Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: America First
Author: Greene, Frances Nimmo, 1850-1921
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "America First" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Collections, University Libraries, Ball State University

[Illustration]

  AMERICA FIRST

[Illustration: "I wouldn't go when you dared me to," said the
tenderfoot, "but this is--different." And he added in his heart: "This
is for _my country_." [_Page 23._]]



  AMERICA FIRST

  BY
  FRANCES NIMMO GREENE

  ILLUSTRATED BY
  T. DE THULSTRUP

  CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
  NEW YORK   CHICAGO   BOSTON

  COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY
  CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

  TO MY MOTHER'S NAMESAKE
  AND MY OWN
  VIRGINIA OWEN GREENE AND
  FRANCES NIMMO GREENE



CONTENTS


                                                             PAGE

  CALLED TO THE COLORS                                          1

  UNDER THE FLAG                                               53

  AMERICA FIRST                                                89



ILLUSTRATIONS


  "I wouldn't go when you dared me to," said the tenderfoot,
  "but this is--different." And he added
  in his heart: "This is for _my country_"         _Frontispiece_

                                                      FACING PAGE

  A man was sitting over some sort of instrument               36

  "You can't touch Rudolph!" she cried. "He's under
  the flag!"                                                   86

  "Riego Yañez," he said, "I am proud to shake hands
  with an American hero!"                                     120



CALLED TO THE COLORS


This is the story of a "tenderfoot"--of a pink-cheeked, petted lad,
and of his first service as a Boy Scout.

Danny Harding was what his mother's friends termed "wonderfully
fortunate," but Danny himself took quite another view of his life's
circumstances as he hurried home from school one afternoon, an hour
before the regular time for dismissal.

The day was golden with sunshine, but the boy's spirit was dark. There
was singing in the air and singing in the tree tops, but in the heart
which pounded against his immaculate jacket were silent rage and
despair.

The Whippoorwill Patrol had been called to the colors, and he the
untried, the untested tenderfoot would have to remain at home in
luxurious security, while the huskier, browner, less-sheltered lads
answered their country's call. It was beyond the power of a boy's
heart to endure--the mortification--the wild despair of it! They would
call him a slacker, a _coward_! But, worse still, his country needed
him, and he could not answer!

Danny brushed away the tears which threatened to blind him, and
stumbled on.

The call had come through a telegram from the Scout Master to the boys
while they were yet at school, and the teacher had promptly dismissed
them to service. The Whippoorwills were to leave immediately upon an
expedition to the mountains, but just what duty they were called to
perform was not stated in the brief message. All they knew was that
they were to leave at once for a certain distant mountain-top, there
pitch tents and await orders for serious service.

On receipt of the news the other boys had rushed off noisily with
eager joy to don their khaki uniforms and make ready, but Danny had
slipped down a by-street--a wounded, a hurt thing, trying to hide his
anguish away from mortal sight. He would not be allowed to go--he
knew it--for he was the only son of a widowed mother who loved him all
too well. He was her all, her idol, and her days had been spent in
pampering and shielding him.

Only a week before, the scouts had gone on a hike together and she had
refused absolutely to allow Danny to accompany them--the sun would be
too hot, he might get poisoned with wild ivy, he would be sure to
imbibe fever germs from the mountain spring!

No, thought the miserable boy, she would be doubly fearful, doubly
unwilling, now that the Whippoorwills were to do serious scout duty on
Death Head Mountain.

Danny's soul raged against his soft fate as he stumbled up the side
steps of his handsome home and entered his mother's presence.

He did not fly to her arms as he was wont to do, but, instead, flung
himself into the first convenient chair with a frown. He could not
trust himself to speak.

But even in that moment of stress Danny realized that his mother had
not hurried to him for the usual kiss. She was struggling with some
sort of bundle, and she only looked up with a quick smile.

The next instant, however, the smile of welcome died out of her face,
and she stopped suddenly and regarded him with a startled question in
her eyes.

Danny frowned more darkly, and moved uneasily under her searching
gaze. He looked away in a vain attempt to hide the tears which had
sprung to his eyes.

And then came the unexpected:

"Danny," said his mother, in a voice that sounded new to him, "I
received a long-distance phone message from the Scout Master, and--he
said he had wired to the school----"

She paused a moment, and then asked: "Didn't you get the message?"

"Yes," said the boy doggedly.

There was a pause, and then his mother deliberately put down the
bundle she had been working with, and approached. She came and stood
before him, with her back to the table as if for support. Danny did
not look up into her face, though he saw her white, jewelled hands
grasping the edge of the table, and they were strained and tense.

"My son," she said, "what is the matter with you?"

He was too full to answer.

"Danny," she began again presently and in that new voice, "you won't
_do_ this way--you _will not_!" And then suddenly a white, jewelled
hand was struck fiercely upon the table, and the new voice exclaimed
passionately:

"Daniel Harding, if you sit around and cry like a baby when you are
called to the service of your country, I'll--I'll _disown_ you, sir!"

"Mother!" And Danny sprang to her arms.

There were a few moments of sobbing, laughing confession from Danny,
and then his mother explained to him her unexpected change of attitude
toward scouting. Danger?--yes, of course she knew that this might
involve danger to him, but this call was for no frolic--it was to the
service of his country! He _was_ her all, everything in the world to
her, but the one thing which she could not, would not bear would be to
see him turn "slacker" and coward when other mothers' boys--not ten
years older than Danny--were already on the firing-line in France!

"Our part in this war is the old fight of '76, Danny"--she said to
him--"_nothing less than that_! The Colonists fought to win
independence for America. We are fighting now to save that
independence won. And if it takes every man in America--every boy in
America--if it takes _you_, Danny--there is just one answer for an
American to give."

And then the two of them hurriedly finished tying up the bundle she
had put aside. It was his kit for the expedition!

It was a newer, bigger ideal of patriotism which Danny Harding took
with him into his service on Death Head Mountain. His mother, who
loved him all too well, had yet sent him from her with nothing short
of her positive orders to do his duty like a man.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Whippoorwill Patrol had answered the call to service, and the
growing dusk found its members arranging their camp for a night's
bivouac in a lonely stretch of woods "somewhere" on the crest of the
Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Scout Master had not come, but his orders had, and the
Whippoorwills were busily engaged in executing them.

"Camp in Mica Cove, conceal your fires, and wait for me," the Scout
Master had telegraphed. "You are called to service."

So here they were in Mica Cove, hardily preparing for whatever service
to their country it might be theirs to perform, and excitedly guessing
at what ominous circumstance had necessitated their sudden calling out.

Of course, everybody knew that old "Death Head" must have come into
some added evil repute, and would have to be taken in hand. And that
they would shortly be scouting over all its lonely trails nobody had
any doubt whatever.

There were eight of them, for the whole patrol was present. Youngest
and happiest of them all was the pink-cheeked, petted tenderfoot,
Danny Harding. He was no "slacker," no "coward"! He was here with the
others to play a manly part in serving his country, and his mother had
sent him from her with a smile!

Besides Danny, there were in the ranks L. C. Whitman, nicknamed "Elsie,"
Ham and Roger Gayle, Alex Batré, Ed Rowell, and Biddie Burton--as husky
and jolly a bunch as could well be got together. All these were older
than Danny, and, as all were more or less seasoned to scouting, they
were quite disposed to have their fun out of the new recruit.

Danny took their teasing in good spirit, however, for he felt that it
was part of his initiation into their envied circle. They were big
boys--brown like the woods of which they had become a part,
panther-footed, eagle-eyed, efficient. Danny felt that he would be
willing to suffer much to become as they.

The tenderfoot watched them all to see just how a scout was supposed
to act, but it was to Willard McKenzie, the resourceful leader of the
patrol, that his eyes turned oftenest in frank admiration.

McKenzie was the oldest of the bunch--quite seventeen--and five years
of scouting had stamped him a man as Nature meant him to be. He knew
and could answer every bird-call, could follow a wood-trail
unerringly, could find himself in any emergency by the chart of the
stars above him. He was the trusted friend of every wild thing about
him, and brother to every wind that blew. The tenderfoot watched the
graceful movements of the leader's Indianlike figure, studied his
genius for quiet command, and decided promptly to be, one day, a
second Willard McKenzie.

In obedience to McKenzie's orders, the boys built their camp-fire
within the cove, where it would be hidden on three sides by peaks
which towered above, and on the fourth by a dense thicket.

Mr. Gordon, the Scout Master, had not come, nor did they know when to
expect him. But they knew enough to obey their leader, and this they
were proceeding to do.

It was a simple matter--getting the camp ready--and the boys
thoroughly enjoyed it. As they were to sleep on the ground, rolled in
their blankets, they had merely to clear the space about them of
underbrush and fallen timber, and build the fire for cooking.

Of course they talked of war as they worked, for they were scouts in
khaki, preparing for action.

Ed Rowell claimed for cousin one of the American engineers who fought
their way out of German captivity with their bare fists. Batré's older
brother was right then cleaving his winged way through clouds of
battle in the service of the La Fayette Escadrille. Whitman knew a man
who knew a man who was in the 167th Infantry Regiment when it made
with others that now historic march, knee-deep in French snows.

Danny said nothing, for he was a quiet, thoughtful lad. But he had
vividly in mind a handsome fellow of only eighteen who, until
America's declaration of war, had Sunday after Sunday carried the
golden cross up the aisle of the little Church of the Holy Innocents
to "Onward, Christian Soldiers." Danny had heard his mother say that
it was that song which had sent the young crucifer bearing the Red
Cross of Mercy right up to the German guns.

But their talk was not all serious. They were brimming over with life,
and they laughed and scrapped and worked together with a zest which
made even bramble-cutting enjoyable.

It was when the big fire was glowing red and they set about preparing
their evening meal that the best part of the fun began. Whoever has
not broiled great slices of bacon or toasted cold biscuits on
sharpened sticks before a cheery camp-fire, who has not roasted sweet
potatoes and green corn in glowing ashes, who has not inhaled the
aroma from an old tin coffee-pot, spitting and sputtering on a hot
rock, should join the Boy Scouts and hike back to the heart of nature.

Oh, but it was fun! All except the holding in check of savage
appetites till the mess should be cooked. Ed Rowell had been detailed
to toast the biscuits, and repeatedly threatened to "eat 'em alive" if
they didn't brown faster.

Danny, who, with Alex Batré, had been directed to broil the bacon,
couldn't for the life of him keep from pinching off a crisp edge now
and then to nibble. And yet only yesterday Danny Harding would have
turned up his nose at bacon. The stimulating fresh air and the hard
work of camp life had begun to get in their good work on him.

On the other side of the fire from Danny, Ham and Roger Gayle were
roasting corn and sweet potatoes in the ashes, and a little beyond,
Elsie Whitman was filling the water-cans from a trickling mountain
spring--while Biddie Burton was busily engaged in getting under
everybody else's feet and teasing whomever he could.

McKenzie, their leader, was momentarily absent, having gone down to
the road below the cliff on which they were encamped to see if their
fire could be sighted from that point through the screening thicket.

The boys had from the first been instructed by McKenzie to keep their
voices lowered. They were there for serious service, he had told them.
And the necessity for stealth and the promise of adventure had for a
time keyed them up to the highest pitch of excitement.

But when the interest of cooking supper became uppermost--especially
when the scent of the bacon and coffee began to fill the air--thoughts
of adventure withdrew a little to a distance and whispered merriment
became the order of the hour.

As was natural, they turned on the tenderfoot their battery of
teasing, and the tenderfoot bore it as best he could.

"Its mother washes 'em," averred Biddie Burton, coming up behind Danny
and carefully examining his ears as he knelt at his work.

"Sure she does," laughed Ham across the fire, "and they say that a sore
tooth in its little mouth aches everybody in the family connection."

"Look out there, something's burning!" broke in Ed Rowell suddenly.
And the next moment Ham and Roger were busy rescuing from the fire the
scorching potatoes.

"I declare," scolded Biddie, lounging up, "I could beat you fellows
cooking, with both hands tied behind me."

"Why haven't you ever done it, then?" snapped the elder Gayle, sore
over his partial failure.

"Why, nobody has ever tied my hands behind me," came in seemingly hurt
explanation from Biddie, and the crowd laughed.

McKenzie had directed them not to wait for him, and they did not.
Another five minutes found them eating like young wolves around a
languishing fire.

Later, when the fire winked lower, and the meal was finished--when the
screech-owls began to send their blood-chilling, shivering screams
through the forest--they drew closer together and began to talk of
weird and haunting things.

"Over yonder, on the real 'Death Head,'" began Roger, bringing the
interest down to the spot, "is the haunted tree where----"

"Look out," broke in young Rowell, "a little more of that and friend
Danny over here will cut for home and mother."

"I'll do nothing of the kind; I'm not a baby!" exclaimed Danny
indignantly. But all the same, his heart was already in his mouth, for
Danny had never been distinguished for signal bravery.

"No, you are not 'a baby,'" put in the unquenchable Biddie, "but
before we get out of these woods you are going to wish you _were_ a
baby, and a _girl_ baby at that!"

Danny did not reply to this. He only sat very still, wishing that
Willard McKenzie would return from his prolonged trip, and thinking
of the mother who was looking to him to play the man.

The scene lost its glow. The surrounding forest grew darker, taller,
and began stealing up closer about them.

"If you cry like a baby--!" Danny's mother was whispering to his
sinking heart.

The others had fallen into an argument about the exact location of the
haunted tree, but presently Ed Rowell asked impatiently:

"Well, what is it about the place, anyway?"

"Haunted!" exclaimed Ham. "A murderer, hunted with dogs through the
mountains, hanged himself on----"

"And the old tree died in the night," assisted his brother. "And it
stands there now, naked and stark and dead. At night----"

Danny's heart stood still to hear.

"At night," broke in Whitman, "if you creep up close, you can see the
dead man swinging in the wind!"

"_Listen!_" exclaimed Biddie under his breath.

It will have to be recorded that they all jumped violently at the
exclamation.

"What?" demanded L. C.

"And hear old Danny being quiet!" finished the teasing scamp.

"You bet you, and he'd better be quiet--" began Roger.

But Whitman interrupted:

"Danny's afraid of ghosts, anyway," he declared, "I tried to leave him
in the graveyard once, but he was home in his mama's lap before I
started running."

"I'm not any more afraid of ghosts than you are," Danny protested hotly.

"Oh, _aren't_ you?"

"No, I'm not!"

"All right, then," the big boy taunted; "I've been to the haunted tree
by myself at night--these fellows all know I have--now suppose _you_ go."

"Sure, tenderfoot," put in young Rowell; "here's a perfectly good
chance to show your nerve."

"He hasn't any," sneered Alex Batré.

But Danny drew back, aghast at the proposition--go alone to a spot
like that, and at night!

"Go to it, kid," was suddenly spoken quietly in his ear.

Danny turned to see whose was the kindly voice that advised, and
looked into Biddie Burton's eyes.

"Don't let 'em make you take a dare," came in another whisper. "_Go._"
Biddie was not smiling now, and there was a note of serious
friendliness in his voice.

It suddenly came to Danny that he would give more to merit that new
confidence on Biddie's part than to break down the taunts of the others.
And yet he could not. He could no more command his shaking nerves to
carry him to that unhallowed, ghostly spot than he could command the
unwilling nerves of another. His will-power had deserted him.

"I _dare_ you to go!" badgered L. C.

Danny's spirit flamed for one brief moment. But in the very next his
head dropped, and he turned away.

"This is going too far," the wretched little fellow heard Biddie
Burton exclaim sharply.

"What is 'going too far'?" a new voice asked out of the darkness, and
Willard McKenzie advanced into the group. "What is 'going too far'?" he
repeated, glancing from one to another. No answer being volunteered, his
keen glance quickly singled out the shamed tenderfoot.

"What have they been up to, Danny?" he asked.

Danny turned and faced him.

"Nothing that makes any difference," he said.

It was generous in him not to "peach," and so Biddie Burton's friendly
glance assured him.

The incident passed with that, for McKenzie was full of something
repressed, and, seeing it, the boys gathered close about him in eager
questioning--all except Danny.

All except Danny! His brief career--his career that only an hour ago
had promised so much--had ended, and in disgrace. He had taken a
dare! Nothing would ever matter to him again--Danny told his aching
heart--the boys despised him, all except Biddie Burton, and, somehow,
Biddie's pity was harder to bear than despite.

"I went to the gap and wired Mr. Gordon," McKenzie was saying now,
"and he told me I could put you to it at once. He's had an accident to
his car and may not get here for some time."

"What's up?" It was Roger who asked the question.

"Something serious," answered McKenzie, "but Mr. Gordon didn't say
what. Have you had supper?"

They replied in concert, eager to receive orders.

"Well," continued McKenzie, "we've got to cover the mountain here, for
signs of--anything unusual. You'll have to be careful not to run into
trouble yourselves, but you must know your ground. There'll be a good
moon if the clouds break."

"Glory be!" Danny heard Elsie Whitman breathe in expectant ecstasy,
and he would have given the world to have felt with him that eager
joy. But Danny had taken a dare!

The others were chattering now, as eager as Whitman to be off on the
trail of adventure.

McKenzie was giving orders:

"Whitman, you can take the north trail, and bear down over the
mountain. Ham will strike out down the creek to the left there, and
work around to your territory. There's an old cabin hidden by
scrub-oaks and rocks about a quarter below the bridge there, Ham. Know
it for what it is, but don't you run your long neck into danger."

In spite of his hurt Danny was getting interested. He crept up on the
outer edge of the group and listened, wide-eyed, as the other boys
eagerly accepted their several commissions.

"Roger and Ed," their leader was continuing, "bear south till you get
below the drop of the cliff, and then separate and work that
territory between you"--with a sweeping gesture. "Alex and Biddie--let
me see--you two go over the mountain to the right of Elsie--No,
there's the Death Head trail--" He paused a moment in thoughtful
survey of them, and the boys looked at each other apprehensively. Not
one of them was anxious to work the trail of evil name. Suddenly,
however, McKenzie's eyes lighted on Danny Harding, and an inspiration
seemed to come to him.

"Say," he exclaimed, "I'll give the new recruit a chance at that. Come
here, scout." And he laid a kind hand on Danny's shoulder and drew him
into the circle.

Somebody on the outskirts of the group laughed.

"Now you are going to do your first service for your country,"
McKenzie said to the tenderfoot; "but whatever you do, be wary,
because----"

Somebody else laughed, and McKenzie looked about sharply. "What's the
joke?" he asked.

"Danny's afraid," the mocker explained; "that's where the dead man
swings."

Biddie strolled forward. "Alex will be enough to work Elsie's right,"
he said to McKenzie. "Give me the Death Head trail. You'll need Dan
here about the camp."

But Danny raised his head quickly. It is true that his face was
dead-white, but his head was up.

"I'll go to the Death Head," he said to McKenzie.

The crowd was dumb-struck.

"But you got white-livered and backed down--" L. C. began, after the
first shock of his surprise.

"I wouldn't go when you dared me to," said the tenderfoot, "but this
is--different." And he added in his heart: "This is for _my country_."

"But he _is_ afraid," put in Roger. "Look at him!"

McKenzie took a long, straight look into Danny's white face and
determined eyes, and then turned to Roger.

"All the gamer of him," he said, "to go in spite of being
afraid--that's the stuff that Pershing is looking for. And Mr. Gordon
says that a boy who 'isn't afraid of anything' hasn't sense enough to
be trusted with a commission. "Kid," he continued, turning to Danny,
"you find out all that there is to be known about the Death Head
vicinity before you show up in camp again."

"All right," said Danny.

There was a gasp of surprise among them at the tenderfoot's final
acceptance of the commission, but not one of them--not even
Biddie--believed that he would be able to carry it through. And the
sensitive, high-strung Danny went out from among them burdened with
the feeling that they did not look for him to succeed.

McKenzie walked a little way with him--big-brother fashion, with an
arm over his shoulder--and gave him careful directions as to how to
proceed. There would be a moon if the clouds broke, his leader warned
him, and he was to keep to the shadows.

"I'll be leaving camp myself," said McKenzie, "and will not show up
again for a couple of hours. You will probably get back before the
rest of us, so just roll up in your blanket and lie close under that
ledge yonder--you will be perfectly safe there." A little farther up
the mountain trail and McKenzie paused.

"Never mind about the dead man, scout," he admonished finally, "but
keep your eye peeled for the live one, and--'the best of luck!'"

"'The best of luck!'" That was what the men at the front said to a
fellow when he was going over the top of the shielding trench into the
dangerous unknown.

At the familiar phrase in parting, Danny drew a quick, deep breath.
Yes, he was going "over the top"--and he was going _alone_!

Then McKenzie slipped quietly back, and Danny started forward up the
long, dark trail alone. The ghost of a moon showed dimly through the
black cloud-rack, now and again, and fitfully relieved the enveloping
darkness.

Only once did Danny look back. That was when he came to the first turn
in the mountain trail which his leader had carefully explained to him.
Beyond that turn, and it would be good-by to the last cheering,
reassuring gleam of their camp-fire, to the last faint sound of
comforting voices.

Danny paused and looked back. Only two remained in the bright circle
toward which his rapidly chilling spirit was reaching back. He
recognized at once the tall, slim form of McKenzie, but---- Yes, that
chunky one was Biddie Burton. The two of them were standing close
together, talking earnestly. And now Danny caught, by a sudden leap of
the firelight, the fact that they were looking toward him. Biddie was
nodding.

It was so bright, so safe back there where they had laughed and
feasted and wrangled together. Then suddenly Danny thought of the
young crucifer in the little Church of the Holy Innocents.

"Onward, Christian Soldiers!"

The next moment Danny was groping, feeling his trembling way, but that
way was _onward_. The heart in his breast beat an alarm to every nerve
in his body, but he kept his face toward the dim, dark trail. A lump
rose in his throat and threatened to choke him. He gulped it down, and
crept forward.

McKenzie had told him that a scout must keep his head. That was the
hardest part. A fellow could force himself to go blindly to a haunted
spot at night, but to think, to plan, to watch as he went----!

But he was a scout, and a scout must "be prepared." Danny forced
himself to think as he went. He was not following that gruesome trail
in response to Whitman's dare--he was scouting old Death Head in the
service of his country.

Danny found that he could follow McKenzie's directions better than he
had hoped. Now that his eyes were thoroughly accustomed to the dark,
he could descry the blacker landmarks for which his leader had
prepared him. After the turn in the mountain trail, an abrupt and
jagged cliff ahead beckoned the way. The shadow of the cliff won,
Danny waited for another appearance of the pale, cold moon by the help
of whose light he hoped to locate the three giant pines--his next
objective. From the pines, McKenzie had told him, old Death Head could
be sighted plainly enough, for from that point it was silhouetted,
black and unmistakable, against the sky, and its summit was marked by
the stark, white, blasted tree of evil fame.

"That's where the dead man swings!" echoed in Danny's memory. And for
a moment it seemed that he _must_ give up and fly back to safety. But
something said: "I'll disown you, sir!" And Danny again turned his
face in the direction of his duty.

The moon looked out of the drifting clouds. Danny located the three
giant pines in the distance, and for one blessed moment saw a
reasonably clear path, skirting along the mountainside.

Darkness again! But Danny took the skirting path to the pine giants.

Once he nearly lost his nerve altogether, for suddenly there was
behind him a sound as if some human foot had stumbled. The tenderfoot
dropped warily to the long grass at one side of the path, and
listened. A long, long time he listened, but not another sound did he
hear. At length he told himself that the step was that of some wild
creature which he had disturbed.

Then forward again! Creeping, panther-footed.

Danny reached the pines at last--and sure enough, old Death Head rose
all too plainly before him. He saw, or thought he saw, a tall white
something on its summit.

In thinking it over afterward, Danny was never quite sure just what
happened between the pines and the haunted tree. He had a vague
recollection of imagining that step behind again, and he recalled at
one point the almost welcome pain of a stubbed toe. But for the rest,
he was too frightened to take it all in.

By the time the tenderfoot reached the summit of old Death Head and
stood within fifty feet of the haunted tree, he was too frightened to
move, and he almost _expected_ to see the thing which he most feared.
The sky was overcast again, but a dim white something towered before
him--the haunted tree--and--and----!

But just at that moment the clouds broke, and the full moon, now all
unveiled, flooded the scene with light.

Naked, stark, ghostly, the blasted pine-tree rose before him. With a
sudden spasm at his heart Danny looked for the swinging dead man. But
if anything unearthly hung from those bare white branches, his mortal
eyes were spared the vision. And presently his awakening reason began
to urge: "There are no such things as 'ghosts.'"

The next moment the young scout came fully to himself, and withdrew
quickly from the all-revealing flood of moonlight to the friendly
shadow of a low shrub. He began to peer sharply about. The growth
around was ragged, with great spaces between. If there was anything
here that a scout ought to note, the opportunity was ideal.

He must perform the duty for which he was here! His leader had told
him to know the spot before he showed up in camp again.

Danny began skirting about in the shadows, getting every angle he
could on the scene, and exploring adjacent wood lanes. It is true that
he kept well away from the haunted tree, but he came back to its
vicinity every now and then. And each time as he came he managed to
force himself to approach it closer.

Nearer and nearer he got to it, and then, suddenly, he heard issue
from somewhere in its branches a low, sighing moan. Danny thought he
would drop in his tracks, but he did not. Instead, he stood as still
as death and listened.

That moan again! Every time a gust of wind came, the dim, weird sound
trembled along the night.

The moon was shining brilliantly now. Danny stood staring at the
haunted tree.

All at once he crept forward, sharply intent on something.

What was that straight black line against the sky? Where did it come
from?--that haunted tree?

Another moment and Danny was at the foot of the ghostly pine-tree,
staring upward at the crisscross of its naked branches.

There was no swinging dead man there, but there was _something_--at
the top!

Danny dropped to the ground and retreated a little on all fours for a
better view-point. 'Way up, two parallel black bars rose against the sky.

A scout must keep his head!

Now, no boughs of a tree ever grew that straight! And what were those
orderly black lines which extended from one bar to the other?

That moan again!--or--or was it the sound of a wire, played upon by
the wind?

Danny shifted his position again.

Yes, that black line across the sky connected directly with the queer
something in the tree top.

"_Wireless!_" said the scout's head to him.

Danny stood up. All childish fear of a swinging ghost had dropped away
from him. He had not the slightest inclination now to cry like a baby
about anything.

He was a scout on duty!

Another moment and he was creeping, velvet-footed, through the woods,
following that black line as it led away from the haunted tree. At the
other end of it must be a receiving-station!

And it was no easy task which his duty set him. Over sharp rocks and
through tangled briers that black line led him on. Sometimes the moon
would desert him and he would lose the clue for a while. Sometimes he
would be forced to abandon his clue to skirt around an insuperable
barrier. But he always came back to it, always pressed on.

On and on! And then, suddenly, the line disappeared. It ended, or
seemed to end in a large pile of boulders which clung to the
mountainside. The undergrowth was dense here.

Danny circled about the spot. Yes, the wire stopped here. He began
creeping through the underbrush--feeling his way along the side of a
great boulder.

Suddenly his hand touched--_nothing_!

The scout stopped and thought. There was some sort of break in the
rock here.

Danny had a flashlight in his pocket which he had been too cautious to
use. He thought of it now, and hesitated. Then he slipped it out and
pressed the spring.

Before him was what seemed the door of a cave. He looked closer. Yes,
the wire led into the cave. Darkness, again, for he was afraid to use
his light any longer.

Danny dropped to his all-fours and crept into the black hole. A floor
of soft sand helped him to advance noiselessly. After a few yards the
scout reached a turn in the rocky passageway, and----

His eye caught a big, black-hooded shadow humped over a point of light!

Danny withdrew quickly behind the sheltering turn in the wall, and
crouched in the sand, dead-still. But his blood was up. He took a
second look.

A man was sitting over some sort of instrument, and over his ears were
cups, something like Danny had seen worn by the girl at the telephone
central station. The one point of light in the big dark recess was
turned on a note-book under the man's hand.

The young scout drew back, and crept silently out of the cavern.

Out under the stars again, and this time with his blood on fire! A
spy, a German spy sat in that cave and sent messages----!

Only yesterday a fleet of transports had slipped out of the harbor,
with thousands of American soldiers on board--submarines--sea-raiders!

But a scout must keep his head.

Help? Which way could help be found? The boys were scattered, McKenzie
would not be in camp. Nobody knew when to expect Mr. Gordon.

Which way? Which way? Oh, yes, down over the drop of the cliff to the
south yonder was the mountain wagon road by which their scouting party
had ascended that afternoon. If he could get to the road he could find
somebody somewhere--surely, there were a few inhabitants hereabouts!

That German was sending wireless messages right this minute---- Yes,
the shortest way to the road was the only way for a fellow to take
now! And Danny took it.

When he reached the cliff, spent and sore, a new difficulty presented
itself. A sheer fifty-foot drop still separated him from the road. He
crept along the edge searching for a footing by which to descend, and
presently found one that looked possible. There were broken, shelving
places here, and tufts of growing things down the face of the dizzy wall.

Danny began to climb down. But he found it harder than he had thought,
and at times he was a mere human fly clinging to a rock wall.

[Illustration: A man was sitting over some sort of instrument.]

Nearly down--only about fifteen feet more! But at that moment the
human fly's hold crumbled under his clinging fingers, and he dropped.
It ought not to have been a bad fall, but the trouble was a loosened
rock followed, and came down on one arm as its owner lay prostrate on
the ground.

Danny lay very still for a few moments, looking at the stars and
thinking of--nothing!

Then presently the sound of human voices came to him from somewhere
out of the night. With an effort he raised up a little to push off the
stone from his arm, but he dropped back again.

The stars began to swim at that, and the voices to grow fantastic.

But a scout--must--keep--his head!

Those voices sounded familiar! Danny summoned all his strength, and
sent the wavering call of a wounded whippoorwill along the night.

Silence, and then a whippoorwill answered sharply from out the forest.

Danny called again.

Shortly after that came low voices and the sound of hurrying feet.
Then Mr. Gordon, the Scout Master, McKenzie, their leader, and jolly
old Biddie Burton were hovering over him.

"Are you hurt?" they asked in one breath.

But Danny cried out feverishly: "There's a German spy sending wireless
messages from old Death Head, and our transports have put to sea!" And
he told them, brokenly, the story of his find.

There was consternation among them for one brief moment, and then
everybody woke to action.

They must get the man at once--but _which way_ to go?

Mr. Gordon spoke quickly:

"You stay with Danny, Burton; McKenzie and I will go back to the Death
Head and follow the clue from there." And even as he spoke he and
McKenzie were hurriedly, but tenderly, binding up the wounded arm,
while Biddie improvised a comforting sling for it.

But Danny knew that the route by way of old Death Head was long and
circuitous. And he knew also that the shortest way is the only way to
take when one's duty to one's country calls.

He got to his feet.

"I'll show you the shortest way," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

How they found means of scaling the cliff, how they accomplished their
stealthy journey back to the hidden wireless station, piloted by the
wounded tenderfoot whom they supported at every step, is too long a
story to tell.

But they reached the mouth of the dark cave. The two boys were left
outside, and very shortly thereafter Mr. Gordon and McKenzie brought
out between them a big shadowy figure with its hands bound together.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, the east-bound passenger was flagged at the little station
in the valley, and there boarded it a squad of boy scouts with their
leaders, who guarded between them a captured German spy.

"Gordon, how did you manage it?" called a voice, from some distance
down the long coach as they entered.

For answer, Mr. Gordon took hold of a little boy who wore his left arm
in a sling and, pushing him gently forward, said before that whole car
full of curious, excited people:

"We had an American on guard to-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Probate Judge's office in the old courthouse on the square was,
the next morning, the scene of a most unusual gathering.

Danny and his mother had been asked by the Scout Master to meet him
there at ten o'clock. Mr. Gordon had sent his request in the form of a
brief note which explained that the Boy Scout Court of Honor was to be
in session that morning, and said that he wished his youngest scout to
be present.

Danny's mother was strangely elated over the request, but Danny did
not know why. He was so young in the business of scouting that some
details of the system had not yet become definitely his.

He ventured one surmise when the note was read--something in
connection with the taking of that German spy, of course. Maybe the
Whippoorwills were to be commended for delivering the goods. And
Danny's mind's eye recalled again the stirring scene--McKenzie and Mr.
Gordon marshalling to the station between them the big German whom
they had captured and bound, and he and the other scouts trudging
along in excited escort. It was a wonderful thing to be a man, Danny
thought wistfully--to be big and strong enough to lay a compelling
hand on the enemy in our midst and say:

"I want you!"

But it will have to be recorded that Danny's mother acted a little
queerly on receipt of the note. When Danny said that perhaps the
Whippoorwills were to be commended for "delivering the goods," his
mother looked up at him quickly, as if in surprise. Then she laughed a
little and cried a little, and then she dashed off for her hat and
wraps like a girl.

At ten o'clock sharp, Danny and his mother presented themselves at
Judge Sledge's door. As they paused to knock, a voice came to them
through the closed door--a familiar voice, and it sounded very
earnest. Then the door was opened in response to their knock.

They hesitated a moment while they took in the quiet, dignified scene
within. Portly old Judge Sledge was sitting well forward in his office
chair with his spectacles pushed back upon his bald head, while Doctor
Cranfield and several gentlemen whom Danny knew only by sight were
grouped about him. All were in the attitude of listening intently to a
man who stood before them--Mr. Gordon.

Danny's quick glance took in all this, including the background of
khaki-clad Whippoorwills, plastered against the wall beyond.

The gentlemen rose, on the entrance of Mrs. Harding, and the scouts
crowded forward to whisper excitedly to Danny.

But Danny did not have time to listen to them, for Doctor
Cranfield--taking him by his good arm--turned him about, and said to
the company:

"This is the boy."

There was an agonizing moment to Danny in which he realized that
everybody in the room was looking at him. Then he had to be
introduced. It was very, very trying, for each man to whom Danny gave
his hand in greeting looked him over from head to foot, and made
embarrassingly personal, if kindly, remarks about him.

"He was a small chap for the job."

"He ought to be _red-headed_."

"He was his mother's son."

Danny looked across the group into his mother's eyes and caught there
an expression which he was never to forget. And she was smiling--in
spite of the tear-mist over her beautiful eyes--she was smiling.

When they resumed their seats, there returned upon the group the touch
of ceremonial quiet and earnestness which the entrance of the
newcomers had for the moment dispelled.

Mr. Gordon took a chair behind Mrs. Harding and explained to her and
Danny in a low tone that the session was nearly over. Judge Sledge had
been compelled to convene the court earlier than the appointed hour.

The other men were talking apart. Presently, one of them turned to the
Scout Master and said:

"Following what you have just related, Mr. Gordon--do you think that
it was quite wise in your patrol leader to send out a mere tenderfoot
on a really dangerous commission?"

Mr. Gordon was about to reply, when McKenzie stepped forward and
saluted. "May I answer that?" he asked.

The court assented, and all turned to hear.

"Our private advices had been," began McKenzie, with his Indianlike
figure drawn up to its full height, "that it was Camelback Mountain
which was under suspicion. We located our camp on a parallel range,
and miles from the suspected vicinity. Mr. Gordon and I and several of
the older boys were later to take in hand the serious work of
Camelback, but we thought it well to give the others a little
experience. I had not intended to employ the tenderfoot till I
overheard the boys teasing him. I sent him to the Death Head to redeem
himself in his own eyes and in theirs."

"Please, may I speak?" Biddie Burton had come forward eagerly.

With the permission of the judge, Biddie hurried on:

"Without letting the other boys know, McKenzie told me to follow Danny
in case his courage should give out completely. But he gave me my
orders to keep well in the rear. He wanted Dan to go to the haunted
tree by himself, if he would--to win his spurs, you see."

"Did you follow Harding all the way?" someone interrupted.

"All the way to the haunted tree? Yes, sir, and he _did_ go! He went
right up to it and circled all about it. Then the earth seemed to open
and swallow him up. I looked and looked for him. Then I ran back for
help. I found McKenzie and Mr. Gordon, and we all three started out
after Dan. You have heard the rest."

This seemed satisfactory, and the judge turned to Danny.

"Come here, Daniel," he said, "and tell the court now how you captured
your wireless operator."

Danny started.

"I didn't do it, sir," he said in embarrassment. "Mr. Gordon and
Willard McKenzie captured the man. I only showed them where he was."

The men exchanged glances.

"Well," said the judge, again, "come here and tell us what you _did do_."

Danny came forward.

"Salute!" he heard Biddie whisper.

Danny saluted.

"Now," said the judge, "tell these gentlemen here what--what you told
_your mother_ when you got back from the mountains last night."

Danny looked at his mother. Her eyes were misty again, but she was
nodding to him to do as the judge directed.

The tenderfoot stood embarrassed before them and told the story
exactly as he had related it to his mother. He didn't like to do this,
for he was very much ashamed of having to tell how frightened he had
been, and how he had had to force himself to go forward.

The men listened intently. Once in a while one would interrupt to ask
a question.

When Danny got to the point in his story of his acceptance of
McKenzie's commission to cover old Death Head, a dark-eyed, quiet man
on the judge's right leaned forward.

"One moment, Harding," he said. "McKenzie told us before you entered
that you were afraid to go when the boys dared you, but that when he
told you to go on the scouting trip, you said, 'this is different.'
What did you mean by its being 'different'?"

Danny looked up from his nervous fingering of the judge's
paper-weight.

"I meant that it was for my country," he answered simply.

The dark-eyed man glanced at the others.

"_Beat that_," he said in a low tone to them.

Judge Sledge took down his spectacles from his bald head, adjusted
them on his nose, and looked hard at the boy.

"Proceed," he commanded, after a moment.

Danny proceeded.

"Weren't you afraid to crawl into that cave?" one of them asked in the
course of the story.

"Yes, sir," said Danny.

Later, another interrupted with:

"But if your arm was broken and paining you, why didn't you stay with
Burton, there, and let the others go by the way of Death Head, and
take up the clue you had followed?"

"Why, you see," answered Danny, "we had to get to the man quickly to
stop his telegraphing. I knew a short route to him."

"Exactly," said the judge, nodding, then he turned to the men about him.

"All right, gentlemen?" he asked.

There was a whispered conference of a few moments, and then, to
Danny's surprise, they all turned to him.

"Daniel," said the judge, "do you know why this Court of Honor has
been called into session?"

Danny's glance swept the khaki-clad figures against the wall--he
looked at Mr. Gordon.

"I hope," he answered to the judge, "that you like what we did."

"Yes," said the judge, smiling this time, "yes, the Whippoorwills are
quite in our good graces, and we commend the promptness and efficiency
of Mr. Gordon and your leader, McKenzie. However, this court has been
called together to sit in judgment on _your_ part in last night's
performance. Daniel, do you realize that you have done bravely and
well?"

Danny stood for one moment, stunned by the dawning realization of
what this meant. Then he looked across at his mother. Life holds for a
boy no higher, happier moment than that in which he realizes he has
made his mother proud of him.

Without waiting for him to reply, the judge was continuing:

"This court finds, Danny, that in spite of very human, very natural
fears, and at the cost of suffering to yourself, you performed a
service to your country which may be more far-reaching than any of us
dream. And if there is anything braver than the conquering of fear,
anything more manly than the voluntary endurance of pain for a high
cause, or any earthly motive of action higher than one's duty to one's
country, we have never found it.

"Now, Son, it is not within the power of this, our local court, to
confer upon you what we think you deserve. It is ours, however, to
recommend to the Boy Scout National Court of Honor that you be awarded
the Honor Medal. This we are going to do because we believe you have
saved more than life by your prompt action, and we know that you did it
at the cost of suffering to yourself and at the risk of your own life."

       *       *       *       *       *

When, a few weeks later, the Honor Medal did arrive and was pinned
upon Danny's breast, the young scout found it necessary to take his
little mother in hand.

"'If you cry like a baby,'" he whispered laughingly but with his arms
about her, "'I'll _disown_ you!'"



UNDER THE FLAG


"_Louise!_"

The little girl came to a halt suddenly and nearly dropped her
book-satchel. Somebody had called her name--some startling, mysterious
voice had called her!

She looked hurriedly about, but there was nobody in sight--nobody but
a saucy squirrel perched upon a park bench, and a redbird flitting
along the open between the enclosing hawthorns.

Which one had called?

"_Louise!_"

The little girl started back, too frightened to scream--it was the
hawthorn!

But the next moment a boyish bullet-head appeared between parted boughs.

"Come here!" exclaimed its owner in suppressed excitement. "We've got
something to tell you!"

Down went the book-satchel, but not in fear this time. Billy Hastings
had called--called excitedly--and Billy was known to furnish nearly
all the third-grade thrills there were. So the next moment Louise was
stooping her way under the hawthorn boughs in answer to her
playfellow's summons.

Billy was not alone in the green grotto in which Louise presently
found herself, for nearly half the third-grade members were there.
There was wide-eyed Tinsie Willis, with her little frilly skirts
bristling with excitement, with Mamie Moore swallowing to keep back
hysterical tears, and Sadie and Lallie Raiford, with their backs to
each other for safe-keeping. And there were boys, a whole mob of boys!

The children were huddled together in suppressed excitement, and were
whispering all at the same time. It was plain that something terrible,
something menacing, had happened.

"You know that new boy that came to school this morning--?" began one.

"That 'Rudolph Kreisler'?" put in another.

"Sh-h-h!" interrupted a third wildly.

But Billy Hastings thrust his red, round face close to Louise's and
announced in a blood-curdling whisper:

"_Rudolph Kreisler is a German spy!_"

Louise's legs crumpled under her, and she sat down in a heap.

Again they were all talking at the same time, and this time at her.

"He's got his trousers' pockets just _full_ of something!" exclaimed
Pete Laslie.

"And he's watching, _watching_!" put in another. "Didn't you see him
sitting off there by himself looking at us while we played ball?"

"Spying!" hissed Luke Musgrove over Billy Hastings's shoulder.

The children started and looked about apprehensively. Luke's words
always carried weight by reason of the fact that he had been two years
in the third grade and ought to know what he was talking about if he
didn't.

"Yes," chimed in Billy, coming close to Louise again and speaking in
his most dramatic tone. "Just you dare to draw a deep breath, and
he'll tell the Kaiser on you!"

Louise gasped--a short, a curtailed little gasp. Never till the Great
War should be over would she breathe from her diaphragm again!

"Oh-o-o-o, _Louise_!" from round-eyed Tinsie Willis.

"_What?_"

"You've left your book-satchel out there in the path! Just suppose he
were to come by and see it!"

There was a moment of consternation, of wild chattering, in which
everybody poked his head out to see, but nobody would venture far
enough to get the incriminating satchel.

Then Tommie Warren had an inspiration. Snatching a crooked-handle
umbrella from Ella Vaiden, he flung himself flat on the grass and
reached for the tell-tale satchel with the crook.

"It's a good thing Ella brought that umbrella!" exclaimed Tinsie. And
all looked at Ella, who stood up very straight in spite of the
low-dipping boughs. The next moment Louise had her beloved
book-satchel hugged close to her pounding heart.

"Sh-h-h!" suddenly came from a self-constituted sentinel.

"_What?_"

"_He's coming!_"

The crowd in the bushes stood tiptoe and breathless as the German spy
came down the hawthorn path.

He was a small lad--small for the third grade--with big blue eyes and
a shock of tawny hair. The Kaiser had not equipped him very well, for
there was a suggestion of poverty about his mended clothes. But, after
all, maybe those carefully darned places at his knees were only a part
of an adroit disguise. His pockets _were_ bulging, and with
knotty-looking somethings very suggestive of poorly concealed bombs.
He was not whistling, as a perfectly good American would have been,
but walked slowly and with his head down. It was very suspicious!

He passed.

"Let's get him now!" suggested Luke.

"Good!" exclaimed Billy. "Get some rocks!" And instantly all was
excitement, the uncensored noise of which reached the little German
and caused him to take to his heels.

In the confusion of the next few moments Louise scarcely realized what
they were about. But when they tore out of the bushes, snatching up
rocks as they went, and rushed after their flying prey, her heart
stood still. He was such a _little_ boy!

With the back of her hand pressed tight against the sobs that would
not be stifled, and with tears raining down her cheeks, the little
girl followed in the wake of the howling mob.

Then somebody rounded a hawthorn bush and came bang up against her. It
was Jimmie Fisher, a big, red-headed rock of strength, who could carry
lightly the heaviest book-satchels there were.

"What are you crying about?" he asked, after his first quick survey of
her.

"They--they are killing Rudolph Kreisler!" sobbed Louise.

"No," assured Jimmie, "he'll get home free. He lives just across
there. Are these your books?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day matters only grew worse.

The whole atmosphere of the third grade had become electric with
suspicion of a certain little boy who, looking neither to right nor to
left, kept his wistful blue eyes bent on the task before him. When
Rudolph stood up at the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner, Luke
growled out that he was "just pretending." And when, from his seat
near the door, the German lad answered the knock of a visitor, Ella
Vaiden whispered audibly:

"See _that_? He wants to see _who's there_!"

In recitation Rudolph answered the questions put to him with
despicable German efficiency, but Luke missed with conspicuous
patriotism and went noisily foot.

But through it all Louise was doing her own thinking. She was a loyal
little citizen and loved her country with all her heart; but there
flowed through her veins the blood of a long line of Americans who
had been just and fair. The little girl was afraid of German
spies--afraid for her country--and Rudolph Kreisler's pockets did
bulge ominously. If Rudolph Kreisler _was_ a German spy, why he would
have to be dealt with, of course.

But if he wasn't----?

Louise wished with all her heart that Miss Barclay, the teacher, would
suspect this terrible smothered tragedy that was being enacted within
her class. Of course one's teacher, like one's mother, could solve
every problem; and Miss Barclay in particular could command the storms
of childhood to be still. If only Miss Barclay knew!

But in third-grade ethics it was "dishonorable" to "tattle," so Louise
was compelled to hold her peace and think fast. There were recesses
ahead in which covertly cruel things might happen, and an after-school
walk through a lonely park from which a real _little_ boy might not
get home free. Something must be done.

At first recess the boys and girls were, as usual, separated in their
play, but Louise--observing from afar--saw that the little German sat
by himself on the steps, and watched the spirited ball-play of the
others with keen alertness. Yes, it was very suspicious.

Big recess brought with it an unusual privilege that day. The
third-grade boys and girls were to be allowed to mingle together and
on the front lawn, in order to keep them from under the feet of
certain workmen who were making excavations through the
school-grounds.

This was all very thrilling, for it was from a tall staff on the front
lawn that their beautiful new flag was floating, and to-day they would
be able to see it close--to touch the pole with their very hands!
Then, too, it would be so remarkable to play with _boys_.

Louise pondered it all as the third-grade girls filed down to their
lunch-room. Rudolph Kreisler was not there, of course, but Rudolph
would be with them among the other boys at play-time. She would then
be able to watch him narrowly--to keep an eye on those bulging pockets.

All the other girls were chattering over their lunch, but Louise drank
her milk and ate her sandwich in thoughtful silence.

Presently a hand was laid upon her heavy curls and she looked up with
a start. The principal was smiling down at her.

"What are you thinking of, little tragedy queen?" he asked.

Louise blushed and tried vainly to reply.

The teacher serving the sandwiches answered the principal.

"Of 'the impossibility of all things,'" she said with a curious
sidewise smile.

The principal put his hand under Louise's chin and, tilting her head
back, looked deep into her eyes.

"You must run and play a great deal," he said, and passed on.

Then, when the last sandwich had gone the way of all good sandwiches,
they repaired to the front lawn.

It was all so wonderful--so green and cool and stately-looking. And
there, sure enough, was the great new flag, curling and uncurling in
the fitful wind--'way up against the sky!

The boys were already out on the green when the little girls were
marched down the steps and disbanded among them to enjoy the most
unusual privilege of joining in their games. Then, all suddenly a
great awkwardness came down upon the girls. How was one to play with
boys at recess? Of course _after school_ it came natural enough to
mingle with them, but this was not "after school"! It was most
embarrassing.

Louise found herself timid in the chaperoned recess-presence of Jimmie
and Billy and Luke, and began to back away toward the steps.

"Look out!" shouted Billy suddenly.

Louise jumped to "look out." Behind her, on the bottom step, sat the
German spy. She had nearly backed into him!

In the face of danger, embarrassment dropped away. The next moment
Louise had fled back to her countrymen and was listening, excited, to
their eager whispers.

"Rudolph Kreisler sits by himself--always by himself. Isn't that funny?"

"Just look at him _now_!"

"See him watching the flag?"

"Get that gleam in his eye? Look, quick!"

"Old rascal! He got home free yesterday--but just you wait!"

And so they stood apart from him and whispered.

The German spy dug his toes in the sand a little longer, then rose and
moved a few steps farther up.

Then Ella Vaiden declared that they were wasting time, and proposed
that they begin a game.

But nobody knew what to play.

"I'll tell you!" exclaimed Louise. "Let's play 'Under the Flag.'"

"What's that?" asked several.

"Why--why--" began Louise, inventing the game as she proceeded, "it's
this way: you go stand under the flag and look up at it till the wind
blows it out straight--and--and then you make a wish. If the flag
floats wide till you have finished, your wish will come true."

All were interested at once, and the game began. The fitful,
boisterous wind took an active part and the play became spirited.

Tinsie Willis was the first to come "under the flag," but she was so
excited she forgot to wish till the broadly floating banner had
wrapped itself about its staff and her opportunity was gone.

Then everybody began talking at once, and Mamie Moore piped up: "I'm
going to wish for a pair of shiny-bug slippers!"

Louise was shocked, and quickly explained that when one wished under
the flag it must be for something serious and from the very depths of
one's heart.

"Sure," supported Jimmie of the red head. "You can wish for shiny-bug
slippers under an umbrella!"

But Mamie couldn't then think of anything more serious than the need
of gilt slippers, and was promptly ruled out till her imagination
should come to her assistance.

Several boys took turns next, but they were so noisy and boisterous
that they came near spoiling everything.

Then Flora Archer took her place. Flora was a thoughtful little girl
who carried around in her eyes a deep, deep something people never
understood. With her lips close to the flagpole, she whispered her
message to it, and all the while the beautiful banner streamed out to
its farthest length.

Flora came back without speaking, and the children looked at her in
curious silence. But when the others were noisily choosing times
again, Flora slipped her hand into Louise's and whispered:

"I wished for our soldiers to win in the war, but for them not to be
cruel when they do."

"Yours, Louise!" exclaimed somebody.

And before Louise had time to examine the depths of her heart to see
what it was she most desired, a half-dozen pair of friendly hands
pushed her forward. It was no time to hold back--to spoil the game.
Louise mounted the green knoll from which the great flagpole rose.

But she did not at once look up. Her glance had accidentally lighted
on the lonely figure on the steps, and was resting there for a moment
in startled contemplation.

He was such a _little_ boy, and he seemed so--apart! But one must make
no mistakes where one's country was involved. _Were_ his blue eyes
"gleaming" with vengeful purpose? Or were they only full--of shining
tears?

"Look up! Look up!" the children called.

Louise threw back her head--threw it back so far that the familiar
scene about her became lost to her view and she beheld nothing but the
vision above. Amid the battling tree tops and against a threatening
sky the flag of freedom streamed out in all its rippling glory--red
for the courage of American hearts, white for the purity of purpose
they should harbor, and blue for truth, like that higher, farther
heaven above the gathering clouds. Now rippling, now curling,
wreathing, snapping, and now--straight out, fronting the coming storm!

"Quick! Quick!" the children shouted, as Old Glory floated free.

Suddenly the child stretched up her hands. It was not a wish, but a
prayer, that her young heart sent up to her country's flag.

"Help me to--play fair!" she whispered.

Louise saw her comrades only mistily when she came down the green
knoll again toward them.

Then all became babel again.

"It's my time next!" exclaimed Luke Musgrove, shouldering forward.

"Who said so?" demanded another.

"_I_ said so," answered the big boy rudely, and he strode to his place
against the flagpole. "I wish," he began in a loud, strident voice,
and without waiting for the wind to come hurtling across the green, "I
wish _to wring the neck of that German spy_!"

All eyes were quickly turned from the flag to where a little wide-eyed
boy shrank back in terror against the steps.

"Glory be!" shouted Billy Hastings. "Teacher's gone in--let's drag
Rudolph under the flag!"

Instantly the flame of persecution swept them, and they started after
the alien lad.

But at the foot of the steps somebody blocked the way. Louise Carey
had flung herself between.

"It's not fair, and you _shan't_!" she cried.

The astonished mob wavered in indecision.

"'Not _fair_?'" echoed Luke with a jeer.

"No," stormed Louise. "We didn't _ask_ him to come under the flag, and
you shan't _make_ him do it!"

"We'll see about that--" began Luke.

"_That we will!_" put in Jimmie Fisher, but it was not to Louise that
he spoke. He was talking to Luke, and he planted himself protectingly
in front of Louise and the little German, and faced the third-grade
bully. Never before in her life had Louise realized how beautiful was
a shock of bristling red hair.

The third-grade bully was growling now, but in a decidedly lower key.

"Now, then"--Jimmie was speaking to Louise this time--"you are bossing
this game. Say what you want done with that--that--" and he looked at
the frightened Rudolph.

Louise glanced up at the flag. It was floating now--broad and free
enough to cover all who might come.

"I am going to _invite_ Rudolph to come under our flag," she said.

The children gasped as Louise held out her hand to the little alien.

"Won't you come and be American with us?" she asked kindly.

The boy drew back a moment while his blue eyes searched her face for
whatever hidden cruelty might lurk beneath its seeming sweetness. Then
he smiled--a timid, but trusting smile--and rising, took her extended
hand.

But Billy Hastings called jeeringly: "He's a sneak! He's just doing it
to pretend!"

"He knows I'd drag him if he didn't come!" exclaimed another.

"Coward! _Coward!_" yelled Luke. "You're afraid to refuse!"

And then, all suddenly, something in the German lad flamed up. He
snatched his hand from Louise's. He stood to his full height with
blazing eyes, and cried:

"It's a lie!"

The sound of the school-bell broke the startled quiet which followed
the alien's spirited revolt.

"_Please_," pleaded Louise, "don't mind them! You've time yet to come
under the flag."

But Rudolph stood indignant, immovable.

"Get to your lines, children," and the principal's call-bell was heard
tapping above on the porch.

A group of boys came suddenly together into a tight bunch.

"We'll fix him after school," Louise heard them threaten. And she knew
that Rudolph heard it, too--knew by the sudden whiteness which swept
over his face.

The next minute the boys and girls were drawn up in parallel lines
ready to march into the schoolhouse. Louise was at the end of her
line and Rudolph Kreisler was the last on the boys' row. They were
opposite each other.

"Eyes front--march!" came the command, and the lines moved forward
with one impulse.

"Eyes front!" But to save her life Louise could not help stealing a
sidelong glance at Rudolph.

To her horror she saw the little alien slip quietly behind a rose-bush
and drop out of sight into the bricked-up area which furnished
window-space for the basement.

With a flash Louise remembered that those windows communicated
directly with the engine-room, and that the engine-room was directly
under the third grade.

"Pay attention, Louise," came from the porch, and Louise's startled,
dark eyes were turned to the front again.

When the children were seated in their room it developed that Miss
Barclay had been temporarily called away, and that a scared-looking
girl from the teacher training-class was in charge of the third grade.

The new teacher did not miss Rudolph, but the children did, and there
was smothered excitement in consequence.

Louise, who had not breathed a word of what she knew, sat grasping her
desk with both hands. Rudolph Kreisler had refused to come under the
flag! Of course they had taunted him, but the stark fact remained that
he _had_ refused. And then no human being had ever seen inside those
bulging pockets. Rudolph Kreisler, bulging pockets and all, was in the
engine-room, right under their feet!

And then a new fear suddenly laid its grip upon her heart. Suppose
that German boy should do something to the flag! She tried to shift
her position so that she could see out of the window, but found it
impossible.

"Oh-o-o, teacher!" Louise jumped at the sound of excitement in the voice
from behind her, but quieted somewhat when she realized that it was
Tinsie Willis who spoke. "Louise has left her hat on the front lawn!"

"Louise, go and get your hat," said the substitute, looking all about
the room to see which one of the many little girls might be the one
reported.

Louise rose from her seat with fear and trembling and left the room.

But the first glimpse of the out-of-doors dispelled her great new
fear--her flag was still there!

The stately lawn looked vast and awe-inspiring now that one had to
face its darkly waving greens all alone, but Duty called. She had left
her hat by the flagpole, and she now went timidly up to get it. She
mounted the green knoll. She looked up.

To play fair--to play fair! And yet, one must be loyal. One couldn't
let German spies go around with their pockets--Rudolph Kreisler was in
the engine-room right now!

Louise's grandfather and his father's father had died for their
country--would they know, 'way up yonder in heaven, if she of their
own blood were to turn coward at the test?

It was too poignant a risk. Louise took hep young life in her hands.
Down the green knoll and around the rose-bush, and she dropped into
the brick area right by the window which opened from the engine-room.
It was raised.

The little girl peeped in, with her heart swelling till she thought she
would smother. There was black dust on the floor and black soot on the
walls. And there in the centre rose the huge black demon engine. But no
crouching enemy was to be seen anywhere--he was hiding, of course!

She slipped through the window, past the great silent engine, and came
face to face with Rudolph Kreisler.

The die was cast now.

"Tell me," demanded Louise, choking with excitement and fear, "are you
a--a _German spy_?"

"No," said the astonished boy, "_no_!"

"Well, what _are_ you, then?" There was no backing down now; she was
going to have it out with him.

"I wanted to be--American," he said, his lips threatening to quiver.
"I--I thought I was." And he looked away.

One must know the truth when one's country was at stake. Louise drew a
quick breath.

"Well, what are you doing with your pockets full of bombs, then?" she
forced herself to bring out.

The little boy turned toward her again, and began slowly to draw out
the contents of those suspicious pockets. A mitt, a top, two balls, a
kite-string, a chicken-foot, a gopher, nails of various lengths, some
tobacco tags, and a grimy stick of candy were laid one by one on the
janitor's tool-bench, and the German spy stood with his pockets turned
wrong side out.

But one must have the _whole_ truth.

"What are you doing with balls and mitts when you sit on the steps all
the time?" the little girl demanded, but with decidedly less asperity
this time.

"I thought maybe they'd--let me play, sometime." Something rolled down
his cheek and splashed on the front of his jacket.

"_Won't_ they let you play?" choked Louise, blinking hard to clear her
suddenly clouded vision.

The boy shook his head.

"Well, why doesn't your mamma come and scold the teacher about it?"
she demanded in indignant sympathy.

"I haven't any mamma."

"Oh-o-o! Well, you have a papa, haven't you? Why doesn't _he_ do
something?"

"Father says those who are born here don't know how awful it is to
have to choose----" then he stopped.

"Doesn't your father hate Germany?" the little girl asked.

"Why, no," said the boy.

"Does he love America?"

"Yes," said the boy.

"Well! Well!" exclaimed the little girl. Then--"Do you know, Rudolph,
I'm sorry for your papa!"

But Rudolph did not answer this time. He merely turned aside till his
face was hidden.

Suddenly a remembered something gripped Louise.

"Rudolph," she said, "if you _are_ American, why did you refuse to
come under the flag?"

"I--I was going to--but they called me a 'coward,' and said I was
afraid to refuse," he answered huskily.

Louise found herself batting very heavy lashes again.

"I am so glad I came to you," she said, "because I never would have
known that you are not a German spy if you hadn't told me!"

"Lou-i-i-se!"

The two started at the call--it was in Tinsie Willis's high-pitched
voice. Evidently she had been sent to find the truant.

"Sh-h-h!" exclaimed Louise to Rudolph. "They are after me for staying
out so long. I must go."

"Those steps yonder lead to the front hall," said the boy. "Go up that
way."

"But you must come, too!" Louise exclaimed.

"I can't," replied the miserable child. "The boys are fixing to fight
me. When school is over I'll slip out and go home."

"But why wait? Why don't you go now?" asked the little girl, a strange
uneasiness coming over her.

"The police will get me if I go out on the street during school
hours," answered he.

"Lou-i-i-se!"

"I'm going," whispered Louise to Rudolph, "but _don't_ let the boys
catch you! Miss Barclay has gone--and--and--_don't_ let them catch
you, Rudolph!"

The next moment she glided up the dark stairway and came out into the
big hall.

Jimmie Fisher was emerging from the third-grade cloaking-room with his
hat and books.

"Father's leaving for France with a hospital unit," he explained
hurriedly, "and mother sent for me to tell him good-by." Then he
darted away.

Miss Barclay gone! And Jimmie gone! Had God himself deserted the third
grade?

       *       *       *       *       *

When Louise crept back into the schoolroom--ahead of Tinsie Willis,
who was still searching for her--she found things very troublous
indeed. The children were naughty and restless, and the substitute
was--a substitute! The whole class had been told to stay in, and
Louise was promptly included in the sentence as soon as her tardy
little face appeared in the doorway.

But she did not cry or fling herself about, for she knew she had
remained out of the room overtime. Of course it had been for a high
purpose, but that she could not explain, so she merely assented
courteously and slipped into her seat. Her grandfather and his
father's father had laid down their lives for the right--if she did
not succeed in living through that dreadful half-hour of punishment,
she would be but another of her race to die for a high cause.

Matters grew worse, and now the wind and the sky took a hand. The
great trees outside began to battle fiercely together, and the sky
frowned, darker and darker.

Suddenly Louise--looking out of the window--saw Perkins, the janitor,
hauling down the flag! Was the Houston Street School surrendering to
the Germans?

For one unworthy moment Louise suspected Rudolph Kreisler again. But
she instantly afterward reminded herself that he had told her with his
own lips he wished to be American.

Then the heavens opened and the floods came. It was a terrible,
terrible afternoon, but children and substitute managed somehow to
live through it, and after so long a time the gong sounded for the
dismissal of school.

The children of the other grades marched out. Tramp--tramp--it sounded
terribly like a host in retreat!

Then quiet!--with the third-graders sitting silent in their seats,
trying to calculate how many thousand years it would take for that
long clock-hand to move half-way round the dial again.

Louise began wondering at just what point Rudolph Kreisler would steal
out of his hiding and break for home. The rain had stopped, and she
hoped and believed that the little German would make good his escape
before the third grade had finished serving sentence.

Suddenly Luke, raising his hand, asked of the substitute:

"May I speak to Billy Hastings on business?"

The substitute was writing something and assented without looking up.
Louise could not help hearing the hoarsely whispered "business."

"Connie Tipton," said Luke to Billy, "says that that German spy has
been hiding in the basement but has slipped up-stairs--" The hoarse
whisper dropped lower at this point and Louise could not catch the
words which followed. She guessed darkly, however, and clung to her
desk tighter and tighter.

At that fateful moment the substitute looked up and said:

"Children, the others have all gone, and it looks like rain again, so
I am going to dismiss you. File out quietly--I don't wish to have to
call you back."

She did not rise from her seat to marshal them out, taking care that
the last one of them was out of sight of the schoolhouse before he
slackened his pace. She merely dropped her eyes to her writing again
and left them practically to their own devices.

The boys marched through the cloaking-room first, and they were
ominously quiet about it.

Then the little girls rose and filed out. Louise led the girls' line,
but though she followed swiftly in the wake of the boys, they had
disappeared off the face of the earth when she reached the
cloaking-room door which opened into the hall.

They had slipped off to hunt for Rudolph Kreisler, and Louise knew it.
She hoped that Rudolph had left the building, but she was not sure.

Something must be done--but _what_?

Just then she caught from above the sound of tiptoeing and whispering.

It was dishonorable to "tattle," but it wasn't dishonorable to fly
after a set of lawless boys and keep them from abusing an innocent
would-be American. Louise deserted the head of her line and darted up
the long stairs.

It was like a frightful nightmare--the stealthy, breathless chase
which followed. She could not stop the boys in their mad search, could
not command their attention a moment to explain. In and out they
darted--fourth-grade, fifth-grade, sixth-grade, seventh! Every crack
and cranny, every cloaking-room and teacher's desk was made to prove
its innocence of sheltering the fugitive spy. The scampering boys were
just finishing their search of the seventh grade when Louise found
herself at the foot of the garret steps.

She stopped and surveyed their boxed-up secretiveness. What if Rudolph
had gone up there?

From the sounds of disappointment now issuing from the seventh grade
she knew that the last schoolroom to be searched had not yielded up
the quarry. Yes, Rudolph must be in the garret, and of course the boys
would pursue him there!

Then a sudden idea came to her. If she could but reach Rudolph first
she might help him to climb out of the garret window.

Up the dark steps she flew, but, alas! there were flying feet to
follow! The others had seen, and were coming after.

They caught up with her before she reached the top, and she and they
burst into the long garret room together.

It was big with mystery--that long garret place--and weirdly
frightening with its half-lights and whole shadows. For one moment the
children stood at pause before its awesome silence.

No German spy was in sight.

Then the boys began searching hurriedly, and after a quick glance
about the open and lighter space before them, went pushing their quest
farther and farther into the distant dark of the wings and gables.

Louise stood where they had left her, with the feeling that _the end
of all things_ was at hand, and that there was no use to struggle
further. Presently her mist-dimmed eyes were attracted to a pile of
something over at a small window near where she stood. The janitor had
thrown their beautiful flag across an old couch without taking the
trouble to roll it properly.

The indignant little girl started toward the couch to straighten out
and roll the flag when her ear caught a sound which caused her to
pause a moment in dim speculation. There was a step below, a firm, a
familiar step--but no, she must be mistaken!

She slipped over to the couch, but the next moment drew back and
clapped her hand over her mouth to repress a startled scream. A little
yellow-haired boy lay asleep upon the couch, with the big flag nearly
covering him!

Louise leaned over him. Two shining drops still lay on his cheek. He
had sobbed himself to sleep--he was such a _little_ boy!

[Illustration: "You can't touch Rudolph!" she tried. "He's under the
flag!"]

A drift of damp air floated in from the window, and the sleeper
shivered and moved as if to cuddle further under his shelter. Louise
very gently drew the bunting folds closer about his neck. Somehow she
_knew_ that this was not desecration.

That steady step from below again and--nearer!

But just at that moment the boys came noisily back from the distant
wings and gables.

"Hello, Louise! What are you doing there?" Luke Musgrove called.

Louise started up. She was between them and the sleeping boy, but she
could not screen him from their astonished eyes.

"Gee, but there he is!" exclaimed Billy. "Let's----"

But the spirit of a long line of just and fair Americans was facing
them. Louise Carey was descended from ancestors who had bought freedom
and fair play with their blood, so in that hour--when she faced the
unthinking lawless--there was a something in her eyes which brought
them to a stand before her.

"You can't touch Rudolph!" she cried. "He's under the flag!"

A quiet fell upon them. They looked first at the sacred, sheltering
flag of their country, and then at each other. And while they yet
paused in awe there came to them the sound of a steady, familiar step
on the garret stair. The next moment the door opened and there entered
Miss Barclay--the teacher who, by her wisdom and her justice, could
always command to stillness the tempests of their childish hearts.



AMERICA FIRST


Little Riego Yañez was a native of Mexico--of that unhappy part of
Mexico which is constantly plundered by revolutionary bands who spend
their time in fighting, and who win their supplies by robbing the more
stable people of the republic.

Riego's father, Antonio Yañez, had suffered many times at the hands of
the revolutionists. He was a saddler by trade, and also a small
farmer, so the products of his industry were just what the warring
bandits needed. But the warring bandits did not pay for what they
needed. They merely took, and rode away!

So Antonio decided on a desperate step--he would emigrate to America.

But Riego's mother objected to removing to America. Mexico was rife
with hatred and distrust of the "gringos," and many and dark were the
stories told of the country north of the Great North River. Besides,
Riego's elder brother, Pascual, an unruly lad of fifteen, was very
bitterly opposed to the change.

So it was at length decided that Antonio should dare alone the dangers
and hardships of America. If all was as the revolutionists said, he
could escape back to Chihuahua. If, by happy chance, he should prosper
in the new country, he would send for wife and children.

A year passed. The father's letters--few and short, for he had had
little schooling--were chiefly concerned with begging them to come and
see for themselves.

Then, one never-to-be-forgotten day, the mother and children packed
into a hired wagon the tragic little which the bandits had left them,
and set their faces toward the Rio Grande. They, too, were bound for
that distrusted country which lay north of the northern edge of their
world. The mother and the two girls were hopeful, but Pascual was
silent and Riego afraid.

Not till the night came down did they reach the dark river which was
to flow forever between the old life and the new. To little
ten-year-old Riego this all-pervading darkness meant "America," for to
his drowsy brain and anxious heart the black clouds above and the
darkly rolling waters below seemed to typify the spirit of the land
into which he was crossing.

Another moment, however, and he had given up the struggle to think it
all out and fallen asleep with his head on his mother's lap.

The next morning Riego waked up in a better land.

He sat up on his cot and blinked his black eyes and stared about him
at the cosey little room. A flood of light poured in at the one tiny
window--Then the sun _did_ shine in this land of the gringos!

This was very interesting. Riego hurried into his clothes and started
out to see America.

His route of exploration led through a cheery kitchen, where he found
his two sisters busy cooking breakfast, and smiling and chatting at
their work. But Riego had no time to stop and question, for the green
things in the little garden beyond were beckoning to him.

In another minute he was out among them. It was very green--this
"America"--very green and very sunny, with rows upon rows of the most
wonderful vegetables running out to meet the morning sun!

Soon Riego glimpsed his father and mother beyond a dividing fence at
the side, and he ran at once to his father's arms. After the first
long embrace Riego drew back, the better to see the father who had
dared America alone for his children's sake.

Why--his brow was smoother than Riego remembered!--his eyes
clearer!--Did one grow younger, happier, in America?

And now Riego's mother was calling his attention to the snow-white
chickens which fluttered about them. There was a cow, too, Riego
learned--a cow and a pony and pigs and pigeons--and _all theirs_!

Riego shouted for joy. But the next moment the joy died upon his lips,
and he asked:

"The revolutionists, father? How long will they let us have these?"

"Riego," said his father, "there are no revolutionists in America.
Here, if a man works, he receives a just reward, and he is allowed to
keep in peace what he earns. Our only danger is from across the
border."

Then Riego's mother told him that his father had a fine saddle-shop
which the Americans never raided.

It was all very, very wonderful!--A man was paid well for working, and
could keep in peace what he earned!--Was this what was meant by
"_America_"?

Riego's father's saddle-shop was the front room of their little
dwelling, and opened immediately upon a small street in the Mexican
quarter of the village. It was a very interesting place, indeed, for
the wide door and the hospitable bench just inside invited in many an
entertaining visitor, besides the men who came to buy saddles or to
have their harness repaired.

One of these visitors, Alonzo Lorente, was particularly interesting
to Riego and his brother, though their father always became moodily
quiet when the man came. Lorente was a big, dashing fellow, full of
strange oaths and of dark insinuations. And somehow, whenever he
entered, the air of the shop became electric with an indefinable
excitement.

It did not take Riego long to see that, at such times, his father
managed to keep him and Pascual so busy that they missed most of their
hero's inspiriting talk. Riego was particularly unfortunate in this
respect. He spent little of his time in the shop where his father and
Pascual plied the saddler's trade, for it was his duty to help in the
market-garden.

This deprivation of Lorente's society, however, had its compensations.
It was Riego's especial work to peddle their vegetables at the khaki
tents of the gringo soldiers a few miles away, and this was very
entertaining and exciting in itself, for the soldiers were jolly and
kind and said nice things to one.

And then, one rainy Saturday afternoon, when the peddling was all
done, Riego sat in his father's shop and listened to Alonzo Lorente.
And Alonzo Lorente startled him awake with the news that all was not
well with the land of America. He spoke darkly of "gringos" and of
"vengeance."

Pascual, Riego noticed, crept closer and closer to the big man, till
his fingers forgot the leather they should have been stretching.

It was then that the unexpected happened. The father, usually so quiet
and so busy, suddenly rose from his work-bench and came forward.

"Lorente," he said, and Pascual and Riego started at the iron in his
tone, "Lorente, it is not the busy men who have quarrel with America.
It is those who have time to do--much talking!"

There was a pause and dead silence, and then Lorente the magnificent
turned on his heel with a growl and left the shop.

Then Antonio returned to his work-bench, with Riego following, but
Pascual stole to the door and gazed at the receding Lorente till his
father called him sharply to his duties.

One day the father did not open his shop at all. It was closed in
honor of the great American festival, Riego heard him explain grimly
to a follower of Lorente, who questioned. And Riego heard the follower
of Lorente laugh scornfully as he strode away.

There being no work that day, Pascual and Riego set out together to
explore the yet farther reaches of America.

But they had not gone far past the square where loomed the several
American stores when they sighted a crowd in a grove of big trees, and
heard voices shouting and hands clapping as if in great joy. A number
of gringo soldiers were roving about. Two were coming leisurely toward
them across the green.

Riego wanted to press forward to see and hear, but his brother jerked
him by the sleeve, exclaiming:

"It is the Americans' great feast-day, the Fourth of July. Come away!"

"But father says _we_ are Americans now. Why can't we go and hear what
they are saying?" Riego's voice had risen in his eagerness.

The approaching soldiers stopped and looked at him, and Riego's heart
stopped, too.

But the taller of the soldiers saluted him in fine fashion, and
addressed to him words of courteous welcome:

"Don Pedro de Alvarado-Rain-in-the-Face-Sitting-Bull, for such as thou
art is the picnic! Welcome to our city!"

Riego understood the gesture of invitation. He thanked the courtly
soldier, and walked proudly forward, followed by his brother.

It was a gay scene, but quiet now, for someone was speaking. The
starry banner of America fluttered everywhere, and smiling,
white-faced señoritas and brown-clad soldiers were gathered here and
there in listening groups. Under a tree, near the platform, sat
musicians with shining silver horns and a big drum. A number of
children were seated on the grass in front of the stand. Among them,
Riego noticed, were many dark faces like his own.

Suddenly Riego's courage gave way and he started to retreat. But a
sweet-faced señora took him by the hand and led him and Pascual to a
place where they could see everything, whispering as they went:

"It is our day of freedom."

At first the boy was dazed by the strangeness of the scene, and his
interest shifted. But the sound of a sweet, ringing voice soon
compelled his attention and he turned quickly toward the platform.

Riego caught his breath. Who was it? _What_ was it that was speaking
to him?

In the centre of the platform stood a clear-eyed, white-faced goddess,
with the flag of the new country draped around her slender form, and
the sunlight of this day of freedom beating down upon her shining
head. She was speaking, but in the difficult new tongue.

Riego could not take his eyes away, but he reached out his hand
quickly to touch Pascual.

The sweet-faced señora leaned over him.

"America," she whispered in explanation.

_America!_ Beautiful America! Riego crept forward, unconscious now of
the crowd around. Oh, to _understand_ America!

Then a strange thing happened. The beautiful goddess suddenly ceased
speaking, and her face became clouded with thought. Her eyes were
focussed on the eager boy who had crept forward and was standing
spellbound before her--the most conspicuous of the group of
dark-faced, bewildered children.

Riego did not know that everybody in that audience had suddenly leaned
forward in dead silence.

After one tense moment the Beautiful One advanced to the edge of the
platform and descended the steps till she stood almost among them.

And now this strange, new, better country was speaking to Riego _in
his own tongue_!

"You didn't _understand_ me, did you?" she asked in Spanish.

"Not _then_, my lady!--but _now_!" It was Riego who answered her, but
the other dark faces were alight like his own now. The crowd was
leaning forward again.

"Ah, that is all the trouble!" said the Beautiful One. "Our new people
simply do not understand America! Do you wish me to tell you the story
in Spanish?"

There were many who answered this time.

Then she told them in their own tongue of the great struggle for a new
freedom and a new peace which had been waged upon this soil over a
hundred years before. And the breathless children heard how this new
ideal of freedom had passed all bounds of the country in which it was
born, and thrilled all lands. They heard how the noble La Fayette of
France, Steuben of Prussia, and Kosciuszko of Poland each had offered
his all that America might be forever a refuge for the oppressed. They
learned how the German De Kalb had laid down his life at Camden for
the new faith, and how Count Pulaski had poured out the last drop of
his Polish blood to make the world's great dream of freedom "come true."

Then the Beautiful One told the children how, throughout the more than
one hundred years since the fight was won, the footsore and oppressed
of many lands have found in America work and a just reward for
working, the freedom to do anything which does not harm another, and
the great gift of peace!

"And now," exclaimed the speaker, "which of you will promise with me
to be loyal to America? Stand up!"

And they stood up--the dark children, the white-faced señoritas, the
gringo soldiers, and all!--and repeated after the Beautiful One:

    "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it
              stands,
    One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

When Riego turned from the inspiring scene it was to see his brother
Pascual walking away, and in close conversation with Alonzo Lorente.

       *       *       *       *       *

The days passed, but Riego still treasured in his heart his first
vision of America. He knew now that the Beautiful One was only a
charming señorita and daughter of the big captain who commanded at the
American camp. But he liked to think of her as "America"--the
beneficent goddess who had smoothed the furrows from his father's brow
and crowned his faithful labors with reward.

And then, one momentous day, the Beautiful One stood in the shop-door,
asking in Spanish if she might be allowed to enter. She was all in
white this time--snow-white. To Riego's fond imagination she was still
a shining goddess.

Riego's father welcomed the señorita and dusted the bench that she
might sit and rest, for Riego had told him of the great American
festival, and Antonio had learned much besides.

The señorita had come to speak to the father about his sons--and her
smiling glance included both the sullen Pascual and Riego, who stood
worshipfully by.

It seemed that the señorita--Miss Flora Arden was her name--was to
teach a class of "newly made Americans," and again her glance
included the boys. She wanted to teach them to speak the English
language and to help them to a better understanding of America. The
señorita believed that most of the trouble which the newly made
Americans encountered was due to the fact that they did not know how
to find and use the good gifts which their new country had to offer.
And she was certain that most of the trouble they _gave_ was because
they brought old prejudices with them, and so did not open their
hearts to America.

Riego understood the spirit of her proposal better than he did the
words of her correct Spanish. His father listened throughout with
thoughtful, grave attention.

There were no charges to be made for this teaching? Then what was the
señorita to gain for so much effort?

"I?" said the señorita--she was standing now, ready to depart--"I gain
a better country! My father is a soldier and serves his country by
helping to keep the peace along this troubled border. If I had been a
son I might have done as much. But I am only a daughter, Antonio! And
yet"--and she put her arm over Riego's shoulders as she spoke--"if I
help to make loyal even _one_ of America's adopted sons, am not I,
too, serving my country?"

The father's rare smile assented to her offer, even before his lips
made the promise.

Riego followed the Beautiful One to the door.

Outside, Alonzo Lorente slouched against a lamp-post. The señorita
looked into Lorente's face and recoiled slightly. Riego saw the
recoil, and an unnamed fear suddenly laid its hand upon his heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

Pascual and Riego went to Miss Arden's class--Pascual sullen and
uninterested, Riego breathlessly eager. But they had not attended many
times--indeed, had just begun to glimpse something of the bigness and
goodness of their new country--when the stroke fell that was to change
their little world. The good father dropped at his work-bench,
speechless and bewildered. The American doctor said he would be able
to work again, but that his mind would never be quite the same.

Their wise father thus reduced to childishness, and their mother
ignorant of the new conditions and the new tongue, the boys were left
to plan for themselves.

Pascual left Miss Arden's class. He explained that he would now have
to take charge of his father's shop; but he found time to make many
trips across the dark Rio Grande and to talk much with Lorente, who
now resumed his old practice of dropping in at the shop to chat. His
younger brother, however, continued under the señorita's instruction.

Riego learned at Miss Arden's class that "freedom" gives one the right
to do as he wishes only in so far as he does not wish to interfere
with the rights of another.

"There is no 'freedom' except in loyal obedience to law," she told him
one day. "America is a 'free' country because--though here are
gathered people from all lands--they join together in making laws
which are kind and impartial to all, and they stand together in
support of the laws they make."

"But, señorita, Alonzo Lorente says--" began the boy, and stopped short.

"What does Alonzo Lorente say?" the señorita asked quickly.

"I--I promised not to tell," stammered the child.

There was the blue truth of heaven in the señorita's eyes as she looked
into his own, and answered: "Riego, it is more than dishonest in Lorente
to accept the blessings which America affords him and not be true to
her. It is worse than traitorous in him to help spoil the peace of the
country which is his refuge from oppression. If Alonzo Lorente likes the
old way better than the new, he should go back to the old country. If he
honestly wishes to change what he finds here, and thinks he can better
things, he has one man's just share in deciding, for he is a naturalized
citizen and can vote on any question. But Alonzo Lorente _should speak
out openly or else keep silent_!"

Before Riego left that afternoon Miss Arden had him repeat with her:

    "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it
              stands,
    One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

But little Riego did not dream in how short a time would his loyalty
to his new country be tested. One afternoon--his father was still
lying unconscious--Riego was tending the shop alone, for Pascual had
crossed the Rio Grande in the early morning and had not yet returned.

It was a dull, dull afternoon, for no patrons came, and the visitors
merely glanced in and passed on. It was hot and still, so the sleepy
Riego decided to rest. He found a cool spot behind a pile of boxes,
and lay down and closed his eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Riego opened his eyes again it was with a start. There were
voices--smothered voices--some men were in the shop! Riego lay still
and listened.

"We will attack the gringo camp to-night--just before dawn," a
smothered voice was saying. "Alva has three hundred men and more. They
can easily surprise and destroy these eighty Americans, and so can
seize their horses and ammunition."

"But the patrol?" It was Pascual's voice that whispered the question.
Riego's heart turned sick. He recognized the voice of Lorente in the
terrifying reply:

"Pacheco and a picked few will knife the patrol at the ford, then
Alva's men will cross, and approach the camp up the ravine."

"To-morrow morning?" Pascual's voice asked.

"Yes, just before dawn."

There were approaching steps on the street.

A customer entered. Riego heard Lorente departing--heard the customer
inquire the price of a saddle, and go out.

It must be done _now_--now while Pascual was alone, and he could
speak to him! The next moment Riego stood before his brother.

"I heard you!" he cried. "Pascual, they _must not_!"

But Pascual laid a fierce hand upon his breast and pinned him to the
wall.

It was a terrible scene--that which followed--terrible in the tense
quiet of its enactment--terrible in its outcome!

With Riego pinned against the wall where he needs must listen, Pascual
poured forth such a torrent of abuse, of falsehood, against the
"gringos" that at length the old hate blood leapt in the younger boy's
veins and went beating through his brain.

The gringos were their enemies--_enemies_! The men who were coming
down upon them with the dawn were of their own blood, of their native
country! What if the invaders _were_ "revolutionists"? Were they not
_Mexican_? Talk of "loyalty"--one must be loyal to _one's own_!

When Pascual loosed his grip upon the slight form it was after he had
stirred to the very dregs all that was passionate, all that was
ignorant and prejudiced and violent, in the boy's nature.

That afternoon Riego did not report at Miss Arden's class, but long
after class hour he was obliged to pass her house on the mission to
deliver a mended harness to a farmer living near the American camp.

Miss Arden and her mother, Riego knew, were the only members of the
big captain's family. They lived in a large house in the woods,
half-way between the town and the camp. He knew also that the big
captain stayed in camp.

As Riego emerged from the long stretch of lonely woods which separated
Miss Arden's house from the town, and as he faced the other long
stretch of woods which lay between him and the camp, the boy was
struck by the isolation of the señorita's home.

He reflected, however, that Alva's men were to attack the gringo
soldiers by way of the ford, and that the ford lay to the right
yonder, far out of connection with the captain's house. He was
glad--glad that Alva's men would not come that way!

Suddenly he spied the señorita herself. She was standing on the steps
of her father's home. Riego's heart bounded within him at sight of
her. He pulled down his hat and hoped to pass unrecognized, but the
sweet, familiar voice called:

"Riego!"

He did not answer.

Then she ran down the steps to him, and put her gentle hands upon him,
turning him to her against his will.

"What is the matter, Riego?" she asked.

No answer.

"You didn't come to class this afternoon."

No answer.

"I'm sorry," she said, after a moment of silence in which she looked
searchingly into his face, "because we had an interesting lesson
to-day. It was all about what one ought to do in case one should be
forced to _choose between_ the old land and the new."

The boy gave a swift, upward glance at her, then dropped his eyes to the
ground again. Miss Arden continued, and her voice was very serious now:

"And we decided, Riego, that one ought to think out carefully which
country was really the better, and be true to that, because there is a
higher duty than that to party or country, and that is--to the
principles of justice and freedom."

Riego's head sank lower. The Beautiful One took one of his brown hands
into her own.

"And we said"--was she looking into the dark heart of him?--"that
whichever way one chose, one should choose _openly_. Now this little
brown hand could never----"

But the little brown hand was snatched away, and with a great sob the
child fled into the woods.

When at last that night Riego did fall asleep he dreamed that his
beautiful America came to him with her white arms held out in appeal,
and that he slipped a dagger out of his bosom and stabbed her to the
heart.

He started, awake, and sat up. It was black dark.

_Had Alva struck already? Or was there yet time?_

Ten feet away was Pascual's cot--he must not wake Pascual! As still as
death he slipped out of his bed, pulled on his overalls that he had
hung near, and crept out into the moonless night.

Riego could not think--it was all so desperate! He could only respond
to the heart that was in him, and creep forward through the dark. But
his feet knew the road that he took, though his brain was reeling. He
was going straight to the one who had wakened the new loyalty in
him--his beautiful America!

"I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it
stands," went surging through him as he struggled on.

Riego was not grandly heroic; he was only a frightened little boy, but
determined now to do his loyal best for the country that had sheltered
him from oppression. And so, though the treacherous sands might seek
to drag him down, though the dark chaparral yonder might hide--any
fearsome thing!--Riego went forward.

And now the house of the big captain loomed black before him. Riego
stole up the front steps. He knew behind which of the long, closed
windows the señorita slept, and he approached and tapped fearfully
upon it.

It was a frightened voice that called: "Who is _that_?"

Riego was not conscious how he answered, but he knew that a wave of
relief flowed over him when the blind of the long window opened and he
was drawn into the dark room by a pair of familiar hands.

The blind was closed after him and a light was struck.

The señorita's eyes were disclosed big and startled; her face was as
white as the long robe she wore.

"What _is_ it, Riego?" she gasped.

"They are coming!" he whispered.

"Who?" she exclaimed, catching him by the shoulders, "_Who?_"

"Alva," the boy answered, "and three hundred with him. They are going
to surprise--our soldiers--and kill them while they sleep!"

The señorita sprang to the telephone. She pulled down the lever many,
many times, then she staggered back against the wall.

"They have cut the wires!" she cried. "Riego, you and I must take the
warning!"

"To the camp?" the boy cried in dismay.

"Yes, there's no one within a mile of here that could take it but us!"

"But the Mexicans have spies over there," the boy moaned. "They will
find us in the dark with their knives!"

She had flung on a long cloak, and was hurriedly fastening her shoes.

"Then you stay here and I'll go," she said.

"_You?_" cried the startled child--then--"It is dark out there, my
lady; I'll go with you."

They extinguished the light and stole out together to the stable, but
the horses were gone!

Desperate now, they started out afoot.

The treacherous sand again and the black dark! But they crept along
together. Then suddenly the boy's courage gave way and he clung to the
cloaked figure, sobbing:

"Señorita! Señorita! I am _afraid_!"

The señorita was trembling, too, and her voice broke as she whispered:

"You and I don't make very good heroes, do we?"

They had come to a standstill and were clinging together in the dark.
Suddenly there was a sound of something approaching---the velvet tread
of an unshod pony in the sand!

The rider passed.

When they breathed again the señorita took him strongly by the
shoulders.

"Riego," she whispered--and there was no break in her voice now--"we
must separate. One of us must go straight to the ford and warn the
patrol, the other to camp."

"But it is near the ford that Pacheco is hiding," the boy replied.

"I'll go to the ford," she said simply.

"No, my lady, _I_ go--you take the news to camp." And before she could
detain him the boy turned at a sharp angle and plunged into the deeper
blackness of the chaparral.

       *       *       *       *       *

A long nightmare intervened between their parting and the time when the
half-dead boy clung to the saddle of the patrol and whispered to him:

"Keep to the open, señor; there are men with knives in the chaparral!
Help is coming!"

Then, somehow, everything was blotted out for Riego.

When consciousness came again to the boy, the cool air of the dawn was
choked with dust clouds till he could not see ten feet before him and
his ears were nearly bursting with the thunder-beat of frantic hoofs.
Dim horses were rearing and plunging against the reddening dawn.
There were shouts and cries and firing! Firing!

Who was losing? Who was _winning_?

Dear God, Alva's men were sweeping back across the Rio Grande!

One little frightened boy had saved the day for the country that had
given him refuge from oppression.

But what was that? A call for help? _Whose voice was that?_

Riego plunged into the thick of the dust cloud toward the cry, and
dropped by Pascual's side. How could he have known that his brother
would ride that night with the invaders!

But Pascual was striving to speak. Riego leaned over him and caught
the whisper:

"Lorente shot me down to get my horse and escape!"

And now the gringos were circling round the wounded one--they would
beat out his brains with their guns! But--but--why, they were lifting
him up, and _tenderly_! The Americans were lifting up his wounded
brother!

       *       *       *       *       *

Many and bewildering were the things which happened to Riego in the
next few hours. First, he and the all-but-dead Pascual were carried by
the soldiers to the American camp. Then his brother was taken away
from him and borne into a closed tent.

The soldiers gathered around Riego and patted him on the shoulder.
They gave him many things--things to eat and coins and pocket-knives
and tobacco-tags, all the while challenging him to smile--he whose
captured brother was yonder!

Later the big captain sent for him and took him by the hand.

"Riego Yañez," he said, "I am proud to shake hands with an American
hero!"

At length a tall soldier came to Riego and led him to the closed tent.
But the tall soldier did not enter; he merely pushed the boy inside
the tent and dropped the khaki flap.

Riego blinked his eyes. Somebody was lying stretched out on a cot, and
somebody was fanning him--the Beautiful One and his brother! Riego
crept toward her suddenly outstretched hands.

Then he leaned over Pascual. But Pascual's eyes were closed and on his
face was a yellow pallor.

"The surgeon has taken out the ball," whispered the Beautiful One. "He
will live, with good nursing, and I am on the job." She paused a
moment, then asked, as she looked into his face with concern: "Aren't
you happy, you tragic little soldier? Why don't you smile at the good
news?"

"How--" began the child--and a strange, sick feeling swept over
him--"how long before he will be well enough to be stood against a
wall--and----"

"Why, you poor child!"--and the big tears sprang to the señorita's
eyes--"your brother will not be stood against a wall and shot for
treason--never--_never_! And he's not going to be shut up in prison,
either!"

[Illustration: "Riego Yañez," he said. "I am proud to shake hands with
an American hero!"]

"But why, señorita? Why? The big captain knows that he was with Alva's
men."

"He is young--just a boy," and the señorita laid a tender hand upon
the head of the wounded lad. "He is the son of good parents and
brother to---- Oh, you tragic little soldier, can't you guess who it
is has saved your brother?"

"_You_, señorita?"

"_Yourself_, Riego. Because you have been heroically loyal they are to
give your brother another chance. We Americans, Riego"--and her white
hand closed upon his own to include him with her--"we Americans are
going to nurse Pascual back to a better life and teach him how to be
free!"

The sick lad stirred on his cot.

When the Beautiful One leaned over him in quick solicitude, he
smiled.



The Scribner Series of School Reading


    A Uniform Series for Supplementary Reading in Schools. Each, 12mo,
    _net_, *$0.50.

    Hero Tales Told in School. By JAMES BALDWIN. Illustrated.

    Herakles, the Hero of Thebes, and Other Heroes of the Myth. By
    MARY E. BURT and ZENAIDE RAGEZIN. Illustrated.

    Odysseus: The Hero of Ithaca. By MARY E. BURT. Illustrated.

    The Boy General. By Mrs. GEORGE A. CUSTER and MARY E. BURT.
    Illustrated.

    Don Quixote De La Mancha. By MIGUEL DE CERVANTES. From the
    translations of Duffield and Shelton. By MARY E. BURT and LUCY
    LEFFINGWELL CABLE.

    The Cable Story Book. Selections for School Reading. By GEORGE W.
    CABLE. Edited by MARY E. BURT and LUCY L. CABLE. Illustrated.

    The Hoosier School Boy. By EDWARD EGGLESTON. Illustrated.

    The Eugene Field Book. Verses, Stories, and Letters for School
    Reading. By EUGENE FIELD. Edited by MARY E. BURT and MARY L.
    CABLE. With an Introduction by GEORGE W. CABLE. Illustrated.

    The Howells Story Book. By WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS. Selected and
    arranged by MARY E. BURT. Illustrated by MISS HOWELLS.

    The Lanier Book. Selections for School Reading. By SIDNEY LANIER.
    Edited and arranged By MARY E. BURT, in co-operation with Mrs.
    LANIER. Illustrated.

    The Page Story Book. Selections for School Reading by THOMAS
    NELSON PAGE. Edited by FRANK E. SPALDING and CATHERINE T. BRYCE.

    Poems of American Patriotism. Chosen by BRANDER MATTHEWS.

    Some Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. By HOWARD PYLE. Illustrated
    by the Author.

    The Roosevelt Book. Selections from the writings of Theodore
    Roosevelt, with an introduction by ROBERT BRIDGES. Illustrated.

    A Child's Garden of Verses. By ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. Illustrated.

    Krag and Johnny Bear. Being the Personal Histories of Krag, Randy,
    Johnny Bear, and Chink. By ERNEST THOMPSON SETON. Illustrated.

    Lobo, Rag, and Vixen. Selections from "Wild Animals I Have Known."
    By ERNEST THOMPSON SETON. With 4 full-page and many other
    illustrations from drawings by the Author.

    Twelve Naval Captains. With portraits. By MOLLY ELLIOTT SEAWELL.

    Fanciful Tales. By FRANK R. STOCKTON. Edited by JULIA E.
    LANGWORTHY. Illustrated.

    Around the World in the Sloop Spray. By Captain JOSHUA SLOCUM.
    Illustrated.

    The van Dyke Book. Selections for School Reading. By HENRY VAN
    DYKE. Edited and arranged by Professor EDWIN MIMS, with
    Biographical Sketch by MISS VAN DYKE. Illustrated.

    Children's Stories of American Literature, 1660-1860. By HENRIETTA
    CHRISTIAN WRIGHT.

    Children's Stories of American Literature, 1860-1896. By HENRIETTA
    CHRISTIAN WRIGHT.

    Children's Stories in American History. By HENRIETTA CHRISTIAN
    WRIGHT.

    Children's Stories in American Progress. By HENRIETTA CHRISTIAN
    WRIGHT.



Transcriber's Note


  * Punctuation errors have been corrected.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "America First" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home