The Boy Who Cried Wolf by Richard Harding
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
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
“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
“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
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
Jimmie smiled in sympathy. “It’s early to be
hungry,” said Jimmie; “when did you have your
“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 signalling. 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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
“I’m not trying to bribe you,” he protested.
“If you don’t want anything, why are you holding me
“I’m not,” returned Jimmie, “I’m
The stranger laughed with relief. Again his eyes smiled.
“Oh,” he cried, “I see! Have I been
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
“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
“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
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
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
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
“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
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
Van Vorst laughed derisively.
“My word!” he exclaimed. “You’re as bad as
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
“Are you serious?” demanded Van Vorst. “And you an
“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
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 knowed you’d
shoot him! I wouldn’t have caught him if I’d knowed
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
“No!” protested Captain McCoy, “we will drink to
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
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
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
Leaping and throbbing at sixty miles an hour, the car vanished in a
curtain of white, whirling dust.