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The Sign of Flame
written by "Gerpen, E. Van"
...ead hastily. "Later--I must first see the retreat--the rescue." The awful excitement sustained him; he did not falter again, but followed with feverish attention every movement of the troops. Falkenried looked at him and then asked: "Which way did you come?" "Over the mountain passes." "Over the passes! The enemy stands there." "Yes, there they stand." "And you came over that way?" "I had to, otherwise the news would not have reached here in time. I started only last night." "But that is an heroic deed without an equal! Man, how could you accomplish it?" exclaimed one of the higher officers, who had just brought a report and heard the last words. Hartmut was silent; only he slowly raised his eyes to his father. He no longer feared the eyes he had feared so long, and what he read in them now told him that here, too, he was free from that awful suspicion. But even the greatest will power has its limits, and this was reached with the man who had rendered almost superhuman assistance. The face of his father was the last thing he saw--then it disappeared as behind a bloody veil; something hot and wet flowed over his forehead--all became night around him, and he sank to the ground. And now resounded a crash, under the appalling force of which the whole town trembled and quaked. The citadel, whose outlines had just stood out sharp and clear against the blue sky, was suddenly transformed into a crater, vomiting forth fire and destruction. In those walls a hell seemed to open; showers of rocks and stones rose high in the air, only to come down with thunderous clatter, and immediately there leaped and flickered over all the huge pile of dbris a giant pillar of fire and smoke which rose up to the heavens--a terrible sign of flame! The warning had arrived at the last possible moment. But, in spite of it, there was a sacrifice of life, for ...

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