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HOME > Short Stories > The Boy Volunteers on the Belgian Front > CHAPTER VIII THEY REACH THE BELGIAN FORCES
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There was a movement in their front, and soon forms were outlined. One appeared after the other, until seven men ranged alongside. Almost the first to appear was Roland, who had left them the evening before, and two of his associates.

Roland laughed, as he greeted the boys. Most of the men knew each other, as they were all from the same commune.

"Where are you going?" asked Roland.

"To the bridge," answered their companion.

"Too late," responded Roland. "An advance guard, with two machine guns, reached there less than an hour ago, and has taken possession."

"That means that the Germans are on the other side, as well?" asked one of the men.

"We do not know about that. They could easily come up from Tieff, and from that point cross over."

"Fortunately," said Roland, "our troops are arriving from St. Trond and Tongress, to reinforce the garrison."

"Then we may be able to reach the soldiers," said Alfred.


"Yes, unless the Germans are ahead of them," answered Roland.

Without delay the company, now increased to eleven, turned to the east, and marched down close to the river bank. Cottage after cottage was passed, but they purposely avoided the roads. West of Jemeppe is a little cluster of cottages, where some of the company knew boats were obtainable, and as this was approached the bell of the chateau struck three.

If the cottages along the way were silent, it was evident that the cottagers were not asleep. As they neared the street they could see many of the villagers, and at the shore were a dozen boats, and several more could be seen out in the stream.

The appearance of the boys and the party attracted no particular attention, but it was seen that the men were manning the boats, and Roland and his men announced that they must cross in order to join the forces beyond.

"The Germans are on the other side, but how near we do not know. They have taken the bridge below here," said one of them.

The boys were interested listeners and observers. They now noticed that many of the men were armed, and that two of them had uniforms.

"Who is that man with the uniform?" asked Alfred, as Roland appeared.

"That is Captain Moreau. He is directing the movement of the reservists in this section."

The boys were startled at this as it meant the news of his capture was not true. Pierre86 must be with him then, and they rushed around trying to find him, but were unable to do so.

Over forty men manned the boats, and the boys were permitted to enter one of them.

The Captain gave a brief order and they were under way. As they neared the northern shore he said:

"Return as rapidly as possible to the next landing below and get those assembled there. We will await the party at Grand Oak crossing."

When all had landed they were quietly marched to the east until they struck a road leading to the north. A quarter of a mile beyond was a cross road, passing through a cluster of magnificent oaks. They were led to a thick wood adjoining the cross road, and concealed in the chapparal which commanded the main road.

It consumed an hour to reach this point, and it was now four in the morning. In a half hour more the party from the downstream landing appeared, and now the first streaks of dawn appeared. Without waiting for explanations as to the course to be pursued, the Captain selected four men, who were ordered to advance.

The scouts thus designated were armed, and immediately forged ahead, and after a wait of five minutes, the party followed. All talking was prohibited.

"We shall know within the next hour whether we shall meet friend or foe," said the Captain.

Every minute or two one of the scouts would appear and report to the Captain. The party87 marched on without halting, until a little village was reached, through which ran a main road.

Beyond was the railway from Tongres to Liège. This must be reached, for, if the Belgian reinforcements were coming it is probable they would come over this line.

"The party is too large to pass around the village," said the Captain. "We must divide, one-half going to the left and the other to the right. We shall meet at the railway, a mile beyond."

The boys were fortunate enough to accompany the party commanded by the Captain, and Roland was also one of the company.

All was too much excitement, however, to enable them to ask for much information. What if the road should be in possession of the Germans. It required no information to tell them what that would mean.

A tramp of twenty minutes brought them in sight of the railway embankment. The other party had arrived, and were in waiting. The commander in charge of the other party came forward with the information that no trains had come from the north since six o\'clock the night before.

"That means that the Germans have seized the road," said the Captain. "Where is your informant?" he asked.

One of the men, who lived in the immediate neighborhood, came forward and he was carefully questioned. He could give no news as to the reason for the delay in trains.


"How far is it to the nearest station?"

"One kilometer to the east, Captain. I will undertake to go there and try to get some information."

"Go at once, and Corporal Antonio will accompany you."

Antonio was the non-commissioned officer who had charge of the other party in their movement around the village.

They hurriedly departed, and the Captain then disposed of the company, by ordering them to line the hedges along the embankment, and to remain perfectly quiet, until ordered to move.

After a wait of twenty minutes the corporal reappeared and reported that the Germans held the approach to the northern side of the bridge, and that a troop train had left Tongres less than a half hour ago.

"Then we must march to the north at once," said the Captain.

Now for the first time they felt the effects of the long strain. They still carried one of the packages of luncheon and noticed that rations were carried by the others as well. They had the pleasure of telling Roland about the luncheon, and now that the morning sun was appearing, and the company sat down to rest, they opened the package, and Roland assisted them in disposing of the contents.

There was no trouble now in getting food. Everywhere, the peasants supplied their necessities. Fruit was in abundance on all sides. This89 was, indeed, a grand holiday; but they were excessively tired. This was the second night without sleep. After nearly an hour\'s march they reached a village on the railway, and were gratified to learn that the troop train was a mile beyond, and rapidly approaching.

The company during the march had been gathering recruits, so that when the train came in sight more than a hundred formed the party. The Captain boarded the train, and immediately consulted the officer in command.

After a wait of nearly an hour, all of the recruits, together with the boys, got aboard, and the train slowly moved forward, passing several villages. Here are numerous coal mines, foundries and factories, and it was assumed that the Germans would first of all capture these places, and this they were attempting to do at this time.

The only thing which prevented them was the lack of transportation. They were concentrating an immense force to the south of the city, and investing it on all sides as fast as the facilities for moving the munitions of war and the troops permitted.

Beyond was Russau, which was soon reached, and as the boys looked out they saw a magni............
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