Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Victor Appleton > Moving Picture Boys on the War Front > This page

The Moving Picture Boys on the War Front, a novel by Victor Appleton

Chapter 15. The Front At Last

< Previous
Table of content
Next >

Well, wouldn't this get your----"

"Billiard table!" finished Joe for his chum Blake, who seemed at a loss for a word.

"Why billiard table?" asked Blake.

"Because they've sort of put the English on us!" And Joe laughed at his joke--if it could be called that.

"Huh!" grunted Blake, "I'm glad you feel so about it. But this is fierce! That's what I call it--fierce!"

"Worse than that!" murmured Charlie. "And the worst of it is they won't give us a hint what it's all about."

"There _is_ a good deal of mystery about it," chimed in Joe.

"All but about the fact that we're in a jail, or the next thing to it," added Blake, with a look about the place where he and his chums had been taken from the office of Captain Bedell.

They were actually in custody, and while there were no bars to the doors of their prison, which were of plain, but heavy, English oak, there were bars to the windows. Aside from that, they might be in some rather ordinary hotel suite, for there were three connecting rooms and what passed for a bath, though this seemed to have been added after the place was built.

As a matter of fact, the three boys were held virtually as captives, in a part of the building given over to the secret service work of the war. They had been escorted to the place by the orderly, who had instructions to treat his prisoners with consideration, and he had done that.

"This is one of our--er--best--apartments," he said, with an air of hesitation, as though he had been about to call it a cell but had thought better of it. "I hope you will be comfortable here."

"We might be if we knew what was going to happen to us and what it's all about," returned Blake, with a grim smile.

"That is information I could not give you, were I at liberty to do so, sir," answered the orderly. "Your solicitor will act for you, I have no doubt."

Following the advice of Captain Bedell, the boys had communicated with some of their moving picture friends in London, with the result that a solicitor, or lawyer, as he would be called in the United States, promised to act for the boys. He was soon to call to see them, and, meanwhile, they were waiting in their "apartment."

"I wonder how it all happened?" mused Joe, as he looked from one of the barred windows at the not very cheerful prospect of roofs and chimneys.

"And what is the charge?" asked Charlie. "We can't even find that out."

"It practically amounts to being charged with being spies," said Blake. "That is what I gather from the way we are being treated. We are held as spies!"

"And Uncle Sam is fighting for the Allies!" cried Joe.

"Oh, well, it's all a mistake, of course, and we can explain it as soon as we get a chance and have the United States consul give us a certificate of good character," went on Blake. "That's what we've got to have our lawyer do when he comes--talk with the United States consul."

"Well, I wish he'd hurry and come," remarked Joe. "It is no fun being detained here. I want to get to the front and see some action. Our cameras will get rusty if we don't use them."

"That's right," agreed Macaroni.

It was not until the next day, however, that a solicitor came, explaining that he had been delayed after getting the message from the boys. The lawyer, as Blake and his friends called him, proved to be a genial gentleman who sympathized with the boys.

He had been in New York, knew something about moving pictures, and, best of all, understood the desire of the American youths to be free and to get into action.

"The first thing to be done," said Mr. Dorp, the solicitor, "is to find out the nature of the charge against you, and who made it. Then we will be in a position to act. I'll see Captain Bedell at once."

This he did, with the result that the boys were taken before the officer, who smiled at them, said he was sorry for what had happened, but that he had no choice in the matter.

"As for the nature of the charge against you, it is this," he said. "It was reported to us that you came here to get pictures of British defenses to be sold to Germany, and that your desire to go to the front, to get views of and for the American army, was only a subterfuge to cover your real purpose."

"Who made that charge?" asked Blake.

"It came in a letter to the War Department," was the answer, "and from some one who signed himself Henry Littlefield of New York City. He is in London, and he would appear when wanted, he said."

"May I see that letter?" asked the lawyer, and when it was shown to him he passed it over to the boys, asking if they knew the writer or recognized the handwriting.

And at this point the case of the prosecution, so to speak, fell through. For Blake, with a cry of surprise, drew forth from his pocket another letter, saying:

"Compare the writing of that with the letter denouncing us! Are they not both in the same hand?"

"They seem to be," admitted Captain Bedell, after an inspection.

"From whom is your letter?" asked Mr. Dorp.

"From Levi Labenstein, the man who summoned the submarine to sink the _Jeanne_," answered Blake. "This letter dropped from his pocket when he came to me to borrow the flashlight. I intended to give it back to him, as it is one he wrote to some friend and evidently forgot to mail. It contains nothing of importance, as far as I can see, though it may be in cipher. But this letter, signed with his name, is in the same hand as the one signed 'Henry Littlefield,' denouncing us."

"Then you think it all a plot?" asked Captain Bedell.

"Of course!" cried Joe. "Why didn't you say before, Blake, that you had a letter from this fellow?"

"I didn't attach any importance to it until I saw the letter accusing us. Now the whole thing is clear. He wants us detained here for some reason, and took this means of bringing it about."

"If that is the case, you will soon be cleared," said Captain Bedell.

And the boys soon were. There was no doubt but that the two letters were in the same hand. And when it was explained what part the suspected German had played aboard the steamer and cables from America to the United States consul had vouched for the boys, they were set free with apologies.

And what pleased them still more was Captain Bedell's announcement:

"I also have the pleasure to inform you that the permits allowing you to go to the front have been received. They came yesterday, but, of course, under the circumstances I could not tell you."

"Then may we get on the firing line?" asked Blake.

"As soon as you please. We will do all we can to speed you on your way. It is all we can do to repay for the trouble you have had."

"These are war times, and one can't be too particular," responded Joe. "We don't mind, now that we can get a real start."

"I'd like to get at that fake Jew and the Frenchman who spoiled the films!" murmured Charles.

"Charlie can forgive everything but those spoiled films," remarked Blake, with a chuckle.

"We will try to apprehend the two men," promised Captain Bedell, "but I am afraid it is too late. It may seem strange to you that we held you on the mere evidence of a letter from a man we did not know. But you must remember that the nerves of every one are more or less upset over what has happened. The poison of Germany's spy system had permeated all of us, and nothing is normal. A man often suspects his best friend, so though it may have seemed unusual to you to be arrested, or detained, as we call it, still when all is considered it was not so strange.

"However, you are at liberty to go now, and we will do all we can to help you. I have instructions to set you on your way to the front as soon as you care to go, and every facility will be given you to take all the pictures of your own troops you wish. I regret exceedingly what has happened."

"Oh, let it go!" said Blake cheerfully. "You treated us decently, and, as you say, these are war times."

"Which is my only excuse," said the captain, with a smile. "Now I am going to see if we can not apprehend that German and his French fellow-conspirator."

But, as may be guessed, "Henry Littlefield" was not to be found, nor Lieutenant Secor, nor Levi Labenstein.

"Labenstein probably wrote that letter accusing us and mailed it just to make trouble because we suspected him and Secor," said Blake.

"Well, it's lucky you had that note from him, or you'd never have been able to convince the authorities here that he was a faker," remarked Joe. "I guess he didn't count on that."

"Probably not," agreed Blake. "And now, boys, let's get busy!"

There was much to do after their release. They went back to their hotel and began getting their baggage in shape for the trip to France. Their cameras and reels were released from the custody of the war officials, and with a glad smile Macaroni began overhauling them to see that they had not been damaged on the trip.

"Right as ever!" he remarked, after a test. "Now they can begin the _parlez vous Francaise?_ business as soon as they please."

Two days later the boys embarked for the passage across the Channel, and though it was a desperately rough one, they were, by this time, seasoned travelers and did not mind it.

The journey through France up to the front was anything but pleasant. The train was slow and the cars uncomfortable, but the boys made the best of it, and finally one afternoon, as the queer little engine and cars rolled slowly up to what served for a station, there came to their ears dull boomings.

"Thunder?" asked Joe, for the day was hot and sultry.

"Guns at the front," remarked a French officer, who had been detailed to be their guide the last part of the journey.

"At the front at last! Hurrah!" cried Joe.

"Perhaps you will not feel like cheering when you have been here a week or two," said the French officer.

"Sure we will!" declared Charlie. "We can do something now besides look at London chimney pots. We can get action!"

As the boys looked about on the beautiful little French village where they were to be quartered for some time, it was hard to realize that, a few miles away, men were engaged in deadly strife, that guns were booming, killing and maiming, and that soon they might be looking on the tangled barbed-wire defense of No Man's Land.

But the dull booming, now and then rising to a higher note, told them the grim truth.

They were at the war front at last! _

Read next: Chapter 16. The Firing Line

Read previous: Chapter 14. In Custody

Table of content of Moving Picture Boys on the War Front


Post your review
Your review will be placed after the table of content of this book