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The Hearing Ear
by [?]

His hand was groping inside the biscuit-box. He pulled out a little ditty-bag and carefully extracted a bit of newspaper.

“Listen to this, you fellows. This is from the National Obscurity Society. You know a chap with a German name is president of it, but he’s a real patriot, hundred per cent, not fifty-fifty, Philly. ‘The following States have abolished the teaching of German: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, California, and Oregon.’ Abolished, mind you! What do you think of that?”

“Most excellent Phippick,” nodded Rosenlaube, “I opine, as Horace said to Cicero, ‘That’s the stuff,’ or words to that effect. What saith the senator from Mitchellville?”

“Noble,” grinned Phil, “unmistakably noble! Those Obscurity fellows are a fiery lot. It reminds me that during the late war with Spain, when I was a little, tiny boy, but brimful of ferocity, I refused to eat my favorite dessert because it was called Spanish cream. I felt sure at the time that my heroic conduct was of distinct assistance to Dewey in the battle of Manila Bay.”

“Well, then,” said Phipps-Herrick, grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him good-humoredly, “you murderous little pacifist with seven nicks on your gun, will you give up your German? Will you forget it?”

Mitchell chuckled and shook his head,

“As far as requisite under military orders. But no further, not by a–“

A pair of muddy boots was heard and seen descending one of the ladders, followed by the manly and still rather neat form of Lieutenant Barker Bunn, a Cornell man from West Philadelphia. The three men sprang to their feet and saluted smartly, for the lieutenant was very stiff about all the preliminary forms.

“Too loud talking here,” he said gruffly. “I heard you before I came down. Who is here? Oh, I see, Sergeant Phipps-Herrick, Privates Rosenlaube and Mitchell. It’s your turn to go out on listening post to-night, sergeant. Twelve sharp, stay three hours, go as far as you can, come back and report, take Mitchell or Rosenlaube with you. Captain’s orders.”

The sergeant saluted again, and the two men looked at each other.

“Why not both of us, sir?” said Mitchell.

The lieutenant regarded him with some surprise. Listening post is not a detail passionately desired by the men. It is always dirty, frequently dangerous, generally obscure, and often fatal. Hence there is no keen competition for it.

“Two is the usual number for a listening post,” said Barker Bunn thoughtfully. “But there is no regulation about it, and the captain did not specify any number. Well, yes, I suppose you can all three go, if you are set on it. In fact, I give the order to that effect.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Rosenlaube and Mitchell. Phipps-Herrick, feeling that the strict etiquette of the preliminaries had been fully observed and the time to be human had come, held out a box of “Fierce Fairies.”

“Have a cigarette, Bunn, and take a chair, do. Time for a little talk this quiet night? Tell us what’s doing up above.”

“Nothing particular,” said Barker Bunn, lighting and relaxing. “But the old man has a hunch that the Fritzies are grubbing a mine–a corker–to get our goat. Hence this business of ears forward. The old man thinks the Fritzies have a strong grouch against this little alley, and since they couldn’t take it top side last week they’re going to try to bust it out bottom side with a big bang some day soon. Maybe so–maybe just greens–but, anyway, you’ve got to go on the Q. T. with this job–no noise, don’t even whisper unless you have to; just listen for all you’re worth. P’r’aps you’ll hear that little tap-tap-tapping that tells where Fritzie Mole is at work. Then if you come back and tell the old man where it is, he’ll give you all the cigarettes you want. But say, do you want me to give you a pointer on the way to go, the method of procedure, as the old man would call it?”

They agreed that they were thirsting for information and instruction.