The boy Allies at Liege
by Clair W. Hayes
Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse

"But, general—" began the officer in charge of the squad.

The general raised a hand imperiously.

"There are no 'buts,'" he said. "You have heard my command. Obey it."

Hal and Chester were dumfounded. As their guards turned and marched them in the direction of the general's quarters, Hal asked of Chester:

"Do you remember him?"

Chester nodded in the affirmative.

For the German officer who had thus saved them from death before a firing squad was none other than the officer whom they had encountered in the station at Berlin, the man who had threatened to have Hal whipped for accidentally bumping into him, and had pushed him from the train.



"What do you suppose is going to happen now?" asked Chester breathlessly.

"It's too deep for me," replied Hal. "I can't imagine what he wants with us."

"But who is he? That's what I would like to know," demanded Chester.

"I haven't the faintest idea, but he must be someone of importance."

"Oh, he's important enough, all right. You noticed his command was obeyed."

"Well, I guess we shall find out in good time who he is," returned Hal.

The lads were taken to a large hut in the center of a great camp. The hut was luxuriously appointed, and it was plainly evident that the man who had saved them was one of the foremost of the huge German host.

The general himself had not arrived yet. But, after a long wait, he came in, alone. He motioned their guards away, and then turned on the boys with a scowl.

"Do you remember me?" he demanded.

The two lads nodded affirmatively. They were, for the moment, beyond speech.

"And I remember you," went on the general. "You," he continued, pointing to Hal, "are the American upstart who almost knocked me over in the station at Berlin. I said I would have you whipped. Well, my time has come. Now, you just sit quiet," he said loudly, as Hal and Chester took a step forward. "I will write out your sentence right now," and he turned toward a table.

"I won't be whipped!" cried Hal to Chester. "They will have to kill me first!"

The general paid no attention to this remark, but continued to write in silence. Finally he arose, with a paper in his hand.

"Here is your sentence," he said, turning to Hal. "Read, and see what you think of it."

Hal took the paper the general extended to him. As he read an expression of amazement passed over his face.

Hal passed the paper to Chester without a word, and, as Chester read, he also grew amazed. And no wonder.

For what the general had written was a safe-conduct for both lads to the Belgian lines; and the signature at the bottom was that of General Count Von Moltke, commander-in-chief of all the German armies!

Hal stepped forward.

"General," he stammered, "we—I—we don't know how to thank you."

The general raised a hand and said gruffly:

"Never mind that." The faint shadow of a smile flitted over his stern countenance. "I suppose," he continued, "that you are wondering why I do this, after what occurred in the station at Berlin. It is so, is it not?"

"It is very strange," muttered Chester, and Hal nodded his head in assent.

"Well, I'll tell you," said the general. "You remember when I pushed you away from the train?" he queried, turning to Hal.

Hal nodded.

"When I turned round after that, feeling greatly pleased with myself, I noticed, for the first time, the presence of a lady in my compartment. She looked at me in the greatest contempt. It confused me; and I am not easily confused.

"Then she told me that she was your mother, and, you may believe, berated me most wonderfully. She didn't cry, nor go into hysterics, which made a great impression on me. Most mothers would. I felt decidedly uncomfortable.

"I realized that I had acted like a boor. We had gone some distance, but I had the train stopped and backed into the station. You were not there. I telephoned your ambassador. You had been there and gone. We were unable to find you.

"I prevailed upon your mother to continue her journey to Brussels. I issued an order to all my generals to keep a lookout for you and give you safe-conduct into Belgium. It seems, however, that none of them recognized you, or that you kept out of sight.

"I promised your mother I would get you out of the country in some way, and she was greatly relieved. She knew I would do it. That's all there is to the story. Now, I don't know what you lads were doing when you were captured, and I don't want to know. If you are mixed up in this war in any way, I don't want to know anything about it; but, if you are, take my advice and go home to America. As I say, I don't want to know what you have been doing since you left Berlin. It might force me to change my attitude. I promised your mother I would get you out of Germany, and I shall do it."

Hal and Chester were greatly surprised by this recital, and both boys thanked the general as well as they could.

The general stepped to the entrance of his hut, and raised his hand. An officer entered and came to a salute.

"I have given these two lads safe-conduct into the Belgian lines," said the general. "See that they get there in safety."

"Yes, general," said the officer.

The general turned to the two boys.

"You would better go now," he said.

He extended his hand, and both boys grasped it heartily.

"Good luck to you," he called, as they followed the officer from the hut; "my regards to your mother."

And that was the last the boys saw of the commander-in-chief of all the armed hosts of Germany.

Straight through the great German camp the officer led the boys swiftly. At the farthest outposts he halted, and signaled another officer.

"Lieutenant," he commanded, "take a flag of truce and escort these boys to the Belgian lines. They have been given safe-conduct by General Von Moltke."

The officer saluted, and the boys followed him. Under a flag of truce they traversed the distance between the Belgian lines.

Out of danger at last, the two lads hastened to the quarters of the commanding general, and reported. The general was genuinely glad to see them.

"I had about given you up for lost," he said. "But you have arrived in the nick of time. A concerted German advance is expected momentarily, and without the reply you have brought we would have been at a great disadvantage."

Their mission successfully completed, the lads now hunted up Captain Derevaux. They found the young captain in his quarters. He jumped up as the two boys entered, ran hurriedly forward and greeted them effusively.

"Believe me, I am glad to see you again," he exclaimed. "I had made certain I would never see you alive."

"Oh, we are hard to get rid of," replied Hal, with a smile. "I guess we'll continue to stick around for some time yet."

"Well, you don't know how glad I am to see you back safely," continued the Frenchman. "But come in and tell me all about your journey."

For a long time the three talked; and then Hal bethought himself to ask concerning the situation in Liege.

"We are expecting an attack in force at almost any minute," explained the young captain; "and we are prepared to give a good account of ourselves. In spite of the fact that we are sure to be greatly outnumbered, there is no doubt that we can hold the forts. Of the city itself, I am not so certain, although these Belgians will fight to the last.

"Everything that can be done to strengthen our position has already been done, and all we can do now is to wait for the attack that must come soon. Already the German forces have delayed longer than had been anticipated, but every hour of delay makes our position that much stronger.

"British troops have been landed in France, and French and English both are hurrying to the support of the Belgians. It is impossible for them to arrive in time to take part in the coming fight, but it is the plan of the Belgians to delay the German advance as long as possible. Believe me, the Germans will find the Belgian defense such a stumbling-block as they have not counted upon."

"There is no question that they will fight to the last?" asked Hal.

"Not the slightest," was the reply, "Their resentment of the violation of Belgian neutrality knows no bounds. They will fight to the last drop of blood in them."

"Then I suppose the battle of Liege will be one of the bloodiest in history," declared Chester.

"Undoubtedly," replied the captain; "and, if I mistake not, it is only a matter of hours until it begins. The troops are sleeping on their arms, and at the first word of a German advance the entire Belgian army will be hurled into the battle."

"Do you really believe the Belgians will be able to check the German advance?"

"I do. These great steel forts are practically impregnable. They can successfully withstand the fire of the big German guns for weeks; and for the Germans to try and take them by storm will mean annihilation. But a successful charge would put the city proper into their hands."

"But in that event is there any likelihood of the forts surrendering?"

"I think not. In fact, I am positive of it. But come, boys, we have talked enough, and it is getting late. I guess we would better turn in. There is no telling when we may get to sleep again."

Accordingly, almost fully dressed, the three threw themselves down, and soon were fast asleep.

To Hal and Chester it seemed they had hardly closed their eyes when they were rudely awakened. It was the sound of a cannon that had aroused them, but for the moment they could not tell what it was.

The boys sat up and rubbed their eyes sleepily. Outside it was light. The gray dawn crept through the entrance, dispelling the shadows of the darkened hut.

"What was it?" cried Chester.

And, even as he spoke, it came again, the heavy boom of a single huge cannon, followed almost immediately by the crash of thousands upon thousands of rifles. The machine and rapid-fire guns broke loose with their leaden messengers of death, and a bugle sounded:

"To arms!"



Captain Derevaux, who had been sleeping soundly, sprang to his feet, picked up his sword and pistols, and, without even a word to Hal and Chester, dashed from the hut.

"The battle has begun!" cried Hal.

"Come!" exclaimed Chester. "Let's get to some place where we can see. I can't stay here!"

"Nor I!" cried Hal. "Come on!"

The two lads hurried from the hut. As they emerged, a troop of Belgian cavalry swept past them, on the way to the front. The boys followed as rapidly as possible in its wake. Presently they came to a small hill. Climbing to the top, they found they could command a good view of the advancing German columns, which they could see in the distance, and which were even now almost close enough to grapple hand-to-hand with the horsemen swooping down on them.

All along the German front the Belgian cavalry hurled itself upon the advancing foe. They met with a crash, and horses and riders went down in heaps. For a moment the Germans gave way. For a moment they recoiled, and then they sprang forward again.

The charge of the Belgian cavalry was magnificent, but it was in vain. The German forces pressed onward, and the cavalry was forced back, cutting and slashing as it slowly retreated. Under a withering fire, that suddenly broke out all along the German front, the horsemen fell by hundreds. It was more than flesh and blood could stand. A retreat was sounded, and the cavalry fell back upon its support. But, even as they drew off, there burst from the German front the sharp roar of the mitrailleuse. The German maxims had opened fire. The Belgians fell faster than before.

And now the Germans were ordered to charge. Squadron upon squadron raced over the open ground in a mad dash toward the Belgian line; and as they charged, the rapid-fire guns of the great forts poured forth their answer. Great holes were cut in the German columns, and men and horses were mowed down like chaff.

And still the Germans came on.

Suddenly a fierce rifle fire broke out all along the Belgian front, even as the rapid-firers continued to belch forth their messengers of death. Men reeled and fell in masses. The Germans wavered, halted, then retreated. A great shout went up from the Belgian lines.

Under the support of their own field batteries, the Germans reformed for a second charge. As before, the defenders waited until they were close, then poured in a deadly fire. The Germans staggered, then sprang forward. A second volley greeted them, and a second time the Germans wavered, halted and retreated. A third time they charged, with the same result.

All this time a long-range artillery duel was in progress, whatever advantage there was resting with the Belgians. Shot and shell poured into the oncoming solid ranks of the German infantry, cutting great gaps in their ranks; but these quickly filled up again, and the Germans continued their steady advance.

All this Hal and Chester saw, and more. For they could see, to the left, the successful advance of the enemy, as it moved upon the town of Liege. In vain the Belgians charged upon the advancing line and poured in shot and shell. The Germans came on. To the right the Germans also were pushing slowly, but surely, forward.

"It is terrible! terrible!" said Chester, with a shudder, as he watched men fall right and left.

"Horrible!" agreed Hal. "But come. We must move. It is as Captain Derevaux said. The Belgians will be unable to hold the town. They must retire upon the forts; and we had better retire before them."

The boys descended from their position of vantage and made their way to the nearest fort, which they were allowed to enter upon informing an officer of their connection with the Belgian army, just as the Belgian troops withdrew from their positions in front of the city and fell back upon the forts.

Liege was left at the mercy of the Germans.

For some minutes thereafter there was a lull, as when a great storm dies down, only to begin again with greater fury. The enemy's left wing, which was nearest the fort in which the boys had taken refuge, could be seen forming for a charge, while from the fort a rain of lead continued to fall upon them. Although men were falling on every hand, the Germans formed without the least confusion.

Then came the order for the charge. From five different points the enemy hurled itself forward upon the fort; nor did the hail of lead stop them. Closer and closer they approached, the five sections of cavalry drawing nearer together as they did so, so that when they were within striking distance they were almost in solid formation. In their rear the infantry, supported by field guns, already had formed for an advance.

The Uhlans must be driven back at all hazards, and an order rang out from the Belgian commander.

There sallied forth a body of Belgian cavalry and the few French that remained of the French Lancers who had borne the brunt of the fighting in the battle in which Hal and Chester had distinguished themselves. In the center of these Hal and Chester recognized Captain Derevaux, his sword flashing aloft.

"He is a grand soldier!" whispered Hal to Chester softly. "A brave man, indeed. France may well be proud of him!"

"There can be none better," answered Chester. "May he come through the battle safely!"

Now the Belgians and French charged, and the fighting was hand-to-hand, while over the struggling horsemen the guns from the fort poured death into the ranks of the advancing German infantry.

The cavalry of the two armies had met so close to the fort that, with a glass he picked up, Hal could distinguish the faces of the combatants. And again, so close was the fighting that the guns of the fort could not be brought to bear on the German cavalry for fear of killing friend as well as foe; but they continued to deal death to the infantry.

Looking through his glass, Hal sought out the form of Captain Derevaux. Finally he espied him, right where the fighting was fiercest and men dropped fastest.

Hither and thither rode the gallant young Frenchman, striking, thrusting, parrying, now raising his revolver for a snap shot, the while urging his men on.

"If he gets out alive it will be a miracle!" cried Hal, passing the glass to Chester.

Chester put the glass to his eyes and looked toward the field of battle.

"By Jove!" he muttered. "He is magnificent!"

At that moment the captain's horse went down, but, with a quick movement of his arm, guarding his head from a saber stroke, the young Frenchman seized the bridle of a riderless animal, and with a single movement swung himself to the back of his new charger. In another moment he was once more in the middle of the fighting, dealing out death on every hand.

The Germans gave way, slowly at first, then faster; and at length they turned and fled. As they did so, the guns from the fort poured a hail of lead into them, mowing them down as they retreated. The Belgian cavalry retired to the support of the fort. The German charge had failed!

And now messages filtered in from other parts of the field. The Belgians had been successful all along the line, with the exception of one point, which had permitted the Germans to enter the city of Liege. The losses of the Germans had been appalling; those of the Belgians comparatively light.

"Can the Belgians fight?" asked Hal, when the Germans had withdrawn. "Can they fight? Well—"

His silence was more expressive than words.

"It's too bad we were unable to take part in the battle," declared Chester. "It certainly gives me a restless feeling to sit here and look on while others are doing all the fighting."

"It does make a fellow feel a little queer," Hal replied. "But, supposing we had been in that charge—where would we be now?"

Chester shrugged his shoulders.

"Perhaps here, and then again—perhaps, some place else," he answered. "Who knows?"

"Neither you nor I, surely," replied Hal. "But think of the dead and dying on the field out there. War is a terrible thing!"

"It is," declared Chester; "and the more I see of it the more I realize that fact. But come. Let us see if we can find the captain."

It was almost an hour later before they accidentally ran across him, and the young Frenchman carried his arm in a sling.

"It looks as though I am likely to be on the hospital list for a few days," said the captain, smilingly.

"It's a wonder to me your name is not on the death list," replied Chester.

"Indeed it is," agreed Hal. "We watched you through a glass from the fort. Your action was magnificent. France can well be proud of you. Believe me, you will not remain a captain long."

"As for that," replied the young Frenchman, "I have just learned that I have been recommended for promotion."

The boys congratulated him, but he waved them aside laughingly.

"It is no more than you would do for your own America," he declared; "no, nor no more than you both did only the other day. Whatever I do," he added softly, "I do for France!"



For almost a week now the strong Liege fortresses had withstood the fierce bombardment of the great German guns. Attack after attack had been beaten back, with heavy losses to both sides. Time after time the German cavalry had charged, only to be hurled back by the fierce and deadly fire of the Belgians.

But the forts had not gone unscathed. The heavy German guns had done great damage to the fortifications behind which Hal and Chester had taken shelter, and the possibility was now being seriously considered as to whether the fort could withstand another assault.

General Simon, the commander of the fort, had decided in his own mind to blow it up rather than surrender it to the enemy. Many prisoners had been captured by the defenders, and these crowded the fort, occupying every inch of available space. And now the next assault of the Germans was at hand.

Day and night the bombardment of the fort had continued. Under the protection of the heavy cannonading, the Germans moved once more to the attack. Three times did the enemy charge heroically, and as many times were they driven back, with fearful losses. With the fall of darkness they had given up the attempt to take the fort by storm.

But the Belgian commander knew that the Germans would come again on the morrow; and he also knew that he could not hold forth against them. He made his plans accordingly.

Under cover of the darkness he had his prisoners marched to the nearest fort, more than a mile away. Then he ordered all civilians to the safety of the other fortifications.

His plans for keeping his fortifications from falling into the hands of the enemy already made, he set about fulfilling them. He examined the magazine and had everything in readiness. Then he ordered all his troops to report to the general commanding the nearest fortress, placed a fuse to the magazine, lighted it, and sat down to wait.

Hal and Chester, strolling about the fort, in some unaccountable manner had been left behind. Suddenly, for the first time, they noted the utter desolation of the place.

"Strange," muttered Hal. "Where has everyone gone?"

"You've got me," declared Chester, "but there must be someone around some place. Let's go up to the general's quarters."

Now, when the soldiers and civilians had been ordered to leave the fort, no one knew it was General Simon's intention of blowing it up. They thought he was abandoning it because he believed it no longer capable of resistance. But the commander had planned more deeply and heroically. He did not intend the fort to fall into the hands of the enemy, that they might repair it and turn its guns against his countrymen.

"A German flag shall never wave over this fort," he had muttered to himself.

The general was sitting calmly at his desk, awaiting the end, when the lads entered his room. He sprang to his feet with an exclamation.

"Leave the fort instantly!" he commanded. "Waste a moment and you are as good as dead!"

Hal and Chester stared at him in surprise.

"I have fired the magazine, and the fort will be blown to pieces in a few minutes," said the general hastily. "Fly for your lives!"

"But you, general?" demanded Hal, quietly.

"I? I shall die at my post! But go, instantly! You have not a moment to lose!"

"We shall go when you do, general!" said Chester.

The old commander whipped a revolver from the table before him. He leveled the weapon at Hal.

"If you do not go immediately, I shall fire!" he threatened.

Hal smiled.

"The result would be no different than that of the explosion," he said quietly. "Come with us. We have still a chance of escape."

The general lowered his pistol.

"You are right," he said. "But here," a sudden thought having come to him. "I have still a message for the Belgian people."

He sat down and wrote rapidly. Rising, he handed Hal a paper.

"See that this reaches the commander of Fort No. 5!" he ordered. "You have my command! See that it is carried out! Go!"

"That is simply a ruse to get rid of us, general," said Chester.

The general whirled upon him.

"I am still the commander of this fort!" he cried. "Obey my command!"

The boys saluted the gallant old general for the last time; then they turned on their heels and left him, alone.

Once out of his room, they ran for the outer wall of the fortification with all speed; and they did not pause until they were far beyond the fort. Still there was no explosion.

"Perhaps when General Simon finds something has gone wrong, he will follow us," said Hal hopefully.

"He is a brave old man," replied Chester. "Let us hope he thinks better of his decision while there is yet time."

But, hardly had the words left his mouth, when there was a terrific roar, followed by a great flash of light. Turning, the boys saw the fort leap into the air as though it were some live thing. High in the air it burst and spread like a huge skyrocket; and then for miles around there descended pieces of iron, great lumps of steel, like rain from the heavens.

Great pieces of these fell on all sides of the boys, but, as though by a miracle, they were unharmed.

Hal lifted his cap from his head, and looked for a long time toward the spot where the great fort had stood.

"A brave soldier and a gallant gentleman!" he said finally. "May he rest in peace!"

"Aye!" replied Chester softly. "He has given his life for his country!"

Slowly the boys resumed their walk to the other fortress. Great excitement prevailed. The appalling loss of the great fort, and the unaccountable absence of General Simon were causing great anxiety and speculation. The general belief was that the fort had been destroyed by a German shell.

In Fort No. 5 the boys made their way at once to the quarters of the commander. They were admitted into his presence almost immediately. Silently Hal handed him the last words written by the heroic general. Gravely the commander glanced over the paper; then read aloud to the members of his staff, who surrounded him:

"I regret I have but one life to give for my country!"

Every officer in the room rose and bared his head. There was silence for some minutes; then the commander of the fort said quietly:

"Peace be with him! On the next roll call he shall be marked: 'Absent but accounted for.' He is with the heroes!"



Hal and Chester walked slowly along the road. It was just beginning to grow light and the lads were tired out. All night they had been on their journey toward Louvain, carrying a second communication to General Givet from the Belgian commander at Liege.

Unlike their previous trip, the country now was known to be overrun by Germans, and their second mission was much more perilous than had been their first. For this reason they had taken a different route, and so did not pass the farmhouse where Chester had been wounded some days before.

"What is that ahead?" asked Chester suddenly.

Hal strained his eyes, peering into the distance.

"I don't know," he replied.

They continued their advance, and suddenly Chester exclaimed:

"Why, it looks like an old-time provision wagon."

"So it is," replied Hal; "I wonder what it can be doing here?"

As the boys drew nearer they perceived their surmise had been correct. A dilapidated old wagon it was, standing beside the road. To it were hitched two mules. There was not a soul about.

"I thought these things had gone out of date," said Hal, indicating the wagon. "It looks like an old prairie schooner."

"It certainly does," answered Chester. "The only reason I can account for such a relic being in use is that every available vehicle has been impressed into service."

"I suppose that is the reason, but it certainly reminds me of the wild and woolly days we have read about in America. If this is not a regulation prairie schooner, I never saw one."

And indeed it seemed that the lads were right. The wagon was covered with a canvas top, which came down over the back, leaving a little opening in the rear.

"What is the reason we can't get in this thing and ride?" asked Chester.

"I can see none," was Hal's reply. "We might as well do it. Then, too, we can make better time."

Accordingly the lads climbed in, and soon were riding slowly along the road. When about five or six miles from Louvain, Hal, glancing behind, saw three horsemen approaching.

He grabbed Chester by the arm.

"Look there!" he said, pointing.

"Germans, by George!" exclaimed Chester, who was driving, and he immediately started the mules on a dead run.

"Hold on," said Hal; "maybe they are Belgians."

"No, no," replied Chester. "I know they are Germans!"

"Well," replied Hal, "I am going to see," and, stepping out on the footboard and holding to the side of the wagon, he looked back over the top of the wagon. The horsemen were closer now, and Hal could make out their uniforms.

"They are Germans, aren't they?" asked Chester.

"Yes," replied Hal, "and they are coming like the wind!"

"Well," said Chester, "maybe we can get away. You do what fighting is necessary, and I'll do the driving."

"All right," said Hal. Crawling back in the wagon, he drew his two revolvers, and in response to his command, Chester turned his two pistols over to him also.

Hal had hardly reached his place at the back of the wagon when Chester, between yells to the mules, cried out:

"How far off are they now, Hal?"

Hal answered him as well as he could, and Chester renewed his lashing of the mules and his yelling.

Once more Chester inquired the distance between pursued and pursuing, but, before Hal could answer, two shots were fired from behind, accompanied by a shouted command to halt. The bullets from the rifles passed through the wagon between the two lads, but did no damage; and almost instantly the Germans charged down on them. Three shots rang out as they passed the wagon, but the boys were not touched.

The Germans passed on, and then, circling back, prepared for another charge. Hal had fired at them several times, but, owing to the bumping of the wagon, his shots had not found a mark. But, if the bumping of the wagon had spoiled his aim, it had probably saved the lads' lives, for it made accurate shooting by the Germans impossible.

Down came the Germans again, shooting as they passed by. And again the boys were unharmed. Hal and Chester were now yelling at the top of their voices—why, they never knew.

Hal, crawling to the back end of the wagon and, looking out, saw the Germans ready to charge down on them again. One man, however, was jogging along close behind the wagon, his revolver held in his hand.

As Hal looked out, the German stopped his horse and fired. Hal dodged back sideways. The bullet whizzed through the hole in the canvas in the rear, grazed Hal's head, and struck the back of the seat near Chester. Chester did not even turn, but, with cries and blows, continued to urge the mules on.

As quick as he could, Hal rushed to the hole and fired at his opponent, but failed to hit him. At the same instant another bullet came through the side of the wagon, and struck his revolver, and the weapon fell to the road. Hal dodged back inside.

Then the Germans bore down on them again, firing into the wagon as they passed it. Hal sprang to the front of the wagon. One German had stopped and was taking aim at Chester. Hal raised his revolver, and, taking a snap shot, fired. The bullet went true, and the German fell to the road.

"I've hit one of them, Chester!" called Hal.

"Bully for you!" came back the response, and Chester continued to ply his whip on the backs of the galloping mules.

Once more the remaining two Germans turned and came back, but this time they did not fire as they passed the wagon. Hal rushed back to the rear of the wagon and looked out.... One German rode close behind and to the right of the wagon.

Bracing himself, Hal quickly stuck his revolver through the hole, but before he could fire, the German flopped over on one side of his horse, and all that could be seen of him was his arm around the animal's neck, and from the knee down, one leg.

Hal did not fire, but waited for him to come up—he could almost hit the horse's head with his hand, so closely was he running. Suddenly he saw his enemy's hand move, and he dodged back just in time. A bullet sped past his head.

Up came the German, and Hal stuck his revolver through the hole, and, without taking aim, fired. The ball struck the German in the breast, and, with a cry, he threw up his hands, and toppled from his horse.

"I got another one, Chester!" cried Hal.

"Good!" came the reply, but Chester was too busy to say more.

The bullet with which Hal had disposed of the second German had been his last, and the boys were now without firearms.

Along they bowled, and once more the last German passed the wagon. He had learned the boys were without weapons. But the German now had also disposed of his last cartridge, so the lads were on even terms.

Suddenly Chester called:

"He is crowding the mules off the road!"

It was true. The pursuer was riding close to the mules, trying to push them from the road. The animal on the near side was jumping frantically and gradually pushing the other mule toward the edge of the road.

The German kept close to the mule, in spite of several attempts Hal made to scare him off by pointing his empty revolver at him. The German refused to scare.

Grasping the side of the wagon, Hal took the revolver by the barrel and hurled it at the German. The latter tried to dodge, but it was too late. The revolver struck him in the face, and he fell to the ground.

He was up in a moment, however, and, picking up his sword, was soon in the saddle again; and a moment later the mules again were being crowded off the road.

The German was within striking distance, but Hal had nothing with which to hit him. His other empty revolvers had already been thrown.

"Hit him with the whip!" he cried to Chester. "Hit him with the whip!"

Chester, suiting the action to the word, simply diverted one of the blows intended for the mules, and struck the German fair across the face.

The whip had a knot on the end of it, to keep it from unraveling, and this knot hit the German in the eye. The German dropped his sword, put his hands to his face, and rubbed his eyes; then, putting spurs to his horse, he made off rapidly over the road which they had come.

The boys now caught the first glimpse of the town of Louvain, and the glad sight of Belgian troops could be discerned—the outposts guarding the town.

Chester let the mules slow down.

"That was some ride," he declared.

"You bet," was Hal's answer. "I thought we were gone that time, sure."

"Well, let's get out and walk the rest of the way," said Chester. "I have had enough of this riding to last me a lifetime. The wagon jolted so much I must be black and blue all over."

Chester stopped the mules, and the boys climbed to the ground; and, just as they started to resume their walk, Hal sank suddenly to the ground!



Quickly Chester bent over his friend.

"Hal! Hal!" he cried in alarm, shaking him gently. "Tell me where you are hurt!"

He laid his friend's body back gently; then for the first time he noticed that blood flowed from a wound in Hal's side.

In vain did Chester try to bring his chum back to consciousness. The boy lay like one dead. Finally, seeing that his efforts to revive his companion were useless, Chester picked him up in his arms, and in this manner started for the town.

By pure grit Chester succeeded in carrying his burden to the Belgian outposts, where he turned him over to a Red Cross surgeon.

"Is he badly hurt?" the boy demanded, as the surgeon arose from examining his chum's wound. "Will he live?"

"It is dangerous," was the reply. "But I think he will come around all right presently. But he has had a narrow escape. One inch higher up and the bullet would have pierced his heart. He must be taken to the hospital. He must have proper attention."

Leaving his chum in good hands, Chester made his way to General Givet's tent, where he gave him the message the boys had gone through so much to deliver safely. Then he went to the hospital. He was permitted to see his friend at once.

Deathly pale, but with a smile on his face, Hal greeted his friend. Chester sprang forward and grasped his hand.

"Are you all right, old fellow?" he asked eagerly.

"Fit as a fiddle," was the faint reply.

"Why didn't you tell me you were wounded?"

"To tell the truth, I didn't know it myself until just as I stepped from the wagon. I can't remember when the bullet hit me, but I suppose it was when the Germans fired through the side of the wagon. But it was weak of me to give way as I did."

"Weak! Great Scott! Even the surgeon is unable to see how you held out as long as you did. You have had a mighty narrow escape, I can tell you!"

"I guess I have," replied Hal feebly. "But anyhow it's an escape. Did you deliver the letter to General Givet?"


At this juncture, a nurse approached.

"You must go now," she told Chester. "Your friend must have perfect quiet for the remainder of the day."

"All right," replied Chester, and then turning to Hal:

"Well, good-by, old man. I'll be here the first thing in the morning."

"Good-by," replied Hal. "Now, don't you worry about me. I shall be all right."

Chester made his way from the hospital.

"By George!" he muttered, as he walked down the street. "I wish it had been me that was wounded instead of good old Hal. It's certainly tough on him, but he sure does bear up bravely."

As Chester continued down the street, he was brought to a sudden halt by the sound of firing from the outskirts of the city; and a moment later a mounted officer dashed through the street, shouting:

"The Germans! The Germans are approaching!"

People along the street took up the cry and the air was filled with the sound of startled voices:

"The Germans! The Germans!"

Dashing squadrons of cavalry swept through the streets on their way to the front; people jumped out of the way as the artillery was hurried by; and then came columns upon columns of infantry on a quick run.

It was plainly evident that an attack by the Germans had not been anticipated; but now that the enemy was close at hand, everything possible was being done for the defense of the city.

Chester hurried in the wake of the troops, and, as he did so, the first screaming shell burst over his head. He was hurled to the ground, but escaped injury. The crowds that had thronged the streets a moment before vanished as if by magic.

The flying shells now screamed incessantly overhead. From the front came the deafening roar of many guns, and the crash of thousands upon thousands of rifles. Suddenly the screams of many voices rose, as a building, not far from where Chester stood, was blown into a million pieces.

For a moment Chester was awe-stricken and stood still.

"This is terrible!" he muttered to himself. "Terrible!"

He was struck by a sudden thought.

"Suppose one of those shells should strike the hospital?" he said to himself. "What would happen then? What would happen to Hal?"

Turning, he hurried back in the direction from which he had come. Was it a premonition, or what?

As he turned the corner and the hospital came into view, a horrible scene met his eyes.

The hospital was afire! A brilliant flame shot high into the air, and the smoke poured forth in a dense volume. Even from where he stood Chester could see that one wall of the hospital had fallen. It had crumbled under the shock of a German shell.

Chester dashed forward; nor did he pause or falter at the thought of the dangers he would encounter in the burning building, but ran rapidly up the steps and plunged into the dense cloud of smoke and the sheet of flame.

His sense of direction stood him in good stead now. Almost stifled, his hands and face scorched by the intense heat, he ran up the stairs. At the top, where the air was somewhat clearer, he paused for a moment for breath, then dashed for the room where he knew Hal lay.

Hal was sitting on the edge of the bed when Chester burst into the room. He had noted the first signs of smoke, and had attempted to rise, but the effort was beyond him. There was not another soul in the room.

He looked up as Chester rushed in.

"I am afraid I can't make it," he said, in a faint voice.

"We have got to make it," replied Chester quickly. "Can you walk at all?"

Hal shook his head.

"I tried to," he said, "but I can hardly stand on my feet."

"Put your arm about my shoulder!" commanded Chester.

"It's no use," said Hal. "You can't possibly carry me out, and we shall both perish. Save yourself while you have time!"

"No more talk like that," commanded Chester, in a stern voice. "We go or stay together."

"But we cannot do it," replied Hal. "Alone you may make it; but with me you are certain to perish. Go!"

"Will you do as I tell you peaceably, or must I use force?" demanded Chester. "If you don't obey me, so help me, I will knock you cold and then carry you out. Come, which shall it be?"

"Have your own way, then," said Hal.

Chester stooped over and Hal put his arm about his neck; then, lifting him up in his arms, Chester staggered through the doorway, and to the staircase.

But, as he was about to put his foot on the first step, there was a terrible rumble and roar, and the steps crashed downward. The supports had been burned away.

By a mighty effort Chester regained his balance, and the two lads were saved from death in the smoking ruins below by a hair's breadth. Turning, Chester rushed toward a window and looked out. It was a long drop to the ground below, and he saw no help in sight.

"I told you it was no use," said Hal. "Let me go, and save yourself!"

Chester did not reply, but laid his chum gently on the floor. Then he dashed into the next room, returning in a moment with several sheets.

Quickly he tore these into strips and tied them together. Then he approached Hal and tied one end under his arms.

"We will get out yet," he said quietly, and assisted Hal to the window.

"Put no more strain upon your wound than necessary," he instructed Hal. "Hold to the sheets with your hands, and it will relieve some of the strain."

So saying, Chester lifted Hal to the window sill, and gently lowered him over the edge. With his feet braced against the wall, he paid out the improvised rope slowly.

Now the flames burst into the room in which Chester stood, but it did not hasten the lad in his desperate work. Slowly he let the sheets slip through his hands, that Hal's wound might not be opened afresh by any sudden jerks; and presently the slack of the rope told him that his chum had reached the ground. At the same moment he heard Hal's voice:

"All right! Pull up the rope!"

Rapidly now Chester set about saving himself. The room was a seething mass of flames, which burned him terribly. Tying one end of his improvised rope to a bedpost, Chester leaped to the window sill, and began his descent.

So fierce were the flames that the sheets lasted but a second; but, in that time Chester had slid halfway to the ground. Then the rope broke and he fell with a crash. He picked himself up immediately, however, and, turning to Hal, said swiftly:

"Quick! We must get away from here at once. The building is likely to fall at any moment and we shall be buried beneath it."

He stooped down.

"Put your arms around my neck again!" he commanded.

Hal obeyed, this time without question.

Raising up with Hal in his arms, Chester staggered forward at a run, and it was well that he did so.

For at the moment he had reached a place of safety, the great building caved in with a deafening crash. There was a roar like the roar of a thousand guns, and, a moment later, on the spot where the hospital had stood there was only a mass of smoking and blazing debris.

More slowly, now, Chester continued on his way. Before him he could still hear the thundering of many cannons as the battle progressed, but he kept his face turned in that direction.

In spite of the heavy burden in his arms, he made good progress; nor did the bursting of an occasional shell nearby deter him, nor turn him from his course. As he staggered along he passed many tumbled-down buildings that gave evidence of the accuracy of the fire of the German gunners; and in some places the bodies of non-combatants littered the streets.

Straight toward the front went Chester, his face set in grim determination. He realized that in that direction lay whatever chance there was of safety; for even now his keen ears detected the sound of firing from the rear, as the Germans made their attack from that direction.

But, even as Chester neared the outskirts of the city a great cheer rang out from in front, and the sound of firing grew less distinct. Presently troops began to come toward them. Victorious in front, they were now hurrying through the city to drive off the enemy attacking from the other side.

Chester stopped and laid Hal down in a doorway. There the two lads remained in silence for some time. Soon the sound of firing from the other directions grew more faint; then ceased altogether.

Chester put Hal in the care of a pleasant-faced Belgian woman, who came to the door now that the battle was over, and went forth in search of General Givet. The latter was about ready to give himself up to a much-needed rest, but permitted Chester to enter his hut.

"General," said Chester, passing over how he had saved Hal's life in the hospital fire, "my friend is badly wounded, and is in a bad way. It will be long before he recovers. I have come to ask if there is not some way in which he can be sent out of the country, at least until he has entirely recovered."

The general considered.

"There is a party leaving for Brussels to-morrow," he said finally. "You both may go with them."

"But it is not necessary for me to go," returned Chester. "I might be of use to you here."

"Would you not like to be with your friend?" asked the general.

"I would like nothing better," replied Chester.

"Then it shall be so," said the general. "You are both brave lads. I shall make the necessary arrangements myself."

Chester was in the best of spirits as he made his way from the general's quarters and started down the street to where he had left his wounded chum. The lad was walking slowly along, when his arm was seized from behind. Turning, Chester beheld the face of Edna Johnson.

"Why, how do you do!" exclaimed Chester, raising his cap. "This certainly is a surprise. What are you doing in Louvain? I thought you had decided to remain at the farmhouse. But what is the matter?"

This last was called forth by the signs of distress and excitement plainly visible on the girl's face, which Chester, in his pleasure at seeing her again, had not perceived at first.

"I am staying here with a friend," the girl explained rapidly. "My uncle ordered me to leave the farmhouse and come here. I am indeed fortunate to have encountered you."

"Why?" demanded Chester.

"Listen," said the girl. And, taking Chester by the arm, she bent close to him and whispered:

"In my friend's home there are two men, presumably civilians. But I know better. I heard them plotting. They are going to send word to the German commander, telling him the exact position of the Belgian troops, the weak spots in the defense, and all other details."

"What!" exclaimed Chester. "Spies right here in the midst of the Belgian army?"

"Yes," replied the girl. "I overheard them talking in the room next to mine. I didn't stop to hear any more. I ran out of the house, and was on my way to the general, when I saw you. Then I thought I had better tell you what I had learned."

"And I am glad you told me!" said Chester. "Come, lead me to the house and I shall try and gather fuller details before reporting to the general. It may be that there are other spies in the city, and that, by listening, I can learn something concerning them."

Chester for the moment put aside all thoughts of Hal. He considered it his first duty to serve the country for which he had already gone through so much. Hal was in good hands. So, walking slowly, Chester and Edna made their way to the house where the girl was living.

"I am not particularly fond of playing eavesdropper," Chester told the girl, as he stealthily followed her up the stairs; "but it is all in the line of duty, so I guess it is up to me."

From Miss Johnson's room could be heard the subdued sounds of voices in the next room.

"Rather unthoughtful of them to discuss such business in such a place, to say the least," remarked Chester. "Apparently they forget that even the walls have ears."

The lad laid his ear to the door between the two rooms. Edna stood close behind him, and the two listened eagerly.

"Well, then it is all settled," came a low voice from the room beyond. "You report to the chief immediately. I'll remain here an hour, so that we shall not arouse suspicion by going together. But tell the chief I shall be on hand in time."

"Good!" came the reply. "I suppose all other details have been attended to and that the thing will be pulled off smoothly. To-morrow night should see the end of Louvain."

Chester straightened up.

"I must get out of the house before he does," he told the girl. "I must follow him."

"But won't you be in danger?" protested Edna. "Why not report to the general at once?"

"No," the lad declared. "I must at least find the rendezvous."

Quickly he slipped from the room, and stepped outside the front door just as a door on the upper floor slammed to.

Chester walked slowly down the street, whistling.

"I hope he comes this way," he told himself. "Otherwise, I shall have to do some fast walking."

Fortune favored the boy. As he walked slowly along, a man brushed swiftly past him. Taking care to avoid all pretense of pursuit, Chester followed.



For half an hour the lad stalked his prey through the streets of the city, winding about here and there until Chester had absolutely lost his sense of direction. Several times the man turned round and glanced furtively about, but apparently he took no notice of his shadow.

Finally he turned into a crooked little street near the outskirts of the city. Chester also turned the corner, just in time to see the man descend a pair of steps into the basement of what was apparently an unoccupied house.

The lad hurried up and arrived in time to hear the man give a peculiar knock at the door—one loud tap, followed by three soft taps, then another loud one.

Chester walked back around the corner, where he stopped to think.

"If only I could get in there," he said to himself. "I wonder—"

He stopped, struck by a sudden idea.

"By Jove! I believe it can be done," he said.

He continued to pace up and down, apparently deep in thought. Occasionally he stopped to look in the direction from which he had followed his prey to the rendezvous.

After nearly an hour the lad, after a glance down the street, slipped quietly into a doorway. Apparently the thing for which he had been waiting was about to come to pass.

Footsteps sounded on the street, coming closer. Save for the one lone pedestrian, the street was deserted. The footsteps approached closer, and Chester gathered himself for a spring. As the man came abreast of the doorway in which the lad was hiding, Chester hurled himself upon him. With one hand the lad clutched his victim about the throat, and with the other he struck out heavily. There was a stifled groan, and the man fell limp in the boy's arms.

Glancing hurriedly about to see that there was no one in sight—no witness to his deed—Chester dragged the man into the doorway. Here he quickly discarded his own clothes, stripped the stranger of his outer garments and donned them himself.

Then tearing his own clothes into strips, he bound his victim and gagged him, after which, now attired in his victim's clothes, he stood up and made a search of the pockets.

"If my surmise is correct," he said to himself, "I shall be all right."

The hand which was exploring the inside breast pocket came forth with a little piece of cloth.

"Good!" the lad exclaimed. "I thought as much. I didn't believe they would take too many chances. A stranger might get in and betray them."

For the little piece of cloth the lad had taken from the pocket of his newly acquired apparel was a black mask.

"Now," said the boy to himself, "to see if I cannot find out who I am supposed to be."

He continued the search of the pockets. Several pieces of paper and one or two documents he glanced at hurriedly, and restored. Finally he drew out a paper that seemed to please him, for his face lighted up with a smile. He glanced at the slip of paper and read aloud:

"This is to certify that the bearer is an accredited agent of the One King."

At the bottom was a seal of peculiar design, but there was no signature.

"Evidently," said the lad, "members of this gang are not known to one another, at least all of them. They may spot me and they may not. However, I've got to take a chance. Nothing risked, nothing gained."

The lad stepped quickly from his place of concealment and approached where the man he had followed had turned in more than an hour before. He descended the steps into the basement and knocked upon the door—once loudly, three times softly, and once loudly again.

The door swung open before him, and a masked man peered out. Taking a deep breath, and feeling in his pocket to make sure that his revolver was in readiness, the lad stepped inside. The door swung to behind him.

Chester followed the man who had opened the door down a dark hallway, and into a dimly lighted room. Masked as he was, the boy had little fear of being discovered, but his hand rested on his automatic in his right-hand coat pocket.

Inside the room Chester perceived a circle of dark faces, stretching almost around the room. At one side, facing the circle, was a raised platform, and on this sat a huge bulk of a man, masked, as were all the others.

They all rose as Chester entered the room, and without a word the boy made his way to the one vacant seat. The conspirators then resumed their seats, and Chester sat down also, four chairs away from where the chief himself sat.

"Number One," called the chief, and the man nearest him on Chester's side arose. "What have you to report?"

"Everything is ready, sir. As you know, I am on the staff of the Belgian commander. With the information I shall impart to him at the proper time to-morrow, the main force of Belgian troops will be withdrawn from the northern part of the city and the surprise will be complete."

"You are sure? There is no chance of failure?"

"Not the slightest, sir."

"Good!" said the chief, and the first man resumed his seat.

"Number Two," called the chief, and the second man arose.

By his first words Chester recognized the man who had first spoken at the home of Edna Johnson.

"And what have you to report?" demanded the chief.

"That word has been sent to attack at five o'clock," was the reply. "I have received an answer, showing that my message was delivered without mishap."

"Good!" boomed the chief again. "That is all."

Number Two resumed his seat.

"Number Three!" called the chief.

The man next to Chester rose to his feet.

"Your report," commanded the chief.

"I have to report, sir, that the thousand men sent to me have all arrived. They came singly, and the last one arrived shortly before I came here. They are all armed and are quartered in vacant houses on Brussels Street, at the southern extremity of the city. They are awaiting the word."

The chief nodded, and the third man sat down.

"Number Four!" called the chief.

Chester rose to his feet, as had the others.

"And you, sir?" demanded the chief. "Is your report satisfactory?"

Chester was thinking rapidly. He was in the most ticklish situation he had ever faced, and he was fully aware of it. He knew now that there was not one chance in a thousand of his escaping detection. But the lad did not falter, and his right hand grasped the handle of his automatic more firmly, as he made reply:

"Entirely so, sir," and then paused.

"Well, well!" shouted the chief. "Explain!"

Chester drew a deep breath, and took a haphazard shot:

"My men are ready to seize the entire Belgian staff, at a moment's notice, sir."

The confusion that broke out immediately following his words told Chester that his shot had missed. But the boy stood his ground. There was nothing else he could do.

From the opposite side of the room came a cry:

"That was the work assigned to me."

"That is not true," was Chester's quick reply. "I was the man selected for that work."

The man on the other side of the room made a spring toward Chester, but he was arrested by the commanding voice of the chief, who now stood up to his full height, a revolver barrel gleaming in his outstretched hand.

"There is a traitor here," said the chief calmly. "I shall be the one to decide who it is, for you are all known to me. Unmask!"

Every person in the room save Chester obeyed this command, and for the fraction of a second he stood alone, his face still covered. But he stood for a fraction of a second only.

Then with a quick move his revolver leaped from his pocket, and there was the sound of a shot. The chief toppled over to the floor.

Chester leaped to one side, and with a backward sweep of his left arm knocked the single lamp from the wall and plunged the room into darkness.

Then he dropped to his knees. And none too soon, for twenty pistols cracked and as many bullets went hurtling by the spot where he had stood a moment before.

Ten feet behind Chester was a door. He had noticed it when he first entered the room, and had decided that there lay whatever chance he had for safety should he be discovered. Quickly, and still stooping, he ran toward the door.

And even as he reached it a match flared up and a bullet whistled by his ear. But the door was unlocked and gave before the boy's weight, and as, after passing safely through it, he turned to close it in the faces of his enemies, one man blocked him, his arm raised to fire.

But Chester's revolver rang out first. The lad had fired from his hip, and the man went sprawling.

The lad turned his weapon on the others who now rushed toward him, and fired three rapid shots. Then he slammed the door shut, bolted it with a single movement, and, turning, ran along the dark passageway, at the end of which he could discern a dim light.

Chester wiped his brow with his hand, and his hand came away wet. Holding it close to his eyes as he ran, Chester saw blood. A bullet had struck him a glancing blow on the side of the head, but in the excitement of the moment he had not realized that he was wounded.

At the end of the passageway the lad emerged into another room. There was not a window in the room, and, glancing hurriedly about, Chester espied a pair of stairs. Quickly he leaped up these, and came into what apparently at one time had been a kitchen.

The boy's gaze roved hastily about for a means of exit. He tried the door, but it was locked. Twice he threw his whole weight against it, but it did not budge. He looked at the windows. For some reason, they were heavily barred.

Chester put the muzzle of his automatic to the keyhole of the door and fired. The lock was blown entirely away, and the door flew open beneath the lad's weight.

Not hesitating, the lad leaped through the next room and sped into the hall beyond. He could clearly see that his way now led to the front door, and he made for it at a run. He grasped the knob and gave a quick wrench, but the door would not open.

He sought for the key to turn it, but there was no key. Evidently the family, upon going away, had barred it from the outside. From behind, the boy could hear the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps, and he knew that every moment's delay spelled disaster and almost certain death.

He picked up a chair, and with a single blow shattered the glass front of the door. He drew the leg of the chair across the ragged pieces of glass left at the bottom, and then, dropping the chair, drew himself up.

Just as he was about to tumble out on the far side, four men dashed up the steps with drawn revolvers. Chester took in the situation at a glance. He was between two fires, and escape was impossible.

"Well," he told himself quietly, "I guess it's all up with me this time."

He dropped back inside and faced his pursuers. Throwing his now useless revolver to the floor, he raised both hands.

"I surrender," he said quietly.



Two of Chester's pursuers approached him warily with leveled revolvers, apparently fearing a trick. Coming within striking distance, one of them dealt the lad a heavy blow with his fist. Chester fell to the floor without so much as a groan, unconscious.

When the lad again opened his eyes he was once more in the council chamber of the conspirators. In the dim light he could discern the masked circle of faces that had gazed at him when he had entered the room for the first time. The only difference being that there was here and there a vacant chair.

Chester recovered consciousness fully alert to what was going on about him. He took in the situation at a glance, and a grim smile lighted up his face as his eyes fell upon the vacant chairs.

"Looks like I had done a fair job, at any rate," he told himself.

His gaze turned toward the chief's platform. The chief was there, but his head was swathed in bandages.

"Too bad I missed him!" Chester muttered. "He is evidently the ring-leader, and to have downed him would have been the proper thing."

Any further reflections the lad might have had were interrupted by the booming voice of the chief, who now rose to his feet.

"Prisoner, stand up!" he commanded.

Chester arose from the chair in which he had been seated. His arms were bound behind him and his feet had been tied together; still he found that he could stand.

"Prisoner," continued the chief, "your name!"

"Chester Crawford," was the lad's firm reply.

"And what are you doing in Belgium in these troublous days?"

"I am attached to the staff of the Belgian commander at Liege," was the boy's prompt response.

"But what are you doing in Louvain?"

"I came here with dispatches."

"So? And yet you are not a Belgian, I take it; nor yet, French. What, then? An Englishman?"

"No; I am an American," said Chester proudly.

"An American! Then how comes it that you are fighting for the enemies of Germany?"

"I am proud to be fighting for what I consider the right," said Chester simply.

"The right!" exclaimed the chief, in a loud voice. "Well, you shall soon see that you would have been better off had you stayed on the other side of the Atlantic."

Chester did not reply.

"Do you know what we are going to do with you?" continued the chief.

"No, and I don't care," was the lad's reply.

"We are going to kill you," said the chief calmly. "But first you will be given a hearing. We do not put even our enemies to death without a fair trial."

Chester laughed mockingly.

"A fair trial by such as you?" he exclaimed. "That is a joke. But go ahead with the farce, and let's have it over with as soon as possible."

The reply was a subdued growl.

"Why are you here, in this room?" he demanded, at length.

"To learn the details of a plot that would deliver Louvain into the hands of its enemies," replied Chester calmly.

"How did you learn our rendezvous?"

"By listening to the conversation of two of your members who were so indiscreet as not to remember that the walls of their room might have ears."

"So? That shall be looked into. Such indiscretion is not to be tolerated. But how comes it that you were able to discover the knock of admittance; how comes it that you have a mask exactly like the rest of us?"

"You are asking a good many questions," said Chester, "but as this probably is my finish, I don't mind telling you. I followed one of your members here, and overheard him knock. Then I waylaid the other and took his mask, clothes, and credentials away from him."

The chief looked at him in surprise.

"And you a mere boy," he exclaimed. "You are a bold lad and 'tis a pity you have fallen into our hands. But that is enough. You admit, then, that you entered here to spy upon us?"

"Certainly, with the greatest of pleasure," said Chester. "Why shouldn't I admit it?"

"Enough!" cried the chief, and turned to his men.

"You have heard the confession of the prisoner," he said. "Number One, what is your verdict?"

"Guilty!" replied Number One, in a solemn voice.

"Number Two?" called the chief.

"Guilty!" was the reply.

And so on all down the line. Each answer was the same. And when each plotter had given his verdict, the chief addressed them all in a loud voice.

"And the penalty?" he questioned. "What shall the penalty be?"

And each man answered as with one voice:


"Good!" said the chief. "So be it."

He turned to Chester.

"Prisoner," he said, "you have heard the verdict. Have you anything further to say?"

"Nothing," said Chester quietly. "What's the use?"

"Then," said the chief, turning to the rest of the conspirators, "you shall draw lots to determine the executioner."

He opened a small box that was on the table, rose to his feet, and held the box out at arm's length.

"You will come forward, one at a time," he told his fellow-plotters, "and let not one of you look at the ball you have drawn until each man has taken a ball and returned to his seat. Number One!"

Number One stepped forward, reached in the box and extracted a ball, which he carefully concealed in his hand, and returned to his seat. Each man stepped forward in turn, and then returned to his chair, with a ball in his hand. Then the chief spoke again.

"Who has the red ball?" he demanded.

Each man looked at the ball he had drawn, and then a voice at the opposite end of the room from Chester rang out:

"I have it!"

"Good!" exclaimed the chief once more. "Then the prisoner's fate shall be left in your hands. You may dispose of him in whatever manner you desire. But"—and he raised a warning finger—"see that you make no slip." He turned to the rest of the conspirators. "The rest of you may go."

Slowly the conspirators, at intervals of perhaps a minute each, filed from the room, and soon there was no one left save Chester, his executioner, and the chief.

"Remember," said the chief to the one remaining conspirator, as he prepared to take his departure, "remember that a failure to carry out the command of the court-martial means your own death."

"Have no fear," replied the executioner. "He shall not escape."

The chief nodded and left without another word.

A moment the executioner stood, looking after the chief's retreating figure. Then he drew a revolver from his pocket and approached Chester.

Chester's heart began to thump loudly, and, try as he would, he could not but tremble.

"This is the finish, all right," he told himself.

He closed his eyes and uttered a short prayer.

A hand fell on his shoulder and shook him, The lad opened his eyes. The executioner stood over him, revolver in hand.

"You are an enemy of my country," said the executioner, "and I should kill you. But I can't do it. You spared my life once, and it is impossible that I kill you now."

Chester's heart beat rapidly. Could it be that he was once again to escape death when he was sure that his last moment had come? But he replied in a steady voice:

"I saved your life? Where? When?"

With a quick move the man lifted his mask from his face.

"Do you remember now?" he demanded.

The face was that of the man with whom Hal had fought in the farmhouse—the home of Edna Johnson—some days before. Chester recognized him immediately as the German officer who had led his men to the attack in the farmhouse.

But Chester had not spared the man's life. He had not even fought with him. It was Hal who had refused to give the German his death-thrust when the latter was at his mercy. Chester thought quickly.

"He has mistaken me for Hal," he told himself, "and if he knew it he would probably kill me at once. I must keep up the game."

He replied to the German's question:

"Yes, I do remember you now."

"Then you see why it is I cannot kill you," said the German; "but neither can I let you go free. For if I did you would consider it your duty to inform the Belgian commander of what you have learned and thus frustrate our plans. I don't know what to do with you."

Chester made no reply, and the captain continued:

"I can think of but one thing, and that is to keep you with me until the Germans have taken Louvain, after which, in some manner, I shall see that you reach the Belgian lines safely. But we shall have to be very careful as we leave here. The chief may have stationed a guard, and if he should learn that I have not killed you, my own life would pay the forfeit. But come, we must act quickly."

So saying, the German stooped over Chester and cut his bonds. The lad rose to his feet and stretched himself. For a moment he considered the advisability of leaping upon his captor-friend, wrenching his revolver from him, and making his escape. But this plan he immediately put aside as unwise, for his captor still held the weapon ready, and the boy knew that a single false move and the German would fire. Therefore, he did as his captor bade him.

The German raised his revolver in the air and fired a single shot.

"If anyone remained to see whether the execution was carried out, that will probably convince him," he said. "Now I will go out the door, and do you follow in sixty seconds. I shall be watching, and if you try to escape I shall kill you."

The German peered out through the door, and a moment later was on the outside. For a moment Chester debated whether he should make a dash in the other direction. A little reflection, however, and he decided he had better not. His limbs were cramped from being tightly bound, and he knew that should he not make his appearance as commanded by the German within sixty seconds, the latter would come after him—and the latter was armed and Chester was not.

Slowly he counted off the sixty seconds, and then stepped through the door.



"This way," came a low voice, as the lad reached the top of the steps.

It was now after nightfall, and the street was very dark, but Chester could dimly make out the form of the officer a few yards ahead of him.

"Follow me," came the voice again, "and remember that I have my gun ready. Just so surely as you make a false move I will kill you."

Chester made no reply, but followed his captor down the street. At the first corner the officer stopped and allowed Chester to come up with him.

"I guess we can walk along together now," he said, as they turned the corner. "It is hardly likely that they suspect me."

"I am sure I can never thank you enough," said Chester fervently.

"Never mind that," said the German. "I don't want any thanks. But it is a poor gentleman who cannot return a favor."

The two continued their way in silence. They came at length to a little house, setting well back on a dimly lighted street, and here the German turned in, Chester accompanying him. The officer let himself into the house with a night key, and the two ascended the stairs, at the top of which the officer led the lad into a small but comfortable room.

"Just make yourself at home," he told Chester, "It isn't much, but it's the best I can offer. Here you will have to stay till after to-morrow night, or at least until we have occupied the city."

From a little cupboard the officer produced some sandwiches and two bottles of beer.

"Help yourself," he said.

"Thanks," said Chester. "I'll try one of the sandwiches, but I don't believe I care for any of the beer."

"What's the matter?" demanded his host. "Don't you drink beer?"

"No," said Chester, "and I don't want to start now."

"Suit yourself," said the German, pouring himself a glass. "Have one of these sandwiches, anyhow."

Chester ate hungrily, for it had been many hours since he had tasted food. The light meal disposed of, the German lighted a cigarette, and the two leaned back for a talk. They discussed various topics for several hours, and then the German said:

"Well, I guess it is time for me to turn in. You will bunk in the corner there," pointing, "and I'll sleep in the other corner. But first I must tie you up. It wouldn't do to have you escape, you know, for in spite of the fact that I am your friend, I am first of all a servant of the Kaiser."

He produced some rope, and soon Chester was once more bound securely, but not uncomfortably. The lad lay down and closed his eyes, and a moment later the German also turned in.

Chester was in no mood for sleep. He had too much on his mind to think of slumber. Several moments more and the deep regular breathing of the officer gave evidence that he was sound asleep.

Chester squirmed and twisted quietly in his bunk, trying to release his hands. Minute after minute he continued with untiring energy. A clock somewhere in the house struck the hour of twelve, and still Chester squirmed and twisted.

As he turned this way and that, straining at his bonds, his left hand suddenly came free. Chester could hardly believe his own senses. A moment later and he had released his feet. Cautiously he arose and peered into the darkness. He could not see an inch before him. The room was absolutely black.

But Chester's sense of direction stood him in good stead now. Slowly and cautiously he tip-toed toward the spot where he knew the door to be. His outstretched hand touched the wood, and a moment later his exploring fingers found the knob. He found the key and turned it, then slowly and silently turned the knob.

The door swung open without even a creak and in a second more the lad was on the outside and the door was closed behind him. Stealthily he descended the stairs, opened and went out the front door, closing it softly behind him. Then he darted down the street as fast as his legs could carry him.

After rounding several corners, he finally slowed down to a walk. He felt now that he was safe from pursuit, and he set about finding his way to the headquarters of General Givet. He continued his walk for several blocks, and then he was suddenly challenged by a sentry.

The lad explained his mission, received the proper directions, and was soon making all haste toward the general's quarters. Once more before the general's hut, the lad informed the soldier standing guard that he must see the general immediately.

"It is impossible," was the reply. "The general is taking a much-needed rest. He gave orders that he must not be disturbed on any account. But here," suddenly, "here comes Captain Bassil. He will see that any information you may have reaches the general."

Chester turned to greet the newcomer. He saluted as the latter came up to him. As the officer drew close, he gave one startled look at the boy's face, and then drew back with an exclamation.

"You here?" he exclaimed.

"Why, yes, sir," replied the lad, "and I have important information." To himself he added:

"Where have I heard that voice before?"

"What is your information?" demanded the officer harshly.

Briefly and quietly Chester told him what he had learned.

"Impossible!" was the officer's exclamation, when Chester had concluded his recital. "It is my belief that you have come here to spy." He turned to the soldier. "Send Lieutenant Armand to me at once," he said.

The man saluted and disappeared. At the last words of the officer it suddenly came to Chester where he had heard the voice before. He approached the officer and peered more closely into his face.

"I wasn't sure, until I heard your last words," he told him, "but I know you now. You are a German spy."

"Hold your tongue," said the officer harshly, "or I will shoot you down where you stand."

At that moment another officer hurried up and saluted the captain.

"You sent for me, sir?" he asked.

"Yes; this boy is a German spy. I have positive proof. Have him shot at sunrise."

"Very well, sir," replied the lieutenant; then to Chester: "Come!"

"But—" began the lad.

"No words," said the lieutenant. "Forward—march!"

Chester saw it was no use to protest, so he marched ahead of the lieutenant without another word. He was taken to a small tent, thrust in, and a trooper ordered to mount guard over him. Wearily the lad threw himself down, and, in spite of his predicament, was soon asleep.

It was just beginning to grow light when he was rudely awakened by someone shaking him by the arm. Five minutes later and he was marched from his tent between a file of soldiers.

As he walked rapidly along between his captors, he suddenly espied an officer approaching on horseback. Even from where he was, in the dim light Chester recognized the horseman, and his spirits rose. It was plainly apparent that the rider would pass within a few feet of him.

A moment more, and he was close enough to the mounted officer to touch his horse. Suddenly the lad sprang forward and cried:

"General Givet! General Givet!"

The mounted officer pulled up his horse sharply. At the same moment the officer in charge of the squad sprang forward and grasped Chester roughly by the arm.

"Get back there!" he commanded sharply, but the boy paid no heed.

"General Givet!" he called again, and laughed happily aloud as the general turned his horse and came squarely up to him.

"Why, by my soul!" exclaimed the Belgian commander after a sharp look at the boy, "if it isn't young Crawford! What are you doing here?"

"They are going to shoot me as a spy, general," said Chester.

"What!" exclaimed the commander. "You a spy!"

He turned to the lieutenant in command of the squad.

"By whose order, sir?" he demanded.

"Captain Bassil's order, sir," was the reply.

"Captain Bassil, eh? Well, you will conduct your prisoner to my quarters. Then you will inform Captain Bassil that I desire his presence immediately."

The lieutenant saluted, and the general rode off.

Ten minutes later, in the general's quarters, Chester was face to face with his accuser.

"Well, sir," said General Givet to Captain Bassil, "what was your reason for ordering this lad shot? You will please explain yourself at once."

The captain shifted uneasily from one foot to another.

"I was sure he was a spy, sir," he made reply. "Why else should he be spooking about your tent at such an hour in the morning? But if I have made a mistake—"

"You have, sir," interrupted the general, "a very serious one—one that will require a more satisfactory explanation than the one you have just given. This lad"—and the general laid his hand on Chester's shoulder—"already has proven himself invaluable to our cause. Had I not fortunately arrived in time, he would now be dead. And in that event it would have fared badly with you. But I must investigate this case farther. Captain Bassil, you will go immediately to your quarters and consider yourself under arrest."

As the captain saluted and turned to leave the tent, Chester, who had been silent thus far, exclaimed:

"One moment, please, Captain Bassil," and then turned to General Givet. "I will explain, sir," he, added, "if you will have Captain Bassil remain a moment longer."

The general nodded and Captain Bassil remained. Chester walked up to him and looked him steadily in the eye for several moments. Then he turned to General Givet and said calmly:

"I accuse Captain Bassil, sir, of being a German spy!"

"What!" exclaimed the Belgian commander, starting back. "Do you realize what you are saying?"

"Perfectly, sir, and I am prepared to prove what I say."

Captain Bassil smiled sneeringly.

"I won't believe you will take any stock in such a wild story, sir," he said to General Givet. "With your permission, I shall go to my own quarters."

"One moment," said the general, raising a detaining hand, and then turned to Chester. "Explain yourself," he added shortly.

In a few well-chosen words Chester recounted his experiences of the day before.

"And I am positive," he concluded, "that if you will have Captain Bassil searched, you will find in his possession a paper similar to this," and he handed the commander the document he had taken from one of the conspirators before he entered their council chamber.

The commander ran his eye over the paper hurriedly, and turned sternly toward Captain Bassil.

"What have you to say to this charge, sir?" he demanded.

"That it is a lie!" shouted the accused officer. "He is accusing me to save himself."

The general looked at him in silence for some moments, apparently undecided as to how to act.

"Well," he said at length, "it will do no harm to find out."

He stepped to the door of his tent and spoke to the sentinel on duty just outside:

"Ask Lieutenant Armand to step this way at once."

As General Givet turned from giving this command, Captain Bassil suddenly uttered a loud cry and leaped upon the commander.

"At least you shall never live to thwart our plans!" he cried, as he sprang.

Taken completely off his guard, General Givet was hurled heavily to the ground by the force of the traitor's spring. The commander's head struck the ground with a crash, and he lay still. A revolver barrel gleamed in the sunlight that filtered through the half-closed opening in the tent. But even as it was brought to bear Chester leaped forward.

With one strong hand he seized the traitor by the wrist, and deflected the revolver just as the traitor's hand pressed the trigger, and the bullet whistled harmlessly through the top of the tent.

The captain turned upon Chester with the fury of a madman, and so sudden and fierce was his attack that the lad was borne to the ground. But in spite of the fact that he was underneath, one hand still grasped the hand in which the spy held the revolver; and, try as he would, the latter was unable to break the boy's grip.

His teeth bared in a snarl, the traitor suddenly released his grip on the revolver, drew back and drove his fist at the lad's face. But if Captain Bassil was quick, Chester was quick also. With a rapid movement, he rolled over, the revolver still in his hand, and thus escaped the terrific blow aimed at him.

But before he could rise or bring the revolver to bear, the traitor was upon him again, and two hands seized him by the throat. In vain the lad tried to shake himself free, and he was slowly being choked into unconsciousness.

But with a last desperate effort, he succeeded in bringing the revolver, which he still held firmly, between him and his enemy, and pressed the trigger.

There was the sound of an explosion, and for a moment the grip on the boy's throat seemed to grow even tighter. But for a moment only, and then the hands relaxed, Chester heard a faint moan, and, drawing in great gasps of fresh air, the boy fell into unconsciousness, just as the flap to the tent was jerked hurriedly aside and many men rushed in.



When Chester opened his eyes to the world again he was propped up on General Givet's own bed, and the Belgian commander and a Belgian surgeon were leaning over him.

"Awake at last, eh?" said General Givet, with a smile, as Chester opened his lips to speak. "You had a narrow squeak, and no mistake. And to think that a young lad like you should be the means of saving my life!"

"You have indeed rendered a great service to Belgium," broke in the surgeon. "But how do you feel?"

"A little weak," replied Chester, with a faint smile. "But Captain Bassil? Where is the traitor?"

"Dead," was the Belgian commander's laconic response.

Chester shuddered involuntarily.

"Never mind," said the general; "it was his life or yours, and mine too, for that matter."

"But it makes a fellow feel awfully queer," said Chester. "In battle it would have been different. But to shoot—"

He broke off and was silent.

"And the conspiracy?" he asked, after a brief pause. "You have taken steps to catch the Germans in their own trap?"

"I have," said the general grimly. "They will wish they had attempted to take Louvain in some other manner. Thinking us unprepared, they will be too confident. If they fall into our trap—and I am positive they will—they will be annihilated."

Chester was struck with a sudden idea.

"General," he said, "why can't we round up all the conspirators that are in the city?"

"In what way?" asked the commander.

Chester's reply was another question:

"Has your attempted assassination been kept a secret, or is it generally known?"

"It has been kept quiet," was the general's reply. "Were it generally known our coup might fail."

"Exactly as I thought," said Chester. "Now I am almost positive that the conspirators will gather for one more session before the German advance, if only to make sure that nothing has gone amiss. We can surround the house and capture them red-handed."

"An excellent idea!" exclaimed the general. "It shall be acted upon. I will give orders to that effect immediately," and he turned to leave the tent.

But before he should step outside, Chester jumped out of bed and ran after him.

"And how about me, sir?" he demanded. "Am I not to be allowed to take part in the capture?"

"You!" exclaimed the general. "You are in no condition to move about. You shall stay here in bed."

"Please, general," pleaded Chester. "This is my discovery; it should be my capture, too."

The general stood wrapped in thought for some moments.

"So it should," he said at length, "and so it shall be, if you feel equal to the task."

"I am perfectly strong again," said Chester eagerly.

"So be it, then," replied General Givet. "How many of the conspirators did you say there are?"

"About twenty-five, I should judge."

"Good! I shall place one hundred men at your disposal, and leave entirely to you the manner in which you make the capture."

Chester was jubilant. So great was his eagerness to be at his work that he could hardly wait for his men to be selected. But at last everything was ready and it was time to start.

A short distance from the rendezvous of the conspirators, Chester divided his men into four groups of twenty-five each, so that they could approach from all directions at once.

With his men concealed from view, Chester bethought himself of the best manner to entice the conspirators out into the open. Finally he hit upon a plan. Calling three of his men, he walked with them to a spot directly in front of the conspirators' rendezvous. Here the four started a heated argument.

Suddenly there was the sound of a door opening, and a moment later the well-known voice of the chief of the conspirators exclaimed:

"It is the spy! Come, men, we must capture him. Shoot down the soldiers!"

A moment later and the entire number of masked conspirators were in the street. Then, at a signal from Chester, the Belgian troops sprang upon them.

There was the sound of a pistol shot, followed by many more, and a bullet whistled by Chester's ear. Two of the Belgian troopers fell, and several others groaned. It was plain that the conspirators, trapped as they were, would not give up without a fight.

"Fire!" cried Chester, and a death-dealing volley was poured into the little knot of men huddled together in the street, surrounded by Belgian soldiers.

The fighting became desperate. The conspirators were giving a good account of themselves, and here and there Belgian soldiers were falling.

Now the conspirators turned and made a dash toward their retreat. But five Belgian troopers sprang forward and barred the door, firing as they did so. The ranks of the conspirators were considerably thinner now, and to continue the fight would mean slaughter. This fact the chief recognized.

He hurled his revolver at his foes with a fierce imprecation, and then raised his hands above his head. His followers did the same.

"I surrender!" said the chief.

Chester went up to him.

"The tables are turned, I see," the chief greeted him. "Well, a man can't be on top all the time. But I was a fool not to have stayed and seen you properly shot."

"I am glad you didn't," was Chester's reply, "for I guess you would have made a good job of it. But enough of this. I am commanded to take you before General Givet."

Surrounded by Belgian troopers, the conspirators were marched to the headquarters of the commanding general. There a court-martial was called to sit at once. Its work was brief. The prisoners were ordered taken out and shot as spies and traitors to Belgium.

Upon orders issued by General Givet, the Belgian troops soon began to move in accordance with the plan by which the Belgian leader hoped to trap the Germans. Their movements were such as to lead the German outposts to believe that they were retreating.

But instead of weakening his line where the Germans had planned to attack, General Givet strengthened it heavily. The troops were ordered to fallback a short distance, so that the German leader might believe the force in front of him had been sent to another part of the field to repel an attack that was believed imminent.

But the expected fall of Louvain by this piece of treachery was to prove a bitter disappointment to the German commander. Instead of the weak Belgian line he believed he was to encounter, he was sending his men against a force that had been heavily reinforced and that was determined to wipe out the insult.

As the Belgians gradually drew back, the Germans advanced, not too swiftly, so as to indicate an attack in force, but gradually and slowly. But continually larger and still larger bodies of Germans were sent forward, until suddenly it was apparent to General Givet that the time for the German surprise had come.

But when it did come the Belgian commander was ready. As the Teutons came forward in a headlong charge, the Belgians checked their backward movement and rushed forward.

A terrific volley greeted the charging Germans, and from the ambush, into which the enemy had been lured, the artillery opened upon them. They wavered slightly, but still they came on. But even as they sprang forward once more, the Belgian cavalry swooped down on them, dealing out death on every hand.

Stubbornly the Germans held their ground. Reinforcements were rushed to their aid, and the battle became general all along the line.

It was evident by this time that the German commander realized something had gone wrong with his plans; but now that the attack had been made he was not the man to give up without doing all in his power to go ahead. Now the Germans broke and began to retreat. With a wild yell, squadron after squadron of Belgian horsemen charged down upon the retreating Teutons.

Three times the German officers, bravely exposing themselves to the leaden hail of death, succeeded in checking their straggling troops, and three times the Germans coolly reformed under a terrific artillery and rifle fire.

But it was no use. For now the Belgians began a concerted advance all along the line. The German charge had spent itself, and the Teutons gradually drew off.

But the retreat did not become a rout. The Germans fell back slowly, contesting every inch of the ground. The aim of the Belgian gunners and infantrymen was excellent, and the havoc wrought in the German lines was terrible. The field was strewn with dead, but over these the Belgian troops pushed on, pressing their advantage to the utmost.

Finally General Givet called a halt. The Germans were still retreating, but the Belgian commander did not feel that he could afford to pursue them farther. The danger of a surprise was over, and he did not wish to risk another battle, particularly as he was unable to see the necessity of extending his own lines.

Therefore, the Belgian troops fell back upon their line of defense and the battle was over.

Chester, upon the express command of General Givet, had not been allowed to take part in the battle. The Belgian commander had kept the lad close to him, occasionally dispatching him to some near portion of the field with some order. And now that the fighting was over, General Givet announced that he would be pleased if Chester would dine with him.

But his work over and all his duties properly attended to, Chester bethought himself of his wounded chum. He was anxious to see Hal and relate what had happened and to make sure that his friend was being properly taken care of.

He reminded the general of the latter's promise to have Hal sent to Brussels, and received the commander's renewed assurances that he would not forget. Then he set out for the place where he had left Hal.

He stopped on the way, however, to see Edna Johnson, knowing that she would be interested in what had occurred since he last saw her and learning that but for her the Belgian army in Louvain might have suffered a terrible calamity.

Chester did not linger long with Edna, however, after relating his experiences and a brief chat on other subjects, made his way to the house where he had left his wounded chum, to whom he gave a detailed account of all that he had done, and of the arrangements he had made for their reaching Brussels.

"I would have been all right here," protested Hal.

"Maybe you would," replied Chester, "but there is likely to be more fighting at any time, and you are in no condition to move about. You will be better off in Brussels."

"I guess you are right," said Hal.

"I know I am right. I understand there are no German troops between here and Brussels, so there will be no danger on the way."

Hal was silent for some moments, musing.

"We have had some fun here, haven't we, Chester?" he asked at length.

"We have," was the reply. "I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

"Nor I," returned Hal. "And, when I am well, we shall see more fighting. The war has just begun."

Four days later Chester and Hal arrived in Brussels, where Chester procured the services of a good physician for his friend, who had stood the trip remarkably well, and the physician, after an examination, announced that Hal would be able to get about in a short time.

"Quiet for a few days is all that is necessary," he declared.

And so Hal and Chester, comfortably housed in the Belgian capital, sat down to await the time when they could again give their services to the allied armies.

And here properly ends the story of "The Boy Allies at Liege," though not the story of "The Boy Allies." Their subsequent adventures in the greatest war of all history will be found in a sequel, "The Boy Allies on the Firing Line; or Twelve Days' Battle on the Marne."


Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse