Read CHAPTER XIV - DAN HAS VERY “COLD FEET” of Dave Darrin on Mediterranean Service / With Dan Dalzell on European Duty, free online book, by H. Irving Hancock, on ReadCentral.com.

Rap-tap!

That sound brought Dave Darrin out of a sound sleep.  Dan slumbered on.

“Who’s there at this hour of the night?” asked Dave, through the door, in the best Italian he could muster.

“From the ‘Hudson,’” came the answer, in a voice so low that Dave did not recognize it.

“One minute, then.”

Dave slipped back, shaking his chum to rouse him, then drew the curtains around Dalzell’s bed.

In record time Dave drew on his own shirt, slipped into trousers, put on collar, cuffs and tie, and followed this with coat and vest.

Then he stepped to the door, opening it.  Repressing his natural cry of astonishment, Dave silently admitted his visitors, next closed and locked the door.

“Orders from the Admiral,” said Lieutenant Totten, in an undertone, and passed over the envelope.

Stepping under the light which he had hastily turned on, Darrin read his orders.

“Read this, Dan,” said Dave, passing the letter of instructions to his chum, who was now also fully dressed.  “Then I will read it once more, after which we will burn it.”

“Suits me,” commented Dan, when he had finished and was passing back the letter.  “I’ve always wanted to see Paris.”

“You won’t see much of it this time,” smiled Ensign Dave.  “This is business, and nothing else.”

Then Dave tore the letter into strips.  Taking these to the open fireplace he set fire to them.  All three officers watched until the letter had been completely burned.

“And now,” Dave continued, “I will mix this charred paper thoroughly with the ashes that, fortunately, are left in the grate.”

When he had finished, the mixing had been done so well that they would be keen eyes, indeed, that could note the presence of minute particles of burned paper in the grate’s contents.  His next act was to telephone the hotel clerk to send up a time-table.

“We have plenty of time, yet,” smiled Darrin, glancing at his watch, after he had finished consulting the time-table.  “It won’t be the height of comfort to travel to Paris without baggage.  However, when we get there we can buy anything that we may need.”

“It will be great to shop in Paris,” cried Dan, his eyes gleaming.

“Don’t get the idea that we are going to do any running about in Paris,” Dave warned his chum.

“Not even if we have some idle time there?”

“Not even then,” Dave answered.  “I am very sure that neither the Admiral nor the Ambassador would wish us to show ourselves much at the French capital.  We might thereby attract the attention of spies.”

“That is true,” agreed Lieutenant Totten.

Business being now attended to, Dave and Dan had time to finish dressing comfortably.  Then followed a period of waiting.  Later the hotel clerk was asked to summon an automobile.  In this the Paris-bound party, including Runkle, left the hotel, Totten accompanying them.

No sooner, however, had the American party left the hotel than an Italian, crouching in the shadow of a building further along on the same block, whispered to his companion: 

“Telephone Signor Dalny for instructions.”

Within three minutes a second automobile rolled up to the hotel.

“To the railway station first, on the chance of finding the Americans there,” the spy called to the driver.

Dave’s party did not have long to wait at the station.  Totten remained with them to the last, however, that he might be able to report a safe start to the Admiral.

“Don’t look, sir, but coming up behind you, I am certain, is a fellow I saw on the street outside the hotel just before we started,” reported Seaman Runkle.

“Then we are being trailed,” Dave said.

Not until the time came for starting did Lieutenant Totten shake hands hurriedly with his brother officers and leave them, though he still stood near the train.

Dave and Dan sprang into their compartment in one of the cars, Able Seaman Runkle following more slowly.

“There’s that spy fellow getting on the running-board further down the train, sir,” whispered Runkle.

“I expected him,” answered Dave dryly.

“Would you like to lose him, sir?”

“Off the train altogether, do you mean, Runkle?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Can you put him off without hurting him?”

“I think I can get him off, sir, without even scraping one of his knuckles.”

“You’re at liberty to try, Runkle, if you are sure you won’t injure the man.”

As the guard came along, locking the doors, Runkle leaped down to the ground.

“Help, Mr. Totten, help!” called the seaman in a low voice that none the less reached the ears of the departing lieutenant.

Then Runkle moved directly up to the spy leering into his face and making insulting signs that caused the fellow to flush red.

“You’re no good ­savvy?” insisted Runkle in a low tone, making more faces and gestures.

So quickly was it done that the now thoroughly insulted spy, though he did not understand English, leaped at Runkle in a rage.

“He’s going to try to rob me, sir!” cried Runkle, not very effectively dodging the blows that the fellow aimed at him.

“Here, what are you up to?” demanded Totten, also in English, as he reached out to grab the spy’s collar.

In that strong grip the spy writhed, but could not escape.

“Thank you, sir,” cried Runkle, with an unmistakable wink, after which he raced for the car and the compartment in which the two young ensigns waited.

“Lieutenant Totten is holding on to the chap, sir,” announced Runkle gleefully.  “He won’t let him go until the train’s out, either.”

Holding the unlocked door open a crack, Dan Dalzell watched as the train pulled away from the station.

“Totten has him, and is explaining to a policeman,” Dalzell chuckled.  “That spy doesn’t travel with us this trip.”

“What’s the odds?” asked Darrin, after a pause.  “Dalny must belong to a big and clever organization.  He can wire ahead to spies who will board the train later on and follow us into Paris.”

“Then, with your leave, sir, I’ll keep my eye open for spies until we’re back aboard the flagship,” suggested Runkle.

“Very good, so long as you break neither laws nor bones, Runkle,” Dave laughed.

The Americans had the compartment to themselves.  Had all been in uniform Runkle would not have been likely to travel in the same compartment with the young officers, but in citizen’s dress much of discipline could be waived for greater safety.

Though Dan Dalzell did not now have much hope of sight-seeing in Paris, he was able, after dozing until daylight, to gaze interestedly out upon the country through which he was traveling.

Able Seaman Runkle was another absorbed window-gazer.  As for Ensign Dave Darrin, while he caught many interesting glimpses of the scenery, his mind was mainly on the question of how the international plotters were planning to break the friendship between the two strongest nations on earth.

By what means could these plotters sink a British ship, and yet make it appear to be the work of Americans?

Hundreds of miles had been traveled, and one day had swung far on into another before a plausible answer came to Darrin’s mind.

Then Dave fairly jumped ­the thing that Admiral Timworth so dreaded now looked quite easy.

“What’s the matter?” asked Dan, staring at his chum.

“Why?” countered Dave.

“You jumped so hard,” Dan replied.

“I was thinking.”

“Stop it!” advised Danny Grin.  “A little harder thinking than that might wreck the train.”

Dalzell enjoyed every hour of the journey.  In the daylight hours he was busy “taking in” all the country through which the train passed.  In the evening hours, Dan was outside on the platform, at every station, to watch the crowds, large or small.

As for Seaman Runkle, that splendid lad was absorbed, almost to the point of gloom, in watching at every station for a sign of a spy on the train with them.

Before they reached the French-Italian frontier Dave realized, with a start, that Admiral Timworth had failed to provide them with such credentials as would probably be called for in crossing the Italian-French frontier, and that they had forgotten to ask for such papers.  However, at the frontier stop their friend Dandelli, the Italian naval officer, in uniform, almost ran into them.  He was glad to vouch for the pair to the French and Italian guards at that point, and, after some hesitation, Dave and Dan were allowed to proceed into France.

“But be careful to have proper papers when returning, if you come this way,” Dandelli smilingly warned them.

It was seven o’clock on the second morning after leaving Naples when the express reached Paris.

Hardly had the train stopped when Darrin and Dalzell were out and moving through the station.  Seaman Runkle kept at a distance behind them, his sharp eyes searching for any signs of spies.  But Runkle was able to make no report of success when he stepped into the taxicab in which his superior officers sat.

Danny Grin was again busy with his eyes as the taxicab darted through the beautiful streets of the French capital.

“What are you laughing at?” Dave asked suddenly, noting that Dan’s grin was even wider than usual.

“Paris strikes me that way ­that’s all I can tell you,” drawled Dan.

“Do you consider Paris a joke?” demanded Darrin.

“Of course not.  But Paris has the name of being such a gay town ­in peace times, of course.  But at this early hour the city looks actually gray to me.  If the look of the city doesn’t improve, later in the day, I can’t understand how any one can feel like being gay.”

“Paris and the world have managed well enough, in the past, to combine for gayety,” Dave replied.  “Just now, of course, with all the men thinking of war, and so many women wearing black for dear ones they’ve lost at the front, the city can’t show much of its former gayety.  Paris is going through her ordeal of fire.  These are dark days for good old France!”

Suddenly Dan’s face fell grave.

“Now, what’s the matter?” quizzed Darrin.

“I’ve just had a horrible thought,” Dan confessed.  “You haven’t been concealing from me, have you, the fact that, though you had no frontier passport you have a letter or some form of credentials to the American Ambassador?”

“I haven’t anything of the sort,” Dave rejoined, he, too, now looking grave.

“A fine lay-out this is, then,” growled Danny Grin.  “Here we are, going to the American Ambassador on a matter of the utmost delicacy.  We are going to tell him and ask him some of the secrets of the United States government, and we haven’t a scrap of paper to introduce us.  Do you realize what we’ll get?  The Johnny-run-quick!  We’ll get the balluster slide, the ice-pitcher greeting!  Dave, we’re going to land hard on the sidewalk right in front of the Embassy.  And then some frog-eating, Johnny Crapaud policeman will gather us in as disorderly persons!  Fine!”