THE BOY ALLIES WITH HAIG IN FLANDERS
Or The Fighting Canadians of Vimy Ridge
By Clair W. Hayes
A NEW USE FOR A DICTAPHONE
The rain fell in torrents over the great battlefield, as Hal Paine and Chester Crawford, taking advantage of the inky blackness of the night, crept from the shelter of the American trenches that faced the enemy across "No Man's Land."
In the trenches themselves all was silence. To a spectator it would have seemed that the occupants were, either dead or asleep; yet such was not the case.
It is true that most of the men had "turned in" for the night, sleeping on their arms, for there was no means of telling at what moment the enemy might issue from his trenches in another of the night raids that had marked this particular sector for the last few weeks; but the ever vigilant sentinels stood watch over the sleeping men. They would sound an alarm, should occasion demand, in ample time to arouse the sleepers if an enemy's head appeared in the darkness.
Hal and Chester, of course, left the American trenches with full knowledge of these sentinels; otherwise they might have been shot.
Once beyond the protecting walls of earth, they moved swiftly and silently toward the German trenches less than a hundred feet away — just the distance from the home plate to first base on a baseball diamond, as Hal put it — ninety feet.
These two lads, who now advanced directly toward the foe, were lieutenants in the first American expeditionary force to reach France to lend a hand in driving back the legions of the German Emperor, who still clung tenaciously to territory he had conquered in the early stages of the great war. These boys had, at one time, been captains in the British army, and had had three years of strenuous times and exciting adventures in the greatest of all wars.
Their captaincies they'd won through gallant action upon the field of battle. American lads, they had been left in Berlin at the outbreak of hostilities, when they were separated from Hal's mother. They made their way to Belgium, where, for a time, they saw service, with King Albert's troops. Later they fought under the tricolor, with the Russians and the British and Canadians.
When the United 'States declared war on Germany, Hal and Chester, with others, were sent to America, where they were of great assistance in training men Uncle Sam had selected to officer his troops. They had relinquished their rank in the British army to be able to do this. Now they found themselves again on French soil, but fighting under the Stars and Stripes.
On this particular night they advanced toward tile German lines soon after an audience with General John J. Pershing, commander-in-chief of the American expeditionary forces . In one hand Chester carried a little hardwood box, to which were attached coils of wire. In the other hand the lad held a revolver. Hal, likewise, carried his automatic in his hand. Each was determined to give a good account of himself should his presence be discovered.
It was unusually quiet along the front this night. It was too dark for opposing "snipers" — sharpshooters — to get in their work, and the voices of the big guns, which, almost incessantly for the last few weeks, had hurled shells across the intervening distance between the two lines of trenches, were stilled.
Hal pressed close to Chester.
"Rather creepy out here," he said.
"Right," returned Chester in a whisper. "I've the same feeling myself. It forebodes, trouble, this silence, to my way of thinking. The Huns are probably hatching up some devilment."
"Well, we may be able to get the drift of it, with that thing you have under your arm," was the other's reply.
"Sh-h!" was Chester's reply, and he added: "We're getting pretty close."
They continued their way without further words.
Hal, slightly in advance, suddenly uttered a stifled exclamation. Instantly Chester touched his arm.
"What's the matter?" he asked in a whisper.
"Matter is," Hal whispered back, "that we have come to a barbed-wire entanglement. I had forgotten about those things."
"Well, that's why you brought your 'nippers' along," said Chester. "Cut the wire."
Hal produced his "nippers." It was but the work of a moment to nip the wires, and again the lads advanced cautiously.
A moment later there loomed up before them the German trenches. Hal stood back a few feet while Chester advanced and placed the little hardwood box upon the top of the trench, and scraped over it several handfuls of earth. The lad now took the coil of wire in his hand, and stepped down and back. The lads retraced their steps toward their own lines, Chester the while unrolling the coil of wire.
The return was made without incident. Before their own trenches the boys were challenged by a sentinel.
"Halt!" came the command. "Who goes there?"
"Friends," returned Hal.
The sentinel recognized the lad's voice.
"Advance," he said with a breath of relief.
A moment later the boys were safe back among their own men.
"If the Germans had been as watchful as our own sentries, we would have had more trouble," said Hal.
"Oh, I don't know," was Chester's reply. "I saw a German sentinel, but he didn't see me in the darkness."
"It was his business to see, however," declared Hal.
"Well, that's true. But now let's listen and seen if we can overhear anything of importance."
Chester clapped the little receiver to his ear. Hal became silent.
Ten minutes later Chester removed the receiver from his ear.
"Nothing doing," he said. "I can hear some of the men talking, but they are evidently playing cards."
"Let me listen a while," said Hal.
Chester passed the receiver to his chum, and the latter listened intently. For some moments he heard nothing save the jabbering jargon of German troopers apparently interested in a card game. He was about to take the receiver from his ear, however, when another voice caught his attention
He held up a hand, which told Chester that something of importance was going on.
"All right, general," said a voice in the German trenches, which was carried plainly to Hal's ear by the Dictaphone.
"Stay!" came another voice. "You will also order Colonel Blucher to open with all his guns at the moment that General Schmidt's men advance to the attack."
"At midnight, sir," was the reply.
"That is all."
The voices became silent.
Quickly Hal reported to Chester what he had overheard.
"It's up to us to arouse Captain O'Neill," said Chester. He hurried off.
Hal glanced at his watch.
It was 10 o'clock.
"Two hours," the lad muttered. "Well, I guess we'll be ready for them."
A few moments later Captain O'Neill appeared. He was in command of the Americans in the first line trenches. These troops were in their present positions for "seasoning" purposes. They had been the first to be given this post of honor. They had held it for several days, and then had been relieved only to be returned to the front within ten days.
At command from Captain O'Neill, Hal made his way to the, south along the line of trenches, and approached the quarters of General Dupres. To an, orderly he announced that he bore a communication from Captain O'Neill.
"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed the French commander, when Hal had delivered his message. "So they will attack us in the night, eh? Well, we shall receive them right warmly."
He thought a moment. Then he said:
"You will tell Captain O'Neill to move from the trenches with his entire strength. He will advance ten yards and then move one hundred yards north. You may tell him that I will post a force of equal strength to the south. He will not fire until my French troops open on the enemy."
Hal returned and reported to Captain O'Neill.
It was plain that the American officer didn't understand the situation fully. However, he simply shrugged his shoulders.
"General Dupres is in command," he said. "I guess he knows what he's doing or he wouldn't be here."
Captain O'Neill gave the necessary commands. The American troops moved from the trenches in silence. There was a suppressed air of excitement, however, for each man was eager for the coming of he knew not what.
At the point decided upon for the American troops to take their stand was a collection of shell holes. In order that the attack upon the Germans might have all the elements of surprise when it came, Captain O'Neill ordered his men into these holes to guard against any possibility of surprise.
Now, it is an undoubted fact that when a man curls himself up with two or three preliminary twists, after the fashion of a dog going to bed, in a perfectly circular shell hole on a night as black as this, he is extremely likely to lose his sense of direction.
That is what happened to Private Briggs, of the American forces.
The Americans lay in silence, awaiting the moment of the surprise. Suddenly it came. From the position held by the French broke out a fusillade. The Germans had approached closer.
Captain O'Neill and his followers got to their feet and dashed upon the enemy — all but Private Briggs.
Besides his rifle, each man was armed with hand grenades - bombs — which he carried in his pockets.
When Private Briggs sprang to his feet, it took him so long to untangle himself that the others had gone on ahead of him.
He could see no one.
However, want of courage was not one of his failings. He determined upon a plan of his own. While the other combatants were locked in a death grapple, he would advance by himself to the German trenches and hurl his grenade.
To think with Private Briggs was to act. He advanced at a run.
Suddenly a parapet loomed up before him. In this same parapet, low down, Briggs beheld a black and gaping aperture — plainly a loophole of some kind. Without a moment's hesitation, Briggs hurled a Mills grenade straight through the loophole, and, forgetting for the moment that others of his troop were not with him, uttered a wild screech!
"Come on, boys!"
He leaped to the top of the trench by himself, and jumped from the parapet — into his own trenches. Having lost his sense of direction, he had charged the wrong way.
As the bomb exploded in the French trenches, men rushed toward him. Still grasping several bombs, Briggs stared at them in wide-eyed surprise. An officer rushed up to him.
Briggs explained the situation. Fortunately, no one had been wounded by the bomb.
"You Americans! You Americans!" exclaimed the French officer. "But go!" he commanded. "Your men are out there," pointing; "do you not hear the sounds of conflict? If you charge there with the courage with which you have charged here, you may be of some use after all."
Briggs wasted no time. With a flush on his face, he again leaped to the parapet, and, a moment later, disappeared in the darkness, running as swiftly as he could to where firing indicated that the battle raged.
Meanwhile, what of Hal and Chester, and the American troops?
As the Americans poured from their shell holes after the first outburst of firing, they dashed toward where they could make out the forms of German infantry close at hand.
From beyond, the French, who had taken up a position as the French commander had outlined to Hal, poured a withering fire into the foe. The German officer in command immediately halted his advance, wheeled his men, and gave battle to the French.
At almost the same moment the Americans dashed upon his men from the rear. One volley the Americans poured into the Germans, then their arms drew back and an avalanche of hand grenades sped on their mission of death. The execution was terrific.
In vain the German officers attempted to hold their men to the work in hand. Teuton ranks lost formation, and, as the Americans advanced with the bayonet, the enemy broke and fled.
The German surprise had failed; it had been on the other hand.
As the Germans retreated, the Americans pursued. A body of troops, led by Hal, came, upon an isolated group of the enemy.
"Surrender!" cried Hal.
The Germans needed no second offer. Their guns went to the ground at the lad's words, and they raised their hands in the air. They were made prisoners and sent to the rear. There was one officer among them — a captain.
At the command from the French general, pursuit of the enemy was abandoned, much to the disgust of the American troops, who were for pursuing the Germans clear to their trenches, and beyond, if possible. Hal and Chester, however, realized the wisdom of the French commander's order, for there was a possibility, should the French and Americans advance too close, of their being set upon by overwhelming numbers from the German trenches, or of their being caught by batteries of rapid-firers, which most likely would have meant extermination.
As the French and Americans moved back toward their trenches — the engagement had consumed only it few minutes — Hal and Chester saw a man come flying toward them. This, although the lads did not know it at the time, was Briggs.
Straight past the American troops Briggs sped, and disappeared in the darkness beyond.
"Hello!" said Hal, "that man is an American. Wonder where he's going?"
"It's Briggs, sir," said a man in the ranks. "He has queer spells some times. Can we go after him, sir?"
Hal put the question up to Captain O'Neill. The captain hesitated.
"My friend and I will go," said Hal. "We've been in this fighting game too long to take unnecessary chances, sir, but I don't like to see the man get into trouble when we can save him."
'Very well," said the captain; "you have my permission, but don't go too close."
"I'd like another man, sir."
"Take your choice."
Hal glanced at the men, and called:
A soldier stepped forward. This man, at one time, had been a top sergeant in the British army. He had served through the Boer war in South Africa. Hal had met him at the Fort Niagara training camp a few months before, and, while the man had failed to obtain a commission there, Hal had been able to have him enlisted in the regular army.
"Will you go with us, McKenzie?" asked the lad. McKenzie saluted.
"Glad to, sir," he replied.
"Good! Then come on," said Hal. "We are wasting time here."
Hal led the way at a rapid trot. He feared that Briggs had already approached too close to the German trenches, and the distance was so short that there was little likelihood of overtaking the man before he reached the trenches. The only salvation was, so far as Hal could see, that Briggs might have stopped before he reached the trenches.
As the three pushed forward, there came a sudden explosion ahead, followed closely by a second blast. The three redoubled their speed, and, a moment later, came in sight of the German trenches.
A strange sight met their eyes.
There, upon the top of the German parapet, stood Briggs. His right arm was raised and in it the lads could see a bomb. Apparently the explosions a moment before had come from the same source.
As the three looked on, Briggs sent another bomb hurling down into the German lines. There was a third blast.
"Great Scott!" cried Chester. "How can he get away with that? Why don't they shoot him?"
"They're trying," said Hal. "You can hear the bullets. They are flying over his head!" The lad raised his voice in a shout: "Briggs! Come down here!"
Briggs glanced down. Hal, Chester, and McKenzie had approached close now, and Briggs made out their features as he gazed down.
"One moment, sir," he said, "and I'll be with you."
Deliberately he drew back his arm again, and, a moment later his last bomb was hurled into the foe. As the explosion resounded from the German trenches, Briggs leaped down lightly, approached Hal and Chester, and saluted.
"I'm ready now, sir," he said.
"Then run!" cried Hal.
The four suited the action to the word, and dashed back toward the American trenches. From behind a volley a rifle fire crackled after them.
"Anybody hit?" cried Hal, as they dashed along.
There were four negative answers.
Five minutes later the four were safe in the American trenches.
A DANGEROUS MISSION
It was noon of the following day. Hal and Chester stood at attention before General Pershing, the American commander-in-chief. The latter gazed at them long and earnestly. With a half shrug he muttered, as he turned to his desk:
"But they are so young."
The words were not meant for the lads' ears, but Hal and Chester overheard them. Hal spoke:
"If you please, Sir," he said quietly, "we are not so young as you seem to believe. To me, Sir, our experience seems very old."
General Pershing glanced up from a pile of papers he was perusing. Again he looked at the two lads in silence. The two boys bore the close scrutiny unflinchingly. At length General Pershing got to his feet, and, approaching Hal and Chester, laid a. hand on the shoulder of each.
"You are brave youngsters," he said quietly. "From what you have done since the American troops reached France, I know that Marshal Joffre and General Haig have not spoken too highly of you; and yet," here the American commander hesitated a moment before continuing; "and yet the piece of work I have in sight will entail, perhaps, more danger, more finesse, and more resourcefulness than any mission you have ever undertaken."
"You will find that we shall not be found wanting, sir," said Chester respectfully.
"I am sure of that," was General Pershing's response. "It isn't that I question your courage or your resourcefulness; but, because of your youth, in this particular business, I question your wisdom. It is a task for older and wiser heads, but —"
General Pershing broke off and became silent. Hal and Chester did not interrupt his meditations. At length the general continued:
"I wish to say before going any further that this mission, if you undertake it, in all probabilities, will mean death for one of you. It is for this reason that the task in hand requires the services of at least two men. One to go and come back, and the other to go — and come back if he can. It may be that neither will return, and yet one must return if the safety of his country is to be maintained."
"We shall do our best, sir, if we are entrusted with the mission," said Chester quietly.
Again General Pershing hesitated. Then he took his decision.
"Draw up stools here," he said, and made room at his desk.
The lads did so. General Pershing spoke in a low voice.
"You both undoubtedly know," he said, "that since the American declaration of war on Germany, the activity of German agents and spies in the United States has grown to startling dimensions?" The lads nodded and General Pershing continued: "Very good. Now, I have before me a cable, in code, from the state department, which advises me that the department of state must have, at all hazards, a list of the most important German agents in America. It is essential. Here," the general pushed a slip of paper in front of the lads, "is the translation of the code message."
Hal and Chester glanced at the paper. It read:
"German prime minister has lists of agents and spies in United States. Realize it is not in your province to get list, but would enlist your aid, because our diplomatic agents have all left Germany. List is essential to safeguarding coast defenses and munitions plants. Do what you can."
The message was signed by the secretary of state.
Hal passed the paper back to General Pershing. The latter eyed him keenly.
"'You realize the dangerous nature of the work?" he questioned.
"Perfectly, sir; also its importance. We shall be glad to undertake it, sir."
"Very well. Now I have a little information that may be of value. In another code message from the state department I am advised that efforts are being made to get a member of the diplomatic staff back into Berlin. There is one person in the German capital whom you may trust." General Pershing lowered his voice. "That person," he said, "is the wife of the German undersecretary for foreign affairs. She is an American woman, and upon several occasions has been of service to her own country. Her name is Schweiring."
"We shall remember, sir," said Chester.
"Now," said General Pershing, "I have no advice to offer as to how you shall reach Berlin, nor how you shall go about your work. Once in Berlin, however, you will have to be governed by circumstances. You speak German, I am told?"
"Like natives, sir," said Hal with a grin.
"Very well. I shall see that you are granted indefinite leave of absence. There is just one thing more. I want to say that I do not like to ask my men to become spies."
"Why, sir," said Chester gravely, "it's all for our country; and the day when a spy was looked down upon has gone. It is just another way of serving ones country, sir."
"Nevertheless," said General Pershing, "the punishment is the same as it has been down the ages: death."
"If caught," Hal added with a smile.
"True," was his commander's response, and a slight smile lighted, up his own features.
He arose and extended his hand. Both lads shook it heartily.
"I hope," said General Pershing, "that you may both come through safely. But if you don't — well, good-bye. I don't need to tell you that if one can get through with the list that, from the nation's standpoint, what happens to the other is insignificant."
"I have a request to make, sir," said Hal, as they turned to go.
"Consider it granted," replied his commander.
"It is this," said Hal. "I believe that it would be well for us to take a third man along. It may be that he will never reach the German lines, but he should prove of help for the other two."
"Have you the man in mind?" asked General Pershing.
"Yes, sir. A man named McKenzie, a private in our troop. He's a Canadian, and has seen years of active service. Also, as I happen to know, he speaks German fluently."
"I shall give you a paper authorizing his indefinite leave of absence," said General Pershing.
He scribbled a few words on a piece of paper, and passed it to the lad. The boys drew themselves to attention, saluted, and left.
"A pretty ticklish piece of business," said Chester quietly, as they made their way to their own quarters.
"Rather," said Hal dryly; "and still it must be done. The safety of America depends upon the success of our mission. It may be well that it has been entrusted to us rather than to older men. We are less likely to be suspected if we reach Berlin safely. Besides, we have been there before, and are somewhat familiar with the city."
"Yes," said Chester grimly, "we've been there several times before. I recall that we went there once very much against our will — prisoners."
"Well, we didn't stay very long," said Hal.
"Let's hope we don't stay for keeps this time either," said Chester. "To tell the truth, I don't think much of this spy business myself."
"Somebody has to do it," Hal declared.
"Of course, but I am not very fond of that sort of work."
"If you don't want to go -" Hal began, but Chester interrupted.
"Of course, I want to go if it must be. I am ready to do what I can for my country in whatever way I may."
"I knew it," said Hal; "I was only fooling. Come, we will acquaint McKenzie with his work. And if he comes safely through this, I feel confident he will not remain long in the ranks."
The found McKenzie, the erstwhile Canadian sergeant, in his tent.
"McKenzie," said Hal, "you are about to take a trip, I see."
"That so, sir? I hadn't heard of it."
"Yes," Hal continued. "I heard a man say you were about to go to Germany."
"And the man," said McKenzie, "was —"
"General Pershing, McKenzie."
"Very well, sir," said McKenzie, to whom the few words told the story of important work to be done.
"In that event, I presume that General Pershing has seen fit to allow me leave of absence."
"He has, McKenzie. I shall present the order to Captain O'Neill at once. In the meantime, see that your guns are cleaned, and that you have an extra supply of cartridges. We may need them. Also, leave any papers or other marks of identification behind. When you are ready, come to my quarters."
"I shall be there in half an hour, sir."
Hal and Chester made their way to Captain O'Neill's quarters. Hal presented the papers, granting leaves of absence to the three.
"Hm-m," muttered Captain O'Neill. "Something up, eh? Well, I wish I were going with you." He extended a hand.
"Good luck," he said quietly."
"We'll have to have a leader for this party," said Hal, "one whose word shall be law. I'm agreeable to Chester."
"I'd rather have you," said Chester.
McKenzie also voted for Hal, who already had done him some service. This agreement, stood.
"All right," said Hal. "Now that I'm in command, I'll outline the course of procedure. We'll go from here to the Dutch border."
"How about passports?" Chester wanted to know.
"That's simple enough. You remember the time when we drew up a set of fake passports representing ourselves to be correspondents of the New York Gazette? We'll follow the same plan, except that we each will be represented as correspondents of different papers. See, I've already drawn, them."
"I see," said Chester, "but American passports won't be honored in Germany now."
"But they will be in Holland," said Hal. "We'll see what can be done about having them changed there. Now, let's see if we know who we are."
He passed the fake passports to the others.
"I'm Barney McCann, eh?" said McKenzie, gazing at the paper he held in his hand. "Oh, well, I guess I can talk Irish as well as German if I have to. And I represent the Chicago Mail."
"I'm still Chester Crawford," said Chester, "and I represent the New York Gazette."
"I'm Hal Paine, and I represent the Philadelphia Globe," said Hal. "We'll probably have to change our names when we go over the German border, but these should answer their purposes in Holland. Fortunately, we have learned a few things from Stubbs, so we are not unfamiliar with the workings of a newspaper."
"Guess we had better get out of these uniforms," said Chester.
"Right. We'll don suits of plain khaki, such as Stubbs wears, and we'll equip ourselves with the necessary paraphernalia."
This was a simple task, and several hours later, horseback, the lads made their way toward where British troops, supported by French, were close to, the border of The Netherlands.
They showed their passports, prepared by Hal, to the British military authorities, and were permitted to pass.
Holland, although not a participant in the great war, nevertheless, soon after the outbreak of hostilities, had felt herself called upon to mobilize her military forces that she might protect her borders should one of the belligerents attempt to overrun her, as the Germans had overrun Belgium at the outbreak of the war. Therefore, when the three travelers reached the border, they were held up by the military.
Hal presented his fake American passport, and Chester and McKenzie did likewise. The officer who had accosted them turned them over to his superior.
"Your intentions," said the officer, "I hope are such as not to break Holland's neutrality?"
"We're perfectly peaceable, sir," returned Hal with a smile.
"Very well. This is a neutral country, and you are, of course, free to travel about it at your leisure so long as you conduct yourselves properly. Of course, were you American soldiers it would be necessary for me to place you under arrest, and YOU would be interned until the end of the war."
"I understand that, sir," said Hal.
"By the way," said the Dutch officer, "there is a Dutch newspaperman here at this moment. Perhaps you would like to meet him. He is Herr Heindrick Block, of the Amsterdamer."
"We shall be pleased," said Hal quietly.
The Dutch officer excused himself, and returned a moment later with a young Dutchman, whom he introduced to the three friends. They shook hands all around.
"I've already met a compatriot of yours," said the young Dutchman, smiling, "a Herr Stubbs. He is with one of the New York papers — I forget which."
Hal and Chester gave a start of surprise, but quickly recovered themselves.
"He is with my paper, The Gazette, sir," returned Chester. "Is he in these parts?"
"He was yesterday," replied Block. "I do not know where he is now."
The three friends took an instant liking to the young Dutch newspaper man. He led the three to where he was temporarily quartered.
"We can have a little chat here," he said.
During the course of the conversation Hal asked:
"And what is the sentiment in Holland regarding the war?"
The young Dutchman hesitated a moment, and then turned and gazed around quickly.
"The sentiment," he said at last, "is that Germany must be crushed. Of course, at this moment Holland cannot afford to enter the arena. Germany has massed thousands of troops upon our border. An unneutral act would be dangerous. Nevertheless, Holland's sympathies are with the Allies — have been from the start. There is another factor besides Holland's natural gratitude to England — that makes for this. Germany has overrun Holland, as well as the rest of the world with spies. Holland is offended, but cannot afford to show it — now. But while we are kept quiet, there are few of us who would not do much to help the Allied cause."
Hal thought quickly. He glanced at the young Dutchman shrewdly. He felt he could be trusted.
"Then," said the lad quietly, "can you conceive of any way by which we can get passports from the Dutch government that will pass us into Germany?"
The young Dutchman manifested no surprise.
"Have no fear," he said, as Chester and McKenzie manifested some anxiety at Hal's words. "I shall not betray you. Only yesterday I was able to get a passport for your friend Herr Stubbs."
"What?" cried Hal. "Stubbs gone into Germany?"
"I supposed you knew that," said Block. "I supposed he was one of you."
"No," said Chester, "Stubbs is what he represents himself to be — a war correspondent."
"Nevertheless," said Block, "he has gone into Germany as Herr Klepstein, a Dutch newspaperman."
"That means," said Hal, "that it will be hard work getting passports for us."
"Not at all," said Block. "I can do that with ease. There are many Dutch correspondents in Germany. Two or three more won't matter. One of you can take my passport." He looked at Hal. "You and I look something alike, anyhow," he said.
"So we do," Hal agreed. "But can you get passports for my friends here?"
"I can manufacture them myself, the same as I did for your friend Stubbs," said the Dutchman quietly, "I need not tell you, however, that should I be discovered I would probably be shot. But why shouldn't I do it? My mother was an English Woman."
"We shall be greatly obliged," said Hal.
Block led the way from the tent.
"Mount your horses," he said. "We'll go to the railroad station and catch a train for Amsterdam. You shall be my guests until the passports are prepared."
Hal was nothing loath. He realized that they had encountered good fortune in the person of Herr Block. He placed implicit confidence in the man, for it was perfectly plain that Block was telling the truth when he said his sympathies were with the Allies."
For two days the three friends were the guests of the young Dutchman at his bachelor apartments in Amsterdam. Upon the morning of the third day, Block presented them with passports properly vised by the Dutch authorities.
"These will get you through," he said quietly.
"We can never thank you enough," declared Hal, quietly. "Some day you will realize what a great thing you have done for the world."
"I realize it now," was the young Dutchman's reply. "I wish I were going with you, but it may be that I can be of more service here."
"Undoubtedly," said Hal, "if this is an example."
"Now don't forget who you are," enjoined Block. "You," to Hal, "are Herr Block, of The Amsterdamer." To Chester, "You are Herr Amusdem" To McKenzie: "You are Herr Spidle, both of The Nederlander. Do not forget. Should you encounter other Dutch correspondents, it will be well for you to stand on your dignity, and to talk to them as little as possible. Now, have you any idea how you are to go about the accomplishment of your mission, whatever it is?"
"No," said Hal, "I haven't. We shall act in accordance with developments."
"Well," said Block, "you may as well be going. The sooner you get there the better. I shall go with you to your train. You will have to show no passports until you get to the frontier."
At the station, Block saw them comfortably installed in a car that would carry them across the border. He shook hands with them.
"Good luck," he said quietly; and added: "Should you, by any chance, come out of Germany a jump ahead of a bayonet, remember you will find temporary, safety in my quarters. Good-bye."
THE GAME OPENS
"You may pass, gentlemen."
The speaker was a German officer. Upon the arrival of the three friends at the railroad terminus just across the German border the officer had made a tour of the train, examining the passports of the passengers. Hal, Chester and McKenzie had extended their passports along with the other passengers, and the German officer had found nothing wrong with them.
As the German took his leave, McKenzie breathed a sigh of relief.
"I was sure he was going to nab us," he said.
"Careful," whispered Hal. "We must do all our talking in German, and we must do very little of that concerning our private affairs. Remember, walls have ears, and I guess that will apply to a railroad car as well as a house."
"Right, Herr Block," said Chester with a smile.
The lads found that by remaining upon their car they would go straight through to Berlin. The train was called the Amsterdam-Berlin express, and, while at the border, it was crowded with troops, there was still a fair sprinkling of passengers bound for the German capital.
It was after dark when the train pulled into Berlin and Hal, Chester, and McKenzie prepared to disembark. As the train stopped, Hal made sure that his revolver was loose in his pocket, settled his hat firmly on his head, and led the way from the car.
As with most travelers in that part of the world at that time, neither was burdened with baggage. Each carried a small portfolio, much used at that time by war correspondents, but they had no other luggage.
"We'll go to the Hotel Bismarck," said Hal.
Although it had been years since either Hal or Chester had been in Berlin, Hal's sense of direction now stood him in good stead. He remembered where the Hotel Bismarck stood as well as though he had been there yesterday.
At the hotel the three registered under their assumed names, and paid a month in advance for a small suite of two rooms.
"We expect to study the internal situation of the city for some time," Hal explained to the clerk, "and we want to feel sure that we shall have a place to stay while we are here."
The three made themselves comfortable in their apartments, and for some time talked quietly. At last Hal gave the word for bed.
"We don't know just how we shall proceed," he said, "but we must be fresh and ready for any eventuality in the morning."
Morning came and with it the three friends were astir. They had an early breakfast, and then Hal announced that he would fare forth alone.
"I'll tell you where I'm going," he said, "so that if anything happens to me you will go ahead with the work, regardless. Remember this. Even though I may get in trouble, your duty will be to get the list, irrespective of what my fate may be. America comes first, you know, Chester."
"Of course," was the latter's quiet reply.
"Well," said Hal, "I am going to the home of the German undersecretary of foreign affairs. I am going to see Mrs. Schweiring."
"Then we shall stay here until you return," he said.
"Very well," Hal agreed. "But if I have not returned by noon, you will know something has happened, and you will proceed about the work with no further thought of me."
He left the room quickly.
He made inquiries at the hotel office, and half an hour later found himself before the residence of the German undersecretary of foreign affairs. He rang the doorbell. A footman answered the ring. Hal announced that he would like to see Mrs. Schweiring.
"Your card," said the footman, allowing him to enter.
"I have no card," said Hal. "You will tell her that Herr Block, of the Dutch newspaper, The Amsterdamer, desires to see her."
The footman bowed and departed. A few moments later he returned, followed by a young woman — she could not have been more than 18, Hal decided. The young woman approached, and spoke to Hal.
"My mother is unable to see you at this moment, Herr Block," she said. "She has sent me to learn the nature of your business with her."
"I am sorry, fraulein," said Hal gravely, "but my business is with your mother. I cannot confide it to you."
The footman, meantime, had left the room.
The girl stamped her foot a little angrily.
"But mother has no secrets from me," she declared.
"That's the American blood talking now," said Hal to himself. Aloud he replied: "Nevertheless, fraulein, I must again ask to be permitted to speak to your mother."
The girl glanced at him sharply. Then she exclaimed in a low voice:
"You are no Dutchman, mynheer."
Hal started a trifle in spite of himself; then, realizing that this must have betrayed him, he dropped his hand to his pocket, where reposed his revolver.
The girl smiled.
"Have no fear," she said. "I shall say nothing. Can it be you are the one whom mother expects?"
"The best way to find that out," said Hal, "is to summon your mother."
The girl hesitated no longer. She fairly flew from the room. She reappeared a moment later, followed by an older woman.
"This is Herr Block, Mother," she said.
"Very well, Gladys," replied her mother. "Now, if you will leave us alone, and make sure that we are not disturbed."
"I shall stand guard myself," replied the daughter.
She disappeared into the long hall.
"Now, Herr Block," said Mrs. Schweiring, "you may tell me the nature of your business."
Hal glanced sharply about the room. Then he leaned close.
"I come from the American expeditionary forces in France," he said quietly.
Mrs. Schweiring manifested no surprise.
"I had surmised as much," she returned, "I had looked, however, for a man in civil life rather than a military man; also, I had looked for one farther along in years."
"I am sure you will find that my youth may work to our advantage," said Hal quietly.
"Perhaps. Now tell me in what way I may help."
"Well," said Hal, "I have come, two friends and myself, in an effort to lay hands upon the list of German spies in America — the list kept by the German prime minister."
Mrs. Schweiring nodded.
"I had supposed as much. It was I who informed the department of state in Washington that such a list exists; but without help and without laying myself open to suspicion, I dared not try to get it. It is desperate work, but we shall see what can be done. Gladys!"
Her daughter re-entered the room in response to this summons.
"Gladys," said her mother, "Herr Block is the man we have been expecting; but he has not come alone. His companions are at the Hotel Bismarck, registered as Herr Spidle and Herr Amusdem. You will have their belongings moved here. They are friends whom you met in Switzerland and who will share our hospitality while here. Do you understand?"
"But we have no belongings," said Hal quietly. "We could not be bothered with excess baggage."
"Then I shall see that you are supplied with necessary articles," said his hostess. "The success of your mission will necessitate it. At any rate," she said, turning again to her daughter, "you will send a car for Herr Block's friends."
The girl nodded and left the room.
"I need not caution you," said Mrs. Schweiring, as she led the way upstairs — and showed to Hal a suite of three comfortably furnished rooms. "A little slip will spoil all. I shall introduce you to my friends as a Dutch war correspondent who, nevertheless, has in him a strain of German, with a little American blood. I shall represent that you have lived several years in America, but that your heart is with the Fatherland."
"And my friends?" questioned Hal.
"They shall be just what they represent themselves to be."
"Very well," said Hal. "You perhaps know best. But I must, as soon as possible, be introduced either to the prime minister or to one of his trusted assistants."
"I will tell you something," said his hostess. "The list which you seek is no longer in the hands of the prime minister. It is now in possession of General Rentzel, chief of the secret service; and the son of the general comes frequently to see my daughter, Gladys. But we shall talk more later. I will leave you now and see that sufficient wardrobes are procured for you and your friends."
She left the room.
THE BOYS MAKE PROGRESS
It was a merry party that gathered around the dinner table in the home of the German undersecretary of foreign affairs two nights later. But beneath the smiling faces of five members of the party was a suppressed excitement, for this dinner had been given by Mrs. Schweiring for a purpose. The purpose was to introduce Hal, Chester and McKenzie to General Rentzel, chief of the secret service, and his son, Frederick.
Besides these two guests of honor there were present the German minister of foreign affairs and one or two other high diplomats. The boys were in distinguished company and they knew it.
True to her word, Mrs. Schweiring had provided the three friends with an abundant wardrobe, which included evening clothes. Dinner over, Mrs. Schweiring, her daughter Gladys, and the wife of General Rentzel, the only women present, retired while the men produced cigars and cigarettes.
Neither Hal nor Chester smoked, but they felt called upon to accept a cigarette each. McKenzie, however, had no such scruples, and accepted a fat cigar without hesitation.
Hal found himself in conversation with young Captain Rentzel, son of the chief of the secret service.
"I understand you have spent some years in America?" he questioned.
"Why, yes," returned Hal.
"Do you like the country?"
"Not overly much," replied Hal with a shrug. "There are some very nice people there, but they are mostly boors."
"My idea exactly," returned the young German officer, "although I have never been there. Do you think America can do much harm to Germany in this war?"
"Well," said Hal, "given time, yes; but the American people are notoriously slow in such matters. Besides, I understand that there are quite a few German agents at work there now. With enough of them, irreparable injury could be done to the foe before they could prevent it."
"I notice you say foe," said the young German; "Yet you have American blood in your veins."
"A trifle," returned Hal quietly; "not enough to make me lose sight of justice and right."
"Good!" cried the young German. "Listen. It's true that we have many agents abroad, but some of them have fallen under suspicion and consequently will be of no further value. We need more such men who have lived in America and know the customs, and also will not be suspected. By the way, have you an appointment for 10 o'clock?"
"Why, no," said Hal. "Why?"
"Will you go with me at that hour?"
"To my father's quarters. He, as you know, is the chief of the secret service. As such, he has charge of the agents abroad. I thought he might make you a proposition."
"There will be no harm if I am unable to accept, will there?" asked Hal.
"Not a bit," replied the German heartily.
"Then I'll go."
The next hour was spent in general conversation, after which Captain Rentzel arose to take his leave.
"I'm going to run off with one of your friends, Miss Schweiring," he said, indicating Hal.
The others laughed, "Oh, take him and show him about a bit, Frederick," laughed Mrs. Schweiring's husband. "Only be sure that you return him safely."
Hal followed the young captain from the house.
Half an hour later he found himself in the palatial office of the chief of the German secret service.
Hal looked carefully about the room. A long table stood in the center. This apparently was the personal property of General Rentzel. Great easy chairs were scattered about the room. There was a window at the south side, and back, in the center, against the wall, was a large safe.
"Pretty comfortable place," said Hal aloud.
"Rather," agreed the young German. "Father believes in making himself comfortable."
General Rentzel had not arrived yet, but he put in an appearance a few moments later. He manifested no surprise at sight of his son, but he eyed Hal askance.
"I thought you young fellows had gone to look about the city," he said.
"No, sir," replied his son. "I invited. Herr Block here to see you, sir."
"You did? Why?"
The son explained as quickly as. possible.
"Hm-m," muttered the general when his son had concluded, eying Hal sharply. "How do I know you are what you represent yourself to be, sir?" he demanded.
"I'm not applying for a job, sir," he replied. "I came here at your son's suggestion. He said you might have a proposition to make, and if I can be of service without taking too great risk, I am willing, sir."
Again the general meditated. At last he said:
"It's true that we have need of men for the work my son mentions. To my mind, your youth would be in favor, rather than against, the success of the undertaking. Would you be willing to go back to America?"
"Well, I don't care particularly about going right now," said Hal truthfully.
"But there is nothing to prevent your going?"
."Well, no. But I would know the nature of my work first. I would not like to become a spy, sir. It seems to me that spies are not made of manly caliber, sir."
"You are wrong," was the quiet response. "Why, I can show you the names of men whom you would not think of suspecting, and yet who are acting for the German government in America."
"Is that so, sir?"
"It is indeed. Wait." General Rentzel arose, approached the big safe in the rear of the room, unlocked it and took there from a small paper-bound book. He returned to his seat at the table.
"In this little book," he said, tapping the table gently with it, "are the names of our agents in America. See, I'll show you a name, of worldwide importance, who is acting for us."
General Rentzel exposed a name. Hal glanced at it and then gave a long whistle.
"It's no wonder you are surprised," said the general, smiling. "Neither is it any wonder that our agents have been so successful in America, considering names like that."
"I should say not, sir," returned Hal grim.
General Rentzel returned the book to his safe, closed the heavy iron door and twirled the knob.
"What do you say, sir?" he demanded, as he resumed his seat.
For a moment Hal seemed to hesitate. Then he said:
"I accept on one condition, sir."
"And that?" asked the general.
"That," said Hal, "is that I may have the week in which to put my affairs in shape. I shall have to resign my position with my paper and attend to a few other matters, sir."
"Very good, sir. You need not call here again. It would be unwise. I shall see you at the Swiss ambassador's ball, which will be held four nights from tonight. There I will give you what passports you need and other instructions. Until then, sir, auf Wiedersehen."
Captain Rentzel accompanied Hal from his father's office.
"You are in luck," said that worthy, "and the pay is big. In a year or two you will be a wealthy man."
Hal thanked the captain, and made his way home alone.
As he moved up the steps he was startled to see a shadowy figure lurking in the doorway. His hand dropped to his pocket, and he advanced cautiously.
"Don't be afraid. Take your hand away from that revolver," came the voice of Gladys Schweiring.
"Miss Gladys!" exclaimed Hal in surprise. "What are you doing here? It is almost midnight."
"I was waiting for you," was the low response. "I was afraid something might have happened."
"It has," replied Hal, "but it is good news and not bad. Where is your mother?"
"In the drawing-room."
"Are the others there?"
"Just your friends. The guests have gone, and father has retired."
"Good . I have important information for them,"
Hal followed the young girl into the drawing room. Chester rose to his feet.
"By George! I'm glad to see you back safely," he said. "I was afraid something had happened."
Others echoed his words.
"Folks," said Hal, "I've news for you — good news."
"What is it?" demanded Chester eagerly.
"Well," said Hal very quietly. "I've seen the list!"
THE MINISTER'S BALL
It was a gay assemblage that thronged the home of the Swiss minister four nights after Hal's interview with the chief of the German secret service. Elegantly dressed women and well groomed and handsome officers danced and sang, and from the general tone of the evening it would have been hard to believe that Germany was engaged in a war that threatened her very existence.
Hal, Chester and McKenzie went to the ball accompanied by Mrs. Schweiring and her daughter. Mrs. Schweiring's husband announced that he would appear later, as he had matters of importance to transact at his office.
This was the night that Hal had decided upon to make an effort to get the list of names for which the three friends were risking so much. He had a well- conceived plan in mind. The details he had worked out in the days following his interview with the German chief of secret service and his preparations had been careful and thorough. Now he was anxious for action.
General Rentzel reached the ball late in the evening. He paid his respects to the Swiss minister and to the latter's wife. A few moments later he encountered Hal, and escorted the lad to a secluded nook, where he presented the lad with several documents.
"This," he said, indicating one, "is your passport into Switzerland. From there you will travel as a Swiss subject. You will present that paper," and he indicated a second, "to Herr Baumgartner in Washington. You will find him still at the Austrian embassy. He will give you other instructions. Also, you will receive your pay through him, and whatever other money is necessary."
"Very well, sir," he said.
"I don't know that there is anything further," said General Rentzel, "except to warn you that treachery means death."
"I am aware of that, sir," returned Hal quietly.
"Very good, then. Good luck to you."
The general moved away.
Hal sought Chester instantly, glancing at his watch as he passed along slowly and without apparent haste. It was 10:30 o'clock.
"It's time to get busy, Chester," he said quietly. "It's half-past ten, and I may require an hour and a half. You get word to Gladys and her mother to keep General Rentzel here under some pretext until midnight. I'm off."
"Am I not going with you?" demanded Chester.
"No," said Hal. "I don't have time to wait, and the message must be delivered to Mrs. Schweiring or her daughter at once. I'll pick McKenzie up on the way. Good-bye."
"Good luck," said Chester simply.
Hal left the room quietly. In the hall he found McKenzie, whom he motioned to follow him. McKenzie did so quietly.
Outside Hal found the automobile which had brought them to the ball. He leaped in and McKenzie followed. Hal gave quick directions to the chauffeur to drive them home. The latter asked no questions.
At the home of Mrs. Schweiring Hal ordered McKenzie to remain in the car while the lad hurried into the house. He returned a moment later, carrying a small grip. This he threw into the car and climbed in after it.
"We have important business with General Rentzel," he told the chauffeur. "You will drive us there and then return to the ball for your mistress."
The chauffeur asked no questions. There were so many queer things going on in Berlin that he was not even greatly interested.
General Rentzel's office was in darkness when the car pulled up before it. Motioning McKenzie to follow him, Hal hastened up the steps. The chauffeur, in accordance with Hal's instructions, immediately disappeared down the street with the car.
In the darkness of the vestibule, Hal tried the door.
"Locked," he said. "Lucky we came prepared."
He opened the little grip he carried.
Meanwhile, Chester had carried Hal's message to Gladys. The latter had repeated it to her mother, and these two now shadowed General Rentzel every place he moved, for they were fearful that he might decide at any moment to leave the house. Chester kept his eyes on all three.
Chester was plainly nervous. Had he been in the danger himself his nerves would have been as hard as steel, but the inaction while someone else was doing the work made him impatient and fanciful.
Finally General Rentzel approached the Swiss minister and paid his adieus. Then he moved toward the cloakroom.
Halfway there he was intercepted by Mrs. Schweiring and Gladys.
"You are not going so soon, your excellency?" questioned Mrs. Schweiring.
"I must," was the reply. "I have work to do at my office that will keep me until far into the night."
"I'm sorry," was the reply. "Have you seen my husband?"
"I understood him to say that he had some business with you; perhaps I was mistaken, however."
Twice now the general had attempted to move on, but Mrs. Schweiring had prevented it. He tried again, and she asked:
"What time have you, your excellency?"
General Rentzel glanced at his watch.
"Half-past eleven," he said.
"Surely, it is not that late," said Mrs. Schweiring. "Why, we have only been here a short time."
"Madame," said General Rentzel at this juncture, "I must ask you to excuse me. I must be going."
There was no reply the other could make to this without laying herself open to suspicion. She stepped back, and the German secret service chief passed on.
Behind him the woman and her daughter wrung their hands. They had been unsuccessful. In their minds they could see General Rentzel bursting in upon Hal and McKenzie in the middle of their work.
"What are we going to do?" cried the mother.
"They must be warned!' cried the daughter.
"I will warn them myself. It is a long ways to the general's quarters. He will be in no hurry. I can get there ahead of him."
"But if you should be discovered?"
Gladys shrugged her shoulders and was gone before her mother could protest.
Outside she dashed up to the Schweiring automobile and cried to the chauffeur.
"To General Rentzel's quarters! Quick!"
The machine sprang forward with a lurch.
Two minutes later, Gladys, peering from the car, made out as they passed what she took to be General, Rentzel's machine. She urged the chauffeur on even faster.
Half a block from the general's quarters, she ordered her driver to stop and then to take up position down a side street, where it was dark, and wait for her. These instructions were obeyed without question.
Gladys hurried toward the house.
There was no light to be seen as she ascended the steps and laid a hand on the door knob. Nevertheless the girl moved silently, for she did not know what servants might be in the house.
The door opened without a sound. Gladys advanced into the darkness.
From time to time she stopped as she moved along, but she was so afraid that General Rentzel might arrive before she could warn Hal and McKenzie that she wasted little time.
She came to a door, which opened noiselessly. She peered into the darkness, and in what appeared to be another room she saw what looked like a star.
The girl breathed a cry of thankfulness. She knew that she had found what she sought. She moved forward more rapidly.
As she walked along toward the light, she suddenly tripped over an obstacle hidden by the mantle of darkness and fell to the floor.
There was a crash that resounded throughout the house.
HAL GETS THE LIST
When Hal and McKenzie stopped in the entrance way upon finding that the door was locked, Hal took from the little grip he carried a long skeleton key. This had been procured for him by Mrs. Schweiring, and Hal knew that it would unlock almost any door.
To gain entrance to the house, therefore, was but the matter of an instant.
From his grip again Hal produced a small flashlight, with which he lighted their way. Thanks to the lad's previous visit to the house, he knew right where he was going, so there was no time lost in search.
Straight to the large safe in the general's private office Hal led the way. There he passed the light to McKenzie and placed the grip on the floor.
"No chance it has been left unlocked, I guess," the lad muttered. "However, I'll try it."
He shook the handle. The safe was locked.
"As I thought," said Hal. "Well, the rest will take time. Turn the light on the lock, McKenzie."
From his grip Hal took an ordinary cake of soap. This he proceeded to rub around the lock and stuff into the cracks. This done to his satisfaction, he stepped back and surveyed his work.
"All right, I guess," he said. "I never tackled anything like this before, but I think I know how it's done."
The next article he produced from the grip was a small vial. One look told McKenzie what it was. It contained nitroglycerine. This Hal poured under the edge of the safe. Then he attached a fuse and lighted it. Immediately he threw a heavy blanket, which was the last article the grip contained, over the safe to muffle the sound of the explosion that would occur in a few moments.
"Get back in the corner and crouch down, McKenzie," said Hal, and did the same thing himself.
At that moment there was a crash in the adjoining room. Hal's revolver leaped out, as did McKenzie's, and both dashed into the room. McKenzie flashed the light across the floor, and there, just getting to her feet, was Gladys.
"Quick! You must fly!" she cried. "General Rentzel is on his way and will be here at any moment."
The fuse in the other room was burning fast, as Hal knew. The lad determined, in that instant, that he would not leave the house without getting the list for which he had come.
He pulled Gladys back into the room where the fuse was fast burning to the safe. McKenzie followed, and the three crouched down.
A moment and there was a muffled explosion, followed by a flash of fire. Smoke filled the room. With a cry to the others to stay where they were, Hal dashed to the safe. It was as he hoped. The door had been blown clear.
Quickly Hal explored the contents of the safe. Then he gave a cry of delight. His hand encountered what he felt sure was the book he sought. He ran across the room with it to where McKenzie held the flashlight and by its glow examined his prize.
It was the list he sought.
Hal hesitated one moment, and then he pressed the book into the hands of Gladys.
"Quick!" he said. "Out the window with you. Give this to Chester and tell him to get out of Berlin at once. Tell him he will be followed but that he must get through."
"But you -"' protested Gladys.
There came the sound of rapid footsteps in the next room. Hal picked Gladys up in his arms, carried her to the window, and dropped her to the ground as he said in a low voice:
"To hesitate means failure. Do as I say and quickly."
He returned to McKenzie's side. When he reached there McKenzie extinguished his light.
"Well, we've got the list," he said quietly.
"We have," Hal agreed, "but our lives probably will pay the forfeit. We must stay here until we are discovered. To follow Gladys would mean her capture."
"We won't have to wait long," said McKenzie grimly. "Here they come."
It was true.
Footsteps came toward them. Suddenly the room burst into light as someone pressed an electric, light button. General Rentzel strode into the room.
His eyes fell upon Hal and McKenzie immediately. He said nothing, but gazed about. Then he saw the shattered safe. He dashed forward with a cry and examined the interior, carefully. Then his face turned white as he faced Hal.
"The list," he said in a hoarse voice, "where is it?"
"Where you will never get it, I hope," he replied quietly.
General Rentzel strode forward with a shout.
"They are spies! Seize them, men!" he cried.
Hal's right arm shot out and the chief of the German secret service sprawled on the floor.
"To the stairs!" Hal cried to McKenzie.
The Canadian needed no urging. Two German soldiers fell to the floor under his quick blows and then McKenzie joined Hal on the steps which fled upward from the rear of the room.
Hall produced a revolver. McKenzie did likewise.
"The first man who moves dies!" cried Hal, as he moved his revolver from side to side.
The men below, of whom there were perhaps a dozen, stood still. Apparently each was afraid to make the first move.
General Rentzel sat up and wiped his face with a handkerchief.
"Shoot them!" he cried.
From the rear of the crowd there was a flash of fire and a report. A bullet sped over Hal's head. McKenzie's revolver flashed and a German fell to rise no more.
At this moment McKenzie took command.
"Up the steps!" he cried.
Hal realized that to hesitate meant instant death. He was, perhaps, two steps above McKenzie, and he covered the rest in two leaps. There he stopped and covered the room. He was in position to protect McKenzie's retreat.
McKenzie also leaped to the top step, and there, for a moment, they were out of the line of fire. To reach them it was necessary for the Germans to stand directly in front of the steps, and there was no man below who felt called upon to face this certain death, in spite of the hoarse commands of General Rentzel.
But in a situation like this could not last long. Other officers and soldiers, aroused by the explosion appeared on the scene. Hal realized that their predicament was desperate. With a cry to McKenzie, Hal darted back along the hall, turned into the first room he saw, flung open the window and leaped to the ground.
McKenzie was close behind him.
Hal led the way along the street at a rapid walk, with McKenzie at his heels. The lad turned down several side streets, doubling occasionally on his tracks in an effort to throw off possible pursuers. As they drew farther away from the house where they had been discovered they encountered fewer and fewer people. Apparently the sound of the explosion had not reached here.
They were safe for the moment and Hal breathed easier.
"Hope Chester has a good start," he said to McKenzie in a low voice.
"He should have by this time," was the reply. "They figure, of course, that we have the list."
Hal would have replied, but as they passed a house at that moment a man stepped from the door. Hal uttered an exclamation of pure amazement.
The newcomer was dressed in costume that he had worn since the war began. He looked much as upon the night that Hal first saw him. He paid no attention to Hal and McKenzie at first, but Hal brought him about with a word.
It was indeed the little war correspondent of whose presence in Germany Herr Block had told the three friends before they left Holland.
Stubbs wheeled sharply. He saw Hal and turned pale.
"Hello — hello, Hal," he gasped. "Wh — what are you doing here?"
"Is that your house?" demanded Hal, indicating the one from which Stubbs had just emerged.
"Then we'll go in with you," said Hal quietly.
"But I don't want to go in," declared Stubbs.
"But we do," said Hal. "Meet my friend, McKenzie, Stubbs."
"I don't want to meet him," declared Stubbs. "I tell you I'm in danger here."
"So are we," said Hal. "That's the reason we're going to take advantage of your hospitality. Come on in, Stubbs. We've got to get out of this country."
"I'll never get out alive now that you've showed up," Stubbs mumbled.
But he led the way inside.
STUBBS IS CRESTFALLEN
Inside, Stubbs struck a match.
"I say! Hold up, there!" Hal exclaimed, and grasped the hand that held the match and extinguished the flame. "We don't want any light in here," he added.
In vain Stubbs tried to pierce the darkness with his eyes to make out the lad's features.
"Humph!" muttered the little man. "What have you been up to now?"
"Stubbs," said Hal, "the whole of Germany will be scouring the city for us before long. We've got to get away from here."
"Well," said Stubbs, "the whole of Germany is already looking for me, but they haven't found me yet."
"What are they hunting you for?" demanded Hal. "Surely, you haven't harmed anyone."
"Maybe not; but they've discovered who I am."
"That you're an American war correspondent, eh?"
"Why, no," said Stubbs quietly, "they've discovered that I'm here at command of the American state department searching for a certain list of names."
It was Hal's turn to be surprised and be started back.
"What's that?" he cried, believing that he could not have heard aright.
Stubbs repeated his statement.
"But I thought —" began Hal.
"And what business have you to think!" demanded Stubbs with sudden anger. "Haven't I the same, right as you to do something for my country?"
"Of course, Mr. Stubbs, and I think all more of you for it, but at the same time I never dreamed —"
"Of course you didn't. Neither did anyone else, which is the reason my services were accepted. That is, no one knew it outside of Germany, but they seem to have spotted me here soon enough."
"I see," said Hal. "Then you must have made an effort to get the list of German agents in the United States."
Stubbs gave an exclamation of amazement.
"Who said anything about spies?" he asked.
"Well, you didn't, to be sure," said Hal, "But as I happened to have the list in my hands a few moments ago, I didn't need to be told."
"You had it?" cried Stubbs, unconsciously raising his voice.
"'Where is it now?" demanded Stubbs eagerly.
"Safe, I hope," replied Hal quietly, "but don't talk so loud, Stubbs. I sent the list to Chester by a trusted aide, and I have no doubt he is on his way out of the country with it now."
"How'd you get it?" inquired Stubbs.
"By George!" said Stubbs. "You fellows have all the luck. I tried and failed."
"Maybe you didn't know where it was," said Hal.
"Didn't, eh? Say, let me ask you something. Didn't you think it was rather strange when you approached General Rentzel's place that there was no one around, eh?"
"Well, such a thought had occurred to me," Hal admitted, "but I supposed no one was on guard through overconfidence."
"Do you want me to tell you where the guards were?"
"Why, yes, if you know."
"Well, I know all right. They were chasing me around the highways and byways, if you want to know," Stubbs exploded. "They discovered me trying to get into the house and I ran for my life. Well, this beats the Dutch! I cleared the road for you and you grabbed the list!"
Stubbs became silent.
"At all events," said Hal, "we got the list — and that is what counts, after all."
"True," said Stubbs, and extended a hand in the darkness, which Hal grasped warmly. "Well," he said, "we're all tarred with the same brush, and it will give these Huns great delight to stand us all up before a wall or with ropes around our necks in a bunch. The sooner we get back to our lines the better for all our families."
"But the question is, how?" said Hal quietly.
"I've got a big automobile waiting for me about a mile from here," said Stubbs. "If we can get into it we can go a long ways without interruption."
"They'll wire ahead," said Hal
"So they will," Stubbs agreed, but I've also got a pocket full of the prettiest passports and other credentials you ever saw. I didn't chop down my bridges behind me, as you seem to have done. Once in my car, as I say, and we'll move away from here."
"Then we may as well be moving," said McKenzie, who had not spoken until that moment.
"Right," Hal agreed. "But we must be careful. No telling how many Germans are nearby, scouring the streets for us. Lead the way, Stubbs."
"That's right," said Stubbs, "pick me for the easy work."
"I'll lead the way if the little man is afraid," growled McKenzie.
Stubbs whirled on him in the darkness.
"Look here!" he exclaimed, "I allow no man to talk to me like that. Understand?"
McKenzie was somewhat taken aback, but he growled again:
"Then lead on and don't talk so much."
Stubbs would have made " another angry retort, but Hal nudged him to move.
Muttering to himself, Stubbs led the way to the street again.
There was no one in sight as they emerged from the darkened house, and they moved off down the street with rapid strides. Occasionally they saw passing civilians, with now and then an officer or trooper or so, but Berlin seemed to be sleeping securely in the knowledge that the enemy was far from its door.
Hal gazed at his watch by the glare of a street light. It was almost 4 o'clock.
"Two hours to daylight," he muttered. "We shall have to hurry."
Fifteen minutes later Stubbs slowed down.
"My automobile is in a small garage around the next corner," he said, and added significantly, "if nothing has happened to it."
"Let's get it then," said Hal. "We don't want to stand here."
Stubbs moved on again and Hal and McKenzie followed him closely.
There was no sign of a living person near the little garage. Stubbs approached and attempted to throw back the closed door. It would not budge.
"Let me try, Stubbs," said Hal, pushing forward.
He took from his pocket a short but well tempered piece of steel. He found that the door was held by a padlock. He inserted the piece of steel in the top, and, putting forth all his strength, broke the lock.
There was a sharp report as the lock fell to pieces.
"Quick, Stubbs!" Hal cried. "That noise will have aroused every sleepy policeman within a mile."
McKenzie lent a hand and the door was thrown back. Stubbs gave a gasp of relief. The automobile was there.
"You do the driving, Hal," cried Stubbs. "Pile in here, man," this to McKenzie. "She's all ready to start. Come on."
The others wasted no time in words. McKenzie scrambled in the back seat alongside Stubbs, while Hal sprang to the wheel. A moment later the automobile moved slowly from the garage.
As the big machine came clear into the street, a bright light suddenly flashed around the next comer and headed toward them. Hal knew in a moment what it was. It was a motorcycle, bearing a policeman. There was but one course to pursue, and Hal acted without hesitation. He threw the machine into high and it dashed directly toward the motorcycle.
The man saved his life by swerving swiftly to one side. His machine bumped the curb and threw the rider off. When he picked himself up the automobile bearing the three friends was turning a corner, apparently on one wheel for Hal had scarcely diminished the speed.
The German drew his revolver and fired a shot ill the air. He was sounding the alarm and summoning assistance at the same time.
Quickly he righted his motorcycle, mounted, and made off in pursuit of the high- powered automobile.
At the sound of the German's shot, Hal increased the speed of the automobile.
"McKenzie!" he cried.
McKenzie leaned forward so as to catch the words the lad shouted back to him.
"Get your guns ready!" cried Hal. "Don't let anyone come at us from the rear."
McKenzie understood. He repeated Hal's words to Stubbs, shouting to make himself heard.
"Can't anyone catch us from behind," Stubbs shouted back. "This car will outrun anything in Germany."
McKenzie made no reply, but looked to his guns. He knew that it was not pursuing automobiles that Hal was afraid of; but high-powered motorcycles in use in Germany would probably be able to overtake the car no matter what its speed.
So far, however, the road behind was clear.
TOWARD THE FRONTIER
Hal set his course by instinct and the glow of the disappearing moon, and a few moments after their swift departure, it seemed, they were beyond the city itself, headed straight for the Dutch frontier.
There was no pursuit, and Hal rightly judged the reason to be because he had thrown pursuers off the track by several sharp turns before leaving the city proper.
After an hour's riding, Hal made out specks ahead that he took to be automobiles. He increased the speed of the car slightly to make sure of this fact. The car driven by Hal was gaining, but so slightly as to be almost imperceptible.
"Those fellows are hitting up a pretty swift gait," the lad muttered. "I wonder why."
The sound of a shot was suddenly swept back to Hal's ear.
"Hello!" he muttered. "Trouble ahead."
He slowed down, for he had no mind to mix up with the Germans so long as it could be avoided. Suddenly the first automobile ahead came to a stop. The second did likewise. Hal shut off his searchlight and approached slowly in the darkness.
It became plain, as he drew closer, that the first automobile had been stopped by a pistol shot, which probably had punctured a rear tire.
There came more pistol shots and then silence. Hal brought his own machine to a dead stop.
A few moments later one of the automobiles ahead, as Hal could see by the position of its searchlight, began to turn in the road. Instantly Hal flashed his own light on and sent the car forward. This he did because he realized it would look suspicious should the flare of the other light show Hal's car standing still in the road.
The other car had now come about and approached Hal's machine.
McKenzie and Stubbs both had been watching the proceedings ahead with strained eyes. Now they were ready for Hal's words:
"Guns ready back there. We'll pass if they let us alone."
The cars came closer together. Suddenly Hal was struck with a thought that sent a chill down his spine. Suppose Chester was in that car! Maybe the pursuit he had witnessed was the pursuit of Chester.
The cars were almost together now. Instead of turning off to the right to allow the other to pass, as it seemed to have every intention of doing, Hal only swerved slightly. Then, before the other car could pass, he brought his own machine to a stop and sprang to the ground, revolver in hand. McKenzie was close behind him.
Only Stubbs remained in the automobile, and he, too, held a revolver ready for instant action.
A voice from the strange car hailed Hal.
"Why do you stop us like this?" it demanded.
"Want to see who you are," was the lad's reply. "A spy has escaped from Berlin, and I have orders to search all vehicles."
"You are mistaken," said the voice. "The spy has not escaped. We have him here."
"Good!" exclaimed Hal. "Nevertheless, I must satisfy myself that you are speaking the truth and are what you represent yourselves to be."
"Of course," returned the voice. "Approach."
Hal went forward slowly, gun in hand, as did McKenzie.
Hal now made out that there were four occupants of the car, besides the man at the wheel and a figure stretched out in the tonneau.
With his cap down over his eyes, he peered in. The men were in civilian garb and Hal knew, therefore, that they must be members of the secret service and not of the military. He knew, too, that they would consequently be that much harder to handle. Nevertheless, he determined upon a bold stroke.
"Hands up, all of you I" he cried in a stern voice.
His revolver covered the occupants in the front seat. McKenzie covered the rear.
"Here, what's the meaning of this?" exclaimed a man who seemed to be the leader. "You fool! Haven't you been convinced yet that we are what we say."
"Perfectly," returned Hal quietly. "That's why I must insist that you raise your hands. Instantly!" His voice hardened and his finger tightened on the trigger. "Shoot without hesitancy," he warned McKenzie.
McKenzie's lips were set in a determined line. It was plain that he would need no urging.
"Well," said one of the Germans, "it's my belief you are also spies."
"Hands up!" repeated Hal.
"If you must have it you must!" exclaimed the first German.
His hand flashed up and in it was a revolver.
McKenzie's revolver flashed. The German dropped back.
The man at the wheel released his hold on the steering apparatus and also reached for a gun. Hal dropped him without changing his position.
One of the Germans, before either Hal or McKenzie could stop him, hurled himself over the far side of the car. The other two raised their hands.
"That other fellow is probably bent on mischief," said Hal to himself, "but we'll have to take a chance. Cover 'em" he ordered McKenzie, "while I get their guns!"
Hal advanced to the side of the car and deprived the two Germans of their revolvers. Then he climbed in and motioned the Germans to get out. After that he bent over the still form in the bottom of the car. It was Chester.
"Keep those fellows covered, McKenzie," he warned. "Don't let them move. One of them may have the list."
The Germans made no move under the muzzle of McKenzie's gun, held in a steady hand.
Hal lifted Chester's head to his knee. As he did so there was a sharp report from nearby, quickly followed by a second, and Hal felt a slight pain in his left arm.
He dropped Chester's head and leaped to the ground.
"That's the man who escaped," he said. "I'll have to get him, McKenzie. You watch, these fellows closely."
"It's all right, Hal," came a voice from the lads own car. "I got him!"
It was the voice of Stubbs, and the little man now came forward.
"I stayed behind to cover you fellows," he explained. "The man who jumped out of the car made a detour and came up to my car. From its protection he took a shot at you. He didn't see me in the darkness, though, and I beat him to it. He was so close I couldn't miss."
"Thanks, Stubbs," said Hal quietly. "Now you look in the car and see if you can't find some rope or blankets or something to tie these fellows with."
Stubbs returned shortly with several thin blankets, which Hal quickly fashioned into an improvised rope. The two prisoners were bound.
"Now search 'em for the list," said Hal.
The war correspondent did so. There was no list to be found.
"Search the one you just disposed of, Stubb,"' Hal ordered.
The little man obeyed, and a moment later gave an exclamation of triumph.
"Here it is," he cried.
"Good!" said Hal. "Now we'll lay these fellows where they can't move to give an alarm."
This, too, was but the work of a moment.
"Lend a hand, McKenzie," said Hal. "We'll move Chester into our own car and then move on. It is dangerous to remain here."
Chester was gently transferred from one car to the other and laid in the bottom.
"You fellows see if you can revive him as we go along," said Hal. "We have no time to waste."
He sprang again to the wheel, and the car moved on.
Daylight overtook the four friends as they sped along the country road. Occasionally other automobiles flashed by, but they were not molested.
Under the administering hands of Stubbs and McKenzie, signs of life soon became apparent in Chester's body. He moaned feebly once or twice, and then opened his eyes. For a moment he did not realize where he was, but with remembrance of the recent attack, he suddenly sat up and aimed a blow at Stubbs, in whose lap the lad's head had rested.
"I say! What's the meaning of this?" cried Stubbs. "What are you trying to hit me for?"
"Is that you, Stubbs?" asked Chester in a feeble voice.
"You bet it's me, and I'm going to spank you good if you don't keep quiet."
"How'd you get here?"
"That's a long story," replied Stubbs, "and we don't have time to tell it now."
"How do you feel, old man?" asked McKenzie.
"Great Scott! You here, too?" exclaimed Chester.
"Yes; and Hal is driving this car. You keep quiet now. We're in grave danger and you must get all the rest you can. We may have need of your services before long."
Chester's head dropped back and his eyes closed. He sat up abruptly again a moment later, however, and demanded sharply:
"Where's the list?"
"Safe," replied Stubbs quietly.
Chester sank back again with an exclamation of satisfaction.
MCKENZIE IN ACTION
It was broad daylight now and Hat felt the necessity of traveling at a slower speed than he had through the darkness of the night. Accordingly he reduced the speed of the big car to not more than thirty-five miles an hour.
Stubbs leaned forward and called to Hal.
"How far do you suppose we are from the Dutch border?"
"Don't know," was the reply, "but it's a long ways. We're not more than 70 miles from Berlin."
Several times during the next few hours they were halted, but were permitted to pass on, after showing their passports. Apparently the Berlin authorities had not wired ahead, and Hal was unable to account for this satisfactorily.
"Something peculiar about it," he muttered, as he bent over the wheel.
For the next few hours the automobile proceeded on its way without interruption, save for a single stop to replenish gasoline and air.
It was well along toward evening when Stubbs announced that the Dutch frontier was only a few miles distant. Once over the line they would be comparatively safe.
A foreboding of trouble swept over Hal.
Chester had slept during most of the trip thus far. McKenzie had examined the lad carefully and discovered that he was suffering from a flesh wound in the left side. The Canadian had bound this up as well as he could as the automobile jostled along.
His experienced eye told him there was nothing dangerous about the wound. It was painful, of course, and Chester would naturally be stiff in body for some time; but, providing the wound was kept clean, there was no danger of infection.
Now, at Hal's injunction, Stubbs aroused Chester. The lad opened his eyes slowly.
"How do you feel, old man?" asked McKenzie.
Chester sat up and passed a hand across his forehead.
"I don't feel any too playful," he said with a wry smile. "Where are we, anyhow?"
"Getting pretty close to the Dutch border," returned McKenzie.
"What'd you want to wake me for?" Chester demanded of Stubbs.
"Believe me," said Stubbs, "I didn't want to wake you up. It's usually safer for all concerned when you and Hal are both asleep. I woke you up because Hal told me to."
"That's all right, then," said Chester. "But don't you try to rub it into me, Stubbs, just because I've got a bullet hole in me is no sign I'm a cripple, you know."
"Maybe not," said Stubbs. "Here, take this gun."
He passed a revolver to Chester.
"What's the idea?" demanded Chester, taking the revolver; "going to fight me a duel or something?"
"Don't be a fool," said Stubbs. "We're still in Germany, remember. You may need that gun before we get out."
"All right, Stubbs," returned Chester. "Thanks."
Ahead, Hal suddenly made out a large body of men in such position as to block the road. He slowed down the car, and, leaning back, addressed the others.
"If I'm not mistaken," he said quietly, pointing, "just beyond lies the Dutch border. Once across we are comparatively safe. At least the Germans will not dare to follow us on to neutral ground. At the same time, if we are apprehended by Dutch military authorities our mission will be a failure, because we shall be interned. What is your advice?"
"Get into Holland first and let matters take their course later," said Chester quietly.
"I agree with you," said McKenzie.
"And I," said Hal.
"Well," said Stubbs, "I don't. Not that it will make any difference, of course, because you will do as you wish anyhow."
"If you have any better plan, Stubbs," said Chester, "let's hear it."
"I don't have any plan," declared Stubbs, "but seems to me you could think of a better one. To rush through those fellows ahead means a fight, a that's why you decided on that plan. I'm against a fight at all hazards."
"So I perceive," said McKenzie dryly.
"Well; you stick along anyhow, Stubbs," said Chester.
"Oh, I'll stick," said Stubbs, "but I'm going to tell you right now I don't think I'm going to do you any good."
"Well, if we are decided," said Hal, "we might as well go on. We'll show our passports again and it may be we'll get through without question. However, something tells me we are going to have trouble, so get your guns ready."
"If you think we're going to have trouble, I'm absolutely positive of it," Stubbs mumbled to himself.
However, each looked to his weapons and made sure that they were in working order.
"One of us has got to get through," said Chester in a low voice. "Who has the list, Stubbs?"
"Hal," was the response.
"Then Hal must get through no matter what happens to the rest of us," said Chester quietly.
"Good lord!" said Stubbs. "Why didn't I keep that list!"
As the large automobile approached, several of the Germans ahead stepped directly into the road and one threw up a hand in a signal demanding a halt. Hal made out that at this point there were perhaps a dozen men, though to each side he saw countless other forms. These latter, however, appeared no wise interested in the automobile and its occupants, but went about their several duties.
Hal put on the brakes and the automobile came to a stop a few feet from the nearest German, who, it appeared, was a colonel of infantry.
The German, followed by his men, approached the car and surrounded it.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Dutch war correspondents," replied Hal quietly.
"Your passports," demanded the German.
The four friends produced their passports and extended them to the officer. The latter scanned them hastily, then cried:
"As I thought. You are the men we want. Seize them!" This last command to his soldiers.
Instantly the dozen soldiers swooped toward the automobile, their rifles leveled. At the same moment Hal sent the large automobile forward with a jump.
The German rifles spat fire. Revolvers appeared simultaneously in the hands of Chester and McKenzie. Both sprang to their feet, and, each holding to a side of the machine, they returned the fire, as Hal bent over the wheel.
Chester and McKenzie fired together.
In spite of the movement of the car their aim was true, and two German soldiers fell in their tracks. Stubbs still kept his seat.
The automobile, with its first lurch forward, had mowed down several of the enemy, and now dashed forward with a clear path to the Dutch border.
Behind, at command from the German officer, the troopers, still upon their feet, fell to their knees, and, taking deliberate aim at the rapidly moving car, fired.
There was an explosion from the automobile. The car jumped crazily. Chester, still standing, revolver in hand, was flung violently into his seat, but McKenzie was not so fortunate. He toppled from the car head foremost.
One of the German bullets had punctured a rear tire. Hal brought the machine to a stop.
"Out and run for it!" cried Hal, and suited the action to the word.
Chester clambered out with more difficulty, for the wound in his side still pained him. McKenzie, strange as it may seem, had not been badly hurt by his fall. He got to his feet, still clutching his revolver. As the Germans hurried toward him, he raised the automatic and opened fire.
The first German pitched headlong to earth, as did the second.
McKenzie gave ground slowly.
With a swift look he saw that Hal had almost reached the Dutch border, which he perceived was guarded by a squad of Dutch soldiers. Chester also was limping in that direction. Stubbs, in spite of his opposition to fighting, was lending the lad a helping hand.
"They'll make it, if I can hold these fellows a minute," muttered McKenzie.
He faced the foe again, and from a pocket brought forth a second automatic.
"Not for nothing was I called the best shot in the northwest," he said quietly.
Hal's idea in not waiting to assist in the flight of the others, McKenzie knew on the instant. The list they had risked so much to get must be taken from German territory at all hazards. McKenzie knew, too, that Chester and Stubbs were simply following instructions when they also fled. It was every man for himself. A German bullet whistled close to the Canadian.
"Well," he said quietly, "I'll get a few of you before you drop me."
He faced his foes unflinchingly.
SAFE AT LAST
McKenzie's arms went up again — not shoulder high — just to his hips. For McKenzie, in his early days, had been reckoned in the Canadian northwest as the most deadly shot in the country. He fired from his hips and aimed by instinct and not by sight.
Each automatic flashed once and two more of the foe fell to the ground. McKenzie staggered a bit as a German bullet plowed into his shoulder. Then his revolvers spoke again.
As he fought, the Canadian gave ground slowly. He seemed to bear a charmed life. Two other bullets struck him — one in the arm and the other in the thigh, but no one reached a vital spot.
Hal, Chester and Stubbs, in the meantime, had reached and crossed the Dutch border. There they were immediately taken in charge by order of' the Dutch officer in command. Hal addressed the officer quickly.
"Can't you do something for my friend?" he demanded, pointing to where McKenzie was still battling against heavy odds.
The Dutch, officer shook his head.
"I would if I could," he said, his face flushed.
"He is a brave man, and it is a pity for him to die thus. But Holland is neutral. To interfere might embroil us."
"But if I can show you how?" asked Hal eagerly.
"If you can show me how, yes!" exclaimed the Dutchman. "Talk quickly."
"We carry Dutch passports," said Hal quietly. "That should suffice. However, cannot you send your men forward under the pretext that the Dutch border at this point extends an additional one hundred yards? That will be enough."
"Oh, I know it doesn't, but that will be up to others than you. It will be the subject of diplomatic negotiations. Will you?"
For a moment the Dutch officer hesitated. Then he commanded an officer who stood near him.
"Captain Hodden! You will move forward with your company and inform the foe that if he persists in firing on Dutch soil we shall be forced to return it!"
The Dutch captain seemed only glad for this excuse. He dashed away, and a moment later Dutch troops advanced onto German soil.
McKenzie, meanwhile, found that he had but two shots left in his weapons. He glanced backward, and as he did so the Dutch troops advanced.
"If I can reach them," the man thought.
He whirled, emptied his automatics into the face of his enemies, dashed the now useless weapons after the bullets, and took to his heels, zigzagging as he ran.
The bullets in his body impeded his progress, but he reached the advancing Dutch troops safety. There was a cry of anger from the German lines as McKenzie found shelter among the Dutch troops. The Germans halted, and an officer advanced.
"I must ask you to deliver that man to me," he said to Captain Hodden.
"I am sorry, but what you ask is impossible," was the reply. "This is Dutch territory, and you advance further at your peril."
"Dutch territory!" exclaimed the exasperated German. "You stand on German ground, and the man you are protecting is a spy. I demand his return."
"You won't get him," was the reply, "and I am instructed to inform you that the next German bullet that falls on Dutch ground will be considered a hostile act against a neutral nation. It will mean war!"
"I don't care what it means," shouted the German, now thoroughly aroused.
"Perhaps not," said Captain Hodden, "but your superiors may. I would advise you to order your men to fall back."
For a moment the German hesitated, and it appeared that he would risk a breach of neutrality to capture McKenzie. At last he turned away.
"Holland will rue this day!" he exclaimed, as he ordered his men to retire.
Captain Hodden now retreated to Dutch territory, where McKenzie was turned over to the Dutch colonel.
"Thanks for the reinforcements," he said quietly. "They would have done for me sure."
Hal, Chester and Stubbs crowded about and shook the Canadian by the hand. The colonel asked to see their passports, and the four friends produced their bogus documents.
"So you are Herr Block, eh?" he demanded, eyeing Hal closely.
Hal bowed, but did not reply.
"As it chances," said the Dutch officer sternly, "I happen to be the brother of Herr Block, so I know you are not he. You are under arrest, sir."
"For what?" demanded Hal.
"For traveling under false passports, sir. You friends are under arrest also. You shall be sent to Amsterdam under guard. And you told me you were Dutch subjects!"
"No I didn't," said Hal. "I told you we carried Dutch passports, and so we do."
"It amounts to the same thing. It seems I have broken Dutch neutrality to help a batch of spies. You are all under arrest."
He summoned Captain Hodden to take charge of the four friends.
"You will be responsible for them," Colonel Block said.
The captain saluted and marched his prisoners away. They were put in a tent some distance away and a guard stationed over them. They were not searched.
"Well," said Hal, "we're out of Germany, but, it seems to be a case of out of the frying-pan into the fire."
"They can't shoot us as spies," declared Stubbs. "Holland is not at war and we have not been active against her."
"No, but they can take this list away from me," said Hal, "and it has to go to Washington."
"Then we'll have to get out of here," said McKenzie.
"A nice job," declared Chester, "and two of us wounded. By the way, McKenzie, your wounds need attention. I'll call the Dutchman and have you fixed up."
He hailed the guard outside, who in turn passed the word for the captain. The latter appeared a short time later, and Chester explained what he wanted. The captain moved away and fifteen minutes later a Dutch physician entered the tent ad dressed McKenzie's wounds.
"Well, that feels some better," said McKenzie with a laugh, as the surgeon departed. "I feel as good as new now."
The four were kept in the tent all night, and early the next morning were informed that they would be taken to Amsterdam at noon. The trip was made under heavy guard, and that evening the four friends found themselves secure in a military prison in the Dutch capital.
"We're safe enough here, that's certain," declared Stubbs.
"We're safe enough, if you mean we can't out," Hal agreed. "But in some way or other this list must be delivered to General Pershing."
"Show the way, and we'll do it," declared Chester.
As the friends discussed possible plans, a visitor was ushered in. This proved to be Herr Block, the man who had assisted them to get into Germany and who only a few moments before had learned of their arrest.
"It's too bad," he said. "So near and yet so far, as you Americans say, eh? Tell me, is there anything I can do for you.
"You might get us out of here," said Hal.
Herr Block smiled.
"Easily said, but not so easily done," he made answer. "However, I have no doubt it can be arranged."
"You do?" exclaimed the others. "How?"
"Well," said Herr Block, "you would be surprised if you realized the extent to which Holland's sympathies are with the Allies. Of course, it must not appear on the surface for it would mean war with Germany — and we are not ready for war now. However, I shall see that the door to your cell is left open tonight. When your jailer comes with your meal he will drop his keys. You will rap him over the head with something, that it may not look as though he were implicated. Then walk out of the jail and come to my quarters. No one will molest you."
"By Jove," said Hal. "That's simple enough."
"Your meal will be brought in half an hour," he said. "I shall be waiting for you at eight. You know the way to my quarters?"
"You'd better give me the necessary directions," said Hal.
Herr Block did so and took his departure.
"It all sounds simple enough," said Stubbs, "but it doesn't sound good to me."
"Don't croak, Stubbs," said Chester; "you ought to be glad to get out of here."
"Oh, I'll be glad enough to get out, but it doesn't sound plausible."
"Truth is stranger than fiction, Stubbs," said Hal.
"It'll have to be this time to convince me," declared the war correspondent.
The four became silent, awaiting the arrival of the jailer.
It was half-past seven when the jailer entered the cell in which the four friends were imprisoned. He carried a large tray, on which was loaded food. As he entered the cell, he dropped his heavy key ring. Hal pounced upon it.
The man's back was toward him. The lad raised the heavy ring, but he did not strike.
"Here, jailer," he said; "you've dropped your keys."
The jailer looked around. Hal hoped he would spring forward, that he might have an excuse for striking, but the man only said simply: