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- The Boy Allies with Haig in Flanders - 6/33 -
She disappeared into the long hall.
"Now, Herr Block," said Mrs. Schweiring, "you may tell me the nature of your business."
Hal glanced sharply about the room. Then he leaned close.
"I come from the American expeditionary forces in France," he said quietly.
Mrs. Schweiring manifested no surprise.
"I had surmised as much," she returned, "I had looked, however, for a man in civil life rather than a military man; also, I had looked for one farther along in years."
"I am sure you will find that my youth may work to our advantage," said Hal quietly.
"Perhaps. Now tell me in what way I may help."
"Well," said Hal, "I have come, two friends and myself, in an effort to lay hands upon the list of German spies in America -- the list kept by the German prime minister."
Mrs. Schweiring nodded.
"I had supposed as much. It was I who informed the department of state in Washington that such a list exists; but without help and without laying myself open to suspicion, I dared not try to get it. It is desperate work, but we shall see what can be done. Gladys!"
Her daughter re-entered the room in response to this summons.
"Gladys," said her mother, "Herr Block is the man we have been expecting; but he has not come alone. His companions are at the Hotel Bismarck, registered as Herr Spidle and Herr Amusdem. You will have their belongings moved here. They are friends whom you met in Switzerland and who will share our hospitality while here. Do you understand?"
"But we have no belongings," said Hal quietly. "We could not be bothered with excess baggage."
"Then I shall see that you are supplied with necessary articles," said his hostess. "The success of your mission will necessitate it. At any rate," she said, turning again to her daughter, "you will send a car for Herr Block's friends."
The girl nodded and left the room.
"I need not caution you," said Mrs. Schweiring, as she led the way upstairs -- and showed to Hal a suite of three comfortably furnished rooms. "A little slip will spoil all. I shall introduce you to my friends as a Dutch war correspondent who, nevertheless, has in him a strain of German, with a little American blood. I shall represent that you have lived several years in America, but that your heart is with the Fatherland."
"And my friends?" questioned Hal.
"They shall be just what they represent themselves to be."
"Very well," said Hal. "You perhaps know best. But I must, as soon as possible, be introduced either to the prime minister or to one of his trusted assistants."
"I will tell you something," said his hostess. "The list which you seek is no longer in the hands of the prime minister. It is now in possession of General Rentzel, chief of the secret service; and the son of the general comes frequently to see my daughter, Gladys. But we shall talk more later. I will leave you now and see that sufficient wardrobes are procured for you and your friends."
She left the room.
THE BOYS MAKE PROGRESS
It was a merry party that gathered around the dinner table in the home of the German undersecretary of foreign affairs two nights later. But beneath the smiling faces of five members of the party was a suppressed excitement, for this dinner had been given by Mrs. Schweiring for a purpose. The purpose was to introduce Hal, Chester and McKenzie to General Rentzel, chief of the secret service, and his son, Frederick.
Besides these two guests of honor there were present the German minister of foreign affairs and one or two other high diplomats. The boys were in distinguished company and they knew it.
True to her word, Mrs. Schweiring had provided the three friends with an abundant wardrobe, which included evening clothes. Dinner over, Mrs. Schweiring, her daughter Gladys, and the wife of General Rentzel, the only women present, retired while the men produced cigars and cigarettes.
Neither Hal nor Chester smoked, but they felt called upon to accept a cigarette each. McKenzie, however, had no such scruples, and accepted a fat cigar without hesitation.
Hal found himself in conversation with young Captain Rentzel, son of the chief of the secret service.
"I understand you have spent some years in America?" he questioned.
"Why, yes," returned Hal.
"Do you like the country?"
"Not overly much," replied Hal with a shrug. "There are some very nice people there, but they are mostly boors."
"My idea exactly," returned the young German officer, "although I have never been there. Do you think America can do much harm to Germany in this war?"
"Well," said Hal, "given time, yes; but the American people are notoriously slow in such matters. Besides, I understand that there are quite a few German agents at work there now. With enough of them, irreparable injury could be done to the foe before they could prevent it."
"I notice you say foe," said the young German; "Yet you have American blood in your veins."
"A trifle," returned Hal quietly; "not enough to make me lose sight of justice and right."
"Good!" cried the young German. "Listen. It's true that we have many agents abroad, but some of them have fallen under suspicion and consequently will be of no further value. We need more such men who have lived in America and know the customs, and also will not be suspected. By the way, have you an appointment for 10 o'clock?"
"Why, no," said Hal. "Why?"
"Will you go with me at that hour?"
"To my father's quarters. He, as you know, is the chief of the secret service. As such, he has charge of the agents abroad. I thought he might make you a proposition."
"There will be no harm if I am unable to accept, will there?" asked Hal.
"Not a bit," replied the German heartily.
"Then I'll go."
The next hour was spent in general conversation, after which Captain Rentzel arose to take his leave.
"I'm going to run off with one of your friends, Miss Schweiring," he said, indicating Hal.
The others laughed, "Oh, take him and show him about a bit, Frederick," laughed Mrs. Schweiring's husband. "Only be sure that you return him safely."
Hal followed the young captain from the house.
Half an hour later he found himself in the palatial office of the chief of the German secret service.
Hal looked carefully about the room. A long table stood in the center. This apparently was the personal property of General Rentzel. Great easy chairs were scattered about the room. There was a window at the south side, and back, in the center, against the wall, was a large safe.
"Pretty comfortable place," said Hal aloud.
"Rather," agreed the young German. "Father believes in making himself comfortable."
General Rentzel had not arrived yet, but he put in an appearance a few moments later. He manifested no surprise at sight of his son, but he eyed Hal askance.
"I thought you young fellows had gone to look about the city," he said.
"No, sir," replied his son. "I invited. Herr Block here to see you, sir."
"You did? Why?"
The son explained as quickly as. possible.
"Hm-m," muttered the general when his son had concluded, eying Hal sharply. "How do I know you are what you represent yourself to be,
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