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CHAPTER V THE STRUGGLE THROUGH THE COUNTRY
It was fully nine o'clock before they left Mr. Revigne's place, for such was his name. He was one of the prosperous small farmers of that section, and he and his sons knew every foot of the country for miles. Henri was a bright, intelligent fellow, and his brother, who had joined the Captain's band, was a reservist.

They went across fields, keeping the stream in sight, and they had not gone far before the boys learned to repose the greatest confidence in their new companion. After passing two well-travelled roads, they approached a third, which Henri informed them was the main road to Rivage east of their location.

"It wouldn't be much of a trick for those fellows to cut across from Martin River, so we must be very careful now," said Henri.

There was but a single field to cross, and Henri advised the boys to keep out of sight while he went forward to examine the road. In a few moments he returned with the information that the road was clear, and both boys bounded forward and made a run for the fences. As ill luck would have55 it a troop appeared on the highway to their right, before they reached the fence. Henri stopped.

"Wait," he said. "Line up by the side of me, so you will be hidden beside me; then let us all walk together to the fence."

In that manner they reached the moss-grown stone barrier, so well known in many parts of the country.

"drop down now, and keep out of sight," said Henri.

So saying he mounted the fence and crossed over. The horsemen beyond were now hurrying down the road. He mounted the fence on the other side, and awaited their approach. An officer in front halted and inquired, in German, if Henri had seen any people on the road.

Henri shook his head slowly, to indicate that he did not understand them. The question was repeated in French, and he responded that no one had gone by since he came on the road. The troopers proceeded without further questions, and when they were well out of sight the boys arose, crossed over, and made up for lost time in the effort to cross the adjacent field.

"A friend of my father's lives in that house," said Henri, pointing ahead. "We might stop there and learn if there is any news."

The owner of the house was greatly surprised at the appearance of Henri and the boys. He was told their story, and he smiled at them proudly. "And where are you going now?" he asked.

"Father asked me to take the boys over to Borlon's.56 They want to go to Clavier, as they are on the way to Antwerp," said Henri.

"Then I have bad news for you; the Germans are well above the road leading to Rivage. You must avoid Borlon, and you cannot go to Clavier, as they are trying to cut the road between Clavier and Huy," said the man.

"Then what would you advise us to do?" asked Alfred.

"Go to the north of Borlon, and make straight for the road that runs from Huy to Liège," was the reply.

"Then we shall have to leave you," said Ralph, sorrowfully.

"No, no; I will stay with you all day, and leave you to-morrow some time," said Henri.

"Now, my boy, go straight across to Ladeau's place and get something to eat there; you know where that is," said the man, addressing Henri.

"Indeed, I do; and he will tell us the best way from that place," said Henri.

Notwithstanding the gravity of their journey, the trip of the three boys was fascinating. Henri steered a course directly to the east, but it was tiring work, as constant vigilance was necessary. Night set in too soon for them, but the moon lighted the way for an hour before they reached Ladeau's place.

There they learned some bad news. Information had reached Mr. Ladeau that Capt. Moreau and his companions had been captured, or, at least, there was a fight with a superior force.

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"We heard they were captured," said Ralph.

"That is quite possible," remarked Mr. Ladeau, sadly. "Just before you came we learned that the Germans had taken possession of the road to the north, and it is likely that a visit may be expected from them at any moment."

"Then we must go at once," said Alfred, "and if you will direct us which way to travel we will go on without Henri, as it would be wrong to take him further from home."

Henri protested, but the boys both agreed that it would be the proper course for him to return, and Mr. Ladeau concurred in their view of it. The parting was a hurried one, and they at once struck across the fields, taking good care to keep one particularly bright star directly in front of them.

Thus, for two hours, they met with no incident until they approached a road, when they heard voices speaking in German. Silently approaching the fence they waited until the sound died away, then rushed across the road and entered an orchard with tempting fruit all about them.

"Well, it is about the only thing you can do," said a voice in French.

This was, assuredly, a relief to the boys, as they saw two men descend from a tree.

"What were you doing in the tree?" asked Alfred.

"We heard you long before you came up to the tree," said the tall one, "and we supposed you might be the Germans, until we came near enough so we could distinguish your language."

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"Hereafter," remarked Ralph, "we shall be more careful." The boys related their experiences, and the fact that they had been captives, and the troubles they went through since their release.

"While it might be possible for you boys to travel during the daytime, it would not be so for us, and it is equally dangerous, in view of the orders sent out in the printed notices, for all of us to travel at night. We must, however, get away from this section as soon as possible, so we might as well go on."

All villages were avoided and they passed by the farmhouses as though they suspected a pestilence. It was a trying, weary night as they were frequently compelled to wait while one scouted ahead. In the early morning their tall companion announced that they were nearing the town of Esneux.


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