The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Atlantic
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“You don’t mean they’ll send us to jail?”
“I don’t know. I’ve heard a lot about these foreign police. They’re likely to do anything.”
“And we can’t speak their language,” added Raynor. “That makes it worse.”
“I’m afraid that it does,” agreed Jack. “But hush! here they come.”
Headed by the nosing, sniffing, rough-coated police dogs, held in leashes, the police came running down the street. The boys had outrun them and hoped that by crouching in the shelter of the wall within the iron gate, they could throw them off the track.
But in this, they had calculated without the dogs!
As the dogs came level with the gate, they stopped and sniffed suspiciously. The police behind them began to talk excitedly, waving their arms and talking with their hands as well as their tongues.
“It’s all off now,” whispered Jack.
“Couldn’t we run up that gravel walk and get back of the house?” breathed Raynor.
Jack shook his head. He didn’t dare to talk.
Suddenly the leader of the police squad pointed to the iron gate.
“Open it and search the house and grounds thoroughly,” he said in French. “These are desperate criminals, it is clear. Great credit will come to us, mon braves, can we catch them.”
The iron gate was pushed open.
The next moment the two American boys with beating hearts stepped forward and faced this body of men, who, it was plain, believed Jack and his chum to be miscreants of the blackest sort.
RAYNOR’S UNLUCKY POCKET
It was the most unpleasant predicament of his life in which Jack now found himself. Naturally, his chum felt the same way about it. The irony of the situation was irritating.
Having chased away, at the risk of their own lives, some desperate crooks, the lads who had done all this found themselves accused of being nefarious characters.
“They are Anglise,” exclaimed one of the men as he turned a bull’s-eye lantern on them.
“No, sir, we are not. We are Americans,” exclaimed Jack proudly.
The leader of the gendarmes laughed in an amused way.
“Your country should be proud of you,” he said in good English with a provoking sarcasm.
In fact, neither Jack nor Raynor looked at his best just then. Their caps were gone, lost in the struggle with the would-be robbers, their hair was tousled, perspiration streamed down their faces and their garments were torn and dusty.
Jack felt all this, and the knowledge of it did not tend to cheer him. Had he been a policeman and known no more of the facts than did the gendarmes, he felt that he would have been justified in acting in the same way. But he determined to try to explain the case.
“We are off the American tank steamer Ajax,” he said. “To-night we had an important errand in this section of the city. On our way back to the ship we heard screams, and investigated. We found three men trying to rob an old lady and a younger one who were seated in the closed part of a blue limousine.
“After a struggle we disarmed them and put them to flight.Just as you people came up, the chauffeur, who ran away during the fight, reappeared, jumped into his seat and drove off. We were in a hurry to get back to our ship and so, foolishly, as I can see now, we ran off, thinking that if we stayed we might be detained and questioned.”
“Is that all?” asked the officer calmly.
“That is all,” responded Jack.
“It is enough.”
“Enough for what?” The man’s tone nettled Jack in spite of himself.
“Enough to secure you both a lodging in the prison of the city to-night.”
The boys looked aghast.
“What! Do you mean to make us prisoners and lock us up?” asked Jack, who had hoped that at the worst nothing more would be done than to question them and, having ascertained the truth of their stories, set them free.
The officer nodded and then gave a brisk command. At his words, a policeman took hold of both boys by the right and left arms, twisting them back so that if they made any great struggle to escape, their arms would be broken.
It was not till then that the full seriousness of their positions broke over the boys. Raynor gave a wrench to free himself of the grip of the police, but an excruciating pain that followed made him quickly desist.
“Keep cool, old fellow,” advised Jack, “this will all be straightened out.”
Then he turned to the English-speaking policeman.
“Of course we can send a message to the ship, and then you can speedily ascertain that we are telling the truth and set us free,” he said bravely, but with a sinking heart.
To his dismay the reply was a decided negative.
“You will be allowed to tell your story to the examining magistrate in the morning,” he said coldly. “And in the meantime, allow me to inform you that if it isn’t any more probable than the one you told me, – well – ”
He shrugged his shoulders and twisted his sharp-pointed, little black mustache.
“But, great heavens, man, it’s the truth!” burst out Jack.
“No doubt, no doubt. All our prisoners tell us that,” was the reply.
Suddenly the little officer’s eyes fell on Raynor’s coat. It bulged conspicuously in one of the pockets. He stepped quickly to the American lad’s side and, with a cry of triumph, drew out a revolver.
It was the one Raynor had taken from the foot-pad; but its discovery made things look black for the boys. The officer’s eyes narrowed. He looked at them with a sneer.
“So,” he said, holding up the pistol, “you two honest, law-abiding lads carry pistols abroad at night! This discovery alone, messieurs, proves that your story is a concoction from beginning to end. If you really come off a ship, you are samples of the sort of sailors we don’t want here.”
Jack tried in vain to be heard, but a wave of the hand enjoining silence and a crisp command to the subordinate police silenced him.
The next moment, held as if they had been desperate characters, the two boys found themselves, under armed guard, being marched through the sleeping city of Antwerp to prison cells.
Here was a fine end to their evening of adventure. But protests, they knew, would be worse than silence, and so they submitted to being ignominiously marched along without uttering a word. Beside them strutted the little officer, vastly proud of his “important captures,” word of which he took care reached the newspapers that night.
IN DURANCE VILE
The boys passed a sleepless night in a none too clean cell. A sentry paced up and down in front of the bars, as if they stood committed for some heinous offense. To keep their spirits up, they tried to make light of the affair. But in that dreary place, with the stone-flagged floor and the steel grating, it was pretty hard to be lively.
“Never mind; it won’t last long, and think what a laugh we’ll have on these fool police once we are out,” said Jack with a dismal attempt at a chuckle.
“Yes; but in the meantime, they have the laugh on us,” objected Raynor with grim humor. “Anyhow, I’m not sorry. Those ruffians would certainly have robbed those two women if we hadn’t done something,” he added.
“We made our mistake in not standing our ground and facing the police,” decided Jack.
“I guess they’d have gathered us in on general principles, we being the only people in sight. Their motto seems to be, ‘We’ve got to collar someone and it might as well be you.’”
“That’s the way it appears to be,” agreed Jack with a sigh.
It seemed as if that night would never pass. But, like everything else, it came to an end at last. With a great clanking and parade of police, the boys were marched forth and ordered into a covered wagon. Then they were jolted off over the cobbled streets and finally ordered to alight in front of a building that looked as if the old burgomasters of the place might have transacted business there.
It was, in fact, one of the ancient guild-houses of the city, and bore a coat of arms on its ornate, time-stained front. Inside, it was cool and dark, with scrupulously clean floors and furnishings. Had the boys been in any more pleasant situation, they would have admired the quaint old carved beams and the stone-work enriched by clever, bygone masons’ tools. But just then they had no eye for architecture.
They were ushered into a large room whose groined ceiling and dark oak panels made it appear that only twilight ever filtered through the stained-glass windows, set in frames of carved stone. At one end, behind a high desk of dark, shiny wood, which looked as if it were as old as the building, sat a dried-up dignitary with a skin like parchment, peering through a great pair of heavy, horn-rimmed spectacles.
In front of him was a huge pewter ink-stand with pens sticking up in it like quills upon a porcupine. Before this personage, whom they guessed to be the officiating magistrate, the boys were marched with much pomp and ceremony. Then the little mustached official who had played the leading part in their arrest stepped forward.
With a bow and a flourish he explained the case. To the boys’ astonishment, too, they saw their caps handed up. Evidently the police had found them and taken them up as evidence. This was a hopeful sign, for in each cap the owner’s name was inscribed.
“They’ll know that we told the truth about our names, anyway,” said Jack, nudging Raynor.
At this juncture there was a sudden disturbance in the back of the court room, and in broke a burly, sun-bronzed man. It was Captain Bracebridge, the last man in the world the boys wanted to have see them in such a position. They crimsoned with mortification and felt ready to sink through the floor.
The captain burst through a line of small Antwerp police, who tried to restrain him, like a runaway horse through a crowded street. He came straight up to the boys and gasped out breathlessly:
“Read about it in the papers and rushed straight here. What’s the truth of it all?”
“Then you don’t believe that police story?” asked Jack gratefully.
“Of course not. Tell me all about it.” He turned to a short, sallow man, carrying a big bag, who had followed him in, like the dust in the trail of the whirlwind. “This is a lawyer. He’ll straighten this thing out in a brace of shakes.”
The lawyer made a long harangue to the court, of which none of the Americans understood a word; but apparently he had asked leave to take his clients into a consulting room, for presently they were ushered into a chamber which might have been, and probably was, used for the purpose in medieval times. They were in the midst of their story, when another disturbance occurred outside. A handsome automobile had driven up, out of which stepped a portly personage with dignified, white whiskers, gold-rimmed eye-glasses, top-hat and frock-coat.
“Monsieur La Farge, the head of the government railways,” whispered the loungers in the court room as he hastened down the aisle and whispered to the magistrate, who received him with great deference.
The next moment he, too, was escorted into the consulting room. To the boys’ amazement, he rushed up to them and, with continental demonstrativeness, began wringing their hands up and down and uttering a tirade against the police, the methods they employed and the force in general.
“You are interested in this case, sir?” inquired Captain Bracebridge.
“Interested!” M. La Farge appeared to be about to explode. “The police! Bah! Dunderheads! Idiots! Assassins! These boys saved my wife and daughter from ruffians who would rob them, and – ”
“Your wife and daughter?” exclaimed the boys in one breath. Their case was certainly taking a startling turn, for already their attorney had whispered who the newcomer was and his high rank.
“Yes, they told me about it on their arrival home last night, and also about the cowardly, foolish actions of Alphonse, the chauffeur, whom I have discharged. When I read in the papers of the arrest of two American lads and the story that they told, despite which the police had arrested them, I was angry, furious. I knew then that the deliverers of my dear ones had been arrested like felons,” exploded M. La Farge. “I hastened here at once to make what reparation I could for such an act of the idiots, the police! Bah!”
“Perhaps the police were not altogether to blame,” said Jack as the peppery M. La Farge concluded his angry harangue. “We should not have run away, and then perhaps we should not have been arrested.”
“It was all the fault of that foolish chauffeur in driving away as he did,” exclaimed M. La Farge. “But in one sense I am glad all this has happened, although I am deeply mortified at the same time. Had it not been for this occurrence, I should never have known whom to thank for the brave act you performed. I could not have rewarded you – ”
He drew out a check book. But both boys held up expostulating hands.
“None of that, if you please, sir,” said Jack.
“He speaks for me, too,” said Raynor. “We’d do the same thing over again, if it had to be done.”
“Police and all?” smiled Captain Bracebridge.
“I beg your pardon,” said M. La Farge, re-pocketing the check book. “I should have known better than to offer money for such a service; no money could repay it. But I must think of some other way. However, the first thing to be done is to extricate you from this unpleasant position and obtain the apologies of the police.”
For a man of M. La Farge’s influence, this was easy to do; and the boys certainly felt that the humble apology that the little mustached officer tendered them almost on his knees was due them.
That evening they were the rather embarrassed guests of M. La Farge at dinner at his home. In order not to make them feel uneasy, there were no guests outside the immediate family; but both boys had to endure what was for them quite an ordeal when the pretty Miss La Farge and her handsome, gray-haired mother thanked them again and again, and almost wept in apologizing for the action of the police. Then, seeing that the boys were really troubled by their thanks, they tactfully turned the subject, and the boys, whose bashfulness soon wore off, enjoyed a jolly evening. After dinner Miss La Farge, who was an accomplished musician, played and sang for them, including in her program a medley of American airs.
As they were leaving, receiving many cordial and pressing invitations to come again, their host presented each of them with a small flat package.
“A slight remembrance,” he said. “It is inadequate to express the gratitude of my wife, my daughter and myself, but perhaps it will help you in recollecting that you always have three warm friends in Belgium. Do not open them till you reach the ship.”
The boys stammered their thanks and then, after more warm good-nights, they parted from their kind and grateful hosts. That they walked briskly to the ship may be imagined. They were on fire with eagerness to see what the packages contained. They hastened to Jack’s cabin and opened them, and then gasped with delight. Inside each was a gold watch and chain; but, more wonderful than this, was the inscription under each lad’s name, “In grateful and unfading remembrance of the night of – from their steadfast friends, the family of M. La Farge.”
“Phew!” exclaimed Jack, mopping his forehead, not altogether on account of the warmth of the night, “what do you know about that?”
“Nothing,” exclaimed Raynor, “nothing at all! Aren’t they bully! But let’s see what is in these two flat pocket-books.” In the excitement of finding the watches, they had not paid much attention to two flat cases of dark leather enclosed in each package. The books were opened and found to contain, under isinglass, like a commuter’s ticket in America, two passes on the government railways, signed by M. La Farge and good all over the Netherlands.
The boys’ cup of happiness was pressed down and running over.
“Just to think that only a few minutes before we ran into our big adventure, we were kicking because we had no money to travel,” cried Jack, as he eyed his engraved pass lovingly. “Now for a few trips!”
THE FIELD OF WATERLOO
The Ajax was to remain two days or so longer in Antwerp, and the boys readily obtained permission from the captain to make all the use they could of their passes. They had already exhausted what they wished to see of Antwerp, including the famous fort on the T?te de Flandre on the opposite bank of the river, the great cathedral, the home of Rubens’ parents, and the magnificent picture gallery.
Now they could enlarge their opportunities, and they decided to take a trip to Brussels and from there to the field of Waterloo. Accordingly, they started in high spirits on their tour as soon as they could get a train. Their passes were marked “first-class,” so they soon ensconced themselves in a leather-lined compartment, while their less fortunate fellow passengers had to be content with “second” and “third.”
“I wonder how this arrangement would go in America?” asked Jack as they sank back in the soft-padded cushions.
“I guess everybody would go first-class,” laughed Raynor. “We haven’t anyone at home willing to brand himself ‘second’ or ‘third’ in the race.”
“Now who on earth is this?” wondered Jack presently, as a brightly uniformed official entered the compartment which they had to themselves.
“Conductor, I guess,” hazarded Raynor.
The official removed his cap and bowed low.
“Bonjours, messieurs,” said he; “les billets, si vous plait.”
“I guess he wants our tickets,” said Jack, fishing for his. This surmise proved to be correct.
The politeness of the official was more marked, if it could be possible, when he saw, from the signature on the passes, that the boys were traveling under “royal auspices.” He raised his cap and bowed again. Not to be outdone, the boys bowed back with equal suavity.
“Merci bien,” he said.
“Merci bien,” responded Jack, who had acquired some French at high school.
“Mercy beans, too,” sputtered young Raynor, thinking that Jack was giving an order for a Boston lunch. The conductor bowed again and vanished, a bell rang and they were off. The ride lay through a farming region and the road was cool, clean and smooth.
On their arrival in Brussels, they found accommodation at a hotel overlooking the public square. The windows, although the ma?tre de hotel had assured them that it was one of the best rooms in the house, were only four feet high.
“Gee, we have to lie down to look out!” exclaimed Raynor.
“On the square?” asked Jack with a grin.
“No; on the level; that’s the way I lie,” chuckled Raynor. Both lads were in high spirits. Their unexpected stroke of luck had surely proved a windfall.
In the center of the Place Royale, the first place the boys explored, stands an equestrian figure of Godfrey of Bouillon.
“It was on that spot that he first assembled his crusaders who won back Jerusalem to the Christians,” said Jack, wise with guide-book knowledge.
“And to think that up to now I always thought Bouillon was a soup,” remarked Raynor dryly.
Before the train left for Waterloo, they had time to visit the Royal Museum, walking down the Rue de La R?gence. The Royal Museum was filled with fine pictures and statuary, but, to tell the truth, the boys had become a little bit cloyed with art at Antwerp. It takes some experience and training to be interested in, and gauge properly, such things, although both felt that what they had seen had done them permanent good.
Several times during their walk to the railroad station where they were to take a train for Waterloo, the boys were much amused and interested by the working dogs hitched to small carts. Sometimes the working dogs got into a fight with the leisure-class canines, and then there was a fine racket among the owners and the dogs, till things were straightened out and humans and canines, both growling, went on their way.
“Almost all the shops say they cater to the King or the Court of Flanders,” commented Raynor as they strolled along.
“I guess they get most of their real money from Americans, at that,” was Jack’s comment.
The Gare du Midi, or Central Station, they found surrounded by a crowd of shouting, noisy, officious guides, and also several individuals who looked none too honest. They buttonholed every arrival, volunteering all sorts of information in bad English. This, despite the fact that there were plenty of signs in plain view.
It was half an hour’s ride to Braine-l’Alleud, for the most famous battle of modern history was fought several miles from the village whose name it bears. This is because Wellington sent his victorious despatches from Waterloo, which has ever since claimed the honor of naming the place of Napoleon’s downfall.
They took a small, rickety carriage at the station, and before long Raynor was pointing to a mound with an ugly, clumsy-looking lion on it.
“Zat is zee Lion of Belgium,” volunteered the driver. “Eet ees model from French cannon and mark zee spot where zee Prance of Orange was wounded.”
“Is that so?” muttered Raynor. “Well, it looks more like a Newfoundland dog than a lion to me.”
“Eet weigh twenty-eight ton,” volunteered the driver again, pointing with his whip to the lion, close access to which was gained by a steep flight of steps. There are two hundred and twenty-six of these steps, and the boys, on climbing them, were considerably out of breath when they reached the summit and saw the historic plain spread out under their feet.
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