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A Hero of Liége by Herbert Strang

Pariset thought it safe to disillusion him


In

a few minutes they were seated in a cosy little parlour, opposite a sturdy countryman, hale and hearty in spite of his seventy odd years. He asked shrewd questions about the war, foresaw great trouble for his country, but, like the farmer, was cheered by the news that "les braves Anglais" were coming once more to her rescue. When Pariset led up to the subject of his mill he became animated.

"Ah! the old mill is a rare old place," he said with a chuckle. "The things I could tell you! There was more than milling in the old days. Times are changed. We're all for law now. But in my grandfather's time--why, monsieur, he's dead and gone this forty years, so it will do him no harm if I tell you he was a smuggler. Many and many a barrel of good brandy used to get across the border without paying duty. Why, underneath the old mill there are cellars and passages where he used to store contraband worth thousands of francs. I used to steal down there when I was a boy, and ma foi! it made my skin creep, though there was nothing to be afraid of. But 'tis fifty years since my old grandfather closed them down, and they've never been opened up since."

"Your present tenant is a hotel-keeper, I hear. He would be interested to know about the smuggling."

"That he was, to be sure. He laughed when I told him about it. 'We can't get rich that way nowadays,' said he. He seems to have plenty

of money, though; pays me a good rent. 'Tis strange what whims gentlemen have. A month's fishing in the pond wouldn't feed him for a week. He calls it sport; well, in my young days I liked something more lively. But the fishing is just an excuse; he comes there now and then for a change and quiet, though he's not a solitary, like some fishermen. He has a party of friends sometimes; all Swiss like himself."

"French Swiss?" asked Pariset.

"No, German Swiss. For my part, I've no great liking for German Swiss. They're only one remove from Germans. But his money is good, and it's something to make a little money out of the old mill after all these years."

The old man spoke quite frankly, and evidently had no suspicions about his tenant. Pariset thought it safe to disillusion him.

"Would you be surprised to learn that your fisherman is actually a German?" he said.

"But that is impossible," said the miller. "He would have gone back to Germany, because of the war."

"Unless he is a spy! We have reason to believe that he is, and that he is using your mill for the benefit of the enemy. That is what has brought us here."

"Sacre nom de nom!" the old man ejaculated, and the farmer thumped the table and swore. "Is that the truth, monsieur?"

"We suspect him of intending to blow up the railway bridge at a given signal."

"Ah! the villain! And he will use the underground passages. That is why he pays me a high rent, parbleu! But he has come to the end of his tether. You are here to arrest him?"

"No. We have no men with us. We came to learn whether our suspicions were justified. We are not sure of our man yet."

"Bah!" shouted the old man, red with fury. "It is certain. He has fooled me. I will raise the countryside. We will fall on these Germans. Before night they shall lie in the dungeons of Charleroi."


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