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Title: Ruth Fielding Homeward Bound - A Red Cross Worker's Ocean Perils
Author: Emerson, Alice B.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: THERE WAS A GRAY, SWIFTLY STEAMING SHIP BEARING DOWN
UPON THE ADMIRAL PEKHARD.]



                             Ruth Fielding
                             Homeward Bound


                          A RED CROSS WORKER’S
                              OCEAN PERILS

                                   BY

                            ALICE B. EMERSON

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

                             _ILLUSTRATED_


                                NEW YORK
                         CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS



                            Books for Girls
                          BY ALICE B. EMERSON

                          RUTH FIELDING SERIES

                       12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.

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

               Cupples & Leon Co., Publishers, New York.

                          Copyright, 1919, by
                         Cupples & Leon Company

                      Ruth Fielding Homeward Bound

                          Printed in U. S. A.



                                CONTENTS

               CHAPTER                                  PAGE
                    I. Tea and a Toast                     1
                   II. Such a Dream!                      10
                  III. It’s All Over!                     20
                   IV. Two Exciting Things                29
                    V. The Secret                         38
                   VI. A New Experience                   45
                  VII. The Zeppelin                       52
                 VIII. Afloat                             60
                   IX. Queer Folks                        68
                    X. What Will Happen?                  76
                   XI. Developments                       84
                  XII. The Man in the Motor Boat          93
                 XIII. It Comes to a Head                101
                  XIV. A Battle in the Air               111
                   XV. Abandoned                         121
                  XVI. On the Edge of Tragedy            131
                 XVII. Boarded                           140
                XVIII. The Conspiracy Laid Bare          149
                  XIX. Tom Cameron Takes a Hand          159
                   XX. The Storm Breaks                  166
                  XXI. The Wreck                         172
                 XXII. Adrift                            180
                XXIII. At the Moment of Need             186
                 XXIV. Counterplot                       196
                  XXV. Home as Found                     205



RUTH FIELDING HOMEWARD BOUND



CHAPTER I—TEA AND A TOAST


“And you once said, Heavy Stone, that you did not believe a poilu
_could_ love a fat girl!”

Helen said it in something like awe. While Ruth’s tea-urn bubbled cozily
three pair of very bright eyes were bent above a tiny, iridescent spark
which adorned the “heart finger” of the plumper girl’s left hand.

There is something about an engagement diamond that makes it sparkle and
twinkle more than any other diamond. You do not believe that? Wait until
you wear one on the third finger of your left hand yourself!

These three girls, who owned all the rings and other jewelry that was
good for them, continued to adore this newest of Jennie Stone’s
possessions until the tea water boiled over. Ruth Fielding arose with an
exclamation of vexation, and corrected the height of the alcohol blaze
and dropped in the “pinch” of tea.

It was mid-afternoon, the hour when a cup of tea comforts the fagged
nerves and inspires the waning spirit of womankind almost the world
over. These three girls crowded into Ruth Fielding’s little cell, even
gave up the worship of the ring, to sip the tea which the hostess soon
poured into the cups.

“The cups are nicked; no wonder,” sighed Ruth. “They have traveled many
hundreds of miles with me, girls. Think! I got them at Briarwood——”

“Dear old Briarwood Hall,” murmured Jennie Stone.

“You’re in a dreadfully sentimental mood, Jennie,” declared Helen
Cameron with some scorn. “Is that the way a diamond ring affects all
engaged girls?”

“Oh, how fat I was in those days, girls! And how I did eat!” groaned the
girl who had been known at boarding school as “Heavy Stone,” and seldom
by any other name among her mates.

“And you still continue to eat!” ejaculated Helen, the slimmest of the
three, and a very black-eyed girl with blue-black hair and a perfect
complexion. She removed the tin wafer box from Jennie’s reach.

“Those are not real eats,” complained the girl with the diamond ring. “A
million would not add a thousandth part of an ounce to my pounds.”

“Listen to her!” gasped Helen. “If Major Henri Marchand could hear her
now!”

“He is a full colonel, I’d have you know,” declared Jennie Stone. “And
in charge of his section. In _our_ army it is the Intelligence
Department—Secret Service.”

“That is what Tom calls the ‘Camouflage Bureau.’ _Colonel_ Marchand has
a nice, sitting-down job,” scoffed Helen.

“Colonel Marchand,” said Ruth Fielding, gravely, “has been through the
enemy’s lines, and with his brother, the Count Allaire, has obtained
more information for the French Army, I am sure, than most of the brave
men belonging to the Intelligence Department. Nobody can question his
courage with justice, Jennie.”

“_You_ ought to know!” pouted the plumper girl. “You and my colonel have
tramped all over the French front together.”

“Oh, no! There were some places we did not go to,” laughed Ruth.

“And just think,” cried Helen, “of her leaving us here in this hospital,
Heavy, while she went off with your Frenchman to look for Tom, my own
brother! And she would not tell me a word about it till she was back
with him, safe and sound. This Ruthie Fielding of ours——”

“Tut, tut!” said Ruth, shaking her chum a little, and then kissing her.
“Don’t be jealous, Helen.”

“It’s not I that should be jealous. It is Heavy’s friend with whom you
went over to the Germans,” declared Helen, tossing her head.

“And Jennie had not even met Major Marchand—_that was_! ‘Colonel,’ I
should say,” said Ruth. “Oh, girls! so much has happened to us all
during these past few months.”

“During the past few years,” said the plump girl sepulchrally. “Talking
about your cracked and chipped china,” and she held up her empty cup to
look through it. “_I_ remember when you got this tea set, Ruthie.
Remember the Fox, and all her chums at Briarwood, and how mean we
treated you, Ruthie?”

“Oh, _don’t_!” exclaimed Helen. “I treated my Ruthie mean in those days,
too—sometimes.”

“Goodness!” drawled their friend, who was in the uniform of the Red
Cross worker and was a very practical looking, as well as pretty, girl.
“Don’t bring up such sad and sorrowful remembrances. This tea is
positively going to your heads and making you maudlin. Come! I will give
you a toast. You must drink your cup to it—and to the very dregs!”

“‘Dregs’ is right, Ruth,” complained Jennie, peering into her cup. “You
never will strain tea properly.”

“Pooh! If you do,” scoffed Helen, “you never have any leaves left with
which to tell your fortune.”

“‘Fortune!’ Superstitious child!” Then Jennie added in a whisper: “Do
you know, Madame Picolet knows how to tell fortunes splendidly with
tea-grounds. She positively told me I was going to marry a tall, dark,
military man, of noble blood, and who had recently been advanced in the
service.”

“Goodness! And who could not have told you the same after having seen
your Henri following you about the last time he had leave in Paris?”
laughed Helen. Then she added: “The toast, Ruthie! Let us have it, now
the cups are filled again.”

Ruth stood up, smiling down upon them. She was not a large girl, but in
her uniform and cap she seemed very womanly and not a little impressive.

“Here’s to the sweetest words the exile ever hears,” said she softly,
her eyes suddenly soft and her color rising: “‘Homeward bound!’ Oh,
girls, when shall we see America and all our friends and the familiar
scenes again? Cheslow, Helen! And the dear, dear old Red Mill!”

She drank her own toast to the last drop. Then she shrugged her pretty
shoulders and put her serious air aside. Her eyes sparkled once more as
she exclaimed:

“On my own part, I was only reminiscing upon the travels of this old tea
set. Back and forth from the dear old Red Mill to Briarwood Hall, and
all around the country on our vacations. To your Lighthouse Point place,
Jennie. To your father’s winter camp, Helen. And out West to Jane’s
uncle’s ranch, and down South and all! And then across the ocean and all
about France! No wonder the teacups are nicked and the saucers cracked.”

“What busy times we’ve had, girls,” agreed Helen.

“What busy times Ruth has had,” grumbled Jennie. “You and I, Nell, come
up here from Paris to visit her now and then. Otherwise we would never
hear a Boche shell burst, unless there is an air raid over Paris, or the
Germans work their super-gun and smash a church!”

“Ruth is so brave,” sighed Helen.

“Cat’s foot!” snapped Ruth. “I’m just as scared as you are every time I
hear a gun. Oh!”

To prove her statement, that cry burst from her lips involuntarily.
There was an explosion in the distance—whether of gun or bomb, it was
impossible to say.

“Oh, Ruth!” cried Helen, clasping her hands. “I thought you wrote us
that our boys had pushed the Germans back so far that the guns could
scarcely be heard from here?”

“Must be some mistake about that,” muttered Jennie, with her mouth full
of tea-wafers. “There goes another!”

Ruth Fielding had risen and went to the narrow window. After the second
explosion a heavy siren began to blow a raucous alarm. Nearer aerial
defense guns spoke.

“Oh, girls!” exclaimed Ruth, “it is an air raid. We have not had one
before for weeks—and never before in broad day!”

“Oh, dear me! I wish we hadn’t come,” Helen said, trembling. “Let us
find a _cave voûtée_. I saw signs along the main street of this village
as we drove through.”

“There is a bomb proof just back of the hospital,” said Ruth, and then
another heavy explosion drowned what else she might have said.

Her two visitors dropped their teacups and started for the door. But
Ruth did not turn from the window. She was trying to see—to mark the
direction of the Boche bombing machine that was deliberately seeking to
hit the hospital of Clair.

“Come, Ruthie!” cried Helen, looking back.

“I don’t know that I should,” the other girl said slowly. “I am in
charge of the supplies. I may be wanted at any moment. The nurses do not
run away from the wards and leave their poor _blessés_ at such a time——”

Another thundering explosion fairly shook the walls of the hospital.
Jennie and Helen shrieked aloud. They were not used to anything like
this. Their months of war experience had been gained mostly in Paris,
not so near the front trenches. A bombing raid was a tragedy to them. To
Ruth Fielding it was an incident.

“Do come, Ruthie!” cried her chum. “I am frightened to death.”

“I will go downstairs with you——”

The sentence was never finished. Out of the air, almost over their
heads, fell a great, whining shell. The noise of it before it exploded
was like a knife-thrust to the hearts of the frightened girls. Jennie
and Helen clung to each other in the open doorway of Ruth’s cell. Their
braver companion had not left the window.

Then came the shuddering crash which rocked the hospital and all the
taller buildings about it!

Clair had been bombed many times since the Boche hordes had poured down
into France. But never like this, and previous bombardments had been for
the most part at night. The aerial defense guns were popping away at the
enemy; the airplanes kept up a clatter of machine-gun fire; the alarm
siren added to the din.

But that exploding shell drowned every other sound for the moment. The
whole world seemed to rock. A crash of falling stones and shattered
glass finally rose above the dying roar of the explosion.

And then the window at which Ruth Fielding stood sprang inward, glass
and frame together, the latter in a grotesque twisted pattern of steel
rods, the former in a million shivered pieces.

Smoke, or steam, or something, filled the cell for a minute and blinded
Helen Cameron and Jennie Stone. This cloud cleared, and struggling up
from the floor just outside the doorway, where the shock had flung them,
the two terrified girls uttered a simultaneous cry.

Ruth Fielding lay on her face upon the floor of her cell. A great,
jagged tear in her apron and dress revealed her bared shoulder, all
blood-smeared. And half across her body lay a slab of gray stone that
had been the sill of the window!



CHAPTER II—SUCH A DREAM!


The lights in the day coach had just been lit and she was looking out
into the gathering darkness as the train rolled slowly into Cheslow, the
New England town to which her fare had been paid when her friends back
in the town where she was born had decided that little Ruth Fielding
should be sent to her single living relative, Uncle Jabez Potter.

He was her mother’s uncle, really, and a “great uncle” was a relative
that Ruth could not quite visualize at that time. It was not until she
had come to the old Red Mill on the bank of the Lumano River that the
child found out that a great uncle was a tall, craggy kind of man, who
wore clothing from which the mill dust rose in little clouds when he
moved hurriedly, and with the same dust seemingly ground into every
wrinkle and line of his harsh countenance.

Jabez Potter had accepted the duty of the child’s support without one
softening thought of love or kindness. She was a “charity child”; and
she was made to feel this fact continually in a hundred ways.

Had it not been for Aunt Alvirah Boggs, who had likewise been taken in
by the miller to keep house for him—the little, crippled old woman would
otherwise have completed her years in the poorhouse. Had it not been for
Aunt Alvirah Boggs, Ruth Fielding’s first months at the Red Mill would
have been a most somber experience, although the child was naturally of
a cheerful and sanguine temperament.

The miserly miller considered Ruth Fielding a liability; she proved
herself in time to be an asset. And as she grew older the warped nature
and acid temper of the miller both changed toward his grand-niece. But
to bring this about took several years—years filled with more adventure
and wider experiences than most girls obtain.

Beginning with her acquaintance with Helen and Tom Cameron, the twins,
who lived near the Red Mill, and were the children of a wealthy
merchant, Ruth’s life led upward in successive steps into education and
fortune. As “Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill”—the title of the first book
of this series—the little girl had never dreamed that she would arrive
at any eminence. She was just a loving, sympathetic, cheerful soul,
whose influence upon those about her was remarkable only because she was
so much in earnest and was of honest purpose in all things.

Uncle Jabez could appreciate her honesty, for that was one virtue he
himself possessed. He always paid his bills, and paid them when they
came due. He considered that because Ruth discovered a sum of money that
he lost he owed her a reward. That reward took the form of payment for
tuition and board for her first year at Briarwood Hall, where she went
with Helen Cameron. At the same time Helen’s brother went to Seven Oaks,
a military school for boys.

In this way began the series of adventures which had checkered Ruth
Fielding’s career, and as related in the fourteen successive volumes of
the series, the girl of the Red Mill is to be met at Briarwood Hall, at
Snow Camp, at Lighthouse Point, at Silver Ranch, on Cliff Island, at
Sunrise Farm, with the Gypsies, in Moving Pictures, down in Dixie, at
College, in the Saddle, in the Red Cross, at the War Front. In this
present volume she is introduced, with her chum Helen Cameron and with
their friend, Jennie Stone, at the French evacuation Hospital at Clair,
not many miles behind a sector of the Western Front held by the brave
fighting men of the United States.

Ruth had been there in charge of the supply department of the hospital
for some months, and that after some considerable experience at other
points in France. As everywhere else she had been, the girl of the Red
Mill had made friends around her.

Back of the old-world village of Clair, the one modern touch in which
was this hospital, lay upon a wooded height an old château belonging to
the ancient family of the Marchands. With the Countess Marchand, a very
simple and lovely lady, Ruth had maintained a friendship since soon
after arriving at Clair to take up her Red Cross work.

When Tom Cameron, who was at work with his regiment on this very sector
of the battle-front, got into trouble while on special duty beyond the
German lines, it was by grace of Henri Marchand’s influence, and in his
company, that Ruth Fielding was able to get into the German lines and by
posing as Tom’s sister, “Fraulein Mina von Brenner,” helped Tom to
escape from the military governor of the district.

Aided by Count Allaire Marchand, the Countess’ oldest son, and the then
Major Henri Marchand, the girl of the Red Mill and Helen Cameron’s twin
brother had returned in safety through the German lines. The adventure
had knitted a stronger cord of friendship between Ruth and Tom; although
heretofore the young man had quite plainly showed that he considered
Ruth much the nicest girl of any of his sister’s acquaintances.

Other than a strong sisterly feeling for Tom Cameron, Ruth had not
really revealed. Perhaps that was as deep as her interest in the young
man lay. And, in any case, she was not the girl to wear her heart on her
sleeve.

The girls who had gone through Briarwood Hall together, and later had
entered Ardmore College and were near to finishing their sophomore year
when America got into the World War, were not the kind who put “the
boys” before every other thought.

Marriage was something very far ahead in the future, if Ruth or Helen
thought of it at all. And it was quite a surprise to them that Jennie
Stone should have so suddenly become engaged. Indeed, the plump girl was
one of “the old crowd” that the girl of the Red Mill had not supposed
would become early engaged. “Heavy” Stone was not openly of a
sentimental character.

But when, through Ruth, the plump girl had become acquainted with the
Countess Marchand’s younger son, Jennie Stone had been carried quite off
her feet by the young Frenchman’s precipitous courtship.

“Talk about the American boys being ‘sudden’! Theirs is nothing to the
whirlwind work of Henri Marchand!” exclaimed Helen.

Jennie and Helen Cameron had been going back and forth to Clair as
affairs permitted during the past few months; therefore Jennie had
become acquainted with the Countess and was now more often a visitor at
the old château than at the hospital.

The country about Clair had quieted down during the past two months; and
for a long time previous to this fateful day when our story opens, the
war had touched the town but slightly save as the ambulances rolled in
now and then with wounded from the field hospitals.

Gradually the roar of the cannon had retreated. The Yankees were forcing
the fighting on this front and had pressed the Germans back, slowly but
surely. The last and greatest German offensive had broken down, and now
Marshal Foch had started his great drive which was to shatter utterly
the foe’s western front.

By some foul chance the German bombing plane had escaped the watchful
French and American airplanes at the front, had crossed the fighting
lines, and had reached Clair with its single building of mark—the
hospital. The Hun raider deliberately dropped his cargo of explosives on
and around this building of mercy.

In broad daylight the red crosses painted upon the roofs of the several
departments of the institution were too plainly seen from the air for
the Hun to have made a mistake. It was a deliberate expression of German
“frightfulness.”

But the bomb, which in exploding had crushed inward the window of Ruth
Fielding’s little sleeping cell, was the final one dropped from the
enemy plane. The machine droned away, pursued by the two or three
airplanes that had spiraled up to attack it.

Enough damage had been done, however. As Helen Cameron and Jennie Stone
scrambled up from the floor of the corridor outside Ruth’s door their
united screams brought the little _Madame la Directrice_ of the hospital
to their aid.

“She is killed!” gasped Jennie, gazing in horror at their fallen comrade
and friend.

“Murdered!” shrieked Helen, and covered her face with her hands.

The Frenchwoman swept them both aside and entered the chamber. She was
not more practical than the two American girls, but her experience of
four years of war had made her used to such sights as this. She knelt
beside the fallen girl, discovered that the wound upon her shoulder was
not deep, and instantly heaved the heavy stone off the girl’s back.

“La, la, la!” she murmured. “It is sad! That so-heavy stone! Ah, the
bone must be broken! Poor child!”

“Isn’t she dead?” gasped Helen. “No, no! She is very bad
wounded-perhaps. See—let us turn her over—”

She spoke in English. It was Jennie who came to her aid. Between them
they turned Ruth Fielding over. Plainly she was not dead. She breathed
lightly and she was unconscious.

“Oh, Ruthie! Ruthie!” begged Helen. “Speak to me!”

“No!” exclaimed the matron. “Do not attempt to rouse her, Mademoiselle.
It is better that the shoulder should be set and properly bandaged
before she comes to consciousness again. Push that button yonder for the
orderly—twice! That is it. We will lay her on her cot—poor child!”

The woman was strong as well as tender. With Jennie’s aid she lifted the
wounded girl and placed her on her narrow bed. A man came running along
the corridor. The matron instructed him in such rapid French that
neither of Ruth’s friends could understand all that she said. The
orderly departed on the run.

“To the operating room!” commanded the matron, when the _brancardiers_
appeared with the stretcher.

They lifted Ruth, who remained unconscious, from the bed to the
stretcher. They descended with her to the ground floor, Jennie and Helen
following in the wake. On both of the main floors of the hospital nurses
came to the doors of the wards to learn what had happened. Although the
whole hospital had been shaken by the bombs, there had been no casualty
within its precincts save this.

“Why should it have to be Ruth?” groaned Helen. “To think of our Ruthie
being wounded—the only one!”

They shut the two American girls out of the operating room, of course.
_The Médecin Chef_ himself came hurriedly to see what was needed for the
injured girl. _Mademoiselle Americaine_, as Ruth was called about the
hospital by the grateful French people, was very popular and much
beloved.

Her two girl friends waited in great anxiety outside the operating room.
At last _Madame la Directrice_ came out. She smiled at the anxious
girls. That was the most glorious smile—so Jennie Stone said
afterward—that was ever beheld.

“A fracture of the shoulder bone; her sweet flesh cut and bruised, but
not deeply, Mesdemoiselles. No scar will be left, the surgeon assures
me. And when she recovers from the anesthetic——Oh, la, la! she will have
nothing to do but get well. It means a long furlough, however, for
_Mademoiselle Americaine_.”

It was two hours later that Helen and Jennie sat, one on either side of
Ruth’s couch, in the private room that had been given to the wounded Red
Cross worker. Ruth’s eyes opened heavily, she blinked at the light, and
then her vision swept first Helen and then Jennie.

“Oh, such a dream!” she murmured. “I dreamed about coming to Cheslow and
the Red Mill again, when I was a little girl. And I dreamed all about
Briarwood, and our trips about the country, and our adventures in school
and out. I dreamed even of coming here to France, and all that has
happened. Such a dream!

“Mercy’s sake, girls! What has happened to me? I’m all bandaged up like
a _grand blessé!_”



CHAPTER III—IT’S ALL OVER!


The shoulder had to be put in a cast; but the healing of the cuts and
bruises on Ruth Fielding’s back was a small matter. Only——

“It’s all over for me, girls,” she groaned, as her two friends
commiserated with her. “The war might just as well end to-morrow, as far
as I am concerned. I can help no longer.”

For Major Soutre, the head surgeon, had said:

“After the plaster comes off it will be then eight weeks, Mademoiselle,
before it will be safe for you to use your arm and shoulder in any way
whatsoever.”

“So my work is finished,” she repeated, wagging a doleful head upon her
pillow.

“Poor dear!” sighed Jennie. “Don’t you want me to make you something
nice to eat?”

“Mercy on us, Heavy!” expostulated Helen, “just because you work in a
diet kitchen, don’t think that the only thing people want when they are
sick is something to eat.” “It’s the principal thing,” declared the
plump girl stubbornly. “And Colonel Marchand says I make _heavenly_
broth!”

Helen sniffed disdainfully.

Ruth laughed weakly; but she only said:

“Tom says the war will be over by Christmas. I don’t know whether it is
he or General Pershing that has planned out the finish of the Germans.
However, if it is over by the holidays, I shall be unable to do anything
more for the Red Cross. They will send me home. I have done my little,
girls.”

“‘Little!” exclaimed Helen. “You have done much more than Jennie and I,
I am sure. We have done little or nothing compared with your services,
Ruthie.”

“Hold on! Hold on!” exclaimed Jennie Stone gruffly, pulling a paper out
of her handbag. “Wait just a minute, young lady. I will not take a back
seat for anybody when it comes to statistics of work. Just listen here.
These are some of the things _I_ have done since I joined up with that
diet kitchen outfit. I have tasted soup and broth thirty-seven thousand
eight hundred and three times. I have tasted ten thousand, one hundred
and eleven separate custards. I have tasted twenty thousand ragouts—many
of them of rabbit, and I am always suspicious that the rabbit may have
had a long tail—ugh! Baked cabbage and cheese, nine thousand, seven
hundred and six——”

“Jennie! Do stop! How _could_ you eat so much?” demanded Helen in
horror.

“Bless you! the poilus did the eating; I only did the seasoning and
tasting. It’s _that_ keeps me so fat, I do believe. And then, I have
served one million cups of cocoa.”

“Why don’t you say a billion? You might as well.”

“Because I can’t count up to a billion. I never could,” declared the
fleshy girl. “I never was top-hole at mathematics. You know that.”

They tried to cheer Ruth in her affliction; but the girl of the Red Mill
was really much depressed. She had always been physically, as well as
mentally, active. And at first she must remain in bed and pose as a
regular invalid.

She was thus posing when Tom Cameron got a four-days’ leave and came
back as far as Clair, as he always did when he was free. It was so much
nearer than Paris; and Helen could always run up here and meet him,
where Ruth had been at work. The chums spent Tom’s vacations from the
front together as much as possible.

When Mr. Cameron, who had been in Europe with a Government commission,
had returned to the United States, he had laughingly left Helen and Tom
in Ruth’s care.

“But he never would have entrusted you children to my care,” sighed the
girl of the Red Mill, “if he had supposed I would be so foolish as to
get a broken shoulder.”

“Quite,” said Tom, nodding a wise head. “One might have supposed that if
an aerial shell hit your shoulder the shell would be damaged, not the
shoulder.”

“It was the stone window-sill, they say,” murmured Ruth contritely.

“Sure. Dad never supposed you were such a weak little thing. Heigh-ho!
We never know what’s going to happen in this world. Oh, I say!” he
suddenly added. “I know what’s going to happen to me, girls.”

“What is it, Captain Tom?” his sister asked, gazing at him proudly.
“They are not going to make you a colonel right away, are they, like
Jennie’s beau?”

“Not yet,” admitted her brother, laughing. “I’m the youngest captain in
our division right now. Some of ’em call me ‘the infant,’ as it is. But
what is going to happen to me, I’m going up in the air!”

“Oh!” exclaimed Jennie Stone. “I should say that was a rise in the
world.”

“You are never going into aviation, Tom?” screamed Helen.

“Not exactly. But an old Harvard chum of mine, Ralph Stillinger, is
going to take me up. You know Stillinger. Why, he’s an ace!”

“And you are crazy!” exclaimed his sister, rather tartly. “Why do you
want to risk your life so carelessly?”

Tom chuckled; and even Ruth laughed weakly. As though Tom had not risked
his life a hundred times already on the battle front! If he were not
exactly reckless, Tom Cameron possessed that brand of courage owned only
by those who do not feel fear.

“I don’t blame Tommy,” said Jennie Stone. “I’d like to try ‘aviating’
myself; only I suppose nothing smaller than a Zeppelin could take me
up.”

“Will you really fly, Tom?” Ruth asked.

“Ralph has promised me a regular circus—looping the loop, and spiraling,
and all the tricks of flying.”

“But you won’t fly into battle?” questioned Helen anxiously. “Of course
he won’t take you over the German lines?”

“Probably not. They don’t much fancy carrying amateurs into a fight. You
see, only two men can ride in even those big fighting planes with the
liberty motors; and both of them should be trained pilots, so that if
anything happens to the man driving the machine, the other can jump in
and take his place.”

“Ugh!” shuddered his sister. “Don’t talk about it any more. I don’t want
to know when you go up, Tommy. I should be beside myself all the time
you were in the air.”

So they talked about Ruth’s chances of going home instead. After all, as
she could be of no more use in Red Cross work for so long a time, the
girl of the Red Mill began to look forward with some confidence to the
home going.

As she had told her girl friends that very day when the hospital had
been bombed and she had been hurt, the sweetest words in the ears of the
exile are “homeward bound!” And she expected to be bound for home—for
Cheslow and the Red Mill—in a very few weeks.

Her case had been reported to Paris headquarters; and whether she wished
it or not, a furlough had been ordered and she would be obliged to sail
from Brest on or about a certain date. The sea voyage would help her to
recuperate; and by that time her shoulder would be out of the plaster
cast in which Dr. Soutre had fixed it. Whether she desired to be so
treated or not, the Red Cross considered her an invalid—a “_grande
blessée_.”

So, as the days passed, Ruth Fielding gradually found that she suffered
the idea of return to America with a better mind. The more she thought
of going home, the more the desire grew in her soul to be there.

It was about this time that the letter came from Uncle Jabez Potter. A
letter from Uncle Jabez seemed almost as infrequent as the blooming of a
century plant.

It was delayed in the post as usual (sometimes it did seem as though the
post-office department had almost stopped functioning!) and the writing
was just as crabbed-looking as the old miller’s speech usually was. Aunt
Alvirah Boggs managed to communicate with “her pretty,” as she always
called Ruth, quite frequently; for although Aunt Alvirah suffered much
in “her back and her bones”—as she expressed herself dolefully—her hands
were not too crippled to hold a pen.

But Uncle Jabez Potter! Well, the letter itself will show what kind of
correspondent the old miller was:

  “My Dear Niece Ruth:

  “It does not seem as though you was near enough to the Red Mill to
  ever get this letter; and mebbe you won’t want to read it when you
  do get it. But I take my pen in hand just the same to tell you such
  news as there is and perticly of the fact that we have shut down.
  This war is terrible and that is a fact. I wish often that I could
  have shouldered a gun—old Betsy is all right now, me having cleaned
  the cement out of her muzzle what your Aunt Alvirah put in it—and
  marched off to fight them Germans myself. It would have been money
  in my pocket if I had done that instead of trying to grind wheat and
  corn in this dratted old water-mill. Wheat is so high and flour is
  so low that I can’t make no profit and so I have had to shut down
  the mill. First time since my great grandfather built it back in
  them prosperous times right after we licked the British that first
  time. This is an awful mean world we live in anyway. Folks are
  always making trouble. If it was not for them Germans you’d be home
  right now that your Aunt Alvirah needs you. You see, she has took to
  her bed, and Ben, the hired man, and me, don’t know much what to do
  for her. Ain’t no use trying to get a woman to come in to help, for
  all the women and girls have gone to work in the munitions factory
  down the river. Whole families have gone to work there and earn so
  much money that they ride back and forth to work in their own
  automobiles. It’s a cussed shame.

  “Your Aunt Alvirah talks about you nearly all the time. She’s
  breaking up fast I shouldn’t wonder and by the time this war is done
  I reckon she’ll be laid away. Me not making any money now, we are
  likely to be pretty average poor in the future. When it is all outgo
  and no come-in the meal tub pretty soon gets empty. I reckon I would
  better sell the mules and I hope Ben will find him a job somewhere
  else pretty soon. He won’t be discharged. Says he promised you he
  would stick to the old Red Mill till you come back from the war. But
  he’s a eating me out of house and home and that’s a fact.

  “If it is so you can get away from that war long enough, I wish
  you’d come home and take a look at your Aunt Alvirah. It seems to me
  if she was perked up some she might get a new hold on life. As it
  is, even Doc Davidson says there ain’t much chance for her.

  “Hoping this finds you the same, and wishing very much to see you
  back at the Red Mill, I remain,

                                                “Yr. Obedient Servant,
                                                          “J. Potter.”



CHAPTER IV—TWO EXCITING THINGS


Uncle Jabez’s letter and Tom Cameron arrived at the hospital at Clair on
the very same day. This was the second visit the captain had made to see
Ruth since her injury. At this time Helen and Jennie had returned to
Paris and Ruth was almost ready to follow them.

“It reads just like the old fellow,” Tom said, smiling, after having
perused the letter. “Of course, as usual he has made a mountain of
trouble out of a molehill of vexation. But I am sorry for Aunt Alvirah.”

“The dear old soul!” sighed Ruth. “I begin to feel that my being bombed
by the Hun may not have been an unmixed evil. Perhaps Aunt Alvirah—and
Uncle Jabez, too—very much need me at home. And without the excuse of my
broken shoulder I don’t see how I could have got away from here.”

“I wish I were going with you.”

“What! To leave your regiment and all?”

“No, I do not want to leave until this war is finished. But I hate to
think of your crossing the ocean alone.”

“Pooh! I shall not be alone. Lots of other people will be on the boat
with me, Tommy.”

“But nobody who would have your safety at heart as I should,” he told
her earnestly. “You cannot help yourself very well if—if anything should
happen.”

“What will happen, do you suppose?” she demanded.

“There are still submarines in the sea,” he said, grimly enough. “In
fact, they are more prevalent just now than they were when you came
over.”

“You bother about my chances of meeting a submarine when you are
planning to go up into the air with that Mr. Stillinger! You will be
more likely to meet the Hun in the air than I shall in the water.”

“Pooh! I am just going on a joy ride in an airplane. While you——”

“It is not just a joy ride I shall take, I admit, Tom,” Ruth said, more
seriously. “I do hate to give up my work here and go home. Yet this
letter,” and she tapped the missive from Uncle Jabez, “makes me feel
that perhaps I have duties near the Red Mill.”

“Uh-huh!” he grunted understandingly.

“You know I have been running around and having good times for a good
many years. Aunt Alvirah is getting old. And perhaps Uncle Jabez should
be considered, too.”

“He’s an awful old grouch, Ruth,” said Tom Cameron, shaking his head.

“I know. But he really has been kind to me—in his way. And if he has had
to close down the mill, and is making no money, he will surely feel
pretty bad. Somebody must be there to cheer him up.”

“He don’t need to run that mill,” said Tom shortly. “He has plenty of
money invested in one way or another.”

“But he doesn’t think he is earning anything unless the mill runs and he
sees the dollars increasing in his strong box. You know, he counts his
ready cash every night before he goes to bed. It is almost all the
enjoyment he has.”

“He’s a blessed old miser!” exclaimed her friend, “I don’t see how you
have stood him all these years, Ruthie.”

“I really believe he loves me—in his way,” returned the girl
thoughtfully. “Poor Uncle Jabez! Well, I am beginning to feel that it
was meant that I should go home to him and to Aunt Alvirah.”

“Don’t!” he exclaimed. “You’ll make me wish to go home, too. And the way
this war is now,” said Tom, smiling grimly, “they really need all us
fellows. The British and the French have fought Fritz so long and at
such odds that I almost believe they are half scared of him. But you
can’t make our Buddies feel scared of a German. They have seen too many
of them running delicatessen stores and saloons.

“Why, they have already sent some of their great shock troops against us
in this sector. All the ‘shock’ they have given us you could put in your
eye and still see from here to the Goddess of Liberty in New York
Harbor!”

“That’s a bit of ‘swank,’ you know, Tom,” said Ruth slyly.

“Wait! You’ll see! Why, it’s got to be a habit for the French and the
British to retreat a little when the Germans pour in on top of them.
They think they lose fewer troops and get more of the Huns that way. But
that isn’t the way we Yankees have been taught to fight. If we once get
the Huns in the open we’ll start them on the run for the Rhine, and they
won’t stop much short of there.”

“Oh, my dear boy, I hope so!” Ruth said. “But what will you be doing
meanwhile? Getting into more and more danger?”

“Not a bit!”

“But you mean right now to take an air trip,” Ruth said hastily. “Oh, my
dear! I don’t want to urge you not to; but do take care, if you go up
with Ralph Stillinger. They say he is a most reckless flier.”

“That is why he’s never had a mishap. It’s the airmen who are unafraid
who seem to pull through all the tight places. It is when they lose
their dash that something is sure to happen to them.”

“We will hope,” said Ruth, smiling with trembling lips, “that Mr.
Stillinger will lose none of his courage while you are up in the air
with him.”

“Pshaw! I shall be all right,” Tom declared. “The only thing is, I am
sorry that he has made the date for me so that I can’t go down to Paris
with you, and later see you aboard the ship at Brest. But this has been
arranged a long time; and I must be with my boys when they go back from
the rest camp to the front again.”

Ruth recovered herself quickly. She gave him her good hand and squeezed
his in a hearty fashion.

“Don’t mind, Tom,” she said. “If this war is pretty near over, as you
believe, you will not be long behind me in taking ship for home.”

“Right you are, Ruthie Fielding,” he agreed cheerfully.

But neither of them—and both were imaginative enough, in all good
conscience!—dreamed how soon nor in what manner Tom Cameron would follow
Ruth to sea when she was homeward bound. Nor did the girl consider how
much of a thrilling nature might happen to them both before they would
see each other again.

Tom Cameron left the hospital at Clair that afternoon to make all haste
to the aviation camp where he was to meet his friend and college-mate,
Ralph Stillinger, the American ace. Ruth was helped by the hospital
matron herself to prepare for an automobile trip to Lyse, from which
town she could entrain for Paris.

It was at Lyse that Ruth had first been stationed in her Red Cross work;
so she had friends there. And it was a very dear little friend of hers
who came to drive the automobile for Ruth when she left Clair. Henriette
Dupay, the daughter of a French farmer on the outskirts of the village,
had begged the privilege of taking “Mademoiselle Americaine” to Lyse.

“_Ma foi!_” gasped plump little Henriette, or “Hetty” as almost
everybody called her, “how pale you are, Mademoiselle Ruth. The bad, bad
Boches, that they should have caused you this annoyance.”

“I am only glad that the Germans did no more harm around the hospital
than to injure me,” Ruth said. “It was providential, I think.”

“But no, Mademoiselle!” cried the French girl, letting in her clutch
carefully when the engine of the motor began to purr smoothly, “it
cannot be called ‘providential.’ This is a serious loss for us all. Oh,
we feel it! Your going away from Clair is a sorrow for all.”

And, indeed, it seemed true. As the car rolled slowly through the
village, children ran beside the wheels, women waved their hands from
the doorways of the little cottages, and wounded poilus saluted the
passage of the Red Cross worker who was known and beloved by everybody.

The tears stung Ruth’s eyelids. She remembered how, the night before,
the patients in the convalescent wards—the boys and men she had written
letters for before her injury, and whom she had tried to comfort in
other ways during the hours she was off duty—had insisted upon coming to
her cell, one by one, to bid her good-bye. They had kissed her hands,
those brave, grateful fellows! Their gratitude had spilled over in
tears, for the Frenchman is never ashamed of emotion.

As she had come down from her chamber every nurse and orderly in the
hospital, as well as the surgical staff and even the porters and
_brancardiers_, had gathered to bid her God-speed.

“The dear, dear people!” Ruth murmured, as the car reached the end of
the village street. She turned to throw kisses with her one useful hand
to the crowd gathered in the street.

“The dear, dear people!” she repeated, smiling through her happy tears
at Hetty.

“Ah, they know you, Mademoiselle,” said the girl with a practical nod.
“And they know they will seldom see your like again.”

“Oh, la, la!” responded Ruth, using an expression of Henriette’s, and
laughed. Then suddenly: “You are not taking the shortest road, Henriette
Dupay!”

“What! do you expect to get away from Clair without seeing Madame the
Countess?” laughed the younger girl. “I would not so dare—no, no! I have
promised to take you past the château. And at the corner of the road
beyond my whole family will await you. Papa Dupay has declared a holiday
on the farm till we go past.”

Ruth was really very happy, despite the fact that she was leaving these
friends. It made for happiness, the thought that everybody about Clair
wished her well.

The car mounted the gentle slope of the highway that passed the château
gates. It was a beautiful road with great trees over-arching it—trees
that had sprung from the soil at least two hundred years before. With
all the air raids there had been about Clair, the Hun had not worked his
wrath upon this old forest, nor upon the château almost hidden behind
the high wall.

The graceful, slim figure of the lady of the château, holding a big
greyhound in leash, appeared at the small postern when the car came
purring up the hill. Henriette brought the machine to a stop where the
Countess Marchand could give Ruth her hand.

“Good-bye, dear child!” she said, smiling cheerfully at Ruth. “We shall
miss you; but we know that wherever you go you will find some way of
helping others. Mademoiselle Jeannie,” (it was thus she spoke of her
son, Henri’s, sweetheart) “has told us much of you, Ruth Fielding. And
we know you well, _n’est-ce pas_, Hetty? We shall never forget her,
shall we?”

“_Ma foi_, no!” rejoined the practical French girl. “She leaves her mark
upon our neighborhood, does she not, Madame la Countesse?”

On they rolled, past the end of the farm lane where stood the whole
Dupay household, even to Aunt Abelard who had never quite forgiven the
Americans for driving her back from her old home north of Clair when the
Germans made their spring advance. But Aunt Abelard found she could
forgive the military authorities now, because of Ruth Fielding.

They all waved aprons and caps until the motorcar was out of sight. It
dipped into a swale, and the last picture of the people she had learned
to love faded from Ruth Fielding’s sight—but not to be forgotten!



CHAPTER V—THE SECRET


Ruth spent one night in Lyse, where she went to the pension patronized
by a girl friend from Kansas City, Clare Biggars. She was obliged to
have somebody assist her in dressing and disrobing, but she was in no
pain. Merely she was warned to keep her shoulder in one position and she
wore her arm in a black silk sling.

“It is quite the fashion to ‘sling’ an arm,” said Clare, laughing. “They
should pin the _Croix de Guerre_ on you, anyway, Ruth Fielding. After
what you have been through!”

“Deliver us from our friends!” groaned Ruth. “Why should you wish to
embarrass me? How could I explain a war cross?”

“I don’t know. One of the Kansas City boys was here on leave a few weeks
ago and he wore a French war cross. I tried to find out why, but all he
would tell me was that it was given him for a reward for killing his
first ten thousand cooties!”

“That is all right,” laughed Ruth. “They make fun of them, but the boys
are proud of being cited and allowed to wear such a mark of distinction,
just the same. Only, you know how it is with American boys; they hate to
be made conspicuous.”

“How about American girls?” returned Clare slyly.

That evening Ruth held a reception in the parlor of the pension. And
among those who came to see her was a little, stiff-backed, white-haired
and moustached old gentleman, with a row of orders across his chest. He
was the prefect of police of the town, and he thought he had good reason
for considering the “_Mademoiselle Americaine_” quite a wonderful young
woman. It was by her aid that the police had captured three
international crooks of notorious character.

Off again in the morning, this time by rail. In the best of times the
ordinary train in France is not the most comfortable traveling equipage
in the world. In war time Ruth found the journey most abominable. Troop
trains going forward, many of them filled with khaki-uniformed fighters
from the States, and supply trains as well, forced the ordinary
passenger trains on to side tracks. But at length they rolled into the
Gare du Nord, and there Helen and Jennie were waiting for the girl of
the Red Mill.

“Oh! She looks completely done up!” gasped Helen, as greeting.

“Come over to the canteen and get some nice soup,” begged Jennie. “I
have just tasted it. It is fine.”

“‘Tasted it!’” repeated Helen scornfully. “Ruthie, she ate two plates of
it. She is beginning to put on flesh again. What do you suppose Colonel
Henri will say?”

“As though _he_ would care!” smiled Jennie Stone. “If I weighed a ton he
would continue to call me _petite poulet_.”

“‘Chicken Little!’ No less!” exclaimed Helen. “Honest, Ruthie, I don’t
know how I bear this fat and sentimental girl. I—I wish I was engaged
myself so I could be just as silly as she is!”

“How about you, Ruthie?” asked Jennie, suspiciously. “Let me see your
left hand. What! Has he not put anything on that third finger yet?”

“Have a care! A broken shoulderbone is enough,” gasped Ruth. “I am
looking for no other ornament at present, thank you.”

“We are going to take you to Madame Picolet’s,” Helen declared the next
minute, as they left the great train shed and found a taxicab. “You
would not disappoint her, would you? She so wants you with her while you
remain in Paris.”

“Of course,” said Ruth, who had a warm feeling for the French teacher
with whom she had been so friendly at Briarwood Hall. “And she has such
a cosy and quiet little place.”

But after Ruth had rested from her train journey, Madame Picolet’s
apartment did not prove to be so quiet a place. Besides Helen Cameron
and Jennie Stone, there were a lot of other young women whom Ruth knew
in Paris, working for the Red Cross or for other war institutions.

Of all their clique, Ruth had been the only girl who had worked right up
on the battleline and had really seen much of the war. The visitors
wanted to know all about it. And that Ruth had been injured by a Hun
bomb made her all the more interesting to these young American women
who, if they were not all of the calibre of the girl of the Red Mill,
were certainly in earnest and interested in their own part of the work.

The surgeons had been wise, perhaps, in advising Ruth to take boat as
soon as possible for the American side of the Atlantic. The Red Cross
authorities gave her but a few days in Paris before she had to go on to
Brest—that great port which the United States had built over for its war
needs.

Helen and Jennie insisted on going with her to Brest. Indeed, Ruth found
herself so weak that she was glad to have friends with her. She knew,
however, that there would be those aboard the _Admiral Pekhard_, the
British transport ship to which she was assigned, who would give her any
needed attention during the voyage.

Up to the hour of sailing, Ruth received messages and
presents—especially flowers—from friends she was leaving behind in
France. Down to the ship came a boy from a famous florist in
Paris—having traveled all the way by mail train carrying a huge bunch of
roses.

“It’s from Tom,” cried Helen excitedly, “I bet a penny!”

“What a spendthrift you are, Helen,” drawled Jennie. But she watched
Ruth narrowly as the latter opened the sealed letter accompanying the
flowers.

“You lose,” said Ruth cheerfully, the moment she saw the card. “But
somebody at the front has remembered me just the same, even if Tom did
not.”

“Well!” exclaimed Tom’s sister, “what do you know about _that_?”

“Who is the gallant, Ruthie?” demanded Jennie.

“Charlie Bragg. The dear boy! And a steamer letter, too!”

Helen Cameron was evidently amazed that Tom was not heard from at this
time. Ruth had kept to herself the knowledge that Tom was going to the
aviation camp and expected to make his first trip into the air in the
company of his friend, the American ace. This was a secret she thought
Helen would better not share with her.

After she had opened Charlie Bragg’s letter on the ship she was very
glad indeed she had said nothing to Helen about this. For along with
other news the young ambulance driver wrote the following:

                   *       *       *       *       *

“Hard luck for one of our best flying men. Ralph Stillinger. You’ve
heard of him? The French call him an ace, for he has brought down more
than five Hun machines.

“I hear that he took up a passenger the other day. An army captain, I
understand, but I did not catch the name. There was a sudden raid from
the German side, and Stillinger’s machine was seen to fly off toward the
sea in an endeavor to get around the flank of the Hun squadron.

“Forced so far away from the French and American planes, it was thought
Stillinger must have got into serious trouble. At least, it is reported
here that an American airplane was seen fighting one of those
sea-going-Zeppelins—the kind the Hun uses to bomb London and the English
coast, you know.

“Hard luck for Stillinger and his passenger, sure enough. The American
airplane was seen to fall, and, although a searching party discovered
the wrecked machine, neither its pilot nor the passenger was found.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

Charlie Bragg had no idea when he wrote this that he was causing Ruth
Fielding, homeward bound, heartache and anxiety. She dared tell Helen
nothing about this, although she read the letter before the _Admiral
Pekhard_ drew away from the pier and Helen and Jennie went ashore.

Of course, Stillinger’s passenger might not have been Tom Cameron. Yet
Tom had been going to the aviation field expecting to fly with the
American ace. And the fact that Tom had allowed her, Ruth, to sail
without a word of remembrance almost convinced the girl of the Red Mill
that something untoward had happened to him.

It was a secret which she felt she could share with nobody. She set sail
upon the venturesome voyage to America with this added weight of sorrow
on her heart.



CHAPTER VI—A NEW EXPERIENCE


Tom landed from a slowly crawling military train at a place some miles
behind the actual battleline and far west of the sector in which his
division had been fighting for a month. This division was in a great
rest camp; but Tom did not want rest. He craved excitement—something
new.

In a few hours an automobile which he shared with a free-lance newspaper
man brought him to a town which had been already bombarded half a dozen
times since Von Kluck’s forced retreat after the first advance on Paris.

As Tom walked out to the aviation field, where Ralph Stillinger’s letter
had advised his friend he was to be found, all along the streets the
American captain saw posters announcing _Cave Voûteé_ with the number of
persons to be accommodated in these places of refuge, such number
ranging from fifteen to sixty.

The bomb-proof cellars were protected by sandbags and were conveniently
located so that people might easily find shelter whenever the German
Fokkers or _Tauben_ appeared. Naturally, as the town was so near the
aviation field, it was bound to be a mark for the Hun bombing planes.

Sentinels were posted at every street corner. There were three of the
anti-aircraft .75‘s set up in the town. Just outside the place were the
camps of three flying escadrilles, side by side. One of these was the
American squadron to which Ralph Stillinger, Tom’s friend, was attached.

Each camp of the airmen looked to Tom, when he drew near, like the
“pitch” of a road show. With each camp were ten or twelve covered
motor-trucks with their tentlike trailers, and three automobiles for the
use of the officers and pilots.

Tom had not realized before what the personnel of each _équipé_ was
like. There were a dozen artillery observers; seven pilots; two
mechanicians to take care of each airplane, besides others for general
repair work; and chauffeurs, orderlies, servants, wireless operators,
photographers and other attachés—one hundred and twenty-five men in all.

Tom Cameron’s appearance was hailed with delight by several men who had
known him at college. Not all of his class had gone to the Plattsburg
officer’s training camp. Several were here with Ralph Stillinger, the
one ace in this squadron.

“You may see some real stuff if you can stay a day or two,” they told
the young captain of infantry.

“I suppose if there is a fight I’ll see it from the ground,” returned
Tom. “Thanks! I’ve seen plenty of air-fights from the trenches. I want
something better than that. Ralph said he’d take me up.”

“Don’t grouch too soon, young fellow,” said Stillinger, laughing. “We’re
thirty miles or so from the present front. But in this new, swift
machine of mine (it’s one of the first from home, with a liberty motor)
we can jump into any ruction Fritzie starts over the lines in something
like fifteen minutes. I’ll joyride you, Tommy, if nothing happens,
to-morrow.”

It was not altogether as easily arranged as that. Permission had to be
obtained for Ralph to take his friend up. The commander of the squadron
had no special orders for the next day. He agreed that Ralph might go up
with his passenger early in the morning, unless something interfered.

The young men were rather late turning in, for “the crowd” got together
to swap experiences; it seemed to Tom as though he had scarcely closed
his eyes when an orderly shook him and told him that Lieutenant
Stillinger was waiting for him out by Number Four hangar—wherever that
might be.

Tom crept out, yawning. He dressed, and as he passed the kitchen a
bare-armed cook thrust a huge mug of coffee and a sandwich into his
hands.

“If you’re going up in the air, Captain, you’ll be peckish,” the man
said. “Get around that, sir.”

Tom did so, gratefully. Then he stumbled out into the dark field, for
there were no lights allowed because of the possibility of lurking Huns
in the sky. He ran into the orderly, the man who had awakened him, who
was coming back to see where he was. The orderly led Tom to the spot
where Stillinger and the mechanician were tuning up the machine.

“Didn’t know but you’d backed out,” chuckled the flying man.

“Your grandmother!” retorted Tom cheerfully. “I stopped for a bite and a
mug of coffee.”

“You haven’t been eating enough to overload the machine, have you?”
asked Stillinger. “I don’t want to zoom the old girl. The motor shakes
her bad enough, as it is.”

“Come again!” exclaimed Tom. “What’s the meaning of ‘zoom’?”

“Overstrain. Putting too much on her. Oh, there is a new language to
learn if you are going to be a flying man.”

“I’m not sure I want to be a flying man,” said Tom. “This is merely a
try-out. Just tell me what to look out for and when to jump.”

“Don’t jump,” warned Stillinger. “Nothing doing that way. Loss of
speed—_perte de vitesse_ the French call it—is the most common accident
that can happen when one is up in the air in one of these planes. But
even if that occurs, old man, take my advice and _stick_. You’ll be
altogether too high up for a safe jump, believe me!”

They got under way with scarcely any jar, and with tail properly
elevated the airplane was aimed by Ralph Stillinger for the upper
reaches of the air. They went up rather steeply; but the ace was not
“zooming”; he knew his machine.

There is too much noise in an airship to favor conversation. Gestures
between the pilot and the observation man, or the photographer, usually
have to do duty for speech. Nor is there much happening to breed
discussion. The pilot’s mind must be strictly on the business of guiding
his machine.

With a wave of his hand Stillinger called Tom’s attention to the
far-flung horizon. Trees at their feet were like weeds and the roads and
waterways like streamers of crinkled tape. The earth was just a blur of
colors—browns and grays, with misty blues in the distance. The human eye
unaided could not distinguish many objects as far as the prospect spread
before their vision. But of a sudden Tom Cameron realized that that mass
of blurred blue so far to the westward, and toward which they were
darting, must be the sea.

The airplane mounted, and mounted higher. The recording barometer which
Tom could easily read from where he sat, reached the two-thousand mark.
His eyes were shining now through the mask which he wore. His first
perturbation had passed and he began actually to enjoy himself.

This time of dawn was as safe as any hour for a flight. It is near
mid-day when the heat of the sun causes those disturbances in the upper
atmosphere strata that the French pilots call _remous_, meaning actually
“whirlpools.” Yet these phenomena can be met at almost any hour.

The machine had gathered speed now. She shook terrifically under the
throbbing of the heavy motor—a motor which was later found to be too
powerful for the two-seated airplanes.

At fifty miles an hour they rushed westward. Tom was cool now. He was
enjoying the new experience. This would be something to tell the girls
about. He would wire Ruth that he had made the trip in safety, and she
would get the message before she went aboard the _Admiral Pekhard_, at
Brest.

Why, Brest was right over there—somewhere! Vaguely he could mark the
curve of miles upon miles of the French coast. What a height this was!

And then suddenly the airplane struck a whirlpool and dropped about
fifty feet with all the unexpectedness of a similar fall in an express
elevator. She halted abruptly and with an awful shock that set her to
shivering and rolling like a ship in a heavy sea.

Tom was all but jolted out of his seat; but the belt held him. He
turned, open-mouthed, upon his friend the pilot. But before he could
yell a question the airplane shot up again till it struck the solid air.

“My heavens!” shouted Tom at last. “What do you call _that_?”

“Real flying!” shouted Stillinger in return. “How do you like it?”

Tom had no ready reply. He was not sure that he liked it at all! But it
certainly was a new experience.



CHAPTER VII—THE ZEPPELIN


Stillinger was giving his full attention to managing his aircraft now.
They were circling in a great curve toward the north. This route would
bring them nearer to the lines of battle. The pilot turned to his
passenger and tried to warn him of what he was about to do. But Tom had
recovered his self-possession and was staring straight ahead with steady
intensity.

So Stillinger shut off the motor and the airplane pitched downward. A
fifty-mile drive is a swift pace anywhere—on the ground or in the air;
but as the airplane fell the air fairly roared past their ears and the
pace must have been nearer eighty miles an hour.

The machine was pointing down so straight that the full weight of the
two young men was upon their feet. They were literally standing erect.
Stillinger shot another glance at his passenger. Tom’s lips were parted
again and, although he could not hear it, the pilot knew Tom had emitted
another shout of excitement.

The earth, so far below, seemed rushing up to meet them. To volplane
from such a height and at such speed is almost the keenest test of
courage that can be put upon a man who for the first time seeks to
emulate the bird.

Nor is real danger lacking. If the pilot does not redress his plane at
exactly the right moment he will surely dash it and himself into the
earth.

While still some hundreds of feet from the earth, Stillinger leveled his
airplane and started the motor once more. They skimmed the earth’s
surface for some distance and then began to spiral upward.

It was just then that a black speck appeared against the clouded sky
over the not-far-distant battleline. They had not been near enough to
see the trenches even from the upper strata of air to which the airplane
had first risen. There was a haze hanging over the fighting battalions
of friend and foe alike. This black speck was something that shot out of
the cloud and upward, being small, but clearly defined at this distance.

The morning light was growing. The sun’s red upper rim was just showing
over the rugged line of the Vosges. Had they been nearer to the earth it
would have been possible to hear the reveille from the various camps.

The whole sector had been quiet. Suddenly there were several puffs of
smoke, and then, high in the air, and notably near to that black speck
against the cloud, other bursts of smoke betrayed aerial shells.
Stillinger’s lips mouthed the word, “Hun!” and Tom Cameron knew that he
referred to the flying machine that hung poised over No Man’s Land,
between the lines.

The aerial gunners were trying to pot the enemy flying machine. But of a
sudden a group of similar machines, flying like wild geese, appeared out
of the fog-bank. There must have been a score of them.

Taking advantage of the morning fog, which was thicker to the north and
east than it was behind the Allied lines, the Germans had sent their
machines into the air in squadrons. A great raid was on!

Out of the fog-bank at a dozen points winged the Fokkers and the smaller
fighting airplanes. It was a surprise attack, and had been excellently
planned. The Allies were ready for no such move.

Yet the gunners became instantly active for miles and miles along the
lines. In the back areas, too, a barrage of aerial shells was thrown up.
While from the various aviation camps the French and British flying men
began to mount, singly and in small groups, to meet the enemy attack.

The raid was not aimed against the American sectors to the east. They
were a long way from this point. Stillinger had flown far and was now
nowhere near his own unit, if that should come into the fight.

Nor was he prepared to fight. He would not be allowed to—unless
attacked. He had been permitted to take up a passenger, and after
winging his way along the battle front to the sea, was expected to
return to the aviation field from which he had risen.

Nevertheless, the machine gun in the nose of the airplane needed but to
have the canvas cover stripped off to be ready for action. Tom Cameron’s
flashing glance caught the pilot’s attention.

“Are we going to get into it?” questioned Tom.

“Don’t unhook that belt!” commanded Stillinger. “We can do nothing yet.”

“It’s a surprise,” said Tom. “We must help.”

“You sit still!” returned his friend. “I presume you can handle that
make of gat?”

Tom nodded with confidence. Stillinger shot the airplane to an upper
level and headed to the north of west, endeavoring to turn the flank of
the farthest Hun squadron. Over the lines the yellow smoke now rolled
and billowed. An intense air barrage was being sent up. They saw a
German machine stagger, swoop downward, and burst into flames before it
disappeared into the smoke cloud over No Man’s Land.

Stillinger knew he was disobeying orders; but his high courage and the
plain determination of his passenger to help in the fight if need arose,
caused him to take a chance. It was taking just such chances that had
made him an ace.

Yet, as the airplane swung higher and higher, yet nearer and nearer to
the group of enemy machines nearest the sea, and as the bursts of
artillery fire grew louder, it was plain that this was going to be a
“hot corner.”

The rolling smoke and the fog hid a good deal of the battle. Suddenly
there burst out of the murk a squadron of flying machines with the
German cross painted on the under side of their wings. With them rose
three French attacking airplanes, and the chatter of the machine guns
became incessant.

There were eight of the enemy planes; eight to three was greater odds
than Americans could observe without wishing to take a hand in the
fight.

Stillinger shot his airplane up at a sharp angle, striving to get above
the German machines. Once above them, by pitching the nose of his
machine, the enemy would be brought under the muzzle of the machine gun
which already Tom Cameron had stripped of its canvas covering.

They were between six and seven thousand feet in the air now. Without
the mask, the passenger would never have been able to endure the
rarified atmosphere at this altitude. Unused as he was to aviation,
however, he showed the ace that he was an asset, not a liability.

The free-lance airplane was observed by the Germans, however, and three
of the eight machines sprang upward to over-reach the American. It was a
race in speed and endurance for the upper reaches of the air.

The fog-bank hung thickest over the sea, and the racing American
airplane was close to the coastline. But so high were they, and so
shrouded was the coast in fog, that Tom, looking down, could see little
or nothing of the shore.

Suddenly swerving his airplane, Stillinger darted into the clammy
fog-cloud. It offered refuge from the Germans and gave him a chance to
manoeuvre in a way to take the enemy unaware.

The moment they were wrapped about by the cloud the American pilot shot
the airplane downward. He no longer strove to meet the three German
machines on the high levels. If he could get under them, and slant the
nose of his machine sharply upward, the machine gun would do quite as
much damage to the underside of the German airplane as could be done
from above. Indeed, the underside of the tail of a flying machine is
quite as vulnerable a part as any.

But flying in the fog was an uncertain and trying experience. Where the
German airplanes were, Stillinger could only guess. He shut off his
engine for a moment that they might listen for the sputtering reports of
the Hun motors.

It was then, to his, as well as to Tom Cameron’s, amazement, that they
heard the stuttering reports of an engine—a much heavier engine than
that of even a Fokker or Gotha—an engine that shook the air all about
them. And the noise rose from beneath!

Stillinger could keep his engine shut off but a few seconds. As the
popping of its exhaust began once more a bulky object was thrust up
through the fog below. That is, it seemed thrust up to meet them,
because the American plane was falling.

In half a minute, however, their machine was steadied. Tom uttered a
great shout. He was looking down through the wire stays at the enormous
bulk of an airship, the like of which he had never before seen close to.

Once he had examined the wreck of a Zeppelin after it had been brought
down behind the French lines. These mammoth ships were being used by the
Hun only to cross the North Sea and the Channel to bomb English cities.
This present one must have strayed from its direct course, for it was
headed seaward and in a southwest direction.

Taking advantage of the fog, it was putting to sea, having flown
directly over the British or Belgian lines. While the fighting planes
attacked the Allied squadrons of the air, thus making a diversion, this
big Zeppelin endeavored to get by and carry on out to sea, its objective
point perhaps being a distant part of the Channel coast of England.

Where it was going, or the reason therefore, did not much interest Ralph
Stillinger and Tom Cameron. The fact that the great airship was beneath
their airplane was sufficiently startling to fill the excited minds of
the two young Americans.

Were they observed by the Huns? Could they wreak some serious damage
upon the Zeppelin before their own presence—and their own peril—was
apprehended by the crew of the great airship?



CHAPTER VIII—AFLOAT


The _Admiral Pekhard_ nosed her way out of the port just as dusk fell.
She dropped her pilot off the masked light at the end of the last great
American dock—a dock big enough to hold the _Leviathan_—and thereafter
followed the stern lights of a destroyer. Thus she got into the
roadstead, and thence into the open sea.

The work of the Allied and American navies at this time was such that
not all ships returning to America could be convoyed through the
submarine zone. This ship on which Ruth Fielding had taken passage for
home was accompanied by the destroyer only for a few miles off Brest
Harbor.

The passengers, however, did not know this. They were kept off the open
decks during the night, and before morning the _Admiral Pekhard_ was
entirely out of sight of land, and out of sight of every other vessel as
well. Therefore neither Ruth nor any other of the passengers was
additionally worried by the fact that the craft was quite unguarded.

The _Admiral Pekhard_ mounted a gun fore and aft, and the crews of these
guns were under strict naval discipline. They were on watch, turn and
turn about, all through the day and night for the submarines which, of
course, were somewhere in these waters.

The _Admiral Pekhard_ was not a fast ship; but she was very comfortably
furnished, well manned, and was said to be an even sailing vessel in
stormy weather. She had been bearing wounded men back to England for
months, but was now being sent to America to bring troops over to take
the place of the wounded English fighters.

Ruth learned these few facts and some others at dinner that night. There
were some wounded American and Canadian officers going home; but for the
most part the passengers in the first cabin were Red Cross workers,
returning commissioners both military and civil, a group of Congressmen
who had been getting first-hand information of war conditions.

Then there were a few people whom the girl could not exactly place. For
instance, there was the woman who sat next to her at the dinner table.

She was not an old woman, but her short hair, brushed straight back over
her ears like an Americanized Chinaman’s, was streaked with gray. She
was sallow, pale-lipped, and with a pair of very bright black
eyes—snapping eyes, indeed. She wore her clothes as carelessly as she
might have worn a suit of gunnysacking on a desert island. Her
eyeglasses were prominent, astride a more prominent nose. She was not
uninteresting looking.

“As aggressive as a gargoyle,” Ruth thought. “And almost as homely! Yet
she surely possesses brains.”

On her other hand at table Ruth found a kindly faced Red Cross officer
of more than middle age, who offered her aid at a moment when a friend
was appreciated. Ruth did very well with the oysters and soup; and she
made out with the fish course. But when meat and vegetables and a salad
came on, the girl had to be helped in preparing the food on her plate.

The black-eyed woman watched the girl of the Red Mill curiously, seeing
her left arm bandaged.

“Hurt yourself?” she asked shortly, in rather a gruff tone.

“No,” said Ruth simply. “I was hurt. I did not do it myself.”

“Ah-ha!” ejaculated the strange woman. “Are you literal, or merely
smart?”

“I am only exact,” Ruth told her.

“So! You did _not_ hurt yourself? How, then?” and she glanced
significantly at the girl’s bandaged arm.

“Why, do you know,” the girl of the Red Mill said, flushing a little,
“there is a country called Germany, in Central Europe, and the German
Kaiser and his people are attacking France and other countries. And one
of the cheerful little tricks those Germans play is to send over bombing
machines to bomb our hospitals. I happened to be working in a hospital
they bombed.”

“Ah-ha!” said the woman coolly. “Then you are merely smart, after all.”

“No!” said Ruth, suddenly losing her vexation, for this person she
decided was not quite responsible. “No. For, if I were really smart, I
should have been so far behind the lines that the Hun would never have
found me.”

The black-eyed woman seemed to feel Ruth’s implied scorn after all.

“Oh!” she said, resetting her eyeglasses with both hands, “I have been
in Paris all through the war.”

“Oh, then you’d heard about it?” Ruth intimated. “Well!”

“I certainly know all about the war,” said the woman shortly.

The girl of the Red Mill seldom felt antagonism toward people—even
unpleasant people. But there was something about this woman that she
found very annoying. She turned her bandaged shoulder to her, and gave
her attention to the Red Cross officer.

Strangely enough, the queer-looking woman continued to put herself in
Ruth’s way. After dinner she sought her out in a corner of the saloon
where Ruth was listening to the music. The windows of the saloon were
shaded so that no light could get out; but it was quite cozy and
cheerful therein.

“You are Miss Fielding, I see by the purser’s list,” said the curious
person, staring at Ruth through her glasses.

“I have not the pleasure of knowing you,” returned the girl of the Red
Mill. “Can I do anything for you?”

“I am Irma Lentz. I have been studying in Paris. This war is a hateful
thing. It has almost ruined my career. It has got so now that one cannot
work in peace even in the Latin Quarter of the town. War, war, war! That
is all one hears. I am going back to New York to see if I can find peace
and quietness—where one may work without being bothered.”

“You are——?”

“An artist. I have studied with some of the best painters in France. But
I declare! even those teachers have closed their _ateliers_ and gone to
war. I must, perforce, close my own studio and go back to America. And
America is crude.”

“Seems to me I have heard that said before,” sniffed Ruth. “Although my
acquaintance among artists has been small. Do you expect to find perfect
peace and quietness in the United States?”

“I do not expect to find the disturbance that is rife in Paris,” said
Irma Lentz shortly. “This war is too unpopular in the United States for
more than a certain class of the people to be greatly disturbed over
what is going on so far away from home.”

Ruth looked at her amazedly. The artist seemed quite to believe what she
said. Aside from some few pro-Germans whom she had heard talk before
Ruth Fielding had left the United States, she had heard nothing like
this. It was what the Germans themselves had believed—and wished to
believe.

“I wonder where you got that, Miss Lentz,” Ruth allowed herself to say
in amazement.

“Got what?”

“The idea that the war—at least now we are in it—is unpopular at home.
You will discover your mistake. I understand that even in Washington
Square they know we are fighting a war for democracy. You will find your
friends of Greenwich Village—is that not the locality of New York you
mean?—are very well aware that we are at war.”

“Perfect nonsense!” snapped Irma Lentz, and she got up and flounced
away.

“Now,” thought the girl of the Red Mill, very much puzzled, “I wonder
just what and who she is? And has she been in Paris all through the war
and has not yet awakened to the seriousness of the situation? Then there
is something fundamentally wrong with Irma Lentz.”

She might not have given the strange woman much of her attention during
the voyage, however, for Ruth did not like unpleasant people and there
were so many others who were interesting, to say the least, on board the
ship, if a little incident had not occurred early the next morning which
both surprised Ruth and made her deeply suspicious of Irma Lentz.

The girl could not sleep very well because of pain in her shoulder and
arm. Perhaps she had tried to use the arm more than she should. However,
being unable to sleep, she rose at dawn and rang for the night
stewardess. She had already won this woman’s interest, and she helped
Ruth dress. The girl left her stateroom and went on deck, which was free
to the passengers now.

As she passed through a narrow way behind the forward deck-house on the
main deck, she heard a sudden explosion of voices—a sharp, high voice
and one deeper and more guttural. But the point that held Ruth
Fielding’s attention so quickly was that the language used was German!
There was no doubting that fact.

There certainly should be nobody using that language on this British
ship carrying Americans to the United States! That was Ruth’s first
thought.

She walked quietly to the corner of the house and peered around it. The
morning was still misty and there were few persons on deck save the
gangs of cleaners. Backed against a backstay, and facing the point where
the girl of the Red Mill stood, was Irma Lentz, in mackintosh and veil.

The strange woman was talking angrily with a barefooted sailor in
working clothes. He was bareheaded as well as barefooted, and his coarse
shirt was open at the throat displaying a hairy chest. He possessed a
mop of flaxen hair, and his countenance was too Teutonic of cast to be
mistaken.

Besides, like the woman, he was speaking German in a most excited and
angry fashion.



CHAPTER IX—QUEER FOLKS


In school Ruth Fielding and her classmates had taken German just as they
had French. Jennie Stone often said she had forgotten the former
language just as fast as she could and had felt much better after it was
out of her system.

But the girl of the Red Mill seldom forgot anything she learned well.
She had not used the German language as much as she had French.
Nevertheless she remembered quite clearly what she had learned of it.

The seaman who was talking so excitedly to Irma Lentz, and whom Ruth
overheard on the deck of the _Admiral Pekhard_, used Low German instead
of the High German taught in the educational institutions. Ruth,
however, understood quite a little of what was said.

“Stop talking to me!” Miss Lentz commanded, breaking in upon what the
man was saying.

“I must tell you, Fraulein——”

“Go tell Boldig. Not me. How dare you speak to a passenger? You know it
is against all ship rules.”

“Undt am _I_ de goat yedt?” growled the man, in anger and in atrocious
English, as the young woman swept past him. Then in his own tongue—and
this time Ruth understood him clearly—he added: “Am I to work in that
fireroom while you and Boldig live softly? What would become of me if
anything should happen?”

Fortunately the woman did not come Ruth’s way. She whisked out of sight
just as the tramp of a smart footstep was heard along the deck. An
officer came into sight.

“Here, my man, this is no part of the deck for you,” he said sharply.
“Stoker, aren’t you? Get back to your quarters.”

The flaxen-haired man stumbled away. He almost ran, it seemed, to get
out of sight. The officer passed Ruth Fielding, bowing to her politely,
but did not halt.

The girl of the Red Mill was greatly disturbed by what she had seen and
overheard. Yet she was not sure that she should speak to anybody about
the incident. She let the officer go on without a word. She found a
chair on a part of the deck that had already been swabbed down, and she
sat there to think and to watch the first sunbeams play upon the wire
rigging of the ship and upon the dancing waves.

The ocean was no novelty to Ruth; but it is ever changeable. No two
sunrises can ever be alike at sea. She watched with glowing cheeks and
wide eyes the blossoming of the new day.

She was not a person to fly off at a tangent. No little thing disturbed
her usual calm. Had Helen been there, Ruth realized that her black-eyed
girl chum would have insisted upon running right away to somebody in
authority and repeating what had been overheard.

There was just one circumstance which kept Ruth from putting the matter
quite aside and considering it nothing remarkable that two people should
be speaking German on this British ship. That was her conversation the
evening before with Irma Lentz, the artist.

The woman had made a very unfavorable impression on Ruth Fielding. Any
person who could speak so callously of the war and wartime conditions in
Paris, Ruth did not consider trustworthy. Such a woman might easily be
connected with people who favored Germany and her cause. Then—her name!

Ruth realized that one of the greatest difficulties that Americans,
especially, have to meet in this war is the German name. Many, many
people with such names are truly patriots—are American to the very
marrow of their bones. On the other hand, there are those of German name
who are as dangerous and deadly as the moccasin. They strike without
warning.

In this case, however, Irma Lentz, it seemed to Ruth, had given warning.
She had frankly displayed the fact that her heart was not with her
country in the war. After what Ruth had been through it annoyed her very
much to meet anybody who was not whole-heartedly for the cause of
America and the Allies.

She thought the matter over most seriously until first breakfast call.
By that time there had appeared quite a number of the passengers. The
more seriously wounded had all the second cabin, so those passengers who
could get on deck were like one big family in the first cabin.

As the sea remained smooth, the party gathered at breakfast was almost
as numerous as that at dinner the night before. Irma Lentz did not
appear, however; but Ruth’s Red Cross friend was there to give her such
aid at table as she needed.

“What would you do,” she asked him in the course of the meal, “if you
heard two people speaking German together on this ship?”

He eyed her for a moment curiously, then replied: “You cannot keep these
stewards from talking their own language. Some of them are German-Swiss,
I presume.”

“Not stewards,” Ruth said softly.

“Do you mean passengers? Well, I speak German myself.”

“And so do I. At least, I can speak it,” laughed the girl of the Red
Mill. “But I don’t.”

“No. Ordinarily I never speak it myself—now,” admitted the man. “But
just what do you mean, Miss Fielding?”

“I heard two people early this morning speaking German in secret on
deck.”

“Some of the deckhands?”

“One was a stoker. The other was one of our first cabin passengers.”

The Red Cross man’s amazement was plain. He stared at the girl in some
perturbation, at the same time neglecting his breakfast.

“You tell me this for a fact, Miss Fielding?”

“Quite.”

“Have you spoken to the captain—to any of the officers?”

“To nobody but you,” said Ruth gravely. “I—I shrink from making anybody
unnecessary trouble. Of course, there may be nothing wrong in what I
overheard.”

“But a passenger talking German with a stoker! What were they saying?”

“They appeared to be quarreling.”

“Quarreling! Who was the passenger? Is he here at table?” the Red Cross
man asked quickly.

“Do you think I ought to point him out?” Ruth asked slowly. “If it is
really serious—and I asked for your opinion, you know—wouldn’t it be
better if I spoke to the captain or the first officer about it?”

“Perhaps you are right. If it was a merely harmless incident you
observed it would not be right to discuss it promiscuously,” said the
man, smiling. “Don’t tell me who he is, but I do advise your speaking to
Mr. Dowd.”

Mr. Dowd was the first officer, and he presided at the table on this
morning as it was now the captain’s watch below. Ruth had been careful
to say nothing which would lead her friend to suspect that the passenger
she mentioned was a woman.

“Yes,” went on the Red Cross officer firmly, “you speak to Mr. Dowd.”

But Ruth did not wish to do that in a way that might attract the
attention of any suspicious person. The woman, Irma Lentz, had mentioned
another person who seemed to be one of the queer folks. “Boldig.” Who
Boldig was the girl of the Red Mill had no idea. He might be passenger,
officer, or one of the crew. She had glanced through the purser’s list
and knew that there was no passenger using that name on the _Admiral
Pekhard_.

Even if Miss Lentz was out of sight, this other person, or another,
might be watching the movements of the passengers. Ruth did not,
therefore, speak to the ship’s first officer in the saloon. She waited
until she could meet him quite casually on deck, and later in the
forenoon watch.

Dowd was a man not too old to be influenced and flattered by the
attentions of a bright young woman like Ruth Fielding. He was interested
in her story, too, for the Red Cross officer had not been chary of
spreading the tale of Ruth’s courage and her work in the first cabin.

“May I hope the shoulder and arm are mending nicely, Miss Fielding?” Mr.
Dowd said, smiling at her as she met him face to face near the starboard
bridge ladder.

“Hope just as hard as you can, Mr. Dowd,” she replied merrily. “Yes, I
want all my friends to _will_ that the shoulder will get well in quick
time. I haven’t the natural patience of the born invalid.”

He laughed in return, and turned to get into step with her as she walked
the deck.

“You lack the air of the invalid, that is true. Remember, I have had
much to do with invalids in the time past. Although now we do not see
many of the people who used to think there was something the matter with
them, and whose physicians sent them on a sea voyage to get rid of them
for a while.”

“Yet you do have some queer folks aboard, even in war time, don’t you?”
she asked.

“Why, bless you!” said the Englishman, “everybody is more or less
queer—‘save thee and me.’ You know the story of the Quaker?”

“Surely,” rejoined Ruth. “But now I suppose most of your queer
passengers may be spies, or something like that.”

She said it in so low a tone that nobody but the first officer could
possibly hear. He gave her a quick glance.

“Meaning?” he asked.

“That I am afraid I am going to make you place me right in the catalogue
of ‘queer folks.’”

“Yes?”

His gravity and evident interest encouraged her to go on. Briefly she
told him of what she had overheard that morning at daybreak. And this
time she did not refuse to identify clearly the woman passenger who had
talked so familiarly with the flaxen-haired stoker on the afterdeck.



CHAPTER X—WHAT WILL HAPPEN?


Ruth Fielding was not a busybody, but the peculiar attitude of the
woman, Irma Lentz, toward America’s cause in the World War and what she
had overheard on deck that morning, as well as the advice the Red Cross
officer had given her, urged the girl to take Mr. Dowd, first officer of
the _Admiral Pekhard_, fully into her confidence.

He listened with keen interest to what the girl had to say. He was sure
Ruth was not a person to be easily frightened or one to spread
ill-advised and unfounded tales. Useless suspicions were not likely to
be born in her mind. She was too sane and sensible.

The chance that there were actually spies aboard the _Admiral Pekhard_
was by no means an idle one. In those days of desperate warfare between
the democratic governments of the world and the autocratic Central
Powers, no effort was neglected by the latter to thwart the war aims of
the former.

To deliberately plan the destruction of this ship, although it was not,
strictly speaking, a war ship, was quite in line with the frightfulness
of Germany and her allies. Similar plotting, however, had usually to do
with submarine activities and mines.

That German agents were aboard the _Admiral Pekhard_ with the intention
of bringing about the wrecking of the ship was, however, scarcely within
the bounds of probability. Notably because by carrying through such a
conspiracy the plotters must of necessity put their own lives in
jeopardy.

No group of German plotters had thus far shown themselves to be so
utterly unregardful of their own safety.

Ruth believed Irma Lentz to be quite bitter against the United States
and its war aims; but she could not imagine the self-styled “artist” to
be on the point of risking her personal safety on behalf of America’s
enemies.

These same beliefs influenced Mr. Dowd’s mind; and he said frankly:

“It may be well for us to take up the matter with Captain Hastings.
However, I cannot really believe that German spies would try to sink the
ship, and so endanger their own safety.”

“It does not seem reasonable,” Ruth admitted. “Nor do I mean to say I
believe anything like that is on foot. I do think, however, that the
woman and that seaman, or stoker, or whatever and whoever he is, should
be watched. They may purpose to do some damage to the _Admiral Pekhard_
after she docks at New York.”

“True. And you say there is a third person—a man named Boldig? His name
is not on the passenger list.”

“That is so,” admitted Ruth, who had read the purser’s list.

“I’ll scrutinize the crew list as well,” said Mr. Dowd, thoughtfully.
“Of course, he may not use that name. I remember nothing like it. Well,
we shall see. Thank you, Miss Fielding. I know Captain Hastings will
wish to thank you in person, as well.”

Ruth did not expect to be immediately called to the captain’s chartroom
or office. Nor was her mind entirely filled with thoughts regarding
German spies.

She had, indeed, one topic of thought that harrowed her mind
continually. It was that which kept her awake on this first night at
sea, as much as did the dull ache in her injured shoulder.

Had she expressed the desire for her companionship, Ruth knew that Helen
Cameron would have broken all her engagements in France and sailed on
the _Admiral Pekhard_. Her chum was torn, Ruth knew, between a desire to
go home with the girl of the Red Mill and to stay near Tom. As long as
Tom Cameron was in active service Helen would be anxious.

And did Helen know now what Ruth feared was the truth—that Tom had got
into serious trouble with the flying ace, Ralph Stillinger—she would be
utterly despairing on her brother’s account.

Ruth read over and over again her letter from the ambulance driver,
Charlie Bragg, in which the latter had spoken of the tragic happening on
the battle front—the accident to Ralph Stillinger and his passenger. Of
course Ruth had no means of proving to herself that the passenger was
Tom Cameron, but she knew Tom had been intending to take a flight with
the American ace and that the active flying men were not in the habit of
taking up passengers daily.

The American captain who had been lost with Ralph Stillinger was more
than likely Tom Cameron. Ruth’s anxiety might have thrown her into a
fever had it not been for this new line of trouble connected with the
artist, Irma Lentz. Or, was she an artist?

The news that had reached Ruth just as she boarded the _Admiral Pekhard_
had been most disquieting. Had her passage not been already arranged for
and her physical health not been what it was, the girl surely would have
gone ashore again and postponed her voyage home.

This would have necessitated Tom’s sister learning the news in Charlie
Bragg’s letter. But better that, Ruth thought now, than that her own
mind should be so troubled about Tom Cameron’s fate.

All manner of possibilities trooped through her brain regarding what had
happened, or might have happened, to Tom. He might not, of course, have
been the passenger-captain of whom Charlie Bragg wrote. But this faint
doubt did not serve to cheer Ruth at all.

It was more than likely that Tom had shared Ralph Stillinger’s
fate—whatever that fate was. The American ace’s airplane had been seen
in battle with a Zeppelin. It had been seen to fall. Afterward the wreck
of the airplane was found, but neither of the men—either dead or
alive—was discovered.

That was the mystery—the unknown fate of the flying man and his
passenger. The amazing fact of their disappearance caused Ruth Fielding
anxiety and depression of mind.

She even thought of trying to get news by wireless of the tragic
happening to the flying man and his companion. But when she made inquiry
she learned that because of war measures no private message could be
sent or received by radio. Such wireless news as the naval authorities
considered well to distribute to the passengers of the _Admiral Pekhard_
was bulletined by the radio room door.

Later Ruth was sent for to attend the captain in his office. She found
the commander of the ship to be a tight, little, side-whiskered
Englishman with a large opinion of his own importance and an insular
suspicion of Americans in general. This type of British subject was
growing happily less—especially since the United States entered the war;
but Captain Hastings was not so favorably impressed by Ruth Fielding and
her story as his first officer had been.

“You know, Miss Fielding, I don’t wish to have any hard feelings among
my passengers,” he said. He verged toward a slight cockney accent now
and then, and he squinted rather unpleasantly.

“This is a serious accusation you bring against Miss Irma Lentz. I have
seen her passport and other papers. She is quite beyond suspicion, don’t
you know. I should not wish to insult her by accusing her of being an
enemy agent. Really, Miss Fielding,” he concluded bluntly, “she seems to
be much better known by people aboard than yourself.”

Ruth stiffened at the implied doubt cast upon her character. Here was a
man who lacked all the tact a ship’s captain is supposed to possess. He
was nothing at all like Mr. Dowd.

“I have not asked to have my status aboard your ship tested, nor my
reputation established, Captain Hastings,” she said quietly but firmly.
“Had I not thought it my duty to say what I did to Mr. Dowd, I assure
you I should not have put myself out to do so. But as you have—either
justly or unjustly—judged the character of my information, you cannot by
any possibility wish to know my opinion in this. There was scarcely need
of calling me here, was there?”

She arose and turned toward the door of the chartroom, and her manner as
well as her words showed him plainly that she was offended.

“Hoighty-toighty!” exclaimed the little man, growing very red in the
face. “You take much for granted, Miss Fielding.”

“I make no mistake, I believe, in understanding that you do not consider
my information to Mr. Dowd of importance.”

“Oh, Dowd is a young fool!” snapped the commander of the _Admiral
Pekhard_. “He is trying to stir up a mare’s nest.”

“Your opinion of me must be even worse than that you have expressed of
your first officer,” tartly rejoined the girl. “If you will excuse me,
Captain Hastings, I will withdraw. Really our opinions I feel sure would
never coincide.”

“Wait!” exclaimed the captain. “I am willing to put one thing to the
test.”

“You need do nothing to placate me, Captain Hastings,” declared Ruth. “I
am quite, quite satisfied to drop the whole affair, I assure you.”

“It has gone too far, as it is, Miss Fielding,” declared Captain
Hastings. “Dowd will not be satisfied if you do not have the opportunity
of identifying the stoker you say you saw talking with Miss Lentz. And
that, in itself, is no crime.”

“Then why trouble yourself—and me—about the matter any further?” asked
Ruth, with a shrug, and her hand still on the knob of the door.

“Confound it, you know!” burst forth the captain, “it has to go on my
report—on the log, you know. That fool, Dowd, insists. I want you to see
the stokers together, Miss Fielding, as the watches are being changed at
eight bells. If you can pick out the man you say you saw on the after
deck, I will examine him. Though it’s all bally foolishness, you know,”
added the captain in a tone that did not fail to reach Ruth Fielding’s
ear and increased her feeling of disgust for the pompous little man, as
well as her vexation with the whole situation.

She wished very much just then that she had not spoken at all to the
_Admiral Pekhard’s_ first officer.



CHAPTER XI—DEVELOPMENTS


At ten minutes or so before noon a smart little sub-officer came to
Ruth’s stateroom and asked her to accompany him to the engine-room,
amidships. As a last thought the girl took a chiffon veil with her, and
before she stepped into the quarters where all the shiny machinery was,
she threw the veil over her head and face. It had suddenly been
impressed on her mind that she did not care to have the man she had
taken for a German identify her, even if she did him.

She found both Mr. Dowd and the commander of the steamship on this deck.
The first officer came to Ruth in rather an apologetic way.

“I did not know,” he said gently, “that I was getting you into any
trouble when I repeated what you told me to Captain Hastings. This is my
very first voyage with him—and, believe me, it shall be my last!”

His eyes sparkled, and it was evident that he had found the pompous
little commander much to his distaste. The captain did not seek to speak
to Ruth at all. He stood at one side as the stokers filed in from
forward, ready to relieve those working in the fireroom below.

“Do you see him in that line, Miss Fielding?” whispered the first
officer.

She scrutinized the men carefully. Early that morning she had had plenty
of opportunity to get the appearance of the German who spoke to Irma
Lentz photographed on her mind, and she knew at first glance that he was
not in this group.

However, she took her time and scrutinized them all carefully. There was
not a single flaxen-haired man among them, and nobody that in the least
seemed like the man she had in mind.

“No,” she said to Mr. Dowd. “He is not here.”

“Wait till the others come up. There! The boatswain pipes.”

The shrill whistle started the waiting stokers down the ladder into the
stoke-hole. In a minute or two a red, sweating, ashes-streaked face
appeared as the first of the watch relieved came up into the engine
room. This was not the man Ruth looked for.

One after another the men appeared—Irish, Swede, Dane, negro, and
nondescript; but never a German. And not one of the fellows looked at
all like the man Ruth expected to see. Dowd gazed upon her
questioningly. Ruth slowly shook her head.

“Any more firemen or coal passers down there, boy?” Dowd asked the negro
stoker.

“No, suh! Ain’t none of de watch lef’ behind,” declared the man, as he
followed his mates forward.

“Well, are you satisfied?” snapped the thin voice of Captain Hastings.

“Not altogether,” Ruth bravely retorted. “It might be that the man was
not a stoker. I only thought so because the officer who interrupted the
conversation I overheard seemed to consider him a stoker. He sent the
man off that part of the deck.”

“What officer?” demanded the captain, doubtfully. “An officer of the
ship? One of my officers?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ha, you want to examine my officers, then, I presume?”

“Not at all,” Ruth said coldly. “I am not taking any pleasure in this
investigation, I assure you.”

“It will be easy enough to find the officer whom Miss Fielding refers
to,” said Mr. Dowd, interposing before Captain Hastings could speak
again. “I know who was on duty at that hour this morning. It will be
easily discovered who the officer is. And if he remembers the man on
deck——”

“Ah—yes—if he _does_,” said Captain Hastings in his very nastiest way.

Ruth’s cheeks flamed again. Mr. Dowd placed a gentle hand upon her
sleeve.

“Never mind that oaf,” he whispered. “He doesn’t know how to behave
himself. How he ever got command of a ship like this—well, it shows to
what straits we have come in this wartime. Do you mind meeting me later
abaft the stacks on deck? I will bring the men, one of whom I think may
be the chap we are looking for. Of course he will remember if he drove a
seaman or a stoker off the after deck this morning.”

Ruth did not see how she could refuse the respectful and sensible first
officer, but she certainly was angry with Captain Hastings and she swept
by him to the stairway without giving him another glance.

“It’s all bosh!” she heard him say to Mr. Dowd, as she started for the
open deck.

Her dignity was hurt, as well as her indignation aroused. She was not in
the habit of having her word doubted; and it seemed that Captain
Hastings certainly did consider that there was reason for thinking her
untruthful. She was more than sorry that she had taken the Red Cross
man’s advice and brought this matter to the attention of Mr. Dowd in the
first place.

Yet the first officer was her friend. She could see that. He did not
intend to let the matter rest at a point where Captain Hastings would
have any reason for intimating that Ruth had not been exact in her
statements of fact.

Of course, the girl of the Red Mill had not taken so close a look at the
ship’s officer who had driven the stoker off the deck, as she had at the
stoker himself. But she was quite confident she would know him. She had
not seen him since, that was sure.

After half an hour or so Mr. Dowd came to the place where she sat
sheltered from the stiff breeze that was blowing, with a uniformed man
in toll. It was not the officer whom she had seen early in the morning.

“I quite remember seeing Miss Fielding on deck at dawn,” said the young
fellow politely. “But I do not remember seeing any of the crew except
those at work scrubbing down.”

“This was on the starboard run, Miss Fielding?” suggested Mr. Dowd.

“Yes, sir. It was right yonder,” and she pointed to the spot in
question.

“It must be Dykman, then, you wish to see, Mr. Dowd,” said the under
officer, saluting. “Shall I send him here, sir?”

“If you will,” Dowd said, and remained himself to talk pleasantly to the
American girl.

After a time another man in uniform approached the spot. He was not a
young man; yet he was smooth-faced, ruddy, and had a smart way about
him. But his countenance was lined and there was a small scar just below
his eye on one cheek.

“Mr. Dykman, Miss Fielding,” Dowd said. “Is Mr. Dykman the officer whom
you saw, Miss Fielding?”

Dykman bowed with a military manner. Ruth eyed him quietly. He did not
look like an Englishman, that was sure.

“This is the officer I saw this morning,” she said, confidently. She
felt that she could not be mistaken, although she had not noted his
manner and countenance so directly at the time indicated. He looked
surprised but said nothing in rejoinder, glancing at Mr. Dowd, instead,
for an explanation.

“We are trying,” said the first officer, “to identify a man—one of the
crew—who was out of place on the deck here this morning during your
watch, Mr. Dykman. About what time was it, Miss Fielding?”

“The sun was just coming up,” she said, watching Dykman’s face.

“There were various members of the deck watch here then, sir,” Dykman
said respectfully. “We were washing decks.”

“You came past here,” Ruth said quietly, “and admonished the man for
standing here. You told him he had no business aft.”

The man wagged his head slowly and showed no remembrance of the incident
by his expression of countenance. His eyes, she saw, were hard, and
round, and blue.

“You intimated that he was a stoker,” Ruth continued, with quite as much
confidence as before.

Indeed, the more doubt seemed cast upon her statement the more confident
she became. She could not understand why this man denied knowledge of
the incident, unless——

She glanced at Dowd. He was frowning and had reddened. But he was not
looking at her. He was looking at Dykman.

“Well, sir?” he snapped suddenly.

“No, sir. I do not remember the occurrence,” the sub-officer said
respectfully but with a finality there could be no mistaking.

“That will do, then,” said Mr. Dowd, and waved his hand in dismissal.

Dykman bowed again and marched away. Ruth watched the face of the first
officer closely. Had he shown the least suspicion of her she would have
said no more. But, instead, he looked at her frankly now that the
sub-officer had gone, and demanded angrily:

“Now, what do you suppose that means? Are you positive you have
identified Dykman?”

“He was the man who spoke to the stoker—yes.”

“Then why the—ahem! Well! Why should he deny it?”

“It seems to clinch my argument,” Ruth said. “There is something
underhanded going on—some plot—some mystery. This Dykman must be in it.”

“By Jove!”

“Have you known the man long?”

“He is a new member of the ship’s company—as I am,” admitted Dowd.

“He may be ‘Boldig,’” said Ruth, smiling faintly.

“I will find out what is known of him,” the first officer promised.
“Meanwhile do you think you would like to look over the seamen and other
members of the crew?”

“I do not think there would be any use in my doing so—not at present.
They probably know what we are after and the flaxen-haired man will
remain hidden. The boat is large.”

“True,” Dowd agreed thoughtfully. “And as we do not know his name it
would be difficult to find him on the ship’s roster. Besides, I do not
believe that Captain Hastings would allow further search. You see what
kind of a man he is, Miss Fielding.”

“Make no excuse, Mr. Dowd,” she said hastily. “You have done all you
can. I am sorry I started this in the first place. I merely considered
it my duty to do so.”

“I quite appreciate your attitude,” he said, bowing over her hand. “And
I think you did right. There is something on foot that must be
investigated, Captain Hastings, or no Captain Hastings!”

He went away abruptly, and Ruth had time to think it over. She did not
fancy the situation at all.



CHAPTER XII—THE MAN IN THE MOTOR BOAT


She felt that she had taken hold of something bigger than she could
handle just at this time. Ruth really wanted to remain quiet—on deck or
in her stateroom—and nurse her injured shoulder and fix her mind on the
troubles that seemed of late to have assailed her.

There was trouble awaiting her at home at the Red Mill. Aunt Alvirah
must be very ill, or Uncle Jabez Potter would never have written as he
had. The miserly old miller was in a greatly perturbed state of mind. He
and Aunt Alvirah would need Ruth’s help and comfort. She looked forward
to a very inactive and dull life at the Red Mill for a while.

After her activities in France, and in other places before she sailed as
a Red Cross worker, home would indeed be dull. She loved Aunt
Alvirah—even the old miller himself; but Ruth Fielding was not a
stay-at-home body by nature and training.

She might have mental exercise in writing scenarios for the Alectrion
Film Corporation. She had had good success in that work—and there was
money in it. But it did not attract her now. Her work at the Clair
hospital seemed to have unfitted her for her old interests and duties.
In fact, she was not satisfied to be out of touch with active affairs
while a state of war continued abroad.

The trouble at home, and the anxiety she felt for Tom’s safety, served
to put her in a most unhappy frame of mind. She surely would have given
her mind to unpleasant reveries had not this matter which began with
Irma Lentz come up.

This racked her mind instead of more serious troubles. Perhaps it was as
well. Ruth disliked having been considered unwarrantably interfering, as
Captain Hastings undoubtedly considered she had been.

She answered the second luncheon call and passed Irma Lentz coming out
of the saloon-cabin. The woman with the eyeglasses looked her up and
down, haughtily tossed her head, and passed on. Ruth was aware that
several other first cabin passengers looked at her oddly. It was plain
that some tale of Ruth’s “mare’s nest” had been circulated.

And this must be through Captain Hastings. Nobody else, she was sure,
could have been tactless enough to tell Miss Lentz what Ruth had said.
Had the short-haired “artist” taken others of the passengers into her
confidence, or was that, too, the work of the steamship’s commander?

At about this time there probably was not a steamship crossing the
Atlantic of the character of the _Admiral Pekhard_, and with the number
and variety of passengers she carried, on which there was not some kind
of spy scare. So many dreadful things were happening at sea, and the
Germans seemed so far-reaching and ruthless in their plots, that there
was little wonder that this should be so.

It would have been the part of wisdom had Captain Hastings kept the
matter quiet. Instead, the pompous little skipper had evidently revealed
Ruth’s suspicions to the very person most concerned—Miss Lentz. Through
her, word must have been passed to the flaxen-haired man Ruth had seen
talking with her, and likewise to the officer, Dykman, who must likewise
be in the plot.

What would be the outcome? If there really was a conspiracy to harm the
ship, either on the sea or after she docked at New York, had it been
nipped in the bud? Or would it be carried through, whether or no?

There was so little but suspicion to bolster up Ruth Fielding’s belief
that she had no foundation upon which to build an actual accusation
against Miss Lentz and her associates, whoever they might be.

She felt the weakness of her case. There was, perhaps, some reason for
Captain Hastings to doubt her word. But he should not have revealed her
private information to the passengers. That not only was unfair to Ruth
but made it almost impossible for her to prove her case.

She ate her lunch with the help of the steward, for her Red Cross friend
had eaten and gone. When she returned to the open deck she saw Miss
Lentz the center of a group of eagerly talking passengers. There were
two wounded army officers in the group. They all stared curiously at
Ruth Fielding as she passed. Nobody spoke to her. There was evidently
being formed a cabal against her among the first cabin passengers.

Not that she particularly cared. There was really nobody she wished to
be friendly with, and in ten days or so the ship would reach New York
and the incident would be closed. That is, if nothing happened to retard
the voyage.

She sought her own chair, which had been placed in a favored spot by the
deck steward, and wrapped herself as well as she could in her rug,
having only one hand to use. Nobody came to offer aid. She was being
quite ostracized.

From where she sat she had a good view of the main deck and of all the
ship forward of the smoke stacks. The sea remained calm and the _Admiral
Pekhard_ plowed through it with some speed. Not a sail nor a banner of
smoke was visible. They were a good way from land by now, and it was
evident, too, that they were in no very popular steamship lane. With the
submarines as active as they were, unconvoyed ships steered clear of
well-known routes, where the German sea-monsters were most likely to lie
in wait.

With nobody to distract her attention, Ruth took considerable present
interest in the conning of the ship and the work of the seamen about the
deck. She looked, too, for some figure that would suggest the
flaxen-haired man she had seen talking with Miss Lentz at dawn.

Dykman was on duty as watch officer now. Ruth felt that he must be one
of the conspirators. Otherwise he could not have so blandly denied
knowledge of the flaxen-haired man who talked German.

The _Admiral Pekhard_ was a well-furnished boat, as has been said.
Besides the lifeboats swung at her davits, there were nests of smaller
boats forward. And just in front of where Ruth Fielding sat there was a
canvas-covered motor craft of small size. There was a larger motor
launch lashed on the main deck astern of where Ruth’s chair was
established.

She noted, after a time, that some of the points lashing the canvas
cover of the small launch forward of her station were unfastened.
Everything else about the covered craft was taut and shipshape. Ruth
wondered at the displacement of the loosened cords.

And then, vastly to her surprise, she saw the canvas stir. Something, or
somebody, was beneath it. Whatever it was under the canvas cover, its
movements were made with extreme caution.

Ruth was more puzzled than alarmed. She had heard of people stowing
themselves away upon steamships, and she wondered at first if such were
the explanation of the unknown, lying in the motor launch.

Should she speak to Mr. Dowd about this? Then, considering what had
followed her interference in circumstances that happened at dawn here on
the deck of the steamship, she hesitated to do so. She did not wish to
get into further trouble.

But she watched the opening in the canvas cover. More than once within
the next hour she observed the boat cover wrinkle and move, as whatever
was beneath it squirmed and crept about.

Then, quite expectedly, she saw a face at the opening. The canvas was
lifted slightly and a forehead and pair of eyes were visible for a
moment.

The fact that somebody was hiding in the launch could not be denied. Yet
it really was none of Ruth Fielding’s business. This might have nothing
at all to do with Miss Lentz, the flaxen-haired man, and Dykman.

She watched the place warily. If the man under the canvas saw her
watching he would be warned, of course, that his presence was
discovered. She must speak to Mr. Dowd most casually if she desired to
inform the first officer of this mysterious circumstance.

Nor could she get up and look for the first officer. While she was gone
the man in the motor boat might slip out and escape. Ruth did not
propose to put herself a second time in a position where her word might
be doubted.

While she remained in her chair the person hiding in the boat would
surely not come out. She did not wish to send a message to Mr. Dowd in
such a way that her motive for bringing him here would be suspected.

The first officer was not on the bridge; so it was not his watch on
duty. Ruth beckoned a deck steward, tipped him, and requested him to
bring her a pencil, a sheet of paper, and envelope from the ship’s
writing room. She was taking no chances with a verbal message.

The man fulfilled her request. Meanwhile nobody else seemed to notice
the man peering out from the canvas cover of the motor boat. Indeed, the
fellow had disappeared now and was lying quiet.

Ruth penciled the following sentences on the paper: “There is a stowaway
in the small motor boat forward of where I am sitting. I will not move
until you can come and investigate. R. F.”

She sealed this in the envelope, doing it all in her lap so that she
could not be observed from the boat. Then she wrote Mr. Dowd’s name upon
the envelope.

The steward came back and she whispered to him to take the note to Mr.
Dowd and deliver it into the first officer’s own hand—to nobody else. As
the man started away Ruth for some reason turned her head.

Across the deck stood Irma Lentz. Her black eyes flashed into Ruth’s,
and the woman seemed about to start toward her. Then she wheeled and
swiftly went forward.

Had she seen the letter Ruth had sent to the chief officer? Did she
suspect to whom Ruth had written—and the object of the note? And, above
all, did she suspect that Ruth had discovered the man hiding in the
motor boat?



CHAPTER XIII—IT COMES TO A HEAD


As the minutes passed, lengthening into first the quarter and then the
half hour, Ruth Fielding’s impatience grew. The steward did not come
back to the deck. Nor did Chief Officer Dowd return any reply to her
note.

The situation became more and more irksome for the girl of the Red Mill.
She believed that Irma Lentz considered her a personal enemy. Perhaps
the woman had influence over the steward with whom the note to Mr. Dowd
had been entrusted. Ruth began to feel that she was surrounded by spies,
and that serious trouble would break out upon the _Admiral Pekhard_
within a short time.

If she left her seat to search for Mr. Dowd, or to confer with anybody
else, the man she believed was hiding in the motor boat not ten yards
from her chair might escape. Who he was she could only suspect. Why he
was hiding there was quite beyond her imagination.

It was Captain Hastings who appeared first upon the open deck. He did
not go immediately to the bridge, nor did he bow right and left to the
ladies as was usually his custom. He came directly past Ruth and stared
at her through his little squinting eyes in no friendly fashion. Ruth
did not speak to him.

Captain Hastings took up a position by the rail not twenty yards from
the girl’s chair. Several passengers gathered about him; but she saw
that the commander of the _Admiral Pekhard_ did not lose sight of her.
He was there for a purpose—that was sure.

She wondered if the steward, playing her false, had given her note
addressed to Mr. Dowd to Captain Hastings? She felt that apprehension
nearly all feel when “something is about to happen.” In fact, she had
never felt more uncomfortable mentally in her life than at that moment.

The sun was going down now, for she had spent most of the afternoon
since luncheon in her chair. The watches had been changed long since and
she knew that on a sailing vessel this would be the second dog watch.
Some of the crew were at supper. The bugle for the first-cabin call to
dinner would soon sound.

She desired to go to her stateroom to freshen her toilet for dinner;
yet, should she desert her post? Was Mr. Dowd merely delayed in coming
to answer her note? Should she take the bull by the horns and tell
Captain Hastings himself of the presence of the stowaway in the motor
boat?

In this hesitating frame of mind she lingered for some time. Although
the sea was calm, there was a haze being drawn over the sky as the sun
disappeared below the western rim of the ocean, and it bade fair to be a
dark evening. The wind whistled shrilly through the wire stays. There
was a foreboding atmosphere, it seemed to Ruth Fielding, about the great
steamship.

A dull explosion sounded from somewhere deep in the hold of the _Admiral
Pekhard_. The ship trembled from truck to keelson. Screams of frightened
passengers instantly broke out. Captain Hastings, at the rail, whirled
to look toward the engine-room companionway.

Out of this door, just ahead of a volume of smoke or steam, dashed one
of his officers. Ruth, who had got out of the reclining chair as quickly
as her injured shoulder would allow, saw that this excited man was
Dykman.

“An explosion in the boiler room, sir!” he cried, loud enough for
everybody in the vicinity to hear him. “The engines are out of
commission and I think the ship is sinking.”

It seemed as though any ship’s officer with good sense would have told
the commander privately of the catastrophe. But immediately the full
nature of the disaster was made known to the excited and terrified
passengers.

“My heavens, Dykman!” squealed Captain Hastings, “you don’t mean to say
it is a torpedo? We’ve seen no periscope.”

“I don’t know what it is; but the whole place is full of steam and
boiling water. We could not see the entire extent of the damage; but the
water——”

He intimated that the water was coming in from the outside. Then,
suddenly, the bugles and bells began, all over the ship, to signal the
command for “stations.” The engines had stopped and the steamship began
to rock a little, for there was quite a swell on. Some of the passengers
began screaming again. They thought the _Admiral Pekhard_ was already
going down.

The tramp of men running along the decks, the shouts of the officers,
and the continued screaming of some of the passengers created such a
pandemonium that Ruth was confused. She knew that Captain Hastings had
leaped to the bridge ladder and was now giving orders through a trumpet
regarding the preparation of the boats for lowering.

One gang of men was unlashing the large motor boat and carrying davit
ropes to it. That was the captain’s boat, and it would hold at least
forty of the ship’s company.

Ruth began to wonder what boat she would go in. She realized that she
was quite alone—that there was nobody to aid her. Tom had foreseen this.
He had wished to accompany her across the ocean to be able to aid her if
necessity arose.

And here was necessity!

Ruth saw some of the passengers running below, and was reminded that she
was not at all prepared to get into an open boat and drift about the sea
until rescued. There were several important papers and valuables in her
stateroom, too. She moved toward the first cabin entrance.

Stewards were bringing the helpless wounded up to the deck on
stretchers. No matter how small Ruth’s opinion might be of Captain
Hastings as a man, he seemed neglecting no essential matter now that his
ship was in danger.

From the bridge he directed the filling and lowering of the first boats.
He ordered the crew and stokers who came pouring from below, to stand by
their respective boats, but not to lower them until word was given. Each
officer was in his place. The stewards were evacuating the wounded as
fast as possible and were to see that every passenger came on deck.

But Ruth did not see Mr. Dowd. The Chief Officer, who should have had a
prominent part in this work, had not appeared. The girl went below,
wondering about this.

As she approached her stateroom, Irma Lentz, well-coated and bearing two
handbags, appeared from her stateroom. The black-eyed woman did not seem
very much disturbed by the situation. She even stopped to speak to Ruth.

“Ah-h!” she exclaimed in a low tone. “Your friend, Mr. Dowd, fell down
the after companionway and is hurt. They took him to his room. Perhaps
you would like to know,” and she laughed as she passed swiftly on toward
the open deck.

The information terrified Ruth. For the first time since the explosion
in the boiler room, the girl of the Red Mill considered the possibility
of this all being a plot to wreck the _Admiral Pekhard_—a plot among
some of the ship’s company, both passengers and crew!

The mystery of which she had caught a single thread that morning at dawn
when she had observed this black-eyed woman talking with the
German-looking seaman, or stoker, was now divulged.

These people—Irma Lentz, the flaxen-haired man, Dykman (if he was one of
the plotters) and perhaps others, had brought them all to this perilous
situation. The German conspirators had, after all, been willing to risk
their own lives in an attempt to sink the British ship.

She was but one day from port; it was not improbable that the ship’s
company would reach land in comparative safety. The two motor boats
could tow the lifeboats, and if a storm did not arise they might all
reach either the English or the French coast in safety.

Ruth was so disturbed by Irma Lentz’s statement that she did not
immediately turn toward her own room. She knew where Mr. Dowd’s cabin
was, and she hurried toward it.

It seemed sinister that the chief officer should have been injured just
as she had sent word to him about the stowaway in the small motor boat.
Ruth was convinced, without further evidence, that her discovery and
attempt to reach Mr. Dowd with the information had caused his injury and
had hastened the explosion.

She did not believe the latter was caused by a torpedo from a lurking
submarine. The conspirators aboard the _Admiral Pekhard_ had
deliberately brought about the catastrophe.

And it smote her, too, that Mr. Dowd might now be neglected in his
cabin. When the passengers and crew left in the small boats, the first
officer would, perhaps, be lying helpless in his berth.

She reached the door of the officer’s cabin, and knocked upon the panel.
There was nobody in sight in this passage and she heard no movement
inside the first officer’s room. Again she knocked.

At last there was a stirring inside. A voice mumbled:

“Yes? Yes? Eight bells? I will be right up.”

“Mr. Dowd! Mr. Dowd!” Ruth called. “Wake up! The ship is sinking!”

“I’ll be right with you, boy,” said the officer, more briskly, but
evidently not altogether himself.

“This is Ruth Fielding, Mr. Dowd!” cried the girl, hammering again on
the door. “Do you need help? Come on deck quickly. The ship is sinking!”

“What’s _that_?”

He was evidently aroused now. The door was snapped open and he appeared
at the aperture just as he had risen from his berth—in shirt and
trousers. His head was bandaged as though he wore a turban.

“What is that you say, Miss Fielding?” he repeated.

“Come quickly, Mr. Dowd!” she begged. “The ship is sinking. Those people
have blown it up.”

“Then there was something wrong!” cried the officer. “Did—did Captain
Hastings come to you? I—I gave him your note after I fell——”

“He did nothing but wait until those people did their worst,” declared
Ruth angrily. “It is too late to talk about it now. Hurry!” and she
turned away to seek her own stateroom.

It was fast growing dark outside. There were no lights turned on along
the saloon deck. She saw not a soul as she hurried to her room.
Everybody—even the stewards and officers—seemed to have got out upon the
upper deck. She heard much noise there and believed some of the boats
were being lowered.

She unlocked her stateroom door and entered. When she tried to turn on
the electric light, she found that the wires were dead. Of course, if
the boilers were blown up, the electric generating motors would stop as
well as the steam engines. The ship would be in darkness.

She hastily scrambled such valuables as she could find into her toilet
bag. Her money and papers she stowed away inside her dress. They were
wrapped in oilskin, if she should be wet. Ruth was cool enough. She
considered all possibilities at this time of emergency.

At least she considered all possibilities but one. That never for a
moment entered her mind.

It was true that while she dressed more warmly and secured a blanket
from her berth to wrap around herself over her coat, she was aware that
the noise on the upper deck had ceased. But she did not realize the
significance of this.

Being all alone, she had much difficulty in arraying herself as she
wished. Her shoulder was stiff and she could not use her left arm very
much without causing the shoulder to hurt excruciatingly. So she was
long in getting out of the room again.

Just as she did so she heard a man shouting up the passage:

“Anybody here? Get out on deck! Last call! The boats are leaving!”

The shout really startled Ruth. She had no idea there was any chance of
her being left behind. She left her stateroom door open and started to
run through the narrow corridor.

Not six feet from the door she tripped over something. It was a cord
stretched taut across the passage, fastened at a height of about a foot
from the deck!

Helplessly, with her hands full and the blanket over her right arm, Ruth
pitched forward on her face. She struck her head on the deck with
sufficient force to cause unconsciousness. With a single groan she
rolled over on her back and lay still.



CHAPTER XIV—A BATTLE IN THE AIR


The first few seconds which passed after Ralph Stillinger and Tom
Cameron descried the huge envelope of the Zeppelin beneath their
airplane in the fog were sufficient to allow the American ace to regain
his self-possession. If his passenger was frightened by the nearness of
the German airship he did not betray that fact.

The thundering of the motors of the great airship, as well as the
clatter of their own engine, made speech between the two Americans quite
impossible. But the meaning of Stillinger’s gestures was not lost on
Tom.

Immediately the latter sprang to the machine gun. The three pursuit
planes with which they had been skirmishing were now out of mind, as
well as out of sight. If they could cripple the Zeppelin the victory
would be far greater than bringing disaster to one of the _Tauben_.

The Zeppelin was aimed seaward. She doubtless had started upon a coast
raid along the English shore. If the Americans could bring her down they
would achieve something that would count gloriously in this great work
of fighting the Hun in the air.

To pitch down upon the envelope of the great machine and empty a clip of
cartridges into it might do the Zeppelin a deal of harm, but it would
not wreck it. A complete wreck was what Stillinger and Tom wished to
make of the German airship.

The American pilot’s intention was immediately plain to Tom. He shut
down on the speed and allowed the airplane to fall behind the German
ship. The object was to trail the Zeppelin and pour the machine-gun
bullets into the steering gear of the great airship—even, perhaps, to
sweep her deck of the crew.

The fog was thinning—No! they were shooting out of the cloud. The
sunlight suddenly illuminated both Zeppelin and airplane. Both must have
been revealed to observers on the ground and in the air.

The presence of the American airplane, if unsuspected before by the crew
of the Zeppelin, was now revealed to them. Tom, bending sideways to look
down past the machine gun, saw the entire afterdeck of the Zeppelin.
There were at least a dozen men standing there, staring up at the
darting airplane.

Tom shot a glance back at Stillinger. The machine tipped at that
instant. The pilot waved an admonishing hand. Tom seized the crank of
the gun and turned to look down upon the German airship.

In that instant the crew of the latter had sprung to action. Their
surprise at the nearness of the airplane was past. Their commander
stood, hanging to a stay with one hand and shouting orders through a
trumpet held in the other hand. At least, Tom Cameron presumed he was
shouting.

All he could hear was the thuttering roar of the Zeppelin’s motors and
the clash of their own engine. These noises, with the shrieking of the
rushing wind made every other sound inaudible.

The American machine was tipping. She was not far behind the Zeppelin,
nor far above it. The muzzle of the machine gun would soon come into
line with the after deck of the Zeppelin. Then——

Suddenly a flash of flame and a balloon of smoke was spouted from a
small mortar amidships of that deck. Instantly a shell burst almost in
Tom’s face and eyes.

If the young fellow cringed as he crouched behind the machine gun, it
was no wonder. That was a very narrow escape.

He glanced back at Stillinger. The pilot had dropped one of the levers
and was holding his left wrist tightly. Tom could see something red
running through Stillinger’s fingers—blood!

Shrapnel was flying all about the airplane. There was a second puff of
smoke and flame from the mortar on the Zeppelin. Tom heard the twang of
a cut stay. The airplane rolled sideways with a sickening dip—but then
righted itself.

This was a kind of fighting Tom Cameron knew nothing about. He did not
know what to do. Pivoted as the machine gun was, he could not depress
the muzzle sufficiently to bring the Zeppelin’s deck into range. Was the
machine out of control? If the nose of it dipped a bit more he could do
something.

Another burst of shrapnel, and he felt something like a red-hot iron
searing his right cheek. He put up his gloved hand and brought it away
spotted with crimson. The Hun certainly was getting them!

He looked back at Stillinger. To his horror he saw that the man was
slumped down in his seat, held there by his belt. Tom Cameron did not
know the first thing about driving an airplane!

Again a shell burst near the rocking machine. It did no harm; but it
showed that the Germans were getting an almost perfect range.

Tom Cameron was not a coward. He gripped his even upper teeth on his
full lower lip, and by that sign only showed that he knew disaster was
coming. Indeed, it had come the next second!

The tail of the airplane shot up and the nose pitched to a sharp angle.
He heard the explosion of the shell even as he started the chatter of
the machine gun. In that short breath of time the muzzle of his weapon
was pitched to the right angle, and a swarm of bullets swept the
afterdeck of the Zeppelin.

He knew the tail of the airplane had been splintered and that the
machine was bound to fall. But as it poised on its wings for a few
moments, he poured in the shot—indeed, he finished the clip of
cartridges.

The man at the Zeppelin shell-thrower fell back and rolled into the
scuppers. Another—plainly an officer from his dress—crashed to the deck.
He saw the other members of the crew running to try to escape the hail
of bullets. Ah, if he could only have accomplished this before the
airplane was wrecked!

And that it was wrecked, he could see. He glanced over his shoulder.
Stillinger was no longer in his seat. Indeed, the seat itself was not
there! The entire rear part of the airplane was torn away, and his
friend and college-mate had fallen.

Those next few seconds were to be the most thrilling of all Tom
Cameron’s life.

The airplane was plunging downward, seemingly right on top of the
Zeppelin. Then intuitively he realized that it would just about clear
the German airship.

He held no more guarantee for his life if he clung to the airplane than
poor Stillinger had in falling free. It was a swift spin and a crash to
the earth—death beyond peradventure!

The spread wings of the airplane still held the wrecked machine poised.
But in a moment it would slip forward, nose down, and “take the spin.”
Tom scrambled over the gun and over the armored nose of the airplane. He
swung himself through the stays. The airplane plunged—and so did he!

But he flung himself free of the stays. Like a frog diving from the bank
of a pool, the American cast himself from the airplane, full thirty
feet, to the deck of the German airship!

A taut stay of the Zeppelin broke his fall. He landed on all fours.
Before he could rise two of the Germans leaped upon him and he was
crushed, face-downward, on the deck.

The fellows who had seized him seemed of a mind to cast him over the
rail. They dragged him to his feet, forcing him that way. He expected
the next minute to be spinning in the track of the airplane toward the
earth, five thousand feet or more below.

But suddenly there appeared out of the cabin, or “dog-house” slung
amidships of the great envelope, the officer that Tom had first seen
with the trumpet. Through that instrument he now roared an order in
German that the American did not understand.

The latter was released. He staggered to the middle of the deck, panting
and with scarcely strength remaining to hold him on his feet. He saw the
officer beckoning him forward.

He could not see what any of these fellows looked like, for they were
all masked, as he was himself. They were dressed in garments of skin,
with the hair left on the hide—a queer-looking company indeed. Tom
staggered toward the officer.

He was motioned to go into the cabin. The officer came after him and
closed the door. At once the American realized that the place was—to a
degree—soundproof.

The German removed his helmet and Tom was glad to unbuckle the straps of
his own. The first words he heard were in good English:

“This is the first time I have taken a prisoner. It is a notable event.
Will you drink this cordial, _Mein Herr_? It is an occasion worthy of a
libation.”

His captor had opened a small cabinet fastened to the wall and produced
a screw-topped decanter. He poured a colorless liquid into two tiny
glasses, and presented one to Tom. The latter would have taken almost
anything just then. The stuff was warming and smelled strongly of anise.

“Yes, you are the first prisoner I have heard of taken in this way. And,
oddly enough, I may be bearing you homeward, only I shall be unable to
allow you to land upon the ‘tight little isle’—you so call it, no?”

“You are making one mistake,” Tom said, finally finding his voice. “I am
not an Englishman. I am American.”

“Indeed? But it matters not,” and the German shrugged his shoulders.
“You will go back with us to Germany as a prisoner. But first you will
accompany us on our bomb-dropping expedition. London is doomed to suffer
again.”

Tom said no more. This _ober-leutnant_ was a fresh-faced, rather
dandy-like appearing person—typical of the Prussian officer-caste. His
cheerful statement that he purposed dropping his cargo of bombs over the
city of London brought a sharp retort to Tom’s tongue—which he was wise
enough not to utter.

A subordinate officer looked in at the forward entrance to the cabin,
and asked a question. The _leutnant_ arose.

“I go to con the ship. We shall soon be over the sea. You, _Mein Herr_,
must be placed in durance, I fear. Come this way.”

He did not even take the automatic pistol from Tom’s holster. Really, he
knew, as did Tom, that to make any attempt against the lives of his
captors would have been too ridiculous to contemplate. Tom Cameron arose
quietly to follow the _leutnant_.

At the forward end of this cabin, or car, there was a door beside the
one which gave exit to the forward deck. The German opened this narrow
door, and Tom saw a small closet with a barred window. There was a
cushioned seat, which might even serve as a berth, but very little else
in the compartment.

He was ordered into this place, and entered. The door was closed behind
him and bolted. He was left to his own devices and to thoughts which
were, to say the least, disheartening.

He pitched the padded helmet and goggles he had taken off into a corner
and pressed his face close to the glass of the barred window. Again they
were smothered in fog. He could not see to the prow of the great ship.
He wondered how the officer could steer the Zeppelin save by compass.
This fog was a thick curtain.

Yet the Germans would cross the sea, of course, and find their way over
London. He had heard Englishmen talk of the damage done and the lives
sacrificed—mostly those of women and children—in these dreadful raids.
And he was to be a passenger while the Zeppelin performed its horrid
task!

Tom Cameron had recovered quickly from his fright and the shock of his
landing on the airship. He was convinced that nobody had ever before
done just what he had done. And as he had been successful in performing
this hazardous venture, he began to believe that he might do
more—perform other wonders.

It was not his vanity that suggested this thought. Tom Cameron was quite
as free of the foible of conceit as could be imagined. He was earnestly
desirous of doing something to balk these Germans in their determination
to get to the English shore and bomb London and its vicinity.

Gradually his eyes grew blind to what was going on upon the forward deck
of the Zeppelin. He was thinking—he was scheming. His whole thought was
given to the desire of his heart: How might he thwart the wicked plans
of the Hun?



CHAPTER XV—ABANDONED


Ruth Fielding came to consciousness with an instantly keen physical, as
well as mental, perception of where she was, what had happened, and all
that the accident she had suffered meant. Indeed, it had been no
accident that cast her to the deck outside her stateroom door.

It was the result of premeditated evil. The man shouting the warning
that all boats were leaving the supposedly sinking _Admiral Pekhard_,
had intended to bring her running from her room. The cord stretched
across the passage was there to trip her.

As she struggled to her knees, picked up her bag, and gained her feet,
Ruth realized, as in a flash of light, that the man who had shouted was
Dykman, the under officer whom she had previously suspected. He was in
the conspiracy with Irma Lentz and the flaxen-haired man—the latter, she
was sure, having hidden in the small motor boat.

And what was now ahead? She had no idea how long she had lain
unconscious. Nor did she hear a sound from the deck above.

Had she been abandoned on the sinking ship, even by Mr. Dowd, the first
officer? That Captain Hastings had neglected to see that all the
passengers were taken off the _Admiral Pekhard_ did not greatly surprise
Ruth. She had a very poor opinion of the pompous little skipper.

But Mr. Dowd!

She stumbled out of the dark passage and found the saloon stairway. The
door at the top was closed. She had to put down her bag to open it. Her
shoulder pained like a toothache, and she could not use her left hand at
all.

She finally stumbled out upon the open deck. Darkness had shut down on
the ship. There was not a light anywhere aboard that she could see. The
ship was rocking gently to the swell. It did not seem to her as though
it was any deeper in the sea than it had been when last she was above
deck.

But one certain fact could not be denied. The davits were stripped of
boats. Every lifeboat was gone! She looked aft and saw that the big
motor launch had likewise been put off. Forward the deck was clear, too.
The boat in which she had observed the stowaway had disappeared.

She was trapped. She believed herself alone on a deserted ship in a
trackless ocean. She had no means of leaving the _Admiral Pekhard_;
surely had the steamship not been about to go down, it would not have
been abandoned by all—passengers, crew, and officers.

Captain Hastings, the Red Cross officer, even Mr. Dowd, had all quite
forgotten her. Her enemies (she must consider Irma Lentz and Dykman
personal foes) had made it impossible for her to escape in any of the
boats. Perhaps they feared that she knew much more of the plot than she
really did know. Therefore their determination to make her escape
impossible.

Suddenly she saw a flash of light far out over the sea. It bobbed up and
down for several minutes. Then it disappeared. She believed it must be
one of the small boats that had got safely away from the _Admiral
Pekhard_. The disappearance of the light seemed to close all
communication between the abandoned girl and humankind.

She had dropped her bag. As the steamship rolled gently the bag slid
toward the rail. This brought her to sudden activity again. She went to
recover the bag. And then she peered over the high rail, down at the
phosphorescent surface of the sea.

It did not seem to Ruth as though the _Admiral Pekhard_ had sunk a foot
lower than before she left the deck to obtain her possessions. There was
something wrong somewhere! Rather, there was something right. The ship
was not about to sink. Why, hours had passed since she had fallen and
struck her head below near her stateroom! If the ship had been in such
danger of sinking when the alarm to take to the boats was given, why was
it not already awash by the waves that lapped the sides?

There was some great error. Captain Hastings must have been terribly
misled by his officers regarding the condition of the ship. Much as she
disliked the pompous little man, she was sure that he would not have
knowingly deserted the steamship unless he had been convinced she was
going down—and that quickly.

“But Mr. Dowd knew better,” murmured Ruth. “Or he must have suspected
there was something wrong. And Mr. Dowd—I do not believe he would have
left the ship without making sure that I was safe.”

The thought was so convincing that it bred in her mind another and, she
realized, perhaps a ridiculous one. Yet she was so impressed by it that
she turned back to the open companionway. She started down into the
saloon-cabin. But it was so dark there that she hesitated.

Then, of a sudden, she remembered the pocketlamp that must be in this
very toilet-bag she carried. She always tried to have such a thing by
her, especially when she traveled. She opened the bag and searched among
its contents.

Her hand touched and then brought forth the electric torch. She pressed
the switch and the spotlight of the bulb shot right into the face of the
great chronometer in its glass case, hanging above the companionway
steps.

It was half after nine, and she heard the faint chime of the clock on
the instant—three bells. Why! she must have been more than two hours
unconscious below. Of course the boats, if they had been rowed at once
away from the supposedly sinking ship, would be now quite out of sight.
Their lamps were hidden from her sight; and as there were no outside
lights on the ship, she would, of course, be invisible to the crews of
the small boats.

If the order had been given to make for the nearest point of land, the
people who had abandoned the _Admiral Pekhard_ might easily believe the
steamship under the sea long since.

This thought was but a flash through her troubled mind. The keener
supposition that had urged her below still inspired her. By aid of the
hand lamp she could make her path through the cabins. She crossed the
dining room and the writing room and library. This way was the opening
of the passage on which were the doors of the officers’ cabins.

She reached Dowd’s door. She had been here before; it was she, indeed,
who had roused him to the knowledge that the ship was being abandoned.
Could it be possible——

She pushed open the door without opposition, for it was unlatched. She
shot the spotlight of the hand lamp into the small room. The bed was
empty.

Of course, it could not be possible that Mr. Dowd, chief officer of the
ship, had been left behind as she had been.

Yet, she could open the door only half way. There was something behind
it that acted as a stopper. Ruth peered around the door and at the
floor. Her lamp shone upon the unbooted feet of a man. She shot the ray
of light along his limbs and body. At the far end, almost against the
outside wall of the stateroom, was the turbanned head of First Officer
Dowd!

Ruth could scarcely gasp the officer’s name, and in her amazement she
removed her thumb from the switch. Her lamp went out. In the darkness
she heard Mr. Dowd breathing stertorously. He was, then, not dead!

Ruth Fielding was far too sensible and acute in understanding to be long
overwhelmed by any such discovery. Indeed, she felt a certain
satisfaction in finding the man here. Even Mr. Dowd, ill and helpless,
was better than no companion at all upon the steamship. One fear, at
least, immediately rolled off her mind.

Used as she had become to hospital work, she went at once to work upon
the victim of this outrage. For at first she thought he must have been
injured a second time. Perhaps the man who had stretched that cord to
trip her and had shouted to her down the passage, had first overpowered
Mr. Dowd.

It proved to be that the man was merely asleep. But he was sleeping very
heavily, very unnaturally. Ruth had seen people under the effect of
opiates before, and she knew what this meant. The chief officer of the
_Admiral Pekhard_ had been drugged.

When she had previously spoken to him and roused him after he was hurt,
she remembered now that he had not seemed himself. It was something
besides the blow on his head that troubled him. Ruth wondered who had
given him the opiate, and in what form.

But of a surety, both the chief officer and she had been deliberately
placed in such condition that they could not answer the call to abandon
ship! Evil people had been at work here. The conspirators feared that
Ruth and Mr. Dowd knew more than they really did know, and they had
planned that the two should sink with the _Admiral Pekhard_.

Only, by the mercy of Providence, or by a vital mistake on the part of
the plotters, the steamship did not seem to be on the point of sinking.
Ruth believed that that danger was not immediate.

She gave her attention to Mr. Dowd while she was thinking of these
facts. She bathed his head and face, slapped his hands, and finally put
to his nose strong smelling-salts which she found in her bag. The man
stirred, and groaned, and finally opened his eyes.

He seemed to recognize Ruth at once. But the power of the opiate was
still upon his brain. He could not quickly shake it off. He struggled to
his feet by her aid and by clinging to his berth. He stared at her,
groping in his mind for the reason for his situation.

“Miss Fielding!” he muttered. “Yes, yes. I am coming at once. The ship
is sinking, you say?”

“Oh, Mr. Dowd! everybody has gone now and left us. We are too late to go
in any of the boats. But I do not believe the ship is sinking, after
all.”

“They—did they blow it up?” questioned the man, striving to pull himself
together. “I—I——Why, Miss Fielding, what is the matter with me? I must
have neglected my duty shamefully. Captain Hastings——”

“He has gone without us. Certainly he did not strive to be sure that
everybody was off the ship before he left. He evidently must have left
it to his subordinates to do that. And I am sure they were not all
trustworthy.”

She swiftly repeated her own experience. The bruise gained by her fall
over the taut cord was quite visible on her forehead. But the smart of
it Ruth did not mind now. There were many other things of more
importance.

“It looks like treachery all the way through,” groaned Mr. Dowd. “I
remember now. I fell down the companionway—and I could not understand
why, for the ship was not rolling. You say you suspect Dykman? So do I.
He was right there when I fell, and it seemed to me afterward that I was
tripped by something at the top of the steps.

“But I was so confused—why, yes, you came and aroused me once, did you
not, Miss Fielding?”

“Yes. Somebody must have given you an opiate. Who bandaged your head,
Mr. Dowd?” she asked.

“The surgeon. He was here and fixed me up. He—he gave me a drink that he
said would fix me all right.”

“It did,” the girl returned grimly. “It may have been he meant you no
harm. Possibly he thought a long sleep was what you needed. But, then,
why did he not remember you when the ship was abandoned? He must have
known you would be helpless.”

“It seems strange,” admitted Mr. Dowd. “Kreuger is the surgeon’s name.
Of course, the name smacks of Germany. But—but if we are going to
distrust everybody with a German name, where shall we be?”

“Safer, perhaps,” Ruth said, with rather grim lips. “In this case, at
least, the doctor seems to have done quite as the conspirators would
have had him. They plainly feared that both you and I suspected too
much, and they did not intend that we should escape from this ship.”

“Come!” he said, having struggled into his vest and coat and seized his
uniform cap. “Let us go up on deck and see what the promise is. Here! I
will light this lantern; that will give us a steadier light than your
torch.

“I am glad you are such a plucky young woman, Miss Fielding,” he added,
as he lit his lantern. “One need not be afraid of being wrecked in
mid-ocean with you. We’ll find some way of escape from this old barge,
never fear.”

Thus speaking cheerfully, he led the way out of the room and into the
open cabins of the saloon deck. Ruth followed, glad enough to give up
the leadership to him.



CHAPTER XVI—ON THE EDGE OF TRAGEDY


They went up to the open deck to meet the blackest night Ruth Fielding
ever remembered to have seen. The impenetrable clouds seemed to hover
just above the masts of the abandoned steamship.

The night air aided Mr. Dowd to recover his poise. It was plain that the
narcotic influence of the drink the doctor had given him still affected
his brain more than did the blow he had suffered in falling. Soon his
mind was quite clear and his manner the same as usual.

“I am afraid, as you say, Miss Fielding, that we are alone on the ship.
I do not hear a sound,” he said.

“But you do not think the ship is sinking, do you, Mr. Dowd?” Ruth
asked.

“She does not roll as though she was waterlogged in any degree. Nor can
I see that she has any pitch, either to bow or stern. If the explosion
was amidships—and you say it was in the fireroom—I doubt if a hole torn
in the outside of the ship would sink her.

“You see, the engine room and boilers are shut off from the rest of the
ship, both fore and aft, by water-tight bulkheads. If these were closed
when the accident occurred, or soon after, that middle compartment might
fill—up to a certain point—and that would be all. She could not take in
enough water to sink her by such means.”

“But one would think Captain Hastings—or the engineer—or somebody—would
have discovered the truth,” Ruth said, in doubt.

“You’d think so,” admitted Mr. Dowd. “But there was a great deal of
excitement, without doubt. If the water rushed in and put out the fires,
and the place filled with steam, until that steam cleared the situation
must have looked much worse than it really was.

“You see the ship was abandoned so quickly, that I doubt if the
engineers could have learned just how serious the danger was. They must
all have been panic-stricken.”

“Your Captain Hastings as well,” said Ruth scornfully.

“I am afraid so,” admitted the chief officer. “But the captain must have
been misled by the under officers. I do not believe he showed the white
feather. He had the responsibility of the passengers—especially of those
wounded—on his mind. We must give him credit for making a clean
get-away,” and in the lantern-light Ruth saw that he smiled.

“I hope they are all safe,” she responded reflectively. “The poor
things! To have to drift about in open boats all night!”

“We are not far from land, of course,” said Mr. Dowd. “And it is a
wonder that one of the patrol boats has not crossed our track. Hold on!”

“Yes?” said the startled young woman.

“What about the radio? Didn’t they send a wireless? Couldn’t they have
called for help?”

“Oh, I never thought of the wireless at all,” Ruth confessed. “And I am
sure it was not used at first—not while I was on deck.”

“Strange! With two operators—Rollife and an assistant—how could they
neglect such a chance?”

“I heard nothing about it,” repeated Ruth.

“Come on. Let’s look and see,” said the chief officer of the steamship.
“Something is dead wrong here. Sparks surely would not have left his
post unless the radio had completely broken down. Why, if we could
manipulate the radio we’d call for help now—you and I, Miss Fielding.”

He led the way swiftly along the deck. The radio station had been built
into the forward house, for the _Admiral Pekhard_ was an old steamship,
her keel having been laid long before Marconi made his dream come true.

The staff from which the antennae were strung shot up into the darkness
farther than they could well see. There was a single small window far up
on either side of the house for circulation of air only. There seemed to
be no life about the radio room.

Mr. Dowd tried the door. It did not yield. He shook it—or tried
to—crying:

“Sparks! Sparks! Hey! Where are you?”

He was answered by a voice from inside the radio room. It was not a
pleasant voice, and the words it first uttered were not polite, to say
the least. The man inside ended by demanding:

“What in the name of Mike was meant by locking me into this room?”

“Great Land!” gasped Dowd. “It’s Rollife himself.”

“And you know darned well it’s Rollife,” pursued the radio man. “Let me
come out!” and he went on to roll out threats that certainly were not
meant for Ruth’s ears.

But to let the man out of his prison was not easy. Dowd found that two
long spikes had been driven through the door and frame above and below
the doorknob. He was some time in getting Rollife to listen to this
explanation.

“Who is it? Dowd?” demanded the angry radio man at last.

“Yes,” replied the first officer. “Who did this?”

Whoever it was who pinned the man into the room was threatened with a
good many unpleasant happenings during the next few moments. Finally
Dowd’s voice penetrated to the operator’s ears again.

“Hold your horses! There’s a lady here. How shall I get you out,
Sparks?”

“I don’t give a hang _how_ you do it,” snarled the other. “But I want
you to do it mighty quick—and then lead me to the man who nailed me up.”

“Wait,” said Dowd. “I’ll get a screwdriver and take off the hinges of
the door. Then you can push outwards.”

“What the deuce has happened, anyway?” demanded Rollife, as the first
officer of the _Admiral Pekhard_ started away.

Ruth thought she would better answer before the imprisoned radio man
broke out afresh. She told him simply what had happened, and why it had
happened, as she presumed.

“It was Dykman nailed me up—the cur!” growled the radio man. “Then he
monkeyed with the wires outside there. He put the radio out of
commission, all right. That was before the explosion. My door was nailed
almost on the very minute the old ship was hit. But why doesn’t she
sink?”

“I do not believe she is going to sink, Mr. Rollife,” said Ruth. “Oh, if
you could only repair your aerial wires, you might call for help!”

“Let me out of here,” growled the radio operator, “and I’ll find some
way of sending an S O S—don’t fear!”

Mr. Dowd came back from the engine room where he had secured a
screwdriver. He set to work removing the screws from the hinges of the
radio room door.

“I do not believe that the explosion caused any serious damage to the
ship itself,” said he. “The fireroom is full of water; but it looks to
me as though a seacock had been opened. I think the explosion was on the
inside—a bomb thrown into one of the fires, perhaps.”

“What’s that you say?” demanded Rollife, from inside the room. “No
likelihood of the old tub sinking?”

“Not at all! Not at all!”

“Well, I certainly am relieved,” said the radio man. “I’ve been
conjuring up all kinds of horrors in here.”

“Huh!” exploded Dowd. “You were asleep till I pounded on the door.”

“Oh, well, maybe I lost myself for a moment,” confessed Rollife.
“Anyhow, I made up my mind I was done for when I could make nobody
listen to me after my door was nailed. They certainly had it in for me.”

“Where was your assistant?” Dowd asked.

“That fellow is a squarehead,” growled the radio man. “I suspected him
from the start. Why, he couldn’t talk American without saying ‘already
yet.’ A Hun, sure as shooting.”

That Rollife himself came from the United States there could be no
doubt. His speech fully betrayed his nationality.

“He never came near me,” he went on, speaking of his assistant. “He was
some ‘ham,’ anyway! Graduate of one of these correspondence schools of
telegraphy, I guess. His Morse was enough to drive one mad. Let me out,
Dowd. I’ll fix up those aerials and call somebody to our help in short
order.”

The first officer had accomplished his purpose. The screws were out of
the hinges. Rollife was a big, strong fellow, and he drove his shoulder
against the door with sufficient force the first time to push it outward
at the back.

Then Mr. Dowd took hold of the edge of the door, and together they
worked out the long nails and threw the useless door on the deck.
Rollife came out into the light of the lantern which Ruth held at one
side. He was a big, fresh-faced man with a square jaw and a direct
glance.

Ruth was glad to see him. He was such another man as the first officer
of the steamship. If she had to be aboard an abandoned craft in such an
emergency as this, she was glad that her companions were just such men
as these two. She felt that they were resourceful and trustworthy.

Her mind, however, was by no means at ease. Mr. Dowd and Mr. Rollife
were much more cheerful than Ruth. And it was not because they were any
more courageous than the girl of the Red Mill. But Ruth thought of
something that did not seem to have made any impression on the men’s
minds.

What had been the intention of the conspirators in abandoning the ship
with the innocent members of her company? What would naturally be their
expectation regarding the _Admiral Pekhard_, if she had not been put in
condition to sink? If it was a German plot, surely the plotters did not
intend to leave the steamship to drift, unharmed, until some patrol boat
picked her up.

And the plotters knew the three castaways were on the vessel. What of
the chief officer, the radio man, and Ruth herself? They had all been
left for some purpose, that was sure. What was it?

Mr. Dowd and she had been allowed their freedom. Only Rollife had been
locked up. And the plotters must have known that in time Ruth or Dowd
would have found means of releasing the radio man. Once released, it was
more than probable Rollife would be able to discover what had been done
to the aerials and repair them. It was quite sure that, before morning,
those abandoned on the _Admiral Pekhard_ would be able to send into the
air an S O S for help.

There was something that she could not understand—something back of, and
deeper, than the surface-work of the plotters. Perhaps that explosion in
the fireroom had not been meant to injure the ship seriously. It was
merely meant (as it did) to create panic.

It caused a situation serious enough to alarm the captain and all
aboard. It seemed that all they could do was to flee from a ship that
threatened to sink.

This situation might have been just what the plotters intended to
create; because they would not wish to remain on the steamship when
actual destruction was coming upon her!

They had escaped with the other members of the ship’s company. Yet the
steamship drifted in apparent safety. Was there something much more
tragic threatening the _Admiral Pekhard_?



CHAPTER XVII—BOARDED


Rollife was busy with his repairs on the aerials. Dowd was down in the
engine room, or so Ruth supposed, and neither seemed suspicious of any
further happening that would injure them. Rather, they considered
themselves in full charge of a steamship that was in no actual or
present danger.

Ruth Fielding’s mental vision saw more clearly. There was something else
coming—something far more tragic than anything that had thus far
occurred.

There might be, hidden somewhere in the cargo-holds, time-bombs set to
explode at a given moment. Her imagination was by no means running away
with her when she visioned such a possibility.

Surely there was something still to happen to the _Admiral Pekhard._ If
not, why then all the scurry to get away from the ship, the conspirators
themselves included in the stampede?

Or had the ship’s position been made known to a German submarine and
would the U-boat soon appear to torpedo the British craft? This was not
so far-fetched an idea. Only, the young woman was pretty sure that the
explosion aboard the _Admiral Pekhard_ had been advanced in time because
of her own suspicions and the attempt she had made to get Mr. Dowd to
investigate matters which the conspirators did not wish revealed.

Rollife had taken the lantern and Dowd had gone in search of another,
Ruth presumed. By and by she began to wonder what was engaging the first
officer’s attention for so long, and she went to the engine-room hatch.
Her small electric torch showed her the way.

To her amazement—and not a little to her fear at first—Ruth found the
first officer lying upon the engine-room ladder. He was wet from head to
foot, his turban of bandages had come off, displaying a bleeding scalp
wound, and he was panting for breath.

“What has happened to you, Mr. Dowd?” she cried. “Did you fall into the
water?”

“I dived into it,” explained Dowd, grinning faintly. “That water in the
fireroom didn’t look right to me. I found the seacocks below, there. Two
were open, as I suspected.”

“Oh!”

“It was a deliberate attempt to scare us—and it succeeded. I shut off
the cocks. This compartment could be pumped out if we had the men. Of
course, the steam pumps can’t be used. We have no donkey engine on deck.
All the machinery is down there, half under water.

“There must have been more than Dykman and that man you saw talking to
Miss Lentz, in the plot. Another man in the stoker-crew, perhaps. He
flung a bomb into one of the furnaces after opening the seacocks. It was
a well laid plot, Miss Fielding.”

“Yes, I know,” she said hastily. “But to what end?”

“How’s that?”

“What was the final consideration? Why was this done? They must have
known the ship would not sink. Then, what did they do all this for?”

“Why—by Jove!” gasped Dowd, “I had not thought of that, Miss Fielding.”

He crept up the ladder and stood upon the deck, the water running from
the garments that clung closely to his limbs and body.

“Doesn’t it seem reasonable,” she asked, “that the conspirators, whoever
they were, should have some object rather than the simple desertion of a
vessel that was not likely to sink?”

“It would seem so,” he admitted, and his tone betrayed as much anxiety
as she felt herself.

At the moment a shout from Rollife, the radio man, aroused them.

“I’ve found it!” he cried.

They went toward the radio room. He was busy in the light of the lantern
on the roof of the house. He had tools and a small plumber’s stove that
he had found. He turned on the blast of the stove and began to weld
certain wires.

“Can you fix it?” Dowd asked quietly.

“You bet I can, Mr. Dowd!” declared Rollife. “In half an hour I’ll have
the sparks shooting from those points up there. You watch.”

Ruth looked at Mr. Dowd. Her unspoken question was: “Shall we take him
into our confidence? Shall we tell him our fears?”

Before the first officer could answer her unspoken inquiry Ruth’s sharp
eyes glimpsed a light over his shoulder. It was an intermittent sparkle,
and it was low down on the water. She remembered then the light she had
seen for a moment when she had first come on deck after learning that
the ship was abandoned.

“What is that?” she whispered, pointing.

Dowd wheeled to look. Instantly she saw by the light of her torch that
he stiffened and his head came up. He gazed off across the water for
quite two minutes. Then he said:

“It is a light in a small boat I believe. At first I thought it might be
a submarine. But I do not believe a submarine would show anything less
than a searchlight in traveling on the surface at night.”

“Oh! Who can it be?” murmured Ruth.

“You put a hard question, Miss Fielding. Surely it cannot be our friends
coming back.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean a boat sent by Captain Hastings to make sure that nobody was
left on the steamship.”

“Do you consider that likely?” she asked.

“Well—no, I do not,” he admitted.

“Then you think it may be people who have not our interest at heart?”
was her quick demand.

“I am afraid I can give you no encouragement. I cannot imagine Captain
Hastings abandoning the ship without believing she would sink. In the
darkness he must have got so far away that he would think she had gone
down. He would be anxious, you understand, to get his crew and
passengers to land.”

“Of course. I give him credit for being fairly sane,” she said.

“On the other hand, who would have any suspicion that the ship would not
sink save those who had brought about the panic?”

“The Germans!” exclaimed the girl.

“Exactly. I believe,” said Dowd quietly, “that here come the men who
caused the explosion in the fire room and opened the seacocks. They
purpose to take charge of the _Admiral Pekhard_, of course. If they get
aboard we shall be at their mercy.”

“Oh, can we stop them? Can we hold them off?” murmured Ruth.

“I do not know. I am not sure that it would be wise to offer fight. You
see, we shall finally be at their mercy.”

“If we can’t beat them off!” Ruth exclaimed. “Haven’t you arms aboard?”

“My dear young lady——”

“Oh, don’t think of me!” Ruth cried. “Do just what you would do if I
were not here. Wouldn’t you and the radio man fight them?”

“I think we could put up a pretty good fight,” admitted Dowd
thoughtfully. “There are automatic pistols.”

“Bring one for me,” commanded Ruth. “I can shoot a pistol. Three of us
might hold off a small boarding party, I should think.”

“If they mean us harm,” added Dowd.

“Make them lie off there and wait till morning so that we can see what
they look like,” begged Ruth.

“That might be attempted.”

His lack of certainty rankled in the girl’s quick mind. She ejaculated:

“Surely we can try, Mr. Dowd! There is another thing: the deck guns! Had
you thought of them?”

“My goodness, no!” admitted the first officer.

“If we could slue around one of those guns, a single shot might sink the
boat off there. If they are enemies, I mean.”

“Now you have suggested something, Miss Fielding! Wait! Let me have your
torch. I will take a look at the guns.”

He ran along the deck to the forward gun. After a minute there he ran
back to the stern, but kept to the runway on the opposite side of the
deck as he passed the girl of the Red Mill. She waited in great
impatience for his return.

And when he came she saw that something was decidedly wrong. He wagged
his head despairingly.

“No use,” he said. “Those fellows were sharper than one would think. The
breech-block of each gun is missing.”

“That light is drawing close, Mr. Dowd!” Ruth exclaimed. “Get the
pistols you spoke of—do!”

But first Dowd called to the radio man up above them: “Hi, Sparks, see
that boat coming?”

“What boat?” demanded the other, stopping his work for the moment. Then
he saw the light. “Holy heavens! what’s that?”

“One of the boats coming back—and not with friends,” said Dowd.

“Let me get these wires welded and I’ll show ’em!” rejoined Rollife.
“I’ll send a call——”

At the moment the sudden explosion of a motor engine exhaust startled
them. It was no rowboat advancing toward the _Admiral Pekhard_. Probably
its crew had been rowing quietly so as not to startle those left aboard
the ship.

“The pistols, Mr. Dowd!” begged Ruth again.

The first officer departed on a run. Rollife kept at his work with a
running commentary of his opinion of the scoundrels who were
approaching. Suddenly a rifle rang out from the coming launch.

“Ahoy! Ahoy the steamer!” shouted a voice. “We see your light, and we’ll
shoot at it if you don’t douse it. Quick, now!”

Another rifle bullet whistled over the head of the radio man. Ruth
removed her thumb from the electric torch switch instantly. But Rollife
refused at first to be driven.

The next moment, however, a bullet crashed into the lantern on the roof
of the radio house. The flame was snuffed out and the radio man was
feign to slide down from his exposed position.

Dowd came running from the cabin with the pistols. He gave one to Ruth
and another to Rollife. The latter stepped out from the shelter of the
house and drew bead on the lamp in the approaching launch. Ruth heard
the chatter of the weapon’s hammer—but not a shot was fired!

“Great guns, Dowd!” shouted the radio man, exasperated. “This gat isn’t
loaded.”

“Neither is mine!” exclaimed Ruth, who had made a quick examination in
the darkness.

“Oh, my soul!” groaned the first officer. “I got the wrong weapons!”

“And no more clips of cartridges? Well, you——”

There was no use finishing his opinion of Dowd’s uselessness. The motor
boat shot alongside under increased speed. There was a slanting bump, a
grappling iron flew over the rail and caught, and the next moment a man
swarmed up the rope, threw his leg over the rail, and then his head and
face appeared.

Ruth in her excitement pressed the switch of her electric torch. The ray
of light shot almost directly into the eyes of the first boarder. He was
the flaxen-haired man—the man she believed she had seen hiding in the
small motor boat before the explosion in the steamer’s fire room.



CHAPTER XVIII—THE CONSPIRACY LAID BARE


It was too late then for Mr. Dowd to correct his mistake. In the dark he
had gone to the wrong closet in the captain’s chart room. There were
loaded small arms of several kinds in one closet, while in the other
were stored spare arms that were not oiled and loaded and ready for use.

The flaxen-haired man swarmed over the rail. He had a pistol in his
hand. A moment later another man came up the ladder that had been put
over the rail when the captain’s launch was manned for departure. This
second man bore a powerful electric lamp.

“Drop that torch and your guns!” he commanded sharply. “Put up your
hands!”

“It’s Dykman!” muttered Mr. Dowd. “The cut-throat villain!”

But he obeyed the command. So did Rollife. And could Ruth Fielding do
otherwise? They stood in line with their hands in the air, palms
outward. Dykman crossed the deck with his lamp warily, while the
flaxen-haired man held the three under the muzzle of his pistol.

“What do you mean by such actions, Dykman?” demanded Dowd angrily.

“I’ll let you guess that, old man,” said the other. “But I advise you to
do your guessing to yourself. We are in no mood to listen to you.”

Then he shot a question at the radio man: “Did you get those wires
fixed?”

“Hanged if I don’t wish I hadn’t touched ’em,” growled the radio man.

“You’ve sent no message, then?”

Rollife shook his head.

“All right. Krueger!” shouted Dykman, who seemed to be in command of the
traitors.

“I thought so!” muttered Rollife. “That squarehead never did look right
to me.”

Several other men as well as Krueger came up the ladder. Their dress
proclaimed them seamen or stokers. Ruth wondered if Miss Lentz was with
them.

She began to feel fearful for herself. What would these rough men do,
now they had possession of the ship? And what would they do to her? That
was the principal query in her mind. Dykman merely patted the pockets of
Dowd and Rollife to make sure they had no other arms. He gave Ruth
slight attention at the moment.

“I’ll have to lock you fellows in a stateroom,” Dykman said coolly.
“Can’t have you fooling around the ship. You’ll both be taken home in
time and held as war prisoners.”

“By ‘home’ I suppose you mean Germany!” snorted Rollife.

“That is exactly what I mean.”

“But man!” exclaimed Dowd, “you don’t expect to get this ship through
the blockade? And you’ve got to repair the damage your explosion did,
too.”

“Don’t worry,” grinned Dykman. “She’s not damaged much. We opened
seacocks——”

“Oh, yes, I found that out,” admitted Dowd. “And I closed them.”

“Thanks,” said the other coolly. “So much trouble saved us. We’ll get to
work at the pumps. We ought to be clear of the water by morning. Only
one boiler is injured. We can hobble along with the use of the other
boilers, I think.”

“Man, but you have the brass!” exclaimed Dowd. “Some of these destroyers
will catch you, sure.”

“We’ll see about that,” grumbled Dykman. “We’ll put you two men where
you will be able to do no harm, at least.”

“And Miss Fielding?” questioned Dowd quickly. “You will see that she
comes to no harm, Mr. Dykman?”

“She is rather an awkward prisoner, considering the use we intend to
make of the _Admiral Pekhard_. Women will be much in the way, I assure
you.”

“But there is Miss Lentz,” murmured Ruth.

“Miss Lentz? She is not here. She went in the captain’s boat,” the
sub-officer said shortly. “I wish you had gone with her.”

“It was your fault I did not,” said Ruth boldly.

“Perhaps,” admitted the German. “But necessity knows no law, Miss
Fielding. It was said you knew too much—or suspected too much. I dislike
making a military prisoner of a woman. But, as I said before, necessity
knows no law. You and Dowd and Rollife had to be separated from Captain
Hastings and the rest of them. There are only a few of us—at present,”
he added.

“And how the deuce do you expect to augment your crew?” demanded the
chief officer. “You can’t work this ship with so few hands. And you’ve
got none of the engineer’s crew.”

“I am something of an engineer myself, Mr. Dowd,” returned the other,
smiling with a satisfied air. “We shall have proper assistance before
long.” He hailed Krueger, who had climbed to the roof of the radio
house. “Is everything all right?”

“Will be shortly, Mr. Boldig,” said the assistant radio man.

Ruth started. Then “Dykman” was “Boldig,” whose name she had formerly
heard mentioned between Irma Lentz and the flaxen-haired man. The man
with two names turned upon Ruth.

“You had better go immediately to your own room, Miss Fielding,” he said
respectfully. “I shall be obliged to lock you in, as I shall Mr. Dowd
and Rollife here. I assure you all,” he added significantly, “that it is
much against my will that you remain prisoners. I would much rather you
had all three gone with the captain.

“By the way, Dowd, Captain Hastings was told you were in command of this
small motor launch. I am afraid you will have much to explain, later.
And you, too, Rollife.”

Rollife only growled in reply and Dowd said nothing. When they started
aft with Boldig, Ruth followed. She knew it was useless to object to any
plan the German might have in mind.

Before they left the deck she heard the spark sputtering at the top of
the radio mast. Krueger was at the instrument, and without doubt he was
sending a call to friends somewhere on the ocean. It would be no S O S
for help in the Continental code, but in a German code, she was sure.

The jar and thump of the pumps already resounded through the ship. By
the light of Boldig’s electric lamp they went below to the cabin. Ruth
again produced her own torch and found her way to her stateroom, while
Dowd and Rollife went the other way.

Alone once again, the girl of the Red Mill gave her mind up to a
thorough and searching examination of the situation, and especially her
own position.

She was the single woman with and in the power of a gang of men who were
not only desperate, but who were of a race whose treatment of women
prisoners had filled the whole civilized world with scorn and loathing.
Ruth wished heartily that Irma Lentz had come back with the motor boat.
She would have felt safer if Miss Lentz had been of the party.

Ruth realized that neither Dowd or Rollife could come to her help if she
had need of them. They would be locked in their rooms at so great a
distance from hers that they could not even hear her if she screamed!

One thing she might do. She hastily secured the key that was in the
outside of the stateroom lock and locked the door from the inside.
Scarcely had she done this when Boldig came along the corridor. He
rapped on her door; then coolly tried the knob.

“Unlock the door and give me the key, Miss Fielding,” he commanded. “I
will lock you in from outside and carry the key myself. Nobody will
disturb you.”

“No, Mr. Boldig. I shall feel safer if I keep the key,” said Ruth
firmly.

“Come, now! No foolishness!” he said angrily. “Do as you are told.”

“No. I shall keep the key,” she repeated.

“Why, you—well,” and he laughed shortly, “I will make sure that you stay
in there, my lady.”

He went hastily away. Ruth waited in some trepidation. She did not know
what would next happen. She wished heartily that she had a loaded
weapon. She certainly would have used it had need arisen.

Soon Boldig was back, and he proceeded without another word to her to
nail fast the stateroom door as he had nailed the radio room door. When
this was completed to his satisfaction, he said bitterly:

“If we feed you at all, Miss Fielding, it will have to be through the
port. _Au revoir_!”

It was with vast relief that Ruth heard him depart. The thought of
food—or the lack of it—did not at present trouble her mind.

The steady thump and rattle of the pumps by which the fireroom was being
cleared of water continued to sound in her ears. She laid aside her coat
and hat, for the night was warm. She flashed the pocket lamp upon the
face of her traveling clock. It was already nearly midnight.

The thought of sleep was repugnant to her. How could she close her eyes
when she did not know what the morning might bring forth? It was not
wholly that she feared personal harm. Not that so much. But there was,
she felt, a conspiracy on foot that might do much harm to the Allied
cause.

These Germans had played a shrewd game to get possession of the _Admiral
Pekhard_. It was not for the purpose of sinking the transport ship that
they had brought about her abandonment. No, indeed!

As Boldig—the erstwhile “Dykman”—had intimated, nothing like destroying
the steamship was the intention of the plotters. The rascals had been
very careful not to injure seriously the engines or any other part of
the ship’s mechanism.

With the fireroom suddenly filling with water after the explosion, the
dampened fires caused such a volume of steam that it was no wonder the
engineer and his force were driven from their stations. As long as the
panic-stricken passengers and terrified crew remained aboard the
_Admiral Pekhard_, undoubtedly it appeared that a hole had been blown
through the outer skin of the ship and that she was on the verge of
sinking.

Had Mr. Dowd been on deck and in possession of his senses, Ruth was
quite sure that the panic would have been stayed. Captain Hastings was
not a big enough man to handle such a situation as the German plotters
had brought about. He lost his head completely, although he doubtless
had remained on the ship’s deck until every other soul (as he supposed)
was in the small boats.

The very character of the pompous little skipper had made the success of
the Hun plot possible. All that was passed now, however. Nothing could
be done to avert the successful termination of the conspiracy. Or so it
seemed to the girl of the Red Mill, sitting alone and in the darkness of
her small stateroom.

After a time she rose and pushed back the blind at her port. She opened
the thick, oval glass window, which was pivoted. She saw the
phosphorescent waves slowly marching past the rolling steamship.

Suddenly she heard voices. They were of two men talking near the rail
and near her window as well. One was Boldig. He said in German:

“You have shown yourself to be a good deal of a coward, Guelph. Always
fearful of disaster! Look you: If you _will_ that nothing shall balk us,
no disaster will arrive. It is the _will_ of the German people that will
make them in the end the victors in this war. Remember that, Guelph.”

The other muttered something about taking unnecessary chances. Boldig at
once declared:

“No chances. Krueger will pick up the U-714. Have no fear. She is one of
the newest type of cruiser-submarines. She carries the crew arranged to
man this _Admiral Pekhard_. Ha, we will make the Englanders gnash their
teeth in rage!”

“We shall hope so,” said the other man. Ruth thought it must be the
flaxen-haired fellow; but of this she could not be sure.

“This will be one of our greatest coups,” went on Boldig. “The cargo
awaits us in a friendly port—you know where. We will sail from thence to
carry supplies to the submarines that will be sent from time to time
from the Belgian bases. She shall be a ‘mother ship’ indeed, and,
lurking out of the lanes of travel, will make long submarine voyages
possible.

“Ah, we will do much with this old tub of a steamer to increase the
despair of the enemy. Rejoice, Guelph! We shall receive honor and much
gold for this.”

“Huh!” growled the other, “gold is good, I grant you.”



CHAPTER XIX—TOM CAMERON TAKES A HAND


Aside from the two men he had seen shot down upon the after deck of the
Zeppelin, Tom Cameron soon made out that the airplane attack upon the
larger airship must have done other damage. He was glad if this was so.
The regrettable fact that he had killed two men would be offset, in his
mind, if the bullets of the machine gun had made difficult the sailing
of the Zeppelin to London.

He had seen the chipped and dented rail and deck across which the hail
of machine-gun bullets had swept. He hoped that there had been done some
injury of greater moment than these marks betrayed. And he believed that
there was such injury.

If not, why was the Zeppelin limping along the airways so slowly through
the fog? The commander of the great machine had been called to the
forward deck, and that not merely for the conning of the ship on its
course, Tom was sure. Suppose he had been the means, after all, of
crippling the Zeppelin?

The thought filled the young American’s heart with delight. Much as he
was depressed by the death of Ralph Stillinger, the American ace, Tom
could not fail to be overjoyed at the thought of setting the Zeppelin
back in this attempt to reach England.

The Germans might have to return to their base for repairs. Of course,
Tom was a prisoner, and there was not a chance of his getting away;
still, he could feel delight because of this possibility that roweled
his mind.

He tried to peer through the thick glass of the window in the forward
closet of the Zeppelin cabin. Mistily he saw the hairy-coated Germans
moving about on the forward deck. He could not recognize the
_ober-leutnant_ who seemed to be in command of the ship; but he saw that
several of the men were at work repairing some of the wire stays that
had been broken.

As the fog partially cleared for a moment, he was enabled to make out a
box of a house far forward on this first deck. It was probably where the
steering gear was located. Just where the motors and engines were boxed
he did not know. A fellow in that pilot-house—if such it was—might do
something of moment, he told himself. If he could once get there, Tom
Cameron thought, he would make it impossible for the Zeppelin ever to
reach England, unless it drifted there by accident.

It was a rather dispiriting situation, however, to be locked in this
narrow closet. He had already tried the door and found that it was
secure. Besides, anybody on the deck, by coming close to the window,
could look in and see if he was still imprisoned.

An hour passed, then another. The Zeppelin’s speed was not increased,
nor did he see the commander in all the time.

He believed the airship must have drifted out over the sea.

Although the cabin arrangements on the Zeppelin made the place where Tom
Cameron was confined almost soundproof, the jar and rumble of the ship’s
powerful motors were audible. Now there grew upon his hearing another
sound. It was a note deeper than that of the motors, and of an
organ-like timber. A continuous current of noise, rather pleasant than
otherwise, was this new sound. He could not at first understand what it
meant.

The fog was still thick about the airship. He believed they had
descended several thousand feet. It was now close to mid-forenoon, and
as a usual thing the fog would have disappeared by this hour over the
land.

It must be that the Zeppelin had reached the sea. Whatever material
injury she had suffered, the commander had by no means given up his
intention of following out his orders to reach the English coast.

It was at this point in his ruminations that Tom suddenly became
possessed of a new idea—an explanation of the organ-like sound he heard.
It was the surf on the coast! The ship must be drifting over the French
coastline, and the sound of the surf breaking on the rocks was the sound
he heard.

Tom possessed a good memory, and he had not been studying maps of the
Western Front daily for nothing. He knew, very well indeed, the country
over which he had flown with poor Ralph Stillinger.

He had located to a nicety the spot where they mounted into the
fog-cloud to escape the German pursuit-planes. Then had come the
discovery of the Zeppelin beneath, and the catastrophe that had
followed.

The Zeppelin had been sailing seaward, and was near the coast at the
time Tom had so thrillingly boarded it; and he was sure that if it had
changed its course, this change had been to the southwestward. It was
following the French coast, rather than drifting over Belgium.

These ruminations were scarcely to the point, however; Tom desired to do
something, not to remain inactive.

But the time did not seem propitious. He dared not attempt breaking out
of his prison. And although he still had his automatic pistol, he would
be foolish to try to fight this whole German crew.

He was startled from his reverie by the unlocking of the door and the
odor of warm food. Nor was it “bully beef” or beans, the two staples
that gladden the hearts of the American soldier.

A meek-looking German private entered with a steaming tureen of ragout,
or stew, a plate of dark bread, and a mug of hot drink. He bowed to Tom
very ceremoniously and placed the tray on the couch.

“Der gomblements of der commander,” he said, gutturally, and backed out
of the narrow doorway.

“He’s all right, your commander!” exclaimed Tom impulsively, making for
the fare with all the zest of good appetite.

The German grinned, and faded out. He closed the door softly. Tom had
already dipped into the stew and found it excellent (and of rabbit)
before it crossed his mind that he had not heard the key click in the
lock of the door.

He stopped eating to listen. He heard nothing from the outer cabin.

“But that grinning, simple-looking Heinie may not be as foolish as he
appears. The fellow may have left the door unlocked to trap me,” Tom
muttered.

He continued to eat the plentiful meal furnished him, while he tried to
think the situation out to a reasonable conclusion. Had the German
forgotten to lock the door? Or was it a scheme to trap him? It already
mystified Tom why he had not been deprived of his pistol. He could not
understand such carelessness. Was the commander of the Zeppelin so
confident that he was both harmless and helpless?

He remembered that when he was first seized, upon leaping aboard the
aircraft, his captors had shown a strong desire to throw him off the
ship. The commander’s opportune arrival had undoubtedly saved him.

And here they were feeding him, and treating him very nicely indeed! It
puzzled Tom, if it did not actually breed suspicion in his mind.

“But then you can’t trust these Huns,” he told himself. “Maybe that chap
is out there now waiting to shoot me if I try to slip out of this little
office.”

He was not contented to let this question remain in the air. Tom was of
that type of young American who dares. He was ready to take a chance.

Besides, he had in his heart that desire, already set forth, to do
something to halt the Zeppelin raid over London. And he was serious in
this belief that it was possible for him to do something for the Allied
cause in memory of the brave American ace who had been killed almost at
his side.

When he had finished the meal he glanced forward through the narrow
window. At the moment there was nobody in sight on the forward deck. Tom
slid along the couch to the door. He put a tentative hand on the knob.



CHAPTER XX—THE STORM BREAKS


He turned the knob very slowly with his left hand. As Tom sat upon the
end of the couch he would be behind the door when he opened it. The
weapon the commander of the Zeppelin had neglected to take from him was
in his right hand, and ready for use.

He gently drew the door toward him. As he had supposed, it was not
locked. When it was ajar he waited for what might follow.

Then, through the aperture at the back of the door, he had a view of the
narrow cabin to its very end. Sufficient light entered through the
several windows of clouded glass to show him that there was nobody in
sight. Not even the private who had brought his lunch had lingered here.

Rising swiftly and with the pistol ready in his hand, the young American
stepped out of the closet in which he had been confined. There was a
small German clock screwed to the wall. It was now almost noon.

Crouching, ready to leap or run as the case might need, Tom approached
the other end of the cabin. There he could see through the dim pane of
the door, gaining a view of the afterdeck.

The mystery of the absence of all life forward was instantly explained.
More than a dozen of the crew and officers were gathered on the
afterdeck. They stood in a row along the deck, their heads bared, while
the _ober-leutnant_ read from a book.

Tom realized almost at once what the scene meant, and he shrank back
from the door. The crew could not hear, of course, the words the officer
pronounced; but they were all probably familiar with the service for the
dead in the Prayer Book.

Somehow the ceremony affected Tom Cameron strongly. At the feet of the
row of men were laid two bodies lashed in a covering, or shroud. They
were the men mowed down by the machine gun which Tom himself had
manipulated from the American airplane.

The Germans are sentimentalists, it must be confessed. They would take
time on their way to raid an enemy city from the air in a most cowardly
fashion, to read the burial service over their comrades.

For the airship was over the sea now, and, as though from the deck of a
sailing ship, the dead bodies could be slid into the water. But the
height from which they would fall was much greater than on any ocean
vessel.

The book was closed. Two bearers at the head and two at the feet of each
corpse raised them on narrow stretchers, the foot-ends of which were
rested upon the rail. A gesture from the officer, and the stretchers
were tipped. The bodies slid quietly over the rail and disappeared.

The officer put the Prayer Book in his pocket and adjusted his helmet
and goggles. The men with him followed suit. He dismissed them, and
almost at once the throbbing of the motors was increased.

Tom Cameron ran back to the closet and shut himself in. He felt sure the
commander would come through the cabin to the forward deck. However, the
German did not try the knob of the closet door.

Tom saw him pass along the deck to the pilot house, facing the stiff
gale. His garments blew about him furiously, and it seemed that the wind
had suddenly increased in violence.

The course of the airship was changed. Tom knew that, for the next time
a German passed along the deck he saw that his coat-tails flapped
sideways. The Zeppelin was being steered across the course of the gale.

If he could only get to the steering gear and do something to it—wreck
it in some way, at least, put it out of commission for a while. What
would happen to him did not matter. Tom Cameron had been taking chances
for some time.

He could feel the Zeppelin stagger under the beating of the fierce gale.
There was a black cloud just ahead of the flying craft. Suddenly this
cloud was striped again and again with yellow lightning.

Then how it did rain! The downpour slanted across the airship, beating
in waves, like those of a troubled sea, against the cabin framework. Tom
felt the whole structure rock and tremble.

He felt that the ship was rising. The commander purposed to get above
this electric storm. Again and again the lightning flashed. It ran along
the wires, limning each stay luridly.

In addition Tom began to feel the creeping cold of the higher atmosphere
searching through his clothing. He buttoned his leather coat and looked
about for something of additional warmth. The cold was seeping right
into the closet around the window frame.

Then it was that Tom found the blanket. He lifted the cushion on the
bench by chance, and there it was, neatly folded. This closet must be
used at times for a sleeping place.

He could barely see what he was about, for it had grown black outside.
Only the recurrent flashes of lightning illuminated the scene. And that
scene, when he stared through the window, was wild indeed.

Tom put on his helmet and the goggles fastened thereto and wrapped
himself in the blanket. He lay down with his head close to the window.
Slowly the Zeppelin was rising above the tempest. By and by the last
whisps of the storm-cloud disappeared; but the gale still thundered
through the wire stays of the ship and buffeted the great envelope above
the swinging cabin and bridges.

“Such a craft might be easily torn to pieces by the wind!” The thought
was not cheering, and Tom put it aside as he did all other depressing
ideas.

It seemed to him that he had already gone through so much that his life
was charmed. At least, he never felt less fear than he did at the
present time.

The sharp gale continued. The Zeppelin had risen much higher, but it
could not get above the wind-storm. Although it may have been steering
to a nicety, he was sure that the huge craft was drifting off her course
to a considerable degree.

After a couple of hours the commander of the Zeppelin came back from the
pilot-house. He saw Tom’s face pressed close to the window and waved his
hand.

When he entered the cabin Tom slipped back to the door and opened it a
narrow crack. The _ober-leutnant_ went right through the cabin and
disappeared.

Was the time ripe for Tom to carry out the scheme which had been slowly
forming in his mind? Was the moment propitious?

The young American hesitated. It meant peril—perhaps death—for him,
whether he succeeded or failed. He knew that well enough. Such an
attempt as he purposed might only be bred of desperation.

He tore off the helmet and goggles which had masked him. He rolled the
blanket and laid it along the bench as his own body had lain. On to the
end of the roll next the window he pulled the helmet and arranged the
goggles so that a glance through the window would show a man lying
apparently asleep on the cushioned bench.

Then he tied a handkerchief of khaki color over his head and prepared to
steal out of the closet, his pistol in his hand.



CHAPTER XXI—THE WRECK


Youth is fain to be reckless, but there was no lack of reasoning behind
Tom Cameron’s intention.

He was a prisoner on this airship which was bound on a raid over London.
If the Zeppelin was not brought down and wrecked on English soil, she
would return to her base and Tom would be sent to a German internment
camp for the duration of the war.

Imprisonment by the Hun was not a desirable fate to contemplate. If the
Zeppelin was brought down during the raid over London, he would very
likely be killed in its fall. He might as well risk death now, and
perhaps in doing so deliver a stroke that would make this raid
impossible.

He slipped out of the closet in which he had been confined and closed
the door behind him. He ran quickly to the after door of the long cabin,
which he had previously seen could be fastened upon the inside by a
bolt. He shot this bolt, and then ran forward again and opened the door
to the deck.

The wind almost took his breath. He was obliged to force the door shut
again with his shoulder, and stood panting to recover himself. There was
some considerable risk in facing the gale outside there.

It was impressed upon his mind more clearly now what it would mean if
the Zeppelin could no longer be steered. This gale would sweep the
airship down the English Channel and directly out into the Atlantic!

As this thought smoldered in his mind, others took fire from it. He
faced a desperate venture.

If he carried through his purpose, with the Germans manning this airship
he would be swept to a lingering but almost certain death.

The airship could not keep afloat for many hours. It took a deal of
petrol to drive the huge machine from its base to England and back
again. The store of fuel must be exhausted in a comparatively short
time, and the Zeppelin would slowly settle to the surface of the sea.

Under these conditions he was pretty sure to be drowned, even if the
Germans did not kill him immediately. He thought of his sister Helen—of
his father—of Ruth Fielding. Already, perhaps, the loss of Ralph
Stillinger and the airplane was known behind the French and British
lines. Helen must learn of the catastrophe in time. Ruth might hear of
the wreck of the airplane before she sailed for home.

Thought of the girl of the Red Mill well nigh unmanned Tom Cameron for a
moment. To attempt to carry through the scheme he had plotted in his
mind was, very likely, hastening his own death. Had he a right to do
this?

It was a hard question to decide. Personal fear did not enter into the
matter at all. The question was whether he owed his first duty to his
family and Ruth or to the cause which he and every other right-thinking
American had subscribed to when the United States got into this World
War.

That was the point! Tom Cameron sighed, shrugged his shoulders, and
again opened the door which gave egress to the forward deck of the
German airship.

He pulled the door shut and breasted the cutting wind that rocked the
airship as though she were in a heavy sea. He scrambled somehow along
the deck to the pilot-house. There was a square of the same clouded
glass in the door of this room. Through it he saw the shadow of a man
with a row of instruments before him as well as several levers under his
hand.

Tom had very little idea regarding the exact use of either the levers or
the instruments. But he knew that he could put the Zeppelin out of
commission with a few smashing blows if once he could get this man out
of the way.

This whole forward part of the ship seemed deserted save for the man
inside the room. Of course, the helmsman, or whatever he was called,
must be in communication with all other parts of the great aircraft. If
Tom would put his determination into practice he must overcome this
man—and that quickly.

He opened the door. The man was aware of his presence, for the roar of
the wind and the throbbing of the motors immediately reached the
German’s ears more acutely. Tom saw him turn his head to look over his
shoulder.

The young American had gripped his pistol by the barrel. He raised it
and with all his force brought the weapon’s butt down on the padded
helmet the man wore. Again and again he struck, while the fellow wheeled
about and tried to grapple with him.

Tom broke the German’s goggles and the face before him was at once
bathed in blood. Again and again he struck. The man sunk to his
knees—then supinely to the deck, lying across the threshold of the room.

The American strode over him and looked swiftly about the hut. In a
corner was fastened an iron bar. He seized it, and with repeated blows
smashed the clock-faces and more delicate instruments, as well as
beating the levers into a twisted wreck.

The Zeppelin lurched sideways, rolled, and then righted itself. But it
lost headway and Tom felt sure that it would drift now at the mercy of
the furious gale. He had accomplished his purpose.

But he had the result of his act to face. The other members of the crew
of the Zeppelin would be warned of the catastrophe almost immediately.
They would soon break through the door of the cabin and reach the
forward deck.

He stepped out of the wrecked hut and glanced back. Already the roar of
the motors was subsiding. He surely had put the whole works out of
commission.

Tom scrambled around the pilot-house into the extreme bow of the craft.
Here was a waist-high bin, or storage box, with a hinged cover. He
opened it and looked in. It seemed roomy, and there were only some cans
and boxes in the receptacle. In a flash he jumped in, lowered the cover,
and crouched there in the darkness.

What went on after that he could neither see nor hear. But he could feel
the pitching and rolling of the damaged Zeppelin! He knew, too, by that
peculiar sinking feeling at the pit of the stomach that attends such a
swift passage downward, that the ship was rapidly falling.

This lasted only for a few moments. Then the airship found a steadier
keel. It had not begun to spin as a biplane or a monoplane would have
done. In some way her descent had been stopped and her balance
recovered. But her motors had stopped entirely, and that meant that the
wind was driving her as it pleased.

With the cessation of the motors his ear became tuned to other
sounds—the shrieking of the wind through the stays and the thumping of
its blasts upon the elephant-like envelope. Nor was the passage the
craft made a smooth one.

Now and again it pitched as though about to dive into the sea. This sea
was roaring, too—a monotone of sound that could not be mistaken. The
aircraft was at the mercy of the elements.

He crouched in the box, quite ready to spring up and empty his pistol
into the faces of any of his enemies who lifted the cover. But for some
reason they did not track him here.

It could not be possible that they were long mystified as to who had
done the deed. The figure he had laid upon the bench in the little room
at the end of the closet would not have long led them astray. He had
brought about the disaster and the thought of it delighted him.

No matter what finally became of him, he had stopped this Zeppelin from
ever reaching the English shore! There was one cruel raid over London
halted in the very beginning. He could have shouted aloud in his
delight.

He thrust up the heavy cover of the box and cocked his ear to listen for
near-by sounds. There was considerable hammering and boisterous talk
going on, the sound of which he caught from moment to moment. But it was
mostly smothered in the roar of the waves and the shrieking of the wind.

They were very near the surface of the boisterous sea. He heard the
bursting of a wave below the airship and the spray of it, tossed high in
the air, swept across the structure and showered him as he crouched
under the open box lid. In a minute or two now, the Zeppelin would be a
hopeless wreck.

It came, indeed, more quickly than he had apprehended. There was a
sudden dip, and the craft was swerved half around with a mighty wrench
of parting stays and superstructure. A wave dashed completely over the
platform. He shut the cover of the box to keep out the water.

The next few minutes were indeed disastrous ones. He was in a sorry
situation. He did not know what was happening to the other castaways,
but he felt and heard the frame of the great airship being wrenched to
pieces by the ravenous sea.

The envelope boomed and tore at the frame for freedom. At last it must
have been wrenched free by the wind, and the sound of its booming and
clashing gradually drifted away. The box he was in rocked and pitched
like a small boat in the sea. He ventured to look out again, clearing
his eyes of the salt spray.

It was already evening. There was a lurid light upon the tossing waves.
Near him was a mass of twisted framework and a barge-like hulk that rode
high. Upon it he saw clinging several wind-swept figures.

Then the sea tore the bow of the forward deck of the Zeppelin entirely
free from the rest of the structure. Tom Cameron went drifting off to
leeward in his uncertain refuge.

The tumbling sea separated him from the Germans. Perhaps it was as well.

As his raft rose upon a wave he looked back into the deep trough and saw
the remains of the airship turning slowly, around and around, as though
being drawn down into the vortex of a whirlpool. His lighter craft shot
downward into the next valley, and that was the last glimpse Tom had of
the wrecked Zeppelin and its crew.



CHAPTER XXII—ADRIFT


Ruth Fielding did not close her eyes all that trying night. Morning
found her as wakeful in her stateroom as when she had been nailed into
it by Boldig, the leader of the German mutineers.

The situation of the _Admiral Pekhard_ was not difficult; and although
she was without steerage-way she was in no danger. There was a heavy
swell on from a storm that had passed somewhere to the northward; but
the night remained quite calm, if dark.

The thumping of the pumps continued until dawn. Then the water was
evidently cleared from the fireroom, and the men could go to work
cleaning the grates and making ready to lay new fires in all but the
damaged boiler.

There was much to do about the engine, however, to delay the putting of
the ship under steam. The water, rising as high as it had, had seeped
into the machinery and must be wiped out and the parts thoroughly oiled.

Thus far the signals by radio had not been answered by the approach of
the submarine that Boldig had reason to expect. As Ruth had heard him
boast, the big German submarine, No. 714, must be lurking near, awaiting
news of the British steamship from Brest.

The Germans had taken a big chance. Of course, the ship and the
submersible might not meet at all. Instead, a patrol boat might hail the
_Admiral Pekhard_, or catch her wireless calls. The Germans would be in
trouble then without doubt.

Of course they had the motor boat in which they had got away from the
ship in the first place. They could pile into that and make for some
port where they knew they had friends. There were such ports to the
south, for Spain was not as successfully neutral as her government would
have liked to be. German propaganda was active in that country.

Ruth was not in much fear at present as to her own treatment. The
mutineers had their hands full. What would finally happen to her if the
Germans carried their plans to fulfilment, was a question she dared not
contemplate.

Dowd and Rollife she presumed would be removed to the submarine and
taken back to Germany—if the submarine ever reached her base again. But
there were no provisions on submarines, she very well knew, for
women—prisoners or otherwise.

This uncertainty, although she tried to crowd the thought down, brought
her to the verge of despair when she allowed the topic to get possession
of her mind. And she despaired of Tom Cameron, as well. What had become
of him—if he was the passenger the unfortunate Ralph Stillinger had
taken up into the air with him on his last flight?

Had Tom really been killed? Had Helen learned his fate by this time?
Ruth wished she was back in Paris with her chum that they might
institute a search for Tom Cameron.

Nor was the girl of the Red Mill free from worry regarding those at
home. Uncle Jabez’s letter, which she had received before leaving the
hospital, had filled her heart with forebodings. She had written at once
to assure him and Aunt Alvirah that she was returning soon.

But now the time of that return seemed very doubtful indeed. If she was
sent to Germany as a prisoner—or kept aboard this steamship which the
Germans intended to make into a “mother ship” for U-boats—it might be
long months, even years, before she reached home.

Tom had said the war would soon be over; but there was no surety of
that. It was only a hope. Ruth might never again see the dear little old
woman whose murmured complaint of, “Oh, my back! and oh, my bones!” had
become the familiar quotation of Ruth and her young friends.

Aunt Alvirah was dear to Ruth. The girl desired more strongly than ever
before in her life to be with the poor old woman again.

She could no longer hear the snapping of the radio, now that daylight
had come. Either Krueger, the assistant and traitorous radio operator,
had managed to communicate with the commander of the German U-boat 714,
or further effort to this end was considered useless now. Another
attempt might be made again when night came. Ruth knew it to be a fact
that the German submersibles seldom rose to the surface of the sea and
put up their radio masts except at night.

It was during the dark hours that those sharks of the sea received
orders from Nauen, the great German radio station, and communicated with
each other, as well as with such supply ships as might be working in
conjunction with the submarines.

If these mutineers were successful in carrying out their plan, and made
a junction with the U-boat that carried a crew to supplement those
Germans already aboard the _Admiral Pekhard_, the enemy might succeed in
putting into commission a craft that would greatly aid in the submarine
warfare.

Thus far it had been so daringly conceived and well carried through that
the conspiracy promised to rise to one of the very greatest German
intrigues of the war. Its final success, however, rested on time and
place. The submarine and the stolen steamer must come together soon, or
the latter would surely run across one of the innumerable patrol ships
with which the Allies were scouring this part of the Atlantic.

It was noon before the beat of the _Admiral Pekhard’s_ propellers
announced that she was again under control. The rolling motion that had
finally become nauseating to even as good a sailor as Ruth, was now
overcome. The ship plowed through the sea steadily, if slowly.

Occasionally the girl heard a footstep pass her stateroom window; but
she kept the port nearly closed so that nobody could peer in. Some time
after the screw had started a man came and knocked on the pane.

She smelled coffee and heard the rattle of dishes; so she opened the
window.

The man thrust in to her a pot of coffee and a platter of ham and
eggs—coarse fare, but welcome, for Ruth found she had a robust appetite.
She placed a piece of silver in the man’s palm and heard a muttered
“Thank you!” in German.

She felt that it might be well to make a friend among the mutineers if
she could do so.

It was not long after she was fed that another footstep halted at her
open port. The voice of Boldig, the recreant officer of the ship came to
her ear.

“Do you want anything, Miss Fielding?” he asked.

At first she would not speak; but when he repeated his question, adding:

“You know, I can draw those nails in your door as well as I could hammer
them in,” she hastened to reply:

“I want nothing.”

He laughed most disagreeably. “You might as well be good natured about
it, my dear,” he said. “No knowing how long we shall be shipmates. I am
quite sure the commander of the submersible will not take _you_ aboard
his craft; so I fear you are apt to remain with us.”

She said nothing. The threat was only what she had feared. What could
she do or say? She was adrift on a sea of circumstances more terrifying
than the ocean itself.

Boldig went away laughing; she threw herself upon her berth, trembling
and weeping. All her spirit was broken now; she could not control the
fears that possessed her.



CHAPTER XXIII—AT THE MOMENT OF NEED


The bravest and most cheerful person will come after a time to a point
where he or she can bear no more with high courage. Nerves and will had
both given way in Ruth Fielding’s case. For an hour or more she was
merely a very ill, very much frightened young woman.

The injury she had suffered when the Clair hospital was bombed—that
injury which still troubled her physically—had naturally helped
undermine her wonderful courage and self-possession. The news from
Charlie Bragg of Tom Cameron’s possible disaster had likewise shaken
her. What had happened aboard this steamship during the past twenty-four
hours had completed her undoing.

Ruth Fielding had an unwavering trust in a Higher Power that guides and
guards; but she was no supine believer in what one preacher of a robust
doctrine has termed “leaving and loafing.” She considered it eminently
fit, while leaving results with the Almighty, to do all that she could
to bring things out right herself.

Therefore she did not wholly give way to either aches or pains or to the
feeling of helplessness that had come over her. Not for long did she
lose courage.

She got off her bed, closed the window, and proceeded to make a fresh
toilet. Meanwhile she considered how she might barricade her door if
Boldig removed the nails and attempted to enter the stateroom against
her will. Of course, the lock could easily be smashed.

She finally saw how she might move the bed between the door and the
washstand, so that the latter would brace the bed in such a way that the
door could not be forced inward. She could sleep in the bed in that
position, and she decided to take this precaution.

That was in case Boldig removed the spikes holding fast her door. Now
that she had considered the matter from every side, she was not sure but
she desired to have the German officer release her—no matter what his
reason might be for so doing.

She must, however, gain something else first. Her wit must win what her
physical force might not. She bided her time till evening.

Again the man came to her window with food. It proved to be another
platter of ham and eggs, flanked this time with a pot of wretched tea.

“Goodness!” exclaimed Ruth, “is ham and eggs all you know how to cook? I
shall be squealing, or clucking pretty soon. Is there nothing else to
eat aboard?”

“Ain’t no cook, Miss,” the man said. “We’re all so busy, anyway, that we
just have to get what we can quickly. I’m sorry,” for she had dropped
another half-dollar into his palm.

“Is there nobody to cook for you hard-working men?” repeated Ruth
briskly. “How many of you are there?”

“Eleven, Miss, counting Mr. Boldig.”

“Why, that’s not so many. And you feed Mr. Dowd and Mr. Rollife, of
course?”

“They haven’t had as much as you, Miss. Mr. Boldig said they could stand
a little fasting, anyway. We haven’t had any decent grub ourselves.”

“I could cook for you!” Ruth cried eagerly. “I’ll do it, too, if you men
want me to. I’d rather do that than be shut up here all the time.
And—then—I’d like a change from ham and eggs,” and she laughed.

“Yes, ma’am. I s’pected you would. But I don’t see——”

“You tell the other men what I say—that I would cook for you all if I
were let out of here. But I must be guaranteed that you will not harm me
if I do this.”

“Who’d want to harm you, Miss?” returned the man, with some sharpness.

“I don’t know that anybody would. I am sure if I worked for you, and
cooked for you, you would not see any of your mates hurt me?”

“No, indeed, Miss,” said the fellow warmly. “Nor anybody else. I’ll tell
the other boys. And I’ll speak to Mr. Boldig——”

“Send him here,” interrupted Ruth quickly. “Tell him I want to speak to
him. But you speak to your mates and tell them what I am willing to do.
If I cook for you I want ‘safe conduct.’”

“Of course, ma’am. Nobody shall hurt you. And I’ll tell Mr. Boldig to
come.”

Within half an hour she heard Boldig’s quick step upon the deck. He
barked in at the open window:

“What’s this you are up to, Miss Fielding? You’ll set my men all by the
ears. You are a dangerous character, I believe. What do you mean by
telling them you will cook for them if I let you out of your room?”

Ruth thought he was not so angry as he made out to be. She said boldly:

“I am willing to earn the good will of the men in that way, Mr. Boldig.
You know why I do it. I shall appeal to them if you undertake to treat
me in any way unbecoming your position as a gentleman and an officer.”

“You have a small opinion of me, Miss Fielding!” he exclaimed.

“That is your fault, not mine,” she told him coolly. “And I hope you
will show me that I am wrong.”

He went away without further word, and in a little while she heard
somebody drawing the nails from the doorframe.

“Who is that?” she asked before she unlocked the door.

“It’s me, ma’am,” said the rather drawling voice of the man Boldig
called “Fritz.”

He did not seem to be a typical German at least. When Ruth opened her
door she found the man to be rather a simple-looking fellow. He grinned
and touched his forelock.

“I’m to show you where they cook, Miss, and how to find the mess tins
and all. There’s a good fire in one of the galley ranges. The boys is
all your friends, Miss. You needn’t be afraid of us.”

“I am not at all afraid of you, Fritz,” she said, smiling at him. “I
count you as my friend aboard here, if nobody else is.”

“Sure you can count on me, Miss. You know,” he added confidentially, “I
ain’t a reg’lar German. Not like Mr. Boldig and these other fellers. I
was born in Boston, and I’d rather be right there now than over on this
side of the pond. But you needn’t tell anybody I said so.”

“I won’t say anything about it,” she told him, following him through the
passages toward the steward’s and cook’s quarters. “But why, then, if
your heart is not in this business, why did you join in the expedition
to take charge of the _Admiral Pekhard?_”

“Their money, Miss,” Fritz told her. “There’s a heap of money in it.
When I finish the voyage, though, I’m going to get back to the States.
I’m through with all this then. I’ll have money enough to open a shop of
my own.”

“And do you suppose you will be welcome at home, when people know of
your treachery?” asked Ruth indignantly.

“No, Miss. I won’t be welcome if they know it. But they won’t. I ain’t
fool enough to tell ’em.”

In ten minutes Ruth had learned all that was necessary for her to know
about the cooking quarters and the tools she had to work with. There was
a good fire, as Fritz had said, and she at once went to work on baking
powder biscuit—and she made a heap of them. She knew that thirteen men
(counting the two prisoners aft) could eat a lot of bread. In the cold
storage room was fresh meat and plenty of bacon and ham. She had to work
alone, for the Germans had all they could do to steer the ship, keep
lookout, stoke the fires and run the engines properly. She wondered that
they got any sleep at all, and Fritz admitted to her that they were only
allowed two hours’ relief at a time.

Boldig was a driver; but he was just the sort of man to head such a
piratical expedition as this. He worked hard himself, and knew how to
get every ounce of work possible out of those under him.

He looked in at Ruth working in the kitchen, and spoke quite nicely to
her. Perhaps the great plate of biscuits, pork chops, and French fried
potatoes she gave him to take up to the wheelhouse, caused him to
consider her wishes to a degree.

Later she insisted that Mr. Dowd and Rollife, the radio man, should have
their share. She made one of the men go to Boldig for the keys to their
rooms, and she piled a tray high with good things for the prisoners to
eat. Boldig would not let her go herself to the men in durance. He would
not trust her to talk with them.

She washed her dishes, banked her fire, and laid out what she purposed
to cook for breakfast. Then, very tired indeed and with the lame
shoulder fairly “jumping,” she retired to her stateroom. It was then ten
o’clock, and having had no sleep at all the night before Ruth was
desperately tired.

She entered her room, locked the door, and pushed the bed as she had
planned between the door and the stationary washstand. Then she went to
bed, feeling that she would be safe.

But nobody had to wake her in the morning. The sea had become rough over
night, and at the slow pace she was traveling the _Admiral Pekhard_
rolled a good deal in the roughening waves.

Ruth awoke with a bright idea in her head, and she proceeded to put it
into execution as soon as she got the men’s breakfast out of the way.
For Boldig and the chief officer and radio man, as well as herself, she
had some of Aunt Alvirah’s griddle cakes with eggs and bacon. Between
two of the cakes she put on one of the plates for the imprisoned men,
she slipped a paper on which she had written before leaving her
stateroom:

  “I am free while I do the cooking. I can get to your rooms if I only
  had keys to free you. Tell me what to do. R. F.”

She had given her word to Boldig to do no harm; but she did not think
this was breaking her word. It might be possible for Mr. Dowd, Rollife
and herself to get free—even free of the ship. The motor boat was still
trailing the steamship, although if the sea became much rougher she
presumed the mutineers would have to find some means of getting the
launch inboard.

Half an hour later Boldig came into the galley, his face aflame. He
slapped down the piece of paper she had written her note on before Ruth,
and glared at her.

“It is impossible to trust a woman!” he growled. “Did you suppose I
would let you send food to those fellows without examining it myself? I
am not so foolish. Now, my lady, you shall keep on cooking; but your
friends aft there can go without anything fancy. I’ll take them what I
please hereafter.”

He turned on his heel and whipped out of the place. Ruth was almost in
tears. And they were not inspired by terror, although she had been
startled by the man’s words and look. It seemed that she was not to be
able to aid her friends—or herself—to escape.

Yet, even in her grief and in the midst of her worry, a gleam of
amusement came to her at Boldig’s, “It is impossible to trust a woman.”
This from a traitor—a person impossible to trust!

But even Fritz had not much to say to her when he came to help peel
vegetables for the men’s dinner. He admitted to her that thus far
Krueger had not been able to pick up any word from the submersible that
had been engaged to meet the pirates if they accomplished their part of
the plot—which they had. The radio was crackling most of the day,
showing that the leaders of the mutineers were getting anxious.

After she had cleared up the dinner dishes (and that was no easy work,
because of her lame shoulder) Ruth went and lay down. She took the
trouble to brace the bedstead against the washstand as before. Some time
after she had fallen asleep she was awakened by a noise at the door. She
awoke with her gaze fastened on the knob, and was sure it was being
turned. But the door was locked as well as barricaded.

Before she could be positive that anybody was there who meant her harm,
there was a sudden hail from the open deck. She heard several men
running. Then a shout in German:

“Mr. Boldig! It is a man afloat! Man overboard!”

Ruth thought she heard somebody run from her door.

She arose and tremblingly put on her dress. Then she hastened to pull
aside the bed and open her door. She felt that she was safer out upon
deck. Besides, she was curious to know what the cry had meant.



CHAPTER XXIV—COUNTERPLOT


To one who had been more than forty-eight hours drifting in a
scuttle-butt in mid-Atlantic, the sight of almost any kind of craft
would have been welcome. Tom Cameron hailed first the plume of drifting
smoke, then the mast and stacks, and then the high, camouflaged bow of
the _Admiral Pekhard_ with a joy that increased deliriously as he became
assured that the ship was steaming head-on to his poor raft.

The steamship was moving very slowly, and it was hours before, waving
his coat frantically as he stood in his bobbing craft, he knew he had
been sighted by the lookout. The latter had not expected to see anything
like Tom and the remains of the wrecked Zeppelin in these waters. The
lookout had been straining his eyes to catch sight of a periscope.

It was providential that the course of the _Admiral Pekhard_ was
bringing her almost directly toward the drifting bit of wreckage. She
was almost on top of Tom before the lookout hailed and Boldig ran up to
the bridge to get a better look at the object which had caused the
excitement.

“That is no part of an underseas boat!” cried Boldig to the lookout.
“What is it?”

“There is a man in it—see! He waves his coat. It looks like a boat—no!
It is one mystery, Herr Boldig.”

But the latter now had his glasses fixed on the drifting raft. He saw
the broken stays, the slipper-shaped bow of the Zeppelin, and he
suddenly understood. It was not the first wreck of a Zeppelin’s frame
work that he had seen floating in the sea; but it was the first in which
he had seen a living man.

Boldig himself hailed—hailed in German. And fortunately for Tom Cameron
he replied in the same language. His accent was irreproachable. Had it
not been, the German officer might have thought twice about attempting
to rescue the lone castaway.

The young American had no idea at first that this was a German-manned
steamship—that she had been boldly taken over on the high seas by a gang
of German pirates. Yet he was sharp enough to realize almost at once
that there was something wrong with her.

No passengers on her decks, no officers on her bridge until this one
hailed him, and no crew along her waist watching him. Besides she was
coming along at such a crippled gait.

He knew she must be a passenger ship, and the Union Jack at her masthead
showed her nationality. But where was she going and why was she not
convoyed?

Tom had already seen the smoke of several destroyers or converted
trawlers, but had not been himself sighted by their lookouts. This was
his first chance of rescue, and he was not at all particular just then
who the people were aboard the _Admiral Pekhard_, as he saw she was
named. With that name and under that flag she must be a British ship. As
he was drifting in a part of a German Zeppelin, he naturally expected to
be taken aboard as a prisoner. Yet he did or said nothing to reveal his
true identity for the time being. If they wished to think him a German
at first, all right; explanations could come later.

Boldig called three men to man the motor boat that trailed astern. He
had to stop the ship’s engines to do this, for steam could not be kept
up without the small force of stokers at his command working at top
speed through their entire watch. The whole crew were almost exhausted.
Those whose watch it was below at this time must be allowed to sleep to
recover their strength. It was a ticklish situation in more ways than
one.

The _Admiral Pekhard_ began to roll in the trough of the sea. As she
rolled toward him Tom could better see her deck and upperworks. He
marked a woman’s figure come out of the after companion on the upper
deck. She stood there alone and shaded her eyes with her hand as she
looked off at him.

The siege Tom Cameron had been through since the Zeppelin was wrecked
had racked his body a good deal, but by no means had it weakened his
mind. He was sure there was something wrong with this craft. The three
men were an hour in tuning up the motor-boat engine and getting that
craft near enough to his raft to take Tom aboard.

The latter saw that neither of the three men was an officer. One was
Fritz, and he spoke to the castaway in English. But Tom was wary. There
was a flaxen-haired, big-bodied fellow who glowered at him and spoke
nothing but German.

“You fell with an airship—yes?” this man asked, and Tom nodded.

The American had done secret service work behind the German lines on one
occasion. There he had assumed the character of a Prussian military
officer, and gradually he took on the attitude that he had used
familiarly at that time. His speech and appearance bore out the claim he
meant to make if these people proved to be Germans, as he more than half
suspected. How the Germans ever got control of a British ship was a
mystery!

Boldig met Tom Cameron at the rail when he came up the captain’s ladder.
He offered a hand that the American was forced to accept.

“You have the good fortune to escape both peril by air and sea, _Mein
Herr?_” said Boldig. “Your companions?”

“Are gone,” Tom replied in German, shaking his head. “I am of all, the
lone fortunate. ‘The survival of the fit’—is it not so? We were bound
for London. Because I had lived there much, I was to pilot _Herr
Leutnant-Commander_ over the city!”

“Ah!” said Boldig. “I thought you did not seem entirely German.”

“It is the heart that counts, is it not?” Tom returned.

He knew this arrogant-looking man must be a German through and through.
The British flag flying over the ship did not reassure him. He had
ventured his story of being the Zeppelin pilot as a bit of camouflage.
If he was mistaken—if this was an honest vessel and crew—he carried
papers in his money belt that would explain who he really was.

“And you, _Mein Herr?_” Tom asked with a gesture indicating the _Admiral
Pekhard’s_ empty decks.

“Our story you shall learn later,” said Boldig. “But rest assured. You
are among friends.”

He hastened to show the flaxen-haired man and Fritz how properly to pay
off the line holding the motor boat in trail. The engines started again,
and the ship began to pull ahead.

Tom, standing upon the after deck, gazed quietly around him. He felt
that the situation was strained. There was something threatening in the
pose of Boldig after all. This was no tramp steam freighter with half a
crew. No, indeed! She was a well found and well furnished passenger
craft. Where were the crew and passengers that should be aboard of her?

And just then he saw a white hand beckoning at the after cabin
companionway. He remembered the woman he had observed from the wreck of
the Zeppelin standing at that doorway. Swiftly Tom crossed the deck
behind Boldig’s back and reached the door which was open more than a
crack.

The hand seized his own. The touch thrilled him before he heard her
voice or caught a glimpse of Ruth Fielding’s face.

“Tom! Tom Cameron!” she murmured. “You are saved and have been sent to
me.”

“Ruth!” He almost fell down the stairway to reach her. He took her in
his arms with such ardor that she could not escape. In that moment of
reunion and relief she met his lips with as frank and warm a kiss as
though she had really been his sister.

“Tom! Dear Tom!” she murmured.

“Great heavens, Ruth! how did you come here? What is the meaning of this
business? Those Germans out there——?”

“And there are only two faithful men aboard—the first officer and the
radio chief. Both locked in their rooms, Tom. We are four against eleven
of these pirates!”

“Pirates!”

“No less,” the girl hastened to say. “I cannot tell you all now. The
others escaped in the small boats; but Mr. Dowd, Mr. Rollife, and I were
left. Then the German members of the crew, and this officer, Boldig,
came back and took the ship. They expect a big submarine with an extra
crew to pick them up.”

“What under the sun——”

“Oh!” gasped Ruth, hearing Boldig outside. “Here he comes! He has been
so brutal—so disgusting! Oh, Tom!”

Her friend wheeled and leaped up the stair again. As he went he drew the
automatic pistol from his bosom where he had hidden it and kept it dry.
As Boldig thrust back the door Tom pushed the muzzle of his weapon
against the man’s breast.

“Up with your hands!” Tom commanded. “Quick!”

Boldig fell back a pace. Tom followed him out on the open deck. He
reached quickly and snatched the pistol from the German’s holster with
his left hand.

Then, his eye flickering to the men at the rail and seeing the
flaxen-haired man trying to draw his pistol, Tom sent one bullet in that
direction. The man, Guelph, sank, groaning, to the deck.

“Pick up that pistol, muzzle first, and bring it here!” commanded Tom to
Fritz, and the latter obeyed quite meekly. Neither he nor the third
seaman was armed. After all, Boldig did not trust his underlings.

“How shall we get your two friends out of their rooms?” Tom asked Ruth
without looking around at her, for he kept his gaze upon Boldig and the
others.

“That man has the keys to their staterooms.”

“Come and search his pockets,” said Tom. “Don’t stand between me and
him. Understand?” he added to Boldig. “I will shoot to kill if you try
any tricks. Keep your hands up!”

Was this Tom Cameron, Ruth thought? She had never seen Tom assume such a
character before. She had forgotten what army training had done for her
childhood’s friend. When he had come to see her on his leaves-of-absence
from the front he had seemed all boy as usual. But now!

She found the keys, and in five minutes Mr. Dowd and Mr. Rollife, armed
from the right collection of weapons in the captain’s room this time,
joined the wonderfully arrived castaway on the open deck.

Dowd had handcuffs, too, and Boldig, Fritz, and the other unwounded
seamen were quickly manacled and shut into separate rooms below.

Ruth tried to make the wounded Guelph more comfortable, although he was
not seriously hurt. While she was doing this, and her three friends were
searching the rest of the crew for arms and separating them so that they
could do no harm, the girl chanced to glance over the rail and saw a
sight that called forth a cry of rejoicing from her very heart.

There was a gray, swiftly steaming ship, a warship, bearing down upon
the _Admiral Pekhard_, and the Stars and Stripes was at her masthead!



CHAPTER XXV—HOME AS FOUND


To clear up all the mysteries about their adventures—about Tom’s
wonderful flight in the airplane, his capture by the Zeppelin’s
commander, his wrecking of the Hun machine, his providential escape from
the sea; as well, the trials and dangers through which Ruth had
passed—to clear up all these things certainly took much time. It was not
until the excitement was over that they really could talk it all out.

For at first came happenings almost as exciting as those that had
already taken place. The _Seattle_ had more to do than merely to take
the Germans aboard as prisoners and Ruth and her friends as honored
passengers, while they put a prize crew on the _Admiral Pekhard_.

For the German plot had been so far-reaching, and it had come so near
being carried through to a successful finish, that the commander of the
_Seattle_, of the fast cruiser type, bound home for orders, felt an
attempt must be made to punish the Germans connected with the plot.

That U-boat 714 must be caught. They made the assistant wireless
operator, Krueger, admit that within the hour he had caught a message
from the U-boat and had sent one in reply. The submarine would arrive
about nightfall, Krueger said.

The commander of the American cruiser made his plans quickly. He sent a
large crew aboard the _Admiral Pekhard_. Then the cruiser steamed away
to a distance. But she was a very fast ship and she did not remain far
out of sight of the British steamship.

Mr. Rollife had insisted on remaining at his post. The chatter of the
_Admiral Pekhard’s_ radio kept the American commander in touch with all
that went on. When the submarine appeared on the surface, not many
hundred yards away from the ship that was supposed to be in the hands of
German plotters, the _Seattle_ started for the spot at top-speed.

It was a great race! Tom was as excited as any sailor aboard, and until
it was all over he was not content to remain with Ruth below decks.

Four of the cruiser’s prize crew, masquerading as Germans, manned the
motor boat and shot over to the gray side of the huge submarine. They
could all speak German. They fooled the U-boat commander, _Herr
Kapitan-Leutnant_ Scheiner, nicely. He sent his first in command and the
special crew brought from the submarine base at Kiel to the passenger
ship, crowding the small launch to the very guards.

When these men went, one by one, up the ladder, they were met behind the
shelter of the rail by a number of determined American blue jackets, who
disarmed them and knocked them down promptly if they ventured to offer
resistance.

Before the smoke of the _Seattle_ was sighted the two deck guns of the
_Admiral Pekhard_, their breechlocks replaced, were trained upon the
open hatch of the U-714. Through a trumpet the officer in command of the
crew from the _Seattle_ ordered _Kapitan-Leutnant_ Scheiner to surrender
his boat and crew.

When he made a dive for the open hatch, the forward gun of the British
ship, manned by American gunners, put a shell right down that
hatchway—and Scheiner was instantly killed.

The _Admiral Pekhard_ was sent to Plymouth, as that port was nearer than
Brest. Besides, the _Seattle’s_ commander had learned already by radio
that the entire ship’s company of the British ship had safely reached
that port.

Mr. Dowd and Rollife went with the _Admiral Pekhard_; but after due
consideration, and listening to the pleadings of Ruth Fielding and Tom
Cameron, the latter pair were allowed to remain aboard the American
cruiser.

“You are due to reach New York anyway, Miss Fielding,” said the
commander. “And from what he tells me of his experience, I believe
Captain Cameron has earned a furlough. Although I presume he will first
have to be reported as being absent without leave.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

All this is in the past, now. It seemed to Ruth Fielding, standing on
the porch of the old farmhouse attached to the Red Mill and looking down
the rutted highway, that many, many of her experiences during the months
of war must have been dreams.

Even the injured shoulder troubled her no more. She was her old
vigorous, cheerful self again. Yet there was a difference. There was a
poise of mind and a seriousness about the girl of the Red Mill that
would never again wear off. No soul that has been seared in any way by
the awful flame of the Great War will ever recover from it. The scar
must remain till death.

The war was well nigh over. Tom’s prophecy was to be fulfilled. The Hun,
driven to madness by his own sins, could fight no more. The actual
fighting might end any day. On a ship coming homeward were Helen and
Jennie—the latter with a tall and handsome French colonel at her side,
who had been given special leave of absence from the French Intelligence
Department.

Ruth saw an automobile swing into the road a couple of miles away and
grow larger and larger very rapidly as it rushed down toward her. She
wound a chiffon veil about her head as she called back into the open
doorway of the farmhouse kitchen:

“Tom is coming, Aunty. I sha’n’t be long away.”

“All right, my pretty! All right!” returned the voice of Aunt Alvirah,
quite strong and cheerful again. “Oh, my back! and oh, my bones! All
right!”

She hobbled to the door on her cane. Her apple-withered cheeks had a
little color after all. The little old woman began to mend the moment
she set eyes on “her pretty” again.

When the automobile pulled down at the gate for Ruth to step in beside
the begoggled Tom and the engine was shut off, they could hear the
grinding of the mill-stones. Times had improved. Uncle Jabez, as dusty
and solemn of visage as ever, but with a springier step than was his
wont, came to the door and waved a be-floured hand to them.

“All right, Ruthie?” asked Tom, smiling at her.

“Quite all right, Tom.”

“Got the whole day free, have you?”

“Until supper time. We can take a nice, long jaunt.”

“I wish it was going to continue forever—just for you and me, Ruth!” he
murmured longingly, as he slipped in the clutch and the engine began to
purr. “A life trip, dear!”

“Well,” returned Ruth Fielding, looking at him with shining eyes, “who
knows?”


                                THE END



MOTHER’S BIRTHDAY

  Quiet in the kitchen,
  Still as any mouse,
  Not a sign of any
  Children in the house.
  Mother starts to fidget,
  Wonders where they are,
  It would not be like them
  To have wandered far.
  Just as she’s decided
  To investigate,
  There’s a little rustle,
  Clatter of a plate.
  Wide the door is opened
  As the latch bar lifts,
  Comes a gay procession
  Bearing love and gifts;
  Bearing joy and Jell-O
  Smiles and love and cakes;
  Jell-O made by Janey,
  And what care she takes
  As she brings to Mother
  For her birthday treat
  This dessert delicious
  And such fun to eat!
  Bobby follows after
  With a laden dish,
  Waiting for the time to
  Shout a birthday wish.
  ‘Course it doesn’t matter
  If he spills a few,
  Can’t see Mother’s eyes and
  Keep it level, too!
  “What a happy birthday,”
  Lovely Mother cries
  “Smiles and cakes and Jell-O
  For a big surprise!”

There are six pure fruit flavors of Jell-O: Strawberry, Raspberry,
Lemon, Orange, Cherry and Chocolate. Every child wants the little book,
“Miss Jell-O Gives a Party,” and we will send it free upon request, but
be sure your name and address are plainly written.

_America’s most famous dessert_

Jell-O

THE JELL-O COMPANY, Inc. Le Roy, N. Y. Bridgeburg, Ont.

_Reprinted by permission of John Martin’s Book, the Child’s Magazine_



THE RUTH FIELDING SERIES

By ALICE B. EMERSON


12mo. Illustrated. Jacket in full colors.

Price 50 cents per volume. Postage 10 cents additional.

Ruth Fielding was an orphan and came to live with her miserly uncle. Her
adventures and travels make stories that will hold the interest of every
reader.

Ruth Fielding is a character that will live in juvenile fiction.

     1. RUTH FIELDING OF THE RED MILL
     2. RUTH FIELDING AT BRIARWOOD HALL
     3. RUTH FIELDING AT SNOW CAMP
     4. RUTH FIELDING AT LIGHTHOUSE POINT
     5. RUTH FIELDING AT SILVER RANCH
     6. RUTH FIELDING ON CLIFF ISLAND
     7. RUTH FIELDING AT SUNRISE FARM
     8. RUTH FIELDING AND THE GYPSIES
     9. RUTH FIELDING IN MOVING PICTURES
    10. RUTH FIELDING DOWN IN DIXIE
    11. RUTH FIELDING AT COLLEGE
    12. RUTH FIELDING IN THE SADDLE
    13. RUTH FIELDING IN THE RED CROSS
    14. RUTH FIELDING AT THE WAR FRONT
    15. RUTH FIELDING HOMEWARD BOUND
    16. RUTH FIELDING DOWN EAST
    17. RUTH FIELDING IN THE GREAT NORTHWEST
    18. RUTH FIELDING ON THE ST. LAWRENCE
    19. RUTH FIELDING TREASURE HUNTING
    20. RUTH FIELDING IN THE FAR NORTH
    21. RUTH FIELDING AT GOLDEN PASS
    22. RUTH FIELDING IN ALASKA

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, _Publishers_ NEW YORK





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