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A Hero of Liége by Herbert Strang

Pariset kept his eyes fixed on the pursuers


"Pull

up," said Granger. "We shall have to go back and make a round. News of us has no doubt been flashed by this time to every German force in the neighbourhood."

Kenneth was backing the car when Granger noticed signs of movement among the cavalry on the near bank. A squadron formed up, faced towards the slight hill, and started at a canter in the direction of the car.

"There's no time to lose," cried Granger. "Reverse and turn round."

But at that moment Kenneth observed, just ahead, a narrow road running east for a few yards, then curving to the north.

"Better try and cut across them," he said. "If we go back we may run into another lot and be caught between two fires."

"Very well. The road isn't marked on my map, but we'll chance it."

Kenneth had already brought the gear lever from reverse to first. He let in the clutch; the car started forward again, and before the advancing horsemen were half way up the hill the fugitives swung round into the by-road. When the Hussars reached the turning the car was two or three hundred yards ahead and rounding the curve.

"I'm afraid we've done for ourselves," said Kenneth ruefully. "The road is awful."

It was indeed scarred with deep ruts, almost like the furrows

in a ploughed field, and thick with mud from the recent rain. The car swayed violently, jumping in and out of the ruts. In spite of its powerful build, Kenneth doubted whether the axles and springs would stand the strain. The wheels, moreover, sank so deep into the mud that the speed of the car fell away to what seemed to the occupants little more than a crawl.

The Hussars were galloping hotly after them. Some were deploying across the open fields on both sides of the road, to gain time at the windings of the latter. The distance between car and horsemen was steadily lessening; it seemed that for once muscle was about to conquer mechanism.

Kenneth was wholly occupied with the steering of the car. Pariset kept his eyes fixed on the pursuers. They were about fifty in number, at a distance no match for the machine gun, but if they were allowed to close up, especially if they got ahead, the occupants of the car would be at their mercy in the event of any sudden check. He watched for a favourable moment for bringing the gun into play.

After innumerable short windings the road ran straight for a considerable distance. The leading horsemen, now within a hundred yards of the car, began to fire as they rode. Pariset instantly replied, working the gun in a long arc from left to right. It was not for nothing that the German staff had made the machine gun one of the predominant features of their armament. Under the pitiless hail of bullets horses and men went down like grass under the scythe. The Hussars behind slowed down, allowing the car to increase its lead, but still keeping it in view, hoping no doubt that an accident, an obstacle, a piece of clumsy steering, would bring its career to an end. They might then close upon it and surround it without having to face that terrible machine gun again. Pariset, for his part, anxious not to attract the attention of any enemies who might be ahead, ceased fire as soon as the pursuit slackened.


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