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Title: Ruth Fielding In the Red Cross - Doing Her Best For Uncle Sam
Author: Emerson, Alice B.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: OCCASIONALLY A DARTING AIRPLANE ATTRACTED HER TO THE
WINDOW.]



                             Ruth Fielding
                            In the Red Cross


                           DOING HER BEST FOR
                               UNCLE SAM

                                   BY

                            ALICE B. EMERSON

               Author of “Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill,”
                  “Ruth Fielding in the Saddle,” Etc.

                             _ILLUSTRATED_


                                NEW YORK
                         CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS



                            Books for Girls
                          BY ALICE B. EMERSON
                          RUTH FIELDING SERIES
                       12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.
                 Price per volume, 50 cents, postpaid.


                   RUTH FIELDING OF THE RED MILL
                   RUTH FIELDING AT BRIARWOOD HALL
                   RUTH FIELDING AT SNOW CAMP
                   RUTH FIELDING AT LIGHTHOUSE POINT
                   RUTH FIELDING AT SILVER RANCH
                   RUTH FIELDING ON CLIFF ISLAND
                   RUTH FIELDING AT SUNRISE FARM
                   RUTH FIELDING AND THE GYPSIES
                   RUTH FIELDING IN MOVING PICTURES
                   RUTH FIELDING DOWN IN DIXIE
                   RUTH FIELDING AT COLLEGE
                   RUTH FIELDING IN THE SADDLE
                   RUTH FIELDING IN THE RED CROSS
                   RUTH FIELDING AT THE WAR FRONT


               Cupples & Leon Co., Publishers, New York.

                          Copyright, 1918, by
                         Cupples & Leon Company

                     Ruth Fielding in the Red Cross

                          Printed in U. S. A.



                                CONTENTS

         CHAPTER                                              PAGE
              I. Uncle Jabez Is Excited                          1
             II. The Call of the Drum                            9
            III. The Woman in Black                             17
             IV. “Can a Poilu Love a Fat Girl?”                 25
              V. “The Boys of the Draft”                        34
             VI. The Patriotism of the Purse                    39
            VII. On the Way                                     49
           VIII. The Nearest Duty                               56
             IX. Tom Sails, and Something Else Happens          64
              X. Suspicions                                     75
             XI. Said in German                                 81
            XII. Through Dangerous Waters                       90
           XIII. The New Chief                                  99
            XIV. A Change of Base                              107
             XV. New Work                                      118
            XVI. The Days Roll By                              127
           XVII. At the Gateway of the Chateau                 133
          XVIII. Shocking News                                 141
            XIX. At the Wayside Cross                          149
             XX. Many Things Happen                            156
            XXI. Again the Werwolf                             165
           XXII. The Countess and Her Dog                      175
          XXIII. Ruth Does Her Duty                            180
           XXIV. A Partial Exposure                            191
            XXV. Quite Satisfactory                            197



RUTH FIELDING IN THE RED CROSS



CHAPTER I—UNCLE JABEZ IS EXCITED


“Oh! Not _Tom_?”

Ruth Fielding looked up from the box she was packing for the local Red
Cross chapter, and, almost horrified, gazed into the black eyes of the
girl who confronted her.

Helen Cameron’s face was tragic in its expression. She had been crying.
The closely written sheets of the letter in her hand were shaken, as
were her shoulders, with the sobs she tried to suppress.

“It—it’s written to father,” Helen said. “He gave it to me to read. I
wish Tom had never gone to Harvard. Those boys there are completely
crazy! To think—at the end of his freshman year—to throw it all up and
go to a training camp!”

“I guess Harvard isn’t to blame,” said Ruth practically. If she was
deeply moved by what her chum had told her, she quickly recovered her
self-control. “The boys are going from other colleges all over the land.
Is Tom going to try for a commission?”

“Yes.”

“What does your father say?”

“Why,” cried the other girl as though that, too, had surprised and hurt
her, “father cried ‘Bully for Tom!’ and then wiped his eyes on his
handkerchief. What can men be made of, Ruth? He knows Tom may be killed,
and yet he cheers for him.”

Ruth Fielding smiled and suddenly hugged Helen. Ruth’s smile was
somewhat tremulous, but her chum did not observe this fact.

“I understand how your father feels, dear. Tom does not want to be
drafted——”

“He wouldn’t be drafted. He is not old enough. And even if they
automatically draft the boys as they become of age, it would be months
before they reached Tom, and the war will be over by that time. But here
he is throwing himself away——”

“Oh, Helen! Not that!” cried Ruth. “Our soldiers will fight for us—for
their country—for honor. And a man’s life lost in such a cause is not
thrown away.”

“That’s the way I feel,” said Helen, more steadily. “Tom is my twin. You
don’t know what it means to have a twin brother, Ruth Fielding.”

“That is true,” sighed Ruth. “But I can imagine how you feel, dear. If
you have hopes of the war’s being over so quickly, then I should expect
Tom back from training camp safe and sound, and with no chance of ever
facing the enemy. Has he really gone?”

“Oh, yes,” Helen told her despondently. “And lots of the boys who used
to go to school with Tom at Seven Oaks. You know, all those jolly
fellows who were at Snow Camp with us, and at Lighthouse Point, and on
Cliff Island, and out West on Silver Ranch—and—and everywhere. Just to
think! We may never see them again.”

“Dear me, Helen,” Ruth urged, “don’t look upon the blackest side of the
cloud. It’s a long time before they go over there.”

“We don’t know how soon they will be in the trenches,” said her friend
hopelessly. “These boys going to war——”

“And I wish I was young enough to go with ’em!” ejaculated a harsh
voice, as the door of the back kitchen opened and the speaker stamped
into the room. “Got that box ready to nail up, Niece Ruth? Ben’s
hitching up the mules, and I want to get to Cheslow before dark.”

“Oh! Almost ready, Uncle Jabez,” cried the girl of the Red Mill, as the
gray old man approached.

He was lean and wiry and the dust of his mill seemed to have been so
ground into his very skin that he was a regular “dusty miller.” His
features were as harsh as his voice, and he was seldom as excited as he
seemed to be now.

“Who’s going to war now?” he asked, turning to Helen.

“Poor—poor Tom!” burst out the black-eyed girl, and began to dabble her
eyes again.

“What’s the matter o’ him?” demanded the old miller.

“He’ll—he’ll be shot—I know he’ll be killed, and mangled horribly!”

“Fiddle-de-dee!” grunted Uncle Jabez, but his tone of voice was not as
harsh as his words sounded. “I never got shot, nor mangled none to speak
of, and I was fightin’ and marchin’ three endurin’ years.”

“_You_, Uncle Jabez?” cried Ruth.

“Yep. And I wish they’d take me again. I can go a-soldierin’ as good as
the next one. I’m tough and I’m wiry. They talk about this war bein’ a
dreadful war. Shucks! All wars air dreadful. They won’t never have a
battle over there that’ll be as bad as the Wilderness—believe me! They
may have more battles, but I went through some of the wust a man could
ever experience.”

“And—and you weren’t shot?” gasped Helen.

“Not a bit. Three years of campaigning and never was scratched. Don’t
you look for Tom Cameron to be killed fust thing just because he’s going
to the wars. If more men didn’t come back from the wars than git killed
in ’em how d’ye s’pose this old world would have gone on rolling?
Shucks!”

“I never knew you were a soldier, Uncle Jabez,” Ruth Fielding said.

“Wal, I was. Shucks! I was something of a sharpshooter, too. And we old
fellers—course I was nothin’ but a boy, _then_—we could shoot. We’d
l’arn’t to shoot on the farm. Powder an’ shot was hard to git and we
l’arn’t to make every bullet count. My old Betsey—didn’t ye ever see my
Civil War rifle?” he demanded of Ruth.

“You mean the old brown gun that hangs over your bed and that Aunt
Alvirah is so much afraid of?”

“That’s old Betsey. Sharpe’s rifle. In them days it was jest about the
last thing in weepons. I brung it home after the Grand Army of the
Potomac was disbanded. Know how I did it? Government claimed all the
guns; but I took old Betsey apart and me an’ my mates hid the pieces
away in our clothes, and so got her home. Then I assembled her again,”
and Uncle Jabez broke into a chuckle that was actually almost startling
to the girls, for the miller seldom laughed.

“Say!” he exclaimed, in his strange excitement. “I’ll show her to ye.”

He hurried out of the room, evidently in search of “Old Betsey.” Helen
said to the miller’s niece:

“Goodness, Ruth! what has happened to your Uncle Jabez?”

“Just what has happened to Tom—and your father,” returned the girl of
the Red Mill. “I’ve seen it coming on. Uncle Jabez has been getting more
and more excited ever since war was declared. You know, when we came
home from college a month ago and decided to remain here and help in the
Red Cross work instead of finishing our sophomore year at Ardmore, my
decision was really the first one I ever made that Uncle Jabez seemed to
approve of immediately.

“He is thoroughly patriotic. When I told him I could study later—when
the war was over—but that I must work for the soldiers now, he said I
was a good girl. What do you think of _that_?”

“Cheslow is not doing its share,” Helen said thoughtfully, her mind
switched by Ruth’s last words to the matter that had completely filled
her own and her chum’s thoughts for weeks. “The people are not awake.
They do not know we are at war yet. They have not done half for the Red
Cross that they should do.”

“We’ll make ’em!” declared Ruth Fielding. “We must get the women and
girls to pull together.”

“Say, Ruth! what do you think of that woman in black—you know, the
widow, or whoever she is? Dresses in black altogether; but maybe it’s
because she thinks black becomes her,” added Helen rather scornfully.

“Mrs. Mantel?” asked Ruth slowly. “I don’t know what to think of her.
She seems to be very anxious to help. Yet she does nothing really
helpful—only talks.”

“And some of her talk I’d rather not hear,” said Helen sharply.

“I know what you mean,” Ruth rejoined, nodding. “But so many people talk
so doubtfully. They are unfamiliar with the history of the Red Cross and
what it has done. Perhaps Mrs. Mantel means no harm.”

At that moment Uncle Jabez reappeared with the heavy rifle in his hands.
He was still chuckling.

“Calc’late I ain’t heard Aunt Alvirah talk about this gun much of late.
One spell—when fust she come here to the Red Mill to keep house for
me—she didn’t scurce dare to go into my room because of it. But, of
course, ‘twarn’t ever loaded.

“I was some sharpshooter, gals,” he added proudly, patting the stock of
the heavy gun. “Here’s a ca’tridge. I’m goin’ to stick it in her an’ you
shall hear how she roars. Warn’t no Maxim silencers, nor nothin’ like
that, when I used to pot the Johnny Rebs with Old Betsey.”

He flung open the door into the back yard. He raised the rifle to his
shoulder, having slipped in the greased cartridge.

“See that sassy jay atop o’ that cherry tree? I bet I kin clutter him up
a whole lot—an’ he desarves it,” said Uncle Jabez.

Just then the door into the other kitchen opened, and a little,
crooked-backed old woman with a shawl around her shoulders and a cap
atop of her thin hair appeared.

“Jabez Potter! What in creation you goin’ to do with that awful gun?”
she shrilled.

“I’m a-goin’ to knock the topknot off’n that bluejay,” chuckled Uncle
Jabez.

“Stop! Don’t! Gals!” cried the little old woman, hobbling down the two
steps into the room. “Oh, my back! and oh, my bones! Gals! stop him!
That gun can’t shoot ’cause I went and plugged the barrel!”

At that moment Old Betsey went off with an awful roar.



CHAPTER II—THE CALL OF THE DRUM


There was a flash following the explosion, and Uncle Jabez staggered
back from the doorway, his arm across his eyes, while the gun dropped
with a crash to the porch. The girls, as well as Aunt Alvirah, shrieked.

“I vum!” ejaculated the miller. “Who done that? What’s happened to Old
Betsey?”

“Jabez Potter!” shrilled the little old woman, “didn’t I tell you to git
rid o’ that gun long ago? Be you shot?”

“No,” said the miller grimly. “I’m only scare’t. Old Betsey never kicked
like that afore.”

Ruth was at his side patting his shoulder and looking at him anxiously.

“Shucks!” scoffed the miller. “I ain’t dead yit. But what made that
gun——”

He stooped and picked it up. First he looked at the twisted hammer, then
he turned it around and looked into the muzzle.

“For the good land o’ liberty!” he yelled. “What’s the meanin’ of this?
Who—who’s gone and stuck up this here gun bar’l this a-way? I vum! It’s
_ce_-ment—sure’s I’m a foot high.”

“What did you want to tetch that gun for, Jabez Potter?” demanded Aunt
Alvirah, easing herself into a low rocker. “Oh, my back! and oh, my
bones! I allus warned you ‘twould do some harm some day. That’s why I
plugged it up.”

“You—you plugged it up?” gasped the miller. “Wha—what for I want to
know?”

“So, if ’twas loaded, no bullet would get out and hurt anybody,”
declared the little old woman promptly. “Now, you kin get mad and use
bad language, Jabez Potter, if you’ve a mind to. But I’d ruther go back
to the poorhouse to live than stay under this ruff with that gun all
ready to shoot with.”

The miller was so thunderstruck for a moment that he could not reply.
Ruth feared he might fly into a temper, for he was not a patient man.
But, oddly enough, he never raged at the little old housekeeper.

“I vum!” he said at last. “Don’t that beat all? An’ ain’t it like a
woman? Stickin’ up the muzzle of the gun so’s it couldn’t shoot—but
_would_ explode. Shucks!” He suddenly flung up both hands. “Can you beat
’em? _You can’t!_”

Now that it was all over, and the accident had not caused any fatality,
the two girls felt like laughing—a hysterical feeling perhaps. They got
Aunt Alvirah into the larger kitchen and left Uncle Jabez to nail up the
box that he was going to ship for Ruth to Red Cross headquarters.

The girl of the Red Mill had been gathering the knitted wear and comfort
kits from the neighbors around to send on to the Red Cross headquarters,
and, in the immediate vicinity of the Red Mill, she knew that the women
and girls were doing a better work for the cause than in Cheslow itself.

The mill and the rambling old house that adjoined and belonged to Uncle
Jabez Potter stood upon the bank of the Lumano River, and was as
beautiful a spot as one might find in that part of the state. Ruth
Fielding had always loved it since the first day her eyes had spied it,
when as a little girl she had come to live with her cross and crotchety
Uncle Jabez.

The miller was a miserly man, and, at first, Ruth had had no pleasant
time as a dependent on her uncle. Had it not been for Aunt Alvirah
Boggs, who was nobody’s relative but everybody’s aunt, and whom Uncle
Jabez had taken from the poorhouse to keep house for him, the lonely
little orphan girl would have been quite heartbroken.

With Aunt Alvirah’s help and the consolation of her philosophy, as well
as with the aid of the friendship of Helen and Tom Cameron, who were
neighbors, Ruth Fielding began to be happy. And really unhappy
thereafter she never could be, for something was always happening to
her, and the active person is seldom if ever in the doldrums.

In the first volume of the series, “Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill,”
these and others of Ruth’s friends were introduced, and the girl began
to develop that sturdy and independent character which has made her
loved by so many. With Helen she went to Briarwood Hall to boarding
school, and there her acquaintance rapidly widened. For some years her
course is traced through several volumes, at school and during vacations
at different places where exciting and most delightful adventures happen
to Ruth and her friends.

In following volumes we meet Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp, at Lighthouse
Point, at Silver Ranch, on Cliff Island, at Sunrise Farm, in a Gypsy
camp, in Moving Pictures, down in Dixie, and, finally, she graduates
from Briarwood Hall, and she and her chums enter Ardmore College. At the
beginning of this, the thirteenth volume of the series, Ruth and Helen
were quite grown up. Following their first year at Ardmore, Ruth had
gone West to write and develop a moving picture for the Alectrion Film
Corporation, in which she now owned an interest.

In “Ruth Fielding in the Saddle; or, College Girls in the Land of Gold,”
an account of this adventure is narrated, the trip occupying most of the
first summer following Ruth’s freshman year. Ruth’s success as a writer
of moving-picture scenarios of the better class had already become
established. “The Forty-Niners” had become one of the most successful of
the big scenarios shown during the winter just previous to the opening
of our present story.

Ruth had made much money. Together with what she had made in selling a
claim she had staked out at Freezeout, where the pictures were taken,
her bank accounts and investments now ran well into five figures. She
really did not want Uncle Jabez to know exactly how much she had made
and had saved. Mr. Cameron, Helen’s father, had her finances in charge,
although the girl of the Red Mill was quite old enough, and quite wise
enough, to attend to her own affairs.

Interest in Red Cross work had smitten Ruth and Helen and many of their
associates at college. Not alone had the men’s colleges become markedly
empty during that previous winter; but the girls’ schools and colleges
were buzzing with excitement regarding the war and war work.

As soon as Congress declared a state of war with Germany, Ruth and Helen
had hurried home. Cheslow, the nearest town, was an insular community,
and many of the people in it were hard to awaken to the needs of the
hour. Because of the peaceful and satisfied life the people led they
could not understand what war really meant.

Cheslow and the vicinity of the Red Mill was not alone in this. Many,
many communities were yet to be awakened.

Ruth bore these facts very much on her heart. She was doing all that she
could to strike a note of alarm that should awaken Cheslow.

Despite Uncle Jabez Potter’s patriotism, she would have been afraid to
tell him just how much she had personally subscribed for the work of the
Red Cross and for other war activities. And, likewise, in her heart was
another secret—a longing to be doing something of moment for the cause.
She wanted to really enlist for the war! She wished she might be “over
there” in body, as well as in spirit.

Not only were the drums calling to Tom Cameron and his friends, and
many, many other boys, but they were calling the girls to arms as well.
Never before has war so soon and so suddenly offered womankind a chance
to aid in an undying cause.

Yet Ruth did not neglect the small and seemingly unimportant duties
right at hand. She was no dreamer or dallier. Having got off this big
box of comforts for the boys at the front, the very next day she, with
Helen, took up the effort already begun of a house-to-house campaign
throughout Cheslow for Red Cross members, and to invite the feminine
part of the community to aid in a big drive for knitted goods.

The Ladies’ Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was meeting
that day with Mrs. Curtis, the wife of the railroad station agent and
the mother of one of Ruth’s friends at boarding school. Mercy Curtis,
having quite outgrown her childish ills, welcomed the friends when they
rang the bell.

“Do come in and help me bear the chatter of this flock of starlings,”
Mercy said. “Glad to see you, girlies!” and she kissed both Ruth and
Helen.

“But I am afraid I want to join the starlings, as you call them,” Ruth
said demurely; “and even add to their chatter. I came here for just that
purpose.”

“For just what purpose?” Mercy demanded.

“To talk to them. I knew the crowd would be here, and so I thought I
could kill two birds with one stone.”

“Two birds, only?” sniffed Mercy. “Kill ’em all, for all I care! I’ll
run and find you some stones.”

“My ammunition are hard words only,” laughed Ruth. “I want to tell them
that they are not doing their share for the Red Cross.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Mercy. “Humph! Well, Ruthie, you have come at an
unseasonable time, I fear. Mrs. Mantel is here.”

“Mrs. Mantel!” murmured Ruth.

“The woman in black!” exclaimed Helen. “Well, Mercy, what has she been
saying?”

“Enough, I think,” the other girl replied. “At least, I have an idea
that most of the women in the Ladies’ Aid believe that it is better to
go on with the usual sewing and foreign and domestic mission work, and
let the Red Cross strictly alone.”



CHAPTER III—THE WOMAN IN BLACK


“Do you mean to say,” demanded Helen Cameron, with some anger, “that
they have no interest in the war, or in our boys who will soon begin to
go over there? Impossible!”

“I repeat that,” said Ruth. “‘Impossible,’ indeed.”

“Oh, each may knit for her own kin or for other organizations,” Mercy
said. “I am repeating what I have just heard, that is all. Girls! I am
just boiling!”

“I can imagine it,” Helen said. “I am beginning to simmer myself.”

“Wait. Let us be calm,” urged Ruth, smiling as she laid off her things,
preparatory to going into the large front room where Mrs. Curtis was
entertaining the Ladies’ Aid Society.

“Is it all because of that woman in black?” demanded Helen.

“Well, she has been pointing out that the Red Cross is a great
money-making scheme, and that it really doesn’t need our small
contributions.”

“And she is a member herself!” snapped Helen.

“Well, she joined, of course, because she did not want anybody to think
she wasn’t patriotic,” scoffed Mercy. “That is the way she puts it. But
you ought to hear the stories she has been telling these poor, simple
women.”

“Did you ever!” cried Helen angrily.

“It is well we came here,” Ruth said firmly. “Let me into the lions’
den, Mercy.”

“I am afraid they are another breed of cats. There is little noble or
lionlike about some of them.”

Ruth and Helen were quite used to Mercy Curtis’ sharp tongue. It was
well known. But it was evident, too, that the girl had been roused to
fury by what she had heard at the meeting of the Ladies’ Aid Society.

The ladies of the church society were, for the most part, very good
people indeed. But at this time the war was by no means popular in
Cheslow (as it was not in many places) and the plague of pacifism, if
not actually downright pro-German propaganda, was active and malignant.

When the door into the big front room was opened and the girls entered,
Mrs. Curtis rose hastily to welcome Ruth and Helen warmly. The women
were, for the most part, busily sewing. But, of course, that puts no
brake upon the activities of the tongue. Indeed, the needle seems to be
particularly helpful as an accompaniment to a “dish of gossip.”

“I still think it is terrible,” one woman was saying quite earnestly to
another, who was one of the few idle women in the room, “if an
organization like that cannot be trusted.”

The idle woman was dressed plainly but elegantly in black, with just a
touch of white at wrists and throat. She was a graceful woman, tall, not
yet forty, and with a set smile on her face that might have been the
outward sign of a sweet temperament, and then——

“Mrs. Mantel!” whispered Helen to Ruth. “I do not like her one bit. And
nobody knows where she came from or who she is. Cheslow has only been
her abiding place since we went to college last autumn.”

“Sh!” whispered Ruth in return. “I am interested.”

“Oh, I assure you, my dear Mrs. Crothers, that it may not be the
organization’s fault,” purred the woman in black. “The objects of the
Red Cross are very worthy. None more so. But in certain places—locally,
you know—of course I don’t mean here in Cheslow——

“Yet I could tell you of something that happened to me to-day. I was
quite hurt—quite shocked, indeed. I saw on the street a sweater that I
knitted myself last winter.”

“Oh! On a soldier?” asked another of the women who heard. “How nice!”

“No, indeed. No soldier,” said Mrs. Mantel quickly. “On a girl. Fancy!
On a girl I had never seen before. And I gave that to the Red Cross with
my own hands.”

“Perhaps it belonged to the girl’s brother,” another of the women
observed.

“Oh, no!” Mrs. Mantel was eager to say. “I asked her. Naturally I was
curious—very curious. I said to her, ‘Where did you get the sweater, my
girl, if you will pardon my asking?’ And she told me she bought it in a
store here in Cheslow.”

“Oh, my!” gasped another of the group.

“Do you mean to say the Red Cross sells the things people knit for
them?” cried Mrs. Crothers.

“How horrid!” drawled another. “Well, you never can tell about these
charitable organizations that are not connected with the church.”

Ruth Fielding broke her silence and quite calmly asked:

“Will you tell me who the girl was and where she said she bought the
sweater, Mrs. Mantel?”

“Oh, I never saw the girl before,” said the lady in black.

“But she told you the name of the store where she said she purchased
it?”

“No-o. What does it matter? I recognized my own sweater!” exclaimed the
woman in black, with a toss of her head.

“Are you quite sure, Mrs. Mantel,” pursued the girl of the Red Mill
insistently but quite calmly, “that you could not have made a mistake?”

“Mistake? How?” snapped the other.

“Regarding the identity of the sweater.”

“I tell you I recognized it. I know I knitted it. I certainly know my
own work. And why should I be cross-questioned, please?”

“My name is Ruth Fielding,” Ruth explained. “I happen to have at present
a very deep interest in the Red Cross work—especially in our local
chapter. Did you give your sweater to our local chapter?”

“Why—no. But what does that matter?” and the woman in black began to
show anger. “Do you doubt my word?”

“You offer no corroborative evidence, and you make a very serious
charge,” Ruth said. “Don’t be angry. If what you say is true, it is a
terrible thing. Of course, there may be people using the name of the Red
Cross who are neither patriotic nor honest. Let us run each of these
seemingly wicked things down—if it is possible. Let us get at the
truth.”

“I have told you the truth, Miss Fielding. And I consider you
insulting—most unladylike.”

“Mrs. Mantel,” said Ruth Fielding gravely, “whether I speak and act as a
lady should make little material difference in the long run. But whether
a great organization, which is working for the amelioration of suffering
on the battle front and in our training camps, is maligned, is of very
great moment, indeed.

“In my presence no such statement as you have just made can go
unchallenged. You must help me prove, or disprove it. We must find the
girl and discover just how she came by the sweater. If it had been
stolen and given to her she would be very likely to tell you just what
you say she did. But that does not prove the truth of her statement.”

“Nor of mine, I suppose you would say!” cried Mrs. Mantel.

“Exactly. If you are fair-minded at all you will aid me in this
investigation. For I purpose to take up every such calumny that I can
and trace it to its source.”

“Oh, Ruth, don’t take it so seriously!” Mrs. Curtis murmured, and most
of the women looked their displeasure. But Helen clapped her hands
softly, saying:

“Bully for you, Ruthie!”

Mercy’s eyes glowed with satisfaction.

Ruth became silent for a moment, for the woman in black evidently
intended to give her no satisfaction. Mrs. Mantel continued to state,
however, for all to hear:

“I certainly know my own knitting, and my own yarn. I have knitted
enough of the sweaters according to the Red Cross pattern to sink a
ship! I would know one of my sweaters half a block away at least.”

Ruth had been watching the woman very keenly. Mrs. Mantel’s hands were
perfectly idle in her lap. They were very white and very well cared for.
Ruth’s vision came gradually to a focus upon those idle hands.

Then suddenly she turned to Mercy and whispered a question. Mercy
nodded, but looked curiously at the girl of the Red Mill. When the
latter explained further Mercy Curtis’ eyes began to snap. She nodded
again and went out of the room.

When she returned with a loosely wrapped bundle in her hands she moved
around to where the woman in black was sitting. The conversation had now
become general, and all were trying their best to get away from the
previous topic of tart discussion.

“Mrs. Mantel,” said Mercy very sweetly, “you must know a lot about
knitting sweaters, you’ve made so many. Would you help me?”

“Help you do what, child?” asked the woman in black, rather startled.

“I am going to begin one,” explained Mercy, “and I do wish, Mrs. Mantel,
that you would show me how. I’m dreadfully ignorant about the whole
thing, you know.”

There was a sudden silence all over the room. Mrs. Mantel’s ready tongue
seemed stayed. The pallor of her face was apparent, as innocent-looking
Mercy, with the yarn and needles held out to her, waited for an
affirmative reply.



CHAPTER IV—“CAN A POILU LOVE A FAT GIRL?”


The shocked silence continued for no more than a minute. Mrs. Mantel was
a quick-witted woman, if she was nothing else commendable. But every
member of the Ladies’ Aid Society knew what Mercy Curtis’ question
meant.

“My dear child,” said the woman in black, smiling her set smile but
rising promptly, “I shall have to do that for you another day. Really I
haven’t the time just now to help you start any knitting. But later——

“I am sure you will forgive me for running away so early, Mrs. Curtis;
but I have another engagement. And,” she shot a malignant glance at Ruth
Fielding, “I am not used to being taken to task upon any subject by
these college-chits!”

She went out of the room in a manner that, had she been thirty years
younger, could have been called “flounced”—head tossing and skirts
swishing with resentment. Several of the women looked at the girl of the
Red Mill askance, although they dared not criticize Mercy Curtis, for
they knew her sharp tongue too well.

“Mrs. Pubsby,” Ruth said quietly to the pleasant-faced,
Quakerish-looking president of the society, “may I say a word to the
ladies?”

“Of course you may, Ruthie,” said the good woman comfortably. “I have
known you ever since you came to Jabez Potter’s, and I never knew you to
say a dishonest or unkind word. You just get it off your mind. It’ll do
you good, child—and maybe do some of us good. I don’t know but
we’re—just a mite—getting religiously selfish.”

“I have no idea of trying to urge you ladies to give up any of your
regular charities, or trying to undermine your interest in them. I
merely hope you will broaden your interests enough to include the Red
Cross work before it is too late.”

“How too late?” asked Mrs. Crothers, rather snappishly. She had
evidently been both disturbed and influenced by the woman in black.

“So that our boys—some of them your sons and relatives—will not get over
to France before the Red Cross is ready to supply them with the comforts
they may need next winter. It is not impossible that boys right from
Cheslow will be over there before cold weather.”

“The war will be over long before then, Ruthie,” said Mrs. Pubsby
complacently.

“I’ve heard Dr. Cummings, the pastor, say that he is told once in about
so often that the devil is dead,” Ruth said smiling. “But he is never
going to believe it until he can personally help bury him. Our
Government is going about this war as though it might last five years.
Are we so much wiser than the men at the head of the nation—even if we
have the vote?” she added, slyly.

“It does not matter whether the war will be ended in a few weeks, or in
ten years. We should do our part in preparing for it. And the Red Cross
is doing great and good work—and has been doing it for years and years.
When people like the lady who has just gone out repeat and invent
slanders against the Red Cross I must stand up and deny them. At least,
such scandal-mongers should be made to prove their statements.”

“Oh, Ruth Fielding! That is not a kind word,” said Mrs. Crothers.

“Will you supply me with one that will satisfactorily take its place?”
asked Ruth sweetly. “I do not wish to accuse Mrs. Mantel of actually
prevaricating; but I do claim the right of asking her to prove her
statements, and that she seems to decline to do.

“And I shall challenge every person I meet who utters such false and
ridiculous stories about the Red Cross. It is an out-and-out pro-German
propaganda.”

“Why, Mrs. Mantel is a member of the Red Cross herself,” said Mrs.
Crothers sharply.

“She evidently is not loyal to her pledge then,” Ruth replied with
bluntness. “The lady is not a member of our local chapter, and I have
failed yet to hear of her being engaged in any activity for the Red
Cross.

“But I want you ladies—all of you—to take the Red Cross work to heart
and to learn what the insignia stands for.”

With that the earnest girl entered upon a brief but moving appeal for
members to the local chapter, for funds, and for workers. As Helen said
afterward, Ruth’s “mouth was opened and she spake with the tongues of
angels!”

At least, her words did not go for naught. Several dollar memberships
were secured right there and then. And Mrs. Brooks and Mary Lardner
promised a certain sum for the cause—both generous gifts. Best of all,
Mrs. Pubsby said:

“I don’t know about this being shown our duty by this wisp of a girl.
But, ladies, she’s right—I can feel it. And I always go by my feelings,
whether it’s in protracted meetings or in my rheumatic knee. I feel we
must do our part.

“This gray woolen sock I’m knitting was for my Ezekiel. But my Ezey has
got plenty socks. From now on I’m going to knit ’em for those poor
soldiers who will like enough get their feet wet ditching over there in
France, and will want plenty changes of socks.”

So Ruth started something that afternoon, and she went on doing more and
more. Cheslow began to awake slowly. The local chapter rooms began to
hum with life for several hours every day and away into the evening.

In the Cameron car, which Helen drove so that a chauffeur could be
relieved to go into the army, the two girls drove all about the
countryside, interesting the scattered families in war work and picking
up the knitted goods made in the farmhouses and villages.

In many places they had to combat the same sort of talk that the woman
in black was giving forth. Ruth was patient, but very insistent that the
Red Cross deserved no such criticism.

“Come into Cheslow and see what we are doing there at our local
headquarters. I will take you in and bring you back. I’ll take you to
the county headquarters at Robinsburg. You will there hear men and women
speak who know much more than I do about the work.”

This was the way she pleaded for fairness and public interest, and a
ride in a fine automobile was a temptation to many of the women and
girls. An afternoon in the rooms of a live Red Cross chapter usually
convinced and converted most of these “Doubting Thomasines,” as Helen
called them.

Working with wool and other goods was all right. But money was needed. A
country-wide drive was organized, and Ruth was proud that she was
appointed on the committee to conduct it. Mr. Cameron, who was a wealthy
department store owner in the city, was made chairman of this special
committee, and he put much faith in the ability of the girl of the Red
Mill and his own daughter to assist materially in the campaign for
funds.

“Get hold of every hardshell farmer in the county,” he told the girls.
“Begin with your Uncle Jabez, Ruthie. If he leads with a goodly sum many
another old fellow who keeps his surplus cash in a stocking or in the
broken teapot on the top cupboard shelf will come to time.

“The reason it is so hard to get contributions out of men like Jabez
Potter,” said Mr. Cameron with a chuckle, “is because nine times out of
ten it means the giving up of actual money. They have their cash hid
away. It isn’t making them a penny, but they like to hoard it, and some
of ’em actually worship it.

“And not to be wondered at. It comes hard. Their backs are bent and
their fingers knotted from the toil of acquiring hard cash, dollar by
dollar and cent by cent. It is much easier to write a check for a
hundred dollars to give to a good cause than it is to dig right down
into one’s jeans and haul out a ten-dollar note.”

Ruth knew just how hard this was going to be—to interest the purses of
the farming community in the Red Cross drive. The farmers’ wives and
daughters were making their needles fly, but the men merely considered
the work something like the usual yearly attempt to get funds out of
them for foreign missions.

“I tell ye what, Niece Ruth, I got my doubts,” grumbled Uncle Jabez,
when she broached the subject of his giving generously to the cause. “I
dunno about so much money being needed for what you’re callin’ the
‘waste of war’!”

“If you read those statistics, compiled under the eyes of Government
agents,” she told him, “you must be convinced that it is already proved
by what has happened in France and Belgium—and in other countries—during
the three years of war, that all this money will be needed, and more.”

“I dunno. Millions! Them is a power of dollars, Niece Ruth. You and lots
of other folks air too willing to spend money that other folks have
airned by the sweat of their brows.”

He offered her a sum that she was really ashamed to put down at the top
of her subscription paper. She went about her task in the hope that
Uncle Jabez’s purse and heart would both be opened for the cause.

Not that he was not patriotic. He was willing—indeed anxious—to go to
the front and give his body for the cause of liberty. But Uncle Jabez
seemed to love his dollars better than he did his body.

“Give him time, dearie, give him time,” murmured Aunt Alvirah, rocking
back and forth in her low chair. “The idea of giving up a dollar to
Jabez Potter’s mind is bigger than the shooting of a thousand men. Poor
boys! Poor boys! How many of them may lack comforts and hospitals while
the niggard people like Jabez Potter air wakin’ up?”

Ruth’s heart was very sore about the going over of the American
expeditionary forces at this time, too. She said little to Helen about
it, but the fact that Tom Cameron—her very oldest friend about the Red
Mill and Cheslow—looked forward to going at the first moment possible,
brought the war very close to the girl.

The feeling within her that she should go across to France and actually
help in some way grew stronger and stronger as the days went by. Then
came a letter from Jennie Stone.

“Heavy,” as she had always been called in school and even in college,
was such a fun-loving, light-hearted girl that it quite shocked both
Ruth and Helen when they learned that she was already in real work for
the poor poilus and was then about to sail for France.

Jennie Stone’s people were wealthy, and her social acquaintances were,
many of them, idle women and girls. But the war had awakened these
drones, and with them the plump girl. An association for the
establishment and upkeep of a convalescent home in France had been
formed in Jennie’s neighborhood, and Jennie, who had always been fond of
cooking—both in the making of the dishes and the assimilation of the
same—was actually going to work in the diet kitchen.

“And who knows,” the letter ended in Heavy’s characteristic way, “but
that I shall fall in love with one of the _blessés_. What a sweet name
for a wounded soldier! And, just tell me! Do you think it possible? Can
a poilu love a fat girl?”



CHAPTER V—“THE BOYS OF THE DRAFT”


“My goodness, Ruth Fielding!” demanded Helen, after reading the
characteristic letter from Jennie Stone, “if she can go to France why
can’t we?”

Helen’s changed attitude did not surprise her chum much. Ruth was quite
used to Helen’s vagaries. The latter was very apt to declare against a
course of action, for herself or her friends, and then change over
night.

The thought of her twin brother going to war had at first shocked and
startled Helen. Now she added:

“For you know very well, Ruth Fielding, that Tom Cameron should not be
allowed to go over there to France all alone.”

“Goodness, Helen!” gasped the girl of the Red Mill, “you don’t suppose
that Tom is going to constitute an Army of Invasion in his own person,
and attempt to whip the whole of Germany before the rest of Uncle Sam’s
boys jump in?”

“You may laugh!” cried Helen. “He’s only a boy—and boys can’t get along
without somebody to look out for them. He never would change his
flannels at the right time, or keep his feet dry.”

“I know you have always felt the overwhelming responsibility of Tom’s
upbringing, even when he was at Seven Oaks and you and I were at
Briarwood.”

“Every boy needs the oversight of some feminine eye. And I expect he’ll
fall in love with the first French girl he meets over there unless I’m
on the spot to warn him,” Helen went on.

“They are most attractive, I believe,” laughed Ruth cheerfully.

“‘Chic,’ as Madame Picolet used to say. You remember her, our French
teacher at Briarwood?” Helen said.

“Poor little Picolet!” Ruth returned with some gravity. “Do you know she
has been writing me?”

“Madame Picolet? You never said a word about it!”

“But you knew she returned to France soon after the war began?”

“Oh, yes. I knew that. But—but, to tell the truth, I hadn’t thought of
her at all for a long time. Why does she write to you?”

“For help,” said Ruth quietly. “She has a work among soldiers’ widows
and orphans—a very worthy charity, indeed. I looked it up.”

“And sent her money, I bet!” cried the vigorous Helen.

“Why—yes—what I felt I could spare,” Ruth admitted.

“And never told any of us girls about it. Think! All the Briarwood girls
who knew little Picolet!” Helen said with some heat. “Why shouldn’t we
have had a part in helping her, too?”

“My dear,” said her chum seriously, “do you realize how little interest
any of us felt in the war until this last winter? And now our own dear
country is in it and we must think of our own boys who are going, rather
than of the needs of the French, or the British, or even the Belgians.”

“Oh, Ruth!” cried Helen suddenly, “perhaps Madame Picolet might help us
to get over there.”

“Over to France?”

“I mean to get into some work in France. She knows us. She may have some
influence,” said the eager Helen.

But Ruth slowly shook her head. “No,” she said. “If I go over there it
must be to work for our own boys. They are going. They will need us. I
want to do my all for Uncle Sam—for these United States—and,” she added,
pointing to Uncle Jabez’s flag upon the pole in front of the Red Mill
farmhouse, “for the blessed old flag. I am sorry for the wounded of our
allies; but the time has come now for us to think of the needs of our
own soldiers first. They are going over. First our regular army and the
guard; then the boys of the draft.”

“Ah, yes! The boys of the draft,” sighed Helen.

Suddenly Ruth seized her chum’s wrist. “I’ve got it, Helen! That is it!
‘_The boys of the draft._’”

“Goodness! What’s the matter with you now?” demanded Helen, wide-eyed.

“We will screen it. It will be great!” cried Ruth. “I’ll go and see Mr.
Hammond at once. I can write the scenario in a few days, and it will not
take long to film it. The story of the draft, and what the Red Cross can
and will do for the boys over there. Put it on the screen and show it
wherever a Red Cross drive is made during the next few months. We’ll do
it, Helen!”

“Oh! Yes! We’ll—do—it!” gasped her chum breathlessly. “You mean that you
will do it and that I haven’t the first idea of what it is you mean to
do.”

“Of course you have. A big film called ‘The Boys of the Draft,’ taking a
green squad right through their training from the very first day they
are in camp. Fake the French and war scenes, of course, but show the
spectators just what may and will happen over there and what the Red
Cross will do for the brave hearts who fight for the country.”

Ruth was excited. No doubt of that. Her cheeks burned. Her eyes shone.
She gestured vigorously.

“I know you don’t see it as I do, honey,” she added. “I can visualize
the whole thing right now. And Helen!”

“Goodness, yes!” gasped Helen. “What now?”

“I’m going to make Uncle Jabez see it! You just see if I don’t.”



CHAPTER VI—THE PATRIOTISM OF THE PURSE


While she was yet at boarding school at Briarwood Hall Ruth had been
successful in writing a scenario for the Alectrion Film Corporation.
This is told of in “Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures.” Its production
had been a matter to arouse both the interest and amazement of her
friends. Mr. Hammond, the president of the film-producing company,
considered her a genius in screen matters, and it was a fact that she
had gained a very practical grasp of the whole moving picture business.

“The Heart of a Schoolgirl,” which Ruth had written under spur of a
great need at Briarwood Hall, had practically rebuilt one of the
dormitories which had been destroyed by fire at a time when the
insurance on that particular building had run out.

One of her romantic scenarios had been screened at the Red Mill and on
the picturesque Lumano and along its banks. Then, less than a year
before, “The Forty-Niners” had been made; and during the succeeding
winter this picture had been shown all over the country and, as the
theatrical people say, “had played to big business.”

Ruth had bought stock in the corporation and was sometimes actually
consulted now by Mr. Hammond and the heads of departments as to the
policies of the concern. As the president of the corporation had already
written her, the time was about ripe for another “big” film.

Ruth Fielding was expected to suggest the idea, at least, although the
working out of the story would probably be left to the director in the
field. He knew his people, his properties, and his locations. The bare
skeleton of the story was what Mr. Hammond wanted.

Ruth’s success in making virile “The Forty-Niners” urged Mr. Hammond to
hope for something as good from her now. And, like most composers of
every kind, the real inspiration for the new reel wonder had leaped to
life on the instant in her brain.

The idea of “The Boys of the Draft” came from her talk with her chum,
Helen Cameron. Helen had a limited amount of pride in Ruth’s success on
this occasion for, as she said, she had blunderingly “sicked Ruth on.”
But, oddly enough, Ruth Fielding’s first interest in the success of the
new picture was in what effect it might have upon Uncle Jabez Potter’s
purse.

The drive for Red Cross contributions was on now all over the country.
That effort confined to the county in which Cheslow and the Red Mill
were located had begun early; but it had gone stumblingly. Indeed, as
Helen said, if it was a drive, it was about like driving home the cows!

Mr. Cameron had expected much of Ruth and his own daughter among the
farming people; but they were actually behind the collectors who worked
in the towns. It was at a time in the year when the men of the scattered
communities were working hard out of doors; and it is difficult to
interest farmers in anything but their crops during the growing season.
Indeed, it is absolutely necessary that they should give their main
attention to those crops if a good harvest is to be secured.

But Ruth felt that she was failing in this work for the Red Cross just
because she could not interest her uncle, the old miller, sufficiently
in the matter. If she could not get him enthused, how could she expect
to obtain large contributions from strangers?

After seeing a screen production of Ruth’s play of the old West Uncle
Jabez had for the first time realized what a really wonderful thing the
filming of such pictures was. He admitted that Ruth’s time was not being
thrown away.

Then, he respected the ability of anybody who could make money, and he
saw this girl, whom he had “taken in out of charity” as he had more than
once said, making more money in a given time—and making it more
easily—than he did in his mill and through his mortgages and mining
investments.

If Uncle Jabez did not actually bow down to the Golden Calf, he surely
did think highly of financial success. And he had begun to realize that
all this education Ruth had been getting (quite unnecessary he had first
believed) had led her into a position where she was “making good.”

Through this slant in Uncle Jabez’s mind the girl began to hope that she
might encourage him to do much more for the cause her heart was so set
on than he seemed willing to do. Uncle Jabez was patriotic, but his
patriotism had not as yet affected his pocket.

As soon as Uncle Jabez knew that Ruth contemplated helping to make
another picture he showed interest. He wanted to know about it, and he
figured with Aunt Alvirah “how much that gal might make out’n her
idees.”

“For goodness’ sake, Jabez Potter!” exclaimed the little old woman,
“ain’t you got airy idee in your head ’cept money making?”

“I calc’late,” said the miller grimly, “that it’s my idees about money
in the past has give me what I’ve got.”

“But our Ruthie is going to git up a big, patriotic picture—somethin’ to
stir the hearts of the people when they think the boys air actually
going over to help them French folks win the war.”

“I wish,” cried the old woman shrilly, “that I warn’t too old and too
crooked, to do something myself for the soldiers. But my back an’ my
bones won’t let me, Jabez. And I ain’t got no bank account. All I can do
is to pray.”

The miller looked at her with his usual grim smile. Perhaps it was a
little quizzical on this occasion.

“Do you calc’late to do any prayin’ about this here filum Ruth is going
to make, ‘The Boys of the Draft’?” he asked.

“I sartinly be—for her success and the good it may do.”

“By gum! she’ll make money, then,” declared Uncle Jabez, who had
unbounded faith in the religion Aunt Alvirah professed—but he did not.

Ruth, hearing this, developed another of her inspirational ideas. Uncle
Jabez fell into a trap she laid for him, after having taken Mr. Hammond
into her confidence regarding what she proposed doing.

“I reckon you’ll make a mint of money out’n this draft story,” the
miller said one evening, when the actual work on the photographing of
the film was well under way.

“I hope so,” admitted Ruth slowly. “But I am afraid some parts of it
will have to be cut or changed because it would cost more than Mr.
Hammond cares to put into it at this time. You know, the Alectrion
Corporation is in the field with several big things, and it takes a lot
of money.”

“Why don’t he borry it?” demanded the miller sharply.

“He never does that. The only way in which he accepts outside capital is
to let moneyed men buy into a picture he is making, taking their chance
along with the rest of us that the picture will be a success.”

“Yep. An’ if it ain’t a success?” asked the miller shrewdly.

“Then their money is lost.”

“Ahem! That’s a hard sayin’,” muttered the old man. “But if it does make
a hit—like that Forty-Niner story of yourn, Niece Ruth—then the feller
that buys in makes a nice little pile?”

“Our successes,” Ruth said with pride, “have run from fifty to two
hundred per cent profit.”

“My soul! Two hunderd! Ain’t that perfec’ly scand’lous?” muttered Uncle
Jabez. “An’ here jest last week I let Amos Blodgett have a thousand
dollars on his farm at five an’ a ha’f per cent.”

“But that investment is perfectly safe,” Ruth said slyly.

“My soul! Yes. Blodgett’s lower forty’s wuth more’n the mortgage. But
sech winnin’s as you speak of——! Niece Ruth how much is needed to make
this picture the kind of a picture you want it to be?”

She told him—as she and Mr. Hammond had already agreed. The idea was to
divide the cost in three parts and let Uncle Jabez invest to the amount
of one of the shares if he would.

“But, you see, Uncle Jabez, Mr. Hammond does not feel as confident as I
do about ‘The Boys of the Draft,’ nor has he the same deep interest in
the picture. I want it to be a success—and I believe it will be—because
of the good it will do the Red Cross campaign for funds.”

“Humph!” grunted the miller. “I’m bankin’ on your winnin’ anyway.” And
perhaps his belief in the efficacy of Aunt Alvirah Boggs’ prayers had
something to do with his “buying into” the new picture.

The screening of the great film was rushed. A campaign of advertising
was entered into and the fact that a share of the profits from the film
was to be devoted to Red Cross work made it popular at once. But Uncle
Jabez showed some chagrin.

“What’s the meanin’ of it?” he demanded. “Who’s goin’ to give his share
of the profits to any Red Cross? Not me!”

“But I am, Uncle Jabez,” Ruth said lightly. “That was my intention from
the first. But, of course, that has nothing to do with you.”

“I sh’d say not! I sh’d say not!” grumbled the miller. “I ain’t likely
to git into a good thing an’ then throw the profit away. I sh’d say
not!”

The film was shown in New York, in several other big cities, and in
Cheslow simultaneously. Ruth arranged for this first production with the
proprietor of the best movie house in the local town, because she was
anxious to see it and could not spare the time to go to New York.

Mr. Hammond, as though inspired by Ruth’s example, telegraphed on the
day of the first exhibition of the film that he would donate his share
of the profits as well to the Red Cross.

“‘Nother dern fool!” sputtered Uncle Jabez. “Never see the beat. Wal! if
you’n he both want to give ‘way a small fortune, it’s your own business,
I suppose. All the less need of me givin’ any of my share.”

He went with Ruth to see the production of the film. Indeed, he would
not have missed that “first night” for the world. The pretty picture
house was crowded. It had got so that when anything from the pen of the
girl of the Red Mill was produced the neighbors made a gala day of it.

Ruth Fielding was proud of her success. And she had nothing on this
occasion to be sorry for, the film being a splendid piece of work.

But, aside from this fact, “The Boys of the Draft” was opportune, and
the audience was more than usually sensitive. The very next day the
first quota of the drafted boys from Cheslow would march away to the
training camp.

The hearts of the people were stirred. They saw a faithful reproduction
of what the boys would go through in training, what they might endure in
the trenches, and particularly what the Red Cross was doing for soldiers
under similar conditions elsewhere.

As though spellbound, Uncle Jabez sat through the long reel. The appeal
at the end, with the Red Cross nurse in the hospital ward, the dying
soldier’s head pillowed upon her breast while she whispered the comfort
into his dulling ear that his mother would have whispered——

Ah, it brought the audience to its feet at the “fadeout”—and in tears!
It was so human, so real, so touching, that there was little audible
comment as they filed out to the soft playing of the organ.

But Uncle Jabez burst out helplessly when they were in the street. He
wiped the tears from the hard wrinkles of his old face with frankness
and his voice was husky as he declared:

“Niece Ruth! I’m converted to your Red Cross. Dern it all! you kin have
ev’ry cent of my share of the profit on that picter—ev’ry cent!”



CHAPTER VII—ON THE WAY


Tom Cameron came home on a furlough from the officers’ training camp the
day that the boys of the first draft departed from Cheslow. It stabbed
the hearts of many mothers and fathers with a quick pain to see him
march through the street so jaunty and debonair.

“Why, Tommy!” his sister cried. “You’re a _man!_”

“Lay off! Lay off!” begged her twin, not at all pleased. “You might have
awakened to the fact that I was out of rompers some years ago. Your
eyesight has been bad.”

Indeed, he was rather inclined to ignore her and “flock with his
father,” as Helen put it to Ruth. The father and son had something in
common now that the girl could not altogether understand. They sat
before the cold grate in the library, their chairs drawn near to each
other, and smoked sometimes for an hour without saying a word.

“But, Ruthie,” Helen said, her eyes big and moist, “each seems to know
just what the other is thinking about. Sometimes papa says a word, and
sometimes Tom; and the other nods and there is perfect understanding.
It—it’s almost uncanny.”

“I think I know what you mean,” said the more observant girl of the Red
Mill. “We grew up some time ago, Helen. And you know we have rather
thought of Tom as a boy, still.

“But he is a man now. There is a difference in the sexes in their
attitude to this war which should establish in all our minds that we are
not equal.”

“Who aren’t equal?” demanded Helen, almost wrathfully, for she was a
militant feminist.

“Men and women are not equal, dear. And they never will be. Wearing
mannish clothes and doing mannish labor will never give women the same
outlook upon life that men have. And when men encourage us to believe
that our minds are the same as theirs, they do it almost always for
their own selfish ends—or because there is something feminine about
their minds.”

“Traitor!” cried Helen.

“No,” sighed Ruth. “Only honesty.

“Tom and his father understand each other’s thoughts and feelings as you
and your father never could. After all, in the strongest association
between father and daughter there is the barrier of sex that cannot be
surmounted. You know yourself, Helen, that at a certain point you
consider your father much of a big boy and treat him accordingly. That,
they tell us, is the ‘mother instinct’ in the female, and I guess it is.

“On the other hand, I have seen girls and their mothers together (we
never had mothers after we were little kiddies, Helen, and we’ve missed
it) but I have seen such perfect understanding and appreciation between
mothers and their daughters that it was as though the same soul dwelt in
two bodies.”

Helen sniffed in mingled scorn and doubt over Ruth’s philosophy. Then
she said in an aggrieved tone: “But papa and Tom ought not to shut me
out of their lives—even in a small way.”

“The penalty of being a girl,” replied Ruth, practically. “Tom doesn’t
believe, I suppose, that girls would quite understand his manly
feelings,” she added with a sudden elfish smile.

“Cat’s foot!” ejaculated the twin, with scorn.

Tom Cameron, however, did not run altogether true to form if Ruth was
right in her philosophy. He had always been used to talking seriously at
times with Ruth, and during this furlough he found time to have a long
and confidential talk with the girl of the Red Mill. This might be the
only furlough he would have before sailing for France, for he had
already obtained his commission as second lieutenant.

There was an understanding between the young man and Ruth Fielding—an
unspoken and tacit feeling that they were “made for each other.” They
were young. Ruth’s thoughts had never dwelt much upon love and marriage.
She never looked on each man she met half-wonderingly as a possible
husband. She had never met any man with this feeling. Perhaps, in part,
that was, unconsciously to herself, because Tom had always been so a
part of her life and her thoughts. Lately, however, she had come to the
realization that if Tom should really ask her to marry him when his
education was completed and he was established in the world, the girl of
the Red Mill would be very likely to consider his offer seriously.

“Things aren’t coming out just as we had planned, Ruth,” the young man
said on this occasion. “I guess this war is going to knock a lot of
plans in the head. If it lasts several years, many of us fellows, if we
come through it safely, will feel that we are too old to go back to
college.

“Can you imagine a fellow who has spent months in the trenches, and has
done the things that the soldiers are having to do and to endure and to
learn over there—can you imagine his coming back here and going to
school again?”

“Oh, Tom! I suppose that is so. The returned soldier must feel vastly
older and more experienced in every way than men who have never heard
the bursting of shells and the rattle of machine guns. Oh, dear, Tommy!
Are we going to know you at all when you come back?”

“Maybe not,” grinned Tom. “I may raise whiskers. Most of the poilus do,
I understand. But you could not really imagine a regiment of Uncle Sam’s
soldiers that were not clean shaven.”

“We want to see it all, too—Helen and I,” Ruth said, sighing. “We are so
far away from the front.”

“Goodness!” he exclaimed. “I should think you would be glad.”

“But some women must go,” Ruth told him gravely. “Why not us?”

“You—— Well, I don’t know about you, Ruth. You seem somehow different. I
expect you could look out for yourself anywhere. But Helen hasn’t got
your sense.”

“Hear him!” gasped Ruth.

“It’s true,” he declared doggedly. “She hasn’t. Father and I have talked
it over. Nell is crazy to go—and I tell father he would be crazy to let
her. But it may be that he will go to London and Paris himself, for
there is some work he can do for the Government. Of course, Helen would
insist upon accompanying him in that event.”

“Oh, Tom!” exclaimed Ruth again.

“Why, they’d take you along, of course, if you wanted to go,” said Tom.

“But I don’t wish to go in any such way,” the girl of the Red Mill
declared. “I want to go for just one purpose—_to help_. And it must be
something worth while. There will be enough dilettante assistants in
every branch of the work. My position must mean something to the cause,
as well as to me, or I will stay right here in Cheslow.”

He looked at her with the old admiration dawning in his eyes.

“Ah! The same old Ruthie, aren’t you?” he murmured. “The same
independent, ambitious girl, whose work must _count_. Well, I fancy your
chance will come. We all seem to be on our way. I wonder to what end?”

There was no sentimental outcome of their talk. After all they were only
over the line between boy-and-girlhood and the grown-up state. Tom was
too much of a man to wish to anchor a girl to him by any ties when the
future was so uncertain. And nothing had really ever happened to them to
stir those deeper passions which must rise to the surface when two
people talk of love.

They were merely the best of friends. They had no other ties of a warmer
nature than those which bound them in friendship to each other. They
felt confidence in each other if the future was propitious; but now——

“I am sure you will make your mark in the army, Tom, dear,” Ruth said to
him. “And I shall think of you—wherever you are and wherever I
am—always!”



CHAPTER VIII—THE NEAREST DUTY


The county drive for Red Cross funds had been a great success; and many
people declared that Ruth’s work had been that which had told the most
in the effort. Uncle Jabez inspired many of the more parsimonious of the
county to follow his lead in giving to the cause. And, of course, “The
Boys of the Draft” was making money for the Red Cross all over the
country, as well as in and about Cheslow.

After Tom Cameron went back to camp Ruth’s longing for real service in
the war work fairly obsessed her mind. She could, of course, offer
herself to do some unimportant work in France, paying her own
transportation and expenses, and become one of that small army of women
who first went over, many of whom were more ornamental, if the truth
were told, than useful in the grim work that was to follow.

But the girl of the Red Mill, as she told Tom Cameron, wished to make
whatever she did count. Yet she was spurred by no inordinate desire for
praise or adulation. Merely she wanted to feel that she actually was
doing her all for Uncle Sam.

Being untrained in nursing it could not be hospital work—not of the
usual kind. Ruth wanted something that her capabilities fitted.
Something she could do and do well. Something that was of a responsible
nature and would count in the long run for the cause of humanity.

Meanwhile she did not refuse the small duties that fell to her lot. She
was always ready to “jump in” and do her share in any event. Helen often
said that her chum’s doctrinal belief was summed up in the quotation
from the Sunday school hymn: “You in your small corner, and I in mine!”

One day at the Cheslow chapter it was said that there was need of
somebody who could help out in the supply department of the State
Headquarters in Robinsburg. A woman or girl was desired who would not
have to be paid a salary, and preferably one who could pay her own
living expenses.

“That’s me!” exclaimed Ruth to Helen. “I certainly can fill that bill.”

“But it really amounts to nothing, dear,” her chum said doubtfully. “It
seems a pity to waste your brain and perfectly splendid ideas for
organization and the like in such a position.”

“Fiddle-de-dee!” ejaculated Ruth, quoting Uncle Jabez. “Nobody has yet
appreciated my ‘perfectly splendid ideas of organization,’” and she
repeated the phrase with some scorn, “so I would better put forward some
of my more simple talents. I have a good head for figures, I can letter
packages, I can even stick stamps on letters and do other office work.
My capabilities will not be strained. And, then,” she added, “I feel
that in State Headquarters I may be in a better position to ‘grab off’
something really worth while.”

“‘Johannah on the spot,’ as it were?” said Helen. “But you’ll have to go
down there to live, Ruthie.”

“The Y. W. C. A. will take me in, I am sure,” declared her friend. “I am
not afraid of being alone in a great city—at my age and with my
experience!”

She telephoned to Robinsburg and was told to come on. Naturally, by this
time, the heads of the State Red Cross, at least, knew who Ruth Fielding
was.

But every girl who had raised a large sum of money for the cause was not
suited to such work as was waiting for her at headquarters. She knew
that she must prove her fitness.

Helen took her over in the car the next morning and was inclined to be
tearful when they separated.

“Just does seem as though I couldn’t get on without you, Ruthie!” she
cried.

“Why, you are worse than poor Aunt Alvirah! Every time I go away from
home she acts as though I might never come back again. And as for you,
Helen Cameron, you have plenty to do. You have my share of Red Cross
work in Cheslow to do as well as your own. Don’t forget that.”

Headquarters was a busy place. The very things Ruth told Helen she could
do, she did do—and a multitude besides. Everything was systematized, and
the work went on in a businesslike manner. Everybody was working hard
and unselfishly.

At least, so Ruth at first thought. Then, before she had been there two
days, she chanced into another department upon an errand and came face
to face with Mrs. Rose Mantel, the woman in black.

“Oh! How d’do!” said the woman with her set smile. “I heard you were
coming here to help us, Miss Fielding. Hope you’ll like it.”

“I hope so,” Ruth returned gravely.

She had very little to say to the woman in black, although the latter,
as the days passed, seemed desirous of ingratiating herself into the
college girl’s good opinion. But that Mrs. Mantel could not do.

It seemed that Mrs. Mantel was an expert bookkeeper and accountant. She
confided to Ruth that, before she had married and “dear Herny” had died,
she had been engaged in the offices of one of the largest cotton
brokerage houses in New Orleans. She still had a little money left from
“poor Herny’s” insurance, and she could live on that while she was
“doing her bit” for the Red Cross.

Ruth made no comment. Of a sudden Mrs. Mantel seemed to have grown
patriotic. No more did she repeat slanders of the Red Cross, but was
working for that organization.

Ruth Fielding would not forbid a person “seeing the light” and becoming
converted to the worthiness of the cause; but somehow she could not take
Mrs. Mantel and her work at their face value.

Gradually, as the weeks fled, Ruth became acquainted with others of the
busy workers; with Mr. Charles Mayo, who governed this headquarters and
seldom spoke of anything save the work—so she did not know whether he
had a family, or social life, or anything else but just Red Cross.

There was a Mr. Legrand, whom she did not like so well. He seemed to be
a Frenchman, although he spoke perfect English. He was a dark man with
steady, keen eyes behind thick lenses, and, unusual enough in this day,
he wore a heavy beard. His voice was a bark, but it did not seem that he
meant to be unpleasant.

Legrand and a man named José, who could be nothing but a Mexican, often
were with the woman in black—both in the offices and out of them. Ruth
took her meals at a restaurant near by, although she roomed in the Y. W.
C. A. building, as she said she should. In that restaurant she often saw
the woman in black dining with her two cavaliers, as Ruth secretly
termed Legrand and José.

It was a trio that the girl of the Red Mill found herself interested in,
but with whom she wished to have nothing to do.

All sorts and conditions of people, however, were turning to Red Cross
work. “Why,” Ruth asked herself, “criticize the intentions of any of
them?” She felt sometimes as though her condemnation of Mrs. Mantel,
even though secret, was really wicked.

But in the bookkeeping and accounting department—handling the funds that
came in, as well as the expense accounts—a dishonest person might do
much harm to the cause. And Ruth knew in her heart that Mrs. Mantel was
not an honest woman.

Her tale that day at the Ladies’ Aid Society, in Cheslow, had been
false—strictly false. The woman knew it at the time, and she knew it
now. Ruth was sure that every time Mrs. Mantel looked at her with her
set smile she was thinking that Ruth had caught her in a prevarication
and had not forgotten it.

Yet the girl of the Red Mill felt that she could say nothing about Mrs.
Mantel to Mr. Mayo, or to anybody else in authority. She had no proved
facts.

Besides, she had never been so busy before in all her life, and Ruth
Fielding was no sluggard. It seemed as though every moment of her waking
hours was filled and running over with duties.

She often worked long into the evening in her department at the Red
Cross bureau. She might have missed the folks at home and her girl
friends more had it not been for the work that crowded upon her.

One evening, as she came down from the loft above the business office
where she had been working alone, she remarked that there was a light in
the office. Mrs. Mantel and her assistants did not usually work at
night.

The door stood ajar. Ruth looked in with frank curiosity. She saw Mr.
José, the black-looking Mexican, alone in the room. He had taken both of
the chemical fire extinguishers from the wall—one had hung at one end of
the room and the other at the other end—and was doing something to them.
Repairing them, perhaps, or merely cleaning them. He sat there
cheerfully whistling in a low tone and manipulating a polishing rag, or
something of the kind. He had a bucket beside him.

“I wonder if he can’t sleep nights, and that is why he is so busily
engaged?” thought Ruth, as she went on out of the building. “I never
knew of his being so workative before.”

But the matter made no real impression on her mind. It was a transitory
thought entirely. She went to her clean little cell in the Y. W. C. A.
home and forgot all about Mr. José and the fire extinguishers.



CHAPTER IX—TOM SAILS, AND SOMETHING ELSE HAPPENS


“You can see your son, Second Lieutenant Thomas Cameron, before he sails
for France, if you will be at the Polk Hotel, at eight o’clock to-morrow
p. m.”

There have been other telegrams sent and received of more moment than
the above, perhaps; but none that could have created a more profound
impression in the Cameron household.

There have been not a few similar messages put on the telegraph wires
and received by anxious parents during these months since America has
really got into the World War.

There is every necessity for secrecy in the sailing of the transports
for France. The young officers themselves have sometimes told more to
their relatives than they should before the hour of sailing. So the War
Department takes every precaution to safeguard the crossing of our boys
who go to fight the Huns.

With Mr. Cameron holding an important government position and being
ready himself to go across before many weeks, it was only natural that
he should have this information sent him that he might say good-bye to
Tom. The latter had already been a fortnight with “his boys” in the
training camp and was fixed in his assignment to his division of the
expeditionary forces.

Ruth chanced to be at the Outlook, as the Cameron home was called, for
over Sunday when this telegram was received. Both she and Helen were
vastly excited.

“Oh, I’m going with you! I must see Tommy once more,” cried the twin
with an outburst of sobs and tears that made her father very unhappy.

“My dear! You cannot,” Mr. Cameron tried to explain.

“I can! I must!” the girl cried. “I know I’ll never see Tommy again.
He—he’s going over there to—to be shot——”

“Don’t, dear!” begged Ruth, taking her chum into her arms. “You must not
talk that way. This is war——”

“And is war altogether a man’s game? Aren’t we to have anything to say
about it, or what the Government shall do with our brothers?”

“It is no game,” sighed Ruth Fielding. “It is a very different thing.
And our part in it is to give, and give generously. Our loved ones if we
must.”

“I don’t want to give Tom!” Helen declared. “I can never be patriotic
enough to give him to the country. And that’s all there is to it!”

“Be a good girl, Helen, and brace up,” advised her father, but quite
appreciating the girl’s feelings. There had always been a bond between
the Cameron twins stronger than that between most brothers and sisters.

“I know I shall never see him again,” wailed the girl.

“I hope he’ll not hear that you said that, dear,” said the girl of the
Red Mill, shaking her head. “We must send him away with cheerfulness.
You tell him from me, Mr. Cameron, that I send my love and I hope he
will come back a major at least.”

“He’ll be killed!” Helen continued to wail. “I know he will!”

But that did not help things a mite. Mr. Cameron went off late that
night and reached the rendezvous called for in the telegram. It was in a
port from which several transports were sailing within a few hours, and
he came back with a better idea of what it meant for thousands of men
under arms to get away on a voyage across the seas.

Tom was busy with his men; but he had time to take supper with his
father at the hotel and then got permission for Mr. Cameron to go aboard
the ship with him and see how comfortable the War Department had made
things for the expeditionary force.

Mr. Cameron stopped at Robinsburg on his return to tell Ruth about it,
for she had returned to Headquarters, of course, on Monday, and was
working quite as hard as before. He brought, too, a letter for Ruth from
Tom, and just what their soldier-boy said in that missive the girl of
the Red Mill never told.

Ruth was left, when her friends’ father went on to Cheslow, with a great
feeling of emptiness in her life. It was not alone because of Tom’s
departure for France; Mr. Cameron and Helen, too, would soon go across
the sea.

Mr. Cameron had repeated Helen’s offer—that Ruth should accompany them.
But the girl, though grateful, refused. She did not for a moment
belittle his efforts for the Government, or Helen’s interest in the war.

But Mr. Cameron was a member of a commission that was to investigate
certain matters and come back to make report. He would not be over there
long.

As for Helen, Ruth was quite sure she would join some association of
wealthy women and girls in Paris, as Jennie Stone had, and consider that
she was “doing her bit.” Ruth wanted something more real than that. She
was in earnest. She did not wish to be carefully sheltered from all hard
work and even from the dangers “over there.” She desired a real part in
what was going forward.

Nevertheless, while waiting her chance, she did not allow herself to
become gloomy or morose. That was not Ruth Fielding’s way.

“I always know where to come when I wish to see a cheerful face,” Mr.
Mayo declared, putting his head in at her door one day. “You always have
a smile on tap. How do you do it?”

“I practice before my glass every morning,” Ruth declared, laughing.
“But sometimes, during the day, I’m afraid my expression slips. I can’t
always remember to smile when I am counting and packing these sweaters,
and caps, and all, for the poor boys who, some of them, are going to
stand up and be shot, or gassed, or blinded by liquid fire.”

“It is hard,” sighed the chief, wagging his head. “If it wasn’t knowing
that we are doing just a little good——But not as much as I could wish!
Collections seem very small. Our report is not going to be all I could
wish this month.”

He went away, leaving Ruth with a thought that did not make it any
easier for her to smile. She saw people all day long coming into the
building and seeking out the cashier’s desk, where Mrs. Mantel sat, to
hand over contributions of money to the Red Cross. If only each brought
a dollar there should be a large sum added to the local treasury each
day.

There was no way of checking up these payments. The money passed through
the hands of the lady in black and only by her accounts on the day
ledger and a system of card index taken from that ledger by Mr. Legrand,
who worked as her assistant, could the record be found of the moneys
contributed to the Red Cross at this station.

Ruth Fielding was not naturally of a suspicious disposition; but the
honesty of Mrs. Mantel and the real interest of that woman in the cause
were still keenly questioned in Ruth’s mind.

She wondered if Mr. Mayo knew who the woman really was. Was her story of
widowhood, and of her former business experience in New Orleans strictly
according to facts? What might be learned about the woman in black if
inquiry was made in that Southern city?

Yet at times Ruth would have felt condemned for her suspicions had it
not been for the daily sight of Mrs. Mantel’s hard smile and her black,
glittering eyes.

“Snakes’ eyes,” thought the girl of the Red Mill. “Quite as bright and
quite as malevolent. Mrs. Mantel certainly does not love me, despite her
soft words and sweet smile.”

There was some stir in the headquarters at last regarding a large draft
of Red Cross workers to make up another expeditionary force to France.
Two full hospital units were going and a base supply unit as well.
Altogether several hundred men and women would sail in a month’s time
for the other side.

Ruth’s heart beat quicker at the thought. Was there a prospect for her
to go over in some capacity with this quota?

Most of the candidates for all departments of the expeditionary force
were trained in the work they were to do. It was ridiculous to hope for
an appointment in the hospital force. No nurse among them all had served
less than two years in a hospital, and many of them had served three and
four.

She asked Mr. Mayo what billets there were open in the supply unit; but
the chief did not know. The State had supplied few workers as yet who
had been sent abroad; Robinsburg, up to this time, none at all.

“Why, Miss Fielding, you must not think of going over there!” he cried.
“We need you here. If all our dependable women go to France, how shall
we manage here?”

“You would manage very well,” Ruth told him. “This should be a training
school for the work over there. I know that I can give any intelligent
girl such an idea of my work in three weeks that you would never miss
me.”

“Impossible, Miss Fielding!”

“Quite possible, I assure you. I want to go. I feel I can do more over
there than I can here. A thousand girls who can’t go could be found to
do what I do here. Approve my application, will you please, Mr. Mayo?”

He did this after some hesitation. “Am I going to lose everybody at
once?” he grumbled.

“Why, only poor little me,” laughed Ruth Fielding.

“Yours is the seventh application I have O.K.’d. And several others may
ask yet. The fire is spreading.”

“Oh! Who?”

“We are going to lose Mrs. Mantel for one. I understand that the Red
Cross wants her for a much more important work in France.”

For a little while Ruth doubted after all if she so much desired to go
to France. The fact that Mrs. Mantel was going came as a shock to her
mind and made her hesitate. Suppose she should meet the woman in black
over there? Suppose her work should be connected with that of the woman
whom she so much suspected and disliked?

Then her better sense and her patriotism came to the force. What had she
to do with Mrs. Mantel, after all? She was not the woman’s keeper. Nor
could it be possible that Mrs. Mantel would disturb herself much over
Ruth Fielding, no matter where they might meet.

Was Ruth Fielding willing to work for the Red Cross only in ways that
would be wholly pleasant and with people of whom she could entirely
approve? The girl asked herself this seriously.

She put the thought behind her with distaste at her own narrowness of
vision. Born of Yankee stock, she was naturally conservative to the very
marrow of her bones. This New England attitude is not altogether a
curse; but it sometimes leads one out of broad paths.

Surely the work was broad enough for both her and the woman in black to
do what they might without conflict. “I’ll do my part; what has Mrs.
Mantel to do with me?” she determined.

Before Ruth had a chance to tell her chum of the application she had put
in, Helen wrote her hurriedly that Mr. Cameron’s commission was to sail
in two days from Boston. Ruth could not leave her work, but she wrote a
long letter to her dearest chum and sent it by special delivery to the
Boston hotel, where she knew the Camerons would stop for a night.

It really seemed terrible, that her chum and her father should go
without Ruth seeing them again; but she did not wish to leave her work
while her application for an assignment to France was pending. It might
mean that she would lose her chance altogether.

She only told Helen in the letter that she, too, hoped to be “over
there” some day soon.

But several days slipped by and her case was not mentioned by Mr. Mayo.
It seemed pretty hard to Ruth. She was ready and able to go and nobody
wanted her!

The weather chanced to be unpleasant, too, and that is often closely
linked up to one’s very deepest feelings. Ruth’s philosophy could not
overcome the effect of a foggy, dripping day. Her usual cheerfulness
dropped several degrees.

It drew on toward evening, and the patter of raindrops on the panes grew
louder. The glistening umbrellas in the street, as she looked down upon
them from the window, looked like many, many black mushrooms. Ruth knew
she would have a dreary evening.

Suddenly she heard a door bang on the floor below—a shout and then a
crash of glass. Next——

“Fire! Fire! Fire!”

In an instant she was out of her room and at the head of the stairs. It
was an old building—a regular firetrap. Mr. Mayo had dashed out of his
office and was shouting up the stairs:

“Come down! Down, every one of you! Fire!”

Through the open transom over the door of Mrs. Mantel’s office Ruth saw
that one end of the room was ablaze.



CHAPTER X—SUSPICIONS


There was a patter of feet overhead and racing down the stairway came
half a dozen frightened people. They had been aroused by Mr. Mayo’s
shout, and they knew that if the flames reached the stairway first they
would be driven to the fire escape.

There seemed little danger of the fire reaching the stairs, however; for
when Ruth got to the lower hall the door of the burning office had been
opened again, and she saw one of the porters squirting the chemical fire
extinguisher upon the blaze.

Mr. Legrand had flung open the door, and he was greatly excited. He held
his left hand in his right, as though it were hurt.

“Where is Mrs. Mantel?” demanded Mr. Mayo.

“Gone!” gasped Legrand. “Lucky she did. That oil spread all over her
desk and papers. It’s all afire.”

“I was opening a gallon of lubricating oil. It broke and spurted
everywhere. I cut myself—see?”

He showed his hand. Ruth saw that blood seemed to be running from the
cut freely. But she was more interested in the efforts of the porter.
His extinguisher seemed to be doing very little good.

Ruth heard Mr. Mayo trying to discover the cause of the fire; but Mr.
Legrand seemed unable to tell that. He ran out to a drugstore to have
his hand attended to.

Mr. Mayo seized the second extinguisher from the wall. The porter flung
his down, at the same time yelling:

“No good! No good, I tell you, Mr. Mayo! Everything’s got to go. Those
extinguishers must be all wrong. The chemicals have evaporated, or
something.”

Mr. Mayo tried the one he had seized with no better result. While this
was going on Ruth Fielding suddenly remembered something—remembered it
with a shock. She had seen the man, José, tampering with those same
extinguishers some days before.

While a certain spray was puffed forth from the nozzle of the
extinguisher, it seemed to have no effect on the flames which were, as
the porter declared, spreading rapidly.

Mrs. Mantel’s big desk and the file cabinet were all afire. Nothing
could save the papers and books.

An alarm had been turned in by somebody, and now the first of the fire
department arrived. These men brought in extinguishers that had an
effect upon the flames at once. The fire was quite quenched in five
minutes more.

Ruth had retreated to Mr. Mayo’s office. She heard one of the fire
chiefs talking to the gentleman at the doorway.

“What caused that blaze anyway?” the fireman demanded.

“I understand some oil was spilled.”

“What kind of oil?” snapped the other.

“Lubricating oil.”

“Nonsense! It acted more like benzine or naphtha to me. But you haven’t
told me how it got lit up?”

“I don’t know. The porter says he first saw flames rising from the waste
basket between the big desk and the file cabinet,” Mr. Mayo said. “Then
the fire spread both ways.”

“Well! The insurance adjusters will be after you. I’ve got to report my
belief. Looks as though somebody had been mighty careless with some
inflammable substance. What were you using oil at all for here?”

“I—I could not tell you,” Mr. Mayo said. “I will ask Mr. Legrand when he
comes back.”

But Ruth learned in the morning that Legrand had not returned. Nobody
seemed to know where he lived. Mrs. Mantel said he had moved recently,
but she did not know where to.

The insurance adjusters did make a pertinent inquiry about the origin of
the fire. But nobody had been in the office with Legrand when it started
save the porter, and he had already told all he had seen. There was no
reason for charging anybody else with carelessness but the missing man.

Save in one particular. Mrs. Mantel seemed horror-stricken when she saw
the charred remains of her desk and the file cabinet. The files of cards
were completely destroyed. The cards were merely brown husks—those that
were not ashes. The records of contributions for six months past were
completely burned.

“But you, fortunately, have the ledgers in the safe, have you not, Mrs.
Mantel?” the Chief said.

The woman in black broke down and wept. “How careless you will think me,
Mr. Mayo,” she cried. “I left the two ledgers on my desk. Legrand said
he wished to compare certain figures——”

“The ledgers are destroyed, too?” gasped the man.

“There are their charred remains,” declared the woman, pointing
dramatically to the burned debris where her desk had stood.

There was not a line to show how much had been given to the Red Cross at
this station, or who had given it! When Mr. Mayo opened the safe he
found less than two thousand dollars in cash and checks and noted upon
the bank deposit book; and the month was almost ended. Payment was made
to Headquarters of all collections every thirty days.

Mrs. Mantel seemed heartbroken. Legrand did not appear again at the Red
Cross rooms. But the woman in black declared that the funds as shown in
the safe must be altogether right, for she had locked the safe herself
and remembered that the funds were not more than the amount found.

“But we have had some large contributions during the month, Mrs.
Mantel,” Mr. Mayo said weakly.

“Not to my knowledge, Mr. Mayo,” the woman declared, her eyes flashing.
“Our contributions for some weeks have been scanty. People are getting
tired of giving to the Red Cross, I fear.”

Ruth heard something of this discussion, but not all. She did not know
what to think about Mrs. Mantel and Legrand. And then, there was José,
the man whom she had seen tampering with the fire extinguishers!

Should she tell Mr. Mayo of her suspicions? Or should she go to the
office of the fire insurance adjustors? Or should she keep completely
out of the matter?

Had Mr. Mayo been a more forceful man Ruth might have given him her
confidence. But she feared that, although he was a hard-working official
and loyal to the core, he did not possess the quality of wisdom
necessary to enable him to handle the situation successfully.

Besides, just at this time, she heard from New York. Her application had
been investigated and she was informed that she would be accepted for
work with the base supply unit about to sail for France, with the
proviso, of course, that she passed the medical examination and would
pay her share of the unit’s expenses and for her own support.

She had to tell Mr. Mayo, bid good-bye to her fellow workers, and leave
Robinsburg within two hours. She had only three days to make ready
before going to New York, and she wished to spend all of that time at
the Red Mill.



Chapter XI—SAID IN GERMAN


Ruth Fielding had made preparations for travel many times before; but
this venture she was about to undertake was different from her previous
flights from the Red Mill.

“Oh, my pretty! Oh, my pretty!” sighed Aunt Alvirah Boggs. “It seems as
though this life is just made up of partings. You ain’t no more to home
than you’re off again. And how do I know I shall ever set my two eyes on
you once more, Ruthie?”

“I’ve always come back so far, Aunt Alvirah—like the bad penny that I
am,” Ruth told her cheerfully.

“Oh, my back! and oh, my bones!” groaned Aunt Alvirah, sinking into her
chair by the sunny window. “No bad penny in your case, my pretty. Your
returns air always like that of the bluebird’s in the spring—and jest as
much for happiness as they say the bluebird is. What would your Uncle
Jabez and me do without you?”

“But it will be only for a few months. I might remain away as long if I
returned to Ardmore for my junior year.”

“Ah, but that’s not like going away over to France where there is so
much danger and trouble,” the little old woman objected.

“Don’t worry about me, dear,” urged Ruth, with great gentleness.

“We don’t know what may happen,” continued Aunt Alvirah. “A single month
at my time o’ life is longer’n a year at your age, my pretty.”

“Oh, I am sure to come back,” Ruth cried.

“We’ll hope so. I shall pray for you, my pretty. But there’ll be fear
eatin’ at our hearts every day that you are so far from us.”

Uncle Jabez likewise expressed himself as loath to have her go; yet his
extreme patriotism inspired him to wish her Godspeed cheerfully.

“I vum! I’d like to be goin’ with you. Only with Old Betsey on my
shoulder!” declared the miller. “You don’t want to take the old gun with
you, do you, Niece Ruth?” he added, with twinkling eyes. “I’ve had her
fixed. And she ought to be able to shoot a Hun or two yet.”

“I am not going to shoot Germans,” said Ruth, shaking her head. “I only
hope to do what I can in saving our boys after the battles. I can’t even
nurse them—poor dears! My all that I do seems so little.”

“Ha!” grunted Uncle Jabez. “I reckon you’ll do full and plenty. If you
don’t it’ll be the first time in your life that you fall down on a job.”

Which was remarkably warm commendation for the miller to give, and Ruth
appreciated it deeply.

He drove her to town himself and put her on the train for New York.
“Don’t you git into no more danger over there than you kin help, Niece
Ruth,” he urged. “Good-bye!”

She traveled alone to the metropolis, and that without hearing from or
seeing any of her fellow-workers at the Red Cross rooms in Robinsburg.
She did wonder much, however, what the outcome of the fire had been.

What had become of Mrs. Rose Mantel, the woman in black? Had she been
finally suspected by Mr. Mayo, and would she be refused further work
with the organization because of the outcome of the fire? Ruth could not
but believe that the conflagration had been caused to cover shortages in
the Red Cross accounts.

At the Grand Central Terminal Ruth was met by a very lovely lady, a
worker in the Red Cross, who took her home to her Madison Avenue
residence, where Ruth was to remain for the few days she was to be in
the city.

“It is all I can do,” said the woman smiling, when Ruth expressed her
wonder that she should have turned her beautiful home into a clearing
house for Red Cross workers. “It is all I can do. I am quite alone now,
and it cheers me and gives me new topics of interest to see and care for
the splendid girls who are really going over there to help our
soldiers.”

Later Ruth Fielding learned that this woman’s two sons were both in
France—one in a medical corps and the other in the trenches. She had
already given her all, it seemed; but she could not do too much for the
country.

The several girls the lady entertained at this time had little
opportunity for amusement. The Red Cross ship was to sail within
forty-eight hours.

Ruth was able to meet many of the members of her supply unit, and found
them a most interesting group. They had come from many parts of the
country and had brought with them varied ideas about the work and of
what they were “going up against.”

All, however, seemed to be deeply interested in the Red Cross and the
burden the war had laid upon them. They were not going to France to
play, but to serve in any way possible.

There was a single disturbing element in the bustling hurry of getting
under way. At this late moment the woman who had been chosen as chief of
the supply unit was deterred from sailing. Serious illness in her family
forced her to resign her position and remain to nurse those at home. It
was quite a blow to the unit and to the Commissioner himself.

The question, Who will take her place? became the most important thought
in the minds of the members of the unit. Ruth fully understood that to
find a person as capable as the woman already selected would not be an
easy matter.

Until the hour the party left New York for Philadelphia, the port of
sail for the Red Cross ship, no candidate had been settled on by the
Commissioner to head the supply unit.

“We shall find somebody. I have one person in mind right now who may be
the very one. If so, this person will be shipped by a faster vessel and
by another convoy than yours,” and he laughed. “You may find your chief
in Paris when you get there.”

Ruth wondered to herself if they really would get there. At this time
the German submarines were sinking even the steamships taking Red Cross
workers and supplies across. The Huns had thrown over their last vestige
of humanity.

The ship which carried the Red Cross units joined a squadron of other
supply ships outside Cape May. The guard ships were a number of busy and
fast sailing torpedo boat destroyers. They darted around the slower
flotilla of merchant steamships like “lucky-bugs” on a millpond.

Ruth shared her outside cabin with a girl from Topeka, Kansas—an
exceedingly blithe and boisterous young person.

“I never imagined there was so much water in the ocean!” declared this
young woman, Clare Biggars. “Look at it! Such a perfectly awful waste of
it. If the ocean is just a means of communication between countries, it
needn’t be any wider than the Missouri River, need it?”

“I am glad the Atlantic is a good deal wider than that,” Ruth said
seriously. “The Kaiser and his armies would have been over in our
country before this in that case.”

Clare chuckled. “Lots of the farming people in my section are Germans,
and three months ago they noised it abroad that New York had been
attacked by submarines and flying machines and that a big army of their
fellow-countrymen were landing in this country at a place called Montauk
Point——”

“The end of Long Island,” interposed Ruth.

“And were going to march inland and conquer the country as they marched.
They would do to New York State just what they have done to Belgium and
Northern France. It was thought, by their talk, that all the Germans
around Topeka would rise and seize the banks and arsenals and all.”

“Why didn’t they?” asked Ruth, much amused.

“Why,” said Clare, laughing, too, “the police wouldn’t let them.”

The German peril by sea, however, was not to be sneered at. As the fleet
approached the coast of France it became evident that the officers of
the Red Cross ship, as well as those of the convoy, were in much
anxiety.

There seems no better way to safeguard the merchant ships than for the
destroyers to sail ahead and “clear the way” for the unarmored vessels.
But a sharp submarine commander may spy the coming flotilla through his
periscope, sink deep to allow the destroyers to pass over him, and then
rise to the surface between the destroyers and the larger ships and
torpedo the latter before the naval vessels can attack the subsea boat.

For forty-eight hours none of the girls of the Red Cross supply unit had
their clothing off or went to bed. They were advised to buckle on life
preservers, and most of them remained on deck, watching for submarines.
It was scarcely possible to get them below for meals.

The strain of the situation was great. And yet it was more excitement
over the possibility of being attacked than actual fear.

“What’s the use of going across the pond at such a time if we’re not
even to see a periscope?” demanded Clare. “My brother, Ben, who is
coming over with the first expedition of the National Army, wagered me
ten dollars I wouldn’t know a periscope if I saw one. I’d like to earn
that ten. Every little bit adds to what you’ve got, you know.”

It was not the sight of a submarine periscope that startled Ruth
Fielding the evening of the next-to-the-last day of the voyage. It was
something she heard as she leaned upon the port rail on the main deck,
quite alone, looking off across the graying water.

Two people were behind her, and out of sight around the corner of the
deckhouse. One was a man, with a voice that had a compelling bark.
Whether his companion was a man or a woman Ruth could not tell. But the
voice she heard so distinctly began to rasp her nerves—and its
familiarity troubled her, too.

Now and then she heard a word in English. Then, of a sudden, the man
ejaculated in German:

“The foolish ones! As though this boat would be torpedoed with us
aboard! These Americans are crazy.”

Ruth wheeled and walked quickly down the deck to the corner of the
house. She saw the speaker sitting in a deck chair beside another person
who was so wrapped in deck rugs that she could not distinguish what he
or she looked like.

But the silhouette of the man who had uttered those last words stood out
plainly between Ruth and the fading light. He was tall, with heavy
shoulders, and a fat, beefy face. That smoothly shaven countenance
looked like nobody that she had ever seen before; but the barking voice
sounded exactly like that of Legrand, Mrs. Rose Mantel’s associate and
particular friend!



CHAPTER XII—THROUGH DANGEROUS WATERS


There were a number of people aboard ship whom Ruth Fielding had not
met, of course; some whom she had not even seen. And this was not to be
wondered at, for the feminine members of the supply unit were grouped
together in a certain series of staterooms; and they even had their
meals in a second cabin saloon away from the hospital units.

She looked, for some moments, at the huge shoulders of the man who had
spoken in German, hoping he would turn to face her. She had not observed
him since coming aboard the ship at Philadelphia.

It seemed scarcely possible that this could be Legrand, the man who she
had come to believe was actually responsible for the fire in the
Robinsburg Red Cross rooms. If he was a traitor to the organization—and
to the United States as well—how dared he sail on this ship for France,
and with an organization of people who were sworn to work for the Red
Cross?

Was he sufficiently disguised by the shaving of his beard to risk
discovery? And with that peculiar, sharp, barking voice! “A Prussian
drill master surely could be no more abrupt,” thought Ruth.

As the ship in these dangerous waters sailed with few lamps burning, and
none at all had been turned on upon the main deck, it was too dark for
Ruth to see clearly either the man who had spoken or the person hidden
by the wraps in the deck chair.

She saw the spotlight in the hand of an officer up the deck and she
hastened toward him. The passengers were warned not to use the little
electric hand lamps outside of the cabins and passages. She was not
mistaken in the identity of this person with the lamp. It was the
purser.

“Oh, Mr. Savage!” she said. “Will you walk with me?”

“Bless me, Miss Fielding! you fill me with delight. This is an
unexpected proposal I am sure,” he declared in his heavy, English, but
good-humored way.

“‘Fash not yoursel’ wi’ pride,’ as Chief Engineer Douglas would say,”
laughed Ruth. “I am going to ask you to walk with me so that you can
tell me the name of another man I am suddenly interested in.”

“What! What!” cried the purser. “Who is that, I’d like to know. Who are
you so suddenly interested in?”

She tried to explain the appearance of the round-shouldered man as she
led the purser along the deck. But when they reached the spot where Ruth
had left the individuals both had disappeared.

“I don’t know whom you could have seen,” the purser said, “unless it was
Professor Perry. His stateroom is yonder—A-thirty-four. And the little
chap in the deck chair might be Signor Aristo, an Italian, who rooms
next door, in thirty-six.”

“I am not sure it was a man in the other chair.”

“Professor Perry has nothing to do with the ladies aboard, I assure
you,” chuckled the purser. “A dry-as-dust old fellow, Perry, going to
France for some kind of research work. Comes from one of your Western
universities. I believe they have one in every large town, haven’t
they?”

“One what?” Ruth asked.

“University,” chuckled the Englishman. “You should get acquainted with
Perry, if his appearance so much interests you, Miss Fielding.”

But Ruth was in no mood for banter about the man whose appearance and
words had so astonished her. She said nothing to the purser or to
anybody else about what she had heard the strange man say in German. No
person who belonged—really _belonged_—on this Red Cross ship, should
have said what he did and in that tone!

He spoke to his companion as though there was a settled and secret
understanding between them. And as though, too, he had a power of
divination about what the German U-boat commanders would do, beyond the
knowledge possessed by the officers of the steamship.

What could a “dry-as-dust” professor from a Western university have in
common with the person known as Signor Aristo, who Ruth found was down
on the ship’s list as a chef of a wealthy Fifth Avenue family, going
back to his native Italy.

It was said the Signor had had a very bad passage. He had kept to his
room entirely, not even appearing on deck. _Was he a man at all?_

The thought came to Ruth Fielding and would not be put away, that this
small, retiring person known as Signor Aristo might be a woman. If
Professor Perry was the distinguished Legrand what was more possible
than that the person Ruth had seen in the deck chair was Mrs. Rose
Mantel, likewise in disguise?

“Oh, dear me!” she told herself at last, “I am getting to be a regular
sleuth. But my suspicions do point that way. If that woman in black and
Legrand robbed the Red Cross treasury at Robinsburg, and covered their
stealings by burning the records, would they be likely to leave the
country in a Red Cross ship?

“That would seem preposterous. And yet, what more unlikely method of
departure? It might be that such a course on the part of two criminals
would be quite sure to cover their escape.”

She wondered about it much as the ship sailed majestically into the
French port, safe at last from any peril of being torpedoed by the
enemy. And Professor Perry had been quite sure that she was safe in any
case!

Ruth saw the professor when they landed. The Italian chef she did not
see at all. Nor did Ruth Fielding see anybody who looked like Mrs. Rose
Mantel.

“I may be quite wrong in all my suspicions,” she thought. “I would
better say nothing about them. To cause the authorities to arrest
entirely innocent people would be a very wicked thing, indeed.”

Besides, there was so much to do and to see that the girl of the Red
Mill could not keep her suspicions alive. This unknown world she and her
mates had come to quite filled their minds with new thoughts and
interests.

Their first few hours in France was an experience long to be remembered.
Ruth might have been quite bewildered had it not been that her mind was
so set upon the novel sights and sounds about her.

“I declare I don’t know whether I am a-foot or a-horseback!” Clare
Biggars said. “Let me hang on to your coat-tail, Ruth. I know you are
real and United Statesy. But these funny French folk——

“My! they are like people out of a story book, after all, aren’t they? I
thought I’d seen most every kind of folk at the San Francisco Fair; but
just nobody seems familiar looking here!”

Before they were off the quay, several French women, who could not speak
a word of English save “’Ello!” welcomed the Red Cross workers with joy.
At this time Americans coming to help France against her enemies were a
new and very wonderful thing. The first marching soldiers from America
were acclaimed along the streets and country roads as heroes might have
been.

An old woman in a close-fitting bonnet and ragged shawl—not an
over-clean person—took Ruth’s hand in both hers and patted it, and said
something in her own tongue that brought the tears to the girl’s eyes.
It was such a blessing as Aunt Alvirah had murmured over her when the
girl had left the Red Mill.

She and Clare, with several of the other feminine members of the supply
unit were quartered in an old hotel almost on the quay for their first
night ashore. It was said that some troop trains had the right-of-way;
so the Red Cross workers could not go up to Paris for twenty-four hours.

Somebody made a mistake. It could not be expected that everything would
go smoothly. The heads of the various Red Cross units were not
infallible. Besides, this supply unit to which Ruth belonged really had
no head as yet. The party at the seaside hotel was forgotten.

Nobody came to the hotel to inform them when the unit was to entrain.
They were served very well by the hotel attendants and several chatty
ladies, who could speak English, came to see them. But Ruth and the
other girls had not come to France as tourists.

Finally, the girl of the Red Mill, with Clare Biggars, sallied forth to
find the remainder of their unit. Fortunately, Ruth’s knowledge of the
language was not superficial. Madame Picolet, her French teacher at
Briarwood Hall, had been most thorough in the drilling of her pupils;
and Madame was a Parisienne.

But when Ruth discovered that she and her friends at the seaside hotel
had been left behind by the rest of the Red Cross contingent, she was
rather startled, and Clare was angered.

“What do they think we are?” demanded the Western girl. “Of no account
at all? Where’s our transportation? What do they suppose we’ll do,
dumped down here in this fishing town? What——”

“Whoa! Whoa!” Ruth laughed. “Don’t lose your temper, my dear,” she
advised soothingly. “If nothing worse than this happens to us——”

She immediately interviewed several railroad officials, arranged for
transportation, got the passports of all viséed, and, in the middle of
the afternoon, they were off by slow train to the French capital.

“We can’t really get lost, girls,” Ruth declared. “For we are Americans,
and Americans, at present, in France, are objects of considerable
interest to everybody. We’ll only be a day late getting to the city on
the Seine.”

When they finally arrived in Paris, Ruth knew right where to go to reach
the Red Cross supply department headquarters. She had it all written
down in her notebook, and taxicabs brought the party in safety to the
entrance to the building in question.

As the girls alighted from the taxis Clare seized Ruth’s wrist,
whispering:

“Why! there’s that Professor Perry again—the one that came over with us
on the steamer. You remember?”

Ruth saw the man whose voice was like Legrand’s, but whose facial
appearance was nothing at all like that suspected individual. But it was
his companion that particularly attracted the attention of the girl of
the Red Mill.

This was a slight, dark man, who hobbled as he walked. His right leg was
bent and he wore a shoe with a four-inch wooden sole.

“Who is that, I wonder?” Ruth murmured, looking at the crippled man.

“That is Signor Aristo,” Clair said. “He’s an Italian chef I am told.”

Signor Aristo was, likewise, smoothly shaven; but Ruth remarked that he
looked much like the Mexican, José, who had worked with Legrand at the
Red Cross rooms in Robinsburg.



CHAPTER XIII—THE NEW CHIEF


Ruth Fielding was troubled by her most recent discovery. Yet she was in
no mind to take Clare into her confidence—or anybody else.

She was cautious. With nothing but suspicions to report to the Red Cross
authorities, what could she really say? What, after all, do suspicions
amount to?

If the man calling himself Professor Perry was really Legrand, and the
Italian chef, Signor Aristo the lame man, was he who had been known as
Mr. José at the Robinsburg Red Cross headquarters, her identification of
them must be corroborated. How could she prove such assertions?

It was a serious situation; but one in which Ruth felt that her hands
were tied. She must wait for something to turn up that would give her a
sure hold on these people whom she believed to be out and out crooks.

Ruth accompanied the remainder of the “left behind” party of workers
into the building, and they found the proper office in which to report
their arrival in Paris. The other members of the supply unit met the
delayed party with much hilarity; the joke of their having been left
behind was not soon to be forgotten.

The hospital units, better organized, and with their heads, or chiefs,
already trained and on the spot, went on toward the front that very day.
But Ruth’s battalion still lacked a leader. They were scattered among
different hotels and pensions in the vicinity of the Red Cross offices,
and spent several days in comparative idleness.

It gave the girls an opportunity of going about and seeing the French
capital, which, even in wartime, had a certain amount of gayety. Ruth
searched out Madame Picolet, and Madame was transported with joy on
seeing her one-time pupil.

The Frenchwoman held the girl of the Red Mill in grateful remembrance,
and for more than Ruth’s contribution to Madame Picolet’s work among the
widows and orphans of her dear poilus. In “Ruth Fielding at Briarwood
Hall,” Madame Picolet’s personal history is narrated, and how Ruth had
been the means of aiding the lady in a very serious predicament is
shown.

“Ah, my dear child!” exclaimed the Frenchwoman, “it is a blessing of _le
bon Dieu_ that we should meet again. And in this, my own country! I love
all Americans for what they are doing for our poor poilus. Your sweet
and volatile friend, Helen, is here. She has gone with her father just
now to a southern city. And even that mischievous Mam’zelle Stone is
working in a good cause. She will be delight’ to see you, too.”

This was quite true. Jennie Stone welcomed Ruth in the headquarters of
the American Women’s League with a scream of joy, and flew into the arms
of the girl of the Red Mill.

The latter staggered under the shock. Jennie looked at her woefully.

“_Don’t_ tell me that work agrees with me!” she wailed. “_Don’t_ say
that I am getting fat again! It’s the cooking.”

“What cooking? French cooking will never make you fat in a hundred
years,” declared Ruth, who had had her own experiences in the French
hotels in war times. “Don’t tell me that, Jennie.

“I don’t. It’s the diet kitchen. I’m in that, you know, and I’m tasting
food all the time. It—it’s _dreadful_ the amount I manage to absorb
without thinking every day. I know, before this war is over, I shall be
as big as one of those British tanks they talk about.”

“My goodness, girl!” cried Ruth. “You don’t have to make a tank of
yourself, do you? Exercise——”

“Now stop right there, Ruth Fielding!” cried Jennie Stone, with flashing
eyes. “You have as little sense as the rest of these people. They tell
me to exercise, and don’t you know that every time I go horseback
riding, or do anything else of a violent nature, that I have to come
right back and eat enough victuals to put on twice the number of pounds
the exercise is supposed to take off? Don’t—tell—me! It’s impossible to
reduce and keep one’s health.”

Jennie was doing something besides putting on flesh, however. Her
practical work in the diet kitchen Ruth saw was worthy, indeed.

The girl of the Red Mill could not see Helen at this time, but she
believed her chum and Mr. Cameron would look her up, wherever the supply
unit to which Ruth belonged was ultimately assigned.

She received a letter from Tom Cameron about this time, too, and found
that he was hard at work in a camp right behind the French lines and had
already made one step in the line of progress, being now a first
lieutenant. He expected, with his force of Pershing’s boys, to go into
the trenches for the first time within a fortnight.

She wished she might see Tom again before his battalion went into
action; but she was under command of the Red Cross; and, in any case,
she could not have got her passport viséed for the front. Mr. Cameron,
as a representative of the United States Government, with Helen, had
been able to visit Tom in the training camp over here.

Ruth wrote, however—wrote a letter that Tom slipped into the little
leather pouch he wore inside his shirt, and which he would surely have
with him when he endured his first round of duty in the trenches. With
the verities of life and death so near to them, these young people were
very serious, indeed.

Yet the note of cheerfulness was never lost among the workers of the Red
Cross with whom Ruth Fielding daily associated. While she waited for her
unit to be assigned to its place the girl of the Red Mill did not waste
her time. There was always something to see and something to learn.

When congregated at the headquarters of the Supply Department one day,
the unit was suddenly notified that their new chief had arrived. They
gathered quickly in the reception room and soon a number of Red Cross
officials entered, headed by one in a major’s uniform and with several
medals on the breast of his coat. He was a medical army officer in
addition to being a Red Cross commissioner.

“The ladies of our new base supply unit,” said the commissioner,
introducing the workers, “already assigned to Lyse. That was decided
last evening.

“And it is my pleasure,” he added, “to introduce to you ladies your new
chief. She has come over especially to take charge of your unit. Madame
Mantel, ladies. Her experience, her executive ability, and her knowledge
of French makes her quite the right person for the place. I know you
will welcome her warmly.”

Even before he spoke Ruth Fielding had recognized the woman in black.
Nor did she feel any overwhelming surprise at Rose Mantel’s appearance.
It was as though the girl had expected, back in her mind, something like
this to happen.

The man who spoke like Legrand and the one who looked like José,
appearing at the Paris Red Cross offices, had prepared Ruth for this
very thing. “Madame” Mantel had crossed the path of the girl of the Red
Mill again. Ruth crowded behind her companions and hid herself from the
sharp and “snaky” eyes of the woman in black.

The question of how Mrs. Mantel had obtained this place under the Red
Cross did not trouble Ruth at all. She had gained it. The thing that
made Ruth feel anxious was the object the woman in black had in
obtaining her prominent position in the organization.

The girl could not help feeling that there was something crooked about
Rose Mantel, about Legrand, and about José. These three had, she
believed, robbed the organization in Robinsburg. Their “pickings” there
had perhaps been small beside the loot they could obtain with the woman
in black as chief of a base supply unit.

Her first experience with Mrs. Mantel in Cheslow had convinced Ruth
Fielding that the woman was dishonest. The incident of the fire at
Robinsburg seemed to prove this belief correct. Yet how could she
convince the higher authorities of the Red Cross that the new chief of
this supply unit was a dangerous person?

At least, Ruth was not minded to face Mrs. Mantel at this time. She
managed to keep out of the woman’s way while they remained in Paris. In
two days the unit got their transportation for Lyse, and it was not
until they were well settled in their work at the base hospital in that
city that Ruth Fielding came in personal contact with the woman in
black, her immediate superior.

Ruth had charge of the linen department and had taken over the supplies
before speaking with Mrs. Mantel. They met in one of the hospital
corridors—and quite suddenly.

The woman in black, who still dressed so that this nickname was borne
out by her appearance, halted in amazement, and Ruth saw her hand go
swiftly to her bosom—was it to still her heart’s increased beat, or did
she hide some weapon there? The malevolent flash of Rose Mantel’s eyes
easily suggested the latter supposition.

“Miss Fielding!” she gasped.

“How do you do, Mrs. Mantel?” the girl of the Red Mill returned quietly.

“How—— I had no idea you had come across. And in my unit?”

“I was equally surprised when I discovered you, Mrs. Mantel,” said the
girl.

“You—— How odd!” murmured the woman in black. “Quite a coincidence. I
had not seen you since the fire——”

“And I hope there will be no fire here—don’t you, Madame Mantel?”
interrupted Ruth. “That would be too dreadful.”

“You are right. Quite too dreadful,” agreed Mrs. Mantel, and swept past
the girl haughtily.



CHAPTER XIV—A CHANGE OF BASE


Ruth’s daily tasks did not often bring her into contact with the chief
of her unit. This was a very large hospital—one of the most extensive
base hospitals in France. There were thousands of dollars’ worth of
supplies in Ruth’s single department.

At present the American Red Cross at this point was caring for French
and Canadian wounded. As the American forces came over, were developed
into fighting men, and were brought back from the battlefield hospitals
as _grands blessés_, as the French call the more seriously wounded, this
base would finally handle American wounded only.

Ruth went through some of the wards in her spare hours, for she had
become acquainted with several of the nurses coming over. The appeal of
the helpless men (some of them blinded) wrenched the tender heart of the
girl of the Red Mill as nothing she had ever before experienced.

She found that in her off hours she could be of use in the hospital
wards. So many of the patients wished to write home, but could do so
only through the aid of the Red Cross workers. This task Ruth could
perform, for she could write and speak French.

Nobody interfered with her when she undertook these extra tasks. She saw
that many of the girls in her own unit kept away from the wards because
the sight of the wounded and crippled men was hard to bear. Even Clare
Biggars had other uses for her spare moments than writing letters for
helpless _blessés_.

Ruth was not forced into contact with the chief of her unit, and was
glad thereof. Her weekly reports went up to Madame Mantel, and that was
quite all Ruth had to do with the woman in black.

But the girl heard her mates talking a good deal about the woman. The
latter seemed to be a favorite with most of the unit. Clare Biggars
quite “raved” about Madame Mantel.

“And she knows so many nice people!” Clare exclaimed. “I wish my French
was better. I went to dinner last night with Madame Mantel at that
little café of the Chou-rouge. Half the people there seemed to know her.
And Professor Perry——”

“Not the man who came over on the steamer with us?” Ruth asked with
sudden anxiety.

“The very same,” said Clare. “He ate at our table.”

“I don’t suppose that little Italian chef, Signor Aristo, was among
those present, too?” Ruth asked suspiciously.

“No. The only Italian I saw was not lame like Signor Aristo. Madame said
he was an Italian commissioner. He was in uniform.”

“Who was in uniform? Aristo?”

“Why, no! How you talk! The Italian gentleman at the restaurant. Aristo
had a short leg, don’t you remember? This man was dressed in an Italian
uniform—all red and green, and medals upon his coat.”

“I think I will go to the Chou-rouge myself,” Ruth said dryly. “It must
be quite a popular place. But I hope they serve something to eat besides
the red cabbage the name signifies.”

Again her suspicions were aroused to fever heat. If Professor Perry was
Legrand disguised, he and Mrs. Mantel had got together again. And
Clare’s mention of the Italian added to Ruth’s trouble of mind, too.

José could easily have assumed the heavy shoe and called himself
“Aristo.” Perhaps he was an Italian, and not a Mexican, after all. The
trio of crooks, if such they were, had not joined each other here in
Lyse by accident. There was something of a criminal nature afoot, Ruth
felt sure. And yet with what evidence could she go to the Red Cross
authorities?

Besides, something occurred to balk her intention of going to the café
of the Chou-rouge to get a glimpse of the professor and the Italian
commissioner. That day, much to her surprise, the medical major at the
head of the great hospital sent for the girl of the Red Mill.

“Miss Fielding,” he said, upon shaking hands with her, “you have been
recommended to me very highly as a young woman to fill a certain special
position now open at Clair. Do you mind leaving your present
employment?”

“Why, no,” the girl said slowly.

“I think the work at Clair will appeal to you,” the major continued. “I
understand that you have been working at off hours in the convalescent
wards. That is very commendable.”

“Oh, several of the other girls have been helping there as well as I.”

“I do not doubt it,” he said with a smile. “But it is reported to me
that your work is especially commendable. You speak very good French. It
is to a French hospital at Clair I can send you. A representative of the
Red Cross is needed there to furnish emergency supplies when called
upon, and particularly to communicate with the families of the
_blessés_, and to furnish special services to the patients. You have a
way with you, I understand, that pleases the poor fellows and that fits
you for this position of which I speak.”

“Oh, I believe I should like it!” the girl cried, her eyes glistening.
It seemed to be just the work she had hoped for from the
beginning—coming in personal touch with the wounded. A place where her
sympathies would serve the poor fellows.

“The position is yours. You will start to-night,” declared the major.
“Clair is within sound of the guns. It has been bombarded twice; but we
shall hope the _Boches_ do not get so near again.”

Ruth was delighted with the chance to go. But suddenly a new thought
came to her mind. She asked:

“Who recommended me, sir?”

“You have the very best recommendation you could have, Miss Fielding,”
he said pleasantly. “Your chief seems to think very highly of your
capabilities. Madame Mantel suggested your appointment.”

Fortunately, the major was not looking at Ruth as he spoke, but was
filling out her commission papers for the new place she had accepted.
The girl’s emotion at that moment was too great to be wholly hidden.

Rose Mantel to recommend her for any position! It seemed unbelievable!
Unless——

The thought came to Ruth that the woman in black wished her out of the
way. She feared the girl might say something regarding the Robinsburg
fire that would start an official inquiry here in France regarding Mrs.
Mantel and her particular friends. Was that the basis for the woman in
black’s desire to get Ruth out of the way? Should the latter tell this
medical officer, here and now, just what she thought of Mrs. Mantel?

How crass it would sound in his ears if she did so! Rose Mantel had
warmly recommended Ruth for a position that the girl felt was just what
she wanted.

She could not decide before the major handed her the papers and an order
for transportation in an ambulance going to Clair. He again shook hands
with her. His abrupt manner showed that he was a busy man and that he
had no more time to give to her affairs.

“Get your passport viséed before you start. Never neglect your passport
over here in these times,” advised the major.

Should she speak? She hesitated, and the major sat down to his desk and
took up his pen again.

“Good-day, Miss Fielding,” he said. “And the best of luck!”

The girl left the office, still in a hesitating frame of mind. There
were yet several hours before she left the town. Her bags were quickly
packed. All the workers of the Red Cross “traveled light,” as Clare
Biggars laughingly said.

Ruth decided that she could not confide in Clare. Already the Western
girl was quite enamored of the smiling, snaky Rose Mantel. It would be
useless to ask Clare to watch the woman. Nor could Ruth feel that it
would be wise to go to the French police and tell them of her suspicions
concerning the woman in black.

The French have a very high regard for the American Red Cross—as they
have for their own _Croix Rouge_. They can, and do, accept assistance
for their needy poilus and for others from the American Red Cross,
because, in the end, the organization is international and is not
affiliated with any particular religious sect.

To accuse one of the Red Cross workers in this great hospital at Lyse
would be very serious—no matter to what Ruth’s suspicions pointed. The
girl could not bring herself to do that.

When she went to the prefect of police to have her passport viséed she
found a white-mustached, fatherly man, who took a great interest in her
as an _Americaine mademoiselle_ who had come across the ocean to aid
France.

“I kiss your hand, Mademoiselle!” he said. “Your bravery and your regard
for my country touches me deeply. Good fortune attend your efforts at
Clair. You may be under bombardment there, my child. It is possible. We
shall hope for your safety.”

Ruth thanked him for his good wishes, and, finally, was tempted to give
some hint of her fears regarding the supposed Professor Perry and the
Italian Clare had spoken of.

“They may be perfectly straightforward people,” Ruth said; “but where I
was engaged in Red Cross work in America these two men—I am almost sure
they are the same—worked under the names of Legrand and José, one
supposedly a Frenchman and the other a Mexican. There was a fire and
property was destroyed. Legrand and José were suspected in the matter,
but I believe they got away without being arrested.”

“Mademoiselle, you put me under further obligations,” declared the
police officer. “I shall make it my business to look up these two
men—and their associates.”

“But, Monsieur, I may be wrong.”

“If it is proved that they are in disguise, that is sufficient. We are
giving spies short shrift nowadays.”

His stern words rather troubled Ruth. Yet she believed she had done her
duty in announcing her suspicions of the two men. Of Rose Mantel she
said nothing. If the French prefect made a thorough investigation, as he
should, he could not fail to discover the connection between the men and
the chief of the Red Cross supply unit at the hospital.

Ruth’s arrangements were made in good season, and Clare and the other
girls bade her a warm good-bye at the door of their pension. The
ambulance that was going to Clair proved to be an American car of famous
make with an ambulance body, and driven by a tall, thin youth who wore
shell-bowed glasses. He was young and gawky and one could see hundreds
of his like leaving the city high schools in America at half-past three
o’clock, or pacing the walks about college campuses.

He looked just as much out of place in the strenuous occupation of
ambulance driver as anyone could look. He seemingly was a “bookish”
young man who would probably enjoy hunting a Greek verb to its lair. Tom
Cameron would have called him “a plug”—a term meaning an over-faithful
student.

Ruth climbed into the seat beside this driver. She then had no more than
time to wave her hand to the girls before the ambulance shot away from
the curb, turned a corner on two wheels, and, with the staccato blast of
a horn that sounded bigger than the car itself, sent dogs and
pedestrians flying for their lives.

“Goodness!” gasped Ruth when she caught her breath. Then she favored the
bespectacled driver with a surprised stare. He looked straight ahead,
and, as they reached the edge of the town, he put on still more speed,
and the girl began to learn why people who can afford it buy automobiles
that have good springs and shock absorbers.

“Do—do you _have_ to drive this way?” she finally shrilled above the
clatter of the car.

“Yes. This is the best road—and that isn’t saying much,” the
bespectacled driver declared.

“No! I mean so fa-a-ast!”

“Oh! Does it jar you? I’ll pull her down. Got so used to getting over
all the ground I can before I break something—or a shell comes——”

He reduced speed until they could talk to each other. Ruth learned all
in one gush, it seemed, that his name was Charlie Bragg, that he had
been on furlough, and that they had given him a “new second-hand
flivver” to take up to Clair and beyond, as his old machine had been
quite worn out.

He claimed unsmilingly to be more than twenty-one, that he had left a
Western college in the middle of his freshman year to come over to drive
a Red Cross car, and that he was writing a book to be called “On the
Battlefront with a Flivver,” in which his brother in New York already
had a publisher interested.

“Gee!” said this boy-man, who simply amazed Ruth Fielding, “Bob’s ten
years older than I am, and he’s married, and his wife makes him put on
rubbers and take an umbrella if it rains when he starts for his office.
And they used to call me ‘Bubby’ before I came over here.”

Ruth could appreciate that! She laughed and they became better friends.



CHAPTER XV—NEW WORK


The prefect of police at Lyse was quite right. Clair was within sound of
the big guns. Indeed, Ruth became aware of their steady monotone long
before the rattling car reached its destination.

As the first hour sped by and the muttering of the guns came nearer and
nearer, the girl asked Charlie Bragg if there was danger of one of the
projectiles, that she began faintly to hear explode individually, coming
their way. Was not this road a perilous one?

“Oh, no, ma’am!” he declared. “Oh, yes, this road has been bombarded
more than once. Don’t you notice how crooked it is? We turn out for the
shell holes and make a new road, that’s all. But there’s no danger.”

“But aren’t you frightened at all—ever?” murmured the girl of the Red
Mill.

“What is there to be afraid of?” asked the boy, whom his family called
“Bubby.” “If they get you they get you, and that’s all there is to it.

“We have to stop here and put the lights out,” he added, seeing a gaunt
post beside the road on which was a half-obliterated sign.

“If you have to do that it must be perilous,” declared Ruth.

“No. It’s just an order. Maybe they’ve forgotten to take the sign down.
But I don’t want to be stopped by one of these old territorials—or even
by one of our own military police. You don’t know when you’re likely to
run into one of them. Or maybe it’s a marine. Those are the boys,
believe me! They’re on the job first and always.”

“But this time you boys who came to France to run automobiles got ahead
of even the marine corps,” laughed Ruth. “Oh! What’s that?”

They were then traveling a very dark bit of road. Right across the
gloomy way and just ahead of the machine something white dashed past. It
seemed to cross the road in two or three great leaps and then sailed
over the hedge on the left into a field.

“Did you see it?” asked Charlie Bragg, and there was a queer shake in
his voice.

“Why, what is it? There it goes—all white!” and the excited girl pointed
across the field, half standing up in the rocking car to do so.

“Going for the lines,” said the young driver.

“Is it a dog? A big dog? And he didn’t bark or anything!”

“Never does bark,” said her companion. “They say they can’t bark.”

“Then it’s a wolf! Wolves don’t bark,” Ruth suggested.

“I guess that’s right. They say they are dumb. Gosh! I don’t know,”
Charlie said. “You didn’t really see anything, did you?” and he said it
so very oddly that Ruth Fielding was perfectly amazed.

“What do you mean by that?” she demanded. “I saw just as much as you
did.”

“Well, I’m not sure that I saw anything,” he told her slowly. “The
French say it’s the werwolf—and that means just nothing at all.”

“Goodness!” exclaimed Ruth, repeating the word. “What old-world
superstition is that? The ghost of a wolf?”

“They have a story that certain people, selling themselves to the Devil,
can change at will into the form of a wolf,” went on Charlie.

“Oh, I know! They have that legend in every language there is, I guess,”
Ruth returned.

“Now you’ve said it!”

“How ridiculous that sounds—in this day and generation. You don’t mean
that people around here believe such stories?”

“They do.”

“And you half believe it yourself, Mr. Bragg,” cried Ruth, laughing.

“I tell you what it is,” the young fellow said earnestly, while still
guiding the car through the dark way with a skill that was really
wonderful. “There are a whole lot of things I don’t know in this world.
I didn’t used to think so; but I do now.”

“But you don’t believe in magic—either black or white?”

“I know that that thing you saw just now—and that I have seen twice
before—flies through this country just like that, and at night. It never
makes a sound. Soldiers have shot at it, and either missed—or their
bullets go right through it.”

“Oh, how absurd!”

“Isn’t it?” and perhaps Charlie Bragg grinned. But he went on seriously
enough: “I don’t know. I’m only telling you what they say. If it is a
white or gray dog, it leaps the very trenches and barbed-wire
entanglements on the front—so they say. It has been seen doing so. No
one has been able to shoot it. It crosses what they call No Man’s Land
between the two battlefronts.”

“It carries despatches to the Germans, then!” cried Ruth.

“That is what the military authorities say,” said Charlie. “But these
peasants don’t believe that. They say the werwolf was here long before
the war. There is a chateau over back here—not far from the outskirts of
Clair. The people say that _the woman_ lives there.”

“What do you mean—the woman?” asked Ruth, between jounces, as the car
took a particularly rough piece of the road on high gear.

“The one who is the werwolf,” said Charlie, and he tried to laugh.

“Mr. Bragg!”

“Well, I’m only telling you what they say,” he explained. “Lots of funny
things are happening in this war. But _this_ began before August,
nineteen-fourteen, according to their tell.”

“Whose tell? And what other ‘funny’ things do you believe have
happened?” the girl asked, with some scorn.

“That’s all right,” he declared more stoutly. “When you’ve been here as
long as I have you’ll begin to wonder if there isn’t something in all
these things you hear tell of. Why, don’t you know that fifty per cent,
at least, of the French people—poilus and all—believe that the spirit of
Joan of Arc led them to victory against the Boches in the worst battle
of all?”

“I have heard something of that,” Ruth admitted quietly. “But that does
not make me believe in werwolves.”

“No. But you should hear old Gaston Pere tell about this dog, or wolf,
or ghost, or whatever it is. Gaston keeps the toll-bridge just this side
of Clair. You’ll likely see him to-night. He told me all about the
woman.”

“For pity’s sake, Mr. Bragg!” gasped Ruth. “Tell me more. You have got
my feelings all harrowed up. You can’t possibly believe in such
things—not really?”

“I’m only saying what Gaston—and others—say. This woman is a very great
lady. A countess. She is an Alsatian—but not the right kind.”

“What do you mean by that?” interrupted Ruth.

“All Alsatians are not French at heart,” said the young man. “This
French count married her years ago. She has two sons and both are in the
French army. But it is said that she has had influence enough to keep
them off the battle front.

“Oh, it sounds queer, and crazy, and all!” he added, with sudden
vehemence. “But you saw that white thing flashing by yourself. It is
never seen save at night, and always coming or going between the chateau
and the battle lines, or between the lines themselves—out there in No
Man’s Land.

“It used to race the country roads in the same direction—only as far as
the then frontier—before the war. So they say. Months before the Germans
spilled over into this country. There you have it.

“The military authorities believe it is a despatch-carrying dog. The
peasants say the old countess is a werwolf. She keeps herself shut in
the chateau with only a few servants. The military authorities can get
nothing on her, and the peasants cross themselves when they pass her
gate.”

Ruth said nothing for a minute or two. The guns grew louder in her ears,
and the car came down a slight hill to the edge of a river. Here was the
toll-bridge, and an old man came out with a shrouded lantern to take
toll—and to look at their papers, too, for he was an official.

“Good evening, Gaston,” said Charlie Bragg.

“Evening, Monsieur,” was the cheerful reply.

The American lad stooped over his wheel to whisper: “Gaston! the werwolf
just crossed the road three miles or so back, going toward——” and he
nodded in the direction of the grumbling guns.

“_Ma foi!_” exclaimed the old man. “It forecasts another bombardment or
air attack. Ah-h! La-la!”

He sighed, nodded to Ruth, and stepped back to let the car go on. The
girl felt as though she were growing superstitious herself. This surely
was a new and strange world she had come to—and a new and strange
experience.

“Do you really believe all that?” she finally asked Charlie Bragg,
point-blank.

“I tell you I don’t know what I believe,” he said. “But you saw the
werwolf as well as I. Now, didn’t you?”

“I saw a light-colored dog of large size that ran across the track we
were following,” said Ruth Fielding decisively, almost fiercely. “I’ll
confess to nothing else.”

But she liked Charlie Bragg just the same, and thanked him warmly when
he set her down at the door of the Clair Hospital just before midnight.
He was going on to the ambulance station, several miles nearer to the
actual front.

There were no street lights in Clair and the windows of the hospital
were all shrouded, as well as those of the dwellings left standing in
the town. Airplanes of the enemy had taken to bombing hospitals in the
work of “frightfulness.”

Ruth was welcomed by a kindly Frenchwoman, who was matron, or
_directrice_, and shown to a cell where she could sleep. Her duties
began the next morning, and it was not long before the girl of the Red
Mill was deeply engaged in this new work—so deeply engaged, indeed, that
she almost forgot her suspicions about the woman in black, and Legrand
and José, or whatever their real names were.

However, Charlie Bragg’s story of the werwolf, of the suspected countess
in her chateau behind Clair, and Gaston’s prophecy regarding the meaning
of the ghostly appearance, were not easily forgotten. Especially, when,
two nights following Ruth’s coming to the hospital, a German airman
dropped several bombs near the institution. Evidently he was trying to
get the range of the Red Cross hospital.



CHAPTER XVI—THE DAYS ROLL BY


Ruth Fielding had already become inured to the sights and sounds of
hospital life at Lyse, and to its work as well. Of course she was not
under the physical strain that the Red Cross nurses endured; but her
heart was racked by sympathy for the _blessés_ as greatly as the nurses’
own.

Starting without knowing anyone in the big hospital, she quickly learned
her duties, and soon showed, too, her fitness for the special work
assigned her. Her responsibilities merely included the arranging of
special supplies and keeping the key of her supply room; but the
particular strain attending her work was connected with the spiritual
needs of the wounded.

Their gratitude, she soon found, was a thing to touch and warm the
heart. Fretful they might be, and as unreasonable as children at times.
But in the last count they were all—even the hardest of them—grateful
for what she could do for them.

She had read (who has not?) of the noble sacrifices of that great woman
whose work for the helpless soldiers in hospital antedates the Red Cross
and its devoted workers—Florence Nightingale. She knew how the sick and
dying soldiers in the Crimea kissed her shadow on their pillows as she
passed their cots, and blessed her with their dying breaths.

The roughest soldier, wounded unto death, turns to the thought of
mother, of wife, of sweetheart, of sister—indeed, turns to any good
woman whose voice soothes him, whose hand cools the fever of his brow.

Ruth Fielding began to understand better than ever before this
particular work that she was now called upon to perform, and that she
was so well fitted to perform.

She was cheerful as well as sympathetic; she was sane beyond most young
girls in her management of men—many men.

“Bless you, Mademoiselle!” declared the matron, “of course they will
make love to you. Let them. It will do them good—the poor _blessés_—and
do you no harm. And you have a way with you!”

Ruth got over being worried by amatory bouts with the wounded poilus
after a while. Her best escape was to offer to write letters to the
afflicted one’s wife or sweetheart. That was part of her work—to attend
to as much of the correspondence of the helplessly wounded as possible.

And all the time she gave sympathy and care to these strangers she
hoped, if Tom Cameron should chance to be wounded, some woman would be
as kind to him!

She had not received a second letter from Tom; but after a fortnight Mr.
Cameron and Helen came unexpectedly to Clair. Helen spent two days with
her while Mr. Cameron attended to some important business connected with
his mission in France.

They had seen Tom lately, and reported that the boy had advanced
splendidly in his work. Mr. Cameron declared proudly that his son was a
born soldier.

He had already been in the trenches held by both the French and British
to study their methods of defence and offence. This training all the
junior, as well as senior, officers of the American expeditionary forces
were having, for this was an altogether new warfare that was being waged
on the shell-swept fields of France and Belgium.

Helen had arranged to remain in Paris with Jennie Stone when her father
went back to the States. She expressed herself as rather horrified at
some of the things she learned Ruth did for and endured from the wounded
men.

“Why, they are not at all nice—some of them,” she objected with a
shudder. “That great, black-whiskered man almost swore in French just
now.”

“Jean?” laughed Ruth. “I presume he did. He has terrible wounds, and
when they are dressed he lies with clenched hands and never utters a
groan. But when a man does _that_, keeping subdued the natural outlet of
pain through groans and tears, his heart must of necessity, Helen,
become bitter. His irritation spurts forth like the rain, upon the
unjust and the just—upon the guilty and innocent alike.”

“But he should consider what you are doing for him—how you step out of
your life down into his——”

“_Up_ into his, say, rather,” Ruth interrupted, flushing warmly. “It is
true he of the black beard whom you are taking exception to, is a carter
by trade. But next to him lies a count, and those two are brothers. Ah,
these Frenchmen in this trial of their patriotism are wonderful, Helen!”

“Some of them are very dirty, unpleasant men,” sighed Helen, shaking her
head.

“You must not speak that way of my children. Sometimes I feel jealous of
the nurses,” said Ruth, smiling sadly, “because they can do so much more
for them than I. But I can supply them with some comforts which the
nurses cannot.”

They were, indeed, like children, these wounded, for the most part. They
called Ruth “sister” in their tenderest moments; even “maman” when they
were delirious. The touch of her hand often quieted them when they were
feverish. She read to them when she could. And she wrote innumerable
letters—intimate, family letters that these wounded men would have
shrunk from having their mates know about.

Ruth, too, had to share in all the “news from home” that came to the
more fortunate patients. She unpacked the boxes sent them, and took care
of such contents as were not at once gobbled down—for soldiers are
inordinately fond of “goodies.” She had to obey strictly the doctors’
orders about these articles of diet, however, or some of the patients
would have failed to progress in their convalescence.

Nor were all on the road to recovery; yet the spirit of cheerfulness was
the general tone of even the “dangerous” cases. Their unshaken belief
was that they would get well and, many of them, return to their families
again.

“_Chère petite mère_,” Louis, the little Paris tailor, shot through both
lungs, whispered to Ruth as she passed his bed, “see! I have something
to show you. It came to me only to-day in the mail. Our first—and born
since I came away. The very picture of his mother!”

The girl looked, with sympathetic eyes, at the postcard photograph of a
very bald baby. Her ability to share in their joys and sorrows made her
work here of much value.

“I feel now,” said Louis softly, “that _le bon Dieu_ will surely let me
live—I shall live to see the child,” and he said it with exalted
confidence.

But Ruth had already heard the head physician of the hospital whisper to
the nurse that Louis had no more than twenty-four hours to live. Yet the
poilu’s sublime belief kept him cheerful to the end.

Many, many things the girl of the Red Mill was learning these days. If
they did not exactly age her, she felt that she could never again take
life so thoughtlessly and lightly. Her girlhood was behind her; she was
facing the verities of existence.



CHAPTER XVII—AT THE GATEWAY OF THE CHATEAU


Ruth heard from Clare Biggars and the other girls at the Lyse Hospital
on several occasions; but little was said in any of their letters
regarding Mrs. Mantel, and, of course, nothing at all of the woman’s two
friends, who Ruth had reason to suspect were dishonest.

She wondered if the prefect of police had looked up the records of
“Professor Perry” and the Italian commissioner, the latter who, she was
quite sure, could be identified as “Signor Aristo,” the chef, and again
as “José,” who had worked for the Red Cross at Robinsburg.

France was infested, she understood, with spies. It was whispered that,
from highest to lowest, all grades of society were poisoned by the
presence of German agents.

Whether Rose Mantel and her two friends were actually working for the
enemy or not, Ruth was quite sure they were not whole-heartedly engaged
in efforts for the Red Cross, or for France.

However, her heart and hands were so filled with hourly duties that Ruth
could not give much thought to the unsavory trio. Rose Mantel, the woman
in black, and the two men Ruth feared and suspected, must be attended to
by the proper authorities. The girl of the Red Mill had done quite all
that could be expected of her when she warned the police head at Lyse to
be on his guard.

Her work in the hospital and supply room engaged so much of her time
that for the first few weeks Ruth scarcely found opportunity to exercise
properly. _Madame, la Directrice_, fairly had to drive her out of the
hospital into the open air.

The fields and lanes about the town were lovely. Here the Hun had not
seized and destroyed everything of beauty. He had been driven back too
quickly in the early weeks of the war to have wreaked vengeance upon all
that was French.

Clair was the center of a large agricultural community. The farmers
dwelt together in the town and tilled the fields for several miles
around. This habit had come down from feudal times, for then the farmers
had to abide together for protection. And even now the inhabitants of
Clair had the habit of likewise dwelling with their draft animals and
cattle!

The narrow courts between the houses and stables were piled high with
farm fertilizer, and the flies were a pest. The hospital authorities
could not get the citizens to clean up the town. What had been the
custom for centuries must always be custom, they thought.

The grumbling of the big guns on the battlefront was almost continuous,
day and night. It got so that Ruth forgot the sound. At night, from the
narrow window of her cell, she could see the white glare over the
trenches far away. By day black specks swinging to and fro in the air
marked the observation balloons. Occasionally a darting airplane
attracted her to the window of her workroom.

Clair was kept dark at night. Scarcely the glimmer of a candle was
allowed to shine forth from any window or doorway. There was a motion
picture theater in the main street; but one had to creep to it by guess,
and perhaps blunder in at the door of the grocer’s shop, or the wine
merchant’s, before finding the picture show.

By day and night the French aircraft and the anti-aircraft guns were
ready to fight off enemy airplanes. During the first weeks of Ruth
Fielding’s sojourn in the town there were two warnings of German air
raids at night. A deliberate attempt more than once had been made to
bomb the Red Cross hospital.

Ruth was frightened. The first alarm came after she was in bed. She
dressed hurriedly and ran down into the nearest ward. But there was no
bustle there. The ringing of the church bells and the blowing of the
alarm siren had not disturbed the patients here, and she saw Miss
Simone, the night nurse, quietly going about her duties as though there
was no stir outside.

Ruth remembered Charlie Bragg’s statement of the case: “If they get you
they get you, and that’s all there is to it!” And she was ashamed to
show fear in the presence of the nurse.

The French drove off the raider that time. The second time the German
dropped bombs in the town, but nobody was hurt, and he did not manage to
drop the bombs near the hospital. Ruth was glad that she felt less panic
in this second raid than before.

Thinking of Charlie Bragg must have brought that young man to see her.
He came to the hospital on his rest day; and then later appeared driving
his ambulance and asked her to ride.

The red cross she wore gave authority for Ruth’s presence in the
ambulance, and nobody questioned their object in driving through the
back roads and lanes beyond Clair.

The country here was not torn up by marmite holes, or the chasms made by
the Big Berthas. Such a lovely, quiet country as it was! Were it not for
the steady grumbling of the guns Ruth Fielding could scarcely have
believed that there was such a thing as war.

But it was not likely that Ruth would ride much with Charlie Bragg for
the mere pleasure of it. The young fellow drove at top speed at all
times, whether the road was smooth or rutted.

“Really, I can’t help it, Miss Ruth,” he declared. “Got the habit. We
fellows want always to get as far as we can with our loads before
something breaks down, or a shell gets us.

“By the way, seen anything of the werwolf again?”

“Mercy! No. Do you suppose we did really see anything that night?”

“Don’t know. I know there was an attack made upon this sector two nights
after that, and a raid on an artillery base that we were keeping
particularly secret from the Boches. Somebody must have told them.”

“The Germans are always flying over and photographing everything,” said
Ruth doubtfully.

“Not that battery. Had it camouflaged and only worked on it nights. The
Boches put a barrage right behind it and sent over troops who did a lot
of damage.

“Believe me! You don’t know to what lengths these German spies and
German-lovers go. You don’t know who is true and who is false about you.
And the most ingenious schemes they have,” added Charlie.

“They have tried secret wireless right here—within two miles. But the
radio makes too much noise and is sure to be spotted at last. In one
place telegraph wires were carried for several miles through the bed of
a stream and the spy on this side walked about with the telegraph
instrument in his pocket. When he got a chance he went to the hut near
the river bank, where the ends of the wire were insulated, and tapped
out his messages.

“And pigeons! Don’t say a word. They’re flying all the time, and
sometimes they are shot and the quills found under their wings. I tell
you spies just swarm all along this front.”

“Then,” Ruth said, ruminatingly, “it must have been a dog we saw that
night.”

“The werwolf?” asked Charlie, with a grin.

“That is nonsense. It is a dog trained to run between the spy on this
side and somebody behind the German lines. Poor dog!”

“Wow!” ejaculated the young fellow with disgust. “Isn’t that just like a
girl? ‘Poor dog,’ indeed!”

“Why! you don’t suppose that a noble dog would _want_ to be a spy?”
cried Ruth. “You can scarcely imagine a dog choosing any tricky way
through life. It is only men who deliberately choose despicable means to
despicable ends.”

“Hold on! Hold on!” cried Charlie Bragg. “Spies are necessary—as long as
there is going to be war, anyway. The French have got quite as brave and
successful spies beyond the German lines as the Germans have over here;
only not so many.”

“Well—I suppose that’s so,” admitted Ruth, sighing. “There must be these
terrible things as long as the greater terrible thing, war, exists. Oh!
There is the chateau gateway. Drive slower, Mr. Bragg—do, please!”

They mounted a little rise in the road. Above they had seen the walls
and towers of the chateau, and had seen them clearly for some time. But
now the boundary wall of the estate edged the road, and an arched
gateway, with high grilled gates and a small door set into the wall
beside the wider opening, came into view.

A single thought had stung Ruth Fielding’s mind, but she did not utter
it. It was: Why had none of the German aviators dropped bombs upon the
stone towers on the hill? Was it a fact that the enemy deliberately
ignored the existence of the chateau—that somebody in that great pile of
masonry won its immunity from German bombs by playing the traitor to
France and her cause?

Charlie had really reduced the speed of the car until it was now only
crawling up the slope of the road. Something fluttered at the
postern-gate—a woman’s petticoat.

“There’s the old woman,” said Charlie, “Take a good look at her.”

“You don’t mean the countess?” gasped Ruth.

“Whiskers! No!” chuckled the young fellow. “She’s a servant—or
something. Dresses like one of these French peasants about here. And yet
she isn’t French!”

“You have seen her before, then,” murmured Ruth.

“Twice. There! Look at her mustache, will you? She looks like a
grenadier.”

The woman at the gate was a tall, square-shouldered woman, with a hard,
lined and almost masculine countenance. She stared with gloomy look as
the Red Cross ambulance rolled by. Ruth caught Charlie’s arm
convulsively.

“Oh! what was that?” she again whispered, looking back at the woman in
the gateway.

“What was what?” he asked.

“That—something white—behind her—inside the gate! Why, Mr. Bragg! was it
a dog?”

“The werwolf,” chuckled the young chauffeur.



CHAPTER XVIII—SHOCKING NEWS


From both Helen and Jennie letters reached the girl of the Red Mill
quite frequently. Ruth saw that always her correspondence was opened and
read by the censor; but that was the fate of all letters that came to
Clair.

“We innocents,” said the matron of the hospital, “are thus afflicted
because of the plague of spies—a veritable Egyptian plague!—that infests
this part of my country. Do not be troubled, Mam’zelle Americaine. You
are not singled out as though your friendliness to France was
questioned.

“And yet there may be those working in the guise of the Red Cross who
betray their trust,” the woman added. “I hear of such.”

“Who are they? Where?” Ruth asked eagerly.

“It is said that at Lyse many of the supplies sent to the Red Cross from
your great and charitable country, Mam’zelle, have been diverted to
private dealers and sold to the citizens. Oh, our French people—some of
them—are hungry for the very luxuries that the _blessés_ should have. If
they have money they will spend it freely if good things are to be
bought.”

“At Lyse!” repeated Ruth. “Where I came from?”

“Fear not that suspicion rests on you, _ma chère amie_,” cooed the
Frenchwoman. “Indeed, no person in the active service of the Red Cross
at Lyse is suspected.”

“Nobody suspected in the supply department?” asked Ruth doubtfully.

“Oh, no! The skirts of all are clear, I understand.”

Ruth said no more, but she was vastly worried by what she had heard.
What, really, had taken place at Lyse? If a conspiracy had been
discovered for the robbing of the Red Cross Supply Department, were not
Mrs. Mantel and Legrand and José engaged in it?

Yet it seemed that the woman in black was not suspected. Ruth tried to
learn more of the particulars, but the matron of the Clair hospital did
not appear to know more than she had already stated.

Ruth wrote to Clare Biggars immediately, asking about the rumored
trouble in their department of the Red Cross at Lyse; but naturally
there would be delay before she could receive a reply, even if the
censor allowed the information to go through the mails.

Meanwhile Clair was shaken all through one day and night by increased
artillery fire on the battle front. Never had Ruth Fielding heard the
guns roll so terribly. It was as though a continuous thunderstorm shook
the heavens and the earth.

The Germans tried to drive back the reserves behind the French trenches
with the heaviest barrage fire thus far experienced along this sector,
while they sent forward their shock troops to overcome the thin French
line in the dugouts.

Here and there the Germans gained a footing in the front line of the
French trenches; but always they were driven out again, or captured.

The return barrage from the French guns at last created such havoc among
the German troops that what remained of the latter were forced back
beyond their own front lines.

The casualties were frightful. News of the raging battle came in with
every ambulance to the Clair Hospital. The field hospitals were
overcrowded and the wounded were being taken immediately from the
dressing stations behind the trenches to the evacuation hospitals, like
this of Clair, before being operated upon.

This well-conducted institution, in which Ruth had been busy for so many
weeks, became in a few hours a bustling, feverish place, with only half
enough nurses and fewer doctors than were needed.

Ruth offered herself to the matron and was given charge of one ward for
all of one night, while the surgeons and nurses battled in the operating
room and in the dangerous wards, with the broken men who were brought
in.

Ruth’s ward was a quiet one. She had already learned what to do in most
small emergencies. Besides, these patients were, most of them, well on
toward recovery, and they slept in spite of what was going on
downstairs.

On this night Clair was astir and alight. The peril of an air raid was
forgotten as the ambulances rolled in from the north and east. The soft
roads became little better than quagmires for it had rained during a
part of the day.

Occasionally Ruth went to an open window and looked down at the entrance
to the hospital yard, where the lantern light danced upon the glistening
cobblestones. Here the ambulances, one after another, halted, while the
stretcher-bearers and guards said but little; all was in monotone. But
the steady sound of human voices in dire pain could not be hushed.

Some of the wounded were delirious when they were brought in. Perhaps
they were better off.

Nor was Ruth Fielding’s sympathy altogether for the wounded soldiers. It
was, as well, for these young men who drove the ambulances—who took
their lives in their hands a score of times during the twenty-four hours
as they forced their ambulances as near as possible to the front to
recover the broken men. She prayed for the ambulance drivers.

Hour after hour dragged by until it was long past midnight. There had
been a lull in the procession of ambulances for a time; but suddenly
Ruth saw one shoot out of the gloom of the upper street and come rushing
down to the gateway of the hospital court.

This machine was stopped promptly and the driver leaned forward, waving
something in his hand toward the sentinel.

“Hey!” cried a voice that Ruth recognized—none other than that of
Charlie Bragg. “Is Miss Fielding still here?”

He asked this in atrocious French, but the sentinel finally understood
him.

“I will inquire, Monsieur.”

“Never mind the inquiring business,” declared Charlie Bragg. “I’ve got
to be on my way. I _know_ she’s here. Get this letter in to her, will
you? We’re taking ’em as far as Lyse now, old man. Nice long roll for
these poor fellows who need major operations.”

He threw in his clutch again and the ambulance rocked away. Ruth left
the window and ran down to the entrance hall. The sentinel was just
coming up the steps with the note in his hand. Before Ruth reached the
man she saw that the envelope was stained with blood!

“Oh! Is that for _me_?” the girl gasped, reaching out for it.

“Quite so, Mam’zelle,” and the man handed it to her with a polite
gesture.

Ruth seized it, and, with only half-muttered thanks, ran back to her
ward. Her heart beat so for a minute that she felt stifled. She could
not imagine what the note could be, or what it was about.

Yet she had that intuitive feeling of disaster that portends great and
overwhelming events. Her thought was of Tom—Tom Cameron! Who else would
send her a letter from the direction of the battle line?

She sank into her chair by the shaded lamp behind the nurse’s screen.
For a time she could not even look at the letter again, with its stain
of blood so plain upon it!

Then she brought it into line with her vision and with the lamplight
streaming upon it. The bloody finger marks half effaced something that
was written upon the face of the envelope in a handwriting strange to
Ruth.

  “This was found in tunic pocket of an American—badly wounded—evacuated
  to L——. His identification tag lost, as his arm was torn off at elbow,
  and no tag around his neck.”

This brief statement was unsigned. Some kindly Red Cross worker,
perhaps, had written it. Charlie Bragg must have known that the letter
was addressed to Ruth and offered to bring it to her at Clair, the
American on whom the letter was found having been unconscious.

The flap on the envelope had not been sealed. With trembling fingers the
girl drew the paper forth. Yes! It was in Tom Cameron’s handwriting, and
it began: “Dear Ruth Fielding.”

In his usual jovial style the letter proceeded. It had evidently been
written just before Tom had been called to active duty in the trenches.

There were no American troops in the battle line, as yet, Ruth well
knew. But their officers, in small squads, were being sent forward to
learn what it meant to be in the trenches under fire.

And Tom had been caught in this sudden attack! Evacuated to Lyse! The
field hospitals, as well as this one at Clair, were overcrowded. It was
a long way to take wounded men to Lyse to be operated upon.

“Operated upon!” The thought made Ruth shudder. She turned sick and
dizzy. Tom Cameron crippled and unconscious! An arm torn off! A cripple
for the rest of his life!

She looked at the bloody fingerprints on the envelope. Tom’s blood,
perhaps.

He was being taken to Lyse, where nobody would know him and he would
know nobody! Oh, why had it not been his fate to be brought to this
hospital at Clair where Ruth was stationed?

There was a faint call from one of the patients. It occurred twice
before the girl aroused to its significance.

She must put aside her personal fears and troubles. She was here to
attend to the ward while the regular night nurse was engaged elsewhere.

Because Tom Cameron was wounded—perhaps dying—she could not neglect her
duty here. She went quietly and brought a drink of cool water to the
feverish and restless _blessé_ who had called.



CHAPTER XIX—AT THE WAYSIDE CROSS


The early hours of that morning were the most tedious that Ruth Fielding
ever had experienced. She was tied here to the convalescent ward of the
Clair Hospital, while her every thought was bent upon that rocking
ambulance that might be taking the broken body of Tom Cameron to the
great base hospital at Lyse.

Was it possible that Tom was in Charlie Bragg’s car? What might not
happen to the ambulance on the dark and rough road over which Ruth had
once ridden with the young American chauffeur.

While she was looking out of the window at the ambulance as it halted at
the gateway of the hospital court, was poor Tom, unconscious and
wounded, in Charlie’s car? Oh! had she but suspected it! Would she not
have run down and insisted that Tom be brought in here where she might
care for him?

Her heart was wrung by this possibility. She felt condemned that she had
not suspected Tom’s presence at the time! Had not felt his nearness to
her!

Helen was far away in Paris. Already Mr. Cameron was on the high seas.
There was nobody here so close to Tom as Ruth herself. Nor could anybody
else do more for him than Ruth, if only she could find him!

The battle clouds and storm clouds both broke in the east with the
coming of the clammy dawn. She saw the promise of a fair day just before
sunrise; then the usual morning fog shut down, shrouding all the earth
about the town. It would be noon before the sun could suck up this
moisture.

Two hours earlier than expected the day nurse came to relieve her. Ruth
was thankful to be allowed to go. Having spent the night here she would
not be expected to serve in her own department that day. Yet she wished
to see the matron and put to her a request.

It was much quieter downstairs when she descended. A nodding nurse in
the hall told her that every bed and every cot in the hospital was
filled. Some of the convalescents would be removed as soon as possible
so as to make room for newly wounded poilus.

“But where is the matron?”

“Ah, the good mother has gone to her bed—quite fagged out. Twenty-four
hours on her feet—and she is no longer young. If I can do anything for
the Americaine mademoiselle——?”

But Ruth told her no. She would write a note for _Madame la Directrice_,
to be given to her when she awoke. For the girl of the Red Mill was
determined to follow a plan of her own.

By rights she should be free until the next morning. There were
twenty-four hours before her during which she need not report for
service. Had she not learned of Tom’s trouble she doubtless would have
taken a short nap and then appeared to help in any department where she
might be of use.

But, to Ruth’s mind, Tom’s need was greater than anything else just
then. In her walks about Clair she had become acquainted with a French
girl who drove a motor-car—Henriette Dupay. Her father was one of the
larger farmers, and the family lived in a beautiful old house some
distance out of town. Ruth made a brief toilet, a briefer breakfast, and
ran out of the hospital, taking the lane that led to the Dupay farm.

The fog was so thick close to the ground that she could not see people
in the road until she was almost upon them. But, then, it was so early
that not many even of the early-rising farmers were astir.

In addition, the night having been so racked with the sounds of the
guns,—now dying out, thank heaven!-and the noise of the ambulances
coming in from the front and returning thereto, that most of the
inhabitants of Clair were exhausted and slept late.

The American girl, well wrapped in a cloak and with an automobile veil
wound about her hat and pulled down to her ears, walked on hurriedly,
stopping now and then at a crossroad to make sure she was on the right
track.

If Henriette Dupay could get her father’s car, and would drive Ruth to
Lyse, the latter would be able to assure herself about Tom one way or
another. She felt that she must know just how badly the young fellow was
wounded!

To think! An arm torn off at the elbow—if it was really Tom who had been
picked up with the note Ruth had received in his pocket. It was dreadful
to think of.

At one point in her swift walk Ruth found herself sobbing hysterically.
Yet she was not a girl who broke down easily. Usually she was
selfcontrolled. Helen accused her sometimes of being even phlegmatic.

She took a new grip upon herself. Her nerves must not get the best of
her! It might not be Tom Cameron at all who was wounded. There were
other American officers mixed in with the French troops on this sector
of the battle front—surely!

Yet, who else but Tom would have carried that letter written to “Dear
Ruth Fielding”? The more the girl of the Red Mill thought of it the more
confident she was that there could have been no mistake made. Tom had
fallen wounded in the trenches and was now in the big hospital at Lyse,
where she had worked for some weeks in the ranks of the Red Cross
recruits.

Suddenly the girl was halted by a voice in the fog. A shrill exclamation
in a foreign tone—not French—sounded just ahead. It was a man’s voice,
and a woman’s answered. The two seemed to be arguing; but to hear people
talking in anything but French or English in this part of France was
enough to astonish anybody.

“That is not German. It is a Latin tongue,” thought the girl,
wonderingly. “Italian or Spanish, perhaps. Who can it be?”

She started forward again, yet walked softly, for the moss and short
grass beside the road made her footfalls indistinguishable a few yards
away. There loomed up ahead of her a wayside cross—one of those
weather-worn and ancient monuments so often seen in that country.

In walking with Henriette Dupay, Ruth had seen the French girl kneel a
moment at this junction of the two lanes, and whisper a prayer. Indeed,
the American girl had followed her example, for she believed that God
hears the reverent prayer wherever it is made. And Ruth had felt of late
that she had much to pray for.

The voices of the two wrangling people suggested no worship, however.
Nor were they kneeling at the wayside shrine. She saw them, at last,
standing in the middle of the cross lane. One, she knew, had come down
from the chateau.

Ruth saw that the woman was the heavy-faced creature whom she had once
seen at the gateway of the chateau when riding past with Charlie Bragg.
This strange-looking old woman Charlie had said was a servant of the
countess up at the chateau and that she was not a Frenchwoman. Indeed,
the countess herself was not really French, but was Alsatian, and “the
wrong kind,” to use the chauffeur’s expression.

The American girl caught a glimpse of the woman’s face and then hid her
own with her veil. But the man’s countenance she did not behold until
she had passed the shrine and had looked back.

He had wheeled to look after Ruth. He was a small man and suddenly she
saw, as he stepped out to trace her departure more clearly, that he was
lame. He wore a heavy shoe on one foot with a thick and clumsy sole-such
as the supposed Italian chef had worn coming over from America on the
Red Cross ship.

Was it the man, José, suspected with Legrand and Mrs. Rose Mantel—all
members of a band of conspirators pledged to rob the Red Cross? Ruth
dared not halt for another glance at him. She pulled the veil further
over her face and scuttled on up the lane toward the Dupay farmhouse.



CHAPTER XX—MANY THINGS HAPPEN


Ruth reached the farmhouse just as the family was sitting down to
breakfast. The house and outbuildings of the Dupays were all connected,
as is the way in this part of France. No shell had fallen near the
buildings, which was very fortunate, indeed.

Henriette’s father was a one-armed man. He had lost his left arm at the
Marne, and had been honorably discharged, to go back to farming, in
order to try to raise food for the army and for the suffering people of
France. His two sons and his brothers were still away at the wars, so
every child big enough to help, and the women of the family as well,
aided in the farm work.

No petrol could be used to drive cars for pleasure; but Henriette
sometimes had to go for supplies, or to carry things to market, or do
other errands connected with the farm work. Ruth hoped that the French
girl would be allowed to help her.

The hospitable Dupays insisted upon the American girl’s sitting down to
table with them. She was given a seat on the bench between Henriette and
Jean, a lad of four, who looked shyly up at the visitor from under heavy
brown lashes, and only played with his food.

It was not the usual French breakfast to which Ruth Fielding had become
accustomed—coffee and bread, with possibly a little compote, or an egg.
There was meat on the table—a heavy meal, for it was to be followed by
long hours of heavy labor.

“What brings you out so early after this awful night?” Henriette
whispered to her visitor.

Ruth told her. She could eat but little, she was so anxious about Tom
Cameron. She made it plain to the interested French girl just why she so
desired to follow on to Lyse and learn if it really was Tom who had been
wounded, as the message on the blood-stained envelope said.

“I might start along the road and trust to some ambulance overtaking
me,” Ruth explained. “But often there is a wounded man who can sit up
riding on the seat with the driver—sometimes two. I could not take the
place of such an unfortunate.”

“It would be much too far for you to walk, Mademoiselle,” said the
mother, overhearing. “We can surely help you.”

She spoke to her husband—a huge man, of whom Ruth stood rather in awe,
he was so stern-looking and taciturn. But Henriette said he had been a
“laughing man” before his experience in the war. War had changed many
people, this French girl said, nodding her head wisely.

“The venerable Countess Marchand,” pointing to the chateau on the hill,
“had been neighborly and kind until the war came. Now she shut herself
away from all the neighbors, and if a body went to the chateau it was
only to be confronted by old Bessie, who was the countess’ housekeeper,
and her only personal servant now.”

“Old Bessie,” Ruth judged, must be the hard-featured woman she had seen
at the chateau gate and, on this particular morning, talking to the lame
man at the wayside cross.

The American girl waited now in some trepidation for Dupay to speak. He
seemed to consider the question of Ruth’s getting to Lyse quite
seriously for some time; then he said quietly that he saw no objection
to Henriette taking the sacks of grain to M. Naubeck in the touring car
body instead of the truck, and going to-day to Lyse on that errand
instead of the next week.

It was settled so easily. Henriette ran away to dress, while a younger
brother slipped out to see that the car was in order for the two girls.
Ruth knew she could not offer the Dupays any remuneration for the
trouble they took for her, but she was so thankful to them that she was
almost in tears when she and Henriette started for Lyse half an hour
later.

“The main road is so cut up and rutted by the big lorries and ambulances
that we would better go another way,” Henriette said, as she steered out
of the farm lane into the wider road.

They turned away from Lyse, it seemed to Ruth; but, after circling
around the hill on which the chateau stood, they entered a more traveled
way, but one not so deeply rutted.

A mile beyond this point, and just as the motor-car came down a gentle
slope to a small stream, crossed by a rustic bridge, the two girls spied
another automobile, likewise headed toward Lyse. It was stalled, both
wheels on the one side being deep in a muddy rut.

There were two men with the car—a small man and a much taller
individual, who was dressed in the uniform of a French officer—a
captain, as Ruth saw when they came nearer.

The little man stepped into the woods, perhaps for a sapling, with which
to pry up the car, before the girls reached the bottom of the hill. At
least, they only saw his back. But when Ruth gained a clear view of the
officer’s face she was quite shocked.

“What is the matter?” Henriette asked her, driving carefully past the
stalled car.

Ruth remained silent until they were across the bridge and the French
girl had asked her question a second time, saying:

“What is it, Mademoiselle Ruth?”

“Do you know that man?” Ruth returned, proving herself a true Yankee by
answering one question with another.

“The captain? No. I do not know him. There are many captains,” and
Henriette laughed.

“He—he looks like somebody I know,” Ruth said hesitatingly. She did not
wish to explain her sudden shocked feeling on seeing the man’s face. He
looked like the shaven Legrand who, on the ship coming over and in Lyse,
had called himself “Professor Perry.”

If this was the crook, who, Ruth believed, had set fire to the business
office of the Robinsburg Red Cross headquarters, he had evidently not
been arrested in connection with the supply department scandal, of which
the matron of the hospital had told her. At least, he was now free. And
the little fellow with him! Had not Ruth, less than two hours before,
seen José talking with the woman from the chateau at the wayside shrine
near Clair?

The mysteries of these two men and their disguises troubled Ruth
Fielding vastly. It seemed that the prefect of police at Lyse had not
apprehended them. Nor was Mrs. Mantel yet in the toils.

This was a longer way to Lyse by a number of miles than the main road;
nevertheless, it was probable that the girls gained time by following
the more roundabout route.

It was not yet noon when Henriette stopped at a side entrance to the
hospital where Ruth had served her first few weeks for the Red Cross in
France. The girl of the Red Mill sprang out, and, asking her friend to
wait for her, ran into the building.

The guard remembered her, and nobody stopped her on the way to the
reception office, where a record was kept of all the patients in the
great building. The girl at the desk was a stranger to Ruth, but she
answered the visitor’s questions as best she could.

She looked over the records of the wounded accepted from the battle
front or from evacuation hospitals during the past forty-eight hours.
There was no such name as Cameron on the list; and, as far as the clerk
knew, no American at all among the number.

“Oh, there _must_ be!” gasped Ruth, wringing her hands. “Surely there is
a mistake. There is no other hospital here for him to be brought to, and
I am sure this person was brought to Lyse. They say his arm is torn off
at the elbow.”

A nurse passing through the office stopped and inquired in French of
whom Ruth was speaking. The girl of the Red Mill explained.

“I believe we have the _blessé_ in my ward,” this nurse said kindly.
“Will you come and see, Mademoiselle? He has been quite out of his head,
and perhaps he is an American, for he has not spoken French. We thought
him English.”

“Oh, let me see him!” cried Ruth, and hastened with her into one of the
wards where she knew the most serious cases were cared for.

Her fears almost overcame the girl. Her interest in Tom Cameron was deep
and abiding. For years they had been friends, and now, of late, a
stronger feeling than friendship had developed in her heart for Tom.

His courage, his cheerfulness, the real, solid worth of the young
fellow, could not fail to endear him to one who knew him as well as did
Ruth Fielding. If he had been shot down, mangled, injured, perhaps, to
the very death!

How would Helen and their father feel if Tom was seriously wounded? If
Ruth found him here in the hospital, should she immediately communicate
with his twin sister in Paris, and with his father, who had doubtless
reached the States by this time?

Her mind thus in a turmoil, she followed the nurse into the ward and
down the aisle between the rows of cots. She had helped comfort the
wounded in this very ward when she worked in this hospital; but she
looked now for no familiar face, save one. She looked ahead for the
white, strained countenance of Tom Cameron against the coarse
pillow-slip.

The nurse stopped beside a cot. Oh, the relief! There was no screen
around it! The occupant was turned with his face away from the aisle.
The stump of the uplifted arm on his left side, bandaged and padded, was
uppermost.

“Tom!” breathed the girl of the Red Mill, holding back just a little and
with a hand upon her breast.

It was a head of black hair upon the pillow. It might easily have been
Tom Cameron. And in a moment Ruth was sure that he was an American from
the very contour of his visage—but it was _not_ Tom!

“Oh! It’s not! It’s not!” she kept saying over and over to herself. And
then she suddenly found herself sitting in a chair at the end of the
ward and the nurse was saying to her:

“Are you about to faint, Mademoiselle? It is the friend you look for?”

“Oh, no! I sha’n’t faint,” Ruth declared, getting a grip upon her nerves
again. “It is not my friend. Oh! I cannot tell you how relieved I am.”

“Ah, yes! I know,” sighed the Frenchwoman. “I have a father and a
brother in our army and after every battle I fear until I hear from
them. I am glad for your sake it is another than your friend. And
yet—_he_ will have friends who suffer, too—is it not?”



CHAPTER XXI—AGAIN THE WERWOLF


Ruth Fielding felt as though she needed a cup of tea more than she ever
had before in her life. And Clare Biggars had her own tea service in her
room at the pension. Ruth had inquired for Clare and learned that this
was a free hour for the Kansas girl. So Ruth and Henriette Dupay drove
to the boarding-house; for to get a good cup of tea in one of the
restaurants or cafés was impossible.

Her relief at learning the wounded American in the hospital was not Tom
Cameron was quite overwhelming at first. Ruth had come out to the car so
white of face that the French girl was frightened.

“Oh! Mam’zelle Fielding! It is that you haf los’ your friend?” cried the
girl in the stammering English she tried so hard to make perfect.

“I don’t know that,” sighed Ruth. “But, at least, if he is wounded, he
was not brought here to this hospital.”

She could not understand how that letter had been found in the pocket of
the young man she had seen in the hospital ward. Tom Cameron certainly
had written that letter. Ruth would not be free from worry until she had
heard again from Tom, or of him.

The pension was not far away, and Ruth made her friend lock the car and
come in with her, for Clare was a hospitable soul and it was lunch time.
To her surprise Ruth found Clare in tears.

“What is the matter, my dear girl?” cried Ruth, as Clare fled sobbing to
her arms the moment she saw the girl of the Red Mill. “What can have
happened to you?”

“Everything!” exploded the Kansas girl. “You can’t imagine! I’ve all but
been arrested, and the Head called me down dreadfully, and Madame——”

“Madame Mantel?” Ruth asked sharply. “Is she the cause of your troubles?
I should have warned you——”

“Oh, the poor dear!” groaned Clare. “She feels as bad about it as I do.
Why, they took her to the police station, too!”

“You seem to have all been having a fine time,” Ruth said, rather
tartly. “Tell me all about it. But ask us to sit down, and _do_ give us
a cup of tea. This is Henriette Dupay, Clare, and a very nice girl she
is. Try to be cordial—hold up the reputation of America, my dear.”

“How-do?” gulped Clare, giving the French girl her hand. “I _am_ glad
Ruth brought you. But it was only yesterday——”

“What was only yesterday?” asked Ruth, as the hostess began to set out
the tea things.

“Oh, Ruth! Haven’t you heard something about the awful thing that
happened here? That Professor Perry——”

“Ah! What about him?” asked Ruth. “You know what I wrote you—that I had
heard there was trouble in the Supply Department? You haven’t answered
my letter.”

“No. I was too worried. And finally—only yesterday, as I said—I was
ordered to appear before the prefect of police.”

“A nice old gentleman with a white mustache.”

“A horrid old man who said the _meanest_ things to dear Madame Mantel!”
cried Clare hotly.

Ruth saw that the Western girl was still enamored of the woman in black,
so she was careful what she said in comment upon Clare’s story.

All Ruth had to do was to keep still and Clare told it all. Perhaps
Henriette did not understand very clearly what the trouble was, but she
looked sympathetic, too, and that encouraged Clare.

It seemed that Mrs. Mantel had made a companion of Clare outside of the
hospital, and Ruth could very well understand why. Clare’s father was a
member of Congress and a wealthy man. It was to be presumed that Clare
seemed to the woman in black well worth cultivating.

The Kansas girl had gone with the woman to the café of the Chou-rouge
more than once. Each time the so-called Professor Perry and the Italian
commissioner, whose name Clare had forgotten—“But that’s of no
consequence,” thought Ruth, “for he has so many names!”—had been very
friendly with the Red Cross workers.

Then suddenly the professor and the Italian had disappeared. The head of
the Lyse hospital had begun to make inquiries into the working of the
Supply Department. There had been billed to Lyse great stores of goods
that were not accounted for.

“Poor Madame Mantel was heartbroken,” Clare said. “She wished to resign
at once. Oh, it’s been terrible!”

“Resign under fire?” suggested Ruth.

“Oh—you understand—she felt so bad that her department should be under
suspicion. Of course, it was not her fault.”

“Did the head say _that_?”

“Why, he didn’t have to!” cried Clare. “I hope _you_ are not suspicious
of Madame Mantel, Ruth Fielding?”

“You haven’t told me enough to cause me to suspect anybody yet—save
yourself,” laughed Ruth. “I suspect that you are telling the story very
badly, my dear.”

“Well, I suppose that is so,” admitted Clare, and thereafter she tried
to speak more connectedly about the trouble which had finally engrossed
all her thought.

The French police had unearthed, it was said, a wide conspiracy for the
diversion of Red Cross supplies from America to certain private hands.
These goods had been signed for in Mrs. Mantel’s office; she did not
know by whom, but the writing on the receipts was not in her hand. That
was proved. And, of course, the goods had never been delivered to the
hospital at Lyse.

The receipts must have been forged. The only point made against Mrs.
Mantel, it seemed, was that she had not reported that these goods, long
expected at Lyse, were not received. Her delay in making inquiry for the
supplies gave the thieves opportunity for disposing of the goods and
getting away with the money paid for them by dishonest French dealers.

The men who had disposed of the supplies and had pocketed the money (or
so it was believed) were the man who called himself Professor Perry and
the Italian commissioner.

“And what do you think?” Clare went on to say. “That professor is no
college man at all. He is a well-known French crook, they say, and
usually travels under the name of Legrand.

“They say he had been in America until it got too hot for him there, and
he crossed on the same boat with us—you remember, Ruth?”

“Oh, I remember,” groaned the girl of the Red Mill. “The Italian, too?”

“I don’t know for sure about him. They say he isn’t an Italian, but a
Mexican, anyway. And he has a police record in both hemispheres.

“Consider! Madame Mantel and I were seen hobnobbing with them! I know
she feels just as I do. I hate to show myself on the street!”

“I wouldn’t feel that way,” Ruth replied soothingly. “You could not help
it.”

“But the police—ordering me before that nasty old prefect!” exclaimed
the angry girl. “And he said such things to me! Think! He had cabled the
chief of police in my town to ask who I was and if I had a police
record. What do you suppose my father will say?”

“I guarantee that he will laugh at you,” Ruth declared. “Don’t take it
so much to heart. Remember we are in a strange country, and that that
country is at war.”

“I never shall like the French system of government, just the same!”
declared Clare, with emphasis.

“And—and what about Mrs. Mantel?” Ruth asked doubtfully.

“I am going over to see her now,” Clare said, wiping her eyes. “I am so
sorry for her. I believe that horrid prefect thinks she is mixed up in
the plot that has cost the Red Cross so much. They say nearly ten
thousand dollars worth of goods was stolen, and those two horrid
men—Professor Perry and the other—have got away and the French police
cannot find them.”

Ruth was secretly much disturbed by Clare’s story. She believed that she
knew something about the pair of crooks who were accused—Rose Mantel’s
two friends—that might lead to their capture. She was sure Henriette
Dupay and she had passed them with their stalled automobile on the road
to Lyse that morning.

In addition, she believed the two crooks were connected with those
people at the Chateau Marchand, who were supposed to be pro-German. Now
she knew what language she had heard spoken by José and the
hard-featured Bessie of the chateau, there by the wayside cross. It was
Spanish. The woman might easily be a Mexican as well as José.

Should she go to the prefect of police and tell him of these things? It
seemed to Ruth Fielding that she was much entangled in a conspiracy of
wide significance. The crooks who had robbed the Red Cross seemed lined
up with the spies of the Chateau Marchand.

And there was the strange animal—dog, or what-not!—that was connected
with the chateau. The werwolf! Whether she believed in such traditional
tales or not, the American girl was impressed with the fact that there
was much that was suspicious in the whole affair.

Yet she naturally shrank from getting her own fingers caught in the cogs
of this mystery that the French police were doubtless quite able to
handle in their own way, and all in good time. It was evident that even
Mrs. Mantel was not to be allowed to escape the police net. She had not
been arrested yet; but she doubtless was watched so closely now that she
could neither get away, nor aid in doing further harm.

As for Clare Biggars, she was perfectly innocent of all wrong-doing or
intent. And she was quite old enough to take care of herself. Besides,
her father would doubtless be warned that his daughter was under
suspicion of the French police and he would communicate with the United
States Ambassador at Paris. She would be quite safe and suffer no real
trouble.

So Ruth decided to return to Clair without going to the police, and,
after lunch, having delivered the bags of grain which had filled the
tonneau of the car, she and Henriette Dupay drove out of town again.

They were delayed for some time by tire trouble, and the French girl
proved herself as good a mechanic as was necessary in repairing the
tube. But night was falling before they were halfway home.

Ruth’s thoughts were divided between the conspiracy, in which Mrs.
Mantel was engaged, and her worry regarding Tom Cameron. She had filed a
telegraph message at the Lyse Hospital to be sent to Tom’s cantonment,
where he was training, and hoped that the censor would allow it to go
through. For she knew she could not be satisfied that Tom had not been
wounded until she heard from him.

The American girl’s nerves had been shot through by the affair of the
early morning, when the note from Tom had been brought to her. What had
followed since that hour had not served to help her regain her
self-control.

Therefore, as Henriette drove the car on through the twilight, following
the road by which they had gone to Lyse, there was reason for Ruth
suddenly exclaiming aloud, when she saw something in the track ahead:

“Henriette! Look! What can that be? Do you see it?”

“What do you see, Mademoiselle Ruth?” asked the French girl, reducing
the speed of the car in apprehension.

“There! That white——”

“_Nom de Dieu!_” shrieked Henriette, getting sight of the object in
question.

The girl paled visibly and shrank back into her seat. Ruth cried out,
fearing the steering wheel would get away from Henriette.

“Oh! Did you see?” gasped the latter.

The white object had suddenly disappeared. It seemed to Ruth as though
it had actually melted into thin air.

“That was the werwolf!” continued the French girl, and crossed herself.
“Oh, my dear Mademoiselle, something is sure now to happen—something
very bad!”



CHAPTER XXII—THE COUNTESS AND HER DOG


RUTH FIELDING had almost instantly identified the swiftly moving object
in the road as the same that she had seen weeks before while riding with
Charlie Bragg toward Clair. And yet she could not admit as true the
assertion made both by the ambulance driver and the excited French girl.

To recognize the quickly disappearing creature as a werwolf—the
beast-form of a human being, sold irrevocably to the Powers of
Darkness—was quite too much for a sane American girl like Ruth Fielding!

“Why, Henriette!” she cried, “that is nothing but a dog.”

“A wolf, Mademoiselle. A werwolf, as I have told you. A very wicked
thing.”

“There isn’t such a thing,” declared Ruth bluntly. “That was a dog—a
white or a gray one. And of large size. I have seen it once
before—perhaps twice,” Ruth added, remembering the glimpse she had
caught of such a creature with Bessie at the chateau gate.

“Oh, it is such bad fortune to see it!” sighed Henriette.

“Don’t be so childish,” Ruth adjured, brusquely. “Nothing about that dog
can hurt you. But I have an idea the poor creature may be doing the
French cause harm.”

“Oh, Mademoiselle! You have heard the vile talk about the dear
countess!” cried Henriette. “It is not so. She is a brave and lovely
lady. She gives her all for France. She would be filled with horror if
she knew anybody connected her with the spies of _les Boches_.”

“I thought it was generally believed that she was an Alsatian _of the
wrong kind_.”

“It is a wicked calumny,” Henriette declared earnestly. “But I have
heard the tale of the werwolf ever since I was a child—long before this
dreadful war began.”

“Yes?”

“It was often seen racing through the country by night,” the girl
declared earnestly. “They say it comes from the chateau, and goes back
to it. But that the lovely countess is a wicked one, and changes herself
into a devouring wolf—ah, no, no, Mademoiselle! It is impossible!

“The werwolf comes and goes across the battle front, it is said. Indeed,
it used to cross the old frontier into Germany in pre-war times. Why may
not some wicked German woman change herself into a wolf and course the
woods and fields at night? Why lay such a thing to the good Countess
Marchand?”

Ruth saw that the girl was very much in earnest, and she cast no further
doubt upon the occupant of the chateau, the towers of which had been in
sight in the twilight for some few minutes. Henriette was now driving
slowly and had not recovered from her fright. They came to a road which
turned up the hill.

“Where does that track lead?” Ruth asked quickly.

“Past the gates of the chateau, Mademoiselle.”

“You say you will take me to the hospital at Clair before going home,”
Ruth urged. “Can we not take this turn?”

“But surely,” agreed Henriette, and steered the car into the narrow and
well-kept lane.

Ruth made no explanation for her request. But she felt sure that the
object which had startled them both, dog or whatever it was, had dived
into this lane to disappear so quickly. The “werwolf” was going toward
the chateau on this evening instead of away from it.

There was close connection between the two criminals, who had come from
America on the Red Cross steamship, Legrand and José, with whatever was
going on between the Chateau Marchand and the Germans. Werwolf, or
despatch dog, Ruth was confident that the creature that ran by night
across the shell-racked fields was trained to spy work.

Who was guilty at the chateau? That seemed to be an open question.

Henriette’s declaration that it was not the Countess Marchand,
strengthened the suspicion already rife in Ruth’s mind that the old
servant, Bessie, was the German-lover.

The latter was known to José, one of the crooks from America. She might
easily be of the same nationality as José—Mexican. And the Mexicans
largely are pro-German.

José and Legrand were already under suspicion of a huge swindle in Red
Cross stores. It would seem that if these men would steal, it was fair
to presume they would betray the French Government for money.

It was a mixed-up and doubtful situation at best. Ruth Fielding
intuitively felt that she had hold of the ends of certain threads of
evidence that must, in time, lead to the unraveling of the whole scheme
of deceit and intrigue.

It was still light enough on the upland for the girls to see some
distance along the road ahead. Henriette drove the car slowly as they
approached the wide gateway of the chateau.

Ruth distinguished the flutter of something white by the gate and
wondered if it was the “werwolf” or the old serving woman. But when she
called Henriette’s attention to the moving object the French girl cried,
under her breath:

“Oh! It is the countess! Look you, Mademoiselle Ruth, perhaps she will
speak to us.”

“But there’s something with her. It _is_ a dog,” the American girl
declared.

“Why that is only Bubu, the old hound. He is always with the countess
when she walks out. He is a greyhound—see you? It is foolish,
Mademoiselle, to connect Bubu with the werwolf,” and she shrugged her
plump shoulders.

Ruth paid more attention to the dog at first than she did to the lady
who held the loop of his leash. He wore a dark blanket, which covered
most of his body, even to his ears. His legs were long, of course, and
Ruth discovered another thing in a moment, while the car rolled nearer.

The thin legs of the slate-colored beast were covered with mud. That mud
was not yet dry. The dog had been running at large within the last few
minutes, the girl was sure.



CHAPTER XXIII—RUTH DOES HER DUTY


The query that came sharply to Ruth Fielding’s mind was: Without his
blanket and off his leash, what would Bubu, the greyhound, look like in
the gloaming? The next moment the tall old lady walking by the observant
dog’s side, raised her hand and nodded to Henriette.

“Oh, Madame!” gasped the French girl, and brought the car to an instant
stop.

“I thought it was my little Hetty,” the countess said in French, and
smiling. “Hast been to Lyse for the good father?”

“Yes, Madame,” replied the girl.

“And what news do you bring?”

The voice of the old lady was very kind. Ruth, watching her closely,
thought that if the Countess Marchand was a spy for Germany, and was
wicked at heart, she was a wonderfully good actress.

She had a most graceful carriage. Her hair, which was snow white, was
dressed most becomingly. Her cheeks were naturally pink; yet her throat
and under her chin the skin was like old ivory and much wrinkled. She
was dressed plainly, although the cape about her shoulders was trimmed
with expensive fur.

Henriette replied to her queries bashfully, bobbing her head at every
reply. She was much impressed by the lady’s attention. Finally the
latter looked full at Ruth, and asked:

“Your friend is from the hospital, Hetty?”

“Oh, yes, Madame!” Henriette hastened to say. “She is an _Americaine_.
Of the Red Cross.”

“I could imagine her nativity,” said the countess, bowing to Ruth, and
with cordiality. “I traveled much with the count—years ago. All over
America. I deem all Americans my friends.”

“Thank you, Madame,” replied Ruth gravely.

At the moment the stern-faced Bessie came through the little postern
gate. She approached the countess and stood for a moment respectfully
waiting her mistress’ attention.

“Ah, here is the good Bessie,” said the countess, and passed the serving
woman the loop of the dog’s leather leash. “Take him away, Bessie.
Naughty Bubu! Do you know, he should be punished—and punished severely.
He had slipped his collar again. See his legs? You must draw the collar
up another hole, Bessie.”

The harsh voice of the old woman replied, but Ruth could not understand
what she said. The dog was led away; but Ruth saw that Bessie stared at
her, Ruth, curiously—or was it threateningly?

The countess turned again to speak to the two girls. “Old Bessie comes
from America, Mademoiselle,” she explained. “I brought her over years
ago. She has long served me.”

“She comes from Mexico, does she not?” Ruth asked quietly.

“Yes. I see you have bright eyes—you are observant,” said the countess.
“Yes. Mexico was Bessie’s birthplace, although she is not all Spanish.”

Ruth thought to herself: “I could guarantee that. She is part German.
‘Elizabeth’—yes, indeed! And does this lady never suspect what her
serving woman may be?”

The countess dismissed them with another kindly word and gesture.
Henriette was very much wrought up over the incident.

“She is a great lady,” she whispered to Ruth. “Wait till I tell my
father and mother how she spoke to me. They will be delighted.”

“And this is a republic!” smiled Ruth. Even mild toadyism did not much
please this American girl. “Still,” she thought, “we are inclined to bow
down and worship a less worthy aristocracy at home—the aristocracy of
wealth.”

Henriette ran her down to the town and to the hospital gate. Ruth was
more than tired—she felt exhausted when she got out of the car. But she
saw the matron before retiring to her own cell for a few hours’ sleep.

“We shall need you, Mademoiselle,” the Frenchwoman said distractedly.
“Oh! so many poor men are here. They have been bringing them in all day.
There is a lull on the front, or I do not know what we should do. The
poor, poor men!”

Ruth had to rest for a while, however, although she did not sleep. Her
mind was too painfully active.

Her thoughts drummed continually upon two subjects, the mystery
regarding Tom Cameron—his letter to her found in another man’s pocket.
Secondly, the complications of the plot in which the woman in black, the
two crooks from America, and the occupants of the chateau seemed all
entangled.

She hoped hourly to hear from Tom; but no word came. She wished, indeed,
that she might even see Charlie Bragg again; but nobody seemed to have
seen him about the hospital of late. The ambulance corps was shifted
around so frequently that there was no knowing where he could be found,
save at his headquarters up near the front. And Ruth Fielding felt that
she was quite as near the front here at Clair as she ever wished to be!

She went on duty before midnight and remained at work until after supper
the next evening. She had nothing to do with the severely wounded, of
course; but there was plenty to do for those who had already been in the
hospital some time, and whom she knew.

Ruth could aid them in simple matters, could read to them, write for
them, quiet them if they were nervous or suffering from shell-shock. She
tried to forget her personal anxieties in attending to the poor fellows
and aiding them to forget their wounds, if for only a little while.

But she climbed to her cell at last, worn out as she was by the long
strain, with a determination to communicate with the French police-head
in Lyse regarding the men who had robbed the Red Cross supply
department.

She wrote the letter with the deliberate intention of laying all the
mystery, as she saw it, before the authorities. She would protect the
woman in black no longer. Nor did she ignore the possibility of the
Countess Marchand and her old serving woman being in some way connected
with Legrand and José, the Mexican.

She lay bare the fact that the two men from America had been in a plot
to rob the Red Cross at Robinsburg, and how they had accomplished their
ends with the connivance (as Ruth believed) of Rose Mantel. She spared
none of the particulars of this early incident.

She wrote that she had seen the man, José, in his character of the lame
Italian, both on the steamship coming over, in Paris, and again here at
Clair talking with the Mexican servant of the Countess Marchand.
Legrand, too, she mentioned as being in the neighborhood of Clair, now
dressed as a captain of infantry in the French army.

She quite realized what she was doing in writing all this. Legrand, for
instance, risked death as a spy in any case if he represented himself as
an officer. But Ruth felt that the matter was serious. Something very
bad was going on here, she was positive.

The only thing she could not bring herself to tell of was the suspicions
she had regarding the identity of the “werwolf,” as the superstitious
country people called the shadowy animal that raced the fields and roads
by night, going to and coming from the battle front.

It seemed such a silly thing—to repeat such gossip of the country side
to the police authorities! She could not bring herself to do it. If the
occupants of the chateau were suspected of being disloyal, what Ruth had
already written, connecting José with Bessie, would be sufficient.

She wrote and despatched this letter at once. She knew it would be
unopened by the local censor because of the address upon it.
Communications to the police were privileged.

Ruth wondered much what the outcome of this step would be. She shrank
from being drawn into a police investigation; but the matter had gone so
far now and was so serious that she could not dodge her duty.

That very next day word was sent in to Ruth from the guard at the
entrance whom she had tipped for that purpose, that the American
ambulance driver, Monsieur Bragg, was at the door.

When Ruth hastened to the court the _brancardiers_ had shuffled in with
the last of Charlie’s “load” and he was cranking up his car. The latter
looked as though it had been through No Man’s Land, clear to the Boche
“ditches” it was so battered and mud-bespattered. Charlie himself had a
bandage around his head which looked like an Afghan’s turban.

“Oh, my dear boy! Are you hurt?” Ruth gasped, running down the steps to
him.

“No,” grunted the young ambulance driver. “Got this as an order of
merit. For special bravery in the performance of duty,” and he grinned.
“Gosh! I can’t get hurt proper. I bumped my head on a beam in the
park—pretty near cracked my skull, now I tell you! Say! How’s your
friend?”

“That is exactly what I don’t know,” Ruth hastened to tell him.

“How’s that? Didn’t you go to Lyse?”

“Yes. But the man in whose pocket that letter to me was found isn’t Tom
Cameron at all. It was some one else!”

“What? You don’t mean it! Then how did he come by that letter? I saw it
taken out of the poor chap’s pocket. Johnny Mall wrote the note to you
on the outside of it. I knew it was intended for you, of course.”

“But the man isn’t Tom. I should say, Lieutenant Thomas Cameron.”

“Seems to me I’ve heard of that fellow,” ruminated the ambulance driver,
removing his big spectacles to wipe them. “But I believe he _is_
wounded. I’m sorry,” he added, as he saw the change in Ruth’s face.
“Maybe he isn’t, after all. Is—is this chap a pretty close friend of
yours?”

Ruth told him, somewhat brokenly, in truth, just how near and dear to
her the Cameron twins were. Telling more, perhaps, in the case of Tom,
than she intended.

“I’ll see what I can find out about him. He’s been in this sector, I
believe,” he said. “I guess he has been at our headquarters up yonder
and I’ve met him.

“Well, so long,” he added, hopping into his car. “Next time I’m back
this way maybe I’ll have some news for you—_good_ news.”

“Oh, I hope so!” murmured Ruth, watching the battered ambulance wheel
out of the hospital court.

Henriette Dupay had an errand in the village the next day and came to
see Ruth, too. The little French girl was very much excited.

“Oh, my dear Mademoiselle Ruth!” she cried. “What do you think?”

“I could not possibly think—for _you_,” smiled Ruth.

“It is so—just as I told you,” wailed the other girl. “It always
happens.”

“Do tell me what you mean? What has happened now?”

“Something bad always follows the seeing of the werwolf. My grandmère
says it is a curse on the neighborhood because many of our people
neglect the church. Think!”

“Do tell me,” begged the American girl.

“Our best cow died,” cried Henriette. “Our—ve-ry—best—cow! It is an
affliction, Mademoiselle.”

Ruth could well understand that to be so, for cows, since the German
invasion, have been very scarce in this part of France. Henriette was
quite confident that the appearance of the “werwolf” had foretold the
demise of “the poor Lally.” The American girl saw that it was quite
useless to seek to change her little friend’s opinion on that score.

“Of course, the thing we saw in the road could not have been the
countess’ dog?” she ventured.

But Henriette would have none of that. “Why, Bubu’s blanket is black,”
she cried. “And you know the werwolf is all of a white color—and so
hu-u-uge!”

She would have nothing of the idea that Bubu was the basis of the
countryside superstition. But the French girl had a second exciting bit
of news.

“Think you!” she cried, “what I saw coming over to town this ve-ry day,
Mademoiselle Ruth.”

“Another mystery?”

“Quite so. But yes. You would never, as you say, ‘guess.’ I passed old
Bessie, Madame la Countess’ serving woman, riding fast, _fast_ in a
motor-car. Is it not a wonder?”

The statement startled Ruth, but she hid her emotion, asking:

“Not alone—surely? You do not mean that that old woman drives the
countess’ car?”

“Oh, no, Mademoiselle. The countess has no car. This was the strange car
you and I saw on the road that day—the one that was stalled in the rut.
You remember the tall capitaine—and the little one?”

The shock of the French girl’s statement was almost too much for Ruth’s
self-control. Her voice sounded husky in her own ears when she asked:

“Tell me, Henriette! Are you _sure_? The old woman was riding away with
those two men?”

“But yes, Mademoiselle. And they drive fast, fast!” and she pointed
east, away from the hospital, and away from the road which led to Lyse.



CHAPTER XXIV—A PARTIAL EXPOSURE


It was when Ruth was going off duty for the day that the matron sent for
her to come to the office before going to her own cell, as the tiny
immaculate little rooms were called in which the Red Cross workers
slept.

Obeying the summons, Ruth crossed the wide entrance hall and saw in the
court a high-powered, open touring car in which sat two
military-appearing men, although neither was in uniform. In the matron’s
room was another—a tall, dark young man, who arose from his chair the
instant the girl entered the room.

“Monsieur Lafrane, Mademoiselle Fielding,” said the matron nervously.
“Monsieur Lafrane is connected, he tells me, with the Department of
Justice.”

“With the secret police, Mademoiselle,” the man said significantly. “The
prefect of police at Lyse has sent me to you,” and he bowed again to
Ruth.

The matron was evidently somewhat alarmed as well as surprised, but
Ruth’s calm manner reassured her to some extent.

“It is all right, Madame,” the American girl told her. “I expected
monsieur’s visit.”

“Oh, if mademoiselle is assured——?”

“Quite, Madame.”

The Frenchwoman hurried from the office and left the girl and the secret
agent alone. The latter smiled quietly and asked Ruth to be seated.

“It is from Monsieur Joilette, at Lyse, that I come, as I say. He
informs me you have the logic of a man—and a man’s courage,
Mademoiselle. He thinks highly of you.”

“Perhaps he thinks too highly of my courage,” Ruth returned, smiling.

“Not so,” proceeded Monsieur Lafrane, with rather a stern countenance,
“for it must take some courage to tell but half your story when first
you went to Monsieur Joilette. It is not—er—exactly safe to tell half
truths to the French police, Mademoiselle.”

“Not if one is an American?” smiled Ruth, not at all shaken. “Nor did I
consider that I did wrong in saying nothing about Mrs. Mantel at the
time, when I had nothing but suspicion against her. If Monsieur Joilette
is as wise as I think him, he could easily have found the connection
between those two dishonest men from America and the lady.”

“True. And he did so,” said the secret agent, nodding emphatically. “But
already Legrand and this José had made what you Americans would call ‘a
killing,’ yes?” Ruth nodded, smiling. “They got away with the money. But
we are not allowing Madame Mantel, as she calls herself——”

“That isn’t her name then?”

“Name of a name!” ejaculated the man in disgust. “I should say not. She
is Rosa Bonnet, who married an American crook four years ago and went to
the United States. He was shot, I understand, in an attempt of his gang
to rob a bank in one of your Western States.”

“Oh! And she came East and entered into our Red Cross work. How
dreadful!”

“Rosa is a sharp woman. We believe she has done work for _les Boches_.
But then,” he added, “we believe that of every crook we capture now.”

“And is she arrested?”

“But yes, Mademoiselle,” he said good-naturedly. “At least the police of
Lyse were about to gather her in as I left this afternoon to come over
here. But the men——”

“Oh, Monsieur!” cried Ruth, with clasped hands, “they have been in this
neighborhood only to-day.”

He shot in a quick: “How do you know that, Mademoiselle Fielding?”

She told him of the French girl’s visit and of what Henriette had said
of seeing Legrand, the Mexican and Bessie riding away in a motor-car
from the chateau.

“To be trusted, this girl? This Mademoiselle Dupay?”

“Oh, quite!”

“The scoundrels! They slip through our fingers at every turn. But we
will have them yet. Surely they cannot escape us for long. There are too
many looking for them—both of the secret police and of the army.”

“Then the woman, too! The old woman and that José may only be related.
Perhaps she has nothing to do with—with——”

“With what, Mademoiselle?” he asked, smiling across the table at her,
and that grimly.

“Is there not spying, too? Don’t you think these people are in
communication with the Germans?”

“Could you expect me to answer that query, Mademoiselle?” he returned,
his eyes suddenly twinkling. “But, yes! I see you are vitally
interested. And you have heard this old wives’ tale of the werwolf.”

He quite startled her then, for she had said nothing of that in her
letter to the Lyse prefect of police.

“Some matters must be cleared up. You may be able to help, Mademoiselle.
I have come to ask you to make a call with me.”

“A call? On the Dupays? I hope I have said nothing to lead you to
suppose that they are not loyal. And they have been kind to me.”

“Quite so, Mademoiselle,” he rejoined again with gravity. “I would ask
you to do nothing that will make you feel an atom of disgrace. No, no! A
mere call—and you shall return here in an hour.”

Ruth knew it was a command as well as a request. She hurried for her
wrap, for the evening was damp. But she did not remove her costume of
the Red Cross.

As she came down to the waiting car she saw that she was peered at by
several of the nurses. Some wind of what was going on evidently had got
about the hospital.

Ruth ran down the steps and jumped into the car, the tonneau door of
which was held open by the man with whom she had talked in the matron’s
office. Instantly the engine began to purr and the car slipped away from
the steps.

Lafrane bowed to Ruth again, and said, with a gesture, as though
introducing her:

“My comrades, Mademoiselle Fielding. Be of good courage. Like myself,
Mademoiselle, they admire the courage of _les Americaines_.”

Ruth could say nothing to that. She felt half stifled with seething
emotions. Her heart beat rapidly. What was now going to happen to her?
She had endured many strange experiences since coming to France; but she
had to admit that she was not prepared for this occurrence.

The car shot through the tortuous roads swiftly. Suddenly she noted that
they were taking the hilly road to the Dupay farm—the longer way. They
mounted the hill toward the chateau gate.

A light flashed ahead in the roadway. The car was pulled down to a stop
before the entrance to the Chateau Marchand. Another soldierly looking
man—this one in uniform—held the lantern and pointed to the gateway of
the estate. To Ruth’s surprise the wide gates were open.

The guard said something swiftly that the girl did not catch. The
chauffeur manipulated the clutch and again the car leaped ahead. It
turned directly into the private drive leading up to the chateau.



CHAPTER XXV—Quite Satisfactory


Ruth said nothing to Monsieur Lafrane, although she was startled. He had
had no idea, then, of taking her to the Dupay farm. She was somewhat
relieved by this discovery, although she was curious as to why she was
being carried to the chateau.

It was plain that their visit was expected. The great front door of the
old pile of masonry was wide open and a flaring, swinging lamp
illuminated the entrance hall, the light shining far across the flagging
before the door. As the girl had noted, there seemed no fear here at the
chateau of German night raiders, while the village of Clair lay like a
black swamp below the hill, not a lamp, even in the hospital, being
allowed to shine from windows or doorways there.

“Will you come in, Mademoiselle?” said the leader of the expedition
softly.

One of his companions got out, too, and him they left in the entrance
hall, standing grim and silent against the wall like an added piece of
ancient armor, of which there were several in sight, while the secret
agent and Ruth entered an apartment on the right.

It was a library—a long and lofty room, paneled with carved oak and
furnished in a wood quite as dark, the chairs and huge table being
massive. There were a few fine old pictures; but the bookshelves were
almost stripped of volumes. Ruth noted that but a few dozen remained.

The floor, too, was bare; yet by the stain on the boards she saw that
once a huge rug must have almost covered the room. Everything remaining
gave the apartment a stern and poverty-stricken air.

These things she noted at first glance. The countess was present, and it
was the countess who attracted Ruth’s almost immediate attention.

She was quite as handsome and graceful as she had seemed when Ruth saw
her walking in the road. But now she was angry, and her head was held
high and her cheeks were deeply flushed. Her scant skirts swishing in
and out of the candlelight, she walked up and down the room beyond the
table, with something of the litheness of the caged tiger.

“And have you come back to repeat these things you have said about
Bessie?” she demanded in French of the secret agent.

“But, yes, Madame la Countess. It is necessary that you be convinced,”
he said respectfully.

“I cannot believe it. I resent your accusation of poor Bessie. She has
been with me for twenty years.”

“It is so,” said the man gravely. “And we cast no reflection upon her
faithfulness to you, Madame. But have you noted no change in her—of
late?”

“Ah, who has not been changed by the war?” murmured the countess,
stopping to look at them across the table. Then for the first time she
seemed to apprehend Ruth’s presence. She bowed distantly. “Mademoiselle
Americaine,” she murmured. “What is this?”

“I would ask the mademoiselle to tell you what she knows of the
connection of your servant with these men we are after,” said the secret
agent briefly. Then he gestured for Ruth to speak.

The latter understood now what she had been brought here for. And she
was shrewd enough to see, too, that the French secret police thought the
countess entirely trustworthy.

Therefore Ruth began at the beginning and told of her suspicions aroused
against Legrand and José when still she was in America, and of all the
events which linked them to some plot, aimed against France, although
she, of course, did not know and was not likely to know what that plot
was.

The men were proven crooks. They were in disguise. And Ruth was positive
that José was closely associated with the old serving woman whom Ruth
had seen with the dog.

At mention of the greyhound the countess and the secret agent exchanged
glances. Ruth intercepted them; but she made no comment. She saw well
enough that there was a secret in that which she was not to know.

Nor did she ever expect to learn anything more about that phase of the
matter, being unblessed with second sight. However, in our next volume,
“Ruth Fielding at the War Front; Or, The Hunt for a Lost Soldier,” she
was destined to gain much information on several points connected with
the old chateau and its occupants.

Now, however, she merely told the countess what the agent had asked her
to tell, including the fact that Bessie had been seen that afternoon
riding away from the chateau with the two criminals, Legrand and José.

Her testimony seemed to convince the lady of the chateau. She bowed her
head and wiped away the tears that moistened her now paling cheeks.

“_Ma foi!_ Who, then, is to be trusted?” she murmured, when the girl had
finished. “Your pardon, Monsieur! But, remember, I have had the poor
creature in my service for many years.

“I must accept all your story as true. The American mademoiselle
convinces me. This José, then, must be Bessie’s nephew. I had heard of
him. I must thank her, perhaps, that she did not allow him and his
associate to rob me before she ran away. The apaches!”

“We will get them,” said the agent cheerfully, preparing to depart. “I
leave men in the neighborhood. They will communicate with you—and you
can trust them. If the woman reappears alone we must question her. You
understand?” and he spoke with some sternness.

The countess nodded, having recovered her self-control. “I know my duty,
Monsieur,” she said. Then to Ruth, putting forth her hand, she added:

“You have called and find me in sore trouble, my dear. Do I understand
that you work in our hospital at Clair?”

“Yes, Madame,” replied the girl.

“Come to see me again, then—at a happier time.” She pressed Ruth’s hand
for a moment and went out. The secret service agent bowed low as she
disappeared. Then he said with admiration to Ruth:

“_Ma foi!_ A countess, say you? She should be a queen.” Ah, this good
republican was quite plainly a lover of the aristocracy, too!

Ruth was whisked back to the hospital. On the way Monsieur Lafrane
assured her that she would be gratefully remembered by the French secret
police for what seemed to her, after all, a very simple thing.

The men were confident of soon apprehending Legrand and his companions.
“And then—the jug!” ejaculated the leader, using with gusto what he
fondly believed to be another Americanism.

It was not likely that Ruth would sleep much that night. Her mind was
greatly overwrought. But finally, about daylight, when she did fall into
a more or less refreshing sleep, an orderly came to her door and knocked
until she responded.

“Mademoiselle has waiting for her on the steps a visitor,” he said, with
a chuckle. “She should come down at once.”

“A visitor, Henri?” she cried. “Who can it be?”

“One young _Americaine_,” he replied, and went away cheerfully humming a
tune.

“What can that Charlie Bragg want at this hour in the morning?” Ruth
murmured, yet hurrying her toilet. “Possibly he brings news of Tom!”

Down she ran to the court as soon as she was neat. A man was sitting on
the steps, leaning against the doorpost. It was not Charlie, for he was
in military uniform and she could see an officer’s insignia. He was
asleep.

She saw as she left the stairway and crossed the entrance hall that he
wore his arm in a sling. She thought instantly of the unknown American
in Lyse Hospital who had lost his forearm. Then——

“Tom Cameron!” she cried, and sprang to his side.

The soldier awoke with a start. He looked up at her and grinned.

“Hullo, Ruthie,” he observed. “Excuse this early call, but I might not
have another rest day for a long time. We’re going into the
trenches—going to take over a sector of the French line, they say,
before long. So——

“Hullo! What’s happened?”

“Your arm, Tom! You are wounded?” she gasped.

“Oh, shucks! Got a splinter of shell in it. Nothing much. Keeping it in
splints so it will mend quicker,” he said.

“But your letter, Tom!” she cried, and there, in the early morning,
standing upon the hospital steps, she told him the story of the
happening that had so disturbed and troubled her.

“Don’t that beat all!” exclaimed Tom. “I wondered what had happened to
that letter that I had just finished when I was called on duty. It was
Sam Hines who had his arm torn off—poor fellow. We heard from him. He’s
getting on all right, but, of course, he’ll have to go home.

“He must have picked up my letter, maybe to give it to me, knowing I had
forgotten it. Well, it’s all right, Ruthie. I can tell you lots more
than was in that letter—and you’ve got a lot to tell me.”

So they sat down, side by side, and related each to the other all their
adventures, while the great guns on the battle line boomed a rumbling
accompaniment to what was said.


                                THE END



THE RUTH FIELDING SERIES

By ALICE B. EMERSON

_12 mo. Illustrated. Jacket in full colors_.


Price 50 cents per volume.

Postage 10 cents additional.

Ruth Fielding was an orphan and came to live with her miserly uncle. Her
adventures and travels make stories that will hold the interest of every
reader.

Ruth Fielding is a character that will live in juvenile fiction.

   1. RUTH FIELDING OF THE RED MILL
   2. RUTH FIELDING AT BRIARWOOD HALL
   3. RUTH FIELDING AT SNOW CAMP
   4. RUTH FIELDING AT LIGHTHOUSE POINT
   5. RUTH FIELDING AT SILVER RANCH
   6. RUTH FIELDING ON CLIFF ISLAND
   7. RUTH FIELDING AT SUNRISE FARM
   8. RUTH FIELDING AND THE GYPSIES
   9. RUTH FIELDING IN MOVING PICTURES
  10. RUTH FIELDING DOWN IN DIXIE
  11. RUTH FIELDING AT COLLEGE
  12. RUTH FIELDING IN THE SADDLE
  13. RUTH FIELDING IN THE RED CROSS
  14. RUTH FIELDING AT THE WAR FRONT
  15. RUTH FIELDING HOMEWARD BOUND
  16. RUTH FIELDING DOWN EAST
  17. RUTH FIELDING IN THE GREAT NORTHWEST
  18. RUTH FIELDING ON THE ST. LAWRENCE
  19. RUTH FIELDING TREASURE HUNTING
  20. RUTH FIELDING IN THE FAR NORTH
  21. RUTH FIELDING AT GOLDEN PASS
  22. RUTH FIELDING IN ALASKA
  23. RUTH FIELDING IN HER GREAT SCENARIO
  24. RUTH FIELDING AT CAMERON HALL
  25. RUTH FIELDING CLEARING HER NAME
  26. RUTH FIELDING IN TALKING PICTURES
  27. RUTH FIELDING AND BABY JUNE

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, _Publishers_ NEW YORK



THE BARTON BOOKS FOR GIRLS

By MAY HOLLIS BARTON


12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. With colored Jacket.

Price 50 cents per volume. Postage 10 cents additional.

May Hollis Barton is a new writer for girls who is bound to win instant
popularity. Her style is somewhat of a reminder of that of Louisa M.
Alcott, but thoroughly up-to-date in plot and action. Clean tales that
all the girls will enjoy reading.

   1. THE GIRL FROM THE COUNTRY
   2. THREE GIRL CHUMS AT LAUREL HALL
   3. NELL GRAYSON’S RANCHING DAYS
   4. FOUR LITTLE WOMEN of ROXBY
   5. PLAIN JANE AND PRETTY BETTY
   6. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
   7. HAZEL HOOD’S STRANGE DISCOVERY
   8. TWO GIRLS AND A MYSTERY
   9. THE GIRLS OF LIGHTHOUSE ISLAND
  10. KATE MARTIN’S PROBLEM
  11. THE GIRL IN THE TOP FLAT
  12. THE SEARCH FOR PEGGY ANN
  13. SALLIE’S TEST OF SKILL
  14. CHARLOTTE CROSS AND AUNT DEB

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THE BETTY GORDON SERIES

By ALICE B. EMERSON


Author of the “Ruth Fielding Series”

12mo. Illustrated. Jacket in full colors.

Price 50 cents per volume. Postage 10 cents additional.

A new series of stories bound to make this writer more popular than ever
with her host of girl readers. Every one will want to know Betty Gordon,
and every one will be sure to love her.

   1. BETTY GORDON AT BRAMBLE FARM
   2. BETTY GORDON IN WASHINGTON
   3. BETTY GORDON IN THE LAND OF OIL
   4. BETTY GORDON AT BOARDING SCHOOL
   5. BETTY GORDON AT MOUNTAIN CAMP
   6. BETTY GORDON AT OCEAN PARK
   7. BETTY GORDON AND HER SCHOOL CHUMS
   8. BETTY GORDON AT RAINBOW RANCH
   9. BETTY GORDON IN MEXICAN WILDS
  10. BETTY GORDON AND THE LOST PEARLS
  11. BETTY GORDON ON THE CAMPUS
  12. BETTY GORDON AND THE HALE TWINS
  13. BETTY GORDON AT MYSTERY FARM
  14. BETTY GORDON ON NO-TRAIL ISLAND

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THE LINGER-NOTS SERIES

By AGNES MILLER


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Price 50 cents per volume. Postage 10 cents additional.

This new series of girls’ books is in a new style of story writing. The
interest is in knowing the girls and seeing them solve the problems that
develop their character. Incidentally, a great deal of historical
information is imparted.

1. THE LINGER-NOTS AND THE MYSTERY HOUSE _or the Story of Nine
Adventurous Girls_

How the Linger-Not girls met and formed their club, and how they made
their club serve a great purpose, introduces a new type of girlhood.

2. THE LINGER-NOTS AND THE VALLEY FEUD _or the Great West Point Chain_

The Linger-Not girls had no thought of becoming mixed up with feuds or
mysteries, but their habit of being useful soon entangled them in some
surprising adventures.

3. THE LINGER-NOTS AND THEIR GOLDEN QUEST _or The Log of the Ocean
Monarch_

For a club of girls to become involved in a mystery leading back into
the times of the California gold-rush, and how the girls helped one of
their friends to come into her rightful name and inheritance.

4. THE LINGER-NOTS AND THE WHISPERING CHARM _or The Secret from Old
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Whether engrossed in thrilling adventures in the Far North or occupied
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the Linger-Nots learn many useful facts and the real secret of the
hidden maze.

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By LILIAN GARIS


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The highest ideals of girlhood as advocated by the foremost
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The story of a timid little maid who is afraid to take part in other
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Luna Land, a little island by the sea, is wrapt in a mysterious
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Their discovery of Peg, the mysterious rider, and the clearing up of her
remarkable adventures afford a vigorous plot.

5. THE GIRL SCOUTS AT ROCKY LEDGE _or Nora’s Real Vacation_

Her dislike for the rugged life of Girl Scouts is eventually changed to
appreciation, when the rescue of little Lucia, a woodland waif, becomes
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By GRACE GORDON


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This fascinating series is permeated with the vibrant atmosphere of the
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PATSY CARROLL AT WILDERNESS LODGE

Patsy Carroll succeeds in coaxing her father to lease one of the
luxurious camps at Lake Placid, for the summer. Established at
Wilderness Lodge, the Wayfarers, as they call themselves, find they are
the center of a mystery which revolves about a missing will. How the
girls solve the mystery makes a splendid story.

PATSY CARROLL UNDER SOUTHERN SKIES

Patsy Carroll and her three chums spend their Easter vacation in an old
mansion in Florida. An exciting mystery develops. It is solved by a
curious acrostic found by Patsy. This leads to very exciting and
satisfactory results, making a capital story.

PATSY CARROLL IN THE GOLDEN WEST

The Wayfarers journey to the dream city of the Movie World in the Golden
West, and there become a part of a famous film drama.

PATSY CARROLL IN OLD NEW ENGLAND

Set in the background of the Tercentenary of the landing of the
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By EDITH BANCROFT


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This series is a decided departure from the stories usually written of
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An authoritative account of the life of the college girl as it is lived
to-day.

JANE ALLEN OF THE SUB TEAM

When Jane Allen left her beautiful Western home in Montana, sorely
against her will, to go East, there to become a freshman at Wellington
College, she was sure that she could never learn to endure the
restrictions of college life. But she did.

JANE ALLEN: RIGHT GUARD

Jane Allen becomes a sophomore at Wellington College, but she has to
face a severe trial that requires all her courage and character. The
result is a triumph for being faithful to an ideal.

JANE ALLEN: CENTER

Lovable Jane Allen as Junior experiences delightful days of work and
play. Jane, and her chum, Judith, win leadership in class office, social
and athletic circles of Sophs and Juniors.

JANE ALLEN: JUNIOR

Jane Allen’s college experiences, as continued in “Jane Allen, Junior,”
afford the chance for a brilliant story. There is a rude, country girl,
who forced her way into Wellington under false pretenses. An exchange of
identity gives the plot unusual originality.

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PEGGY LEE SERIES

By ANNA ANDREWS


12mo. Illustrated. Jackets in full colors.

Price 50 cents per volume. Postage 10 cents additional.

A charming series of stories of a young American girl, Peggy Lee, living
with her family (including many unusual pets) on a large coffee
plantation in Central America, and her many adventures there and in New
York.

The action is rapid, full of fun, and takes the reader not only to many
interesting places in Central America, but in the country as well, where
Peggy attends a school for girls. The incidents are cleverly brought
out, and Peggy in her wistful way, proves in her many adventures to be a
brave girl and an endearing heroine to her friends and readers.

  1. PEGGY AND MICHAEL OF THE COFFEE PLANTATION
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  3. PEGGY LEE AND THE MYSTERIOUS ISLANDS

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