“Give it more gas; more gas, Pierre; they are coming up the cross
road!” exclaimed Ralph excitedly, as he leaned forward.
Pierre the chauffeur looked straight ahead and nodded, as he answered:
Before he had gone a hundred feet farther the occupants of the machine
heard something like a shot, and Pierre turned his head slightly.
“Two kilometers more and we shall be in Belgium,” he said.
This information did not seem to appease the two boys in the tonneau.
Of the two, Alfred was the more excited, but Ralph kept up a constant
flow of talk as he leaned out and gazed across the valley along which
the machine was now shooting with tremendous speed.
Several more gunshots were heard as they passed an open stretch and
ascended a hill.
“Are they firing at us?” inquired Ralph.
“What for?” asked Alfred.
“They are Germans,” replied Pierre.
“Well, those fellows on horseback can never catch us,” said Alfred.
Pierre smiled, and gave two long blasts on the Klaxon.
“Say, Pierre, two machines are racing down the road ahead of the
The smile left Pierre’s face as he gave the throttle lever a push. The
machine bounded forward with an additional impulse. Ralph and Alfred
looked at each other in still greater surprise.
A bridge was crossed and as the road beyond described a slight bend to
the right, Pierre glanced over his shoulder for an instant to observe
the new pursuers; then he glanced back to the rear wheel and the boys
understood. The day before the tire had given trouble, but Pierre
patched it up in the hope that by careful driving they would be able to
reach Antwerp two days later.
There was no time for explanations. The two boys were too excited to
think of anything else than the two autos which had now reached the
road on which they came.
“Yes, they are coming this way now,” said Ralph.
“Can we beat them?” asked Alfred.
“Well,” replied Pierre, after some reflection, “the car ahead is a
The boys knew what that meant.
“What’ll they do if they catch us?” said Ralph, as his eyes expanded
and he nervously glanced back.
Pierre merely shook his head and remained silent.
The Mercedes was not gaining, however. The second car was trailing
along some distance in the rear.
“Hurrah for Belgium!” shouted Pierre, as he gazed forward intently and
nodded in the direction of two low structures which were now plainly
visible at the sides of the roadway. The boys saw a distinctive flag on
Pierre’s hand was on the throttle as he neared the frontier, but he
held the lever without drawing it back, while the car sped on. He gave
two blasts on the horn, and repeated the signal.
In Europe every road which crosses the frontier has two sets of guards,
one belonging to each country, and it is necessary for every one
crossing the line to make a formal entry under the inspection of a
No one appeared in the road in front of the lodges but it was a
hazardous thing to cross the border without stopping, as the guards
were authorized to shoot anyone who refused to halt, and the boys were
equally aware of this danger in attempting such an escapade.
They were now not a hundred feet from the posts which marked the
frontier and the speed of the car was not cut down. They were surprised
to see Pierre’s right hand withdrawn from the lever while he leaned
forward and grasped the steering wheel with an intense grip.
ZIP! They shot past the boundary line without a challenge. The flag on
the first lodge was German, indicated by the three horizontal stripes,
black, white and red, and the flag on the other building had three
vertical stripes, black, yellow and red, the colors of Belgium.
[Illustration: _The Belgian Flag_]
The car fairly sizzled as it glided forward on a road that wound
around a long curve parallel with the river and they had an excellent
opportunity now to watch the pursuing car.
“That has a cross on the side of it, see?” said Ralph.
“It is a German military car,” said Pierre.
“But why did they cross the frontier; and what right have they to try
and to run us down, here in Belgium?” asked Alfred.
“Because Belgium is now at war with Germany,” answered Pierre.
The boys drew back in astonishment.
“Since when?” asked Ralph.
“Since five o’clock last night,” was Pierre’s reply.
“When did you hear about it?” asked Alfred.
“While we were getting our luncheon at Dann,” said Pierre.
“Is that why you were in such a hurry to start?” asked Ralph.
“Yes,” was the reply.
The Mercedes now appeared to be gaining. It was becoming very exciting
now to the boys, because the news stimulated their imagination. The
pursuing car swung around the last curve in plain sight, but the other
car was far in the rear. An officer could be seen in the front seat
leaning out, with a gun pointing toward them and at the next turn of
the road he deliberately fired.
The boys heard the crack of the rifle and in another instant were on
the floor of the car, shielded by the rear seat. A hundred feet farther
and there was a second explosion, much closer and more ominous than the
noise of the gun. The machine gave a sudden lurch, and the boys arose,
grasped the back of the front seat as Pierre shouted: “There it goes!
It’s all up!”
Pierre gained control of the machine which had violently swung to one
side, but he did not slacken its speed.
They had barely time to recover from the shock when they were aroused
by a fusilade of shots, and in a half-dazed condition they felt the
shock of a suddenly-stopping car, and hear Pierre shout:
“Hurrah for the chasseurs!”
Alfred was the first to lean out and take note of the quickly passing
“Oh, look! see the horses leap the fences,” he said.
The machine stopped dead still. The crashing noise of the horses and
the shouts of the men held their attention.
Ralph opened the door of the car in excitement, as he sang out:
“Look at the machine back there; it’s trying to turn around; it’s
But the Germans were too late. A half dozen of the chasseurs cut off
their retreat. It thus happened that three officers, a sergeant, and a
military chauffeur, became captives, three kilometers within Belgian
territory, at 5 P. M., August 14, 1914, exactly twenty-four hours after
war was declared. The first actual conflict, in which blood was shed,
occurred the day previous–in fact, before war was declared, but this
is the earliest recorded instance of the taking of prisoners of war in
the great European conflict.
The troopers ordered the Mercedes car turned around and it was escorted
forward to the delight of the boys, Pierre grinning at the occupants
of the car as it passed. The Belgian officer in command halted and
Pierre saluted him.
“There is another car beyond,” said Pierre.
The officer gave a quick order and six men were detached for the
pursuit, but they were too late. The car disappeared and could be seen
crossing the bridge in the distance.
“Where are you from?” said the officer to Pierre.
“We left Mayence day before yesterday,” answered Pierre.
“Did you see any troops on the way?”
“No; but the forces at the garrisons were very active,” responded
“Whose car is this?” he then asked.
“It belongs to an American, Mr. Elton. We left him in Darmstadt and are
taking the car to Antwerp,” said Pierre.
“Who are the young men with you?” asked the officer.
“This young man is Mr. Elton’s son, and the other is his nephew.
After going to Berlin Mr. Elton expects to go to Antwerp to take the
steamer,” answered Pierre.
“Follow us,” said the officer to Pierre.
Several hamlets were passed and they motored along a beautiful valley.
Beyond, on a slight elevation, appeared numerous houses, indicating a
village of some importance.
“Is that Bovigny?” asked Pierre.
The officer nodded.
As they entered the town the streets were crowded. A regiment was
encamped in the green which was, evidently, a park. Two squadrons of
cavalry were drilling, and an artillery company was moving its guns
toward the crest of a hill to the right. A band was playing; flags
and pennants were flying everywhere, and the scene was one of intense
The troops had difficulty in keeping the people from the Mercedes,
although they exhibited no enmity toward the Germans. It was more a
matter of curiosity. The villagers appeared to be interested also
in the boys and when Pierre informed the spectators that they were
Americans, there was a cheer. The boys blushed as some of the more
venturesome ones approached and shook their hands.
“Oh, no! they couldn’t catch us,” said Alfred with a laugh.
“How did you happen to pass the frontier officers?” asked one of them.
“Nobody there,” replied Ralph. “We captured those fellows in Belgium.”
There was a roar of laughter at this. The boys seemed to take pride
not only in getting out of the clutches of the Germans, but also in
the fact that they were instrumental, in a measure, in effecting the
The crowd understood, and “L Americain” was frequently heard. It did
not look like war. Everyone knew, of course, that Belgium had refused
Germany’s demand, and that war was upon them, but the scene reminded
the boys of a huge picnic, with a lot of extras thrown in. Everyone
was laughing and talking.
As an officer approached, Pierre saluted.
“You must drive to the rendezvous,” said the officer.
Pierre nodded and followed the mounted lancer until they drew up before
a military barracks where Pierre was requested to follow an orderly.
The boys jumped out and accompanied him. After entering a long wide
hall, filled with soldiers, they were conducted to the Commandant’s
Without ceremony the orderly marched them to an officer who sat at the
head of a long table, and who seemed to know the object of Pierre’s
“Who is the owner of your car? What is his address? What is its value?”
These and other details were quickly asked and put down by a clerk.
At the close of the examination the officer said: “The car has been
requisitioned by the Belgian government for military uses. The clerk
will furnish you a certificate, and the owner will receive compensation
for it in due time.”
Pierre was out of a job, and the boys stranded without a machine.
Pierre smiled, and the boys walked down the hill with a sort of jolly
feeling. Why, they did not know.
“I shall join the colors at once,” said Pierre.
“Good for you!” cried Ralph.
“Then you are a Belgian?” asked Alfred.
“Yes; and I must leave you, for it is necessary that I report in
Brabant,” he replied.
“And where is Brabant?” asked Ralph.
“This side of Antwerp; northeast of Liège,” answered Pierre.
“How far are we from Liège?” asked Alfred.
“About forty miles; possibly fifty,” said Pierre, at a venture.
“Then we can go with you,” said Ralph, enthusiastically.
“I had that plan in my mind,” answered Pierre. “But for the present we
must find a place for the night.”
They soon found that this was not an easy matter. Every place was
crowded to its utmost. People were coming in from all directions in
every kind of conveyance, the railway lines from Liège, to the east
and north, and the main highways being crowded with soldiers and war
equipment. Hundreds of soldiers were detailed to unload the cars, and
they were all busily at work when the bugle gave the signal for the
Before night set in several regiments of troops marched southeast, to
points along the border, while new regiments came in to take their
After an hour’s search in every street and alley they learned that such
a thing as shelter for the night, was impossible. Tents were being put
up everywhere. Great army vans came lumbering in along the roads from
the north, and were assigned positions. At twelve o’clock that night
the town was just as lively as during the day, and in despair Pierre
finally appealed to the driver and keeper of one of the vans, begging
for place under the canvas top.
A _pourboire_ (or _tip_, as the boys called it), was the power that
found a way. The keeper suggested that sleeping under the burlap would
be uncomfortable, as it was very warm; so a dozen or more bags of feed
were unloaded and distributed on the ground beneath the van, and on
those they finally found comfortable places.
Tired as they were, sleep seemed to be out of the question. The noise
and bustle, the yells of incoming drivers, the creaking of the wagons
and the incessant chatter of the soldiers all about them, kept them
Two hours thereafter they felt a decided change in the temperature and
soon rain began to fall. A gentle breeze at first dashed the light rain
over them, and as the wind increased the drops fell faster and faster.
The bags were moved over and some were propped up to provide shelter,
but to no avail.
“Here, boys; get into the wagon quickly,” shouted Pierre.
They crawled out and drew themselves up under the tarpaulin over which
the water was now streaming in torrents. Once in the van they were soon
They were awakened before the sun appeared in the east. What they heard
was like a suppressed murmur at first, evidently the quiet talk of the
excited people outside. Distinct booms were heard, followed, as it
were, by suppressed noises, which might have been echoes.
“What is that?” asked Ralph.
“Where?” inquired Alfred, raising the tarpaulin and gazing out.
“They don’t know, but the driver thinks the firing is at Liège,”
“But that is more than forty miles away,” said Ralph.
“Very true,” replied Pierre, “but there are immense guns in the forts,
and the Germans have heavy ordnance also.”
When they left the vans, the sun was just appearing above the hill east
of the town, bringing promise of a beautiful day.
“Now, for breakfast, boys, and then we start,” suggested Pierre.
Immediately after breakfast they marched to the station and Pierre
requested three tickets for Liège. The agent smiled as he said:
“I can book you for Liège, but you will have to take the risk in
getting there. The Germans have passed Verviers, and are investing the
city. The first train leaves at nine o’clock, unless, in the meantime,
there are orders to the contrary.”
“Then we shall go to Brussels,” replied Pierre.
“Ah, but that is impossible. The road is filled with troop trains
coming this way. You cannot go west until to-morrow, or, perhaps, day
after,” answered the agent.
Here was, indeed, a dilemma. Pierre knew that to take a south-bound
train, would involve a wide detour, as it would take them through
Luxemburg. The road to the north branched at Trois Ponts, one line
going directly east to Pepinster, the other to the north leading to
Rivage and Liège. From Rivage they might be able to go directly north
to Huy, by a highway, and thus avoid Liège. A train in either direction
Pierre was determined, however, to proceed to the east on the first
available train, and by the liberal use of money ascertained from those
in charge of the station that a train would leave early in the morning.
They were on hand and ready before five o’clock and were directed to
cross the bridge and board the train at the extreme end of the track
which connected with the main line. Arriving there they found a train
already switching over, but, apparently, there were no passengers
“Come on,” said Pierre, “let’s take the chance.”
Fortunately, the doors were unlocked and the boys entered a compartment.
“Get out of there,” shouted a voice.
Pierre followed, as an attendant rushed up.
“We are taking no passengers,” he said.
“Hello, Jean,” said Pierre.
“And what are you doing here?” said the man.
They grasped hands as the attendant inquired about the boys.
“They are in my charge; come in. This is my cousin, Jacques,” remarked
Pierre, addressing the boys.
“But where are you going?” asked Jacques.
“Home to join the colors,” said Pierre.
“You can go on this train, of course,” said Jacques. “Why, you were in
Berlin when I last heard of you. As for myself, I came over with the
last load of troops from Huy, and if we find the road blocked to Liège
we shall stop at Rivage and cross by motor cars to Huy–that is, if
such a thing is possible.”
The train rushed on for six miles without a stop. Then there was a halt
and a long wait at Grand Halleux. Thus, at every telegraph station
there was a wait, and it was nearly noon before the train had gone
They were still several miles from the junction, Trois Ponts, the main
line of which led northeast to Liège, when the first disquieting rumors
were heard by Pierre and the boys. The Germans had cut the direct road
to Liège, below Tilft. Jacques appeared at the door of the compartment,
and hurriedly said:
“We are trying to reach the main road and go north to Rivage. The
trains behind have returned to Bovigny. We may be able to make it
before their scouting parties can cross the country.”
The junction was reached, and the train continued to the north without
Five miles north of the junction Ralph was the first to notice a
peculiar moving dust cloud a mile or so distant east of the train. He
called Pierre’s attention to it. A turn in the road gave them a better
view of the phenomenon.
“That is a troop of cavalry,” said Pierre, in excitement.
Jacques burst in and cried: “The Germans are to head us off. I suppose
you and I will have to make a run for it.”
“I am sorry for that,” said Pierre, looking at the boys. “But you will
be safe here. You are Americans, and they will not molest you.”
“If you go we will go, too,” said Alfred.
Pierre smiled and shook his head, as he replied: “They know we are
Belgians, and will suspect we are going to join our regiments. If they
capture us we will be sent to Germany. It is different with you. Insist
on your right to go to Antwerp.”
The train had just passed a small village, Le Gleize, and was slowing
down. That was a bad sign, and Jacques eagerly glanced toward Pierre.
“Now is the time,” nodded Pierre, as he opened the door and glanced out.
For a moment he stood on the running board and suddenly dropped to the
side of the roadway, followed by Jacques. The boys watched them as they
crossed the ditch and quickly entered a thick copse of brush. Not until
they disappeared did the boys recover their shock. The train was now
moving along scarcely faster than a walk. The place where Pierre and
Jacques concealed themselves was still in sight, when the train halted.
Almost immediately a dozen horsemen rode along the train and finally
placed themselves in position. An officer and two soldiers passed
through the train, and as they did so, one coach after the other was
emptied of its passengers, to the surprise of the boys, who had no idea
that there were so many aboard.
The officer opened the door of the compartment occupied by the boys. In
a peremptory tone the order was given to vacate, and they were quick to
respond. Once outside, several other officers were noticed engaged in
rounding up the detrained passengers, and all were finally marched to
an open space along the roadway.
The boys explained who they were. One of the officers who spoke English
told them that the train had been taken by the Germans and would be
“But how are we to get to Antwerp?” asked Ralph.
The officer smiled and merely shrugged his shoulders as he passed on.
There were thirty passengers, among them seven men, the latter of whom
were ordered to remain on the train.
As they were about to obey the order one of the women shrieked and
begged them not to take her husband; but the officer paid no attention
to her pleadings. Two little children were hanging to her skirts. The
husband turned, kissed her affectionately and was about to embrace
the children, when one of the guards brutally struck the man in his
eagerness to hurry the departure.
“That makes my blood boil,” said Alfred, as he grit his teeth.
“And that reminds me you had better keep a close mouth, young man,”
said a voice behind him.
The boys turned and faced an officer who stared at them menacingly, one
hand on the hilt of his sword. For a moment a flush overspread Alfred’s
face, but he was quick to respond:
“I am an American, sir; and you have no right to dictate to me or to
stop my saying what I think.”
With a sarcastic smile the officer said: “Then we will teach you to
respect the German arms.”
“I am glad Pierre and Jacques got away,” said Ralph as he stepped
forward toward the others.
The officer’s face changed in an instant: “Who are Pierre and Jacques?”
Ralph now realized that he had been imprudent. Neither replied to the
question, and it was repeated, this time with a threatening gesture.
“So you refuse to answer the question?” said the officer. “Arrest these
young men,” he said to a corporal. “Take this gentleman to the front,”
he continued, pointing to Ralph.
Ralph was led off, while Alfred, now greatly alarmed, stood facing the
“Now, then,” he said, “for your convenience and comfort it would be
better for you to tell me who Pierre and Jacques are?”
“I know nothing about Jacques, as I never saw him until this morning.
Pierre was my father’s chauffeur,” said Alfred.
“Where is he now?” inquired the officer.
“I don’t know,” said Alfred.
“You are lying to me,” quickly responded the officer.
“Then, if you know I am lying you can probably tell me where he is and
save some trouble in asking the question,” replied Alfred, without
intending the reply to be at all disrespectful.
The answer so quickly given somewhat nettled the officer and he turned
on his heels to go. Then turning suddenly he inquired:
“When did you last see either of the men?”
“They got off the train when they saw your troops pass around the
forest,” answered Alfred.
The officer quickly made his way to Ralph. “Where and when did you last
see Pierre and Jacques?” he inquired brusquely.
Ralph hesitated a moment before replying.
“Out with it, young man; I have no time for trifling,” he continued.
“They got out before the train stopped,” said Ralph.
Within a few minutes the train, now in charge of an officer and a half
dozen men, was backed down the road toward the junction, while the
troopers, at a word of command, mounted their horses and at top speed
passed out of sight along the road to the east.
Left in the party by the roadside were two old men, several children,
besides the two little toddlers belonging to the woman whose husband
was so ruthlessly forced into captivity.
They were fully a mile from the small hamlet which the train had passed
through just before they were halted by the Uhlans. By common consent
the company decided to walk back.
“Too bad!” said Ralph. “Let’s help the woman with the babies.”
“Of course,” replied Alfred, and he picked up the little fellow,
while Ralph held out his arms for the baby. This simple act met with
approving remarks. The fact that they had been arrested by the Germans
for protesting against a brutal act, was, in itself, a bold thing, and
commended them to the passengers.
Before going a quarter of a mile they came in sight of their train.
Some of the coaches at the rear end seemed to be out of line. Evidently
something was wrong, as the officer and some of the soldiers were at
the rear end of the train examining the wreck, for such it was.
The switch had been thrown over and locked, indicating that someone had
a hand in the affair, and the officer was furious at the detention, for
he knew he must depend on his own exertions to get the train to the
junction. The command of which he had been a part, was now miles away;
so it was essential that he should clear the track and take back his
Alfred drew Ralph aside and whispered: “Who do you think did that?”
Ralph hesitated a moment, then, his eyes opened wide and sparkled:
“I’ll bet Pierre had a hand in it; and I’ll tell you something else,
too—-” Ralph’s sentence remained unfinished, for two shots were fired
from a nearby hill. The officer jumped fully five feet and stared about.
One of the soldiers pointed to the hill, but before he could reply two
more shots were fired.
Instantly there was confusion. The two guards in the coaches appeared
at the doors, and the officer ordered them forward. Evidently they were
being attacked, so with a seemingly concerted motion the boys and their
fellow passengers moved back toward the road, some of them pointing to
“There they come!” shouted Alfred in German.
Ralph looked at Alfred in astonishment but the look on Alfred’s face
was sufficient for him.
The German officer knew he was not in a position to withstand the
attack of a foe with the few men under him, and the order was quickly
given to withdraw. They passed down to the rear end of the train on a
double quick, and instead of following the track as it curved to the
right, left the roadbed and ascended a slight elevation beyond the
trees that fringed the main wagon road.
On their way a half dozen rifle shots greeted them but did no damage.
The prisoners were still in the coaches, but none of them made his
appearance, as they had all been bound to the seats. Singularly, no
one appeared from the hills to the right to rescue them, although the
soldiers had disappeared.
No one seemed to have the least idea what to do. The engineer suggested
that he could uncouple the car next to the last wrecked coach and
proceed under double speed to Rivage.
“Come on, Alfred, let’s go up the hill,” shouted Ralph.
That was an inspiration, and without waiting to reply Alfred leaped the
hedge and rushed across the field, followed by Ralph, and one of the
men. They were half-way across the field before their fellow passengers
realized the importance of the boys’ actions.
The crest of the hill was reached but no one was in sight. They passed
within fifty feet of the spot where they saw the smoke of the guns, and
beyond, hidden in the trees was a farmhouse.
“Let’s go up there?” said Ralph.
“Hello, boys!” said a suppressed voice. They turned around in
“Where are you?” asked Ralph.
“That’s Pierre, I’m sure,” said Alfred.
“So it is,” said Pierre, as he arose from a cozy position behind a
rock. “Are any of the soldiers aboard?”
“No, no! they’ve gone,” said Ralph. “Alfred gave them an awful fright.”
“How’s that?” asked Pierre.
“Why, I yelled out: ‘there they come!’ and they thought there was a
regiment after them.”
“Did you block the track?” asked Ralph.
“Jacques did; he has the keys for the switches, you know,” said Pierre.
“How did you know that they intended to run the train back?” asked
“Well, we suspected they would either do that or destroy the whole
train, but here comes Jacques,” said Pierre.
When the latter appeared he was accompanied by three men, all armed.
“There are no soldiers aboard; we must run the train to the north as
quickly as possible,” said Pierre. Then turning to the farmers he said:
“I thank you for the service you have rendered us. Follow up the other
men and capture the Germans if you can. We must be off at once.”
It was the work of a few moments only to uncouple the rear coach and
after the passengers were again in their seats the engineer put on full
speed, soon passed the spot where they had been held up and within
fifteen minutes the train halted in a small town, Guareaux, where the
people exhibited the greatest excitement.
“What is the matter?” asked Pierre.
“Germans to the north of us have cut the railway, and taken possession
of the junction Trois Ponts below us,” replied a voice.
There they were, trapped between two forces and the train was now no
longer of any service to them. There was steady firing to the east,
indicating that the investment of Liège was under way and the sound of
guns was heard in the north. Telegraph and telephone wires had been cut
so that no news reached them. Night was close at hand, and every hour
meant a closer investment of the place.
“We cannot remain here all night,” said Pierre. “The Germans may be on
us at any moment. I suggest that we start across the country so as to
reach the road which runs from Clavier to Huy. It is not likely that
they have surrounded Liège entirely, and by striking the road from Huy
we can go east until we reach Jemeppe, and then go north from that
point without entering the city.”
“Then we can go with you,” said Ralph, eagerly.
“Of course,” replied Pierre, “but it may be a rough and tiresome
At eight o’clock, just as they were about to leave, a horseman came
into town at top speed, with the information that the Uhlans were at
Martin River, and rapidly advancing. Jacques and Pierre had been busy
acquiring information about the route to Clavier and the villagers were
quick to learn the plans of the two men.
Several young men enrolled themselves at once to accompany Pierre and
Jacques. Four sturdy fellows had indicated their willingness to go
with them but as they were about to leave there was a commotion in
the village, and shortly thereafter a horseman dismounted. One of the
volunteers who had joined Pierre’s band cried out:
“That is Capt. Moreau. I wonder what he is doing here?”
“He lives at Martin River,” replied a young man.
“Let us see him at once,” said Jacques.
The captain was dressed in civilian’s clothes; but he carried a bundle
strapped to his back. He was known to all the villagers, and they
crowded around him.
“The Germans will be here in less than a half-hour,” he said hurriedly.
“Every road is blocked, and I want as many volunteers as possible. With
them we must cut across the country and reach Liège.”
“I am on my way to join the colors,” said Pierre, saluting.
“That is the right spirit, my man. But you are, undoubtedly, a stranger
here,” said the Captain.
“Yes, but I am a Belgian, from Brabant,” answered Pierre.
Pierre’s prompt action was the signal for an immediate respond from a
dozen or more.
“I shall be back in a few minutes, and I designate you to enroll the
volunteers,” said the Captain, addressing Pierre.
Pierre shouted: “Come on, boys, the King needs you.”
The recruits came forward and signed their names. In an incredibly
short time the Captain reappeared clothed in his uniform, and he
proceeded to business at once.
“Now, men,” he said, “without wasting time, get firearms–anything that
will shoot, and report to me within ten minutes.”
The whole village was now a scene of the greatest activity. A varied
assortment of guns and pistols were produced which were hurriedly
inspected by the Captain and accepted by him.
“Line up, my men,” he ordered. “Belgium is at war with Germany, and
our soil has been invaded. It is the duty of every one to assist in
this crisis. I shall administer the oath to each of you. This makes our
company a fighting force in the King’s service and in case of capture
entitles you to the treatment accorded to prisoners of war.”
Pierre exhibited a troubled look in his face, and Ralph observed it. “I
am afraid,” he said, “that the Captain will not allow you to accompany
This information was the first shock to the boys. Pierre was right. The
Captain, while sympathizing greatly, could not be moved. He pointed out
that their mission was a dangerous one, and that it would be impossible
for them to accompany the squad. The boys were almost heart-broken, but
there was no hope for them. The final good-byes were given, and Captain
Moreau’s little band disappeared in the darkness toward the north.
The feelings of the boys cannot well be described. They did not
lack for friends, however, as their fellow passengers were quick to
relate the experiences of the boys in their contact with the Germans.
Accommodations were offered by the villagers, and they accepted a neat
little room over a shop. It was now nearly midnight and they were tired
with the excitement and experience of the day.
They were barely settled when the tramp of horses aroused them. Peering
out they were surprised to see several dozen Uhlans file by and halt,
not far from their window. The people quickly appeared at the doors of
their dwellings, many of them half dressed.
“Say, Alfred, they are the same fellows who stopped our train,” said
“So they are. And there is the officer who told me to shut up,”
answered Alfred. “Let us get up and dress.”
The boys were out in double quick time and cautiously felt their way
“Don’t go out the front way,” said a voice. “Take the back door, pass
down the narrow alley and reach the street on the other side.”
Thanking their informant they quickly ran down the alley and were about
to emerge when two horsemen appeared and finally stopped, less than a
dozen feet from the end of the alley.
A man from the adjoining house made a sign and one of the horsemen
approached close to the low fence.
“Captain Moreau, with a dozen men left less than an hour ago. They went
north in order to reach Clavier.”
The informant was a resident of the village, and was, unquestionably
a German, as he conversed in that language. He was, thus, spying on
his own townsmen. The information was acted upon at once, for in a few
moments a detachment was hurriedly sent north.
As the boys were on the point of emerging, a half dozen troopers dashed
by and turned the corner, giving them barely time to retreat within the
alley. Before reaching the house they were met by their host, the owner
of the shop.
“Go back,” he whispered. “They have gone upstairs, one of them
remarking that they wanted the two Americans. How did they know you
The boys were now startled, indeed. Who could have informed the
Germans, and why should they be so promptly hunted up? The matter
evidently puzzled their friend, as well.
Alfred leaned over to the shopkeeper as he eagerly whispered: “Who is
your next door neighbor? Is he a German?”
The man recoiled at the question. “Why do you ask?” he quickly
responded. The boys informed him of the conversation which they
overheard between their neighbor and the Uhlans.
“So that is how he repays our friendship? But where are you going,” he
asked, as the boys began to move down the alley.
“We must go; we don’t want them to find us here,” said Alfred.
“But where do you intend to go?” he again asked.
“We want to reach Huy,” replied Ralph.
“But there is no railway from here to that place,” was the answer.
“We know it,” said Alfred. “If Captain Moreau and his men can reach
Clavier we ought to be able to make our way there, too.”
“Then, before you go let me prepare some food for you to eat on the way
The boys laughed. “Oh, no!” responded Alfred, “we can find plenty as we
go through the villages, besides—-”
A shout in the house interrupted him. Their host held up a warning
finger, as he said: “No, no. For a day or two, at least you will be
going through territory which is being scoured by the Uhlans. You must
give the roads a wide berth, and avoid the villages. Besides, you will
find many German sympathizers throughout this province, so it will not
be safe to visit the houses.”
As he ceased speaking he turned to a low structure, opened a door and
invited them to go in and await his return. After he disappeared, Ralph
paced the little room impatiently.
“I don’t like this arrangement,” he finally said.
“Nor I,” muttered Alfred. “Suppose we go?”
Ralph was at the door in an instant. It had been bolted.
“Do you suppose he did that purposely?” asked Ralph.
“I haven’t any doubt of it,” replied Alfred, “and now it’s our business
to fool the old fellow.”
“But how?” inquired Ralph, looking about.
It was quite dark within, but they could plainly see the lights of the
main street through the vacant space between the houses.
“Let’s get up there,” suggested Alfred. “Probably we can break away the
Ralph soon found his way to the stringers above and was soon at the
crack. They could hear the door of their host’s house open and several
men stepped out, all of them speaking German. Their host was with them.
“Come up quickly,” whispered Ralph. “The old fellow has given us away,
Alfred swung himself into position as the men outside approached.
“I tell you that the young men went out the alley before I went in,”
said the host.
Ralph nudged Alfred. It was a satisfaction to feel that he was, indeed,
a true friend. One of the men ordered the shopkeeper to open the door,
which he did after some hesitation. A man stepped to the door, flashed
a light and glanced in. It was fortunate that the light did not go high
enough to reveal their hiding-place on the stringers above.
The man gave a sigh of relief, as he said: “I told you they left some
One of the searchers, evidently an officer, then ordered the other to
make a complete search through the village for the two boys. After
all had disappeared the boys were in a quandary. They were afraid to
leave the little house, at least while the search was going on, so
after consideration they decided to remain until their friend should
reappear, for they were now satisfied that he would help them out of
They kept their seats on the stringers for fully an hour, but it was
getting to be tiresome, although they were afraid to venture down. As
they had about made up their minds to venture out, voices were heard.
They came closer and soon it was easy to recognize the voice of the
neighbor who had acted the part of the spy two hours before.
The strange voice greeted the neighbor and imparted the information
that the squad which had gone to the north had just returned.
“Did you get them?” he asked.
“Yes; we captured all but two of them,” was the reply.
“Too bad,” whispered Ralph.
“I wonder what time it is?” said Alfred. “Hold up your watch to the
crack and see if you can make it out.”
“My, it’s almost four o’clock. It will be daylight in another hour. If
we are to go we had better start at once. What do you say?”
“Well, it won’t do to be cooped up here a whole day; let us try it,”
said Alfred as he swung himself down and moved toward the door.
They peered out. The coast was clear. Before they had an opportunity to
reach the alley the door of the house opened and their host appeared
with a package.
“So you are about to go? I am glad you did not go sooner. I waited
until the fellows outside settled down. Here is the package I made up
for you. It will come in handy,” he said as he handed it to them.
“We thank you ever so much for your kindness,” said Ralph. “We
suspected you, when you went out and bolted the door.”
“I did that purposely,” replied the host. “I thought maybe that if
those fellows got to searching out here and they found the door bolted
on the outside they wouldn’t take the trouble to look inside.”
“We are glad you thought of that,” said Alfred. “But we must ask
another favor of you. Tell us which way to go to reach Clavier?”
“Indeed, I will. Go north until you reach a stream, which is a half
kilometer distant. Then follow that; but be careful when you come to
the bridges,” he replied.
“Is it true that they have captured Capt. Moreau and the boys with
him?” asked Alfred.
“No! When did you hear that?” said the host in surprise.
“We overheard a German tell your next-door neighbor about it,” answered
“It can’t be possible,” responded the man in amazement. “But you must
not waste time. We are sorry to have you go but I can understand.”
“Thank you again,” said Alfred. “Good-bye.”
“Adieu,” responded their host.
They quickly reached the end of the alley and hastily glanced out.
There was no one in sight, and Ralph, who was ahead, beckoned Alfred to
follow. They crossed the street and leaped the fence, then cut across
the lot until they reached the road which their late host had suggested.
The sound of horses’ hoofs coming from the main street of the town
caused both to stop dead still.
“To the fence, Alfred,” whispered Ralph, as the horsemen turned the
“Crouch down low and keep quiet,” said Alfred.
The Uhlans, for so they were, passed without halting, and the boys
breathed a sigh of relief. But what were they going to the north for at
this time of the morning? It was over the very route that they intended
“What shall we do now?” asked Ralph.
“Follow them, by all means,” replied Alfred.
“Do you think so?” queried Ralph, doubtfully.
“Of course, that would be the better way to throw them off the track,”
Acting on this advice, they promptly set out on the march, determined
to make the best use of the darkness.
It did not take them long to reach the stream referred to by their late
friend. The bridge was in sight, and they stopped, for they felt there
was a problem of great importance to solve, and that was, whether or
not to cross it and follow the stream on the other side.
“Let’s go over, by all means, if we have a chance, as we’ll have to do
so sooner or later,” said Alfred.
“Do you think so?” asked Ralph.
“Of course; Clavier is on the other side; I know that,” said Alfred.
“Then come on; watch the road both ways,” suggested Ralph.
They reached the bridge and ran across with all their might. They had
not forgotten the warning given by the shopkeeper. Once across they
turned to the left, and crossed the hedge which bordered the roadway.
Keeping within the protection of the brush close to the stream they
kept up a lively pace. It was now beginning to lighten up, the gray
horizon in the east betokened the arrival of the sun.
Still they felt that they could keep on for a half-hour more, but
before they had trudged along more than fifteen minutes another bridge
appeared in sight, and almost at the same instant the dust on the road
to the north showed some unusual activity which served as a warning.
Concealing themselves behind a convenient bush they awaited the arrival
of the horsemen who could now be plainly seen. The four troopers who
passed them at the outskirts of the town, were returning, an evidence
to the minds of the boys that they were the objects of the search. The
troopers crossed the bridge and followed up the stream, bringing them
close to their hiding-place.
“Wasn’t it a good thing we crossed the bridge?” observed Alfred, as the
party passed by.
“Now, shall we go on?” asked Ralph.
“I don’t know what to do,” answered Alfred. “What do you say?”
“Why, go on, of course; we can’t stay here,” remarked Ralph.
“We ought to have found a place to stay before this; I think we made a
mistake; don’t you?” said Alfred.
“I think so; but perhaps we can find a good place further on,”
It was evident that some place of concealment had to be found, so
cautiously approaching the bridge they crossed the road and were
delighted to observe a narrow piece of woodland which seemed to offer
some security to them for the day; so they crossed a stone fence, still
keeping the river in sight, and entered the grove.
It may be well to observe that Belgium is a very thickly settled
country and they were in the province of Liège, which has a much
denser population than any other section in Belgium. During the flight
of the boys from the little town of Guareaux, farmhouses were visible
at all times in one direction or the other.
They hurried through the wood, and were about to climb the fence which
divided it from an open space, when the barking of a dog arrested them.
Almost immediately a voice called to them:
“Who are you?”
Neither of the boys saw the inquirer, but a little cabin was plainly
visible to the left. They remained silent, and by this time the dog was
at the opposite side of the fence barking vigorously. It would have
been imprudent not to recognize the call, now that the dog had pointed
them out. Alfred was the first to recover himself, as he answered:
“We are American boys, on our way to Clavier.”
The man approached along the opposite side of the fence and drove the
“American boys? and what are you doing here?” he asked in astonishment.
Ralph looked at Alfred for a moment before answering: “We had an
experience with the Germans yesterday and are trying to get away from
The face of the man brightened up, and he rushed up to them, holding
out his hands.
“You are welcome here; I will assist you,” he said.
“Thank you for the offer,” said Alfred.
“A half dozen of the German troopers have just passed along the road to
the west going north,” said the man. “It seems as though the country
hereabouts is full of them.”
“They are after the men who left town last night to join the colors.
Captain Moreau was with them, but we are afraid they captured him,”
“Ah, the Captain with his men passed here last night, and I saw him. My
son is with him. If that is true he may be taken also,” said the man in
a very sorrowful tone.
“One of the men with the Captain is our friend. They would not let
us go with them, so we determined to make our way across before the
Germans get too far,” said Alfred.
“I am afraid you will have trouble in trying to reach Clavier. I advise
you to avoid that place and try to reach the main line that runs east
from Huy, as the Germans will try to reach Clavier. The railroad
touches that point from the west, and then runs north to Huy,” said
“Then would you advise us to keep on going during the day time?” asked
“You would be safe, if you avoid the roads and bridges,” said the man.
“But you must have something to eat before you leave; so come in and we
will make you comfortable.”
The invitation was accepted with profuse thanks. Within the cottage
they found the mistress and two children, one of them a boy of their
own age. The situation was explained, and the boys became objects of
interest at once, when they related their experiences on the train and
in the town.
After breakfast the man said: “Henri, my son, you know the way to
Borlon. You may accompany them and show them the way; but mind you,
care must be taken at the roads and bridges.”
The boys were delighted at this kind offer. Henri smiled as he was thus
delegated to make the trip. It was too good to be true. When all were
ready the mother kissed her boy and accompanied by the father they
passed out the door. Not three hundred feet distant was a main road,
and leaping the hedge on both sides of the gate were fully a dozen of
“Back! back!” said the man.
The boys darted into the house, while the man said in an undertone:
“Henri, take the boys down to the pit. Don’t stop for anything.”
Henri motioned to them, and they rushed out the back door, passed
through a narrow arbor way, dashed through a gate and followed along
side the fence which ran toward the river. They almost rolled down the
steep incline to the water’s edge in their eagerness to get away.
“This way,” said Henri.
He led them along the incline for several hundred feet, and finally
stopped at the entrance of what appeared to be a cave.
“This is an old ore pit,” said Henri. “I don’t think they will find
you here. I’ll go back and see what they are doing.”
So saying he slipped down the bank, and hurriedly passed out of
sight. They remained in the pit for nearly an hour, and a feeling of
uneasiness crept over them. Ralph cautiously crept out and peered over
the top of the hill. He was just in time to see the troops file out of
Before they had disappeared down the road Henri rushed out of the house
and made his way to the pit.
“Come on, boys; they have gone,” he shouted.
As the boys crept up the hill and met Henri, they learned that the
Germans had compelled their friends to prepare breakfast for them,
which accounted for the long delay.