Part 3 out of 3
he would walk back past the Captain. He saluted him every time,
and he watched that bottle just like a starved dog. And every
time the Captain would slowly take hold of the bottle and grin.
And then Louie would walk back again.
"Then once he went a little too close, and the Captain said
something in German, and stuck out his foot, and tripped Louie
up. He fell the length of the apartment; just plunged down
because he wasn't expecting it. Beany was trying to do something
for the sick man on the locker, and I was at the engine. We were
sort of out of the way; and it was a lucky thing, because Louie
went mad then and there, that's all there was to it. I never saw
anything so awful, and neither did Beany. He didn't look human.
He had the bluest eyes you ever saw when he was right, and they
turned red as blood. And his face got dead white, and be showed
all his teeth like a dog does. He had big yellow teeth with
longer ones, like a dog's fangs, at the corners. And say, he was
quicker than a cat! The Captain didn't have a chance to pull his
gun. Louie had him by the arms, and was trying to break him in
two backward. A couple of other men ran to help the Captain, and
that Louie just kicked out back, and doubled them both up, one
after the other, in a corner. Nobody else interfered. I suppose
Louie knew, if he knew anything, that he was a gone goose anyhow,
and he wanted to punish the Captain. They never said a word.
Louie had the Captain's right wrist in his left hand, so the
Captain couldn't shoot, and I saw he was trying to twist the
Captain's right arm so he could break it."
"That Captain was some quick, too," said Beany.
"They tripped and fell, and went rolling all over the place.
That was when I most tipped the boat over. I forgot my levers,
watching them and wondering if we would all get killed before the
thing was over. Once they broke loose and came up, one each side
of the table and the Captain leveled his revolver and pulled the
trigger but it didn't fire. Guess it jammed or something.
Anyhow, in the second that it refused to work, Louie was across
the table and at him again. He was sure mad now. There was
regular froth at the corners of his mouth, and he reached out as
he clinched and clawed the whole side of the Captain's face off.
"Then all at once the Captain got his right arm loose, and he
brought round like lightning, and pressed the muzzle of the
revolver right against Louie's side and bang! off she went.
Louie never spoke, just grunted, and crumpled down on the floor.
The Captain looked at him a minute, and then he dropped into a
chair himself; and I tell you by that time he looked as though he
did need a bracer. He was all in. Louie would have killed him
sure as sure if he hadn't shot him.
"Nobody spoke or said anything. The Captain sat there a long
time, just panting and staring down at Louie. Then he looked at
me, and said, 'He had it coming to him. Can you run that engine
and not turn turtle?"
"And I said, 'Sure!' Then he said something in German to the
men. He talked and talked, but of course we couldn't tell what
he said. Presently four of them took Louie and laid him in the
torpedo chute, and there he was; and nobody paid any more
attention to him than if he wasn't there at all. Gee, it was
A SPY ON BOARD
Porky rubbed a hand across his eyes, as though to shut out a
disagreeable sight. Beany shook his head. The boys evidently
hated the pictures that memory drew.
"Let's have the rest of it, boys," said the Captain of the
Firefly. "We may as well have the whole thing at once."
"Well!" said Porky 'sighing, "that's how things went until
to-day--or I guess it was yesterday, wasn't it? Anyhow, I can't
tell just when anything happened. All I know is that everybody
was just as though they were strung on wires.
"And that Captain got uglier and uglier. He talked German to the
men, and then he would turn around and speak the best English you
ever heard. It seemed awfully funny. He knew a lot of people
back home, all the high-brows, and when he got pretty full, he
would commence to sing. And say he had that Caruso guy lashed to
the mast, I bet. He sang love stuff, and sob stuff, and a lot of
opera stuff that sounded like gargling. Gee, it was great!
"Then he would make me and Beany stand at attention, and he would
tell us all about the German army, and how strong it is, and all
about their navy, and how we just had to be wiped off the map.
The United States, I mean, and he would make us repeat all sorts
of statistics about what the Germans had won and done."
"He said there was one chance in a million of our escaping," said
Beany, "and he wanted us to have a lot of inside dope to tell our
people. Of course it was all brag, almost every bit of it. We
could see one thing. Those fellows were all sore. They didn't
know what at, but they were sore just the same. Our fellows are
never like that."
"You bet they are not!" said Porky, fondly and proudly. "The
difference is plain as the nose on your face. I tell you what I
did do; I made some little drawings of some of the things we
heard. Sort of plans they were talking over. But you can see
the submarine yourselves. You say she is safe."
"Get to what happened this morning--I mean yesterday," said
"Well," said Porky, "first thing we knew, the Captain looked
through the periscope, and then he turned around and told the
others something, and, say, they were pleased to death! You see
they wanted to make up their required number of ships torpedoed,
and get back to port. The Captain called me over, and told me
to look, and there you were, way off, but plain. It was not
really light. We submerged right away, and the Captain told me
to fix some coffee. They wanted coffee nineteen times a day or
so. I went over to the little corner where they cooked what few
things they did cook, and then I happened to think of that bottle.
The one with Anesthetique on it. That looked near enough to
Anesthetic to be the same thing; and I wondered what would happen
if I dumped some of it in the coffee. I didn't know what it was;
but there was a chance anyhow for it to work. It might make 'em
sick if nothing else, and I couldn't seem to see them pegging
away at one of our ships with one or two or three of those
torpedoes, even if I had monkeyed with their tail feathers.
"So I tipped the wink to Beany to kind of hold the center of the
stage, and, say, that was funny! Beany braced up to the Captain,
and saluted and said, 'Is it an American ship out there, sir?'
and the Captain said, 'Sure thing, kiddo!' He could talk just
like anybody, you know. Then Beany looked as though he was going
to cry; and he said, "Can't you make an exception, Capt, let this
one go?' The Captain thought that was a big joke and pretended
to think about it, and finally he said, 'No, I can't see my way
clear to do that; but I'll tell you what we will do. We won't
leave a single boatful to starve. We will destroy every
human-being on the transport and the convoys. I think we will
meet a sister U-boat here this morning, and we will have a, real
"Beany saw I had dumped the stuff in the coffee pot, and he just
hung his head and walked off, the Captain looking after him and
"Gee, I was in a cold chill! I didn't know but the coffee would
taste queer, and then they wouldn't drink it, and would kill us
besides, before we had a chance to report to anybody. And I
didn't dare taste it, for fear it was an instantaneous actor, and
would do for me first. So I just passed the cups, and filled
them up, and trusted to luck. And every man put his down without
a word until it came to the Captain and, he said, 'It was worth
keeping you for a little while. You make real German coffee,
best in the world.' Everybody wanted two cups, and it took all
there was; and the Captain thought that was a scream because
there wasn't any left for Beany and me.
"Well, then, we commenced to wait to see what happened. And
nothing happened. Nothing! The whole shooting match acted
peppy. Beany whispered to me, 'Was it the wrong bottle?' And I
didn't know what to think. I guess we came close enough to fire,
and as soon as the machinery was ready, they swung a torpedo into
the chute right behind that dead sailor, pressed the lever, and
the dead man and the torpedo went shooting out together. Then
they sent out another torpedo; and the Captain, at the periscope,
commenced to talk in German, and the gunner looked and, say, his
eyes bulged! But then something hit us a sort of glancing blow
and we submerged right away. And my word! Just as we got down
there, the Captain turned to the man at the steering gear to
order him to the surface again I guess, and there he was all
doubled over. He was out.
"The Captain took a couple of steps toward him, and a silly kind
of look came into his face, and he just went down in a heap, and
in one minute every man was flat on the floor. Well, there we
were, alone you might say, with that submarine to get to the
surface! And what we don't know about those boats would fill a
"Beany said, 'Get her up if you can, Pork,' and he jumped for
some rope, and commenced to tie everybody up. We didn't know how
long that Anesthetique stuff was apt to work, and we didn't feel
like taking any chances.
"So Beany made a good job of it, and I monkeyed with the steering
gear the way they had told me, and the way I had seen, and up she
came. Beany was just finishing, but I hurried up on deck, and,
say, I thought you were going to do for me, anyhow!"
Porky seemed wholly unconscious of having accomplished anything
out of the usual routine. He leaned back. "So that's all there
is of that," he said.
"When did those fellows wake up?" asked Beany, "or did it kill
Captain Greene laughed. "I am sorry you didn't keep the bottle,"
he said. "Your friends are only just now waking up. It is a
prolonged process, and rather distressing, I should judge."
"I did save the bottle," said Porky. "Here it is, if you want
it. I had to put it in my pocket, because I wanted to get it out
of sight as soon as ever I could.
"Sensible of you," said the Captain. "I will have that bottle
analyzed if there is anything left in it. There may be a new
combination there that will be of value sometimes."
"What else happened!" asked the Colonel.
"Not a thing, sir," said Porky; "don't see why we are so done up,
either. We didn't do much."
"It was a slight nervous strain, I think," said the Captain,
"cooped up there, expecting to be killed."
"Did he threaten you many times?" asked the Colonel.
"Yes, sir, a lot; but we got so we didn't mind much except the
time he did for Heinrich. Then we sort of felt as though it was
getting personal, as you might say. Oh, I'm glad to be out of
The ship's doctor stepped up to Porky and felt his pulse.
"Just a trifle under par yet," he said, arranging Beany's
bandages. "I would suggest another nap or two."
"All right," said the officers and they moved toward the door.
"We aren't sleepy," said Porky. "How could we be sleepy at this
time of day?" He yawned widely. Everybody laughed.
"Just try it and see what you can do in the way of snoring," said
the doctor. "One more good snooze, and you will be ready to
bring in another submarine and some more prisoners."
He left the room, and in two minutes the boys were both asleep.
They were exhausted, with the trying mental exhaustion that
people feel who have undergone great anxiety and danger.
The two Captains and the Colonel went into Captain Greene's cabin
and for a long time talked the matter over. They could hear the
crew and the soldiers making merry. It had been a great
experience; an experience which fortunately had had a good ending.
Already a lot of the boys were writing highly-colored, lengthy
accounts home--accounts which were doomed never to pass the censor!
Colonel Bright was happy as a boy. He chuckled and laughed and
patted his friends on the back. He was so glad to have his two
boys restored to him that he didn't know what to do. He kept
tiptoeing back to look at the boys as they slept. And sleep they
did hour after hour, until their young bodies were renewed and
refreshed. When they finally awoke, it was with the feeling that
they never could sleep again. They went up on deck to take their
usual morning look around. It was not yet time to report to
Colonel Bright. To their great surprise, they were lying outside
a harbor. In the distance they could see through the morning
haze the lines of shipping and the bright tiled roofs of the
houses. There was a feeling of expectation on board the ship.
Porky hailed a sailor and asked where they were.
"In Europe," said the Jacky, smiling, and hurried away.
"In Europe!" repeated Porky. "I bet Colonel Bright will tell
us." They hurried below. But to their eager questions the
Colonel merely repeated the sailor's reply. The boys hurried on
deck again. They stood by the rail, staring at the purple shore,
when they were startled by a shot below, the sound of a scuffle,
and as they turned a man raced past, leaped the rail and was
swallowed by the sea. Scarcely had his head appeared again when
with a rush Captain Greene gained the rail. For a moment he took
aim; a steady, relentless aim. A puff of smoke marked the shot,
and the black head, bobbing on the waves, disappeared. A hand
was raised, and seemed to wave a good-by.
The boys watched breathlessly, then turned to stare at the
Captain, who was peering intently at the water. There was
something in his stern, set face that forbade questioning. For
once they were completely silenced.
When the head, did not come to the surface, the Captain turned
and went hastily down the companionway. The boys looked at each
"What on earth does it all mean?" Porky demanded of no one in
They, too, hurried, down. The door of the Captain's cabin was
ajar. Colonel Bright, very pale, and supported by the purser,
sat opposite the door. When he saw the boys' anxious faces he
nodded, and they went silently to his side.
Then they saw that on the Captain's bunk a form, limp and
ghastly, was stretched out under the hand of the surgeon. It was
the Captain of the Firefly, and as they looked, the surgeon stood
"He is dead," he said briefly. He came around by Colonel Bright,
and assisted him to his feet.
"Better come to your own cabin, sir," he suggested.
"Come, boys," said Colonel Bright. Then to the surgeon, and the
purser: "I am merely scratched. I do not need further
assistance. See you can't do something further for that poor
fellow." He turned and, followed by the boys, walked slowly down
the passage to his own large, comfortable cabin, where he dropped
wearily into a chair, and with a gesture directed the boys to
remove his tunic. No one spoke until he had been partly
undressed, and had laid down on the bunk.
"Well, boys," he said then, with the little twinkling smile they
loved, "I certainly was born lucky! I suppose you are both
simply bursting to know what has happened, and I don't blame you.
I want to say first of all, though, that you have shown a great
deal of discretion; a great deal of discretion indeed.
The boys looked wildly at each other. They were not very strong
on long words, and while they were sure that they were being
praised, they were not sure just exactly what discretion meant.
Beany simpered and let it go at that; Porky mumbled, "Much
Colonel Bright pulled his torn shirt over the spot on his broad
shoulder where a wad of absorbent cotton and a lot of
crisscrossed surgeon's plaster marked the slight wound. He moved
the shoulder curiously. "That will be stiff for a couple of
days, I suppose, but that is all there will be to it. Nothing
but a scratch. Did you see the man go overboard, boys?"
"Yes, sir, we did," said Porky; "but we didn't see who it was.
Was it any one we knew? We saw the Captain shoot him."
"Yes," said Beany of the eagle eye, "it made me feel funny,
somehow. The Captain shot quick. Just bing! and the bullet hit
him, about an inch above the back of his neck just a shade to the
left of the middle of his head."
"Close enough to keep him down below until the day of judgment,"
said the Colonel, sighing. "So you didn't see his face? Well,
boys, if you had, you would have seen a familiar countenance. It
was our second mate; and a spy!"
"What?" cried both boys, startled at the words and tone.
"Just that!" said the Colonel. "We have had a scene, I can tell
you. If one of you will order a cup of coffee for me I will tell
you all about it." He leaned back and closed his eyes. Beany
made for the door; and Porky sat in silence until his brother
returned with a tray of coffee, toast and bacon.
Then while the Colonel ate, they busied themselves about one
thing and another around the cabin, until at last the Colonel set
down the empty coffee cup, and spoke.
"I often wonder," he said, "how you boys learned some of the
great truths that you know."
Porky laughed. "Like not talking when you ate?" he asked. "That
was Mom. She always says that you can't expect to learn anything
from a hungry man."
"A very wise woman," the Colonel said. "She is perfectly right."
He looked at his watch.
"There is a little time, and while I smoke I will tell you all
about the little fuss we have just finished. Yes, boys, the man
you saw killed was the second mate of this ship, and a spy; a
miserable spy. No use wasting pity on him; he got what he
The Colonel scowled.
SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE
Porky and Beany sat perfectly still, staring with round, bulging
eyes at the Colonel. They did not speak. They just sat there
and thought and stared, and stared and thought again. This was
about the most stunning blow of all. They had known the mate
throughout the voyage as a silent, kindly man who had treated
them well but had not made the least impression on them otherwise.
A spy! It couldn't be! Porky was conscious of a wave of horror
as he told himself that there must be some mistake. Not the
second mate! Such a nice man, always pottering about, always
ready to answer questions, always interested in everything,
always and forever asking questions himself, wanting to know
everything about themselves and their home and their plans for
And he had been specially interested in the Colonel--where he was
going and what he was going to do.
Now that the boys, taking time to think about it, happened on
that thought, it was rather funny what an amount of interest the
old fellow had taken in trivial things concerning their beloved
Colonel. But it had gone over the boys' heads because they were
so accustomed to having every one think that the Colonel was
about the whole thing, and to hearing every one talk about him,
that the strange interest of the second mate did not raise a
question in their minds.
They had merely felt the flattered importance that they always
felt about anything and everything concerning the truly great and
simple-minded man whom they were so proud to know and to be with.
For Colonel Bright was a truly great man. They were to learn
that fact more and more as time went on, and as they saw him
tried by circumstances that could only bring out the best and
noblest in men. They saw troubled, perplexed, wounded and
distressed. It was their great good fortune to feel that there
were times when this great man really needed their boyish but
deeply loyal and loving support. It was just as well that the
future, so terrible and so bloodstained, was hidden from their
It is enough for this story that already the boys recognized the
gallant, simple courage and tenderness of the Colonel; enough
that all their lives they were to be strengthened and ennobled by
the example of his straightforward everyday life. When Porky and
Beany had themselves become great men, when, in their turn, boys
looked up to them with admiration and love, they learned to look
back with boundless gratitude to the fate that had led them,
through the Boy Scouts, into the friendship of Colonel Bright.
A faint inkling of this, passed through the minds of the twins as
they sat waiting for the Colonel to begin his story. And each
knew that the other felt it.
The Colonel regarded the boys with twinkling eyes.
"Sort of surprising, isn't it?" he said. "Not that this affair
would ever have come into your scheme of things at all, but for
one thing. I have got you over here, and in some ways it is
positively the worst fool thing I ever pulled off--taking the
responsibility of two kids like you, at a time like this."
"But, Colonel, please!" interrupted Porky. "Don't think I am
fresh, but just this once, while there is no one around, and no
one will know we are lacking in respect to you, sir, as a
superior, please, Colonel, let me tell you--"
"Go on," said the Colonel.
"Well," said Porky, "looks to us as though we were going to land
pretty soon, and we don't know where next nor anything about it;
but please, Colonel, just as long as you can, please let us stick
by you! We have got to; we promised Mrs. Bright; and, besides,
we don't look young, do we, Colonel? Now, honest, we don't!" He
felt of his chin. "The way it looks, we have got to shave pretty
quick, by next year anyhow. And we are tall; we are tall as you;
and we look older when we are good and dirty, and we will be that
mostly over here, I guess. And say, Colonel, we ain't afraid;
"Oh, Lord!" groaned the Colonel. "That's the worst of it! If I
could put a little wholesome fear into your heads, I would feel
better. However, boys, I want your word of honor that you will
never make any serious move without consulting me."
"We promise!" said both boys, and Beany as an after-thought
repeated, "Not any serious in move."
"Then here is where we stand," said the Colonel, as the boys
approached closer to his chair.
"In two hours we will disembark. The harbor is clear, and it is
the first time in two weeks that any transports have been able to
come in as near as this. It is a great chance. I am glad of
this chance to tell you what the outlook is. I have been sent
over here, boys, to work directly with General Pershing. We will
be near and directly at the front all the time if our lives are
spared. I did not know this when we started. It was all in the
sealed orders that our late friend the mate was so anxious to get
into his possession. But about that later. Just what our duties
are to be I cannot tell until I have had a conference with the
General. Here is where you come in. As I understand it now, I
am to be in charge of a wing, not very many miles from
headquarters. I intend to use you as messengers. It is not a
light task. Heaven forgive me if I am the cause of bringing you
to harm! But the fact remains that as I see things, one life,
young or old, is no better than another in this great crisis. It
is up to every human being to do his or her part. Fate has led
you a long ways from home; and in spite of that coming crop of
whiskers, Porky, you are rather young. However, as I said, that
weighs nothing in the balance of necessity. Nothing! Man,
woman, child, we all must help. Man, woman, and child, we have
got to help, and now!
"I may not have another chance to talk to you privately for some
time. A few things are to be impressed on your minds. The first
is this. Take no foolish chances. Don't be foolhardy. We
cannot afford to waste our tools. And in this struggle tools are
what you are, not boys, not human beings that will feel cold, and
heat, and pain and privations; just tools. So take no chances.
"We will go right from the dock to General Pershing. I do not
know where he is. However, after I have seen him, I will know
where to place you. He will tell me if my plan for you as I have
outlined it is a good one. Rest assured that I will keep you as
near me as I possibly can.
"I have told you my first order. No chances other than the
chances of war. The second thing is to keep ourselves as clean
and as well as you possibly can. Take every safeguard that you
can possibly take. You do not want to be on the sick list the
time when I most need you. That's about all, boys. Don't forget
that I am always your friend."
The boys gulped queerly. Then Beany spoke up boldly.
"And don't you forget that we are your friends, too! I read a
piece once in a reader about a lion that was all tied up with
ropes and a mouse happened around and chewed him loose. You are
a colonel, but we are your friends just the same."
The Colonel burst out laughing. "Chew away, old fellow!" he said
when he could speak. "In the meantime let's get ready to leave."
"But, Colonel," wailed Porky, who never forgot anything and who
had an amount of curiosity that later nearly lost the Colonel one
of his "tools," "--but, Colonel, what about the mate?"
"By Jove, I forgot I promised to tell you about him! Well, two
or three times Captain Greene thought his traps looked as though
some one had been going through them, but he had everything
locked up, and special keys made. These were on him night and
day. But, you see, the mate knew a trick worth two of that. As
he had the run of everything, he simply doped the cup of coffee
the Captain always took before going to bed, and, while the man
was under the influence of the drug, he simply went through
things. Fortunately he was unable to find some papers that he
was most anxious to got hold of, and in the meantime the Captain
spoke to the ship's doctor about feeling queer and lazy in the
"Because everybody is suspicious of everything out of the beaten
track these days, the doctor took to watching things a little on
his own hook. He finally analyzed some of the coffee, and that
put him on tile right track. A smart lad, that doctor, I can
tell you! But it looked as though the mate smelled a mouse. For
days the Captain slept normally, while I commenced to get a dose
of the same medicine. I did not know what was happening in the
Captain 's cabin, and no one was watching me. One night the
doctor came in just after I had had my last cigar and sat talking
to me. Blamed if I didn't go to sleep sitting bolt upright
talking to him! He laid me down on the bunk, and my cigar stub
came in for analysis. There was more dope! Fact! Things got
pretty thick along about then. No one suspected the mate, but we
suspected everybody else on the ship almost. Then little things
commenced to happen to the ship's machinery. One little thing
after another broke down. We seemed to be regular bait for
submarines. He had some way of signaling them other than the
ship's wireless. It is certain that he never got hold of that,
and he did not succeed in putting it out of commission if he
tried to do so. We don't know whether he did try or not.
"Then one night or one morning, rather, the doctor was found
unconscious just outside the Captain's door. When he came to, he
said he had felt uneasy about things, because nothing had
happened for several days, so he thought he would take a look
around. He was in his stocking feet, and just as he reached the
Captain's cabin, he saw a form ahead of him against the white
door. He approached cautiously, but could not tell whether the
person saw him or not. He did, all right. As soon as the doctor
was within striking distance, the shadow struck and down went the
doctor. He was hit with some padded weapon a glancing blow that
merely knocked him out for a few hours. If it had struck full--
well, we would have been shy one good doctor.
"When he was all right again, we put our heads together, and
decided to bait the midnight visitor with some bogus papers. Of
course we still did not have the least suspicion as to the real
source of the trouble.
"That mate was in our confidence, and was at all our
consultations. We followed clew after clew suggested by him.
And I will say they were good ones. We found part of the missing
papers sewed into the bedding roll of a soldier who happened to
be saddled with a jaw-breaking German name, the hangover from
some ancestors. We trotted him off to the brig, intending to
execute him later. Then we found a trinket belonging to the
Captain in the pocket of one of the sailors, a Swede. The idea
was, you see, to scatter our attention.
"I don't know where we would have ended if it hadn't been for a
trick of the Captain's. He told the mate, and everybody else he
could get hold of, that he had an ulcerated tooth, and was going
to take a sleeping powder. He had some powdered sugar all fixed
up. The mate was the only man in the cabin at the time, and the
Captain said all at once something came over him as though a
voice had shouted, 'Here is the man!'
"Yet not a line of the fellow's face changed. It was just sheer
intuition. When the mate left the room, the Captain got hold of
the doctor, who was the only one we were really trusting then,
and tipped him off. He in turn came to me and I did my part by
declaring loudly that I was dead tired and was going to turn in.
"Well, boys, at four this morning we caught our bird. The mate,
of all men on the ship! They caught him red-handed, as they say,
at the Captain's locker, and the doctor laid him out with a neat
little tap from a billy, and when he came to we put him through
the third degree. And we overhauled his things and found enough
information to get him a string of German crosses a yard long.
"He was meek as could be; but I know now that was because he
thought he had a good chance to got away somehow. We are near
shore; and it seems he can swim like a duck--a long-distance
champion and all that. He was so very meek about it that we were
a little careless. I know it taught me a lesson. There are only
two places where a spy is safe: in his grave, or in irons; and
he's not very safe then. He watched his chance and when he got a
second's show, he moved like a whirlwind. He knocked his guard
down and grabbed his revolver, all in one jump, shot full at
Captain Greene, missed him but winged me and killed the captain
of the Firefly, poor fellow!
"Then he made for the door with Captain Green after him; and you
know the rest."
"Gee!" said Porky.
"Sakes!" added Beany.
There was a silence. The Colonel looked at his watch. There was
a sound of tramping from above.
"They are getting the men ready to go ashore," he said. "This is
to be the last daylight disembarkation. Better go up and take a
look around, boys. It is worth seeing. Are your things all
"Yes, sir; all ready to pick up," said Porky, "Can't we do
something for you?"
"Not a thing, thank you! This arm does not even burn now. When
you see me on deck, just fall in, and don't let me have to look
for you." He smiled and dismissed them with a nod as the doctor
"Doc," he said as the young man proceeded to put a dressing on
the wounded arm, "there go two, of the most remarkable boys I
have ever known. I expect great things of them sooner or later
if their lives are spared."
And with this prophecy, which was to be fulfilled far sooner than
the Colonel dreamed, the subject was closed.
On deck the boys, with their bags beside them, watched the
orderly rush of disembarkation with the keenest delight. They
were as glad to go ashore as they had been to go aboard in that
far, fair America that they were so proud and happy to call home.
Load after load of men left the side of the great ship, and the
empty boats came dancing back from the great distant docks for
other loads. The men were all happy and excited. The air was
clear and clean as though it had just been washed, as indeed it
had by a heavy rain the night before.
Overhead a couple of great planes circled above the harbor. The
thought that they did not know where they were lent a touch of
unreality and, romance to it all. The boats full of men went
gayly off, the soldiers singing, calling, and whistling back to
their mates still on board.
"Well, we are here!" said Porky soberly.
"Yep!" answered Beany. There was a long silence. Then, "We are
here all right!" he repeated.
"Yep!" said Porky.
"I Wish we could call mom and pop up on a long distance and tell
them we are safe. It's going to be some old time before we see
"Sure is!" agreed Porky, his face growing strangely long at the
thought. "There's one thing we got to remember. We are here,
and they were game to let us come. I didn't realize how game
they were, Beans, but they sure were game! Well, we have got to
pay them up for it, and the only way we can do it, is by first
taking the best care of ourselves that we possibly can, and then
by doing something to make them proud of us. Of course we don't
know what we can do, but something will come up, I know; and it's
up to us to do it."
"You bet we will!" said Beany solemnly. They turned again to
watch the sailors.
Colonel Bright appeared on deck just then, and the boys hurried
to his side, and stood unobtrusively behind him.
The next few hours passed in such a whirl that they were never
clearly defined in the boys' memory. Event followed event with
dizzying rapidity. Short trips on strange, camouflaged little
railroads, alternated with dashes in strange, large, unkempt
automobiles driven by haggard, desperate, cool, young fellows who
looked and were equal to any emergency. Little was said.
Occasionally they were personally conducted by one or two French
officers who talked rapidly in their own tongue to Colonel
Bright, who actually understood what they said, and fired back
remarks almost as rapid as theirs.
"Machine guns!" Beany muttered once to his brother.
As they went on, the country commenced to show devastating effect
of war. By the time darkness fell they were passing through a
torn and tumbled landscape, with here and there a ruined village.
They reached a place finally, unlighted, almost unmarked in the
darkness. The boys wondered at the cleverness of the chauffeur
as he silently rounded a corner and brought his car up to a
ruined gateway, behind which a small squat building showed dimly.
Without a word Colonel Bright went rapidly up the path, the boys
following closely behind, while the orderly carried the Colonel's
A low tap on the door and it opened, disclosing a densely dark
hall or room; the boys could not see enough to tell what it was.
As the door was closed, a flashlight was pressed, and they were
able to follow their guide across the space and through another
corridor to a heavy door. A low tap and this door was opened.
As they entered, a man rose from a desk. He was gray and
grizzled; a man whose keen face and eagle glance ware destined to
live as long as history is written or read, a man in whom America
rests her pride and hopes.
As they entered, he bent his piercing glance upon them; then,
recognizing Colonel Bright, his face was lighted with a bright
smile that suddenly wiped out its lines of care, and he stepped
forward, both hands extended in greeting.
It was General Pershing.
The boys, standing well back in the shadows of the gloomy room,
felt something catch their throats.
France... the firing line... General Pershing...
All at once, they had no doubts, no memories, no homesickness, no
regrets. France; the firing line; General Pershing!
The boys stood rigidly at attention. The room was dark; no one
saw them. It did not matter. Joy and courage and high hopes
filled their hearts.
It was the beginning of their Great Adventure.