THE BOY SCOUTS ON A SUBMARINE
By Captain John Blaine
THE UNEXPECTED VISITOR
A great barking of dogs broke the silence of the sleepy summer afternoon. Elinor Pomeroy laid down her knitting and slowly walked around the house. The barking of the three big dogs had been on a joyous tone. A young man was racing up the long front drive, the dogs leaping and bounding around him.
"Three rousing cheers, old dear," he cried. "Three cheers! I have won out!"
"Do you really mean it, Lester?" she cried. "Do you really mean that your invention is a success?"
"It certainly is, Elinor," he answered, a certain gravity coming into his face and manner. "I know now that it is all right. We have even tried it out, and I am sure of it."
Elinor took her excited brother by the arm and led him to the wide, swinging hammock.
"Begin at the beginning," she ordered gently. "I want to hear the whole thing."
"Well, then," he commenced obediently, "this morning, as soon as I got to the plant, I asked for a meeting with the bureau of management. Well, I went in and told them what I had done; how I happened on a partial combination when I was analyzing something for the office. I told them that I had worked it out further and further, and that finally I found what I was hunting for—a gas that was powerful enough to affect a large number of men and put them out temporarily, without injuring them after the effects wore off.
"Well, they listened, and when I told them my idea was to use it along the battle front instead of the ghastly deadly gases used by the Germans, they commenced to sit up and take notice. You see, sis, my invention is far reaching than anything yet known. It puts out thousands of men with the contents of one grenade, and sinks them into such a deep sleep that they are absolutely helpless for hours. During this time, our men can occupy their positions, and send hundreds of trucks to the rear loaded with sleeping prisoners. When they come to, they are all right.
"They listened, all right, and then they commenced to ask questions. I offered to try it out right there, but they didn't seem to want to. Then Mr. Leffingwell spoke up. You know what a good sport he is. He said, 'Well, fellows, there may be a lot to this. I have a couple of hundred cows out Marcellus way, and I'm going to sacrifice them to my country. Let's take the car, and try this thing out if this young man has enough on hand for a man-sized bomb.'
"Some of the men said he was a fool to risk that herd. My own opinion was that he thought the stuff wouldn't work at all in the open. Anyway, we got into the cars, and went out to the dandiest farm you ever saw.
"We drove the cows all into one end of a big lot because there was no way to send the grenade with sufficient force to spread the gas; but I went as close as I dared, and threw with all my might. It struck a stone and broke and right quick a couple of cows close to the grenade sort of crumpled up and laid down, and some more, and then one on the outskirts of the group looked around and said, 'Dear me suz, it gets late early now!' and she put her head on her arm, and went sleepy sleepums—"
"It's too wonderful; too wonderful!" mused Elinor.
"Well, the best part is," said her brother, "that it is so simple and so cheap. That is, it is simple to combine."
"Where is the formula?" asked the business-like Elinor. "In a safe, I hope."
"No, not yet. The only formula in the world is here in my coat pocket." He patted the coat lying, on the hammock beside him.
"There!" cried Elinor. "Why, Lester, I call that awfully careless! I do truly think you ought to put it in a safe!"
"That's all right," said Lester, leaning back and playing with one of the dogs. "I have it in my head anyhow. Come on, hon; I'm dead tired. Let's forget about it for a little while; let's go see how the grapes are ripening."
An hour later a well-grown boy came rapidly along the road and turned in the lower drive which led directly to the carriage. Putting his wheel on its rack, he hustled into the kitchen where Elinor, prettier than ever in her long blue apron, her face softly flushed from the fire, stood dishing up a delicious supper.
"You are late, small boy," she cried. "Get your hands washed, and go call Lester. I think I left him about an hour ago, and he has been as still as a mouse ever since. He has something fine to tell you."
She turned to the old woman who was helping her, and Wugs, whistling loudly, went through the house and slammed the screen door as he reached the porch. Elinor went on serving the supper.
Mr. Pomeroy, her father, was away on one of the long trips he was accustomed to make. He was a breeder of fine cattle, and bought and sold continually. His wife was dead, and Elinor was all in all to the man who was lonely even when surrounded by his three fine children. Elinor was thinking of the dear little mother who had passed away, and wishing that she could be with them at a time when Lester was to know the greatest pride of his life. Supper was on, and she stood by the table thinking tenderly. Then she frowned. She was conscious of the racket Colonel, the big collie was making in his run. It occurred to her that the dog had been raving for an hour past, but she had been so intent on supper that she had laid the uproar to Lester who loved to play with the bunch and get them excited.
She stepped toward the window to speak to Colonel, when she heard a shout from Wugs. The shout wavered, and turned to a wild, high scream of horror. Elinor stood motionless. Then shriek after shriek split the air, and the girl sped to the front door, dashed it open, snapping on the porch light as she passed the switch in the hall. She gained the steps in her mad rush and paused. Wugs's agonized voice guided her down to the side of the wide veranda. She dashed to his side and looked down where he was kneeling.
Poor, poor Elinor! Her brother—her darling Lester—lay there limp and distorted, and from an ugly wound on his forehead the blood oozed slowly. Beside him, her head on his breast, his Beatrice, his special pet. She was dead; but with her last strength she had crept to the side of her beloved master she tried to defend.
Wugs looked up, his eyes wild with terror.
"He's dead! He's dead! Les is dead!" he kept saying.
Elinor knelt, put her ear on his heart, then sprang to her feet.
"Be a man, John," she, said quietly. "Les is living. We will have to work fast to save him."
After that it was all a terrible 'nightmare'. Men came, and tender, strong hands lifted the unconscious burden and gently laid it on the bed where the little mother had lain so long before she had passed away into rest. Other hands, just as gentle, carried the dead body of little Beatrice around to the garage where, while decently washing the blood from her poor battered little head, they found a piece of rough, dark cloth clenched in the dog's set jaws.
And the nightmare went on while some one telegraphed to Mr. Pomeroy, and the doctors behind closed doors worked over Lester. Nurses slipped silently into the house; detectives appeared, roped the curious people out of the grounds, and raked the place for clews. It was then that Elinor had a thought. She called the chief of police, and took him into the library, shutting the door.
"Lester was always teasing me, Chief, because I was so afraid of spies, but we may as well consider anything now. My brother had just perfected the most wonderful invention—a war device; and the board of directors at the works tried it out this afternoon. The formula was in Lester's coat pocket—the only formula there is. I know it was there, because I told him I thought it was a careless way to carry it. He laughed at the idea of any one around here getting hold of it, and said anyway the formula was in his head.
"I have looked in his coat pockets, all of them.
"The formula is gone."
"That's it, is it?" gritted the detective. "I am sure you are right, Miss Pomeroy. We have a reason for the deed now, and one clew to act on." He opened his hand and showed her the piece of cloth that poor little Beatrice had torn from the intruder's garment.
"Did you ever see anything like this before?" he asked. "That is an unusual pattern. You have a lot of extra help here just now. Did you ever notice a coat or a cap like this?"
Elinor shook her head. "Never," she said.
"Well, don't you fret, Miss Pomeroy. We'll have to find that coat. The man who wears it has the formula. And it won't take long to run down a man who owns a giddy plaid like that. If your brother could only speak, he could help a lot."
"Is he no better?" asked the girl fearfully.
"It's a pretty bad affair, I'm afraid," said the Chief regretfully. "He'll pull through all right after a while, I think, but the doctors say there is a piece of bone pressing on the brain; and they may have to operate. In the meantime, we can't wait. You see this business of the formula puts things on a different basis. I will have to get the government secret service men here as soon as I possibly can. It is a national affair now. Keep cool, Miss Pomeroy, and don't talk to any one. I'm going now, but I will leave a half-dozen men on the place. Don't talk; don't let your brother talk. Who is the old woman crying in the sitting room?"
"It is Aunt Ann," Elinor explained. "She is really no relation. Her husband used to work here, and after he was killed she stayed on and took care of things for mother. Then when mother died, why, of course she stayed. She is all alone in the world. She has or had a son, but he disappeared a good while ago. He was a very bad boy. The last she heard from him he was in South America. We think he is dead. Poor Aunt Ann! She loves Lester as thought he were her own child. I think she would die for him."
"She is all right then," mused the detective. "Well, I'll get along, Miss Pomeroy. Just keep cool."
Elinor followed him to the door and stood leaning against the big porch pillar as the detective crunched briskly down the gravel path. A group of men came hurrying up to meet him, and Elinor listened eagerly.
"We got him, Chief!" she heard a voice say triumphantly. "Walking along the road bold as brass."
"Why shouldn't I?" an angry tone answered. "The street is public. Ain't I got a right to go long it? What you pinchin' me for, anyhow? I ain't full and it ain't vagrancy to walk along the road to Manlius. You leave me go!"
"Put him in the car." said the Chief. "And look here, young fellow. I'll search you later; look here. Here is something for you to chew on for a while. Hold the flash, Dennis. Look here, you! See that piece of cloth? It just fits the torn place in your collar. She nearly got you, didn't she, before you managed to beat her brains out?"
Elinor heard a subdued struggle as the police loaded the prisoner into the car. She rushed into the house to tell Aunt Ann that the man had been caught. Wugs with a couple of smaller scouts came up. Wugs followed his sister into the house, and the two other boys sat down on the steps where they would not miss anything going on.
Philip and Benjamin Potter, known to their intimate friends as Pork and Beans Potter, were twins painfully alike in thought, word and deed as well as size and looks. They sat side by side. Each boy leaned his right elbow on his right knee and supported his chin on his hand.
"Funny 'bout that coat," said Beans. "Did you see it?"
"Yes," said Porky. "I was lookin' all the time. You mean about there bein' two just alike. Kind o'queer, loud pattern. And funny buttons. You know that man in the road was right under the big light, so we seen it plain, didn't we?"
"Sure!" said Beany. He shifted elbows, and in a minute Porky did the same. "But the man we passed in the road didn't look like the murderer, did he? Kind of square built. Looked worse than the real one, I thought."
"I thought so too," agreed Porky. "But they got the real one all right on account of the tear in the collar."
"Yes, of course," agreed Beany. "But suppose they was pals. Think we ought to tell?"
"Naw!" decided Porky. "They bought 'em at the same store like as not. Don't butt in with foolishness. Le's go home and tell mom an pop."
OFF TO SEE THE COLONEL
A week went by. In the jail a sullen prisoner, always swearing his innocence, lay awaiting the outcome of Lester's injury, while day after day he lay tossing on his bed, delirious, or deep in a stupor from which it was difficult to rouse him.
The police were satisfied that they had the man who had struck down Lester, and had killed the dog, but doubts were creeping into Wugs' mind. He himself had interviewed the prisoner, not telling him who he was. The man would say nothing, but Wugs came off with the feeling that there was something queer afoot.
"It's the wrong man," his brain kept telling him over and over; and when he told the police that, and heard their shouts of laughter, the words kept repeating themselves over and over, "The wrong man!"
There was a Boy Scout meeting one night, and Wugs went. After the usual business was over, gathering them around him in a close group, Wugs went over the story of his brother's great invention, its try-out on the herd of cows, his home-coming, and the terrible ending to his triumphant day. Then in a still lower tone, as though he feared the very walls might turn traitor, he told them of his feeling that the man waiting trial for the attack on poor Lester was not the spy who had taken the formula.
"That's the thing to find out," said Wugs. "The Police are dead sure they have the right fellow, but I'll never believe it until I find that paper. You see, he didn't have a chance to mail it unless he had a confederate waiting outside to take it away. That's what we have got to find out."
"Why, 'course he had a what-you-call-it!" the Potter twins broke in.
"Slow down! Slow down!" begged Wugs. "Gee, how do you suppose anybody can tell what you say when you both talk at once? Let's have Porky; you claim to be the oldest."
"See how it was," said Porky, with a free field, leering at his disgusted brother. "'Me 'n' Beany'd been swimmin'. We went down to the old water hole where the springboard is, and some cloze was sitting the bank. We saw a man in the water, an' we watched him. Say, he could swim, he could! He could just live in the water. Well, we took off our cloze by-en-by, and went in, and pretty soon he come out. He never noticed us any more'n if we wasn't there; only he come out a good ways from us and walked back where was his things, without lookin' our way. But we seen him; his lip was twisted sort of funny, and made him look like a grin. We'll, he dressed like a streak, and stalked off; and Beany whispered, 'Where did you get that coat?' but seems we didn't like to yell it right at him. He had a funny look. So we swam and by-en-by we come away too."
"You forgot what we found," reminded Beany. "When we came where his cloze had been we found two papers. One was just a plain paper in a plain envelope, and the other was a card written all up, something about admit bearer to all parts of fairgrounds. I suppose he is going to show something at the fair next week. Anyhow he'll have to get another, because Porky lost it out the hole in his pants pocket goin' home. And the other paper—"
"Wait till you get to it, can't you?" said the other twin, glaring fiercely at himself, or so it seemed to the boys watching. "We ain't come to that. But we seen the coat all right. Well, we got on our wheels and started home."
"I had the paper in my pocket," interrupted Beany.
"Yes," said Porky simply. "Beany's pants was new. We come along through the village, and up just before you get to your first driveway, Wugs, my handle bars come loose, and we had to get off and fix 'em. And Beany looks up, and he says, 'Gosh! Here's another striped coat! And ain't it on a pirate!"
"I looked and, sure 'nuff, there come along another coat just like the one over to the swimmin' hole but if that feller was bad, this one was worse. He had a big black mustache and he looked at us like he'd like to eat us.
"When he went by," Beany says, 'Well, I bet he is a pirate all right!'
"So we went on home. And after supper when we come to your house, Wugs, why, you know about that, and there was another coat like the others being arre'sted. Then we went back; and mother wanted us to write it all to Uncle Jake. And the lamp made Beany's head hot, and he took the funny thin paper we found over to the swimmin' hole and made a sort of shade of it. And when we had our letter done, Beany went to take down the shade and, honest to gosh, boys, it was all written on! Wouldn't that frost you? I s'pose you think we're lyin'; but it's true. All writin' on two sides!"
"What did you do with it then?" demanded Wugs.
"We showed it to mom and she took it and put it in her pocket."
"You see, Wugs, they's three of those coats and every one's worse than the other," finished Porky.
"We must find those men. Who is going over to patrol the fairgrounds this year beside me?" said Wugs.
"Me and Porky," said Beany proudly.
"What's the first thing to do?" asked Porky.
"Well, one of you fellows who are not detailed to the fair had better go over to the Troop D Farm where the Mounted Police are training, and see when I can see Colonel Handler."
"What you want of him?" asked a boy named Asa Downe.
"I want to tell him enough of this so he will fix it to let us Scouts go wherever we like. So the first thing in the morning, Asa, you trot over there, and find out when I can see the Colonel."
Asa started for the Troop D Farm as soon as he had finished a hasty breakfast the next morning. He had his part of the interview with Colonel Handler nicely and neatly rehearsed. He had worked so hard over it that he said, "Thank you, Colonel," when his mother had passed the doughnuts at breakfast.
The more Asa thought of it, the more he thought it would be fine to take some one along with him; and when he saw ahead of him the two violently red wheels of the Potter twins, it was settled right there. He yelled, and they waited.
"Where you goin'!" he demanded.
"Over to the Troop D Farm," said Porky, hopping off his wheel to rest.
"What for? This is my job."
"Sure it is!" agreed Beany. "But we knew you'd want some one along for fear you forgot of the things you wanted to say, and we knew we always remember better than the other fellows. So we started out. We knew you'd be along."
"All right, you're on!" said Asa and they pedaled rapidly along the beautiful country road. When they reached the Farm, they found that the Colonel, who stayed at Syracuse with his family, had not yet arrived. The men were grooming the beautiful horses, rubbing up the bridles, and airing saddle blankets.
Porky and Beany and Asa, sitting on the stone wall at the side of the barn, watched and admired.
"That's what I'm goin' to be"' whispered Porky.
"Sure!" agreed Beany. "Wonder how long it will take us to get that high?"
"Dunno," said Porky. "I outgrew two pairs of pants last year!"
"Here's the Colonel," said Asa as a big car was driven up and an officer stepped down.
"Wait! Wait!" said Asa, swallowing rapidly. "Let him get through talking first. You see, he has charge of all the country patrols, and 'course he wants to give them orders. Gee, how the spies must hate him!"
As though in answer, a long, low racing car rolled smoothly and silently up, and stopped in the road just opposite where the boys sat on the stone wall. On the little rise where stood the low, rambling farmhouse, the Colonel, with only a glance at the strangers, turned his back as though refusing to be interrupted, and went on with his orders.
In the car, one of the men half rose, leveled a revolver full at the Colonel's broad back, and fired. But almost before he could take his flashing aim, an unearthly screech volleyed from the Potter twins, and from Beany's good left hand a cobble whizzed through the air, and struck the assassin's shoulder. It destroyed his aim. The bullet went wild, and before he could recover, the Colonel had whirled. With a muttered curse the would-be intruder fired full at the boys, dropped to the bottom of the machine, and the car shot forward will in incredible speed.
Leaping from the veranda with the agility of a boy, the Colonel barked out a volley of sharp orders. Men came swarming from their quarters. A man hurried to the telephone. Horsemen dashed madly up the road. A slim, capable-looking racer slid from the garage, and the Colonel and a couple of aides came down where the boys still stood grouped beside the stone wall. Beany held a flattened bullet in his hand. It had struck beside him.
ON THE TRAIL
"If it hadn't been for you and your rock, young man, I would have been a dead man probably," said the Colonel solemnly. "I wish we had the car number."
"I got it," said Porky, easily. "They will change it, I suppose, but it is New York 237,814. And there's a patch on the right front tire, and the mud guard on that side has been bent and straightened, and the glass in the wind shield has a crack in one corner, and the staple on the tool box is broken."
"Oh, you know the car!" said the Colonel, eagerly. "Tell me that number again." He wrote rapidly, and called to his orderly. "Telephone that to Syracuse after you call Fayetteville," he said, and again turned to the boys, but almost before he could speak again, he was called to the 'phone himself. When he came out, he frowned.
"The car passed through the village about ten minutes ago," he said. "They were going fast, and headed over toward East Syracuse by way of the wide waters. I have sent the alarm out, and as soon as I finish with you boys, I will go myself. Now tell me in a word just why you boys came over."
Porky and Beany told him painstakingly.
"That's all right," said the Colonel. "You did right to come for a permit. You see, my men are going to police the fairgrounds, and on account of the large amount of government property scattered around over there we will have to be very strict. The day the fair opens, come to my tent, and I will give you a badge that will allow you to go wherever you like without question."
An orderly clattered up on a sweating horse.
"They have found the automobile, sir," said the gallant youth.
"Good!" cried the Colonel, rising.
"Yes, sir, it is lying in four feet of water at the edge of the bluff where the road from the village winds round the curve half way to Manlius Center."
"And the men?" the Colonel enquired sharply.
"They must be pinned under the car, sir," said the soldier. "We thought if you would detail Dennis and Harrison—they are crackerjack swimmers—they could soon see what is under there."
"Tell the men to go at once," said the Colonel. "I will follow."
The Colonel called his car, and with a nod indicated to the boys that they were to accompany him. The Colonel's orderly leaped into the front seat beside the driver and Asa, and on the back, seat, on either side of the big Colonel, sat the Potter twins looking so alike that it seemed a loss of time to look at one of them after you had seen the other, and feeling-well, they felt as important as you make 'em!
Arriving at the wide waters, they followed the Colonel and his men as they went down the gouged out place in the bank where the car had cut its way to the water, and looked at the smashed machine that lay almost out of sight. It was in such a position, however, that it was plain that no one could be concealed under it. The men had escaped.
A keen look of anger and surprise came into the Colonel's face.
"I imagine they have driven the car off the bank to put us off the scent," he said. "There is a life sentence for those men when we get them. They meant to kill me. I can't see the point in it; either." He walked back to his car and, entering it, was driven back to camp, stopping at the Potter house to drop the twins.
After the Colonel's car had disappeared round the bend leading to the village, a small, wiry, evil-looking figure slipped cautiously from the dense underbrush at the edge of the road away from the cliff. He brushed the dirt from his clothes and laughed.
"Can't see the point of it, can you? I suppose not, you old saphead! It takes the Wolf to plan things too deep for the likes of you." He laughed again, and with a glance in the direction of the village struck off over the hill into the fields beyond. He walked listlessly for half a mile, as though there was little need for haste, and any one watching him would have seen him finally lie down in a shady lane and, taking a small package from his pocket, open it and eat a sandwich. Then he drew his ragged hat over his piercing little eyes, and at once went to sleep. He slept for hours, scarcely shifting his position. When he finally stretched and sat up, the sun was going down. He looked at it, and came to his feet.
"A couple of hours more," he said to himself, and slowly sauntered back to the road and struck off toward Manlius Center.
Night was falling when three men, sitting silently in a bare, dusty, unfurnished room, looked up as a queer scratching sounded on the outer door. They glanced at each other. "It is the Weasel, think you not?" said one, a tall man with a sear across his cheek. It was a mark that was scarcely noticeable unless he was angry; then it suddenly went white and stood out clearly across his brown skin.
A thick-set man at the table gathered up a greasy pack of cards. "Yes, it's the Weasel, all right," he said. "I'm glad he obeys orders. I told him not to show his face here before dark."
The third man did not speak. He sat in the best of the poor chairs, and was snowed under with newspapers. He had the look of an educated man, the jaw of a brute, the cold eye of a panther, almost golden in color, and the slender hands that held the printed sheet had the delicate, thin fingers of a thief.
"Door, Adolph!" he said abruptly. The thickset man rose, spilling his cards. The third man pierced him with a look. "Butter fingers!" he gritted, cursing softly in a foreign tongue. Adolph left the room and noiselessly went down a rickety flight of stairs. He returned in a moment, the Weasel following at his heels. The third man did not give him a glance. He sat looking at his beautiful, slender hands. No one spoke.
"Well, proceed!" cried the third man irritably. "Proceed! Proceed! Proceed! Himmel, you must be led step by step! Speak, idiot! How goes it?"
A look of hate flashed into the Weasel's lowered eyes and was gone. He raised them timidly.
"So far, so good, Excellency. I hung on behind the tonneau. No one noticed in that lazy village. I could hear the Colonel talking to the two small boys with him. He can't understand the attack, but he thinks the force he is building is being attacked through him on account of a gang of thieves who do not want to risk detection by his men. He thinks it has something to do with the fair. The Colonel has gone to police headquarters. The boys went home." The Weasel commenced to laugh silently.
The Wolf watched him. Then "Well?" he said again in his low, cutting voice.
The Weasel stopped. "Your pardon, Excellency. It is so amusing! That Colonel, he must be a man forty-five years old. He treated those small boys, those Boy Scouts, like equals. He talked it over with them as though they were men. He told them—"
"That will do," said the Wolf. "I don't want to hear any more."
And with those words, the Wolf, murderer and German spy, sealed his doom.
"Now come here," he said. "You, Adolph, you have done good work. That formula will mean victory for the Fatherland. Did I but dare, I would at once take it myself out of the country. But I have my orders. We must know all things about that concentration camp at the fairgrounds. Yes, you have done well, Adolph." The thick-set man smiled a queer, twisted smile with a crooked lip that always seemed to grin.
The Wolf continued. "From now on our task grows more difficult. You, Weasel, will go to the aviation school at Ithaca. You already understand planes. Get their models; find out the methods of their management. Cripple all the machines you can. Report to me here when I call you. Send me a name and address that will reach you. And, remember, no drinking or flirtations, Weasel. Don't forget my long arm and heavy hand."
The Weasel shuddered. "No, Excellency," he said shortly.
The Wolf turned to the dark man with the scarred cheek, and pointed to his heavy, bristling mustache.
"That must come off," he said. "There is a job for you in the Administration Building where Colonel Bright has his office. You will clean," as the man scowled, "I know you hate it. Never mind! Care not! We are in trust. You must do all as I say. I am your superior officer."
"What do you do, Excellency?" asked the dark man with something of a sneer.
"I come to buy horses, Ledermaim, and my father and Colonel Bright's father, they were friends. I bring a letter from my father in Switzerland. Unfortunately the Colonel's father, he is dead; so I make acquaintance with his son. Do you see, Ledermann and Adolph, and you too, Weasel, that I take for myself the hardest job? Now attend. Under no circumstances are you to speak to me. If it is necessary to communicate with me before the close of the fair you will wipe your faces with one of these drab handkerchiefs. Then you will come here, right here; no place nearer, and wait for me. I will keep all the papers instead of dividing them as before. You, Ledermann, have plans of all the plants of any size about here. Thanks." He filed the papers away. "Adolph, give me the fair ticket, and the envelope with the blank paper. It looks innocent enough, doesn't it? All white paper; no writing. Yet there is news indeed on that good, innocent, little sheet if one knows how to make it tell. I'll take them, Adolph."
He waited with a slim hand stretched across the table, while Adolph plunged a hand into an inside pocket with a grin, felt in another concealed pocket, and returned to the first with his face growing grave and pale.
The Wolf watched him with steely eyes, suspicion dawning in them.
"Too slow; too slow, Adolph!" he smiled.
Adolph looked up. "It is not here! It is gone! Some one has stolen it!" he stammered.
The Wolf snarled. "Oh, no, good Adolph!" he said silkily. "Look again."
Adolph, with fingers that shook, turned his pockets out one by one, then looked into the Wolf's yellow eyes with a gaze pleading yet sullen. "They are gone," he said huskily.
With a flashing motion the Wolf reached across the table and clutched Adolph by the throat. In a steel grip that he struggled hopelessly to loosen he was helpless as a child. Brutally the Wolf bore him back to the wall, where he beat his head savagely against the door frame. A look of savage glee shone on the Wolf's smooth countenance.
Ledermann leaped across the floor and seized the Wolf's arm.
"Off!" cried the murderer, and with his hand dealt Ledermann a stinging blow in the face. He fell back. Behind the overturned table, the Weasel sat looking at the floor. It was nothing to him what they did. He shrugged his thin shoulders.
Suddenly the Wolf stopped and let Adolph slip to the floor, where he lay unconscious.
The Wolf kicked him. "I won't kill you, you swine!" he said. "You have got to find that paper. Then I'll see about it. Pick him up, somebody. I can't trust myself to touch him. Lost that paper—of course it is written in invisible ink; but suppose some blundering fool should get it near a fire?"
"They won't," said Ledermann as he worked over Adolph. "These stupid country people, what would they know about invisible ink? It may never be found at all. It may even now be trodden in the dust."
"Let us hope," said the Wolf. "Adolph shall retrace his steps inch by inch until the paper is found, even so much as a tiny scrap of it, so that I may know where it is."
"He will find it in the dust," repeated Ledermann and threw water over Adolph, while the Weasel stood up and tightened his belt. Then the Wolf counted out to him the money needed for his short journey to Ithaca. The counting was interrupted with directions and threats. The Weasel drew a long breath of relief when he was finally dismissed, and was allowed to slip out into the night, where he turned toward Syracuse. Ledermann still worked over the unconscious man.
The Wolf called at headquarters and was pleasantly received, with the formula that was to overthrow the world lying in his pocket. Days went by, and Monday came, and flags flew, and bands played, and crowds gathered, and the New York State Fair opened at last.
The Wolf went unmolested; indeed he was an honored guest. Quite safe he was for just one whole day. Tuesday morning, as he drove in his fine car, splendidly dressed, his yellow eyes half hidden behind smoked glasses, a couple of Boy Scouts came out of Colonel Bright's office as he stopped his car at the steps. Porky and Beany stopped and stared.
"Out of the way!" said the Wolf, as he approached the door.
Porky and Beany stepped obediently aside. For a long time they stared at the door through which he had disappeared.
"It's him!" said Beany at last. "He drove the car when the other man shot at the Colonel."
"Yes, it's him," repeated Porky. "His ears ain't mates."
"I know," said Beany. "What we goin' to do?"
"Keep still and say nuthin'. If you ain't eleven foot tall, nobody believes you. I found that out. And I got a hunch that guy has the formula."
"What makes you think that?" asked Beany. "I got it too; but I don't believe it."
"Dunno," said Beany. "Don't you know how you feel it back of your neck when anybody looks in the window? I know it just like that. An' we got to do this job all alone. I don't like his looks neither. Awful smooth' but' murderin'. Are you game, Porky, to land him ourselves?"
"Sure!" said Porky. "Ain't I alwus? What comes first?"
"Le's think," said Beany.
REVELATIONS AT THE FLOWER-HOUSE
You would not have thought they were thinking at all as they sat on the broad brick steps, holding their chins in their right hands, left hands twisting their puttee lacers. They talked occasionally but not of the yellow-eyed man who was even then laughing and talking to the Colonel.
They came out a few minutes later, and "Captain DuChassis," as the Colonel called him, ran lightly down and drove off toward the clubhouse. The Colonel stood looking after him, and the two boys stood at attention beside him. He looked down and saw them presently.
"Boys, did you ever have a hunch?" he said.
"Yes, Sir!" they said together.
"Silly things—hunches; very silly! Never let a hunch spoil what seems to be a very good friendship, or change your opinion of a man."
Porky looked quickly up.
"I got the same hunch, Colonel," he said.
"Same man," added Beany.
"Eh, what's this?" demanded the Colonel.
The boys were silent; and while the officer continued his puzzled study of the two faces, the long racer swept again to the steps, and Captain DuChassis stepped out and handed down a lovely girl. She was in a riding habit, and she ran lightly up to the Colonel and kissed his tanned cheek. "Well, daddy," she cried, "we are going to take a ride together, Captain and I!"
She looked at the young man beside her and smiled. He was resplendent in riding clothes and returned her smile tenderly. They stood talking with the Colonel while they waited for their horses.
"How does everything go, daddy? Have you heard anything from Elinor Pomeroy?" She turned, "Elinor is a school friend of mine," she explained. "She is in dreadful trouble. Her brother invented a gas that will absolutely whip Germany, and he was attacked the very night that the gas was tried out, and frightfully hurt, and the formula taken away from him. Of course, it wouldn't matter if he could tell some one, but he never will. I heard to-day that he is conscious now, but the past is a perfect blank. Isn't that too dreadful? I wish I knew where that paper is, I'd like to be the one to get it."
"Would you, Miss Carol?" asked Captain DuChassis. He smiled and tapped his swagger stick lightly on his boot top. "Perhaps you are near it now.
"No such luck! she sighed.
"There will be luck for some one in it perhaps," said the Colonel. "Mr. Leffingwell has just offered a splendid prize to any Boy Scout who finds the formula. He offers an education to the lucky lad. Two years of prep school, and four years of college."
"He is a what you call it safety-first man, is he not?" laughed the Captain. "Is he pro-German? It looks it, setting such a task for children." He turned to the young lady. "Shall we mount? Here are the horses."
After the Colonel had watched them canter away, he turned once more to speak to the boys. They were gone. Sadly they had faded away around the corner, and drifted over to the cow stables, where they sat miserably down on a bale of hay.
"What we goin' to do?" asked Beany miserably. "That's the limit!" agreed Porky. "Here we got it all planned. We got to find that formula, nobody else has the chance we have, and now we've spotted one of our men. We will find that formula when we pull in the bunch that tried to shoot Colonel Handler. They are all mixed up somehow, you'll find. All right, we find that formula, because we got to do it for our country; and what do they do to us? What does Mr. Leffingwell do to us?" Porky's voice rose to a wail. "What does he do?" he asked again. "He goes and sticks an education on us! A college education!"
"Is Mr. Leffingwell going to pick our college?" asked Beany.
"You bet he won't pick mine!" said Porky, loftily. "Cause there ain't goin' to be no such animal!"
"Well, I dunno," mused the other twin. "We got to find that formula. See, the more people we tell, the more it gums the works. It sounds cheeky, but we work better alone: me and you. Le's go look around while we think. I can think better when I'm lookin I at things.
"Me too," said Porky.
They drifted over to the bandstand where the crowd was thickest and the noise loudest and, wriggling through the press, approached an ice cream stand. To reach the counter, Porky stooped and jammed his thin figure between two men.
They paid no attention to him.
"Where is the Wolf?" asked one.
"Riding with the Colonel's daughter," the other laughed. "Trust the Wolf!"
"As far as you can see him," said the other. "I have news," said the shorter man. "Meet me in the flower-house to-night at eight o'clock sharp."
Porky was afraid to look up for fear they would take notice of him. He drummed on the counter, and called loudly for a cone. The men moved away. Porky looked cautiously after them. For a second, he thought of telling his brother to follow them, but remembered in time that they looked exactly alike. He moved over beside Beany, who was biting scallops off the edges of his cone: he had not heard.
"Come here!" Porky said briefly. He handed his cone to a small child and walked rapidly past the Hospital, around the drive leading to the beautiful new horse stables and, cutting across the race-track, threw himself down in the center of the grassy ring where the saddle horses were shown. For acres around stretched open space.
Beany, used to his brother, lay flat in the grass and tipped his hat over his tanned face.
"Go on now. Get it off your chest!" he demanded.
"Want to know what they call the guy that's riding with Miss Bright?"
"DuChassis—Captain," said Beany.
"He's called the 'Wolf,'" said Porky. Even alone as they were, he lowered his tone.
Beany sat suddenly erect. "What?" he said.
"You heard me," said his brother. He rapidly repeated the conversation he had overheard.
"Where is the flower-house?" asked Beany.
"It must be the greenhouse," he said. "I think I have seen the shorter one of those men helping the head gardener."
"I tell you what! It's your turn now, because I heard them plan this. So you go camp at the flower-house by-en-by, and I will keep watch around the gates to see if they change their minds and go out."
"What good will that be?" said his brother. "You didn't see either of their faces."
"No, but I saw their pants," said Porky. "I can look at all the legs, can't I? But they won't be there. I will watch to make sure; but they will be right where they said, over by the flower-house. See, they don't use any science. All they do is get in a crowd, or back up against a good high wall, and tell each other their real names. If we bring this across, I've a mind for us to be detectives."
"There's the college education," Beany reminded him.
"Well," said Porky, "I suppose detectives ought to know a little something. Come on back, I want a sandwich. I have lived on hot dogs now for two days. Notice how small they are getting? The dog part, I mean."
As they rounded the grandstand, a heavy automobile truck backed up to something covered with a tarpaulin. The boys darted into the crowd. They demanded explanations of anybody who would answer. A boy spoke, up.
"Ridin' horse ran away," he said. "Saw it 'myself. Girl ridin' it."
Porky and Beany gasped. "Was she killed?" they cried.
"Didn't hurt her at all," said the strange boy rather regretfully, it seemed. "But the feller with her, he chased her an' his horse caught up, and the feller grabbed her bridle, and her horse 'swerved, and he was pulled offen his horse, and his horse come right bing into the bandstand, and broke his neck."
"My gosh!" said the twins. "Where did they take the man? Was he hurt much?"
The boy looked curiously at the pair. "Say, do you always say the same thing like that? You ain't the same boy, are you? Feller went over to the Hospital."
"Hurt much?" said the boys.
"There you go again! Why, he limped, and I'll bet he's lame to-morrow but I guess he ain't in a dyin' condition."
The boys watched while the unfortunate young horse was loaded on the truck, then turned toward the hospital.
"What you got?" said Beany, "A sore throat?"
"I say not," cried his brother. "That's a symptom of scarlet fever. They would jug us in the detention ward. I'm goin' to have a splittin' headache."
"That's scarlet fever too," said his brother.
"Pick somethin' a boy's apt to have."
"Hot dogs then," said Beany. "I got an awful pain."
A delightful, dimply nurse met them at the Hospital. She heard their tale of woo sympathetically, and the boys, with a wisdom beyond their years, beamed back at her.
"I will fix you something that won't spoil all the rest of your day," she said; and quickly stirred something in a glass that looked suspiciously like ginger and tasted like red pepper.
They were still talking, "stallin' along" as Porky said afterwards, when a group of people came out of the inner office. Colonel Bright led the way, his daughter on his arm.
"Yes, indeed," he was saying to the doctor, "she will be all right now. It was a wonderfully narrow escape for both of them. Do all you can for Captain DuChassis. I'm sorry you won't let me take him home with me to-night. We are really very comfortably fixed in Syracuse."
"Well, that's lucky," sighed Porky. "We know where he is for a few hours anyhow. Now there wont be any murderin' done while we find out just what's what."
"People are beginnin' to thin out. What time is it? Just five? Great Scott! We better be on our way. Where will we meet?"
"Le's stay in the Mounted Police Camp tonight. Colonel Handler, told us we could, and this is official business all right."
Beany reached the greenhouses and amused himself by talking with Mr. O'Neill, the head gardener. Porky lounged against the gate, and watched the tired sightseers drag out. By six they were all gone, and Porky felt that he could go back and sit down awhile. It occurred to him to get a close look at a wonderful piece of Mr. O'Neill's work that stood in the center of the beautiful lawn facing the central gateway.
The floral piece was a little house, about the size of a large dog house, all made of growing plants. The sides were green, and the roof was lovely shades of red foliage plants. They were all clipped short and smooth, and it was the prettiest thing imaginable. There was even a door with broad hinges, looking as though it would really open, and the little windows were glass. Porky had always thought that the inside must be of solid earth; but when he walked close, and stooped to look in he was surprised to find it a real little wooden house with wooden wall and floor, and over that a steel lattice work where the plants were rooted in moss and earth. He pushed against the door, and it fell in. He had trouble in getting it up, and was afraid some of the guards would happen along, so he crawled inside. It was softly warm from the hot sun that had beat on the plants and earth all day, and after he had propped the door it, he leaned against the wall. And immediately what did Porky Potter do but fall asleep.
The sun went down and the dusty panes of glass in the little house reflected the glancing lights of official automobiles that swept along the smooth drives. Far away on the hill the bugles sounded taps. Some one leaned against the little house, and Porky woke with a start. A man's shoulders bulked against one of the little windows as he lowered himself to the soft grass and leaned against the house.
Some one chuckled.
"Sit down," said a deep, coarse voice. "This is safe as a desert."
"What's inside this ornament?" asked another.
"Nothing and no one. It is not made for anything to get into. It is all show, my Adolph, all show—like the Countess that our friend the Wolf loves so back there in Berlin. I wonder what she would think could she see him here?"
"She will never see him here or there if I can help it," growled the other man. "I do not forget this bandaged neck, or this sore head of mine." He laughed a laugh that chilled Porky. "Watch, Ledermann, watch! I'll not destroy him while he is busy on the Emperor's business. But some day, some day, Ledermann—"
"Never mind", said Ledermann. "Let that all go for now. What have you to, tell me? First?"
"First, where is the Wolf to-night?" asked Adolph. "That's what always worries me most. He will rise at my side in a minute, I know."
"Not to-night," said Ledermann. "For once he will not be here. He was thrown from his horse to-day, and is in the Hospital. I think he is honestly hurt, because he cannot use his foot, and when I made an excuse and worked my way in, he whispered, 'Not before Thursday.'"
"That will be day after to-morrow," said Adolph. "And we meet him then, I take it, in the usual place?"
"Yes," said Ledermann shortly.
Porky listened breathlessly to know where the place was. But there was silence. Adolph's great shoulder pressed against the little windowpane, and a corner broke out and tinkled down.
"Be careful!" scolded Ledermann. "You don't want to break this pretty toy. Come now, and tell me all you have done."
"Not so much," said Adolph, "except I have talked to all the young recruits. I tell you I have made war something so horrible that they will sleep restless from now on. I have planted dread and sorrow on many a heart. I have some plans I found on the Colonel's table when I was fixing his electric light. I memorized them and later wrote them down. Here they are."
"It is too bad you did not memorized the letter of instructions you lost," said Ledermann. "At home you would be shot for that, you know."
"Of course," agreed Adolph. "However, I think the paper is safely lost, at all events. It has come to me where I lost it. It was the day I got the formula from that silly young inventor. It was very hot; and I found a wonderful secluded place, and went swimming. Ah, Ledermann, how I love the water! I must have lost that paper out of my pocket. I know I did. I went back but there was no paper there, but I found my pocket knife close to the water's edge, so the paper and ticket must have fallen in the water. What was it anyhow to the finder but a plain, clean piece of paper? No harm, no harm, Ledermann!"
"Here is something the Wolf told me to give you," said Ledermann. "You are to use it whenever you can. Watch the bakery."
Adolph took something in his hand.
"The usual thing!" he asked.
"Yes," said Ledermann. "Poison."
Porky, scarcely breathing, listened with all his ears. And then a terrible thing happened. Porky sneezed!
ALL BECAUSE OF A SNEEZE
Loudly, earnestly Porky Sneezed. It was so sudden, so unexpected that he could not control or disguise it. It came out, seemingly filling the little plant house. To Porky it sounded like a large gun going off. It was followed by an instant of deepest silence while Porky crouched in his corner and wondered what next. Like an inspiration the thought came to him as the two men, quick as cats, leaped for the door and shoved it in. Ledermann had a flashlight in his hand, and he swept the little room, making an exclamation as he found what he sought and feared. In the corner he saw a little boy curled up asleep.
Adolph seized the boy's foot and jerked it roughly. With a start he awoke, muttering, "What's the matter?"
"Come out here!" cried Ledermann, as Adolph hauled the boy out of the door.
"What's the matter?" cried Porky. "I ain't doin' any harm! I was tired, and went in there, and I must have gone to sleep. How'd you know I was there? Are you police?"
"Yes, that's it!" said Ledermann. "You've guessed it. We are policemen."
"Where's your uniforms?" he asked then. "You ain't policemen. What you doin' here yourself? You can't arrest me for just goin' to sleep in this dinky little dog house. Gee, I might have slept all night! Guess I'll go along. Pop and Mom'll fix me for bein' so late." He started to rise, but Ledermann pushed him back.
"Not so fast, not so fast, young follow!" he said slowly. "I would like to find out, if possible, just how much asleep you were. You see we don't think you would listen to anything that was not intended for your ears, but we want you to tell us if you did hear any little thing. By mistake, of course."
"Wasting time!" grunted Adolph. "Let me tickle him with my little toy here. Safety first, as these people always say."
"Be quiet!" ordered Ledermann. "And you too, young fellow! If you try to scream, we will kill you."
"Aw, quit your kiddn'!" said Porky cheekily. "What would I want to yell for? I don't want to get arrested any more than I am. I want to go home! tell you, how could I hear anything when I was asleep? I want to go home! What's it to me what you talk about?" He sniffed, and drew his cuff across his eyes.
"Let me have him," said Adolph. "Let me go outside the gates with him."
"No," said Porky, using his cuff again. "I ain't goin' with nobody. I know how to get home. I don't have to have somebody take me." He tried to wiggle away, but felt Adolph's clutch close like an iron vise.
"There, there," said Ledermann quietly, as he nudged Adolph under cover of the darkness. "All we want to know is how much you heard. It is nothing to me what you do after that. You see my friend here does not mean what he says, but—well, I may as well tell you how it is." He turned the flashlight on the boy's face and held it there, watching him like a hawk while he talked. "My friend has invented something that will prove to be a very wonderful thing for everybody in the world, and he is very anxious that it shall be kept a secret until he is ready to put it on the market. Now you are a smart boy, and I will give you one guess to see if you can tell me what we were talking about. Tell me what you think he has invented."
Porky thought a moment with a deep frown on his face.
"It's a patent medicine he has invented," he ventured finally.
"That's a good guess," said Ledermann. "Such a good guess that I think you must have heard some of our talk."
"I didn't, honest," said Porky. "Couldn't you see I was asleep? What do you suppose I care about your old patent medicine? So long as you ain't policemen, let me go. I want to go home!"
"You shall go," said Ledermann, scowling in the direction of Adolph, "but I am afraid you might follow us and find out about the medicine. If you stay right here for a while, why, we will go away, and you will never know to whom you have been talking in this pitch dark. So we will just get you to do that much for us. And if you tell any one how you came to be here, or what we have said to you, we will come back and kill you and kill all your people!"
He hissed the awful threat in the boy's ear, and shutting off the flashlight, he took a cord from his pocket, and wound it tightly around the boy's wrists and ankles, tying it in a peculiar knot. Then with a handkerchief he gagged him.
"Now," he said to Porky, "you can get that cord off and the gag out, but you are going to sleep for a little while." He took a little pill from his pocket and forced it far back in Porky's mouth. "We will sit outside and watch you a while," said the spy. He laid the boy down on the floor of the house, propped the door in place, and all was silent. In the house, Porky, lying flat on his back, was trying frantically to work the pill out between his lips before it dissolved. He rolled it forward in his cheek, and turned on his face and blew hard.
The pill rolled out on the floor. Porky went limp. Sweat poured down his face as he closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep. There was absolute silence outside but Porky fancied he could hear the breathing of the watchers. It seemed hours and hours before he heard the door move, and knew the flashlight was directed on him. Then he heard a grunt of satisfaction and soft footsteps padding over the close grass told him that at last the two villains were gone.
Porky did not dare to stir, however, and lay thinking out his next move. He felt that for a little while he was safe. His one concern was for his brother, who had been watching over the greenhouses on the other side of the race-track. It occurred to him that Beany would be waiting for him there. He decided that for a while at least he would not report the affair to Colonel Bright. He wanted to find his brother. But he did not dare leave the toy house, so he lay listening to every sound and working in the dark with the most extraordinary knot that Ledermann had tied in the cord cutting into his ankles.
Beany, who had walked rapidly over to the place allocated for him, had waited in vain for something to turn up, and long after the time set for the meeting had commenced watching for his brother. Something, he felt sure, had happened in some other part of the grounds. He was strangely uneasy. A great desire to find Porky came over him. He walked down the road, leading from the great upper camp, and stood looking in every direction. watching for his brother.
As he looked, a familiar car swept past him an and stopped. It was the Colonel's car, and Colonel Bright himself leaned out and beckoned him. Beany ran to the machine and saluted.
"Hop in, hop in!" said the Colonel. "I don't know which one you are but I want to talk to you. Go on, Sergeant," and the car leaped forward.
"You or your brother said something about a hunch. Never mind which one, I'll bet you both think alike. Now I want to know all about it. What's that hunch all about?"
Beany was silent.
"Come on, I'm listening," he said, urging the boy to words.
Beany looked up into the strong, rugged face and studied the keen, kind, twinkling eyes that made the Colonel the best loved man in the American army, then leaned close to the Colonel, and told him of the two men at the ice-cream stand, and then, going back, he told of their recognition of the captain as the man who had driven the car at the Troop D Farm. The Colonel listened, even forgetting to smoke, and a frown deepened on his face.
"Where is your brother now?" he asked.
"I don't know," said Beany. "At the green house waitin' for me, I suppose."
"Would he go home, or back to the Police Camp?"
"No, sir, we always wait for each other," explained Beany.
"Well, we are in town now," said the Colonel, "and soon as I do an errand downtown you may take me to your house, and then the Sergeant will run you back to the Camp. If you find your brother, telephone me. I don't need to tell you to keep silent. Don't forget what a big thing you're doing, my boy, and also what a great reward if you find the formula. Think of it, a college education! And I will see to it that you will each have one."
"Yes, sir," said Beany thickly. "I keep a-thinkin' about the college education."
"That's right," said the Colonel heartily. "That's right! Just think what a fine thing to earn. The chance to have four years, in fact, to have six years good hard study in a good school and college. Think of the fellows that would jump at a chance like that!"
"Yes, sir," said Beany, and added earnestly, "I wish they had it to jump at. Here is your corner." He skipped out of the car, and when the colonel went in to the big office building, Beany stood on the curb and looked around him. Beany was tired and dirty and pale through the grime. He had had no supper. He was low, very low in his mind. All that talk about college again. Hang it! He had clean forgotten that hanging over him, and had been enjoying all this spy hunting for its own sake.
The more he thought of that college education, the more he glared. He groaned, and turned just in time to face a couple of men who were hurrying across the sidewalk. They glanced a him, stopped short, and the smaller man went dead white.
"Look, Ledermann!" he cried in a choking voice. "It's the same! What did you give him?" He screamed suddenly, his face worked, and grew purple. Then down he went frothing in such a terrible convulsion that Beany bolted into the Colonel's car, frightened out of his wits. A crowd gathered, and at once ambulance was summoned, and policemen were taking the names of people who had happened to be near; but no one thought of taking anything at all from the Boy Scout who sat so still beside the Colonel's driver.
When the ambulance had clattered away with its gong ringing noisily, the Sergeant turned to Beany.
"Well, you did for him all right!" he said.
"What did I do?" demanded Beany.
"That's all right," said the Sergeant. "I have my eyes all right, all right. You tell the Colonel or I will. Those bums give you a look, and threw a fit. Both of 'em. I saw their eyes stick out a yard. They acted like you was a ghost. You do look pretty pale, at that! Well, I bet you've done for one of them. I never saw a harder fit in my life. You certainly gave him some scare."
"I never saw him before," Beany said over and over. When the Colonel came out, the Sergeant gave him a glare, and he repeated the incident as they drove toward the Colonel's house. The Colonel said he would telephone to the hospital, as the man would no doubt come out all right.
Beany said good-night to the Colonel and slipped back in the seat beside the Sergeant.
"Funny about that fellow," said the soldier. "Did you hear what he said? He said, 'What did you give him?' Looks queer to me. Looks like he thought you were the ghost of somebody they had just killed. Must be you looked like somebody—" the man stopped, and stared at Beany for a startled second.
"Where's your twin?" he asked suddenly.
Beany went cold. A thousand frightful thoughts and possibilities surged up in his mind. Where was Porky?
He turned and struck the Sergeant a sharp blow on the arm.
"Drive fast!" he demanded, and settling low in his seat, watched the road drive at their car and disappear under it, as the Sergeant, eager as, claimed the privilege of the Colonel's car and leaped past everything on the boulevard.
"Where will you go?" cried the Sergeant in his ear.
"Here by the gate first," said Beany, leaping out of the car.
The Sergeant stopped his engine. "I'll go with you," he said kindly.
It seemed a hopeless task. They did not know where to look, but first tried all the seats around the bandstand and the settees on the great porches behind the pillars of the Administration and Fine Arts Building.
Then they drove the car over to the greenhouse, but all was quiet and deserted there. At the suggestion of the Sergeant, they went to the Hospital but no boy had been brought in. Once more they approached the gate, and again they left the car, And looked silently about in the darkness.
Beany was trembling with fear; fear for the brother whom he loved.
He placed his fingers to his lips and gave a shrill, clear whistle. Three times he repeated the call that sounded like some night bird's song.
Then, as they listened, it was repeated. It was a muffled sound, yet close. Once more Beany gave the signal, this time with a leaping heart, and the answer came clear and keen, as though a lid had been taken off.
Beany ran in the direction of the sound. As he passed the flower-house, Porky hailed him.
"Hey!" he said. "Got a knife?"
Guided by Porky's voice, Beany and the Sergeant raced across the grass.
"Here I am!" said Porky, cocky as you please. "Say, I wish you could see this knot! I have worked about all night over it, and it gets tighter and tighter."
The Sergeant whipped out a knife and cut the cord.
"Who tied you up?" he asked.
"A couple of fellows," said Porky, stamping the feeling into his feet and ankles. "Couldn't see who they were."
"You can see one of them any time now, I'll bet," said the Sergeant. "Your brother here did for him in the neatest way you ever saw." He repeated the meeting on Salina Street, while Porky walked up and down the drive between the Sergeant and his brother.
"Yes, sir, he keeled right over and gosh, how he did flop around! It was a fit all right. I bet he died, too, because he went limp all at once. He acted like he'd seen a ghost. He yelled, 'What did you give him?' to the other fellow. What did he call him?" he asked Beany. "I heard him call some name."
Porky's elbow went sharply into Beany's ribs.
"Didn't catch it," said he, obeying the warning for silence.
ORDERS FROM THE COLONEL
Over in the Hospital, the dimply nurse laid compresses on the swollen ankle of Captain DuChassis. She found her patient wakeful, and worn with pain. The leg was badly wrenched, it seemed. The dimply nurse talked pleasantly with her distinguished guest, and to amuse him told him a small joke. It was an amusing little joke to her. A boy had dropped in during the afternoon, and had asked for the Captain. He seemed most anxious to know just how he was getting, along; and when she had told him that he could not leave the Hospital for another day, the boy had said, "I wish I could help take care of the Captain. Say, nurse, what have you done with his boots?"
"My boots?" said the Captain blankly. "My boots?"
"Wasn't it funny?" said the nurse. "I suppose he is so crazy over you, boy-like, that he wanted to see your tall boots. Don't you suppose so?"
"Probably," said the Captain. He put a hand over the side of the bed, and felt to see if his boots were there. Then he grew so quiet that the nurse slipped softly away, thinking him asleep.
When she had gone he did a strange thing. He took those boots, dusty as they were and, placing them under the pillow, went to sleep. But in the morning, although the nurse came in very early, the boots were under the bed.
"If he comes in this morning, send him up here, won't you?" he begged. "It would amuse me so; and I don't want to get up until afternoon. I would be so charmed to meet that funny little boy. My boots! How droll!"
About ten o'clock two boys strolled into the office and passed the nurses' sitting-room. The dimply nurse seized on one of them.
"I am so glad you have come!" she said.
"Captain DuChassis wants to see you. I told him how you came in and asked for him yesterday."
She went on. "I can't go up for another hour; so you can both go up and amuse him. I am sure he will tell you wonderful things about the other side. Through the office and upstairs, boys."
She shooed them out and Beany and Asa stopped outside the door and consulted.
Asa was a good boy but about as progressive as a potato, and something the color of a peeled one. No amount of sun tanned him. It made his eye-lashes whiter if anything, and his lips paler.
"Were you here at all yesterday?" demanded Beany.
"Oh, yes," said Asa. "Twice."
"Well, then, listen here. I want you should go up there, and when he says are you the boy who was here yesterday, you say yes, and don't say anything else if you can help it. See?"
"Oh, yes," said Asa, who did not see at all, but who did not let that bother lot that bother him in the least.
"Mind!" said Beany sternly. "I don't want him to know about me or Porky at all. There are reasons; Scout reasons, Asa, so you mind out. Got that through your nut?"
"Oh, yes," said Asa, blinking his white lashes.
"You ain't afraid of him, are you?" asked Beany, remembering the Wolf's keen eye.
"Oh, no," said Asa.
When Asa came down in a few minutes, he seemed rather upset—for Asa. He blinked rapidly, and there was something so worried in his open smile that Beany felt conscience-stricken to think he had sent him on such an errand. He rose, and they walked rapidly away, for Asa seemed to be thinking deeply.
When they reached the seats around the bandstand, deserted so early in the morning, Beany sat down.
"Well, let's have it," he demanded.
"That's a funny guy," said Asa, twirling his Scout hat rapidly in his pale bands. "I did just what you said. I went in, and I said, 'Morning!' at all. He just looked at me until I felt like I wasn't there at all; and he smiled softer than anything I ever see except, some one—I can't think who it was. Well, I did what you said, and he said—"
"What did you do that I said?" said Beany anxiously.
"Why, nothing," said Asa. "Just stood; and he said, 'Come here, boy,' and I went closer and he said, 'So you were here yesterday,' and I said, 'Oh, yes.' And then he says, 'Well, what do you think of a Swiss Captain's uniform—pretty fine, eh?" I says, 'Oh, yes,' and he says, ''Specially the boots?' and gimlets his eyes right into me. I wanted to say I'd never seen no Swiss Captain's boots, but I remembered what you told me, so I looked back at him and didn't say anything. And then he laughed and said, 'All that scare for nothing! My boy, you are a refreshing draught. Thank you for coming. I am so glad to know just what you are like that I will tell you a great truth. Remember it. It is this: all women are fools."
"Well, go on!" demanded Beany. "What did you say to that?"
"I remembered what you said," smiled Asa, "and I just said, 'Oh, yes.'"
Beany, in spite of his anxiety, howled until he fell off the bench.
"What did he say!" he asked as soon as he could speak.
"Why, he laughed too," said Asa, with a puzzled look, and he said, "Such wisdom in one so young!' Then I came out. Darned if I didn't think part of the time he was kiddin' me!"
"Well, I got to find Porky and go on guard at the Administration Building!" said Beany. "Where you going?"
"Over to the clubhouse," said Asa. "I wonder who he looks like when he smiles."
"Well, for cat's sake," cried Beany, "forget it; lose it; shake it! What do you care who he smiles like? Gee—" He turned and walked rapidly away. He had nearly reached the Administration Building when he heard Asa calling his name. Beany turned and waited while the other pounded up.
"I remembered," he said in a relieved tone. "Gee, for a while I couldn't think but now I can! He smiles just like our collie when he's goin' to bite the mailman. That's just who he smiles like!" He waved a hand and turned away, and commenced to retrace his steps.
Beany stood looking after him.
"Gosh!" he said feebly.
"Why Gosh, young man!" said a deep voice.
Beany whirled and saluted the Colonel.
"It's that Asa, sir," he said and proceeded to give an account of the past few hours.
"Where is your brother?" he asked when they had talked things over awhile.
"Coming right now," said Beany.
The Colonel glanced up. "Sure enough, here he is," he said. "Who is with him? Is that the boy you have been telling me about?"
"Yes, sir, that's Asa," laughed Beany.
"You boys come into my office," said the Colonel. He led the way, spoke to the orderly, and closed the door.
"Now, boys," he said, "you are such little daredevils that you are not going to like the plan we have made at all. I have consulted with the police, and with Colonel Handler, and now I want to take you into our confidence. All the credit for discovering this particular group of spies belongs to you. We do not want to get you into any unnecessary harm, however, and it is wisest to have you keep entirely out of it. That seems poor pay, doesn't it, when you have done such good work? However, right is right, and you want to be good soldiers and take orders as such. We are going to raid the house where we know the gang will soon meet. We have located the place, and the men. The fellow you gave such a start last night, Beany, will not trouble us again. He never came out of that fit."
"My gosh!" said Beany. It gave him a queer feeling.
"No," said the Colonel, "he is done for. Now, boys, take a day off. Go home and see your mothers."
He played with the pen on his desk for a moment.
"Boys, I am going to tell you something. I am fifty-eight years old and I don't want you to forget what I tell you. Whatever you do, whatever gain, wherever you go, remember one thing. Don't neglect your mothers. No true man will. As long as you live, or as long as your mothers live, you will seem just little boys to them. They never think that you grow up. When you were little shavers, your mothers did for you more than any one else in the world would do. They did things that a father would do about once. Then he would be ready to give up his job. But your mothers went right on day after day, year after year, doing hard, thankless, disagreeable things. I bet you get this preached to you a lot, boys, but I want to say it to you, too. If you are away from them, write a letter, a real letter once each week. It is not much to do. Do it, boys! And don't forget the kisses. If you kiss your mother every time you come into the house or leave it, you will still have all you want for your sweethearts when you get 'em. Begin to-night when you go home. Will you?"
"Yes, sir," promised the Potter twins huskily.
No word came from Asa. The Colonel looked at him. "And you?" he said.
Asa swallowed convulsively. A tear glistened on the tip of his pale, thin nose. He nodded violently; then the words came.
"Oh, yes!" he said.
After all it was a sort of lark to be off duty and go bumming around the fairgrounds without a single thing to worry about except where the formula was. Certainly if the Wolf had it, it had gone off for a little airing, because as the boys came out of the Colonel's office they saw Captain DuChassis being driven out of the fairgrounds in an automobile. They could scarcely give chase, and they had been left out of the raid that was planned. So there was nothing for them to do but chase around and see things, and the sun was setting when the boys turned into the walk leading under the double row of fir trees, up to their house. Home, not seen for four days, looked good to the Potter twins. The dining room was lighted, and their father sat reading the evening paper. Mrs. Potter was "dishin' up." She made swift journeys to the kitchen, and returned each time with both hands full of steaming dishes. The boys took a look, and made a dash for the door.
The Colonel had talked wisely and well. Porky attacked his father from the rear, and strangled him in a bear's hug, knocking off his glasses.
Beany had his mother round the neck too, but not so roughly.
He kissed her hurriedly on the ear and then on the check and lips. Then he released her as Porky came bolting around the table. Mr. Potter, grinning with happiness, was feeling on the floor for his glasses; Mrs. Potter's eyes bright with joy.
"Why, how you do take on! Dear me suz!"
"Gee, but it's good to get home!" said the twins together. Porky went back and sat on the arm of his father's chair. Beany followed his mother into the kitchen. She had hurried out to wipe her eyes.
"Didn't think we'd be home, did you, mom?" asked Beany, pretending to look in the sugar bowl.
"I kind of plotted on it," said Mrs. Potter. "I felt like it was a good thing to be on the safe side." She opened a tin box, and drew forth a cake, a glorious large, dark, chocolate layer cake.
"Well, what's the news?" asked Porky presently at the table helping himself to more fried chicken and potatoes and parsnips and honey.
"Yes, what has happened?" echoed Beany, taking a portion of the chicken and potatoes, and parsnips, and adding mustard pickle, and preserved watermelon rind and jam. "Must be something has happened."
"Yes," said Pop Potter, smiling. "You bin away all of four days. Long enough for everybody round here to breathe easy for once!"
"Well, things does happen!" said Mrs. Potter. "I saw the Land boy the other day, and if he ain't drafted!"
"Yes, and what think she says?" Pop Potter exclaimed. "She says, 'So you're drafted? Well, well, ain't you sorry just for your own face, that you didn't enlist?'"
"Well, I so felt!" Mom Potter defended herself. "Dear me, suz, if you boys had to be drug—well, I dunno what I'd do!"
"Good for you, mom!" said Porky. "I knew you had the spunk. We will be in it somehow ruther, if they don't stick us in school."
"How's that?" asked Mr. Potter.
The boys proceeded to explain. Mom and Pop, Potter looked slyly at each other. "Education is a great thing," said Pop Potter, filling his pipe. "I must say—"
"Why, dear me suz!" said mom flutteringly. "School and college! Land sakes! You could both be ministers!"
"NO!" cried the twins, savagely attacking elderberry pie and the cake. "Don't you think it!"
"It's real respectable," said Pop Potter, winking at the boys when Mom Potter wasn't looking. "And think of all the church suppers durin' the course of the year!"
"No Potter's ever been in the pulpit," said Mom dreamily.
"Yes, there was," corrected pop, "I was there myself oncet. I grained it golden oak; and if I do say it, 'twas a neat job."
"My land, you know what I mean!" said mom, quite testily for her. "It's worth tryin' for, anyhow."
"Well, we'll hope for the best," said Beany.
"Pirates?" asked pop.
"No, detectives" said Porky. "But often are not certain. We maybe all right yet."
"I suppose they, will get the spies to-night," said Beany, "and when they get them, I hope they get the formula too. Say, how is Lester anyway?"
"He's come to himself," said mom, "but dear me suz! He don't know no more what's gone by. He knows his father and sister and Wugs, because they told him who they was; but he just has clean forgot such a thing as acids or gases or any of that. He don't care about anything but the cat.
"The cat?" said the boys.
"Yes, a young cat that plays with a string most all day; and he seems to think it's a great joke."
"Gee that's awful! I think we better start early enough to go over there a minute," said Porky sadly.
"Don't go yet awhile, boys," said Mrs. Potter, bustling round to clear the table. The boys got up and helped her. "Pop and I have been reel lonesome without you."
"We will be home Saturday afternoon," said Beany. "And I do think we had better go pretty soon. I think we'd better take that paper over to Colonel Bright. Don't you think so, Porky?"
Porky put the paper in his breast pocket and buttoned the flap.
"We'll be home for good now, before you know it," said Beany. "Mr. Leffingwell says we are to return to his apartments to stay the rest of the nights. He has a swell place in town. So we are to go as far as Mr. Leffingwell's in the Colonel's car when he goes home. Some class to us, don't you say so, mom? Guess we'd better hike, folkses," he said. "Bye!"
The boys started for the door, then turned and gave Pop Potter another bear hug, and kissed their mother with a tenderness that seemed to deepen with every caress.
"Seems like it does 'em good to go off," said pop huskily.
"I won't say that," said mom loyally. "They was always the nicest boys I ever did see if they was mine; but they do seem sort of different. Sort of lovin'er, like they was when they was little. I can't say, Ben, that I ain't missed it. Seems real pleasant to have 'em let on how much they think. It makes me feel reel good. Dear me suz!" said Mrs. Potter simply. She took up her sewing and sat busily working. Once in awhile she hummed a little tune.
Pop Potter watched her slyly over his paper, but said nothing. The canary bird, however, hanging in Mrs. Potter's bedroom window where he was supposed to bask in the afternoon sun, could have told that Pop Potter awkwardly kissed Mom Potter good-night, something he had not done for years. And in the darkness Mom Potter was far too happy to sleep, and in the fullness of her joy lay there inventing cakes of such size and creaminess and lightness that the like was never seen.
Asa too had had his lesson. The barking collie had foretold his arrival, and when his mother and three sisters, each as pale and thin as himself, appeared in the door, he managed to kiss them all. It was such an amazing thing to have happen that a silence immediately fell, while two of the girls hastily wiped off their cheeks. A look of happiness dawned through the surprise on however, his mother's face, and she shyly kept her hand on Asa's knobby shoulder as he entered the house. Asa was the center of attraction at the supper table where he ran the Potter twins a close second in the amount he ate. The girls, perfectly silent, sat staring at him round-eyed; and his father, it larger edition of himself, listened or asked short questions.
When the Potter twins whistled outside, Asa shook hands solemnly with his father, and resolutely kissed the sisters and his mother good-night. When he was out of hearing, and the barking collie had returned to the doorstep, Mrs. Downe burst into sudden tears.
"What's up; what's up?" her husband demanded.
"Asy," she sobbed, "did you mind how he acted? It must be he's had a call. They's been a hoot owl outside three nights now. I do believe that's it! Asy's got a call from beyond!"
The three sisters began to cry.
"Puffickly ridiklus!" said Asa's father. "Purfickly ridiklus. That hoot owl ain't got no grudge 'gainst Asa. He's got some new Scout bee in his bunnit, I'll bet. Don't know but I like to see a boy make of his wimmin folks, at that. It never looks soft to me. Don't hurt no man."
He lifted the smallest girl to his knee. She looked frightened but after a moment cuddled up to her father, and tucked a warm little hand around his neck.
"Don't hurt no man," repeated Asa's father and held the little girl so closely that she fell happily asleep; while Asa's mother, working like a whirlwind, thought the night's work strangely light, with the warmth of her only son's kiss on her check.
Asa went cantering down the hill to meet the Potters, and together they strolled over to Wugs' house, that house of unhappiness where the brightest, happiest member of the household lay gazing at the sky or for hours playing with the kitten. He did not know the boys, but when Wugs told him who they were, he greeted them pleasantly enough.
It was very painful, and the boys slipped away as soon as they could and, followed by Wugs, went down to the edge of the lawn, and talked things over. Wugs could scarcely leave home at all. He wanted to enlist; he was nearly old enough, and now that Lester was sick, why, some one ought to help the country—some Pomeroy. The boys agreed. But his dad and Elinor needed him, too; so he supposed he would have to wait yet.
Porky, rolling around on the grass, felt the paper rustle in his pocket.
"Here, Asy," he said. "You ought to be in on this. I'm going to let you carry this paper. It is very important indeed."
Asa beamed, but as usual said nothing. It was fine to be in on things. It made him feel important. He patted his pocket, and sat straighter. The paper rustled, just as any paper would rustle. Asa, listening, heard no warning in the sound.
Finishing their talk, Porky decided that it was getting very late, and they boarded the next car passing. It was nearly empty, and the boys dozed all the way to town. In fact, they were so sleepy that the car had reached New York Central Station before they roused themselves. They had been carried two blocks too far.
"Well, we are here, anyway," said Beany, "and I'm going inside to get a stick of gum."
"That's a good stunt," said Porky.
They ran up the steps and entered the great waiting-room. Asa did not like gum, and, besides, Asa never liked to spend a penny. He stood looking about him in the middle of the space in front of the ticket office, while the twins went over to the penny-in-the-slot machine.
And then it happened—
Asa, turning from his inspection of the ticket window, gazed at a space over which hung a large sign "INFORMATION." A man who had been talking turned and started toward Asa.
It was the Wolf.
Now when the Wolf, on his way to the station to enquire about trains, had reached a certain dark corner just outside the city, he had stopped long enough to do something by the aid of a flashlight and a little packet. So when he walked into the station his face was change. It was no longer long and lean and smooth. His cheeks stuck out, and a long, heavy mustache covered his mouth. But he could not hide his peculiar, slight limp, or the cruel yellow eyes; and when Asa saw those eyes he knew them. He tried to move; to slide out of the way. His one frantic desire was to escape unnoticed. But the wildness of the boy's stare caught the Wolf's eye. He looked at the boy carelessly, then attentively as he saw that the boy recognized him. He too recognized the boy as the one who had visited him in the hospital.
He acted instantly. He stepped forward, and dropped a steel-fingered hand on Asa's shoulder.
"One single word, and I'll kill you right here," muttered the Wolf, and Asa felt that it was no idle threat.
Asa did not need to be spoken to again. All the wickedness, all the blood-curdling threats that he had ever imagined, were in the Wolf's touch on his collar. He was like a rabbit that suddenly sees the white fangs of the hound close above him.
He was dumb with fright. He gave his captor one quaking look, and obedient to the guiding hand, passed out the door into the street. It was filled with people. The Wolf sought the most crowded side and mingled with the throngs.
In the meantime Porky and Beany, having secured their much-wished-for gum, a hard task on account of a penny jamming in the slot, turned to join their friend.