Air Service Boys over the Rhine/Chapter 14
WITH COMRADES AGAIN
"Hold on! Wait a minute!" exclaimed Tom, as he caught hold of his chum. Where are you going?"
"Out to give warning to a policeman or to some army officer about that spy!" exclaimed Jack. "We know him to be such, and now, with Bessie's word that he was with Potzfeldt, it's enough to cause his arrest."
"Yes, maybe it is," agreed Tom, who was a bit more cautious than his impetuous chum. "But if we do that we may spoil the plans of Major de Trouville. Better let matters take their course. Jack. That spy may not know we are here, and again, he may. But if he doesn't, rushing out now would be sure to give the secret away. As it is, there is a chance we may keep it."
Jack, caught midway in his impetuous rush from the room, stood reflectively. What Tom had said to him appeared to make an impression. Then Bessie added her words of advice.
"Yes, Jack," she said, "I think it would be rather rash to go out now and confront that man, or start a chase after him. I know I'm not as experienced as you two famous bird-men," she went on with a smile, "but I've been through some terrible experiences, as almost every girl has in this war zone, and I can do more thinking than I used to. Don't you think it would be wise to wait, Mother?"
"Yes, Bessie," answered Mrs. Gleason, "I do. Our good friends in the military service who told us to come here, must have had some object. Perhaps it was connected with this same man who was so unkind to us in the château, and who was certainly a tool of that man I trusted once, but never will again—Carl Potzfeldt!" and she shuddered as she thought of what she had gone through.
"Let him go," she said to Jack. "Perhaps it is just a coincidence that he is passing just as we arrive. Our departure from our last lodgings was made secretly."
"So was ours," said Tom. "And yet I don't see how that spy found us so soon."
"It is that which makes me think it is accidental," observed Mrs. Gleason. "It would be very unwise now to go out, I think."
"All right, then I'll stay in," said Jack with a smile. "Especially as I have such good company. Tell me," he went on, "are you and your mother going to board here?" he asked Bessie.
"Yes," answered Mrs. Gleason. "And though we were told we would meet friends here we could not guess it would be you brave boys."
"Spare my blushes!" laughed Tom.
"Same here," added Jack.
"But what brings you to Paris?" asked Bessie. "I thought you boys were engaging in combats above the clouds."
"We have been fighting, though not during the last two weeks," said Tom. "I had word that my father had come over here, but he never communicated with us, and we came to Paris to look him up. So far we haven't succeeded in finding him," and he gave the details of the visit of himself and his chum to the capital, telling of their first experience during the firing of the big gun.
Bessie and Jack, who seemed to have much to say to one another, peered from behind the curtains out of the window now and then, and Jack at last reported that the spy had passed on, after stopping, apparently, to purchase some fruit at a stand on the street.
"I don't believe he knew we were here," said Bessie.
"Well, it won't do to take any chances," observed Tom. "However, we were not told to remain under cover, so I suppose we can go out when we like."
"Better wait until we get some word from the major," suggested Jack, who was getting some of his chum's caution.
All decided this was best, and the boys spent the rest of the afternoon in getting their room to rights, Mrs. Gleason and Bessie doing the same in their apartment. Mrs. Gleason had temporarily been relieved from Red Cross work to recuperate, she said, as she had been under a great strain.
Toward evening Major de Trouville, or "Trouville," as he democratically liked to be called, arrived, and when told of the sight in the street of the spy, who turned out to be the same man who was one of the captors of Bessie and her mother, the officer said:
"I am not surprised. In fact I rather looked for that, and it is one reason why I wanted to get you four together so you could see the man at the same time.
"There is now no doubt as to his intentions, and the fact that he was here so soon after you arrived proves that there is a 'leak' somewhere. We suspected as much, and I think I know where it is. It is good information to have. Well, boys, did I surprise you?" he asked, smiling.
"You did, indeed, but it was a pleasant surprise," said Jack.
"But when are we going to be allowed to do something to silence that monster cannon?" asked Tom. "It's pleasant to be here, but we are not forgetting there is work to do."
"Nor would I have you forget," said the major. "A number of persons were killed to-day by fire from the long-range gun. We believe, now, that there are two or three of them, as the shots come at closer intervals. It is imperative that something be done, and so I have brought you orders."
"Good!" cried Jack.
"That sounds like business!" commented Tom.
"In regard to your father," went on the major, addressing Jack's chum, "we will be on the watch for him, or any news of him, and, no matter where you are, unless you are captured by the Germans, you shall be informed as soon as possible."
"Is there any chance of being made prisoners?" asked Jack, and it might be noted that he did not use the word "danger."
"There is always that chance for an airman," replied the major. "But when I add that it may be possible that one or both of you will take a flight over the Rhine, you can judge, with the hold Germany has on French possessions, what the danger is."
"Over the Rhine!" exclaimed Tom. "Why, that's a flight of two or three hundred miles from Paris."
"Yes, but with the new type of Italian plane which you may use, it is not impossible in a single flight," said the major. "However, we will talk of that later. Just now I have come to tell you that you are to rejoin your comrades at the Lafayette Escadrille for a time. There arrangements will be made for the perilous venture I spoke of—the silencing of the big guns that are bombarding Paris. I wish you all success, young gentlemen."
"Thanks," murmured Jack.
"We consider it an honor to be picked for such duty," added Tom. "Are any others going to be in the game?"
"Oh, yes. We shall need a picked corps of the best airmen we have, French and Americans, and it will be no easy matter then. The Germans have probably been planning this for a long time, and they, no doubt, have taken every possible precaution against surprise or failure. But with the help of you brave Americans we shall win!"
"That's right!" chimed in Bessie. "Oh, how I wish I were a man!" and she looked enviously at Jack and Tom.
The major gave Bessie and her mother some instructions in regard to their actions should the spy come back, and then told Tom and Jack to prepare to leave Paris the next night.
"Report to your former camp," he said, "and there you will find further instructions waiting for you."
"Well, then as we have to-night, our last one free, let's go to some entertainment," suggested Tom to Bessie and her mother. "We can have supper afterward—not much of a celebration, for these are war times and it won't do to rejoice too much. But we ought to commemorate this meeting somehow."
"That's right!" agreed Jack.
So they went to a little play and had supper afterward in a quiet restaurant. That is, it was quiet until a sudden explosion a few blocks away announced the arrival of another German shell from the big gun, and then there was excitement enough.
Fortunately, however, the shots did little beyond material damage, no one being killed. At the same time, however, there appeared some German planes over Paris, doubtless to observe the effect of the dropping of the long-distance shells, and naturally the French airmen went up to give them combat.
The great searchlights began to play, picking out the hostile craft, and making them targets for the machine guns of the intrepid Frenchmen, and more than one Boche never got back over his lines again, while several Frenchmen found heroes' graves on the soil they had died to defend.
"Oh, if we were only up there helping," said Tom, as he and his friends watched.
"We shall be there very soon," murmured Jack. "And it can't be any too soon for me."
The tide of battle turned in favor of the French, the Hun planes withdrawing as the fire got too hot for them. And soon after that the long-range gun ceased firing.
It was rather a "pull" for Tom and Jack to say good-bye to Bessie and her mother in Paris, but they knew they had to do their duty. Nor would Mrs. Gleason and her daughter have kept the boys back for the world. They realized that the Air Service boys were helping to make the world safe for democracy, as they themselves were doing in their way.
And so Tom and Jack, their mission to Paris, which was the discovery of Mr. Raymond, having failed, went back to the hangars, there to be welcomed by their comrades in arms.
They arrived one morning, just after some planes from a bombing expedition over the German lines returned.
"What luck?" asked Tom of a pilot with whom he had often flown.
"The best, as regards the damage we did," was the answer. "We blew up several ammunition dumps, and put one railroad center out of business for a time. But Louis didn't come back," and the man turned aside for a moment.
"You mean your brother?" asked Jack, softly.
"Perhaps he is only captured," suggested Tom.
"No, his machine caught fire. They got his petrol tank. It's all up with him and La Garde. But we had our revenge. We sprayed the machine that got them until there was nothing left of it. And I'm going out again to-day in a Nieuport, They'll pay a price for Louis!"