Before he finally arrested him, “Jimmie” Sniffen had seen the man with the golf-cap, and the blue eyes that laughed at you, three times. Twice, unexpectedly, he had come upon him in a wood road and once on Round Hill where the stranger was pretending to watch the sunset.
Jimmie knew people do not climb hills merely to look at sunsets, so he was not deceived. He guessed the man was a German spy seeking gun sites, and secretly vowed to “stalk” him. From that moment, had the stranger known it, he was as good as dead. For a boy scout with badges on his sleeve for “stalking” and “path-finding,” not to boast of others for “gardening” and “cooking,” can outwit any spy.
Even had General Baden-Powell remained in Mafeking and not invented the boy scout, Jimmie Sniffen would have been one. Because by birth he was a boy, and by inheritance a scout. In Westchester County the Sniffens are one of the county families. If it isn’t a Sarles, it’s a Sniffen; and with Brundages, Platts, and Jays, the Sniffens date back to when the acres of the first Charles Ferris ran from the Boston post road to the coach road to Albany, and when the first Gouverneur Morris stood on one of his hills and saw the Indian canoes in the Hudson and in the Sound and rejoiced that all the land between belonged to him.
If you do not believe in heredity, the fact that Jimmie’s great-great-grandfather was a scout for General Washington and hunted deer, and even bear, over exactly the same hills where Jimmie hunted weasels will count for nothing. It will not explain why to Jimmie, from Tarrytown to Port Chester, the hills, the roads, the woods, and the cowpaths, caves, streams, and springs hidden in the woods were as familiar as his own kitchen garden.
Nor explain why, when you could not see a Pease and Elliman “For Sale” sign nailed to a tree, Jimmie could see in the highest branches a last year’s bird’s nest.
Or why, when he was out alone playing Indians and had sunk his scout’s axe into a fallen log and then scalped the log, he felt that once before in those same woods he had trailed that same Indian, and with his own tomahawk split open his skull. Sometimes when he knelt to drink at a secret spring in the forest, the autumn leaves would crackle and he would raise his eyes fearing to see a panther facing him.
“But there ain’t no panthers in Westchester,” Jimmie would reassure himself. And in the distance the roar of an automobile climbing a hill with the muffler open would seem to suggest he was right. But still Jimmie remembered once before he had knelt at that same spring, and that when he raised his eyes he had faced a crouching panther. “Mebbe dad told me it happened to grandpop,” Jimmie would explain, “or I dreamed it, or, mebbe, I read it in a story book.”
The “German spy” mania attacked Round Hill after the visit to the boy scouts of Clavering Gould, the war correspondent. He was spending the week-end with “Squire” Harry Van Vorst, and as young Van Vorst, besides being a justice of the peace and a Master of Beagles and President of the Country Club, was also a local “councilman” for the Round Hill Scouts, he brought his guest to a camp-fire meeting to talk to them. In deference to his audience, Gould told them of the boy scouts he had seen in Belgium and of the part they were playing in the great war. It was his peroration that made trouble.
“And any day,” he assured his audience, “this country may be at war with Germany; and every one of you boys will be expected to do his bit. You can begin now. When the Germans land it will be near New Haven, or New Bedford. They will first capture the munition works at Springfield, Hartford, and Watervliet so as to make sure of their ammunition, and then they will start for New York City. They will follow the New Haven and New York Central railroads, and march straight through this village.
I haven’t the least doubt,” exclaimed the enthusiastic war prophet, “that at this moment German spies are as thick in Westchester as blackberries. They are here to select camp sites and gun positions, to find out which of these hills enfilade the others and to learn to what extent their armies can live on the country. They are counting the cows, the horses, the barns where fodder is stored; and they are marking down on their maps the wells and streams.”
As though at that moment a German spy might be crouching behind the door, Mr. Gould spoke in a whisper. “Keep your eyes open!” he commanded. “Watch every stranger. If he acts suspiciously, get word quick to your sheriff, or to Judge Van Vorst here. Remember the scouts’ motto, ‘Be prepared!’”
That night as the scouts walked home, behind each wall and hayrick they saw spiked helmets.
Young Van Vorst was extremely annoyed.
“Next time you talk to my scouts,” he declared, “you’ll talk on ‘Votes for Women.’ After what you said to-night every real-estate agent who dares open a map will be arrested. We’re not trying to drive people away from Westchester, we’re trying to sell them building sites.”
“You are not!” retorted his friend, “you own half the county now, and you’re trying to buy the other half.”
“I’m a justice of the peace,” explained Van Vorst. “I don’t know why I am, except that they wished it on me. All I get out of it is trouble. The Italians make charges against my best friends for over-speeding, and I have to fine them, and my best friends bring charges against the Italians for poaching, and when I fine the Italians they send me Black Hand letters.
And now every day I’ll be asked to issue a warrant for a German spy who is selecting gun sites. And he will turn out to be a millionaire who is tired of living at the Ritz-Carlton and wants to ‘own his own home’ and his own golf-links. And he’ll be so hot at being arrested that he’ll take his millions to Long Island and try to break into the Piping Rock Club. And it will be your fault!”
The young justice of the peace was right. At least so far as Jimmie Sniffen was concerned, the words of the war prophet had filled one mind with unrest. In the past Jimmie’s idea of a holiday had been to spend it scouting in the woods. In this pleasure he was selfish. He did not want companions who talked, and trampled upon the dead leaves so that they frightened the wild animals and gave the Indians warning. Jimmie liked to pretend. He liked to fill the woods with wary and hostile adversaries.
It was a game of his own inventing. If he crept to the top of a hill and, on peering over it, surprised a fat woodchuck, he pretended the woodchuck was a bear, weighing two hundred pounds; if, himself unobserved, he could lie and watch, off its guard, a rabbit, squirrel, or, most difficult of all, a crow, it became a deer and that night at supper Jimmie made believe he was eating venison. Sometimes he was a scout of the Continental Army and carried despatches to General Washington.
The rules of that game were that if any man ploughing in the fields, or cutting trees in the woods, or even approaching along the same road, saw Jimmie before Jimmie saw him, Jimmie was taken prisoner, and before sunrise was shot as a spy. He was seldom shot. Or else why on his sleeve was the badge for “stalking”? But always to have to make believe became monotonous. Even “dry shopping” along the Rue de la Paix, when you pretend you can have anything you see in any window, leaves one just as rich, but unsatisfied. So the advice of the war correspondent to seek out German spies came to Jimmie like a day at the circus, like a week at the Danbury Fair.
It not only was a call to arms, to protect his flag and home, but a chance to play in earnest the game in which he most delighted. No longer need he pretend. No longer need he waste his energies in watching, unobserved, a greedy rabbit rob a carrot field. The game now was his fellow-man and his enemy; not only his enemy, but the enemy of his country.
In his first effort Jimmie was not entirely successful. The man looked the part perfectly; he wore an auburn beard, disguising spectacles, and he carried a suspicious knapsack. But he turned out to be a professor from the Museum of Natural History, who wanted to dig for Indian arrow-heads. And when Jimmie threatened to arrest him, the indignant gentleman arrested Jimmie. Jimmie escaped only by leading the professor to a secret cave of his own, though on some one else’s property, where one not only could dig for arrow-heads, but find them. The professor was delighted, but for Jimmie it was a great disappointment. The week following Jimmie was again disappointed.
On the bank of the Kensico Reservoir, he came upon a man who was acting in a mysterious and suspicious manner. He was making notes in a book, and his runabout which he had concealed in a wood road was stuffed with blue-prints. It did not take Jimmie long to guess his purpose. He was planning to blow up the Kensico dam, and cut off the water supply of New York City.
Seven millions of people without water! Without firing a shot, New York must surrender! At the thought Jimmie shuddered, and at the risk of his life, by clinging to the tail of a motor truck, he followed the runabout into White Plains. But there it developed the mysterious stranger, so far from wishing to destroy the Kensico dam, was the State Engineer who had built it, and, also, a large part of the Panama Canal. Nor in his third effort was Jimmie more successful. From the heights of Pound Ridge he discovered on a hilltop below him a man working along upon a basin of concrete.
The man was a German-American, and already on Jimmie’s list of “suspects.” That for the use of the German artillery he was preparing a concrete bed for a siege gun was only too evident. But closer investigation proved that the concrete was only two inches thick. And the hyphenated one explained that the basin was built over a spring, in the waters of which he planned to erect a fountain and raise goldfish. It was a bitter blow. Jimmie became discouraged. Meeting Judge Van Vorst one day in the road he told him his troubles. The young judge proved unsympathetic. “My advice to you, Jimmie,” he said, “is to go slow. Accusing everybody of espionage is a very serious matter. If you call a man a spy, it’s sometimes hard for him to disprove it; and the name sticks. So, go slow–very slow. Before you arrest any more people, come to me first for a warrant.”
So, the next time Jimmie proceeded with caution.
Besides being a farmer in a small way, Jimmie’s father was a handy man with tools. He had no union card, but, in laying shingles along a blue chalk line, few were as expert. It was August, there was no school, and Jimmie was carrying a dinner-pail to where his father was at work on a new barn. He made a cross-cut through the woods, and came upon the young man in the golf-cap.
The stranger nodded, and his eyes, which seemed to be always laughing, smiled pleasantly. But he was deeply tanned, and, from the waist up, held himself like a soldier, so, at once, Jimmie mistrusted him. Early the next morning Jimmie met him again. It had not been raining, but the clothes of the young man were damp. Jimmie guessed that while the dew was still on the leaves the young man had been forcing his way through underbrush. The stranger must have remembered Jimmie, for he laughed and exclaimed:
“Ah, my friend with the dinner-pail! It’s luck you haven’t got it now, or I’d hold you up. I’m starving!”
Jimmie smiled in sympathy. “It’s early to be hungry,” said Jimmie; “when did you have your breakfast?”
“I didn’t,” laughed the young man. “I went out to walk up an appetite, and I lost myself. But I haven’t lost my appetite. Which is the shortest way back to Bedford?”
“The first road to your right,” said Jimmie.
“Is it far?” asked the stranger anxiously. That he was very hungry was evident.
“It’s a half-hour’s walk,” said Jimmie.
“If I live that long,” corrected the young man; and stepped out briskly.
Jimmie knew that within a hundred yards a turn in the road would shut him from sight. So, he gave the stranger time to walk that distance, and then, diving into the wood that lined the road, “stalked” him. From behind a tree he saw the stranger turn and look back, and seeing no one in the road behind him, also leave it and plunge into the woods.
He had not turned toward Bedford; he had turned to the left. Like a runner stealing bases, Jimmie slipped from tree to tree. Ahead of him he heard the stranger trampling upon dead twigs, moving rapidly as one who knew his way. At times through the branches Jimmie could see the broad shoulders of the stranger, and again could follow his progress only by the noise of the crackling twigs.
When the noises ceased, Jimmie guessed the stranger had reached the wood road, grass-grown and moss-covered, that led to Middle Patent. So, he ran at right angles until he also reached it, and as now he was close to where it entered the main road, he approached warily. But he was too late. There was a sound like the whir of a rising partridge, and ahead of him from where it had been hidden, a gray touring-car leaped into the highway. The stranger was at the wheel. Throwing behind it a cloud of dust, the car raced toward Greenwich. Jimmie had time to note only that it bore a Connecticut State license; that in the wheel-ruts the tires printed little V’s, like arrow-heads.
For a week Jimmie saw nothing of the spy, but for many hot and dusty miles he stalked arrow-heads. They lured him north, they lured him south, they were stamped in soft asphalt, in mud, dust, and fresh-spread tarvia. Wherever Jimmie walked, arrow-heads ran before. In his sleep as in his copy-book, he saw endless chains of V’s. But not once could he catch up with the wheels that printed them. A week later, just at sunset as he passed below Round Hill, he saw the stranger on top of it.
On the skyline, in silhouette against the sinking sun, he was as conspicuous as a flagstaff. But to approach him was impossible. For acres Round Hill offered no other cover than stubble. It was as bald as a skull. Until the stranger chose to descend, Jimmie must wait. And the stranger was in no haste. The sun sank and from the west Jimmie saw him turn his face east toward the Sound. A storm was gathering, drops of rain began to splash and as the sky grew black the figure on the hilltop faded into the darkness. And then, at the very spot where Jimmie had last seen it, there suddenly flared two tiny flashes of fire. Jimmie leaped from cover.
It was no longer to be endured. The spy was signaling. The time for caution had passed, now was the time to act. Jimmie raced to the top of the hill, and found it empty. He plunged down it, vaulted a stone wall, forced his way through a tangle of saplings, and held his breath to listen. Just beyond him, over a jumble of rocks, a hidden stream was tripping and tumbling. Joyfully it laughed and gurgled. Jimmie turned hot. It sounded as though from the darkness the spy mocked him. Jimmie shook his fist at the enshrouding darkness. Above the tumult of the coming storm and the tossing tree-tops, he raised his voice.
“You wait!” he shouted. “I’ll get you yet! Next time, I’ll bring a gun.”
Next time was the next morning. There had been a hawk hovering over the chicken yard, and Jimmie used that fact to explain his borrowing the family shotgun. He loaded it with buckshot, and, in the pocket of his shirt buttoned his license to “hunt, pursue and kill, to take with traps or other devices.”
He remembered that Judge Van Vorst had warned him, before he arrested more spies, to come to him for a warrant. But with an impatient shake of the head Jimmie tossed the recollection from him. After what he had seen he could not possibly be again mistaken. He did not need a warrant. What he had seen was his warrant–plus the shotgun.
As a “pathfinder” should, he planned to take up the trail where he had lost it, but, before he reached Round Hill, he found a warmer trail. Before him, stamped clearly in the road still damp from the rain of the night before, two lines of little arrow-heads pointed the way. They were so fresh that at each twist in the road, lest the car should be just beyond him, Jimmie slackened his steps. After half a mile the scent grew hot.
The tracks were deeper, the arrow-heads more clearly cut, and Jimmie broke into a run. Then, the arrow-heads swung suddenly to the right, and in a clearing at the edge of a wood, were lost. But the tires had pressed deep into the grass, and just inside the wood, he found the car. It was empty. Jimmie was drawn two ways. Should he seek the spy on the nearest hilltop, or, until the owner returned, wait by the car? Between lying in ambush and action, Jimmie preferred action. But, he did not climb the hill nearest the car; he climbed the hill that overlooked that hill.
Flat on the ground, hidden in the goldenrod, he lay motionless. Before him, for fifteen miles stretched hills and tiny valleys. Six miles away to his right rose the stone steeple, and the red roofs of Greenwich. Directly before him were no signs of habitation, only green forests, green fields, gray stone walls, and, where a road ran up-hill, a splash of white, that quivered in the heat. The storm of the night before had washed the air. Each leaf stood by itself. Nothing stirred; and in the glare of the August sun every detail of the landscape was as distinct as those in a colored photograph; and as still.
In his excitement the scout was trembling.
“If he moves,” he sighed happily, “I’ve got him!”
Opposite, across a little valley was the hill at the base of which he had found the car. The slope toward him was bare, but the top was crowned with a thick wood; and along its crest, as though establishing an ancient boundary, ran a stone wall, moss-covered and wrapped in poison-ivy. In places, the branches of the trees, reaching out to the sun, overhung the wall and hid it in black shadows.
Jimmie divided the hill into sectors. He began at the right, and slowly followed the wall. With his eyes he took it apart, stone by stone. Had a chipmunk raised his head, Jimmie would have seen him. So, when from the stone wall, like the reflection of the sun upon a window-pane, something flashed, Jimmie knew he had found his spy. A pair of binoculars had betrayed him. Jimmie now saw him clearly. He sat on the ground at the top of the hill opposite, in the deep shadow of an oak, his back against the stone wall. With the binoculars to his eyes he had leaned too far forward, and upon the glass the sun had flashed a warning.
Jimmie appreciated that his attack must be made from the rear. Backward, like a crab he wriggled free of the goldenrod, and hidden by the contour of the hill, raced down it and into the woods on the hill opposite. When he came to within twenty feet of the oak beneath which he had seen the stranger, he stood erect, and as though avoiding a live wire, stepped on tiptoe to the wall. The stranger still sat against it. The binoculars hung from a cord around his neck. Across his knees was spread a map. He was marking it with a pencil, and as he worked he hummed a tune.
Jimmie knelt, and resting the gun on the top of the wall, covered him.
“Throw up your hands!” he commanded.
The stranger did not start. Except that he raised his eyes he gave no sign that he had heard. His eyes stared across the little sun-filled valley. They were half closed as though in study, as though perplexed by some deep and intricate problem. They appeared to see beyond the sun-filled valley some place of greater moment, some place far distant.
Then the eyes smiled, and slowly, as though his neck were stiff, but still smiling, the stranger turned his head. When he saw the boy, his smile was swept away in waves of surprise, amazement, and disbelief. These were followed instantly by an expression of the most acute alarm.
“Don’t point that thing at me!” shouted the stranger. “Is it loaded?” With his cheek pressed to the stock and his eye squinted down the length of the brown barrel, Jimmie nodded. The stranger flung up his open palms. They accented his expression of amazed incredulity. He seemed to be exclaiming, “Can such things be?”
“Get up!” commanded Jimmie.
With alacrity the stranger rose.
“Walk over there,” ordered the scout. “Walk backward. Stop! Take off those field-glasses and throw them to me.” Without removing his eyes from the gun the stranger lifted the binoculars from his neck and tossed them to the stone wall.
“See here!” he pleaded, “if you’ll only point that damned blunderbuss the other way, you can have the glasses, and my watch, and clothes, and all my money; only don’t―”
Jimmie flushed crimson. “You can’t bribe me,” he growled. At least, he tried to growl, but because his voice was changing, or because he was excited the growl ended in a high squeak. With mortification, Jimmie flushed a deeper crimson. But the stranger was not amused. At Jimmie’s words he seemed rather the more amazed.
“I’m not trying to bribe you,” he protested. “If you don’t want anything, why are you holding me up?”
“I’m not,” returned Jimmie, “I’m arresting you!”
The stranger laughed with relief. Again his eyes smiled. “Oh,” he cried, “I see! Have I been trespassing?”
With a glance Jimmie measured the distance between himself and the stranger. Reassured, he lifted one leg after the other over the wall. “If you try to rush me,” he warned, “I’ll shoot you full of buckshot.”
The stranger took a hasty step backward.
“Don’t worry about that,” he exclaimed. “I’ll not rush you. Why am I arrested?”
Hugging the shotgun with his left arm, Jimmie stopped and lifted the binoculars. He gave them a swift glance, slung them over his shoulder, and again clutched his weapon. His expression was now stern and menacing.
“The name on them,” he accused, “is ‘Weiss, Berlin.’ Is that your name?” The stranger smiled, but corrected himself, and replied gravely, “That’s the name of the firm that makes them.”
Jimmie exclaimed in triumph. “Hah!” he cried, “made in Germany!”
The stranger shook his head.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “Where would a Weiss glass be made?” With polite insistence he repeated, “Would you mind telling me why I am arrested, and who you might happen to be?”
Jimmie did not answer. Again he stooped and picked up the map, and as he did so, for the first time the face of the stranger showed that he was annoyed. Jimmie was not at home with maps. They told him nothing. But the penciled notes on this one made easy reading. At his first glance he saw, “Correct range, 1,800 yards”; “this stream not fordable”; “slope of hill 15 degrees inaccessible for artillery.” “Wire entanglements here”; “forage for five squadrons.”
Jimmie’s eyes flashed. He shoved the map inside his shirt, and with the gun motioned toward the base of the hill. “Keep forty feet ahead of me,” he commanded, “and walk to your car.” The stranger did not seem to hear him. He spoke with irritation.
“I suppose,” he said, “I’ll have to explain to you about that map.”
“Not to me, you won’t,” declared his captor. “You’re going to drive straight to Judge Van Vorst’s, and explain to him!”
The stranger tossed his arms even higher. “Thank God!” he exclaimed gratefully.
With his prisoner Jimmie encountered no further trouble. He made a willing captive. And if in covering the five miles to Judge Van Vorst’s he exceeded the speed limit, the fact that from the rear seat Jimmie held the shotgun against the base of his skull was an extenuating circumstance.
They arrived in the nick of time. In his own car young Van Vorst and a bag of golf clubs were just drawing away from the house. Seeing the car climbing the steep driveway that for a half-mile led from his lodge to his front door, and seeing Jimmie standing in the tonneau brandishing a gun, the Judge hastily descended. The sight of the spy hunter filled him with misgiving, but the sight of him gave Jimmie sweet relief.
Arresting German spies for a small boy is no easy task. For Jimmie the strain was great. And now that he knew he had successfully delivered him into the hands of the law, Jimmie’s heart rose with happiness. The added presence of a butler of magnificent bearing and of an athletic looking chauffeur increased his sense of security. Their presence seemed to afford a feeling of security to the prisoner also. As he brought the car to a halt, he breathed a sigh. It was a sigh of deep relief.
Jimmie fell from the tonneau. In concealing his sense of triumph, he was not entirely successful.
“I got him!” he cried. “I didn’t make no mistake about this one!”
“What one?” demanded Van Vorst.
Jimmie pointed dramatically at his prisoner. With an anxious expression the stranger was tenderly fingering the back of his head. He seemed to wish to assure himself that it was still there.
“That one!” cried Jimmie. “He’s a German spy!”
The patience of Judge Van Vorst fell from him. In his exclamation was indignation, anger, reproach.
“Jimmie!” he cried.
Jimmie thrust into his hand the map. It was his “Exhibit A.” “Look what he’s wrote,” commanded the scout. “It’s all military words. And these are his glasses. I took ’em off him. They’re made in Germany! I been stalking him for a week. He’s a spy!”
When Jimmie thrust the map before his face, Van Vorst had glanced at it. Then he regarded it more closely. As he raised his eyes they showed that he was puzzled.
But he greeted the prisoner politely.
“I’m extremely sorry you’ve been annoyed,” he said. “I’m only glad it’s no worse. He might have shot you. He’s mad over the idea that every stranger he sees―”
The prisoner quickly interrupted.
“Please!” he begged, “don’t blame the boy. He behaved extremely well. Might I speak with you–alone?” he asked.
Judge Van Vorst led the way across the terrace, and to the smoking-room, that served also as his office, and closed the door. The stranger walked directly to the mantelpiece and put his finger on a gold cup.
“I saw your mare win that at Belmont Park,” he said. “She must have been a great loss to you?”
“She was,” said Van Vorst. “The week before she broke her back, I refused three thousand for her. Will you have a cigarette?”
The stranger waved aside the cigarettes.
“I brought you inside,” he said, “because I didn’t want your servants to hear; and because I don’t want to hurt that boy’s feelings. He’s a fine boy; and he’s a damned clever scout. I knew he was following me and I threw him off twice, but to-day he caught me fair. If I really had been a German spy, I couldn’t have got away from him. And I want him to think he has captured a German spy. Because he deserves just as much credit as though he had, and because it’s best he shouldn’t know whom he did capture.”
Van Vorst pointed to the map. “My bet is,” he said, “that you’re an officer of the State militia, taking notes for the fall manœuvres. Am I right?”
The stranger smiled in approval, but shook his head.
“You’re warm,” he said, “but it’s more serious than manœuvres. It’s the Real Thing.” From his pocketbook he took a visiting card and laid it on the table. “I’m ‘Sherry’ McCoy,” he said, “Captain of Artillery in the United States Army.” He nodded to the hand telephone on the table.
“You can call up Governor’s Island and get General Wood or his aide, Captain Dorey, on the phone. They sent me here. Ask them. I’m not picking out gun sites for the Germans; I’m picking out positions of defense for Americans when the Germans come!”
Van Vorst laughed derisively.
“My word!” he exclaimed. “You’re as bad as Jimmie!”
Captain McCoy regarded him with disfavor.
“And you, sir,” he retorted, “are as bad as ninety million other Americans. You won’t believe! When the Germans are shelling this hill, when they’re taking your hunters to pull their cook-wagons, maybe, you’ll believe then.”
“Are you serious?” demanded Van Vorst. “And you an army officer?”
“That’s why I am serious,” returned McCoy. “We know. But when we try to prepare for what is coming, we must do it secretly–in underhand ways, for fear the newspapers will get hold of it and ridicule us, and accuse us of trying to drag the country into war. That’s why we have to prepare under cover. That’s why I’ve had to skulk around these hills like a chicken thief. And,” he added sharply, “that’s why that boy must not know who I am. If he does, the General Staff will get a calling down at Washington, and I’ll have my ears boxed.”
Van Vorst moved to the door.
“He will never learn the truth from me,” he said. “For I will tell him you are to be shot at sunrise.”
“Good!” laughed the Captain. “And tell me his name. If ever we fight over Westchester County, I want that lad for my chief of scouts. And give him this. Tell him to buy a new scout uniform. Tell him it comes from you.”
But no money could reconcile Jimmie to the sentence imposed upon his captive. He received the news with a howl of anguish. “You mustn’t,” he begged; “I never know you’d shoot him! I wouldn’t have caught him if I’d know that. I couldn’t sleep if I thought he was going to be shot at sunrise.” At the prospect of unending nightmares Jimmie’s voice shook with terror. “Make it for twenty years,” he begged. “Make it for ten,” he coaxed, “but, please, promise you won’t shoot him.”
When Van Vorst returned to Captain McCoy, he was smiling, and the butler who followed, bearing a tray and tinkling glasses, was trying not to smile.
“I gave Jimmie your ten dollars,” said Van Vorst, “and made it twenty, and he has gone home. You will be glad to hear that he begged me to spare your life, and that your sentence has been commuted to twenty years in a fortress. I drink to your good fortune.”
“No!” protested Captain McCoy, “we will drink to Jimmie!”
When Captain McCoy had driven away, and his own car and the golf clubs had again been brought to the steps, Judge Van Vorst once more attempted to depart; but he was again delayed.
Other visitors were arriving.
Up the driveway a touring-car approached, and though it limped on a flat tire, it approached at reckless speed. The two men in the front seat were white with dust; their faces, masked by automobile glasses, were indistinguishable. As though preparing for an immediate exit, the car swung in a circle until its nose pointed down the driveway up which it had just come. Raising his silk mask the one beside the driver shouted at Judge Van Vorst. His throat was parched, his voice was hoarse and hot with anger.
“A gray touring-car,” he shouted. “It stopped here. We saw it from that hill. Then the damn tire burst, and we lost our way. Where did he go?”
“Who?” demanded Van Vorst, stiffly, “Captain McCoy?”
The man exploded with an oath. The driver, with a shove of his elbow, silenced him.
“Yes, Captain McCoy,” assented the driver eagerly. “Which way did he go?”
“To New York,” said Van Vorst.
The driver shrieked at his companion.
“Then, he’s doubled back,” he cried. “He’s gone to New Haven.” He stooped and threw in the clutch. The car lurched forward.
A cold terror swept young Van Vorst.
“What do you want with him?” he called. “Who are you?”
Over one shoulder the masked face glared at him. Above the roar of the car the words of the driver were flung back.
“We’re Secret Service from Washington,” he shouted. “He’s from their embassy. He’s a German spy!”
Leaping and throbbing at sixty miles an hour, the car vanished in a curtain of white, whirling dust.