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- The Boy Allies with Haig in Flanders - 5/33 -
"So we do," Hal agreed. "But can you get passports for my friends here?"
"I can manufacture them myself, the same as I did for your friend Stubbs," said the Dutchman quietly, "I need not tell you, however, that should I be discovered I would probably be shot. But why shouldn't I do it? My mother was an English Woman."
"We shall be greatly obliged," said Hal.
Block led the way from the tent.
"Mount your horses," he said. "We'll go to the railroad station and catch a train for Amsterdam. You shall be my guests until the passports are prepared."
Hal was nothing loath. He realized that they had encountered good fortune in the person of Herr Block. He placed implicit confidence in the man, for it was perfectly plain that Block was telling the truth when he said his sympathies were with the Allies."
For two days the three friends were the guests of the young Dutchman at his bachelor apartments in Amsterdam. Upon the morning of the third day, Block presented them with passports properly vised by the Dutch authorities.
"These will get you through," he said quietly.
"We can never thank you enough," declared Hal, quietly. "Some day you will realize what a great thing you have done for the world."
"I realize it now," was the young Dutchman's reply. "I wish I were going with you, but it may be that I can be of more service here."
"Undoubtedly," said Hal, "if this is an example."
"Now don't forget who you are," enjoined Block. "You," to Hal, "are Herr Block, of The Amsterdamer." To Chester, "You are Herr Amusdem" To McKenzie: "You are Herr Spidle, both of The Nederlander. Do not forget. Should you encounter other Dutch correspondents, it will be well for you to stand on your dignity, and to talk to them as little as possible. Now, have you any idea how you are to go about the accomplishment of your mission, whatever it is?"
"No," said Hal, "I haven't. We shall act in accordance with developments."
"Well," said Block, "you may as well be going. The sooner you get there the better. I shall go with you to your train. You will have to show no passports until you get to the frontier."
At the station, Block saw them comfortably installed in a car that would carry them across the border. He shook hands with them.
"Good luck," he said quietly; and added: "Should you, by any chance, come out of Germany a jump ahead of a bayonet, remember you will find temporary, safety in my quarters. Good-bye."
THE GAME OPENS
"You may pass, gentlemen."
The speaker was a German officer. Upon the arrival of the three friends at the railroad terminus just across the German border the officer had made a tour of the train, examining the passports of the passengers. Hal, Chester and McKenzie had extended their passports along with the other passengers, and the German officer had found nothing wrong with them.
As the German took his leave, McKenzie breathed a sigh of relief.
"I was sure he was going to nab us," he said.
"Careful," whispered Hal. "We must do all our talking in German, and we must do very little of that concerning our private affairs. Remember, walls have ears, and I guess that will apply to a railroad car as well as a house."
"Right, Herr Block," said Chester with a smile.
The lads found that by remaining upon their car they would go straight through to Berlin. The train was called the Amsterdam-Berlin express, and, while at the border, it was crowded with troops, there was still a fair sprinkling of passengers bound for the German capital.
It was after dark when the train pulled into Berlin and Hal, Chester, and McKenzie prepared to disembark. As the train stopped, Hal made sure that his revolver was loose in his pocket, settled his hat firmly on his head, and led the way from the car.
As with most travelers in that part of the world at that time, neither was burdened with baggage. Each carried a small portfolio, much used at that time by war correspondents, but they had no other luggage.
"We'll go to the Hotel Bismarck," said Hal.
Although it had been years since either Hal or Chester had been in Berlin, Hal's sense of direction now stood him in good stead. He remembered where the Hotel Bismarck stood as well as though he had been there yesterday.
At the hotel the three registered under their assumed names, and paid a month in advance for a small suite of two rooms.
"We expect to study the internal situation of the city for some time," Hal explained to the clerk, "and we want to feel sure that we shall have a place to stay while we are here."
The three made themselves comfortable in their apartments, and for some time talked quietly. At last Hal gave the word for bed.
"We don't know just how we shall proceed," he said, "but we must be fresh and ready for any eventuality in the morning."
Morning came and with it the three friends were astir. They had an early breakfast, and then Hal announced that he would fare forth alone.
"I'll tell you where I'm going," he said, "so that if anything happens to me you will go ahead with the work, regardless. Remember this. Even though I may get in trouble, your duty will be to get the list, irrespective of what my fate may be. America comes first, you know, Chester."
"Of course," was the latter's quiet reply.
"Well," said Hal, "I am going to the home of the German undersecretary of foreign affairs. I am going to see Mrs. Schweiring."
"Then we shall stay here until you return," he said.
"Very well," Hal agreed. "But if I have not returned by noon, you will know something has happened, and you will proceed about the work with no further thought of me."
He left the room quickly.
He made inquiries at the hotel office, and half an hour later found himself before the residence of the German undersecretary of foreign affairs. He rang the doorbell. A footman answered the ring. Hal announced that he would like to see Mrs. Schweiring.
"Your card," said the footman, allowing him to enter.
"I have no card," said Hal. "You will tell her that Herr Block, of the Dutch newspaper, The Amsterdamer, desires to see her."
The footman bowed and departed. A few moments later he returned, followed by a young woman -- she could not have been more than 18, Hal decided. The young woman approached, and spoke to Hal.
"My mother is unable to see you at this moment, Herr Block," she said. "She has sent me to learn the nature of your business with her."
"I am sorry, fraulein," said Hal gravely, "but my business is with your mother. I cannot confide it to you."
The footman, meantime, had left the room.
The girl stamped her foot a little angrily.
"But mother has no secrets from me," she declared.
"That's the American blood talking now," said Hal to himself. Aloud he replied: "Nevertheless, fraulein, I must again ask to be permitted to speak to your mother."
The girl glanced at him sharply. Then she exclaimed in a low voice:
"You are no Dutchman, mynheer."
Hal started a trifle in spite of himself; then, realizing that this must have betrayed him, he dropped his hand to his pocket, where reposed his revolver.
The girl smiled.
"Have no fear," she said. "I shall say nothing. Can it be you are the one whom mother expects?"
"The best way to find that out," said Hal, "is to summon your mother."
The girl hesitated no longer. She fairly flew from the room. She reappeared a moment later, followed by an older woman.
"This is Herr Block, Mother," she said.
"Very well, Gladys," replied her mother. "Now, if you will leave us alone, and make sure that we are not disturbed."
"I shall stand guard myself," replied the daughter.
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