in that[31] way learning to speak English well. In the course of the voyage to Astrakhan the boys picked up many Russian words and phrases and soon began to feel that they were prepared to travel anywhere in the empire.

On August 8 the boat tied up to the wharf at Astrakhan, where the English-speaking sailor gathered the news and imparted to the boys the information that President Wilson had issued a proclamation of neutrality.

The boys soon began to notice that the people on the boat appeared greatly interested in them, though at first they had attracted little attention. After passing out on to the Caspian not only the captain but other officers of the boat talked with them through their friend the sailor, for it happened that none of the officers spoke English, as would not have been the case on a boat in the regular passenger service.

They told the circumstances of their trip very frankly to the captain, who assured them that they need not be alarmed about their father, for he would certainly be released, though he might be held some days. All Russian officials, the captain said, would be extremely busy in the mobilization of[32] the army, but he was sure that Mr. Porter would not only eventually be released, but would probably be helped back to America. The captain informed the boys that the Government had wired instructions to the chiefs of police in all towns where there was likely to be any foreign travel, that all English, French, and American travelers, but especially the latter, should be treated with the utmost consideration, and should be assisted whenever possible. Such a message had been received at Astrakhan.

Sidney asked why Americans should be treated with greater consideration than the citizens of other countries, and was told that it was because the United States was the only great nation that had remained neutral, and would probably continue to be neutral throughout the war.

The boys became quite excited at that information, and imagined that their father might even then be at liberty. Sidney declared that when they arrived at Petrovsk he would try to reach his father with a telegram, and if he succeeded they would return to Nizhni-Novgorod.

The captain dashed their hopes, however,[33] by telling them that all telegraph lines had been monopolized by the Government, and that it would be impossible to send a private message of any sort. He advised the boys to continue as they had planned, saying that they would probably reach home before their father. He said, moreover, that he could be of great help to them at Petrovsk.

When they arrived at that port, where the boys were to leave the boat, the captain went with them to the chief of police, taking the sailor along to assist in the conversation. He explained the state of affairs to the official, and though no instructions concerning foreigners had been received at Petrovsk, probably because that town was so insignificant a place, the chief of police was finally convinced that it would be his duty to help the boys to the extent of his power. The captain assured him that he had seen the order sent to Astrakhan, and he was certain the Petrovsk official would rue the day that he went contrary to the spirit of those instructions.

The boys had expected to proceed from Petrovsk by rail to Vladikavkaz, and then by wagon along the Georgia military road[34] through the Dariel Pass to Tiflis. They had been told there was a daily automobile stage through the pass, but feared that if they indulged in such luxury, they would not have money enough to reach home, so decided to choose the very much slower, but also very much cheaper, mode of travel.

When the captain learned, however, that mobilization of the army was being pushed so vigorously that the Dariel Pass would be filled constantly with moving troops, he feared that it would not be safe for the boys to attempt that route, and advised them to give it up. He said they would be almost certain to encounter acts of aggression by the soldiers, no matter how well disposed the officers might be. The chief informed them there was another possible way of crossing the mountains by trails that led almost directly south from Petrovsk. But the mountains through which those trails passed were extremely rugged and difficult, and the people who inhabited them were very rough and sometimes even fierce. That it would be, in short, a dangerous road, and he doubted if young boys who were strange to the country could accomplish a passage. When those[35] drawbacks were explained to the boys, however, they declared that they were too familiar with mountains to be scared by anything of the sort. Indeed, the mountain route looked very attractive to them, and they immediately chose it.

The captain thought if the boys were to pass through so wild a country that they should have something in the nature of a passport which they could show, and suggested that the chief of police should give them one. As a result, probably accelerated by a fee of five rubles offered at the captain’s suggestion, a paper was made out which stated that Sidney Porter and his brother Raymond were returning to their home in the United States on account of the war in which Russia was engaged, and that all officials of Russian towns through which they passed should help them on their way in obedience to an order received from Petrograd. Signed by the “Chief of Police of Petrovsk, Province of Daghestan.”

The sailor read this paper to the boys so they would know exactly what they were offering as a passport. When he came to the end Raymond exclaimed,—


“Where in the world is Petrograd? I never heard of that place before.”

The man could not inform him, for he had never heard of the place either; but when he asked the captain, it was explained that the Czar had just changed the name of St. Petersburg to Petrograd, on account of the German origin of the former name.

“Well, if they feel that way about everything German,” said Raymond, “I don’t wonder they arrested father, who could speak the German language.”

When that matter was arranged, the captain said that he must return to the boat. He accordingly bade good-bye to the boys and embraced them most affectionately. But he left the sailor with them until they should have purchased horses and whatever of an outfit they needed for their mountain journey. The boys learned from the sailor that the captain remained in port several hours longer than he would otherwise have done, solely to help them get started on their way.

With the assistance of their friend the boys purchased two young, spirited horses and high Tatar saddles. They also bought[37] heavy boots, horsehair cloaks, and saddlebags. Then they bade good-bye to the sailor with hearty thanks for his aid, and went to the inn to get a good rest in preparation for hard work the next day.

There was a very passable wagon road as far as the provincial capital, Timour Khan Shoura, and by getting an early start from Petrovsk the boys hoped to cover that first stage of their journey in one day. Accordingly, they made all final arrangements the night before so there might be no delay in the morning. Their traveling-rugs and the new horsehair cloaks they would tie behind the saddles, but the pillows which they had brought with them down the Volga they could not carry any farther. Those desirable accessories to a comfortable journey they accordingly presented to the chief of police, who had taken so active an interest in their welfare. The contents of their handbag they transferred to the saddle-pockets, and the bag itself they gave to the landlord of the inn, who also had been very attentive to their needs and comfort, as far as his limited resources would allow. The saddlebags were destined to hold also a limited supply[38] of food, consisting mainly of cheese and the hard bread of the country.

The boys were on the road in the morning quite as early as they had desired, and the new horses proved admirable under the saddle, though almost too ambitious, requiring constant watchfulness. The immediately surrounding country was barren and uninteresting, but in front the ground rose gradually until, in the dim distance, it culminated in the colossal wall of the Caucasus Range, which they must cross. The principal objects of interest were the people, chiefly Tatars, whom they met, or who passed them, dashing furiously ahead on their wiry horses of the Steppes.

The day wore on to late afternoon and the boys judged they were approaching Timour Khan Shoura, when there appeared a considerable cavalcade approaching them. There were a number of loose horses being driven by half a dozen soldiers under an officer, who gave a command on reaching the boys, and the soldiers drew up across the road, blocking the way.



“We’re going to be robbed by bandits, Sid!” exclaimed Raymond when he saw that they were about to be halted by the men in front of them.

“They can’t be bandits; they must be soldiers, for they’re in uniform.”

“I guess Russian soldiers would be as bad as bandits.”

The officer, who, the boys thought, must be a lieutenant, said something to them in Russian which of course they did not understand. Then he made a motion which seemed to indicate that he wanted them to dismount. “He is telling us to get off,” said Sidney. “I’m not going to get off,” declared Raymond. “Show him your passport.”

Sidney took out the passport and presented it to the officer, who received and read it. He then returned it with a polite bow and with a statement of which the boys understood only the words meaning “government”[40] and “army.” Still he motioned for the boys to get off their horses.

“We are Americans,” declared Sidney to the officer, “and are returning home. The Russian Government has ordered that all Americans be helped to leave the country.” The man replied in his own language, which was Greek to the boys, and they concluded that he did not understand them any better than they did him.

When the officer saw that the boys did not obey his request he gave an order to his own men, and one of the soldiers dismounted and took Sidney’s horse by the bit, motioning to the boy to get off.

“I tell you what, Ray,” said Sidney, “he’s going to seize our horses for the Government to use in the army. See, some of those loose horses have saddles, they’ve taken them away from somebody else.”

“He’s not going to have my horse.” And Raymond dug his heels into the horse and struck him with the end of the reins. The spirited animal leaped forward and dashed to one side of the road to pass the little group of mounted men and their herd of horses. The officer gave a sharp order and[41] the men whipped out their pistols. Sidney, when he saw the threatening movement, shouted to his brother,—

Stop, Ray! they’re going to shoot.”

Raymond either did not hear or did not care, for he struck his horse another blow and dashed past the obstructing group. Just as he reached the clear road beyond, the officer gave another sharp order and the soldiers fired a volley, all together.

Sidney turned sick and faint, expecting to see his brother fall from his horse pierced by half a dozen bullets. Instead, the boy pulled his horse up with a jerk and took off his hat, which he examined ruefully.

“They plugged my hat,”—and he exhibited a hole through the brim,—“but if I had my pistol here I’d show them better shooting than that.”

“What made you run, Ray?” Sidney remonstrated, who was trembling with fright; “I don’t see how you escaped being killed.” “Pshaw! these fellows couldn’t kill anybody. I’ll let them see how we shoot in Texas.”

Raymond jumped off his horse, and going up to one of the soldiers took hold of the[42] pistol which the man was still holding in his hand, at the same time asking him, of course in English, for the loan of it a few minutes. The soldier looked inquiringly at his officer, who made no comment, and the man yielded the gun.

“Gee! if it isn’t a Colt .38.” And the boy gazed longingly on the revolver. “That sure looks like home.”

He held back the hammer and ran the cylinder around two or three times in wistful admiration, then he picked up two small rocks and throwing them into the air he fired twice in quick succession, shattering both rocks while they were still high in air.

There were exclamations of wonder from the soldiers, and the officer said something which was apparently very complimentary.

“I’ve just got to have that gun, Sid,”—and Raymond handled the revolver lovingly,—“I’m going to see if I can’t buy it.”

He took twenty rubles from his purse and holding the gold out to the soldier, pointed to the revolver. The soldier looked covetously at the money, but the officer shook his head, and taking the revolver from Raymond he showed some letters cut in the barrel,[43] which evidently marked it as belonging to the Government.

“They wouldn’t dare to sell government property,” said Sidney, “and anyway we can’t spare money to buy guns.”

“I suppose we can’t, but I’m thinking we may wish we had some before we get through the mountains.”

Raymond turned around to his horse, which he had left standing when he dismounted to give his exhibition of shooting, and was surprised to find that one of the soldiers had the animal in charge and had led him over to the bunch.

“Well, they’ve got my horse, all right. I guess you’ll have to turn yours over too, Sid.”

“I suppose so, but it’s certainly a shame.”

Sidney dismounted and left his horse with the soldier, who still retained hold of the bridle. The officer gave an order and two of the men untied the rolls of blankets and cloaks from back of the saddles and laid them on the ground. They then emptied the saddlebags and placed the contents with the blankets, but did not remove the bags themselves. The officer then made out and[44] signed a paper which he gave to Sidney, and which the boys assumed was a receipt for the horses.

“You want to take good care of that paper, Sid,” said Raymond; “it will be a fine souvenir of the trip, and I expect that’s about all it will be good for.”

When that was done the soldiers sprang into their saddles, rounded up all of the loose horses, including the two which had so recently belonged to the boys, and galloped off, the officer giving a courteous salutation to the boys as they departed.

Sidney and Raymond stood in the road and looked after their vanishing steeds, then at the rolls of blankets which lay on the ground near them. For a few minutes neither spoke, then Raymond said,—“We’re stranded all right this time, Sid. This beats Lower California.”

“It certainly does, and look at that range we’ve got to cross.” And Sidney gazed doubtfully at the far Caucasus, whose northern heights were white even at that distance.

“I move we go back to Nizhni-Novgorod,” said Raymond, “and wait for father.”


“I don’t believe it would be wise to try that,” replied Sidney. “By the time we reached the Volga probably all of the boats would be taken over by the Government to carry troops; you remember the captain said that Russia would mobilize more than five million men. We might not even be able to reach Astrakhan. It seems to me the quicker we get into the mountains the better, for I imagine they will take soldiers out of those mountains only as a last resort.” “Well, it’s going to be dark pretty soon, and we’d better hustle for this town ahead; what’s its name?—Timmy Can Show you.”

Sidney laughed, “I’m sure I hope Timmy can show us, for we may, like the Missourian, need to be shown.”

“It’s simply fierce that we’ve got to tote these things.” And Raymond kicked the blankets vindictively. “And what are we going to do with the plunder that came out of the saddlebags?”

The saddlebags had not contained very much,—only the few things that Sidney had carried in his handbag when they arrived at Nizhni-Novgorod: a suit of pajamas for each of them, socks, handkerchiefs,[46] brush and comb, and their toothbrushes. Those few things, however, added to their blankets and cloaks, seemed to Raymond to be the culminating straw.

“We must hang on to those pajamas,” continued Raymond; “they’ll be great when we make our bed toilets on cold nights under the lee side of a rock.”

“I’ll tell you what they will be great for, Ray, and that is to put on under our other clothes when the weather does get cold.”

“Well, I suppose we’d better take them along,” said Raymond grudgingly; “and we may as well start.”

The small articles the boys crowded into their pockets, and each made a long roll of his blankets and cloak, and carried it over one shoulder, tying the ends together under the opposite arm. In that way the bundle rode well, with very little inconvenience to the traveler.

When their packs were arranged the boys started out, and passing through a small ravine, on emerging into a broader valley, they were cheered to observe the town which was the goal of their day’s journey. For the capital of a large province like Daghestan,[47] Timour Khan Shoura appeared very insignificant, and when they reached the inn, they found it to be primitive in the extreme.

Sidney presented their passport to the landlord, who seemed properly impressed, though it was plain that he could not read it. The news of their arrival must have been spread very promptly, for immediately there appeared men of all sorts and conditions, who apparently came solely to view the travelers. In this crowd was the chief of police, to whom the passport was turned over, and who seemed to consider it satisfactory. He read the paper aloud, and its effect on the assemblage was great. There was instantly a Babel of talk, and the boys were familiar enough with the sound of Russian to know that a large part of the conversation was in some other language.

The chief of police asked them a long string of questions of which they understood only an occasional word. Sidney assumed, however, that the official was asking who they were, where they came from, and where they were going, so he politely imparted that information, to Raymond’s great amusement.


“See how wise the old owl looks, Sid, and I’ll wager he doesn’t understand a word you say.”

“I hope he doesn’t understand a word you say. You ought to be careful, Ray; we may sometime run up against a man who does understand English.”

“I’d like to meet him now; his voice would sound good.”

The chief looked at the boys while they were talking, with a certain amount of suspicion, as though he thought they might be plotting something revolutionary, then he asked another question, of which Sidney caught the word for “horses.”

“He’s asking if we have no horses,” said Sidney, and he related how their horses had been taken, giving it all in English except the words “government,” “army,” and “horses,” of which he knew the Russian equivalents.

The chief appeared to grasp his meaning without any difficulty, and to be rather amused by it, for he made a remark to the surrounding men, who all laughed, and the talking began afresh.

“They think it’s a great joke,” growled[49] Raymond, “that our horses were stolen. Maybe they’ll lose some if they don’t look out.”

“I expect they have lost some already,” said Sidney, “and that is the reason they are so interested.”

“Don’t you suppose, Sid, that we can buy horses here?”

“I doubt it, and I don’t believe we had better buy more horses even if we can get them, for we should probably lose them in the same way.”

“But I don’t see how we are going to cross that range on foot, Sid. If we only had a pack-mule now,—old Tuerto, for instance,—we should get along fine.”

“What seems the worst to me,” said Sidney, “is the time it will take.”

“Yes, that will be bad; but I must say I don’t hanker after climbing those mountains on foot, even if we had all the time there is.”

“Well, I’ll ask about horses, if I can make them understand.”

Sidney took some gold out of his pocket and showed it to the chief, using the Russian word for “horses” and holding up two fingers.[50] The man shook his head and made a vigorous statement in which occurred the familiar Russian words for “government” and “army.”

“I guess he is saying that the Government has taken their horses too, but I did a foolish thing to show that money.”

“There are certainly some villainous faces in the crowd,” said Raymond. “I think we had better buy guns.”

“I don’t know but you are right, Ray. Suppose we buy one gun; I guess we can spare money for that.”

“We can better spare money for that than to lose all we have.”

“Then we’d better go out and find one now, before it gets dark.”

The streets of Timour Khan Shoura were so narrow and dark that the boys feared they had waited too long as it was. They found, however, to their great surprise, that the bazaars of the town were well stocked with excellent guns, though their pattern was somewhat Oriental. They did not know until afterward that many of the weapons were manufactured there.

After a short search they purchased a[51] five-shot, .38 caliber revolver with a silver-trimmed stock. The decorative part of the gun they would have been willing to omit in order to save expense, but they could find none simpler that satisfied Raymond. With the purchase of a box of cartridges, five of which went immediately into the cylinder of the new gun, Raymond said he felt more like himself.

When they returned to the inn the landlord indicated that supper was prepared, and after they had partaken of that they went to their room, which was on the second floor. Sidney had been made rather nervous when he thought about his mistake in showing money to the crowd of strangers, and his first care was to assure himself that the room was secure. He found to his relief that the window overlooked a clear space with no other building near. The door was very solid, but the lock appeared to be more ornamental than effective.

“I don’t think much of that lock, Ray,” he said, “and I don’t want to run the risk of a visit in the night from one of those men.”

“We can soon fix that.” And Raymond dragged up the only chair, a very heavy oak[52] one, and braced it under the door handle in such a way that the door could not be opened from without. They then swung the window back for air, as there seemed to be no possibility of danger from that quarter.

“I’m going to divide my money,” said Sidney, “and you had better do the same. We can’t tell what may happen on the road.” He knotted the greater part of the gold which he carried in a handkerchief and suspended it from his neck underneath all of his clothes.

“Now, if we are held up, unless we are stripped, the robbers will think the forty rubles I have left in my purse is all I have. It’s lucky father insisted on dividing his money with us. If he hadn’t we should not have any now to hide from robbers.”

“We shan’t be so likely to be held up,” said Raymond, “now I have this gun. I wish I had had a chance to show them the way I can use it. They would have greater respect for me.”



When the boys had disposed of their money, most of which they carried to bed with them, and had barricaded the door, they went to bed with a feeling of tolerable security. They were usually both very sound sleepers, but Sidney had worried so over his ill-advised exhibition of money that he slept very lightly that night, and was constantly rousing to a half-wakened state.

As he lay in an apprehensive half-slumber he dreamed that the captain of the river boat had come to call on them and was trying to open the door. But for some reason, which Sidney could not fathom, he could neither admit the caller nor call out to him to come in. Suddenly he wakened fully, and realized that there was some one really at the door.

He listened intently and could hear a movement outside, as though a person were cautiously manipulating the door handle.[54] He took hold of his brother’s arm and shook him gently. Raymond started up in bed as though he had been dreaming too, but Sidney put his hand over his brother’s mouth and said “Sh-sh.”

The boys held their breath and listened. After a few moments there was a slight grating sound and the fumbling ceased. Then the door strained against the chair, which, however, held without sliding on the floor. Whoever was attempting an entrance had, without doubt, succeeded in shooting back the bolt of the lock, and had then tried to push the door open, but had been balked by the chair.

After it was discovered that the door was blocked on the inside, no further noise was audible. Indeed, what noise there had been was so slight that it would not have roused the boys if Sidney had not been nearly awake and really expecting something of that sort.

They sat up in bed and listened breathlessly for what seemed a long time, then as they heard no sound, they lay quietly back on the pillows. They did not talk, for they did not want whoever might be lurking outside to know that they were awake.


The door was on Sidney’s side of the bed, and the window on Raymond’s. From the bed, as the boys looked out of the window, they looked directly against the sky, which was clear and brilliant with stars. The boys were too thoroughly aroused to go to sleep again, and lay there thinking about the possible future dangers of a journey that had begun so ominously, when they were conscious that the light from the window was darkened.

They turned their faces that way and saw the figure of a man outside the open window. At first they thought he had climbed up from below, but in a moment they saw that he was suspended by a thick rope from above, and had without doubt let himself down from the flat roof of the building.

A dark hand grasped the window sill and the intruder was evidently steadying himself for the entrance. Raymond seized his new revolver, which he had placed under his pillow, raised on his elbow, and, taking a quick aim, fired. The figure at the window disappeared, and there was a heavy thud.

“Oh, Ray!” whispered Sidney, “did you[56] shoot him? I’m afraid we’ll get into trouble for that.”

“No, I didn’t shoot him; I only cut his rope and let him down gently.”

“Did you aim for the rope?”

“Sure thing.”

Sidney lay back on the bed and shook with noiseless laughter. When he was able to speak he whispered again,—

“I hope it didn’t jar him much when he struck the ground. He must have been somewhat surprised.”

“I have just noticed a thing that has surprised me,” said Raymond.

“What is that?” asked his brother.

“You don’t see that rope at the window any more, do you?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, after I cut it in two, the rest of it was drawn up. There was somebody on the roof who let that fellow down. I believe the whole caboodle of them were in on this thing.”

“You did a good job, though, Ray, when you cut his rope. I imagine they will all be careful how they come within range of your gun again.”


“Yes, unless they think I tried to hit the man and couldn’t. Never mind, maybe I’ll fool them next time.”

The boys expected that some one would come to their room to inquire about the shooting, and they waited in some apprehension, but no one came. There was no more sleep for them, and they lay in bed wide awake. Presently the dawn flushed the sky and the light intensified until it was day. Then the boys got up and dressed, and by the time that process was concluded the muezzin’s call to prayers sounded from a near-by mosque. The faithful were putting up their petitions in preparation for the activities of the day. The boys descended from their room, and were greeted with most obsequious politeness by the landlord, who placed before them an appetizing breakfast.

“I wonder if his sleep was disturbed last night,” Said Raymond. “Isn’t he an innocent old sinner?”

“Perhaps he didn’t have anything to do with it,” suggested Sidney.

“Don’t you believe it. If he had been surprised by the commotion, he would have tried to find out what it was.”


“I guess maybe shooting, and perhaps shooting men, too, is so common here that no one notices it.”

“But we haven’t heard any shooting at all,” said Raymond, “except what I did.” “That’s so,” replied Sidney. “Perhaps they were so attracted by the possibilities of my purse that they forgot everything else.”

“They’ll have to make another try for that purse. I suppose that we’ll have to pack some grub now, and that’ll be no fun.” “I guess we’ll have to,” replied Sidney, “if it’s nothing more than bread and cheese. I don’t know whether we’ll find a village very often or not, and we must be prepared to camp out if necessary.”

After breakfast they went out to a bazaar and bought two small leather pouches, in which they placed a little food and the few small articles they had to carry. The pouches they slung over their shoulders with the blanket rolls above. Then they were ready to begin their tramp, and the undertaking, when it was close at hand, seemed so formidable that their courage almost failed them. It was necessary for Sidney to[59] bolster up their declining spirits by declaring again that they would probably not be able to return to Nizhni-Novgorod even if they should wish to do so. So they took the road, or rather the trail, for beyond Timour Kahn Shoura there was no wagon road, but only narrow saddle trails that led up into the high plateaux and ranges of the Caucasus.

That first day their way was through a succession of narrow, wooded ravines that were pleasant rather than difficult. The ascent was gradual and was not difficult at any time, and there was sufficient shade to temper the sun’s rays, which, in those southern valleys, would otherwise have been scorching.

The boys would have covered the ground more effectively if they had not been somewhat nervous as a result of the events of the preceding night. They fully expected that the men who had tried to enter their room at the inn would waylay them somewhere on the road that day. The country through which they passed was ideal for such an enterprise, for there was frequent and abundant shelter for an ambush. They were,[60] therefore, constantly on the qui vive, and examined rather carefully before passing every spot that seemed favorable for an attack from robbers. Such vigilance retarded their speed, and they had a feeling that they were making very little progress. The packs, too, though not really heavy, were burdensome, and toward night made the boys’ legs, which lately had not been used to tramping, drag distressingly.

“I guess those fellows at Timmy got scared last night after all,” remarked Raymond as the day waned and there had been no alarm.

“I hope so,” replied Sidney; “a long mountain tramp is bad enough without having to watch out all the time for highwaymen.”

“I don’t believe they would have come out so far as this, anyway. There were plenty of good places to hold us up back on the road. What do you say to making camp? I’m dead tired.”

“I’m ready to stop. If we don’t get too tired to-day we’ll travel better to-morrow.”

“Yes, and the day after, and the day after that, and so on ad infinitum. I guess it will take us ad infinitum to get through.”


“It won’t do for us to get discouraged at this stage of the game, Ray.”

“I’m not discouraged; I’m only ready to quit for the night, and here’s a good place.”

The travelers were following up a ravine through which a small stream flowed, a tributary of the larger stream on which Timour Khan Shoura was situated. At the point where Raymond proposed to stop, the wall of the ravine was a rocky bluff that rose nearly perpendicularly. A short spur jutted out, forming a small cove which faced up the ravine and made a well-sheltered spot. Across to the other side the distance was perhaps two hundred yards, and midway flowed the stream. About half a mile farther up, the walls of the ravine drew together until a narrow gorge was formed.

The boys unslung their blanket rolls and threw themselves down on the ground with exclamations of relief. The disturbance of the night before, with the nervous strain and consequent loss of sleep, was a greater tax on their strength than they had realized at the time. All day they had been keyed up by the expectation of trouble, which they had been braced to meet and defeat. When[62] the necessity for alertness, as they supposed, was removed, and the tension was relaxed, they settled down, feeling too languid to exert themselves further.

Raymond declared that he would rather loaf than eat, and he didn’t care if he never ate again if he only got well rested. That was the way they felt when they stopped, but a very little rest will suffice to make healthy boys conscious of gnawing hunger, especially when they have eaten very little through the day, as was the case with Sidney and Raymond.

Soon both of them began to feel a strong desire to explore the lunch-bags, but they remembered how dry that lunch was, and how difficult it would be to eat it without something to wash it down. Raymond proposed that they move down to the stream and eat their supper there where the water was handy, but Sidney told his brother to stay where he was and he would take a large cup with which they had provided themselves and bring water up.

Raymond lay at his ease on the ground, lazily watching Sidney as he went down to the stream and knelt to fill his cup and take[63] a drink before returning to camp. From the stream, Raymond allowed his gaze to wander on to the rugged mountains of the opposite side, and then up the ravine to the narrow gorge. There his look paused with a start, for he saw an object moving, which in a moment he identified as a man. The figure was coming down the ravine, just below the gorge. As Raymond looked, the man dropped to one knee and brought a long rifle up to a sight down the ravine.

Raymond wondered what the game could be that was the object of the hunter’s aim. The gun, apparently, pointed directly down the ravine, and the boy looked rapidly along to try to discover the animal. His gaze traveled down until it encountered his brother still stooping to fill the cup, and he had seen no game. Then, as his eye rested on Sidney, in a flash he realized that his brother was the game the hunter was stalking. His heart seemed to leap into his throat, where it nearly stifled him. Making a supreme effort he overcame the convulsion of terror and shouted,—

“Drop flat, Sid!”



When Raymond shouted, Sidney obeyed instantly without looking up, and fell flat on his face at the side of the stream. At the same instant there was a puff of smoke from the leveled gun, a report, and a ball whistled just above Sidney’s form.

The man up the ravine sprang to his feet and dropped the stock of his gun to the ground. Raymond saw that he was proceeding to load with powder and ball, and he shouted to Sidney again,—

“Come back, Sid, quick, he’s got a muzzle-loader.”

Sidney jumped up and raced for camp, reaching it before the man had finished loading his rifle. Raymond took out his pistol and prepared to shoot, but the distance to the man who had fired was so great that he decided to wait, and lowered his gun. As he did so he saw that the figure up the ravine was joined by another who came from out of the gorge.


“Sid,” he said to his brother without taking his eyes from the men, “they were waylaying us in the gorge. It’s lucky we were too tired to go on.”

“Yes, and it’s lucky you stayed here while I went for water, or that fellow would have potted me, sure. As it was, I think he didn’t miss me by more than a foot.”

“He certainly shoots well, and he has a good rifle. That was a long shot. I wish I had my rifle here; I don’t know what I shall be able to do with this revolver.”

The two bandits were in consultation together, and evidently were examining the cove that sheltered the boys. After a few moments of talking one of them crossed to the farther side of the ravine and walked down on that side, while the other came down on the same side where the boys were. They proceeded slowly and deliberately, but rather as though that were their customary mode of walking, for they made no attempt at concealment.

“They don’t appear to have much respect for us,” said Sidney; “if they had, they wouldn’t walk out in the open like that.”

“They think that shot of mine last night[66] was a miss,” said Raymond,—“that I tried to hit the man and couldn’t. I presume they know what kind of a gun I have, too, and think it’s no good. I wish I knew how far it will carry. It seems to me it ought to be good for two hundred yards.”

The cliff back of the boys was so nearly perpendicular that it would be impossible for any one to pass along its face, so they knew they need not fear an attack from above. They felt pretty sure, indeed, that there were only the two men who were in sight in the ravine, who had placed themselves in ambush for them in the narrow gorge, and had been disconcerted when the travelers stopped just before reaching them. They believed, if they could stand the bandits off until dark, that they would become discouraged and return to Timour Khan Shoura; though the deliberate way in which the first of the men had attempted to snipe Sidney did not look as though they would be easily discouraged.

The wall of the cove was rough and irregular. In one place a great rock stood out from the back in such a way as to afford protection from up the ravine. It was nearly on a[67] line with the jutting spur that formed the inclosure, so it was protected also from in front.

The boys made a hasty examination of their citadel and took refuge at one side of the big rock at the back. The two bandits were in plain view, coming leisurely down the ravine, one on each side. Each man carried a long gun. They were keeping a close watch of their quarry, and presently the one on the near side of the ravine paused and tested the distance with a shot. The bullet flattened itself against the rock of the lower side of the cove, about on a line with the boys’ heads.

“Gee! Sid,” exclaimed Raymond, “that’s good shooting. We’ll have to be careful how we get out of shelter.”

“I never saw anything so cold-blooded,” said Sidney. “They come down just as deliberately as though they were shooting rabbits.”

The man who had fired was still reloading his gun, and Raymond jumped out from behind the rock to a place where he was still protected by the jutting spur from the man across the ravine, and announced,—


“I’m going to fire at him before he finishes loading, but I’ll shoot into the ground about two thirds of the way out, so he’ll think my gun won’t carry any farther.”

Raymond fired and his bullet threw up the dirt far short of the advancing bandit. They imagined that they could see a smile of derision on the man’s face. At that moment the other man fired from across the ravine, and again the boys were shown that only a position behind the rocks would protect them from such expert shooting.

Steadily the two men came down the ravine, firing occasionally. As the boys were safe hidden behind the rocks, and could not be reached by a bullet from either direction, they concluded that the bandits were firing merely to prevent a sally on their part. Why they should do that, however, the boys could not understand, for it would have seemed to be better to encourage them to expose themselves; especially as there seemed to be no fear of the one small gun in the boys’ possession.

Every shot, apparently, was placed with precision, for every one entered on a line that was nearest to the boys’ shelter. Spat![69] spat! they came, first from one side and then from the other. Not very rapidly, for there was always necessarily a pause for reloading.

Steadily the bandits advanced, until they were less than two hundred yards from the cove. And they were still perfectly indifferent to any danger they might be in from Raymond’s gun. Such a steady, relentless advance began to fill the boys with panic. They felt as though an inexorable fate were closing in on them.

“I can’t stand this much longer, Sid.” And Raymond’s face was pale with the nervous strain. “I feel as though I were being killed by inches.”

“Do you think your pistol would reach them now?”

“I’m sure of it, but I am not sure that I have the nerve to stand out and shoot them.”

“I believe our only chance for salvation is to kill those men, Ray. I thought at first we might frighten them, but they’re not the kind to be frightened. I would be willing to take the responsibility of shooting them, but I can’t shoot so close as you can, and I might miss, and a miss would be the end of us.”


“I’m not afraid of missing,” said Raymond, “but it makes me sick to think of potting them like rats.”

Still the advance continued, with an occasional shot. By that time the men were so close that their features could be plainly distinguished, and the boys were surprised to see that the bandits were white as themselves. The mountain tribes of Central Daghestan, the Lesghians, are a conglomerate race. There are many tribes, of many different origins, and some of them have very fair skin.

“If I wait much longer I shan’t be able to shoot at all. I’m beginning to shake now. If only they weren’t white! It wouldn’t be half so bad if they were black. As soon as the man on this side shoots again I’m going to wing them.” And Raymond examined his revolver carefully, bringing the hammer back to full cock.

“Do you mean you will only disable them? Do you think that would be wise?” “No; I’ll shoot to kill.” And there was a look of fixed determination on Raymond’s face, which was whiter than before.

In a moment a bullet from the bandit on[71] their side spattered the rocks. Raymond stepped quickly out from the shelter with his revolver pointing over his right shoulder as he held it high before him. Bringing the gun forward into position with the lightning sureness of one accustomed to shooting a heavy pistol, the instant it reached a level before his eyes he fired, without appearing to take any aim. The man in the distance turned half around and pitched down to one side.

Not waiting to note the effect of his shot, Raymond stepped to the left, beyond the projecting spur of rock which formed the cove, bringing himself in range of the other bandit, who was raising his gun into position. The boy threw his revolver up and brought it down to a level with the same lightning precision, and fired. The man in front also fired, but a thought too late, and his bullet went wild. He dropped his gun and lunged forward, falling on his face.

Raymond had moved with absolute certainty and incredible quickness, but now that the dreadful business was concluded, his pistol hand fell nervelessly to his side and he leaned, trembling, against the wall of the cove.


“Don’t feel like that about it, Ray.” And Sidney placed his hand affectionately on his brother’s shoulder. “There was no other way, but I’m sorry you had to do it instead of me.”

“When we had fights with the Mexicans last winter there was always the excitement of a battle that made it seem inevitable, but this was so cold-blooded that it really got my nerve.”

“Shall we go out and look at those men?” asked Sidney. “They may be only stunned.” “You needn’t worry about that. I’m sure they’re dead, but I don’t think I want to see them. How about taking their guns, though?”

“I don’t think we ought to take anything that belonged to them; then when they are found, no one can accuse us of robbery.”

“I suppose you are right,” said Raymond, “but those guns might come in mighty handy.”

“I think we’d better get something to eat,” said Sidney, “then we’ll both feel better. You wait here and I’ll go down and bring up some water.”

When Sidney returned with the water,[73] Raymond had taken out the food and was waiting for his brother to join in the lunch.

“Gee! Sid,” he said, “think what has happened since you went after water the first time. I was scared stiff when I looked up the ravine and saw that man draw a bead on you. I thought at first he was shooting game of some kind, and I looked along the ravine to see if I could see what it was. Then when I saw you kneeling to get a drink, in a flash I knew it was you he was after.”

“It was a close call for me. And if you were not a dead sure shot we should be done up by now. You know Ramon used to boast that you were the best shot in Mexico, and I guess there aren’t many better anywhere.”

“Well, I shook so I was afraid I couldn’t do a thing. But just as soon as I stepped out to shoot I was perfectly steady, and then when it was all over I was weak as a cat.”

The boys had thought they were pretty tired when they stopped to make camp, and they had been under such a strain since that when relaxation came they were simply exhausted. They had barely energy sufficient to roll up in their blankets. Fortunately, the night was warm and it made little difference[74] whether they were really covered. Their minds were relieved of all anxiety of a possible attack, for they believed that the two men who were lying so still out in the ravine were the only ones whom they had had to fear. Consequently, they were no more than stretched out on the ground when both were sleeping profoundly.



It was broad day, though the sun had not climbed high enough to look down into the ravine, when the boys woke. Sidney was the first to rouse, and he lay quietly gazing up into the sky, which, from that position, looked like the bluest sea, with floating masses of fleecy wool. He reviewed the exciting events of the previous day and night, and wondered what might still be in store for them. He could not believe, however, that they would encounter again such bloodthirsty bandits as the two men who had attacked them. They had been given to understand that the mountaineers of the Caucasus, while often fierce and wild, were usually honorable and hospitable. Their first experience of the people of Daghestan had justified such a report, for the men with whom they had had dealings at Petrovsk had been attentive and considerate. Sidney thought that might possibly have been due[76] to the fact that those men were probably really Russian.

Presently Raymond woke, and with characteristic impetuosity jumped up the moment his eyes were open.

“Are you awake, Sid? I tell you I’m glad we are both here safe. It seems now as though that affair of yesterday couldn’t be true, but I suppose we’d find those fellows lying out there if we went to look.”

“I’m worrying a little, Ray, about the chance of our getting into trouble over that. If we should be arrested for killing those men, we don’t know a word of the language here, and it might be impossible for us to show that we did it in self-defense.”

“Why can’t these people speak a civilized language instead of such a barbaric jargon! If they only knew Spanish, now, that would do all right.”

“Yes, it would do all right for us,” said Sidney, laughing, “but it might not for the next travelers.”

“I don’t believe there are any next travelers here; we are the only ones.”

The boys ate a dry breakfast, slung their blanket rolls over their shoulders, and[77] took up their long tramp. Their way led past the first bandit who had fallen a victim to Raymond’s skill. The man, apparently, did not move after he fell. His hands still grasped a long-barreled, silver-trimmed rifle, and from a cord hung an ornately decorated dagger. His head was covered with a conical, black, lamb’s wool cap, and he was clothed in a coat which was so long that it reached nearly to his ankles. On either side of the front of his coat were fastened silver cartridge cases. The whole effect of the man’s equipment was that of comfortable affluence.

“I suppose,” said Sidney, as they regarded the prostrate form, “that if he had gone to the war with Germany he might have met the same fate.”

“He certainly would have made a fine soldier, but I guess he had a better business. Brigandage must be profitable.”

“I can’t help feeling uneasy, Ray,” said Sidney as they went on, “about what will happen when those men are found.”

“I’m not going to worry, Sid. As you said, there was nothing else we could do.”

The boys soon reached the gorge, where[78] the bandits had, probably, planned to waylay them. It was an ideal spot for such an enterprise. The opening was narrow, and the cliffs on either side were ragged and broken, affording the best possible place for concealment. The boys were quite sure if they had gone on the night before that they would not then be traveling.

A short distance above the entrance to the gorge they came upon two horses tied with ropes. The animals were fully accoutered, carrying bridles and saddles. They had evidently been tied there many hours, for they had restlessly tramped the ground within the length of their tethers, and they whinnied entreatingly when they saw the boys.

“Gee, Sid,” exclaimed Raymond when he saw the animals, “those horses must have belonged to the bandits, and they’re just the ticket for us.”

“It would never in this world do for us to take them, Ray. That would make it look as though we had killed the men for their horses.”

“You don’t mean you’re going to leave them here?”


“That’s exactly what I mean.”

“Why, that would be outrageous, Sid, when we need horses so badly, and we are sure the owners were those dead men.”

“Nothing under Heaven could make me touch those horses, Ray.”

“Well, I guess you’re right, Sid, you always are. But at any rate, we’ll give them some water, they must be awfully dry.”

“I would like to water them, Ray, but I think it wouldn’t be safe to do even that. I would rather leave them exactly as they are. It is almost certain that some one will pass soon and find them.”

“Gee, you are cautious, Sid. Well, if we’ve got to hoof it, we may as well keep going.” And Raymond rather grumpily continued the march.

The gorge proved to be a short one, and the boys soon came out into a valley, on the farther side of which, climbing up the mountain slope, they saw a village. They were uncertain whether to be pleased or apprehensive at the prospect of encountering people. If they could get into the high mountains before the bodies which they had left in the ravine were discovered, it might be[80] that they would not be followed and would not be caused any trouble by their successful effort to protect their own lives. On the other hand, they had very little food, and they were not sure that they would be able to replenish their supply after they had once really entered the mountains.

There seemed, however, to be no way of avoiding the town, if they had wished to do so. The trail led directly to it, and as the country rose abruptly beyond, they knew that the village, in all probability, must be at the foot of the only road that penetrated the range.

When they were halfway across the valley, two wild-looking horsemen emerged from the gorge and dashed past them.

“Those fellows act as though they were scared by what they saw in the ravine,” remarked Raymond as he watched the riders enter the village.

“More likely,” said Sidney, “they are hurrying to report what they found, and warn officers to take us.”

The boys followed slowly and reluctantly. They would have been very much happier if they could have skipped that first village,[81] for the more they reflected on the possibilities before them, the more uneasy they felt. They wondered if they had made a supreme effort to get out of Russia only to land in a mountain jail. And they thought, if that should be the outcome of their adventure, that their father would be infinitely better off in a civilized city like Nizhni-Novgorod, even if he had not yet recovered his liberty.

They entered the village and passed along the narrow, crooked street, looking for a bazaar where food might be purchased. They thought they would buy the very first eatables they saw, and then hurry out of town and on into the mountains. They were not, however, to be allowed to do that. They had proceeded but a short distance in their search for supplies when they were met by two men who were armed with the customary rifles and swords. The men, who somehow gave the impression of being officials, placed themselves one on each side of the boys, and taking hold of their arms hurried them along with a brief statement in a strange language that was plainly not Russian.

Sidney began a remonstrance and a request[82] to know why they were seized in that way, but their captors paid not the least attention to what he said. He wished to present his passport to one of the men, but they were forced along so precipitately that he could not get the paper out of his pocket. Indeed, they were nearly out of breath when they were pulled up before a small stone building, pushed through a doorway, and the door slammed and locked behind them.

It was so dark in the room where the boys were thrown, the only light coming through one small window, that at first they were unable to distinguish anything. Moreover, they were dazed by the sudden and violent change in their condition. Presently, however, as their eyes became accustomed to the dim light, they were able to see into what sort of quarters they had been thrust.

The room in which they found themselves was absolutely bare except that in one corner were three or four planks raised a little above the floor, evidently designed for a bed. At least the room was bare of furniture, but it was indescribably filthy, and the boys gradually became aware that the filth which littered the floor and the plank bed was[83] swarming with vermin. The boys gazed at each other, at first too stunned and shocked for expression, then indignation possessed Raymond.

“I suppose,” he said, “that we ought to have expected this. Russia is not civilized, anyway, and we are served right for visiting such a God-forsaken country.”

“But you must remember,” said Sidney, “that appearances are very much against us. They have no doubt found the bandits, and assume, quite reasonably, I must admit, that we killed them. I really don’t wonder that they arrested us.”

“Well, they might have done it in a civilized way.”

“That man must have been explaining why they arrested us, but we couldn’t understand him, which was not his fault.”

“For Heaven’s sake, Sid, are you excusing these ruffians?”

“No, but I am trying to imagine what I should think in their place.”

“You’ll be fully occupied in what you think of this place,” said Raymond with sarcastic emphasis. “Do you suppose they’ll keep us here to-night? If they do, we’ll[84] have to sleep standing. I don’t want to put my blankets down on that bed, if it is a bed.”

The boys still had their blankets slung over their shoulders. Rather strangely, as it seemed to them now that they had time to think it over, none of their belongings had been taken from them. Even Raymond’s revolver was still in his possession.

“It isn’t a very attractive bed, that’s a fact,” said Sidney.

“I’d like to get rid of my load, too.” And Raymond looked around to see if by any chance there was a spot that was passably clean. There was no comfort to be found in examining the floor, or the plank bed, and he turned his attention to the walls. The house was built of rough stone, and the walls were not finished in any way on the inside. But rough as the walls were, there was no projection on which anything might be laid or from which it might be suspended. The window, which was about two feet square and was some five feet above the floor, was set with iron bars, but contained no glass. Raymond examined that, and said to his brother:—

“We can hang our things to these bars,[85] Sid, if they are strong enough to hold anything, but they are nearly rusted through. Sid!” he continued in a tone of excitement, “I believe we can easily break these bars out.” And he grasped one to test it.

“Hold on, Ray,” cried his brother; “don’t touch them now. We couldn’t get out until after dark, and if they found we had broken a bar, they would put us somewhere else.”

“That’s so,” assented Raymond, “but I’m sure we can break them out. They’re not so smart, after all, with their filthy old jail.”

“I expect if we do get out,” said Sidney, “that we’ll have a tough time in finding our way out of this town in the dark. My vague recollection of the place is that the streets are a regular Chinese puzzle.”

“Well,” said Raymond, “we’ll be outside of this wretched place, anyway, and I’ll take my chances then on making a getaway.”

They proceeded to suspend their blanket rolls and knapsacks from the bars, and had no more than disposed of their packs in that way when the door was thrown open and an official with two attendants entered.



The official who entered the jail gave instructions to his two subordinates and they proceeded to search the boys, but Sidney stepped back and raised his hand in appeal.

“Wait,” he said, “I have a passport that will explain who we are.”

He took the paper out from his breast pocket and presented it to the official, who regarded it curiously, but immediately returned it with a short comment which the boys, of course, could not understand.

“I’ll bet he can’t read Russian,” said Raymond.

“That’s so,” said one of the men in broken English, “he not speak Russian, only Lesghian.”

“Hello!” exclaimed Raymond in surprise, “where did you learn English?”

“I live New York.”

“Why didn’t you stay there?”

“I come home.”


“Well, I’ll be jiggered! you leave New York to come back to such a place as this?”

“Yes, I leave New York; I come back home.”

“Do you read Russian?” asked Sidney.

“No, not read Russian.”

“Who is this officer?”

“He chief polis.”

“Tell him,” said Sidney, “that I have a passport which says that we are American citizens returning to America, and that all Russian officials are commanded by the Government to help us.”

The man had a short conference with his superior and then turned to Sidney.

“He says you kill two men.”

“But they attacked us,” said Sidney; “we only defended ourselves. We did not take anything that belonged to them. We left their guns and horses and everything. Tell him that.”

There was another conference and the man turned again to Sidney.

“He says you have trial, maybe next week.”

“Holy smoke!” exclaimed Raymond in[88] horror, “they wouldn’t keep us in this filthy place till next week?”

“Maybe next week, maybe longer.”

The chief had waited patiently, smiling blandly, but he apparently thought the conversation had lasted long enough, for he gave a command to his deputies, and the man repeated:—

“He says we search you now.”

The task they had before them must have been an unaccustomed one, for they were particularly awkward about it, and not at all thorough. The boys’ purses they found at once, and the chief himself took immediate charge of them, but Raymond’s revolver was the only other article which they seemed to think it worth while to remove. The money which the boys carried concealed beneath their clothes was not discovered, and the only attention they gave to the blankets was to make joking remarks and laugh when the rolls were noticed hanging from the window bars. The boys could imagine that the men were commenting on the comfortable night they would pass if they attempted to sleep on their suspended beds. When the search was concluded, the chief[89] and his assistants left the room without further word.

“I wish I’d used my revolver before they took it,” said Raymond as the door closed and the bolt slid into place. “I could easily have shot all three.”

“And that would have been a specially foolish thing to do,” said Sidney.

“Well, it would have been specially satisfactory, if it was foolish.”

“I’m glad, though,” said Sidney, “that we didn’t take any such desperate step as that. It is much better to wait till night and see if we can’t get out through the window, as I believe we can.”

“Those fellows are so stupid,” said Raymond, “that I don’t believe they would know enough to stop us if they saw us climbing out of the window. Think of their not finding the rest of our money! It’s lucky for us they didn’t.”

The day wore on past noon, and the boys took a lunch from their knapsacks. Though the lunch was extremely simple, consisting mainly of dry bread, they were able to occupy considerable time in disposing of it, for very careful mastication was necessary[90] in order to swallow the food without water, of which there was none. Aside from that diversion there was nothing whatever for them to do while they waited the arrival of night.

The window looked out against a blank wall, only a few feet away, and gave them no view of the village. The door was so extremely thick that it allowed no sound to penetrate. Though it opened on the street, the boys could distinguish no noise of passing feet, and what appeared strange to them was that the only noise they heard seemed to come from the roof.

When the boys were put into the jail in the morning, the whole affair of their arrest and imprisonment had been so hasty and so bewildering that they had not taken note of the fact that the jail was situated against the mountain-side. Above the jail other buildings ran up the steep slope, and the roofs of the lower lines of buildings formed front yards for the next line of buildings above, and so on to the top. So the roof of the jail no doubt was occupied, possibly as a stable for the horse that belonged to the family above. On that plan are built many of[91] the mountain villages of Daghestan, very like the villages of our own Pueblo Indians.

Toward night the English-speaking policeman opened the door and brought in water and black bread, closing the door after him. The drink, though in a repulsive-looking receptacle, was most welcome to the boys.

“You like it here?” asked the man, with a twinkle in his eyes.

“No, it’s filthy,” replied Raymond.

“Yes, pretty dirty, not like New York jail.”

“Do you know a New York jail?”

“Yes, I know New York jail.”

“What is your name?” asked Sidney.

“Aleskandir,” replied the man.

“Is there another village near here?”

“No, long way next village.”

“Then,” said Sidney, “I guess we’ll have to go back to Timour Khan Shoura.”

“You want me let you out?” asked the man. “You give me twenty rubles, I let you out after dark.”

“How can I give you twenty rubles?” asked Sidney. “You took our money away, the chief of police has it.”

“I think you got more money,” said the[92] man with a cunning look. “You have lump under clothes.” And he tapped his breast significantly.

The boys were very much startled by the revelation that the policeman knew they had more money. Raymond, though excited by the prospect of an easy release, fortunately had presence of mind to remain quiet and leave the matter in Sidney’s hands, realizing that one could manage it better than two.

Sidney could not be sure that the man before them was the only one who knew that all of their money had not been taken away. It was possible that the chief of police was just as well informed, and there was a prearranged plan to get the boys to try to escape. Perhaps, Sidney thought, there was a custom among the Lesghians similar to the Mexican “Ley de fuga,” in plain English, law of flight, which encouraged a prisoner to escape and then shot him in the act. Possibly any money taken from a prisoner who was killed in that way would not be reported by the chief of police, and that would be an inducement for the official to encourage such attempted escapes.


Sidney ran the matter over in his mind so rapidly that only a few moments were consumed while the man was waiting an answer to his proposal. But he did not dare trust the fellow, for he realized that if they were once outside the jail there would be nothing to prevent the man from taking whatever money they had, perhaps putting them out of the way to accomplish it. So he determined to deny that he had any money left, and said accordingly,—

“I have no money to pay you.”

“You be sorry,” said the man with an ugly look. “You get shot.”

“What do you mean?” asked Sidney.

“You kill two men, you both get shot.” And he opened the door and went out, locking it behind him.

“What made you do that, Sid?” asked Raymond when they were alone. “Why didn’t you give him the bribe he wanted?”

“I don’t think he’s to be trusted.”

“But he is sure we have the money.”

“Yes, he is, and that’s just the trouble. If he once got us out of here he would probably kill us and take it all.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter so much after[94] all,” said Raymond, “for I’m sure we can get out through the window.”

“Yes,” suggested Sidney, “if that fellow isn’t waiting outside to receive us. He may know the window bars are rotten and thinks we’ll try that way.”

“We’ll give him a run for his money, anyway. If I only had that revolver I’d give him something besides a run. I hate to start up through the mountains without any gun, Sid. Did you notice if that man had one?”

“Yes, he had a long revolver in his belt, I should think a .38.”

“I almost wish he’d be waiting outside, then, and I’d make a try for it. Those boneheads didn’t take our cartridges, so all we lack is a gun.”

The boys were very much amused by the inefficient search the policemen had conducted. Their knapsacks hung with the blanket rolls from the window bars in plain view, but had not been examined at all. The sacks contained, besides a few small articles of clothing and a little food, all of Raymond’s ammunition. If they could only obtain a gun of the same caliber, they would[95] still be well fortified. Sidney admonished his brother, however, to take no rash chances, at any time, in an attempt to procure arms.

The black bread which the policeman had brought to them was not at all inviting in its appearance,—indeed it was fairly repulsive,—but they decided to keep it, for if they were to succeed in escaping from the town in the night, they would, of course, have no chance to buy food. So the bread was stowed away in the knapsacks with the small supply already there.

The boys, while it was still light, carefully inspected the window bars so that they would know just what to do in the dark. They did not place their hands on them, for they did not wish anybody who might be watching outside to observe that the bars were being examined. They found that the rains which had rusted the bars had, of course, run downward, so that the irons, while nearly rusted through at the lower ends, were still very solid at the top. They believed that they would be able to break the bars loose at the bottom, and then to bend them up, in that way making an opening of sufficient size to admit their bodies.


After their plan of action was arranged, the boys waited, with as much patience as possible, for the closing-down of night. They could not plan beyond climbing out of the window, for their further action would depend on whether there were any persons abroad in the streets. They hoped that the sky would be clear, so that they would be able to locate the mountains, and not make a mistake in direction.

Finally it became dark, and very dark it was, indeed, inside the jail. But they waited what seemed to them a long time after that, to make it probable that all stragglers would have returned home. When they were sure that night was well advanced, they began operations on the window bars, tentatively at first, to see what resistance they would be obliged to overcome.

“Let me hang all this plunder over your shoulders, Ray, so as to get it out of the way. I don’t want to put it on the dirty floor.” And Sidney suited the action to the word and disposed of the blanket rolls and knapsacks by turning his brother into a pack-animal.

Then he selected the bar which seemed[97] to be thinnest at the lower end, and began to give it quick, sharp jerks, first one way and then the other. At first that assault made very little impression, then the bar began to yield a trifle. Suddenly, with almost no warning, when Sidney gave an especially strenuous pull, the iron snapped in two at the bottom, the upper end dropped out of the hole where it had rested in the masonwork, and the bar fell clattering to the floor.

The boys stood rigid with their hearts in their throats. The noise had echoed back from the walls of the empty room until they were sure it must have roused the whole town. They waited, hardly daring to breath, listening for the sound of running feet, and then for the opening of the door and the entrance of guards. Why hadn’t he bribed that man to let them out! Sidney thought, bitterly. That would have been a chance, at least, and after such an alarm, of course, there would be no chance at all.

Outside, however, the silence was not broken, but continued as profound as before. The occasional barking of a dog only served to emphasize the lack of other sound.[98] As the boys waited in tense suspense, they could hardly credit their ears which told them that the terrific clatter of the falling bar had roused no corresponding commotion outside. After they had stood absolutely quiet so long that the impulse to shout was almost uncontrollable, they were convinced that no harm had been done, and Raymond whispered to his brother,—

“This must be where the Seven Sleepers live, Sid. We’ll get away all right and don’t you forget it.”

“The sounder they sleep the better,” replied Sidney.

With the loose iron to use as a lever the other two window bars were quickly broken at the bottom and bent up, for they did not come loose at the top as the first one had done. Then the boys arranged their plans carefully so that there might be no slip.

“We’ll each sling a knapsack on,” said Sidney. “We can get out with them on all right, and that will be the best way to carry them. Then I’ll climb out and you pass me the beds and come yourself.”

That was easily accomplished; Sidney climbed out without mishap, and received[99] the blanket rolls which Raymond passed him. Then Raymond prepared to follow. The window was large enough so that he climbed up into it, and drawing his legs up turned around and proceeded to drop down on the outside, feet first. But when he let himself down on the outside of the wall, his trousers caught on the stub of one of the bars that had broken just above the window sill. For a moment he was suspended in the air, then the cloth gave way with a rip and he fell with a thud in a heap on the ground.

Sidney stood waiting for his brother with the blanket rolls in his hands. Though it was very dark, it had been so much darker inside the building that he could distinguish objects very well. He saw that they were in a sort of an alley, only a few feet wide, between the jail and the next building. Toward the front of the jail it opened out into a wider space which Sidney knew must be a street. The other way it melted into indistinguishable blackness.

“Oh, Ray!” exclaimed Sidney when his brother came tumbling down, “I guess we’ll wake the Seven Sleepers after all.”

As Raymond was gathering himself up[100] from the ground a man dashed around the front of the jail toward them.

“Come this way, Ray, I’ve got all the plunder, we can get away from him,” cried Sidney, and he ran in the opposite direction, followed by his brother.



The boys ran up the alley, Sidney leading with both the blanket rolls, and Raymond following a short distance behind. Close after them came the man who had rushed around the corner of the jail, and who was evidently doing his best to overtake them.

The boys found that the alley climbed up a steep slope, and they stumbled up the ascent with breathless haste. The man who pursued them was shorter, older, and less agile, so, although he was carrying nothing, and Sidney, at least, was well loaded, the boys managed to keep ahead. Raymond, however, stepped on a loose stone and floundered along, barely saving himself, with his hands on the rising ground, from a complete fall. He felt, rather than saw, that their pursuer was close upon him. He made up his mind that if it came to a grapple he would call out to Sidney for help, and run the risk of bringing others whom they would not[102] want. But with a supreme effort he recovered his balance in time to save himself from the grasp of the man behind.

Up, up, they struggled until their pounding hearts and panting lungs nearly suffocated them. The walls continued along the sides with no change that was perceptible in the darkness, and the boys wondered on what plan the village could be constructed.

At last Sidney came to the end of the alley and found there was an opening, a similar narrow passageway, to the left. Around that corner the alley extended on a level, and having made the turn, Sidney’s road was much easier. He soon came to a blind wall across the passage, and groping along its face, in the corner between that wall and the wall of the alley, he felt a ladder.

Sidney hesitated for a moment, wondering where the ladder could lead, but as he could find no opening in the wall, and as he could not well turn back, he went up it. After climbing eight or ten feet he stepped over the top of the ladder to a level surface that was apparently a dozen feet or so wide. At the left there seemed to be only space, but on the right rose a wall in which dimly[103] showed an opening. He stood and listened. From down in the alley came the noise of Raymond and his pursuer running. Then for a moment there was a pause in the sound, followed by a heavy thud, and in another moment the sound of a blow.

Sidney strained his eyes to see into the gloom below, to discover, if possible, what was happening there. Failing in that he threw his blankets down on the ground and grasped the ladder to descend, fearing that harm had come to his brother. As he did so, one person instead of two came running along the darkness below, and the figure blundered into the wall at the end.

“Is that you, Ray?” Sidney whispered.

“Yes,” was the reply from below.

“There is a ladder, a little to your left,” he directed.

When Raymond had reached the angle of the alley, the man behind was so close that he believed he would be overtaken, especially as his breath, from the violent running uphill, was becoming very short. So he decided to resort to a trick. After running for a few feet along the level floor of the alley beyond the turn, he dropped to one knee[104] and turned to face his pursuer, crouching closely to the ground. The fellow came on at full tilt and Raymond grasped him by one leg and rose with his burden. The impetus the man had acquired in running sent him hurtling through the air and he crashed, head first, against the wall. Stunned by the blow, he fell in a huddled heap.

Instead of running on after Sidney, as Raymond’s first impulse had been when his pursuer was placed hors de combat, with a sudden thought he stopped to examine his fallen antagonist. Something in the aspect of the man as he was flying over Raymond’s head had seemed familiar. He turned the form over to bring the face upward and, stooping, peered closely. It was just as he had suddenly suspected, the man was the English-speaking policeman. That meant that he probably had a revolver stuck in his belt, and Raymond immediately fumbled under the man’s coat. Pulling out the gun which he felt there, an instant’s examination, even in the dark, convinced him that it was indeed a .38 caliber. He wanted to whoop for joy that he once more had a serviceable weapon to fit the ammunition[105] which they still possessed. It did not occur to him for a moment that in appropriating the revolver he was doing practically the same thing that the policeman had attempted when he coveted their money. The gun was so precisely what they needed that it only seemed as though a kind fortune had presented it to him.

As Raymond straightened up with the revolver in his hand the prostrate man raised himself to his elbow. The thick lamb’s wool cap which he wore, and which is the usual head-covering of men in the Caucasus, had so protected his head that the shock of being thrown against the wall had only slightly stunned him. Raymond was confronted with a new danger. With the man conscious, he would not be able to hide from him or to escape him in the end, though he might at first outdistance him in running.

The thought of a possible return to the filthy jail was more than Raymond could endure; he simply must prevent any danger of that. He had a savage, momentary impulse to shoot the man as he lay before him, but he could not bring himself to do that, and, anyway, it would make too much[106] noise. There was one other way, and clubbing the pistol he brought it down with full force on the man’s head. The fellow sank back on the ground without a sound and lay without moving. Raymond sped on and in a moment came plump against the wall at the end, when Sidney hailed him, and he climbed the ladder.

“Where is that fellow who was chasing us?” asked Sidney in a whisper, when his brother appeared at the head of the ladder.

“I tripped him up and he’s down there in the alley,” replied Raymond in an equally low tone.

“I thought I heard the sound of a blow,” said Sidney.

“You did; I clouted him over the head with his own revolver, and I’ve got the gun here.”

“I wish you hadn’t done that, Ray.”

“But what could I have done, Sid?—just turn my money over to him and wait meekly to see if he wanted to kill me?”

“Of course not, but you needn’t have taken his gun.”

“I wasn’t going to lose so good a chance to get a gun, and I simply had to make[107] him keep quiet till I could get out of the way.”

“Well, I’m glad enough to have you safe here, anyway.”

“What kind of a place is this?” asked Raymond.

“I can’t imagine,” replied his brother. “I thought it might be the roof of a house when I climbed the ladder, but there seems to be a house of some sort up here; I think that is a door.”

“Suppose we go and investigate,” suggested Raymond.

“We must be pretty careful if we do; there may be people here.”

The boys proceeded cautiously toward the dim opening in the wall that rose on their right. The surface over which they walked was smooth, but had the feel, under their feet, of earth. They paused outside the doorway and listened intently, but could hear no sound.

“I’m going to strike a match,” said Raymond, “and see what there is inside.”

“Don’t make a light out here,” remonstrated Sidney; “that would show us too plainly to any one who might be looking this[108] way. I think it would be safer to step inside the door. I don’t believe there is any one here or we should have heard some sound.”

Raymond stepped carefully inside the door and struck a match, holding it up till the flame burned steadily. When the light shone clear it revealed a good-sized room that was perfectly bare. The walls were of rough stone, similar to the walls of the jail, and the floor was of earth packed hard and smooth. There was no indication that the room had been occupied, and it certainly was empty enough then.

The match died down and Raymond turned back to the doorway where Sidney waited. The mystery of their surroundings made both of them thoughtful,—the strange, narrow alley that climbed the steep hill, shut in on both sides by walls or buildings, they did not know which; then the house in whose door they were standing, that was reached, so far as they knew, only by a ladder, and that was so providentially unoccupied; the silence that covered the place, too, though to be sure it was probably after midnight, an hour when a town[109] should be silent, if ever. All the conditions were weird and mysterious.

The boys stood in the doorway and tried vainly to pierce the darkness about them. The sky was clear and starlit, but there was no moon, and the mountains, which seemingly nearly surrounded them, were black and without form, and shut out most of what light there would otherwise have been. In front of them was the narrow, level space on which they had landed when they climbed the ladder, and beyond that fell a slope which appeared, in the gloom, to be set with knobs. Whether those knobs were rocks or buildings the boys could not tell. They thought, however, that they must be buildings, else what had become of the village? Back of them rose the mountains.

“What do you make of it, Sid?” asked Raymond, still in a whisper, for they had a sort of feeling that there were people near.

“I can’t make anything of it. If this is a town, and I suppose it must be, it’s the most curious one I ever heard of. We’ll just have to wait till daylight, and I hope we shan’t find then that we are in the midst of a hornet’s nest of savage mountaineers.”


“We’d better go into that room and get some sleep,” said Raymond; “I begin to feel pretty used up after that run uphill. I should think you’d be too, with the heavy load you had to carry.”

“Yes, it was a hard stunt. What do you say to pulling the ladder up, Ray? Then if anybody comes into the alley they can’t get up here without bringing another ladder.”

“That’s a good idea, Sid. It takes you to make things safe.”

“And it takes you, Ray, to clear the road of undesirables. What do you think that fellow down in the alley will do when he comes to his senses? I don’t suppose you really killed him?”

“I’m afraid not, his cap was too thick. I don’t know whether he will imagine that we came up here, or not.”

“You know when he said there was no other village near, I told him that we should have to go back to Timour Khan Shoura. I wanted to fool him, and maybe he’ll think we have started back that way.”

“I hope he will, and chase after us.” While the boys were talking, they carefully drew the ladder up and laid it down,[111] well back from the edge. Then they went into the room, opened up their blankets close to the wall on one side of the door, and in about a minute were both fast asleep.



When the boys woke in the morning, they were obliged to think several minutes in order to remember and comprehend their situation. Only twenty-four hours before they had waked in the ravine, after their nerve-trying battle with the bandits, the misguided men whom they had left lying there on the ground. Then followed their precipitate arrest, and the escape which had been accomplished in such darkness that it seemed a miracle that they should have been able to get away at all. They wondered if they had chanced upon the one route that led to, perhaps, the only unoccupied house in the village.

“I hardly have the courage to look out of the door, Ray,” said Sidney. “I’m afraid we’ll find there are houses and people on all sides of us.”

“If there are, the people certainly don’t make much noise; we might be in the middle of a cemetery for all we can hear.”


Raymond had hardly finished speaking when there came in at the door the sound of a voice talking, seemingly so near that the boys were sure it must be from some person just outside the door. Another voice replied, and the two continued in a conversation.

The boys looked at each other in wide-eyed apprehension, then they raised themselves cautiously from their blankets and stood, Raymond with his revolver held at full cock. They expected every moment that some one would enter through the door, and Raymond wondered if it would not be foolish to resist, after all, if men came to arrest them. He could, without doubt, shoot a man or two, perhaps all who came at first, but they could hardly hope to get away even then.

The talking outside continued, yet no one appeared, and when the boys were standing they could hear more distinctly, and the voices did not seem quite so near as they had thought at first. They did not dare to speak, but they tiptoed carefully to the door, and standing just inside, listened again. They were greatly puzzled to locate[114] the voices; they seemed near, and yet not as though the persons talking were on the terrace outside of the door. Finally, Raymond peered out, and then stepped into the doorway, but just inside, where he would be protected from possible observation except from directly in front. There he was joined by Sidney.

For the first time the boys saw the prospect from the door, for darkness had, of course, prevented their seeing anything before they went to sleep. They observed that the space in front of the room where they had slept was, in fact, a terrace. It was some fifteen feet wide and was then cut square down. The voices which they heard rose from some lower level which they could not see, apparently close under the wall that descended from the edge of the terrace, and at no great distance.

Beyond the level whence came the voices, however, the view was unobstructed, and the boys were amazed by what they saw. The steep slope below them was thickly clothed with houses constructed in terraces, apparently with no intervening streets, the front yard of one house being also the roof[115] of the next house below. The buildings were all of rough stone and the walls were not finished smooth with mortar or plaster, so that, seen at a distance, the village might easily be taken for a collection of rocks on the side of the mountain. On some of the terraces in front of the houses they saw horses calmly eating their provender on the roofs of their neighbors. They also saw people moving about, undoubtedly attending to their customary occupations.

Beyond the village in front lay the narrow valley, and beyond that mountains, but the great range extended across the horizon more to the right, and rose high and formidable against the clear sky. The village, plainly, was situated among the foothills, right at the base of the towering range which they had yet to cross.

“I wonder,” said Sidney, after they had looked for a few moments in silence, “if the houses continue up the mountain above this one. Do you suppose we are surrounded by houses and people as thick as they are below?”

“I wish we could see to the sides and back,” said Raymond. “There is one thing[116] sure, this terrace out here in front is the roof of a house.”

The conversation of their neighbors just below continued at intervals, and the sound of the voices came up to them with great distinctness. The boys imagined the two men who were talking to be sitting in the sun in front of their own door. There were no sounds audible from the rear, but if there were people above them, any noise which they made would, of course, be heard more readily above than below. There were no windows in the room where they had passed the night, no opening except the door, and there seemed to be no way for them to obtain a view to one side or the other except by exposing themselves in front.

“I’m going to see if I can’t look around the wall to one side without being seen,” said Raymond, edging forward on one side of the doorway as far as he could go without actually passing beyond the line of the front wall.

“Gee! Sid,” he exclaimed, after taking a look, “the alley that we came up last night is a street with houses opening on it. But I don’t believe there are any more houses as[117] high up as this one. You take a look.” And he made way for Sidney.

“That’s right,” said Sidney, “and if you look sharp you can see the tops of ladders on the line of the alley that runs down the hill. That must be a favorite way of getting into the houses. They are regular cliff-dwellers. I should think we’d have blundered into some of those ladders last night; it’s lucky we didn’t.”

“Some of the doors must open on a level,” said Raymond, “and there must be other alleys that run up through the houses; that’s the way those horses got out there.”

“This is the last house up,” said Sidney, who had shifted to the other side of the doorway and was looking out beyond the house to the right; “there is nothing but mountain out there.”

“This is the first house on a new street, Sid. I guess it was built to rent, and they hadn’t got a tenant yet.”

“I hope the owner won’t come to look at it to-day. If we can stay here till night without being found, Ray, I’ll bet we can get away after dark.”

“I wish we might step outside,” suggested[118] Raymond, “and see how the mountain looks. Maybe we could locate the trail where it leaves the village.”

“That wouldn’t be safe,” replied his brother, “but I’m sure the trail must go out up the valley, and then enter a ravine that narrows up. If we go along the mountain beyond the houses and then drop down to the valley, we can probably find it in the dark.”

“There may be half a dozen trails,” said Raymond, “that run out after firewood, and it will be mighty ticklish business to pick out the main one.”

“Yes, it will be,” replied Sidney, “but we’ll have to take that chance.”

The boys began to realize that they had had no breakfast, and the situation was not made more cheerful when they remembered that the knapsacks contained only dry bread and cheese. Moreover, the cheese was very salty, and as there was no water they did not dare to eat it, for fear of creating a consuming thirst which could not be allayed. So the breakfast menu was reduced to dry bread only. They ate that as slowly as possible, taking very small pieces and[119] chewing each piece a long time. Even with such a highly hygienic method as that the meal was only too quickly finished. When breakfast was out of the way, Raymond took up his new revolver, which he had not had time to examine.

“Now, Sid,” said he, “I’ll clean my gun while you are doing up the dishes.”

“All right,” laughed Sidney; “when I get a lot of dishes in the rinsing water, I’ll call on you to dry them.”

“If you do, I’ll drink some of the rinsing water first. Gee, but I’m thirsty!” Raymond found that the gun was a six-shot revolver of English make; rather antiquated in style but in serviceable condition. He took it all apart and wiped the pieces and the inside of the barrel carefully with a bit of rag, polishing the barrel until every atom shone. He spent so much time on the work that Sidney, who had nothing to do, became restless.

“What will you do, Ray,” he asked, “if some one comes before you put your gun together again?”

“Oh, I’ll just point the barrel at them; that will scare them away. But seriously,[120] Sid, if somebody should come I don’t believe it would do to try to stand them off. If I shot a man or two, it would probably only be worse for us in the end, for we certainly couldn’t get away. If they didn’t dare come right in and take us, it would only be a question of starving us out.”

“Yes, that’s so. I guess we should have to take our medicine if we were discovered.” Sidney had been watching his brother at work on the gun. As he finished speaking he glanced up and there was a little child peering in at the door. The little fellow, as soon as he saw the boys, turned and fled. Sidney jumped up and ran to the door and saw the child scampering away along the side of the mountain. Raymond, in his occupation with the revolver, had not seen their visitor, but when Sidney rushed so precipitately to the door, he followed in alarm.

“I guess it’s all up with us now, Sid,” he said when he saw the child. “That little rascal is sure to tell that he saw us.”

“I don’t believe he will. He’s scared now, but he will forget all about it as soon as he meets somebody. He’s too young to remember long.”


“Well, I shall have nervous prostration if we keep getting such jolts as this all day. I shall be glad when it’s dark again.”

The day seemed interminable to the boys, for there was nothing to do, and they did not dare even to step outside, for fear of being seen. Raymond persisted in believing that the tiny spy who had looked in at the door would report their presence. There was no alarm, however, as the day wore on, and he was finally obliged to confess that Sidney’s prediction was probably accurate, and that the child had forgotten the incident as soon as it was past.

The varied noises of village life rose to the lonely house and gave a pleasing sense of neighborliness to the boys in spite of the possibility of danger that the sounds suggested. Three or four horsemen galloped in, seemingly on the road by which the boys had arrived. The sunlight glistened from the bright metal trimmings of saddle and bridle, and from the guns and the silver cartridge cases which the men wore on their coat fronts. If the arms had been omitted, the long dark coats, with skirts that covered the horses’ sides, and the black lamb’s wool[122] caps worn by the men, would have made them appear like a company of priests.

“Gee! don’t I wish I had one of those horses!” sighed Raymond. “It’s hard lines for a Texan to have to go afoot.”

“Well,” said Sidney, “we proved, that winter in Mexico, that Texans can walk if necessary.”

“Yes, but we never had such mountains as those to cross.” And Raymond looked distrustfully on the tremendous range that rose above the horizon.

“What bothers me most,” said Sidney, “is the thought of cold weather and snow over the summit. It must get pretty cold up there a little later. We’ll have to do our very best hiking as soon as we get out of this place.”

As afternoon advanced the boys became so thirsty that hunger was forgotten and they could not endure the thought of dry food. The desire for water increased until it amounted to torture. They paced restlessly across the room, back and forth, in absolute silence, with no heart for talk.

“Sid,” asked Raymond, when the sun had dropped behind the mountain at the[123] back, and long shadows lay across the valley, “how much longer will we have to wait?”

“Until it’s good and dark.”

“But then we shan’t know where to get water.”

“It can’t be far to the mouth of the cañon above the village, and we’re almost sure to find water there.”

“I don’t see how I’m going to stand it, Sid. I’d go back to the jail if I could have a good drink.”

“You see, Ray, it’s not just a question of going back to the jail. We can’t tell what they would do with us for killing the bandits. I don’t know of any way we could prove we did it in self-defense.”

“Well, I almost wish that policeman would find us; that would settle it.”

“I’m surprised he hasn’t,” said Sidney, “but I think he must have believed that we went back to Timour Khan Shoura. And I think, too, that he was trying to work a little private graft of his own. I don’t believe he reported that we got out. He probably went back on the road to try to overtake and rob us.”


“And here we’ve had to stay all day,” growled Raymond, “with water in the house right below us. I’ve a good mind to go down there now and get a drink.” For the thought of the possible water so near was almost more than the boy could endure.

“It won’t be long now, Ray,” said Sidney encouragingly; “see, it’s almost dark down in the valley now. You’ve been too fine the last few days to give up just because you’re thirsty.”

“Let’s stop talking about it, Sid,” groaned Raymond. “It makes me wild to think of water.” And Raymond took up the endless tramp again to wear away the time.



At last the hour came when Sidney judged it was dark enough for them to venture out. He did not think it necessary to wait until late at night, for as soon as they could leave the house they would climb a little way up the mountain and then pass along the slope at some distance above the village. Moreover, all the houses opened toward the valley, and like their place of refuge had no windows facing the mountain. It seemed, then, that there would be little danger of discovery as soon as it was dark enough to prevent their being seen at a distance.

The boys rolled up their blankets and disposed of their packs to the best advantage for traveling, then left their shelter with feverish haste in their longing to reach water. The mountain along which they had to pass was bare, as all southern slopes are in Eastern and Central Daghestan. With practically no growth of bushes, and with[126] only broken rocks to retard them, their way was not difficult, even in the dark, and they made good progress.

Sidney again proved himself to be a good prophet, for their departure was not seen, and no one appeared to stop them. They stumbled along in the dark over the rocky surface, and soon were beyond what seemed to be the extreme limit of the village. However, to insure security, they went half a mile farther, and then descended to the valley.

At the foot of the mountain they encountered a well-traveled trail, but as it was plain that they had not yet reached the lowest level of the valley, they decided to continue a little farther on the same line in the hope of finding water. So they went straight forward and soon crossed the wash of a stream, but alas! it was dry. They thought it might be that it was only a tributary wash and that they had not yet come to the main stream, and they went on, only to realize after a little that they were climbing an ascent. That convinced them, with a shock, that they had, indeed, crossed the bottom of the valley without finding water.


“What shall we do, Sid?” asked Raymond with a tremble in his voice.

“We must go back to the trail and follow that up to the mountains. The stream probably doesn’t flow much below the mouth of the cañon, and when we get up there we’ll find it.”

“I hope so,” said Raymond, in a tone that contradicted his words.

They turned back on their course, crossed the wash again, and climbing a gentle rise reached the trail. Turning into that to the left they plodded doggedly on. They had encountered only one trail, and as that was well traveled, they had assumed that it must be the main road into the mountains, therefore the one they wanted. So they followed it without hesitation.

As they proceeded they entered more directly under the brow of the mountains and the darkness increased. The trail was so well defined, however, that they had no difficulty in following it, even when they could not really see the road they were traveling. On and on they went, with only one thought, to hurry forward, the sooner to reach water.

The boys had eaten nothing since early in[128] the day, for after they had become so thirsty they could not endure the thought of dry food. And they ate very little the day before while in the jail, for even when there was water to assist, the food they had was very unpalatable. So their strength was failing greatly, though they hardly realized it, even unconsciously, and certainly did not think about it, in their frenzy to reach the mouth of the cañon where they expected to find water.

The two raced on at a speed which, under ordinary conditions, and without the stimulus of an overpowering desire, would have soon exhausted them. They kept the trail in the dark with the instinct that is shown by animals, rather than by any exercise of reason, and they paid no attention to its direction so long as they were advancing, as they supposed, to water. With the terrible disappointment they had experienced in finding a dry wash where they had expected a stream, their desire for water had increased so greatly as to be fairly consuming, and left no room for any other thought.

Suddenly Sidney, who was in the lead,[129] stopped short,—so suddenly in his swift course that his brother plunged forcibly against him. When Raymond had recovered his balance he asked anxiously, in a strained, unnatural voice,—

“What’s the matter, Sid?”

“See that trail!” replied Sidney.

Raymond stooped and peered at the ground in the darkness. The trail turned back at a sharp angle and ascended in almost the opposite direction, plainly the first turn of a switchback that climbed the mountain.

“That means we’re on the wrong road,” said Sidney. “I’m sure the road we want doesn’t go up over the mountain like that, and, anyway, we shan’t find water this way.”

“Then we’ll have to go back,” said Raymond in a hopeless tone, “and hunt for another trail.”

“It’s a long way,” said Sidney doubtfully. “I think we must have been tramping fully two hours, and after we found another trail we’d have to follow it up to water, maybe two hours longer. I doubt if we are equal to that.”


With the new disappointment, after the great exertion that had preceded it, the boys had nearly collapsed. Their legs gave way under them and they sank to the ground.

“Sid!”—and there was a note of terror in Raymond’s voice—“maybe this country is like Lower California, and there is no surface water.”

“It can’t be; there are so many people living here.”

“But perhaps the people in the village get all their water from wells.”

“That’s so; I never thought of that; maybe they do.”

“I’m going back to the village, Sid, for water.” And Raymond struggled to his feet.

“We must not do a foolish thing, Ray, just because we feel desperate. If we go back I don’t believe we’ll ever leave there alive. I think there is water in the cañon above the village, too, for you know there was running water where we camped below.”

Raymond hesitated, partly convinced by his brother’s reasoning.


“What do you propose to do?” he asked.

“I think it’s too far to go back by the trail,” replied Sidney, “and we can’t get straight down the mountain in the dark. I blame myself for not noticing that we were climbing quite a grade, but that can’t be helped now, and really, I could hardly think of anything but water.”

“I can’t think of anything else now. You were not to blame, Sid, any more than I was. We were simply frantic, both of us.”

“Don’t you think, Ray, that we could stay here till daylight? That would be better than to blunder around in the dark, and wear ourselves out, and perhaps break our arms and legs.”

Raymond stood without replying, and Sidney continued:—

“We can leave here just as soon as it is light enough to get down the mountain. We can go straight down, then, and it probably won’t be more than two or three miles. And I believe we’ll find water when we get there, Ray. It will be flowing in the mouth of the cañon, if anywhere.”

“Can you stay here till morning without water, Sid?” asked Raymond finally.


“I believe I can, because I think it’s the only thing for us to do. It will be hard, I admit. I would rather have a drink now than anything else under Heaven.”

Raymond threw his blankets down on the ground and began to unroll them without speaking.

“Won’t you eat a little bread first, Ray?” asked his brother.

“No; I can’t eat.”

“I think we ought to eat something, though. If we don’t we’ll be so weak by morning we shan’t be able to reach water. If we chew the driest part of the bread very thoroughly we can swallow it.”

“All right,” said Raymond dully; “give me a piece.”

Sidney opened his knapsack, felt for the driest piece of bread, and, breaking off the driest portion of that, handed it to Raymond. Then he selected a bit for himself and they sat on their blankets and munched the crusts. Even with the most faithful chewing they found it difficult to swallow the morsels, but they persevered and managed to consume nearly all of the pieces which Sidney had apportioned them.


Then they opened their blankets on the smoothest bit of ground they could find in the dark, and huddled down in them. Neither boy felt like talking. The reclining position was a relief, for their fatigue was great, but the rest it brought was more a sort of apathy than sleep.

They had not been lying long when Raymond began to mutter and talk unintelligibly and frequently started up violently. Sidney spoke to him at such times, but was unable to attract his attention, so finally, when the boy sprang up in such a frenzy, Sidney would reach out and place his hand soothingly on Raymond’s shoulder or his hand, and that always quieted him.

That occurred at such frequent intervals that it seemed to Sidney as though it had gone on forever, and would continue without end. He would no more than settle down in his blankets and sink into a delicious stupor when Raymond would jump up and cry out, and he would have to take hold of him to quiet him. So it went with almost mechanical regularity until Sidney was dazed.

But extreme exhaustion at length prevailed[134] and both boys lay without moving. That change took place so near morning that when the boys had become quiet they did not wake early as they intended. They did not rouse at all until the sun shone hot upon them, then Sidney opened his eyes. He could not remember at first where he was. His mouth felt queer and stiff and uncomfortably full of something. He looked about, vaguely at first, when his gaze rested on Raymond and it all came back to him. He remembered their flight in the dark from the village, their having taken the wrong road, and their failure to find water.

The thought of water brought Sidney’s mind back to his own condition and he realized that the something which filled his mouth so uncomfortably was his tongue, which was badly swollen. That realization made him get up as quickly as he was able. He stood and looked down into the valley. The trail which they had followed by mistake had taken them along the side of the mountain until they were directly above the gorge that narrowed from the upper end of the valley. Down there, glistening in the sun, perhaps two miles away, Sidney saw a[135] thread of water. At the sight he started to plunge down the mountain to reach it, but he had taken no more than two or three steps when he remembered with a shock that he was leaving his brother behind.

With a crucial effort Sidney relinquished the thought of prompt relief and turned back and spoke to Raymond in a voice that was thick and unmanageable, but received no reply. Then he stooped and took hold of him, but was obliged to shake him several times before he roused.

Raymond finally looked around and sat up, but did not seem to comprehend what was wanted. Sidney tried to explain that there was water in sight, but his voice was little more than a croak. At last he succeeded in getting Raymond on his feet and started with him down the mountain. Each boy wore his knapsack still slung over his shoulder, but their blankets and cloaks they did not think about, and left lying on the ground.

It was a difficult task that Sidney had before him. His own wits were so befuddled by raging thirst that he could not think clearly, and it was only by a supreme effort[136] of the will that he could fix his mind on a subject and keep it there. Two days and nights only without water, but when his mind tried to go back to that last drink in the jail, it seemed as though half a lifetime must have passed since.

Raymond was able to help himself very little; he could only stumble forward when he was guided and supported by his brother. In that way they proceeded slowly down the mountain slope. Sidney had almost uncontrollable impulses to desert his brother and rush headlong down the hill to the water which he knew was at its foot, but he had a dim, undefined fear that if he did that he would not get back to Raymond until it was too late. So he stuck by his brother and they went down together.

Two miles is not far, and it was probably not more than that from the place where the boys slept, or rather where they passed the night, on the mountain, down to the bottom of the gorge. Moreover, the goal was in plain view, and every step was down hill. But to Sidney, who was nearly at the point of collapse, and who was burdened with his almost insensible brother, the distance[137] over the rocky, broken ground seemed interminable.

The boys stumbled along, Sidney dragging his brother and sometimes falling and picking himself up with difficulty. Raymond, too, frequently fell over rocks and into holes, and was pulled up by his companion. Each time that happened it became increasingly difficult to put the boy on his feet again.

Hours, it seemed to Sidney, passed in the endless struggle. Finally, however, they reached a point where the descent became abruptly much steeper, the last nearly a perpendicular drop to the bottom of the gorge. That was the hardest stretch of all. Down that declivity Sidney went first, supporting his brother’s weight on his shoulders. It was but little better than carrying an inert body, and the boy trembled with the strain. But it came to an end, and with his nearly inanimate burden he dropped on the sand at the bottom of the cliff.

Sidney lay there panting, his parched nostrils unable properly to admit air to his lungs, and his mouth and throat so swollen and dry that but little aid was possible that[138] way. For a few moments he nearly lost consciousness; then came a remembrance of the salvation that was so near, and he struggled to his feet and staggered the few yards to the little stream. Throwing himself on the ground, with his scooped hand he dashed water into his mouth and over his face.

Oh, the blessed, indescribable relief that moisture gave! But with the return of reason that it brought came the memory of his brother, and with an almost superhuman effort of self-restraint, Sidney dipped up water in his hat and went back to Raymond. Kneeling by the unconscious boy’s side, he plunged his hand into the water and dripped the life-giving fluid into Raymond’s mouth and over his face. Occasionally he allowed himself the luxury of a sip, but he resolutely refused to allow his own desire to interfere with his ministry to his brother, until Raymond began to stir and opened his eyes.



The return of the boys to anything like a normal condition was very slow, though Sidney had the courage and good sense to parcel out the water, both to himself and to Raymond. He allowed his brother to take only a swallow or two at intervals, and he restrained himself in the same way. At first it required a self-control that was almost beyond his strength, but as they absorbed the restoring fluid their ravening, consuming appetite decreased, and it became a joy, instead of a tantalizing torture, to sip the water slowly. Presently, too, as their mouths and throats became softened they were able to talk, if not with ease, at least with little difficulty.

“That was as near as I want to come to passing in my checks, Sid,” said Raymond as they lay on the sand below the cañon wall.

“Yes, it was quite close enough.”

“I would have done it, too, if I had been[140] alone. You must have just dragged me down the mountain.”

“You didn’t seem very anxious to come, and that’s a fact.”

“You know, Sid, I don’t remember a thing after we lay down last night, but I had the most delightful dreams.”

“You didn’t act as though they were delightful.”

“Why, what did I do?”

“You kept jumping up and calling out.”

“And keeping you awake, I suppose.”

“Yes, a little.”

“Poor old Sid; you have a hard time getting me through.”

“But when it comes to gun play, then you take care of us both.”

“Well, that’s one thing I can do,—handle a gun.”

“I hope you’ll not have any more of it to do, though.”

“Do you think, Sid, that we are safe here? I haven’t looked, but I should think the trail that we missed last night must pass through this gorge.”

“Yes, it does. I saw the tracks out there in the sand.”


“I suppose it must be traveled occasionally.” And Raymond stood up and looked along the cañon wall. “That looks like a little ravine coming in up there. Let’s see if there isn’t some place that we can crawl into for shelter.”

“Yes, I guess we’d better.” And Sidney stood up and stretched stiffly. “We are certainly too exposed here. But do you know, Ray, I’m so lame and sore that I can hardly move.”

“I’m not very lame,—just tired, that’s all; but then you worked harder than I did.”

The boys moved slowly along the sand to the cleft in the cañon wall which Raymond had indicated. They found a very narrow chasm that had been cut through the rock by the occasional torrential rains of centuries. Its bottom, for some yards back, was on a level with the sandy floor of the cañon and was not more than ten feet wide. Overhead the cleft was very irregular, in places the two walls nearly coming together. Extending back on the right side beneath the overhanging rock was a sheltered space, very like a small cave.


“Gee! Sid,” exclaimed Raymond, “that’s a fine place, and nobody can see us from the cañon. But, jiminy! where are our blankets? Did we leave them up on the mountain?”

“I guess we did. I hadn’t thought of them at all. But I don’t believe I can crawl up there after them to-night; I feel too gone for anything.”

“No wonder you feel gone,” said Raymond; “we haven’t eaten a thing to-day. We’ve been so busy drinking since we got down to the cañon that I had forgotten all about grub.”

“I can’t remember exactly,” said Sidney, “but I don’t think there is much grub.”

“Well, there’s some, anyway. You get out what there is, Sid, and I’ll take the cup and bring up some water. I feel as though I should want to keep right on drinking forever.”

It had been very late in the morning when the boys roused from their night of stupor on the side of the mountain, and then it had taken a long time for Sidney to get himself and his brother down to the bottom of the cañon. After they had reached water they were also a long time in getting back any[143] semblance of strength, so when they retreated to the little cave under the cañon wall, it was nearly night and the sun had already dropped back of the mountains.

Sidney, when he examined the knapsacks, found there was a moderate supply of bread and cheese. The latter, with water to remove the effect of its salty condition, was extremely palatable, and the boys made what they declared was a sumptuous supper.

“Do you realize, Sid,” said Raymond, as they lay on the sand munching bread and cheese, and frequently sipping water, of which they seemed never to be able to get enough, “that we have eaten nothing for twenty-four hours, and then only a little bread in that deserted house, because we had no water to wash it down? And we’ve done some strenuous work since, too.”

“We haven’t eaten much, but you know we did eat a little bread up on the mountain last night.”

“I don’t remember eating any bread,” declared Raymond.

“Have you forgotten how I urged you to eat something, and you finally took a dry crust?”


“Yes; I don’t remember a thing about it. But I do remember the dreams I had. I was in swimming most of the time, and it was always down in Mexico, in the Conchos River. Gee, but it was fine!”

“If it was so fine I don’t see why you made such a rumpus.”

“I suppose I was swimming hard, and splashing around.”

“I didn’t observe much splashing. It was a mighty dry swim.” And Sidney laughed rather ruefully.

“Do you know what the date is, Sid?”

“No, I haven’t the least idea, and I don’t believe I could figure it out, after all we have done.”

“Do you suppose it’s September yet?”

“September,” repeated Sidney thoughtfully; “maybe it is. I should think it might be December.”

The boys had by that time finished their supper, and Sidney carefully packed away the bread and cheese that was left. Then they stretched out on the sand, beginning to feel quite like themselves again.

“I wish I knew where father is,” said Sidney.


“He may be back in New York by this time.”

“Oh, I don’t think he can be,” exclaimed Sidney. Then, after a moment of reflection, “Still, he may be, too. I hope he is.”

“Are you sorry we started out the way we did?” asked Raymond.

“Well, I don’t know,” replied Sidney. “If we had known the Russian Government was going to be so good to Americans, we might have waited in Nizhni-Novgorod. But we did what we thought was the best thing.”

“Gee! but that was a long time ago,” said Raymond. “If we had only been able to send a message to mother! She must have had a tough time waiting in New York after she knew about the war.”

“Yes; I feel worse about that than anything else.” And there was a suspicion of moisture in Sidney’s eyes. “Poor mother! I suppose we ought not to have insisted on coming when she was so opposed to it.”

“But who could have imagined there would be such a war? Even mother thought we should be safe from war over here. And father wanted to come, too.”


“Well, father is about as much of a boy as we are.”

“This is the toughest proposition we were ever up against, Sid.”

“It certainly is, and after we are over the mountains we don’t know what we’ll strike on the other side.”

“Maybe America will join in the war by that time, and we’ll be arrested as spies.”

“That couldn’t be,” said Sidney. “If America goes in she’ll be on the side of England and France and Russia. So I think we’ll be safe till we reach the Black Sea; then there’s no knowing what Turkey may do to us.”

“It would sure be a comfort to know what’s going on.”

As Raymond spoke, the boys heard voices, and peering around the corner of rock they saw two horsemen cantering down the cañon.

“I’m glad we had sense to hide,” said Raymond, as they watched the men. “I should think those fellows would swelter in their long coats and those awful woolly caps.”

“I’m wondering,” said Sidney, “how[147] much travel there is on that other trail. I feel so much better now that I’ve a good mind to go up after our blankets.”

“It would be dark before you could get there. We’d better wait till morning. That’s probably only a wood trail and there won’t be much travel over it.”

“If it’s a wood trail,” suggested Sidney, “somebody may start out after wood early in the morning, or somebody may have come down to-night, already.”

“Well, if they’ve come down already,” said Raymond, “we can’t do any good by going up now.”

“It’s not going to be very comfortable here to-night without any blankets.” And Sidney looked about them suggestively.

“Oh, it won’t be so bad,” said Raymond; “we can stretch out on the sand, and it’s not cold.”

The relief brought by food and drink after their privation, and the delightful peace of calm security after their strenuous exertions, induced a languid drowsiness that became sleep almost as soon as the boys had lain down.

A cold night wind came down off the high[148] mountains and whistled and wailed through the little ravine, but the boys in their cave were out of its course, and its moaning, instead of disturbing them, made them sleep sounder. As they had gone to sleep, however, with the closing-in of night, the long hours before morning brought thorough rest, and they were awake by break of day.

Raymond proposed that they should go up after their blankets before eating breakfast, and so perhaps get ahead of any early wood-chopper. The slope did not look so long as it had seemed the night before, and they were soon halfway up it. At that height they could see the village from which they had escaped, looking, from that distance, like a collection of big rocks. And they saw, too, coming on the trail which they had taken in the dark, a man who was driving a donkey ahead of him.

“There’s our wood-chopper, Ray,” said Sidney, “and he’s going to reach the blankets ahead of us.”

“Oh, well, he can’t get away with them, and we can take care of one man all right.”

Hurry as the boys might, the man with the donkey arrived first. He was, apparently,[149] ignorant that there was any one near him, but the boys were sure that he must have seen them on the bare slope. When he came to the blankets he stopped and examined them for a moment, then quickly gathering them up, he threw them across the donkey and started on.

“Hold on, there!” shouted Raymond.

The man, however, instead of stopping, tried to whip his donkey to a swifter gait. But the little animal was so used to traveling at a walk that it could not be persuaded to go faster, and the boys soon overhauled them.

Raymond ran up on one side of the donkey, and taking hold of his head, stopped him. The man, on the other side, drew a wicked-looking knife and reaching across the animal’s back made a lunge at Raymond. Sidney, who was a few steps behind, saw the movement and cried a warning to his brother, who leaped back in time to avoid the thrust.


“Oh, no, you don’t!” cried Raymond, and whipping out his revolver he covered the man with it.

The fellow stood, without flinching,[150] watching them with gleaming eyes while Sidney removed the blankets and cloaks from the donkey’s back.

“Now, go on,” ordered Raymond, motioning up the trail.

The man sulkily took charge of his donkey, and drove the animal along without once looking back.



“If we had waited for breakfast,” said Sidney, as the boys stood watching the mountaineer climb the switchback of the trail, “we should have been minus our blankets.”

“Gracious! It makes me shiver just to think of hiking over those mountains without any blankets.” And Raymond gazed off at the Caucasus, whose crests shone white in the clear morning air.

“And speaking of breakfast,” said Sidney, as he made his blanket and cloak into the usual roll for packing, “reminds me that I’ll be quite ready for it when we get down to the bottom.”

“I wish there was a good breakfast ready for us,” said Raymond, as they started down the mountain. “I’m tired to death of that everlasting dry bread.”

“Dry bread, you know, is more hygienic than fresh bread.”

“It may be hygienic, but it’s not high[152] living. I just long for something really tasty, like quail or rabbit.”

“Well, there are rabbits here. I saw one this morning down in the cañon. Do you think you could hit one with that revolver?”

“Of course I could hit one! What’s the matter with you?”

“Then I hope we’ll see another.”

The long night’s rest, after food and drink, had made the boys feel so fine that they already had little to remind them of their trying experience of the previous two days. They went down the mountain at a swinging gait, and as they approached the bottom, Raymond’s mind reverted with longing to the subject of rabbit.

“Sid,” he suggested, “if you’ll hang back a little I’ll go on ahead and maybe I’ll see a rabbit as we near the cañon.”

“All right,” agreed Sidney. “You’d better give me your blankets; you don’t want to be bothered with them if you’re going to shoot.”

Raymond passed his blanket roll over to Sidney, who sat down on a rock to give his brother time to get ahead. The boy proceeded cautiously down the slope with his[153] revolver held ready, but rabbits were, apparently, either very scarce or very shy, for none appeared. He stopped on the brink of the steeper descent just before the bottom, and after pausing to make an examination there, he turned and called out to Sidney in a disgusted tone,—

“No use, Sid; come on.”

The boys clambered down the rocks and trudged through the sand to their camping-place, Raymond grumbling as they went.

“Tough luck, I say, not to see hide or hair of a rabbit, hungry as we are.”

They reached the little ravine, and there, just inside the entrance, sat a big gray rabbit!

Raymond threw up his revolver, and bringing it down, fired as it came to a level. It was done in an instant, without apparent preparation, and yet there on the sand with the greater part of its head missing, lay the rabbit.

“You are certainly a crackerjack with the gun, Ray,” exclaimed Sidney admiringly. “If I had tried that I should have blown the rabbit all to pieces, or else missed him entirely.”


“It all depends on believing you’re going to hit. And don’t hesitate; fire as soon as you see your game through the sight.”

“But you don’t sight at all, you just fire regardless.”

Raymond laughed. “Well, I guess it’s instinct.”

While Raymond was dressing the game Sidney gathered an armful of bits of wood and brush, and carrying the fuel up into the little ravine, he built a fire in an angle where it could not be seen from the cañon. He fed the blaze until, by the time Raymond had the rabbit cleaned and quartered, there was a thick bed of coals. Then the boys sharpened sticks and holding the pieces of meat over the coals roasted them beautifully.

The meal that followed, Raymond declared was fit to be served on Olympus. It would, perhaps, have been improved with a little salt, for the boys had forgotten to supply themselves with that desirable condiment. But the delicious roast meat was so much more savory than anything they had eaten for days, and so much better than they expected to have, that it seemed absolutely perfect. Besides furnishing an[155] ample breakfast, there was enough meat left for another meal, and that they packed in the knapsacks with the bread and cheese.

By the time breakfast was concluded the day was far advanced toward noon, and the boys hastened on their way. The trail up the cañon, though the bottom was very sandy, was sufficiently plain to leave the travelers in no doubt. After two or three miles, too, where the cañon became narrow and rocky, the trail turned to the right up the mountain, and there, on the harder ground, it was well beaten.

To the inexperienced traveler it would have seemed that the traffic must be very considerable to maintain so well-defined a road. The boys, however, were familiar with a land of scanty rainfall and knew that in such a dry region tracks are obliterated very slowly. So they were not uneasy about meeting people, for they knew that they might possibly travel two or three days and see no one. If they might only be allowed to place a reasonably safe distance between themselves and the village where they had had such an unpleasant adventure, they would rather meet people than not.


The road plunged at once into difficult mountains, more difficult than the boys had ever seen before. They did not know that the region is called the “Russian Alps,” and that it furnishes scenery which is grander and more magnificent than that in the true Alps. The road would climb up out of a cañon for two or three thousand feet by a series of zigzags over a lofty divide, and descend by another switchback into a similar cañon on the other side. The cañons were narrow, deep, and gloomy, and were crowded so closely together that there was absolutely no level ground between.

From the summit of any high divide the boys looked off both ways and saw only a confused jumble of mountains and ravines, picked out by occasional salient peaks. Sometimes there was a descent of not more than a mile in a direct line, and yet the road was so tortuous that half a day of strenuous walking was required to reach the bottom.

On the sides of the cañons were perched villages, curious collections of rough rock houses, always above the bottom of the cañon, and often far above, away out of reach, except by an hour of hard climbing.[157] As the boys advanced into the mountains the villages were situated at greater heights, and were more difficult of access.

For many hundreds of years the great Caucasian Range was a harbor of refuge for oppressed people of various nationalities. Greek and Roman deserters from the armies of Alexander the Great and Pompey fled to its fastnesses; Mongols found asylum there, and Arabs, Jews, and later, Armenians. All these peoples, to insure their security, built their habitations in inaccessible places. That they planned well was shown by the way in which they held out against both Turks and Persians. There is a saying among the Persians, which has become a proverb: “If the Shah becomes too proud, let him make war with the highlanders of Daghestan.”

Though the boys walked as rapidly as possible in their anxiety to get away from the village where they had been imprisoned, night came while they were still up on the top of the first high divide which they had climbed after leaving the cañon. Away behind, and far below them, was the slope where they knew the village lay, though at[158] that distance they could not make out the houses.

The boys saw that they would be obliged to pass the night on the summit, for while it was still light where they were, down in the cañon into which the trail descended it was already dark. They looked about and found a place where two or three great rocks formed a protected angle, and there they prepared to make their beds. That performance was very simple, consisting only of picking the loose stones from a space large enough for them to lie down. Then Sidney took their supper out of the knapsacks.

“Yum! yum!” said Raymond, as he watched his brother take out the food; “won’t that rabbit be good, though!”

Sidney paused and looked thoughtful for a moment, then asked:—

“Is there anything you would specially like for supper, Ray?”

“How about some caviare, like that we had on the Volga steamer, and a cup of coffee; yes, and a little butter.”

“What would you say to a glass of water?”


Raymond looked thunderstruck. “For Heaven’s sake, Sid! We haven’t any water, have we?”

“I don’t find any here.” And Sidney peered into the knapsack.

“What boneheads we are, Sid, and I was hardly moistened through after that other dry spell.” And Raymond groaned dismally.

“Well, I must say,” said Sidney, “I should think water would be the last thing we’d forget now. We can’t get down to the bottom of that cañon to-night, either, and there’s not likely to be any water this side of the bottom.” And Sidney looked down into the deep gloom of the ravine at their feet.

“It’s a dry supper, that’s sure,” said Raymond. “It’s a good thing that rabbit has no salt.”

“Oh, well, we’ll forget all about it once we’re asleep, and we can hike down to the next stream as soon as it’s light.” And Sidney spread the meat, bread, and cheese out on the ground before them.

“No cheese for yours truly, thank you,” said Raymond, “but I’ll take some meat and bread, if you please.”


“I guess it would be wise to let the cheese go by to-night,” agreed Sidney; “it’s a little too salty for a dry lunch.”

“There’s one thing sure, Sid; we’ve got to scare up something to carry water in. We may be caught like this often.”

“Meantime, we’ll have to stop where there is water, if we make only half a day.”

The roast rabbit was savory enough to assist the consumption of a little dry bread, and the lack of water did not prevent the boys from going to sleep almost as soon as they lay down. Early to bed, the old jingle truthfully says, is early to rise, and the boys were awake before the sun had touched the peaks around them, and while the cañons were still in dense shadow.

It required only a minute or two for the travelers to roll up their blankets and start on their hike down into the next ravine. At its bottom was a little stream that seemed, to the thirsty boys, to be flowing nectar.

In the afternoon of that day they observed a village, the first one, but as it was perched up on the side of the ravine, and they happened at that time to be in the bottom, they passed stealthily, and thought[161] themselves fortunate to get by. An hour or two later, when they found that the trail was leaving the cañon to climb another mountain, they camped right there by the stream, determined not to be surprised by another dry camp.



The boys need not have been uneasy about water, for as they advanced to the main range every ravine was the bed of a foaming torrent, and there were no more dry camps. The trail crossed the streams by bridges of curious construction. Sometimes the bridge spanned a gorge high above the stream, and sometimes it was thrown across from banks that were near the water.

To build the bridges logs were projected a few feet from one side, being held in place by an abutment of rocks which was built about them and in which they were bedded. Above those logs were laid other longer ones which projected a few feet farther, and were lashed to the lower ones by leather thongs, secured at the inner end by the rock abutment. That was repeated until from each side extended a span so far out that finally the intervening space could be covered by a length of poles. Then a hand-rail was placed[163] along each side, and the result was a rude but stable and safe suspension bridge.

The bridges were a never-failing source of interest and wonder to the boys. Each one that they crossed seemed quite as remarkable as the first one had appeared, and they always stopped to look in admiration. Days afterward, in Batum, when they were describing their mountain journey to an English-speaking Russian, they were told that in all the mountain region the building of bridges was so difficult that the destruction of one was punished by death.

Raymond shot another rabbit, which eked out their scanty stock of bread and cheese for a couple of days. Then, as the food was almost gone, they decided they must stop at the first village they came to. That they found situated high on a mountain-side. Though they had sighted the houses early in the afternoon, the climb up to them was so steep and so long that night was closing in when they arrived.

That village, like the one from which they had escaped, was built in terraces on a mountain slope, but it was much steeper, even, than the first village. The road went[164] up in front of the lower tier of houses, where were standing several men, who, apparently, had been watching the boys’ approach.

Sidney selected the most important-looking of the group and tendered him their passport, with an inquiry for accommodation for the night. The man received the paper, examined it curiously, and then passed it on to another near him. It went around the circle, and was the subject of an animated conversation, coming back in the end to Sidney, with, however, no intelligible comment.

“Can you tell us where we will find supper and lodging?” Sidney asked.

The man who had received the paper looked mystified and replied in a tongue that sounded to the boys different from anything they had previously heard: as indeed it was, for in the mountainous part of Daghestan nearly every village has its own dialect, there being about twenty different languages spoken in that area.

“It’s no use to talk to them, Sid,” said Raymond; “they won’t understand a word you say.”

“I know they won’t, but I can’t just[165] stand and stare at them. It’s much easier to say something, even if they don’t understand.”

“We’ll have to use pantomine, the way Ramon used to with the Tarahumaras. Let’s see what I can do.” And Raymond made the motion of putting something into his mouth, at the same time working his jaws vigorously.

The man laughed, as did all the others. The number present had been increased by many who were curious to see the strangers, and laughter and joking remarks extended through the crowd.

Raymond’s face grew very red. “They are easily amused,” he said sarcastically, “but I’ll bet they understood what I meant.”

It was apparent that they did understand, for the man who had been addressed beckoned to the boys to follow him, and proceeded to a near-by house. As they were about to enter, something over the door caught Raymond’s eye, and he stopped and stared incredulously.

“Goodness! Sid, look over the door!” he exclaimed.


On the lintel were tacked the bony skeletons of two human hands.

“That looks pretty gruesome,” said Sidney; “I wonder what it means.”

“I suppose it’s a pleasant reminder of some nice feud. We’d better not show too much interest in it; they might not like that.”

The room that they entered had a floor that was earth mixed with chopped straw packed down hard and smooth. It was quite dark, being lighted only by the door and two small portholes of windows that had neither sash nor glass. Supper, which consisted of a kettle of stewed mutton, was just ready, and was placed on the floor in the center of the room. The family gathered about the kettle, each person provided with a sharp stick with which he fished out fragments of meat. They also dipped pieces of black bread in the broth, and soaked them before they were eaten. The boys were given sticks and helped themselves as the others did, finding the stew extremely savory.

When supper was finished there was the sound of a fife outside, and the family all got up and went out, followed by the boys.[167] They found a large gathering of people, with torches placed around on the buildings for light. The fife was playing shrilly, and as a drum began to mark time, a man stepped out into a space that had been left in the center. Then a woman from another side joined him and they danced in a stately fashion. The fife and the drum vied with each other in the noise they made, and frequently, as the couple danced, there was a fusillade of pistol shots, fired by the spectators.

Presently, when those dancers had become weary, they retired and their places were taken by others, who danced in the same fashion, to the same accompaniment of pistol shots added to the music of the fife and drum. Besides the circle of people surrounding the dancers, many others were perched on the flat-topped roofs of the near-by houses.

It was well into the night before the dancing ceased and the people scattered to their homes. The boys went with their host, who indicated some rugs on the floor where they might spread their beds. The rugs were fine, silky, and delightfully soft.


“Gee! Sid,”—and Raymond stooped to examine the beautiful rug before placing his blankets on it,—“if mother was here I’ll bet that rug would go with her when she left, if she had to carry it herself.”

“She’d just go wild over them, Ray. They’re finer than anything she’s got.”

“Heck! Sid, why can’t we buy one to take home to her?”

“I’m afraid it would be pretty heavy to pack, with the load we’ve already got,” said Sidney doubtfully. “I’d just love to do it, though, it would please her so.”

“We haven’t got much of a load, Sid, and these rugs are not heavy, they’re so fine and thin. And one would be as good as another blanket. We ought to have more bedding, anyway, as we go higher up.”

“Well, we’ll see in the morning if we can strike a bargain with that fellow. I’ve got to get to sleep now, I’m dead tired. I’m glad we don’t have a dance every night.”

In the morning, when the boys had eaten and wished to depart, Sidney took a piece of bread, and opening their knapsacks, showed that they contained no food, at the same time holding the bread up inquiringly.[169] Their host understood at once that they wished to buy food, and brought two or three loaves of black bread. Then Sidney held four rubles out on his open hand, motioning toward their beds to indicate that he wished to include that accommodation as well as the food. The man took two rubles from the four, and bowed in assent.

There still remained the rug which the boys wished to buy, and Sidney picked up the finer of the two pieces of carpet and held it up, saying, “How much?”

The man considered for a few moments, and held a short consultation with his wife, after which he extended his hands with the fingers all open.

“He means ten rubles, Sid,” said Raymond. “That’s dirt cheap.”

“It certainly is, and I guess we’d better take it.” Whereupon Sidney nodded in affirmation and took out his purse for the money. “I hope I’ve got enough here without going down under my clothes.”

“If you haven’t, I have a few rubles in my purse.”

“Yes, I have exactly ten rubles. When we’re out on the trail, Ray, you must remind[170] me to take some more money from my secret stock.”

“Now I’ll take your cloak, Sid,” said Raymond, “and carry it with my cloak and blanket. Then you take the rug with your blanket, and that will be about even. Gee! won’t mother be pleased with that rug! And you certainly are a peach, Sid, with sign language.”

“I feel silly as can be when I try to talk without saying anything. I wish we were in Mexico, or some other place where we could use Spanish.”

When the boys started out they were obliged to drop down to the bottom of the cañon again to pick up the trail. Then began the really difficult part of their mountain journey. For several days they climbed steep slopes by endless zigzags, or trod the edges of dizzy precipices. The cañons were deep, dark, and narrow, and occurred one right after another, with no intervening level ground. The boys were always either straining forward to toil up a precipitous ascent, or holding back to keep from pitching down another. And always when they opened their bed under some sheltering[171] rock they were at a higher elevation than on the previous night. That meant, as a general thing, that each camp was colder than the preceding one.

The camps soon became very cold indeed, and the boys were obliged each night to seek a spot that was protected from the biting winds that raced and surged from the crests above. As soon as the sun was gone, the cold air descended from the summits to take the place of the layers that rose from the rocks which had been warmed during the day.

The lower portions of the range had been destitute of trees, but between that section and the heights that were above the timber line was a zone where a little timber grew. When the boys reached that belt they also ran into clouds and drizzling mists.

One day the weather had been threatening and damp, but not actually raining. Toward night, however, the clouds thickened and descended in genuine rain. The boys saw that they would soon be soaked through, their beds as well as their clothes. That would mean a night of misery, so they hunted for a spot that was sheltered from[172] the storm. Fortune smiled on them, for almost immediately Sidney, who had gone a little to one side of the trail to examine a ledge of rocks for possible shelter, called out to his brother,—

“Here’s a dandy place, Ray.”

In the face of the ledge was a narrow fissure which was just wide enough, with some squeezing, to admit the boys. Once inside, however, the opening proved to be a good-sized cave. The ceiling was high enough for the boys to stand upright, and there was plenty of room for them to spread their beds comfortably. Moreover, it was absolutely dry, and there was a thick coating of fine soil on the floor which would make a soft bed.

“This is swell, Sid,” exclaimed Raymond, when they were inside. “Jiminy! it’s good to be out of the rain. Just see how it’s coming down now.”

“Yes,” replied Sidney, “it’s raining so hard that we shan’t be able to get any wood for a fire.”

“Oh, well, it’s warm in here, and we have nothing to cook anyway. I think there’s a little meat left, and there’s always that horrid bread.”


Raymond had succeeded in keeping them supplied with small game. The day before he had shot two fine grouse, and there was still some of that meat. The boys ate their cold supper and spread their beds before it became dark, then sat in the gloom talking. Night fell rapidly, and with the heavy downpour of rain it soon became very dark. The boys were just about to roll up in their blankets for the night when they heard strange noises outside. There was a low, muttered grumbling, mingled with a strange whimpering.

The boys sat breathless, listening intently. At first they thought it must be some large animal, though they had seen no animals larger than rabbits. In a moment, however, the voice whimpered complainingly, and the boys thought it was surely a person in distress. The storm was turning colder, and the rain and sleet were coming down in such volumes that any one caught in it, perhaps insufficiently clothed, would suffer greatly.

Raymond was about to step to the opening and call out that there was shelter near, when the whimpering ceased and the growling[174] began again, in a heavier, gruffer tone than at first. It was plain that it could not be a human being that made such noises, and it seemed to the frightened boys that it must be a very large animal.

“What can it be, Sid?” whispered Raymond.

“I don’t know, unless it’s a wolf. We’ve read of the terrible Russian wolves.”

“The animal that’s growling like that is bigger than a wolf,” declared Raymond.

“Then I hope it’s so big that it can’t squeeze in here.”

The growling and muttering continued, and steadily drew nearer. The boys sat shivering. The cave had grown much colder, they thought, and their teeth chattered. Suddenly the noises ceased and there was a dreadful silence. The rain was still pouring outside, with a steady roar on the rocks, but the boys did not notice that, and it seemed to them that all sounds had stopped.

Silently the two sat in suspense, wondering what would happen, whether they would suddenly be conscious of an animal in the cave with them. Then they reflected that[175] the entrance was so small that no large animal could pass through, at least not quickly.

They were gazing intently toward the opening, though the darkness was so dense that not even its outline could be distinguished. As they sat, rigid, they realized with a shock that they were looking at two small balls of fire which must be just outside the opening. The fiery globes remained stationary, and colder shivers ran along the boys’ spines.



When the boys saw the two glowing spots of fire in the entrance to the cave, for one sickening moment they imagined that it was something supernatural. They waited tensely for whatever fearful development might follow.

“What can it be, Sid?” And Raymond’s voice trembled.

“It’s beyond me. Is it outside, or in?”

As they gazed, the glowing orbs rose slowly to about the height of a man, where they again remained stationary. There was a rock wall a short distance in front of the cave so that no sky-line could be visible from the entrance. Consequently, in the pitch darkness there was not the slightest suggestion of a form that could be distinguished. It was as though the luminous points had raised independent of any agency. But the fact of their rising to the height at which they stopped suggested a[177] possibility to Sidney, and he exclaimed under his breath,—

“It must be a bear, Ray, and he’s risen to his hind legs.”

“Gee! I believe it is, and those are his eyes.”

“But don’t shoot, you would only wound him.”

Sidney’s warning was too late, for as he spoke Raymond fired. The glowing balls wavered, rapidly disappearing and reappearing several times, then became extinguished. At the same time there was the sound of scratching and straining, with groaning and grunting. Then there was a cough or two and all was quiet.

The boys waited with their hearts in their throats, expecting an attack from some sort of formidable animal. But the silence continued.

“You certainly hit him, Ray,” said Sidney.

“Yes, but why didn’t he drop?”

“Perhaps you didn’t kill him.”

“Then why didn’t he run away, or attack us? And why is he so still now?”

“I give it up,” said Sidney. “I wish I could see.”


“I’m going to strike a match,” declared Raymond, “and find out what I did do.”

“Well,” said Sidney, rather dubiously, “I suppose that will do no harm. If he wants to rush us he won’t wait for a light.”

The match burned dimly and the boys strained their eyes to solve the mystery held by the darkness. Then the blaze flared up brightly, and there, erect in the entrance, loomed a huge bulk which the boys could not see well enough to identify.

Raymond smothered an exclamation when he saw it, but before either of them could determine what it was, the light died down and they were again left in darkness.

The monster had seemed to be just crowding through the opening, which he completely filled, and the apparition had appeared so lifelike that the boys expected an immediate onslaught. They were appalled by the size of the intruder, and in their cramped quarters only one result seemed possible. Still there was no advance by the strange animal, and the silence was still profound.

“If that is a bear,” whispered Sidney, “why doesn’t he do something?”


“We might as well be killed as scared to death in this way; I’m going to strike another match.”

Raymond took a cautious step toward the entrance and lighted a match. The anxious boys thought the blaze would never stop sputtering and burn clear and bright. When it did, Raymond held it up as close as he dared and saw a great bear standing erect on his hind legs, apparently wedged tightly in the opening. The animal’s head lay over to one side against the rock, and blood dripped from the jaws.


“He’s dead!” exclaimed Raymond. “He must have been just squeezing through when I fired into his mouth and killed him, and he was wedged in too tight to fall.”

“For Heaven’s sake, Ray, think what would have happened if you had done as I said and not fired!”

“Well, I did fire, and nothing happened. But wasn’t that a lucky shot?”

“You always do just what you want to with a gun, Ray, whether it’s light or dark.”

“Oh, this was a chance shot, of course, for I couldn’t see a thing but his eyes. It’s[180] mighty strange that his eyes shone so when it’s so dark.”

“The rock at the back of the cave is white,” said Sidney, “and it must reflect a little light. He could probably see us, though we couldn’t see him.”

“I move we get to bed,” said Raymond; “such scares make me awfully tired.”

“And leave that fellow standing in the door?”

“Why not? He can’t hurt us now.”

“No, I guess he’s past that. Well, I’m tired, too, and I’ll beat you to bed.”

In less than a minute the boys had pulled off their shoes and crawled into their blankets, and in another minute they were asleep. Their excited, turbulent life of the previous few weeks, and the great fatigue they underwent at times, had put them in good training to sleep promptly. An opportunity was all they needed, and they immediately became oblivious to all their worries.

When the boys woke in the morning and saw the light peering around the huge form that was still jammed in the entrance, the sight was rather startling. A moment’s reflection, however, recalled the events of the[181] previous evening, and alarm became curiosity. They found that the bear would undoubtedly have succeeded in passing the entrance had he not been killed in the nick of time. While his body was a tight fit in the opening, it was really held upright, after the fatal shot, mainly by projections of the unequal rocky sides. He was, however, quite as big as he had appeared in the dim light.

When Raymond fired, the bullet, as he had surmised the night before, had entered the bear’s mouth, which probably had been open, and had, undoubtedly, penetrated the brain, causing instant death. The boys pushed and lifted on the carcass until they succeeded in crowding it out sufficiently to let it fall to the ground, where it lay just outside the entrance.

“Gee, but he’s a whopper!” exclaimed Raymond, as they stood looking down at the prostrate animal.

“He would have made things lively for us,” said Sidney, “if he had once got inside.”

“Yes, but he didn’t get inside, thanks to this little pet of mine.” And Raymond patted his revolver approvingly.


“I’ll tell you what, Ray; I’m going to sharpen my knife on a rock and see if I can’t cut out some steaks.”

“That will be swell!” agreed Raymond.

Sidney found it was not easy to put an edge on a knife with only a piece of rock for a whetstone. The beast’s hide, too, was extremely tough. He finally, however, succeeded in laying the skin back enough to cut two or three fine steaks.

The rain had ceased in the night, and morning had come clear and cold. While Sidney was struggling with the meat, Raymond gathered wood and built a fire. By the time the steaks were ready there was a fine bed of coals to broil them, and the boys were soon eating a savory breakfast.

“It’s a shame to leave that fine pelt here,” said Raymond, looking from the steak he was consuming over to its source.

“Yes, it is,” assented Sidney, “but, of course, we can’t do anything with it. If we had it in El Paso, though, it would pay a passage home for both of us.”

“I guess it would,” sighed Raymond; “and to think we’ve got to let it lie here! It’s the first bear I ever shot, too.”


“And you shot him blindfolded. I don’t see how you managed to do it.”

“Well, I aimed just a little below his eyes. I intended to shoot him in the head, but I’d forgotten a bear’s snout is so pointed. If the bullet hadn’t struck him in the mouth, just by a chance, it wouldn’t have killed him.”

“I wish father was here to have some of this meat,” said Sidney; “you know he’s awfully fond of bear steak.”

“Gee!” exclaimed Raymond, “I wish we knew where he is; it makes me homesick to think about him.”

“I guess mother will never let us go away from home again,” said Sidney, “after we get back this time.”

If we get back this time, you mean.”

“Oh, we’ll get back all right, Ray, and don’t you forget it.”

“I certainly shan’t, if we get there.”

It had taken the boys a good while to prepare the steaks and cook them, so by the time they had finished their breakfast it was later than they usually took the road. They hurried off, therefore, with a last regretful look at the fine skin which they were obliged to leave behind.


The elevation had been rapidly increasing and the mountains had become rockier and more precipitous. The sleet which fell the night they were in the cave was the first frozen rain they had encountered, but the snow-covered heights had even before that sometimes seemed very near.

The night after the boys’ adventure with the bear was very cold and they searched for another cave, but unsuccessfully. They found, however, a crevice in the rocks that was large enough for them to crawl into. They could not lie down, but they huddled up close together in their blankets and were warmer than they would have been outside.

The next night the boys found shelter in the mountain village of Bezheeta, which perched at an elevation of about nine thousand feet. The warmth of the rude stone house in which they slept was very pleasant after the exposure of the previous nights. Bezheeta is at the foot of the ultimate great ridge which forms the backbone of the Caucasus Range. The snowy summits towered some three thousand feet above the village, and appeared to the weary boys an almost insurmountable barrier.


There was no dance that night as there had been at the other village where they stopped. The night air was too frosty for such an outdoor function. Consequently the boys were allowed to get to sleep early, and were up correspondingly early in the morning. That enabled them to start out on their last climb long before the sun appeared over the mountain crests.

The trail went up the steep ascent by a switchback which crossed, back and forth, the bed of a foaming stream that came down from a glacier above. At first the walking was good, over hard rock, but presently they reached snow, and tramped for a time through half-frozen slush. That greatly increased the effort necessary to climb the steep trail. The boys slipped and slid, and it sometimes seemed to them that they hardly advanced at all. Their feet became soaked and cold, and altogether they felt very miserable and discouraged.

Then gradually the slush underfoot became firmer and changed to old snow that was packed and frozen hard. Finally the noise of the torrent ceased; that, too, was frozen. Still, up, up, the boys toiled, their[186] packs growing heavier and their breath shorter.

As the day advanced, clouds gathered about the summits, and from these masses snow-squalls swept down across the ravines and ridges. Several of these surging gusts enveloped the boys. At first the flurries of snow were light and rather fun than otherwise, but as the boys gained in altitude the storms increased in density and in severity. Finally, when one came they did not try to breast it, but stopped, in the shelter of some rock if possible, till it passed.

Occasionally there was a heavy noise like rolling thunder that echoed from cliff to cliff. The boys thought it very strange that there should be thunder with what was, in effect, a midwinter storm. Also there was no lightning, only the reverberating noise, but they could think of no other cause, and accepted the thunder theory as the only one.

Then the perplexing question was solved in a startling manner. The boys were toiling up the steep side of a ravine, with the slopes above them more nearly perpendicular than where they were. A storm, which appeared to be heavier than any previous one, passed[187] along the mountain, extending beyond the boys, and nearly smothering them in swirling snow.

When the gust had gone by, just as they were able to see once more, there was a roar directly above them. They looked up and saw what appeared to be the whole mountain-side sweeping down upon them.

“It’s an avalanche, Ray!” cried Sidney; “run to one side.”

The boys ran back on the trail to the first angle, then plunged off into the snow, floundering along in frantic haste. They had time, however, to take only a few steps when the great mass of snow was upon them. With it were carried rocks and brush, whatever the torrent had been able to tear from the mountain.

When the boys saw that they could not escape, and were about to be overwhelmed, they seized hold of a small scrub tree that was growing from a cleft in the rock, and hung on for life.



When the boys clung to the tree in the direct path of the avalanche, their action was the instinctive effort toward self-preservation, for they did not really hope it would save them. The mass of snow that was advancing upon them appeared to be carrying everything before it, and they fully expected, in the moment they had for thought, to be added to that accumulation of débris.

The great bulk, coming down with such terrifying velocity, reached them and piled over them, but not with the resistless force they were braced to meet. The main body of the avalanche passed with a roar just beyond, and plunged into the cañon below. The boys had paused in the edge of the torrent, where its velocity was slight as compared with that of the center. They crawled out of the snow that covered them and looked at each other with wide eyes.

“I can’t think of anything that could be[189] worse than an avalanche,” said Raymond as he looked down at the smooth path left by the cataclysm.

“That was an awful moment,” said Sidney, “just before it struck us.”

“I know I was never so badly scared before. Do you suppose they are always as thick as they have been to-day?”

“I don’t think so. I think when there is a storm that the snow drifting in places is the weight that starts the slide.”

“Well, I shan’t be easy a minute now,” said Raymond, “till we’re at the top, and that looks a long way off yet.”

“I guess we’d better not fool away any time,” said Sidney, “and we’ve got no trail to start with.”

The avalanche had descended diagonally across the course of the trail, and had swept away a long reach of it, leaving only a smooth stretch of snow, with rocks sticking up here and there. The portion of the trail that was left intact was visible away up on the mountain, and the boys started for it, across the expanse of trackless snow. They were obliged to go very carefully to prevent slipping and sliding down the smooth incline.[190] Their progress, therefore, seemed to them distressingly slow, but they plodded on persistently in their great desire to reach the summit. Both were filled with a dread of being caught in another avalanche, an encounter that might not result so fortunately as the first one had done.

At last the boys reached the unbroken trail across the path of the avalanche. While the road there had not been disturbed by the slide, the storms that were increasing with the increase of height had nearly buried it in snow. Sometimes for many yards it was entirely obliterated, and there the progress of the travelers was still more painful and slow. In such places they struggled through the soft snow, at times sinking to the waist before striking the hard old snow beneath.

It was only by the utmost care and the closest attention that the boys were able to keep the course of the trail. Frequently they lost it for a time, and then had to stop and hunt carefully to find it again. They were in constant terror lest they drop into some unsuspected gulch, or slip over the concealed edge of a ravine. It was a heart-breaking[191] struggle and a slow one, and as they toiled upward the difficulties increased.

Snow-squalls continued to sweep down from the summits and along the slopes, swirling about the laboring boys and blinding them with the fine particles. At such times they were obliged to stand still and wait for the fury of the gust to pass. Then they reached the glacier, which, early in the day, they had seen above them. The trail went up to the terminal moraine of the glacier and disappeared, but the boys assumed that it passed over the mass of broken rocks to the ice. So they climbed over the débris and up to the surface of the glacier, which at that point was not very high. They proceeded cautiously over the ice, until suddenly they came to the edge of a crevice. So unexpectedly, indeed, that Raymond nearly plunged into it, and was only saved by Sidney, who grasped him and threw him back on the ice.

“Well,” said Raymond with a long breath, as he rose to his feet; “that might be as bad as an avalanche.”

“If you went down into it,” said Sidney, “you would probably not have a very soft[192] fall. We must have missed the road. I don’t believe it comes up over a place like this.”

“No, it can’t. We’ll have to go back and hunt for it. Jiminy! If we went over that ice-field we’d run across polar bears next time.”

“I’ve had enough bear for this trip,” declared Sidney, as they turned back on their tracks. “It’s a shame to lose this time, and we’ve got to hustle to reach the top before night.”

“I don’t believe we can do it, Sid; I’m about played out now.”

“We’ve simply got to do it. Let me carry your blankets for a while, Ray.”

“Not much! I’ll carry them myself.”

The boys, on arriving again at the moraine, after some search found that the trail turned to the right, but was covered with fresh snow, which was the cause of their missing it. It followed along the side of the glacier for a distance, and then over the ridge into a smaller ravine that was not filled with ice.

While the next ravine was not the bed of a glacier, it contained very much more snow. At the height to which the boys had reached by that time the storms during the day had[193] been more frequent and more severe, consequently there was a great deal of fresh snow, which made traveling very much more difficult.

At first the trail climbed along well up on the left side of the ravine, and in that exposed position it was not filled uniformly with soft snow. In places the snow had failed to lodge, or had been swept away by eddying gusts, and those places came with sufficient frequency to mark the road for the travelers.

So, usually, while the boys were floundering through a deep deposit of fresh snow, they were able to see, ahead of them, the trail where it passed over the old hard snow of former years. In that way they were enabled to keep the general direction of the road, though they were sometimes off it, in deeper snow than ever. At such times when they left the trail, they frequently plunged down into soft snow that was above their waists, and were obliged to make a desperate effort to get back on the hard foundation.

Such traveling would have been sufficiently difficult if the boys had been unencumbered, and with the packs they were[194] carrying it was extremely exhausting. Once or twice, when Raymond stepped off into loose snow, he was obliged to wait for Sidney’s help before he could get back. Sometimes, when the boys sank down in that way, they would loosen their blanket rolls, and throw them up, thus being enabled to crawl out without help.

All that occupied much time, besides taking the strength of the struggling boys, and the sun sank behind the western peaks and they were still not out of that cañon. Then, too, as they constantly climbed to higher elevations, and the trail approached the upper end of the ravine, it was less exposed to the wind and was more evenly covered with snow. So, finally, the boys labored through deep snow without any intervals of good road, and could only with difficulty keep the trail at all.

For what seemed to the boys hours they toiled on and up, without conversation, except when one of them briefly requested aid from the other. All their breath was needed for the work they were doing, with none left for talk. Sidney was a little taller than his brother, and in deep snow that gave him[195] great advantage. Then, being older, he was more solid and more closely knit, consequently he possessed greater endurance. So it was generally his lot to pull Raymond out of holes.

When they missed the road and got up on the glacier by mistake, Raymond had thought he was not equal to much more, but with pure nerve he kept to the work, and for a long time said nothing more about being tired. At first the fear of another avalanche had been an incentive to keep forging ahead. As they ascended, however, and neared the summit of the range, they gradually rose level with, or above, the overhanging cliffs from which snow-slides were likely to start, and were relieved of that fear.

But there may be a limit to the endurance of even a gritty boy, and Raymond began to feel that he was really at the end of his rope. The day had been extremely arduous, and it had been preceded by many days of hard work, with barely a sufficiency of food. The boy finally stopped, standing in the deep snow, and gazed up at the summit above them.

The snow-squalls had ceased and the[196] clouds had cleared away. The sun, which was out of sight behind the western peaks, still shone on the crests, and turned all their white covering to a glorious rosy pink. That beauty was lost on Raymond, however, for all he could think of was the distance that remained. It was not far,—indeed, it seemed very near,—but every step was through deep snow, and all vestige of a trail had disappeared.

“Sid!” called Raymond to his brother, who was a few steps ahead, and his voice hardly carried the short distance.

Sidney stopped and looked back.

“I don’t believe I can go any farther, Sid.”

“But we can’t stop here, Ray.”

“I know; I suppose if I stop it will be for good. You go on without me, Sid. You can make it alone, and there is no use in both of us failing.”

Sidney returned to his brother, and was alarmed by the pallor of the boy’s face.

“Give me your blankets, Ray,” he said; “I ought to have taken them before.”

“You can’t carry mine and your own too.”

“Oh, yes, I can, easily.” And Sidney detached the blanket roll from the shoulder of[197] the unresisting boy. “Now, see, Ray, it’s only a little bit farther; don’t you think you can get up without anything to carry?”

“I’ll try; maybe I can.”

Raymond took one or two struggling, uncertain steps in the deep snow and stopped again.

“Here, Ray,” said Sidney, when he saw how exhausted his brother was; “take hold of the end of this blanket roll and pull just as hard as you want to. That will help you along.”

Raymond did as directed, taking hold of the roll which was slung over Sidney’s shoulder, and again they started. They took two or three steps when Sidney felt the weight released from his shoulder. He looked back and saw that Raymond had sunk down in the snow.

“Ray!” he said, but there was no response.

He stooped and raised Raymond’s head. The boy’s face was very white and his eyes were closed.

“Ray! Ray!” called Sidney beseechingly, but Raymond did not hear, and when Sidney released his head it dropped forward on his chest.


Sidney stood up and looked about him in a panic. The setting sun still illumined the summit that was so short a distance above him. But everywhere between was deep snow and no trail. If there were only a trail, Sidney thought, he would take Raymond on his back and carry him to the top. It would be like a labor of Hercules, but he believed he could do it. Without a trail, however, and with deep snow to walk through, such a thing was plainly impossible.

He looked down on Raymond, who lay in the snow just as he had dropped, and realized that if he did not do something promptly the fainting boy would become so cold that nothing could revive him. And yet, what could he do? They had gone far above the timber-line, and there was not a shrub or tree in sight, nothing to make a fire for warmth. And there was, apparently, no refuge from the snow that covered all the rocks, the snow that was likely to freeze them both. That, then, would be the end of their desperate attempt to reach home, and their mother, who was waiting in New York, and their father in a Russian prison, would never know what had become of them.



When Sidney looked around and saw only a desolate Arctic waste, with no haven from the bleak exposure, his strength and courage suddenly went from him and he sank down in the snow by his brother’s side. The piercing cold remorselessly bit through his clothes and sucked all his vitality. But as he crouched in the snow, the relief of repose was so great that he thought, languidly, he would rest there with Raymond, and escape the terrific struggle for a time. He was rapidly becoming numbed by the cold, and was lapsing into a somnolent state that felt neither inconvenience nor pain.

Then, with a mental wrench, Sidney’s thoughts reverted to his brother’s condition, and he remembered that when Raymond fell he had determined that he must do something immediately to restore him. That thought gave to his brain the fillip that was necessary to set his mind at work again, and[200] he struggled to his feet and looked around at Raymond. The sight of the boy, huddled helplessly in the snow, brought a complete realization of their peril, and he became once more alert. By stamping his feet and threshing his arms he restored a tingling circulation, and began to feel equal to further effort.

When Sidney examined his surroundings more carefully than he had done in his first fright, he saw, not far away, a break in a snowy cliff. What had before appeared to be only a bit of rock exposed through the snow seemed then to promise a space back of the white mantle. With careful steps he waded over to the spot, and found, to his joy, that there was really a shelter ready for them. A shelving cliff projected a few feet beyond its base, and that projection had prevented the snow from drifting in quite to the rock at the bottom. There was a space of bare ground some three or four feet wide, and, what was more important, there were small shrubs growing all along at the base of the cliff.

With a renewal of energy Sidney returned to his brother, taking care to step in the[201] tracks he had made when going to the cliff. By so doing he packed the snow to some extent and made a semblance of a trail. Raymond had not stirred, and Sidney thought, with a pang, that without effective aid he probably never would stir again. He picked the unconscious boy up, and holding him across one shoulder, retraced his steps to the cliff.

Sidney laid his brother down on the bare ground close to the rock wall, and then, without waiting to revive him, he hurried to collect fuel before it should become quite dark. Fortunately, while the shrubs at the base of the cliff appeared small, they had been growing for many years and there was more dead wood than green. Gathering armfuls of the small dead branches Sidney built a fire at the edge of the snow in front of where Raymond lay.

How grateful was the warmth that was thrown back from the rocks of the cliff! The ruddy fire, reflected brilliantly from the glistening snow that covered everything, changed the appearance of cold, which had been so depressing but a few moments before, to a seeming of cheer and hope. Even[202] the sight of Raymond, lying so still between the fire and the cliff, seemed less dreadful.

As soon as the fire was established, Sidney placed a supply of fuel within reach, and then turned his attention to Raymond. Opening the blankets, and spreading the warm Daghestan rug on the ground, he stretched his brother on that. Then he took off Raymond’s shoes and stockings, and after briskly chafing his ice-cold feet, wrapped them in a blanket and chafed his hands and wrists. Alternately rubbing the boy’s feet and hands, he worked assiduously until a slight degree of warmth began to be manifest.

Sidney kept the fire replenished, maintaining a constant brisk though small blaze. In the restricted quarters the heat was given back from wall and sloping ceiling until it was almost like a warm room. Sidney’s own exertions, quite independent of the fire, put his whole body in a most agreeable glow, but he was becoming fatigued and hungry almost to the limit of endurance. Finally, as he had used his entire stock of fuel, he went along the base of the cliff to search for more, first covering Raymond[203] with the blankets. As he returned with an armful of sticks he saw that his brother’s eyes were open.

“Hello, Ray,” he cried cheerily; “how’s this for a camp!”

Raymond smiled faintly and whispered, “Gee, but I’m tired!”

“You have a right to be tired,” said Sidney, “and there’s nothing to do now but rest.”

“It’s fine to have nothing to do,” said Raymond from his bed.

“Isn’t it?” responded Sidney, though at the time he was so tired he could hardly stand.

“I think now,” he continued, “I’ll sit down and have some supper. Don’t you want something to eat, Ray?”

“I’m too tired to eat, and too warm to move, but you go ahead, I’ll eat something after a while.”

“I’m glad you’re warm, Ray,” said Sidney as he opened a knapsack and took out some food, “for you certainly were not an hour ago.”

Raymond lay quiet, as if thinking, for a moment, then he raised himself on his elbow.


“Heck! Sid,” he exclaimed; “did you bring me in here? I remember now I was out in the snow, and thought I couldn’t go any farther.”

“Yes, and you were a mighty heavy tug. It was lucky you gave out when you did, though, Ray, within reach of this fine place.”

“You certainly are a trump, Sid; you always pull me through.”

“Well, now you’d better have some supper; I know you’re hungry.”

“Yes, I am hungry, and seeing you eat makes me hungrier. Jiminy! Wouldn’t it be swell to have some hot coffee?”

“It would that,” replied Sidney. “But never mind, we’ll get where there’s coffee before long.”

At Bezheeta they had obtained bread and a little cheese, the latter being a great treat, for they had been some days without any. The bear steaks had been consumed before they reached the village. They sat on their blankets back of the little fire and ate the bread and cheese with great relish. For drink, of which they did not care for much, they melted fresh snow in the cup.

As the boys sat munching their supper[205] they looked out on a very Arctic landscape. They were at the upper end of the ravine they had been following up, and only a short distance from the summit, with an outlook that would, in daylight, embrace many miles of the north side of the range. The sky had cleared after the storms of the day, and a full moon, just above the crests in the east, flooded with a soft light the rocky cliffs and ravines that were rounded with their covering of white.

The overhanging cliff which formed the boys’ shelter was draped from its upper edge with frozen snow, which even hung down in front and gave the appearance of an ice grotto. The only relief from the prevailing white radiance was afforded by the bare rock of the cliff at the back. Even that was picked out in ruddy lights reflected from the fire.

That fire was the saving feature of the whole scene. Outside, the prospect was one of Arctic desolation, but inside, the impression given by the cheerful blaze was one of comfort and warmth.

The boys soon imbibed the cheer of their immediate surroundings, and were promptly[206] fortified by their supper. Both of them had been exhausted as much by hunger as by hard work. Not until they were lying at their ease by the fire, and felt the rest that is given by food, did they realize that they had eaten nothing since they left Bezheeta in the morning. The cold and bleakness of the road had not invited lunches. The wonder was that they had not given out before they did.

“Wasn’t the trail covered up entirely before we stopped, Sid?” asked Raymond after they had finished their supper and lay in the warmth.

“Yes, there wasn’t a foot of it left.”

“Do you think we can get up to the top without any road?”

“Oh, I think so. It isn’t far, and it will look mighty near in the morning.”

“But the snow is pretty deep,” said Raymond, “and we’ll have to do some tall wading. And suppose we drop into a hidden gulch?”

“I think,” said Sidney, “that if we can get up to the ridge back of this cliff we can follow that up and the snow won’t be so deep.


“Well, I don’t want to be a croaker, Sid, but what shall we do if we can’t find the road down the other side?”

“I think when we get to the top that we’ll find there is no snow on the other side, or maybe just a little near the summit. It’s too early in the season for the snow to go very far down the south side of the range.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” said Raymond. “That will be fine; I’m tired of snow.”

“We’ll make quick time,” said Sidney, “down the south side. As I remember the map it’s a very short slope, compared with this side.”

“Gee!” said Raymond, “I’ll be glad of that. I want to get where I can eat a square meal and have all the coffee I want. We haven’t had a smell of coffee since we left Petrovsk.”

“I hope, when we reach Tiflis,” said Sidney, “that we can send a cable to mother. I don’t know whether everything around the Black Sea will be all war or not.”

“There’s one sure thing,” said Raymond; “Russia can’t send any troops over these mountains.”


“Not by this trail, I guess,” said Sidney with a laugh, “but she can send them up through the Dariel Pass. You know they told us at Petrovsk that troops were going north that way then.”

“That was ages ago,” said Raymond. “The war may have been ended long before now.”

“It does seem a long time.” And Sidney sighed wearily as he thought of the work back of them. “I hope the war is over. I wish we knew.”

The weather, after the skies cleared, had turned cold very rapidly, and the night that followed was very frosty, but the boys, in what they called their house, were snug as could be. The cliff served not only as a wall, but as a roof, and with the fire in the “doorway,” they were well protected. To be sure, the fire did not burn all night, but they kept it up until they were ready to crawl between their blankets. Then they doubled up their beds and slept close together, and though the night was the coldest in all their camping experience, they did not suffer.

In the morning it was a short task to build a brisk fire with the stock of dry sticks[209] they had left overnight. Indeed, the fire was more cheerful than the breakfast, for with a temperature that must have been hovering near the zero mark, a cold, dry meal was not very satisfying. Raymond sighed again for hot coffee, and declared that if he ever took such a journey again he would carry a coffee-pot, whatever else he left behind.

The boys really felt very little effect from the terrible exposure and fatigue of the previous day. A night’s warm rest, and food that was sufficient in quantity, however unpalatable in quality, had restored them completely. They started out, therefore, with renewed courage, and, as Sidney had predicted, the summit in the morning light seemed very near, as though it were not more than a few hundred yards away.

The boys first sought a place where they might climb to the top of the cliff back of their camp, and having gained that, found they were on a ridge that led directly to the summit. Even then, however, it was not an easy climb. The snow, while not so deep as it had been in the ravine, was still too deep for good traveling. The more recently fallen snow had been packed just enough to make[210] it resist a little when they stepped on it, and yet not enough to allow it to support their weight. That made very heavy walking.

Over that yielding surface the boys plodded slowly but steadily, and with good cheer. The air was still and the sun shone clear and warm. It was a day very different from the previous one of storms. When they stepped into a depression and were buried to the waist, they did not mind it, but laughed and struggled out.

In that way, slowly but surely, they won toward the summit. As they neared the goal their impatience increased until they were ploughing through the snow with breathless haste, panting and puffing with the effort. Then, finally, they stood on the topmost point, and simultaneously their caps flew into the air, and they gave three rousing cheers and a tiger.



For two or three weeks Sidney and Raymond had had their gaze and their hopes fixed on the summit of the Caucasus, a soaring line that neared them, oh, so slowly! They had toiled up, up, with alternating courage and despondency. At times the tremendous chasms which they had been obliged to cross had given them the disagreeable impression that they were climbing for the sole purpose of descending again. Always, however, when at the end of a couple of days they took definite note of results, they found there had been an appreciable increase of elevation added to their credit.

Sometimes they looked back and down on the vicinity of a previous camp with such a feeling of height gained that they were elated. And again a day passed with hardly any perceptible accomplishment. When, therefore, they finally actually stood on the summit, their delight was boundless. They[212] shouted and jumped and capered on the lonely crest as though they had taken leave of their senses. One would have supposed that their journey was finished and all the hard work was done. To the casual observer, though, there would have seemed to be still something left.

The boys were standing on old, hardened snow that had undoubtedly been in place for many years, and that was pierced only occasionally by rocks so gray as to be hardly distinguishable from the dingy snow itself.

Back of them, by the route on which they had come through Daghestan, the immediate slopes were densely covered with snow, but beyond, only the high elevations were clothed in their first white robe of early fall. The prospect that way was Arctic and forbidding.

In front of them, how different! At their feet,—more than two miles of perpendicular descent below them,—lay the great valley of Georgia. It was crossed and marked by scores of thread-like, glistening lines, the streams and canals that carried water over its fields and meadows. All was glowing and smiling in the tints of summer,[213] where even autumn, much less winter, had not yet approached.

In the checkerboard of cultivated country there were squares of dark, rich green that indicated orange groves, and other divisions of ashy green that proclaimed orchards of olive trees. It was a glorious and beautiful scene, and was like a fairy transformation after the barren ranges and desolate slopes of Daghestan.

Beyond that brilliant valley, as though to remind the beholder that all to the south was not soft and warm, towered the snow-capped mountains of Armenia. In the west, across a jumble of mountains that rose at the upper end of the Georgian valley, the boys saw a hazy line which they were sure must be the Black Sea, and their hearts throbbed faster as they looked.

The travelers were viewing the wonderful panorama from a height of fully twelve thousand feet, and only in the western portions of the range were points that were higher. To the east the range dropped much lower, and when the boys turned that way they saw, off on the dim horizon, a level line that was, without doubt, the Caspian.


“Gee! Sid,” exclaimed Raymond as they gazed in wonder, “I thought I had been on mountains before, but this beats everything.”

“And such a difference!—the dead of winter on one side, and the middle of summer on the other.”

“No wonder we were cold back there,” said Raymond, as he looked over the snowy wastes through which they had passed. “But, jiminy, won’t I be glad to get down on that side!” And he turned with longing to the warmth and beauty of the south.

“It will be a short job to get down,” said Sidney; “it’s almost a straight drop.”

“How about the trail?” suggested Raymond; “there certainly is none in sight here.”

When the boys looked down on the slope immediately below them they saw, what they had not before observed, in their enthusiasm over the view, that the snow did not descend more than half a mile on that side. The trail across the summit was entirely obliterated, at least, the boys could find none; and for a short distance down the south side also, none appeared. A little farther down, however, the snow was melted[215] along the line of the trail, leaving it plainly visible, while on either side the ground was covered thick. Beyond the snow, also, the road could occasionally be seen where an angle of it came out on some ridge.

“You see, Ray,” said Sidney, “it’s not far to a good trail at any rate. We can go down that ridge, and we’ll soon be out of the deep snow.”

“Yes, and then we’ll be in slush.”

“Well, that won’t last long, either. And I’d rather have a little slush than much of such work as we had this morning.”

“Heck! Sid,” said Raymond, “I hope that country down there will be like western Texas in the winter, with no rain.”

“Remember,” said Sidney, “that western Texas sometimes has northers, and they’re worse than rain.”

“I’ll guarantee there’ll be no northers down there,” declared Raymond. “It would take a pretty vigorous norther to get over these mountains.”

“Well, once we’re down, we shan’t wait for one; we’ll hike right on to Tiflis and the railroad. It seems as though we ought almost to see Tiflis from here.”


“I’ll bet we could if we had glasses. Gee! wouldn’t it be swell to have a pair of prism binoculars? We could see everything from the Black Sea to the Caspian, and the other way to Nizhni.”

“They would be good ones.” And Sidney laughed. “But we don’t want to take it all out in looking. It must be about noon; suppose we eat a lunch and then start down.”

“No more lunches in the snow for me,” declared Raymond. “I’ll take my next lunch on terra firma.”

“All right,” assented Sidney; “then we’d better get a move on.”

Without stopping to hunt any longer for a trail over the top, the boys started down a ridge that appeared to intersect the road below. At first the snow was deep, and the traveling was bad, but the sun was warm and the air was still, and soon, as Raymond had predicted, they were in slush. That did not last long, but it was followed by a zone of mud. That, too, was soon past, and by the time the travelers reached the road, they were walking on dry ground.

With exclamations of delight the boys threw themselves down in the warm sun,[217] and stretching out at full length, ate a dry lunch with utmost relish. As soon as that was concluded they took the road again, with a desire to reach a level that would give a decidedly warmer climate for their next camp.

The trail went down the tremendous mountain wall by a series of switchbacks. There would be a long zigzag, consisting of twelve or fifteen sharp angles, back and forth down a steep face of rock; then the trail would run off to one side across the heads of half a dozen gullies that were transformed below into deep and precipitous ravines; or perhaps it would descend for a distance at a less acute angle down the backbone of a long ridge.

Nearly all the time, as the travelers descended, they were enraptured with a view of the magnificent panorama that was spread out before them. With all their experience of mountain travel they had never before seen anything to equal it. If they had ever crossed the Alps in early spring from Switzerland to Italy, they would have been supplied with a comparison, though the prospect before them was much grander and[218] more extended than that afforded by the journey down the Alps.

“I suppose,” said Sidney, as they were trotting down a zigzag with nothing to obstruct the view, “that those high mountains in the distance must be in Asia.”

“Wouldn’t it be swell, Sid, to have topographic maps of this country! Do you think they have anything like our Geological Survey maps?”

“That’s not likely, in a wild country like this.”

“But we have maps of wild mountains.”

“Yes, but that’s in the United States.”

“Where I wish we were, this minute,” declared Raymond fervently.

“I believe we’ve done our hardest work,” said Sidney, “so don’t get blue. Won’t it be fine, though, to get aboard a train at Tiflis!”

“The finest will be a steamer on the Black Sea, and then home; think of that, Sid!”

“I hope Turkey is not mixed up in the war. I have a sort of an idea that she controls the Black Sea, and unless she has joined Russia and England we may have trouble in getting out.”


“What should we do, then?” asked Raymond.

“I don’t know, but I’m sure Americans would be allowed through if anybody would.”

By night the boys had descended so far that the air was soft and warm, and they did not need to seek a spot that was sheltered from cold winds. They chose a level place and spread their blankets in the open, with only the blue sky overhead. It was very different from their camp of the previous night, and, indeed, as they lay on the ground looking up at the twinkling stars, it did not seem possible that such a transformation could be reality and not a dream.

The boys, however, did not take much time for star-gazing, and the aching of their muscles all over their bodies assured them that what they had gone through was no dream. Their prodigious exertions of the previous days culminated in overwhelming fatigue, and they had hardly more than lain down when sleep made them oblivious of everything.

Sidney and Raymond had camped out so much, and so rarely with anything more[220] than blankets to place between them and the earth, that they could sleep on any spot, however hard. If their bed were free from loose rocks they asked nothing more. Sleep, such as they had that night, is a great restorer, and in the morning the boys felt equal to anything that might be ahead of them.

The travelers observed no habitations on the south slope of the range, and in fact the descent was so short and so precipitous that it would have been impossible for any one to make a home there. Even the hardy tribes who had established villages in the almost inaccessible mountains of Daghestan would not have had the temerity to attempt a colony on the opposite slope of the Caucasus.

By noon of the next day, however, the boys had reached the upper margin of the beautiful valley of the Alazan: a valley where the dwellers conducted water wherever they pleased, and that was made luxuriant by the stimulus of irrigation under a warm sun. There the languid air of a semi-tropic early autumn was laden with the fragrance of ripening grapes. A luscious late[221] crop of figs hung heavy on their stems, and pomegranates had burst their rinds to show the crimson kernels within.

In groves of glossy dark orange trees golden globes gleamed amidst the rich foliage, and the ashy green of the olives was set thick with the black of ripened fruit. All was luxurious warmth, abundance, and peace, and seemed to the boys, after the rugged, sterile mountains over which they had toiled, to be a veritable Happy Valley.

The travelers found the people whom they encountered to be very different from the stern inhabitants of the rugged mountains of Daghestan. Indeed, such a type would have been impossible in the languorous air of the Southern valley. The Georgians appeared a mild, gentle folk, and much more fair of face than their neighbors across the mountain barrier.

It was easy to make the owners of the gardens and groves understand that a purchase of fruit was desired, and a delicious variety was heaped before the boys in return for the silver coin which Sidney tendered. And how they did feast! Only one who has been entirely without fruit and[222] vegetables for many days could understand what that abundance meant to the boys. Besides, the semi-tropical fruits reminded them of their own Southwestern home, and created a longing of homesickness that was painful in its intensity.

As it was easy to obtain food, so also there was an open hospitality that made the tramp of two or three days across to Tiflis an enjoyment rather than a task. Possibly the people were not more hospitable than those of Daghestan, and it may be that the soft air and beautiful surroundings lent to them a seeming of suave courtesy. At any rate, the boys thoroughly enjoyed that part of their journey, and it was the first time that they had felt real enjoyment.

While the valleys were filled with luxuriant growth, fostered by the streams that were conducted in canals over their surface, the mountains were more forbidding, and that condition, also, reminded the boys of their own Southwest. They found Tiflis situated where the Kura River emerged from between high bare mountains.

There ended the long tramp of hundreds of miles, and the boys paused and looked[223] back at the sky-line of white that marked the crest of the great Caucasus Range over which they had climbed. As they looked, and their minds ran back over the way by which they had come, the distance to the Caspian, where they had left the steamer, seemed infinity.

“I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t know what was ahead of us when we left Nizhni, Sid,” said Raymond as they gazed.

“If we had known I don’t believe I should have been willing to tackle it. But it would have been easy if we could have come by wagon through the Dariel Pass, as we planned.”

At Tiflis the boys saw evidence of war preparations again, in companies of soldiers that were passing in the streets. They proceeded directly to the railway station, where they tried, without success, to obtain news of the war. The railway agent replied “Yes” to every question they asked, but that was not very enlightening, as their questions were varied. So they purchased second-class tickets to Batum, and took the first train that arrived.



The train which the boys boarded was a very slow one, with, apparently, a maximum speed of about fifteen miles an hour; nevertheless it seemed heavenly to them to have a mode of locomotion other than that supplied by their own legs. Then, too, they were alone in the compartment, and hoped they would continue to be alone all night. They judged it was quite likely that they would be, for they observed that nearly all the passengers on the train went third class. Raymond declared that that was where they belonged also, for with the exposure and hardships of their long journey their clothes had become very disreputable in appearance.

Sidney had expected to try to send a cable from Tiflis to their mother in New York, but the station agent had exhibited such density regarding the English language that he decided to wait until they reached Batum. He believed that in a seaport they would almost[225] certainly find some one who could speak English and who would be willing to help them, even if the official of the telegraph office could not be made to understand.

It was fortunate that they did not wait in Tiflis, for when they arrived at Batum they learned that the train they were on was the first one in several days that had been allowed to carry the general public. It was not known either how long it would be before it was followed by another.

Nearly all the trains were being used by the Government to transport troops that were being massed at the various Black Sea ports it was supposed in anticipation of the opening of hostilities with Turkey. That country, the boys learned, still remained neutral, though her purchase from Germany of two cruisers that had fled for shelter within the Dardanelles had already nearly precipitated trouble with Russia.

Sidney and Raymond found their blankets quite as necessary in a Russian railway coach as on a Russian mountain. While the air of the coach was not so cold as that of the mountain, the surface on which they had[226] to lie was even harder than the surface of the Caucasus. With their blankets and their cloaks and their soft Daghestan rug, however, they made very comfortable beds on the long seats which extended in their compartment across the coach. And with their acquired ability to sleep wherever they might make their beds, they were ignorant of everything that occurred all night, not being aroused by any of the jolting of stopping and starting.

In early morning the train approached the coast of the Black Sea at Poti, several hours before its arrival at Batum. From that point the railway ran near the shore and the boys found much of interest and amusement in watching the varied scenes of the waterfront. Upon the arrival of the train at Batum the boys made their way at once to the docks, and, with their rolls of blankets slung over their shoulders, they felt quite as they imagined emigrants must feel.

There was much freight on the docks, great stacks of lumber and bales of hides waiting to be shipped, but there were very few boats tied up there. The first ship which they came to was a small steamer[227] where there were a couple of sailors talking in a language that sounded strangely familiar to the boys, and yet which did not seem, after all, to be one with which they were acquainted. They stopped and listened and were more puzzled than ever. Some words sounded like Spanish spoken with a strong foreign accent, but the next words would be entirely strange to them.

“What in creation are they talking, Sid?” asked Raymond. “Is it Spanish they are trying to get at?”

“It’s mighty curious Spanish, if it is,” replied Sidney. “I tell you what, Ray,” he continued, after a moment of thought, “it must be Italian. I think that sounds a good deal like Spanish. I believe I can talk with them.”

Sidney then asked one of the men in Spanish where they were going, and the man replied promptly in his own tongue that they were going to Rome, a reply of which the boys gathered the meaning very clearly.

“Gee, Sid,” exclaimed Raymond, “that’s swell! You talk Spanish and he talks Italian, and you both understand. Try him again.”


The next attempt, however, was not so successful, possibly because Sidney embodied too much in his question. He asked the sailor when they were going to leave, and if he thought their captain would take some passengers. The man looked puzzled for a moment, and then replied in a statement that sounded very long and intricate to the unlearned ears of the boys. While they were considering and trying to select words at whose meaning they might guess, a voice spoke behind them in perfectly plain English.

“Where do you young gentlemen want to go?”

The boys wheeled and saw a stocky, middle-aged man. He wore side whiskers, and there was something decidedly English in his appearance.

“We don’t care much where we go,” said Sidney, “so long as it is west. We want to get back to New York, but I don’t suppose we’ll find a ship here for that port.”

“No, you will not, but perhaps I can help you out. I am Captain Foster, of the Princess Mary, and I clear in the morning for Venice.”


“Oh, captain,” cried Sidney eagerly, “can you take us?”

“Well, I don’t carry passengers; I have no place for ’em; but I’d do anything I could to help Americans to get home. I fancy you are Americans?”

“Yes, we are,” replied Sidney, “and our mother is waiting in New York for us.”

Captain Foster looked at the boys curiously. “If I may be so bold,” he said, “you are pretty young to be in a country like this alone, and you look as though you had traveled some.”

“I should say we had traveled some,” broke in Raymond, “we came over the Caucasus.”

“By the Dariel Pass, in a motor-car, I fancy,” said the captain.

“Not much! We hoofed it, by way of Bezheeta to Tiflis.”

“Do you mean to tell me that you came over that trail on foot at this time of year?” And the captain looked at the boys in amazement.

“We sure did,” replied Raymond, “every step of the way. Don’t those shoes look like it?”


And Raymond held up a foot on which the shoe was barely holding together.

“You see,” said Sidney in explanation, “we came down the Volga from Nizhni to Petrovsk, and then across from there. We started out with horses, but an army officer took them away from us the first day.”

“Yes, I expect so,” said the captain; “no man outside of the army can travel horseback in Russia now.”

“We haven’t heard a thing about the war,” said Sidney, “since we left the boat. How is it going?”

“Well, nobody knows yet. It’s a bad war.” And the captain looked very grave. “I’d be helping, but I’m too old. And it begins to look pretty nasty with Turkey; that’s why I’m clearing in the morning. But weren’t you with a party?”

“We went with our father to Nizhni to see the Fair,” replied Sidney, “and father was arrested as a German spy just because he speaks German. We were afraid if we waited we shouldn’t be able to leave Russia at all, so my brother and I came south, expecting to go through the Dariel Pass. But at Petrovsk we were told that troops were[231] thick in the pass, and were advised not to go that way. So we came over by the trail, and it was a tough tramp.”

“Didn’t your father have a passport?”

“Yes, he had a passport from the Secretary of State at Washington.”

“I’m sure he got out all right, then,” said the captain. “Americans can go anywhere in the belligerent countries, if they can only prove they are Americans. But how did you young men get away without a passport?”

“The clerk of the hotel, who spoke English, took my father’s passport down and showed it to the purser of the boat. And the chief of police at Petrovsk gave us a sort of a passport, but it’s in Russian.” And Sidney took the paper from his pocket and handed it to the captain.

“I fancy I can read it if it is in Russian,” said Captain Foster, as he took the paper and glanced over its contents. “I think that’ll get you out all right. I’ll take it to the American Consul and have it viséed, and then to the chief of police for his O.K. Now, if you young gentlemen want to make any purchases,”—and the captain looked the boys over with amusement in his eye,—“you[232] can do it while I’m getting this fixed up.”

“I wish we could buy new suits,” said Sidney, “and shoes; in fact, new outfits right through, for both of us.”

“You come with me then,” said the captain, “and I’ll show you a good shop. We must have everything ready to-day, for I shall get off in the morning before daylight.”

Captain Foster conducted the boys to a clothing shop that was kept by an Armenian Jew who spoke English. Before allowing the boys to enter, the captain detained them for final instructions.

“This man has a very good stock of clothes,” he said. “After you have selected what you want and got his price for everything, offer him exactly half what he asks. If he objects, pretend you’re going to leave and he’ll come to time fast enough. When you get through, wait for me here, and I’ll take you to the ship.”

The boys entered the shop, and informed the merchant what they wished. They found, as Captain Foster had said, that the shop contained an excellent stock of clothing, and they soon made their selections of a[233] complete wardrobe for each of them. Then Sidney asked the merchant how much it all amounted to.

“As the gentlemen can see,” said the man, rubbing his hands together and smirking, “the clothing is most excellent quality.”

“Yes,” said Sidney, “the clothes are all right. How much are they?”

“I am sure,” said the merchant, “the young gentlemen are well pleased.”

“Of course, or we shouldn’t take the things. Now, tell me how much everything is, we’re in a hurry.”

The man regarded his customers shrewdly for a moment, and then said,—

“The gentlemen may have all of this clothing, all of the most excellent garments which they have selected, for the small sum of one hundred ten rubles.”

“I’ll give you just fifty-five rubles for everything we’ve picked out,” said Sidney.

The man threw up his hands in supplication, and raised his eyes in horror.

“Would your lordship rob a poor defenseless man?” he asked, most humbly.

“My lordship doesn’t intend to rob anybody,” said Sidney, while Raymond snickered.[234] “But if you don’t want to sell the things, all right. Come on, Ray.”

The man interposed hastily. “Business is so bad with the cruel war, that I am willing to take much less than the clothing is worth. But fifty-five rubles!” And he raised his hands in protest.

“All right,” said Sidney, “we’ll go somewhere else.” And he started toward the door.

“If the gentleman insists,” interposed the merchant again in a tone of agony, “he shall have the excellent clothing at his own price, though I lose half the value of the goods.”

“Very well,” said Sidney; “now show us a place where we can put the things on.”

“Do you want to change your clothes here, Sid?” objected Raymond.

“Yes; we’d better do the whole thing up now.”

Thereupon the merchant conducted the boys to a room at the rear of the shop where he apparently lived. When the boys were alone Sidney explained to his brother.

“You see, Ray, my money is all under my clothes, and I didn’t want to take it out and let that fellow know how much we’ve[235] got. Besides, we may as well leave all these old rags here, they’re good for nothing. I was ashamed to jew him down that way, but I guess we paid all the things were worth, or he wouldn’t have let them go.”

When the boys had changed their clothes they returned to the shop, and Sidney informed the merchant that he might have their old clothes which they had left lying in the other room. That seemed to satisfy the man, who was looking as though the boys had literally robbed him of everything he possessed. In a few minutes Captain Foster returned.

“Everything is all right,” he announced, as they walked toward the docks, “and when I told your consul, Mr. Davis, what you boys had done, he said that if you needed money to get home with to call on him. I told him you wouldn’t need any money as far as I went.”

“That’s fine of both of you,” said Sidney, “but I think we have enough money to pay our way home. I took your advice about paying for the clothes, so they didn’t cost us much, but I felt pretty cheap to beat the man down.”


“You needn’t feel cheap,” said the captain; “if you paid half what he asked, you paid enough. You don’t look like the same young men.” And he regarded the boys with satisfaction.

“I’m glad we look better,” said Sidney, “and we’ll feel better after we’ve had a good scrub.”

“You can have a tub,” said the captain, “as soon as we get to the Princess Mary.”

“There is one other matter,” said Sidney. “I would like to send a cable to our mother in New York. We couldn’t make the man at Tiflis understand, and she must be awfully anxious about us.”

“I doubt if you can do that,” replied Captain Foster. “I don’t believe the Government will allow a message to be sent to a foreign country, but I’ll go around to the telegraph office with you and we’ll find out. You see, when there’s trouble, I don’t have to wire any owners, for I own the Princess Mary myself, so I don’t know whether the wires can be used now or not.”

“What sort of a cargo do you carry, Captain Foster?” asked Sidney, as they walked along.


“I load with crude oil for Venice.”

“Isn’t that an awfully messy cargo?” asked Raymond.

The captain laughed. “Oh, no; you wouldn’t know what I had aboard. There are tanks built into the ship, and the oil is pumped into them, and pumped out.”

By that time they had arrived at the telegraph office and the captain interviewed the man in charge, who spoke no English. After a short conversation the captain turned to the boys, and announced, regretfully,—

“He says you can’t send any message of any kind out of the country.”

“Poor mother, she will be sick with anxiety.” And Sidney’s eyes looked suspiciously moist. “She didn’t want us to come, Captain Foster. We had a bad time last winter getting away from the war in Mexico, and mother was sure something would happen to us this time, too. But that was before the war over here began.”

“Well, you know the old saying, ‘No news is good news.’”

“I’m afraid that mother wouldn’t agree to that. But I guess there’s nothing we can do.”


“I fancy you can send a cable from Venice,” said the captain; “you know Italy is neutral, like the United States.”

“I do hope we can.” And Sidney looked somewhat relieved.

They were two rather dejected boys, however, who turned back to the docks with Captain Foster. It was very hard to be obliged to give up all present thought of communicating with their mother. It seemed ages since they said good-bye to her in New York. The anticipation of sending a message had been so pleasant, and when that hope was suddenly dashed, their loneliness and homesickness were greater than ever.

When they arrived at the docks the boys saw a small, dingy steamer, that ordinarily would have appeared anything but attractive, but to the boys then she seemed finer than a big Atlantic liner. They were taken on board, and were shown to a tiny cubby-hole of a cabin that adjoined the captain’s own stateroom.

“This is not much of a cabin,”—and the captain looked about apologetically,—“but, you see, the Princess Mary was not intended to carry passengers.”


“Oh, I think it’s fine,” protested Sidney; and Raymond declared,—

“It’s perfectly swell! You may have the lower berth, Sid, and I’ll take the upper one.”

When the boys had thrown their blankets into the berths, the captain said,—

“Now, you come into my cabin; I’ve got a tub there, and I’ll have the cook bring you some hot water, and you can scrub as long as you want to.”

“It’s good of you, Captain Foster,” said Sidney, “to let us use your bath.”

“Well, you see, the Princess Mary is not very modern, though she’s as stanch a little craft as was ever built, and she hasn’t got any bathrooms. Now you young gentlemen take your time, and come up on deck when you’re through. I shan’t come down till I see you out there.”

Captain Foster’s bath was a funny little short tub that the bather could just sit down in. The boys did not try even to sit down, but stood up, one at a time. There was plenty of water, however, and soap, and the scrubbing that followed was very thorough, and resulted in two well-renovated boys.



It had seemed to Sidney and Raymond that they had attained to the height of ease when they boarded the train at Tiflis after their tremendous tramp and were transported without effort on their part. But when the Princess Mary drew away from the pier at Batum and started westward across the Black Sea, the travelers felt that they were then enjoying sublimated luxury.

The great sea lay rippling gently under a peaceful autumn sky, and the little steamer drove steadily ahead on a level keel. It was as though they were navigating a small lake. Captain Foster’s cargo consisted wholly of oil, so that he put in at no ports, but made a straight run from Batum to Venice.

As the Princess Mary used oil for fuel, her crew was made up chiefly of engineers. There were only four sailors, one of whom was the captain’s first officer, and a cook. The mate, Mr. Wright, sat at the captain’s[241] table, so with the boys there was a nice little party of four.

Captain Foster had a great fund of stories gathered during a sea life of forty years, and he remembered and was willing to relate them all. And as the voyage was very uneventful, the captain’s time was largely unoccupied, and he employed much of it in story-telling. So the boys had not a dull moment.

After two days of such sailing the Princess Mary entered the Bosporus. It had been Captain Foster’s custom to stop at Constantinople, but there had lately been so many rumors that Turkey was about to join Germany in the war that he decided to make no stop on that voyage. The ship, therefore, was headed to pass directly through, and the boys thought that they would see the interesting foreign sights only from a distance. There was the great city of Constantinople on one side, and the beautiful heights of Scutari on the other, both of which places they would have loved to visit. Then, as they were passing the entrance to the harbor of the Golden Horn, a launch flying the Turkish flag signaled them to stop.


In obedience to the summons Captain Foster lay to, and they were boarded by a Turkish officer who demanded their clearance papers. After he had examined the papers he went below with Captain Foster to inspect the cargo.

Sidney and Raymond waited on deck in great anxiety. They could not face with equanimity the possibility of being detained at Constantinople. The narrow straits into which they had entered seemed to them like the door through which they would pass for home, and to have that door close and shut them out was too dreadful to contemplate.

“Sid,” said Raymond, as they waited in suspense for the return on deck of the Turkish officer, “if we are stopped here I shall escape in some way and swim across to the other side. If Byron could do that with his club feet I am sure I can.”

“But Byron, you know, swam across the other strait, not this one, and that’s probably narrower.”

“I don’t believe it’s any narrower than it is here; why, this is no width at all.”

“Well, if you got across you would still be in Turkey.”


“Yes, but it would be in the country, and not in a big city.”

“It would be in the country if you could land outside of Scutari, but that looks like a pretty big place from here.” And Sidney gazed across at the heights on the other side which were covered with buildings.

“I don’t care what there is over there,” declared Raymond; “there’s one thing sure, I’m not going to stay in Constantinople.”

“I don’t believe they’ll stop us,” said Sidney; “they’ll be careful how they stop Americans. But we’ll soon know, for here comes that Turk.”

The officer approached and looked at the boys, not unkindly.

“Where are you boys started for?” he asked in excellent English.

“We are going back to New York,” replied Sidney.

“Do you live in New York?”

“No; we live in Texas.”

“Texas; that’s a big State. Let’s see your passport.”

Sidney presented that paper to the officer, who read it hastily.

“H—m,” he said, “that’s a curious passport,[244] but I think it will do. We don’t want to stop boys, anyway.” Then turning to Captain Foster, “Your papers are all right, captain.” And he added significantly, as he went down the side, “I think there is going to be a storm; don’t let it catch you in the Straits, or you might be wrecked.”

As soon as the Turkish officer had left the ship, Captain Foster sprang to the signal-button for the engine-room and rang full speed ahead. The Princess Mary’s screws churned the water furiously, and she was soon throwing the spray back from her bows. But the captain did not appear to be satisfied; he told the man at the wheel to keep her well in the middle of the stream, and rang for greater speed. In obedience to his demands dense black smoke poured from the funnel, and the little vessel ploughed through the water faster than the boys had supposed could be possible.

“You see the Princess Mary is good for something, if she is old,” said Captain Foster proudly as he returned to the boys.

“She can’t go too fast to suit me, captain,” said Sidney, watching with pleasure the shores as they glided past.


“Nor me either,” said the captain. “That officer is an old friend of mine, and he meant for me to sit up and take notice when he gave me that warning.”

“About the storm?” asked Raymond. “I wondered what he meant. It doesn’t look now as though it would ever storm.”

“He meant something worse than a windstorm,” said the captain. “But if I can have until to-morrow morning, they may do what they please.”

“Do you think Turkey is going into the war?” asked Sidney.

“I think that’s what they’re getting ready for,” replied the captain.

“Which side will they join?”

“Well, it won’t be England; I’m sure of that. They would just love to kick up a fuss in Egypt.”

Captain Foster kept close watch of the Princess Mary’s speed, and did not allow the engines to subside in the least. So long as they were threading the narrow Strait of the Bosporus, the boys were kept fully occupied in watching the various interesting sights on either side, and the numerous shipping which they met.


After a time, however, the ship drew out into the Sea of Marmora, and then there was less of interest to be seen. The captain, too, appeared distrait, and was not so good company as he had been while they were traversing the Black Sea. So the boys felt rather dull, and when night came they went to bed early.

In the morning when the boys looked out of their porthole of a window, they thought the ship must be still in the Sea of Marmora, for there was only water to be seen on either side.

“I wish this old tub could go faster,” said Raymond grumblingly. “We’ll never get to Venice at this rate.”

“She seems to be making good speed,” said Sidney, as he watched the water surge past the side of the boat. “I don’t understand why we aren’t farther along; perhaps they were obliged to lie to for some reason in the night.”

The boys dressed rapidly and went out to hunt Captain Foster, whom they found pacing the deck and looking very happy.

“Good-morning, captain,” called out the boys; and Sidney added,—


“When shall we reach the Dardanelles?”

“Why, bless you,” replied the captain, beaming on the boys, “we passed the Straits last night, and we’re well out in the Ægean now. What did you think the Princess Mary had been doing? The old girl is making twenty-two knots.”

“Jiminy, that’s fine!” exclaimed Raymond; “then I suppose we’ll round Cape Matapan to-morrow.”

“Oh, we’re not going to run away down there. We’ll go through the Corinth Canal; that will cut off a whole day.”

“Shall we stop at Athens?” asked Raymond eagerly.

“No, we’ll make no stops, but we’ll be off Piræus this evening. I shan’t feel really comfortable till we’re tied up at Venice.”

“Well,” said Sidney, “that Turkish storm didn’t materialize.”

“I don’t know whether it did or not,” replied the captain; “but if it did we were beyond it.”

The Princess Mary was too small and unimportant a craft to carry a wireless, and since passing the Dardanelles they had met no vessel within speaking distance. Captain[248] Foster, therefore, had had no opportunity to learn what his friend, the Turkish officer, had meant by the warning he had given. He was, consequently, feeling rather anxious to know if he had passed the danger, whatever it was.

The day wore on uneventfully, and the boys amused themselves as best they might. They went back and forth from the deck, where there was nothing of especial interest, to the engine-room, where there was a good deal. They were left entirely to their own devices, for Captain Foster watched the horizon constantly. He knew there was a possibility that they might meet an Austrian cruiser, and in that case he wished to take advantage of whatever chance there might be to escape.

Early in the afternoon the captain called the boys’ attention to the island of Skyros, which showed off on their right, and he told them that before long they would see the mainland of Greece. While they were examining the horizon Raymond thought he saw a tiny line of smoke dead ahead. He called Captain Foster’s attention to it, and the captain brought his binoculars to bear on the spot.


“It’s not a cruiser,” he announced immediately; “it’s a tramp steamer. Do you want to look at her?” And he passed the glasses over to the boys.

“How can you tell that’s not a cruiser?” asked Raymond. “I can’t see anything but a little speck.”

“Well, she’s only got one funnel, for one thing, and she’s too small for another. She doesn’t look like any liner, either. I can’t explain to you exactly how I can tell; I simply know, that’s all.”

As the approaching ship was coming directly toward them, she grew large rapidly. While she was still too small, however, for the boys to distinguish anything about her, even with the glasses, Captain Foster examined her again. He looked intently through the glasses for a few moments, and then declared,—

“It’s the Black Duke, Captain Johnson, from London to Smyrna.”

“Gee! captain,” exclaimed Raymond; “you must have second sight. How do you know what ship that is at this distance?”

“I know her as well as I know the Princess Mary.”


“I couldn’t tell the Princess Mary as far off as that,” declared Raymond.

“Well, I could. When she comes up I’ll speak her and we’ll get the news.”

The two ships rapidly drew together, and laid their courses to pass about one hundred yards apart. When the Black Duke, for such the ship was in fact, was still some three or four hundred yards distant, Captain Foster took the trumpet and shouted,—

“Ahoy! Black Duke.”

“Ahoy! Princess Mary,” came the answer.

“What news of the war?”

“Turkey closed the Dardanelles this morning.”

“Gee!” exclaimed Raymond, “that was a close shave.”

The vessels were now rapidly separating, but Captain Foster launched one more question.

“Is the Adriatic safe?”

“English and French cruisers there, Austrian coast is mined,” was shouted back from the distance.

Captain Foster lowered the trumpet and regarded the departing ship thoughtfully.

“Well,” he said finally, “we escaped that[251] storm, thanks to my Turkish friend. Now if those mines are stationary, we’ll get through, but floating mines I’m afraid of.”

“Do you think Austria would put out floating mines, captain?” asked Sidney.

“Germany has sowed the North Sea with floating mines, and Austria may have done the same thing in the Adriatic. But there is no way we can locate them, so we’ll just have to go straight ahead, and take what comes.”

Having obtained what information he desired, Captain Foster determined to crowd the ship forward at top speed. With Turkey apparently about to join the hostilities and probably on the side of Germany, the quicker they were out of the Ægean the better. While passing through Grecian waters they would be perfectly safe, and in the Adriatic the presence of English and French cruisers would be a great protection, though they would not insure absolute security. The most serious aspect of the whole matter was presented by the mines in the Adriatic. There was no possibility, however, of evading, or minimizing, that danger.


In early evening the Princess Mary entered the Gulf of Ægina, and Captain Foster laid his course directly for the Corinth Canal. Before they arrived at that cut, however, night had closed down. The boys remained on deck to get what impression they might of the country, but after the ship had traversed the canal, and entered the Gulf of Corinth, nothing whatever could be distinguished on either side. When the boys woke rather late the next morning the Princess Mary was passing between the island of Corfu and the mainland.

“What a measly shame!” exclaimed Raymond, when he learned where they were; “here we’ve gone right through the middle of Greece, and we haven’t been able to see one foot of it.”

“Well,” said Sidney, “if we could be set down in New York now, I’d give up all chance of seeing any more foreign countries this trip.”

All that day and all night the Princess Mary steamed steadily northward. At daylight on the following day the ship was far up the Adriatic, opposite the coast of Austria. When the boys went up on deck they[253] found Captain Foster standing in the bow gazing intently out over the water.

“I know I’m silly,” he said when the boys approached, “but I feel like watching every minute for mines, though if they were thick all around us, I shouldn’t know it unless the Princess Mary struck one.”

“It seems to me,” said Sidney, “that mining the sea is a barbarous way to make war.”

“Yes; but making war any way you please is all of a piece.”

“Do you think there is really much danger, captain, that we shall strike a mine?” asked Raymond. “It would seem like being pricked by a needle in a haystack.”

“I don’t know how great the danger is,” replied the captain, “but a good many ships have struck mines and been sunk in the North Sea. I have been thinking that you boys ought to know where the life-preservers are, in case anything does happen. I don’t think there are any in your room, but there are some in the main cabin, underneath the couch. You see the Princess Mary never carries passengers, and we haven’t paid much attention to life-preservers. You’d[254] better get out a couple and bring them up on deck, then you can get into them in a jiffy.”

“Aren’t you going to get one for yourself, captain?” asked Raymond.

“No, I think not. If I had one ready I’d be afraid it would have to be used, and if I don’t get it maybe I shan’t need it. But you boys get them; that will be all right.”

The boys hunted out the life-preservers and took two of them up on deck, placing them by the side of the companionway, where they would be easy to grasp in case of necessity. Then the cook announced breakfast and they went down to the cabin with Captain Foster.

They seated themselves at the table and were seasoning their coffee, when, without warning, the bow of the ship was thrown upward with a terrific shock, accompanied by a muffled roar. The floor of the cabin inclined at a high angle, sloping down toward the stem. For a moment the Princess Mary hung in that terrifying position, while Captain Foster and the boys clung to the table, from which all the dishes had been thrown to the floor. Then the ship settled,[255] not only into place again, but farther than she should, so that the floor inclined the other way.

“Get on deck and into your life-preservers, boys,” said Captain Foster quietly, though with a very pale face; “she won’t last five minutes.”



Sidney and Raymond rushed up the companionway to the deck and began to buckle on the life-preservers, which were still lying where they had been placed. Captain Foster had preceded the boys and was directing the lowering of a boat, but the tackle had jammed, and the boat hung in the air from the davits.

All the small force of men gathered on deck, including the engineers on duty, whom the captain had summoned through the speaking tube. It had been barely a minute since the explosion, but the Princess Mary was rapidly settling forward. Three or four of the men still struggled with the boat, which obstinately refused to descend to the water, while others were cutting the lashings of a life-raft on deck. But the bows of the ship were already awash, and some of the oil tanks must have burst and let their contents out, for the stern rose high in air.

“Let everything go,” ordered Captain[257] Foster, when he saw the desperate condition of the vessel, “and jump, as far out from the ship as you can.”

“Are you ready, Ray?” And Sidney’s voice shook a little. “Let’s keep together if we can.”

There was no time, however, for any one to jump. With not even a quiver the Princess Mary dove head first into the deep. The waters sucked down after her with a strong pull, and then met with a surge overhead.

When Sidney realized that they would have no chance to leap for safety, he tried to grasp his brother, but the suddenly tilting deck threw him against the side of the companionway, where he seized the edge of the opening, and held fast with desperate energy.

For a moment he had a wild idea that only by maintaining his hold of the ship could he be saved, and he clung tenaciously to the casing. The water surged about him as he was dragged through it with terrific force. By closing his mouth tightly he kept himself from strangling, but the suction and the pressure were stupefying.


Then it flashed into his mind that he was being dragged to certain death, instead of being saved. Instantly he let go. The speed of the descending vessel had decreased somewhat with the depth reached, but the relief of pressure, which had become agonizing, was heavenly.

For a few moments after Sidney relinquished his hold he hung wavering in the wake of the plunging ship, which was still followed by the eddying currents of water. Then the buoyancy of his body, together with that of the life-preserver, shot him upward. Instinctively, too, he aided that upward movement by his own effort, the well-directed effort of a practiced swimmer.

Fortunately there was no wreckage floating at the spot where he reached the surface, and what a blessed thing it was to breathe the air again! The time he was being dragged down with the ship had been measured by seconds, but it was quite long enough, when he was once more in the free air, to make him feel that he had been restored to life.

Sidney’s presence of mind in keeping his mouth closed had prevented the water from entering his lungs, so that he was able[259] at once to look around to see who else might be near him. His first thought was of Raymond. Looking out over the water that was still agitated by the sinking ship, at first there was nothing evident but confusion, for the surface was thickly sprinkled with wreckage. There was every article that had been loose on the ship’s deck, to which were added many pieces of splintered and shattered planking that had been torn from the vessel’s bottom by the explosion.

Sidney supported himself by treading water, and raising himself high, gazed about him. He saw here and there amidst the flotsam the head of a man who was clinging to some piece of wood. Presently, away on the other side of the circle of waste he saw his brother.

“O—h, Ray!” he called.

Raymond, also, was intently examining the surface of the water, and immediately he distinguished Sidney.

“I’ll swim over there, Ray,” called Sidney when he saw that he was observed.

There was no wind, and the waves and swells caused by the destruction and the sinking of the Princess Mary were beginning[260] to subside. So it was not difficult for Sidney to swim, though he was retarded somewhat by the cork jacket that was buckled around him.

He had proceeded but a few strokes when he noticed, a little to one side, the form of a man lying against a piece of plank, and he changed his course to examine it. The man’s face was in the water, and Sidney, turning it up, was shocked to find it was Captain Foster. There was a bloody bruise extending across his forehead, and he was unconscious, but Sidney thought he still lived.

“Oh, Ray,” Sidney called, “Captain Foster is hurt; come and help me.”

The other men who were floating in the wreckage heard the call, and all hastened to the aid of their captain. There were the mate, a sailor, and two engineers, all who were left of the ship’s company. Mr. Wright was the first to reach them, and after examining Captain Foster briefly, he declared,—

“He’s only stunned, sir, but we must get him out of the water, or he’ll be chilled. You men,” he continued, turning to the others, while he supported himself by a piece of plank, “get together all the good[261] pieces of timber you can find, and we’ll make a raft. I saw a coil of rope just over there, and maybe you’ll find some more.”

The men, assisted by Sidney and Raymond, swam through the floating débris, and collected all the pieces of wood that were large enough to use. They also found several long pieces of rope. It was slow work, and tedious, but fortunately all were good swimmers. As fast as they brought the pieces in, pushing them before them to where Mr. Wright was waiting with Captain Foster, the mate arranged them in some sort of order. He tied fragments of about the same length and width together, and then placed those couples consecutively and bound them with the long ropes. There were two heavy hatch covers, each of which would easily support a man, and that addition expedited the work greatly.

Finally the lumber was all collected and bound together. While not all of it was yet assembled in the raft, enough of it was put together to support several men. So the mate, who was anxious to get the captain out of the water, climbed up on it and directed the men from there.


“Jack,” he said to the sailor, “you and Watson,” indicating one of the engineers, “bring the captain here and we’ll lift him up.”

The mate had supported Captain Foster in the water by placing his arms over a plank and securing them there with a bit of rope. The two men unbound the lashing, and placing themselves one on each side of the injured man, who was still unconscious, they floated him across the few intervening yards of space to the raft.

“Now, let me get hold under his shoulders,” said Mr. Wright, “and you men take hold of the raft with one hand and lift on the captain with the other.”

In a few moments Captain Foster was lying stretched out on the raft, and the mate turned to Sidney and Raymond.

“If you young gentlemen,” he said, “will climb up here and chafe the captain’s hands, I’ll help the men and we’ll soon have the raft done. Take off his shoes, too, and rub his feet till they’re warm and dry. He must have been thrown against a timber when the ship plunged down, and was unconscious when he struck the water. So there’ll[263] be no water in his lungs, and all you’ll have to do will be to get him warm. I wish we had some brandy to give him, but we haven’t even got water.”

“No,” said Sidney, who had climbed up and was kneeling by the captain’s side, “and Captain Foster didn’t have any breakfast this morning, and I think he was so worried last night that he didn’t eat much dinner, so he won’t be in good shape to get his strength back.”

“Did you young gentlemen have any breakfast?”

“No, we didn’t have any either. The explosion came just as we sat down to the table.”

“That’s bad; we men ate a good meal. Well, we may not be kept here long.”

When Mr. Wright and his men had bound together all of the lumber which had been collected, they had a commodious, serviceable raft. It consisted of a double tier of heavy timbers all through, and rode high in the water, even when it carried all seven of the party.

The boys had worked faithfully over Captain Foster, but he still had not recovered[264] consciousness, though his body had become much warmer. The sky was clear, and a bright sun had done quite as much as the boys’ vigorous rubbing to bring about that condition. Mr. Wright examined the unconscious man more carefully than he had done at first, and was quite sure that the skull had not been injured by the blow which he had received.

“I don’t believe there is anything more we can do,” said the mate, “but I think he will come to himself before long. We’d better all take off our clothes and dry them in the sun. I ought to have taken off some of the captain’s clothes; he would have warmed up quicker; I believe I’ll do it now.”

He began to remove Captain Foster’s jacket, and as he stooped over him to release an arm the captain opened his eyes.

“How many of the men were saved?” he asked.

“Three,” replied the mate.

“Who were they?”

“Jack, Watson, and Smith.”

“Thank God!” said the captain fervently; “they are three of the men with families. And the passengers?”


“Both of them,” replied the mate.

“I’m glad of that. What are we on?”

“We built a raft,” said the mate, “from the wreckage.”

“You’re a capable man, Mr. Wright,” said the captain. “My head feels pretty level now. I fancy I can sit up.” And he proceeded to do so.

Sidney and Raymond and the three men gathered around the captain and expressed their delight at his recovery.

“Gee! captain,” exclaimed Raymond, “we’re glad to hear you talking.”

“And I’m glad to see you, my boy,” said the captain. “This is pretty hard luck for you boys, just as you thought you were getting out.”

“Don’t think about us, captain,” said Sidney; “it’s you and your crew who have met with hard luck.”

“Well,” said the captain, “we have to take it as a part of the day’s work.”

“I hated awfully,” said Raymond, “to lose that fine rug that we packed over the mountains for our mother, and my revolver, too.”

“You won’t need your revolver again,”[266] said Captain Foster, “but if we’re taken by the Austrians the rug might have come in handy. I only hope that we’ll not be picked up by an Austrian boat.”

“What would they do with us?” asked Raymond.

“You boys would probably not be held, but the rest of us would be sent to a detention camp. They would never let Englishmen get back home.”

“And not be released until the war is over?”

“I fancy not.”

“Gee!” said Raymond, “that would be tough. Why, the war may last a month or two yet.”

“Yes,” said Captain Foster, “or a year or two.”

“Captain,” asked Raymond, “do you remember when the ship went down?”

“No, I do not,” replied Captain Foster. “When she made her first plunge, I was thrown against the rail, and that was the last I knew.”

“I remember everything I did,” said Raymond, “but I didn’t go down very far till I began to come up again.”


“The suction from a small boat like the Princess Mary is not very great,” said the captain, “but if it had been a big liner, you wouldn’t have come up, that is, not alive.”

“Then why didn’t the other men reach the surface too?” asked Sidney.

“Because they probably became entangled in some way and were held down,” replied the captain. “Poor fellows! the sea is relentless, as only those know who follow it.”

The outer clothing of the castaways, which they had removed, was become quite dry in the sun, and they felt more cheerful. But while they were glad of the warm sun at first, they soon saw the possibility of its becoming too warm for comfort. Besides, the warmer they became the more their minds turned to the thought of water, of which there was none.

The injury to Captain Foster’s head was wholly superficial, but it gave him a very sanguinary appearance, for it could not be cleansed, and there was no possible bandage for it except salt-soaked handkerchiefs. The captain, however, soon felt quite like himself again, for, as he said, he was altogether too tough to be permanently knocked[268] out by anything so trivial as a little blow on the head.

He noticed that what little breeze there was came from the east, and that fleecy clouds were gathering in that quarter, indicating the approach of a storm. He called the mate’s attention to that, and said he felt uneasy about their condition if there should be a storm.

“I believe, Mr. Wright,” the captain finally suggested, “that we can rig up a sail to help us toward the coast of Italy.”

“We don’t seem to have much to make a sail of, sir.”

“We could use our coats if we had any way to fasten them together.”

“There’s a coil of ratline-stuff, sir, that we fished out of the water, and that I thought was too small to trust in making the raft.”

“That’s just the thing, Mr. Wright. Make holes along the edges of the coats and tie them together with bits of the cord. Then pull out the two longest sticks you can find in the top of the raft. Hoist those sticks a little ways apart, jam the ends down between the timbers, and spread the sail between them.”


All went to work with a will, the boys tying the coats together, and the men getting out the sticks for masts and setting them in position. Soon there was a curious patchwork quilt of a sail raised, but one that offered a large surface to the breeze. Raymond stationed himself at the edge of the raft, and trailing his hand in the water for a log, announced gleefully,—

“We’re making two knots.”



While Raymond had declared jokingly that they were making two knots, it was probably a fact that they were not going so fast as that. The raft, however, with its broad sail before an increasing breeze, was moving through the water at a rate that was perceptible, and that, to their joy, was taking them toward a safe, neutral country.

A few thin gray clouds were coming in from the east, but the sun was still warm and invited to ease and comfort. So the various members of the little party stretched themselves out as best they might. There was nothing, however, to mitigate the hardness of the surface on which they lay, except their own will to endure it.

“After all,” said Raymond, “this beats some of the beds we had in the Caucasus.”

“That must have been a tough tramp for you boys,” said Captain Foster.

“It was,” replied Sidney, “and if we had[271] known just how hard it would be, I think we should not have attempted it.”

“Well,” said Raymond, “we were never blown up at any rate. I hope the raft won’t strike another mine; it would be our finish if it did.”

“That is not likely,” said the captain. “It is strange that even one mine should have floated out so far from the Austrian coast.”

As the day advanced, the wind increased and the raft ceased to be a stable vehicle. It pitched and rolled altogether too much for comfort. The occupants of the raft, too, became very thirsty, and Captain Foster and the boys, who had missed their breakfast, added the pangs of hunger to the misery of thirst.

Hunger and thirst, however painful, might be borne, but the endurance of the raft in a gale was an undetermined problem. It was a problem, though, that promised to press for solution, for the wind continued to increase, and the clouds rolled up dark and darker from the east. The raft plunged heavily and sullenly through the rising sea.

Finally, Captain Foster ordered the sail[272] down, and the coats restored, each to its owner. It was high time that the coats were made to perform their proper office again, for the wind had become very cold, and the spray constantly drenched the occupants of the raft. The sail, too, must soon have been torn away if it had not been taken down.

Soon after noon the wind had risen to a gale, and instead of lying stretched in a warm sun on a placid sea, the shipwrecked party were huddled together under a cold and lowering sky. They crouched in silence, for no one felt like talking.

When the raft made an especially violent plunge and nearly stood on edge, they all clutched each other, and by their very bulk maintained their position. At one such time, however, Sidney failed to grasp the man who was next him, and slid to the edge. He only saved himself there by seizing hold of a stick which protruded a little above the level of the raft.


The boy was so nearly paralyzed by fright that when the raft settled to a level again, he could not get back to the center until he was pulled in by one of the men.

“It won’t do to take such chances as[273] that,” said Captain Foster. “Mr. Wright, knot together the pieces of rope that we used in the sail. Then tie one end to one edge of the raft, bring it across the center and tie to the other side. We’ll all take hold of that, and we shan’t be washed off.”

The mate found there was enough rope to extend across the raft and pass back again, making it double. He also fastened the middle to the raft, and had a secure anchor.

“Now, boys,” said Captain Foster, “grasp the line, and don’t let go for an instant.”

Sidney’s narrow escape was all the warning that was necessary to make the boys, even Raymond, obey implicitly. The men did not need any warning for caution, for their experience of the ocean was sufficient to show them their danger. So all the members of the party gripped the rope with the tenacity of fear.

The supporting rope had not been provided any too soon, for the gale increased in intensity. Indeed the strength of the unfortunates who clung to the rope was sometimes taxed to the utmost to enable them to maintain their hold. Without that support[274] they would certainly have been washed away.

The raft would sometimes be dashed up on the crest of a great wave with such force that it seemed in imminent danger of being thrown over backward. Then it would be hurled down into the trough of the sea, and be threatened with destruction by the waves that reared on either side.

As the wind increased, too, the clouds became more dense, and began to discharge dashes of biting rain. The rain itself did not make so much difference, however, for the shipwrecked people were already as wet, from the drenching spray, as they could be. But with the rain came bitter cold, and that was heart-breaking.

It had been difficult enough for the castaways to keep hold of the rope with the pitching and rolling of the raft. That difficulty was increased many fold by the cold that numbed their hands and sapped their strength. Even the sailors, with the hardihood acquired during years of hardships, found the situation a difficult one. And the boys, despite their severe schooling in endurance, found it nearly insupportable.


Raymond’s hands became absolutely devoid of feeling, and his whole body was almost without sensation. His grasp on the rope held more because his fingers were stiffening in their clutch than because of any volition on his part. He hung, almost insensible, from the rope.

Finally, Captain Foster noticed the boy’s condition, and cast about for a way to help him. He thought he might hold Raymond, himself, with one arm, but he hardly dared trust the weight of both of them to the insecure support of one hand. If there were only a line to tie him fast!

“Mr. Wright,” he said to the mate, “we must do something for the boy, or he will be washed away. Is there any line left?”

“No, sir,” replied the mate. “Yes, I think there is, too,” he added. “When I lashed the center of the line down to the raft, there was a long end which I left hanging. It’s right by the boys.”

When the members of the party had ranged themselves along the rope anchor, Sidney and Raymond were placed in the center as the most secure position.

“Then I wish you’d work your way in[276] there, Mr. Wright, and tie that boy to the line,” said the captain.

“Aye, that I will, sir,” replied Wright.

The mate, who was near one end, climbed cautiously past the other man until he reached Raymond. Then he knotted the long loose end of line around the boy’s body under his arms in such a way that it could not draw tight, and yet so securely that Raymond could not be washed off. When that was done, he found there was still rope left, and he said to Sidney,—

“Shall I lash you too, sir? It will be safer.”

“I wish you would,” replied Sidney. “I may be able to hold on, but I am not sure. Thank God, my brother is safe.”

It was not long after that when Raymond’s hands lost their grip and he hung, an inert weight, from the rope. Then, after the raft was free of a towering wave that had broken over it, Smith’s place was vacant. When Captain Foster discovered their loss, he besought the men who were left to have courage.

“Don’t lose heart,” he said to them. “Watson, remember your family, and, Jack, that old mother of yours. I think we[277] must be in the route from Fiume to Ancona, and there may be some traffic yet between Austria and Italy, so I fancy we stand a good chance of being picked up.”

“I shall hang on, sir,” replied Watson, “as long as any one. My missus can’t support the children alone.”

As the man finished speaking, the raft mounted the crest of a huge swell, and the mate and Jack sang out simultaneously,—

“Ship ahoy!”

There was barely time to see a steamer that was bearing down upon them not far away, when the raft plunged into the trough again. With the next rise, however, there was a good view of a long steamer with four funnels, that lay low in the water, coming up against the wind.

“It’s a destroyer,” said Captain Foster, “probably an Austrian. Well, better an Austrian than none at all.”

The castaways were observed, and the warship, after passing close to one side, hove to so as to bring the raft under her lee. There she hung, with her engines working only enough to hold against the wind, while she lowered a boat.


The shipwrecked men watched anxiously while the boat fought its way toward them. It was thrown from crest to trough, then back again, and tossed about until it seemed impossible that it could live. There was no trouble about its being able to advance, for the wind swept it resistlessly along. The greatest danger was that it would strike the raft and both be wrecked.

When the boat was opposite the raft its crew attempted to bring it up to the wind. As they came around and the gale struck them broadside on, it seemed as though their destruction was certain. For a few moments the boat was hidden beneath the piling seas, and Captain Foster and his men held their breath in terrible suspense.

Then the boat emerged, but the wind had driven it past its destination. Slowly the boat’s crew battled their way back against the gale. When they were once more opposite, they drew the boat up on the windward side, and let it down as carefully as possible against the raft.

The protection which the warship offered in breaking the force of the wind was considerable, but even then the two craft[279] pounded together in a most alarming manner.

The mate cut the cord that held Sidney, and he and Captain Foster helped the boy to the side. Sidney had not been, like his brother, rendered entirely helpless by the cold, and the prospect of rescue had greatly restored his strength. So by watching until the boat and the raft, in their violent oscillations, were brought to nearly the same level, he was able to spring into the boat, where he was caught by its crew and placed in safety.

Then Captain Foster and the mate turned to Raymond. He was unconscious, and they were obliged to carry him, which was extremely difficult. They left the cord attached to the boy, and threw the end to the boat’s crew, who held it as a safeguard against disaster. By lifting and pulling, Raymond was transferred safely to the boat.

When that had been accomplished it was comparatively easy for the sailors to follow the boys, and the boat started back to the ship. That was a long pull and a hard one, but the nearer they approached under the lee of the ship the less difficult it became,[280] and the shipwrecked party were finally safe on board.

Captain Foster and the boys were conducted to the cabin of one of the officers, where Raymond received the attention of the ship’s surgeon. And the mate and his men were taken forward. Warmth and food were all that Raymond needed to restore him completely, and the others responded to the same treatment.

Captain Foster learned that the ship which had rescued them was the Salzburg, an Austrian torpedo boat destroyer, which was doing patrol duty from Pola as a base. Presently they were visited by the lieutenant in command, a courteous young man who spoke English perfectly.

“What ship are you from?” he asked Captain Foster.

“The Princess Mary, freighter, from Batum to Venice,” was the reply.

“Were you wrecked in the storm?”

“No, we struck a mine early this morning.”

“And these young men?”

“They are Americans who were returning home from Russia, and I was helping them out.”


“Well, captain,” said the lieutenant, “I shall be obliged to detain you and your men. I will turn you over to the commandant at Pola. But I will see that these young Americans are sent on by rail. If you have money to get to Genoa,” he continued, turning to Sidney, “you will find ships that will take you to England, and from there you can easily get home.”

“I think we have money enough for that,” replied Sidney, “and we shall never forget what you have done for us.”

“I have done only my duty,” replied the officer as he turned away.

“It distresses me, Captain Foster,” said Sidney when they were alone, “to leave you a prisoner.”

“That you can’t help, my friend,” replied the captain, “and it is a chance that we took with our eyes open.”

“Can’t we take a letter for you to your family?” asked Sidney.

“I shan’t give you a letter; that would only get you into trouble; but when you reach London, I’ll be grateful if you will go to see my wife, at No. 18, Southampton Row, Russell Square. You can tell her just[282] what has happened to me, and where you left me, and that will be a great comfort to her.”

“I will do that, certainly,” said Sidney.

The boys had no further opportunity for conversation with Captain Foster, for men came to take them to a separate room. And in the morning they had only a glimpse of their benefactor before they were put aboard a train at Pola for the Italian frontier, where they would transfer to another train for Genoa.

“Gee! Sid,” said Raymond, when they were speeding along in the train, “this beats tramping over the Caucasus.”

“It sure does,” replied Sidney, “and I guess we’ve done our last tramping this trip.”

“It really looks now,” said Raymond, “as though we were going to see mother, after all. When we were on that raft I thought we never should again.”

“And I hope we’ll find father with her in New York,” said Sidney.


The Riverside Press


U. S. A

Transcriber’s Notes:

Illustrations have been moved to paragraph breaks near where they are mentioned.

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in the original publication, except that obvious typographical errors have been corrected.