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HOME > Short Stories > The Boy Volunteers on the Belgian Front > CHAPTER IV THE WORK OF A SPY
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The feelings of the boys cannot well be described. They did not lack for friends, however, as their fellow passengers were quick to relate the experiences of the boys in their contact with the Germans. Accommodations were offered by the villagers, and they accepted a neat little room over a shop. It was now nearly midnight and they were tired with the excitement and experience of the day.

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

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

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

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

"Don\'t go out the front way," said a voice.42 "Take the back door, pass down the narrow alley and reach the street on the other side."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alfred leaned over to the shopkeeper as he eagerly43 whispered: "Who is your next door neighbor? Is he a German?"

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

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

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

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

"We want to reach Huy," replied Ralph.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

"But how?" inquired Ralph, looking about.

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

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

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

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

Alfred swung himself into position as the men outside approached.

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

Ralph nudged Alfred. It was a satisfaction to feel that he was, indeed, a true friend. One of the men ordered the shopkeeper to open the door,45 which he did after some hesitation. A man stepped to the door, flashed a light and glanced in. It was fortunate that the light did not go high enough to reveal their hiding-place on the stringers above.

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

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

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

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

"Did you get them?" he asked.

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

"Too bad," whispered Ralph.

"I wonder what time it is?" said Alfred. "Hold46 up your watch to the crack and see if you can make it out."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

"Adieu," responded their host.

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

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

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

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

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

"What shall we do now?" asked Ralph.

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Do you think so?" asked Ralph.

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

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

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

Still they felt that they could keep on for a half-hour more, but before they had trudged along more than fifteen minutes another bridge appeared in sight, and almost at the same instant the dust49 on the road to the north showed some unusual activity which served as a warning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It may be well to observe that Belgium is a very thickly settled country and they were in the province50 of Liège, which has a much denser population than any other section in Belgium. During the flight of the boys from the little town of Guareaux, farmhouses were visible at all times in one direction or the other.

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

"Who are you?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"Thank you for the offer," said Alfred.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The invitation was accepted with profuse thanks. Within the cottage they found the mistress52 and two children, one of them a boy of their own age. The situation was explained, and the boys became objects of interest at once, when they related their experiences on the train and in the town.

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

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

"Back! back!" said the man.

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

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

"This way," said Henri.

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

"This is an old ore pit," said Henri. "I don\'t53 think they will find you here. I\'ll go back and see what they are doing."

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

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

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

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

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