Still Liège did not surrender. Every day the glorious news would come
of the terrible bombardment, and of thrilling deeds of heroism. Brave
little Belgium was checking the giant which dared to molest her soil.
Ten days of intermittent thunder followed, which could plainly be heard
twenty-five miles beyond the outer circle of forts, to the north.
[Illustration: _A Dome-Topped Fort of Liège_]
The twelve great forts were not silenced by the incessant hail poured
on them from all sides. The Germans were astounded; the Belgians
exultant. The resistance had held back the German advance for two
weeks. They had expected to be in France, and well on the way to Paris,
before this time.
Each day rumors grew stronger, and more persistent, that the great
German army had begun its march to overrun Belgium. Liège had been
entirely invested. The Belgian army had stretched like a cordon across
the highways between Liège on the one hand, and Tirlemont, St. Trond,
Landin and Namur on the other.
Soldiers, camp outfits, guns, ammunition, food supplies, horses, and
every sort of equipment for the use of soldiers were arriving by every
train. In the meantime the boys were very busy at every sort of work
which chanced to fall in their way.
During the first part of their stay at the camp Ralph’s wound gave him
some trouble, and Alfred was always ready to wait on him, but as the
wound began to heal, Ralph’s restless energy made itself manifest.
“We must have something to do,” he said, as he was wandering around
with Alfred, one morning.
“Let us see Capt. Moreau,” said Alfred, as with a sudden inspiration.
The Captain welcomed them warmly.
“So you want something to do?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Ralph. “We can do the work, just as well as men, and some
things we may be able to do better than some men.”
“And what may that be?” he asked.
Alfred laughed as he quickly responded: “Well, we can carry orders,
The officers standing about, who heard the conversation, heartily
“I think we can fix you up,” he said. “Do you know how to ride
At this the hearts of Ralph and Alfred bounded and thumped.
“Of course,” said Ralph, and his voice had just enough questionable
expression in it to show that he felt some doubt of success in getting
the wished-for machines.
The doubts were soon dispelled. “Make a requisition for two motorcycles,
to be placed in charge of Alfred and Ralph,” the Captain said.
They danced about in a delirium of joy. “When can we have the
machines?” asked Alfred, as he turned to the orderly.
“We have plenty of them in the warehouse.”
The boys looked at the Captain. “Yes, go at once. Get used to them as
quickly as possible. The General may want you any time,” he ordered.
They saluted the officer, then started out with the orderly.
“I have a new pattern. It is a machine that is light and strong, and it
is also made with two seats,” he said. “That is the kind you ought to
have. They are made so that scouts who use them can bring in a comrade
or a wounded soldier.”
One of the temporary sheds, erected less than a week before, was the
warehouse for the cycle brigade, and here the orderly halted. After
selecting two of the crates he had the attendants open them, to the
delight of the eager boys.
Within an hour the machines were ready. Alfred was the first to take
his lesson, and, with the instructor, they were soon away, taking
their course toward Tirlemont, to the north.
Ralph was not yet well enough to be able to risk a trip, as his arm
was not yet out of the sling, but when Alfred returned he saw Ralph
examining his own machine.
He was delighted to see Alfred on the front seat, and at once met him
with a volley of questions.
“Yes, we went clear to St. Trond,” said Alfred. “Oh, the machine works
splendidly. Never had an accident. But you ought to see the soldiers
and the guns, and wagons along the way,–thousands and thousands of
Just then there was an intense commotion at the southern border of the
“See that man in a motorcycle. They are following him.”
The messenger alluded to was waving his hand, as a signal to those
in front to clear the way. He proceeded direct to headquarters, and
Soldiers, civilians and workmen, rushed forward and crowded around.
“What is the news?” everyone asked. An officer appeared at the door of
the commandant’s quarters.
“The Germans have entered Liège,” he said. There was a murmur and
Alfred and Ralph looked at each other in astonishment.
Soon those about, after recovering from the stunning news, began to
“While they have entered the city, they _have not_ captured the forts,”
the officer said, and he spoke it proudly, too.
“How could they capture the city and not the forts?” asked Alfred.
Roland, who stood by, then explained that the fight was between the
forts and the besiegers and that the possession of the city was of no
value to the Belgians.
“The best way to protect the city itself, is to permit the Germans to
occupy it, otherwise the shells directed against the forts might lay
it in waste,” he said. “With the Germans in the city they would not be
likely to permit their shells to pass beyond the fort.”
During the entire day Alfred was practising and later in the afternoon,
when the instructor formally turned over the machine to him he invited
Ralph to accompany him.
This time he turned the wheel toward the east. About four kilometers
away (three miles), they passed through Ottenhoven then, six miles
beyond, Kerckham, another village, on the main road, and turning
directly to the south, they soon reached another village called Mielen,
which was fully fifteen kilometers from Neerwinden, the site of their
Everywhere they found pickets, and frequently were held up by the
cavalry patrols. One such an incident will explain how this was done,
and what the boys did to free themselves.
As they emerged from the southern edge of the village of Mielen, on
the direct road to Waremme, a cavalry patrol halted them. Alfred
dismounted, and drew from his pocket the order appointing him a special
headquarters messenger, with a safe conduct to all places within the
Noticing Ralph’s arm in a sling, it was explained to them that he had
received the wound in the battle fought below Tongres, the week before.
The corporal in charge of the squad touched his hat, by way of salute.
They had heard of the brave boys, and as they sped away the troopers
cheered them heartily.
A mile east of Waremme they reached the great Roman road, called by the
country folk in that neighborhood, Route de Brunhilde, and the people
at the wayside readily directed them to follow it to the west. At the
border of the city, they were again halted, and then allowed to pass
on. Everything was excitement here, with people hurrying to and fro.
Up to this time the excitement of the ride had made them forget their
own needs but now they soon recognized they were very hungry.
Ralph was the first to speak of it. “But what shall we do? We have no
money,” he remarked.
This was the first time in all their wanderings during the past two
weeks, that the question of money became a matter of moment to them.
They had found plenty to eat along the highways, and even in their
wanderings they always had enough to eat.
But here was a new problem to them. They gazed longingly at the many
good things all about them, but they did not have even a sou about
them. While thus speculating a body of infantry passed, and the boys
followed, more from habit than anything else. They had no definite
object in view, in doing so.
Beyond was an open space where tents had been erected along the
northern border of the green. They mounted the motorcycle, and were
speeding across the space, when a cordon of guards held them up, and
one of the soldiers called for the corporal.
A tall soldier marched up, and answered: “What is it?”
Alfred sprang forward: “Is that you, Pierre?” he cried.
It was, indeed, Pierre, who was the corporal, in charge of the squad.
He recognized the boys with a smile and a handshake.
“What are you doing here?” he inquired.
It did not take the boys long to tell him of the wonderful things that
had happened since the battle in which Ralph was wounded. Motioning
them to follow, Pierre crossed the shaded portion of the commons, and
entered the guarded enclosure where the commander of the post had his
Pierre, addressing the commander, said: “These boys have been detailed
as special messengers from the commander at Neerwinden camp, and have
been practising on their machine. These are the lads who were mentioned
in General Orders a week ago, for bravery in battle, and for services
rendered to the fighting force.”
“But we used the guns, ourselves,” said Ralph, with a little pardonable
And Alfred nodded his head, as he looked at Ralph. There was a twinkle
in the eyes of the officer, as he said: “I welcome men and boys like
you. In what way can I be of any service to you?” he inquired.
The boys looked at each other for a moment, and then Alfred replied,
“Well, we are awfully hungry and we haven’t a sou between us.”
“That can be quickly remedied. Your friend will take care of that,” he
said with a smile, as he looked at Pierre. “Do you intend to return to
Neerwinden to-day?” he asked, as the boys were filing out.
“Yes,” said Ralph, “if you have any orders for us.”
“You are not on duty now, I understand, but I have some very important
papers to transmit, and they should reach the camp to-day.”
“Then we will return at once,” said Alfred.
“No, get a good meal first, and rest a bit, and there will be plenty of
Pierre now had them to himself and with him they visited the
commissary department where a meal was set before them and was greatly
enjoyed. Pierre took them around to the soldiers, and introduced them
everywhere, explaining what they had accomplished.
On all sides they heard their names mentioned, because the scene of
their first exploits on the battlefield occurred not more than ten
miles to the east, and many of the features of that engagement were
known to the people of the town, which was about sixteen miles north of
Pierre led the boys to a long, low building, in front of which were two
dozen or more boys, about their ages, all dressed in uniforms. “These
are the boy scouts,” he said.
“What fine uniforms they have,” said Ralph, as he looked at Pierre, and
then at his own clothing.
Alfred did not answer for some time. He was thinking. As Pierre
beckoned to several of the superior officers, they approached, and were
at once introduced to the boys, as the heroes of the battle at Russon.
“Do they want to join us?” asked one of the scouts.
“No,” said Pierre. “They are headquarters messengers at the camp at
This, in itself, was sufficient to give them a proper introduction.
“How long have you been a scout?” asked Ralph, of one of the boys.
“Over a year, and it is fun, I can tell you.”
“You must have had a lot of experience,” said Alfred.
“Indeed, we have,” answered several.
“But have you ever been in a battle?” asked Pierre.
“No,” they replied.
“But these boys have,” said Pierre, as he caressed Ralph’s wounded arm.
And now, boy-like, they crowded around Ralph, and began to ply him
with questions. “How did it feel to be hit?” “How many times did you
shoot?” “Do you think you hit anybody?” “Did you feel afraid?” “Did you
stand up and shoot?” These and many other questions were hurled at the
boys who answered them as fast as they could.
But the boys, contented as they were to remain under such delightful
surroundings, were impatient to return, so together with Pierre, they
rapidly moved towards the commandant’s quarters and after passing the
guard were ushered in.
“I see you are determined to go back. Well, here are the papers, which
must be delivered before nine o’clock to-night. _Au revoir!_”
Pierre helped them to mount the motorcycle, and with cheers and good
wishes from the officers and men, they passed out of the enclosed green
and soon reached the Route de Brunhilde. It was fun for Pierre to put
on the speed throttle, and rush past the different groups which they
These gatherings were particularly noticeable at the intersection of
roads. Before reaching the branch road which led to Mielen, they saw a
particularly excited group, which hailed and motioned them to stop. But
the boys knew their orders were to deliver their message as early as
possible and presuming that the country people were trying to hold them
up out of curiosity, they did not heed the warnings, but passed on.
Ahead of them was the main road leading to the north, which they must
take. They saw, at the next road another group of peasants, who waved
to them to go back. This now appeared threatening to them. They halted
several hundred feet beyond the group, and one of the leaders pointed
to the north, and there at a distance they saw twenty or more horsemen,
which the boys at once recognized as the dreaded Uhlans.
“What shall we do?” asked Ralph. “They are on our road, and we cannot
reach Mielen unless we go that way.”
“Why not go to St. Trond, and then reach Neerwinden from that point?”
said one of the neighbors.
“But what road shall we take?” said Alfred.
“There is a road a kilometer beyond.”
“Then we must take it,” said Ralph. “Come Alfred, we must not wait.”
They were urged to remain but they mounted and some of the peasants
accommodatingly pushed the machine forward and soon it was under full
speed. Less than a half-mile away were the Uhlans. The boys did not
stop to thank the peasants as they knew that their safety and the
possibility of reaching St. Trond lay in gaining the road beyond.
The Uhlans saw the speeding machine, and were in motion at once down
the road. Some of them leaped the hedges and started across the field
diagonally, but the speed of the machine was too great to afford the
pursuers any advantage, even with the short cut thus attempted.
Two of the troopers in the field dismounted, and taking deliberate aim,
fired, but the boys did not hear the whiz of the bullets.
“They are going to try it again, but it will do them no good,” said
Ralph. “The Uhlans are now turning the corner at the crossing. Put on
all the speed you can and I’ll keep you informed of all that happens.
Yes, the troopers who tried the cross-cut have leaped the hedge and are
now in the road. I wonder what is the matter with one of the horses. It
seems to be lame.”
And so Ralph kept up a constant flow of words to indicate the condition
in the rear.
“I wonder what they are lining up that way for,” said Ralph. “They are
now coming on five abreast and they are going to shoot.” But the buzz
of the motor prevented their hearing the volley that followed.
Distance, and the moving figures on both sides, were the safety factors
in the running fight, if it might be so termed. Suddenly Alfred gave a
cheer and Ralph turned his head.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Our cavalry are coming. Hurrah,” said Ralph.
Like an avalanche a troop of fifty horsemen came along, and Alfred did
not check the machine. The cavalry opened an avenue through which he
guided the motorcycle, and when they emerged from the lane thus made,
The boys heard an order, and one-half of the command started on
a terrific pace to the south. The Uhlans did not wait to ask any
questions, but turned and fled. The boys watched the fascinating
scene until they were out of sight. The officer inquired as to their
mission, and when they presented their papers, and stated that they
must deliver the papers at the camp at Neerwinden as early as possible,
the officer gave them minute instructions which would take them through
Altenhoven without going to St. Trond, thus making it a much safer trip
than it would otherwise have been.
It was past six o’clock that evening when they passed the outer guard
line of the great camp, and within five minutes they were in front of
the commandant’s quarters where they were admitted without ceremony.
Roland was there, on duty, and when he found that they had just
returned from Wandre, he could not help but express his admiration, and
was not slow in telling the General of the boys’ adventures.
“Oh, yes! We had the Uhlans after us. They blocked our road but we took
the next one and beat them,” explained Ralph.
“Ralph had the advantage of me. He could see them, and I just had to
run the machine,” said Alfred.
“You are both to be commended. But what is this?” he asked, as Pierre
handed him a large envelope.
The General opened the envelope. “From Waremme,” he said. “So you have
started to do service the first day. This is, indeed, commendable.”
“Please, sir,” said Alfred, “can’t we have uniforms?”
“You certainly shall have them. Lieutenant, see that the boys are
provided with the regulation suits.” This was their first knowledge
that their friend Roland was a lieutenant in the service.
But now the great and crucial times came to the boys who only a week
before tried to reach their homes, but they were not thinking of that
When they reached their quarters that evening, too tired for words,
they talked, and talked, rehearsing the scenes and incidents of the
day, and fell asleep, half undressed, where they found themselves in
the morning, lying across the bed.
Before they had time to dress a great commotion was heard in the camp.
They hurriedly dressed and rushed over to the main dining hall.
“What have you heard?” asked Ralph.
“Vise has been entirely destroyed, and the Germans are appearing in
great force at all points north of Liège,” said one of the attendants.
Breakfast was soon disposed of, and they rushed over to see Roland.
“Have you heard the news?” they asked.
“Yes, and we have information that two large forces are now advancing,
presumably to take Brussels,” answered Roland.
“We are to have uniforms, did you know it?” asked Ralph.
“Yes, and your arms are also ready for you. Wait until I get my
breakfast and we will go over and get the things,” replied Roland.
“What, are the uniforms ready? What are they like?” said Alfred, as he
danced about in delight.
“Oh, yes! You will have the regulation Scout uniform, but it will have
the distinctive stripes on the arm to indicate that you are attached to
the staff in the messenger service,” replied Roland.
You may be sure that two more impatient boys could not be found than
Ralph and Alfred, as they awaited the reappearance of Roland.
“Let us go over now and see our machines,” said Ralph.
Alfred did not protest, you may be sure, and together they rushed
out the door, and across to the warehouse in which the machines were
placed. As they went in they saw an officer move away from the place
where the machines were kept.
His actions excited Ralph’s suspicions. “I don’t like the looks of that
man,” he said.
The fact that the boys watched him narrowly, evidently excited the
man’s suspicions, also, and he tried to appear unconcerned.
“I am going to bring Roland over,” said Alfred, and he moved toward the
As the man hurried his steps toward the rear of building out of sight,
Alfred ran quickly to the dining hall, and called out to Roland:
“There is a very suspicious-looking man at the warehouse. Come over at
once.” Roland did not wait for a second call. With his breakfast hardly
begun, he jumped up, disregarding his hat, and followed Alfred. As they
neared the warehouse, they saw Ralph far beyond, keeping the officer
“Good boy!” said Roland.
“There he is,” said Ralph; “see him just turning the corner.” With a
bound Roland crossed the intervening space, and rushed around the shed
in which the artillery was parked. He ran into the officer full face,
and greeted him.
“Who are you? What and where is your command?” he inquired.
The man attempted to answer in French, but his foreign accent was
Roland’s revolver was in his hand, and he cried out: “Hold up your
“Turn about: you are under arrest. Forward march,” ordered Roland.
Then turning to the boys he said: “Go up to him on either side and
direct him down to headquarters. I will follow as a guard.”
During the progress down the street a large crowd gathered and
followed. The cry of “spy” was heard on all sides. The commandant was
quickly advised of the cause of the commotion and he received and
questioned the man, who could give no satisfactory replies to any of
the questions put to him. He could not state where he obtained the
uniform he wore. This in itself was incriminating evidence, and made
him amenable to the laws governing the execution of spies.
He was found guilty, principally on his own confession, and executed
within an hour of the trial.
When Alfred learned of the man’s fate, he was greatly affected. He
had been the cause of the man’s death–the direct cause. How he now
abhorred the shedding of blood. Some days prior to this, he had taken a
gun in his hand, and shot with the intention of killing. But this was
different. He had detected a spy; and the spy was shot.
Roland found him at his room, gloomy, and with his lips quivering, and
quickly divined the cause.
“You feel sorry for him. That is natural. I felt like a murderer when
I arrested him, because I knew from his actions that he was a spy and
I felt sure that I was leading him to his death. But you must remember
that he was doing things which will bring more misery on us than his
death could ever atone for. It was my duty and your duty, to bring him
An orderly appeared and explained that the boys were wanted at
headquarters. They went at once, and Roland accompanied them.
The General came forward as they entered. “I must thank you in behalf
of the King, for the great service you have rendered,” he said, as he
took Alfred and Ralph by the hand.
Alfred plainly showed his emotion, and Ralph and Roland turned away for
a moment to tell the General how the boy felt.
The arms of the strong man went about the boy, and he said: “It is no
discredit to you to feel that way. And now where are your uniforms?” he
“Oh! we are going to get them now. We were waiting for Roland,” said
The General smiled, as he said: “You mean the Lieutenant.”
Ralph looked down abashed for a moment, and then slyly corrected
himself, while Roland apologized. But the General needed no one to
smooth down that little wrinkle; he also had boys, and he knew that
these little informalities did not show want of respect.
“Get those uniforms at once; I want to see how they will look,” he
remarked to Roland, as the latter turned to obey.
The boys needed no more of an intimation as to their first duty. The
uniforms as furnished were trim fitting suits of a greenish-gray, bound
with a very narrow gold braid. The coats were close-fitting and rather
short but were well adapted for service and the proper fits were soon
The whole of Belgium did not contain two prouder boys than these two,
as they marched to headquarters, to thank the General for his kindness.
As they were about to leave, the General remarked: “I am happy to tell
you that Belgian boys also are doing their duty nobly. Day before
yesterday, two boys near the frontier, rescued two of our soldiers
from four Uhlans who had captured them, and yesterday, one of the boy
scouts, west of Liège, named Niston, captured two German spies. It is
such work that is appreciated, and shows that they are trying to do
their duty to their country. The work you and those boys are doing is
of great service. If the spy you caught had been permitted to escape it
might mean our death or capture. It is one of the things in war, which
must be guarded against, and all who volunteer to become spies know
that death is the penalty of detection.”
As they were going to their quarters, Alfred asked: “Why did the
General say that the Belgian uniform condemned the spy?”
“The wearing of any disguise is reprehensible. That fact alone, even
though the wearer may not have done an act or thing which could be
condemned, would be sufficient to warrant his execution.”
“But suppose a German should get into the camp, or through our lines in
his regular uniform, and be captured, would not that man be a spy?”
“No, for the reason that he is trying to get the information in the
avowed character of an enemy, and not by attempting to deceive.”
Alfred sighed as he weighed the distinction in his mind. He was
thinking of the rules of war, which he had learned during the past
ten days and he wondered whether there was really anything which was
honorable in armed conflict, or which was observed in the game of war.
But the boys’ feelings were very much allayed, when they learned that
during the day two more spies had been caught within the camp, and that
now a corps of detectives had been employed to ferret out that class of
During the investigation that followed it was found that several were
disguised in the uniforms of gendarmes, some wore the regulation suits
of the civil guards, and others were employed as hucksters who brought
in the daily provisions.
Automobiles were in evidence everywhere, and on every road fixed
patrols halted and examined all who passed. Machines were constantly
going and coming, and there were motorcycles in abundance. Added to
this were contrasting uniforms, indicating the kinds of service in
which the men were engaged, and the scene was at all times animated and
full of activity.
Ralph’s arm was now healing so rapidly that the machine was taken
out and both boys practiced in short runs. Ralph was an expert in
all matters pertaining to mechanism, and since his father was well
known as an expert workman, and superintendent of one of the large
establishments in America, it could be understood that he naturally
acquired considerable knowledge which was of great service to both boys
in the care and handling of their machines.
It was now the 13th day of August, and the ninth day of actual warfare.
Early in the morning rumors began to come in thick and fast concerning
the advance of the Germans. The Uhlans had reached Waremme, and were
scouting in the region to the west of that town.
Before noon the report came that Tongres had fallen before the
advancing troops, and there was intense activity in camp. The troops
were being drilled daily, and hourly, in fact. While detachments
arrived at every train, it was evident that one force after the other
was being sent south and east.
Finally a messenger arrived from the east. The General and his staff
had mounted, and an orderly approached the boys. To each he handed an
envelope. One was directed to the officer in command at Altenhoven, and
the other to the Colonel of a regiment stationed at Racour.
“I know where Altenhoven is, but where is Racour?” said Ralph.
The information was promptly given by a soldier. Here was the first
detached duty. The informant told them to go south two kilometers, and
the one destined for Racour should turn to the right which would lead
in the direction of the town.
“I will take the message for Racour,” said Alfred, “as it is farther
and I am better able than you to make the long trip.”
Ralph protested, but Alfred had his way as they sped down the road.
The official envelope, and the special uniforms of the boys, were
sufficient to clear the way. On and on they sped to their destination.
At the forks of the road Alfred turned to the right, and held up his
hand as a parting salute.
When Alfred left Ralph he felt a sense of responsibility which had
never come to him before. If he had known that not an hour before a
strong patrol of German cavalry had passed along that road, he might
have been cautious, and possibly apprehensive, but in his ignorance he
felt exultant and happy.
His one thought was to reach the command at Racour, and so his machine
was speeded to the limit. Mile after mile was covered, and people
stared at him as he passed. It seemed strange to him that he did not
meet with a patrol, in that long stretch after he had left Jean and
crossed the railroad line which runs from Liège to Tirlemont. He knew
that he must be within two kilometers of Racour, when he saw ahead of
him the unmistakable dust of approaching horsemen. To the left, and
coming up what was undoubtedly a road at right angle to the one on
which he was traveling, was another cloud of dust.
Like a flash it occurred to him that the Uhlans might be there. But
what about those in front. Then he recalled that he had met no patrols
and this puzzled him. He remembered how the peasants looked at him in
astonishment as he went by, and the terror of doubt was upon him.
He slowed down his machine. And now, for the first time, he looked
behind him. To his amazement he saw the outlines of a half dozen men,
with the characteristic spiked helmet, and at once knew who they were.
Here was a situation fraught with danger. As he approached the crest of
a little hill he turned his machine aside, so that in going back across
the road he could obtain a better view of his pursuers.
The troops coming up from the south must be Germans, but he was not sure
of those ahead of him on the road. He speeded up, and catching sight of
some peasants, beckoned to them, and they came across the fields.
“Who are the horsemen coming up from the south?” he hurriedly asked.
“They are Germans. They have been all along this road this forenoon.”
“Do you know what troops are in front?” asked Alfred.
“We think they are our people,” was the reply.
Alfred made up his mind at once. He knew he could reach the cross road
before the troops could possibly come up, and he would then decide what
course to pursue. He did some rapid thinking during the five minutes it
took to reach the road.
They were still a quarter of a mile away. The cloud in his rear seemed
to grow bigger, and appeared closer than before, and the dust in front
showed that troops were also approaching from that direction. Then he
saw the Belgian colors and felt greatly relieved to know that friends
and not foes were approaching.
As Alfred neared the oncoming column they halted, and he did not
attempt to slow down his speed until within a hundred feet of the
advance. The troopers made way for him, as he rode down the line, and
the officer in command galloped through and met him.
“Dispatches from Colonel Neerden!” he cried, as he held aloft the
“Did you come along the road from the railway?” asked the officer, as
he reached forward to take the papers.
Alfred drew back, without answering the question. “I must deliver this
to the Colonel only,” he responded. The officer smiled as he answered:
“I am Colonel Neerden.”
“Yes,” responded Alfred, quickly, when he recognized his mistake, “I
thought it strange that I did not meet any patrols.”
“Didn’t you know the Germans were after you?”
“Not until about ten minutes ago. But I couldn’t go any faster than I
did,” said Alfred.
“Well, you are a brave fellow,” said the Colonel. “What command of the
Scouts do you belong to?”
“I am not a Scout. After the fight at Russon they made me a
headquarters’ messenger,” replied Alfred.
The mention of the fight at Russon was sufficient notice to give him an
entrée into the hearts of all present.
While those about him plied him with questions the Colonel opened the
packet, and after examining it, gave an order. A detachment of the
troops lined across the road, and Alfred, looking back, saw the column
from the cross road join the force which had followed him.
“I must go back as quickly as possible,” said Alfred.
“It will be impossible to go back by this route,” remarked one of the
officers. “We are ordered back to our quarters by the message which
you brought, but may be sent to the firing line. The Germans are all
over this section, and are rapidly approaching from every quarter. We
shall have some lively work in a few days.”
The main body of the troops entered the town of Racour, and the moment
the camp was reached there was evidence of a hurried movement. Within
fifteen minutes an orderly called Alfred to headquarters. As he entered
the Colonel said:
“We are ordered to report at Neerwinden at once. Some portions of the
regiment are guarding the bridge three kilometers to the west. Go to
them at once and deliver this order.”
Alfred did not wait for questioning, nor did he ask for instructions
as to the directions, as he mounted; but before he could make a start
the orderly was thoughtful enough to give him instructions. Then he
set the machine full speed, and as he went like the wind he kept his
horn tooting as a warning, but nowhere in the road did he meet an
When he saw the bridge beyond and a group of guards he rode directly
into the midst of them and asked for the officer in command, to whom he
handed the missive. Alfred saw troops on the bridge, and as a sergeant
stepped into the road and gave three sharp, quick blasts on a whistle,
the men on the bridge rushed to the center passage way. When the
whistle blew two blasts more they ran forward in double time toward the
bank on which they were standing.
At a command they moved away a hundred feet or more from the bridge and
stopped as they neared the center. Meanwhile not a word was spoken, as
all were intent on watching the work of the three men. Alfred was too
fascinated to ask the meaning of this curious proceeding.
Within two minutes at the utmost the three men leisurely marched off
the bridge toward the group of guards on the bank. One, two, three,
four minutes more. Why were they waiting?
Suddenly, a belching cloud of smoke was seen, followed instantly by a
racking noise, then another, and another, and the beautiful bridge had
Alfred was so fascinated at the weird setting, the silence that awaited
the event, and the grim, business-like appearance of the officers and
men, that when the last sound of falling timbers and steel died away he
was drawn involuntarily toward the stream.
Fully two kilometers beyond was a cloud in the roadway, which Alfred
had now learned to recognize. He turned to the Colonel and pointed in
“Yes,” said he, “we were just in time.”
A quick order brought the troops to attention. The order was given to
return to camp, and within five minutes all the equipment was ready and
the horses in motion. This was one of the engineers’ forces especially
detailed to guard the bridges.
As they were turning a curious train of light artillery came from a
side street, which consisted of four guns, each carriage being drawn
by four dogs. The powerful canines had no trouble in pulling the wagons
at a trot and the gunners were running alongside at a fast gait.
Belgium and Holland are the two countries which utilize dogs for draft
animals. Before the automobile came into use they were the great motive
power and this is so, largely, among the peasants at the present time.
The faithful dog is bred for this use. He may be found everywhere
drawing milk carts, pulling the little trucks which are piled high with
faggots, or prancing along in the little vans filled with loaves from
In Belgium, dogs are trained to be policemen, and the sense of smell
is highly developed; they are taught from puppyhood to perform certain
tasks, to act as sentries and to trail suspicious characters.
When the camp was reached it presented an entirely different scene.
The tents had been loaded into wagons. The kitchen was stored away in
one of the vans specially designed for field purposes, and the first
detachment had already started on the march toward the north.
After asking permission, Alfred mounted his machine and sped away after
the troops, and soon overhauled them. With considerable difficulty he
worked his way through the marching troops, and when he had cleared the
train put on full speed.
He hoped to be able to reach the great camp before nightfall, and as it
was now nearly four o’clock he knew it would not take more than an hour
to reach it. A kilometer beyond, the road parted, one branch going to
the right and the other to the left.
A peasant near by told him that either road would take him to
Neerwinden, but that the better road was to the right. He did not
hesitate, and was off without further questionings.
In twenty minutes he came to a stream and crossing the well-built
stone bridge which spanned it approached a little village that lay
beyond. The town, like many others throughout Belgium, was distributed
out along little lanes, which shot out at all angles, and it was not
surprising that Alfred should become confused, and lose his way.
To add to the confusion there was great excitement in the village. Men
were running to and fro. Women were holding their children, and looking
pale. Alfred stopped.
“What is the trouble, Monsieur?” he asked as a man slowly moved along,
quite in contrast with the people who formed the excited crowd.
“Trouble? Don’t you know the Germans are beyond, and that all the roads
are patrolled. They will be here any moment now.”
This was an ominous warning, and he was glad he had stopped to inquire,
otherwise he might have been a prisoner by this time. Then he reflected
that Colonel Neerden ought to know this at once, so he ran his machine
forward and, mounting it, turned it toward the bridge.
“Stop, stop,” cried a dozen voices. Some waved their hands to indicate
that he should turn back, but for some reason or other Alfred
determined to recross the bridge. Then he heard what appeared to be a
rifle shot, and something struck the machine.
He was now determined not to stop, as the bridge was less than two
hundred feet away. He had not looked back, but now that he saw the
stone walls which formed the sides of the bridge he cast his eyes
over his shoulder, and riding through the village were a dozen German
cavalrymen, with their carbines at their shoulders, all aiming at him.
You may well imagine that it was a thrilling thing for him to know that
he was being hunted down and shot at. The bridge was finally reached
and to his great relief was built out at an angle to the road on which
the pursuers were following him.
Long before he had reached the bridge the machine was at full speed and
as he emerged from the other side a dozen or more shots rang out; but
he did not stop, or slacken his pace. He knew the friendly troops were
coming toward him, so he went forward with the Germans behind him.
The welcome sight of the dust in the road beyond was appreciated now.
As he dashed forward he held up his hand, and shouted to the advancing
patrol: “The Germans are coming.” On and on he went, and as each body
of troops passed he cried the same warning.
Beyond was the Colonel and his staff, and toward him Alfred rushed
the machine. “I met the Germans at the village beyond the bridge. The
forward part of the column saw me and are going forward,” he explained.
This information galvanized the officers into action and orders to
clear the way went forward at once. Alfred turned his machine to
follow, but after going a few hundred feet the power ceased, and in
spite of all he could do the machine refused to move.
Several men kindly came to his assistance, and the trouble was soon
apparent. “You have no petrol,” said one of them.
“That is strange. I was told there was enough for a whole day’s run,
and I have not—-”
“Ah! but there is a hole in the tank. Yes, two of them. See!”
“They were made by German bullets,” said another.
“Look at the seat,” said the first speaker. “You had a close call, my
Alfred looked at the damage ruefully. “What shall I do?” he asked.
“We’ll fix that up in short order,” replied the man who made the
examination and discovered the trouble. He was an expert motorcycle
man, and this was an opportunity for him to be of service. He
approached the commanding officer of his company and explained the
situation, and was detailed to effect the repairs at once.
The tool box of the machine was opened, and the rolls of tape taken out.
“Now watch me, my boy. Let me show you how to make a temporary repair,
in cases of this kind.”
The tank had been perforated by two shots, which went entirely through,
thus causing four perforations. As the machine had the type of tank
which rested vertically between the fork, it was obvious that, since
the lowest perforation was not at the bottom, there was still enough
petrol left to enable Pierre to reach the command before the remaining
portion was used up.
“First, take these patches, and put cement around the edges, and apply
them over the holes. Then wind the tape around the tank and over the
patches, just as I am doing, and be sure to stretch the tape well.
There; now we must get some strong cord, or twine, and wind that over
the tape. You will find that absolutely tight, and will hold the petrol
for a time.”
“Well, will it leak at all if it is put on right?”, asked Alfred.
“In time the petrol will eat up, or dissolve the rubber, so that proper
repairs should be made as soon as possible,” he was informed.
“Now that it is fixed where can I get some petrol? I forgot all about
that,” said Alfred.
“Well, I didn’t,” said the workman.
Alfred stared at him. “Do you know where to get some?”
“Certainly; they have plenty in the kitchen wagon.”
Alfred might have thought of that, but he couldn’t think of everything.
Where was the kitchen wagon?
It was coming up, and Alfred applied to the officer in charge of the
commissary department for a supply, and after some questioning the
permission was granted. In a few minutes more the boy was supplied and
was under way.
The command went forward with a rush and was now well along on the
road to the bridge, but before Alfred had time to go any distance he
heard a volley, followed by the rattle of musketry. The battle was on
and he hastened to the front.
Two field pieces were with the regiment, and those were hurriedly drawn
to the front by the dogs, and mounted, so that they cleared the road in
short order. The Uhlans tried, ineffectively, to destroy the bridge,
but the advance column was too far ahead for them and they slowly
retreated down the road.
And now Alfred saw the first results of the running fight. Numbers had
been killed at the first onslaught, and many more wounded. The Germans
did not attempt to relieve their wounded, but the improvised hospital
wagons were brought into service, and the wounded, Germans and Belgians
alike, were gathered up and given first relief.
Thus, for three kilometers, the fight raged, and when the railway line
was reached the enemy had disappeared, as it was learned that the
commandant at the camp had sent out a large detachment to relieve the
two regiments which had thus been on outpost duty, and which had been
recalled by the commanding officer.
When Alfred reached the camp he was delighted to find Ralph there, and
he reported to the commanding officer at once. Ralph, while he did not
run into danger, as had Alfred, nevertheless rendered most efficient
service during the day.
But the camp of the morning had undergone a great change. Everything
which could be loaded on the trains was already under way, and hundreds
of wagons were still in the camp and stretched along the road in the
direction of St. Trond.
During the night news came that Tongres had been captured after a hard
fight. That would mean serious business at St. Trond, whither they were
They had little sleep that night. Much of the time the boys were
hurrying thither and thither, delivering messages which gave the
disposition of the forces, the delivery of the various things required
by the fighting forces and the special orders to the different officers.
The breaking up of a camp is a wonderful transformation of materials.
It must not only be completely disorganized, but every article, and
each unit, must be so arranged that it will be handy and ready for
immediate use the next morning, or in the evening.
At four o’clock in the morning the whole camp, or what remained of it,
was in motion. The last infantry force to leave had a rear guard of
cavalry, although the boys were well in the lead, with the commanding
St. Trond was reached, just as the reports came in that the German
forces were below the town, and that the first conflict had taken place.
The boys were interested to learn that their force was to go direct
to the field, south of St. Trond. They arrived there at one o’clock
in the afternoon and the kitchen wagons were soon in readiness for a
Firing was going on along one of the main roads leading south. They
were in position on a road which paralleled the main highway to Tongres
and it was obvious that the main force of the enemy was making its way
along that route.
The boys were with Roland when the real battle began. To their right,
on a slight elevation and artfully concealed, was a battery of three
guns and a little farther to the right was the other part of the
“Do you know anything of the number of Germans that are coming up?”
“No, but it is reported that over 100,000 men are now on this side of
the frontier and more coming on each day. It is probable there are
twenty thousand men directly ahead of us. They are approaching from the
direction of Vise, and from Huy as well, while the main force is coming
direct from Liège.”
“How many men have we to oppose them?” asked Alfred.
“Probably twelve thousand; but we shall give a good account of
ourselves. We do not expect to drive them back, but our mission will be
to hold them in check as long as possible.”
They moved over to headquarters, where their place was, but before they
reached it the battery began to speak. The boys looked to the south,
but could not see the enemy anywhere. They looked at Roland.
“Where are the Germans?” asked Alfred.
“Probably two miles beyond,” was the reply.
“Why do they commence so soon?” inquired Ralph.
“The object is to throw an enemy into confusion as early as possible in
an engagement, and endeavor to prevent formations of the troops.”
“Do these guns carry that far?” inquired Alfred.
“Yes; they are now sending shrapnel; when—-”
Roland’s voice was submerged by a terrific explosion not a hundred
feet away, and when they had time to recover they saw three men on
the ground, lying quite still, while a half dozen or more were on the
ground, and turning and twisting about. Then came several groans, and
then the second explosion, like the first, but farther to the right.
The boys’ face blanched. They did not know which way to go nor what
to do. Then something happened which entirely changed their feelings.
The two lines of infantry, lying behind the fences, not a hundred feet
ahead, began to fire, setting up a terrific din which was punctuated by
the shots from the batteries.
Then a new battery on their left began to take part, then another, but
during all this time the infantry were pouring out a steady stream
of hail. The boys stood petrified, at first, but the great din, the
terrible confusion of sounds, the scattering debris, which appeared to
fall about them, the staggering men, who were reeling about; all these
things began to act like a tonic to them.
The greater the noise and confusion, the braver they became.
Alfred tried to speak, but his voice had a peculiar sound to him.
“Let us go over to headquarters,” said Ralph to Alfred. “We may be
wanted there,” and as he spoke they saw Roland coming out of the
Roland beckoned to Ralph as he said: “These are your first orders; see
that they are delivered to the officer in command of the forces on the
Ralph was off in an instant. He could not follow the road, as he had
to go nearly a half mile across the fields, but he set his course at a
safe distance behind the firing line. More than once in that first ride
on the battle field he saw the shots as they dug in the earth about him
and noticed the explosion of the shells.
It was an exciting ride, and it stimulated him as nothing before had
ever done in all his experiences. When he reached the headquarters of
the commanding officer, who held the main road, he knew that some great
movement was on foot.
He could see immense bodies of their own troops moving back, and the
headquarters of the officer was even then being moved back a half mile
so as to be partly outside of the firing range. But the Germans were
coming on, and he could see men falling all about him.
Ambulances were at work, gathering up the moving figures, as they
writhed on the ground. Men were staggering about, some delirious,
others trying to staunch wounds in their arms, legs or bodies, and more
than once he saw one comrade, although wounded, trying to check the
flow of blood, or bind up the wounds of another.
But the more he saw the less these things seemed to affect him. The
orderly from headquarters beckoned to him, and placing a message in his
hands Ralph was off to deliver the reply.
Before he could reach headquarters he saw that another route would be
necessary, as the enemy seemed to be not a quarter of a mile away. New
formations were being made by the Belgians, and it was clear they were
being driven back.
It seemed that every avenue of cross country travel was closed to him,
as men were moving north from all points. As a mass of soldiers rushed
from one position to the next behind they would turn and deliver a
volley or two before retreating. Above it all was the continual hail of
the shot and shell on every hand.
When Ralph reached a hedge that was impenetrable he would enlist the
sympathy of some of the men, and they would either carry the machine
over the thick brush or cut a way through.
It took him less than ten minutes to make the trip across, in
delivering his first message, but he was more than a half hour in
getting back, and when he arrived at headquarters he found it over a
mile to the rear of the original position.
He reported to the commander at once, but before he had time to make
any inquiries another message was thrust into his hands, and this time
he was sent to the west.
Again attempting to make his way across the fields he was met by a
retreating regiment which was slowly falling back. He then made his way
along a hedge toward the north, and struck across the fields again.
Beyond was the firing line, and the men there must know the location of
their commanding officer, so he speeded in that direction.
There, ahead of him, and coming out of the woods, was a regiment of
infantry. At the edge of the wood, to the left, was a light field
battery which poured a deadly fire into the Belgians, and Ralph
involuntarily slackened the speed of the machine.
Then something happened to him. It was as though he had been struck a
stunning blow, although he felt scarcely any pain. When he recovered he
was seated on the ground, and scattered about him were the pieces of
his machine. He could not comprehend it for a moment. Then he moved his
body. He seemed natural and comfortable, but what had happened to his
Then, for the first time, he noticed that there were men about him,
some wounded, others dead. One young man who was near him had a wound
in his leg which he was treating by wrapping a handkerchief around it.
“What has happened?” asked Ralph, as he looked at the man and then at
the scene about him.
“A shell burst over there and it got both of us. Are you much hurt?”
“I have no pain,” replied Ralph.
“Only stunned, perhaps,” he replied in a mere matter of fact way. “Was
that your machine?” he inquired.
“Yes; I was carrying orders from headquarters,” answered Ralph.
“Rather risky business, I should say,” he answered.
“Are you hurt much?” asked Ralph.
“Well, not much compared with some about here. Say, could you help me
over to the hedge?” he asked.
Ralph was up in an instant. He looked over himself, just as a person
would make an examination of an object to see if it had been injured.
When the young man was safely landed at the thick hedge, Ralph thought
of his duty. “I must be going,” he said.
“Where are you bound?” asked the wounded man.
“To see the commanding officer. I must deliver my orders,” said Ralph.
“That is right,” he answered. “Go to the north for a half kilometer,
and cross to the west at the large stone house. I know these parts
Ralph did not mind the falling shots or the screaming shells so much
now as he had at first. The message must be delivered, so he struggled
across the field and met the men who were slowly moving back on the
“Where is the officer in command?” asked Ralph as he reached the first
of the troops.
“Beyond a short distance,” was the only answer.
He fairly flew down the road, and had the satisfaction of handing the
message to the officer, who glanced at Ralph.
“How did you get across?” he asked.
“On my machine; but it was wrecked by a shell in the field below the
stone house,” said Ralph.
“Weren’t you hurt?” he inquired.
“No, but it stunned me for a time,” remarked Ralph.
“I must congratulate you on your bravery and determination,” said the
officer. “But you were hurt,” he added, as he approached Ralph. “See
the blood at your left hand.”
Ralph was startled, at first. He felt no pain, but there was blood
flowing out of his left sleeve.
“Oh! I remember now; that is only the old wound reopened,” he
explained, so the surgeon was called in at once.