In Secret

Robert W. Chambers




Toward the last of May a handsome young man wearing a smile and the uniform of an American Intelligence Officer arrived at Delle, a French village on the Franco-Swiss frontier. 

His credentials being satisfactory he was directed by the Major of Alpinists commanding the place to a small stucco house on the main street. 

Here he inquired for a gentleman named Number Seventy. The gentleman's other name was John Recklow, and he received the Intelligence Officer, locked the door, and seated himself behind his desk with his back to the sunlit window, and one drawer of his desk partly open. 

Credentials being requested, and the request complied with accompanied by a dazzling smile, there ensued a silent interval of some length during which the young man wearing the uniform of an American Intelligence Officer was not at all certain whether Recklow was examining him or the papers of

After a while Recklow nodded: "You came through from Toul, Captain?" 

"From Toul, sir," with the quick smile revealing dazzling teeth. 

"Matters progress?" 

"It is quiet there." 

"So I understand," nodded Recklow. "There's blood on your uniform." 

"A scratch--a spill from my motor-cycle." 

Recklow eyed the cut on the officer's handsome face. One of the young officer's hands was bandaged, too. 

"You've been in action, Captain." 

"No, sir." 

"You wear German shoes." 

The officer's brilliant smile wrinkled his good-looking features: "There was some little loot: I'm wearing my share." 

Recklow nodded and let his cold eyes rest on the identification papers. 

Then, slowly, and without a word, he passed them back over the desk. 

The Intelligence Officer stuffed them carelessly into his side-pocket. 

"I thought I'd come over instead of wiring or 'phoning. Our people have not come through yet, have they?" 

"Which people, sir?" 

"McKay and Miss Erith." 

"No, not yet." 

The officer mused for a moment, then: "They wired me from Paris yesterday, so they're all right so far. You'll see to it personally that they get through the Swiss wire, won't you?" 

"Through or over, sir." 

The Intelligence Officer displayed his mirthful teeth: 

"Thanks. I'm also sending three of my own people through the wire. They'll have their papers in order--here are the duplicates I issued; they'll have their photographs on the originals." 

He fished out a batch of papers and laid them on Recklow's desk. 

"Who are these people?" demanded Recklow. 

"Mine, sir." 


There fell a silence; but Recklow did not examine the papers; he merely pocketed them. 

"I think that's all," said the Intelligence Officer. "You know my name--Captain Herts. In case you wish to communicate just wire my department at Toul. They'll forward anything if I'm away on duty." 

He saluted: Recklow followed him to the door, saw him mount his motor-cycle--a battered American machine--stood there watching until he was out of sight. 

Hour after hour that afternoon Recklow sat in his quiet little house in Delle poring over the duplicate papers. 

About five o'clock he called up Toul by telephone and got the proper department. 

"Yes," came the answer, "Captain Herts went to you this morning on a confidential matter.... No, we don't know when he will return to Toul." 

Recklow hung up, walked slowly out into his little garden and, seating himself on a green bench, took out the three packets of duplicate papers left him by Captain Herts. Then he produced a jeweller's glass and screwed it into his right eye. 

Several days later three people--two men and a young woman--arrived at Delle, were conveyed under military escort to the little house of Mr. Recklow, remained closeted with him until verification of their credentials in duplicate had been accomplished, then they took their departure and, that evening, they put up at the Inn. 

But by the next morning they had disappeared, presumably over the Swiss wire--that being their destination as revealed in their papers. But the English touring-car which brought them still remained in the Inn garage. Recklow spent hours examining it. 

Also the arrival and the departure of these three people was telephoned to Toul by Recklow, but Captain Herts still remained absent from Toul on duty and his department knew nothing about the details of the highly specialised and confidential business of Captain Herts. 

So John Recklow went back to his garden and waited, and smoked a short, dirty clay pipe, and played with his family of cats. 

Once or twice he went down at night to the French wire. All the sentries were friends of his. 

"Anybody been through?" he inquired. 

The answer was always the same: Nobody had been through as far as the patrol knew. 

"Where the hell," muttered Recklow, "did those three guys go?" 

A nightingale sang as he sauntered homeward. Possibly, being a French nightingale, she was trying to tell him that there were three people lying very still in the thicket near her. 

But men are stupid and nightingales are too busy to bother about trifles when there is courting to be done and nests to be planned and all the anticipated excitement of the coming new moon to preoccupy a love-distracted bird. 

On a warm, sunny day early in June, toward three o'clock in the afternoon, a peloton of French cavalry en vidette from Delle stopped a rather rickety touring-car several kilometres west of the Swiss frontier and examined the sheaf of papers offered for their inspection by the young man who drove the car. 

A yellow-haired girl seated beside him leaned back in her place indifferently to relax her limbs. 

From the time she and the young man had left Glenark in Scotland their progress had been a series of similar interruptions. Everywhere on every road soldiers, constables, military policemen, and gentlemen in mufti had displayed, with varying degrees of civility, a persistent curiosity to inspect such papers as they carried. 

On the Channel transport it was the same; the same from Dieppe to Paris; from Paris to Belfort; and now, here within a pebble's toss of the Swiss frontier, military curiosity concerning their papers apparently remained unquenched. 

The sous-officier of dragoon-lancers sat his splendid horse and gravely inspected the papers, one by one. Behind him a handful of troopers lolled in their saddles, their lances advanced, their horses swishing their tails at the murderous, green-eyed bremsers which, like other bloodthirsty Teutonic vermin, had their origin in Germany, and raided both French and Swiss frontiers to the cruel discomfort of horses and cattle. 

Meanwhile the blond, perplexed boy who was examining the papers of the two motorists, scratched his curly head and rubbed his deeply sunburned nose with a sunburned fist, a visible prey to indecision. Finally, at his slight gesture, his troopers trotted out and formed around the touring-car. 

The boyish sous-officier looked pleasantly at the occupants of the car: "Have the complaisance to follow me--rather slowly if you please," he said; wheeled his horse, and trotted eastward toward the roofs of a little hamlet visible among the trees of the green and rolling countryside. 

The young man threw in his clutch and advanced slowly, the cavalry trotting on either side with lances in stirrup-boots and slanting backward from the arm-loops. 

There was a barrier beyond and some Alpine infantry on guard; and to the left, a paved street and houses. Half-way down this silent little street they halted: the sous-officier dismounted and opened the door of the tonneau, politely assisting the girl to alight. Her companion followed her, and the sous-officier conducted them into a stucco house, the worn limestone step of which gave directly on the grass-grown sidewalk. 

"If your papers are in order, as they appear to be," said the youthful sous-officier, "you are expected in Delle. And if it is you indeed whom we expect, then you will know how to answer properly the questions of a gentleman in the adjoining room who is perhaps expecting you." And the young sous-officier opened a door, bowed them into the room beyond, and closed the door behind them. As they entered this room a civilian of fifty, ruddy, powerfully but trimly built, and wearing his white hair clipped close, rose from a swivel chair behind a desk littered with maps and papers. 

"Good-afternoon," he said in English. "Be seated if you please. And if you will kindly let me have your papers--thank you." 

When the young man and the girl were seated, their suave and ruddy host dropped back onto his swivel chair. For a long while he sat there absently caressing his trim, white moustache, studying their papers with unhurried and minute thoroughness. 

Presently he lifted his cold, greyish eyes but not his head, like a man looking up over eyeglasses: 

"You are this Kay McKay described here?" he inquired pleasantly. But in his very clear, very cold greyish eyes there was something suggesting the terrifying fixity of a tiger's. 

"I am the person described," said the young man quietly. 

"And you," turning only his eyes on the young girl, "are Miss Evelyn Erith?" 

"I am." 

"These, obviously, are your photographs?" 

McKay smiled: "Obviously." 

"Certainly. And all these other documents appear to be in order"--he laid them carelessly on his desk--"IF," he added, "Delle is your ultimate destination and terminal." 

"We go farther," said McKay in a low voice. 

"Not unless you have something further to offer me in the way of credentials," said the ruddy, white-haired Mr. Recklow, smiling his terrifying smile. 

"I might mention a number," began McKay in a voice still lower, "if you are interested in the science of numbers!" 

"Really. And what number do you think might interest me?" 

"Seventy-six--for example." 

"Oh," said the other; "in that case I shall mention the very interesting number, Seventy. And you, Miss Erith?" turning to the yellow-haired girl. "Have you any number to suggest that might interest me?" 

"Seventy-seven," she said composedly. Recklow nodded: 

"Do you happen to believe, either of you, that, at birth, the hours of our lives are already irrevocably numbered?" 

Miss Erith said: "So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." 

Recklow got up, made them a bow, and reseated himself. He touched a handbell; the blond sous-officier entered. 

"Everything is in order; take care of the car; carry the luggage to the two rooms above," said Recklow. 

To McKay and Miss Erith he added: "My name is John Recklow. If you want to rest before you wash up, your rooms are ready. You'll find me here or in the garden behind the house." 

Toward sunset they found Recklow in the little garden, seated alone there on a bench looking up at the eastward mountains with the piercing, detached stare of a bird of prey. When they had seated themselves on the faded-green bench on either side of him he said, still gazing toward the mountains: "It's April up there. Dress warmly." 

"Which is Mount Terrible?" inquired Miss Erith. 

"Those are the lower ridges. The summit is not visible from where we sit," replied Recklow. And, to McKay: "There's some snow there still, I hear." 

McKay's upward-turned face was a grim study. Beyond those limestone shouldering heights his terrible Calvary had begun--a progress that had ended in the wreckage of mind and soul had it not been for Chance and Evelyn Erith. After Mount Terrible, with its grim "Great Secret," had come the horrors of the prison camp at Holzminden and its nameless atrocities, his escape to New York, the Hun cipher orders to "silence him," his miraculous rescue and redemption by the girl at his side--and now their dual mission to probe the mystery of Mount Terrible. 

"McKay," said Recklow, "I don't know what the particular mission may be that brings you and Miss Erith to the Franco-Swiss frontier. I have been merely instructed to carry out your orders whenever you are in touch with me. And I am ready to do so." 

"How much do you know about us?" asked McKay, turning to him an altered face almost marred by hard features which once had been only careworn and stern. 

"I know you escaped from the Holzminden prison-camp in Germany; that you were inhumanly treated there by the Boche; that you entered the United States Intelligence Service; and that, whatever may be your business here, I am to help further it at your request." He looked at the girl: "As concerning Miss Erith, I know only that she is in the same Government service as yourself and that I am to afford her any aid she requests." 

McKay said, slowly: "My orders are to trust you implicitly. On one subject only am I to remain silent--I am not to confide to anybody the particular object which brings us here." 

Recklow nodded: "I understood as much. Also I have been instructed that the Boches are determined to discover your whereabouts and do you in before your mission is accomplished. You, probably, are aware of that, McKay?" 

"Yes, I am." 

"By the way--you know a Captain Herts?" 

"Not personally." 

"You've been in communication with him?" 

"Yes, for some time." 

"Did you wire him from Paris last Thursday?" 


"Where did you wire him?" 

"At his apartment at Toul." 

"All right. He was here on Friday.... Somehow I feel uneasy.... He has a way of smiling too brilliantly.... I suppose, after these experiences I'll remain a suspicious grouch all my life--but his papers were in order... I don't know just why I don't care for that type of man.... You're bound for somewhere or other via Mount Terrible, I understand?" 


"This Captain Herts sent three of his own people over the Swiss wire the other evening. Did you know about it?" 

McKay looked worried: "I'm sorry," he said. "Captain Herts proposed some such assistance but I declined. It wasn't necessary. Two on such a job are plenty; half-a-dozen endanger it." 

Recklow shrugged: "I can't judge, not knowing details. Tell me, if you don't mind; have you been bothered at all so far by Boche agents?" 

"Yes," nodded Evelyn Erith. 

"You've already had some serious trouble?" 

McKay said: "Our ship was torpedoed off Strathlone Head. In Scotland a dozen camouflaged Boches caught me napping in spite of being warned. It was very humiliating, Recklow." 

"You can't trust a soul on this frontier either," returned Recklow with emphasis. "You cannot trust the Swiss on this border. Over ninety per cent. of them are German-Swiss, speak German exclusively along the Alsatian border. They are, I think, loyal Swiss, but their origin, propinquity, customs and all their affiliations incline them toward Germany rather than toward France. 

"I believe, in the event of a Hun deluge, the Swiss on this border, and in the cantons adjoining, would defend their passes to the last man. They really are first of all good Swiss. But," he shrugged, "don't trust their friendship for America or for France; that's all." 

Miss Erith nodded. McKay said: "How about the frontier? I understand both borders are wired now as well as patrolled. Are the wires electrically charged?" 

"No. There was some talk of doing it on both sides, but the French haven't and I don't think the Swiss ever intended to. You can get over almost anywhere with a short ladder or by digging under." He smiled: "In fact," he said, "I took the liberty of having a sapling ladder made for you in case you mean to cross to-night." 

"Many thanks. Yes; we cross to-night." 

"You go by the summit path past the Crucifix on the peak?" 

"No, by the neck of woods under the peak." 

"That might be wiser.... One never knows. ... I'm not quite at ease--Suppose I go as far as the Crucifix with you--" 

"Thanks, no. I know the mountain and the neck of woods around the summit. I shall travel no path to-night." 

There was a silence: Miss Erith's lovely face was turned tranquilly toward the flank of Mount Terrible. Both men looked sideways at her as though thinking the same thing. 

Finally Recklow said: "In the event of trouble--you understand--it means merely detention and internment while you are on Swiss territory. But--if you leave it and go north--" He did not say any more. 

McKay's sombre eyes rested on his in grim comprehension of all that Recklow had left unsaid. Swift and savage as would be the fate of a man caught within German frontiers on any such business as he was now engaged in, the fate of a woman would be unspeakable. 

If Miss Erith noticed or understood the silence between these two men she gave no sign of comprehension. 

Soft, lovely lights lay across the mountains; higher rocks were still ruddy in the rays of the declining sun. 

"Do the Boche planes ever come over?" asked McKay. 

"They did in 1914. But the Swiss stopped it." 

"Our planes--do they violate the frontier at all?" 

"They never have, so far. Tell me, McKay, how about your maps?" 

"Rather inaccurate--excepting one. I drew that myself from memory, and I believe it is fairly correct." 

Recklow unfolded a little map, marked a spot on it with his pencil and passed it to McKay. 

"It's for you," he said. "The sapling ladder lies under the filbert bushes in the gulley where I have marked the boundary. Wait till the patrol passes. Then you have ten minutes. I'll come later and get the ladder if the patrol does not discover it." 

A cat and her kittens came into the garden and Evelyn Erith seated herself on the grass to play with them, an attention gratefully appreciated by that feline family. 

The men watched her with sober faces. Perhaps both were susceptible to her beauty, but there was also about this young American girl in all the freshness of her unmarred youth something that touched them deeply under the circumstances. 

For this clean, wholesome girl was enlisted in a service the dangers of which were peculiarly horrible to her because of the bestial barbarity of the Boche. From the Hun--if ever she fell into their hands--the greatest mercy to be hoped for was a swift death unless she could forestall it with a swifter one from her own pistol carried for that particular purpose. 

The death of youth is always shocking, yet that is an essential part of war. But this was no war within the meaning accepted by civilisation--this crusade of light against darkness, of cleanliness against corruption, this battle of normal minds against the diseased, perverted, and filthy ferocity of a people not merely reverted to honest barbarism, but also mentally mutilated, and now morally imbecile and utterly incompetent to understand the basic truths of that civilisation from which they had relapsed, and from which, God willing, they are to be ultimately and definitely kicked out forever. 

The old mother cat lay on the grass blinking pleasantly at the setting sun; the kittens frisked and played with the grass-stem in Evelyn Erith's fingers, or chased their own ratty little tails in a perfect orgy of feline excitement. 

Long bluish shadows spread delicate traceries on wall and grass; the sweet, persistent whistle of a blackbird intensified the calm of evening. It was hard to associate any thought of violence and of devastation with the blessed sunset calm and the clean fragrance of this land of misty mountains and quiet pasture so innocently aloof from the strife and passion of a dusty, noisy and struggling world. 

Yet the red borders of that accursed land, the bloody altars of which were served by the priests of Baal, lay but a few scant kilometres to the north and east. And their stealthy emissaries were over the border and creeping like vermin among the uncontaminated fields of France. 

"Even here," Recklow was saying, in a voice made low and cautious from habit, "the dirty Boche prowl among us under protean aspects. One can never tell, never trust anybody--what with one thing and another and the Alsatian border so close--and those German-Swiss--always to be suspected and often impossible to distinguish--with their pig-eyes and bushy flat-backed heads--from the genuine Boche. ... Would Miss Erith like to have our little dinner served out here in the garden?" 

Miss Erith was delightfully sure she would. 

It was long after sunset, though still light, when the simple little meal ended; but they lingered over their coffee and cordial, exchanging ideas concerning preparations for their departure, which was now close at hand. 

The lilac bloom faded from mountain and woodland; already meadow and pasture lay veiled under the thickening dusk. The last day-bird had piped its sleepy "lights out"; bats were flying high. When the moon rose the first nightingale acclaimed the pallid lustre that fell in silver pools on walk and wall; and every flower sent forth its scented greeting. 

Kay McKay and Evelyn Erith had been gone for nearly an hour; but Recklow still sat there at the little green table, an unlighted cigarette in his muscular fingers, his head slightly bent as though listening. 

Once he rose as though on some impulse, went into the house, took a roll of fine wire, a small cowbell, a heavy pair of wire clippers and a pocket torch from his desk and pocketed them. A pair of automatic handcuffs he also took, and a dozen clips to fit the brace of pistols strapped under his armpits. 

Then he returned to the garden; and for a long while he sat there, unstirring, just where the wall's shadow lay clean-cut across the grass, listening to the distant tinkle of cattle-bells on the unseen slope of Mount Terrible. 

No shots had come from the patrol along the Franco-Swiss frontier; there was no sound save the ecstatic tumult of the nightingale drunk with moonlight, and, at intervals, the faint sound of a cowbell from those dark and distant pastures. 

To this silent, listening man it seemed certain that his two guests had now safely crossed the boundary at the spot he had marked for McKay on the detail map. Yet he remained profoundly uneasy. 

He waited a few moments longer; heard nothing to alarm him; and then he left the garden, going out by way of the house, and turned to lock the front door behind him. 

At that instant his telephone bell rang and he re-entered the house with a sudden premonition--an odd, unreasonable, but dreadful sort of certainty concerning what he was about to hear. Picking up the instrument he was thinking all the time: "It has to do with that damned Intelligence Officer! There was something wrong with him!" 

There was. 

Clearly over the wire from Toul came the information: "Captain Herts's naked body was discovered an hour ago in a thicket beside the Delle highway. He has been dead two weeks. Therefore the man you saw in Delle was impersonating him. Probably also he was Captain Herts's murderer and was wearing his uniform, carrying his papers, and riding his motor-cycle. Do your best to get him!" 

Recklow, deadly cold and calm, asked a few questions. Then he hung up the instrument, turned and went out, locking the door behind him. 

A few people were in the quiet street; here an Alpine soldier strolling with his sweetheart, there an old cure on his way to his little stone chapel, yonder a peasant in blouse and sabots plodding doggedly along about some detail of belated work that never ends for such as he. A few lanterns set in iron cages projected over ancient doorways, lighting the street but dimly where it lay partly in deep shadow, partly illuminated by the silvery radiance of the moon. 

Recklow turned into an alley smelling of stables, traversed it, and came out behind into a bushy pasture with a cleared space beyond. The place was rather misty now in the moonlight from the vapours of a cold little brook which ran foaming and clattering through it between banks thickset with fern. 

And now Recklow moved very swiftly but quietly, down through the misty, ferny valley to the filbert and hazel thicket just beyond; and went in among the bushes, treading cautiously upon the moist black mould. 

There glimmered the French wires--merely a wide mesh and an ordinary barbed barrier overhead; but the fence was deeply ditched on the Swiss side. A man could climb over it; and Recklow started to do so; and came face to face in the moonlight with the French patrol. The recognition was mutual and noiseless: 

"You passed my two people over?" whispered Recklow. 

"An hour ago, mon Capitaine." 

"You've seen nobody else?" 


"Heard nothing?" 

"Not a sound. They must have gone over the Swiss wire without interference, mon Capitaine." 

"You sometimes talk across with the Swiss sentinels?" 

"Oh, yes, if I'm in that humour. You know, mon Capitaine, that they're like the Boche, only tame." 

"Not all." 

"No, not all. But in a wolf-pack who can excuse sheepdogs? A Boche is always a Boche." 

"All the same, when the Swiss sentry passes, speak to him and hold him while I get my ladder." 

"At your orders, Captain." 

"Listen. I am going over. When I return I shall leave with you a reel of wire and a cowbell. You comprehend? I do not wish anybody else to cross the French wire to-night." 

"C'est bien, mon Capitaine." 

Recklow went down into the bushy gulley. A few moments later the careless Swiss patrol came clumping along, rifle slung, pipe glowing and humming a tune as he passed. Presently the French sentry hailed him across the wire and the Swiss promptly halted for a bit of gossip concerning the pretty girls of Delle. 

But, to Recklow's grim surprise, and before he could emerge from the bushes, no sooner were the two sentries engaged in lively gossip than three dark figures crept out on hands and knees from the long grass at the very base of the Swiss wire and were up the ladder which McKay had left and over it like monkeys before he could have prevented it even if he had dared. 

Each in turn, reaching the top of the wire, set foot on the wooden post and leaped off into darkness--each except the last, who remained poised, then twisted around as though caught by the top barbed strand. 

And Recklow saw the figure was a woman's, and that her short skirt had become entangled in the wire. 

In an instant he was after her; she saw him, strove desperately to free herself, tore her skirt loose, and jumped. And Recklow jumped after her, landing among the wet ferns on his feet and seizing her as she tried to rise from where she had fallen. 

She struggled and fought him in silence, but his iron clutch was on her and he dragged her by main force through the woods parallel with the Swiss wire until, breathless, powerless, impotent, she gave up the battle and suffered him to force her along until they were far beyond earshot of the patrol and of her two companions as well, in case they should return to the wire to look for her. 

For ten minutes, holding her by the arm, he pushed forward up the wooded slope. Then, when it was safe to do so, he halted, jerked her around to face him, and flashed his pocket torch. And he saw a handsome, perspiring, sullen girl, staring at him out of dark eyes dilated by terror or by fury--he was not quite sure which. 

She wore the costume of a peasant of the canton bordering the wire; and she looked like that type of German-Swiss--handsome, sensual, bad-tempered, but not stupid. 

"Well," he said in French, "you can explain yourself now, mademoiselle. Allons! Who and what are you? Dites!" 

"What are you? A robber?" she gasped, jerking her arm free. 

"If you thought so why didn't you call for help?" 

"And be shot at? Do you take me for a fool? What are you--a Douanier then? A smuggler?" 

"You answer ME!" he retorted. "What were you doing--crossing the wire at night?" 

"Can't a girl keep a rendezvous without the custom-agents treating her so barbarously?" she panted, one hand flat on her tumultuous bosom. 

"Oh, that was it, was it?" 

"I do not deny it." 

"Who is your lover--on the French side?" 

"And if he happens to be an Alpinist?"--she shrugged, still breathing fast and irregularly, picking up the torn edge of her wool skirt and fingering the rent. 

"Really. An Alpinist? A rendezvous in Delle, eh? And who were your two friends?" 

"Boys from my canton." 

"Is that so?" 

Her breast still rose and fell unevenly; she turned her pretty, insolent eyes on him: 

"After all, what business is it of yours? Who are you, anyway? If you are French you can do nothing. If you are Swiss take me to the nearest poste." 

"Who were those two men?" repeated Recklow. 

"Ask them." 

"No; I think I'll take you back to France." 

The girl became silent at that but her attitude defied him. Even when he snapped an automatic handcuff over one wrist she smiled incredulously. 

But the jeering expression on her dark, handsome features altered when they approached the Swiss wire. And when Recklow produced a pair of heavy wire-cutters all defiance died out in her face. 

"Make a sound and I'll simply shoot you," he whispered. 

"W-what is it you want with me?" she asked in a ghost of a voice. 

"The truth." 

"I told it." 

"You did not. You are German." 

"Believe what you like, but I am on neutral territory. Let me go." 

"You ARE German! For God's sake admit it or we'll be too late!" 


"Admit it, I say. Do you want those two Americans to get away?" 

"What--Americans?" stammered the girl. "I d-don't know what you mean--" 

Recklow laughed under his breath, unlocked the handcuffs. 

"Echt Deutsch," he whispered in German--"and ZERO-TWO-SIX. A good hint to you!" 

"Waidman's Heil!" said the girl faintly. "O God! what a fright you gave me.... There's a man at Delle--we were warned--Seventy is his number, Recklow--a devil Yankee--" 

"A swine! a fathead, sleeping all day in his garden, too drunk to open despatches!" sneered Recklow. 

"We were warned against him," she insisted. Recklow laughed his contempt of Recklow and spat upon the dead leaves. 

"Stupid one, what then is closest to the Yankee heart? I was sent here to buy this terrible devil Yankee, Recklow. That is how one deals with Yankees. With dollars." 

"Is that why you are here?" 

"And to watch for McKay and the young woman with him!" 

"The Erith woman!" 

"That is her barbarous name, I believe. What is your number?" 

"Four-two-four. Oh, what a fright you gave me. What is your name?" 

"That is against regulations." 

"I know. What is it, all the same.... Mine is Helsa Kampf." 

"Mine is Johann Wolkcer." 

"Wolkcer? Is it Polish?" 

"God knows where we Germans had our origin. ... Who are your companions, Fraulein?" 

"An Irish-American. Jim Macniff, and a British revolutionist, Harry Skelton. Others await us on Mount Terrible--Germans in Swiss uniforms." 

"You'd better keep an eye on Macniff and Skelton," grumbled Recklow. 

"No; they're to be trusted. We nearly caught McKay and the Erith girl in Scotland; they killed four of our people and hurt two others.... Listen, comrade Wolkcer, if a trodden path ascends Mount Terrible, as Skelton pretended, you and I had better look for it. Can you find your way back to where we crossed the wire? The dry bed of the torrent was to have guided us." 

"I know a quicker way," said Recklow. "Come on." 

The girl took his hand confidingly and walked beside him, holding one arm before her face to shield her eyes from branches in the darkness. 

They had gone, perhaps, a dozen paces when a man stepped from behind a great beech-tree, peered after them, then turned and hurried down the slope to where the Swiss wire stretched glistening under the stars. He ran along this wire until he came to the dry bed of a torrent. 

Up this he stumbled under the forest patches of alternate moonlight and shadow until he came to a hard path crossing it on a masonry viaduct. 

"Harry!" he called in a husky, quavering voice, choking for breath. "Cripes, Harry--where in hell are you?" 

"Here, you blighter! What's the bully row? Where's Helsa--" 

"With Recklow!" 


"Double-crossed us!" he whispered; "I seen her! I was huntin' along the fence when I come on them, thick as thieves. She's crossed us; she's hollered! Oh, Cripes, Harry, Helsa has went an' squealed!" 


"Yes, Helsa--I wouldn't 'a' believed it! But I seen 'em. I seen 'em whispering. I seen her take his hand an' lead him up through the trees. She's squealed on us! She's bringing Recklow--" 

"Recklow! Are you sure?" 

"I got closte to 'em. There was enough moonlight to spot him by. I know the cut of him, don't I? That wuz him all right." He wiped his face on his sleeve. "Now what are we goin' to do?" he demanded brokenly. "Where do we get off, Harry?" 

Skelton appeared dazed: 

"The slut," he kept repeating without particular emphasis, "the little slut! I thought she'd fallen for me. I thought she was my girl. And now to do that! And now to go for to do us in like that--" 

"Well, we're all right, ain't we?" quavered Macniff. "We make our getaway all right, don't we? Don't we?" 

"I can't understand--" 

"Say, listen, Harry. To blazes with Helsa! She's hollered and that ends her. But can we make our getaway? And how about them Germans waitin' for us by that there crucifix on top of this mountain? Where do they get off? Does this guy, Recklow, get them?" 

"He can't get six men alone." 

"Well, can't he sic the Swiss onto 'em?" 

A terrible doubt arose in Skelton's mind: "Recklow wouldn't come here alone. He's got his men in these woods! That damn woman fixed all this. It's a plant! She's framed us! What do I care about the Germans on the mountain! To hell with them. I'm going!" 


"Into Alsace. Where do you think?" 

"You gotta cross the mountain, then--or go back into France." 

But neither man dared do that now. There was only one way out, and that lay over Mount Terrible--either directly past the black crucifix towering from its limestone cairn on the windy peak, or just below through a narrow belt of woods. 

"It ain't so bad," muttered Macniff. "If the Germans up there catch McKay and the girl they'll kill 'em and clear out." 

"Yes, but they don't know that the Americans have crossed the wire. The neck of woods is open!" 

"McKay may go over the peak." 

"McKay knows this mountain," grumbled Skelton. "He's a fox, too. You don't think he'd travel an open path, do you? And how can we catch him now? We were to have warned the Germans that the two had crossed the wire and then our only chance was to string out across that neck of woods between the peak and the cliffs. That's the way McKay will travel, not on a path in full moonlight. Aw--I'm sick--what with Helsa doing that to me--I can't get over it!" 

Macniff started nervously and began to run along the path, upward: 

"Beat it, Harry," he called back over his shoulder; "it's the only way out o' this now." 

"God," whimpered Skelton, "if I ever get my hooks on Helsa!" His voice ended in a snivel but his features were white and ferocious as he started running to overtake Macniff. 

Recklow, breathing easily, his iron frame insensible to any fatigue from the swift climb, halted finally at the base of the abrupt slope which marked the beginning of the last ascent to the summit. 

The girl, Helsa, speechless from exertion, came reeling up among the rocks and leaned gasping against a pine. 

"Now," said Recklow, "you can wait here for your two friends. We've come by a short cut and they won't be here for more than half an hour. What's the matter? Are you ill?" for the girl, overcome by the speed of the ascent, had dropped to the ground at the foot of the tree and sat there, her head resting against the trunk. Her eyes were closed and she was breathing convulsively. 

"Are you ill?" he repeated, bending over her. 

She heard him, opened her eyes, then shook her head faintly. 

"All right. You're a brave girl. You'll get your breath in a few minutes. There's no hurry. You can take your time. Your friends will be along in half an hour or so. Wait here for them. I am going on to warn the Germans by the Crucifix that the two Americans are across the Swiss wire." 

The girl, still speechless, wiped the blinding sweat from her eyes and tried to clear the dishevelled hair from her face. Then, with a great effort she found her voice: 

"But the--Americans--will pass--first!" she gasped. "I can't--stay here alone." 

"If they do pass, what of it? They can't see you. Let them pass. We hold the summit and the neck of the woods. Tell that to Macniff and Skelton when they come; that's what I want you here for. I want to cut off the Yankees' retreat. Do you understand?" 

"I--understand," she breathed. 

"You'll carry out my orders?" 

She nodded, strove to straighten up, then with both hands on her breast she sank back utterly exhausted. Recklow looked at her a moment in grim silence, then turned and walked away. 

After a few steps he crossed his arms with a quick, peculiar movement and drew from under his armpits the pair of automatic pistols. 

Like all "forested" forests, the woods on that flank of Mount Terrible were regular and open--big trees with no underbrush and a smooth carpet of needles and leaves under foot. And Recklow now walked on very fast in the dim light until he came to a thinning among the trees where just ahead of him, stars shimmered level in the vast sky-gulf above Alsace. 

Here was the precipice; here the narrow, wooded neck--the only way across the mountain except by the peak path and the Crucifix. 

Now Recklow took from his pockets his spool of very fine wire, attached it low down to a slim young pine, carried it across to the edge of the cliff, and attached the other end to a sapling on the edge of the ledge. On this wire he hung his cowbell and hooked the little clapper inside. 

Then, squatting down on the pine needles, he sat motionless as one of the forest shadows, a pistol in either hand, and his cold grey eyes ablaze. 

So silvery the pools of light from the planets, so depthless the shadows, that the forest around him seemed but a vast mosaic in mother-of-pearl and ebony. 

There was no sound, no murmur of cattle-bells from mountain pastures now, nothing stirring through the magic aisles where the matched columns of beech and pine towered in the perfect symmetry of all planted forests. 

He had not been there very long; the luminous dial of his wrist-watch told him that--when, although he had heard no sound on the soft carpet of pine needles, something suddenly hit the wire and the cowbell tinkled in the darkness. 

Recklow was on his feet in an instant and running south along the wire. It might have been a deer crossing to the eastern slope; it might have been the enemy; he could not tell; he could see nothing stirring. And there seemed to be nothing for him to do but to take his chances. 

"McKay!" he called in a low voice. 

Then, amid the checkered pools of light and shade among the trees a shadow moved. 

"McKay! It's Number Seventy. If it's you, call out your number, because I've got you over my sights and I shoot straight!" 

"Seventy-six and Seventy-seven!" came McKay's cautious voice. "Good heavens, Recklow, why have you come up here?" 

"Don't touch the wire again," Recklow warned him. "Drop flat both of you, and crawl under! Crawl toward my voice!" 

As he spoke he came toward them; and they rose from their knees among the shadows, pistols drawn. 

"There's been some dirty business," said Recklow briefly. "Three enemy spies went over the Swiss wire about an hour after you left Delle. There are half a dozen Boches on the peak by the Crucifix. And that's why I'm here, if you want to know." 

There was a silence. Recklow looked hard at McKay, then at Evelyn Erith, who was standing quietly beside him. 

"Can we get through this neck of woods?" asked McKay calmly. 

"We can hold our own here against a regiment," said Recklow. "No Swiss patrol is likely to cross the summit before daybreak. So if our cowbell jingles again to-night after I have once called halt! --let the Boche have it." To Evelyn he said: "Better step back here behind this ledge." And, when McKay had followed, he told them exactly what had happened. "I'm afraid it's not going to be very easy going for you," he added. 

With the alarming knowledge that they had to do once more with their uncanny enemies of Isla Water, McKay and Evelyn Erith looked at each other rather grimly. Recklow produced his clay pipe, inspected it, but did not venture to light it. 

"I wonder," he said carelessly, "what that she-Boche is doing over yonder by the summit path.... Her name is Helsa.... She's not bad looking," he added in a musing voice--"that young she-Boche. ... I wonder what she's up to now? Her people ought to be along pretty soon if they've travelled by the summit path from Delle." 

They had indeed travelled by the summit path--not ON it, but parallel to it through woods, over rocks, made fearful by what they believed to be the treachery of the girl, Helsa. 

For this reason they dared not take the trodden way, dreading ambush. Yet they had to cross the peak; they dared not remain in a forest where they believed Recklow was hunting them with many men and their renegade comrade, Helsa, to guide them. 

As they toiled upward, Macniff heard Skelton fiercely muttering sometimes, sometimes whining curses on this girl who had betrayed them both--who had betrayed him in particular. Over and over again he repeated his dreary litany: "No, by God, I didn't think she'd do it to me. All I want is to get my hooks on her; that's all I want--just that." 

Toward dawn they had reached the base of the cone where the last rocky slope slanted high above them. 

"Cripes," panted Macniff, "I can't make that over them rocks! I gotta take it by the path. Wot's the matter, Harry? Wot y' lookin' at?" he added, following Skelton's fascinated stare. Then: "Well, f'r Christ's sake!" 

The girl, Helsa, was coming toward them through the trees. 

"Where have you been?" she demanded. "Have you seen the Americans? I've been waiting here beside the path. They haven't passed. I met one of our agents in the woods--there was a misunderstanding at first--" 

She stopped, stepped nearer, peered into Skelton's shadowy face: "Harry! What's the matter? Wh-why do you look at me that way--what are you doing! Let go of me--" 

But Skelton had seized her by one arm and Macniff had her by the other. 

"Are you crazy?" she demanded, struggling between them. 

Skelton spoke first, but she scarcely recognised the voice for his: "Who was that man you were talking to down by the Swiss wire?" 

"I've told you. He's one of us. His name is Wolkcer--" 


"Wolkcer! That is his name--" 

"Spell it backward!" barked Skelton. "We know what you have done to us! You have sold us to Recklow! That's what you done!" 

"W-what!" stammered the girl. But Skelton, inarticulate with rage, began striking her and jerking her about as though he were trying to tear her to pieces. Only when the girl reeled sideways, limp and deathly white under his fury, did he find his voice, or the hoarse unhuman rags of it: 

"Damn you!" he gasped, "you'll sell me out, will you? I'll show you! I'll fix you, you dirty slut--" 

Suddenly he started up the path to the summit dragging the half-conscious girl. Macniff ran along on the other side to help. 

"Wot y' goin' to do with her, Harry?" he panted. "I ain't got no stomach for scraggin' her. I ain't for no knifin'. W'y don't you shove her off the top?" 

But Skelton strode on, half-dragging the girl, and muttering that she had sold him and that he knew how to "fix" a girl who double-crossed him. 

And now the gaunt, black Crucifix came into view, stark against the paling eastern sky with its life-sized piteous figure hanging there under the crown of thorns. 

Macniff looked up at the carved wooden image, then, at a word from Skelton, dropped the girl's limp arm. 

The girl opened her eyes and stood swaying there, dazed. 

Skelton began to laugh in an unearthly way: "Where the hell are you Germans?" he called out. "Come out of your holes, damn you. Here's one of your own kind who's sold us all out to the Yankees!" 

Twice the girl tried to speak but Skelton shook the voice out of her quivering lips as a shadowy figure rose from the scrubby growth behind the Crucifix. Then another rose, another, and many others looming against the sky. 

Macniff had begun to speak in German as they drew around him. Presently Skelton broke in furiously: 

"All right, then! That's the case. She sold us. She sold ME! But she's German. And it's your business. But if you Germans will listen to me you'll shove her against that pile of rocks and shoot her." 

The girl had begun to cry now: "It's a lie! It's a lie!" she sobbed. "If it was Recklow who talked to me I didn't know it. I thought he was one of us, Harry! Don't go away! For God's sake, don't leave me with those men--" 

Macniff sneered as he slouched by her: "They're Germans, ain't they? Wot are you squealin' for?" 

"Harry! Harry!" she wailed--for her own countrymen had her now, held her fast, thrust a dozen pig-eyed scowling visages close to hers, muttering, making animal sounds at her. 

Once she screamed. But Skelton seated himself on a rock, his back toward her, his head buried in his hands. 

To his dull, throbbing ears came now only the heavy trample of boots among the rocks, guttural noises, a wrenching sound, then the clatter of rolling stones. 

Macniff, squatting beside him, muttered uneasily, speculating upon what was being done behind him. But with German justice upon a German he had no desire to interfere, and he had no stomach to witness it, either. 

"Why don't they shoot her and be done?" he murmured huskily. And, later: "I can't make out what they're doing. Can you, Harry?" 

But Skelton neither answered nor stirred. After a while he rose, not looking around, and strode off down the eastern slope, his hands pressed convulsively over his ears. Macniff slouched after him, listening for the end. 

They had gone a mile, perhaps, when Skelton's agonised voice burst its barriers: "I couldn't--I couldn't stand it--to hear the shots!" 

"I ain't heard no shots," remarked Macniff. 

There had been no shots fired.... 

And now in the ghastly light of dawn the Germans on Mount Terrible continued methodically the course of German justice. 

Two of them, burly, huge-fisted, wrenched the Christ from the weather-beaten Crucifix which they had uprooted from the summit of its ancient cairn of rocks, and pulled out the rusty spike-like nails. 

The girl was already half dead when they laid her on the Crucifix and nailed her there. After they had raised the cross and set it on the summit she opened her eyes. 

Several of the Germans laughed, and one of them threw pebbles at her until she died. 

Just before sunrise they went down to explore the neck of woods, but found nobody. The Americans had been gone for a long time. So they went back to the cross where the dead girl hung naked against the sky and wrote on a bit of paper: 

"Here hangs an enemy of Germany." 

And, the Swiss patrol being nearly due, they scattered, moving off singly, through the forest toward the frontier of the great German Empire. 

A little later the east turned gold and the first sunbeam touched the Crucifix on Mount Terrible.  


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