Part 3 out of 4
"We must hide, Miss Johnson," exclaimed Hal. "If we fall into the hands
of the Germans it may mean death to us."
"What!" exclaimed the girl.
"Exactly. I neglected to tell you that we are attached to the Belgian
forces and our capture would not only mean trouble for us, but would be a
blow to the cause of the Allies."
The girl looked at the lads in amazement, but there was no time for
words. There was a loud knock at the door, followed almost immediately by
the tramp of feet within the house.
Edna acted promptly. Rushing to the side of the room, she pulled open a
door to what appeared to be a closet and motioned to the boys.
"In here, quick!" she cried, and closed the door tightly.
As they passed through the door the boys saw a flight of steps leading
apparently to the cellar. Hardly had the door closed behind them ere the
steps of the Germans were heard in the room they had just left.
They also heard the girl greet them pleasantly, and the gruff demand for
breakfast. Edna called one of her servants, and gave an order that
breakfast for the Germans be prepared immediately.
"It is too cramped here," whispered Chester. "Let's go down these stairs.
If we were to make a move here, they would surely hear us."
The boys descended the steps. At the bottom they emerged into what, upon
inspection, proved to be a wine cellar. At the far side they saw another
passageway and moved toward it.
As they did so, they heard the door to the closet through which they had
recently passed open again, and a voice exclaim:
"I know these high and mighty Belgian gentlemen too well. There is always
wine in the cellar. Come, Franz, we shall explore."
Heavy footsteps descended the stairs, and two German officers hove in
sight. The boys, in the dimness of the cellar, were not seen.
"Quick!" whispered Chester, "into the passageway."
As Hal followed Chester into the darkness of the passageway, he tripped
over some obstacle in the dark, which gave forth the sound of tinkling
glass. The boys stopped stock still.
"What was that?" demanded one of the officers.
"I didn't hear anything," was the reply.
"I thought I heard something moving in the cellar."
"Probably a rat. Here is what we came after. Let's go back upstairs."
The boys heard the sound of retreating footsteps, and presently the door
above slammed once more.
Hal and Chester breathed easier.
"Pretty close," remarked Chester, in a low tone.
"You bet it was close," was the reply. "For a minute I thought it
was all off."
"Well, I guess we are safe enough now."
"Yes, I guess so. But we must wait here until the Germans have left
"I suppose they will go as soon as they have finished their breakfast."
"I hope so; we haven't any time to waste."
The boys sat down and waited.
What seemed like hours later, the door to the closet above again opened,
and the voice of the girl floated down the stairway.
"It's all right, now," she exclaimed. "They have gone. You can come up."
THE FIGHT IN THE FARMHOUSE.
The boys ascended the stairs and followed the girl back into the
"Well," said Chester, after the three had talked for some minutes. "I
guess we had better be moving. We have wasted too much time already."
They turned toward the door, and, as they did so, Hal uttered a low
"Look!" he whispered.
Turning to where Hal pointed, Chester and Edna beheld a face pressed
against the window pane.
"It is one of the German officers!" cried the girl. "He has returned for
It was apparent that the officer had seen the two boys. He turned from
the window, and the lads saw him making violent gestures to someone in
the distance. A moment later two soldiers joined him, and the trio turned
toward the door.
There came a loud knock, followed by the sound of footsteps in the hall,
as one of the servants went to open the door.
"Do not open the door, Bento!" called the girl.
The footsteps halted.
"Open that door at once!" came a voice of command from outside.
Again came the sound of footsteps, as the servant, evidently frightened,
moved toward the door.
"Bento! Do as I command you! Do not open the door!" cried the girl again,
and the servant stopped.
"Break down the door!" came the command from outside.
"What shall we do?" cried the girl, clasping her hands nervously.
"Fight!" was Hal's brief reply.
His eyes roved about the room. His gaze fell upon a pair of old dueling
swords hung upon the wall. Stepping on a chair, he took them down, and
passed one to Chester.
At that instant there came the sound of a crash, as the door gave way,
followed by a command from the officer:
Edna and the two boys retreated to the far end of the room, as the three
Germans rushed through the door.
"Surrender!" cried the officer.
"Come and take us!" replied Hal, his lips set grimly.
The officer covered the lads with his two pistols.
"Stun them with your rifle butts, my lads!" he cried to his soldiers.
"Take the spies alive!"
Reversing their weapons, the two soldiers strode forward. As one raised
his rifle preparatory to bringing it down upon his head, Chester leaped
forward between them, thinking to take the officer, who stood behind
them, unprepared, and cut him down.
But, even as he stepped forward, the officer's revolver spoke, and
Chester fell to the floor with a groan, a bullet in his chest. But, at
that instant, and before the officer could fire again, Hal, who also had
avoided the attack of the two soldiers, sprang forward and aimed a
slashing blow at the officer.
The latter warded off the blow with his arm, but one of his pistols was
sent flying from his grasp. As he raised his other revolver, his arm
was suddenly seized from behind, and Edna attempted to wrench the
revolver from him. He turned on her, and as he did so the revolver came
away in her hand.
Pointing the weapon straight at the officer, the girl pulled the trigger;
but the revolver missed fire. Stepping back, as the officer advanced, the
girl grasped the pistol by the muzzle and hurled it squarely in his face.
With blood gushing from his mouth and nose, the man fell to the floor.
In the meantime Hal had turned swiftly once more to face the second
attack of the two soldiers. As they again raised their rifles to strike
him down, he leaped between them, thrusting with his sword.
Pierced through the shoulder, one of the soldiers threw up his arm and
staggered back. In doing so he struck the arm of his companion, and the
latter's blow was deflected; and Hal was unharmed.
Turning, Hal dashed into the next room--the parlor--closely followed by
the two soldiers, the wounded man not being seriously hurt. At the same
time the German officer sat up on the floor, looked around dazedly, then
picked up one of his revolvers, drew his sword, and followed his men.
"Shoot the dog in the legs!" he commanded, and the soldiers brought their
rifles to their shoulders.
An instant before they fired Hal sprang upon the piano stool, which was
just behind him, and the bullets went low. Hal jumped to the top of the
piano, and then dropped behind it. As the soldiers again prepared to
fire, Hal put his shoulder to the piano, and sent it tumbling over, and
the bullets were imbedded in the soft wood.
Hal ducked as the officer raised his revolver and fired at him, and then,
stepping around the piano, made a sweeping slash at the officer. The
sword struck the latter on his pistol hand, and, with a groan, the
officer dropped his revolver.
Hal turned to the two soldiers, who had leaped on the overturned piano to
get at him before he stepped from behind it, and again his sword darted
out. The thrust went true, and one soldier fell to the floor, blood
streaming from a deep wound in his chest.
Before the second soldier could bring his rifle to bear, Hal ran from the
room into the hall. The soldier followed. In the hall, dimly lighted by a
single chandelier over the stairway, Hal sprang up the steps.
At the bottom of the steps the soldier stopped and took aim at the lad.
With a backward sweep of his sword, Hal knocked the chandelier crashing
to the floor, throwing the hall into inky darkness, and with a quick leap
was several steps higher up.
There came the sharp crack of a rifle, and the hall was lighted for a
second by a flash, as a bullet sped past Hal. With a light leap the lad
dropped over the railing into the hall, and, taking a step forward,
lunged swiftly in the darkness from where came the sound of a muttered
imprecation. There was a stifled groan, and the second soldier dropped to
Hal made his way back to the parlor, where the German officer still
stood, trying to bind up his injured hand with a handkerchief. He saw Hal
approach, and raised his sword, taking a step forward. At the same
moment, Edna, who had in the meantime dragged Chester's inert body out of
harm's way, stepped into the room.
His face red with fury, the German officer took another stride forward,
and thrust. The blade passed through Hal's guard and through the side of
his open coat, grazing his body.
As the sword went through the boy's coat, it looked to Edna as though the
lad must have met his death; and she screamed. The German officer laughed
gleefully, but, even as he did so, Hal, smiling, took a step forward.
With a quick stroke, he sent the German's sword flying from his grasp,
and the officer was at his mercy.
The German's rage burst like a bubble.
"Kill me!" he said quietly to Hal.
"No," replied the lad; "I cannot kill a man in cold blood. Pick up
The officer obeyed, and Hal placed himself on guard. But, taking the
weapon by the blade, the German extended the hilt to Hal.
"I surrender," he said.
The lad took the extended sword, and then passed it back to the officer.
"Keep your sword, sir," he said.
The German glanced at him a moment in silence; then took the sword.
"You are a generous enemy, sir," he said. "You will have no occasion to
regret your confidence in me."
"I am sure of it, sir," was the lad's answer. "You are at liberty to
leave at any time you choose."
The officer scrutinized Hal closely.
"You are a gallant lad," he said finally. "There are few men who could
have done what you have. I hope that we may meet again."
Turning, with a polite bow, first to Edna and then to Hal, he made his
way from the house and was gone.
"How is Chester?" was Hal's first question, after the German had
"He has recovered consciousness," replied the girl. "He is badly wounded,
but I believe he will be all right in a few days. Bento, who has some
knowledge of medicine, is attending him."
Hal hurried to the room upstairs where Chester had been carried. Chester,
lying in bed, greeted him with a smile.
"You certainly have all the luck!" he exclaimed. "Here I was unable to
walk while you were doing all the fighting."
"Never mind that," replied Hal. "How do you feel? Are you in pain?"
"Not much, now," was the reply. "Bento is quite a surgeon. He has
fixed me up to the queen's taste. It appears the ball glanced off my
"But you won't be able to travel!"
"I am afraid not. I am so weak I cannot stand. But you must go on just
"What! And leave you here?"
"Of course. I shall be perfectly safe here, more so than you will be on
the road. I wish I could go with you, but I am afraid it will be a day or
two before I can walk."
"Then I shall wait for you."
"What! Then how about the letter to General Givet, at Louvain?"
"It will have to wait."
Chester raised himself feebly on one elbow and looked at Hal in surprise.
"A fellow like you to say a thing like that?" he exclaimed. "That letter
must be delivered at once. You and I are of secondary importance. If you
had been wounded instead of me I should have gone on without you, much as
I should have hated to do so. The letter must be delivered immediately."
"You are right, as usual," replied Hal, after a pause. "The letter must
come first. But I hate to leave you here alone."
"Alone?" exclaimed Edna, who up to this time had remained silent. "Do not
I count for something?"
"I beg your pardon," said Hal. "I spoke thoughtlessly. I am sure he will
receive the best of attention at your hands."
"There is no question about that," replied Chester.
"Well, I must be going, then," said Hal. "I have delayed too long
"You will stop by on your return, will you not?" asked the girl.
"Yes, if I come this way; and I see no reason why I should not."
"I shall be ready to travel when you return," said Chester.
"All right," replied Hal. "But, if I have not returned in three days, you
will know something has happened to me, and you will make your way back
to Liege alone."
Chester agreed to this, the two lads shook hands, and Hal left the house
and set out upon his journey to Louvain.
IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY.
Although it had been a trying morning for Hal, and he was very tired, the
lad continued on his way as swiftly as possible. From time to time, as he
hastened along, he heard the sound of distant firing, and he proceeded
with the greatest caution; but he encountered no more of the enemy.
It was late afternoon when he made out in the distance the town of
Louvain. He quickened his pace, and soon came upon the outposts.
"I have a communication for General Givet," he told the soldier who
The soldier lowered the weapon, with which he had barred the lad's
progress, and called a nearby officer. The latter led Hal to the
Hal gave General Givet the letter, and stood at attention. The general
read in silence. Then he turned to Hal.
"All right," he said briefly, signifying that Hal might go.
"But, general," said the lad, "I was ordered to bring back your answer."
The general looked at him in surprise.
"Do you mean you intend to go back to-night?" he demanded.
"I thought I would start along about midnight," replied Hal. "I would
sleep until that time."
The general was silent for some moments, musing.
"You are a brave lad," he said, at last. "I had figured on sending my
answer by another courier; but perhaps your plan is better. You may
report to me at midnight, and I shall have the answer ready."
Hal saluted and turned to leave the hut.
"Wait a minute," commanded the general. "Tell me something of yourself.
How comes it that you, an American, I take it, have been selected for
such perilous work? Why, you cannot be more than eighteen years old."
"Seventeen, general," replied Hal, with a smile; and then he told the
Belgian officer of his experiences since leaving Berlin.
The old general was amazed.
"Remarkable! remarkable!" he repeated, time after time.
Finally he called an officer, and commanded that the latter find Hal a
place to sleep.
"Remember, midnight," called the general, as Hal was leaving the hut.
Hal saluted again.
"Yes, general," he replied, and followed the young officer.
Promptly at midnight Hal, greatly refreshed by a sound sleep and hearty
meal, once more entered the general's quarters and came to attention.
"The answer you are to carry back is simply: 'I shall act upon your
plan,'" said General Givet. "Good luck to you on your journey, and I have
only one command: Make all possible haste."
Hal saluted and set out on his return, journey to Liege.
It was early morning when he came once more to the farmhouse where he had
fought so nobly the day before. His fear for Chester's safety increased
as he approached, and it was not without some misgiving that he ascended
the porch steps and knocked softly at the door.
He heard a light footstep within, the door swung open, and Edna peered
forth at him.
"What! Back so soon?" she exclaimed gladly.
"Yes, I made pretty good time. How is Chester?"
Hal's doubts were soon set at rest.
"He is much better this morning than could have been expected," replied
the girl. "He ate a hearty breakfast, and says he is feeling fine."
Hal followed her up the steps to where Chester lay, impatiently
awaiting his coming. Edna went downstairs to see about getting him
something to eat.
"Will you be able to leave to-day?" asked Hal, of Chester.
"I am ready to go right now. I am still weak, but I am sure I can make it
all right. I'm bandaged up fine."
"You are sure you are feeling fit?"
"Certainly. Besides, I don't want to be left behind again. You are having
all the fun. I want to get in on a little of it myself."
And so it was arranged that the boys should leave immediately after
luncheon. They sought long and earnestly during the morning to prevail
upon Edna to accompany them, or to make her way to Louvain; but she
declared her intention of remaining where she was.
"I am much safer here than I should be on the road," she said. "No one
will harm me. Besides, I must take care of the house."
Unable to shake her determination, the boys gave up the attempt, and for
the rest of the morning the three chatted pleasantly.
Luncheon over, the boys immediately prepared to fare forth again. Edna
accompanied them to the bottom of the steps, where they said good-by.
"Come and see me again," she urged, as they shook hands with her. "You
are always welcome here."
"We certainly shall," cried both lads together, as they started upon
Chester was still weak, but he walked along wonderfully well, considering
the nature of his wound. Still, it was plain to Hal that every step cost
him an effort, and their progress was necessarily slow.
All afternoon they plodded onward without encountering the enemy, and
soon after nightfall came upon the place where the Belgian outposts
had been stationed the night before. The signs of a struggle were
"There has been a battle here," remarked Hal, after inspecting the
"There is no doubt about that," returned Chester, "and the Belgians have
been driven back. We shall have to be careful."
They were proceeding on their way more cautiously than before, when from
ahead there suddenly came the sound of trampling hoofs.
"A Belgian reconnoitering party, I guess," said Hal. "We are safe
Presently a body of horsemen came into view. The lads continued
toward them, and the horsemen were but a few yards away, when Chester
It was true. It was a squadron of Uhlans, returning from a reconnaissance
of the Belgian position.
It was too late for the boys to run. The cavalry was upon them. The lads
stepped to the side of the road, and continued on their way apparently
unconcerned. A German officer stopped them.
"Who are you?" he demanded. "What are you doing here?"
"We are American boys," replied Hal, "and are making our way to Liege."
"Well, you won't get to Liege to-night. Turn about and march the
There was nothing to do but obey. With a sinking sensation in their
hearts the lads about-faced and headed toward the great German camp. For
a long time, it seemed to them, they were marched along slowly, and
finally the first huts of the German army came into view.
"I am afraid our mission is a failure," whispered Hal, as the two lads
were led to a hut and placed under heavy guard.
"It looks that way," Chester agreed; "but we must hope for the best. It
may be lucky for us that we have no papers on us."
"What are they going to do with us?" Hal asked one of their guards.
"Shoot you in the morning, I suppose," was the answer. "Persons found
between the two armies in civilian clothes cannot hope for mercy."
"But we are not spies!" cried Chester.
"Perhaps not; but I don't believe that will make any difference."
The guard would talk no more.
"Our only chance is that they believe we were trying to get to Liege
simply to get out of the country," whispered Chester. "If they knew we
were just returning from a mission, we would be bound to die."
"Looks to me as though we were bound to die, no matter what they know,"
was the reply.
The boys got little sleep that night. They realized just how near they
were to death, and, while their courage never faltered, they nevertheless
had practically given up all hope.
At the first streak of dawn they were led to the quarters of the
division commander, and their case was disposed of with remarkable
rapidity. Their protests availed nothing, and they were sentenced to be
taken out and shot.
With a firm step the two lads walked to the place of execution,
surrounded by their guards. But the hearts of both were heavy.
"I wish I could have seen mother once more," said Hal softly.
Chester gave his chum's hand a slight squeeze.
"Well, it can't be helped now," he replied, with an attempt to appear
cheerful. "But come, brace up; if we must die, we will die bravely."
"You are right," said Hal, brushing the tears from his eyes with a
With heads erect, the two lads marched on.
At that moment a group of German officers approached on horseback. They
eyed the two captives, and suddenly one left his companions and rode over
to the firing squad. The officer in command of the squad halted his men
"What have we here?" demanded the newcomer.
"Two spies, sir," was the reply. "They were taken between the lines, and
have been ordered shot."
"These two boys are my business," declared the mounted officer, a note of
authority in his voice. "Their execution is stayed. Take them to my
"But, general--" began the officer in charge of the squad.
The general raised a hand imperiously.
"There are no 'buts,'" he said. "You have heard my command. Obey it."
Hal and Chester were dumfounded. As their guards turned and marched them
in the direction of the general's quarters, Hal asked of Chester:
"Do you remember him?"
Chester nodded in the affirmative.
For the German officer who had thus saved them from death before a firing
squad was none other than the officer whom they had encountered in the
station at Berlin, the man who had threatened to have Hal whipped for
accidentally bumping into him, and had pushed him from the train.
A FRIEND IN NEED.
"What do you suppose is going to happen now?" asked Chester breathlessly.
"It's too deep for me," replied Hal. "I can't imagine what he
wants with us."
"But who is he? That's what I would like to know," demanded Chester.
"I haven't the faintest idea, but he must be someone of importance."
"Oh, he's important enough, all right. You noticed his command was
"Well, I guess we shall find out in good time who he is," returned Hal.
The lads were taken to a large hut in the center of a great camp. The hut
was luxuriously appointed, and it was plainly evident that the man who
had saved them was one of the foremost of the huge German host.
The general himself had not arrived yet. But, after a long wait, he came
in, alone. He motioned their guards away, and then turned on the boys
with a scowl.
"Do you remember me?" he demanded.
The two lads nodded affirmatively. They were, for the moment,
"And I remember you," went on the general. "You," he continued, pointing
to Hal, "are the American upstart who almost knocked me over in the
station at Berlin. I said I would have you whipped. Well, my time has
come. Now, you just sit quiet," he said loudly, as Hal and Chester took a
step forward. "I will write out your sentence right now," and he turned
toward a table.
"I won't be whipped!" cried Hal to Chester. "They will have to kill
The general paid no attention to this remark, but continued to write in
silence. Finally he arose, with a paper in his hand.
"Here is your sentence," he said, turning to Hal. "Read, and see what you
think of it."
Hal took the paper the general extended to him. As he read an expression
of amazement passed over his face.
Hal passed the paper to Chester without a word, and, as Chester read, he
also grew amazed. And no wonder.
For what the general had written was a safe-conduct for both lads to the
Belgian lines; and the signature at the bottom was that of General Count
Von Moltke, commander-in-chief of all the German armies!
Hal stepped forward.
"General," he stammered, "we--I--we don't know how to thank you."
The general raised a hand and said gruffly:
"Never mind that." The faint shadow of a smile flitted over his stern
countenance. "I suppose," he continued, "that you are wondering why I do
this, after what occurred in the station at Berlin. It is so, is it not?"
"It is very strange," muttered Chester, and Hal nodded his head in
"Well, I'll tell you," said the general. "You remember when I pushed you
away from the train?" he queried, turning to Hal.
"When I turned round after that, feeling greatly pleased with myself, I
noticed, for the first time, the presence of a lady in my compartment.
She looked at me in the greatest contempt. It confused me; and I am not
"Then she told me that she was your mother, and, you may believe, berated
me most wonderfully. She didn't cry, nor go into hysterics, which made a
great impression on me. Most mothers would. I felt decidedly
"I realized that I had acted like a boor. We had gone some distance, but
I had the train stopped and backed into the station. You were not there.
I telephoned your ambassador. You had been there and gone. We were unable
to find you.
"I prevailed upon your mother to continue her journey to Brussels. I
issued an order to all my generals to keep a lookout for you and give you
safe-conduct into Belgium. It seems, however, that none of them
recognized you, or that you kept out of sight.
"I promised your mother I would get you out of the country in some way,
and she was greatly relieved. She knew I would do it. That's all there is
to the story. Now, I don't know what you lads were doing when you were
captured, and I don't want to know. If you are mixed up in this war in
any way, I don't want to know anything about it; but, if you are, take my
advice and go home to America. As I say, I don't want to know what you
have been doing since you left Berlin. It might force me to change my
attitude. I promised your mother I would get you out of Germany, and I
shall do it."
Hal and Chester were greatly surprised by this recital, and both boys
thanked the general as well as they could.
The general stepped to the entrance of his hut, and raised his hand. An
officer entered and came to a salute.
"I have given these two lads safe-conduct into the Belgian lines," said
the general. "See that they get there in safety."
"Yes, general," said the officer.
The general turned to the two boys.
"You would better go now," he said.
He extended his hand, and both boys grasped it heartily.
"Good luck to you," he called, as they followed the officer from the hut;
"my regards to your mother."
And that was the last the boys saw of the commander-in-chief of all the
armed hosts of Germany.
Straight through the great German camp the officer led the boys swiftly.
At the farthest outposts he halted, and signaled another officer.
"Lieutenant," he commanded, "take a flag of truce and escort these
boys to the Belgian lines. They have been given safe-conduct by
General Von Moltke."
The officer saluted, and the boys followed him. Under a flag of truce
they traversed the distance between the Belgian lines.
Out of danger at last, the two lads hastened to the quarters of
the commanding general, and reported. The general was genuinely
glad to see them.
"I had about given you up for lost," he said. "But you have arrived in
the nick of time. A concerted German advance is expected momentarily, and
without the reply you have brought we would have been at a great
Their mission successfully completed, the lads now hunted up Captain
Derevaux. They found the young captain in his quarters. He jumped up as
the two boys entered, ran hurriedly forward and greeted them effusively.
"Believe me, I am glad to see you again," he exclaimed. "I had made
certain I would never see you alive."
"Oh, we are hard to get rid of," replied Hal, with a smile. "I guess
we'll continue to stick around for some time yet."
"Well, you don't know how glad I am to see you back safely," continued
the Frenchman. "But come in and tell me all about your journey."
For a long time the three talked; and then Hal bethought himself to ask
concerning the situation in Liege.
"We are expecting an attack in force at almost any minute," explained the
young captain; "and we are prepared to give a good account of ourselves.
In spite of the fact that we are sure to be greatly outnumbered, there is
no doubt that we can hold the forts. Of the city itself, I am not so
certain, although these Belgians will fight to the last.
"Everything that can be done to strengthen our position has already been
done, and all we can do now is to wait for the attack that must come
soon. Already the German forces have delayed longer than had been
anticipated, but every hour of delay makes our position that much
"British troops have been landed in France, and French and English both
are hurrying to the support of the Belgians. It is impossible for them to
arrive in time to take part in the coming fight, but it is the plan of
the Belgians to delay the German advance as long as possible. Believe me,
the Germans will find the Belgian defense such a stumbling-block as they
have not counted upon."
"There is no question that they will fight to the last?" asked Hal.
"Not the slightest," was the reply, "Their resentment of the violation of
Belgian neutrality knows no bounds. They will fight to the last drop of
blood in them."
"Then I suppose the battle of Liege will be one of the bloodiest in
history," declared Chester.
"Undoubtedly," replied the captain; "and, if I mistake not, it is only a
matter of hours until it begins. The troops are sleeping on their arms,
and at the first word of a German advance the entire Belgian army will be
hurled into the battle."
"Do you really believe the Belgians will be able to check the
"I do. These great steel forts are practically impregnable. They can
successfully withstand the fire of the big German guns for weeks; and for
the Germans to try and take them by storm will mean annihilation. But a
successful charge would put the city proper into their hands."
"But in that event is there any likelihood of the forts surrendering?"
"I think not. In fact, I am positive of it. But come, boys, we have
talked enough, and it is getting late. I guess we would better turn in.
There is no telling when we may get to sleep again."
Accordingly, almost fully dressed, the three threw themselves down, and
soon were fast asleep.
To Hal and Chester it seemed they had hardly closed their eyes when they
were rudely awakened. It was the sound of a cannon that had aroused them,
but for the moment they could not tell what it was.
The boys sat up and rubbed their eyes sleepily. Outside it was light. The
gray dawn crept through the entrance, dispelling the shadows of the
"What was it?" cried Chester.
And, even as he spoke, it came again, the heavy boom of a single huge
cannon, followed almost immediately by the crash of thousands upon
thousands of rifles. The machine and rapid-fire guns broke loose with
their leaden messengers of death, and a bugle sounded:
Captain Derevaux, who had been sleeping soundly, sprang to his feet,
picked up his sword and pistols, and, without even a word to Hal and
Chester, dashed from the hut.
"The battle has begun!" cried Hal.
"Come!" exclaimed Chester. "Let's get to some place where we can see. I
can't stay here!"
"Nor I!" cried Hal. "Come on!"
The two lads hurried from the hut. As they emerged, a troop of Belgian
cavalry swept past them, on the way to the front. The boys followed as
rapidly as possible in its wake. Presently they came to a small hill.
Climbing to the top, they found they could command a good view of the
advancing German columns, which they could see in the distance, and which
were even now almost close enough to grapple hand-to-hand with the
horsemen swooping down on them.
All along the German front the Belgian cavalry hurled itself upon the
advancing foe. They met with a crash, and horses and riders went down in
heaps. For a moment the Germans gave way. For a moment they recoiled, and
then they sprang forward again.
The charge of the Belgian cavalry was magnificent, but it was in vain.
The German forces pressed onward, and the cavalry was forced back,
cutting and slashing as it slowly retreated. Under a withering fire, that
suddenly broke out all along the German front, the horsemen fell by
hundreds. It was more than flesh and blood could stand. A retreat was
sounded, and the cavalry fell back upon its support. But, even as they
drew off, there burst from the German front the sharp roar of the
mitrailleuse. The German maxims had opened fire. The Belgians fell faster
And now the Germans were ordered to charge. Squadron upon squadron raced
over the open ground in a mad dash toward the Belgian line; and as they
charged, the rapid-fire guns of the great forts poured forth their
answer. Great holes were cut in the German columns, and men and horses
were mowed down like chaff.
And still the Germans came on.
Suddenly a fierce rifle fire broke out all along the Belgian front, even
as the rapid-firers continued to belch forth their messengers of death.
Men reeled and fell in masses. The Germans wavered, halted, then
retreated. A great shout went up from the Belgian lines.
Under the support of their own field batteries, the Germans reformed for
a second charge. As before, the defenders waited until they were close,
then poured in a deadly fire. The Germans staggered, then sprang forward.
A second volley greeted them, and a second time the Germans wavered,
halted and retreated. A third time they charged, with the same result.
All this time a long-range artillery duel was in progress, whatever
advantage there was resting with the Belgians. Shot and shell poured into
the oncoming solid ranks of the German infantry, cutting great gaps in
their ranks; but these quickly filled up again, and the Germans continued
their steady advance.
All this Hal and Chester saw, and more. For they could see, to the left,
the successful advance of the enemy, as it moved upon the town of Liege.
In vain the Belgians charged upon the advancing line and poured in shot
and shell. The Germans came on. To the right the Germans also were
pushing slowly, but surely, forward.
"It is terrible! terrible!" said Chester, with a shudder, as he watched
men fall right and left.
"Horrible!" agreed Hal. "But come. We must move. It is as Captain
Derevaux said. The Belgians will be unable to hold the town. They must
retire upon the forts; and we had better retire before them."
The boys descended from their position of vantage and made their way to
the nearest fort, which they were allowed to enter upon informing an
officer of their connection with the Belgian army, just as the Belgian
troops withdrew from their positions in front of the city and fell back
upon the forts.
Liege was left at the mercy of the Germans.
For some minutes thereafter there was a lull, as when a great storm dies
down, only to begin again with greater fury. The enemy's left wing, which
was nearest the fort in which the boys had taken refuge, could be seen
forming for a charge, while from the fort a rain of lead continued to
fall upon them. Although men were falling on every hand, the Germans
formed without the least confusion.
Then came the order for the charge. From five different points the enemy
hurled itself forward upon the fort; nor did the hail of lead stop them.
Closer and closer they approached, the five sections of cavalry drawing
nearer together as they did so, so that when they were within striking
distance they were almost in solid formation. In their rear the infantry,
supported by field guns, already had formed for an advance.
The Uhlans must be driven back at all hazards, and an order rang out from
the Belgian commander.
There sallied forth a body of Belgian cavalry and the few French that
remained of the French Lancers who had borne the brunt of the fighting in
the battle in which Hal and Chester had distinguished themselves. In the
center of these Hal and Chester recognized Captain Derevaux, his sword
"He is a grand soldier!" whispered Hal to Chester softly. "A brave man,
indeed. France may well be proud of him!"
"There can be none better," answered Chester. "May he come through the
Now the Belgians and French charged, and the fighting was hand-to-hand,
while over the struggling horsemen the guns from the fort poured death
into the ranks of the advancing German infantry.
The cavalry of the two armies had met so close to the fort that, with a
glass he picked up, Hal could distinguish the faces of the combatants.
And again, so close was the fighting that the guns of the fort could not
be brought to bear on the German cavalry for fear of killing friend as
well as foe; but they continued to deal death to the infantry.
Looking through his glass, Hal sought out the form of Captain Derevaux.
Finally he espied him, right where the fighting was fiercest and men
Hither and thither rode the gallant young Frenchman, striking,
thrusting, parrying, now raising his revolver for a snap shot, the while
urging his men on.
"If he gets out alive it will be a miracle!" cried Hal, passing the glass
Chester put the glass to his eyes and looked toward the field of battle.
"By Jove!" he muttered. "He is magnificent!"
At that moment the captain's horse went down, but, with a quick movement
of his arm, guarding his head from a saber stroke, the young Frenchman
seized the bridle of a riderless animal, and with a single movement swung
himself to the back of his new charger. In another moment he was once
more in the middle of the fighting, dealing out death on every hand.
The Germans gave way, slowly at first, then faster; and at length they
turned and fled. As they did so, the guns from the fort poured a hail of
lead into them, mowing them down as they retreated. The Belgian cavalry
retired to the support of the fort. The German charge had failed!
And now messages filtered in from other parts of the field. The
Belgians had been successful all along the line, with the exception of
one point, which had permitted the Germans to enter the city of Liege.
The losses of the Germans had been appalling; those of the Belgians
"Can the Belgians fight?" asked Hal, when the Germans had withdrawn. "Can
they fight? Well--"
His silence was more expressive than words.
"It's too bad we were unable to take part in the battle," declared
Chester. "It certainly gives me a restless feeling to sit here and look
on while others are doing all the fighting."
"It does make a fellow feel a little queer," Hal replied. "But, supposing
we had been in that charge--where would we be now?"
Chester shrugged his shoulders.
"Perhaps here, and then again--perhaps, some place else," he answered.
"Neither you nor I, surely," replied Hal. "But think of the dead and
dying on the field out there. War is a terrible thing!"
"It is," declared Chester; "and the more I see of it the more I realize
that fact. But come. Let us see if we can find the captain."
It was almost an hour later before they accidentally ran across him, and
the young Frenchman carried his arm in a sling.
"It looks as though I am likely to be on the hospital list for a few
days," said the captain, smilingly.
"It's a wonder to me your name is not on the death list," replied
"Indeed it is," agreed Hal. "We watched you through a glass from the
fort. Your action was magnificent. France can well be proud of you.
Believe me, you will not remain a captain long."
"As for that," replied the young Frenchman, "I have just learned that I
have been recommended for promotion."
The boys congratulated him, but he waved them aside laughingly.
"It is no more than you would do for your own America," he declared; "no,
nor no more than you both did only the other day. Whatever I do," he
added softly, "I do for France!"
THE DEATH OF A HERO.
For almost a week now the strong Liege fortresses had withstood the
fierce bombardment of the great German guns. Attack after attack had been
beaten back, with heavy losses to both sides. Time after time the German
cavalry had charged, only to be hurled back by the fierce and deadly fire
of the Belgians.
But the forts had not gone unscathed. The heavy German guns had done
great damage to the fortifications behind which Hal and Chester had taken
shelter, and the possibility was now being seriously considered as to
whether the fort could withstand another assault.
General Simon, the commander of the fort, had decided in his own mind to
blow it up rather than surrender it to the enemy. Many prisoners had
been captured by the defenders, and these crowded the fort, occupying
every inch of available space. And now the next assault of the Germans
was at hand.
Day and night the bombardment of the fort had continued. Under the
protection of the heavy cannonading, the Germans moved once more to the
attack. Three times did the enemy charge heroically, and as many times
were they driven back, with fearful losses. With the fall of darkness
they had given up the attempt to take the fort by storm.
But the Belgian commander knew that the Germans would come again on the
morrow; and he also knew that he could not hold forth against them. He
made his plans accordingly.
Under cover of the darkness he had his prisoners marched to the nearest
fort, more than a mile away. Then he ordered all civilians to the safety
of the other fortifications.
His plans for keeping his fortifications from falling into the hands of
the enemy already made, he set about fulfilling them. He examined the
magazine and had everything in readiness. Then he ordered all his troops
to report to the general commanding the nearest fortress, placed a fuse
to the magazine, lighted it, and sat down to wait.
Hal and Chester, strolling about the fort, in some unaccountable manner
had been left behind. Suddenly, for the first time, they noted the utter
desolation of the place.
"Strange," muttered Hal. "Where has everyone gone?"
"You've got me," declared Chester, "but there must be someone around some
place. Let's go up to the general's quarters."
Now, when the soldiers and civilians had been ordered to leave the fort,
no one knew it was General Simon's intention of blowing it up. They
thought he was abandoning it because he believed it no longer capable of
resistance. But the commander had planned more deeply and heroically. He
did not intend the fort to fall into the hands of the enemy, that they
might repair it and turn its guns against his countrymen.
"A German flag shall never wave over this fort," he had muttered
The general was sitting calmly at his desk, awaiting the end, when the
lads entered his room. He sprang to his feet with an exclamation.
"Leave the fort instantly!" he commanded. "Waste a moment and you are as
good as dead!"
Hal and Chester stared at him in surprise.
"I have fired the magazine, and the fort will be blown to pieces in a few
minutes," said the general hastily. "Fly for your lives!"
"But you, general?" demanded Hal, quietly.
"I? I shall die at my post! But go, instantly! You have not a
moment to lose!"
"We shall go when you do, general!" said Chester.
The old commander whipped a revolver from the table before him. He
leveled the weapon at Hal.
"If you do not go immediately, I shall fire!" he threatened.
"The result would be no different than that of the explosion," he said
quietly. "Come with us. We have still a chance of escape."
The general lowered his pistol.
"You are right," he said. "But here," a sudden thought having come to
him. "I have still a message for the Belgian people."
He sat down and wrote rapidly. Rising, he handed Hal a paper.
"See that this reaches the commander of Fort No. 5!" he ordered. "You
have my command! See that it is carried out! Go!"
"That is simply a ruse to get rid of us, general," said Chester.
The general whirled upon him.
"I am still the commander of this fort!" he cried. "Obey my command!"
The boys saluted the gallant old general for the last time; then they
turned on their heels and left him, alone.
Once out of his room, they ran for the outer wall of the fortification
with all speed; and they did not pause until they were far beyond the
fort. Still there was no explosion.
"Perhaps when General Simon finds something has gone wrong, he will
follow us," said Hal hopefully.
"He is a brave old man," replied Chester. "Let us hope he thinks better
of his decision while there is yet time."
But, hardly had the words left his mouth, when there was a terrific
roar, followed by a great flash of light. Turning, the boys saw the
fort leap into the air as though it were some live thing. High in the
air it burst and spread like a huge skyrocket; and then for miles
around there descended pieces of iron, great lumps of steel, like rain
from the heavens.
Great pieces of these fell on all sides of the boys, but, as though by a
miracle, they were unharmed.
Hal lifted his cap from his head, and looked for a long time toward the
spot where the great fort had stood.
"A brave soldier and a gallant gentleman!" he said finally. "May he rest
"Aye!" replied Chester softly. "He has given his life for his country!"
Slowly the boys resumed their walk to the other fortress. Great
excitement prevailed. The appalling loss of the great fort, and the
unaccountable absence of General Simon were causing great anxiety and
speculation. The general belief was that the fort had been destroyed by a
In Fort No. 5 the boys made their way at once to the quarters of the
commander. They were admitted into his presence almost immediately.
Silently Hal handed him the last words written by the heroic general.
Gravely the commander glanced over the paper; then read aloud to the
members of his staff, who surrounded him:
"I regret I have but one life to give for my country!"
Every officer in the room rose and bared his head. There was silence for
some minutes; then the commander of the fort said quietly:
"Peace be with him! On the next roll call he shall be marked: 'Absent but
accounted for.' He is with the heroes!"
A RACE FOR LIFE.
Hal and Chester walked slowly along the road. It was just beginning to
grow light and the lads were tired out. All night they had been on their
journey toward Louvain, carrying a second communication to General Givet
from the Belgian commander at Liege.
Unlike their previous trip, the country now was known to be overrun by
Germans, and their second mission was much more perilous than had been
their first. For this reason they had taken a different route, and so did
not pass the farmhouse where Chester had been wounded some days before.
"What is that ahead?" asked Chester suddenly.
Hal strained his eyes, peering into the distance.
"I don't know," he replied.
They continued their advance, and suddenly Chester exclaimed:
"Why, it looks like an old-time provision wagon."
"So it is," replied Hal; "I wonder what it can be doing here?"
As the boys drew nearer they perceived their surmise had been correct. A
dilapidated old wagon it was, standing beside the road. To it were
hitched two mules. There was not a soul about.
"I thought these things had gone out of date," said Hal, indicating the
wagon. "It looks like an old prairie schooner."
"It certainly does," answered Chester. "The only reason I can account for
such a relic being in use is that every available vehicle has been
impressed into service."
"I suppose that is the reason, but it certainly reminds me of the wild
and woolly days we have read about in America. If this is not a
regulation prairie schooner, I never saw one."
And indeed it seemed that the lads were right. The wagon was covered
with a canvas top, which came down over the back, leaving a little
opening in the rear.
"What is the reason we can't get in this thing and ride?" asked Chester.
"I can see none," was Hal's reply. "We might as well do it. Then, too, we
can make better time."
Accordingly the lads climbed in, and soon were riding slowly along the
road. When about five or six miles from Louvain, Hal, glancing behind,
saw three horsemen approaching.
He grabbed Chester by the arm.
"Look there!" he said, pointing.
"Germans, by George!" exclaimed Chester, who was driving, and he
immediately started the mules on a dead run.
"Hold on," said Hal; "maybe they are Belgians."
"No, no," replied Chester. "I know they are Germans!"
"Well," replied Hal, "I am going to see," and, stepping out on the
footboard and holding to the side of the wagon, he looked back over the
top of the wagon. The horsemen were closer now, and Hal could make out
"They are Germans, aren't they?" asked Chester.
"Yes," replied Hal, "and they are coming like the wind!"
"Well," said Chester, "maybe we can get away. You do what fighting is
necessary, and I'll do the driving."
"All right," said Hal. Crawling back in the wagon, he drew his two
revolvers, and in response to his command, Chester turned his two pistols
over to him also.
Hal had hardly reached his place at the back of the wagon when Chester,
between yells to the mules, cried out:
"How far off are they now, Hal?"
Hal answered him as well as he could, and Chester renewed his lashing of
the mules and his yelling.
Once more Chester inquired the distance between pursued and pursuing,
but, before Hal could answer, two shots were fired from behind,
accompanied by a shouted command to halt. The bullets from the rifles
passed through the wagon between the two lads, but did no damage; and
almost instantly the Germans charged down on them. Three shots rang out
as they passed the wagon, but the boys were not touched.
The Germans passed on, and then, circling back, prepared for another
charge. Hal had fired at them several times, but, owing to the bumping of
the wagon, his shots had not found a mark. But, if the bumping of the
wagon had spoiled his aim, it had probably saved the lads' lives, for it
made accurate shooting by the Germans impossible.
Down came the Germans again, shooting as they passed by. And again the
boys were unharmed. Hal and Chester were now yelling at the top of their
voices--why, they never knew.
Hal, crawling to the back end of the wagon and, looking out, saw the
Germans ready to charge down on them again. One man, however, was jogging
along close behind the wagon, his revolver held in his hand.
As Hal looked out, the German stopped his horse and fired. Hal dodged
back sideways. The bullet whizzed through the hole in the canvas in the
rear, grazed Hal's head, and struck the back of the seat near Chester.
Chester did not even turn, but, with cries and blows, continued to urge
the mules on.
As quick as he could, Hal rushed to the hole and fired at his opponent,
but failed to hit him. At the same instant another bullet came through
the side of the wagon, and struck his revolver, and the weapon fell to
the road. Hal dodged back inside.
Then the Germans bore down on them again, firing into the wagon as they
passed it. Hal sprang to the front of the wagon. One German had stopped
and was taking aim at Chester. Hal raised his revolver, and, taking a
snap shot, fired. The bullet went true, and the German fell to the road.
"I've hit one of them, Chester!" called Hal.
"Bully for you!" came back the response, and Chester continued to ply his
whip on the backs of the galloping mules.
Once more the remaining two Germans turned and came back, but this time
they did not fire as they passed the wagon. Hal rushed back to the rear
of the wagon and looked out.... One German rode close behind and to the
right of the wagon.
Bracing himself, Hal quickly stuck his revolver through the hole, but
before he could fire, the German flopped over on one side of his horse,
and all that could be seen of him was his arm around the animal's neck,
and from the knee down, one leg.
Hal did not fire, but waited for him to come up--he could almost hit the
horse's head with his hand, so closely was he running. Suddenly he saw
his enemy's hand move, and he dodged back just in time. A bullet sped
past his head.
Up came the German, and Hal stuck his revolver through the hole, and,
without taking aim, fired. The ball struck the German in the breast, and,
with a cry, he threw up his hands, and toppled from his horse.
"I got another one, Chester!" cried Hal.
"Good!" came the reply, but Chester was too busy to say more.
The bullet with which Hal had disposed of the second German had been his
last, and the boys were now without firearms.
Along they bowled, and once more the last German passed the wagon. He had
learned the boys were without weapons. But the German now had also
disposed of his last cartridge, so the lads were on even terms.
Suddenly Chester called:
"He is crowding the mules off the road!"
It was true. The pursuer was riding close to the mules, trying to push
them from the road. The animal on the near side was jumping frantically
and gradually pushing the other mule toward the edge of the road.
The German kept close to the mule, in spite of several attempts Hal made
to scare him off by pointing his empty revolver at him. The German
refused to scare.
Grasping the side of the wagon, Hal took the revolver by the barrel and
hurled it at the German. The latter tried to dodge, but it was too late.
The revolver struck him in the face, and he fell to the ground.
He was up in a moment, however, and, picking up his sword, was soon in
the saddle again; and a moment later the mules again were being crowded
off the road.
The German was within striking distance, but Hal had nothing with which
to hit him. His other empty revolvers had already been thrown.
"Hit him with the whip!" he cried to Chester. "Hit him with the whip!"
Chester, suiting the action to the word, simply diverted one of the blows
intended for the mules, and struck the German fair across the face.
The whip had a knot on the end of it, to keep it from unraveling, and
this knot hit the German in the eye. The German dropped his sword, put
his hands to his face, and rubbed his eyes; then, putting spurs to his
horse, he made off rapidly over the road which they had come.
The boys now caught the first glimpse of the town of Louvain, and the
glad sight of Belgian troops could be discerned--the outposts
guarding the town.
Chester let the mules slow down.
"That was some ride," he declared.
"You bet," was Hal's answer. "I thought we were gone that time, sure."
"Well, let's get out and walk the rest of the way," said Chester. "I have
had enough of this riding to last me a lifetime. The wagon jolted so much
I must be black and blue all over."
Chester stopped the mules, and the boys climbed to the ground; and, just
as they started to resume their walk, Hal sank suddenly to the ground!
THROUGH WALLS OF FIRE.
Quickly Chester bent over his friend.
"Hal! Hal!" he cried in alarm, shaking him gently. "Tell me where you
He laid his friend's body back gently; then for the first time he noticed
that blood flowed from a wound in Hal's side.
In vain did Chester try to bring his chum back to consciousness. The boy
lay like one dead. Finally, seeing that his efforts to revive his
companion were useless, Chester picked him up in his arms, and in this
manner started for the town.
By pure grit Chester succeeded in carrying his burden to the Belgian
outposts, where he turned him over to a Red Cross surgeon.
"Is he badly hurt?" the boy demanded, as the surgeon arose from examining
his chum's wound. "Will he live?"
"It is dangerous," was the reply. "But I think he will come around all
right presently. But he has had a narrow escape. One inch higher up and
the bullet would have pierced his heart. He must be taken to the
hospital. He must have proper attention."
Leaving his chum in good hands, Chester made his way to General Givet's
tent, where he gave him the message the boys had gone through so much to
deliver safely. Then he went to the hospital. He was permitted to see his
friend at once.
Deathly pale, but with a smile on his face, Hal greeted his friend.
Chester sprang forward and grasped his hand.
"Are you all right, old fellow?" he asked eagerly.
"Fit as a fiddle," was the faint reply.
"Why didn't you tell me you were wounded?"
"To tell the truth, I didn't know it myself until just as I stepped from
the wagon. I can't remember when the bullet hit me, but I suppose it was
when the Germans fired through the side of the wagon. But it was weak of
me to give way as I did."
"Weak! Great Scott! Even the surgeon is unable to see how you held out as
long as you did. You have had a mighty narrow escape, I can tell you!"
"I guess I have," replied Hal feebly. "But anyhow it's an escape. Did you
deliver the letter to General Givet?"
At this juncture, a nurse approached.
"You must go now," she told Chester. "Your friend must have perfect quiet
for the remainder of the day."
"All right," replied Chester, and then turning to Hal:
"Well, good-by, old man. I'll be here the first thing in the morning."
"Good-by," replied Hal. "Now, don't you worry about me. I shall be
Chester made his way from the hospital.
"By George!" he muttered, as he walked down the street. "I wish it had
been me that was wounded instead of good old Hal. It's certainly tough on
him, but he sure does bear up bravely."
As Chester continued down the street, he was brought to a sudden halt by
the sound of firing from the outskirts of the city; and a moment later a
mounted officer dashed through the street, shouting:
"The Germans! The Germans are approaching!"
People along the street took up the cry and the air was filled with the
sound of startled voices:
"The Germans! The Germans!"
Dashing squadrons of cavalry swept through the streets on their way to
the front; people jumped out of the way as the artillery was hurried by;
and then came columns upon columns of infantry on a quick run.
It was plainly evident that an attack by the Germans had not been
anticipated; but now that the enemy was close at hand, everything
possible was being done for the defense of the city.
Chester hurried in the wake of the troops, and, as he did so, the first
screaming shell burst over his head. He was hurled to the ground, but
escaped injury. The crowds that had thronged the streets a moment before
vanished as if by magic.
The flying shells now screamed incessantly overhead. From the front
came the deafening roar of many guns, and the crash of thousands
upon thousands of rifles. Suddenly the screams of many voices rose,
as a building, not far from where Chester stood, was blown into a
For a moment Chester was awe-stricken and stood still.
"This is terrible!" he muttered to himself. "Terrible!"
He was struck by a sudden thought.
"Suppose one of those shells should strike the hospital?" he said to
himself. "What would happen then? What would happen to Hal?"
Turning, he hurried back in the direction from which he had come. Was it
a premonition, or what?
As he turned the corner and the hospital came into view, a horrible scene
met his eyes.
The hospital was afire! A brilliant flame shot high into the air, and the
smoke poured forth in a dense volume. Even from where he stood Chester
could see that one wall of the hospital had fallen. It had crumbled under
the shock of a German shell.
Chester dashed forward; nor did he pause or falter at the thought of
the dangers he would encounter in the burning building, but ran
rapidly up the steps and plunged into the dense cloud of smoke and the
sheet of flame.
His sense of direction stood him in good stead now. Almost stifled, his
hands and face scorched by the intense heat, he ran up the stairs. At the
top, where the air was somewhat clearer, he paused for a moment for
breath, then dashed for the room where he knew Hal lay.
Hal was sitting on the edge of the bed when Chester burst into the room.
He had noted the first signs of smoke, and had attempted to rise, but the
effort was beyond him. There was not another soul in the room.
He looked up as Chester rushed in.
"I am afraid I can't make it," he said, in a faint voice.
"We have got to make it," replied Chester quickly. "Can you walk at all?"
Hal shook his head.
"I tried to," he said, "but I can hardly stand on my feet."
"Put your arm about my shoulder!" commanded Chester.
"It's no use," said Hal. "You can't possibly carry me out, and we shall
both perish. Save yourself while you have time!"
"No more talk like that," commanded Chester, in a stern voice. "We go or
"But we cannot do it," replied Hal. "Alone you may make it; but with me
you are certain to perish. Go!"
"Will you do as I tell you peaceably, or must I use force?" demanded
Chester. "If you don't obey me, so help me, I will knock you cold and
then carry you out. Come, which shall it be?"
"Have your own way, then," said Hal.
Chester stooped over and Hal put his arm about his neck; then, lifting
him up in his arms, Chester staggered through the doorway, and to the
But, as he was about to put his foot on the first step, there was a
terrible rumble and roar, and the steps crashed downward. The supports
had been burned away.
By a mighty effort Chester regained his balance, and the two lads were
saved from death in the smoking ruins below by a hair's breadth. Turning,
Chester rushed toward a window and looked out. It was a long drop to the
ground below, and he saw no help in sight.
"I told you it was no use," said Hal. "Let me go, and save yourself!"
Chester did not reply, but laid his chum gently on the floor. Then he
dashed into the next room, returning in a moment with several sheets.
Quickly he tore these into strips and tied them together. Then he
approached Hal and tied one end under his arms.
"We will get out yet," he said quietly, and assisted Hal to the window.
"Put no more strain upon your wound than necessary," he instructed
Hal. "Hold to the sheets with your hands, and it will relieve some of
So saying, Chester lifted Hal to the window sill, and gently lowered him
over the edge. With his feet braced against the wall, he paid out the
improvised rope slowly.
Now the flames burst into the room in which Chester stood, but it did not
hasten the lad in his desperate work. Slowly he let the sheets slip
through his hands, that Hal's wound might not be opened afresh by any
sudden jerks; and presently the slack of the rope told him that his chum
had reached the ground. At the same moment he heard Hal's voice:
"All right! Pull up the rope!"
Rapidly now Chester set about saving himself. The room was a seething
mass of flames, which burned him terribly. Tying one end of his
improvised rope to a bedpost, Chester leaped to the window sill, and
began his descent.
So fierce were the flames that the sheets lasted but a second; but, in
that time Chester had slid halfway to the ground. Then the rope broke and
he fell with a crash. He picked himself up immediately, however, and,
turning to Hal, said swiftly:
"Quick! We must get away from here at once. The building is likely to
fall at any moment and we shall be buried beneath it."
He stooped down.
"Put your arms around my neck again!" he commanded.
Hal obeyed, this time without question.
Raising up with Hal in his arms, Chester staggered forward at a run, and
it was well that he did so.
For at the moment he had reached a place of safety, the great building
caved in with a deafening crash. There was a roar like the roar of a
thousand guns, and, a moment later, on the spot where the hospital had
stood there was only a mass of smoking and blazing debris.
More slowly, now, Chester continued on his way. Before him he could still
hear the thundering of many cannons as the battle progressed, but he kept
his face turned in that direction.
In spite of the heavy burden in his arms, he made good progress; nor did
the bursting of an occasional shell nearby deter him, nor turn him from
his course. As he staggered along he passed many tumbled-down buildings
that gave evidence of the accuracy of the fire of the German gunners; and
in some places the bodies of non-combatants littered the streets.
Straight toward the front went Chester, his face set in grim
determination. He realized that in that direction lay whatever chance
there was of safety; for even now his keen ears detected the sound of
firing from the rear, as the Germans made their attack from that
But, even as Chester neared the outskirts of the city a great cheer rang
out from in front, and the sound of firing grew less distinct. Presently
troops began to come toward them. Victorious in front, they were now
hurrying through the city to drive off the enemy attacking from the
Chester stopped and laid Hal down in a doorway. There the two lads
remained in silence for some time. Soon the sound of firing from the
other directions grew more faint; then ceased altogether.
Chester put Hal in the care of a pleasant-faced Belgian woman, who came
to the door now that the battle was over, and went forth in search of
General Givet. The latter was about ready to give himself up to a
much-needed rest, but permitted Chester to enter his hut.
"General," said Chester, passing over how he had saved Hal's life in the
hospital fire, "my friend is badly wounded, and is in a bad way. It will
be long before he recovers. I have come to ask if there is not some way
in which he can be sent out of the country, at least until he has
The general considered.
"There is a party leaving for Brussels to-morrow," he said finally. "You
both may go with them."
"But it is not necessary for me to go," returned Chester. "I might be of
use to you here."
"Would you not like to be with your friend?" asked the general.
"I would like nothing better," replied Chester.
"Then it shall be so," said the general. "You are both brave lads. I
shall make the necessary arrangements myself."
Chester was in the best of spirits as he made his way from the general's
quarters and started down the street to where he had left his wounded
chum. The lad was walking slowly along, when his arm was seized from
behind. Turning, Chester beheld the face of Edna Johnson.
"Why, how do you do!" exclaimed Chester, raising his cap. "This certainly
is a surprise. What are you doing in Louvain? I thought you had decided
to remain at the farmhouse. But what is the matter?"
This last was called forth by the signs of distress and excitement
plainly visible on the girl's face, which Chester, in his pleasure at
seeing her again, had not perceived at first.
"I am staying here with a friend," the girl explained rapidly. "My uncle
ordered me to leave the farmhouse and come here. I am indeed fortunate to
have encountered you."
"Why?" demanded Chester.
"Listen," said the girl. And, taking Chester by the arm, she bent close
to him and whispered:
"In my friend's home there are two men, presumably civilians. But I know
better. I heard them plotting. They are going to send word to the German
commander, telling him the exact position of the Belgian troops, the weak
spots in the defense, and all other details."
"What!" exclaimed Chester. "Spies right here in the midst of the
"Yes," replied the girl. "I overheard them talking in the room next to
mine. I didn't stop to hear any more. I ran out of the house, and was on
my way to the general, when I saw you. Then I thought I had better tell
you what I had learned."
"And I am glad you told me!" said Chester. "Come, lead me to the house
and I shall try and gather fuller details before reporting to the
general. It may be that there are other spies in the city, and that, by
listening, I can learn something concerning them."
Chester for the moment put aside all thoughts of Hal. He considered it
his first duty to serve the country for which he had already gone through
so much. Hal was in good hands. So, walking slowly, Chester and Edna made
their way to the house where the girl was living.
"I am not particularly fond of playing eavesdropper," Chester told the
girl, as he stealthily followed her up the stairs; "but it is all in the
line of duty, so I guess it is up to me."
From Miss Johnson's room could be heard the subdued sounds of voices in
the next room.
"Rather unthoughtful of them to discuss such business in such a place, to
say the least," remarked Chester. "Apparently they forget that even the
walls have ears."
The lad laid his ear to the door between the two rooms. Edna stood close
behind him, and the two listened eagerly.
"Well, then it is all settled," came a low voice from the room beyond.
"You report to the chief immediately. I'll remain here an hour, so that
we shall not arouse suspicion by going together. But tell the chief I
shall be on hand in time."
"Good!" came the reply. "I suppose all other details have been attended
to and that the thing will be pulled off smoothly. To-morrow night should
see the end of Louvain."
Chester straightened up.
"I must get out of the house before he does," he told the girl. "I must
"But won't you be in danger?" protested Edna. "Why not report to the
general at once?"
"No," the lad declared. "I must at least find the rendezvous."
Quickly he slipped from the room, and stepped outside the front door just
as a door on the upper floor slammed to.
Chester walked slowly down the street, whistling.
"I hope he comes this way," he told himself. "Otherwise, I shall have to
do some fast walking."
Fortune favored the boy. As he walked slowly along, a man brushed swiftly
past him. Taking care to avoid all pretense of pursuit, Chester followed.
CHESTER DISCOVERS A PLOT.
For half an hour the lad stalked his prey through the streets of the
city, winding about here and there until Chester had absolutely lost his
sense of direction. Several times the man turned round and glanced
furtively about, but apparently he took no notice of his shadow.
Finally he turned into a crooked little street near the outskirts of the
city. Chester also turned the corner, just in time to see the man
descend a pair of steps into the basement of what was apparently an
The lad hurried up and arrived in time to hear the man give a peculiar
knock at the door--one loud tap, followed by three soft taps, then
another loud one.
Chester walked back around the corner, where he stopped to think.
"If only I could get in there," he said to himself. "I wonder--"
He stopped, struck by a sudden idea.
"By Jove! I believe it can be done," he said.
He continued to pace up and down, apparently deep in thought.
Occasionally he stopped to look in the direction from which he had
followed his prey to the rendezvous.
After nearly an hour the lad, after a glance down the street, slipped
quietly into a doorway. Apparently the thing for which he had been
waiting was about to come to pass.
Footsteps sounded on the street, coming closer. Save for the one lone
pedestrian, the street was deserted. The footsteps approached closer, and
Chester gathered himself for a spring. As the man came abreast of the
doorway in which the lad was hiding, Chester hurled himself upon him.
With one hand the lad clutched his victim about the throat, and with the
other he struck out heavily. There was a stifled groan, and the man fell
limp in the boy's arms.
Glancing hurriedly about to see that there was no one in sight--no
witness to his deed--Chester dragged the man into the doorway. Here he
quickly discarded his own clothes, stripped the stranger of his outer
garments and donned them himself.
Then tearing his own clothes into strips, he bound his victim and gagged
him, after which, now attired in his victim's clothes, he stood up and
made a search of the pockets.
"If my surmise is correct," he said to himself, "I shall be all right."
The hand which was exploring the inside breast pocket came forth with a
little piece of cloth.
"Good!" the lad exclaimed. "I thought as much. I didn't believe they
would take too many chances. A stranger might get in and betray them."
For the little piece of cloth the lad had taken from the pocket of his
newly acquired apparel was a black mask.
"Now," said the boy to himself, "to see if I cannot find out who I am
supposed to be."
He continued the search of the pockets. Several pieces of paper and one
or two documents he glanced at hurriedly, and restored. Finally he drew
out a paper that seemed to please him, for his face lighted up with a
smile. He glanced at the slip of paper and read aloud:
"This is to certify that the bearer is an accredited agent of the
At the bottom was a seal of peculiar design, but there was no signature.
"Evidently," said the lad, "members of this gang are not known to one
another, at least all of them. They may spot me and they may not.
However, I've got to take a chance. Nothing risked, nothing gained."
The lad stepped quickly from his place of concealment and approached
where the man he had followed had turned in more than an hour before. He
descended the steps into the basement and knocked upon the door--once
loudly, three times softly, and once loudly again.
The door swung open before him, and a masked man peered out. Taking a
deep breath, and feeling in his pocket to make sure that his revolver was
in readiness, the lad stepped inside. The door swung to behind him.
Chester followed the man who had opened the door down a dark hallway, and
into a dimly lighted room. Masked as he was, the boy had little fear of
being discovered, but his hand rested on his automatic in his right-hand
Inside the room Chester perceived a circle of dark faces, stretching
almost around the room. At one side, facing the circle, was a raised
platform, and on this sat a huge bulk of a man, masked, as were all
They all rose as Chester entered the room, and without a word the boy
made his way to the one vacant seat. The conspirators then resumed their
seats, and Chester sat down also, four chairs away from where the chief
"Number One," called the chief, and the man nearest him on Chester's side
arose. "What have you to report?"
"Everything is ready, sir. As you know, I am on the staff of the Belgian
commander. With the information I shall impart to him at the proper time
to-morrow, the main force of Belgian troops will be withdrawn from the
northern part of the city and the surprise will be complete."
"You are sure? There is no chance of failure?"
"Not the slightest, sir."
"Good!" said the chief, and the first man resumed his seat.
"Number Two," called the chief, and the second man arose.
By his first words Chester recognized the man who had first spoken at the
home of Edna Johnson.
"And what have you to report?" demanded the chief.
"That word has been sent to attack at five o'clock," was the reply.
"I have received an answer, showing that my message was delivered
"Good!" boomed the chief again. "That is all."
Number Two resumed his seat.
"Number Three!" called the chief.
The man next to Chester rose to his feet.
"Your report," commanded the chief.
"I have to report, sir, that the thousand men sent to me have all
arrived. They came singly, and the last one arrived shortly before I
came here. They are all armed and are quartered in vacant houses on
Brussels Street, at the southern extremity of the city. They are
awaiting the word."
The chief nodded, and the third man sat down.
"Number Four!" called the chief.
Chester rose to his feet, as had the others.
"And you, sir?" demanded the chief. "Is your report satisfactory?"
Chester was thinking rapidly. He was in the most ticklish situation he
had ever faced, and he was fully aware of it. He knew now that there was
not one chance in a thousand of his escaping detection. But the lad did
not falter, and his right hand grasped the handle of his automatic more
firmly, as he made reply:
"Entirely so, sir," and then paused.
"Well, well!" shouted the chief. "Explain!"
Chester drew a deep breath, and took a haphazard shot:
"My men are ready to seize the entire Belgian staff, at a moment's
The confusion that broke out immediately following his words told Chester
that his shot had missed. But the boy stood his ground. There was nothing
else he could do.
From the opposite side of the room came a cry:
"That was the work assigned to me."
"That is not true," was Chester's quick reply. "I was the man selected
for that work."
The man on the other side of the room made a spring toward Chester, but
he was arrested by the commanding voice of the chief, who now stood up to
his full height, a revolver barrel gleaming in his outstretched hand.
"There is a traitor here," said the chief calmly. "I shall be the one to
decide who it is, for you are all known to me. Unmask!"
Every person in the room save Chester obeyed this command, and for the
fraction of a second he stood alone, his face still covered. But he stood
for a fraction of a second only.
Then with a quick move his revolver leaped from his pocket, and there was
the sound of a shot. The chief toppled over to the floor.
Chester leaped to one side, and with a backward sweep of his left arm
knocked the single lamp from the wall and plunged the room into darkness.
Then he dropped to his knees. And none too soon, for twenty pistols
cracked and as many bullets went hurtling by the spot where he had stood
a moment before.
Ten feet behind Chester was a door. He had noticed it when he first
entered the room, and had decided that there lay whatever chance he had
for safety should he be discovered. Quickly, and still stooping, he ran
toward the door.
And even as he reached it a match flared up and a bullet whistled by his
ear. But the door was unlocked and gave before the boy's weight, and as,
after passing safely through it, he turned to close it in the faces of
his enemies, one man blocked him, his arm raised to fire.
But Chester's revolver rang out first. The lad had fired from his hip,
and the man went sprawling.
The lad turned his weapon on the others who now rushed toward him, and
fired three rapid shots. Then he slammed the door shut, bolted it with a
single movement, and, turning, ran along the dark passageway, at the end