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   Chapter 6 ON THE TRAIL.

The Boy Allies in Great Peril; Or, With the Italian Army in the Alps By Clair W. Hayes Characters: 8869

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The stars were shining when Hal and Chester, accompanied by Uncle John, made their way from the hotel toward the Austrian legation. Uncle John was chuckling to himself as he walked between his two younger companions.

"What is so funny, Uncle John?" asked Chester.

"I was just thinking what your mothers would say if they knew where we were going," was the reply; "particularly if they knew where I was going. I guess they think I am too old for this foolishness, but I tell you, a man likes to be young again."

"What did you tell mother? Where did you say we were going?" asked Hal.

"I told her we were going out-I didn't say where," was the answer. "I'm something of a strategist myself, you know."

"I see you are," replied Chester.

"Now I want you boys to understand that I am under your orders," said Uncle John. "You are older heads at this game than I am. I am willing to obey orders."

"Which is the first essential of every good soldier," said Chester quietly.

"By the way," said Uncle John, patting his pocket, "this is the first time I have had a gun in my hands for a good many years. However, I used to be able to hit the side of a barn. I guess I haven't forgotten. Do you think we shall have to do any shooting?"

"I hope not," said Hal, "but you never can tell."

Uncle John lapsed into silence and the three made their way along slowly.

The hour was early, and, as Hal had said, there was no rush.

"Have you formed any definite plan?" asked Chester of Hal, as they walked along.

"Well, no," was the reply. "We shall have to let events shape themselves."

"Which is the best plan, after all," said Chester.

An hour's walk brought them to the embassy building.

"The first thing," said Hal, "is to find out if Robard is in."

"And how are you going to do that?" asked Uncle John.

"Simple," replied Hal. "I'll go up and ask."

He approached the door and rang the bell. A servant opened the door.

"Is Herr Robard in?" asked Hal in perfect German.

The man shook his head.

"I have an important message for him," said Hal. "When shall I find him in?"

The servant glanced at him sharply, then leaned close.

"Are you the messenger Herr Robard expects?" he asked, in a low voice.

Hal glanced sharply about him, more for effect than anything else, and replied, speaking softly:

"From the Wilhelmstrasse."

"Good," said the man, nodding his pleasure. "I am instructed to tell you to come back at a little before ten o'clock."

"Will Herr Robard be here then?"

"Possibly not, but you can wait."

"I shall be here," said Hal, and walked down the steps.

He rejoined Chester and Uncle John, who had waited around the corner.

"I was beginning to fear something had happened to you," said Uncle John.

"What luck?" demanded Chester.

"Better than could be expected," said Hal, and repeated the conversation with the servant.

"And who do you suppose this messenger is?" asked Chester.

"A German secret agent," replied Hal decidedly.

"That was the first thought that flashed through my head when he asked me who I was, which is the reason I took a long chance and mentioned the Wilhelmstrasse."

"You seem to have hit the nail on the head," said Chester.

"Which was luck," said Hal.

"Or quick wit," interposed Uncle John.

"Well," said Chester, "what next? And what are we to do while you are in the house? Surely you are not expecting that we shall all be admitted?"

"No," replied Hal, "and my plan is this: I shall reach the house somewhat earlier than the time set, moving up my watch to avoid suspicion should anything be said. Thus I shall make sure that Robard has not returned. I shall wait.

"Now, when the servant leaves the room, I shall, in some manner, raise the window facing the spot where you stood while I went up to the door a moment ago. Then you and Uncle John can come in. Of course, I may not be left in that particular room to wait, but I shall manage some way. I'll cover your entrance with my gun."

"Good," said Chester, "but then what? Will you try to take the papers forcibly or by stealth?"

"Whichever way seems the most likely to succeed," said Hal briefly.

"Something must be left to chance."

"Well," said Chester, "we may as well return to the hotel for a couple of hours. It's early yet."

"Not much," said Uncle John. "I don't want to have to answer any questions. Not me. Let's

go some place else."

"We'll walk about, then," Hal decided.

This was done.

At fifteen minutes to ten o'clock Hal once more mounted the steps to the Austrian embassy. Chester and Uncle John took their places at the spot agreed upon, and waited.

The same servant opened the door for Hal.

"You are early," he said, somewhat suspiciously it seemed to Hal.

"Why, no," replied the lad, manifesting surprise. "I am on the dot, as I always am. Ten o'clock."

"But it is not ten yet," said the man.

Hal drew out his watch and looked at it.

"Ten to the minute," he said, and held it up so the man could see.

"Your watch is wrong," was the reply. "However, I suppose it makes no difference. Come in."

He held the door open while Hal entered, then closed it.

"This way," he said, and led the way down the hall. Fortunately, he turned into a room facing upon the street where Chester and Uncle John waited without, though it was the room beyond the one beneath the window of which they stood. But, Hal noticed, there was a door between the two rooms.

"Ought to be easy enough," he told himself.

"You can wait here for Herr Robard," said the servant, and moved to withdraw.

"This is the Herr Robard's private office, I take it," said Hal.

"You are wrong," was the reply. "His office is just across the hall. But no one is allowed to enter there unless the Herr is with him, and the door is always locked."

"I see," said Hal, mentally thanking the man for the information, which had come a great deal easier than he had expected. "The Herr is a careful man. It is as it should be."

"You can make yourself at home here until he comes," said the servant.

"There are magazines and books. I have other matters to attend to."

"All right," said Hal, for he now wished to get rid of the man without more loss of time; he had gained all the information he could hope for without laying himself open to suspicion.

The man withdrew. Hal glanced at his watch.

"Ten-five," he muttered. "That means ten minutes to ten. Robard may come sooner than expected. I must hurry."

Quietly he arose and silently crossed the room. He tried the knob to the door of the next room. The door was locked. He glanced down. There was a key in the lock, and it turned easily. Hal unlocked the door and passed into the room beyond.

Quickly he crossed to the window, and then paused a moment, listening attentively. There was no sound. Unfastening the catch, the lad raised the window gently. It went up without so much as a sound. Hal poked his head out, and called in a low voice:

"All right."

He stepped back and drew his revolver and took his place in the shadow, commanding a view of both doors to the room.

He heard faint sounds without, and concluded rightly that Chester was giving Uncle John a hand up. A moment later Uncle John's head appeared at the window, and he clambered into the room. He was unable to see Hal in the darkness and called:

"Where are you, Hal?"

"Sh-h-h!" whispered Hal. "Come over here."

Uncle John obeyed silently.

There came a whistle from without. Hal recognized it as that of Chester.

He hurried to the window and peered out.

"What's the matter?" he called.

"The window is too high, I can't reach the sill," was the reply. "Give me a hand."

Hal started to lay down his gun and lend a hand, but thought better of it. He called to Uncle John.

"Help Chester up," he whispered, and again took his position guarding the doors, with drawn revolver.

Uncle John approached the window and leaned out. He seized Chester's uplifted hand, and pulled. A moment later Chester came scrambling through the window.

"A pretty good climb, if you ask me," he said.

At that moment the door from the hall was thrown open, and a man appeared in the doorway. In his hand he held a revolver, which he pointed straight at Uncle John and Chester, who stood in plain sight before the window.

"Hands up!" he called.

There was nothing for it but to obey. Uncle John's and Chester's hands went high in the air.

Hal, well back from the light which streamed through the open door and the window, slunk further back in the darkness. He was unnoticed, and he knew that he held the whip hand.

"So," said the man in the doorway, "burglars, eh? Well, I shall attend to your cases."

With revolver levelled in a steady hand he advanced further into the room.

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