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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Boy Volunteers on the Belgian Front » CHAPTER XII CATCHING A SPY
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It was past six o'clock that evening when they passed the outer guard line of the great camp, and within five minutes they were in front of the commandant's quarters where they were admitted without ceremony.

Roland was there, on duty, and when he found that they had just returned from Wandre, he could not help but express his admiration, and was not slow in telling the General of the boys' adventures.

"Oh, yes! We had the Uhlans after us. They blocked our road but we took the next one and beat them," explained Ralph.

"Ralph had the advantage of me. He could see them, and I just had to run the machine," said Alfred.

"You are both to be commended. But what is this?" he asked, as Pierre handed him a large envelope.

The General opened the envelope. "From Waremme," he said. "So you have started to do service the first day. This is, indeed, commendable."


"Please, sir," said Alfred, "can't we have uniforms?"

"You certainly shall have them. Lieutenant, see that the boys are provided with the regulation suits." This was their first knowledge that their friend Roland was a lieutenant in the service.

But now the great and crucial times came to the boys who only a week before tried to reach their homes, but they were not thinking of that now.

When they reached their quarters that evening, too tired for words, they talked, and talked, rehearsing the scenes and incidents of the day, and fell asleep, half undressed, where they found themselves in the morning, lying across the bed.

Before they had time to dress a great commotion was heard in the camp. They hurriedly dressed and rushed over to the main dining hall.

"What have you heard?" asked Ralph.

"Vise has been entirely destroyed, and the Germans are appearing in great force at all points north of Liège," said one of the attendants.

Breakfast was soon disposed of, and they rushed over to see Roland. "Have you heard the news?" they asked.

"Yes, and we have information that two large forces are now advancing, presumably to take Brussels," answered Roland.

"We are to have uniforms, did you know it?" asked Ralph.

"Yes, and your arms are also ready for you. Wait until I get my breakfast and we will go over and get the things," replied Roland.


"What, are the uniforms ready? What are they like?" said Alfred, as he danced about in delight.

"Oh, yes! You will have the regulation Scout uniform, but it will have the distinctive stripes on the arm to indicate that you are attached to the staff in the messenger service," replied Roland.

You may be sure that two more impatient boys could not be found than Ralph and Alfred, as they awaited the reappearance of Roland.

"Let us go over now and see our machines," said Ralph.

Alfred did not protest, you may be sure, and together they rushed out the door, and across to the warehouse in which the machines were placed. As they went in they saw an officer move away from the place where the machines were kept.

His actions excited Ralph's suspicions. "I don't like the looks of that man," he said.

The fact that the boys watched him narrowly, evidently excited the man's suspicions, also, and he tried to appear unconcerned.

"I am going to bring Roland over," said Alfred, and he moved toward the door.

As the man hurried his steps toward the rear of building out of sight, Alfred ran quickly to the dining hall, and called out to Roland:

"There is a very suspicious-looking man at the warehouse. Come over at once." Roland did not wait for a second call. With his breakfast hardly begun, he jumped up, disregarding his hat, and followed Alfred. As they neared the warehouse,135 they saw Ralph far beyond, keeping the officer in sight.

"Good boy!" said Roland.

"There he is," said Ralph; "see him just turning the corner." With a bound Roland crossed the intervening space, and rushed around the shed in which the artillery was parked. He ran into the officer full face, and greeted him.

"Who are you? What and where is your command?" he inquired.

The man attempted to answer in French, but his foreign accent was readily detected.

Roland's revolver was in his hand, and he cried out: "Hold up your hands instantly."

"Turn about: you are under arrest. Forward march," ordered Roland.

Then turning to the boys he said: "Go up to him on either side and direct him down to headquarters. I will follow as a guard."

During the progress down the street a large crowd gathered and followed. The cry of "spy" was heard on all sides. The commandant was quickly advised of the cause of the commotion and he received and questioned the man, who could give no satisfactory replies to any of the questions put to him. He could not state where he obtained the uniform he wore. This in itself was incriminating evidence, and made him amenable to the laws governing the execution of spies.

He was found guilty, principally on his own confession, and executed within an hour of the trial.

When Alfred learned of the man's fate, he was136 greatly affected. He had been the cause of the man's death—the direct cause. How he now abhorred the shedding of blood. Some days prior to this, he had taken a gun in his hand, and shot with the intention of killing. But this was different. He had detected a spy; and the spy was shot.

Roland found him at his room, gloomy, and with his lips quivering, and quickly divined the cause.

"You feel sorry for him. That is natural. I felt like a murderer when I arrested him, because I knew from his actions that he was a spy and I felt sure that I was leading him to his death. But you must remember that he was doing things which will bring more misery on us than his death could ever atone for. It was my duty and your duty, to bring him to justice."

An orderly appeared and explained that the boys were wanted at headquarters. They went at once, and Roland accompanied them.

The General came forward as they entered. "I must thank you in behalf of the King, for the great service you have rendered," he said, as he took Alfred and Ralph by the hand.

Alfred plainly showed his emotion, and Ralph and Roland turned away for a moment to tell the General how the boy felt.

The arms of the strong man went about the boy, and he said: "It is no discredit to you to feel that way. And now where are your uniforms?" he added.


"Oh! we are going to get them now. We were waiting for Roland," said Ralph.

The General smiled, as he said: "You mean the Lieutenant."

Ralph looked down abashed for a moment, and then slyly corrected himself, while Roland apologized. But the General needed no one to smooth down that little wrinkle; he also had boys, and he knew that these little informalities did not show want of respect.

"Get those uniforms at once; I want to see how they will look," he remarked to Roland, as the latter turned to obey.

The boys needed no more of an intimation as to their first duty. The uniforms as furnished were trim fitting suits of a greenish-gray, bound with a very narrow gold braid. The coats were close-fitting and rather short but were well adapted for service and the proper fits were soon obtained.

The whole of Belgium did not contain two prouder boys than these two, as they marched to headquarters, to thank the General for his kindness.

As they were about to leave, the General remarked: "I am happy to tell you that Belgian boys also are doing their duty nobly. Day before yesterday, two boys near the frontier, rescued two of our soldiers from four Uhlans who had captured them, and yesterday, one of the boy scouts, west of Liège, named Niston, captured two German spies. It is such work that is appreciated, and shows that they are trying to do their duty to138 their country. The work you and those boys are doing is of great service. If the spy you caught had been permitted to escape it might mean our death or capture. It is one of the things in war, which must be guarded against, and all who volunteer to become spies know that death is the penalty of detection."

As they were going to their quarters, Alfred asked: "Why did the General say that the Belgian uniform condemned the spy?"

"The wearing of any disguise is reprehensible. That fact alone, even though the wearer may not have done an act or thing which could be condemned, would be sufficient to warrant his execution."

"But suppose a German should get into the camp, or through our lines in his regular uniform, and be captured, would not that man be a spy?"

"No, for the reason that he is trying to get the information in the avowed character of an enemy, and not by attempting to deceive."

Alfred sighed as he weighed the distinction in his mind. He was thinking of the rules of war, which he had learned during the past ten days and he wondered whether there was really anything which was honorable in armed conflict, or which was observed in the game of war.

But the boys' feelings were very much allayed, when they learned that during the day two more spies had been caught within the camp, and that now a corps of detectives had been employed to ferret out that class of men.


During the investigation that followed it was found that several were disguised in the uniforms of gendarmes, some wore the regulation suits of the civil guards, and others were employed as hucksters who brought in the daily provisions.

Automobiles were in evidence everywhere, and on every road fixed patrols halted and examined all who passed. Machines were constantly going and coming, and there were motorcycles in abundance. Added to this were contrasting uniforms, indicating the kinds of service in which the men were engaged, and the scene was at all times animated and full of activity.

Ralph's arm was now healing so rapidly that the machine was taken out and both boys practiced in short runs. Ralph was an expert in all matters pertaining to mechanism, and since his father was well known as an expert workman, and superintendent of one of the large establishments in America, it could be understood that he naturally acquired considerable knowledge which was of great service to both boys in the care and handling of their machines.

It was now the 13th day of August, and the ninth day of actual warfare. Early in the morning rumors began to come in thick and fast concerning the advance of the Germans. The Uhlans had reached Waremme, and were scouting in the region to the west of that town.

Before noon the report came that Tongres had fallen before the advancing troops, and there was intense activity in camp. The troops were being140 drilled daily, and hourly, in fact. While detachments arrived at every train, it was evident that one force after the other was being sent south and east.

Finally a messenger arrived from the east. The General and his staff had mounted, and an orderly approached the boys. To each he handed an envelope. One was directed to the officer in command at Altenhoven, and the other to the Colonel of a regiment stationed at Racour.

"I know where Altenhoven is, but where is Racour?" said Ralph.

The information was promptly given by a soldier. Here was the first detached duty. The informant told them to go south two kilometers, and the one destined for Racour should turn to the right which would lead in the direction of the town.

"I will take the message for Racour," said Alfred, "as it is farther and I am better able than you to make the long trip."

Ralph protested, but Alfred had his way as they sped down the road. The official envelope, and the special uniforms of the boys, were sufficient to clear the way. On and on they sped to their destination. At the forks of the road Alfred turned to the right, and held up his hand as a parting salute.

When Alfred left Ralph he felt a sense of responsibility which had never come to him before. If he had known that not an hour before a strong patrol of German cavalry had passed along that141 road, he might have been cautious, and possibly apprehensive, but in his ignorance he felt exultant and happy.

His one thought was to reach the command at Racour, and so his machine was speeded to the limit. Mile after mile was covered, and people stared at him as he passed. It seemed strange to him that he did not meet with a patrol, in that long stretch after he had left Jean and crossed the railroad line which runs from Liège to Tirlemont. He knew that he must be within two kilometers of Racour, when he saw ahead of him the unmistakable dust of approaching horsemen. To the left, and coming up what was undoubtedly a road at right angle to the one on which he was traveling, was another cloud of dust.

Like a flash it occurred to him that the Uhlans might be there. But what about those in front. Then he recalled that he had met no patrols and this puzzled him. He remembered how the peasants looked at him in astonishment as he went by, and the terror of doubt was upon him.

He slowed down his machine. And now, for the first time, he looked behind him. To his amazement he saw the outlines of a half dozen men, with the characteristic spiked helmet, and at once knew who they were. Here was a situation fraught with danger. As he approached the crest of a little hill he turned his machine aside, so that in going back across the road he could obtain a better view of his pursuers.

The troops coming up from the south must be142 Germans, but he was not sure of those ahead of him on the road. He speeded up, and catching sight of some peasants, beckoned to them, and they came across the fields.

"Who are the horsemen coming up from the south?" he hurriedly asked.

"They are Germans. They have been all along this road this forenoon."

"Do you know what troops are in front?" asked Alfred.

"We think they are our people," was the reply.

Alfred made up his mind at once. He knew he could reach the cross road before the troops could possibly come up, and he would then decide what course to pursue. He did some rapid thinking during the five minutes it took to reach the road.

They were still a quarter of a mile away. The cloud in his rear seemed to grow bigger, and appeared closer than before, and the dust in front showed that troops were also approaching from that direction. Then he saw the Belgian colors and felt greatly relieved to know that friends and not foes were approaching.

As Alfred neared the oncoming column they halted, and he did not attempt to slow down his speed until within a hundred feet of the advance. The troopers made way for him, as he rode down the line, and the officer in command galloped through and met him.

"Dispatches from Colonel Neerden!" he cried, as he held aloft the packet.

"Did you come along the road from the railway?"143 asked the officer, as he reached forward to take the papers.

Alfred drew back, without answering the question. "I must deliver this to the Colonel only," he responded. The officer smiled as he answered: "I am Colonel Neerden."

"Yes," responded Alfred, quickly, when he recognized his mistake, "I thought it strange that I did not meet any patrols."

"Didn't you know the Germans were after you?"

"Not until about ten minutes ago. But I couldn't go any faster than I did," said Alfred.

"Well, you are a brave fellow," said the Colonel. "What command of the Scouts do you belong to?"

"I am not a Scout. After the fight at Russon they made me a headquarters' messenger," replied Alfred.

The mention of the fight at Russon was sufficient notice to give him an entrée into the hearts of all present.

While those about him plied him with questions the Colonel opened the packet, and after examining it, gave an order. A detachment of the troops lined across the road, and Alfred, looking back, saw the column from the cross road join the force which had followed him.

"I must go back as quickly as possible," said Alfred.

"It will be impossible to go back by this route," remarked one of the officers. "We are ordered144 back to our quarters by the message which you brought, but may be sent to the firing line. The Germans are all over this section, and are rapidly approaching from every quarter. We shall have some lively work in a few days."

The main body of the troops entered the town of Racour, and the moment the camp was reached there was evidence of a hurried movement. Within fifteen minutes an orderly called Alfred to headquarters. As he entered the Colonel said:

"We are ordered to report at Neerwinden at once. Some portions of the regiment are guarding the bridge three kilometers to the west. Go to them at once and deliver this order."

Alfred did not wait for questioning, nor did he ask for instructions as to the directions, as he mounted; but before he could make a start the orderly was thoughtful enough to give him instructions. Then he set the machine full speed, and as he went like the wind he kept his horn tooting as a warning, but nowhere in the road did he meet an obstructing hand.

When he saw the bridge beyond and a group of guards he rode directly into the midst of them and asked for the officer in command, to whom he handed the missive. Alfred saw troops on the bridge, and as a sergeant stepped into the road and gave three sharp, quick blasts on a whistle, the men on the bridge rushed to the center passage way. When the whistle blew two blasts more they ran forward in double time toward the bank on which they were standing.


At a command they moved away a hundred feet or more from the bridge and stopped as they neared the center. Meanwhile not a word was spoken, as all were intent on watching the work of the three men. Alfred was too fascinated to ask the meaning of this curious proceeding.

Within two minutes at the utmost the three men leisurely marched off the bridge toward the group of guards on the bank. One, two, three, four minutes more. Why were they waiting?

Suddenly, a belching cloud of smoke was seen, followed instantly by a racking noise, then another, and another, and the beautiful bridge had disappeared.

Alfred was so fascinated at the weird setting, the silence that awaited the event, and the grim, business-like appearance of the officers and men, that when the last sound of falling timbers and steel died away he was drawn involuntarily toward the stream.

Fully two kilometers beyond was a cloud in the roadway, which Alfred had now learned to recognize. He turned to the Colonel and pointed in that direction.

"Yes," said he, "we were just in time."

A quick order brought the troops to attention. The order was given to return to camp, and within five minutes all the equipment was ready and the horses in motion. This was one of the engineers' forces especially detailed to guard the bridges.

As they were turning a curious train of light artillery came from a side street, which consisted146 of four guns, each carriage being drawn by four dogs. The powerful canines had no trouble in pulling the wagons at a trot and the gunners were running alongside at a fast gait.

Belgium and Holland are the two countries which utilize dogs for draft animals. Before the automobile came into use they were the great motive power and this is so, largely, among the peasants at the present time.

The faithful dog is bred for this use. He may be found everywhere drawing milk carts, pulling the little trucks which are piled high with faggots, or prancing along in the little vans filled with loaves from the bakeries.

In Belgium, dogs are trained to be policemen, and the sense of smell is highly developed; they are taught from puppyhood to perform certain tasks, to act as sentries and to trail suspicious characters.


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