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Title: The Boy Volunteers on the Belgian Front
Author: Ward, Kenneth
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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(http://digital.library.villanova.edu/))



THE BOY VOLUNTEERS SERIES

By KENNETH WARD

  _12mo. Cloth. Fully Illustrated_      _50c per Volume_


    THE NEWEST BOYS' BOOKS ON THE EUROPEAN WAR, RELATING THE ADVENTURES
    OF TWO AMERICAN BOYS AND THEIR EXPERIENCES IN BATTLE AND ON AIR
    SCOUT DUTY. ALL PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED WITH AUTHENTIC DRAWINGS.


    =The Boy Volunteers on the Belgian Front=

        Describes the adventures of two American boys who were in Europe
        when the great war commenced. Their enlistment with Belgian
        troops and their remarkable experiences are based upon actual
        occurrences and the book is replete with line drawings of
        fighting machines, air planes and maps of places where the most
        important battles took place and of other matters of interest.

    =The Boy Volunteers with the French Airmen=

        This book relates the further adventures of the young Americans
        in France, where they viewed the fighting from above the firing
        lines. From this book the reader gains considerable knowledge of
        the different types of air planes and battle planes used by the
        warring nations, as all descriptions are illustrated with
        unusually clear line drawings.

    =The Boy Volunteers with the British Artillery=

        How many boys to-day know anything about the great guns now
        being used on so many European battle fronts? Our young friends
        had the rare opportunity of witnessing, at first hand, a number
        of these terrific duels, and the story which is most
        fascinatingly told is illustrated with numerous drawings of the
        British, French and German field pieces.

    =The Boy Volunteers with the Submarine Fleet=

        Our young heroes little expected to be favored with so rare an
        experience as a trip under the sea in one of the great
        submarines. In this book the author accurately describes the
        submarine in action, and the many interesting features of this
        remarkable fighting craft are made clear to the reader by a
        series of splendid line drawings.


  THE NEW YORK BOOK COMPANY
  PUBLISHERS       NEW YORK

[Illustration: _"They are the fellows who stopped our train," said
Ralph._]



                          THE BOY VOLUNTEERS
                                ON THE
                             BELGIAN FRONT

                                  BY
                             KENNETH WARD

                       THE NEW YORK BOOK COMPANY
                               NEW YORK



                          Copyright, 1917, by
                    AMERICAN AUTHORS PUBLISHING CO.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                         PAGE

     I AN INTERRUPTED JOURNEY                                       15

    II THEIR EXPERIENCES WITH THE UHLANS                            25

   III THE WRECKED TRAIN                                            34

    IV THE WORK OF A SPY                                            41

     V THE STRUGGLE THROUGH THE COUNTRY                             54

    VI ON THE ROAD TO LIÈGE                                         59

   VII A THRILLING FIGHT                                            72

  VIII THEY REACH THE BELGIAN FORCES                                84

    IX THE FIRST BATTLE                                             96

     X IN THE MESSENGER SERVICE                                    107

    XI PURSUED BY THE UHLANS                                       118

   XII CATCHING A SPY                                              132

  XIII THE LOSS OF THEIR MACHINES IN BATTLE                        147

   XIV THE CAPTURE AND ESCAPE                                      161



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  _"They Are the Fellows Who Stopped Our Train,"
      Said Ralph_                                       _Frontispiece_

                                                                _Page_

  _Belgian Flag_                                                    18

  _German 42-Centimeter Gun_                                        61

  _Using Dipper to Find North_                                      79

  _Shrapnel Shell_                                                  90

  _Exploding Shrapnel_                                              91

  _German Taube Airplane_                                           97

  _A Dome-Topped Fort of Liège_                                    118

  _Map of Liège_                                                   131

  _Map of Louvain_                                                 165



THE BOY VOLUNTEERS

ON THE

BELGIAN FRONT



CHAPTER I

AN INTERRUPTED JOURNEY


"Give it more gas; more gas, Pierre; they are coming up the cross
road!" exclaimed Ralph excitedly, as he leaned forward.

Pierre the chauffeur looked straight ahead and nodded, as he answered:
"Oui, oui!"

Before he had gone a hundred feet farther the occupants of the machine
heard something like a shot, and Pierre turned his head slightly.

"Two kilometers more and we shall be in Belgium," he said.

This information did not seem to appease the two boys in the tonneau.
Of the two, Alfred was the more excited, but Ralph kept up a constant
flow of talk as he leaned out and gazed across the valley along which
the machine was now shooting with tremendous speed.

Several more gunshots were heard as they passed an open stretch and
ascended a hill.

"Are they firing at us?" inquired Ralph.

Pierre nodded.

"What for?" asked Alfred.

"They are Germans," replied Pierre.

"Well, those fellows on horseback can never catch us," said Alfred.

Pierre smiled, and gave two long blasts on the Klaxon.

"Say, Pierre, two machines are racing down the road ahead of the
troops."

The smile left Pierre's face as he gave the throttle lever a push. The
machine bounded forward with an additional impulse. Ralph and Alfred
looked at each other in still greater surprise.

A bridge was crossed and as the road beyond described a slight bend to
the right, Pierre glanced over his shoulder for an instant to observe
the new pursuers; then he glanced back to the rear wheel and the boys
understood. The day before the tire had given trouble, but Pierre
patched it up in the hope that by careful driving they would be able to
reach Antwerp two days later.

There was no time for explanations. The two boys were too excited to
think of anything else than the two autos which had now reached the
road on which they came.

"Yes, they are coming this way now," said Ralph.

"Can we beat them?" asked Alfred.

"Well," replied Pierre, after some reflection, "the car ahead is a
racing Mercedes."

The boys knew what that meant.

"What'll they do if they catch us?" said Ralph, as his eyes expanded
and he nervously glanced back.

Pierre merely shook his head and remained silent.

The Mercedes was not gaining, however. The second car was trailing
along some distance in the rear.

"Hurrah for Belgium!" shouted Pierre, as he gazed forward intently and
nodded in the direction of two low structures which were now plainly
visible at the sides of the roadway. The boys saw a distinctive flag on
each building.

Pierre's hand was on the throttle as he neared the frontier, but he
held the lever without drawing it back, while the car sped on. He gave
two blasts on the horn, and repeated the signal.

In Europe every road which crosses the frontier has two sets of guards,
one belonging to each country, and it is necessary for every one
crossing the line to make a formal entry under the inspection of a
government official.

No one appeared in the road in front of the lodges but it was a
hazardous thing to cross the border without stopping, as the guards
were authorized to shoot anyone who refused to halt, and the boys were
equally aware of this danger in attempting such an escapade.

They were now not a hundred feet from the posts which marked the
frontier and the speed of the car was not cut down. They were surprised
to see Pierre's right hand withdrawn from the lever while he leaned
forward and grasped the steering wheel with an intense grip.

ZIP! They shot past the boundary line without a challenge. The flag on
the first lodge was German, indicated by the three horizontal stripes,
black, white and red, and the flag on the other building had three
vertical stripes, black, yellow and red, the colors of Belgium.

[Illustration: _The Belgian Flag_]

The car fairly sizzled as it glided forward on a road that wound
around a long curve parallel with the river and they had an excellent
opportunity now to watch the pursuing car.

"That has a cross on the side of it, see?" said Ralph.

"It is a German military car," said Pierre.

"But why did they cross the frontier; and what right have they to try
and to run us down, here in Belgium?" asked Alfred.

"Because Belgium is now at war with Germany," answered Pierre.

The boys drew back in astonishment.

"Since when?" asked Ralph.

"Since five o'clock last night," was Pierre's reply.

"When did you hear about it?" asked Alfred.

"While we were getting our luncheon at Dann," said Pierre.

"Is that why you were in such a hurry to start?" asked Ralph.

"Yes," was the reply.

The Mercedes now appeared to be gaining. It was becoming very exciting
now to the boys, because the news stimulated their imagination. The
pursuing car swung around the last curve in plain sight, but the other
car was far in the rear. An officer could be seen in the front seat
leaning out, with a gun pointing toward them and at the next turn of
the road he deliberately fired.

The boys heard the crack of the rifle and in another instant were on
the floor of the car, shielded by the rear seat. A hundred feet farther
and there was a second explosion, much closer and more ominous than the
noise of the gun. The machine gave a sudden lurch, and the boys arose,
grasped the back of the front seat as Pierre shouted: "There it goes!
It's all up!"

Pierre gained control of the machine which had violently swung to one
side, but he did not slacken its speed.

They had barely time to recover from the shock when they were aroused
by a fusilade of shots, and in a half-dazed condition they felt the
shock of a suddenly-stopping car, and hear Pierre shout:

"Hurrah for the chasseurs!"

Alfred was the first to lean out and take note of the quickly passing
events.

"Oh, look! see the horses leap the fences," he said.

The machine stopped dead still. The crashing noise of the horses and
the shouts of the men held their attention.

Ralph opened the door of the car in excitement, as he sang out:

"Look at the machine back there; it's trying to turn around; it's
starting."

But the Germans were too late. A half dozen of the chasseurs cut off
their retreat. It thus happened that three officers, a sergeant, and a
military chauffeur, became captives, three kilometers within Belgian
territory, at 5 P. M., August 14, 1914, exactly twenty-four hours after
war was declared. The first actual conflict, in which blood was shed,
occurred the day previous--in fact, before war was declared, but this
is the earliest recorded instance of the taking of prisoners of war in
the great European conflict.

The troopers ordered the Mercedes car turned around and it was escorted
forward to the delight of the boys, Pierre grinning at the occupants
of the car as it passed. The Belgian officer in command halted and
Pierre saluted him.

"There is another car beyond," said Pierre.

The officer gave a quick order and six men were detached for the
pursuit, but they were too late. The car disappeared and could be seen
crossing the bridge in the distance.

"Where are you from?" said the officer to Pierre.

"We left Mayence day before yesterday," answered Pierre.

"Did you see any troops on the way?"

"No; but the forces at the garrisons were very active," responded
Pierre.

"Whose car is this?" he then asked.

"It belongs to an American, Mr. Elton. We left him in Darmstadt and are
taking the car to Antwerp," said Pierre.

"Who are the young men with you?" asked the officer.

"This young man is Mr. Elton's son, and the other is his nephew.
After going to Berlin Mr. Elton expects to go to Antwerp to take the
steamer," answered Pierre.

"Follow us," said the officer to Pierre.

Several hamlets were passed and they motored along a beautiful valley.
Beyond, on a slight elevation, appeared numerous houses, indicating a
village of some importance.

"Is that Bovigny?" asked Pierre.

The officer nodded.

As they entered the town the streets were crowded. A regiment was
encamped in the green which was, evidently, a park. Two squadrons of
cavalry were drilling, and an artillery company was moving its guns
toward the crest of a hill to the right. A band was playing; flags
and pennants were flying everywhere, and the scene was one of intense
excitement.

The troops had difficulty in keeping the people from the Mercedes,
although they exhibited no enmity toward the Germans. It was more a
matter of curiosity. The villagers appeared to be interested also
in the boys and when Pierre informed the spectators that they were
Americans, there was a cheer. The boys blushed as some of the more
venturesome ones approached and shook their hands.

"Oh, no! they couldn't catch us," said Alfred with a laugh.

"How did you happen to pass the frontier officers?" asked one of them.

"Nobody there," replied Ralph. "We captured those fellows in Belgium."

There was a roar of laughter at this. The boys seemed to take pride
not only in getting out of the clutches of the Germans, but also in
the fact that they were instrumental, in a measure, in effecting the
capture.

The crowd understood, and "L Americain" was frequently heard. It did
not look like war. Everyone knew, of course, that Belgium had refused
Germany's demand, and that war was upon them, but the scene reminded
the boys of a huge picnic, with a lot of extras thrown in. Everyone
was laughing and talking.

As an officer approached, Pierre saluted.

"You must drive to the rendezvous," said the officer.

Pierre nodded and followed the mounted lancer until they drew up before
a military barracks where Pierre was requested to follow an orderly.
The boys jumped out and accompanied him. After entering a long wide
hall, filled with soldiers, they were conducted to the Commandant's
office.

Without ceremony the orderly marched them to an officer who sat at the
head of a long table, and who seemed to know the object of Pierre's
visit.

"Who is the owner of your car? What is his address? What is its value?"
These and other details were quickly asked and put down by a clerk.

At the close of the examination the officer said: "The car has been
requisitioned by the Belgian government for military uses. The clerk
will furnish you a certificate, and the owner will receive compensation
for it in due time."

Pierre was out of a job, and the boys stranded without a machine.
Pierre smiled, and the boys walked down the hill with a sort of jolly
feeling. Why, they did not know.

"I shall join the colors at once," said Pierre.

"Good for you!" cried Ralph.

"Then you are a Belgian?" asked Alfred.

"Yes; and I must leave you, for it is necessary that I report in
Brabant," he replied.

"And where is Brabant?" asked Ralph.

"This side of Antwerp; northeast of Liège," answered Pierre.

"How far are we from Liège?" asked Alfred.

"About forty miles; possibly fifty," said Pierre, at a venture.

"Then we can go with you," said Ralph, enthusiastically.

"I had that plan in my mind," answered Pierre. "But for the present we
must find a place for the night."

They soon found that this was not an easy matter. Every place was
crowded to its utmost. People were coming in from all directions in
every kind of conveyance, the railway lines from Liège, to the east
and north, and the main highways being crowded with soldiers and war
equipment. Hundreds of soldiers were detailed to unload the cars, and
they were all busily at work when the bugle gave the signal for the
evening meal.

Before night set in several regiments of troops marched southeast, to
points along the border, while new regiments came in to take their
places.



CHAPTER II

THEIR EXPERIENCE WITH THE UHLANS


After an hour's search in every street and alley they learned that such
a thing as shelter for the night, was impossible. Tents were being put
up everywhere. Great army vans came lumbering in along the roads from
the north, and were assigned positions. At twelve o'clock that night
the town was just as lively as during the day, and in despair Pierre
finally appealed to the driver and keeper of one of the vans, begging
for place under the canvas top.

A _pourboire_ (or _tip_, as the boys called it), was the power that
found a way. The keeper suggested that sleeping under the burlap would
be uncomfortable, as it was very warm; so a dozen or more bags of feed
were unloaded and distributed on the ground beneath the van, and on
those they finally found comfortable places.

Tired as they were, sleep seemed to be out of the question. The noise
and bustle, the yells of incoming drivers, the creaking of the wagons
and the incessant chatter of the soldiers all about them, kept them
alert.

Two hours thereafter they felt a decided change in the temperature and
soon rain began to fall. A gentle breeze at first dashed the light rain
over them, and as the wind increased the drops fell faster and faster.
The bags were moved over and some were propped up to provide shelter,
but to no avail.

"Here, boys; get into the wagon quickly," shouted Pierre.

They crawled out and drew themselves up under the tarpaulin over which
the water was now streaming in torrents. Once in the van they were soon
asleep.

They were awakened before the sun appeared in the east. What they heard
was like a suppressed murmur at first, evidently the quiet talk of the
excited people outside. Distinct booms were heard, followed, as it
were, by suppressed noises, which might have been echoes.

"What is that?" asked Ralph.

"Where?" inquired Alfred, raising the tarpaulin and gazing out.

"They don't know, but the driver thinks the firing is at Liège,"
answered Pierre.

"But that is more than forty miles away," said Ralph.

"Very true," replied Pierre, "but there are immense guns in the forts,
and the Germans have heavy ordnance also."

When they left the vans, the sun was just appearing above the hill east
of the town, bringing promise of a beautiful day.

"Now, for breakfast, boys, and then we start," suggested Pierre.
Immediately after breakfast they marched to the station and Pierre
requested three tickets for Liège. The agent smiled as he said:

"I can book you for Liège, but you will have to take the risk in
getting there. The Germans have passed Verviers, and are investing the
city. The first train leaves at nine o'clock, unless, in the meantime,
there are orders to the contrary."

"Then we shall go to Brussels," replied Pierre.

"Ah, but that is impossible. The road is filled with troop trains
coming this way. You cannot go west until to-morrow, or, perhaps, day
after," answered the agent.

Here was, indeed, a dilemma. Pierre knew that to take a south-bound
train, would involve a wide detour, as it would take them through
Luxemburg. The road to the north branched at Trois Ponts, one line
going directly east to Pepinster, the other to the north leading to
Rivage and Liège. From Rivage they might be able to go directly north
to Huy, by a highway, and thus avoid Liège. A train in either direction
was impossible.

Pierre was determined, however, to proceed to the east on the first
available train, and by the liberal use of money ascertained from those
in charge of the station that a train would leave early in the morning.
They were on hand and ready before five o'clock and were directed to
cross the bridge and board the train at the extreme end of the track
which connected with the main line. Arriving there they found a train
already switching over, but, apparently, there were no passengers
aboard.

"Come on," said Pierre, "let's take the chance."

Fortunately, the doors were unlocked and the boys entered a compartment.

"Get out of there," shouted a voice.

Pierre followed, as an attendant rushed up.

"We are taking no passengers," he said.

"Hello, Jean," said Pierre.

"And what are you doing here?" said the man.

They grasped hands as the attendant inquired about the boys.

"They are in my charge; come in. This is my cousin, Jacques," remarked
Pierre, addressing the boys.

"But where are you going?" asked Jacques.

"Home to join the colors," said Pierre.

"You can go on this train, of course," said Jacques. "Why, you were in
Berlin when I last heard of you. As for myself, I came over with the
last load of troops from Huy, and if we find the road blocked to Liège
we shall stop at Rivage and cross by motor cars to Huy--that is, if
such a thing is possible."

The train rushed on for six miles without a stop. Then there was a halt
and a long wait at Grand Halleux. Thus, at every telegraph station
there was a wait, and it was nearly noon before the train had gone
twelve miles.

They were still several miles from the junction, Trois Ponts, the main
line of which led northeast to Liège, when the first disquieting rumors
were heard by Pierre and the boys. The Germans had cut the direct road
to Liège, below Tilft. Jacques appeared at the door of the compartment,
and hurriedly said:

"We are trying to reach the main road and go north to Rivage. The
trains behind have returned to Bovigny. We may be able to make it
before their scouting parties can cross the country."

The junction was reached, and the train continued to the north without
stopping.

Five miles north of the junction Ralph was the first to notice a
peculiar moving dust cloud a mile or so distant east of the train. He
called Pierre's attention to it. A turn in the road gave them a better
view of the phenomenon.

"That is a troop of cavalry," said Pierre, in excitement.

Jacques burst in and cried: "The Germans are to head us off. I suppose
you and I will have to make a run for it."

"I am sorry for that," said Pierre, looking at the boys. "But you will
be safe here. You are Americans, and they will not molest you."

"If you go we will go, too," said Alfred.

Pierre smiled and shook his head, as he replied: "They know we are
Belgians, and will suspect we are going to join our regiments. If they
capture us we will be sent to Germany. It is different with you. Insist
on your right to go to Antwerp."

The train had just passed a small village, Le Gleize, and was slowing
down. That was a bad sign, and Jacques eagerly glanced toward Pierre.

"Now is the time," nodded Pierre, as he opened the door and glanced out.
For a moment he stood on the running board and suddenly dropped to the
side of the roadway, followed by Jacques. The boys watched them as they
crossed the ditch and quickly entered a thick copse of brush. Not until
they disappeared did the boys recover their shock. The train was now
moving along scarcely faster than a walk. The place where Pierre and
Jacques concealed themselves was still in sight, when the train halted.

Almost immediately a dozen horsemen rode along the train and finally
placed themselves in position. An officer and two soldiers passed
through the train, and as they did so, one coach after the other was
emptied of its passengers, to the surprise of the boys, who had no idea
that there were so many aboard.

The officer opened the door of the compartment occupied by the boys. In
a peremptory tone the order was given to vacate, and they were quick to
respond. Once outside, several other officers were noticed engaged in
rounding up the detrained passengers, and all were finally marched to
an open space along the roadway.

The boys explained who they were. One of the officers who spoke English
told them that the train had been taken by the Germans and would be
sent back.

"But how are we to get to Antwerp?" asked Ralph.

The officer smiled and merely shrugged his shoulders as he passed on.
There were thirty passengers, among them seven men, the latter of whom
were ordered to remain on the train.

As they were about to obey the order one of the women shrieked and
begged them not to take her husband; but the officer paid no attention
to her pleadings. Two little children were hanging to her skirts. The
husband turned, kissed her affectionately and was about to embrace
the children, when one of the guards brutally struck the man in his
eagerness to hurry the departure.

"That makes my blood boil," said Alfred, as he grit his teeth.

"And that reminds me you had better keep a close mouth, young man,"
said a voice behind him.

The boys turned and faced an officer who stared at them menacingly, one
hand on the hilt of his sword. For a moment a flush overspread Alfred's
face, but he was quick to respond:

"I am an American, sir; and you have no right to dictate to me or to
stop my saying what I think."

With a sarcastic smile the officer said: "Then we will teach you to
respect the German arms."

"I am glad Pierre and Jacques got away," said Ralph as he stepped
forward toward the others.

The officer's face changed in an instant: "Who are Pierre and Jacques?"

Ralph now realized that he had been imprudent. Neither replied to the
question, and it was repeated, this time with a threatening gesture.

"So you refuse to answer the question?" said the officer. "Arrest these
young men," he said to a corporal. "Take this gentleman to the front,"
he continued, pointing to Ralph.

Ralph was led off, while Alfred, now greatly alarmed, stood facing the
officer.

"Now, then," he said, "for your convenience and comfort it would be
better for you to tell me who Pierre and Jacques are?"

"I know nothing about Jacques, as I never saw him until this morning.
Pierre was my father's chauffeur," said Alfred.

"Where is he now?" inquired the officer.

"I don't know," said Alfred.

"You are lying to me," quickly responded the officer.

"Then, if you know I am lying you can probably tell me where he is and
save some trouble in asking the question," replied Alfred, without
intending the reply to be at all disrespectful.

The answer so quickly given somewhat nettled the officer and he turned
on his heels to go. Then turning suddenly he inquired:

"When did you last see either of the men?"

"They got off the train when they saw your troops pass around the
forest," answered Alfred.

The officer quickly made his way to Ralph. "Where and when did you last
see Pierre and Jacques?" he inquired brusquely.

Ralph hesitated a moment before replying.

"Out with it, young man; I have no time for trifling," he continued.

"They got out before the train stopped," said Ralph.

Within a few minutes the train, now in charge of an officer and a half
dozen men, was backed down the road toward the junction, while the
troopers, at a word of command, mounted their horses and at top speed
passed out of sight along the road to the east.



CHAPTER III

THE WRECKED TRAIN


Left in the party by the roadside were two old men, several children,
besides the two little toddlers belonging to the woman whose husband
was so ruthlessly forced into captivity.

They were fully a mile from the small hamlet which the train had passed
through just before they were halted by the Uhlans. By common consent
the company decided to walk back.

"Too bad!" said Ralph. "Let's help the woman with the babies."

"Of course," replied Alfred, and he picked up the little fellow,
while Ralph held out his arms for the baby. This simple act met with
approving remarks. The fact that they had been arrested by the Germans
for protesting against a brutal act, was, in itself, a bold thing, and
commended them to the passengers.

Before going a quarter of a mile they came in sight of their train.
Some of the coaches at the rear end seemed to be out of line. Evidently
something was wrong, as the officer and some of the soldiers were at
the rear end of the train examining the wreck, for such it was.

The switch had been thrown over and locked, indicating that someone had
a hand in the affair, and the officer was furious at the detention, for
he knew he must depend on his own exertions to get the train to the
junction. The command of which he had been a part, was now miles away;
so it was essential that he should clear the track and take back his
prisoners.

Alfred drew Ralph aside and whispered: "Who do you think did that?"

Ralph hesitated a moment, then, his eyes opened wide and sparkled:
"I'll bet Pierre had a hand in it; and I'll tell you something else,
too----" Ralph's sentence remained unfinished, for two shots were fired
from a nearby hill. The officer jumped fully five feet and stared about.

One of the soldiers pointed to the hill, but before he could reply two
more shots were fired.

Instantly there was confusion. The two guards in the coaches appeared
at the doors, and the officer ordered them forward. Evidently they were
being attacked, so with a seemingly concerted motion the boys and their
fellow passengers moved back toward the road, some of them pointing to
the hills.

"There they come!" shouted Alfred in German.

Ralph looked at Alfred in astonishment but the look on Alfred's face
was sufficient for him.

The German officer knew he was not in a position to withstand the
attack of a foe with the few men under him, and the order was quickly
given to withdraw. They passed down to the rear end of the train on a
double quick, and instead of following the track as it curved to the
right, left the roadbed and ascended a slight elevation beyond the
trees that fringed the main wagon road.

On their way a half dozen rifle shots greeted them but did no damage.
The prisoners were still in the coaches, but none of them made his
appearance, as they had all been bound to the seats. Singularly, no
one appeared from the hills to the right to rescue them, although the
soldiers had disappeared.

No one seemed to have the least idea what to do. The engineer suggested
that he could uncouple the car next to the last wrecked coach and
proceed under double speed to Rivage.

"Come on, Alfred, let's go up the hill," shouted Ralph.

That was an inspiration, and without waiting to reply Alfred leaped the
hedge and rushed across the field, followed by Ralph, and one of the
men. They were half-way across the field before their fellow passengers
realized the importance of the boys' actions.

The crest of the hill was reached but no one was in sight. They passed
within fifty feet of the spot where they saw the smoke of the guns, and
beyond, hidden in the trees was a farmhouse.

"Let's go up there?" said Ralph.

"Hello, boys!" said a suppressed voice. They turned around in
astonishment.

"Where are you?" asked Ralph.

"That's Pierre, I'm sure," said Alfred.

"So it is," said Pierre, as he arose from a cozy position behind a
rock. "Are any of the soldiers aboard?"

"No, no! they've gone," said Ralph. "Alfred gave them an awful fright."

"How's that?" asked Pierre.

"Why, I yelled out: 'there they come!' and they thought there was a
regiment after them."

"Did you block the track?" asked Ralph.

"Jacques did; he has the keys for the switches, you know," said Pierre.

"How did you know that they intended to run the train back?" asked
Alfred.

"Well, we suspected they would either do that or destroy the whole
train, but here comes Jacques," said Pierre.

When the latter appeared he was accompanied by three men, all armed.

"There are no soldiers aboard; we must run the train to the north as
quickly as possible," said Pierre. Then turning to the farmers he said:
"I thank you for the service you have rendered us. Follow up the other
men and capture the Germans if you can. We must be off at once."

It was the work of a few moments only to uncouple the rear coach and
after the passengers were again in their seats the engineer put on full
speed, soon passed the spot where they had been held up and within
fifteen minutes the train halted in a small town, Guareaux, where the
people exhibited the greatest excitement.

"What is the matter?" asked Pierre.

"Germans to the north of us have cut the railway, and taken possession
of the junction Trois Ponts below us," replied a voice.

There they were, trapped between two forces and the train was now no
longer of any service to them. There was steady firing to the east,
indicating that the investment of Liège was under way and the sound of
guns was heard in the north. Telegraph and telephone wires had been cut
so that no news reached them. Night was close at hand, and every hour
meant a closer investment of the place.

"We cannot remain here all night," said Pierre. "The Germans may be on
us at any moment. I suggest that we start across the country so as to
reach the road which runs from Clavier to Huy. It is not likely that
they have surrounded Liège entirely, and by striking the road from Huy
we can go east until we reach Jemeppe, and then go north from that
point without entering the city."

"Then we can go with you," said Ralph, eagerly.

"Of course," replied Pierre, "but it may be a rough and tiresome
journey."

At eight o'clock, just as they were about to leave, a horseman came
into town at top speed, with the information that the Uhlans were at
Martin River, and rapidly advancing. Jacques and Pierre had been busy
acquiring information about the route to Clavier and the villagers were
quick to learn the plans of the two men.

Several young men enrolled themselves at once to accompany Pierre and
Jacques. Four sturdy fellows had indicated their willingness to go
with them but as they were about to leave there was a commotion in
the village, and shortly thereafter a horseman dismounted. One of the
volunteers who had joined Pierre's band cried out:

"That is Capt. Moreau. I wonder what he is doing here?"

"He lives at Martin River," replied a young man.

"Let us see him at once," said Jacques.

The captain was dressed in civilian's clothes; but he carried a bundle
strapped to his back. He was known to all the villagers, and they
crowded around him.

"The Germans will be here in less than a half-hour," he said hurriedly.
"Every road is blocked, and I want as many volunteers as possible. With
them we must cut across the country and reach Liège."

"I am on my way to join the colors," said Pierre, saluting.

"That is the right spirit, my man. But you are, undoubtedly, a stranger
here," said the Captain.

"Yes, but I am a Belgian, from Brabant," answered Pierre.

Pierre's prompt action was the signal for an immediate respond from a
dozen or more.

"I shall be back in a few minutes, and I designate you to enroll the
volunteers," said the Captain, addressing Pierre.

Pierre shouted: "Come on, boys, the King needs you."

The recruits came forward and signed their names. In an incredibly
short time the Captain reappeared clothed in his uniform, and he
proceeded to business at once.

"Now, men," he said, "without wasting time, get firearms--anything that
will shoot, and report to me within ten minutes."

The whole village was now a scene of the greatest activity. A varied
assortment of guns and pistols were produced which were hurriedly
inspected by the Captain and accepted by him.

"Line up, my men," he ordered. "Belgium is at war with Germany, and
our soil has been invaded. It is the duty of every one to assist in
this crisis. I shall administer the oath to each of you. This makes our
company a fighting force in the King's service and in case of capture
entitles you to the treatment accorded to prisoners of war."

Pierre exhibited a troubled look in his face, and Ralph observed it. "I
am afraid," he said, "that the Captain will not allow you to accompany
us."

This information was the first shock to the boys. Pierre was right. The
Captain, while sympathizing greatly, could not be moved. He pointed out
that their mission was a dangerous one, and that it would be impossible
for them to accompany the squad. The boys were almost heart-broken, but
there was no hope for them. The final good-byes were given, and Captain
Moreau's little band disappeared in the darkness toward the north.



CHAPTER IV

THE WORK OF A SPY


The feelings of the boys cannot well be described. They did not
lack for friends, however, as their fellow passengers were quick to
relate the experiences of the boys in their contact with the Germans.
Accommodations were offered by the villagers, and they accepted a neat
little room over a shop. It was now nearly midnight and they were tired
with the excitement and experience of the day.

They were barely settled when the tramp of horses aroused them. Peering
out they were surprised to see several dozen Uhlans file by and halt,
not far from their window. The people quickly appeared at the doors of
their dwellings, many of them half dressed.

"Say, Alfred, they are the same fellows who stopped our train," said
Ralph.

"So they are. And there is the officer who told me to shut up,"
answered Alfred. "Let us get up and dress."

The boys were out in double quick time and cautiously felt their way
downstairs.

"Don't go out the front way," said a voice. "Take the back door, pass
down the narrow alley and reach the street on the other side."

Thanking their informant they quickly ran down the alley and were about
to emerge when two horsemen appeared and finally stopped, less than a
dozen feet from the end of the alley.

A man from the adjoining house made a sign and one of the horsemen
approached close to the low fence.

"Captain Moreau, with a dozen men left less than an hour ago. They went
north in order to reach Clavier."

The informant was a resident of the village, and was, unquestionably
a German, as he conversed in that language. He was, thus, spying on
his own townsmen. The information was acted upon at once, for in a few
moments a detachment was hurriedly sent north.

As the boys were on the point of emerging, a half dozen troopers dashed
by and turned the corner, giving them barely time to retreat within the
alley. Before reaching the house they were met by their host, the owner
of the shop.

"Go back," he whispered. "They have gone upstairs, one of them
remarking that they wanted the two Americans. How did they know you
were here?"

The boys were now startled, indeed. Who could have informed the
Germans, and why should they be so promptly hunted up? The matter
evidently puzzled their friend, as well.

Alfred leaned over to the shopkeeper as he eagerly whispered: "Who is
your next door neighbor? Is he a German?"

The man recoiled at the question. "Why do you ask?" he quickly
responded. The boys informed him of the conversation which they
overheard between their neighbor and the Uhlans.

"So that is how he repays our friendship? But where are you going," he
asked, as the boys began to move down the alley.

"We must go; we don't want them to find us here," said Alfred.

"But where do you intend to go?" he again asked.

"We want to reach Huy," replied Ralph.

"But there is no railway from here to that place," was the answer.

"We know it," said Alfred. "If Captain Moreau and his men can reach
Clavier we ought to be able to make our way there, too."

"Then, before you go let me prepare some food for you to eat on the way
there."

The boys laughed. "Oh, no!" responded Alfred, "we can find plenty as we
go through the villages, besides----"

A shout in the house interrupted him. Their host held up a warning
finger, as he said: "No, no. For a day or two, at least you will be
going through territory which is being scoured by the Uhlans. You must
give the roads a wide berth, and avoid the villages. Besides, you will
find many German sympathizers throughout this province, so it will not
be safe to visit the houses."

As he ceased speaking he turned to a low structure, opened a door and
invited them to go in and await his return. After he disappeared, Ralph
paced the little room impatiently.

"I don't like this arrangement," he finally said.

"Nor I," muttered Alfred. "Suppose we go?"

Ralph was at the door in an instant. It had been bolted.

"Do you suppose he did that purposely?" asked Ralph.

"I haven't any doubt of it," replied Alfred, "and now it's our business
to fool the old fellow."

"But how?" inquired Ralph, looking about.

It was quite dark within, but they could plainly see the lights of the
main street through the vacant space between the houses.

"Let's get up there," suggested Alfred. "Probably we can break away the
boards."

Ralph soon found his way to the stringers above and was soon at the
crack. They could hear the door of their host's house open and several
men stepped out, all of them speaking German. Their host was with them.

"Come up quickly," whispered Ralph. "The old fellow has given us away,
sure."

Alfred swung himself into position as the men outside approached.

"I tell you that the young men went out the alley before I went in,"
said the host.

Ralph nudged Alfred. It was a satisfaction to feel that he was, indeed,
a true friend. One of the men ordered the shopkeeper to open the door,
which he did after some hesitation. A man stepped to the door, flashed
a light and glanced in. It was fortunate that the light did not go high
enough to reveal their hiding-place on the stringers above.

The man gave a sigh of relief, as he said: "I told you they left some
time ago."

One of the searchers, evidently an officer, then ordered the other to
make a complete search through the village for the two boys. After
all had disappeared the boys were in a quandary. They were afraid to
leave the little house, at least while the search was going on, so
after consideration they decided to remain until their friend should
reappear, for they were now satisfied that he would help them out of
their dilemma.

They kept their seats on the stringers for fully an hour, but it was
getting to be tiresome, although they were afraid to venture down. As
they had about made up their minds to venture out, voices were heard.
They came closer and soon it was easy to recognize the voice of the
neighbor who had acted the part of the spy two hours before.

The strange voice greeted the neighbor and imparted the information
that the squad which had gone to the north had just returned.

"Did you get them?" he asked.

"Yes; we captured all but two of them," was the reply.

"Too bad," whispered Ralph.

"I wonder what time it is?" said Alfred. "Hold up your watch to the
crack and see if you can make it out."

"My, it's almost four o'clock. It will be daylight in another hour. If
we are to go we had better start at once. What do you say?"

"Well, it won't do to be cooped up here a whole day; let us try it,"
said Alfred as he swung himself down and moved toward the door.

They peered out. The coast was clear. Before they had an opportunity to
reach the alley the door of the house opened and their host appeared
with a package.

"So you are about to go? I am glad you did not go sooner. I waited
until the fellows outside settled down. Here is the package I made up
for you. It will come in handy," he said as he handed it to them.

"We thank you ever so much for your kindness," said Ralph. "We
suspected you, when you went out and bolted the door."

"I did that purposely," replied the host. "I thought maybe that if
those fellows got to searching out here and they found the door bolted
on the outside they wouldn't take the trouble to look inside."

"We are glad you thought of that," said Alfred. "But we must ask
another favor of you. Tell us which way to go to reach Clavier?"

"Indeed, I will. Go north until you reach a stream, which is a half
kilometer distant. Then follow that; but be careful when you come to
the bridges," he replied.

"Is it true that they have captured Capt. Moreau and the boys with
him?" asked Alfred.

"No! When did you hear that?" said the host in surprise.

"We overheard a German tell your next-door neighbor about it," answered
Ralph.

"It can't be possible," responded the man in amazement. "But you must
not waste time. We are sorry to have you go but I can understand."

"Thank you again," said Alfred. "Good-bye."

"Adieu," responded their host.

They quickly reached the end of the alley and hastily glanced out.
There was no one in sight, and Ralph, who was ahead, beckoned Alfred to
follow. They crossed the street and leaped the fence, then cut across
the lot until they reached the road which their late host had suggested.

The sound of horses' hoofs coming from the main street of the town
caused both to stop dead still.

"To the fence, Alfred," whispered Ralph, as the horsemen turned the
corner.

"Crouch down low and keep quiet," said Alfred.

The Uhlans, for so they were, passed without halting, and the boys
breathed a sigh of relief. But what were they going to the north for at
this time of the morning? It was over the very route that they intended
to take.

"What shall we do now?" asked Ralph.

"Follow them, by all means," replied Alfred.

"Do you think so?" queried Ralph, doubtfully.

"Of course, that would be the better way to throw them off the track,"
answered Alfred.

Acting on this advice, they promptly set out on the march, determined
to make the best use of the darkness.

It did not take them long to reach the stream referred to by their late
friend. The bridge was in sight, and they stopped, for they felt there
was a problem of great importance to solve, and that was, whether or
not to cross it and follow the stream on the other side.

"Let's go over, by all means, if we have a chance, as we'll have to do
so sooner or later," said Alfred.

"Do you think so?" asked Ralph.

"Of course; Clavier is on the other side; I know that," said Alfred.

"Then come on; watch the road both ways," suggested Ralph.

They reached the bridge and ran across with all their might. They had
not forgotten the warning given by the shopkeeper. Once across they
turned to the left, and crossed the hedge which bordered the roadway.
Keeping within the protection of the brush close to the stream they
kept up a lively pace. It was now beginning to lighten up, the gray
horizon in the east betokened the arrival of the sun.

Still they felt that they could keep on for a half-hour more, but
before they had trudged along more than fifteen minutes another bridge
appeared in sight, and almost at the same instant the dust on the road
to the north showed some unusual activity which served as a warning.

Concealing themselves behind a convenient bush they awaited the arrival
of the horsemen who could now be plainly seen. The four troopers who
passed them at the outskirts of the town, were returning, an evidence
to the minds of the boys that they were the objects of the search. The
troopers crossed the bridge and followed up the stream, bringing them
close to their hiding-place.

"Wasn't it a good thing we crossed the bridge?" observed Alfred, as the
party passed by.

"Now, shall we go on?" asked Ralph.

"I don't know what to do," answered Alfred. "What do you say?"

"Why, go on, of course; we can't stay here," remarked Ralph.

"We ought to have found a place to stay before this; I think we made a
mistake; don't you?" said Alfred.

"I think so; but perhaps we can find a good place further on,"
suggested Ralph.

It was evident that some place of concealment had to be found, so
cautiously approaching the bridge they crossed the road and were
delighted to observe a narrow piece of woodland which seemed to offer
some security to them for the day; so they crossed a stone fence, still
keeping the river in sight, and entered the grove.

It may be well to observe that Belgium is a very thickly settled
country and they were in the province of Liège, which has a much
denser population than any other section in Belgium. During the flight
of the boys from the little town of Guareaux, farmhouses were visible
at all times in one direction or the other.

They hurried through the wood, and were about to climb the fence which
divided it from an open space, when the barking of a dog arrested them.
Almost immediately a voice called to them:

"Who are you?"

Neither of the boys saw the inquirer, but a little cabin was plainly
visible to the left. They remained silent, and by this time the dog was
at the opposite side of the fence barking vigorously. It would have
been imprudent not to recognize the call, now that the dog had pointed
them out. Alfred was the first to recover himself, as he answered:

"We are American boys, on our way to Clavier."

The man approached along the opposite side of the fence and drove the
dog away.

"American boys? and what are you doing here?" he asked in astonishment.

Ralph looked at Alfred for a moment before answering: "We had an
experience with the Germans yesterday and are trying to get away from
them."

The face of the man brightened up, and he rushed up to them, holding
out his hands.

"You are welcome here; I will assist you," he said.

"Thank you for the offer," said Alfred.

"A half dozen of the German troopers have just passed along the road to
the west going north," said the man. "It seems as though the country
hereabouts is full of them."

"They are after the men who left town last night to join the colors.
Captain Moreau was with them, but we are afraid they captured him,"
said Ralph.

"Ah, the Captain with his men passed here last night, and I saw him. My
son is with him. If that is true he may be taken also," said the man in
a very sorrowful tone.

"One of the men with the Captain is our friend. They would not let
us go with them, so we determined to make our way across before the
Germans get too far," said Alfred.

"I am afraid you will have trouble in trying to reach Clavier. I advise
you to avoid that place and try to reach the main line that runs east
from Huy, as the Germans will try to reach Clavier. The railroad
touches that point from the west, and then runs north to Huy," said
their informant.

"Then would you advise us to keep on going during the day time?" asked
Alfred.

"You would be safe, if you avoid the roads and bridges," said the man.
"But you must have something to eat before you leave; so come in and we
will make you comfortable."

The invitation was accepted with profuse thanks. Within the cottage
they found the mistress and two children, one of them a boy of their
own age. The situation was explained, and the boys became objects of
interest at once, when they related their experiences on the train and
in the town.

After breakfast the man said: "Henri, my son, you know the way to
Borlon. You may accompany them and show them the way; but mind you,
care must be taken at the roads and bridges."

The boys were delighted at this kind offer. Henri smiled as he was thus
delegated to make the trip. It was too good to be true. When all were
ready the mother kissed her boy and accompanied by the father they
passed out the door. Not three hundred feet distant was a main road,
and leaping the hedge on both sides of the gate were fully a dozen of
the Uhlans.

"Back! back!" said the man.

The boys darted into the house, while the man said in an undertone:
"Henri, take the boys down to the pit. Don't stop for anything."

Henri motioned to them, and they rushed out the back door, passed
through a narrow arbor way, dashed through a gate and followed along
side the fence which ran toward the river. They almost rolled down the
steep incline to the water's edge in their eagerness to get away.

"This way," said Henri.

He led them along the incline for several hundred feet, and finally
stopped at the entrance of what appeared to be a cave.

"This is an old ore pit," said Henri. "I don't think they will find
you here. I'll go back and see what they are doing."

So saying he slipped down the bank, and hurriedly passed out of
sight. They remained in the pit for nearly an hour, and a feeling of
uneasiness crept over them. Ralph cautiously crept out and peered over
the top of the hill. He was just in time to see the troops file out of
the yard.

Before they had disappeared down the road Henri rushed out of the house
and made his way to the pit.

"Come on, boys; they have gone," he shouted.

As the boys crept up the hill and met Henri, they learned that the
Germans had compelled their friends to prepare breakfast for them,
which accounted for the long delay.



CHAPTER V

THE STRUGGLE THROUGH THE COUNTRY


It was fully nine o'clock before they left Mr. Revigne's place, for
such was his name. He was one of the prosperous small farmers of that
section, and he and his sons knew every foot of the country for miles.
Henri was a bright, intelligent fellow, and his brother, who had joined
the Captain's band, was a reservist.

They went across fields, keeping the stream in sight, and they had not
gone far before the boys learned to repose the greatest confidence
in their new companion. After passing two well-travelled roads, they
approached a third, which Henri informed them was the main road to
Rivage east of their location.

"It wouldn't be much of a trick for those fellows to cut across from
Martin River, so we must be very careful now," said Henri.

There was but a single field to cross, and Henri advised the boys to
keep out of sight while he went forward to examine the road. In a few
moments he returned with the information that the road was clear, and
both boys bounded forward and made a run for the fences. As ill luck
would have it a troop appeared on the highway to their right, before
they reached the fence. Henri stopped.

"Wait," he said. "Line up by the side of me, so you will be hidden
beside me; then let us all walk together to the fence."

In that manner they reached the moss-grown stone barrier, so well known
in many parts of the country.

"Drop down now, and keep out of sight," said Henri.

So saying he mounted the fence and crossed over. The horsemen beyond
were now hurrying down the road. He mounted the fence on the other
side, and awaited their approach. An officer in front halted and
inquired, in German, if Henri had seen any people on the road.

Henri shook his head slowly, to indicate that he did not understand
them. The question was repeated in French, and he responded that no one
had gone by since he came on the road. The troopers proceeded without
further questions, and when they were well out of sight the boys arose,
crossed over, and made up for lost time in the effort to cross the
adjacent field.

"A friend of my father's lives in that house," said Henri, pointing
ahead. "We might stop there and learn if there is any news."

The owner of the house was greatly surprised at the appearance of Henri
and the boys. He was told their story, and he smiled at them proudly.
"And where are you going now?" he asked.

"Father asked me to take the boys over to Borlon's. They want to go to
Clavier, as they are on the way to Antwerp," said Henri.

"Then I have bad news for you; the Germans are well above the road
leading to Rivage. You must avoid Borlon, and you cannot go to Clavier,
as they are trying to cut the road between Clavier and Huy," said the
man.

"Then what would you advise us to do?" asked Alfred.

"Go to the north of Borlon, and make straight for the road that runs
from Huy to Liège," was the reply.

"Then we shall have to leave you," said Ralph, sorrowfully.

"No, no; I will stay with you all day, and leave you to-morrow some
time," said Henri.

"Now, my boy, go straight across to Ladeau's place and get something to
eat there; you know where that is," said the man, addressing Henri.

"Indeed, I do; and he will tell us the best way from that place," said
Henri.

Notwithstanding the gravity of their journey, the trip of the three
boys was fascinating. Henri steered a course directly to the east, but
it was tiring work, as constant vigilance was necessary. Night set in
too soon for them, but the moon lighted the way for an hour before they
reached Ladeau's place.

There they learned some bad news. Information had reached Mr. Ladeau
that Capt. Moreau and his companions had been captured, or, at least,
there was a fight with a superior force.

"We heard they were captured," said Ralph.

"That is quite possible," remarked Mr. Ladeau, sadly. "Just before you
came we learned that the Germans had taken possession of the road to
the north, and it is likely that a visit may be expected from them at
any moment."

"Then we must go at once," said Alfred, "and if you will direct us
which way to travel we will go on without Henri, as it would be wrong
to take him further from home."

Henri protested, but the boys both agreed that it would be the proper
course for him to return, and Mr. Ladeau concurred in their view of
it. The parting was a hurried one, and they at once struck across the
fields, taking good care to keep one particularly bright star directly
in front of them.

Thus, for two hours, they met with no incident until they approached a
road, when they heard voices speaking in German. Silently approaching
the fence they waited until the sound died away, then rushed across the
road and entered an orchard with tempting fruit all about them.

"Well, it is about the only thing you can do," said a voice in French.

This was, assuredly, a relief to the boys, as they saw two men descend
from a tree.

"What were you doing in the tree?" asked Alfred.

"We heard you long before you came up to the tree," said the tall one,
"and we supposed you might be the Germans, until we came near enough so
we could distinguish your language."

"Hereafter," remarked Ralph, "we shall be more careful." The boys
related their experiences, and the fact that they had been captives,
and the troubles they went through since their release.

"While it might be possible for you boys to travel during the daytime,
it would not be so for us, and it is equally dangerous, in view of
the orders sent out in the printed notices, for all of us to travel
at night. We must, however, get away from this section as soon as
possible, so we might as well go on."

All villages were avoided and they passed by the farmhouses as though
they suspected a pestilence. It was a trying, weary night as they were
frequently compelled to wait while one scouted ahead. In the early
morning their tall companion announced that they were nearing the town
of Esneux.



CHAPTER VI

ON THE ROAD TO LIÈGE


They were now less than six miles from the Meuse, the country was
growing rough, and the hills, on the banks of the little stream which
flowed to the north, were rugged, like all this section bordering on
the river.

They must either avoid the town by going to the right, or cross the
river, the latter a hazardous undertaking in daytime, if there were any
Germans in that section. They well knew that if the enveloping movement
had extended up as far as Tilff, the town, in all probability, would be
occupied by the enemy.

Gascon, the tall companion, would not consider the attempt to cross the
river. "Let us go to the left, and attempt to cross on the other side
of the town."

Their other companion took up the duty of scout, walking along the
ridge of the hill, above the stream, while the others followed in the
little valley below. In the next hour they were west of the town, and
approached the road which led from Huy.

The morning light plainly showed that this road was also patrolled by
the Uhlans, but to cross it was their only hope. Otherwise, it would
mean an entire day lurking in some hiding-place.

It was a painful experience, to crawl along the low hedge that ran up
to the highway, for it was now early morn, and light enough so that
cavalry could be seen in the screen formed by the trees along the road.

Gascon knew what scouting meant, and he gave them a word of caution.
"We must not go along the hedge together. We should be separated at
least ten meters apart" (a little over 30 feet), "and the movement must
be made without any noise."

He then threw himself on the ground and showed them how to crawl. "Just
watch me for a moment and you will learn an easy way to do it."

Gascon stretched himself full length on his face, lying partly on his
left side. "Now," he said, "draw up the right leg, and stretch the
right arm upward past your head. If you will now turn your body over
to the right, or, in other words, roll yourself over on the right arm
and leg, the left foot can be used to propel yourself forward, without
appreciably raising the body."

The boys remembered the terribly trying act of crawling on the first
day of their experience, and this exhibition was a most gratifying
thing to them, now that there was more of it to do.

"Where did you learn how to do this?" asked Ralph.

[Illustration: _German 42-Centimetre Gun._]

"This is part of the drill in the army. This creeping movement is
characteristic of the North American Indian, and is also practised by
some of the African tribes."

Gascon now started on his peculiar movement along the fence followed
by Joseph, their other companion, and then Ralph, observing the proper
interval, followed and after him came Alfred.

Early as it was there were sounds of activity that did not arise
from the ordinary farming operations. The roads here, as everywhere
throughout Belgium, were found at frequent intervals in their pathway,
and while they must avoid them, it was also necessary that they should
cross them.

Another characteristic of Belgian roads is, that they are, usually,
lined with trees, and the hedges afforded ample protection for lurking
enemies, while, at the same time, it served to hide their movements.

As the first streaks of the morning sun began to show over the
landscape, the party came to a halt for the purpose of considering
their further movements. Suddenly, it seemed as though the ground moved
upwardly, as a terrific crash burst on their ears.

Not a word was spoken by anyone for a minute, and Ralph's voice, when
he spoke, was gruff and unnatural. "What can that be?" he asked, as he
turned to their leader.

"That is a heavy field piece--there, you can see the smoke. It is
mounted on the hill directly in front of us. Lucky for us that we did
not cross the field," answered Gascon.

"We are in a trap," said Alfred.

Gascon smiled. "Yes, if they have advanced beyond the battery we shall
have to wait until night, because it would be unsafe to cross the Meuse
in their rear."

A boom from the east, followed by another, and still another, was
sufficient notice to them that the great forts at Liège were answering
the challenge. They burrowed into the hedge, and made enclosures with
bushes and leaves. Meantime, the battery on the hill opened fire with
its three guns, and soon the surrounding atmosphere grew misty, and
they could smell an unmistakable odor of burning powder.

Soon another battery, farther to their right, began to fire. "How
fortunate we did not get any further than this," said Gascon.

"Why?" asked Alfred, in astonishment.

"Because we should have run into another battery and encampment to the
rear of this."

They were hardly settled in the temporary shelter, when they heard a
peculiar hissing sound, and immediately felt, a peculiar shock as of a
falling body, followed by an explosion of a huge shell which threw dirt
and sand over them. This was really more terrifying to the boys than
their experience at the mouth of the mine on the first day of their
wanderings.

"That must have been awful close," said Alfred, with a perceptible
tremor in his voice.

"It was fully fifty metres (163 feet) beyond us. That was, probably,
an eight-inch shell, and if it had come within ten meters, (about 32
feet), of the battery the latter would have been put out of action."

Within the next half-hour a dozen or more shells burst within five
hundred feet, more or less, of their position. It was evident that the
forts south of the river were trying to get the range of the battery
which had thrown the challenge which the boys witnessed.

It was their first actual experience in war. They had seen the
soldiers, and the trappings, but now the actual conflict was before
them. It was fascinating, but it was also dangerous. Did they stop to
talk over things connected with their homes and their friends? They
doubtless thought of them, but they knew they must think of something
more important than distant things. They must meet the actual realities
at hand.

For two hours they lay thus, and watched the entrancing sight of the
guns on the hill, firing at regular intervals, and noted the bursting
of the great shells from the forts, speculating where the next one
would strike. They became reckless now. The boys were both trembling
when the first shells began to come, but now they had a different
feeling. At first they had a vague idea that there was some safety
in the bushes, and lay there concealed, but now very strangely each
bursting shell made them less anxious and subdued their curiosity.

They crawled from the shelter, and moved into the opening. Gascon and
his companion had been thus exposed for some time. They now had little
fear of the troops. The air was filled with smoke, as a slight breeze
blew toward them from the battery.

Gascon turned to the boys, noted their composure, and said: "We think
it would be well for us to make a start."

This information was a welcome one, you may be sure, for it was better
than waiting to be shot at.

Hardly had the boys turned toward the hedge, when a peculiar explosion
was heard. It was like a combination of explosions, and Gascon ran out
into the field, swinging his hat.

"What is the matter?" asked Ralph, excitedly.

Gascon waved his arms and smiled, but was silent for a time.

He pointed to the hill. "That will settle those fellows for some time,"
he said, turning toward them. The boys looked toward the hill and saw
that it was giving up an immense cloud of the densest smoke.

"They have hit the battery," said Alfred, in intense excitement.

"But what makes all that smoke?" asked Ralph.

"Ah!" said Gascon, with a broad grin, "they have struck the caisson and
exploded the ammunition."

Without waiting for more information, the party rapidly ran along the
hedge to the north, but before they had crossed half-way to the hedge
which formed the enclosure for the field along the roadway, a troop of
horsemen appeared in the road to their left, and rode furiously toward
the hill.

The atmosphere was a dusky gray but unlike a haze it was much more
dense and heavy. The heavy shells from the fort came at regular
intervals. The moment the horsemen passed, Gascon held up his hand as a
signal to go forward, and they soon reached the road. He was the first
through the brush, and crawling out across the road, gave a peculiar
whistle to indicate safety, and the boys followed, crouching as low as
possible, Ralph following Alfred, after an interval, as they had been
instructed. Their companion was the last to cross.

When Alfred reached the other side, he saw Gascon fully a hundred feet
away. The battery on the hill had ceased, but the one beyond was still
keeping up its regular shots.

"I believe we are forward of the most advanced batteries," said Gascon,
"and if such should turn out to be the case we will have little trouble
in reaching our lines."

The misty condition of the atmosphere was most fortunate for the boys
and their companions, but it also frequently brought them close up
to the patrols, which were constantly in their path. Thus by careful
manœuvring they found themselves approaching an elevation which Gascon
estimated to be ten miles west of Liège.

The ascent was slow, as they crept most of the way, to avoid any
sentries who might be in that locality. Up to this time they had found
the inevitable Uhlans in their way wherever they went.

Gascon, who was in the lead, held up a warning hand as they reached the
summit, where, spread before them, was a great panorama. To the east,
and less than a mile away, was a much higher hill, that dominated the
position in which they found themselves, and there they discovered a
battery, also in action.

Directly before them was the winding Meuse. A little to the right, and
probably a mile and a quarter away, was a little town, and to the left,
four miles distant, was Huy, a town of about 4,000 inhabitants, also on
the northern bank of the stream.

The railway, from Liège to Huy, was at the foot of the hill, winding
its way along, and below the great hill to the east, was discernible, a
German encampment, which supported the battery on the hill.

The frowning forts around Liège were distinctly visible, because their
great guns were now in action. The sounds which reached them were like
the continual reverberations of thunder, only sharper and punctuated
by the occasional heavy discharges. Above every fort floated a Belgian
flag.

The boys looked at Gascon, whose countenance portrayed anxiety, which
they noticed for the first time in his demeanor.

"Do you think we shall be able to cross the river?" asked Alfred.

"We can find means to do that, if we are able to reach it. The trouble
will be to get there, and we cannot possibly do that during the day."

"Do you see any of the Germans near the stream?"

"No, but they have plenty of places to conceal themselves. It is clear
that we must avoid the railroad."

"Why not move to the right?" said Alfred. "That is the most direct way
to the city."

Gascon did not reply, but in a few minutes, he began to descend to the
west, and all followed him at a distance. The valley was reached after
passing by a dozen or more cottages, all of which were unoccupied.

"The empty houses make it look bad to me," was Gascon's observation, as
they were moving from the last one. "The Germans have been here, that
is----"

His remarks were cut short, as he dropped to the earth and made a
signal. They were astounded to find that a company of horsemen occupied
the orchard to the west of the house. This made a hurried retreat
necessary and they passed to the east, skirting the hill formerly
occupied.

They commenced to feel the pangs of hunger. Fruit had been the morning
meal, and of this they had found plenty; but something else was needed.
Gascon spoke to his companion, and after selecting a secluded spot, the
latter moved forward, and crouching along the hedges was soon beyond
their view.

"Joseph will forage for us," said Gascon. "It is better for one to do
this than for all of us to join in the hunt."

They waited for more than a half-hour, without a sign of Joseph, and
Gascon now made frequent trips to the nearby road, but returned each
time without tidings.

The last time he came back with the cheerful intelligence that Joseph
was returning. But alas! for their expectations! Two shots in the
neighborhood of their returning friend, caused Gascon and the boys to
leap to their feet. Beyond the second field they saw Joseph running
from a half-dozen troopers who were leaping the fences in pursuit.

Joseph saw that escape was useless, and turned toward his pursuers.
Evidently, he had not been hit by the shots. An officer galloped up to
him, and he exposed the contents of his bundle.

"They will suspect that Joseph is getting food for companions and we
will have to depend on our wits to escape capture," said Gascon.

They were evidently questioning the captive. Joseph was shrewd enough
to endeavor to effect his escape by running to the east, instead of
going to the south, where his companions were.

"Do you think that is why he ran in the direction he did?" asked Ralph.

"Undoubtedly," replied Gascon. "Now that they are trying to learn where
we are, let us move to the north and east, as fast as we can."

"But," said Alfred, "that will take us right into the German lines."

"Quite true, but that will be better than attempting to go forward."

It was but the work of a moment to crawl through the hedge, and move
down the hill, making their way as fast as possible toward an orchard,
through which they passed, emerging at a small vineyard which afforded
them shelter. They hurriedly passed through the rows of vines, and soon
approached a small farmhouse.

"I will investigate; stay here until you hear from me. If everything is
clear I will appear at the side of the building to the right of the elm
trees."

The boys nestled close to the bushy vines, occasionally standing up
to see whether Gascon was in sight. Within fifteen minutes they were
delighted to see the form of Gascon, and hearing the welcome signal,
rejoined him.

The Germans had not disturbed this house, which was accounted for by
the fact that the homestead was quite a distance from the main road.
The owner of the place had, however, heard all the news up to the
preceeding day, and this was what the boys were interested in.

"Liège is being surrounded," he said. "It would be almost impossible to
make your way through, though it might be done by taking a route which
would enable you to approach the city from the north."

"I must get back to my regiment," said Gascon. "So if you will permit
me to remain here until night, I will attempt the journey."

"We know it is the right thing for you to try to reach your command.
We do not wish to hamper you, but we will follow you during the night.
Never fear, we shall find a way to get home," said Ralph.



CHAPTER VII

A THRILLING FLIGHT


"You must be hungry," said the kindly old man. The boys had not
forgotten that they wanted something to eat, and Gascon smiled as he
told the farmer that they had nothing but fruit during the entire day.

The farmer's wife had already made preparations for the evening meal,
as it was now nearing six in the afternoon. The boys followed her every
movement and when the meal was ready they both ate to the delight of
the woman. As she looked at them, her eyes frequently filled with tears.

"Two of our boys are now at Liège. One of them is an officer in Fort V.
Flerion," she said.

"Maybe we saw some of the shells which he has been throwing at the
Germans," said Alfred, enthusiastically.

"Undoubtedly you saw some of them when you were down near the great
forest," said Gascon, "but we are too far west now for the guns from
that fort."

"I hope," said the woman, "that this trouble will not be for long. But
our boys must serve our country, even though all of us suffer for it."

After the meal, the boys were surprised to see the door leading to the
kitchen, quietly open, and two young men entered. The father introduced
the two, one of them being his son, and the other a neighbor. They then
learned that the two formed part of a guard for the neighborhood, and
that they had come in for the evening meal, while others kept guard in
the meantime.

"Roland had an experience this afternoon," said the elder. "While
passing down the orchard lane we heard two shots on the Thierry farm.
He went forward to reconnoiter and ran into a troop of Uhlans who were
escorting a prisoner whom they had taken in the field beyond."

The boys looked at each other. "Did he have on a red-bordered jacket?"
eagerly asked Alfred.

"Yes," answered Roland. "How did you know?" he inquired.

"That was Joseph!" exclaimed Ralph.

"The trouble was that they came very near catching me, also," said
Roland, with a twinkle, "as they were after me when they spied the
man. I was ahead of Paul, after we passed through the lane, and when
I crossed the road, they discovered me and gave chase. As I passed
through the wheat field I had a good chance to hide, but the troopers
came on and leaped over the fence only to catch sight of the stranger."

"So my friend saved you," said Gascon. "Well, I suppose that is what
this war does. It does not respect anyone. You must suffer for what I
do. In war nothing is right but might."

"We have been attacked," responded Roland, "and our only course is to
fight. I am sorry I waited so long before going to the city. Belgium
needs all of us, so to-night we must start, Mother."

The boys looked on Roland in admiration. He was about twenty-four years
of age, straight, tall and handsome-featured, the youngest of the family.

The mother did not reply, but she silently gathered up her apron and
wiped the moisture from her eyes. She did not object, but quietly said:
"Tell your brothers not to worry about us, but do let us hear from you
often."

How often that same injunction goes forth from a mother's heart. "Don't
forget to write!" Once in a slum lodging house which was established
for wanderers, a tablet was placed over the door, on which was
inscribed, in large letters the words:

    "WHEN DID YOU WRITE THE LAST LETTER TO MOTHER?"

Shortly after nine o'clock, Gascon, together with Roland, and two
others, prepared to start for the Belgian lines. It was a sad parting,
and it may be said to the credit of the mother that she bore her part
well, and inspired those about her to act bravely.

The old man gave the boys careful instructions, as to the surrounding
country. "My advice is that you go directly northwest for at least
three miles, and that will bring you behind the German firing line.
None of their batteries is so far west as that, but you must remember
that the German forces are rapidly coming north from Verviers, and
while they are mostly following the railroads, are, nevertheless,
taking advantage of all the roads from Bleiburn and Eupen."

"But isn't it safer for us to travel at night than in the daytime?"
asked Alfred.

"It is not safe at any time, my boy. The notices say you must be
indoors after seven o 'clock. So by traveling at night you are
violating one of the orders. On the other hand, if you travel in the
daytime, you may be easily detected."

"But why should they object to people being out at night?" asked Ralph.

"Because they are in an enemy's country, and they know that as the
inhabitants are acquainted with every section, they would be able to
spread information, and offer great obstructions, if allowed their
freedom."

The stern necessities of war were thus gradually instilled in their
minds. They saw the peril of their enterprise, and it may be said
to the credit of the boys that they determined to risk the journey.
Unquestionably, the country through which they were now to go was more
perilous for them than the trip from Quareaux.

Shortly after ten o'clock the boys decided on leaving. The mother
handed them two packages neatly done up. "Here is some luncheon for
you. You will need it before you reach Liège," she said.

They were greatly touched at this material evidence of good will, and
Alfred grasping her by the hand tried to thank her. Like a true mother,
she put her arms around the boys, and said:

"God bless you both, and may you soon see your parents. Good-by!"

They moved toward the door, and passed out, with downcast eyes, afraid
to utter another word, so strong were their feelings. They now realized
that they were alone in a strange section of the country, and that the
route was beset by perils. Somehow the terror of the situation had
passed from them. Less than a week ago they were carefree boys, who had
no great responsibilities, and who had never experienced the trials of
life.

For the past two days they had violated the laws imposed on the
community by the invaders; they knew the penalty was death. They had
been hunted and pursued; had learned how to evade the searchers; how to
crawl by stealth from one field to the next; how to cross a patrolled
highway, and the precautions that must be taken to approach houses. Do
you not wonder that boys under such conditions might well be pardoned
for feeling faint and weakened in their determination to go on?

Ralph was the first to recover. "How noble those people are. I love
them for the care and attention they gave us, and I hope we may be able
to repay them some day."

"Yes," answered Alfred. "But it made me happy to see the way Roland
left his mother. He is a brave fellow, and I hope he will be able to
work his way through the lines."

"But here we are. We must not waste time. We had but little sleep last
night, and must go as far as we can to-night. Didn't that bath feel
good?" remarked Ralph.

They hugged the precious packages which had been given them, and moved
to the east along the hedge row as suggested by the farmer.

"He said we should go east until we crossed the second stream, and then
follow it down to the Meuse. We ought to be able to remember that,"
said Alfred, as they quietly walked along side by side.

"There is the road now," interposed Ralph. "Everything appears to be
quiet. Let us go on carefully, and cross over."

This was accomplished without accident. It was now fully eleven
o'clock, and it must not be imagined that there was quiet all about
them. In the distance were sounds of the movement of horses, the clang
of metal and the rumbling of wheels, even at this late hour.

Indeed, they had hardly passed the highway, when a train of vehicles
came along. All these things became familiar to them, just as noises
and sounds will become dull to the ear through frequent and constant
repetition.

They talked but little, and moved across the next field with
considerable speed. A field of barley was reached, and soon passed,
then an orchard, and the inevitable vineyard. A house, or other
building, would suddenly loom up, and then a new direction would have
to be taken.

"What bothers me most is to get the right direction again after we
circle about the houses," said Alfred.

"Yes, I forgot to look at the Great Dipper, so as to locate the North
Star. Do you remember, Alfred, how grandfather instructed us to find
the true north?" asked Ralph.

"I am afraid I would not be able to explain it," answered Alfred.

"Well, look at the two stars opposite the handle. A line run out from
those two stars always points to the North Polar star," replied Ralph.

"I remember now," answered Alfred; "there it is, that bright star.
Well, I shall try it the next time we are forced to go around a
building."

For the benefit of the reader, a sketch is given of the dipper, and the
relative position of Polaris, the great North Star. The dotted line A,
which runs through the two stars Dubhe and Merak, also passes through
Polaris.

Progress was slow owing to these detours, and when the first stream was
reached the boys were glad to bathe their faces, then they sat down to
rest. Where the stream was crossed appeared to be a secluded spot, and
the silence was such that it was almost oppressive to them.

Suddenly a great bell rang out in the distance, and the boys counted
the strokes. It was twelve o'clock, and they heard the bell of a great
château, eight miles west of Liège.

This startled them more than the reverberations of the great guns.

"We can now keep track of the time exactly," said Alfred.

"Unless we hear too many other noises," answered Ralph.

[Illustration: _Using the Great Dipper to Find the True North_]

The tramp was again taken up. They began to grow tired now but they had
gone in a direct line from the farmer's house, not to exceed a mile and
a half, though in winding their ways around the houses they must have
traveled twice that distance. Moreover, every step of the way was one
of anxiety, which is more wearing than the bodily exertion.

Over fields, some of them newly-plowed; along hedges and fences,
walking between rows of vegetables; through orchards; crawling over
obstructions; ever alert to note and weigh each new or unfamiliar
noise; these were the strenuous times through which our heroes were
compelled to go in their wanderings. No wonder they grew tired.

"Are we going down hill?" inquired Ralph.

"Undoubtedly," said Alfred. "I hope we shall soon reach the second
stream."

Ralph's hope was realized. The stream was near at hand, flowing
directly north.

"We must follow this," whispered Alfred.

"Why not have something to eat?" said Ralph. "I am awfully hungry."
Alfred needed no urging. Selecting a sheltered position under an
overhanging bank, they sat down, and carefully opened one of the
packages. They were surprised to find not only substantials there but
real dainties.

"Oh, but this is good," remarked Ralph.

"I thought----"

But Alfred's sentence was cut short by a sudden commotion to their
right, followed by a gruff order in German. Soon the sounds of
galloping horses were heard, and a number stopped not three hundred
feet away.

They did not move. Some altercation or explanation took place, the
nature of which was not explainable at that time.

"I believe the road runs along there and crosses the creek where the
troops are," suggested Alfred.

"I wonder what they are stopping for?"

A new order was given, and the command moved on to the west. In another
instant two figures faintly appeared close to the stream, at a bend
below them. They came on, directly toward them. The boys grasped each
others hands. The figures were now only ten feet away, and the boys
then saw that they were not enemies but friends.

"Don't be afraid of us," said Ralph, rising.

The men, thus suddenly arrested, started back, but quickly recovering
inquired who they were.

"We are trying to get to Antwerp," said Alfred, "if the Germans will
let us."

"Well, we are trying to get away from home, and they don't want us to
do even that," said one of the men.

"Were they after you?" inquired Alfred.

"Yes, for the last hour."

"Is that a road beyond?" asked Ralph.

"That is the main road leading to Vise."

"We should have struck the creek considerably south of the road," said
Alfred.

"It is fortunate that you did not reach it on the other side, because
every foot of the road is patrolled. That is what caused us the trouble
during the last hour,--trying to get across."

"But we made a run for it at last, and that is what caused the rumpus.
If they know we are on this side they will surely follow along
the stream, so we had better move up toward the Meuse, as fast as
possible."

One of the men now went ahead, the others following at a distance which
enabled them to barely make out the advancing form. As they advanced
the valley of the stream grew narrower and more rugged.

The man with the boys turned to them and said: "We are now less than
a half mile from the Meuse. The railway track ahead will be the most
dangerous part of our journey."

As he spoke they saw one of the telegraph poles through the darkness
and the leader in advance halted. There was silence for some time.
Soon he returned with the information that a body of troops were
quartered at the small station beyond, and that the utmost vigilance
was necessary.

Stealthily making their way along the hedge row at one side, the
railway line was reached. As a precautionary measure the men searched
the track in both directions, and returned with the information that
the line was clear. Creeping as low as possible the four made their way
across, just as an approaching train, filled with troops from the east,
began to slow down.

The rear end of the train stopped within two hundred feet of the
crossing place, and a number of the soldiers stepped from the train,
while lanterns, in abundance, were seen all along the train.

"Don't let us waste time. The arrival of the train will give them
something to think about while we make tracks for the river."

All precaution was now thrown to the winds. They actually scrambled
along the ground, and over the rough limestone formation. Huge oak
trees sprang up all along their pathway. This section is noted for the
size and beauty of these trees. They now afforded fine hiding places.

"We must go to the left, and try the bridge," said the elder of the two.

This announcement was very welcome to the boys. Somehow, they felt that
if they could once cross the river they would be safe from pursuit.
To cross the stream otherwise would require a boat, or necessitate
swimming.

"Are you sure there is a bridge near here?" asked Ralph, somewhat
doubtfully.

"Yes."

Beyond the Meuse. How the boys enjoyed the sight.

"Now for the bridge," said the leader.

Keeping fully a hundred feet from the bank of the stream they marched
to the west, without incident, until they had gone fully a quarter of
a mile. Then, something moved in front of them. They quietly listened,
for it was certain some one was approaching. Not a word was spoken.

Beyond question men were approaching. Quiet mumblings were heard from
the approaching party.

The elder, in a suppressed breath, cried out "_ami_," meaning _friend_,
and the noise instantly ceased. There was no response, however. The
word was repeated. Soon the answer came: "_Belguique_."



CHAPTER VIII

THEY REACH THE BELGIAN FORCES


There was a movement in their front, and soon forms were outlined. One
appeared after the other, until seven men ranged alongside. Almost the
first to appear was Roland, who had left them the evening before, and
two of his associates.

Roland laughed, as he greeted the boys. Most of the men knew each
other, as they were all from the same commune.

"Where are you going?" asked Roland.

"To the bridge," answered their companion.

"Too late," responded Roland. "An advance guard, with two machine guns,
reached there less than an hour ago, and has taken possession."

"That means that the Germans are on the other side, as well?" asked one
of the men.

"We do not know about that. They could easily come up from Tieff, and
from that point cross over."

"Fortunately," said Roland, "our troops are arriving from St. Trond and
Tongress, to reinforce the garrison."

"Then we may be able to reach the soldiers," said Alfred.

"Yes, unless the Germans are ahead of them," answered Roland.

Without delay the company, now increased to eleven, turned to the east,
and marched down close to the river bank. Cottage after cottage was
passed, but they purposely avoided the roads. West of Jemeppe is a
little cluster of cottages, where some of the company knew boats were
obtainable, and as this was approached the bell of the château struck
three.

If the cottages along the way were silent, it was evident that the
cottagers were not asleep. As they neared the street they could see
many of the villagers, and at the shore were a dozen boats, and several
more could be seen out in the stream.

The appearance of the boys and the party attracted no particular
attention, but it was seen that the men were manning the boats, and
Roland and his men announced that they must cross in order to join the
forces beyond.

"The Germans are on the other side, but how near we do not know. They
have taken the bridge below here," said one of them.

The boys were interested listeners and observers. They now noticed that
many of the men were armed, and that two of them had uniforms.

"Who is that man with the uniform?" asked Alfred, as Roland appeared.

"That is Captain Moreau. He is directing the movement of the reservists
in this section."

The boys were startled at this as it meant the news of his capture was
not true. Pierre must be with him then, and they rushed around trying
to find him, but were unable to do so.

Over forty men manned the boats, and the boys were permitted to enter
one of them.

The Captain gave a brief order and they were under way. As they neared
the northern shore he said:

"Return as rapidly as possible to the next landing below and get those
assembled there. We will await the party at Grand Oak crossing."

When all had landed they were quietly marched to the east until they
struck a road leading to the north. A quarter of a mile beyond was a
cross road, passing through a cluster of magnificent oaks. They were
led to a thick wood adjoining the cross road, and concealed in the
chapparal which commanded the main road.

It consumed an hour to reach this point, and it was now four in the
morning. In a half hour more the party from the downstream landing
appeared, and now the first streaks of dawn appeared. Without waiting
for explanations as to the course to be pursued, the Captain selected
four men, who were ordered to advance.

The scouts thus designated were armed, and immediately forged ahead,
and after a wait of five minutes, the party followed. All talking was
prohibited.

"We shall know within the next hour whether we shall meet friend or
foe," said the Captain.

Every minute or two one of the scouts would appear and report to the
Captain. The party marched on without halting, until a little village
was reached, through which ran a main road.

Beyond was the railway from Tongres to Liège. This must be reached,
for, if the Belgian reinforcements were coming it is probable they
would come over this line.

"The party is too large to pass around the village," said the Captain.
"We must divide, one-half going to the left and the other to the right.
We shall meet at the railway, a mile beyond."

The boys were fortunate enough to accompany the party commanded by the
Captain, and Roland was also one of the company.

All was too much excitement, however, to enable them to ask for much
information. What if the road should be in possession of the Germans.
It required no information to tell them what that would mean.

A tramp of twenty minutes brought them in sight of the railway
embankment. The other party had arrived, and were in waiting.
The commander in charge of the other party came forward with the
information that no trains had come from the north since six o'clock
the night before.

"That means that the Germans have seized the road," said the Captain.
"Where is your informant?" he asked.

One of the men, who lived in the immediate neighborhood, came forward
and he was carefully questioned. He could give no news as to the reason
for the delay in trains.

"How far is it to the nearest station?"

"One kilometer to the east, Captain. I will undertake to go there and
try to get some information."

"Go at once, and Corporal Antonio will accompany you."

Antonio was the non-commissioned officer who had charge of the other
party in their movement around the village.

They hurriedly departed, and the Captain then disposed of the company,
by ordering them to line the hedges along the embankment, and to remain
perfectly quiet, until ordered to move.

After a wait of twenty minutes the corporal reappeared and reported
that the Germans held the approach to the northern side of the bridge,
and that a troop train had left Tongres less than a half hour ago.

"Then we must march to the north at once," said the Captain.

Now for the first time they felt the effects of the long strain. They
still carried one of the packages of luncheon and noticed that rations
were carried by the others as well. They had the pleasure of telling
Roland about the luncheon, and now that the morning sun was appearing,
and the company sat down to rest, they opened the package, and Roland
assisted them in disposing of the contents.

There was no trouble now in getting food. Everywhere, the peasants
supplied their necessities. Fruit was in abundance on all sides. This
was, indeed, a grand holiday; but they were excessively tired. This
was the second night without sleep. After nearly an hour's march they
reached a village on the railway, and were gratified to learn that the
troop train was a mile beyond, and rapidly approaching.

The company during the march had been gathering recruits, so that when
the train came in sight more than a hundred formed the party. The Captain
boarded the train, and immediately consulted the officer in command.

After a wait of nearly an hour, all of the recruits, together with the
boys, got aboard, and the train slowly moved forward, passing several
villages. Here are numerous coal mines, foundries and factories, and it
was assumed that the Germans would first of all capture these places,
and this they were attempting to do at this time.

The only thing which prevented them was the lack of transportation.
They were concentrating an immense force to the south of the city, and
investing it on all sides as fast as the facilities for moving the
munitions of war and the troops permitted.

Beyond was Russau, which was soon reached, and as the boys looked out
they saw a magnificent panorama. This town is fully 500 feet higher
than Liège, and is over seven miles northeast. From that viewpoint
could be seen the beautiful valley of the Meuse, and the city with
its encircling forts, one of which, V Lautin, was directly to the
southeast, and the other to the south, Ft. V Laucin.

A quick command was given, and in the shortest possible time the entire
train was emptied of its living freight.

"What is the matter?" asked Alfred, startled at the sudden exodus.

"The Germans are across the railroad ahead," said Roland.

The boys' hearts sank within them. They watched the tracks which were
laid from the platforms of the cars, and saw the field pieces wheeled
down. Then the boxes that followed, that they knew contained the
ammunition.

"What are those curious looking bullets?" asked Ralph.

[Illustration: _Shrapnel Shell_]

"They are shrapnel. They are filled with bullets, and a bursting charge
so as to scatter the bullets," said Roland.

"How are they made?" asked Alfred.

Roland then hurriedly explained it to them as follows:

"There is an outside shell A, which is provided with a charge of powder
sufficient to explode it. This has a time fuse of such length that it
will explode a sufficient distance ahead of the striking point, say
two or three hundred feet. These bullets scatter where they strike."

"But why is it called 'shrapnel'?" asked Ralph.

"It was named after a British general, Shrapnel, who invented it about
eighty years ago," replied Roland.

[Illustration: _Exploding Shrapnel_]

The moment the guns were unloaded the train backed away, and the men
deployed on both sides of the road, the guns being moved forward toward
an advantageous position.

The German horsemen could be plainly seen at intervals between the
shrubbery, more than a half mile beyond.

"How many men were aboard the train?" asked Alfred.

"About three hundred, including the officers and men of the battery,"
answered Roland.

The guns were soon in position. The lines had been selected for the
men, but still there was no attack.

"What are they waiting for?" asked Ralph, impatiently.

"That is a pretty large force for us to attack. We are waiting for
reinforcements. Another train load is on the way, and within two hours
we shall have cavalry to support us," was the response.

Evidently the enemy did not purpose waiting.

One part of their cavalry moved to the east, and the other came
directly forward. A command was given, and the guns, with shrapnel
shot, began to speak. Behind the battery, and on a slightly elevated
position, were some officers, with glasses. After each shot an order
was given, or an observation made for the benefit of the gunners.

"Elevate a little more." "Farther to the left." "Change position to
the right." "Good shot." And so on, as the boys and the others not
belonging to the force crowded around.

Few of the shots, however, took effect in such a manner as to
particularly make the actions of the troops noticeable. After each
telling shot there would be confusion in the lines; this was plainly
observable and when the shells exploded in front of the lines there
would be a halt, and reformation of the columns.

They came on, however, and now the infantry commenced to send its
volleys against the oncoming foe.

To reach the hill on which the battery was mounted it was necessary
for the cavalry to cross two fences, one of them being formed of rock,
along which had grown dense shrubbery. The force halted beyond the
second hill, where it was screened, and for a time the firing ceased.
Meantime the force which was detached to the right appeared to the left
of the screened force, in a valley, and awaited, apparently, further
orders.

The officer in command of the Belgians anxiously awaited word from
the north, but none came. After an hour of waiting the guns were
unlimbered, and with the infantry as a screen it retreated over the
road to the northwest. This was done under cover, of course, so that
the Germans supposed the battery was still on the hill.

Numerous scouting parties had been sent out, as soon as the command
disembarked from the cars, and reports from the different sections
now began to come in. The entire country south and between them and
the outlying forts was occupied by the enemy. It would be impossible
for them to enter Liège from that direction. The scouts reported that
they must go to the west, as the Belgians still held the railway from
Brussels and Louvain.

While all this was going on, a terrific bombardment was in progress.
All of the forts south of the Meuse were in action, and two to the
north. At least twenty German batteries had been planted within two
days, all directed against the fortified hills.

It was a grand and thrilling spectacle to the boys. The dense
haze caused by the burning powder, obstructed the rays of the sun;
everywhere was bustle and confusion, as they gazed out on the great
panorama before them. Ordinarily the great factories and foundries all
about the city produced a like condition. But now the industrial works
were silent. The hum of peaceful institutions was not like the noise of
war.

"Do you see that house over there?" said Gascon. "That is where we have
picknicked many a time. There is a beautiful grove over the hill, and
adjoining the house."

"The Germans are there now; see them coming up the road!" exclaimed
Ralph in excitement.

"There is a big stone quarry back of the house----"

The Captain heard Gascon, and quickly stepped over to him. "Do you know
this part of the country?" he asked.

"Yes, I have been here many times," answered Gascon.

"Then come with me quickly," said the commander.

"I formerly lived in Liège, and know every part of the country around
here. There is a large quarry beyond the red house. That would be a
good place to send the company."

"I thank you very much for the information."

"May we go along with the company?" asked Ralph.

The officer smiled at his eagerness, as he gave the assent.

"But we want some guns," said Alfred, as he turned to address the
officer.

There was a moment of hesitation. "By all means, you shall have them,"
he replied.

It was but the work of moments to supply them with the desired
equipment, and when the boys marched down the hill with the detachment
they were the happiest pair in Belgium.

"Aren't the guns heavy, though," remarked Alfred. "Wouldn't I like to
shoot?"

This was another problem. They must learn the use of the weapons. They
were soon to have an opportunity to learn that the soldier who uses the
gun frequently, as in battle, will have a sore and bruised shoulder,
from the recoil. It was sport to them now; how would it be later on?

Within twenty minutes the detachment reached the first of the quarries.
Here was an admirable defensive work, made ready for them, and
absolutely inaccessible to cavalry.

Roland was sent back to the commanding officer to report on the
condition of the quarry and its surroundings, and within an hour the
entire force was on its way, the artillery being mounted in a concealed
position on the hill above the quarry, while the infantry used the
entrenched part below.

Here the entire party awaited the expected reinforcements from the
north, and the Germans remained, for the time being, quietly on the
watch, a half mile below the red house.



CHAPTER IX

THE FIRST BATTLE


Thus the boys spent the first day of their journeyings as soldiers. How
proud they were. They actually petted the guns. They had no uniforms, of
course, and it was the only thing needed to make them supremely happy.

Their joy was so great that they almost forgot home, and when, in the
dangers that later came, they thought of their parents, it was with
great pride that they were able to be of service to Belgium in her hour
of need.

There was another thing which awakened a sense of pleasure. The men
realizing that they were only boys treated them like privileged
characters. In accordance with the laws they had no right to bear arms;
but in war many things are permitted that would not be tolerated in
times of peace.

The boys had an early awakening. Ralph, who was first to arise and
emerge from the little cove, which was occupied by their squad, rushed
back into the enclosure, and cried: "An airship is coming."

Alfred was out in an instant. There, circling above them, was an air
plane. The officers were viewing it with their glasses.

"What is it, Roland?" asked Alfred.

"It is a German flying machine, of the type called the Taube," he
answered.

[Illustration: _German Taube Airplane_]

"What is the difference between the Taube and the monoplane?" asked
Ralph.

"The Taube is a monoplane. The word is the German name for _dove_. That
name was given to it on account of its shape. See the broadly-spreading
tail, and the peculiar wing-formation of the main planes."

After passing above the quarry the machine flew to the south, and then
circled around so as to get a view of the tier of forts.

"See, there is another one off to the left," exclaimed Ralph.

In the distance, and in the direction from which the boys had come,
in their wanderings, they noticed another ship of the same character.
These were used for the purpose of ascertaining the locations, not only
of the forts themselves, but to spy out the most convenient elevations
in the vicinity of the fortifications.

The most important duty of the airplanes is to watch the movement of
troops from one vicinity to the other, and to take particular note
of the effect of the shells. In this respect they have an undoubted
advantage over any other method ever used in warfare.

Heretofore the only way in which an attacking party could determine
whether the shells took effect was indicated by the failure on the
part of the fort to answer with their guns. But this was not the most
satisfactory thing to judge from, because, in many instances, the forts
would purposely cease firing, and thus delude the attackers into the
belief that they were silenced by the exploding shells.

There is no mistaking the explosions of shells, as they fall around a
fort. The flying machines are usually manned by a military observer,
who has powerful glasses. He also has a large flag with a white center,
and dark border. With this he can readily signal the effect of the
shots to the officer at the battery, the latter being provided with
field glasses.

The system of signals vary. Obviously, there are only four directions
necessary in order to tell the gunners where to shoot. That is, if the
shot should, for instance, go over the fort, the flag would be raised
far over the head to indicate that fact. If the shot fell short, the
flag would be lowered. In like manner, should the shot strike to the
right, the flag would be waved in that direction, and so on.

If the shots are properly placed the flag is waved around the head, to
show demonstration of approval.

The commander called Antonio, and directed him to take a squad and
mount the hill directly to the east, using that as an observation
point. Roland was one of the squad, and the boys begged permission to
accompany them.

They made a hurried rush across the intervening depression, the entire
force numbering fifty-five men. If the officer in command had known
that the mission would be a dangerous one he would have denied the boys
permission to go along; but it was too late now.

It was well that the commander had taken the precaution, for the moment
they gained the crest of the hill they could plainly observe a body of
infantry coming up the hill a mile to the east, and this was absolutely
unobservable from the quarry position.

Before Antonio had time to consider what to do a company of dismounted
cavalry appeared at the foot of the hill, evidently with the object of
using the elevation as an observation point. The Germans had no idea
that it was already occupied.

Antonio quietly gave instructions to the men. "Do not fire until I
give the order. Keep cool, and when you fire, shoot low, and aim
deliberately."

Alfred and Ralph were now at fever heat. It was the most momentous
period of their lives. The excitement was most intense, and what made
it still more trying was that they must keep quiet and suppress their
feelings.

What emotions must be uppermost in the minds of soldiers when they are
about to engage in the first real battle. Gen. Grant describes the
feeling that overtook him while leading his company up the hill to
meet, for the first time, an enemy, who was waiting to receive him. He
said that the sensation was an indescribable one,--that his heart was
in his mouth, and a spasm of sickness passed through his frame, which
grew in intensity, until he began to think that, probably, the enemy
felt just the same as he did, and gradually that terrible agony passed
from him.

The enemy crossed the last fence and was now coming forward, fully a
hundred men, along the side of the hill, and over obstructions that
horses could not have passed.

Onward and upward. Why would not Antonio give the word to fire. The
boys saw more than one of the men look toward him. The rifles were
held ready for the trigger; still Antonio remained cool and impassive.

"Look at Antonio," said Alfred, under his breath. Then when he turned
to look at Ralph he saw the gun in his hand trembling, and Alfred for
the first time realized that his own hand was not steady, and it might
be said that many a gun trembled at the first experience, for, aside
from Antonio, few, if any, in that firing line had ever been in actual
battle.

"Now, ready," said Antonio. The great suspense was over. Nobody looked
toward Antonio now. They were looking toward the enemy. The guns ceased
their trembling. All were firmly clasped as they awaited the next word.

"Fire!" The word came like a shriek. There was no necessity for silence
now.

Every gun in the column spoke. And now each man, at command, began to
fire at will. The boys were so excited that they did not know whether
or not they served the guns properly. There was an overweening desire
to see what the results of the shots were. Then something occurred
which they had overlooked in the intensity of their feelings.

It was the roar of a hundred guns below them. They had momentarily
forgotten that the enemy could also shoot. The boys, like the others,
were behind a stone fence which ran directly across the hill.

Besides the roar of the guns they could now plainly hear the impact
of the leaden bullets on this barricade. They had an awfully sickening
sound. Sometimes, when the bullets passed over, they could hear a
whizzing sound.

"Do you hear the sounds like bumble bees?" said Ralph to Roland.

"They must be bullets," said Alfred.

The latter nodded but did not reply. The boys now had an opportunity
to see a little through the clouds of smoke around them. Antonio
passed from one end of the column to the other incessantly. "Shoot
deliberately," he said to one. "Don't hurry," to another. "Be sure to
aim carefully; it is the true shot that counts, not the number."

Such coolness gave every one courage. It inspired them. If Antonio was
not afraid, why should they be alarmed.

"Isn't Antonio brave!" said Ralph, who could not help admiring the calm
officer.

Alfred merely straightened up, as though he disdained the shelter of
the barricade, and brought his gun up for another shot.

"Good, boys!" cried Antonio. "We have them!" "Keep at it." And he ran
back and forth in the greatest enthusiasm. Ralph jumped up in the
excitement, and felt a sting in his left arm, that seemed to turn him
around.

He sat down, and again threw his gun over the protection and kept
on firing. Alfred was very business-like. He handled the gun like a
veteran.

Roland called to Alfred, and said: "My boy, you will do us a good
service if you can bring up some water for the men."

He jumped up and started for the cottage half way down the hill. He now
remembered that he was intensely thirsty. He knew there was something
lacking, but did not recognize what it was. A woman and three children
were there, terrified at the scene before her. To her he made known his
wants.

Instantly she brought forth several pails, and filling them at a nearby
spring, assisted Alfred in carrying them up the hill. He did not forget
the dipper and the other drinking vessels. What a mission of mercy
Alfred and the woman performed, as they passed the cool water to the
parched lips of the feverish fighters.

When Alfred returned to the firing line he saw Ralph leaning forward on
his gun, and a stream of blood flowing out of his sleeve.

For a moment he was paralyzed; then jumping up he ran over to Antonio,
and said: "Ralph has been shot!"

It was, indeed, a terrible thing to him, to see the blood, but the
moment he uttered that word, "_shot_," it seemed to be much more of a
catastrophe than to see his friend lying there motionless.

Antonio sprang forward and pulled off Ralph's coat. "Bring some water
here," he said. This was plentifully applied to his head and face. "He
has only fainted," was Antonio's comment. This was, fortunately, true,
for Ralph soon opened his eyes and gazed on them in surprise. Roland
quickly bathed the wound, which was a shot through the arm from which
the blood was still flowing, and bound it up, while Ralph watched the
proceeding.

But Antonio did not forget his duties. The shots from the attacking
party came slower and at longer intervals. They were shielding
themselves along the hillside, but they were not yet defeated.

"Roland, you must go to the quarry and tell them that reinforcements
are coming up along the north road, and get the orders as to our
disposition."

"Please let me go," pleaded Alfred. "There is a wheel down at the
cottage."

The voice and the earnest manner appealed to Antonio. "Yes, you are a
brave boy. You may take this order."

Those words of commendation were like a stimulant to the boy. The
communication was quickly prepared, and Alfred hurried down the
hillside, and told the woman his mission. He then grasped the bicycle
and rapidly coasted down the hill along the main road which, although
it made a detour, in order to reach the quarry, was nevertheless the
most speedy means of reaching the main party.

The soldiers at the quarry had heard the firing and knew from its
intensity and continued character that a strong party was in front, and
were eager to hear from Antonio. Alfred was observed long before he
reached the bottom of the depression, and half a dozen of the soldiers
rushed down to the foot of the hill, and assisted him up the steep grade.

"We have whipped them," cried Alfred. "Oh, it was glorious."

"Have many been killed?" asked one of the men.

"I don't know," he responded. "Yes, several have been wounded. Ralph
was shot."

"Who is Ralph?" asked one of the men.

"He is my cousin," answered Alfred.

"Oh, you mean your boy friend?"

"Yes, he was wounded in the arm, but we whipped them. We shot, and
shot, and shot, until they stopped."

The soldiers could have hugged him with joy. When Alfred came into the
quarry, still on his wheel, he handed the note to the commander, who
hurriedly perused it. Without waiting for questions he gave a command,
and soon a hundred men were on the way, under double time.

"So you two boys have been commended for bravery? We shall take
particular pleasure to see that a proper report is made about you. As
long as we have boys like you we shall have brave men," was his comment.

Alfred was bewildered. Antonio had commended him and Ralph as well, in
the note. He did not know what to do or to say. "May I go back?" he
finally asked.

"Yes," was the reply. "I will give you an order." This was hurriedly
written and handed to him. With a salute, he mounted his wheel, and
was ahead of the moving column before it began the ascent of the steep
hill where Antonio's forces lay.

Ralph looked cheerful when Alfred arrived, but apparently was
resentful, when the latter appeared.

"What is the matter?" asked Alfred.

"You have carried orders, and have really done something," was the
halting reply.

Alfred looked around at the watchers, and then he smiled. "But you have
been wounded in battle," he said.

"Yes, and mentioned in orders, too," added Roland.

"Oh, I forgot about that. The General said so. Yes, you have been
wounded in battle and I haven't been." Alfred said this in a regretful
tone of voice, and Ralph's face brightened at the thought.

Ralph looked up, and then turned to the men. "Well, is that anything?"

"Why, anybody can ride an old bicycle. That's nothing. But it's
something to get in the way of a bullet that has been shot by an enemy
for the purpose of killing," said Alfred.

Ralph smiled, and the men about them turned their heads away. There was
a philosophy in that remark which went home to many of them that day.
Can it be possible that a man can be a hero because he is wounded on
the battle field?



CHAPTER X

IN THE MESSENGER SERVICE


This part of Belgium has a very curious formation. Many of the
limestone quarries are really subterranean passages, and are of very
ancient origin, and all this section of the country has a history which
goes back to the time of the Romans. Not far north of the elevation
where the present camp was formed, is an old Roman road, which runs in
an unbroken line to Mons, in southwestern Belgium.

Belgium soil is also rich in human blood in this vicinity. Near by is
a historic battle field, fought on Sept. 11, 1746; and northwest of
Liège, on the plains of Neerwinden, two great battles were fought, one
on July 29, 1693, when the French under Marshal Luxembourg defeated
the Allies under William III, of England, and in the second battle,
March 18, 1793, when the French under Dumouriez and Louis Phillipe were
defeated by the Austrians under the Prince of Coburg.

It is no wonder that their proximity to the great battlefields should
make the Belgians good soldiers. They knew that their forefathers had
fought on many a field, and they possessed the spirit to try to emulate
them.

That evening the boys had an opportunity to learn of many of the
battles fought in the vicinity, the commander being a descendant of a
famous family which contributed fighting heroes before Belgium became a
separate nation.

Before ten o'clock that night, several messengers appeared in camp from
the military commandant near Tondres, and they were ordered to proceed
to the north at once.

The scouts in the front, who had been deployed in many directions, were
informed that at twelve o'clock the command would break camp, and that
Capt. Renee would command the rear guard, composed of the outlying
pickets.

A large detail of men had been chosen to take care of the guns, which
were first taken down the hill, half of the force accompanying them in
the march toward Tondres, Ralph and the six wounded men being carried
along on the caissons. Alfred was with Roland, under command of the
Captain.

This was an opportunity that he had long awaited, as military
operations in the night were fascinating to him. Ralph bitterly
regretted his inability to be with them, but the loss of blood had
weakened him, and it was not prudent to permit him to walk.

Promptly at twelve that night the corporal made his rounds, and quietly
gathered in the picket patrols, which silently followed the two
companies that had been left behind, the retreat being effected without
the knowledge of the Germans. At two in the morning Alfred saw that
they came up with the halted division, which had reached the railroad
south of Tongres.

After a half hour's rest the entire force moved on, and as daylight
began to appear the command was halted, and it was not long before many
of the men had found comfortable places and were sleeping soundly.

Alfred was too fatigued to care where he slept. Ralph, on the other
hand, was able to only after he became accustomed to the rolling motion
of the heavy ordnance wagon.

At six o'clock he was up, and looking around was gratified to see
Roland, who greeted the boy with the greatest enthusiasm.

"Are you looking for Alfred?" the latter inquired.

"Yes, do you know where he is?" asked Ralph.

"Poor fellow, he is almost dead with fatigue. You will find him on the
straw to the left."

Ralph was over in an instant, and there was Alfred, lying on his side,
sleeping as peacefully as though dead.

What he now noticed for the first time was the condition of Alfred's
clothing. There was not a clean thread on the boy. The trousers had
holes in the knees, the shoes were badly jagged, and the toes worn
through. It would have been hard to recognize the hat, as it had no
semblance of its former shape.

After gazing awhile he thought of his own clothing. It was no better,
although strange that he had never noticed its dilapidated condition
before. He remembered how they had to crawl through the brush, and
along the hedges, and it was not remarkable that their clothing hung in
threads.

No, he would not waken Alfred, much as he had to tell him, so he
quietly wended his way back to the caisson. As he did so he passed the
commandant's quarters, and that officer greeted him.

"And you are the wounded boy?" he said.

Ralph blushed, and answered: "I am the wounded soldier, sir." And then
he stammered to correct his answer.

The officer laughed, as he responded: "You are right; I should have
called you a man, because you have done a man's work. You boys are made
of the right kind of stuff. But weren't you afraid when the bullets
began to come whistling around you?"

"Yes, at first," he said a little hesitatingly, "I was afraid before
Antonio told us to shoot."

"So you were afraid before either you or the Germans had a chance to
shoot; is that it?"

"Well, yes; you see they seemed to come up pretty close before he gave
us a chance to fire; but when we once commenced to shoot we didn't stop
to think whether we were in danger or not."

"That is the right spirit, my boy. That is the way the true soldier
feels."

At seven o'clock breakfast was ready and the entire camp was awake.
Alfred came from the hillside, where he had his bed, and was directed
to the caisson, where he greeted Ralph with many expressions of
delight.

"Oh, we had a big time during the night; it was fine. We trailed along,
but got awfully tired. But it was exciting," said Alfred.

"Sorry I couldn't be with you; but that is just my luck; had to be hit
the first pop," answered Ralph, with a rueful look.

"But then you had a ride during the night. That was something," said
Alfred.

Ralph didn't think so. It would have been more to his liking to have
been with the moving column.

After breakfast the order was given to march. At ten o'clock they saw
ahead of them a force of cavalry, and the boys recognized the familiar
Belgian colors at the head of the column, and the well known uniforms
of the troopers.

From the officer in command they learned that they were to encamp on
the plains a little beyond the town, to await the arrival of the forces
gathering to support the defenders of Liège.

Part of the cavalry remained with the troops, but the main body rapidly
moved down the highway to intercept the Uhlans who were advancing from
the east.

Alfred noticed their departure, with considerable wonder. "What is the
object, Roland, of sending the cavalry down to fight, after we were
told to retreat?" he queried.

"The cavalry can move more rapidly than the infantry, and they are
to act as the scouts, to locate the positions of the enemy, report
the direction of their movements, the sizes of the forces, and the
character of the troops, and thus enable the main army to dispose of
its forces accordingly."

"Do you know how long we shall remain in camp?" asked Alfred.

"That is difficult to tell," responded Roland. "You must understand
that when war broke out Belgium did not know that her territory was to
be crossed. For that reason, believing that Germany would observe her
treaty obligations, our forces were not mobilized. Now we know better."

"But why do they gather the soldiers here?" queried Ralph.

"Because the object is to gather the soldiers as near the scene of
action as possible. All our troops are being sent to the German
frontier. One of the camps will be here, on the plains of Neerwinden,
the great battle ground, where many of our army manœuvres have taken
place."

"And is this the great battle ground?"

"Yes, the elevations about the plain have been filled with armies, and
many a soldier has been slain on these historic grounds."

The boys looked about them, and they imagined how the soldiers of old
must have fought and rushed hither and thither in the fury of the
combat.

"It would be wonderful to see a battle here," said Ralph, half to
himself, as he glanced at the hills beyond.

He little knew at that time that he would actually witness, not the
battle between the ancient knights, that his fancy pictured, but the
crash and roar of contending forces, with smoke and screeching shells
and that on that very spot they would soon see dead and dying men,
under conditions that would not permit them either to rescue or comfort
them.

The boys soon became known to the others, and Ralph was the hero of the
newcomers, as he had been wounded in one of the first fights that had
actually taken place between forces in the field. The men never tired
of telling how Alfred carried the first orders from a fighting force.

Here were two boys who had really been in an engagement, while most of
the men who had been in the ranks for years had never seen an enemy in
the field.

It had occurred to them that they ought to write home, but they
believed that such a task would be useless. However, Roland informed
them that the mails were still being carried and both boys now wrote
the first accounts of their wonderful experiences.

How they detailed all the events, and the trials in their wanderings,
and above all, of the great battle that they were in two days before,
can best be left to the imagination. They were vivid boys' pictures,
told with enthusiasm, and with pride.

The troops arrived every hour, some trains being made up entirely of
artillery, others unloading great quantities of food and supplies.
Stores of every kind were set up for the comfort and need of the
troops, and it was a never-ending scene of bustle and activity.

Roland, who was with them much of the time, answered: "An army must
live, and to be effective must be well fed. Napoleon said that an army
fights on its stomach."

"What did he mean by that?" asked Ralph.

"That without a well-filled stomach a soldier cannot fight well."

"But how do they know how much food of this kind to send down here? It
seems to me they have enough here now to feed a big army," said Alfred.

"And it will be a big army, too, before we are through with it. The
government has what is called a commissary department, whose duty it is
to calculate just how many rations are required for each company for a
certain period. They know it takes so much flour, and vegetables, and
meat, and all the other necessaries to sustain them. Then the ordnance
division knows how many guns are needed for that particular force,
and what ammunition is required. The transportation department is
called upon to deliver the requisite quantity of supplies to a certain
point within a certain time. They must calculate how many trains are
necessary to transport so many troops. In that way every department is
called upon by the commanding officer of an army."

"But just what is meant by 'mobilization'?"

"Mobilize means to move. To mobilize troops means not only to move
troops to a certain place but also to move food and ammunition
supplies. One without the other would be useless."

"It must be a wonderful thing to have all those things so arranged that
it can be done promptly and without confusion," said Alfred.

"Yes, that is what the German army has been noted for. To have all
those details arranged so that within twenty-four or forty-eight hours
fifty thousand troops can be moved even fifty miles appears a great
undertaking, but that is what the Germans have done."

"How many German troops are now before Liège, do you think?" asked Ralph.

"I have heard it said there were over seventy-five thousand, either
there or else in the close vicinity, and probably three times that
number crossing the Rhine."

"And war was declared only eight days ago!" said Ralph.

The next day the first definite news was brought to the camp concerning
the state of affairs in Liège. The forts had repulsed every storming
party and defeated the invaders, so there was great cheering in the
camp when the papers reached them.

Alfred carried a paper to Ralph. "We are whipping the Germans all along
the line," he said, as he waved the paper.

Ralph read the startling head-lines, and gave the news the greatest
emphasis. The stubborn resistance added immensely to the spirit of the
soldiers and they commented on every feature.

Two days more passed, then ten days, and the forts still held. It was
a period of pride to the boys, as they read every line of the papers
brought into the camp. They gloated over the dismay of the Germans, who
believed that a bombardment of a day or two at most would enable them
to storm the town and capture the forts with their heavy guns.

"Why are they so anxious to capture Liège?" asked Ralph.

"Because they dare not leave a stronghold of that kind in their rear,
as they pass through Belgium," answered Roland.

"What difference would it make?" asked Alfred.

"An enemy in a strongly fortified position in the rear, or on either
flank, will always subject the advancing army to attack, but the most
serious difficulty to an army under such condition is that, as the
advancing army must be daily supplied with provisions and ammunition,
a fortified city, like Liège, would always lay open to attack the
railroad lines, which supply them, and the cutting of the lines of
communication would subject them to defeat or capture."

"I did not think of that," answered Ralph.

"The General said in the first fight we had, that the Germans tried to
out-flank us. What did he mean by that?" asked Ralph.

"If an enemy goes around the end of the fighting line it has
out-flanked them. The object of flanking is to get behind one end of
the force, and thus make it change its position or, as is most usually
the case, compel the out-flanked party to fight on a front which is
not provided with earthworks or other means of protection."

During all this time the bombardment continued. Sometimes it was an
incessant roar. In the meantime the Germans came closer, but the city
was not yet entirely surrounded. As infantry would be useless within
the town, the Belgian forces were waiting outside to resist the advance
of the foe, in its attempt to cross toward the border.



CHAPTER XI

PURSUED BY THE UHLANS


Still Liège did not surrender. Every day the glorious news would come
of the terrible bombardment, and of thrilling deeds of heroism. Brave
little Belgium was checking the giant which dared to molest her soil.
Ten days of intermittent thunder followed, which could plainly be heard
twenty-five miles beyond the outer circle of forts, to the north.

[Illustration: _A Dome-Topped Fort of Liège_]

The twelve great forts were not silenced by the incessant hail poured
on them from all sides. The Germans were astounded; the Belgians
exultant. The resistance had held back the German advance for two
weeks. They had expected to be in France, and well on the way to Paris,
before this time.

Each day rumors grew stronger, and more persistent, that the great
German army had begun its march to overrun Belgium. Liège had been
entirely invested. The Belgian army had stretched like a cordon across
the highways between Liège on the one hand, and Tirlemont, St. Trond,
Landin and Namur on the other.

Soldiers, camp outfits, guns, ammunition, food supplies, horses, and
every sort of equipment for the use of soldiers were arriving by every
train. In the meantime the boys were very busy at every sort of work
which chanced to fall in their way.

During the first part of their stay at the camp Ralph's wound gave him
some trouble, and Alfred was always ready to wait on him, but as the
wound began to heal, Ralph's restless energy made itself manifest.

"We must have something to do," he said, as he was wandering around
with Alfred, one morning.

"Let us see Capt. Moreau," said Alfred, as with a sudden inspiration.

The Captain welcomed them warmly.

"So you want something to do?" he asked.

"Yes," said Ralph. "We can do the work, just as well as men, and some
things we may be able to do better than some men."

"And what may that be?" he asked.

Alfred laughed as he quickly responded: "Well, we can carry orders,
anyway."

The officers standing about, who heard the conversation, heartily
applauded.

"I think we can fix you up," he said. "Do you know how to ride
motorcycles?"

At this the hearts of Ralph and Alfred bounded and thumped.

"Of course," said Ralph, and his voice had just enough questionable
expression in it to show that he felt some doubt of success in getting
the wished-for machines.

The doubts were soon dispelled. "Make a requisition for two motorcycles,
to be placed in charge of Alfred and Ralph," the Captain said.

They danced about in a delirium of joy. "When can we have the
machines?" asked Alfred, as he turned to the orderly.

"We have plenty of them in the warehouse."

The boys looked at the Captain. "Yes, go at once. Get used to them as
quickly as possible. The General may want you any time," he ordered.

They saluted the officer, then started out with the orderly.

"I have a new pattern. It is a machine that is light and strong, and it
is also made with two seats," he said. "That is the kind you ought to
have. They are made so that scouts who use them can bring in a comrade
or a wounded soldier."

One of the temporary sheds, erected less than a week before, was the
warehouse for the cycle brigade, and here the orderly halted. After
selecting two of the crates he had the attendants open them, to the
delight of the eager boys.

Within an hour the machines were ready. Alfred was the first to take
his lesson, and, with the instructor, they were soon away, taking
their course toward Tirlemont, to the north.

Ralph was not yet well enough to be able to risk a trip, as his arm
was not yet out of the sling, but when Alfred returned he saw Ralph
examining his own machine.

He was delighted to see Alfred on the front seat, and at once met him
with a volley of questions.

"Yes, we went clear to St. Trond," said Alfred. "Oh, the machine works
splendidly. Never had an accident. But you ought to see the soldiers
and the guns, and wagons along the way,--thousands and thousands of
them."

Just then there was an intense commotion at the southern border of the
camp.

"See that man in a motorcycle. They are following him."

The messenger alluded to was waving his hand, as a signal to those
in front to clear the way. He proceeded direct to headquarters, and
dismounted.

Soldiers, civilians and workmen, rushed forward and crowded around.
"What is the news?" everyone asked. An officer appeared at the door of
the commandant's quarters.

"The Germans have entered Liège," he said. There was a murmur and
Alfred and Ralph looked at each other in astonishment.

Soon those about, after recovering from the stunning news, began to
make inquiries.

"While they have entered the city, they _have not_ captured the forts,"
the officer said, and he spoke it proudly, too.

"How could they capture the city and not the forts?" asked Alfred.
Roland, who stood by, then explained that the fight was between the
forts and the besiegers and that the possession of the city was of no
value to the Belgians.

"The best way to protect the city itself, is to permit the Germans to
occupy it, otherwise the shells directed against the forts might lay
it in waste," he said. "With the Germans in the city they would not be
likely to permit their shells to pass beyond the fort."

During the entire day Alfred was practising and later in the afternoon,
when the instructor formally turned over the machine to him he invited
Ralph to accompany him.

This time he turned the wheel toward the east. About four kilometers
away (three miles), they passed through Ottenhoven then, six miles
beyond, Kerckham, another village, on the main road, and turning
directly to the south, they soon reached another village called Mielen,
which was fully fifteen kilometers from Neerwinden, the site of their
camp.

Everywhere they found pickets, and frequently were held up by the
cavalry patrols. One such an incident will explain how this was done,
and what the boys did to free themselves.

As they emerged from the southern edge of the village of Mielen, on
the direct road to Waremme, a cavalry patrol halted them. Alfred
dismounted, and drew from his pocket the order appointing him a special
headquarters messenger, with a safe conduct to all places within the
Belgian lines.

Noticing Ralph's arm in a sling, it was explained to them that he had
received the wound in the battle fought below Tongres, the week before.
The corporal in charge of the squad touched his hat, by way of salute.
They had heard of the brave boys, and as they sped away the troopers
cheered them heartily.

A mile east of Waremme they reached the great Roman road, called by the
country folk in that neighborhood, Route de Brunhilde, and the people
at the wayside readily directed them to follow it to the west. At the
border of the city, they were again halted, and then allowed to pass
on. Everything was excitement here, with people hurrying to and fro.

Up to this time the excitement of the ride had made them forget their
own needs but now they soon recognized they were very hungry.

Ralph was the first to speak of it. "But what shall we do? We have no
money," he remarked.

This was the first time in all their wanderings during the past two
weeks, that the question of money became a matter of moment to them.
They had found plenty to eat along the highways, and even in their
wanderings they always had enough to eat.

But here was a new problem to them. They gazed longingly at the many
good things all about them, but they did not have even a sou about
them. While thus speculating a body of infantry passed, and the boys
followed, more from habit than anything else. They had no definite
object in view, in doing so.

Beyond was an open space where tents had been erected along the
northern border of the green. They mounted the motorcycle, and were
speeding across the space, when a cordon of guards held them up, and
one of the soldiers called for the corporal.

A tall soldier marched up, and answered: "What is it?"

Alfred sprang forward: "Is that you, Pierre?" he cried.

It was, indeed, Pierre, who was the corporal, in charge of the squad.
He recognized the boys with a smile and a handshake.

"What are you doing here?" he inquired.

It did not take the boys long to tell him of the wonderful things that
had happened since the battle in which Ralph was wounded. Motioning
them to follow, Pierre crossed the shaded portion of the commons, and
entered the guarded enclosure where the commander of the post had his
office.

Pierre, addressing the commander, said: "These boys have been detailed
as special messengers from the commander at Neerwinden camp, and have
been practising on their machine. These are the lads who were mentioned
in General Orders a week ago, for bravery in battle, and for services
rendered to the fighting force."

"But we used the guns, ourselves," said Ralph, with a little pardonable
pride.

And Alfred nodded his head, as he looked at Ralph. There was a twinkle
in the eyes of the officer, as he said: "I welcome men and boys like
you. In what way can I be of any service to you?" he inquired.

The boys looked at each other for a moment, and then Alfred replied,
"Well, we are awfully hungry and we haven't a sou between us."

"That can be quickly remedied. Your friend will take care of that," he
said with a smile, as he looked at Pierre. "Do you intend to return to
Neerwinden to-day?" he asked, as the boys were filing out.

"Yes," said Ralph, "if you have any orders for us."

"You are not on duty now, I understand, but I have some very important
papers to transmit, and they should reach the camp to-day."

"Then we will return at once," said Alfred.

"No, get a good meal first, and rest a bit, and there will be plenty of
time."

Pierre now had them to himself and with him they visited the
commissary department where a meal was set before them and was greatly
enjoyed. Pierre took them around to the soldiers, and introduced them
everywhere, explaining what they had accomplished.

On all sides they heard their names mentioned, because the scene of
their first exploits on the battlefield occurred not more than ten
miles to the east, and many of the features of that engagement were
known to the people of the town, which was about sixteen miles north of
Liège.

Pierre led the boys to a long, low building, in front of which were two
dozen or more boys, about their ages, all dressed in uniforms. "These
are the boy scouts," he said.

"What fine uniforms they have," said Ralph, as he looked at Pierre, and
then at his own clothing.

Alfred did not answer for some time. He was thinking. As Pierre
beckoned to several of the superior officers, they approached, and were
at once introduced to the boys, as the heroes of the battle at Russon.

"Do they want to join us?" asked one of the scouts.

"No," said Pierre. "They are headquarters messengers at the camp at
Neerwinden."

This, in itself, was sufficient to give them a proper introduction.

"How long have you been a scout?" asked Ralph, of one of the boys.

"Over a year, and it is fun, I can tell you."

"You must have had a lot of experience," said Alfred.

"Indeed, we have," answered several.

"But have you ever been in a battle?" asked Pierre.

"No," they replied.

"But these boys have," said Pierre, as he caressed Ralph's wounded arm.

And now, boy-like, they crowded around Ralph, and began to ply him
with questions. "How did it feel to be hit?" "How many times did you
shoot?" "Do you think you hit anybody?" "Did you feel afraid?" "Did you
stand up and shoot?" These and many other questions were hurled at the
boys who answered them as fast as they could.

But the boys, contented as they were to remain under such delightful
surroundings, were impatient to return, so together with Pierre, they
rapidly moved towards the commandant's quarters and after passing the
guard were ushered in.

"I see you are determined to go back. Well, here are the papers, which
must be delivered before nine o'clock to-night. _Au revoir!_"

Pierre helped them to mount the motorcycle, and with cheers and good
wishes from the officers and men, they passed out of the enclosed green
and soon reached the Route de Brunhilde. It was fun for Pierre to put
on the speed throttle, and rush past the different groups which they
occasionally met.

These gatherings were particularly noticeable at the intersection of
roads. Before reaching the branch road which led to Mielen, they saw a
particularly excited group, which hailed and motioned them to stop. But
the boys knew their orders were to deliver their message as early as
possible and presuming that the country people were trying to hold them
up out of curiosity, they did not heed the warnings, but passed on.

Ahead of them was the main road leading to the north, which they must
take. They saw, at the next road another group of peasants, who waved
to them to go back. This now appeared threatening to them. They halted
several hundred feet beyond the group, and one of the leaders pointed
to the north, and there at a distance they saw twenty or more horsemen,
which the boys at once recognized as the dreaded Uhlans.

"What shall we do?" asked Ralph. "They are on our road, and we cannot
reach Mielen unless we go that way."

"Why not go to St. Trond, and then reach Neerwinden from that point?"
said one of the neighbors.

"But what road shall we take?" said Alfred.

"There is a road a kilometer beyond."

"Then we must take it," said Ralph. "Come Alfred, we must not wait."

They were urged to remain but they mounted and some of the peasants
accommodatingly pushed the machine forward and soon it was under full
speed. Less than a half-mile away were the Uhlans. The boys did not
stop to thank the peasants as they knew that their safety and the
possibility of reaching St. Trond lay in gaining the road beyond.

The Uhlans saw the speeding machine, and were in motion at once down
the road. Some of them leaped the hedges and started across the field
diagonally, but the speed of the machine was too great to afford the
pursuers any advantage, even with the short cut thus attempted.

Two of the troopers in the field dismounted, and taking deliberate aim,
fired, but the boys did not hear the whiz of the bullets.

"They are going to try it again, but it will do them no good," said
Ralph. "The Uhlans are now turning the corner at the crossing. Put on
all the speed you can and I'll keep you informed of all that happens.
Yes, the troopers who tried the cross-cut have leaped the hedge and are
now in the road. I wonder what is the matter with one of the horses. It
seems to be lame."

And so Ralph kept up a constant flow of words to indicate the condition
in the rear.

"I wonder what they are lining up that way for," said Ralph. "They are
now coming on five abreast and they are going to shoot." But the buzz
of the motor prevented their hearing the volley that followed.

Distance, and the moving figures on both sides, were the safety factors
in the running fight, if it might be so termed. Suddenly Alfred gave a
cheer and Ralph turned his head.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Our cavalry are coming. Hurrah," said Ralph.

Like an avalanche a troop of fifty horsemen came along, and Alfred did
not check the machine. The cavalry opened an avenue through which he
guided the motorcycle, and when they emerged from the lane thus made,
he halted.

The boys heard an order, and one-half of the command started on
a terrific pace to the south. The Uhlans did not wait to ask any
questions, but turned and fled. The boys watched the fascinating
scene until they were out of sight. The officer inquired as to their
mission, and when they presented their papers, and stated that they
must deliver the papers at the camp at Neerwinden as early as possible,
the officer gave them minute instructions which would take them through
Altenhoven without going to St. Trond, thus making it a much safer trip
than it would otherwise have been.

[Illustration: _Map of Liège_]



CHAPTER XII

CATCHING A SPY


It was past six o'clock that evening when they passed the outer guard
line of the great camp, and within five minutes they were in front of
the commandant's quarters where they were admitted without ceremony.

Roland was there, on duty, and when he found that they had just
returned from Wandre, he could not help but express his admiration, and
was not slow in telling the General of the boys' adventures.

"Oh, yes! We had the Uhlans after us. They blocked our road but we took
the next one and beat them," explained Ralph.

"Ralph had the advantage of me. He could see them, and I just had to
run the machine," said Alfred.

"You are both to be commended. But what is this?" he asked, as Pierre
handed him a large envelope.

The General opened the envelope. "From Waremme," he said. "So you have
started to do service the first day. This is, indeed, commendable."

"Please, sir," said Alfred, "can't we have uniforms?"

"You certainly shall have them. Lieutenant, see that the boys are
provided with the regulation suits." This was their first knowledge
that their friend Roland was a lieutenant in the service.

But now the great and crucial times came to the boys who only a week
before tried to reach their homes, but they were not thinking of that
now.

When they reached their quarters that evening, too tired for words,
they talked, and talked, rehearsing the scenes and incidents of the
day, and fell asleep, half undressed, where they found themselves in
the morning, lying across the bed.

Before they had time to dress a great commotion was heard in the camp.
They hurriedly dressed and rushed over to the main dining hall.

"What have you heard?" asked Ralph.

"Vise has been entirely destroyed, and the Germans are appearing in
great force at all points north of Liège," said one of the attendants.

Breakfast was soon disposed of, and they rushed over to see Roland.
"Have you heard the news?" they asked.

"Yes, and we have information that two large forces are now advancing,
presumably to take Brussels," answered Roland.

"We are to have uniforms, did you know it?" asked Ralph.

"Yes, and your arms are also ready for you. Wait until I get my
breakfast and we will go over and get the things," replied Roland.

"What, are the uniforms ready? What are they like?" said Alfred, as he
danced about in delight.

"Oh, yes! You will have the regulation Scout uniform, but it will have
the distinctive stripes on the arm to indicate that you are attached to
the staff in the messenger service," replied Roland.

You may be sure that two more impatient boys could not be found than
Ralph and Alfred, as they awaited the reappearance of Roland.

"Let us go over now and see our machines," said Ralph.

Alfred did not protest, you may be sure, and together they rushed
out the door, and across to the warehouse in which the machines were
placed. As they went in they saw an officer move away from the place
where the machines were kept.

His actions excited Ralph's suspicions. "I don't like the looks of that
man," he said.

The fact that the boys watched him narrowly, evidently excited the
man's suspicions, also, and he tried to appear unconcerned.

"I am going to bring Roland over," said Alfred, and he moved toward the
door.

As the man hurried his steps toward the rear of building out of sight,
Alfred ran quickly to the dining hall, and called out to Roland:

"There is a very suspicious-looking man at the warehouse. Come over at
once." Roland did not wait for a second call. With his breakfast hardly
begun, he jumped up, disregarding his hat, and followed Alfred. As they
neared the warehouse, they saw Ralph far beyond, keeping the officer
in sight.

"Good boy!" said Roland.

"There he is," said Ralph; "see him just turning the corner." With a
bound Roland crossed the intervening space, and rushed around the shed
in which the artillery was parked. He ran into the officer full face,
and greeted him.

"Who are you? What and where is your command?" he inquired.

The man attempted to answer in French, but his foreign accent was
readily detected.

Roland's revolver was in his hand, and he cried out: "Hold up your
hands instantly."

"Turn about: you are under arrest. Forward march," ordered Roland.

Then turning to the boys he said: "Go up to him on either side and
direct him down to headquarters. I will follow as a guard."

During the progress down the street a large crowd gathered and
followed. The cry of "spy" was heard on all sides. The commandant was
quickly advised of the cause of the commotion and he received and
questioned the man, who could give no satisfactory replies to any of
the questions put to him. He could not state where he obtained the
uniform he wore. This in itself was incriminating evidence, and made
him amenable to the laws governing the execution of spies.

He was found guilty, principally on his own confession, and executed
within an hour of the trial.

When Alfred learned of the man's fate, he was greatly affected. He
had been the cause of the man's death--the direct cause. How he now
abhorred the shedding of blood. Some days prior to this, he had taken a
gun in his hand, and shot with the intention of killing. But this was
different. He had detected a spy; and the spy was shot.

Roland found him at his room, gloomy, and with his lips quivering, and
quickly divined the cause.

"You feel sorry for him. That is natural. I felt like a murderer when
I arrested him, because I knew from his actions that he was a spy and
I felt sure that I was leading him to his death. But you must remember
that he was doing things which will bring more misery on us than his
death could ever atone for. It was my duty and your duty, to bring him
to justice."

An orderly appeared and explained that the boys were wanted at
headquarters. They went at once, and Roland accompanied them.

The General came forward as they entered. "I must thank you in behalf
of the King, for the great service you have rendered," he said, as he
took Alfred and Ralph by the hand.

Alfred plainly showed his emotion, and Ralph and Roland turned away for
a moment to tell the General how the boy felt.

The arms of the strong man went about the boy, and he said: "It is no
discredit to you to feel that way. And now where are your uniforms?" he
added.

"Oh! we are going to get them now. We were waiting for Roland," said
Ralph.

The General smiled, as he said: "You mean the Lieutenant."

Ralph looked down abashed for a moment, and then slyly corrected
himself, while Roland apologized. But the General needed no one to
smooth down that little wrinkle; he also had boys, and he knew that
these little informalities did not show want of respect.

"Get those uniforms at once; I want to see how they will look," he
remarked to Roland, as the latter turned to obey.

The boys needed no more of an intimation as to their first duty. The
uniforms as furnished were trim fitting suits of a greenish-gray, bound
with a very narrow gold braid. The coats were close-fitting and rather
short but were well adapted for service and the proper fits were soon
obtained.

The whole of Belgium did not contain two prouder boys than these two,
as they marched to headquarters, to thank the General for his kindness.

As they were about to leave, the General remarked: "I am happy to tell
you that Belgian boys also are doing their duty nobly. Day before
yesterday, two boys near the frontier, rescued two of our soldiers
from four Uhlans who had captured them, and yesterday, one of the boy
scouts, west of Liège, named Niston, captured two German spies. It is
such work that is appreciated, and shows that they are trying to do
their duty to their country. The work you and those boys are doing is
of great service. If the spy you caught had been permitted to escape it
might mean our death or capture. It is one of the things in war, which
must be guarded against, and all who volunteer to become spies know
that death is the penalty of detection."

As they were going to their quarters, Alfred asked: "Why did the
General say that the Belgian uniform condemned the spy?"

"The wearing of any disguise is reprehensible. That fact alone, even
though the wearer may not have done an act or thing which could be
condemned, would be sufficient to warrant his execution."

"But suppose a German should get into the camp, or through our lines in
his regular uniform, and be captured, would not that man be a spy?"

"No, for the reason that he is trying to get the information in the
avowed character of an enemy, and not by attempting to deceive."

Alfred sighed as he weighed the distinction in his mind. He was
thinking of the rules of war, which he had learned during the past
ten days and he wondered whether there was really anything which was
honorable in armed conflict, or which was observed in the game of war.

But the boys' feelings were very much allayed, when they learned that
during the day two more spies had been caught within the camp, and that
now a corps of detectives had been employed to ferret out that class of
men.

During the investigation that followed it was found that several were
disguised in the uniforms of gendarmes, some wore the regulation suits
of the civil guards, and others were employed as hucksters who brought
in the daily provisions.

Automobiles were in evidence everywhere, and on every road fixed
patrols halted and examined all who passed. Machines were constantly
going and coming, and there were motorcycles in abundance. Added to
this were contrasting uniforms, indicating the kinds of service in
which the men were engaged, and the scene was at all times animated and
full of activity.

Ralph's arm was now healing so rapidly that the machine was taken
out and both boys practiced in short runs. Ralph was an expert in
all matters pertaining to mechanism, and since his father was well
known as an expert workman, and superintendent of one of the large
establishments in America, it could be understood that he naturally
acquired considerable knowledge which was of great service to both boys
in the care and handling of their machines.

It was now the 13th day of August, and the ninth day of actual warfare.
Early in the morning rumors began to come in thick and fast concerning
the advance of the Germans. The Uhlans had reached Waremme, and were
scouting in the region to the west of that town.

Before noon the report came that Tongres had fallen before the
advancing troops, and there was intense activity in camp. The troops
were being drilled daily, and hourly, in fact. While detachments
arrived at every train, it was evident that one force after the other
was being sent south and east.

Finally a messenger arrived from the east. The General and his staff
had mounted, and an orderly approached the boys. To each he handed an
envelope. One was directed to the officer in command at Altenhoven, and
the other to the Colonel of a regiment stationed at Racour.

"I know where Altenhoven is, but where is Racour?" said Ralph.

The information was promptly given by a soldier. Here was the first
detached duty. The informant told them to go south two kilometers, and
the one destined for Racour should turn to the right which would lead
in the direction of the town.

"I will take the message for Racour," said Alfred, "as it is farther
and I am better able than you to make the long trip."

Ralph protested, but Alfred had his way as they sped down the road.
The official envelope, and the special uniforms of the boys, were
sufficient to clear the way. On and on they sped to their destination.
At the forks of the road Alfred turned to the right, and held up his
hand as a parting salute.

When Alfred left Ralph he felt a sense of responsibility which had
never come to him before. If he had known that not an hour before a
strong patrol of German cavalry had passed along that road, he might
have been cautious, and possibly apprehensive, but in his ignorance he
felt exultant and happy.

His one thought was to reach the command at Racour, and so his machine
was speeded to the limit. Mile after mile was covered, and people
stared at him as he passed. It seemed strange to him that he did not
meet with a patrol, in that long stretch after he had left Jean and
crossed the railroad line which runs from Liège to Tirlemont. He knew
that he must be within two kilometers of Racour, when he saw ahead of
him the unmistakable dust of approaching horsemen. To the left, and
coming up what was undoubtedly a road at right angle to the one on
which he was traveling, was another cloud of dust.

Like a flash it occurred to him that the Uhlans might be there. But
what about those in front. Then he recalled that he had met no patrols
and this puzzled him. He remembered how the peasants looked at him in
astonishment as he went by, and the terror of doubt was upon him.

He slowed down his machine. And now, for the first time, he looked
behind him. To his amazement he saw the outlines of a half dozen men,
with the characteristic spiked helmet, and at once knew who they were.
Here was a situation fraught with danger. As he approached the crest of
a little hill he turned his machine aside, so that in going back across
the road he could obtain a better view of his pursuers.

The troops coming up from the south must be Germans, but he was not sure
of those ahead of him on the road. He speeded up, and catching sight of
some peasants, beckoned to them, and they came across the fields.

"Who are the horsemen coming up from the south?" he hurriedly asked.

"They are Germans. They have been all along this road this forenoon."

"Do you know what troops are in front?" asked Alfred.

"We think they are our people," was the reply.

Alfred made up his mind at once. He knew he could reach the cross road
before the troops could possibly come up, and he would then decide what
course to pursue. He did some rapid thinking during the five minutes it
took to reach the road.

They were still a quarter of a mile away. The cloud in his rear seemed
to grow bigger, and appeared closer than before, and the dust in front
showed that troops were also approaching from that direction. Then he
saw the Belgian colors and felt greatly relieved to know that friends
and not foes were approaching.

As Alfred neared the oncoming column they halted, and he did not
attempt to slow down his speed until within a hundred feet of the
advance. The troopers made way for him, as he rode down the line, and
the officer in command galloped through and met him.

"Dispatches from Colonel Neerden!" he cried, as he held aloft the
packet.

"Did you come along the road from the railway?" asked the officer, as
he reached forward to take the papers.

Alfred drew back, without answering the question. "I must deliver this
to the Colonel only," he responded. The officer smiled as he answered:
"I am Colonel Neerden."

"Yes," responded Alfred, quickly, when he recognized his mistake, "I
thought it strange that I did not meet any patrols."

"Didn't you know the Germans were after you?"

"Not until about ten minutes ago. But I couldn't go any faster than I
did," said Alfred.

"Well, you are a brave fellow," said the Colonel. "What command of the
Scouts do you belong to?"

"I am not a Scout. After the fight at Russon they made me a
headquarters' messenger," replied Alfred.

The mention of the fight at Russon was sufficient notice to give him an
entrée into the hearts of all present.

While those about him plied him with questions the Colonel opened the
packet, and after examining it, gave an order. A detachment of the
troops lined across the road, and Alfred, looking back, saw the column
from the cross road join the force which had followed him.

"I must go back as quickly as possible," said Alfred.

"It will be impossible to go back by this route," remarked one of the
officers. "We are ordered back to our quarters by the message which
you brought, but may be sent to the firing line. The Germans are all
over this section, and are rapidly approaching from every quarter. We
shall have some lively work in a few days."

The main body of the troops entered the town of Racour, and the moment
the camp was reached there was evidence of a hurried movement. Within
fifteen minutes an orderly called Alfred to headquarters. As he entered
the Colonel said:

"We are ordered to report at Neerwinden at once. Some portions of the
regiment are guarding the bridge three kilometers to the west. Go to
them at once and deliver this order."

Alfred did not wait for questioning, nor did he ask for instructions
as to the directions, as he mounted; but before he could make a start
the orderly was thoughtful enough to give him instructions. Then he
set the machine full speed, and as he went like the wind he kept his
horn tooting as a warning, but nowhere in the road did he meet an
obstructing hand.

When he saw the bridge beyond and a group of guards he rode directly
into the midst of them and asked for the officer in command, to whom he
handed the missive. Alfred saw troops on the bridge, and as a sergeant
stepped into the road and gave three sharp, quick blasts on a whistle,
the men on the bridge rushed to the center passage way. When the
whistle blew two blasts more they ran forward in double time toward the
bank on which they were standing.

At a command they moved away a hundred feet or more from the bridge and
stopped as they neared the center. Meanwhile not a word was spoken, as
all were intent on watching the work of the three men. Alfred was too
fascinated to ask the meaning of this curious proceeding.

Within two minutes at the utmost the three men leisurely marched off
the bridge toward the group of guards on the bank. One, two, three,
four minutes more. Why were they waiting?

Suddenly, a belching cloud of smoke was seen, followed instantly by a
racking noise, then another, and another, and the beautiful bridge had
disappeared.

Alfred was so fascinated at the weird setting, the silence that awaited
the event, and the grim, business-like appearance of the officers and
men, that when the last sound of falling timbers and steel died away he
was drawn involuntarily toward the stream.

Fully two kilometers beyond was a cloud in the roadway, which Alfred
had now learned to recognize. He turned to the Colonel and pointed in
that direction.

"Yes," said he, "we were just in time."

A quick order brought the troops to attention. The order was given to
return to camp, and within five minutes all the equipment was ready and
the horses in motion. This was one of the engineers' forces especially
detailed to guard the bridges.

As they were turning a curious train of light artillery came from a
side street, which consisted of four guns, each carriage being drawn
by four dogs. The powerful canines had no trouble in pulling the wagons
at a trot and the gunners were running alongside at a fast gait.

Belgium and Holland are the two countries which utilize dogs for draft
animals. Before the automobile came into use they were the great motive
power and this is so, largely, among the peasants at the present time.

The faithful dog is bred for this use. He may be found everywhere
drawing milk carts, pulling the little trucks which are piled high with
faggots, or prancing along in the little vans filled with loaves from
the bakeries.

In Belgium, dogs are trained to be policemen, and the sense of smell
is highly developed; they are taught from puppyhood to perform certain
tasks, to act as sentries and to trail suspicious characters.



CHAPTER XIII

THE LOSS OF THEIR MACHINES IN BATTLE


When the camp was reached it presented an entirely different scene.
The tents had been loaded into wagons. The kitchen was stored away in
one of the vans specially designed for field purposes, and the first
detachment had already started on the march toward the north.

After asking permission, Alfred mounted his machine and sped away after
the troops, and soon overhauled them. With considerable difficulty he
worked his way through the marching troops, and when he had cleared the
train put on full speed.

He hoped to be able to reach the great camp before nightfall, and as it
was now nearly four o'clock he knew it would not take more than an hour
to reach it. A kilometer beyond, the road parted, one branch going to
the right and the other to the left.

A peasant near by told him that either road would take him to
Neerwinden, but that the better road was to the right. He did not
hesitate, and was off without further questionings.

In twenty minutes he came to a stream and crossing the well-built
stone bridge which spanned it approached a little village that lay
beyond. The town, like many others throughout Belgium, was distributed
out along little lanes, which shot out at all angles, and it was not
surprising that Alfred should become confused, and lose his way.

To add to the confusion there was great excitement in the village. Men
were running to and fro. Women were holding their children, and looking
pale. Alfred stopped.

"What is the trouble, Monsieur?" he asked as a man slowly moved along,
quite in contrast with the people who formed the excited crowd.

"Trouble? Don't you know the Germans are beyond, and that all the roads
are patrolled. They will be here any moment now."

This was an ominous warning, and he was glad he had stopped to inquire,
otherwise he might have been a prisoner by this time. Then he reflected
that Colonel Neerden ought to know this at once, so he ran his machine
forward and, mounting it, turned it toward the bridge.

"Stop, stop," cried a dozen voices. Some waved their hands to indicate
that he should turn back, but for some reason or other Alfred
determined to recross the bridge. Then he heard what appeared to be a
rifle shot, and something struck the machine.

He was now determined not to stop, as the bridge was less than two
hundred feet away. He had not looked back, but now that he saw the
stone walls which formed the sides of the bridge he cast his eyes
over his shoulder, and riding through the village were a dozen German
cavalrymen, with their carbines at their shoulders, all aiming at him.

You may well imagine that it was a thrilling thing for him to know that
he was being hunted down and shot at. The bridge was finally reached
and to his great relief was built out at an angle to the road on which
the pursuers were following him.

Long before he had reached the bridge the machine was at full speed and
as he emerged from the other side a dozen or more shots rang out; but
he did not stop, or slacken his pace. He knew the friendly troops were
coming toward him, so he went forward with the Germans behind him.

The welcome sight of the dust in the road beyond was appreciated now.
As he dashed forward he held up his hand, and shouted to the advancing
patrol: "The Germans are coming." On and on he went, and as each body
of troops passed he cried the same warning.

Beyond was the Colonel and his staff, and toward him Alfred rushed
the machine. "I met the Germans at the village beyond the bridge. The
forward part of the column saw me and are going forward," he explained.

This information galvanized the officers into action and orders to
clear the way went forward at once. Alfred turned his machine to
follow, but after going a few hundred feet the power ceased, and in
spite of all he could do the machine refused to move.

Several men kindly came to his assistance, and the trouble was soon
apparent. "You have no petrol," said one of them.

"That is strange. I was told there was enough for a whole day's run,
and I have not----"

"Ah! but there is a hole in the tank. Yes, two of them. See!"

"They were made by German bullets," said another.

"Look at the seat," said the first speaker. "You had a close call, my
boy."

Alfred looked at the damage ruefully. "What shall I do?" he asked.

"We'll fix that up in short order," replied the man who made the
examination and discovered the trouble. He was an expert motorcycle
man, and this was an opportunity for him to be of service. He
approached the commanding officer of his company and explained the
situation, and was detailed to effect the repairs at once.

The tool box of the machine was opened, and the rolls of tape taken out.

"Now watch me, my boy. Let me show you how to make a temporary repair,
in cases of this kind."

The tank had been perforated by two shots, which went entirely through,
thus causing four perforations. As the machine had the type of tank
which rested vertically between the fork, it was obvious that, since
the lowest perforation was not at the bottom, there was still enough
petrol left to enable Pierre to reach the command before the remaining
portion was used up.

"First, take these patches, and put cement around the edges, and apply
them over the holes. Then wind the tape around the tank and over the
patches, just as I am doing, and be sure to stretch the tape well.
There; now we must get some strong cord, or twine, and wind that over
the tape. You will find that absolutely tight, and will hold the petrol
for a time."

"Well, will it leak at all if it is put on right?", asked Alfred.

"In time the petrol will eat up, or dissolve the rubber, so that proper
repairs should be made as soon as possible," he was informed.

"Now that it is fixed where can I get some petrol? I forgot all about
that," said Alfred.

"Well, I didn't," said the workman.

Alfred stared at him. "Do you know where to get some?"

"Certainly; they have plenty in the kitchen wagon."

Alfred might have thought of that, but he couldn't think of everything.
Where was the kitchen wagon?

It was coming up, and Alfred applied to the officer in charge of the
commissary department for a supply, and after some questioning the
permission was granted. In a few minutes more the boy was supplied and
was under way.

The command went forward with a rush and was now well along on the
road to the bridge, but before Alfred had time to go any distance he
heard a volley, followed by the rattle of musketry. The battle was on
and he hastened to the front.

Two field pieces were with the regiment, and those were hurriedly drawn
to the front by the dogs, and mounted, so that they cleared the road in
short order. The Uhlans tried, ineffectively, to destroy the bridge,
but the advance column was too far ahead for them and they slowly
retreated down the road.

And now Alfred saw the first results of the running fight. Numbers had
been killed at the first onslaught, and many more wounded. The Germans
did not attempt to relieve their wounded, but the improvised hospital
wagons were brought into service, and the wounded, Germans and Belgians
alike, were gathered up and given first relief.

Thus, for three kilometers, the fight raged, and when the railway line
was reached the enemy had disappeared, as it was learned that the
commandant at the camp had sent out a large detachment to relieve the
two regiments which had thus been on outpost duty, and which had been
recalled by the commanding officer.

When Alfred reached the camp he was delighted to find Ralph there, and
he reported to the commanding officer at once. Ralph, while he did not
run into danger, as had Alfred, nevertheless rendered most efficient
service during the day.

But the camp of the morning had undergone a great change. Everything
which could be loaded on the trains was already under way, and hundreds
of wagons were still in the camp and stretched along the road in the
direction of St. Trond.

During the night news came that Tongres had been captured after a hard
fight. That would mean serious business at St. Trond, whither they were
now going.

They had little sleep that night. Much of the time the boys were
hurrying thither and thither, delivering messages which gave the
disposition of the forces, the delivery of the various things required
by the fighting forces and the special orders to the different officers.

The breaking up of a camp is a wonderful transformation of materials.
It must not only be completely disorganized, but every article, and
each unit, must be so arranged that it will be handy and ready for
immediate use the next morning, or in the evening.

At four o'clock in the morning the whole camp, or what remained of it,
was in motion. The last infantry force to leave had a rear guard of
cavalry, although the boys were well in the lead, with the commanding
officer.

St. Trond was reached, just as the reports came in that the German
forces were below the town, and that the first conflict had taken place.

The boys were interested to learn that their force was to go direct
to the field, south of St. Trond. They arrived there at one o'clock
in the afternoon and the kitchen wagons were soon in readiness for a
hurried meal.

Firing was going on along one of the main roads leading south. They
were in position on a road which paralleled the main highway to Tongres
and it was obvious that the main force of the enemy was making its way
along that route.

The boys were with Roland when the real battle began. To their right,
on a slight elevation and artfully concealed, was a battery of three
guns and a little farther to the right was the other part of the
battery.

"Do you know anything of the number of Germans that are coming up?"
asked Ralph.

"No, but it is reported that over 100,000 men are now on this side of
the frontier and more coming on each day. It is probable there are
twenty thousand men directly ahead of us. They are approaching from the
direction of Vise, and from Huy as well, while the main force is coming
direct from Liège."

"How many men have we to oppose them?" asked Alfred.

"Probably twelve thousand; but we shall give a good account of
ourselves. We do not expect to drive them back, but our mission will be
to hold them in check as long as possible."

They moved over to headquarters, where their place was, but before they
reached it the battery began to speak. The boys looked to the south,
but could not see the enemy anywhere. They looked at Roland.

"Where are the Germans?" asked Alfred.

"Probably two miles beyond," was the reply.

"Why do they commence so soon?" inquired Ralph.

"The object is to throw an enemy into confusion as early as possible in
an engagement, and endeavor to prevent formations of the troops."

"Do these guns carry that far?" inquired Alfred.

"Yes; they are now sending shrapnel; when----"

Roland's voice was submerged by a terrific explosion not a hundred
feet away, and when they had time to recover they saw three men on
the ground, lying quite still, while a half dozen or more were on the
ground, and turning and twisting about. Then came several groans, and
then the second explosion, like the first, but farther to the right.

The boys' face blanched. They did not know which way to go nor what
to do. Then something happened which entirely changed their feelings.
The two lines of infantry, lying behind the fences, not a hundred feet
ahead, began to fire, setting up a terrific din which was punctuated by
the shots from the batteries.

Then a new battery on their left began to take part, then another, but
during all this time the infantry were pouring out a steady stream
of hail. The boys stood petrified, at first, but the great din, the
terrible confusion of sounds, the scattering debris, which appeared to
fall about them, the staggering men, who were reeling about; all these
things began to act like a tonic to them.

The greater the noise and confusion, the braver they became.

Alfred tried to speak, but his voice had a peculiar sound to him.

"Let us go over to headquarters," said Ralph to Alfred. "We may be
wanted there," and as he spoke they saw Roland coming out of the
General's tent.

Roland beckoned to Ralph as he said: "These are your first orders; see
that they are delivered to the officer in command of the forces on the
main road."

Ralph was off in an instant. He could not follow the road, as he had
to go nearly a half mile across the fields, but he set his course at a
safe distance behind the firing line. More than once in that first ride
on the battle field he saw the shots as they dug in the earth about him
and noticed the explosion of the shells.

It was an exciting ride, and it stimulated him as nothing before had
ever done in all his experiences. When he reached the headquarters of
the commanding officer, who held the main road, he knew that some great
movement was on foot.

He could see immense bodies of their own troops moving back, and the
headquarters of the officer was even then being moved back a half mile
so as to be partly outside of the firing range. But the Germans were
coming on, and he could see men falling all about him.

Ambulances were at work, gathering up the moving figures, as they
writhed on the ground. Men were staggering about, some delirious,
others trying to staunch wounds in their arms, legs or bodies, and more
than once he saw one comrade, although wounded, trying to check the
flow of blood, or bind up the wounds of another.

But the more he saw the less these things seemed to affect him. The
orderly from headquarters beckoned to him, and placing a message in his
hands Ralph was off to deliver the reply.

Before he could reach headquarters he saw that another route would be
necessary, as the enemy seemed to be not a quarter of a mile away. New
formations were being made by the Belgians, and it was clear they were
being driven back.

It seemed that every avenue of cross country travel was closed to him,
as men were moving north from all points. As a mass of soldiers rushed
from one position to the next behind they would turn and deliver a
volley or two before retreating. Above it all was the continual hail of
the shot and shell on every hand.

When Ralph reached a hedge that was impenetrable he would enlist the
sympathy of some of the men, and they would either carry the machine
over the thick brush or cut a way through.

It took him less than ten minutes to make the trip across, in
delivering his first message, but he was more than a half hour in
getting back, and when he arrived at headquarters he found it over a
mile to the rear of the original position.

He reported to the commander at once, but before he had time to make
any inquiries another message was thrust into his hands, and this time
he was sent to the west.

Again attempting to make his way across the fields he was met by a
retreating regiment which was slowly falling back. He then made his way
along a hedge toward the north, and struck across the fields again.
Beyond was the firing line, and the men there must know the location of
their commanding officer, so he speeded in that direction.

There, ahead of him, and coming out of the woods, was a regiment of
infantry. At the edge of the wood, to the left, was a light field
battery which poured a deadly fire into the Belgians, and Ralph
involuntarily slackened the speed of the machine.

Then something happened to him. It was as though he had been struck a
stunning blow, although he felt scarcely any pain. When he recovered he
was seated on the ground, and scattered about him were the pieces of
his machine. He could not comprehend it for a moment. Then he moved his
body. He seemed natural and comfortable, but what had happened to his
machine?

Then, for the first time, he noticed that there were men about him,
some wounded, others dead. One young man who was near him had a wound
in his leg which he was treating by wrapping a handkerchief around it.

"What has happened?" asked Ralph, as he looked at the man and then at
the scene about him.

"A shell burst over there and it got both of us. Are you much hurt?"

"I have no pain," replied Ralph.

"Only stunned, perhaps," he replied in a mere matter of fact way. "Was
that your machine?" he inquired.

"Yes; I was carrying orders from headquarters," answered Ralph.

"Rather risky business, I should say," he answered.

"Are you hurt much?" asked Ralph.

"Well, not much compared with some about here. Say, could you help me
over to the hedge?" he asked.

Ralph was up in an instant. He looked over himself, just as a person
would make an examination of an object to see if it had been injured.

When the young man was safely landed at the thick hedge, Ralph thought
of his duty. "I must be going," he said.

"Where are you bound?" asked the wounded man.

"To see the commanding officer. I must deliver my orders," said Ralph.

"That is right," he answered. "Go to the north for a half kilometer,
and cross to the west at the large stone house. I know these parts
well."

Ralph did not mind the falling shots or the screaming shells so much
now as he had at first. The message must be delivered, so he struggled
across the field and met the men who were slowly moving back on the
road.

"Where is the officer in command?" asked Ralph as he reached the first
of the troops.

"Beyond a short distance," was the only answer.

He fairly flew down the road, and had the satisfaction of handing the
message to the officer, who glanced at Ralph.

"How did you get across?" he asked.

"On my machine; but it was wrecked by a shell in the field below the
stone house," said Ralph.

"Weren't you hurt?" he inquired.

"No, but it stunned me for a time," remarked Ralph.

"I must congratulate you on your bravery and determination," said the
officer. "But you were hurt," he added, as he approached Ralph. "See
the blood at your left hand."

Ralph was startled, at first. He felt no pain, but there was blood
flowing out of his left sleeve.

"Oh! I remember now; that is only the old wound reopened," he
explained, so the surgeon was called in at once.



CHAPTER XIV

THE CAPTURE AND ESCAPE


The General looked at the boy for a moment and then exclaimed: "The old
wound! When were you wounded?"

"At Russon, more than a week ago," he answered, without any attempt at
bravado. That story by this time had gotten to be an old one with him.

"We cannot give you a machine to take you back to headquarters, but
you may have a horse," said the officer; so as soon as the wound was
dressed Ralph mounted a fine animal, and was told to take the cross
country route, as the animal would leap any ordinary barrier.

Although he had ridden from his earliest recollection this was
the first time that he was ever on a horse that could leap across
obstacles, and when the first fence came in sight the horse refused to
stop but with Ralph clinging to the saddle vaulted across with so much
ease that it gave him the utmost confidence.

Ralph found the commanding officer about two miles behind the former
location, with the Germans coming on in full force. The sound of battle
was incessant, and everywhere could be seen the ambulance wagons and
the doctors attending the wounded, but over all was the sad reflection
that they were being driven on and on.

St. Trond was entered by the defenders during the afternoon, but they
merely passed through, and before six that night the Germans had taken
possession. Then came the report that the enemy's outposts had been
reported as far north as Wellon, in the direction of Hasselt.

It was late that night when Ralph found Alfred. To him he told the
story of his adventures; of the loss of his machine; of the assistance
given to the wounded soldier, of his mission on foot to the officer to
whom he bore a mission and on his return on a steed furnished him by
the General.

"But what have you been doing?" asked Ralph. "I want to hear your
story."

"Well," said Alfred, "after you left I was sent to the east, and made
several trips to the different officers who were directed what to do
as they retreated toward St. Trond. The last trip I ran into a German
force, and was made a prisoner."

Ralph's eyes opened wide and glistened at this announcement.

"What did you do?" he asked eagerly.

"Well, just wait; it didn't amount to much," continued Alfred. "They
took my machine away, of course, and then they searched me, and----"

"And took your orders away," said Ralph with a disgusted look.

"No, they didn't," answered Alfred.

"Why not?" asked Ralph.

"Well, just wait," replied Alfred. "Do you remember when we were
coasting down the hill the first or second day we were trying out the
machine, that when we put on the brakes too suddenly it turned over on
us and we ripped a hole in the seat?"

"Yes," answered Ralph.

"Well, when I saw that I was in for it, and that I couldn't get away,
I tucked the paper in the torn hole in the seat, and it is there now,
I suppose, and even if they do find it now it won't be of any use to
them; at any rate, that is what the General said."

"But how did you get away? I want to hear about that," asked Ralph,
eagerly.

"Get away? Well, I just walked away," said Alfred.

"But how?" asked Ralph.

"Oh! It wasn't any trouble," was the answer. "I stood around, and
watched my chance. Of course, I heard an officer say something to a
kind of under officer, as he pointed to me, and I suppose he told him
to arrest me; but something happened just then that prevented----"

"What was it?" asked Ralph.

"A big shot landed about fifty feet in front of us, and exploded, and I
never knew there was so much dirt in the whole of Belgium. You should
have seen how that German officer looked. He had a most lovely uniform;
but it was one mass of dirt, and I was just wondering, as I looked at
him, if he had another suit like it, when I happened to think of the
soldier who was going to arrest me. As he was not around just then I
marched down a little lane, which was directly in front of the place
where the shot struck, and there I crossed the double row of hedges,
and seeing no one ahead I just marched across to the first field, and
when I got there didn't I make tracks for our lines?" said Alfred, with
glistening eyes.

"And you don't think that amounts to much?" asked Ralph.

"Well, it is nothing compared with being blown up in a machine,"
answered Alfred.

Ralph mused a while, and then burst out laughing. "Well, that is too
good. Both of us to lose our machines on the same day. I am glad the
Germans didn't get my machine," he said.

"Well, didn't they get it? I should think they did," and it was
Alfred's time to laugh.

The troops were now massed along the crest of a small hill which
crosses the road north of the town. Early in the morning the German
forces could be seen deploying in all the open spaces to the north and
east of the town, and before seven the shells began to fly as on the
previous day. The boys meantime were kept busy with orders, Ralph using
the horse which had been turned over to him, and Alfred, seizing the
first opportunity, secured a new machine.

[Illustration: _Map of Louvain_]

The second day's fight was terrific. More than 1000 men fell on that
day, on the Belgian side alone. It was one continual scene of fighting
in the retreat from St. Trond to Tirlemont. Hasselt and Diest both
fell that day, but of this the boys had no knowledge until later.

The force passed through Tirlemont in good order, fighting every inch
of the way. The Germans were now, on the 19th of August, advancing on
Louvain by three roads, from Diest, Tirlemont, and from Hammeville. The
boys were with the central force on the Tirlemont road.

Orders were issued to continue the retreat to Louvain, as the Germans
were known to be east of the city in great force, and no one knew what
the end would be. Ralph still had his horse, but it had been wounded
late in the afternoon and he was forced to abandon it.

Alfred had his machine, but it was useless, as he had no oil for it,
and it was finally loaded in one of the wagons and the two boys were
forced to go along on foot.

Soon there was a halt, and they saw the men form along the road and
spread out along the sides of a hill. Then the shells began to fall and
the troops in front got into action. They were being surrounded and cut
off, and although the men knew it they continued to fight.

Then a desperate charge from the open field in the left told the story.
The order was given to cease firing and as a still greater force came
over the hill, and the entire rear guard of their regiment, together
with a battery, fell into the hands of the enemy.

Everything was confusion now. The boys plainly saw a white flag and
noted that the firing had ceased.

"Let us get out of this," said Alfred, so together they ran across a
field and soon reached a fence beyond. The Belgian troops which filled
the road to the north in another hour had reached the gate of the city,
called Porte de Tirlemont. It was reported that the Germans had entered
the city at the eastern gate, but once within the city they hurried
through and passed out the gate Porte de Malines.

On all sides were people, some walking, others riding, many of them in
curious conveyances, and all excited to the utmost. They had now lost
all trace of the Belgian army, although they knew it was some miles
ahead of them.

That night they were aroused by a cry: "The Germans are coming."

A half hour thereafter the first troop of horsemen came from the
east, and from that time until morning there was no cessation from
the galloping of horses, the tramp of infantry and the rumbling of
artillery wheels.

"I wonder where we can get something to eat?" said Alfred.

At a little cluster of houses, five miles south of Louvain, they found
some food, and after breakfasting they again resumed the tramp along
the main highway which led to Malines, ten miles away.

Before noon they reached the city where the Germans were. They had not
been molested on the highway, but now, as they passed the gate, an
officer gazed at them and commanded a halt.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"We are American boys, on the way to Antwerp," said Ralph.

"What uniform is that?" he demanded.

"Messenger service, sir," responded Alfred, as he glanced at Alfred.

"In whose service?" asked the officer.

Neither replied.

Motioning to a soldier, the officer said: "Arrest them."

They were marched to the great military prison, which was filled to
overflowing with men and women. Two days thereafter they were taken out
and marched through the town, past the great Cathedral. Crossing the
open place they were taken westwardly along a wide street and turned
to the left along a street that ran alongside a wide stream, which the
boys afterwards learned was the Dyle.

They were halted in front of a large building which had the inscription
"Salm Inn."

They were met at the door by nurses with large red crosses on their
sleeves, and by smartly dressed uniformed men in white, also provided
with red crosses.

"This is now a hospital," remarked their companion, "and it is one of
the Red Cross stations."

"What do they want to bring us here for?"

"I suppose they are going to put us to work."

Within was an appalling sight as the boys went through the ward
for the first time. Ralph's duty was to attend the physicians in
their rounds each morning, and at two in the afternoon. He furnished
supplies, waited on the nurses and attended to the wants of the
sufferers.

Alfred was on like duty in the adjoining ward. While not together as
much as formerly, they were constantly meeting in the halls, and one
day Ralph was entrusted with the duty of going into the city on an
errand.

The only thing which the boys could not bear was the fact that they
could get no news of the outside world. All communication was shut off.
Had Liège fallen? Where were the Belgian forces? Had Brussels yielded?
Their captors would give them no information, and the nurses, most of
them could talk German only, did not seem to know any more than they did.

Ralph determined to get some information, and while on his journey
sought a stationery establishment in order to purchase some papers. The
first one he spied had a large assortment of papers but, singularly,
not a single French paper.

He was disgusted, and as he turned away, voiced his complaint. The
shopkeeper said: "This is now a German province, and no more French
will be spoken or printed here."

During his absence Alfred, in making his rounds as usual, was startled
at hearing his name. He turned, and near him, with his head bandaged,
and an arm bound with many layers of surgeon's tape, stood a young man.

"Don't you recognize me?"

"No," said Alfred, with open eyes.

"Have you forgotten Roland?"

Alfred was down by the bedside in a moment.

"Where were you wounded? Is it serious? How long have you been here?"
said Alfred.

"I was wounded over two days ago, and was in the field hospital a day.
My company was captured in the fight below Malines, and Colonel Moreau
is also a prisoner. What have you been doing?"

"We have had a wonderful time," said Alfred.

"Where is Ralph?" asked Roland.

"He is here, in the next ward. I will surely tell him about you."

At the hospital the boys saw every sort of wound, and soon learned to
distinguish between the gunshot and the shrapnel wounds.

"Why is it that the shrapnel make such awful holes?" he asked one of
the nurses one day.

"Well, you know, shrapnel does not go through the air as fast as the
bullets from the rifles, and it has been shown that the greater the
velocity the smaller the size of the wound. The bullets from the
Mausers and the Mannlichers, which have such a high velocity, seem
to go through so quickly that they sear the flesh, and thus form an
antiseptic path which aids the wound in healing. But the shrapnel
bullets are larger and this causes such terrible wounds."

"But they seem actually to tear the flesh," said Alfred.

"That is caused, not by the bullets which are in the shrapnel, but
by the shell itself. If the shell bursts near the soldiers it often
strikes the poor fellows and sometimes tears them to pieces."

It would be too sickening to go over the many details that came to the
notice of the boys. They were kept at their duties daily for over two
weeks, when something happened which made them decide to effect their
escape, if possible.

"Let us get away," said Alfred, after they had been on duty for a week.
"I think we can easily do it," he added. Ralph hesitated, for a moment.

"Yes, by all means if we can," responded Ralph. "But I don't mind this
work, and do you know they intend to pay us for it?"

"How do you know?" asked Alfred.

"Because the steward told me so when he made the rounds to-day and was
making up the list."

"Then let's wait until we get some money," answered Alfred.

Two days thereafter, to the gratification of the boys, they were handed
envelopes, each containing a number of pieces of silver coin.

"How much money have we earned?" asked Ralph.

"Well, each of you has nine marks, and that is about eleven francs, or
five and a half francs a week," he was informed.

During their work they found that more and more liberty was accorded
them. Each had the Red Cross emblem on his sleeve, and after the first
week they were furnished with new suits. During their work they had
also been provided with clean rooms, and opportunities for daily baths.
However, they felt the restraint when that night as they had several
times done before they wandered down to the heart of the city it was
with a determination to cross the barriers at the first opportunity.

One day a soldier was brought in whose arm was completely shattered. On
examination it was found that only a single bullet had passed through.
The surgeon in charge said it was the first instance he had noted where
the high power missile had caused such a terrible fracture.

Colonel Moreau, who was present, said: "I can understand the reason for
that. The bullet, evidently, was deflected before striking the arm, and
as it came from a rifled gun, its screw-like action caused it to set up
a motion at its rear end, something like the upper end of a top, just
before it stops to spin. This is called a key-holing motion, and as the
bullet strikes the solid bone it simply tears its way through, instead
of making a clean round hole, as is ordinarily the case."

The city was full of soldiers and every street was as lively at ten
o'clock that night as during any part of the day. Troops were moving
through the town, but most of them passed out through the Porte de
Adeghem toward the northwest.

"Do you notice that all the troops are going northwest and west?" asked
Ralph. "They must go that way to reach Brussels, and as Brussels is now
in the hands of the Germans," he added, "we should by all means go to
the north or east and reach Antwerp."

Without molestation they passed through the streets and moving north
through the Rue de Catharine crossed the great boulevard and out
through Porte de Anvers without being seen.

At twelve that night the road was still filled with troops, wagons and
paraphernalia of war. Watching an opportunity, Ralph sought information
from a peasant. The latter said:

"The Belgians are not far away, and there has been a battle hereabouts.
If you want to reach the troops do not follow the road, but go to your
left, directly west. In that way you will get in touch with them."

"What does the great movement of troops toward Antwerp mean?" asked
Ralph.

"Why, the Germans have determined to capture Antwerp, and they are
moving up the big guns to batter down the forts," he was informed.

About five miles north of Malines they reached the river Nethe. Acting
on the suggestion of the peasant, they left the road at this point and
determined to follow that stream as far as Boom, from which point they
would have a safer route to Antwerp.

After going less than a mile they saw a road which had the inevitable
cavalry patrols. They were now undecided what to do, but determined on
one thing--to get to the Belgian lines and to risk all rather than be
recaptured.

So they remained close to the hedge and moved up carefully to get a
more favorable view. They were soon convinced that the patrols were
Germans and this made it imperative for them to avoid the highway.

Awaiting the first opportunity they crawled through the hedge and found
themselves in the roadway, but before there was an opportunity to cross
they were spied by the advance sentries and the first cry they heard
was: "_Wer geht da?_"

The boys rightly interpreted this to mean "Who goes there?" but they
did not stop. This time they darted through the bush and ran to the
south along the hedge row, as fast as they could scurry, while the
sentry, putting the spurs to his horse, was over the fence at a leap,
and after shooting twice came directly across the field.

The boys knowing that the sentry could not see them after they crossed
the little ravine, entered the dense shrubbery which grew along the
river bank. Their hearts were in their mouths. As they looked around,
however, they saw three other horsemen following them.

Now began the flight of their lives. "Let's go to the left along the
river bank. That may throw them off our tracks. They may turn to the
right, thinking that we would be most likely to go in that direction,"
proposed Ralph.

His prediction was verified, for without waiting to go directly to the
brink of the river the horsemen all headed for the river to the right,
thus enabling the boys to look about for some sort of protection.

The high grass and weeds enabled them completely to cover themselves
and they had the satisfaction of hearing the troopers a half-mile in
the distance, beating every clump of shrubbery, but soon all was quiet.

Ralph laughed as they lay there and reflected how the Uhlans were
outwitted. "What made you think of that ruse?" he asked.

"I happened to remember what the General said one day, when they were
planning some new movement of the troops. He said we ought to get east
and occupy the ridge. Our weakest movement would be to go to the left.
Napoleon's policy was first to consider what a commander would be
likely to do to defend a position, and then do just the other thing. It
was by following this plan in the field that he won all his battles in
Italy, and it gave him wonderful fame. You see, they were driving us
down the river bank, and they would naturally think we would not go in
the opposite direction, as it would bring us closer to them, in stead
of farther away."

"Well, that is a good lesson, any way. I suppose the proper thing for
us to do now is to follow them by going up the river?" said Alfred.

"Certainly. They won't be looking for us in that direction now," said
Ralph.

They were careful, however, not to expose themselves needlessly, but
keeping as much as possible alongside of the high grass they reached
the road. After safely crossing it they sprinted alongside of the
river, and soon covered another mile. At this point they saw a little
village at the end of a long bridge which crossed to the western side
of the stream. As it was necessary to pass this village, and to make a
detour around it would mean a long tramp, they consumed fully an hour
as they quietly made their way toward the town in order to ascertain
whether or not it was occupied by a force, whether friend or foe.

A woman who crossed their path was greatly startled at their
appearance, but their speech at once reassured her.

"Do you know, M'selle, whether the Germans are in the village?" asked
Ralph.

"No," she answered. "But we were informed that they are coming up the
road."

"They are not far away. They left the bridge last night."

"I wonder why the bridge was not destroyed?" said Ralph. "Well, don't
let us wait. We must go on while we have time," was Paul's eager and
hurried observation.

They leaped forward. They could now see the villagers,--that is, women
and children on the main road looking east. All were extremely excited
as the boys came up, and some of them began to retreat toward the
houses.

Ralph cried out: "We are Americans, and have just escaped from the
Germans. Which is the best road to Boom?"

The villagers pointed to the road leading along the river bank. One of
them cried out: "Don't go that way; the Uhlans are on the road."

Several men were now seen at the lower edge of the village, where they
stood waving their hands.

"That means the enemy are coming," said Ralph. "Our only hope now
is the bridge," and without waiting to hear further news, both boys
started on a run to make the crossing.

Throughout this section there was a vast amount of shrubbery, and the
inevitable rows of trees along the highways made it difficult for those
on the western side of the stream to notice the approach of any one
until they were within a few hundred feet of the bridge.

This was the boys' salvation. Within a minute they were on the bridge
and they were then startled by the sound of the first gun behind them.
They did not stop, but on glancing back were somewhat relieved to
find that the shot was not intended for them. Possibly someone in the
village had been made a victim.

They were now in the middle of the bridge, when a most terrific
explosion shook them, and they stopped running as though they had been
struck. They looked at each other in consternation. Then they glanced
back, but the dense smoke hid them from the view of their enemies. A
section of the bridge had been blown up; but by whom they didn't know,
so they now walked toward the end of the bridge. As they went down the
slight incline a soldier stepped in the roadway and halted them.

The boys halted for a moment and cried, "Belgique!" then rushed
forward, at which the sentry understood and permitted them to pass.
Behind the sentry were others who hurriedly motioned them to conceal
themselves by the side of the road. At the same time they noticed that
the lone sentry also had disappeared.

Looking back, they now saw a platoon of Uhlans at the other end of the
bridge.

"Too bad," said Alfred, "that the explosion didn't do more damage." The
troopers advanced, some of them dismounting, and within fifteen minutes
sufficient repairs were made to allow a half-company to cross over.

The leaders were galloping off the bridge when two distinct explosions
took place, one near their end of the bridge and the other behind the
first explosion, thus completely cutting off those on the bridge and
also entrapping those who had crossed.

A brief order, "Tirez!" on the part of the Belgian officer brought
into view over a hundred concealed infantrymen, who fired volley after
volley as they made a rush toward the horsemen. Some of the Uhlans
turned and plunged into the stream, and many of those on the bridge did
likewise, while the officer in command of the Belgians called out to
them to surrender. Most of them did so, throwing down at the same time
their lances and guns.

Thus the moving column was checked, and at this very place the Belgians
held up the further movement of the Germans toward the west, until
after Antwerp had fallen.

The fighting was soon over, and when the prisoners had been rounded up
the men started to the rear with them.

Upon reaching the main camp the first one to greet the boys was
Antonio, and before nightfall every one in the camp had beard about
the boys and of their achievements. An amusing thing occurred as the
prisoners were being assigned to their quarters.

Marching along at the head of the tired troopers was a German
lieutenant. The boys now noticed for the first time that this officer
wore the helmet of the Death's Head Hussar.

"There is a friend of ours," said Ralph, with a smile.

"Who do you mean?" said Antonio.

"The German lieutenant, with the big helmet on."

As they moved toward him the officer, who now recognized the boys,
looked at them in astonishment. He held up a hand in token of
recognition, as Alfred went up to him and said: "Well, Lieutenant, we
intend to put you to work in the hospital."

The officer gazed at him in amazement for a moment, and then, as he saw
the twinkle in the boy's eyes, said: "Ah! you are not serious. You do
not take these things seriously."

Two days thereafter our young heroes marched into Antwerp with the
troops, where they were to meet Ralph's family. During their three
weeks' wanderings not a word had been heard from the boys or from
Pierre, and their parents were naturally much alarmed, knowing that
they were traversing the very section of Belgium where the first
fighting had taken place in the great conflict.

We shall now take leave of our young friends in the hope that we may
have the good fortune to follow their further adventures on European
battlefields.



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    CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS IN MERRYVALE

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        his friends long before Christmas arrives. They plan a surprise
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        the two sides have a battle royal.

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        and they have the time of their lives boating, swimming and
        fishing in the creek.

    HALLOWE'EN AT MERRYVALE

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        be held at Toad Brown's house, but the evening finally arrived
        and a number of new games were played, although a few things
        happened which were not on the program.


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        nations" for the benefit of the Merryvale Day Nursery, and their
        plans succeed beyond their expectations.

    Merryvale Girls at the Seaside

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        many wonderful things. A luncheon on the shore and days spent in
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    Merryvale Girls in the Country

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        time and every hour is filled with delightful experiences.


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Transcriber's Note


  Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations
  in hyphenation have been standardized but all other spelling and
  punctuation remains unchanged.

  Pg. 131, 165: Added captions to the illustrations.





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this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
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