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A Hero of Liége by Herbert Strang

They said the draymen had been called up


"When

are we likely to get the word?" asked his friend.

"Probably not at all. If our men are already in Liege, as I expect is the case, we shall leave the bridge intact: the railway will be useful. It is only to be blown up in case of a check, to prevent the Belgians from being reinforced from France. But that's not at all likely."

"I suppose it is true that England has declared war?"

Hellwig's ironical laugh made Kenneth's blood boil.

"Yes, it's true," he said. "It's the chance we've been waiting for for years. They've next to no army; they're never ready; and within a week there'll be a rebellion in Ireland which will keep the whole of their forces busy. Within a month we shall have France under our heel; then we'll turn back and crush the Russians, who've no organization. Then with the Channel ports in our possession the rest will be easy. By this time next year the Kaiser will be dictating peace in London."

"Well, you ought to know the English; you've lived among them. How they got their empire I can't understand.... Then we shall be leaving here soon? It's quite time."

"What do you mean?"

"It may be all right, but thinking it over I can't help feeling a little suspicious. The beer delivered to-day was brought by two clerks. They

said the draymen had been called up, and they were doing duty in their place. It didn't occur to me till they were driving off that the clerks, well-set-up young fellows, were likely to have been called up before the draymen. The man who usually comes is a big fat fellow who couldn't march a mile without collapsing. But nothing has happened, so I suppose I was suspicious for nothing."

"They didn't come into the house?"

"No; the fellow who brought the cask into the lobby didn't seem at all curious. Ah!"

He was interrupted by the ticking of an instrument on a table at the far end of the room. There was silence for a moment as he read the message.

"The bridge is to be blown up," said the man, returning. "At last!"

"Give me a few minutes to finish my meal," said Hellwig. "I've had nothing to eat for twelve hours. A quarter of an hour, say; that won't make any difference. I wish your cook would hurry up."

Kenneth turned to go back, anticipating a possible visit to the kitchen. At the same moment the kitchen door opened, and an old woman bearing a tray came into the passage. The light from the lamp behind her fell on an unfamiliar figure at the door of the dining-room--a bootless man with a revolver in his hand. The woman screamed; the tray fell from her hand, and a pool of soup spread over the floor. There was an outcry in the dining-room; the man nearest the door flung it fully open, to find the muzzle of a revolver within a few inches of his head.


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