TED MARSH ON AN IMPORTANT MISSION
Author of "Ted Marsh, the Boy Scout", "Buffalo Bill's Boyhood", "Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express", etc., etc.
Illustrations by Alice Carsey
Whitman Publishing Co.
I. Ted Decides to Accept 11 II. Plans Are Made to Meet Ted 24 III. Ted Arrives in Chicago 33 IV. Ted Meets Strong 39 V. Setting a Trap 47 VI. Strong Seems Checkmated 57 VII. The Dictaphone at Work 68 VIII. Winckel Calls a Halt 80 IX. At Ottawa 87 X. Ted Receives a Reward 94 XI. Ted Goes Back 101 XII. The Marshes Reunited 108
HE SPRANG AT TED AND BARKED HIS DELIGHT 4 CAUTIOUSLY HE PROWLED ABOUT 13 TED FREES THE PRISONERS 78
TED MARSH ON AN IMPORTANT MISSION
TED DECIDES TO ACCEPT
"Ted, oh Ted."
The speaker's hail was not altogether unexpected. The boy called Ted turned about and met Captain Wilson half way.
The familiar figure of the boy proves to be Ted Marsh who had come out to Western Canada with his friends, John Dean and Mrs. Dean. After a number of months on the Double X Ranch, months which the boy had found both exhilarating and tremendously to his liking, he had been sent to Wayland Academy. To those of us who have read Ted Marsh the Boy Scout, the following facts are familiar. A brief resume, however, is set forth herewith for those readers who are new so that they can safely gather the threads of our story.
Ted Marsh, a likeable newsboy, living in Chicago, makes the acquaintance of John Dean, a Canadian rancher. Ted takes him to the Settlement to which he belongs. Dean's interest in the boy grows. Then as the boy begins to show the man the Chicago that he knows, there is the startling clamor of fire engines and all the evidence of a nearby fire. It is in the tenement in which Ted lives. The boy cannot be held back. He rushes into the building to try to save his mother. Fortunately, his mother has already left the burning building. The boy is caught within and only makes his escape by jumping from the window on high into the firemen's waiting net below.
After a stay in the hospital John Dean and his wife take the boy West with the consent of his mother who unselfishly lets him go because opportunity, so she feels, is there. Ted's father had left home just before Ted was born.
Strong interest centers around the doings of Ted and his new-found friends both at the ranch and at the academy. Adventures are many. The boy is found to be cool in emergencies. He has qualities which bring respect and liking. The end of the story finds him suggested for an important mission to Chicago—and his youth is considered of great advantage by the gentlemen who wish to send him. The opening of the present story finds Captain Wilson hailing Ted, ready to broach the subject and find out if the boy is willing or unwilling to undertake the mission:
The boy saluted. He stood at attention while the captain studied him for a few moments.
"Ted, boy, I come to you on very important business. Not as Scout to Scout, but as man to man. For you can safely refuse to do this—it will not count against you as Scout. Did Mr. Dean see you?"
"Yes sir," the boy replied. "He told me that in all probability you would wish to see me in reference to an important matter. And he told me that when you did ask me, I was to be sure to decide with no other thought than that of either wanting or not wanting to do it. He doesn't want my friendship for him or for anyone else to influence me."
"That's exactly it, Ted. What we are going to ask you to do, you must, first, want to do, second, feel that you can do, third, be sure it is in line with any convictions you may have. Now, I suppose you are even more anxious to know what it is all about?"
The boy nodded his assent but waited for the other to continue.
"Whatever we are going to tell you or which you may gather you do under pledge of secrecy. And now let us go to meet Major Church. While we are on our way, bear with me for a few minutes while I go into all this for you.
"Germany, we all feel, is getting ready to make war. Most people cannot realize it, but we have fairly good proof gathered both in London and in Ottawa that it is so. We also know that over in the States a big army of so-called German Americans but who are Germans in reality, men who have never severed their allegiance to the Fatherland, are getting ready, preparing to invade Canada. They are also to have the help of many Irishmen who hate England.
"The reason for this conference is to get Canada to also prepare. The Germans are working quietly, secretly. We cannot get the evidence to show what they are doing although we have tried. Here in Canada, they simply will not believe, and cite the fact that Germany has repeatedly declared its friendship as the best kind of proof of our being all wrong.
"Is all this too complex for you, my boy?" Captain Wilson interrupted his discourse with the sudden thought that he was not making it clear to his listener.
"I understand you, Captain Wilson," the boy answered. So the captain continued.
"We think we have found out one source through which we can get information. We must, however, proceed with great caution. Nothing would please the Germans more than to show us up and give surface proof of their good will and good intentions. Incidently, they would give a lot to make those of us who are watching, the laughing stock of Canada and the United States. That is why we must be very careful. We must try to get Washington to see the truth not through any suspicion they may have but by actual, obvious, undeniable evidence. If we can furnish such proof the Government at Washington will find good reason for watching these German-Americans.
"It is for us to get the proof. Once we get that we will not have to worry as to trouble from the other side of the border.
"I suppose," the captain concluded as they entered the building and made their way to the room in which Major Church was waiting, "you know who some of the men at this conference are. Besides Mr. Dean and myself, Major Smith, our chief, is an ex-army officer. Colonel Graham is Syd Graham's father. Mr. Smythe comes from Toronto; he is in the employ of the Government. Well, here we are."
They entered a small room. Major Church put aside some papers on which he had been engaged.
Captain Wilson introduced Ted.
"I have heard of you, young man," was the major's greeting. "You are a credit to the school, I find. And we have called you before us because of qualities we find you possess.
"I don't know how much you do know, lad, but war with Germany is near. Germans masquerading as German-Americans are planning an attempt against Canada and they intend to carry out that attempt just before the immediate declaration of war. We believe that the meetings of the prime movers are held in Milwaukee, possibly in Chicago. It is important for us to know their plans."
"We perhaps could decide on anyone of several men but it occurred to us that to send one so young as you are would in itself lull any suspicions they may have. They will not connect you with our work, which is in itself half the battle. But, of course, it would not do to send any one who, though young, is not also endowed with a fair amount of good common sense and discretion."
Ted listened. Nothing that the Major said escaped him. He realized the weight of the speaker's words.
"I understand that you have lived in Chicago. That is correct, is it not?"
"Yes sir," Ted replied.
"Well, it will help in case the point to cover is Chicago. With your knowledge of Chicago very little time would be lost."
"In the main," the Major continued, "it is mostly a question of being alert—eyes, ears and mind."
"Captain Wilson," the Major turned. "Is Mr. Smythe obtaining the necessary information, do you know?"
"Yes, we will soon know," was the reply, "who is the operative in that district and whether Chicago or Milwaukee is the point to cover. Mr. Smythe is waiting for the answer."
Major Church gave Ted an account of how their secret service men worked and how information was obtained.
"Despite the fact that we have all these men, I feel sure that you will be able to get the information we desire more readily than any of our men. In a way, you will be a temporary secret service man."
He carefully outlined his reasons for believing that Ted might be successful in getting information.
"My boy, Canada is not your country. There is no call for you to do it. You may wish to remain neutral and we do not want you to go unless you wish to, heart and soul. But should you go, successful or unsuccessful, you will be rendering us a great service."
"I want to go," Ted answered very quietly. "Canada is second only to my loyalty for my own country."
Major Church and Captain Wilson gave Ted a hand-clasp which showed their feelings.
"You are true blue, my lad," said Major Church. "We will have information as to location from Mr. Smythe very soon. You can understand the need of secrecy when our wires are coded. By the way, Wilson," he turned to the captain, "you have an instructor in German here, have you not?"
"We have," was the reply.
"Better watch him a bit. My theory is that all of these Germans will bear watching."
Three hours later Captain Wilson and Ted joined Mr. Smythe, Mr. Dean, Colonel Graham and Major Church. Mr. Smythe presented the following wire:
"Smythe, "Wayland. "Ekal stroper On. 2 ecalp Ees H."
"As you know, gentlemen, they have used the simplest code because the information would only be information for us. It is the reversal of the letters of a word. Let us see:
"Lake Reports No. 2 place. See H.
"H is Strong. No. 2 is Chicago. Strong is our chief operative there. Ted will have to see him to get his information and also such help as he may need. But one thing we know—their headquarters just now are at Chicago."
"I am glad of it," said Ted. "Since Chicago is my home town, I can do things there and may be successful."
"Suppose," said John Dean, "you start tomorrow, Ted. You see, speed is the thing. That will give you a chance to see your mother and sister, too."
"I need hardly say," said the major, "that even your mother had best not know about this, unless it should be actually necessary. Secrecy is imperative."
"I knew that, sir," Ted replied.
"One thing more," Major Church added, and he spoke to the men in the room. "No matter who asks about Ted, he has gone home to see his mother; someone is not well, let us say. The slightest hint or suspicion as to the purpose of his trip would frustrate it. Will you, Mr. Smythe, telegraph to Toronto, and tell the chief just what has been done?"
Mr. Smythe nodded his head.
Ted went out first. As he closed the door, another door far down the hall opened, a head came out, a very German head—the head of Mr. Pfeffer, instructor in that language. Quietly and quickly it was withdrawn. Ted did not observe this; if he had, it probably would not have had any meaning for him. Mr. Pfeffer was a very curious gentleman, he would have given much to know the purpose of the meeting; even now, he was debating with himself whether he should do some innocent questioning of Ted. He decided against it.
Just before retiring, Captain Wilson came into Ted's room.
"It seems silly to distrust Pfeffer, Lucky, still when you get to a station, say Winnipeg, I would telegraph your mother that you are coming. If any questions should be asked of her, she should say that she knows you are coming. See? It is best to be safe and to guard against everything."
Early morn saw Ted on the train. It was announced to those who made inquiries that Ted had been called home. Mr. Pfeffer received the information with private wonder and doubt.
He took occasion to stroll down to the telegraph office later that same day.
"Hello, Peter," he said to the operator.
Peter turned around to see if anyone was about, then brought out a copy of the coded telegram.
"Easy code, professor—what does it mean?" His copy already had translated the words properly.
"It may mean nothing or it may mean everything. The boy is going to Chicago—perhaps Chicago is No. 2—perhaps not. Peter, you had better send a telegram. Better be sure, eh?"
"Why would they be sending a child and for what?" Peter was incredulous.
"Did the boy send a telegram?" Mr. Pfeffer asked. "I had better see them all."
But there was none that had been sent that morning to Chicago.
A long wire, also in code, went forward from Mr. Pfeffer to Chicago. Then that worthy strolled back to the Academy.
PLANS ARE MADE TO MEET TED
In a room in one of the West Side streets of Chicago, in an old-fashioned office building, which also rented rooms to lodges and societies, eight men were engaged in earnest conversation.
"You are wrong, O'Reilly," said one of them. "England will not dare come into it. There are men in England who would want the country to war against my land. But the powers that be, and the people, too, will be against it."
"I hate England, Berman," said O'Reilly. "There are Irishmen who are willing to lick the hand that has beaten them and has held them in subjection, but they are not true sons of Erin. I am against England, but I do not despise the English as you Germans do. Once they are aroused, mark my words, slow as they may be at the start, they will be a mighty force." His eyes flashed. "Many people call me a traitor, but Ireland, not England, is my country, and all Irishmen should be against the country that holds it slave.
"But to business, gentlemen. Will you, Mr. Schmidt, explain the call for this meeting?"
"That I will," answered he who had been addressed. "There are two things for us to take up—the less important first. I have a telegram from our good friend Pfeffer up in Wayland, in Alberta, Canada, where he is doing our work, but is presumably a German instructor. Ah, here it is—"
He drew out the coded wire that Pfeffer had sent. "I have figured out the code and it reads as follows:
"'Ference eld erecon urday h atch h oysat ed w arsh b adian t cific M eftcan erepa en l am h alledsev ome y c ther h pect b emo ssus n h ay i ee o trong w haps s as s persper ay h eekpa formation m atchin s w.'
"'Conference held here Saturday. Watch boy Ted Marsh, Canadian Pacific, left here seven A. M. Sunday. Called home by mother. Suspect he is on way to see Strong. Perhaps he has papers, may seek information. Watch.'"[A]
There was a discussion as to the telegram. "Who is Strong?" asked O'Reilly.
"He is the chief operative—secret service man—stationed in Chicago by the Government at Ottawa. We have him watched. We have even instructions out that if he becomes dangerous he will disappear very suddenly."
"That is bad business," said a little man named Heinrich.
"Bad business nothing!" answered Schmidt. "No one must stand in the forward way. Germany first, last, forever. What is Strong, what are you, what am I—poof, nothing! But Germany—ah—" the speaker's eyes gleamed.
"It will give those who are suspicious ground for proof that their suspicions are more than suspicions," answered Heinrich.
"Let us not wander from the point, gentlemen," another man interrupted. "As I gather from the telegram, this boy may be coming to see Strong. Now, we must first make sure of that fact, then find out what it is he is coming for and stop him in his attempt, if it concerns us."
"O'Reilly," asked Mr. Winckel, a man with spectacles which carried thick lenses, "can you or one of your friends, perhaps, meet the boy and pose as this man Strong? Schmidt, you or Feldman had better go to Milwaukee and try to place the boy and get such information as you can. But do not let him suspect you."
"I'll go," said Schmidt.
"When is he due?" asked Mr. Winckel.
"Why, I should think it would be some time tonight," answered Schmidt. "I'll look and make sure."
"Find out his home address," added Winckel. "Telegraph it to us and one of us will hurry up and find out if his mother really expects him. How about your part, O'Reilly?"
"I'll see to it," answered the Irishman.
"That is finished now. Oh, yes, one more thing, Schmidt, better have Strong watched even more closely. What is the other business?" It could be seen that Mr. Winckel was the moving spirit.
"Tomorrow, eight o'clock, here—the chief will come from Washington. When Captain Knabe comes, he will tell us just when the day will be. It is very soon, very soon; the long wait is over. Then, too, he will tell us what we shall do. You will all be here? Now we shall go to our work."
They broke up. They were very thorough, each man had his work assigned and would see it carried through.
We shall turn to John Strong, who early that morning had been slipped a memorandum in code by the waitress serving breakfast to him, announcing that Ted was to come and to meet him. Also, Ted's home address.
John Strong was a clean-cut Canadian, hair graying at the temples. No one knew better than he how carefully he was watched. That he was able to be as useful to his government as he was, showed his ability.
He decided at once that he would not meet Ted. That would show one thing—the important thing to those who would want to know. How could he get to the boy's mother without being observed?
To the girl who waited on him he whispered that he wanted her to arrange for two cars to wait at the main entrance of the Hotel La Salle at ten o'clock.
He strolled out and immediately felt himself shadowed. He reached the hotel, looked at the register very carefully, as if there was something there he wanted to see, then turned to the cigar-stand. Turning around, he saw another man looking just as carefully at that register. He smiled. Now he knew one of those who were watching him. He pulled out some memorandum slips from his pocket and made some notations. As if by accident he left one of the slips on the case, lighted his cigar, bought a newspaper, and sat down and lounged.
Another man came to the cigar counter, also bought some cigars, picked up some matches, and with it the slip of paper.
So there were two.
At five minutes past the hour Strong strolled to the door, made a frantic dash for the machine, which seemed very slow to start. A moment later two men entered the machine immediately next, gave the driver instructions to follow the first machine, which by now had dashed off.
The first car went south. You may remember that Mrs. Marsh lived north. The second car followed. The occupants could never suspect the innocent appearing chauffeur of that second car, as he swore and raved at the policeman who had ordered him to stop to let the east and west traffic go by at the side street. The frantic men inside were assured that he would make up the lost time; that he knew the number of the car he was following. But he never found that car. He became very stupid, although always pleasant.
John Strong reached the home of Mrs. Marsh, certain that he had eluded the pursuit.
"Mrs. Marsh, I believe?" he asked as she opened the door.
"I am Mrs. Marsh," she answered.
"I am a friend of some friends of Ted. The main reason for his coming down to Chicago is to see me, although I am sure he will think that seeing you will count for even more than that."
"Did you get word from him?" further asked Strong.
"Yes, I got a telegram. It said he was coming to see you, but that I was to let anyone else who might ask think that he was coming because I sent for him. I do not understand."
Very carefully Strong explained it all to Mrs. Marsh.
"It is important that these people should not suspect that he is coming to see me, only that he is coming home, nothing more. It may even be, that one of them will be here to see you, some time today. They surely will if they find out anything about his coming, and where you live. I will say this, that I feel I am speaking for Mr. Dean when I say it will be a great service to him and to his country."
"I shall be glad to do anything for Mr. Dean. You can count on me. I think I understand and perhaps will be able to help. Perhaps, too, my daughter, Helen, even more so."
"Will you have your daughter come and see me right after supper. The train comes in at 9:10 tonight, and she will meet you afterward at the station. She will go there from my office. Possibly, as you say, she can help."
He left Mrs. Marsh, confident that she understood and that she had the ability and willingness to carry her part through.
[A] Readers will find it interesting to study out the simplicity of this code. There is special pleasure in their working it out for themselves. It is simple and unweaves itself once you have the key. For those who do not wish to decipher the code, they can use the following method. The first syllable of any word of more than one syllable is attached to the third word following. Of one syllable words the first letter is found by itself after the second word. In no case is a single letter considered a word.
TED ARRIVES IN CHICAGO
Between the hours of seven and nine that night many things were happening. Helen had gone down to see Strong. A man, who may have been a Dane or a German, boarded Ted's train at Milwaukee, and O'Reilly was preparing to meet that same train, as was John Strong. At home Mrs. Marsh was leaving to meet the train. We shall follow the man who boarded the train. He entered one of the Pullmans, but no boy seemed to be there; another one, and there were two boys, but both seemed to be with parents.
But he was successful in the third car. It was Ted he saw and as he sat down very near him he pulled out a Danish newspaper and started to read.
Pretty soon he looked up. He seemed a very pleasant man. He spoke to a man in the seat in front of him, then he turned to Ted. "Have you come from far?" he asked innocently.
"Yes, sir," answered Ted, "from Wayland."
"So," observed the man. "Do you live in Chicago or in Wayland?" He added, "I live in Milwaukee, but I go twice, sometimes three times a month to Chicago. My daughter lives there."
"In Chicago," answered Ted. Truth to tell, he was very glad to talk, the trip had been a long one.
"Where do you live, what part?" asked his new acquaintance.
"Over north, 11416 Wells street." Ted saw no reason why he should not tell this harmless stranger where he lived. Although he had no suspicion of him, he had made up his mind that such questions he would answer, no matter who asked them.
For he realized that the one way to arouse curiosity was to appear secretive.
"My daughter lives up that way, too," the man said. He seemed quite interested in the idea of making conversation.
"I will leave you for a minute." The train was slowing up for Racine. His telegram was all ready except for the address. He rushed into the ticket office, added the address and had it sent collect, and had plenty of time to board the train.
"I wonder why," thought Ted, "he should have to run into that station." Ted's suspicions were somewhat aroused. He decided to appear as if he had not taken note of the actions of his acquaintance.
Schmidt had underestimated the ability of the boy. He was so young, he thought, there was no necessity for special care.
Then, too, he was so very affable, so very simple. To his questions as to who would meet him Ted answered that he thought no one would, the time he was coming was a little uncertain, he added.
"No one is to meet me, either. Perhaps we can both go up home together, eh?"
"Sure," replied the boy, "that would be fine."
Ted fancied by now that the man was a German. But, then, he had that Danish newspaper. Maybe he was not.
"What do you do at your place—Wayland, I think you said?"
"I go to the Academy there. I belong to the Scouts—it is military and academic." The boy was quite young and quite simple, Schmidt decided.
"Ah, that military business is bad, very bad. There will never be war anymore."
Ted wondered if the man really believed it. He could not make up his mind. So they talked. The man grew less and less interested. He had made up his mind that the boy was really going to see his mother. Of course, that would be proven when they found out how much the mother knew about it and if she would meet the boy. Probably all this time had been wasted, but Schmidt had no regrets. After all, eternal vigilance was the watchword.
An hour later the train came into the station.
Ted, who had been quite tired, no longer felt any weariness. Here was Chicago, here was home.
As he stepped away from the train, his mother and sister ran forward. Two men watched him from close by—one motioned to the other. O'Reilly went forward.
"My boy, are you looking for Mr. Strong?"
Helen interrupted: "Looking for Mr. Who? Why, of course he's not—he's my brother—I guess you are mistaken. Come, Ted, we are going home first."
Ted did not question his sister; he knew there was method in her outburst. He added:
"I'm so glad you came, Ted. How I hoped you would!" his mother said.
O'Reilly turned doubtfully, as the other man beckoned him away.
"Time lost," said Schmidt. "Let them go. No harm done. I pumped the boy on the way; he had no secret, apparently. He is but a child."
"I was scared by that girl," replied O'Reilly musingly. "My, she's a Tartar. All right, then, I'm tired and I'm going home. Good-night."
"Good-night, my friend—see you tomorrow." Schmidt watched him go.
"Say, sis, I did have to meet a Mr. Strong." Ted spoke in a low voice.
"I know it, Ted, but that man was not he. When we get away somewhere I'll tell you something about it."
"Let's go home. I'm crazy to be back here and it certainly feels fine."
TED MEETS STRONG
There were many eager questions on the way home. The mother listened with great pride to Ted's account, even though he had told many of the same things in his letters.
Ted painted a great picture of his new home and it made Mrs. Marsh very happy for his sake, even though she wished a little longingly that both Helen and she could be a part of this wonderful and happy life.
Helen must have been thinking the same thing, for she spoke out:
"I wish mother and I could go out there. If there were only something I could do there. My work here is interesting, but I would gladly give it up for such an opportunity."
"It's all right, sis," replied Ted. "It won't be long before you will both be out there. I wouldn't want to stay myself if I did not feel sure of that." They had reached their "L" station by now and home was only a matter of a few moments.
"I guess you are tired, Ted. But I think I had better tell you what Mr. Strong wants you to do." Then Helen told him of her going down to see Mr. Strong, how the latter had reason to believe that there was to be a meeting of the Germans the very next night. He wanted to see Ted, who was to go to a certain number on Adams Street at eight the next morning. She gave him the number of the room. Ted was to wait until such time as Strong came. He might be late, for often there was difficulty in getting there unobserved. He would mention the word Dean and Helen for identification, should it be necessary.
Ted went to bed and slept the sleep of the just and the weary.
That next morning the newspapers printed in large headlines the ultimatum that Austria had put up to Servia. They speculated on the possibilities of war. To Ted—refreshed and no longer weary, reading the newspaper as he made his way downtown—it brought a feeling that he was in some way involved. It made him feel quite important; it increased his respect for the men who had sent him to Chicago. It was big work these men were doing; he was having a share in it. He left the elevated station with some time on his hand. It seemed so long since he had been down here in the heart of Chicago. It came to Ted that it would always hold a warm spot in his affections. After all, it was here he had spent his childhood; it was to the knockabouts received here that he owed much. If only he could be successful, if only he could obtain the necessary information and be able to deliver the message to John Strong. Without knowing very much about it all, he realized that the things for him to do were important parts of it all. A little uncertainly, because the subject was a little too much for him, and he was still a very young boy, he speculated on why nations should go to war.
"Hello, Ted," someone greeted him. It was Spot, the fellow with whom he had had that fight at the beginning of this story.
"Hello, Spot," Ted greeted him cordially. He was glad to renew old acquaintances. "How's business?"
"Fine," answered Spot. "Lots of news, lots of papers sold. What are you here for? Thought you went 'way out West?"
"I'm just paying a visit," laughed Ted. "Seeing friends." They talked for a few minutes.
"See you again, Spot. Is this your regular stand?"
"Sure is," replied Spot, as he turned to a customer.
Ted went on his way. Very soon he reached the building on Adams street to which Helen had directed him. He turned in and when he came to the seventh floor he entered Room 701.
He accosted the man who looked up from a desk with:
"Want a boy?"
"Well, perhaps." He sounded very English. "What is your name?"
"Theodore Marsh," replied the owner of that name.
The man's manner changed on the instant. Ted liked him then. "Come in, Ted. Mr. Strong is expected any minute, but of course he may not come for a while. We have just moved in here. We have to move quite often, for those Germans certainly are shrewd. Quick, too, and they keep us on the jump."
He turned to work on an intricate little machine which had a long coil of wire, very thin, much thinner than a telephone wire.
"Do you know what this is?" Ted did not know.
"A dictaphone. We will have use for it. I am getting it ready for tonight."
Ted had heard of a dictaphone, but he had not yet learned its usefulness. He was to find out that night how wonderfully useful it could be, how much danger the use of it would avoid.
It was almost two hours before a man entered. When he saw Ted he said, with a smile:
"Hello, my boy. I guess you and I have met both Dean and Helen, haven't we? Let us go into this room."
Ted delivered the papers he had brought for Strong. Strong took them eagerly and just as eagerly Ted gave them up. He heaved a sigh of relief at getting rid of them.
"This paper alone," Strong picked up one of the papers from his desk, where he had placed them, "if trouble should come, would prove to the United States Government what the Germans are doing in the States and just how it affects Canada. Without this it would be disagreeable to be found doing some of the things we find ourselves compelled to do. I see, also, that this letter says that I may count on your help. We will need it, I am sure.
"Tonight, the Germans are to hold a meeting. The purpose and decision reached there we must know at all costs. We must go down there, you and Walker and I. Walker is the man in the office. He has the necessary knowledge to place a dictaphone or tap a telephone wire. Also, he, another man named Bronson, and I have already made arrangements for placing that dictaphone at the Germans' meeting-place."
He turned to Walker. "Are you ready?"
"In about five minutes," replied Walker, with a grin.
While they were waiting Strong suddenly thought of something.
"As I understand—am I right?—you were a newsboy up to a year ago?"
"Yes, sir, I was," answered Ted.
"Good. Do you think you could manage to fix yourself up as one and meet us in front of the Auditorium?"
"I think I can," replied the boy, after a moment's thought.
"All right, I'll give you forty-five minutes," Strong said, as he turned to Walker, who was now ready.
Quickly, Ted located Spot.
"I'll tell you what I'll do, Spot," he confided to the news merchant. "I'll give you two dollars and my clothes for your clothes and papers. I want you to have a share in my good fortune and I also want to sell papers for awhile."
Spot grinned delight. "You mean it, Ted?"
"Sure. Where can we change?"
"Any place will suit me. But I'll show you a place. That's easy."
A place was very easily located. Spot had managed to wash his hands and face, while Ted's had not yet gotten to the color they should be. They had exchanged everything from shoes to hats.
"Where are you going now, Spot?" asked Ted.
"I beg your pardon," replied Spot. "My name is Mr. James Sullivan. I would have you address your betters properly, boy." He never cracked a smile as he walked off, but Ted laughed uproariously.
A little later two men came out of the Auditorium.
"Paper, sir, papers?"
"No," answered one of them. The other took a second look at the newsboy and laughed. "He certainly fooled you, Strong. It's Ted."
"Good work, Ted," Strong said, with appreciation.
"Slip into that automobile while we stand in front of it." They walked toward it. "Now, quick." The machine was off to the German meeting-place.
SETTING A TRAP
The automobile came to a stop two blocks from the German meeting-place.
As the three walked toward it, a beggar stopped Strong. The latter gave him some coins. Ted, who was watching, saw a paper pass between the two. It was so quickly done that he was not even sure of it. He made no comment, as he knew that Strong would mention it, if he thought it necessary.
"The room is on the third floor," Strong said. "There is someone in it now. That beggar has just been up there; he has been watching the house all morning, so that he could keep me in touch.
"Suppose, Ted, you go up and sell your papers. Go to every office. When you reach Room 318, size it up as well as you can. See what you can of 316 and 320 also."
"All our work and our preparations have been from 418," Walker added. "Our friends are there."
"Yes," Strong said, "take a look in there, even though you will meet Bronson a little later."
A boy tried to sell his papers in the many offices. He canvassed each floor and in due time reached the fourth. He came to Room 418 and saw a sign on the glass reading as follows:
TERENCE McMAHON INSURANCE AGENT AND ADJUSTER MAIN OFFICE—OLIVER BUILDING
Russell Bronson, Br. Mgr.
He entered. "Want a paper?" he asked one of the men.
The man took one. Ted glanced about and then went out. He had some idea of the room. He noticed that three other doors seemed to belong to the same office, Rooms 422, 420 and 416.
He soon reached the third floor. He went through the same routine, just as carefully and matter-of-factedly, as he had done on the other floors. When he reached 320 he found the door locked and a hand pointing to 318 as the entrance. On the glass of that door he saw a sign which read:
NOVELTIES AND TOYS A. CHRISTENSEN
Ted opened the door. A man was inside, his feet perched upon a desk and he was reading a German newspaper.
"Paper, sir?" Ted asked him.
"No," was the answer. He did not even glance up.
"I have a Staats-Zeitung and a Wochen-Blatt," coaxed Ted. All this time he was taking stock of the room.
"A Wochen-Blatt? I'll take one," the man became interested. He offered a half dollar to Ted.
"I haven't the change, but I will get it for you." Ted was fighting for time, so that he could form impressions.
"And run away with my money?" the man sneered. "Not on your life. I'll wait until later."
"You can hold all my papers. I'll come back."
The man grudgingly gave the boy the money. At the corner store Ted found his two friends; the automobile had long since left.
"Good work," Strong commented, after hearing Ted. "Now, how can we get that fellow out of the building for half an hour?"
"When I suggested going out for the change," volunteered Ted, "he didn't want to trust me and said: 'I'll wait until later.' Perhaps he intends going out."
"Well, here is one way to coax him to go a little sooner. A German wants what he wants when he wants it, and he never stops wanting it until he gets it. When you go back, Ted, insist on being paid twice as much as the paper sells for. He probably will not pay it. He will consider it a holdup. But he will want that paper and it may hurry his departure. It is almost lunch-time anyway.
"Walker, you go to all the news-stands within three square blocks and also any stores you may see that sell newspapers and buy up any Wochen-Blatts they have. That ought to keep our friend busy trying to get what he wants and so give us more time. We will all meet in Room 418. I'll steal up while you two are wrangling over your high-handed outrage, Ted. Walker can come any time. There is small chance that he will be recognized. You see," Strong added, his eyes smiling, "that's the value of having the ordinary face Walker has. He looks like seventy-five million other folks, so no one would notice him."
Ted rushed back to the office. "Everybody is poor around here or else they don't want to make change. My, what trouble." He was counting out the change and he now placed but forty cents on the man's desk.
The man picked up the money and for a moment it looked as if he would not count it, but he did.
"Hey, boy, another nickel! You're short here."
"No, I'm not. I took a nickel for all the trouble I had in making change." Ted felt mean and he knew his argument was a poor one, but he was doing it for a purpose.
"Five cents, or I don't want the paper." He made a threatening motion toward Ted.
Ted laughed at him. He threw the dime on the desk, picked up his paper and backed out of the door. The man was muttering fiercely in German.
Out on the street our hero watched from a nearby door. It was just mid-day and people were hurrying for their lunch. But it was at least twenty minutes before he saw his man walk out of the building. He watched him and saw him stop at one, then at another stand and try to obtain the desired paper. He was not successful and Ted saw him stroll further down the street.
Two minutes later Ted was in Room 418. Walker joined them almost at the same time.
Ted was introduced to the man to whom he had sold a paper a little earlier and then the party got down to business.
"Walker, jump down and try the door," said Strong. "Here is the key."
But a new problem presented itself when Walker reported back that the key would not fit the lock and Strong, incredulous, had proven the truth of it for himself.
"Phew!" whistled Strong. "They must have changed the lock. They figured the old one was too easy for anyone who had a mind to enter. Come on, Walker, we'll try the window."
But they found no way of entering through the window. It was securely fastened. Walker, with one foot on the edge of the fire-escape and the other on the ledge of the next room's window and holding himself secure with one hand, attempted to open that window also, but found it just as securely locked.
"There is still one way before we think of any rough stuff," said Strong. With the other three he went down to the third floor.
"Here, Ted, get on my shoulders and try the fanlight. Let's pray that it opens."
It opened so very easily that they all laughed. But they found that neither Walker, Strong nor Bronson could get through. But Ted could.
"Well," said Bronson, "I reckon it's up to the boy, isn't it?"
"It certainly is," said Strong.
Walker now very quickly, yet very clearly explained the workings and the manipulations of the dictaphone. Ted listened carefully as he was told how the wires should be laid and connected.
"You see, Ted," Walker continued, "the whole thing is already prepared. We knew how little time we would have when the time did come, so we did everything we could beforehand. You will find a place for these wires on the wall behind the steam-pipes. The floor moulding running along the window wall will move if you remove the screws—four of them. Then count off the sixteenth floor board—you work it this way," Walker showed Ted how, "and it will pry loose. It is all very simple and should take no more than twenty minutes. It would take me ten.
"The floor-board has a little groove into which the wires will fit. You will find that where this board ends is another piece of moulding which will most surprisingly give way to your magic fingers, and the screwdriver, as did the moulding at the other end. On the big cabinet that is there, try that corner of it nearest you and against the wall, and there you will find that your wires will fit snugly. Your hands are small and can get in there, back of the cabinet. You just can't go wrong. On top of the cabinet see that the mouthpiece or, rather, the listener, is propped up so that it faces the table. If you have any doubts call out—we will be here. You will also find that it will not be seen, for the cabinet is high."
"Be careful, Ted, about leaving things just as they were. It all will fit back snugly. Be twice as careful as you are quick," Strong warned him.
"I shall be up here, Bronson will be one flight below, and the beggar is watching in the street. Walker will be up above passing the wires down to you."
More than fifteen minutes had already been consumed. Strong had warned Ted to open the window of Room 420 and, should a warning come, hide in that room. A rope would be passed down for him from the window above.
Ted got to work at once. He found it even more simple than Walker had told him. In fifteen or twenty minutes he called out. "I think I am through." He took another look about. He had carefully seen to everything and there was no sign of any disturbance.
"Wait a minute," said Strong. There was a pause. Then he heard Strong speaking to him again, "Say something right out, not too loud, just ordinary conversation."
"Want to buy a paper? News, Post, American, Staats-Zeitung?" said Ted to the empty air.
There was another pause, then he heard Walker say to Strong, "It's fine and distinct, old man."
Ted took another look about. He lifted himself on the door-knob and then eager hands helped him out. Walker ran down the fire escape to take a look around the room and Strong hoisted himself up on the knob and also looked about. Ted's work had been thorough and neither of them made any criticisms.
"Well, that's something of a relief," said Walker. Ted closed the fanlight.
"Nothing to do until tonight," and Walker grinned.
"Let's eat," said Strong. "Coming with us, Bronson?"
"Certainly," was the answer.
STRONG SEEMS CHECKMATED
Ted was too excited to eat.
"Better eat, lad," said Walker. "We do not know when we will get another chance today. If no one else seemed to be following his advice, he himself considered it good enough to heed. He was eating enough for two.
"I imagine it is going to be risky business tonight," Bronson remarked. "I wish I could be with you."
"It's either going to be that, or it is going to be very simple," Strong answered.
"That is the trouble with all adventure, these days," Walker complained. "It's always so very simple."
"I consider this extremely interesting and exciting," replied Strong. "It is like a tremendous game of chess with enough elements of danger added to suit the most exacting. Don't imagine that we shall not be in danger every second tonight. These Germans are cold-blooded. If we should happen to be in their way, should they find out how much we actually know, we can say good-bye; the sun would rise tomorrow, but we might not."
He turned to Ted. "Well, lad, are you afraid?"
"I'm going to stick, of course," was the reply.
"Well, comrades, here is the plan. The keys you see here, one for each of us, are for Room 420. We shall separate. At six-thirty we must all plan to be in that room. No noise must be made when you come; no sound must be made while you are there."
"We had better make sure we do all our sneezing outside, eh?" Every one laughed with Walker.
"It will be your last sneeze, if it's inside," Strong laughingly warned him. "The least sound, a scraping chair, would be heard. Stay in Room 420; the fire escape makes 418 dangerous, if anyone should be curious and decide to come up and look into that room. Of course, there will be no lights turned on.
"Should any of us fail to get there, he who does must make every effort to get the import of the conversation."
"Can I do anything, before I leave for New York tonight?" asked Bronson.
"No, I guess not. Get your room into shape for us. Put the chairs where we cannot stumble over them. How long will you be gone?"
"I don't know. These Germans certainly keep us busy. Some of our optimists are turning pessimists, now that Austria is declaring war against Servia. They are beginning to think that perhaps there is something in this war-talk. I have to go to them and tell them just how much there really is in it. I had much rather stay—wish I could."
"I know that, Bronson, and there is no one I would rather have. But perhaps you will be of better service there. I shall code Wright the information we get tonight, if we get it. They will have it at the New York office."
Strong and Walker returned to the Adams street office; Ted went home. He was glad of the chance to see more of his mother; Helen, he knew, would not be home. Ted was very fond of his pretty, efficient sister, and proud of her rapid rise at the store.
He found his mother there when he reached home. He explained the reason for his wearing the newsboy's clothes.
Ted spent a quiet, comfortable afternoon with her. Many things they still had to talk about and the mother realized how much it was the desire of Ted to have her and Helen come out to that great West, a land where contentment and opportunity, at least, were more likely to be found than in this place, in which she had lived so many years.
* * * * *
About three o'clock, only a half hour after he had been at Adams street, Strong was called to the telephone. He had been busy at a report, the call was unexpected and could only come from his secretary or from Ted, the only two besides Walker who knew of this new location.
It proved to be his secretary.
"A messenger boy came here a little while ago with a message for you," she said.
"'A meeting is to be held at W.'s house. If you will come, can get you in. 4:30!' It is signed 'J.'," she added.
There was a pause. She continued: "It looks as if it comes from Jones. It is his writing, beyond doubt, but he signed his initial instead of his number."
"I'll come right over," Strong answered, and his voice sounded perplexed.
Charles Jones was an operative, employed as a butler by the Winckel household. He had so often given proof of profound stupidity in everything except his duties in the household that Herr Winckel would have laughed at any suspicion of his being anything else but a butler. Herr Winckel was so fond of saying and repeating that the man had a butler mind it could never grasp anything outside of that.
In reality, Jones was shrewd, keen, able to obtain information without creating suspicion. He had been one of Strong's best men and the latter felt he could count on him.
Could it be a trap, he wondered?
Strong was uncertain as to what he should do. To miss this meeting, which perhaps was important; to go there, on the other hand, and endanger the chances of his getting to that night meeting?
"I wish I knew what to do, Walker." Together they went over the phases of it as they walked down to the office.
"I'd go," advised Walker. "You say that the boy could do his part. If they do want you out of the way, should this be a trap, they will hold us until morning; they would not dare hold us any longer. And, if they do, they will not feel the need for carefulness and the boy will thus have a better chance. It works well both ways."
When they came to the office, Strong read the message again.
"We'll go, Walker," he decided. "Dress up. Be sure not to carry any papers."
Two men came out of one of the inner offices a few minutes later. They would have been taken anywhere for two English servants; they might have been valets, footmen, even butlers. Each one looked the other over critically, but the disguise was thorough.
At fifteen minutes past the hour they reached the Winckel house, knocked at the servants' entrance. The maid answered and they asked for Mr. Jones. They appeared to be very superior, upper-class servants. Very English, too. She escorted them in and then opened a door for them to enter. They passed through. As they did, each one of them was pounced upon. They struggled against the sickening smell of the chloroform held tightly against their noses. Then they knew nothing more for a while.
An hour later they awoke with a feeling of nausea and the smell of chloroform all about them. They found themselves tied hand and foot and unable to move. From all appearances they seemed to be in the cellar of the house.
"Are you there, chief?" asked Walker, in a sick and very low voice.
"Yes, I'm here; going to stay awhile, I guess."
"I wonder what happened? Suppose they got on to——?"
"They are probably gloating somewhere within earshot," Strong warned him in a whisper. "They certainly have us out of the way for the time being," he added, ruefully.
"Well, there's nothing to do; we're caught," Walker said, in his ordinary voice. Then, in a voice so low Strong could barely hear him, he inquired, "Are you pretty well tied? Can you do anything?"
"Can't even move," was the answer.
"Same here," Walker said dejectedly. "They made a good job."
At five o'clock Ted left home for downtown. He stopped off to buy some of the late editions of the newspapers and proceeded to the meeting-place. He made his rounds through several buildings and at last reached that particular one.
There was no one watching, however. With Strong out of the way the Germans felt quite secure.
At five-thirty he had already let himself into Room 420 and was preparing to make himself comfortable. He picked up the dictaphone every few minutes, but for a long time heard nothing. Things seemed quiet and he began to wonder where Strong and Walker were, what was delaying them. His heart was going at a great rate because of the forced quiet and the excited state of his mind.
Things would depend on him if the two men did not come. Would he be able to carry out the plans?
"I can only do my best," the boy said to himself. And there was a strong determination to make that best count.
It was now half past seven. He lifted the dictaphone oftener. Very soon he heard voices, very indistinct, but as he listened they became clearer and clearer. Then he began making out the words and the sense of the conversation.
"Yes," said one voice. "We found out that this man Jones, who was Winckel's butler, was one of their men. He dropped a card which young Winckel found. That was enough to warrant his being watched, although we did nothing for several days except to see that he got no further information.
"Today, at the point of a gun, we forced him to write a note to Strong telling him that there was to be a meeting at Winckel's house at four-thirty and that he could get him in. Strong with another man came. We trapped them, bound them and they are now in the cellar out of harm's way."
Ted welcomed the information. At least he knew just what to expect.
"It's almost time for our friends to be here, isn't it? What time is Captain Knabe coming?" said a voice.
"At about fifteen minutes after eight. He is coming with Winckel."
"Say, Schmidt, it was a good piece of business to get Strong out of the way. He is too dangerous and resourceful to suit us." This from O'Reilly.
"He has been a nuisance, hasn't he?" answered Schmidt. "Hello, friends," he said to some new-comers. "I have just been telling O'Reilly about our little affair this afternoon."
There was the sound of a number of voices and of some laughing. Then more men came into the room, there was the scraping of chairs as men seated themselves.
Then there was quiet as two men entered. Greetings were exchanged and Ted realized that the two were Winckel and Captain Knabe.
As Captain Knabe was introduced to some of the men, Ted wrote the names down.
"Let us get down to business, friends," said one, who seemed to be the chairman. "Captain Knabe has come here from Washington, his time just now is important. Even more important is the need for immediate action. Captain Knabe, gentlemen."
THE DICTAPHONE AT WORK
"I understand," said Captain Knabe, "that some of the Irish gentlemen present do not understand German, and so, while I can do so much better in my native tongue, I shall talk in English."
"How lucky," thought Ted.
"Well, gentlemen, I have good news for you—war is to be declared the day after tomorrow."
There was the sound of moving, falling chairs, of men getting to their feet. Then a whispered toast—a whisper that was almost loud because of the number of voices—"Der Tag."
"You, in America, who have never given up your allegiance to the supreme nation, nor to the emperor, must do your share. Although war is to be declared the day after tomorrow, it will be a matter of a few more days before we are at war with England; possibly it will be more than a week. I understand you are ready."
Another voice spoke. "We are prepared. We will announce picnics at certain places; it is for you to tell us the locations."
"I am ready to tell you that now," replied the captain. "Concentrate on your picnic grounds near Detroit for the taking of Windsor. Herr Winckel has the plans. I have given him three sets—Windsor, Toronto, Winnipeg. He also has the charts which show how to move and what railroads to occupy. Our friends in Canada are to see that there are available cars, engines and even motors. Of course, all of you will know just what picnic grounds are to be selected, so we need waste no time on that."
"How many men have you, Herr Winckel?" Captain Knabe wanted to know.
"Will you tell us, Schoen?" Herr Winckel asked.
"Approximately, armed and ready for the call, one hundred and twenty-five thousand men. There are also forty thousand Irishmen. O'Reilly has them equally prepared and ready. Pfeffer reports thirty thousand men in Canada, eager for the call. They are so stationed that we can throw one hundred and fifty thousand men on Windsor and Toronto or such other points as are within one half day's ordinary travel. For Montreal we would need eighteen hours' additional notice. For Quebec we would need thirty. We figure that thirty thousand men will be enough for Winnipeg, although we shall have more."
"The fool Englishmen," sneered a voice.
"Not such fools, Schmidt. Do not underestimate them." The voice was Winckel's.
"Everything looks so easy," said another voice.
"Aye," said Captain Knabe, "we cannot help but win. But the Englishman fights best with his back to the wall."
"You have your commands assigned, have you not?" the captain inquired.
"We have," replied Schoen.
"Now, gentlemen, here is the thing of the utmost importance," Herr Winckel spoke warningly. "The facts must not leak; they must not get to the United States officials. That is so important that the whole plan will have to be dropped if there is any suspicion as to a leak."
"I think a number of us will bear out what Winckel says," O'Reilly spoke up. "For myself, and I think I speak for the other Irishmen here present and also for the forty thousand against England, but against the United States—never. Not one Irishman can be counted on if it comes to a showdown against the U. S. A."
"Nor very many Germans," added Winckel.
"So be it," said Captain Knabe. "Shall we go over the ammunition storehouses, those that are in Canada and those that are in this country?"
Many of the places Ted could not make out, others he did. He realized that this was valuable information. Names though they were, they were clues and so might be important.
Much more was said by the many men and Ted stored up in his mind such information as he thought would be useful. At half past ten all the men had left and from what Ted heard he understood that Knabe, Winckel, O'Reilly and Schoen were adjourning to some other place to perfect plans.
Ted cautiously stretched himself. He was wary and still watchful. Although his muscles were stiff and his bones ached, he had not dared to move. When he was fairly certain that he could move, he indulged in that luxury for at least five minutes. He had no trouble in leaving the building. Once outside, he hastened to a telephone booth. He had no intention of telephoning, but he did want to find out the address of Winckel. A plan was in his mind.
He found two Winckels in the telephone. He decided that in all likelihood it was the one on Michigan avenue, the other was somewhere on the North Side.
When he came to the first cross street he saw a passing taxi and hailed it. The driver had some suspicion as to the ability of his customer to pay, for Ted was still in his newsboy's clothes. However, Ted proved he had the necessary funds and satisfied the chauffeur.
Ted left the taxi two blocks before he reached the Winckel residence. The inside of the house was almost, not quite dark. Stealthily the boy investigated. He decided that any entrance would have to be made from the rear or the side of the building. The rear windows to the basement and the door he found were locked.
The boy studied the situation. He saw where he could enter through one place, but it would mean that he would have to remove a window glass. He decided against that. There was danger of being heard.
Though Ted was seeking an entrance he had not as yet made up his mind to try to go to the rescue of his friends. To go into the building and take chances? But then, after all, his information could be of use to Strong only, for he held the many threads.
It would be folly to call the police, Strong would not care to have the publicity, and then, too, the two men might not be there after all.
He decided, come what may, he would go in. He felt fairly certain that Winckel would not be in the house nor would he return for an hour or more. Before making any further attempt to get inside, Ted went to a nearby drug store. He obtained paper and stamped envelope and wrote the following message to Strong's office, addressing it to Strong's secretary, Miss Ford.
"Unless you hear from us in the early morning, you will find us imprisoned in the cellar of Mr. Winckel's house. I am now trying to get Mr. Strong and Mr. Walker out, but may not succeed.
"11:15 p.m. Ted."
Having mailed the letter he hurried back to the house. Cautiously he prowled about, trying to find a way into the basement. There was no way.
At any ordinary time Ted would have said it was impossible to get up on that ledge, but he managed it now. The house entrance was through a wide door, but one had to go down three steps and it made the floor an English basement. The floor above that was much higher than most ground floors and yet lower than most second floors. Ted crept along the narrow ledge holding on to such supports as were there. He reached a big window and by careful manipulation and urging the boy managed to force it open.
He crawled in. Spot's suit was very useful now, for it held matches. Ted did not intend to use any unless he had to, but the building was strange to him and the occasion for the use of them might arise. He knew that he would have two floors to travel, the one to the basement and the one to the cellar. He got down the one floor without mishap. He was about to begin the exploration of that floor for the entrance to the cellar, when he heard the key being inserted into the street door.
His heart leaped within him. Two people entered, a man and woman. They switched on a light. If these people had come thirty seconds earlier he would have been caught coming down the stairs, Ted thought, as he crouched behind the turn of the staircase.
"It was nice of you to see me home, Mr. Erkin," said the young lady. "Will you be good enough to let the light burn, as some of the folks are not in yet? Come and see me some time."
"Good-night, thank you, I will," the man answered and left.
The boy thought, "Well, I certainly should be called Lucky. Here I wonder how to find an entrance to the cellar and they are kind enough to turn on a light for me."
It was fairly easy for Ted to find his way now, but because of the light he had to use even greater care.
The cellar seemed deserted, when he got there. It was pitch dark and it took several minutes for him to grow accustomed to the extreme darkness. Then he heard the faint murmur of voices.
Strong and Walker had slept fitfully and had been wide awake at various times. Strong had again been awakened and was insisting that Walker listen to him.
As Ted drew nearer, he heard Strong say, "I don't think, the way I feel, I shall ever be able to move again. But if I knew that Ted was just the least bit successful I could be forever content."
"The poor child—if he did anything at all," Walker answered, "it would be wonderful. It's a man's job, what, then, could a boy do?"
As if in answer to the question, they heard a low voice call, "Mr. Strong, Mr. Strong!"
"Who is that?" the startled voice of Strong demanded.
"It's me, Ted!" said that ungrammatical young man, a bit excitedly.
"God bless you, boy. Is it really you? Have you a match?"
Ted struck one. Hurriedly he untied the two men, who were already questioning him excitedly and to whom he whispered assurances.
As they turned the corner (having left the building without trouble) Strong looked back. An auto passed north on Michigan avenue.
"That's Winckel's car," he said. "We weren't any too soon."
Ted told the two men of the night's adventures and they both listened eagerly. Strong was laboring under great excitement as the boy went on with his story. When Ted was through he placed his hand on Ted's shoulder and said, quietly and very impressively, to him:
"I simply can't tell you the things I long to say. You're going to be a man, my boy! This is a day's work of which you will always be proud.
"Knowing what we know, we can go to sleep tonight, awake in the morning with a plan as to just what we will do. I could almost cry with contentment. This news you bring is what we have long striven to learn, and along comes Ted Marsh—Lucky, the Boy Scout—and makes Canada and England his very grateful and humble servants.
"There are several things we know we can do now," he added. "We had best take a night to sleep it over."
"You are a wonder, Ted, my friend," added Walker.
"Come, let us go," said Strong.
"We are all weary. I hate to leave you. I'd like to celebrate, but I guess we had better postpone it until tomorrow. See you at eight."
WINCKEL CALLS A HALT
There were glaring headlines in the newspapers the next morning. War was on. People who had doubted all along, who could not believe it possible, now had to believe. And, although England was as yet not involved, no one was optimistic enough to imagine that she would stay out of it.
Around newspaper offices, everywhere, excited, eager groups discussed it all. Many a man heard the thrilling call of his native land and many listened and made plans to return to either Germany, Russia, England or France.
Yet neither in headlines nor in the ordinary run of news, was there mention made of the events of our story. Silent, powerful forces were at work to keep it quiet.
The automobile of Herr Winckel stopped before his house and from it Schmidt, O'Reilly and the owner alighted. They made their way to the cellar, a precaution as to the safekeeping of the prisoners. O'Reilly and Schmidt were to be guests of Winckel for the night. Much work had been planned for the morning.
"Quiet, aren't they?" said Schmidt, as Winckel started to turn on the light.
"I guess they are asleep," remarked O'Reilly. The light glared. A moment's hush. There were astonished and wondering exclamations. The ropes which had held the prisoners tied, were strewn about, but the prisoners were nowhere.
"What can it mean?" exclaimed Winckel, searching vainly for an explanation.
Wild guesses were made by the three as to how the escape was made.
"Well," said Winckel after awhile, "never mind how they escaped, the important thing is—how much have they found out of our plans." He showed plainly how disturbed he was.
"How can they have found out about our plans? Pretty far fetched to imagine that they could have obtained any information—the chances are that they did not escape until late this evening."
O'Reilly interrupted Schmidt. "Is there any way in which we can find out the last time someone in the house saw the prisoners?"
"Good idea," said Winckel. "We shall soon find out."
The household was awakened. Inquiries and investigation showed that Lauer, a trusted employee of Winckel, had taken a last look at the prisoners at about ten o'clock. He was certain of that; he had heard their voices, although he could not make out what they spoke about.
There were sighs of relief from Schmidt and O'Reilly, who felt that the situation was covered, but Winckel was more skeptical and less canny.
"I will admit that they were here until ten o'clock and later. I will even admit that they were not listening at the conference. But how was their escape managed and why after ten? Did they have outside help and how did the outside help know of their imprisonment here?
"Both of you gentlemen may be tired and may wish to retire. Please do so, if you want to. I am going down to our meeting place to see what I can see. A little late, I will admit, and it may not do us much good, but there is always a chance. It is important for us to find out if we have blundered, if our plans have been disclosed."
Both Schmidt and O'Reilly insisted on accompanying Winckel and the three left the house in the next five minutes.
They reached the building in about twenty minutes. No policeman was about to see them violate the speed laws on the way. An immediate and careful search of the room was made, to see if anyone had been there since they left and also for any clue as to the probable leak.
"Nothing seems wrong as far as I can see," O'Reilly started to say. "Hello, what is this?" He had discovered the cleverly concealed wires of the dictaphone. Winckel and Schmidt joined him on the instant. They traced the wires and soon found out the whole layout.
"Mischief is certainly afoot," exclaimed Schmidt. The other men said nothing, but studied the proposition.
"There still is a chance," said O'Reilly In an unconvincing manner—as if he wanted to believe something his better sense did not permit him to do, "that this outfit was not used since Strong and the other man had been kept from it."
A sickening thought at the same instant came to Schmidt. "O'Reilly, we talked about the prisoners, how we had trapped them, where they were—and all the time someone was listening. That someone heard all we had to say and then, after we were all through, he went up to Winckel's house and rescued them."
Winckel said nothing for many minutes; he seemed lost in thought. The other men waited for him to speak. Finally he did.
"We are a lot of dunces. We were so sure of ourselves, we felt we were so wise. Pride goeth before a fall and we fell. We must give up our plans. It is up to both of you to get busy, we still have time to keep out of trouble. There is a ray of comfort in that, at least."
"I hate to think what Knabe and the others at the embassy will think," was the rueful comment of Schmidt.
"Don't let that bother you. This plan has failed, we must plan again—when again we match wits, let us hope we shall be more careful and consequently more successful. Come, enough of post mortems, let's get busy."
It was a busy night for all of them. There were many men who had to be seen and who in turn had to see others. It was, so they explained to the others, a matter of life and death that all preparations cease at once, as there would be close and careful watch kept. There was much telephoning and telegraphing to the friends who were in other cities.
There can be nothing but thorough admiration for the effective, capable way these men went about calling a halt to all activities. Like a perfect, well oiled machine which slows down and then ceases its movements, until there is something tremendously impressive in its inaction and silence; like a well-drilled army which retreats magnificently and in its very retreat almost gains a victory, so much like all this, was the action and the work of these men at this time. They were obeyed as only the Germans know how to obey. By morning, there was no sign, no clue to their plans and activities. One thing only remained to prove the danger to Canada that had been. Arsenals and warehouses holding weapons and vehicles of war were found at the places shown on the list that Ted had copied.
At Ottawa and a little later in London and in Washington, the powers—the men at the helm—found out that what would in all probability have been a successful invasion of Canada had been checked. And they found out, too, just how and in what way it had been done.
"Come in, both of you," Strong called from the inside office. Ted had shown up at Strong's office early the next day. He found Strong at his desk and he found afterwards that he had been there for more than two hours. His secretary told Ted that he was telephoning long distance and that Ted should wait. When the operative was through talking, he came out and saw Ted.
"Sit down a few minutes, Ted, I shall be busy," he had said. He had returned to his office and proceeded to do some further telephoning. Walker had come in a little later and the two were busy going over the evening's events when Strong called out as above.
"Well, Ted, I guess we are going to have war. At least we won the first victory, or rather you did."
Ted fidgeted at the praise and grinned sheepishly.
"I wonder," said Walker, "if they have, found the dictaphone as yet."
"You can safely figure on the fact that they did. They started a little investigation when they found that the birds had flown. But it does not matter how much they know we know, now. It's a fight in the open from now on. I'm thankful for that.
"I have already notified Ottawa, New York, and the different capitals of the provinces. Washington also knows, our embassy has already notified them as to the location of the arsenals. They are going to issue orders from Ottawa to confiscate those in our own country at once.
"Ottawa wanted all the facts and it got them. I expect to hear further from them in the course of the day."
"I wonder," said Walker, "if our friends will be polite enough to return my dictaphone. They should, it does not belong to them and they probably know to whom, it does belong."
"You might go over and claim it," answered Strong.
"I think I will, just to see old Winckel's face."
Strong turned to Ted.
"Dear lad," he said, "what you did isn't the kind of thing that can appear in the newspapers, but it is the kind about which history is made. It is a big job you have accomplished. The men who sent you down to us made no mistake in their judgment as to what you could do. Sir Robert Wingate wanted to know all about you, I must have talked to him for more than twenty minutes on the telephone.
"Walker and I go to Ottawa on a late train today. They want to see me, to go fever details.
"Well, let's get busy with the last threads of what happened last night—we have to put it down on black and white for future, reference. When do you want to return to Wayland, Ted?"
"I should like to go by Saturday, if it can be arranged," answered Ted.
"Well, I think it can be done. I shall return tomorrow night or early the following morning. You will be free for these two days. Have a good time; remember, we pay all your expenses—nothing is too good for you. If you can, come down the day after tomorrow. I may have some news for you."
"I shall be glad to come down," answered Ted, as he wondered at the news to which Strong had reference.
They spent a half hour or more going over the events of the evening, Strong's secretary taking notes. Then Ted left and returned home.
That afternoon he took his mother to the ball game and saw the Cubs defeat the Giants. He tried to explain the game to his mother, who pretended an interest and tried hard to understand. But she found her truant fancy going elsewhere—it centered about this boy of hers, her daughter and also about the husband who could not endure the troubleous times, not because of the hardship to himself so much as the hardship to her and the child.
Ted's interest was not divided, however, except in rare moments when he would turn to his mother and accuse her of lack of interest. She would flush guiltily and pretend that she was interested. She would ask a question or two, but her very questions convicted her, showed her inability to understand, and Ted gave it up as a hopeless job and comforted himself in the belief that only men understood the game, it was too deep for women, excepting one or two, who knew something.
As they rode home the boy and the mother discussed the improvement in their condition.
"We will never have to worry any more, mother, not as long as I am able," the boy said, with all of youth's surety and confidence.
Mrs. Marsh wiped an unbidden tear from her eye.
"I am very happy, dear. And yet, I would give so much if your father was one of us. He was a fine man, but things were against him, too much so."
Ted did not answer, he felt that nothing he could say would help.
After a long period of quiet, the boy spoke a little more quietly: "Never mind, mother, you have Helen and me."
"I am happy in my riches," answered the mother proudly.
When they reached home, both of them began to get the supper ready so that Helen would not have to wait. A brilliant idea came to Ted as they prepared. "Mother," he said excitedly, "let's not eat at home tonight. We are going to the theater, so let us have supper out."
At first the mother demurred, but she gave way—there was great temptation in the unusual treat. When Helen came home and was told the plan she was even more excited than they; it was so unusual an adventure. You can readily believe that it was a happy party of three that repaired to one of the many nice restaurants in the loop and afterward to the theater. They did not reach home until late in the night. On the way home they discussed what the news could be that Strong would have for Ted.
The next day Ted spent at the Settlement, renewing old acquaintances. Miss White, who had taken Mrs. Dean's place, was glad to see him and gave him a hearty welcome. She was greatly interested in his story of his year in the West and wanted to know all about Mrs. Dean. It was a great day for Ted and the pleasantest of his stay in Chicago.
On his way home that night Ted began to wish for Wayland. He had not realized how much the place meant to him until now, Syd Graham and the rest of the boys seemed very dear, very desirable.
"I hope," he said to himself, "that nothing will keep me from going on Saturday."
TED RECEIVES A REWARD
Sir Robert Wingate listened while John Strong told the story of the plotting and counterplotting in Chicago. Many times he made memorandums. He asked questions once or twice, but in the main he just listened. When Strong finally completed his account, Sir Robert said:
"We took immediate action at our end and the results are more than satisfying. Strong, I do not want you to think for a minute that the importance of what you men have done is underestimated. The excitement of the Great War, the necessity of secrecy as to what you have accomplished—all these facts may give you an idea that we do not consider your work as important as it is. We do, however. Now, as to this boy, Theodore Marsh. He must be an unusual youngster with a good head. He will bear watching."
"Unfortunately for us, he is American. Those are the kind of boys Canada could use to advantage. Not only is he American, but loyally so.
"Well, he shall have acknowledgment of his deed of service. Tell me, is he from a family of wealth?"
Strong briefly gave Sir Robert an account of Ted's past. The latter nodded his head understandingly.
"I think we will also give a more practical acknowledgment of the value of his service. The Government, I am sure, will be glad to give a reward of $1,000.00 to him. When you go back to Chicago, you will give him a letter from me which will also hold a check for that amount."
You would think that both Strong and Walker were the ones who were receiving the money, they showed how glad they were.
Strong could not complete his work until late in the afternoon. Walker and he boarded a train which brought them into Chicago about three o'clock the next afternoon.
"This letter and the enclosure will be a great surprise to Ted, won't it?" said Walker. "I certainly am glad of it; he surely deserves it."
"That he does, and I am just as glad. Let me manage the business of letting him know about it."
When they reached the office, Ted had already been there. He had left, saying that he would be back at two o'clock, when told that Strong would not arrive until the afternoon.
Promptly at two Ted showed up. Strong saw him as he opened the door and greeted him warmly.
"Hello, Ted; it's good to see you. We certainly shall miss you when you go back to Wayland. But I guess you will be glad to be back, won't you?"
"I certainly will. I am going by way of Big Gulch and shall stop off at the ranch for a day or so."
"That's a splendid idea, isn't it?" commented Walker.
"Well, Ted, hear anything more from our friends, the enemy?" asked Strong, laughingly.
"No, sir, but then I would not be the one to hear. I thought Mr. Walker would, he was going to claim his property."
They all laughed.
"By Jove, I must do that; I have completely forgotten it," remarked Walker.
"Well, Ted, they were very nice at Ottawa. I understand the Government is going to honor you in some way for your service; they even spoke of doing the same thing for both Walker and myself."
Strong gave Ted an outline of what had happened, but made no mention of the letter from Sir Robert. Walker was tempted to remind him, thinking that he had forgotten, but he remembered that Strong had said he wished to handle that end himself.
"I suppose you will be busy packing and getting ready tomorrow. You leave at four on Saturday afternoon? Come down and see us before you go. When we need your services again, we'll have you come on."
Ted got up to go. As he opened the door, Strong called to him.
"I say, Ted, I almost forgot another thing which probably is not very important. I have a letter for you; silly, not to have remembered." And Strong smiled, while Walker laughed.
"For me?" said Ted wonderingly, as he took the letter. Then, as he opened it, he saw the check. He looked at it a little dazed. He saw his name as if in a haze—then he saw the amount.
"One thousand dollars—and for me?" He stammered the words, he was almost stricken dumb.
"Yes, for you—to do with as you will. You certainly deserve it," said Strong.
"Every bit of it," added Walker.
Ted had a feeling as if he wanted to cry. He did. Walker patted him on the shoulder understandingly, while Strong looked out of the window and pretended he did not see.
"There is a letter which you might be glad to read and which I think will be almost as welcome as the money." Strong turned round and faced him as he said this.
The boy opened the letter.
"August 2, 1914.
"Master Theodore Marsh, "Chicago, Illinois.
"Mr. Strong has advised me as to the service you have done Canada. It has been a big service, one that Canada must remember. I want you to know that it does and will. You have shown a capacity for thinking, for doing the right thing at the right time. I think even better than both these things, though, has been the simple way in which you have carried out instructions when conditions were such as to put up to you the burden of necessary action. What would have been a remarkable accomplishment for a man is a tremendous accomplishment for a boy.
"I regret the fact that you are not Canadian but am glad you are a loyal American. Your country is fortunate in having a boy of your kind. I hope you will have the future that your present action promises.
"The enclosed, in a small way, signalizes a reward for your invaluable services.
"I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you at some time, and I am,
"Very sincerely yours, "Robert Wingate."
"That's a fine letter, isn't it?" said Ted, when he finished. He spoke in a low voice—he did not trust his feelings.
"Yes, it's fine. Sir Robert is a great man. He does things in a big way. But I think you want to go home now, so go."
And Ted did.
TED GOES BACK
"But, Ted, it would be impossible for us to go on Saturday. I am not so sure that we can go at all, it will require a lot of thinking."
Mrs. Marsh had heard the wonderful news and Ted's sudden plan for them to go out to Big Gulch or Wayland. She was trying to show Ted how impossible it was for them to do it and he was only just beginning to acknowledge that perhaps Saturday would be too soon.
"Well, I tell you, mother. Maybe Saturday is too soon, but you will be ready in two weeks—that is plenty of time. I know that Helen will be able to do whatever she wants to do out there—and this money, after we have repaid the Deans, will help to tide over the time until we are settled. We shall hear what Helen says—and I shall speak to Mr. and Mrs. Dean when I get out there."
Helen was told the news almost before she passed the doorstep. She was astonished and glad and cried all in the same minute.
"How wonderful!" she finally managed to say.
Then she was told of Ted's plan. The boy had thought that she might need convincing, but she agreed almost at once.
"I know I can obtain a position in my line of work out there. It is a land of opportunity and we should grasp the chance to get out there."
All that remained was for Ted to get the opinion of the Deans.
Ted went down to say good-bye to Strong and Walker the next day. Both men were very busy, but the three had lunch together and Ted promised to write to both of them.
"You may have to write both of us at the front—we shall go off to the war—that is, Walker will. It may be my bad luck to have to stay on duty here, although I have asked to be relieved."
"Well, Ted," said Walker, "I shall see you at the train."
"And I will try to do so," added Strong.
The boy told both his friends of the plan to bring his mother and sister out West. They agreed that it was a good plan.
His mother and sister, and Walker and Strong saw him depart. It was just a year before that Ted had left, what a big year it had been.
Ted's thoughts turned to the ranch. He was eager to see Red Mack, Smiles, Graham, Pop, and the Deans. He hoped it would be Red who would meet him—and that he would bring his horse down so that they could go back to the ranch on horseback. Of course, in all likelihood, it would be the Packard that would come down for him, for the distance was long and it would mean a lot of extra trouble for Red or anyone to lead his horse down all the way. The trip to Big Gulch seemed long because of the boy's eagerness to see his friends. He awakened very early on the second morning when the train was due. When the train finally reached the station, he eagerly looked out to see who was there. But he could see no one until he stepped from the train.
There stood Red and next to him Pop. There were three horses and one of them was his.
Glad greetings were exchanged.
"My, I'm glad you came for me on horseback. I hoped you would, but it seemed too much to expect."
"Well, we figured you would like it. Glad you do."
They started off. As best he could, Ted told his story and both of the men listened with different interest. When Ted came to that part where it had practically been settled that his mother and Helen were to come out, a queer look came into Pop's eyes which neither of them saw. The older man rode behind most of the way after that.
"You should see Wolf, you would not know him," said Red.
"I guess he would not know me, either," answered Ted.
"He may be your dog, but I'm kind of attached to him myself," remarked Red.
Some time in the afternoon they reached the ranch. Smiles was there and so were the other men and they gave Ted a great welcome.
So did Wolf, who had grown wonderfully, and who, while he did not look like any particular kind of dog, showed himself to have an individuality, all his own. He sprang at Ted and barked his delight. It made Ted feel good to have the dog remember him. It was queer to see how the dog tried to pay attention to both Red and Ted, and it made the men laugh at his double devotion.
Ted hurried to the house where Mrs. Dean was waiting for him. She showed how glad she was to see him.
"Mr. Dean will be back a little later. He has been very busy."
Ted thought he would wait with his news until later and merely mentioned some of the things that had happened.
"Ted, dear," said Mrs. Dean, "I want to tell you that we are going to have a little stranger in this house, soon." Then Ted knew why he had hesitated about blurting out his news—there was an even bigger event to happen.
"I'm so glad," said he.
He stayed a little while only, as Mrs. Dean did not seem strong.
He saw Dean when he came home. To both of his friends he told his news, what had been done, he showed Sir Robert's letter and then spoke of his plan for his mother and sister.
"How wonderful," said Mrs. Dean, while John Dean looked tenderly at her.
"I'm proud of you, Ted. I counted on you, but you did much more. I heard from Strong, but I did not know what had been accomplished. As to your mother and sister—they must come out here—the wonderful thing is that Mrs. Dean will need your mother's help very soon and it all seems to fit one thing into another. Helen will get a rest here; she need not worry as to finding the right kind of opportunity. When do you expect to write home?"