Air Service Boys over the Rhine/Chapter 13
Tom Raymond and Jack Parmly looked first at one another and then at the major. He had been smiling at their wonderment, but he was now serious, and regarded them gravely.
"Do you mean we have to do something to help catch this spy?" asked Tom.
"I'd like a hand in that!" exclaimed Jack. "I saw him first—he's my meat!"
"Well, get him if you can, boys," said the Frenchman. "But I did not come here to talk so much about him as about yourselves. The spy is a danger and a menace, but we know him and if he goes too far we can put out our hands and drag him back.
"No, what I referred to is more dangerous than merely trying to catch a spy at his sneaking work. I will tell you." The major suddenly left his seat near the window of the boy's room, and quickly opened the door leading to the hall. The passage was empty.
"I rather thought there might be an eavesdropper," the major explained. "I was followed here, though I don't believe the spies know my mission. However, it is best to be careful. With your permission I'll pull down the shade. There may be spies stationed across the street who, with powerful glasses, might look through the window and gather something of what we say by reading our lips. It has been done."
"The Germans don't leave much untried," commented Tom. "But what is it you want us to do, if it isn't trying to trail the spy?"
The major motioned them to draw closer to him, and then, leaving the door into the hall open, so that he could note the approach of any one, he whispered:
"You are to be two members of a picked company of air scouts who are to go out, discover the big German gun, and destroy it!"
"Whew!" whistled Tom, after a moment of thought during which he and Jack exchanged quick glances.
"Well?" asked the officer. "How does that strike you? I believe that is another of your captivating terms?"
"It's all to the good!" exclaimed Jack. "What say, Tom? We'll take that on, won't we?"
"Well, I should say!" was the enthusiastic rejoinder. "When do we start to—"
"Hush!" cautioned the major. "Not so loud Though we have taken every precaution, there may be spies unseen by us. We had better talk no more about it here."
"Then let's go to our new lodgings, if we are to move," suggested Tom. "Will it be safe to talk there?"
"I think so," the major said. "At least you will be among friends. Not that your landlord here is not a true Frenchman; but he can not control the actions of those to whom he lets lodgings. You will be better where you are going. Then you accept the mission?" he asked in another whisper.
"Sure thing!" answered Tom, while Jack nodded his assent. "The sooner the quicker!"
"I do not quite get that," the major confessed with a smile. "But I think I gather your meaning. Now if you will proceed to this address," and he handed Tom a small slip of paper, "you will find a comfortable lodging, and you will be among friends."
"How soon can we start on—on this mission?" asked Tom.
"It will be better not to refer to it directly," the officer said. "Talk as little about it as you can. But you shall go as soon as the arrangements can be made. You will be notified."
"And what about seeing our friends—Mrs. Gleason?" asked Jack.
"Are you sure its Mrs. Gleason you want to see?" inquired Tom.
"Oh, cut it out!" advised Jack with a blush.
"You may see them soon now," the major told him with a smile. "And I hope you'll soon have good news of your father," he added to Tom.
"I hope so, too. The suspense is telling on me."
"I should think it would. Now don't leave this bit of paper about with the address of your new lodgings on. Better commit it to memory, and then destroy the sheet. We want, if possible, to prevent the spy from knowing where you have gone. I will call a taxicab for you. You can be packed soon, I suppose?" he questioned.
"Within a half hour," answered Jack. "But say, won't that spy be on the watch, and won't he learn from the taxicab driver where we have gone?"
"Not from this taxicab driver," was the smiling answer. "He is one of our best secret service men. But treat him as you would an ordinary chauffeur. You may even give him a tip, and he will not be offended," and once more the major smiled.
Tom and Jack, having made sure they remembered the address given them, destroyed the paper, and then proceeded to get ready to move. Meanwhile Major de Trouville took his departure, promising to keep in communication with the Air Service boys.
Punctual to the half hour a taxicab appeared at the door. The boys obeyed the instructions they had received, and looked out to make sure the spy was not on hand. If he was, he was well concealed, for they did not see him.
"Though I suppose he's somewhere around," said Jack.
"Well, maybe we can fool him," suggested Tom. "We're going quite on the other side of Paris."
They made sure that, as far as could be told by observation, there was no one resembling the spy around the place or in the street in front, and then got into the cab with their baggage. The chauffeur seemed not to know them, but Tom thought there was just the slightest wink of one eye, as though to indicate that the game was going well.
Their cab was driven out along the Boulevard Ragenta, past the Gare du Nord, and across the Boulevard de Rochechquart to a small street running off the Rue Ramey, and there the cab stopped in front of a small but neat-looking house.
"Quiet enough neighborhood," remarked Jack, as they got down, and Tom tipped the cabman for the benefit of any spies who might be looking.
"Yes, I guess we can get some sleep here, if the big gun doesn't keep us awake," agreed Tom.
On the way they had passed several places where the havoc of the "Bertha" was noticeable.
Tom and Jack seemed to be expected, for the porter, who came down to get their bags, did not seem at all surprised to see them. He bade them follow him, and a little later, the cab having chugged off, the boys were settled in a pleasant room, a smiling landlady coming in to see if they wanted anything, and to tell them they could have meals with her at certain hours, or they might dine out as they pleased.
"Your friends will be here shortly," she added.
"Our friends?" questioned Tom.
"Yes," with a nod and a smile. "I was told to say they would be here shortly after you arrived."
"Oh, I guess she means the major and some of the officers will come to see how we are situated, and to tell us more about—the big stunt," said Tom in English to his chum, assuming that "big stunt" would sufficiently disguise to any listening spies, if such there were, the real object that lay before them.
"I suppose that's who she means," agreed Jack, as the landlady, who gave her name as Madame Reboux, withdrew.
The boys were busy unpacking their few belongings, for they had not brought much to Paris, not intending to stay long, when they heard voices in the hall outside their room. And at the tones of a certain voice Tom and Jack started and looked at one another.
"Listen!" exclaimed Tom.
"If I wasn't afraid you'd say I was dreaming, I'd say I knew that voice!" murmured Jack.
"I'd say the same," added Tom.
"Who would you say it was?" his chum challenged.
"Well, for a starter—"
He paused, for the voice sounded more plainly now, and it said:
"Yes, this is the right place, Mother. Oh, do you think the boys are here yet?"
"It surely will be a pleasure to meet them again," said another voice, evidently that of a woman, the other having been a girl's.
"I hope they won't have forgotten us," the girl went on, and at that Jack could no longer keep quiet. He rushed to the door, opened it, and cried:
"Bessie! Is that you?"
"Oh, it's Jack! Mother, here's Jack!" cried the girl, and she and her mother were soon shaking hands with Tom and Jack.
"So, you two were the friends we were soon to see!" exclaimed Tom, as he placed chairs for Mrs. Gleason and her daughter. Or, to be exact, Tom placed a chair for the mother, while Jack got one for Bessie.
"Yes, we were told you would be here," said Bessie's mother. "We did not know you were in Paris until we received word that it would be better for us to change our lodging and come here."
"The same word we received," said Jack. "Say, it's working out mighty queer, isn't it, Tom?"
"Yes, but very satisfactorily, I should say. Things couldn't be nicer. How have you been?" he asked, for he had not seen the girl nor her mother since the sensational rescue from the perfidious Carl Potzfeldt.
"Very well indeed," answered Mrs. Gleason. "Both Bessie and I have been doing Red Cross work. But isn't that great German gun terrible? Oh, how it has killed and maimed the poor women and children! The Huns are fiends!"
"I quite agree with you," said Tom, Jack meanwhile talking to Bessie. "But it isn't doing them the military good they thought it would, and, if all goes well, it may not very long do them any service at all."
"You mean—" began Mrs. Gleason.
But just then Bessie, who had arisen to go to the window to view the street, turned back with a start, and grasped Jack's hand.
"Look! Look!" she whispered, and through the curtains she pointed to a man on the opposite side of the way.
"Do you know him?" asked Jack.
"Know him? Yes, to my sorrow."
"Who is it?" asked Tom.
"The spy!" exclaimed Jack. "The man we saw in the train, and the same fellow who tried to get into our lodgings. In spite of our precautions he has found out where we are."
"I'm not so sure of that," said Tom. "He may not be here for any particular purpose. But do you know him too, Bessie?"
"Yes," the girl answered. "He was in the château where mother and I were held prisoners by Potzfeldt. He is a tool in the pay of that spy, and a spy himself!"
"Then we ought to do something!" exclaimed Jack, and he started to rush from the room.