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Title: The Liberty Girl
Author: Halsey, Rena I.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Liberty Girl" ***

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



courtesy of the Digital Library@Villanova University
(http://digital.library.villanova.edu/))



[Illustration: “Ah there, girls! How are you?”—Page 11.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                  THE
                              LIBERTY GIRL

                                   BY
                             RENA I. HALSEY

                Author of “Blue Robin, the Girl Pioneer”
                        and “America’s Daughter”


                  ILLUSTRATED BY NANA FRENCH BICKFORD



                             [Illustration]


                                 BOSTON
                       LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        Published, August, 1919



                            Copyright, 1919
                     By Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.

                                -------

                          All rights reserved

                                -------

                            THE LIBERTY GIRL



                             Norwood Press

                          BERWICK & SMITH CO.
                             NORWOOD, MASS.
                                U. S. A.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                               INSCRIBED,
                        WITH DEEP APPRECIATION,

                                   TO

                         THE SONS OF LIBERTY,—

                ALL THOSE SOLDIERS, SEAMEN, AND AIRMEN,
                      WHO HAVE HEROICALLY GIVEN OF
                           THEIR BEST FOR THE
                              BROTHERHOOD
                                 OF MAN

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

         CHAPTER                                             PAGE
               I “God Speed You”                               11
              II Giving Her Best                               28
             III The Liberty Girls                             46
              IV The Liberty Garden                            60
               V The Liberty Pageant                           73
              VI The Strange Letter                            89
             VII The Visit to Camp Mills                      106
            VIII Seven Pillars                                121
              IX The Little Old Lady in the Red House         133
               X The Sweet-Pea Ladies                         147
              XI The Ride Through the Notch                   164
             XII Nathalie’s Liberty Boys                      179
            XIII “The Mountains with the Snowy Foreheads”     194
             XIV “Sons of Liberty”                            211
              XV The Gallery of the Gods                      222
             XVI Butternut Lodge                              238
            XVII The Cabin on the Mountain                    256
           XVIII The Liberty Cheer                            275
             XIX “The White Comrade”                          288
              XX The Liberty Tea                              302
             XXI The Funnies                                  322
            XXII The Man in the Woods                         334
           XXIII A Mystery Solved                             348
            XXIV The Winner of the Prize                      362

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             ILLUSTRATIONS

          “Ah there, girls! How are you?” (Page 11)    Frontispiece

                                                        FACING PAGE
          “My name is Liberty,
            My throne is Law”                                    76

          “Is that your dog? Oh, I love dogs!”                  184

          The girl found herself gazing into the
          sun-tanned face of a young man in khaki               232

          Nathalie bent over in anxious solicitude              260

          “Oh, it is Philip, my son!”                           476

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            THE LIBERTY GIRL


                               CHAPTER I

                            “GOD SPEED YOU”


“Oh, Nathalie, I do believe there’s Grace Tyson in her new motor-car,”
exclaimed Helen Dame, suddenly laying her hand on her companion’s arm as
the two girls were about to cross Main Street, the wide, tree-lined
thoroughfare of the old-fashioned town of Westport, Long Island.

Nathalie Page halted, and, swinging about, peered intently at the
brown-uniformed figure of a young girl seated at the steering-wheel of
an automobile, which was speeding quickly towards them.

Yes, it was Grace, who, in her sprightliest manner, her face aglow from
the invigorating breezes of an April afternoon, called out, “Ah there,
girls! How are you? Oh, my lucky star must have guided me, for I have
something thrilling to tell you!” As she spoke the girl guided the car
to the curb, and the next moment, with an airy spring, had landed on the
ground at their side.

With a sudden movement the uniformed figure clicked her heels together
and bent stiffly forward as her arm swung up, while her forefinger
grazed her forehead in a military salute. “I salute you, comrades,” she
said with grave formality, “at your service as a member of the Motor
Corps of America.

“Yes, girls,” she shrilled joyously, forgetting her assumed rôle in her
eagerness to tell her news, “I’m on the job, for I’m to see active
service for the United States government. I’ve just returned from an
infantry drill of the Motor Corps at Central Park, New York.

“No, I’ll be honest,” she added laughingly, in answer to the look of
amazed inquiry on the faces of her companions, “and ’fess’ that I didn’t
have the pleasure of drilling in public, for I’m a raw recruit as yet.
We recruits go through our manual of arms at one of the New York
armories, drilled by a regular army sergeant. Oh, I’ve been in training
some time, for you know I took out my chauffeur’s and mechanician’s
State licenses last winter.

“One has to own her car at this sort of government work,”—Grace’s voice
became inflated with importance,—“and be able to make her own repairs
on the road if necessary. But isn’t my new car a Jim Dandy?” she asked,
glancing with keen pride at the big gray motor, purring contentedly at
the curb. “It was a belated Christmas gift from grandmother.

“But I tell you what, girls,” she rattled on, “I’ve been put through the
paces all right, but I’ve passed my exams with flying colors. Phew!
wasn’t the physical exam stiff!—before a regular high official of the
army medical corps. I was inoculated for typhoid, and for paratyphoid.
I’ll secretly confess that I don’t know what the last word means. Yes,
and I took the oath of allegiance to the United States Government,
administered by another army swell,—and that’s where my Pioneer work
proved O. K. And then we had the First Aid course, too, at St. Luke’s.
The head nurse, who gave us special lessons in bandaging, said I was A
No. 1; and in wigwagging, oh, I did the two-flag business just dandy.”

“But what is your special work?” asked Nathalie, for the two girls were
somewhat surprised and bewildered by all these high-sounding,
official-like terms. To be sure, Grace had long been known as an expert
driver, but she had never shown her efficiency in any way but by giving
the girls joy-rides once in a while; yes, and once she had driven her
father to New York.

But war work, thought Nathalie, for this aristocratic-looking,
sweet-faced young girl, whose eyes gleamed merrily at you from under the
peaked army cap—with its blue band and the insignia of the Corps, a
tire surmounted by Mercury’s wings—set so jauntily on the fluffy hair.
To be sure the slim, trim figure in the army jacket, short skirt over
trousers, and high boots did have a warlike aspect, but it was
altogether too girlish and charming to be suggestive of anything but a
toy soldier, like one of the tiny painted tin things that Nathalie used
to play with when a wee tot.

“Do? Why, I am a military chauffeur,” returned Grace patronizingly, “and
in the business of war-relief work for the Government. At present I’m to
act as chauffeur to one of our four lieutenants, Miss Gladys Merrill.
Oh, she’s a dear! I have to drive her all over the city when she is
engaged on some Government errand. You should see me studying the police
maps, and _then_ you would know what I do. Sometimes we are called to
transport some of the army officers from the railroad station to the
ferry, or to headquarters. Then we do errands for the Red Cross, too.

“Why, the other day I helped to carry a lot of knitted things down on
the pier, to be packed in a ship bound for the other side; they were for
the soldiers at the front. We do work for the National Defense, and for
the Board of Exemption. I’m doing my ‘bit,’ even if it is a wee one,
towards winning the war,” ended the girl, with a note of satisfaction in
her voice.

“O dear, but wouldn’t I like to drive an ambulance in France! But I’ve
got to be twenty-one to do that sort of work,”—the girl sighed. “But
did I tell you that brother Fred is doing American Field Service? I had
a letter from him yesterday, and he said that he and a lot of American
boys have established a little encampment of ambulances not far from the
front-line trench. They live in what was once a château belonging to
Count Somebody or Another, but now it is nothing but a shell.

“Oh, Fred thinks it is glorious fun,” cried the girl, with sparkling
eyes. “He has to answer roll-call at eight in the morning, and then he
eats his breakfast at a little café near. He has just black
bread,—_think of that_, coffee, and, yes, sometimes he has an egg. Then
he has to drill, clean his car, and—oh, but he says it’s a great sight
to see the aëroplanes constantly flying over his head, like great
monsters of the air. And sometimes he goes wild with excitement when he
sees an aërial battle between a Boche and a French airman.

“Yes, he declares it is ‘some’ life over there,” animatedly continued
Grace, “for even his rest periods are thrilling, for they have to dodge
shells, and sometimes they burst over one’s head. Several times he
thought he was done for. And at night the road near the château is
packed with hundreds of _marching_ guns, trucks of ammunition, and war
supplies and cavalry, all on their way to the front.

“But when he goes in his ambulance after the _blessés_—they are the
poor wounded soldiers—it is just like day, for the sky is filled with
star-shells shooting around him in all colors, and then there is a
constant cannonading of shells and shot of all kinds. When he hears a
purr he knows it’s a Boche plane and dodges pretty lively, for if he
doesn’t ‘watch out’ a machine-gun comes sputtering down at him. He’s
awfully afraid of them because they drop bombs.

“But he says it would make your heart ache to see him when he carries
the _blessés_. He has to drive them from the _postes de secours_—the
aid-stations—to the hospitals. He has to go _very_ slowly, and even
then you can hear the poor things groan and shriek with the agony of
being moved. And sometimes,” Grace lowered her voice reverently, “when
he goes to take them out of the ambulance he finds a dead soldier.

“But dear me,” she continued in a more cheerful tone, “he seems to like
the life and is constantly hoping—I believe he dreams about it in his
sleep—that he’ll soon have a shot at one of those German fiends. Yes, I
think it would be gloriously exciting,” ended Grace with a half sigh of
envy.

“Gloriously exciting?” repeated Nathalie with a shudder. “Oh, Grace, I
should think you would be frightfully worried. Suppose he should lose
his life some time in the darkness of the night, alone with those
wounded soldiers? O dear,” she ended drearily, “I just wish some one
would shoot or kill the Kaiser! Sometimes I wish I could be a Charlotte
Corday. Don’t you remember how she killed Murat for the sake of the
French?”

“Why, Nathalie,” cried Helen with amused eyes, “I thought you were a
pacifist, and here you are talking of shooting people.” And the girl’s
“Ha! ha!” rang out merrily.

Nathalie’s color rose in a wave as she cried decidedly, “Helen, I’m
_not_ a pacifist. Of course I want the Allies to win. I believe in the
war—only—only—I do not think it is necessary to send our boys across
the sea to fight.”

“But I do,” insisted Helen, “for this is God’s war, a war to give
liberty to everybody in the world, and that makes it _our_ war. We
should be willing to fight, to give the rights and privileges of
democracy to other people, and our American boys are not slackers who
let some one else do their work.”

“_Our_ boys! You mean _my boy_,” said Nathalie, with sudden bitterness.
“It’s all right for _you_ to talk, Helen, but _you_ haven’t a brother to
go and stand up and be mercilessly bayoneted by those Boches. And that
is what Dick will have to do.” Nathalie choked as she turned her head
away.

“Yes, Nathalie dear,” replied Helen in a softened tone, “I know it is a
terrible thing to have to give up your loved ones to be ruthlessly shot
down. But what are we going to do?” she pleaded desperately, “we must do
what is right and leave the rest to God, for, as mother says, ‘God is in
his Heaven.’ And Dick wants to go,” she ended abruptly, “he told me so
the other day.”

“Yes, that is just it,” cried Nathalie in a pitifully small voice, “and
he says that he is not going to wait to be drafted. Oh, Helen, mother
and I cannot sleep at night thinking about it!” Nathalie turned her face
away, her eyes dark and sorrowful. No, she did not mean to be a coward,
but it just rent her heart to picture Dick going about armless, or a
helpless cripple shuffling along, with either she or Dorothy leading
him.

“Oh, I would like to be a Joan of Arc,” interposed Grace at this point,
her blue eyes suddenly afire. “I think it would be great to ride in
front of an army on a white charger. And then, too,” she added more
seriously, “I think it takes more bravery to fight than to do anything
else.”

“Perhaps it does, Grace,” remarked Helen slowly, “but when it comes to
heroism, I think the mothers who give their boys to be slaughtered for
the good of their fellow-beings are the bravest—” The girl paused
quickly, for she had caught sight of Nathalie’s face, and remorsefully
felt that what she had just said only added to her friend’s distress.
“But, girls,” she went on in a brighter tone, “I have _something_ to
tell you. I’m going to France to do my ‘bit,’ for I’m to be stenographer
to Aunt Dora. We expect to sail in a month or so. You know that she is
one of the officials in the Red Cross organization.”

There were sudden exclamations of surprise from the girl’s two
companions, as they eagerly wanted to know all about her unexpected
piece of news. As Helen finished giving the details as to how it had all
come about, she exclaimed, with a sudden look at her wrist-watch:
“Goodness! Girls, do you know it is almost supper-time? I’m just about
starved.”

“Well, jump into the car, then,” cried Grace Tyson, “and I’ll have you
home in no time.” Her companions, pleased at the prospect of a whirl in
the new car, gladly accepted her invitation, and a few minutes later
were speeding towards the lower end of the street where Helen and
Nathalie lived.

After bidding her friends good-by, Nathalie, with a _tru-al-lee_, the
call-note of their Pioneer bird-group, ran lightly up the steps of the
veranda. Yes, Dick was home, for he was standing in the hall, lighting
the gas. With a happy little sigh she opened the door.

“Hello, sis,” called out Dick cheerily,—a tall well-formed youth, with
merry blue eyes,—as he caught sight of the girl in the door-way. “Have
you been on a hike?”

“Oh, no, just an afternoon at Mrs. Van Vorst’s. Nita had a lot of the
girls there—” Nathalie stopped, for an expression, a sudden gleam in
her brother’s eyes, caused her heart to give a wild leap. She drew in
her breath sharply, but before the question that was forming could be
asked, Dick waved the still flaming match hilariously above his head as
he cried, “Well, sister mine, I’ve taken the plunge, and I’ve come off
on top, for I’ve joined the Flying Corps, and I’m going to be an army
eagle!”

“Flying Corps?” repeated Nathalie dazedly. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, Blue Robin, that I’m going to be an aviator, a sky pilot,”
replied the boy jubilantly. “I made an application some time ago to the
chief signal officer at Washington. I was found an eligible applicant,
for, you know, my course in the technical school in New York did me up
fine. To-day I passed my physical examinations, and am now enlisted in
the Signal Corps of the Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps. I’m off next week
to the Military Aëronautics School at Princeton University. It’s an
eight-weeks’ course. If I put it over,—and you bet your life I do,”
Dick ground his teeth determinedly,—“I go into training at one of the
Flying Schools, and then I’ll soon be a regular bird of the air; and if
I don’t help Uncle Sam win the war, and manage to drop a few bombs on
those Fritzies, I’ll go hang!”

For one awful moment Nathalie stood silent, staring at her brother in
dumb despair. Then she turned, and with a blur in her eyes and a
tightening of her throat, blindly groped for the stairway. But no!
Dick’s hand shot out, he caught the hurrying figure in his grasp, and
the next moment Nathalie was sobbing on his breast.

“That’s all right, little sis,” exclaimed the boy with a break in his
voice, as he pressed the brown head closer. Then he cried, in an attempt
at jocularity, “Just get it all out of your system, every last drop of
that salted brine, Blue Robin, and then we’ll talk business.”

This somewhat matter-of-fact declaration acted like a cold shower-bath
on the girl, as, with a convulsive shiver, she caught her breath, and
although she burrowed deeper into the snug of her brother’s arm her
tears were stayed.

“Dick, _how could you do it_? Think of mother!” Then she raised her
eyes, and went on, “Oh, I can’t bear the thought of your getting ki—”
But the girl could not say the dreaded word, and again her head went
down against the rough gray of Dick’s coat.

“Well, Blue Robin, I’m afraid you have lost that cheery little
_tru-al-lee_ of yours,” teased the boy humorously. “You’ve cried so hard
you’re eye-twisted. In the first place, I don’t intend getting killed if
I can help it. And I can’t help leaving mother. You must remember I’m a
citizen of the United States—” the boy was thinking of his first vote
cast the fall before—“and I am bound by my oath of allegiance to the
country to uphold its principles, even if it means the breaking of my
mother’s apron-strings,” he added jokingly.

“Oh, Dick, don’t try to be funny,” Nathalie managed to say somewhat
sharply, as she drew away from her brother’s arm and dropped limply on
the steps of the stairs, in such an attitude of hopeless despair that
Dick was at the end of his tether to know what to say. He stared down at
the girl, unconsciously rubbing his hand through his hair, a trick the
boy had when perplexed.

Suddenly a bit of a smile leaped into his eyes as he cried, in a
hopelessly resigned tone, “All right, sis, seeing that you feel this way
about it I’ll just send in my resignation. It will let the boys know
I’ve laid down on my job, for if you and mother are going to howl like
two cats, a fellow can’t do a thing but stay at home and be a sissy, a
baby-tender, a dish-washer-er-er—”

“Oh, Dick, don’t talk nonsense,” broke in Nathalie sharply. “I didn’t
say that you were not to go, but,—why—oh, I just can’t help feeling
awfully bad when I read all those terrible things in the paper.” Her
voice quivered pathetically as she finished.

“Well, don’t read them, then,” coolly rejoined Dick. “Just steer clear
of all that hysterical gush and brace up. My job is to serve my
country,—she wants me. By Jove, before she gets out of this hole she’ll
need every mother’s son of us. And I’ve got to do it in the best way I
can, by enlisting before the draft comes. I’ll not only have a chance to
do better work, a prospect of quicker promotion, but, if you want to
look at the sordid end of it, I’ll get more pay. And as to being killed,
as you wailed, if you and mother will insist upon seeing it black, an
aviator’s chance of life is ten to one better—if he’s on to his
job—than that of the fellow on the ground. So cheer up, Blue Robin. I’m
all beat hollow, for I’ve been trying to cheer up mother for the last
hour.”

“Oh, what does mother say?” asked a very faint voice, just as if the
girl did not know how her mother felt, and had been feeling for some
time.

“Say! Gee whiz! I don’t know what she would have said if she had voiced
her sentiments,” replied Dick resignedly. “But the worst of the whole
business was that she took it out in weeping about a tank of tears; all
over my best coat, too,” he added ruefully. “You women are enough to
make a fellow go stiff.

“Now see here, Blue Robin, don’t disappoint me!” suddenly cried the lad,
as he stared appealingly into his sister’s brown eyes. “Why, I thought
that you would be my right-hand man. I knew mother would make a time at
first, but _you_,—I _thought you had grit_; _you_, a Pioneer, too.
Don’t you know, girl—” added Dick, rubbing the back of his hand quickly
across his eyes, “that I’ve got to go? Don’t you forget that. I’m on the
job, every inch of it, but, thunderation, I’m no more keen to go ‘over
there’ and have those Hun devils cut me up like sausage, than you or
mother. But I’m a man and I’ve got to live up to the business of being a
man, and not a mollycoddle.”

But Nathalie had suddenly come to her senses. Perhaps it was the brush
of the boy’s hand across his eyes, or the quivering note in his voice,
but she roused. She had been selfish; instead of crying like a ninny she
should have cheered. “Oh, Dick,” she exclaimed contritely, standing up
and facing him suddenly, “I’m all wrong. I didn’t mean to cry, and I
wouldn’t have either,” she explained excusingly, “if you had only let me
go up-stairs.

“No, Dick, I would not have you be a slacker, or a mollycoddle, or wash
the dishes,” she added with a faint attempt at a smile, “and we haven’t
any babies to tend. Yes, old boy, I don’t want you to lie down in the
traces, so let’s shake on it, and I’ll try to brace up mother, too,”
added the girl, as she held out her hand to her brother.

“Now that’s the stuff, Nat, old girl,” cried the boy with gleaming eyes,
as he took the girl’s hand and held it tightly, “and while I’m fighting
to uphold the family honor and glory,—remember father was a Rough
Rider,—you stay with dear old mumsie. Keep her cheered up, and see that
everything is made easy for her. Do all you can to take my place here at
home. Yes, Blue Robin, you be the home soldier. Gee whiz, you be the
home guard!” added the boy in a sudden burst of inspiration.

“The home guard! Yes, that’s what I’ll be,” cried the girl, her eyes
lighting with a sudden glow. “And then I’ll be doing my bit, won’t I?
I’ll cheer up mother, and do all I can,” she added resolutely; “and
don’t worry any more, Dick, for now,”—the girl drew a long breath,
“I’ll be on the job as well as you.”

And then Nathalie, with a wave of her hand at the boy as he stood gazing
up at her with his eyes fired with loyal determination, hurried up the
stairs, straight on and up to the very top of the house to her usual
weeping-place, for, oh, those hateful tears would not be restrained, and
if she did not have her cry out she would strangle!

Ah, here she was in her den, the attic. Dimly she reached out her hand
and pulled the little wooden rocker out from the wall and slumped into
it, and a minute later, with her face buried in the fold of her arm, as
it rested on the little sewing-table, she was weeping unrestrainedly.

Presently she gave a sudden start, raised her head and listened, and
then was on her feet, for, oh, that was her mother’s step,—she was
coming up after her. Oh, why hadn’t she waited until she had a hold on
herself. The next moment the little wooden door with the padlock opened,
and Mrs. Page was standing in the doorway gazing down at her.

“Why—oh, mother!” Nathalie cried in surprise and wonder, for her mother
was smiling. The girl’s eyes bulged out from her tear-stained face in
such a funny way that her mother broke into a little laugh. Then her
face sobered and she came slowly towards her.

“No, daughter mine, mother is not weeping. Yes, I heard what you and
Dick said, and you are patriots, and have shamed mother into trying to
be one, too.” Mrs. Page took the girl in her arms with tender affection.

“And Dick is a dear lad. Oh, Nathalie, in our grief at the thought of
parting with him,—perhaps of losing him,—” her voice weakened
slightly, “we have forgotten that he has been fighting a greater battle
than we.

“It is surely a great thing,” continued Mrs. Page sadly, “for a young
man in the buoyancy of youth and the very heyday of life, to give it all
up. For youth clings more tenaciously to life than older people do, for
to them it is an untried and shining pathway, flowered with hope,
anticipation, and the luring glimmer of unfulfilled aims and ambitions.

“And then to have to face about,” her voice lowered, “and silently
struggle with one’s self in the great battle of self-abnegation, to end
by taking this glorious life and casting it far behind you,—this is
what makes a hero. Then to face the dread ordeal of a battlefield, and
go steadily forward, buoyed only with a feeling of bravery,—the heroism
of doing what you believe to be right,—and, taking your one chance for
life in your hands,—plunge into the unknown darkness and the horrifying
perils of a No Man’s Land.”

There was a stifled sob in Nathalie’s throat, but her mother went
steadily on: “No, Nathalie, we must not weep. We must smile and be
cheerful. We must inspire Dick with courage and hope, and if it is meant
that he is to give his life, we must let him go with a ‘God speed you,’
his memory starred with the thought of a mother’s love and a sister’s
courage, and with the soul-stirring song of the victor over death.

“And, Nathalie, Dick belongs to God; he was only loaned to me,—to
you,—and if the time has come for God to call him home, we must not
complain. We must gladly give him back. Then we must remember, too,”
went on the patient mother-voice, “that, after all, life is not the mere
living of it, but the things accomplished for the betterment of those
who come after. And if Dick has been ‘on the job,’” Mrs. Page smiled,
“no matter how small his share in this great warfare for the right, he
will be the better prepared to enter into the Land where there is no
more suffering, or horrible war, but just a glorious and eternal peace.”

The last word was almost whispered, but, with renewed effort, she said:
“Now, Nathalie, let us be brave, as father would have had us,—the dear
father,—and go down to Dick with a bright smile and inspiring words of
cheer.” Mrs. Page bent and kissed the girl lightly, but solemnly, on the
forehead, and then she had turned and was making her way towards the
door.



                               CHAPTER II

                            GIVING HER BEST


      “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”

Nathalie sat in the big rocker on the veranda, sewing a star on a
service-flag. Yes, as soon as Dick had gone to do his “stunt,” as he
called it, in the great warfare,—gone with all the honors of war, as
his mother had laughingly declared as he kissed them a noisy
good-by,—Nathalie had felt that it was incumbent upon her to sustain
the honor of the family, and had run lightly up to the attic. Here, in
the big piece-trunk she found a bundle of Turkey red, a bit of white,
and then, after begging a snip of blue from Helen for the star, she had
set to work.

She was sure that star would not come off, for she had double-stitched
into every angle and on every point. She held up the patriotic square,
bordered with red, and sorrowfully stared at that one lone star,
although a thrill of pride stirred at her heart and caused her eyes to
beam.

She must hang it up. And then she was busy tacking the little flag to a
small staff, which she had fastened to the roof of the porch so it could
be seen. Ah, the wind had caught it, and it was waving in a salute to
its many mates curling from the neighboring porches, and to the Red
Cross insignias that starred a window here and there, ofttimes
overshadowed by the graceful sweep of the Stars and Stripes.

But Nathalie’s heart was still sore, for although she had given up Dick
with as good a grace as she could muster, and had tried to show that she
possessed the true American spirit, yet it did seem as if it was a
needless sacrifice. With a sudden turn on her heel, the girl burst into
a new patriotic air that she had heard somewhere, as if hoping that it
would drive away the rebellious thoughts that jarred her attempt at
cheer, and hurried into the kitchen.

As Nathalie stepped to the window and stared carelessly out, her eyes
were caught by the gleam of yellow crocus and purple hyacinth as they
peeped up at her from their beds of green. Somehow their flaunting
colors reminded her of the spring blooms that used to nod so gayly to
her from the flower-beds in her beautiful city home in the upper part of
New York.

She could hardly believe it was a year since her father’s death. The
poignant grief she had suffered then again caused her eyes to fill with
tears, and her mind dwelt upon the sorrowful circumstances surrounding
her loss, the changes that had followed, in their financial losses, and
the many sacrifices it had entailed.

She again saw the sorrowful farewell to the first and only home she had
ever known; she again felt the grief that came to her in the giving up
of the many things that had made life so happy,—her schoolmates, her
many enjoyments, and her hope of going to college. She again experienced
the dolefulness that had assailed her mother, her brother Dick, her
younger sister, Dorothy, and herself, on their coming to the humble
cottage home in Westport, the being associated with strangers, and the
many people who at first had seemed so different from their city
associates.

Yes, there was the tree where she had found the nest of bluebirds. The
girl’s eyes gleamed amusedly as she peered down the garden at the old
cedar tree, and remembered that she had called them blue robins, thus
giving Dick an opportunity to nickname her, Blue Robin.

Nathalie attempted to smile, but the thought of Dick’s going away
aroused her slumbering grief, and once more the tears flowed silently
down her cheeks. But she bravely brushed them away and went on with her
reminiscences,—the remembrance of spraining her ankle up in the woods,
and how it had led to her meeting Helen Dame, her next-door neighbor,
and _now_ her dearest friend.

How lovely Grace Tyson had looked that day, and dear old Barbara with
her near-sighted eyes, and the girls’ favorite, Lillie Bell, with her
gracious charm and dramatic poses. The girl smiled again as she
remembered Edith Whiton, the sport, and her harum-scarum oddities. Yes,
they were all dear girls. And how glad she was that she had become a
Pioneer, and a real blue robin, by joining the Blue Bird group.

And what a dear Mrs. Morrow, the Pioneer director, was that day the
Pioneers called. Oh, that was the day the “Mystic” had passed. Who would
have thought she would turn out to be Mrs. Van Vorst, who was so lovely.
And that ride with Dr. Morrow to the big gray house, and then she
mentally saw herself, with that handkerchief over her eyes, talking to
the Princess, Nita, the little hunchbacked girl. And what good friends
they had become through those history lessons!

The many useful things she had learned from the Pioneer hikes and
crafts, and the joys she had experienced from their many sports and
activities had certainly proved worth while. And the “overcomes” she had
fought for by adopting the Pioneer motto, “I can,” had certainly meant
something in her life.

But they did have gloriously good times at Camp Laff-a-Lot at Eagle
Lake, with the Boy Scouts, Miss Camphelia, Miss Dummy, and all the other
good sports. Then, too, there was the surprise, on her return to learn
the good that had come to Dick through the money so kindly loaned by
Mrs. Van Vorst. Indeed, that one year had brought many new things into
her life, for—O dear, there was all that silver to be cleaned! For, now
that her mother kept no maid, this duty, with many other menial tasks,
had devolved upon Nathalie. Oh, how she hated that job!

With a resigned air, however, she managed to carry the basket of silver
from the sideboard to the kitchen table, and then returned to the
dining-room for the tea-service. After getting her cleaning cloths, her
brushes, and the scouring-powder, with vigorous determination she began
to rub and polish.

But somehow everything acted aggravatingly mean, for she dropped the
polish, and the powder flew all over; then she knocked the tray and the
knives and forks clattered to the floor. O dear! what ailed things
anyway? And how her arms ached trying to polish those horrid tarnished
stains on the teapot! The tableware had never seemed so obdurate, nor
the means for making it bright so utterly ineffective.

“Oh, I guess I am the one who is ailing,” she exclaimed glumly, as she
suddenly realized that her mind was not on her task, and that the
elation of playing at being a patriot had departed, with Dick evidently,
leaving her as limp as a rag. Oh, it does seem such a shame that we had
to get into that war—Nathalie bit off her thought like a thread,
resolved not to let her mind dwell on that forbidden topic. But how
angelic her mother had acted when Dick went. Well, she was a dear,
anyway, so brave. But suppose he _never_ _should_ come back after all.
Something suddenly seemed to snap in the girl’s breast, and down went
her head on the tray, into a heap of powder, while a great sob strangled
out of her throat.

O horrors! Nathalie’s brown head bobbed up from the tray, not very
serenely either, for she had heard a step on the kitchen porch. Oh,
Helen always came in that way! “Where _is_ my handkerchief?” The girl
grabbed desperately at something white lying on the tray, dimly seen
through a blur of tears, and began to scrub her nose energetically with
alas, not her handkerchief, but the powder-cloth with which she had been
polishing the silver! “Ah chee! Ah chee!” sneezed Nathalie again and
again, while groping frenziedly, but blindly, for her handkerchief. She
must have dropped it. And then Helen’s arms were around her, and she was
kissing the flushed cheek.

“What’s struck you, honey girl?” she asked in that gentle way of hers.
“Have you got the influenza? But here’s a very necessary article at
times, if that’s what you’re after,” she finished with a laugh, as she
stooped and picked up Nathalie’s handkerchief from the floor.

“Influenza? No,” blurted out Nathalie savagely, tortured to a pitch of
desperation at her unfortunate predicament. “I’ve been rubbing my nose
with that dirty old piece of rag I clean the silver with. Serves me
right, I suppose, for being such a fool as to cry when I should be ‘on
my job,’ as Dick says.” She shamefacedly tried to hide her red eyes from
her friend’s keen gaze.

“Oh, well, it will do you good to cry, Nathalie, dear,” advised Helen
softly, as she stroked the brown head caressingly, “for you were quite a
heroine when Dick went away, so courageous and cheery. Mrs. Morrow says
you are the nerviest Pioneer she knows.”

“But I’m not,” confessed Nathalie honestly, “in fact, I’m beginning to
think that I’m a bluff. But anyway, I’m glad to get a bit of praise,
something to warm me up, for I have felt like a congealed icicle for the
last few days. Yes, I have smiled and smiled like the poor Spartan boy,
while the fox of Grief was gnawing a hole into my internals. That sounds
like one of Lillie Bell’s dramatics, doesn’t it?” she smiled
pathetically into her friend’s kindly eyes.

“But, Helen, you are a dear, anyway,” cried Nathalie in a sudden burst
of admiration for her tried and trusted friend, who was always such a
stanch and timely comforter. “And do you know,” she added, swinging
about in her chair with the teapot in one hand and the despised
polishing-cloth in the other, “you grow better-looking every day. Oh, I
think you are just lovely!”

“_I lovely?_” mocked Helen, opening her eyes in surprise at this
unexpected praise. “Well, Blue Robin, what started you on that trail?
You must have been kissing the Blarney Stone, for you are handing me out
‘the stuff,’ as the boys say, for fair. Poor me, with a knob on my nose,
a wide mouth, and green eyes—to call me lovely is a libel on the word.”

“Oh, Helen, your eyes are just lovely—every one says that, for they are
so expressive,” retorted her friend loyally; “and as for the knob on
your nose, no one would know it was there if you weren’t constantly
telling them about it. But I don’t care what you look like anyway,” she
added determinedly, “for I think you are a love of a friend. But when do
you go to France?” she finished abruptly.

“I don’t quite know yet,” replied the girl; “perhaps not until a month
or so. But mother is brave about letting me go. She says it will be a
fine experience for me,—as long as I don’t have to go ‘over the top.’
Oh, you finished your service-flag! It’s a Jim Dandy!” Helen plunged
recklessly into another topic, again blaming herself for her trick of
alluding to forbidden subjects, for she had seen Nathalie’s lips quiver
as she said “Over the top.”

“Yes, I finished it, and now the neighbors know where _we stand_, even
if _you_ consider me a pacifist,” said the girl a little defiantly.
“Well, perhaps I shall think differently some day,” with a quickly
repressed sigh.

“Yes, and that day is coming very soon, too, Blue Robin,” rejoined
Helen; “for I’ll bet you a box of candy that you won’t be a pacifist
after you hear Mrs. Morrow talk on liberty. Surely you haven’t forgotten
that we are to go to a Liberty Tea at her house this afternoon?” she
inquired as she saw her friend’s face settle down into an expression of
gloom.

“Oh, I don’t think I’ll go,” retorted Nathalie quickly, “for I don’t
feel a bit Pioneery this morning, and then I have all this silver to
clean.”

“But, Blue Robin,” returned her friend cheerily, “I’m going to help you
finish up that silver, and then I’m going home to dress for this
afternoon. Then I’m coming over here and just make you go to that
Liberty Tea with me. You know, Nathalie, it would be mean for you to
desert Mrs. Morrow,” she added wisely, “for you are the leader of the
band and should help to entertain the girls.”

Whereupon, Helen caught up one of Nathalie’s kitchen-aprons, and a few
moments later the two girls were laughing and chatting in the best of
spirits, as they rubbed and polished with youthful ardor, every bone and
muscle keyed to its task.

Yes, it was enlivening to be so warmly welcomed by her hostess, Nathalie
decided, as she greeted her a little later in the afternoon, and her
depression vanished. And how perfectly lovely Mrs. Morrow looked in that
blue gown; yes, it was just the color of her blue-gray eyes. Under the
fascination of this lady’s charming personality Nathalie was soon flying
about, showing the girls how to start sweaters, or to purl, as this task
had been delegated to her by the director, who herself had taught
Nathalie.

When the tea was served it was Nathalie who occupied the place of honor
at the little tea-table, decorated with the United States flag, and who
dispensed the dainty little china cups filled with what was
patriotically called _Liberty Tea_ in honor of the young ladies who had
given it its name over a hundred years ago, and who the Pioneers had
impersonated last year in their entertainment of “Liberty Banners.”

After the teacups had been removed, and one or two announcements of
coming events had been made, Mrs. Morrow, with sudden gravity, said:

“We have gathered here to-day, girls, to commemorate the Spirit of
Liberty, the one great principle that has budded like Aaron’s rod, and
brought forth other qualities as splendid and compelling as itself, as,
for example, the principles represented in our national emblem. The
principle of humanity, which means living the Golden Rule by taking
thought for your neighbor; democracy, the equal rights of mankind, which
in turn gives rise to justice, loyalty, and unity,—the principles that
have not only given us that wonderful, mystical something called
Americanism, but the principles that mean the Christianity of Christ.”

After the girls had discussed the meaning of liberty and summed it up as
standing for man’s right to self-expression, either by words or actions,
and made it clear that it had to be governed by the law of self-control,
as too much freedom would mean license or lawlessness, Mrs. Morrow
continued her little talk.

“Liberty is not something that sprang into being with the coming of the
settlers to America, for it is as old as man himself; but under the rule
of king-ridden states it has been fighting its way through many long
centuries, because the peoples of the Old World failed to grasp its
meaning.

“Under the stimulus of the Reformation and the Revival of Learning,
induced by the printing of the Bible and other books, the early comers
to America, as they endeavored to worship God as they thought right, not
only left the intolerant forms and bigoted narrowness of the Old World,
but threw the first light on liberty by teaching man his right to
freedom of the soul. The Pilgrims and Puritans were the Pioneers of
liberty, for they not only gave us religious freedom, but, by
establishing a government for and by the people without the aid of king
or bishop, laid the cornerstone of a great commonwealth, and gave us
democratic liberty.

“If you girls would make a study of the history of the Thirteen
Colonies,” went on their director, “you would learn that not only each
Colony contributed to the principles embodied in every stripe, star, and
color of our spangled banner, but that a universal love of freedom seems
to have animated the settlers. Each individual group, to be sure, had
its own peculiar belief, but, in the working-out of their cherished
ideals and aspirations, liberty was the bone and sinew of every colony.

“It was under the influence of these early settlers—the giving of their
best to mankind in their struggles for freedom—that the ideals and
beliefs of the New World were molded into higher and better
institutions, purified and strengthened by a new significance. Their
ideals and aspirations were essentially different from anything known
before,—ideals peculiar to this soil, which were absolutely American,
not only in religious freedom, but in the institutions of local
government and the union of all states into one, which gave rise to the
United States of America.

“Now we have come to the great subject of the hour, the war, and a
question I have heard several of you girls ask, ‘Why are we in the
war?’”

Nathalie felt her face redden, and shifted uneasily in her seat. O dear!
she did wish she had not come. Of course the talk was very interesting,
but still she didn’t want to think of this terrible war.

“I have heard it said,” pursued Mrs. Morrow, “that we are in the war to
avenge the sinking of the _Lusitania_, and that we must not allow the
Germans to break the international law by killing our sailors and
seamen. I have heard it said, too, that if they conquered the Allies
they would come over here and fight us. These are all sufficient reasons
in a sense.”

The lady paused, and then, with grave solemnity, said: “And I have heard
it put forth that we are in the war to maintain our national honor and
integrity. I think I hear some of you girls say, ‘But we haven’t done
any wrong: we have kept neutral; our principles are not involved.’”

Nathalie’s eyes were aglow as she bent forward, and with parted lips
anxiously awaited Mrs. Morrow’s reply to this question.

“Now that we realize the depth and grandeur of the principles given to
us by the founders of this nation, and know that every time our flag is
unfurled it tells the world that religious and democratic liberty were
born on these shores of America, are we going back on these principles?
Are we going to allow other nations to say that our principles are just
in the flying of our colors, that they stand for nothing but self-praise
and the nation’s glorification?

“No,” cried the lady with grave emphasis, “by our love for our flag, by
our love for our birth-land, by our reverence for the men who taught us
these principles we swear to defend every time we hoist our colors, we
must get into this war. We must prove that our flag is in the right
place, and that we carry it in our hearts. We must strive to show with
our soul’s might that we are living these principles by being true to
ourselves and to our nation’s honor, and carry our feelings into action.

“We must forget self, our desire for selfish ease and pleasure. We must
align ourselves with the suffering masses of people across the sea, and
help them to rid themselves of the iron-shod heel of one-man power. We
must stand side by side with the Allies for humanity, democracy, and
liberty. We must show the world that the so-called divine right of kings
is a worn-out belief of savagery, and prove by the principles back of
our flag, prove by the living of these principles, the sacredness of
God’s heritage to man, the right of the world’s people to know, as we
know, the principles that have made us the freest people in the world.

“Each one of you girls must not only do your bit, but must give of your
best to your brothers and sisters over the sea. And if the best means
the giving-up of those who are so dear to us, we must prove that we are
true daughters of liberty, and send them forth cheerfully, to give
freedom and liberty to the world.”

There was an impressive silence, and then Mrs. Morrow’s voice broke into
song. In another moment the girls had joined their voices with hers, and
were loudly sounding forth the old-time tune and the well-beloved words:

    “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
    As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
                    While God is marching on.

    “He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
    He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment seat;
    Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
                    Our God is marching on!”

Later in the afternoon, as the girls hurried happily out from the white
house on the corner, each one chatting merrily, intent on telling what
she had done or intended to do for the war, Nathalie alone was silent,
weighed down, as it were, by a strange sense of shame. Yes, she had been
blindly selfish, and had failed to realize the momentousness of the
great questions of the day. When she had been called upon, to give love
and sympathy to her neighbors, the poor suffering masses of people over
seas, she had selfishly turned her back to the call—she had failed to
show herself a daughter of liberty. Why, she was not a patriot,—no, not
even an American; and in the spirit, if not in the letter, she had
dishonored Dick, yes, and her father, who had always been so steadfast
and true to everything that was American.

That night Nathalie could not sleep, but tossed restlessly from side to
side, as parts of Mrs. Morrow’s speech kept forcing themselves upon her
memory. And just as she had succeeded in driving them away, and also the
remorseful thought that she had not given her best, that she had failed
to show greatness, the song the girls had sung that afternoon, with the
luring, old-time air and the soul-stirring words, flashed with vivid
distinctness:

       “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
                       While God is marching on.”

The girl sat up in bed, and in a crooning whisper hummed the whole verse
through, repeating again and again,

      “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”

The beauty as well as the significance of the words had made their
appeal. Christ had died to make men holy; she must give of her best to
make men free. She must show herself great, but what could _she_ do?

But even as the question came, so flashed the answer, and Nathalie was
again softly humming,

      “Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
                      Our God is marching on.”

And then suddenly a thought stamped itself upon her mind. The girl
caught her breath. Yes, she had given Dick up because she had been
forced to do so, but now she would make the sacrifice, give the best of
herself; she would stop once and forever all useless repining. She would
keep herself cheered by the thought that she was glad—she gritted her
teeth determinedly—that she had Dick to give to help make people free.

Yes, but she _must do something_—she must give _her best_; no, it might
not be anything very great or big, but she must show she was a true
daughter of liberty. Ah, she knew what she could do, and then Nathalie
fell back on her pillow, and although she lay very still, her brain was
alert, thinking and planning. Yes, she could get the girls together; she
would begin the very next morning. She would have every one in it, for
liberty wouldn’t be liberty unless it was free to all. And then one
thought and another kept popping into her mind, until finally the tired
brain went on a strike and refused to register any more thoughts, and
Nathalie, without a word of protest, tumbled into the land o’ dreams.

The next morning she was up betimes, and was soon singing cheerily at
her work, every now and then stopping in the midst of some favored
melody, to repeat softly,

      “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”

In such a state of cheerfulness time flew swiftly, and soon Nathalie was
up in the attic writing a note. Yes, it sounded all right, she decided
as she read it over slowly. And then her hand was again flying over the
paper, and another note was written, and then another, and still
another, until, with a sigh of relief, Nathalie found that she had them
all finished. No, she wasn’t going to leave any one out. Quickly
gathering up the notes the girl was off, running lightly down the
stairs, and then flying swiftly across the lawn to see what Helen would
think of the thing she had planned in the stillness of the night.



                              CHAPTER III

                           THE LIBERTY GIRLS


“Yes, we must prove that we have the true spirit of liberty, the spirit
of humanity,” Nathalie spoke very earnestly, “and that is why I have
asked Marie Katzkamof to belong to the club. She is the little lame
girl, _you know_ who she is; she sits at the news-stand on the corner of
Main and West streets, and sells the papers when her father is at
business. She is always knitting—sweaters for the soldiers, she says.
It makes me feel ashamed when I realize how hard she works to do her
‘little bit.’”

“You are right, Nathalie,” replied Helen thoughtfully, “for you have
struck something big in your idea that we are all Americans, and that
the club should be free to all. But hurry over, and see what Mrs. Morrow
has to say. I believe she’ll think the whole scheme is fine.”

But Nathalie was already at the door, her brown eyes sparkling with
suppressed excitement, and her cheeks flushed with the soft pink that
all the girls admired, and _some_ envied. And then she was making her
way across the road to the white house on the corner, still softly
humming,

      “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”

The Tuesday that Nathalie had designated in her notes to the invited
girls had arrived, and the girl, somewhat pale from nervousness, was
standing before a small table in the living-room of her home. Facing her
were a dozen or more girls, all more or less in an attitude of expectant
interest as they sat, some on chairs, others on the couch in the hall,
while the Pioneers, as was their wont when chairs were limited, were
seated in a circle on the floor.

“Now, girls,” cried Nathalie, determined to plunge ahead and get the
thing started before her enthusiasm and nerves collapsed to a frazzle,
as she told Helen afterward, “I have asked you all here to-day, to form
a club in the interest of liberty. The Girl Pioneers know just how big a
thing liberty is, for they had the pleasure of hearing Mrs. Morrow, our
Pioneer director, in her little talk on liberty. Oh, Lillie Bell, would
you mind repeating what you remember of Mrs. Morrow’s speech?” Nathalie
broke off abruptly, turning towards that young lady, one of the most
popular of the Pioneer girls. “I know you have a good memory, Lillie,”
Nathalie pleaded, “and are such a good elocutionist that you can do it
better than any one else I know.”

This calling upon Lillie Bell was a stroke of finesse on the part of
Nathalie. For Lillie, when she had learned that the club was to be so
democratic that the daughter of her newsdealer, a Russian Jew, had been
invited, had loftily declared that although she was a good American, and
wanted to do all she could for liberty, well, she didn’t know that she
cared to chum with all the Jews in the town.

Nathalie had been keenly alive to the desirability of having Lillie a
member, because she was not only bright and efficient, but because she
was such a good entertainer. This declaration of Lillie’s, however, had
caused her spirits to fall below zero, and she began to fear that the
whole thing would prove a fizzle. But when so many girls had responded
to her invitation, all keyed to expectant curiosity—Lillie among
them—her spirits had taken a leap into the nineties. Immediately her
alert mind had begun to plan in what way, and how, she could interest
Lillie in the club, so that she would take an active part in its doings.
And here was her chance.

Lillie Bell, with her usual timely poise, gracefully and smilingly rose
to the occasion. In her most luring manner she not only repeated Mrs.
Morrow’s speech, but interpreted it with such a stirring American
spirit, that not only was Nathalie electrified, but the whole audience
were inspired to such a pitch of enthusiasm that they broke into hearty
applause.

As soon as the clamor subsided, Nathalie cried earnestly, “Now that we
all know what liberty means, and the possibilities that lie before us, I
propose that we form ourselves into a club to be known as ‘The Liberty
Girls.’”

Another outburst of approval brought the speaker to a halt, but only for
a moment, and then she went on smilingly, “Well, I am glad that you like
the name, for it means something.” Then she briefly told of the
seventeen young girls, who, over a hundred and fifty years ago, had
formed a club called “The Daughters of Liberty.”

“They did their bit,” smiled the girl, “by sewing all day on homespun
garments to prove that the colonies could be independent of the
mother-country, and swore that they would drink no tea until the tax had
been removed. They also declared that they would have nothing to do with
any of their young gentlemen friends who dared to drink the detested
beverage.

“But, girls,” said Nathalie rather hurriedly, as she stepped from behind
the little table, “if we are to form ourselves into a club, we shall
have to have a chairman, for although the idea originated with me, that
does not mean that you have got to have me for a leader,” she ended
modestly.

“But we don’t want any one but you,” called out some one
enthusiastically, which cry was so emphatically echoed by others, that
Nathalie stood hopelessly bewildered, a wave of color dyeing her face a
rose-pink.

But in this crucial moment Helen came to her rescue, and jumping on her
feet cried,—even Lillie, Grace, and Edith bobbed up too,—“Girls, I
make the motion that we form ourselves into a club to be known as ‘The
Liberty Girls,’ and that we elect for president, Miss Nathalie Page. All
in favor of this motion stand up!”

There was a quick, simultaneous movement of many feet, and then, as
Helen sensed that Nathalie had been duly elected leader by her mates,
she called out, “Well, Nathalie, you will have to be president, for
every one wants you.”

“Yes, and we won’t have any one else,” added Edith quickly, with a
sudden clap of her hands. This was the signal for the girls to start up
a loud clapping in approval of the newly elected president, whose
rose-pink cheeks had deepened to scarlet as she stood bowing, somewhat
confusedly, to them.

Whereupon Lillie Bell gracefully came to the fore, and dramatically
seizing the hand of the young girl while leading her back to her seat,
in an impressive manner cried, “Allow me, Miss Nathalie Page, to lead
you to the seat of honor, as the president of the club, ‘The Liberty
Girls.’”

Nathalie bowed and laughed with embarrassment, but she determined to
carry off the honors bestowed upon her with a good grace, and as soon as
the somewhat noisy demonstrations of pleasure from the girls had ended,
she said modestly, “Girls, I thank you for wanting me to be your leader,
and only hope I will make a good one.”

There was more plaudits, and then Nathalie, with grave seriousness,
said: “Girls, now that we have pledged ourselves not only as a club, but
as individuals, to further the cause of liberty, I would suggest that
our watchword be, ‘Liberty and humanity—our best.’ Humanity means to be
helpful and kind to our neighbors, our best means to work with a
strenuous will to do everything we can to that end. Our neighbors at the
present moment loom very large and big as the needy and suffering ones
overseas, as the sick, the wounded, the dying, the prisoners, the
refugees, and all those who are fighting on land and sea: yes, and those
in the air, and all those who are helping to care for the ones I have
mentioned, as the doctors and nurses, for they, too, all need help. If
we can’t fight, we have got to help those who are fighting in our stead.
Yes,” she added solemnly, “and we must be prepared even to have the
desire to do what we can for our enemies, for as liberty makes no
discrimination as to who shall enjoy it, so in the doing of humane acts
we should remember all.”

As Nathalie, highly elated by the enthusiasm shown by her audience,
stood waiting for quietness, suddenly her eyes rested on little lame
Marie Katzkamof, whose big black eyes shone like two stars from her
pale, sallow face. Nathalie had another inspiration.

She bent forward and in a low, earnest voice cried, “Do you think,
little Marie, that you would enjoy being a member of this club? Wouldn’t
you like to do something—yes, _your best_—to help the poor refugees in
France and Belgium, and the brave soldier boys who are fighting, so that
the whole world can enjoy liberty?”

“Yiss, ma’am; I have a glad on liberty,” the girl giggled nervously,
“but it’s like this mit me, I likes I shure I don’t make you no
trouble.”

“But it won’t be any trouble to us, Marie,” answered Nathalie with a
smile. “We will all help you; humanity means to help others.”

“But, Missis Page,” the girl’s face was scarlet, her big eyes mournful.
“It’s like this mit me, I ain’t stylish like these young ladies; I make
nottings mit them, for I ain’t shmardt, hein? Und this leg it ain’t yet
so healthy. Und, Missis Page, I’m lovin’ mit liberty, but I ain’t lovin’
much mit Krisht, for I’m a Jewess.”

Nathalie faltered a moment, for she had seen a smile creep into the eyes
of the girls, which she knew would become a laugh if she did not say the
right thing. “Yes, you may not love Christ, as we Christians,” she
answered quickly, “but if you love the liberty, perhaps you may learn to
know what it means to love Him. And then, Marie, that will make no
difference, for as long as you want to help the suffering ones, and show
humanity, that makes you an American, no matter who, or what you are.”

“Thank you, Missis Page,” the girl’s face had lighted with repressed
joy, “sure I’m an American. I can’t do nottings mit the fight, like the
soldiers, but you bet yer life I can knit for them, hein?” And the
little daughter of Israel held up a strip of wool with its two shiny
needles. “Shure und my hands are straight,” she continued pathetically,
“even if my legs ain’t healthy.”

Nathalie’s eyes blurred, but she answered smilingly, “Why, that will be
lovely, Marie.” Then, turning towards the girls, she cried, “Every one
in favor of appointing Marie Katzkamof captain of the Knitting Squad,
please hold up her hand.” And every hand went up. “And we’ll call you
Captain Molly,” went on Nathalie, “in memory of that brave young woman,
Molly Pitcher, who, when her husband fell dead at the battle of
Monmouth, during the Revolution, took his place,—she was carrying water
to the soldiers,—seized the rammer of his gun, and fired it. And she
kept on firing it,” cried Nathalie with glowing eyes, “with the shot and
shell flying all about her, until the battle was over. And with that
name and the bravery of _that_ Molly—for I know you are brave, Marie—I
know you will do _your best_ for liberty, and for the soldiers who are
on the firing-line, doing their best, as the Sons of Liberty, for the
right of every man in the world.”

After Lillie Bell had been duly elected vice-president of the club, and
several other club matters had been disposed of, Nathalie proposed, as
an inspiration to the girls, that they form a circle in the center of
the room, and stand with clasped hands, to show the interdependence of
one upon the other. “Then in turn,” she explained, “let each girl tell
of some woman, or girl, who, by her bravery in doing what she could for
some one else, or for the world, has given of her best to mankind, and
shown that she was a true lover of humanity, and a daughter of liberty.”

The girls, quickly grasping Nathalie’s idea, were soon standing in a
circle, hurriedly trying to concentrate their minds on some one woman
who had given of her greatness to mankind.

“Can we tell about the Pioneer women?” asked a Girl Pioneer timidly.

“Yes, indeed,” answered the young president, “and we ought to hear about
them first, too, for they were the ones who really taught us what it
means to love liberty. Although they were not the first women who did
great things for their fellow-beings, they were the ones who made clear
to us that real liberty means humanity, justice, and democracy for all.”

Helen now started the liberty chain by clasping the hand of her neighbor
on each side of her and telling of the women of the _Mayflower_, who, by
their acts of sacrifice, and stern determination to worship God as they
thought right, gave us religious freedom.

Nita told of the coming of the ship, the _Arbella_, to Gloucester with
John Winthrop, the governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the two
noted Puritan brides, the Lady Arbella and Anne Bradstreet, the latter
our first American poetess. And gave testimony of their devotion to
Puritanism, and their desire to benefit mankind.

One Pioneer told of America’s first club-woman, Anne Hutchinson,
portraying her trial and banishment from Boston, in her efforts to
benefit mankind by teaching them freedom of thought. Another told of
Mary Dyer, the noted Quakeress, and how she was hanged from an old elm
on Boston Common because she believed in freedom of religion.

Margaret, the wife of John Winthrop, the governor, and Susannah, the
mother of John Wesley, both beloved for their sweet piety and charity,
were cited as examples of having given of their best in being the ideal
wife and mother. Lillie Bell told of Florence Nightingale, the young
English woman who gave up a life of luxury to help the soldiers during
the Crimean War in 1854. She became known as “The Lady of the Lamp,”
from a statue of her as she stands with a nurse’s lamp in her hand,
erected in a church in London.

A Girl Scout told of Dorothy Dix, that wonderful woman who made it her
life-work to visit prisons and insane asylums, in order to institute
reforms for the care and comfort of the inmates. She also did much for
the relief of wounded soldiers during the American Civil War.

Jenny Lind, the great Swedish singer, was cited as having given to
humanity when she gave her time and voice to raise thousands of dollars
for the benefit of broken-down musicians and writers. Mrs. Harriet
Beecher Stowe gave of her best, Edith declared, when she wrote her book,
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and showed the world the evils of slavery; as also
Mrs. Julia Ward Howe when she wrote that wonderful patriotic song, “The
Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The two noted women astronomers, Caroline Herschel and Maria Mitchell,
when they studied the heavens in the interest of science, gave of their
best. Also Charlotte Cushman, the great actress, who raised large sums
of money by her acting, and gave it to the Sanitary Fund, during the
Civil War, was quoted as a lover of humanity.

The Baroness Burdett-Coutts and Miss Helen Gould, two of the world’s
noted philanthropists, as well as Miss Louisa Alcott, in her writings
for the youth of America, and other women writers were added to the
growing list of Liberty Daughters. Dolly Madison, the beautiful First
Lady of the Land, showed herself a true American during the War of 1812.
When the British burned Washington she refused to leave the White House
until the portrait of Washington was carried to a place of safety, while
she herself took the Declaration of Independence, with its autographs of
the signers, away with her, so that it would not be lost to America.

Even Marie, alias Captain Molly, caught the inspiration of the Liberty
Chain, and told of a young Russian girl, who, rather than betray the
secrets of a great man, from a paper that had fallen into her hands,
allowed herself to be exiled to Siberia. Then came the war stories, as
that of the noted Quakeress, Lydia Darrach, who, during the Revolution,
on learning the secrets of the British officers who were quartered at
her house, endured untold hardship in traveling many miles in the dead
of winter to reveal them to the American patrol, so as to save the
Continental Army from disaster.

Hannah Weston, who filled a pillow-case with pewter-ware when she heard
that a certain town was in need of ammunition, and carried it many miles
through the woods at night, was cited for her bravery and her sacrifice,
in her effort to help others. The story of Betty Zane and how she ran
from the palisade of a Western fort to her brother’s hut for a keg of
powder in the fire of a tribe of Indians, although a familiar one, was
listened to with glowing interest.

Ruth Wyllis, who hid the charter of Connecticut in an oak tree, and Katy
Brownell, the color-bearer at the battle of Bull Run, who stood by the
flag in the face of the advancing foe, and who would have been shot to
death if a soldier had not pulled her away, were but two recitals of
brave deeds for the sake of humanity.

But at last the liberty chain came to an end by Nathalie telling of
Saint Margaret, a plain, uneducated Irish woman, who, after losing her
husband and child, devoted her life and every penny she made to the
cause of orphan children. A statue, she said, had been erected in New
Orleans to this noble woman, who gave of her best to humanity when she
devoted her life to these little waifs.

After the girls had returned to their seats, Nathalie appointed seven
squads. She had made it seven, she said, not only because it was a lucky
number, but because there were just seven letters in the name,
_Liberty_. Helen was made the captain of the Florence Nightingale Squad,
since she had gained many honors, as a Girl Pioneer, as an expert maker
of bandages.

Nita, with a Girl Scout as a running mate, was made captain of the
Scrap-Book Squad, which meant the making of scrap-books for the
convalescing soldiers in the hospitals. Lillie Bell and a Camp Fire Girl
were placed at the head of the Garments Squad for the cutting and sewing
of garments for the refugee children of France and Belgium. Two Girl
Scouts were made captains of the Flower Squad, with the purpose of
raising and selling flowers for the Liberty Loan fund.

Jessie Ford had charge of the comfort-kits for the soldier-boys, while
Barbara Worth, who was an expert knitter, was appointed to work with
Captain Molly, the Russian Jewess. Nathalie was unanimously chosen as
the captain of the Liberty Garden, with Edith Whiton and several other
Girl Pioneers. They were not only to raise vegetables and fruits in
their garden-to-be, but they were to do canning as well.

After some discussion it was decided that the club members wear a
uniform consisting of a white shirtwaist, with the letters L. G. in red
on the arm, on the corners of their white sailor-collars, and on the
hatbands of their white sailor-hats, and to wear white or khaki skirts.

Nathalie had just appointed a committee to scour the town for a parcel
of ground to use as a flower and Liberty garden, when a sudden noise was
heard. The girl looked quickly up, to see Mrs. Morrow standing in the
doorway leading from the dining-room, with her arms filled with flowers.
In her hand was a large bell, which she was jingling softly, while her
blue eyes smiled down upon the girls with radiant good-will.



                               CHAPTER IV

                           THE LIBERTY GARDEN


Nathalie stared in amazement, and then, recovering her usual poise, she
cried, “Oh, Mrs. Morrow, please come right in, for I want you to meet my
Liberty Girls.” As the girl spoke she advanced towards her unexpected
guest, who was coming slowly forward, as if not assured of her welcome.
But the cordiality expressed in the tones of Nathalie’s voice and the
fact that the girls had all risen on their feet,—her own girls at
attention in the Pioneer salute,—with their faces aglow with pleasure,
quickly assured her that her welcome was a hearty one.

With a sudden movement she turned to Nathalie and asked, “May I have the
floor a moment, Miss President?” As the girl assented, although somewhat
mystified, Mrs. Morrow took her place behind the small table, and with a
quick nod of greeting to the faces upturned to hers, cried: “Girls, I am
greatly pleased to see you here to-day, and to know that our Pioneer
Blue Robin’s little plan to make you all work with a keener zest for
liberty, has succeeded so well. I also want to assure you of my hearty
cooperation, and my wish that all of you, those who are Pioneers, and
those who belong to other clubs, will be inspired to better work in your
own organizations by the fact that you have banded together to stand
unitedly as Daughters of Liberty, in order to show that you are all
_loyal Americans_. In proof of my good wishes I am going to present the
club with a bell. It is needless to say that it is not _the_ Liberty
Bell, but a facsimile in miniature.

“Wait, I have not finished,” laughingly protested the lady as she held
up her hand,—for some of the girls had started to clap. “I want you to
know before your president rings it,—it is to be rung to call you
together in the sacred cause of liberty,—that way up in the top has
been inserted a very tiny chip from the real Liberty Bell,—the bell
that was rung over a hundred years ago to announce that the thirteen
colonies had become the United States of America. I hope, girls, that
when you hear this bell ring you will feel the same inspiration to do
your best as animated the patriots in the war of 1776.”

As Mrs. Morrow paused, the long-delayed clapping burst forth with such
vigor that she and Nathalie—she had drawn the girl to her and was
pressing the bell into her hand—had to smile and bow again and again.
But the clapping only halted for a space, for when Nathalie saw that
quietness reigned, she rang the liberty bell so loudly and determinedly,
while a mischievous twinkle glowed in her eyes, that it broke forth
again.

As soon as the demonstration was over and the bell-ringing had subsided,
Mrs. Morrow’s voice was heard again: “Now, Liberty Girls, I am going to
ask your president to take a vote to get your opinion as to _who you
think_ told the best story about great women in your liberty chain.

“Perhaps you do not know,” the gray-blue eyes deepened, “but I was in
the dining-room, although not purposely an eavesdropper, and had the
pleasure of hearing the stories told. I have formed an opinion as to the
best story-teller, but would like to know if your opinion coincides with
mine.”

But alas, there were so many different opinions as to the best story,
and as to who was the best narrator, that to even matters Mrs. Morrow
had to take her big bouquet of flowers and divide it into three or four
nosegays. But a smile of satisfaction gleamed in the eyes of many when
Marie, the little Jewess, received a bouquet and a few words of
commendation from the giver. The little captain’s delight was so
genuine, and her eyes beamed so joyously, that every one rejoiced with
her.

After the flowers were distributed, and the girls had sung a few
patriotic songs, they filed out into the sunshine, happily aglow with
the joy of the meeting and the inspiration it had brought to them.

Several weeks later we find Nathalie coming slowly down the garden-walk
with its old-time hedge, from the big gray house. The tall pines—now
good old friends—that bordered the path bowed their tops in a cheery
good-morning, as she walked beneath their shade.

She had just given her usual morning lesson of two hours to her young
friend, for Nathalie, on her return from Camp Laff-a-Lot last summer,
had found that her studies with Nita were to be continued. Yes, and she
had banked every penny that she could spare from her weekly salary of
ten dollars. It had seemed such a big sum at first, but alas, now that
her mother’s income had slowly dwindled, and she had been compelled to
use it for her own personal needs, and to lay part of it aside every
week to repay Mrs. Van Vorst the loan for Dick’s operation, it seemed a
mere pittance.

But to-day she felt unusually joyful, for the last penny of that
haunting debt had been paid, and she was now free to call her money her
own. If there had been many disappointments in life—the going to
college was still a luring hope—and self-denials, added to the
unpleasantness of doing housework since their coming to Westport, there
had been several compensations that had cast their rosy shadows across
the darkness.

One was the joy and the profit she had gained from being a Pioneer, and
the other was the great pleasure that had come to her in the knowledge
that she had a purpose in life. Yes, she had told Helen many times, “I
think it is one of the delights of life to be legitimately busy, and to
know that you are really doing something that is a help to yourself or
some one else.” And now, added to these compensating joys had come the
thrills and joys from the new organization, the Liberty Girls, for that
little patriotic club now numbered almost a hundred. And it had thrived
so well, and Nathalie had gained so many honors from being its founder,
that sometimes she feared that she, too, would become a bird of the air,
like Dick, only in a different way, from sheer conceit.

But if she had been overmuch praised, and had found it a pleasant
diversion to plan and dream over the club’s future successes, she had
also found hard work and great discouragement. Discouragement, too, over
such small things, when the girl came to face them in the coolness of
after-thought, that she had felt like throwing the whole thing up, or
else just letting things drift, and taking what pleasure she could,
without so much conscientious worry over doing _her best_.

But through all the storm and stress Helen had buoyed her with the
frequent, sensible remark, that if it had taken the world thousands of
years to comprehend the true meaning of democracy and liberty, she must
expect her girls would be slow in realizing many things. But it was
tiresome to hold the reins of government, and yet sometimes be unable to
stop their silly chatter, or useless argument over mere trifles, all the
while holding back the legitimate work by their dallying.

Yes, and it had been an awful strain to manage that Liberty Garden. Of
course the Pioneers were all good workers, and she had given each one
some one thing to study over, but still she had had to know about these
things herself, so as to be sure they would do the right thing.

But it was something worth while, she reflected sagely, to know that
there are three kinds of soil, how to test it with litmus paper to see
if it was sour or not, and, if it was, how to neutralize it, or sweeten
its acidity. Then she had had to know what kind of chemicals acted as
food to the soil, so as to know what each plant or vegetable required to
enrich it and to sustain life. She had also learned how to draw moisture
from the land and how to fertilize it.

By placing seeds on wet blotting-paper in saucers she had demonstrated
how long it would take them to germinate, so as to be able to to write
her germinating-table for the girls. How old seeds should be before
planting, how deep to plant each kind, the method of planting, and how
many seeds to plant, and the distance apart, had all seemed tiresome and
trivial things to many, but it was necessary knowledge to a would-be
farmer.

Ah, she had reached the bank. She was going to get that ten dollars
deposited before it melted away. Suddenly her eyes became pools of
brightness, and the dimples twinkled in the red glow of her cheeks, for
there, right in front of her, stood Mrs. Morrow, with a kiddie boy, as
the girl called the twins, on each side of her. There was such genuine
pleasure in the lady’s smiling blue eyes, that Nathalie impulsively
cried, “Oh, Mrs. Morrow, this is just lovely! I’m so glad to see you!
When did you get back?” for her good friend had been away for several
weeks.

“Last night, Nathalie, and I am so pleased to meet you,” was the cordial
greeting, “for I have heard so many reports about the Liberty Girls’
club that I am anxious to hear all about it from you.”

“Oh, it is just the dandiest thing, Mrs. Morrow,” cried the girl
jubilantly. And then, lured by the kindly interest in her friend’s eyes,
her tongue unloosened, and she was soon busy telling about the club’s
many experiences, and the good that had come from the industry of its
members.

“And Helen is a dear,” Nathalie rattled on, “for she has taught her
girls the most wonderful things, and now they have all enrolled as Red
Cross members. She had been reading to them from Florence Nightingale’s
‘Notes on Nursing,’ and now she has taken up other works on the same
subject. Lillie, too, reads to the girls at the club meetings about
great women, while I inspect the work. The Garment and Comfort-Kit
squads meet together, and Jessie Ford not only tells them about the
French villages and the towns that have been destroyed by the Germans,
but reads to them from the ‘Prince Albert Book.’

“We are to have our Liberty Pageant to-morrow, and all the people who
live on the line of parade have been perfectly lovely, for they have
sold tickets for the seats on their verandas, and are to give the money
to us for the Liberty Fund, so we can buy Liberty bonds. And the day
after,” continued Nathalie, “we are to have a liberty sale on Mrs. Van
Vorst’s grounds, the Pioneers’ meeting-place, you know. Indeed, we are
almost over the tops of our heads in work, and we have enough plans to
last the rest of the summer. Mother declares I am the busiest girl she
knows.”

“And the Liberty Garden, has that turned out well? I understand it is
the work of my girls, the Pioneers.”

“Indeed, yes,” returned her companion: “it has been said to be one of
the beauty spots of Westport. We have bordered it with nasturtiums,
poppies, marigold, sweet peas, and all sorts of old-time posies. But _we
had_ a time getting the ground, for this year every one was hysterically
wild to cultivate every inch of ground for a war-garden, and nobody
wanted to loan any. Finally, however, Edith and Lillie tried their
powers of persuasion on old Deacon Sawyer,—you know he’s one of the
pillars of the old Presbyterian church, and he let us have an old lot of
his on Summer Street, about a hundred feet or so square.

“And how we have worked over it, for of course it had to be plowed.
Peter, Mrs. Van Vorst’s gardener,—he’s the kindest-hearted thing
alive,—offered to plow it for us, but we declined with a vote of
thanks, for we felt _that_ wouldn’t be our work. So Edith scoured the
town until finally she borrowed an old nag from the livery-stable
man,—he was just ready to crumble to pieces,—and Nita got a plow from
Peter, and we plowed it ourselves.

“But the time we had with that old steed,” Nathalie’s eyes gleamed
humorously, “for just as he would be going nicely across the field, he
would be inspired to take the ‘rest-cure’ and stand stock-still, and no
amount of pulling—we all got behind him and pushed—or coaxing would
induce him to budge a hair. O dear, we worked over him until we thought
we should expire with the heat, our faces all red and perspiring.

“Then Edith took to pulling his tail; she said she had read that would
make a balky horse go. Oh, it was funny to see her!” Nathalie laughed
outright. “But, dear me, it only made him lift one leg, very slowly, and
then the other, and then settle down in the same old rut, as still as
the wooden horse of Troy.

“You know Edith is a stick-at-the-job sort of person,” commented
Nathalie confidentially, “and what do you think? She actually got a
firecracker and set it off under that beast. But even that fiery
commotion only caused him to wink one lash and then resume his restful
pose. But finally the spirit moved him, and so suddenly,” laughed the
girl, “that Edith went sprawling on the ground, and Jessie tumbled in a
most humble attitude,—on her knees,—minus the reins, while our noble
steed went careering at a loping gallop across the field, while we, like
a lot of mutes, stared at him in stupid wonder.

“Well, after we got the land all plowed,” resumed Nathalie, “we had
irrigated it, by making a little ditch to let the water run down from
the hilly slope at one end, we planted our vegetables in rows. But
alas,” the girl gave a sigh, “when the plants began to come up we found
that the whole field was filled with coarse rye-grass which had roots,
and which had simply been cultivated, one might say, by the plow.

“We did not know what to do at first, until we remembered our Pioneer
motto, ‘I Can,’ and then we set to work with a will, and spaded every
inch of that lot; and it meant hard labor, too, for the grass was like
gristle. When the little plants began to come up and a girl would pull a
blade to see how it was doing, part of the plant would come up with the
roots. When we planted the different kinds of beans, using the string
and stakes, and pressing down the ground hard with our feet, on _five_
different occasions a violent rain came up during the night, and the
next morning we found all the seeds uncovered and washed down into
little piles at the end of the garden, and everything had to be done
over again.

“After we had planted rows and rows of hills of corn and rejoiced to see
coming forth little green plumes three inches high, we went to the
garden in our uniforms one day, laden with our garden-tools, ready for
work. But alas! we found that the crows had pulled out the corn from
almost every hill; the little black imps had bitten off the kernels and
gulped them down, and the stalks lay withering on the ground.

“Oh, I shall never forget the expression on Edith’s face that day,” said
Nathalie thoughtfully, “when she saw the havoc wrought by those crows;
it was such utter despair. I thought she was going to cry, but she
didn’t—just hurried to the little shed where we keep our tools and
things. When she reappeared her face was a sunbeam all right, as she
exclaimed, ‘Well, girls, let’s get the better of those crows, and plant
all over again.’

“Really, Mrs. Morrow, Edith inspired me to such respect for her
indomitable courage and pluck,” went on the girl candidly, “that I shall
always keep a very warm place in my heart for her, notwithstanding that
she sometimes gets on my nerves. Things went on swimmingly then until
that awful drought came. We had no way of watering the garden except by
watering-pots, and then we couldn’t do our weeding, or cultivating,
until late in the afternoon on account of the hot sun. But we did our
best, and we have been repaid,” smiled Nathalie, “although we did not
produce as much as I had hoped. Still—well, you’ll see at the pageant
to-morrow.” Nathalie, suddenly realizing that she had kept Mrs. Morrow
standing for some time, while she rattled on about that garden, now bade
her a hasty good-morning and hurried into the bank.

The young president of the Liberty Girls’ club passed a somewhat
troubled night, oppressed with the anxiety of her onerous
responsibility, knowing that the following day would be a well-filled
one. As the proposer and planner of the pageant there were numerous
details to arrange at the very last moment, and she was so afraid that
she would oversleep, that she awakened several times with a nervous
start, only to find everything enveloped in darkness.

Arousing finally, to see the East streaked with red, and the golden rim
of the sun gleaming above a silver line of clouds, she sprang out of bed
with a devout little prayer of thankfulness that the day at least was to
be a sunshiny one. An early breakfast, a hurried doing of her customary
duties, and then she and Grace—in the latter’s car—were off to inspect
the floats, eighteen of them, all ready in barns, or garages, awaiting
her word that they were properly equipped for the liberty parade, which
was to set forth on its journey through the town at two in the
afternoon.

And then, with many misgivings, fearing that the whole thing might prove
a fizzle,—for of course, many things had been wrong,—she hurried home
for luncheon. Then came a hurried dressing, a whirl in an automobile,
and she was dazedly taking her seat, a post of honor, on the front row
of the grand-stand, erected by the Boy Scouts and Peter, in front of
Mrs. Van Vorst’s high garden-walls.

She barely had time to realize that the notables of the village were
seated to the right and left of her, and to exchange a few greetings
with one or two old-time friends, when she heard the ringing of a bell,
the bell in the tower of the old Presbyterian church. This was the
signal that the Liberty Pageant, way up at the other end of the town,
was to issue from its shelter of green trees in front of the brick
schoolhouse, and set forth on its march down through Main Street, the
most important thoroughfare of the sleepy little town, with its wide,
asphalted road shaded by noble old elms.



                               CHAPTER V

                          THE LIBERTY PAGEANT


Nathalie was sure that she would never forget those tense, anxious
moments as she stared with strained eyes, trying to catch the first
glimpse of the coming show, while listening with alert ears to the
oncoming tread of many feet, the noise and bustle of moving equipages,
and the buzz and hum from the excited voices of the paraders and the
onlookers. High above the tumult floated snatches of patriotic song, as
sung by the Liberty Girls, and the loud outbursts of applause from the
villagers, who lined the street.

Ah, there it was! The girl’s heart leaped in wild bounds, she bent
forward eagerly, and then she was sitting with nervously clasped hands,
gazing with wide-open eyes at the slowly passing floats of the Liberty
Pageant. It was heralded by a procession of small maidens costumed as
Greek goddesses, who, while moving and swaying rhythmically, and holding
festoons of white flowers high above their heads, were singing Thomas
Paine’s “Liberty Tree.” As they burst out with the old familiar words:

            “In a chariot of light from the regions of day,
            The Goddess of Liberty came;”

Nathalie was forcibly reminded of the time when she had last heard that
song. Yes, it was almost a year ago, on Mrs. Van Vorst’s lawn, when the
Girl Pioneers had held their little playlet of “Liberty Banners.”

But her thoughts were again on the series of living pictures, and she
smiled with her neighbors at the two small boys, one gowned as a doctor
of the law, and the other as a brass-buttoned, blue-coated guardian of
the peace, mounted on small horses caparisoned in white, whose trappings
were marked in gold with the words “Law” and “Order.” As the diminutive
doctor removed a pen from behind his ear, and peered learnedly through
his goggles at a ponderous volume of law resting on a rack in front of
him, while his companion on the neighboring flower-bedecked steed
flourished a somewhat formidable-looking club, in token of the duties of
his office, roars of laughter broke from the spectators.

But as their eyes wandered on to the snowy chariot, where the Spirit of
Liberty stood with outstretched hands, one holding a branch of
evergreen, and the other a lighted torch, their laughter ceased, and a
strange hush stilled their noisy clamor. For this beautiful maiden in
loosely flowing garments, with eyes as bright and shining as the starry
chaplet that wreathed her golden, unbound hair, was the little hunchback
of the big gray house, Nita Van Vorst!

High above the “angel face,” as Nathalie heard some one designate the
girl’s countenance, beautiful in its inspiration of happiness and
patriotism—her deformity hidden by her white wings—was a large banner
inscribed with the words:

                     “Enter at Freedom’s porch,[1]
                     For you I lift my torch,
                       For you my coronet
                         Is rayed with stars
                     My name is Liberty,
                       My throne is Law.”

Guarding the Spirit of Liberty, while holding the streamers that floated
from the banners above, were three more white-robed figures,
representing the three great principles for which the world was
striving. The unbound tresses of each were banded with white, and the
first bore the word, “Democracy,” the girl holding a white dove on her
hand. The second was Humanity,—who cuddled a little Belgian refugee in
her arms; and the third was Justice, who held aloft a pair of scales.

Nathalie’s eyes radiated with gladness as she heard her neighbors voice
their commendations in praises of the snowy chariot, the symbol of
freedom, man’s divine heritage from God. She began to feel that the many
hours that she and Helen had spent in devising and planning the details
of this float and its mates, after all, might be appreciated.

The second picture was a marriage scene, a float marked “Virginia,
1607,” and bore the famous words of its well-known orator, “Give me
liberty, or give me death.” It was decorated with white flowers in honor
of the bride, Pocahontas,—impersonated by a Camp Fire girl in an Indian
deerskin robe wondrously embroidered, and gay with many-colored
beads,—who stood by the flower-decked pulpit amid a bower of green,
being united in the holy bands of matrimony to John Rolfe.

The pose of the Indian maiden, the sweet seriousness of her tawny-dyed
face and melting black eyes, the dignified pose of the Virginia planter,
so vividly portrayed the romantic episode of the first American colony,
that the many onlookers broke forth into shouts of approval. The
quaintly attired figures of the Jamestown settlers in the foreground,
and the group of Indian warriors with their war-plumes and dabs of paint
were backed by a miniature tower. Some one inquired if it was a
monument, much to the young president’s disgust, as she considered it a
noble work of art, which had been laboriously built of old bricks by the
Girl Pioneers to represent the ruined tower of Jamestown.

[Illustration: “My name is Liberty,
  My throne is Law.”—Page 75.]

Massachusetts was identified by the words, “The Founders of Liberty,”
and a simulated boulder, which Blue Robin watched with great trepidation
for fear the blithesome Mary Chilton, who stood victorious on this
Forefathers’ Rock, in too zealous jubilation would shake it too much.
But the sprightly Pilgrim maiden, in gray cape and bonnet—it was the
Sport—remembered the perilous foundations, and her scorn was discreetly
tempered with caution as she gazed at the somewhat crestfallen John, who
stood with one foot on the rock, and the other in a miniature shallop,
where the Pilgrim Fathers stood dismally regarding this forerunner of
the progressive American girl.

New York’s contribution to the cause of freedom was a float brilliantly
rampant with the Stars and Stripes, and a little white flag with a black
beaver on it, the State’s emblem. This float, which bore the words, “The
Sons of Liberty,” was in commemoration of the brave lovers of freedom on
the little isle of Manhattan, who, in February, 1770, raised the first
Liberty Pole in America at what is now known as City Hall Park. To be
sure, it was cut down twice, but Liberty was afire, and it was finally
hooped with iron and set up the third time, this time to stay.

“Liberty Hall,” the name of the home of a one-time governor of New
Jersey, was conspicuously seen on the next float. The girls had had some
difficulty in getting an appropriate design for this little garden State
that could be conveniently staged on a small-sized platform. But they
had evidently succeeded, for the quaintly gowned young maiden who acted
her rôle in pantomime was loudly applauded as she flew to an improvised
window, only to exhibit wild alarm, and then in frenzied haste scurried
to an old-time escritoire. Here she rummaged a moment or so, and then
extracted a bundle of letters, which she hurriedly secreted behind a
loosened brick beside a simulated fireplace. In explanation of this
silent drama Nathalie told that the young girl was Susannah, the
daughter of William Livingston, the governor, who, when she saw the
redcoats marching towards the house in her father’s absence, quickly
remembered his valuable papers and hid them for safety.

Five girls in homespun gowns, sewing on a United States flag, composed
the New Hampshire float, which flew the State emblem, with its motto of
Liberty inscribed on its side. The flag-makers, out of their best silk
gowns, were making, in accordance with the description in the resolution
just passed by Congress, June 14, 1777, the first Stars and Stripes that
floated from the _Ranger_, to which Captain Paul Jones had just been
commissioned, and which became known as “the unconquered and unstricken
flag.”

The Connecticut float bore the words, “The Liberty Charter,” while a
Liberty Girl, in a good impersonation of Ruth Wyllis, stood by a ladder
resting against a somewhat strange simulation of the Charter Oak,
handing the supposed charter to the redoubtable Captain Wadsworth, who
quickly secreted it in the hollow of the tree.

Terra Marie, the land of Mary, not only blazoned the words, “The Rights
of Liberty,” but portrayed Margaret Brent, the first woman suffragist,
as she stood before the Maryland Assembly and pleaded with those
worthies, with masculine energy, for her right to a say in the affairs
of the little State, the State noted for its Toleration Act of 1649.
Surely the good woman, as the representative of the deceased Governor
Calvert, who had given his all to her with the words, “Take all, and
give all,” had a right to demand that she be heard.

The “Daughters of Liberty” made a brilliant showing in big letters on
the little Rhody float, to honor the seventeen young girls who, in 1766,
met at the home of good old Deacon Bowen, in Providence, and not only
voiced their disapproval of the Colonies’ tax on tea and on cloth
manufactured in England, but formed the first patriotic organization
known in America. It was the same inspiration of liberty that impelled
their emulators to adopt their name, and to plan and push through the
demonstration of which every one was so proud. As these Liberty maidens
sat and spun at their looms, or whetted their distaffs on the float
before the gaping crowd, they were guarded by two impersonations,—one
the father of toleration, Roger Williams, who looked benignantly down
upon these devotees of freedom, and the other, America’s first
club-woman, the learned and martyred Anne Hutchinson.

Ah, but who is this riding astride a horse of sable blackness, curveting
and prancing with chafing irritation at the tightened rein of its rider,
who

              “Burly and big, and bold and bluff,
              In his three-cornered hat and coat of snuff,
              A foe to King George and the English state,
              Was Cæsar Rodney, the delegate.”[2]

Of course there were a few who were not familiar with this little
incident in the history of Delaware, and how the aforesaid Rodney, a
member of the Continental Congress, spurred his horse from Dover to
Philadelphia, a distance of eighty-one miles, to reach Independence Hall
before night, in order to cast the vote of Delaware for freedom and
independence. It was, indeed, a great ride, and the townspeople must
have appreciated it, for the horse and rider were heartily cheered as
they read the words on the banner: “It is Liberty’s stress; it is
Freedom’s need.”

North Carolina proved most interesting, with the inscription, “The First
Liberty Bell of America,” on a big hand-bell resting in the center of
the float. The inscription and the bell aroused so much curiosity as to
why it should take precedence of the old Liberty Bell at Philadelphia,
that Nathalie was called upon by a group of friends sitting near, to
explain that it really was the first Liberty Bell used in the Thirteen
Colonies, having sounded its peal for liberty when rung by the patriots
of that State in 1771.

“These patriots,” went on the young Liberty Girl, “were the farmers and
yeomanry of that State, who, in a vigorous protest against the tyrannous
acts, misrule, and extortion during the administration of Governor
Tryon, banded themselves into a company known as the Regulators. This
bell was used to call them together in their struggle to maintain the
rights of the people. These Regulators were not only hounded,
persecuted, and sometimes executed as if they were rebels, but many of
their number were killed at the battle of the Alamance,—so named
because it took place on a field near that beautiful river,—when called
upon to defend themselves, when fired upon by the governor and a company
of the king’s troops. This battle has been called by some the first
battle of the Revolution,” continued the young girl, “and really
inspired the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, the forerunner of
the noted Declaration signed at Philadelphia. Some historians claim that
‘God made the flower of freedom grow out of the turf that covered these
men’s graves.’”

After this little story, the inscription,

           “And well these men maintained the right;
             They kept the faith and fought the fight;
                   Till Might and Reason both
                   Fled fast before the oath
           Which brought the God of Freedom’s battles down
           To place on patriot’s brow the victor’s crown!”[3]

on the float was eagerly read and doubly appreciated. By the bell stood
a tiny maid in the long skirt of the days of colonial childhood, wearing
a long white apron. With the crossed kerchief and two bright eyes
peeping from beneath the golden curls that strayed from below the little
one’s Puritan cap, she looked so sweet and demure that murmurs of
admiration surged through the crowd, as they recognized that this
diminutive lady represented the first white child born in America,
little Virginia Dare.

Perhaps only a few knew that the white fawn that she was holding by her
side featured the legend of the white doe that was said to haunt the
isle of Roanoke for many years after the return of John White, who found
only the word _Croatan_ to tell him that his dear little granddaughter
had disappeared, never to be found. The legend was so suggestive of the
romance of North Carolina that the girls could not forbear giving it
prominence on the float. They had had some trouble to find a white doe,
but they had succeeded, and as Nathalie gazed at it she was again
reminded of how the legend told that it used to stand mournfully gazing
out to sea, on a hill of the little isle. The Indians, tradition
asserted, had failed to kill it, until one day it was shot and killed by
a silver bullet from the hand of an Indian chieftain, who claimed that
the bullet had been given to him by Queen Elizabeth to kill witches,
when a captive in England. As the beautiful doe sank upon the green
sward and expired it was said to have murmured, “Virginia Dare! Virginia
Dare!”

South Carolina, glaringly conspicuous with red and blue bunting, was
marked “Liberty” in honor of one of the most famous flags used in the
Revolutionary War. It was an ensign of blue with a white crescent in one
corner, said to have been designed by Colonel Moultrie, of Carolina
fame, and was declared to have been the first flag raised for liberty in
the South.

In the center of the float a miniature trench had been raised, on the
parapet of which stood a young lad waving this little blue flag, in
honor of that gallant hero, Sergeant Jasper, who, when the flag was shot
down during the bombardment of Fort Moultrie, June 28, 1776, leaped
fearlessly to the top of the ramparts, received the colors, and held
them in his hand until another staff was found.

             “Lo! the fullness of time has come,
             And over all the exiles’ Western home
             From sea to sea the flowers of Freedom bloom.”

This little quotation was an apt one, from the Poet Whittier, but it was
not necessary to make known to those gazing at it, that it stood for the
strongest and proudest of the sisterhood of States, the home of freemen
and heroes, of Robert Morris, Dr. Franklin and our good brother, William
Penn.

This promoter of tolerance, independence, and the equal rights of men
was fittingly portrayed by a Boy Scout. Benignant of face, mild of eye,
with long hair falling from beneath his broad-brimmed hat, this friend
of the friendless stood surrounded by a group of Indian warriors,
resplendent in all the trappings of their tribes, making one of the
numerous peace treaties.

But the Georgia float, buried in white to represent bolls of cotton, in
memory of Eli Whitney, aroused such loud and long cries of admiration
that Nathalie feared that after her hard labor the other floats had not
received their due mead of appreciation. But no, it was the rousing
melody of “Marching through Georgia,” with its telling lines of,

         “So we made a thoroughfare for Freedom and her train,
         Sixty miles in latitude—three hundred to the main;”

and the inspiration that always comes to every Northern heart when they
think of that gallant Son of Liberty, Sherman, and his triumphant march
to the sea, that had created the sudden tumult.

The few men in regimentals of the Union army,—in real life, boys in
brown from Camp Mills,—who were playing fifes and bugles on the float,
and the straggling darkies in the rear, who were shouting with verve and
gusto, as they followed in the wake of “Massa Sherman,” intensified the
appeal.

Ah, but now comes another edition of Liberty; this time no less a
personage than Lillie Bell, who, in the old costume worn over a year ago
on the lawn of the big gray house, was standing on a chariot, an old
farm wagon ablaze with the colors of Freedom, driven by four soldiers,
representing France, England, Belgium, and America. The young goddess
with sad and tragic eyes shining from beneath her helmet, gazed straight
before her as she held a drawn sword clasped closely to her breast, in a
graceful pose beneath the colors of the Allies floating gayly above her
head.

Yes, there was no doubt, as Helen had often said, Lillie was born for
stellar rôles, for somehow she had the happy faculty of always falling
into the desired attitude and mood of the part she was to portray. A
sudden silence gripped the line of people standing on the curb, as they
saw this familiar figure of Liberty, in a new and strange rôle. On a
beflagged chair of state good old Uncle Sam was seated, driving
America’s symbol of Freedom with reins of roses. Yes, roses to typify
that the good protector of the United States’ joys and interests was on
the job,—as the Sport expressed it,—but doing it with the silken reins
of love.

In the rear of this float a very small one appeared, but it was large
enough to display a cannon and a pile of cannon-balls, and also a member
of the United States Marines’ crack quartet of machine-gunners. As he
was the genuine article, as one of the girls declared,—being one of the
town’s boys home on a leave of absence, and held a Lewis gun, he was
received with wild cheers. A Jackie was perched on what was supposed to
be a conning-tower, apparently on the watch for a submarine, while
another soldier of the seas was ramming an old cannon, which created
much laughter.

It wasn’t much of a naval display, Nathalie thought regretfully, but it
was the best they could do with their poor equipment, for these
Daughters of Freedom were resolved to give due honor to these brave
guardians of the sea.

A contingent of husky young chaps from Camp Mills were lionized as soon
as their khaki-clad figures were sighted on the next float, which was
marked, “Liberty Boys.” A somewhat crude representation of a trench,
piled with sand-bags, with a few boys in tin hats, with guns in their
hands, clambering over it, represented to the spectators an “Over the
Top” scene. In the rear of the trench a few soldiers were grouped around
a camp-fire, presumably in a rest _billet_, having “eats.” Every moment
or so a soldier on this float would break forth into some war-song,
which was quickly taken up by his comrades, and which helped to make the
scene very realistic.

A small float with the Red Cross insignia, bearing the words, “The Cross
of Liberty,” with a few nurses seated around a table making bandages,
now appeared. A white cot, with a soldier boy in it, suddenly silenced
the cheers,—it was so suggestive of what every heart held in silent
dread and fear, ever since the United States had buckled to the fray.

But the sudden quiet was broken as the next, and last, float hove in
sight. It was so artistically gotten up as a Liberty Garden, and
represented so much freshness and beauty with its Liberty Girls, each
one dressed to represent either a fruit or a vegetable, that it was
wildly cheered. Masses of fruit piled up here and there peeped from
bowers of green leaves, or hung in festoons across the float. Potatoes,
green and red peppers, onions, cucumbers, and many other products of the
garden were lavishly in evidence. Carol, the Tike, was arrayed as a
pumpkin, a row of yellow leaves standing above a bunch of green ones.
Carrots, cucumbers, turnips, even beans, beets, and strawberries were
ingeniously represented by crêpe paper.

But the love of every heart were the Morrow twins, standing in the front
of the float in blue overalls, wide-brimmed hats, and blue shirts, with
rakes and hoes in their hands, as farmerettes, each one vigorously
waving a flag. This float completed the series of pictures that Nathalie
now felt had been duly admired, and she smiled happily at the many
plaudits that again burst forth. But when the farmerettes and these
living representations of fruits and vegetables broke into[4]

              “Yes, we’ll rally round the farm, boys,
              We’ll rally once again,
              Shouting the battle cry of ‘Feed ’em.’
              We’ve got the ships and money
              And the best of fighting men,
              Shouting the battle cry of ‘Feed ’em.’

              “The Onion forever, the beans and the corn,
              Down with the tater—it’s up the next morn—
              While we rally round the plow, boys,
              And take the hoe again,
              Shouting the battle cry of ‘Feed ’em!’”

it captured every heart present, and such prolonged applause rent the
air that Nathalie was duly satisfied.

As she turned to leave the grand-stand it seemed to the tired girl as if
every one in town stopped to shake hands, and to congratulate her on the
huge success of the Liberty Pageant. When she finally arrived home, it
was some hours before she reached her couch, for she found the family
unduly excited, all eagerly talking; no, not about the pageant, but
about a rather strange letter that had been received by Mrs. Page that
afternoon.

-----

Footnote 1:

  “Liberty Enlightening the World,” E. C. Stedman.

Footnote 2:

  “Rodney’s Ride.” Poems of American History. B. C. Stevenson.

Footnote 3:

  “The Mecklenburg Declaration,” Wm. C. Elam.

Footnote 4:

  “Patriotic Toasts,” Emerson Brooks.



                               CHAPTER VI

                           THE STRANGE LETTER


“Oh, Helen, mother received the strangest letter last night,” cried
Nathalie suddenly the following day, as she stood with her friend and
Nita in the Red Cross booth at the Liberty Sale. “And I am afraid it
means,” the girl’s eyes shadowed, “that I shall have to resign as
president of the club.”

“Resign?” exclaimed Helen and Nita simultaneously. “Oh, Nathalie, you
must not do that.”

“Well, I fear it will be necessary,” sighed the girl dolefully, “for the
home duties come first, especially the duties to mother, and she wants
to go—she really needs the change—and—”

“Go where?” questioned Helen sharply. “Oh, Nathalie, you are talking
Dutch to us, and—”

“Sure she is,” voiced Nita quickly, “jumbling letters and resignations
all together in a very queer way. Now suppose, young lady,” she
commanded imperiously, seizing her friend by the arm impulsively, “that
you unravel our tangled brains and tell us what you are aiming at.”

“Well, I guess I shall have to, from the stew you two girls have sizzled
into,” replied Blue Robin laughingly. “Well, as I said,” she continued
more soberly, “mother received a letter last night. But I shall have to
tell you a bit of family history, if you want to understand,” she added
hesitatingly.

As the two girls laughingly assured her that that would only make her
explanation more interesting, Nathalie gathered up her threads and went
on with her story. “Father had an older half-sister, whose mother—who
came of very wealthy people in Boston—left her all of her money, so
that she was quite wealthy, and in due time became very eccentric.
Father said she was spoiled with her pot of gold.

“She married when quite young and had one son, who, shortly after the
death of his father,—as soon as he was graduated from college,—went to
Europe, fell in love with a pretty girl, and married her. I have never
heard the details of this marriage, but I believe the girl was French.
No, she may have been English; anyway it was quite a romance, and the
young couple were quite happy.

“My aunt, however, was deeply wounded to think that her only son, her
idol, had spoiled all her plans and married some one whom she considered
beneath him. So when Philip came to America with his young wife, my aunt
refused to see her. This angered him so deeply that they quarreled, and
Philip rushed from his mother’s presence, declaring that she should
never see his face again.

“And she never did,” asserted Nathalie with grave emphasis. “Presumably
he immediately returned to Europe with his young wife, for although Mrs.
Renwick soon repented of her folly, as father called it, and wrote her
son again and again, she heard nothing from him. After employing
detectives by the score with no result, she finally went abroad and
endeavored herself to find some trace of him, but was not successful.
She finally returned to America and started to seek him here, but found
no clew to his whereabouts.

“As time passed—I think the matter preyed on her mind—she began to
have queer spells. No, she wasn’t crazy, or anything like _that_, but
just worried and unhappy, going off alone by herself for months at a
time, presumably still trying to find her boy. After a time she would
return from one of these erratic journeys, but she never told where she
had been, and never mentioned her son’s name.

“Now we have come to the letter mother received yesterday. It was from
my aunt’s lawyer, who summers in Littleton, New Hampshire. You see, Mrs.
Renwick had considerable property in Boston and other places, but she
was very fond of the White Mountains and always summered on Sugar Hill,
where she had a lovely place called Seven Pillars, only a few miles from
Littleton, and just a short distance from the mountain village of
Franconia.

“The lawyer,” continued Nathalie, who by this time had quite an
interested audience, “writes mother that Aunt Mary went off on one of
her queer jaunts over a year ago and has not returned. In accordance
with her wishes,—she always leaves a letter of instruction when she
goes off this way,—mother and two cousins of mine from the West have
been invited to spend the summer at this place on Sugar Hill. Mother
wants to go, and I feel that she needs the change, so I shall have to go
with her, and give up being a Liberty Girl.”

“But why should _you_ have to go?” questioned Nita insistently.
“Couldn’t your cousin, Lucille, or your sister, Dorothy, go with her?
And then, oh, Nathalie, you could stay with us! Oh, that would be the
dandiest thing! Oh, say yes, Nathalie; say yes.”

“Yes, Nita,” smiled Nathalie teasingly, as she placed her arm
affectionately about the young girl, “it would be just dandy, as you
say, for indeed I would like a rest myself this summer, because when the
warm weather comes, housework does drag on one so. But Lucille is going
to California to visit some cousins of hers, and has planned to take
Dorothy with her. Dorothy is wild to go, and mother would not disappoint
the child for the world. And then, too, the lawyer wrote mother that I
was to come with her, as my aunt had given instructions. Oh, I just hate
to give up my Liberty work!”

“But you will be back in the fall, Nathalie,” suggested Helen, “so why
not let Lillie Bell take charge—she is vice-president—for the summer?
It will give her something to think about, too, for she is possessed
with the idea of going on the stage, and her mother is worrying herself
ill over it.”

“Lillie wants to go on the stage?” repeated Nathalie in surprise. “Why,
I didn’t know she had aspirations in that line. But do you think she
would care to take charge of the club? O dear!” she broke off abruptly,
“we had planned to do so many things this summer.” The girl’s voice was
almost a wail.

“Why not carry your plans to the mountains with you,” inquired her
friend, “and form a club of Liberty Girls up there? I am sure there will
be some one who will be glad to belong, and you have such a fine way of
getting people interested in things, Nathalie.”

“Possibly mother may change her mind and decide not to go,” returned
Nathalie, brightening a little, “for she wants to be near Dick; you know
he is now stationed at the Aviation Camp, Hazlehurst, at Mineola, near
Camp Mills. And then, too, she says she hates to leave the house alone
for so long a period.”

“Why don’t you rent the house for the summer?” suggested Helen
practically. “You know that Westport is getting to be quite a
summer-resort since the new hotel was built on the bluff.”

“No such good luck for us, I’m afraid,” answered Nathalie dejectedly,
“but I’ll look up Lillie and see what—” But Helen had hurried away in
answer to a call for the captain of the Red Cross Squad. Nathalie stood
a moment watching her friend, as she helped one of the “white-veiled”
girls into her white head-covering, starred with its cross, and then
went slowly out of the booth.

As her eyes swept over the lawn in search of Lillie her glance fell upon
the little flag with its Red Cross insignia floating cheerily from the
top of the booth she had just left, as if in a salute to its companion
cross placed below on the front, so that its arms stretched outward,
dividing the booth into two sections.

Ah, here was the poster drawn by Barbara Worth representing a Red Cross
nurse standing by an invalid chair, in which sat a soldier boy with
bandaged eyes. The girl’s face saddened at its implication, and then she
had bent forward and was reading the placard persuasively held forth by
the nurse, on which was written:

                “Please buy a Liberty bond of me,
                It’s for the soldiers across the sea,
                Bravely fighting to make the world free,
                Wounded, and dying, for you and me.”

But now her eyes were held by the poster of a white-robed
figure,—representing the Spirit of Liberty which had heralded the
pageant of the day before,—waving a flag victoriously above her head,
while holding a shield with the Biblical quotation:

        “I have fought a good fight ... I have kept the faith.”

The face of this water-color sketch of Freedom, although bearing no
resemblance to Nita’s, was so bright with hope that it thrilled the
girl’s heart with the suggestion that the Allies, by their faith in God
and their desire to do right, would finally win a victory over sin and
wrong.

At this moment she heard the voice of Nita as she called her to come and
see the display of small dolls, miniature Red Cross nurses, to be used
as weights, door-holders, or pincushions, which were on sale. But some
real dolls, as Nita called them, proved more interesting to Nathalie,
because they were the work of a shut-in, as her bit towards winning the
war, and because they were impersonations of some of the crowned heads
of the allied nations. They were queer little things, stiff and
stilted-looking, although several were excellent imitations, especially
those of their majesties, King George and Queen Mary, and the little
Princess Marie of Belgium.

The girl could not forbear giving Shep—a big, tawny-colored collie
belonging to the Morrow twins—a love-pat, as he stood in front of the
booth with red-hanging tongue and patient resignation in his brown eyes,
while several young nurses fussed over him. They were trying to fasten a
strip of white cloth around the center of his body, with a red cross on
each side, in imitation of a war-dog who had served with a Red Cross
hospital in France, and who had become famous by his acts of bravery,
running into shell-holes and dug-outs in search of wounded soldiers.

But Shep was no patriot, and evidently did not realize the honor of that
big red cross, for suddenly he gave his huge body a shake, slipped from
beneath the fussing fingers, and bounded away after his young masters,
leaving a gentle friend to humanity lying sprawling on the grass.

As Nathalie turned, her eyes traveled slowly from one booth to another.
There were seven of them, three on the left and three on the right of
the Red Cross booth, which was in the center of the lawn, at one end,
fronting its sister booths. The war booth, on the left, ablaze with the
flags of the Allies, was curiously decorated on its front and posts with
the paper coverings from magazines and books. On its counter were
displayed the latest war books,—all donated after a sharp drive by the
hostesses, the Camp Fire Girls, who wore embroidered deerskin robes
aglisten with many-colored beads, and trench-caps stuck jauntily on one
side of their heads, which gave them a very coquettish and natty
appearance.

Scrap-books, in which were pasted funny verses, tidbits of news from all
over the world, with many-colored pictures, and songs and rhymes to
amuse the convalescents in the hospitals, were also on sale. Little
candles of paper added to the attractiveness of this booth’s display,
while one or two Camp Fire Girls were in attendance, who, on the payment
of a nickel, taught the uninitiated the knack of making these
trench-candles.

But the booth that held the first place in Nathalie’s heart was the
Liberty-Garden booth, a leaf-embowered tent. Here were brilliant
splashes of color from the vegetables piled on wicker mats, as carrots,
turnips, beans, onions, beets, and other products, artistically softened
by the light green of lettuce, the red of beet-leaves, and the delicate,
lacy leaves of the carrot.

Here and there herbs tied in bunches, as thyme, caraway seeds, catnip,
sweet lavender, and other herbs, suggested the days of long ago, when
these little garden accessories held a higher place with the housewife
as necessities of the day. Unwieldy tomatoes and potatoes, lazily
resting on plates, added to the picturesque effect of the display, as
well as the festoons of peppers, radishes, parsnips, and vegetables of
similar character that were hung from side to side of the tent.

This booth was certainly a brilliant showing of the work done by the
Pioneers. Oh, how they had scrubbed and polished those vegetables to
bring out their colors, so they would not be messy or huddled-looking!
And the time it had taken to print the little labels so neatly fastened
to each exhibit!

Yes, through the sweat of her brow Nathalie had come to realize that
gardening was not merely a matter of digging, plowing, or even planting
or weeding, but that it meant straying into many paths of knowledge that
hitherto had been closed to her. Then, too, there was the trench
warfare, as she called the unceasing onslaught against the bugs,
insects, and garden slugs, by a constant fire of hand-grenades and
bombs, as the girls had come to call the spraying and powdering of the
plants.

Ah, there was Lillie, with a number of Girl Pioneers, who, in
bright-colored overalls and shirt-waists, and coquettish little
sunbonnets tied under their chins, were rather gay editions of
farmerettes, as they stood in picturesque attitudes, with their rakes
and hoes. But a moment later Lillie was forgotten, for as Nathalie
reached the booth she burst into a sudden squeal of delight on suddenly
perceiving, on the top of a wall of canned vegetables, a little green
imp, ingeniously made from a string-bean. He not only had a most rakish
air, with his tiny soldier-hat cocked on one side, as he stood at
attention with a flag for a gun, but he held forth a little placard on
which was written:

         “Little Beans, little Beans, whence did you come?”
           “We came from the ground at the sound of the drum.”
         “Little Beans, little Beans, why are you here?”
           “We were scalded and canned by a Girl Pioneer.”

“Oh, who wrote that?” merrily inquired the girl of one of the Pioneers,
for it was something she had not seen before.

“Why, one of the Pioneer directors,” answered the farmerette smilingly,
pleased at the young president’s surprise.

A moment’s inspection of the fine display of canned goods, and Nathalie
turned to seek Lillie, but that young lady had mysteriously disappeared.
One of the girls, suggesting that Lillie had gone to the Liberty Tea
booth to regale herself with a cup of tea, Nathalie hurried on to that
booth, where the Daughters of Liberty, attired in quaint, old-time
costumes, dispensed that beverage.

But Lillie was not drinking tea, and again Nathalie hurried across the
lawn, on her way to the opposite booth, a mass of vines and flowers, the
result of the labors of the Girl Scouts in their garden, which they had
named the Garden of Freedom.

Ah, here was Lillie talking to a brown-clad soldier-boy by the big
Liberty pole that had been erected in the center of the lawn, facing the
Red Cross booth. It flew the Stars and Stripes and the club’s ensign, a
little red banner blazoned with the white stars of hope, while a big
liberty bell was hung from a cross-beam. On its flag-bedecked platform
Carol Tyke was stationed as the bell-ringer, for later in the afternoon
she was to strike the big bell to announce some patriotic speech, or
fiery oration, to be made in a sharp drive to sell the Liberty bonds.

Lillie, seeing Nathalie coming in her direction, advanced towards her,
and immediately presented her soldier-friend, and in a few moments the
three young people were having a sprightly chat. But Nathalie, soon
recalled to the business on hand, turned and told the young
vice-president why she was so anxious to see her.

“Yes; yes, indeed, Nathalie,” cried the girl quickly. “I am Hooverizing
this summer, and as I do not expect to leave town until late in the
fall, I shall be most delighted to accept the office of acting president
for the summer.”

A few moments later, relieved of her anxiety as to what would become of
the Liberty Girls in case she went to the mountains, Nathalie thanked
her friend, and hastened over to the Garden of Freedom, where
nasturtiums, pink poppies, sweet peas, phlox, and other old-fashioned
blooms peered at her in a riotous flaunt of color.

The Girl Scouts, who were charmingly gotten up to represent flowers,
beamed with pleasure as their president complimented them on the
splendid display they made, and the honor they had won by their hard
labor. They not only sold cut flowers, but potted plants, as well as
toothsome sweets, made without sugar, they declared, as they coaxingly
tempted Nathalie to sample a few.

But she had time only for a nibble or two, and then she was off to the
knitting booth, where a bewildering assortment of sweaters, helmets,
mufflers, socks, and other knitted articles stared at her in a
“homespuney” sort of way that reminded her of her grandmother. She
remembered how, as a child, she used to watch her as she sat by the fire
knitting, and the fun it was when the ball went rolling under the table
and she scrambled after it.

No, she could not hurry by this booth, for Marie’s eyes, big but shy,
and bright with a beautiful soft blackness, shone so pleadingly from the
clear pallor of her ivory-tinted skin, that they could not be resisted.
“Oh, Mees President,” cried the girl in her soft musical voice, “I shall
tell somethings on you. I likes that you look at mine table—iss it not
shmardt, hein? My mamma she says it iss stylish. Shure, und the
peoples—oh, they buys und buys lots and lots of sweaters, und mufflers,
und the helmets—yiss, ma’am, they have a glad on them, for they go fast
mit the wind.”

“Yes, isn’t it lovely, Marie,” returned Nathalie, smiling into the
limpid eyes, “to think that every one is so patriotic, and so anxious to
make the soldier-boys who are to fight for us, happy and comfortable?”

“Shure, Mees, that iss because they are lovin’ much mit the liberty. Oh,
here comes mine papa. He buys sweater of me. I likes that you speak mit
mine papa, Mees,” exclaimed the little Jewess shyly, as her eyes again
pleaded with Nathalie.

The young president turned, to see a rather crumpled, mussy-looking
little man by her side, who stared at her with sudden embarrassment as
she quickly extended her hand in a cordial greeting to him.

Mr. Katzkamof seized the outstretched hand and shook it nervously, while
his bright black eyes beamed with good-natured surprise. “I be glad to
meet young Mees,” he cried hurriedly, “who makes mine little girl be so
happy. She sing, she smile all the day mit the liberty that you gives to
her.”

“But _I_ didn’t give it to her,” answered Nathalie quickly. “God gave it
to her. I am only trying to show her how to give it to those who haven’t
learned what liberty means. But you,” she added quickly, “you are an
American,—you love the liberty, too?” The girl raised her eyebrows
inquiringly, somewhat frightened at her temerity, for she suddenly
remembered that she had heard Edith say that the newsdealer was a fiery
socialist.

“Yes, Mees, I be an American. I vote for the President. But I no like
the war,” the black eyes hardened. “It makes me cold in mine heart. I
think it no right for the people to fight mit one und the other, likes
the cat und the dog. They spill much of the blood. I am lovin’ mit the
peace. I no fight.”

“Yes, it is a terrible thing to have to fight and kill one another,”
replied the girl sadly. “And the mothers,—oh, I feel so sorry for them,
when they have to give up their boys to go and fight. But it must be
done,” she added valiantly, although there was a catch in her breath as
the thought of Dick came to her.

“Oh, no, Mees, if all the people say _no fight_, they be no soldiers,
they be no war, we have the peace.”

“Yes, but what kind of a peace,” exclaimed the girl. And then a sudden
thought looming big. “Ah, Mr. Katzkamof, you love the Christ. Did He not
die to make men free? Shall we not die to give liberty to the world?”

“No, Mees, I ain’t lovin’ mit Krisht. I make nothings mit Him.” The
man’s tone was surly, although he shrugged his shoulders carelessly.

“I beg your pardon,” cried Nathalie with reddening cheeks. And then, as
if to recover lost ground. “But you believe in God, _your_ God, _the
God_ who brought the Israelites dry-shod over the Red Sea? And did _He_
not command you to fight and drive out the enemies of God, the heathen,
who did not serve him, and who were in the Promised Land? And is not the
Kaiser a Hun, a heathen, when he tortures and kills little children and
women? Yes,” continued Blue Robin, impelled by some indefinable feeling
to rush blindly on, “this is _God’s_ war. He has commanded us to fight,
to do away with tyranny and oppression. They must be overcome, so that
all the world shall have liberty, and then,—why then we shall have
peace, a peace that the Germans can’t destroy.” And then Nathalie
smiled, although her heart was leaping in great bounds at her sudden
boldness. But another thought had come, and, turning towards her
companion, for she had turned to leave him, she added smilingly, “And I
am sure that you are big-hearted enough to be willing to fight, so that
you can give to others the liberty that gives so much happiness to you.”

The man’s eyes had brightened with a sudden strange light, and he opened
his mouth to reply, but Nathalie had passed on, angry at herself for
being so outspoken. But O dear! she felt so sorry for those poor
ignorant people, who thought and did violent things just because they
couldn’t reason, and didn’t understand.

But she had reached the Love booth, the name given by the girls to the
tent where the comfort-kits were sold. By a pile on a seat in the rear
she knew that business had been brisk, and that people had not only
donated kits and then bought them back again, but had patriotically
returned them to the sellers, so that they could be given to the
soldier-boys.

Blue Robin stood a moment and watched the girls, who, busy as bees, were
selling their wares, as they chatted merrily over their sales, and then
she turned to cross the lawn to the Red Cross booth. She had not gone
more than a step or so, however, when a sudden clang of the liberty bell
brought her to a halt. Oh, some one had bought a Liberty bond; yes,
three bonds, for the three clangs of the bell announced the number sold.
Oh, it was still ringing! What did it mean?

She started to rush towards the booth where the bonds were being sold,
and then glanced back at the booth she had just left, to see that the
girls, in their eagerness to know who was buying so many bonds,—for the
bell was still clanging,—had dropped their work and were rushing in
frantic haste towards the booth.

Nathalie smiled, and turned to follow after the group of girls who were
speeding past her, when a sudden thought leaped into her mind. She
halted and again glanced back at the Comfort-Kit booth. Not a girl was
to be seen. Ah, now was her chance to get rid of that letter. The next
moment she had turned and was flying back to the now deserted booth.



                              CHAPTER VII

                        THE VISIT TO CAMP MILLS


As Nathalie reached the booth she glanced quickly about; no one was in
sight. With a hurried movement she drew a letter from the bag that hung
from her wrist, and after glancing at the written words, “To whomsoever
this Comfort Kit may come, greetings and good wishes,” she slipped out
the enclosure and slowly read:

    “Dear Mr. Soldier Boy:

    “Please remember that you are going to fight under the banner of
    the Cross, which means that you belong to a Christian nation
    whose motto is, ‘In God we Trust.’ Hold to the feeling that you
    are a gentleman by the culture—not ‘Kultur’—that comes from
    kindliness, courtesy, and consideration for all people, so
    please don’t kill anybody unless you have to.

    “Don’t forget that you are an American patriot, and that your
    heart is seared with the Stars and Stripes, which means the red
    of courage, the white of purity, and the blue of royal devotion
    to the right, and starred with the divine fire of liberty.

    “Remember you are fighting for the mothers and children: yes,
    fighting so the mothers and children of all nations may have
    liberty and peace. Be strong and brave in the thought that this
    war is to maintain the principles back of our flag, the ideals
    given to us by the founders of this nation. As Christ died to
    make men holy, so these men suffered and shed their blood that
    you might have the joy and independence that comes from the
    liberty which God has given to us. Be happy with the thought
    that no matter what comes to you you will not have lived in
    vain, but will have fought for the grandest and greatest things
    in life,—liberty and humanity. The best of luck to you,

                                                       “Blue Robin.”

Nathalie returned the letter to the envelope, and then rummaged under a
pile of kits that had been filled and fastened, ready for the boys at
camp, until she found one way down beneath the pile. She quickly opened
it. Then something stayed her hand.

“No, it will not be a wicked thing to do, for it can’t do any harm,” she
reasoned doubtfully; “and yet I just _hate_ to do it, but I feel that I
must do something to try to help some boy, who, perhaps, has a lagging
spirit, whose heart may fail him when he thinks of what is before him,
or who, perhaps, fails to realize the greatness of what we are fighting
for, the way I did. This letter may spur him on, give him courage to do
_his best_, perhaps, when he realizes the truth. And _no one will know_
who Blue Robin is, and yet it will do for a name, as mother always says
it is not considered fair to send an anonymous letter to any one, and I
surely would not sign my own.”

Nathalie heaved a deep sigh, and then, as if she would not let herself
have any more misgivings, she seized the letter and dropped it into the
bag. A moment later she was on her way to the Red Cross booth, to learn
who had won the prize for buying the first Liberty bond.

“Oh, Nathalie, Dr. Morrow bought fifteen bonds!” came in an excited
chorus from a group of girls, who were standing in front of the booth,
chatting excitedly over this unlooked-for event.

“Fifteen? Oh, isn’t that just too lovely,” answered the girl. And then
she hastily made her way towards the Morrow group, where the doctor,
with the twins clinging excitedly to his coat-tails,—trying to climb up
his back, he declared,—was signing the bond-certificate that made each
one of them the possessor of five bonds, and his wife the owner of five
more.

A Liberty button was now fastened to the doctor’s coat as a guarantee
that he was a good patriot, and then he was presented with the prize, a
box of Liberty candy from the Girl Scouts’ booth, something he never
indulged in, he laughingly asserted, as he stood with the box in his
hand, lookingly helplessly at it. But the twins did, and they quickly
relieved him of it and were soon blissfully happy as they munched on the
sweets.

A good beginning must have brought the girls good luck, for as soon as
Mrs. Van Vorst heard of this sale she followed the doctor’s example and
invested in ten bonds, five for herself and five for Nita. A few more
followed suit, some buying two or three, while others only took one, but
every little helped, the girl delightedly cried, jubilantly happy at the
many sales they were having. And then a surprise came, as her cousin
Lucille pushed her way through those surrounding the booth, and bought
three bonds,—one for herself, one for Dorothy, and one for Nathalie.

“Oh, Lucille, don’t do that!” cried distressed Nathalie with flushed
cheeks. “It is too much to give me.”

“Indeed, it is not,” insisted Lucille smilingly, who could be very
generous at times, as her cousin knew by the gift of her Pioneer
uniform. “I think you have worked hard enough for these Liberty Girls to
have that much at any rate.” And several must have agreed with
her,—judging by the nods and claps that came from those who were
standing near and heard this remark.

As Nathalie, sometime later, sat gathering up her certificates,—she had
been kept busy all the afternoon making out the little blue and pink
receipts that certified as to her many sales,—Lillie came flying up.

“Oh, Nathalie, hasn’t it been a big success!” she cried with gleaming
eyes. “And the patriotic speeches and recitations have been just fine.
But, O dear!” she added with a sudden note of disappointment in her
voice, “there are a lot of things that have not been sold. Of course
they will all go to the boys at camp, but I was in hopes that everything
would be sold, so as to add to our fund for the bonds.” For those who
had purchased that afternoon had patriotically returned the things they
had bought, as their donation for the boys at camp, thus giving the
girls an opportunity to use the purchase money for Liberty bonds.

“Yes, we have several sweaters and mufflers left,” announced Barbara,
who had been talking to Nathalie, “and poor Captain Molly is quite
disappointed, as she was so sure that we should sell everything we had.”

“And we have a number of flowers and potted plants that have not been
disposed of,” added a Girl Scout in a disappointed voice.

“But we can give those to the hospital,” answered Nathalie quickly, “and
give some sorrowful heart a bit of cheer.”

“Well, we have some boxes of candy, too,” added the Girl Scout
dolefully, “and they won’t do for the sick ones for—”

“And we have some books left over,” interrupted another bystander.

“Oh, I have an idea, a big one, too,” broke in Helen, her eyes all of a
glow. “Why could we not have an auction sale? Of course a good many will
return what they buy,—and I think it will be lots of fun.”

This idea was voted a good one, and a few minutes later Dr. Morrow
announced from the Liberty platform that he was to act as auctioneer. A
few brief words of explanation and the auction was on. First a box of
candy was bid for, which, after much laughter, was finally knocked down
for one dollar, a much larger sum than it would have brought earlier in
the afternoon. A few books were now disposed of, a pile of canned
vegetables, a number of comfort-kits, and so on, until everything, even
to the posters and decorations, had been auctioned off.

As the girls were counting up the proceeds of this expected sale, old
Deacon Perkins came up, and, after a few hems and haws, told the girls
that if they wanted to make a raid on his cherry-trees the next morning,
they could do so, and carry the fruit to the boys. They were to visit
Camp Mills the following afternoon, and present their many donations to
the young soldiers.

“Oh, isn’t that jolly good luck!” “Oh, that’s just glorious!” and many
similar outbursts of joy caused the old deacon to beam with complacent
benignity. The Sport, with a little giggle, whispered to Lillie that she
knew old Perkins had never felt so goody-goody in his life before,—he
was called the meanest man in town.

“Yes, girls,” admonished Nathalie, after the old deacon had been
overwhelmed with thanks, and had gone smilingly on his way, “you will
all have to get up very early to-morrow morning if you want those
cherries, for you know we are to start for Mineola at an early hour, for
it is some drive. Mrs. Morrow kindly offered me her car, so I asked her
to be one of the chaperons. Mrs. Van Vorst is the other, and then Grace,
you know, will take some of the party in her car.

“I am sorry,” her face sobered a little, “but there will only be room in
the three cars for the officers of the Club, and,—yes, I think we ought
to ask Marie, Captain Molly,” she explained, “to ride with us, for you
know, of course, that she can’t walk far. The rest of you girls will
have to go by train, that is, those who want to go.”

“But we all want to go,” called out several voices eagerly, “and we
expected to go by train, for Lillie and Helen have given us a
time-table, so we shall know just what to do, and we’ll meet you at the
camp.”

The raid on the cherry-trees proved “a lark,” Edith declared, as, an
hour or so before the girls started in the cars, she and Grace whizzed
up in the car, filled with several baskets of cherries. A little later
the three cars started for the camp, passing two or three groups of the
girls on the road, en route for the depot. But they were soon left far
behind as the cars whirled along the Merrick road, every one in the best
of spirits, the little newsdealer so buoyantly happy to think that she
was riding in the same car with the young president, that it did one
good to look at her face, keenly aglow with delight.

Nathalie’s eyes were sparkling, too, for the little Jewess had just
cried, “Bend down your head, Mees President, for I likes I shall whisper
mit you in your ear.” And then, as the girl had smilingly complied, she
heard the happy announcement, “My papa, he says like that you iss my
friend, und so my papa he buy me a Liberty bond, for he says you are
loving now mit me.” The owner of the pink ear into which these words had
been loudly whispered, dimpled with pleasure, and then came the thought,
“O dear, I wonder if my little liberty lecture had anything to do with
papa’s buying the bond?”

There was a short stop at the Military Police guardhouse, to learn the
way around the encampment, where several soldier-boys, with the big
letters M. P. on their arms, were viewed with much curiosity by the
girls. A call at the hostess house now followed, where the gifts for the
soldiers—the knitted articles, the books, candy, and fruits—were left,
the girls reserving the baskets of cherries to distribute to the boys
themselves.

The slow ride through the encampment, with its streets flanked by brown
and white tents, reminded Nathalie somewhat of an Indian encampment, and
she gazed about with eager interest, as this was her first visit to an
army post. The girls were specially interested in the prisoners,—two or
three men here and there guarded by a soldier-boy,—who were acting as
White Wings by gathering up flying papers, or débris of any kind lying
about, while other groups were digging ditches or performing similar
duties.

“But see,” cried one of the girls, “the prisoners carry clubs, while the
guard in the rear hasn’t any.”

“No, but he carries an automatic pistol in his trousers’ pocket,”
answered Mrs. Morrow quickly, who had visited the camp many times; “and
if he should fire it, a crowd of soldiers would immediately surround the
prisoners and disarm them. And then, too,” she added, “you must remember
that these prisoners, as a rule, are not real jailbirds, but just young,
thoughtless lads who have probably been punished for what we would
consider a very slight misdemeanor.”

But they were now in what Mrs. Morrow called the “chow” quarters, that
is, where the mess-tents were. It was quite an interesting sight to see
a long line of soldiers, with their plates, cups, and pans in their
hands, standing waiting for the “eats” at one of these tents.

The girls, alert-eyed, watched them with more than the usual curiosity,
for when they were supplied with food they came straggling out of the
line with their “chow” and sat down here and there in groups, while
others sat down on the street-curb and began their meal, using their
laps for a table. This elicited many exclamations of surprise,
especially when their director told them that Uncle Sam’s soldiers were
not allowed to sit at tables, but had to dine standing. Their
denunciation of this system and their expressions of pity were loud, but
when they were told that it was these very hardships to which a boy had
to be inured that made him a well-trained soldier, they became somewhat
reconciled to what they had seen.

Just at this moment a sudden inspiration came to Nathalie, and, leaning
forward, she whispered softly to Mrs. Morrow. That lady smiled and
nodded approval evidently, and immediately brought the car to a
standstill so that Nathalie and Helen could alight. Going swiftly
towards a couple of boys who were sitting on the curb, their eyes bright
and keen, and their faces tanned to a rich brown, Nathalie said,
somewhat timidly, “I beg your pardon, but wouldn’t you young
gentlemen—er—soldiers—” she hastily corrected herself laughingly,
“like to have some cherries to eat with your dinner?”

“Most assuredly we would,” responded one of the lads, a tall
broad-shouldered chap with dark hair, from whose sun-tanned face two
dark-lashed eyes looked down at her, with a half-smile in their blue.
The boys had courteously risen and were standing at attention when the
girl spoke.

Nathalie’s cheeks took on a deeper pink, and then she turned, and the
two girls walked back to the car with the boys in their wake. But
unfortunately, as she attempted to lift one of the heavy baskets over
the edge of the car, something jarred her elbow, and the next moment the
basket had fallen to the ground with the cherries rolling all over the
road.

There was a loud shout from the boys, and then a dozen or more
khaki-clad figures had rushed to the girl’s assistance, and presently
soldier-boys and girls were all scrambling about in the dust of the
road, gathering up the fruit. Indeed, by the time it was replaced in the
basket,—for, of course, the girls had to polish off the dust from the
luscious red fruit—they had all become very merry with one another.

Several minutes later, as the car whirled around the corner of the long
street, they saw the soldier lads gathered about the basket, while
laughing and joking with one another in good-natured banter. Suddenly
one of the boys looked up, and as he spied the now disappearing car he
took off his cap and waved it in a parting salute. Nathalie smiled back,
for she recognized this good-by as coming from the boy with the
dark-lashed, blue eyes.

“Wasn’t that young solider a handsome boy?” queried one of the girls
admiringly, as the car flew along the level road. “And what lovely blue
eyes he had.”

“Yes, and that boy with the light hair was nice-looking, too,” chimed in
Helen. “He had such a frank way of looking you right in the eye. I’ll
warrant you he’s no coward.”

But the cherries and the boys in the “chow” quarters were forgotten as
the girls drove by a group of buglers, who were sitting on the grass
near a large tent, practicing on their bugles. Every eye was curiously
watchful as the three cars went slowly past, for Mrs. Morrow, who was
driving, had slowed up as she saw “the camp alarm-clocks,” as she called
them. Every head was bent forward and eyes grew big with alertness, for
had the girls not set out that morning with the avowed intention of not
missing anything worth seeing, and surely a group of soldier buglers was
an interesting feature of the camp.

They were a merry-eyed crowd, those boys with their happy, care-free
faces under the brown hats with their gay-colored cords. All on undress
parade, Helen declared, as she noted their brown flannel blouses and
belts, as they knelt or stood upon the grass, blowing on their golden
horns as Captain Molly called their brass instruments.

Evidently they were not worrying about going overseas, or losing their
lives in No Man’s Land, but were good examples of live-wire American
lads, with the grit inherited from their ancestors, the Yanks, inspiring
them to make good when called by Uncle Sam to the job of making war.

The girls were alert and watchful, as they spied into open tents, or
behind flying flaps, at the rows of tiny white cots, or at a few stray
articles of clothing seen here and there, yes, even a pair of shoes set
out in the sun to dry were objects of their silent adoration as they
swung along the road.

But now the scene had changed as they whirled along, for, instead of
tents, the streets were lined with little wooden houses, or cabins, the
barracks of the United States Aviation School at Mineola, which adjoined
Camp Mills. A stop at the hostess house was next in order, where a call
was sent in for Dick.

Twenty minutes later Nathalie was blithesomely happy, as she and her
brother, over in a corner of the little wooden building, chatted about
home news,—how mother was getting along, yes, and about the wonderful
events that had occurred in the last few days. Then Nathalie turned
inquisitor, and Dick was subjected to a series of questions in regard to
his life as a war-eagle. In fact Nathalie’s questions were so many and
so swiftly put that her brother declared that one would have thought
that he was being interviewed by some expert reporter.

Yes, reveille was at five in the morning, followed in half an hour by
breakfast. His sister immediately asked, somewhat anxiously, if he got
enough to eat.

“You bet your life I do,” was Dick’s laughing rejoinder. “The ‘eats’ are
O. K.—nothing to be added. At six,” he continued, “I report at
headquarters for flying, and then, with an instructor, learn a few
flying stunts. I return to barracks at ten, and from eleven until
two-thirty have a ‘do-as-you-please time,’ which includes luncheon, and,
generally, a nap, for, by Jove!” exclaimed the young aviator, “this
flying business makes a fellow feel drowsy.

“Then we drill for a while, listen to a lecture,” he went on, “and then
again for a space I am a bird of the air. We dine about half-after
eight, and at ten comes taps, or ‘lights out.’ Anything more you would
like to know, young lady?” he inquired teasingly. But Nathalie was
satisfied, for surely her brother’s ruddy cheeks, tanned skin, and
glowing eyes attested to what he called the “joy-time of his life,” and
a few moments later the little party started for the aviation field.

Here Dick conducted them around the field and showed them many kinds of
aircraft, as aëroplanes, dirigibles, kite-balloons, serviceable in war;
in fact, they were so well instructed as to the uses and mechanism of so
many different machines that Mrs. Morrow declared that they would be
well-versed in aëronautics. But the little personal stories that Dick
told about the heroism of well-known war-eagles over in France made a
stronger appeal to the girls, especially when he explained the several
varieties of aviators and their special work.

To the girls’ disappointment there was no flying going on while they
were on the field, but they were partly appeased when Dick showed them a
group of students, aviation observers, he called them, who were learning
to sketch from a miniature battlefield, and in this way learn how it
would look from the air. As they were about to leave the field they saw
some students bringing out a machine, to get it ready for flying, as
testing the motor and so on.

At this particular moment one of the girls uttered a sudden cry, and as
all eyes glanced upward with newly awakened eagerness, they were
rewarded by seeing an aëroplane returning from a training flight. As
Nathalie gazed eagerly at the machine that flew like some strange
monster above their heads, the perils of flying in space came to her
with a sudden, keen realization, and, with a sickening pang as to what
might happen to Dick some day, her eyes darkened with apprehensive
terror and she turned hastily away. But Dick, catching sight of the
girl’s pale face and fear-haunted eyes, as if to divert her mind from
dismal forebodings, called attention to the camp mascot, a little yellow
police-dog, who was standing by his master, equipped, like him, with
goggles. The girls were soon laughing heartily as Dick told of the dog’s
alertness in doing “stunts,” and the eagerness he showed when waiting to
take a flight in one of the machines.



                              CHAPTER VIII

                             SEVEN PILLARS


Nathalie, seated in a low chair at one end of the broad white veranda,
gazed with rapt intentness at the sun-hazed landscape, rising in green,
undulating waves against the purple blur of the towering
mountain-heights, that stretched in wide expanse before her, with a
strange, mystical beauty.

Into her eyes, city-tired, came rest, as they swept over the velvet
green of the meadow, splashed with the bloom of wild flowers, its
scrubby bushes aglow with pink spires, and its spruces and maples
standing upright with the slimness of youth, as it sloped gently down to
the glen below. The trees of the glen, closely massed in a rich,
feathery green, sombered by the darker line of the pines and firs, to
the girl seemed weird and mysterious.

Her eyes quickly gathered in the stillness of the sunny slopes that rose
from the darker hollow in squares of yellow cornfields, or the light
green of unripe wheat or grain, and the brown of mountain meadow-land,
dotted with browsing cows. Here and there a lone farmhouse stood forth
on some higher knoll, or, from a background of forest land, came the
bright red of a solitary barn; while still higher, a hotel, its gables
and chimneys spying upward, glimmered picturesquely from the green. And
beyond all, high and dark, with majestic brooding silences, rose the
jagged ridge of mountain blue, its peaks looming with a strange
distinctness against the clear, soft blue of the sky, while sweeps of
white cloudlets trailed like films of spun silk across their tops.

The girl closed her eyes as if to imprint upon her subconsciousness the
rare loveliness of the scene, and then, as if fearful that in some
passing, whimsical mood the picture would flash out of view, she opened
them quickly. At that moment a passing breeze fluttered the pages of a
letter lying on a table by her side. With sudden recollection she caught
them up, and then as if to impress upon her mind what she had written,
in a soft, low tone read:

    “Dear Helen:

    “I presume you are now in glorious _La France_, wondering why
    you have not heard from me. But my excuse is this magnificent
    mountain scenery, and my new duties, which have taken every
    minute of my time until to-day. We came up on the fifteenth from
    New York. Mother knitted and read during the ten-hour ride,
    while I wished inexpressibly good things for Mrs. Van Vorst for
    renting our little dovecote, and planned liberty work. I have
    decided to adopt the club’s motto, ‘Liberty and Humanity—our
    best,’ for the summer’s watchword. As it means to try and be
    helpful and kind to people, whether I like them or not, wish me
    success, for I have undertaken something big.

    “Mr. Banker, my aunt’s lawyer, met us at the Littleton station
    with his car. He is a tall, lean man, but his brown eyes have a
    quizzical gleam in them that makes you feel that you are
    affording him some amusement. The seven-mile ride up one
    mountain slope and down another, in the shade of the woods that
    gloomed dark and weird on each side of the road, with the hush
    of the gloaming in their moist depths, was most enjoyable.

    “From out of their rustling shadows the white birches and
    poplars peered at us like ghosts, while the resinous aroma from
    the pines made us sniff with delight. Mountain villages with a
    straggle of white cottages, and grizzly gray churches in a
    setting of purple mountain-peaks, strangely somber and still, as
    they stood forth from feathery masses of clouds tinted with
    sunset’s glow, with gossamer wreaths of mist floating above
    them, stilled us to a mute ecstasy of sheer joy.

    “Stone gate-posts, beds of old-time posies, backed by
    cobble-stone walls with hedges of green, and a little white
    house, like a keeper’s lodge, peered curiously out of the silver
    shadows of the rising moon as we whizzed up the roadway to Seven
    Pillars, and came to a stop under the _porte-cochère_ of a
    large, white mansion, set on a green knoll, facing the rocky
    heights of far-distant mountains. Here square glass lanterns
    threw yellowish gleams on the wide, low veranda, with its seven
    magic pillars,—round, fluted columns reaching high above the
    second-story windows, as with lofty stateliness they held the
    pointed dome above the portico.

    “Passing through the quaint, white-columned doorway, with its
    tiny panes of glass and shiny brass knocker, we stood, dazed and
    tired, in a broad, gloomy hall, where, in the flare from a
    snapping log-fire, numerous trophies of the hunt eyed us
    glassily, as we were welcomed by my cousin, Janet Page, and her
    sister, Cynthia.

    “Janet is a winsome thing. We have already become great chums,
    although she is a few years older than your lonesome. She is
    short and plump, with a white, satiny skin, and apple-blossom
    cheeks that make you feel that you want to kiss the pink of
    them. Her eyes fairly beam with kindliness as she looks at you
    from under her short, wavy brown hair. She’s a pacifist and a
    suffragist, and aims to be a farmerette. Although she has
    decided ideas on the war and voting questions, they are rather
    vague on farming, but she goes about saying, ‘God speed the plow
    and the woman who drives it.’

    “Cynthia Loretto Stillwell—she always insists on the Loretto,
    as it is the sole heritage from some Italian ancestor, famed for
    his noble birth and deeds of valor—is not my own cousin, as she
    is the daughter of my uncle’s wife, who was a widow when they
    married. She is distinctively tall, somewhat angular, with sharp
    features, a drooping, discontented mouth, and a sallow skin
    which she endeavors to hide by dabs of white and pink powder.
    Her eyes are large and dark, and would be handsome, if they did
    not repel you at times by their hard, metallic glitter. Her
    coiffure is a wonderful combination of braids, curls, and puffs,
    and made me wonder how she did it. She greeted us effusively,
    but somehow its warmth seemed cold and artificial, and—well, I
    don’t believe I’m going to like her.

    “After our hunger was appeased,—Janet said she got the supper,
    as we shall have to be our own maids up here,—Mr. Banker
    ‘personally conducted’ us through many high-ceiled rooms with
    recessed window-seats, big doors, and dark closets, up winding
    stairways and through rambling corridors. The antique furniture,
    carved and black-looking, musty-smelling and stuffy, made one
    feel as if long-ago-dead people were peering at you from the
    eerie shadows of the hide-and-seeky nooks.

    “Mr. Banker then read my aunt’s letter of instruction,—an odd
    document, as it stated that each one of ‘we girls,’—as Cynthia
    calls us,—she’s almost as old as mumsie,—during our stay is to
    search the house for the most valuable thing in it. And the
    lucky finder of the ‘mysterious it,’ as Jan and I call the
    valuable thing, is to inherit something. Whether this something
    is property, or money, or just some personal effects of my
    aunt’s, I don’t know, for that letter was so queer it made me
    feel creepy. And once when I glanced up, it really seemed as if
    her eyes were glaring menacingly at me from a large portrait of
    her which hangs over the library mantel.

    “Each one of us is to keep a diary, and if we have not looked
    for ‘It’ each day, we are to state what particular thing
    prevented us. We can search every nook and corner in the house
    but one room, the _mystery room_, as we call it, which is on the
    second floor, and barred and locked so that no one can enter.
    Mother only laughs when Janet and I talk about ‘It,’ and
    declares that the whole thing is just my aunt’s eccentric way of
    doing things. You know mother spent a summer up here with her
    when I was a wee tot, and my aunt grew very fond of me.

    “Although I have had no time as yet to search for the mystery of
    mysteries, my first entry in my diary reads: ‘Arose at 7 A. M.
    and prepared breakfast. Cooked three meals and did housework all
    day, and am too tired to do anything but go to bed. Jan meant to
    help me, but she had to hurry with her plowing, and Cynthia
    Loretto says she never does housework, as it makes her hands
    rough.’

    “You would laugh if you could see Jan scratching the earth with
    a baby rake. She was going to plant before she plowed, and
    hadn’t the slightest idea as to the proper time and way of
    planting her seeds. But she looks a dear in a smock and a big
    pink sunbonnet that matches the pink in her cheeks and on her
    nose, for her dear little snub has burned to the same color.

    “It is great sport to see her take the stump, as I call it, and
    hold forth on woman suffrage. She talks beautifully, is so
    earnest and looks so sweet, and, as mumsie says, knows so little
    about it from a commonsense point of view. But when Cynthia
    Loretto suddenly appears and squelches her eloquence by
    witheringly ordering her to do something for her,—she bosses
    her dreadfully,—poor Jan drops from her pedestal and crawls
    about with the meekness of a mouse for the rest of the day.

    “I was afraid my dreams of teaching liberty were doomed to
    oblivion, for there don’t seem to be any girls about to form a
    club, when one day, while reading the paper, an inspiration
    came. _Fi-fo-fum_, I have written to Mrs. Van Vorst, and she is
    going to send me three little slum boys, and I am not only going
    to give them the joy-time of their lives, but teach them
    ‘Liberty and Humanity—your best.’ When I asked Mr. Banker if
    there would be any objection to having these little waifs, he
    not only consented, but said he would pay their way up here.
    Isn’t that the dandiest thing going?

    “Mother objected at first, but when I said I would teach them to
    wash the dishes—how I hate that job!—and to do chores about
    the house, she only said, ‘Well, you will have to make the bread
    then, for three hulking boys will eat a cartful,’—you know
    mother is the bread-maker. Then her eyes twinkled, and I had to
    hug her good and tight, for I knew she was just testing my ‘I
    can’ motto.

    “Janet thought the idea fine, but when Cynthia Loretto heard of
    it she declared that she hated boys, they were such horrid,
    smelly things,—one would have thought they were weeds,—and
    that _she_ would not have them in the house. Well, I was not
    going to be bossed by her, so promptly told her in my bestest
    manner—I am always very cool and sweet when _awfully mad_—what
    Mr. Banker had said. Well, that silenced _her_, but I can
    foresee that she will make trouble for my little liberty kids,
    for that’s what they’re going to be.

    “Did I tell you that Cynthia is an artist? Her studio is up in
    the little square cupola, or tower that crowns the house. Here
    she paints, and sleeps until all hours of the morning, for she
    slumbers in a beauty-mask—Janet let that out—and it has to be
    kept on until noon. Janet has to bring up her coffee every
    morning. At dinner my lady with ‘the manner’ and artistic
    temperament appears in a freakish get-up. Yesterday she was a
    Neapolitan maiden in a red skirt and blue bodice, with a rug for
    an apron, and a white cloth on her head. She dresses this way to
    create atmosphere, she declares, as she is her own model, and
    paints herself in a big mirror, that she got Sam to lug up from
    one of the lower rooms.

    “She can be extremely disagreeable, for yesterday, while I was
    on one of my mountain prowls—mother was taking a nap—she was
    sitting on the veranda in one of her outlandish costumes, when
    an odd, little old lady came along in a black poke-bonnet,
    carrying a basket on her arm. As soon as Cyn saw that basket she
    jumped up and ordered the old lady off the premises, saying that
    we could not be bothered with peddlers.

    “The poor old soul immediately turned about and hobbled away,
    muttering and mumbling to herself, for Jan heard her as she came
    up the path from her miniature hillside farm. Mother was quite
    annoyed when she heard about it, for she said that she was
    undoubtedly one of the neighbors, and had brought us something
    in a basket to be friendly, as country people do. I think
    Cynthia should have allowed her to rest on the veranda, even if
    she was a peddler.

    “I must close my letter if I want to get it in this mail, as I
    have to walk almost a mile to post it. So, with a bushel of
    kisses and good wishes, I am as ever your friend

                                                     “Nathalie Page.

    “P. S. Be sure you tell me all about your work, and if you are
    anywhere near the front-line trenches. I am wild to know. Again,
    with love,

                                                       “Blue Robin.”

As Nathalie stood by the window putting on her hat in front of the
old-fashioned dresser, her eyes suddenly widened. “Why, isn’t that the
strangest?” she queried, as she stepped nearer the casement and stared
down at the farther end of the lawn, where, from between the fringe of
woodland on the side dividing their garden from their neighbor’s, came
the glimmer of a little red house, fronting the road.

“Why,” said the girl, almost wonderingly, “that red house glimmers
through the trees in the form of a cross.” Then her eyes brightened with
the sudden thought, “I do believe it has come that way on purpose, and,
yes, I am going to let it be my Red Cross insignia, warning me that I
have work to do this summer by not losing my temper, and by being kind
to people, even if it is _that irritating Cynthia Loretto_.

“I wonder who lives in that little red house,” soliloquized the girl. “I
must ask Sam. Ah, I remember now. I saw an old lady with silver-gray
hair, the other day, poking about in that little flower-garden; she
seemed to be weeding. Well, those flowers certainly repay her for her
care, for they are a mass of bloom and color.” And then Nathalie,
humming a snatch of melody, turned away and hurried down the stairway.

Some time later, on her way to the post-office at the near-by village of
Sugar Hill, as she passed the red house she again saw the old lady with
the silver hair, in a flopping sunbonnet, digging in the garden. She
raised her head as she heard Nathalie’s footsteps, and the girl, with
smiling eyes, pleasantly bowed a good-afternoon. But, to her surprise,
the old lady stared at her rudely for a moment, and then, without
returning her greeting, went on with her weeding.

“What a disagreeable old lady!” was the girl’s sudden thought, the blood
rushing to her cheeks in a crimson flood. “Why, I always thought country
people were pleasant and chatty with their neighbors. Well,” she
murmured ruefully, in an attempt to ignore the slight “perhaps the poor
old thing is near-sighted. No, I won’t worry, for, as mumsie says, it is
just as well not to be in a hurry to think that people mean to be rude
to you.”

So the little incident was forgotten, as she wended her way along the
road, cool and dark with the moisture and shade from the woodland that
fringed it on each side. On one side the trees screened green hills and
sloping meadows, while on the other they guarded Lovers’ Lane, a narrow
footpath, skirting the base of Garnet Mountain, that rose upward in
scrubby, brownish pasture-land to its summit, crowned with dense masses
of green foliage.

Nathalie hummed softly, in tune to the ripple of a tiny brooklet from a
spring near by, that trickled and splashed in a low murmur over its
pebbly bed in the ditch fringed with straggling wild flowers in
flaunting July bloom. They were too luring to be resisted, and presently
the beautiful dull pink of the Joe-Pye weed, saucy black-eyed Susans,
yellow buttercups, wild carrot, and blue violets, nodded gayly from the
nosegay pinned to her blouse.

A short walk and the woods had been left behind, as the girl stood on a
wide-spreading knoll with the rock-lit eyes of Garnet Mountain peering
down at her on her right, while on the left grassy meadows stretched
away into velvety slopes. Their green was crossed by low stone walls,
patched with the gray of apple orchard, and ribboned with avenues of
stately trees, or fringes of woodland, but always ending in the rugged
grandeur of craggy summit.

Nathalie drew a deep breath of the sweet-scented mountain breezes, as
her eyes dwelt on the scene before her, for to her every blade of grass,
or feathery fern, as well as each peeping floweret, wide-spreading tree,
or gray bowlder, were but details that added to the charm of each day’s
mountain-picture. The rare splendor of the scene inspired her, as it
were, to new thoughts and feelings, vague and undefined, but the shadow
of things to come, in the birth of ideals and words that were to find
expression later on.

But now she was strolling along under an avenue of stately maples,
bordered by a stone wall almost hidden with clambering vines, until
presently she had passed by another silent greenwood, to arrive at a
little white church, set on rising ground. A swift turn and she was
walking down the flagged street of the mountain village, sheltered with
friendly old trees, and lined with the usual straggle of white cottages,
blurred with the red of an old barn, while just beyond, against the
pearl gray of the horizon, rose the jagged line of the Green Mountains.

She glanced admiringly at the tiny Memorial Library perched
conspicuously on a terrace opposite, and then she was at the
post-office, once a small white cottage, but now used by Uncle Sam as a
mail distributor, the lounging-resort of aged mountaineers and sons of
the soil. Here, too, the village gentry, as well as the citified summer
folk from the boarding-houses and hotels on the upper slopes of Sugar
Hill, lingered for a chat or a word of greeting when they came for the
mail.

After slipping her letter into the box, Nathalie found that although the
mail had come in it had not been distributed, so she decided to wait for
it. With ill-concealed impatience, for she hated to linger in the stuffy
little store, she leaned idly against a glass case, in which one saw the
yellow-brown of maple-sugar cakes, the red and white of peppermint
sticks, as well as post-cards of mountain views, and pine pillows. As it
was the only store within a radius of some miles its wares were numerous
and varied, as almost anything, from a loaf of bread, a lollypop, or a
case of needles, to a bottle of patent medicine, was on sale.

Suddenly, as if impelled by some unknown power, the girl raised her eyes
to encounter the bold stare of a tall young man in a gray Norfolk
jacket, knickerbockers, and high leather boots, who was nonchalantly
leaning against the opposite counter, with his cap pushed on the back of
his head, smoking a cigar.



                               CHAPTER IX

                  THE LITTLE OLD LADY IN THE RED HOUSE


The girl turned her head quickly aside, for there was something in the
ill-concealed admiration in the man’s black eyes that caused the color
to rush in a wave to her cheeks. Several minutes later a careless glance
in the man’s direction, as she casually surveyed the other occupants of
the store, impelled her to stare curiously, as she perceived a rather
peculiar motion,—a sudden twitching shake of his head, repeated every
moment or so. Realizing that the man was the victim of some nervous
affliction, her eyes involuntarily softened with pity, and then noting
that there were several letters in her box, she hurried forward to get
them.

Slipping them into her bag, she hastened from the store, drawing quickly
back, however, as the man who had been staring at her brushed rudely
against her. Nathalie glanced up with annoyance, but as he begged her
pardon, with a sweep of his cap in an exaggerated bow, and another bold,
somewhat mocking glance from his eyes, the pink in her cheeks deepened
angrily.

Nathalie, irritated at the incident, walked slowly down the narrow path
leading to the flagging, but suddenly remembering her determination to
explore the little village set in the hollow of a hill, the unpleasant
occurrence passed from her mind. Attracted by the many flower-beds that
bloomed so luxuriantly with such vivid coloring in the door yards of the
little New England cottages beyond the post-office, she turned about and
slowly strolled in that direction.

Presently she came to a sudden pause to gaze admiringly across the road
at a white, gable-roofed house, with bright green blinds, on a grassy
terrace, peeping from beneath a mass of vines and leaves. It was
surrounded by a garden from which came the gleam of many colors, in the
tall, flowering rows of sweet peas that flanked its sides. But it was
not so much their beauty that held her eyes as the small east wing of
the building, where a wide, roomy porch was surmounted by the sign,

                        The Sweet Pea Tea-House
                    _Come in and have a cup of tea_

Nathalie would have enjoyed going over and having a sip of that social
beverage, lured by the daintiness of the house and its sweet-pea garden,
but, on discovering that she had left her purse at home, she continued
her walk. A few steps down the road, and she was staring up at a
timeless clock—looking as if its hands had been swept away in the mad
rush of the hours—in the steeple of a church some distance back from
the road. Then she was watching a horseshoer pounding with a noisy
“Clank, clank” on the hoof of a horse, patiently standing in front of
the blacksmith shop.

A half-hour later, as she stood in front of a little neglected cemetery
at one end of the village, staring in melancholy mood at its
time-scarred stones, gleaming with a dulled whiteness from the rank and
overgrown shrubbery, she heard the purr of an automobile.

Turning carelessly, she noticed a bright red car, with the glossy, shiny
look of newness, coming slowly in her direction, and quickly perceived
that its only occupant was the bold-eyed man who had annoyed her in the
post-office. She quickly glanced in another direction, but, to her
surprise, the car came to a sudden stop, and as the man threw away his
cigar, while doffing his cap, he said, pleasantly, “You have chosen
rather a dreary place to linger, have you not, on this beautiful
afternoon? Would you not like a little ride,—just a help up the hill,
you know?”

For a moment Nathalie was tongue-tied with astonishment, and was about
to walk quickly away, when sudden resentment at the man’s impertinence
overwhelmed her. Swinging about, with marked emphasis she answered in
stiff formality, “Possibly I might—with friends.” The next second she
was hurrying down the road, without waiting to see the man’s eyes darken
with annoyance, as he emitted a low whistle. With the peculiar motion of
the head already referred to, he started up the car, and a moment later
whirled around the bend out of sight.

Nathalie in her haste, caused by her anger and annoyance at the man’s
impertinence, was oblivious to the fact that the clouds had been
gathering for a thunderstorm, until she heard a loud clap of thunder and
a drop of rain swirled into her face. She was tempted to start and run,
for she was an arrant coward in a thunderstorm, but remembering that a
swiftly moving object is apt to attract the lightning, she curtailed her
speed, trying to make as much headway as she could by extra long
strides.

Oh, it was coming down in great big drops! What should she do? But with
her heart thumping nervously, she kept resolutely on her way, covering
her face with her hands in a spasm of terror every time a streak of
lightning zigzagged before her eyes. Oh, she had reached the tea-house!
She would take refuge on the wide veranda.

The next instant she was racing across the road; but before she gained
the desired haven, a deafening clap of thunder, followed by a blinding
glare of red flame, came bolting through the trees, causing her to utter
a loud, frightened scream, as she stumbled blindly up the steps. Another
instant and the door of the house was flung wide, as a sweet-faced lady,
with pleasant, smiling eyes, hurriedly beckoned for her to hasten in.

Nathalie, with a little cry of relief, made a wild rush for the door. As
the lady closed it, with shaking limbs and white lips, but with an
attempt at a smile the girl cried, “Oh, you are very kind to let me come
in, for I am just about drenched”; quickly pulling off her hat as she
spoke, and then shaking her wet, clinging skirts.

“Oh, my dear child! you must come in and take off your wet things,” at
this moment came in sudden call from an adjoining room, whose door was
standing ajar. Nathalie started in surprise, for the voice was
singularly low and sweet, in strange contrast to the somewhat
high-sounding, rather unpleasant voices of the few villagers whom she
had heard conversing, when waiting for her mail in the post-office.

Fearing she would be intruding,—she had noticed that the lady who had
opened the door for her, although she smiled pleasantly, had not
seconded the invitation,—she shook her head. “Oh, no,” she protested
with evident embarrassment, “I shall not take cold. I can stand here
until the storm is over. I am sure I shall be all dry in a moment or
so.”

But as the voice insisted that she come in, and the woman with the
smiling eyes laid her hand on her arm as if to lead her into the room,
she reluctantly entered. As she attempted to stammer forth her thanks,
and her fear of trespassing upon their kindness, she saw that the owner
of the voice was an elderly lady, evidently an invalid, for she sat in a
Morris chair by the window, propped up with pillows. As she motioned for
the girl to come nearer, and slowly and awkwardly put forth her hand to
feel her wet skirts, Nathalie noticed that her hands were swathed with
white cloths.

“Dear me,” she murmured worriedly, “you are wet. I am afraid you will
take cold. But just take off your blouse and skirt, and Mona will dry
them for you in a few moments by the kitchen fire.”

Then, with a few strange motions of the bandaged hands to the
sweet-faced woman,—which immediately revealed to Nathalie that she was
deaf and dumb,—the wet garments were quickly removed and taken out to
the kitchen to dry. Presently the girl, with humorous amazement, found
herself snugly wrapped in a silk Japanese kimono, seated in a big chair
by the invalid lady, gazing at her in silent admiration.

It was a face that could lay no real claim to beauty, and yet to
Nathalie there was a singular charm in the clear-cut outlines of the
delicate features, and the soft, warm tints of a complexion that,
although many years past youth’s fresh coloring, resembled a blush-rose.
But it was the eyes that held Nathalie, black-lashed, deep-set, with a
calm, peaceful expression in their deep blue; and the brown hair,
slightly threaded with gray, parted in the middle, and curling in a
natural wave on each side of her face, gave it the quaint sweetness of
some old-time miniature.

Fascinated, as it were, by the charm of the lady’s personality, the girl
was soon chatting volubly, as she told how she came to get caught in the
storm. “I am sure I should have reached home before the rain came,” she
cried in an aggrieved voice, “if it had not been for that _horrid_ man.
For I intended going home by the road he took, which is much shorter,
but he had made me so nervous by his rudeness that I took the longest
way back, for I was afraid I should meet him again.”

“Oh, you must not feel annoyed at receiving an invitation to ride in an
automobile when trudging up these mountain roads,” laughed the lady,
“for it is quite the customary thing to give a pedestrian a lift up the
hills. But I think, in your case,” she added more soberly, “that you did
right in refusing the man’s offer, for he was rude, as you say, and all
young girls should be careful.”

Won by her companion’s sympathetic interest, Nathalie told that they
were spending the summer at Seven Pillars, up near “Peckett’s on Sugar
Hill,” but she was cautious not to tell of the peculiar conditions of
their stay, or of her aunt’s strange letter. Miss Whipple, as that
proved to be the lady’s name, said that she had known her aunt, Mrs.
Renwick, and considered her a very interesting woman, although, to be
sure, she was somewhat eccentric. Nathalie also told about her Liberty
Girls, a subject that was always close to her heart, and how she was
going to try to teach liberty to the little settlement-boys, who were
coming up to stay with her for a few weeks.

The invalid, and also her sister, were both greatly interested in
Nathalie’s merry chatter; for Mona had come from the kitchen and seated
herself on a low stool by the feet of her sister, who would interpret to
her as the girl rattled on. In return for Nathalie’s confidences she
told how she and her sister, although having been born in the White
Mountains, had lived since childhood in Boston. On the death of their
parents, after meeting with some reverses, she explained, they had
determined to come up to the old homestead and start a sweet-pea farm,
as her sister was passionately fond of flowers.

It was delightful work, she said, and it meant so much that was
beautiful and joyous to her sister, who, of course, on account of her
infirmity, was deprived of many pleasures that other people enjoyed.
They had an old farm-hand who had lived with them when they were small
children, who did the rough gardening, and who made the farm pay by
selling the flowers to the mountain hotels.

“The tea-house was my sister’s inspiration,” continued Miss Whipple,
“and has always been a source of great enjoyment to us both, as so many
of the young people from the hotels and boarding-houses would drop in of
an afternoon for a cup of tea, or a little dance, as I always used to
make it a point to be on hand to play for them. My sister,” she added a
little sadly, “although deprived herself of the joys of girlhood, has
always been passionately devoted to the young, and has spent any amount
of labor in trying to make our little tea-room attractive.

“But now, as I cannot play any more,—you see I am the victim of
inflammatory rheumatism,”—she held up her bandaged hands
pathetically,—“the young people do not come in as much as they did. It
is a great disappointment to us both,” concluded the invalid dolefully,
“although perhaps my sister is partly compensated by her work among her
flowers.

“But I am wrong to complain in this way,” she hastened to add, a sudden
expression of contrition darkening the sweetness of her glance, “for
every one has to endure disappointment and sorrow, sooner or later, as
my mother used to tell me when I was a girl; and, after all, ours might
have been much worse. I try to comfort myself with the thought that all
these little jars of life are just ‘helps’ to fit one for the greater
life beyond. Indeed,” she added softly, “I grow ashamed of myself for
thinking I am even disappointed, when I think of the renunciation, the
sufferings, and the agony of the Man of Sorrows, that we might have
joy.”

Nathalie made no reply, not only because she was at a loss for words to
express her sympathy, but stilled, possibly, by the beautiful look of
calm peace that had crept into the sweet eyes.

“But I am wearying you,” smiled the invalid, her eyes lighting with a
warm glow, “making you think I am a great martyr because I am deprived
of a few things that I think needful to my happiness. Perhaps I am in a
particularly rebellious mood to-day, for I am so anxious to read a book
a friend sent me, but with my poor hands I cannot hold it, and it makes
my neck ache to read from the bookstand. But here comes Mona with your
dried clothing; yes, and to bring me off my cross of martyrdom by her
sweet patience, for she is always cheery and smiling under _her_ great
deprivations.”

“Oh, and she can’t even read to you!” lamented Nathalie impulsively,
suddenly reminded of what it must mean to live with a person who could
not talk to you.

“Yes, and that is one of the nails in the cross,” said the shut-in, with
whimsical sweetness, “for I not only want some one to talk, to read to
me, but sometimes I just yearn for the sound of a human voice. Oh, but I
am getting selfish again—for,—Yes, as soon as you get your gown on,
you must go with Mona to see her sweet peas; she would love to show them
to you.”

“And I would love to see them,” replied the girl as she dropped the
kimono and slipped into her skirt, “for I, too, adore flowers.” And
then, as Nathalie fastened up her blouse, and put on her belt, Miss
Whipple made her sister understand that their guest wanted to see her
bunches of sweet peas.

Mona’s face lighted happily as she comprehended, and in a few moments
she and Nathalie were standing in an outer shed, where masses of the
dainty flowers were piled in heaps, waiting to be tied into bunches,
their delicate odor filling the place with quite perceptible fragrance.
Nathalie watched the deaf-and-dumb woman tie a few bunches, dimpling in
gratified embarrassment as she softly touched the blossoms. She held a
beautifully pink-tinted one against the girl’s cheek, to indicate that
they were of the same hue, and then smilingly fastened a big bunch to
her waist.

By this time the worst of the storm was over, and Nathalie, seeing that
it had settled down to a slow drizzle, decided that she must hurry on,
for fear her mother would worry. So, after thanking her kind hostesses,
and declaring that she would return their umbrella very soon,—she had
promised to make them a real visit, as Miss Whipple called it, in answer
to their repeated urgings,—she hurried out into the rain and was soon
on her homeward way.

It was not a pleasant walk, this plodding over a road deep with mud, and
in some places running in tiny rivulets, for the girl had no rubbers on,
but she kept up her cheer by whistling softly, for not a person was in
sight until she reached the road through the woods, leading to Seven
Pillars. Here she spied a queer-looking little figure in black, hobbling
on ahead of her with a cane, but no umbrella.

Something, perhaps it was the basket the woman carried, suggested that
she might be the old lady who had called the afternoon before, so the
girl hurried her steps, hoping, by the proffer of her umbrella, to atone
for the seeming rudeness of her reception of the previous day.

As she reached the black figure, she pantingly cried, “Oh, won’t you
come under my umbrella, for I am sure you must be wet.” As she spoke she
peered at the woman’s face, almost hidden by the wide brim of an old,
rusty-looking black bonnet. But the bright blue eyes in the withered
face, under its halo of black, only stared coldly, stonily, while the
drooping mouth, seamed with a network of fine wrinkles, and deep lines
of worry and disappointment, narrowed into a tightly compressed slit of
red.

But Nathalie, notwithstanding the disdainful glare, and the woman’s
oppressive silence, pushed her umbrella over her head, and, somewhat to
her own amusement, after a shuffle or two, was soon walking in step to
the old woman’s hobble.

“It has been quite a storm, hasn’t it?” ventured the girl, although her
cheeks were flushed with embarrassment under the ill-timed silence of
the woman, who acted not only as if she could dispense with the shelter
of her umbrella, but with her company as well.

The only reply to the girl was a sniff,—sounding almost like a
sneer,—but, determined not to be daunted by the old woman’s surliness,
Nathalie kept up her chatter, telling how charmed they were with the
mountains, especially with Seven Pillars, with its magnificent view, and
expressed her regret that they had not been at home the afternoon
before, explaining that her mother had been lying down and did not know
of her call.

Presently, with a sudden movement, the old lady came to a halt. Before
Nathalie could understand what she was stopping for,—her umbrella was
held so closely over her companion’s head that she didn’t perceive the
splash of red peeping from between the trees,—she had turned in at a
little gate and the girl suddenly realized that the queer old lady was
her neighbor of the little red house!

For a moment she was speechless; then a smile dawned in her eyes, as she
suddenly understood why her greeting had not been returned when passing
by earlier in the afternoon. Quickly recovering her wits, however, she
stepped forward, and as she held the gate open for her new-found
neighbor to pass through, she cried, “Oh, I am so glad I met you, and
know that we are near neighbors. Mother will be very pleased to meet
you, I am sure, and will soon run over to see you.”

But no reply was forthcoming, and Nathalie, her patience at a boiling
point, hurried on, inwardly vowing that she was never going to speak to
that cantankerous old woman again, for had she not done her best to
apologize for an unintentional slight? As she reached the veranda with
its magic seven pillars her eyes gleamed humorously, as she suddenly
realized how funny she must have appeared, hobbling along with that old
woman. What a funny way she had of sniffing, and _that_ old black
poke-bonnet. Then she wondered if the rest of their neighbors were as
peculiar and queer as the old lady in the little red house.



                               CHAPTER X

                          THE SWEET-PEA LADIES


Nathalie, with girlish eagerness, hurried into the house, and was soon
telling her mother about her “adventure day,” as she called it, dwelling
at length upon her experiences at the Sweet Pea Tea-House, and, with
some show of resentment, on her encounter with their neighbor in the
little red house.

Mrs. Page became intensely interested in the Sweet-Pea ladies, as her
daughter designated them, but cautioned her against cherishing any
resentment at the rudeness of the little old lady in black, as,
naturally, she was offended that her overtures of friendliness had been
slighted by the city folks. She and Nathalie would go very shortly and
call upon her; she did not doubt but that her apologies would be
accepted, and that the unpleasant incident would be forgotten.

The next morning, while Nathalie was gathering some lettuce in the
garden near the barn, she met Sam, the tow-headed young farm-hand, who
looked after the place, and who, with his buxom young wife, lived in a
small white house a short distance down the road. He was a thick-set,
sturdy, young fellow, with a broad, good-natured face, from which
white-lashed, piglike blue eyes peered bashfully out above his shiny red
cheeks. When he met any of the city folks, as he called the inhabitants
of Seven Pillars, he would grin bashfully, and slowly drag off his old
straw hat in a greeting, growing very red from embarrassed shyness if
called upon to engage in conversation with any of them.

But Nathalie, who had had to depend upon Sam for a certain amount of
necessary knowledge in relation to the house and garden, had not only
grown to depend upon him in many ways, but had become quite friendly
with him. She had learned that he was a level-headed, well-meaning young
man and that his eyes could twinkle responsively, even if he was
somewhat slow of tongue.

As he began to show Nathalie how to select the heads with the soundest
hearts, she told him how she had been caught in the thunderstorm the
afternoon before and the kindness of the inmates of the Sweet Pea
Tea-House.

“Sure, Miss, they be nice ladies,” assented Sam. “I’ve knowed them this
long time. They were born in that old house, but when the old man
Whipple growed rich—some relative or t’other left him a pile o’
money—they went skylarking down to Boston—thought we country folks
weren’t smart enough fur them, I reckon. But when the old man’s luck
went agin him and he died, them gals come home to roost. I feel right
sorry for them, for the Lord knows they don’t have no stuffin’s to their
turkey these days. Too bad about the tea-house er goin’ to shucks, for
sure it use ter bring in er penny er two in the sellin’ o’ them posies.

“I see ole Jakes, with his old flivver a wheezin’ and blowin’ up these
ere hills, er takin’ them to the hotels er pile er times. By Gosh, that
Jakes sure is ole, fer he’s been er luggin’ round these parts with one
foot half-buried fer the last ten years. When he goes off the handle
what’ll become of the poor ole ladies—the folks hereabouts are er
guessin’. That deaf-and-dumb one—she makes me feel sort er lonesome.”
Sam suddenly confided, “with no gift of gab to er, and t’other one with
the rheumatics, sure they do be afflicted.”

Nathalie also told Sam about meeting their neighbor in the little red
house. But when she questioned him as to who she was, and if she lived
there all alone, his face became impassive and he grew evasive in his
answers. Surmising that he might possibly be a relative of hers—as she
had seen him working about the place, she said no more, but hurried into
the house, her mind intent on the Sweet-Pea ladies and their pathetic
little story, as told by Sam.

“What a misfortune,” she mused, “to be poor, an invalid, and with only a
deaf-and-dumb sister to depend upon. O dear! what terrible things people
have to suffer when they grow old. Well, I shall have to go this
afternoon and return that umbrella, and—yes, I just wish I could do
something to help them in some way, for Miss Whipple is a dear!”

But, as she hastened to her room to make her customary entry in her
diary, the two ladies were forgotten. This daily duty the girl found
quite irksome, especially when she had forgotten, and had to make her
entry at night when she was tired and wanted to tumble right into bed;
and then, too, she did not see how the everyday doings of _her_ life
could interest any one. And as for searching for the most valuable thing
in the house, this she had never found time to do. Possibly she had not
tried very hard to find time, as deep within her heart she considered
the whole thing sheer nonsense. And how was she going to judge the value
of the things in the house, anyway, she questioned rebelliously, for was
it not just an old curio shop filled with strange, odd junk, that her
aunt had brought from the other side?

But when she hinted this to her mother, she had been duly rebuked,
although Mrs. Page agreed with her daughter that it would be a difficult
task to determine the value of anything she might select. She said,
however, that she considered that Nathalie, as a courtesy to her aunt,
who was giving them such a delightful summer up in those beautiful
mountains, should do all that she could to comply with her request, even
if she thought it absurd.

“I doubt if the finding of this very mysterious valuable thing would
bring either money or property to any one,” continued the lady, “as I
understand that Aunt Mary left the bulk of her estate to some charitable
institution as long as no near relative or heir appeared. But she was,
as I have told you before, very queer in some ways, and probably took
this method of giving away some of her personal effects. It is not at
all likely, Nathalie, that you will be the lucky finder,”—there was a
smile in Mrs. Page’s eyes,—“but still you should make it a point to
search for it, no matter how you feel.”

“Oh I intended to hunt for the old thing, anyway,” returned Nathalie
excusingly, “but I have been a little slow, perhaps, because Cynthia has
been so obsessed with the idea, that I hate to be as silly. Jan says she
spends most of the day hunting in the attic and through the house when
we are down-stairs. She is wild to get into that mystery room, for she
thinks it is hidden there.

“But you should have seen her last night, mother,” giggled Nathalie. “I
was coming through the hall and suddenly saw a flash of light on the
stairs. And there was Cynthia, down on her knees, peering under the
stair-carpet and poking about with her flash-light. She seemed quite
annoyed when she saw that she was discovered, and, jumping up quickly,
scurried down the hall. Dear me! she is the queerest thing.”

“Well, let her look,” replied Mrs. Page kindly. “Perhaps her efforts
will be rewarded, for, as I understand, she is engaged to a Mr. Buddie,
and he is very poor, Janet says. I presume it would make them both very
happy if Cynthia came into a little money, or found something of value,
for perhaps they could be married.”

“But, mother, Janet hasn’t looked once. She hates this mystery prowl, as
she calls it, as much as I do,” emphasized Nathalie, “and I have hard
work making her write in her diary. She is busy writing a speech on
suffrage, which she expects to deliver this fall. Just imagine, mother,
Janet making a speech,” and Nathalie smiled at the thought.

Later in the day, dust-begrimed and with her hair all of a frowse,
Nathalie came trudging wearily up the staircase. She had been searching
for two hours in the library, a great dark room, lined with bookcases,
and whose wainscoted walls were hung with family portraits,—Nathalie
called them the Renwicks’ Honor Roll,—interspersed with medallions of
great authors and musicians, and valuable etchings.

The girl had laughed at Cynthia for prowling about, but as she threw
herself on her bed, tired and aching from stretching her arms and
climbing step-ladders, in order to peer behind the pictures and
cornices, she felt that she would never laugh at her again. For the more
she had searched, the more her interest had increased, and with it the
conclusion that her aunt, for contrariness, had _really hidden_
something of great value, in order to try the patience of the searchers,
in some eerie corner or nook.

But was Mrs. Renwick really dead? This was a question that assailed the
girl whenever she passed the mystery room, whose door loomed big and
dark, with its heavy crimson curtain, in the long hall. Somehow, she had
confessed to Janet, whenever she hurried by that door she had a strange
feeling, a feeling of nearness to some one,—the way one would feel, she
imagined, if they looked up suddenly and found some one watching them
with a strange, fixed stare.

Could it be that some one was hidden in that room? But she always
dismissed the thought with a half-laugh, as being very silly.
Nevertheless she always raced by that door, especially at night, when
the hall was wrapped in an uncanny gloominess from the dark shadows that
came from the big grandfather’s clock, the heavy, black-looking wardrobe
at one end, and other ponderous and carved pieces of mahogany resting
against the wall.

The following afternoon Nathalie set forth to return the umbrella to its
owners, laden with a basket of fruit, in appreciation of their kindness
to her. As she walked cheerily along, a sudden thought loomed big in her
mind; she had been thinking how she was going to live up to her
watchword, “Liberty and humanity—our best,” when it had occurred to her
that one way would be to offer to read to Miss Whipple every day. The
girl’s eyes glowed, and then she wavered. “Oh, no, I don’t see how I can
do _that_, for I have so much to do at home, and I do not want to miss
my walks.” Her face clouded as she silently struggled with herself,
divided with the desire to cheer her new friend, and yet not to have to
forego her walks.

She found the invalid lying back in her chair, looking pale and wan, but
when Nathalie inquired if she was suffering, she hastily answered, “Oh,
no, I am just pure tired, for I have been trying to read my new
war-book, and it has made me ache all over.”

“Oh, Miss Whipple,” broke from the girl impulsively,—somehow she could
not be selfish,—“wouldn’t you like to have me come and read to you for
a little while each day?”

“Oh, you dear child, that is most kind of you,” the lady’s eyes
brightened. “Indeed, I should be delighted, but it would be selfish to
keep you indoors on these beautiful mountain days.” A little sigh ended
the sentence.

“But you would not be keeping me in,” insisted her companion, “for I
should just love to read to you, and I know I shall find plenty of time
to walk somewhere every day.” And then, as an added plea to her request,
she told of her mornings with Nita Van Vorst, and how their taking turns
at reading to one another had been a source of great instruction to them
both.

In a short time Nathalie was happily reading to her friend, who listened
with keen enjoyment. After a time, fearing the girl would tire, they
stopped for a little chat, and it was during one of these chats that
Nathalie told of meeting their queer neighbor who lived in the red
house, and how rudely she had been repulsed by the old lady, when she
had tried to atone for her reception of the day before.

“A little old woman in a black bonnet, with a basket?” repeated Miss
Whipple in a puzzled tone. “Why, that is strange, for I didn’t know that
any one lived in that little red house. Some years past Mrs. Renwick
allowed a poor old woman to live there rent free, but she died a few
years ago. I shall have to ask Jakes about it, for he knows every man,
woman, or child who lives on these mountains.”

During one of these pauses Mona came in, and her sister, noting the
wistful look in the patient brown eyes, surmised that she, too, would
like to enjoy Nathalie’s youth and charm. And so, in a few moments, the
girl was out in the sweet-pea garden, delighting Mona with her
enthusiastic interest in the delicately tinted flowers that grew in
tall, long lines on each side of the house.

Here, too, she met Jakes, an old white-haired man, bent almost double
with age. He made up for her companion’s enforced silence, by showing
the many different varieties of these exquisite flowers, which, on their
rough stems, with their tendril-bearing leaves, peeped coyly at her, in
almost every tint of their varying colors.

But the girl glanced up with quick surprise, when she heard the old man,
in his quavering, broken voice, softly repeat:

            “Here are sweet peas, on tiptoe for a flight;
            With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,
            And taper fingers catching at all things,
            To bind them all about with tiny rings.”

As the old man saw Nathalie glance up at him in ill-concealed
astonishment at his aptness in repeating the poetic quotation, he smiled
and said, “Ah, Miss, I have planted, transplanted, trained, tended, and
watched these sweet posies for many a long year as carefully as a
mother-hen tends her tiny chicks. But it was my dear lady, herself, who
taught me that verse, and sure I have never forgotten it, although I do
not know the name of the poet-man who wrote it.”

Nathalie, with her hand in Mona’s, who seemed to love to hold it, was
now led by her into the little shed, where she was soon busily employed
in helping her tie the sweet peas into bunches, to be delivered the next
morning to the hotels by Jakes.

From the making of bouquets she wandered into the tea-room, where Mona
had hurried, on seeing a couple of young ladies come in, who wanted to
buy some post-cards. While they were selecting them the deaf-and-dumb
woman hastened into the kitchen for her tea-tray. Nathalie, meanwhile,
waited by the little glass case in one corner of the room, carelessly
studying the mountain-views that lined it, and where boxes of maple
sugar, pine pillows, and various knick-knacks that Miss Whipple said she
had made before her hands had become so helpless, lay scattered about
for sale.

As she turned restlessly away from the case, her glance fell on the two
girls, who stood examining the cards on the wall near, and she half
smiled at their grotesqueness, as she called their modish style of
apparel. For the girls, fair samples of the average fashionable summer
girls, wore their hair plastered down on the sides of their faces in
deep scallops, while their cheeks were carmine-tinted, and their noses
whitewashed with powder. With their long, thin necks rising in kangaroo
fashion from their turn-over, low-necked collars, and with their
short-waisted belts and narrow skirts, high above their high-heeled,
white boots, they reminded Nathalie of some funny French dolls that she
had seen once in a museum in New York.

She was wondering why so many girls of the present day thought it
improved them to make themselves so ungainly and painted-looking, when
one of the girls suddenly turned her face to her. A sudden exclamation,
and she had stepped towards Nathalie, who was now staring at her in
puzzled recognition.

“I declare, if it isn’t Nathalie Page. Why, don’t you remember me?” she
shrilled excitedly. “I’m Nelda Sackett. You remember we used to be
deskmates at Madame Chemidlin’s?”

“Why, Nelda, how do you do? Yes, I remember you now,” smiled Nathalie
cordially. “How stupid of me not to have recognized you before. But dear
me, you have changed!” And then, fearing that the girl might detect her
lack of admiration for her modish appearance, she hastily added, “Oh,
you have grown to be quite a young lady.”

“Young lady! Well, I should say that I was,” flashed the girl in a
slightly aggrieved tone. “Why, I’m eighteen, and Justine,—you remember
Justine Guertin,—she is nineteen.”

By this time Justine had joined them, and after greeting Nathalie with
condescending graciousness, the three girls were soon chatting about
their school-days and former friends. The girls were both very curious
as to their old schoolmate’s life in her new home. Nathalie determined
to hold her own and not be cowed by their ultra-fashionableness, and,
despite the jarring realization of the fact that they knew of her
changed circumstances since her father’s death, bravely told about her
new life in their little home on Main Street, in the old-fashioned Long
Island town. She not only dwelt with persistent minuteness on the many
details of her more humble life, but told of her connection with the
Girl Pioneers, the pleasure it had brought her, the fineness of its aims
and purposes, and the wholesomeness of a life lived in the open, with
its knowledge of bird and tree lore, and the many new avenues of
knowledge it opened to a girl.

This sort of thing, however, did not seem to appeal to these New York
girls, and they stared somewhat coldly, although a bit curiously, at
Nathalie during her recital, and then abruptly changed the subject by
telling of their own gay life in the city. Oh, and what a time they were
having at the Sunset Hill House, playing golf and tennis, and dancing in
the evening with gay college boys and other young men.

By this time Mona had returned, and, as Nathalie saw her trying to wheel
a small tea-table into the room with both hands full, she hastily flew
to her aid. And later, when she returned for some needed articles in the
kitchen, the young girl arranged the teacups and saucers on the tray
before the girls, as they had asked that they might be served with a cup
of tea à la Russe.

The girls continued to chatter in a desultory fashion for awhile,
although Nathalie, whose intuitions were keen, sensed that they had
grown a little less cordial in their manner towards her. Presently,
finishing their tea and paying for it, they nodded Nathalie a careless
good-by and hurried out, somewhat to the girl’s surprise, who had
naturally supposed that they would invite her to come and see them at
the hotel, or express a desire to visit her at her home.

With reddened cheeks and a disappointed expression in her eyes Nathalie
watched them as they crossed the road to the flagged walk opposite. It
was true, she was lonely up there in her new surroundings, with no
special friend to run in and chat with, as she had been accustomed to do
with her friend Helen. She wanted young company, and the meeting with
her former schoolmates had revived old memories and worn-out longings.

Although she did not approve of their style of dress, or their airy
manners, still they were something that belonged to her former life in
New York, and she would have enjoyed having a chat with them once in a
while for the sake of “Auld Lang Syne.”

With the quick thought that they were not worth a pang of regret, for
they had shown that they had become very snobbish, she turned away, and
aimlessly wandered over to an old piano that stood on one side of the
room. As if to ease the hurt feeling that still jarred her
sensitiveness, she sat down and carelessly ran her fingers over the old
yellow keys. A sudden call from the invalid in the adjoining room,—the
door stood open,—for Nathalie to play something, brought the girl to
herself with a sudden start.

“Oh, I do not know anything to play,” she weakly pleaded, “for I am no
musician.” Nathalie spoke the truth, for she not only had no special
talent for music, but the little accomplishment that she had acquired in
that line had been sadly neglected since she had taken up housework.

But as the invalid’s plea was insistent, and the girl did not want to be
disagreeable, she again swept her hands over the keyboard, this time
unconsciously falling into one of Chopin’s waltzes, something that she
supposed she had forgotten. From this she wandered into a few rag-time
airs, and then came snatches of old-time melodies, until finally she was
playing a well-known reverie by a noted composer.

But suddenly realizing that she had heard nothing from the next room,
and fearing that she had wearied Miss Whipple, she hastily arose and
hurried to her side, to find her lying back in her chair with a strange
restful expression on her face, but with closed eye lids, through which
tears were slowly trickling.

“Oh, Miss Whipple, I should not have played so long,” exclaimed the girl
remorsefully. “Perhaps I have made you feel sad.”

“No, no, my child! Your playing has brightened me up.” The invalid sat
up quickly, as she shamefacedly wiped away the stray tears. “Indeed, my
dear, I pay you a compliment when I cry, for if the music did not go
right to my heart the tears would not have come. No, I would never
regret being an old shut-in if I could hear music once in a while. But
that was a lovely little thing you played last; it is one of my
favorites.”

“Oh, I must try to get Janet to come down and play for you,” cried
Nathalie with a relieved sigh, “for she is a _real_ musician, and plays
for us every evening as we sit on the veranda in the moonlight. But it
is getting late and I must go, for I have supper to get. When my boys
come, perhaps I shall have more time, for, you know, I am going to put
them through their paces and teach them to be helpful.”

After a hasty good-by, Nathalie was hurrying across the road, while
waving her hand to the sweet, patient face smiling at her from the
window. Some twenty minutes later she arrived at Seven Pillars, her eyes
happily aglow, as she told her mother of the readings to be, to help
lighten the burdens of her new friend, the shut-in.

Several days later Nathalie, with her mother, walked slowly down the
garden-path, with its border of oldtime hollyhocks and peonies and white
stones, to the gate-posts. A step or two, and they stood before the door
of the little red house, as the girl, with pleased eyes, cried, “Well,
mother, she’s in, for I saw her sitting at the window as we came up the
path, so we can get this ordeal over.”

But unfortunately she reckoned without her host, for although they
knocked and knocked, Nathalie even pounding on the door with her
parasol-handle, for she had planned to take a walk after the call, no
one came to the door. After a time she peered at the window, but some
one had drawn the shades down so that nothing was to be seen.

“Mother, she is _so angry_ she just won’t let us in,” cried the young
caller with flushed cheeks. “Oh, I think she must be a very disagreeable
old lady, and I do not think there is any use in trying to be nice to
her.”

Mrs. Page had evidently come to the same conclusion, so they slowly
turned and retraced their steps back to the house, and in a short space
she was seated on the veranda with her darning, as Nathalie started for
a walk. As she passed the red house, and caught sight of the
silver-haired old lady knitting at the window she quickly turned her
head away, determined to ignore her in the future. “And so this is the
end of our acquaintance with our next-door neighbor,” she mused
ruefully, as she passed on down the road. “Well, it certainly did not
prove very progressive. Of course I don’t really care,—she’s just an
old lady,—but still I do wish Cynthia Loretto had stayed up in her old
studio, and not made trouble for us by her unkind ways.”



                               CHAPTER XI

                       THE RIDE THROUGH THE NOTCH


Notwithstanding that the inmates of Seven Pillars were neighbored by a
disagreeable old lady, as Nathalie had mentally dubbed the occupant of
the red house, the time passed pleasantly to the girl, although she had
days when she longed to see Helen, to open her heart to her in
confidential mood. But the lonesomeness gradually lessened, occupied as
she was with her manifold household cares, her exploring trips, her
visits to the Sweet-Pea ladies, and the sometime prowl for the
mysterious _It_. To her satisfaction she soon found that by hurrying a
little over her morning tasks, she not only had time to read to her
friend, and to help Mona at her work, but that she did not have to miss
her walks.

She finally succeeded in getting Janet to go with her to the tea-house,
and that volatile young woman was so won by the charming personality of
the invalid, and the sweet patience of Mona, that she not only played
during her call, but made arrangements to come down twice a week and
give them a musical afternoon, to the great joy of the invalid.

On one of these days a party of ladies from the Hotel Look-off, out for
an afternoon constitutional, dropped in for a rest and a cup of tea.
They were so pleased that they told others about these musical
afternoons, so it soon became quite the fashionable thing to drop in at
the Sweet-Pea Tea-House, especially on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On
these days a score of ladies, old and young, could frequently be seen
having a social chat over the teacups, while listening to some popular
ragtime air, or a classic from one of the old composers, while knitting
for the soldiers.

There had been one unpleasant occurrence that had jarred Nathalie
extremely, and that was that Cynthia Loretto, when she learned of the
Sweet-Pea ladies and the musical afternoons, was quite insistent that
Blue Robin take some of her paintings and etchings down, and hang them
up so that they could be seen, in the hope of making a sale.

Nathalie, at first, had refused to accede to this request, and then she
began to argue with her conscience, giving for her refusal many reasons
that only existed in her imagination. Finally, Mrs. Page, with her
motherly intuition, perceiving that her daughter was at war with her
better self, one day led the conversation to the subject, by saying that
she thought it was almost pathetic the way Cynthia yearned to make money
so she could marry Mr. Buddie.

“You must remember, daughter,” she persuaded, after listening to the
girl’s objections in regard to the paintings, “that even if you are not
attracted to Cynthia, she has feelings, hopes, and disappointments as
well as you. Some day, perhaps, you may be old and alone in the world
with your living to earn, and will be almost willing to make a bore of
yourself if you can only earn a little money so as to give yourself some
pleasure.” Nathalie made no reply, but somehow she began to question if
she were really trying to live up to her motto to be helpful and kind,
or was it just a _make-believe_ thing with her, as she called it. The
next day she reluctantly broached the subject to Miss Whipple, and, to
her surprise, found that she would be very pleased to have the paintings
and etchings on the wall. “The room really needs papering,” the lady
explained, “and they will help to hide such disfigurements as stains and
tack-holes on the faded paper.” This conclusion settled the matter very
satisfactorily to Cynthia, and made Nathalie rejoice that she had, after
all, come out conqueror in her fight with self.

The girl had begun to wonder why she did not hear from Mrs. Van Vorst as
to when her boys were coming, when a letter arrived. To her great joy it
announced that they would be due at the Sugar Hill station the following
Saturday, as they would leave New York in the White Mountain express,
probably reaching their destination about seven in the evening.

Nathalie was somewhat disappointed that the boys were not to go on to
the Littleton station, where Mr. Banker had planned to meet them. But
alas, she could not ask him to come all the way over to the Sugar Hill
station, and then, too, she knew that he and his wife generally took
little outings through the mountains every week-end.

Deeply perplexed, she pondered over the matter with no little anxiety,
and then suddenly it came to her that she would see if Miss Whipple
would not let her hire her machine, and then go for the boys herself.
She had learned to know the mountain roads in riding with Jakes when he
went to the different hotels to deliver the sweet peas. He had often let
her drive, as she had previously learned to handle a car from her many
rides with Grace, and had even secured a license through the insistence
of her friend.

Hurrying through her work, she hastened down to the tea-house, where she
found the two ladies in a state of unusual excitement, for Jakes, Miss
Whipple explained, was quite ill, and they were at a loss as to how they
were to get their flowers to the various hotels the following day. And
the Profile House had sent in a special order, for there was to be some
kind of a festivity there that evening, and they wanted the bunches of
sweet peas for prizes.

“Oh, don’t worry over that,” cried the girl quickly, as she perceived
their distress, “for I can deliver the flowers for you. I can drive and
I know the roads, for I have been about so much with Jakes and Mr.
Banker.”

After some little hesitation the two ladies consented that Nathalie
should deliver the flowers, insisting, however, in return for her
kindness to them, that she should have the car for her own use in the
afternoon, to drive to the station for the boys.

To Nathalie it was quite a new experience, to get up in the cool gray of
early dawn, dress hurriedly, swallow a hasty breakfast,—her mother was
to act as housekeeper for the day,—and then hurry down to the
tea-house. It did not take her long to load the car with its flowery
burden, and then she was speeding through Sugar Hill village, and on to
the Long Green Path, as she called the road through the woods that led
to Seven Pillars and Franconia. The air was so cool from the moisture of
the night dew that still lay in glistening gems and silvery cobwebs on
the hilly greens, the leaves, ferns, and wild flowers, and bracing from
the ozone of the mountain breezes that heralded the new-born day, that
the girl’s pulses throbbed with buoyant exhilaration.

There was a moment’s stop at Seven Pillars for Janet, who had consented
to accompany her, and then they were off, Nathalie happily waving her
hand to Sam as he came through the pasture with the cows. A few moments
later they were whirling past Roslinwood Farm, with its big white barn,
and then past a long, low, white-gabled, red-chimneyed building, with
the old-time hostelry sign, “Peckett’s on Sugar Hill,” swinging from its
porte-cochère, with its flower-garden, riotous with many-colored blooms,
across the road, almost under the shadow of Garnet’s sloping meadow.

Now they were flying down the long sloping hill, around the tiny white
schoolhouse at the cross-roads, and then they were passing Garnet’s
grassy hillside, as it nodded a greeting to its taller fellows, the
Franconia Range, that towered on the girls’ right. Its verdant meadows
were squared with cobble-stone ledges, and awave with the glossy plumage
of stately trees, as it rose upward from the road, until its slope was
lost in a tangle of feathery treetops which crowned its summit like a
cap of green.

“The Echoes,” a homey little hotel nestling at the base of the green
hill, with its square white tower, peeped picturesquely from the
protecting sweep of graceful willows and silvery poplars. Here they had
a magnificent view of the mountains as they rose from their mists of
gray, their rugged crests, spires, and domes sharply outlined against a
glorious riot of sunrise color.

Lafayette, the king of the range, towered his grizzly head in blue-hazed
grandeur far upward, standing like some giant up from the mists that
covered the valleys below like a silver lake, while Lincoln’s rounded
summit, with its twin slides, was almost hidden by trailing wreaths of
pearly gray. The gaps between the Sleeping Infant, sharp-peaked
Garfield, the North and South Twins, and the Sleeping Giant, were so
thickly silvered with mist that the peaks of these mountains looked like
islets of green on a shimmering gray sea, with their tops scarfed with
pink and violet streaks, that floated mistily against the golden
splendor, reflected from the crimson-hued ball in the east.

Directly before them rose the undulating slope of Breakneck Hill, bowing
in gentle humility to the more rugged beauty of the lofty range
opposite, while between the widening gap, far in the distance, loomed
the Presidential Range, their tops white-wreathed with cloud. Mount
Washington, with majestic stateliness, soared far above his comrades,
while the smaller mountains below and on the left, scattered here and
there through the cleft between the two ranges, gleamed gray, purple,
and pink, as they peered at them from their hoods of gray.

It was a swift whirl down the half-mile hill, and then they were passing
through the little mountain village of Franconia, with its white
cottages, its stone sidewalks, its beautiful Gale River, with its
bush-fringed banks and little stone tower, surrounded by level stretches
of green pasture-land, merging into the low foothills that skirted the
higher range. It was a wonderful ride through that five-mile Notch, in
the glint of the rose-tipped sunlight, with the ever-changing flash from
one mountain-picture to another, each one gripping you with the witchery
of the illusive charm of Nature in her varying moods, now frolicsome,
gay, or blithe, or strangely stilled in the grandeur of a sunrise calm.

As the girl came down the steps of the Profile House, her first
stopping-place, she paused a moment and peered up at Eagle Cliff, a
precipitous wall of rock opposite, rising to the height of fifteen
hundred feet above the road. It was thickly set with evergreens,
climbing birches, maples, and spruces, and intermingled with patches of
a softer green, from where purple-tinted bits of rock, like giant’s
eyes, looked down upon the wayfarers that traversed the road beneath.

Nathalie had heard that the cliff had received its name from the “Arabs
of the air,” which at one time had lodged in its airy heights. But
evidently they had long since departed, and after a disappointed glance,
as her eyes swept the tall steeps, she rejoined Janet in the car, and
was soon guiding it through the green-wooded road to her next
halting-place, some few miles beyond.

This was the Flume House, a long, low, yellow building, grouped about
with mountain crags,—the gateway to the Flume, a remarkable fissure in
Liberty Mountain, over fifty feet deep, and several hundred long, where
an ice-cold cascade dashed with snowy spray, to flow in more quiet mood
over ledges of granite rocks between perpendicular walls.

After leaving their flowers at the office the girls started on their
homeward way. The distance was soon traversed as they chattered of the
scene before them, sometimes hushed into stillness by the sudden
surprise of some wonderful trick of Nature as they flew swiftly past.

As they reached the little schoolhouse at the crossroads Janet descended
from the car to walk up the hill to the house, while Nathalie continued
on her way. She had soon passed the artist’s bungalow, with its studio,
on her left, and Hildreth’s maple-sugar farm, with its big barn, coming
out shortly at the little red Episcopal church, with the deserted,
falling-to-pieces hotel, the Marimonte, just beyond on a knoll.

It did not take her long to ascend the long hilly slope to the Hotel
Look-off, where a basket of sweet peas were left, and then she had swung
her car around and was speeding down the declivity to the Sunset Hill
House, where she again brought her car to a halt.

As she neared the big entrance-door, heavily burdened with her flowers,
she came face to face with her two New York friends, who were sauntering
carelessly from the office, evidently having lingered over a late
breakfast. As the girl sighted the familiar faces she forgot their
apparent slight of a few days before and nodded pleasantly, her cheeks
dimpling with pleasure. But, to her surprise, a rigid stare was their
only response to her greeting, and, with a sudden start of shocked
dismay, the girl hastened past them into the office, where she was
relieved of her flowers by one of the bell-boys.

Smarting from the rankle of the insult, but still dazed at the
suddenness of it, she walked slowly down to the car and mechanically
stepped into it. As she glided down the road she sat stiff and erect,
her mind apparently on the steering-wheel, although in reality her
senses were in a maze of dumb bewilderment.

A half-hour later, after running the car into the stable, for she was to
use it again later, she made her way into the house, up to her room, and
to her closet. Here, with her face buried in the blackness of hanging
skirts and coats, she stood silently for a few moments, trying to argue
herself out of the hurt feeling that would not be downed.

“Oh, what a little ninny I am,” she exclaimed at last. “_What do I care_
if they did give me the ‘go by,’ as Dick says.” She gave a half laugh,
that quickly merged into a long sigh as the thought came, that, after
all, the girls had not really hurt her as much as they had hurt
themselves. “No, I will not allow myself,” she closed her mouth
determinedly, “to be so small as to let it hurt me any more.”

She had a very restful afternoon, with a good long nap, and a nice time
reading out in the hammock, and then, a little before six, she set out
on her ride to the station in a tense state of expectancy, for she was
anxious to see her Liberty boys, as she had elected to call them.

The drive was a delightful one after the burden and heat of the day, and
she bowled swiftly along, slackening her speed every now and then to
admire an unusually fine landscape view, or the golden, violet-tinted
clouds that drifted up from the west. She had just turned into her last
lap, as she called it, for she knew that she must be very near the
station, when, with a sudden skidding motion, her car came to a
standstill. She got out and cranked it, but although there was plenty of
gasoline still on hand, it refused to go. She poked about, here and
there, to see what had caused the stoppage, but although she cleaned out
her carburetor and saw that her spark-plugs were all right, she failed
to discover what was wrong. Her heart began to beat feverishly, for she
was well aware that, although she could drive a car, in reality she knew
little about its mechanism, and therefore could not remedy any very
serious trouble. She got down and crawled under the car, to examine
first one part and then another, but alas! it was exasperatingly
useless, for she could see nothing wrong, and she finally crawled out
again, covered with dust and grime. At this moment she heard the
far-distant whistle of an oncoming locomotive, realizing with a pang of
despair, that it was the White Mountain express, and that she would not
be at the station to meet the boys.

Suddenly her face gleamed hopefully, for at that moment she heard the
near hum of an automobile, and the next second saw it whirl around the
curve in the road. “Oh, perhaps it will be a man who can help me,”
quickly flashed through her mind, as she peered intently at the nearing
car. And then she almost laughed aloud from sheer joy, for, yes, the car
was driven by a man, who, with one quick glance at the girl’s flushed
face, and the stranded vehicle, brought his car to a standstill and
jumped quickly out.

As the man came towards the girl, who had begun to pleadingly explain
her mishap, and the hurry she was in, Nathalie caught her breath with a
startled gasp, as she suddenly was made aware that he was the bold-eyed
man who had accosted her in the post-office a week or so before, and who
had spoken to her near the cemetery. But she was so distressed and
fearful that she would miss the boys—poor little things, what would
they do if there was no one there to meet them!—that this fact was
submerged in the greatness of her need.

In a moment or so she had regained her customary poise, as the young
man, after a cursory glance over the machine, discovered what was wrong.
Ah, it was a short-circuit. With a wrench he took from his pocket, he
soon adjusted the difficulty, and then turned smilingly towards the
girl, and with another of his bold stares assured her that her car was
all right.

Nathalie involuntarily stepped back, and then, half ashamed of her
timidity when the man had been so kind, cried hastily: “Oh, I am so much
obliged to you! I do not know what I should have done, if you had not
come along. Thank you, very much,” she ended abruptly, then, pleading
that she must hurry, she cranked her car, and, with a little stiff bow,
stepped into it, and a moment later was whirling down the road.

But she had not gotten rid of her helper as quickly as she thought, for
it was only a second, as it seemed to her, when, on turning her head as
she heard the throb of a machine in her rear, she saw, with a sudden
qualm of fear, that the man was following her. “Oh why does he do that?”
she thought in nervous apprehension. “Yes, he must be following me,” she
mentally decided, “for he was going in the opposite direction when I
hailed him.”

But sensibly determining to pay no attention to him, she kept on her
way, although an aggravating dread assailed her that she could not
account for, that the man might waylay, and try to rob her, the bold
glance of his eyes having filled her with a feeling of distrust.

Ah, she was at the station. As she glided up to the little wooden
platform she peered anxiously around, but no one was in sight. Bringing
her car to a halt, she jumped hastily out and scurried around to the
other side of the platform, only to see the ticket-agent locking up the
waiting-room, as he prepared to depart on his nightly journey home, as
the station was only open for certain trains.

“Did you see any little boys get off the White Mountain express?”
inquired the girl breathlessly.

“Why, yes,” replied the man, as he slipped the door-key into his pocket,
“I saw three,—no, four boys. They waited around here for some time, and
then they went away. They looked like foreigners; one little chap must
have been an Italian, for he carried a violin under his arm, and wore a
queer embroidered vest.”

“Did you notice in what direction they went?” cried the girl, while a
chilled feeling swept over her as to the fate of the boys. Oh, suppose
they should get lost in those mountain woods!

No, the man had not noticed, and Nathalie with a dejected attitude,
turned away, nervously wondering what to do, and where to look. Well,
she must do something, for those boys must have been the ones Mrs. Van
Vorst had sent to her. Once more she was in her car, and then, in sudden
desperation, she determined to try every road in succession,—for there
were several leading from the station,—until she found them, for surely
they could not have gone very far, as they were walking. Buoyed with
this thought, she plunged into the graying shadows of the road nearest
to her, dimly conscious that the bold-eyed man in the automobile, who
had been circling around the little square of green in front of the
station, was close behind her.



                              CHAPTER XII

                        NATHALIE’S LIBERTY BOYS


On and on she rode, peering through the gloaming until her eyes ached,
ever conscious of the “throb, throb,” of the car directly behind her.
What a mistake, she thought dismally, to have ventured on these lonely
roads alone. And, O dear! how her mother would worry when she failed to
arrive home on time.

Suddenly she stopped and stared fixedly through the gray light, and then
her heart leaped, for down the road a little distance, trudging slowly
and uncertainly beside the mountain-ditch, were four little figures. Oh,
they must be those boys, but she had sent for only three.

With a glad thrill of hope urging her forward, the machine responded to
her touch, and in a moment she had reached the boys, one of whom, at the
sound of the oncoming car, had swung around, and was staring at her with
large, liquid brown eyes. The girl suddenly decided that he must be the
Italian lad, who the ticket-agent had said wore an embroidered vest, and
carried a violin under his arm. Yes, there was the violin!

Nathalie brought her car to a sudden stop, and called out, “Hello there,
boys; hello!”

At the sound of the girl’s call all four swung about and faced her,
while a boyish, gruff voice answered: “Hello yourself. What do you
want?”

Nathalie laughed happily, for a sudden intuition told her that her
search was over. And then she said: “Why, I am looking for some little
boys, who were to have come from New York on the White Mountain express.
Are you the ones?”

A chorus of trebles piped excitedly, “Yes, mum; we comed off the train,”
while the tallest lad, to whom a smaller child of six or seven was
nervously clinging, stepped forward. As he lifted his ragged cap he
cried politely, “Be you Miss Nathalie Page?” The girl, as she stared
down at the questioner, saw a close-cropped head of reddish hair, and a
freckled face of an unhealthy pallor, from which two sharp blue eyes
were anxiously peering.

“Yes, I’m Miss Nathalie Page,” responded the girl, with a note of relief
in her voice, not only glad that she had found the boys, but at the
sudden thought that her tormentor would now let her alone, for, with
four boys to keep her company, he would not dare to molest her.

“I’m awfully sorry not to have met you at the station,” she went on
regretfully, “but something happened to my machine and I was detained on
the road. But I did not know that there would be four of you,” she added
a little doubtfully. But before she could finish her sentence, the lad
who had constituted himself the spokesman for the group, silently handed
her a letter.

Nathalie tore it open, and then hastily read it. She was so excited,
however, by the many events that had crowded one upon the other that she
did not sense its full meaning. Recognizing the signature, “Elizabeth
Van Vorst,” she cried hastily, “Well, it’s all right, boys; jump into
the car,” as she stuffed the letter into the pocket of her coat.
Nathalie immediately saw that a second invitation would not be needed,
as the boys made a wild lunge forward, scrambling and pushing each
other, as if to see which one would get there first, all but the little
chap, who stood whimpering by the side of the car.

“Now, boys, no pushing or pulling,” cried Nathalie with a laugh in her
voice, “for there’s plenty of room, and you’re all going home with me.
But here, you big one, get out and put that little kid up by me, for the
poor tot must be hungry and tired.”

“Sure, he is, Miss,” replied the older lad, who evidently was his
brother, jumping down and lifting him up into the seat by Nathalie,
despite his kicks and protests that he wanted to sit with Danny.

“Ah, there, kid,” coaxed the bigger boy softly, “don’t be a girl. Show
you’re a boy. Sit up there nice-like. Sure the leddy won’t eat yer.”
This suggestion of being a girl had a magical effect upon the child, for
he immediately ceased to whimper, and settled back in the seat with a
repressed sniffle.

Nathalie turned the car around,—the man who had been following her had
long since disappeared in the darkness,—and was soon speeding towards
home. She glanced every now and then at the three figures on the back
seat, who sat as still as three blind mice, snuggling up to each other
for warmth, while the little chap at her side clutched her frantically
as he lurched forward every time the car swung around a corner, or
bumped over a “thank-you-ma’am.”

“Here, kiddie,” cried the girl presently, suddenly looking down at the
child, whose big, reddish-brown eyes were staring up at her half
fearfully from out of a wan, white face. “Put your head on my lap!
There, that’s it,” as the child, to her surprise snuggled up to her, and
then silently obeyed. “Now look up,” she added laughingly, “and count
the stars.”

Although this injunction brought forth a chuckle from the back seat, it
sufficed to keep the little one quiet, and the girl, as she drove
rapidly on, could hear him droning, “One, two, three,—” until, with a
drowsy little sigh, the counting ceased, and the girl saw that he was
asleep.

It was almost nine o’clock when Nathalie whirled under the dimly burning
lantern of the porte-cochère at Seven Pillars, where, on the veranda,
Janet and her mother were anxiously watching for her.

“Oh, Nathalie, I have been so worried about you,” began her mother
plaintively. “I will never let you go off this way again.” But her
lamentations were cut short as her daughter cried, “Oh, it’s all right,
mumsie; something happened to the car and detained me. But do help me
get these hungry boys into the house, for the poor things are just dead
with the long ride and for something to eat.”

Several minutes later, as the girl came hurrying from the kitchen, where
she had been to see if the boys’ supper was ready, she found them lined
up in the hall, four pathetically weary little figures. Their pale faces
were smeared with railroad dust, and their foreheads oozed perspiration,
but their eyes were bright and expectantly keen, on the alert for the
something good that they knew was coming.

As her eyes swept smilingly down the line, the smile suddenly wavered,
as her glance was arrested by the thin, emaciated face of a strange
grayish whiteness,—of a peasant lad, who, bewildered with dumb
amazement, was staring at her with a dogged look, his dark eyes haunted,
as it were, by an expression of fear.

He was huddling something in his right arm, a yellowish-brown thing that
squirmed and twisted uneasily, while the left sleeve of his soiled
shirt-waist, strapped with one suspender, was pinned to his shoulder in
an empty, flat way that was infinitely pathetic, for the little lad had
only one arm!

The girl stared back at the boy with a suppressed cry, as into memory
flashed the many stories she had heard of the Belgian and French
children who had been so mercilessly ill-treated and maimed by the
German soldiers. Oh, this must be one of those refugees. Yes, she dimly
remembered now, seeing the word “Belgian” in Mrs. Van Vorst’s letter,
which she had read so quickly. With sudden effort, her natural
kindliness coming to her aid, she smiled into the fear-haunted eyes,
crying gently, as she softly touched him on the one arm, “Is that your
dog? Oh, I love dogs. What is his name?”

A sudden flash of joyful relief radiated from the boy’s face,
momentarily driving away that dulled, cowlike bewilderment from his
eyes. It was a look that caused Nathalie’s heart to quiver with pain,
for it was the look of some dumb animal that had been wantonly punished
or brutally hurt by the hand it loved; a look that haunted her for many
days, constantly urging her to try and say something, or do something,
so as to drive it away.

The next moment a little yellow-brown terrier was crouching on the floor
at his master’s feet, while thumping the floor with his tail, and
licking his hand, then trying to crawl up his trousers’ leg, as if to
get back to the shelter of that one lonely arm.

[Illustration: “Is that your dog? Oh, I love dogs!”—_Page 184_.]

“Oh, the poor animal must be hungry,” exclaimed Mrs. Page, just as the
boy had given his name as Tige. “But come, children,” she added, “and
get your suppers; and the dog, too,” patting the brown head of the
refugee, while a look of infinite pity shone from her kindly eyes.

The boys needed no further urging, as Danny, with a wild hoot of
delight, yelled, “Come on, fellers; it’s eats.” And then,
notwithstanding Nathalie’s well-laid plans that each one should have a
good wash-up before eating, they made a straight run for the kitchen.

Here they were soon putting down everything in sight in a way that
almost frightened the girl, as she suddenly realized the care and
responsibility she had taken upon herself. And that _one-armed boy_! O
dear! she had never thought of such a thing as _that_.

But if they didn’t have their wash before supper, they had it very soon
after, as the girl marched each one separately to the washbowl in the
bathroom, and, after making him duck his head in the water, proceeded to
give it a vigorous shampoo, notwithstanding sundry squirms and twists,
for Nathalie believed in taking things by the forelock, and they just
_must be clean_.

Then the scrubbed one, after being supplied with towels and soap, was
informed that he must give himself a good scrubbing in the tub, and if
he failed to do it properly, he would have to do it all over again.
Nathalie’s somewhat severe admonition was met with stony silence on the
part of her victims, unless it was a rather loud, “Gee whiz, fellers;
here’s me for a swim!” that involuntarily escaped Danny, the older boy,
when he found himself before the well-filled bath-tub.

When it came to the little chap’s turn, Nathalie’s young heart revolted
at letting him go through the washing process all by himself, as he was
so little, tired, and sleepy, so she said that she would give him his
bath. To her surprise he began to whimper, while his older brother
protested most vehemently that he could bathe him.

“Oh, no,” returned the young lady decidedly; and a few moments later her
charge was standing in the bath-tub, ready for his scrubbing, Nathalie
meanwhile talking to him gently, as if to quiet his fears.

Some time later, with a red, heated face, the young girl emerged from
the room, dragging a little white-robed figure by the hand, whose face
was, strange to say, wreathed in dimples. “Here, dear, you get into Miss
Natty’s bed,” said the girl, leading the child into her room, “and
brother will stay with you until I return,” motioning to Danny, who had
been waiting outside the bathroom, with a strange, worried look on his
face.

“Oh, mother,” exclaimed Nathalie a moment later, as she came rushing out
to the porch. “What do you think? Oh, I never was so surprised in my
life!”

“Why, Nathalie, what is the matter with you?” ejaculated Janet, as she
placed her arm caressingly around the girl. “You are as white as a
ghost, and you’re all of a tremble.”

“Oh, I’ve had such a scare,—such a _terrible_ surprise,” stammered the
girl. And then she broke into a little laugh as she cried: “Oh, mother,
you know the littlest chap? Well, he isn’t a boy at all; he’s a girl!”

“A girl!” echoed three voices simultaneously, and then Mrs. Page gave a
laugh, a laugh in which every one joined.

It did not take Nathalie long to relate her experiences in the bathroom,
and then she remarked: “I wonder if Mrs. Van Vorst knew he was a girl.
It’s awfully funny. Oh, I’ll read her letter again.”

The next moment, with the letter opened before her, she was slowly
reading aloud:

    “Dear Nathalie:

    “I am sending you four boys instead of three. The fourth lad is
    a one-armed Belgian refugee, and his story is so pitiful I am
    sure, when you come to learn it, you will be glad I sent him to
    you. A Buffalo lady sent word to the Belgian Relief Committee
    that she would take one of a number of refugees recently arrived
    from France. But when she found that the poor lad had been
    mutilated by the Germans, her heart weakened. She claimed that
    she could not stand unpleasant things—what about the sufferings
    of the boy?—and returned him to the committee.

    “A member of the committee, hearing that I was looking for some
    boys, and being greatly distressed over the cruelty of the case,
    begged me to send him to you, if only for a little while, so as
    to give them a chance to place him later. I, of course, will be
    responsible for any expense he will be to you. I am sorry, but I
    had no opportunity to clothe him. He seems a strange, docile
    child. I think he is still living in the horrors of hell, from
    those terrible eyes of his. Oh, it is heart-breaking, but I know
    that you love children, dear, and I am sure that you are just
    the one to bring something of the child in him back to his face
    again.

    “His story is one of many. His village was overrun by the German
    soldiery, and the brave little lad, while trying to defend his
    mother from the atrocity of a German officer, was bayoneted, and
    finally lost his arm. His mother was carried away into Germany,
    but the boy believes her dead. I will not tell you the rest of
    the story, for some day he may want to unburden his child mind
    and tell you his pitiful take himself. His little yellow dog has
    been his comrade through all of his weary wanderings, the _only
    thing_ that remains to him of his once happy home, and no one
    had the heart to take it from him.

    “The Italian lad was found wandering in the streets on the East
    Side, making an effort to support himself by playing on his
    violin, as his aged grandfather,—he seems to have been an
    orphan,—who was a hurdy-gurdy man, had just died. The two
    brothers were found living in a cellar, where Danny, the older
    one, had been trying to support his brother, after the death of
    the aged woman who had had charge of them. He sold papers, but,
    when sick and unable to do so, was found half-starved in the
    cellar. It is hoped that the bracing breezes of the mountain
    air, with good healthy food, will make new children of these
    boys.

    “Dear Nathalie, if you could only realize the bigness of the
    work you have undertaken in taking these slum children into a
    wonder-land of healthy living, the beauties and wonders of which
    will mean to them a new and glorified world. God bless you,
    dear, is all I can say and pray.

                                                       “Your friend,
                                              “Elizabeth Van Vorst.”

“No, this letter proves that Mrs. Van Vorst did not know that the child
was a girl,” said Nathalie, as she tucked the letter in her shirt-waist.
“But, mother, what _shall_ I do about it?” she continued, in such a
dejected voice that her mother burst out laughing.

“Don’t do anything about it, daughter,” Mrs. Page replied, still
laughing. “A girl is as good as a boy any day, and we will just set to
work, this very minute, and rig up some clothes from some of your old
things, for the child to wear.”

“Oh, I think she will make a lovely girl, with those great brown eyes of
hers,” cried Janet, enthusiastically. “And she has dimples, too. I know
we can make the sweetest thing of her, and—”

But Nathalie didn’t wait to hear the rest. She was so overjoyed to think
it had turned out all right, that she was in a hurry to reassure Danny,
whom she realized had been greatly worried over the circumstance. But
how did they come to dress the child as a boy? she queried as she
hurried into the room, where the now little girl had fallen fast asleep
in Nathalie’s bed, while her brother watched beside her with a white,
frightened face.

“Tell me, Danny,” inquired Nathalie gently, as she laid her hand on the
boy’s head, “how did you come to make a boy of your sister?”

A quick sob broke from the lad. And then, with a stiffening of his chin,
as if with the resolution that he would not give way, while furtively
wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, he told how, when Granny
Maguire died, and his little sister’s clothes, after a time, wore out,
he had been compelled to clothe her in his cast-off rags, because he had
no others, and he didn’t know where to get them.

“She didn’t like it no way at first,” the lad’s blue eyes twinkled, “but
she got kind o’ used to it, an’ then I promised that when she growed big
I’d let her be a girl. And whin the leddy that does the settlement work
comed round and wanted me to go ter the country I couldn’t leave the
kid, and when she said he could come too, I didn’t squeal on meself, but
jest kept mumlike, for they wouldn’t have let her come wid me if they
knowed she was a girl. Sure, marm, we’ll have ter wait till morning to
go back,” the lad tried to steady his voice, “fur the boss wid the brass
buttons on the train told me there ain’t no train till then. Can we walk
to the station, do yer think?” he inquired pleadingly.

“But you’re not going back, Danny,” replied Nathalie. “You’re going to
stay right here with me, as long as you’re good and mind me. It doesn’t
make a bit of difference if your sister is not a boy. I wrote for three
boys, for I thought boys could take care of themselves in a way. Then,
as we have no servants here, and I get tired sometimes with so much to
do, I thought that boys would be more of a help. But we’ll dress your
sister as a girl, and—Oh, don’t cry, Danny,” for the boy had turned his
head aside, and was silently struggling with his sobs.

But they were sobs of joy, as Nathalie soon discovered, as, with a final
shake of his thin shoulders, he faced about and cried: “Oh, thank you,
ma’am. No, I ain’t no blubberin’ calf, but sure I just couldn’t let the
kid go back alone—and—But Gee, leddy, it sure is heaven up here with
these big hills—and the green trees—and the flowers—And, leddy,” he
pulled at Nathalie’s sleeve as she turned to go away, “I kin be a sight
o’ help ter yer, for I knows how to wash dishes, and I kin cook too, a
good bit.”

“Oh, that will be just fine, Danny,” enthused Nathalie, “for I am wild
to have a man chef, and I’ll let you wash all the dishes you want to,
for that’s a job I hate. And, Danny,” said the girl, patting the boy’s
shoulder gently, “we are going to make it as near like Heaven up here as
we can. But come, son, you must be tired.” And then she led the boy
up-stairs to the upper floor, where, in a large corner-room, she had
taken the other boys, who were undressed and ready to tumble into the
three beds.

After directing Danny to sleep in the double bed, as he was the largest,
so that each one of the smaller boys could have a bed to himself, she
showed them the closet and how to hang up their clothes,—what little
they had, they had brought tied up in handkerchiefs, or on their
backs,—she turned to go. “Yes, and you must be sure to get up, _every
one of you_, when you hear the big bell ring in the morning.”

She had reached the door, after bidding them goodnight, when a sudden
thought turned her back. And then Nathalie had her first solemn moments
with her boys, as she told each one that, before getting in bed, he must
say his prayers, so as to thank God for the good things that had been
given them that day. The little Italian lad immediately drew out his
rosary and began to say his beads, but Danny scratched his head in a
dubious sort of way, and mumbled that it was so long since he had said
his prayers that he couldn’t remember what he was to say.

But this forgetfulness on Danny’s part was soon remedied, as the girl
made him kneel by her in the moonlight that streamed through the window,
and solemnly repeat, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” adding a few words as
a suggestion to the boy as to what he should add to the prayer. Danny,
with a brighter face, now began to prepare for bed, and Nathalie, as she
again turned to leave the room, stopped to speak with the refugee. And
then the girl’s eyes grew moist, for he had stolen into the darkest
corner of the room, and, with his one hand solemnly upraised, was
repeating a prayer softly to himself, while the little yellow cur stood
at attention by his side.



                              CHAPTER XIII

                  “THE MOUNTAINS WITH SNOWY FOREHEADS”


It was something of a surprise the next morning to Danny’s companions,
to see a little maid, clothed and in her right mind, as Janet expressed
it, come shyly into the dining-room,—a little maid who bore a very
strong resemblance to the brown-eyed, curly-haired, whimpering little
lad of the day before. The black eyes of the Italian boy, Tony, widened,
and then, with a shy gleam of humor in their liquid depths, he nodded at
the little girl, crying under his breath, “Oh, Boy!” But the little maid
proved herself competent to manage the situation to her satisfaction, as
she quickly made a face at him, for which she was properly rebuked by
Nathalie, who, however, was on the verge of a laugh, while a ripple of
amusement gleamed in her mother’s eyes.

Jean, the Belgian refugee, stared with some perplexity at the small
girl, and did not comprehend the curious situation until the children
had left the breakfast-table, when Nathalie made it plain to him.

The girl found that the morning hours were well-occupied, as she started
right in to put her boys through their paces, as she called her
drilling, so as to prepare them not only for a very happy, but a useful,
summer’s stay. She had noticed, during the morning meal, that the
children, with ready sympathy for the maimed boy, had been rather
officious in trying to help him, and that his thin, sickly face had
flushed with embarrassment and over-sensitiveness at the fact that to
them he was an object of pity.

Instantly divining how she would have felt under like circumstances,
Nathalie managed to get Danny and Tony together, when Mrs. Page, whose
mother-heart had gone out to the boy, had taken him down to the barn to
show him where he could keep his dog, and Janet had taken possession of
the little maid.

In a few words she told them the tragic story of the Belgian, and, after
gaining their interest, made it clear to them how they themselves would
have felt if they had been different from their mates, and warned them
about being too open in their method of helping him. She suggested that
little acts of subtle kindness would be more appreciated, as they would
not offend his sensitiveness.

Danny was now installed, with a big apron tied around his waist, in
front of the kitchen sink, taking his first lesson in Nathalie’s method
of washing dishes, with Tony, the second helper, as the dish-dryer.
Divining that it would not only be better for Jean, the refugee, to have
employment so as to fill his mind with something besides his sad
experiences, and realizing that he would naturally want to do as the
other children, Nathalie made him her right-hand man, as she called it,
and showed him how he could assist her in a number of ways. In a few
moments he was laboriously carrying out, with one hand, the food to
Nathalie, who quickly placed it in the ice-box, or closet, while little
Sheila removed the soiled dishes to the kitchen, happy at being on the
job, as Danny said.

From dish-washing, preparing the vegetables for dinner, sweeping the
kitchen and shed, and dusting the dining-room, it was bed-making. Jean
was made captain of the Working Squad, eager to help by doing what he
could with his one hand, while seeing that the boys did their work as
Nathalie had instructed them.

Fortunately for Nathalie, she was a fair French scholar, and as the
Belgian lad had lived in one of the Walloon provinces, where French is
generally spoken, she had no difficulty in conversing with him. He could
speak a little English, but in a queer, hesitating way that made him shy
over it.

When the morning duties were finished, and they were not done with a
magician’s wand by any means, but with the exercise of great patience on
the part of their young instructor, and a good deal of drilling on the
children’s part, they all hurried out into the sunshine. Here they raced
about, enjoying the fresh air, the green trees and the flowers, and the
beautiful mountain views, and then they made the acquaintance of Sam,
who not only introduced them to the fascinations of the barn,—as the
cows, pigs, and chickens, the soft cooing doves who flittered over the
barn-roof,—but to the one dray-horse. This animal proved a source of
unfeigned joy to the boys, as Sam taught them how to harness it, and
then allowed each one to ride it bareback, even Jean, whose pale face
glowed with a strange joy, as he held the reins with his one hand, and
rode up and down on the road in front of the house.

From the barn there was an inspection of the farm, going down a green
slope to watch the sheep as they quietly browsed, and then on to the
orchard, where they had their fill of fruit, while in the vegetable
garden many hands proffered willing assistance to Nathalie, as she
gathered what was needed to replenish the vegetable larder. From here
they all trooped down to pay a visit to the farmerette, whereupon Janet
set them all to weeding. Strange to say, Jean pulled up the greatest
number, to Nathalie’s surprise, who, by this time, began to understand
that real industry, even if one-handed, can accomplish a good deal.

Finally Nathalie lined her charges up under the trees on the lawn at
attention, and undertook to teach them the military salute, but before
she was through she was somewhat puzzled as to whether she or the boys
was the instructor. After they had saluted the flag, which Sam had run
up on the top of the barn for that very purpose, and which was to be the
boys’ duty in the future, they had a little soldier’s drill.

A few words were then read, very softly, by Nathalie from the Bible. She
had concluded that this would be a good way to give them a bit of
religious instruction, especially for a beginning. She had begun the
reading by getting them interested in the book, on whose fly-leaf was
written the name, Philip Renwick, by telling them how she had found it
in a little room on the upper floor of the house. She then told them
about this boy who had left his mother to travel abroad, how he had
married, and had then come home, only to leave his mother and return to
Europe, never to be seen by her again. They were much interested in the
story, especially when she showed them the picture of the young man in
the library, and from that time onward the little Bible seemed to
possess a peculiar interest to them, and thus led them to become more
interested in the every-day Scripture lesson.

After the “Star-Spangled Banner” and several patriotic songs had been
sung, and the “Marseillaise” had been given with much spirit by the
boys, Janet, who had just come up from her farm, appeared, and
patriotically kept time with her rake. She became so interested in the
little singers that she volunteered, to Nathalie’s delight, to drill
them in the national anthems of the Allies.

Whereupon Jean, with a new eagerness in his bewildered eyes, up with his
hand, and made Nathalie understand that he could sing, too. Nathalie
smilingly encouraged him, and in a few moments the lad’s thin, quavering
voice, that grew deeper as he caught the spirit of the words, gave them
Belgium’s song of cheer. This inspired Tony, and he became the soloist,
and sang Italy’s national anthem.

There was a “do-as-you-please time” after dinner down on the lawn for an
hour or so, and then the boys were mustered in the bathroom and
initiated as to how to manipulate a tooth-brush, in a tooth-cleaning
drill, Nathalie having supplied herself with three new brushes in
anticipation of this procedure. Sheila, who was not one of the
drillers,—only three brushes having been provided,—looked with envious
eyes upon this performance, and, when Danny had finished, in a
plaintively aggrieved voice complained to their young teacher that he
would not let her have his brush so that she could clean her teeth, too.

Explanations were now in order. Nathalie smiling amusedly at the idea of
loaning a tooth-brush, and then they were all made as presentable as
possible, considering their ragged clothes, which had begun to prey upon
Mrs. Page’s mind, as well as Nathalie’s. But the clothes part was
something that had not presented itself to the girl when she had planned
the boys’ coming, and she was at a loss to remedy the trouble.

Certainly something must be done to do away with Tony’s old velveteen
embroidered vest, his greatest treasure, and Jean’s soiled white shirt,
which seemed to be the only one he possessed. Danny’s clothes, although
they had been queerly darned and glaringly patched, and were miles too
small for him, _were clean_, and he did have a change of underclothing,
to Nathalie’s relief.

However, the general shabbiness of the boys’ apparel had not affected
their merry spirits, the girl decided, as she sat knitting on the
veranda, and heard the happy, joyous voices that floated up from the
lawn, as they played leap-frog, ran races, and turned handsprings. Even
Jean, caught by the contagion of the moment, turned a somersault, to her
breathless amazement.

She was beginning to realize what Mrs. Van Vorst meant when she spoke of
what the glorious wonders of these mountains would mean to the half-fed,
sickly little waifs of humanity from the East Side of New York. Yes, it
meant a new world, with no more squalid, stifling two-by-two rooms, or
damp, moldy cellars. No more nauseating smells, odors from the backyard
garbage-can, the rattlety-bang of heavy trucks and milk-wagons, or the
jarring creak of the Elevated. For, as Sheila expressed it, they were in
a “big green world, with high blue walls, with flower stars a-peepin’ at
’em from the grass, and little teeny birds a-singin’ and rockin’ their
babies to sleep in tall trees, that nodded to ’em with a swishy
whisper.”

Suddenly the serenity of Nathalie’s cogitations received a shock, as a
horrible swear-word came, no, not floating, but yelling, its way across
the green. The girl jumped up and rushed down under the trees, to see
Tony, with his soft, appealing ways, and Danny, with the blue eyes that
she had already begun to trust for the frankness of their gaze, rolling
on the lawn, locked in a vice-like grip, as they pommeled and pounded
each other in a way that made Nathalie gasp.

Sheila, with squeals of delighted glee, was circling about the
combatants, piping shrilly. “Give ’im a plug in the snoot, Danny! Pound
’im in the mug!” to the accompaniment of big, forceful oaths that rolled
from the mouths of the fighting boys. As the little maid sighted
Nathalie, she ejaculated, with a broad grin, “Ain’t them kids fierce!”
which caused poor Nathalie to gasp again.

“Oh, boys, you mustn’t fight!” the agonized girl cried, as she reached
down and tried to separate the young pugilists, with her limbs all of a
tremble. But her efforts were useless, and, regardless of her screams
and expostulations, the punching and scratching continued, punctuated by
defiant yells, and such horrifying language that the girl shivered.

As she stared as if fascinated by this new and revolting experience, she
saw a little trickle of blood oozing down Danny’s face, for Tony, who
was the underdog, was an expert at nail-digging. It was a _fearsome_
sight, and Nathalie, appalled by the thought that he might dig out an
eye or so in his blinded wrath, in frenzied horror screamed, “Oh, Tony,
you’re killing Danny!” But the only result of her cry was, “Yer bet yer
life he ain’t!” and the hair continued to fly, as Danny yelled
triumphantly, “Gee! I knew I could lick yer wid one hand!” and the gory
battle continued.

Then, in sheer desperation, hopelessly wringing her hands, she started
in the direction of the house to call her mother. Suddenly she stopped.
Oh, no; her mother would send them away, and then—O dear! Ah, she knew
what she would do. Terror speeded her feet, and two minutes later she
reappeared on the lawn, and with one swing of her arm there came a
terrific “Clang! Clang!” as the girl, with big excited eyes, thrust the
still clanging bell between the faces of the boys.

The effect was magical, for the lads, with screams of terror, unlocked
their arms, hands, and legs, and rolled apart, while gazing with dilated
eyes, as if they had heard the crack of doom, at the bell that Nathalie
had thrust into their faces.

A few moments later, almost unclothed, dust-begrimed, blood-besmeared,
and both sniffling from nerve-shock, but still breathing out dire
vengeance one upon the other, Nathalie led her two charges up-stairs and
thrust one into the bathroom and the other into a dark closet. Jan, at
this moment, appeared in the hall, and the girl excitedly dragged her
into her bedroom, and, in a hushed, nervous whisper, made known the
proceedings of the last few moments.

But Jan, who at home was a district nurse, and had witnessed many slum
fights, burst into a peal of laughter. And then, with her face still red
with mirth and laughter, demanded, “Well, young lady, what else did you
expect if you will take ragamuffins and street Arabs to your bosom?”
Nevertheless Janet’s sympathies were aroused, for Nathalie, if not for
the boys, and in a few moments the two girls were industriously making
the boys presentable once more.

And then Nathalie led the culprits into a chamber apart, and began to
upbraid them, trying to impress their young minds with the enormity of
the wrong-doing of which they had been guilty.

But the spirit of the cave-dweller was not yet subdued, and,
notwithstanding the girl’s persuasiveness, and her pleading attitude in
her endeavor to make them see the error of their way, they kept up a
wrangling duet of recriminations, each one accusing the other of
punching him first, while stubbornly crying, “Now, ye didn’t lick me.”

Presently Nathalie, under the strain of overwrought nerves, and the
sudden realization of the unforeseen responsibility of her position,
burst into tears. Lo, to her amazement, her tears acted like oil on
troubled waters, for the next instant a grimy hand tugged at her sleeve,
as Danny, with troubled eyes, in a sudden wave of contrition, cried:
“Oh, Miss Natty, don’t take on like that. Sure and I’m never goin’ to
fight no more.”

Meanwhile Tony’s black eyes, in dumb entreaty, grew bigger and bigger,
until he, too, in sudden repentance, began to stroke her hand
caressingly as his soft, musical voice pleaded, “Please Mees Natta,
Tonee, he lova you—he fighta no more.”

Peace was making its way into each heart, when the purr of an automobile
was heard, and as Nathalie hurried to the window, she saw Mr. Banker
whirling under the porte-cochère. As the boys, paroled on their honor, a
little later hung around the car, discussing its many merits, they were
duly presented to the newcomer. That gentleman evidently liked small
boys, for he immediately made arrangements to call for them some day,
and take them to Littleton for an all-day good time.

The following afternoon Nathalie, holding Sheila by the hand, with Jean
by her side, and the two boys in front of her, started to show them the
mountains. At the post-office at Sugar Hill village Jean, who had been
delegated to act as postman the coming week, was duly initiated into the
business of opening the mail-box, an office he accepted with a sudden
lighting of his dazed eyes, which Nathalie began to fancy were already
losing some of their fear-haunted expression.

A short visit was paid to the Sweet-Pea ladies, where they were treated
to some maple sugar, Mona very earnest in her endeavors to show sympathy
for the little refugee, and her admiration for Sheila. As they hurried
away, a bunch of sweet peas was seen on each little breast, pinned there
by that gentle lady.

A walk on the long, curving board-walk up the hill, with a rest on one
of the benches under the maples, to Hotel Look-off, now followed. The
three boys were anxious to start that very minute to climb Iron
Mountain, but were soon persuaded that it was too warm a day for a
mountain hike. From the long veranda of the hotel they were lured to
admiration of the hilly, wide-spreading green sward, and the magnificent
views of the mountains, as they rose and fell, receded and advanced,
with their jutting pinnacles of rock, gloomed with the green of mountain
forest.

After slacking their thirst at the little spring-house in the grove,
they sauntered down the board-walk to the Sunset Hill House, and as they
interestedly watched the golfers in their bright-colored coats on the
velvety green links, Danny proudly informed them that he knew how to
caddy. But their enthusiasm grew tense when they stood on the little
observation tower in front of the hotel, and Nathalie pointed out the
Presidential Range, with Mount Washington towering six thousand feet up
among the clouds.

She then showed them the Franconia Range, explaining that the great
mountains were divided into clefts, or notches, from which flowed four
long rivers and many smaller ones, several of them being named after the
Indians, who, in the early times, lived on the mountain passes.

With the help of the chart they soon learned that Lafayette was the
highest peak of this smaller range, and that Pemigewasset, seemingly the
nearest peak to the hotel, had been named after a great Indian
chieftain. The adjoining peaks, as the Kinsman and the Three Graces,
proved of interest; also Cannon, or Profile Mountain, when the young
girl explained that it not only had a stone, shaped like a cannon, on
its top, but that from one of its sides a great stone face was to be
seen.

Nathalie now told her young listeners how the mountains were first seen,
over four hundred and fifty years ago, a cluster of snowy peaks, by John
Cabot, from the deck of his ship when sailing along the New England
coast. They were called Waumbekket-meyna, the White Hills, and sometimes
“The mountains with the snowy foreheads,” by the Indians.

The first white man to ascend these heights, she related, was an
Irishman named Field, who, two hundred years after they had been seen by
Cabot, with a few white companions, climbed to the topmost crag of the
highest peak. “Field found a number of shiny crystals which he thought
were costly gems,” laughed the girl merrily, “but, alas, they proved to
be only beautiful white stones, but, on account of this occurrence, the
mountains came to be called Crystal Hills.

“The Indian guides who had accompanied Field part way up the mountains,”
continued Nathalie, “refused to go any farther, for fear that the Great
Spirit, who they believed lived in a magnificent palace on the highest
peak, would destroy them if they ventured too near him. They were so
surprised to see Field return in safety a few hours later that they
decided he was a god, for during his absence a great storm had arisen,
which they believed had been sent by the Indian Manitou to kill him. The
redmen not only believed that the Great Spirit sent forth the frost and
snow, as well as the rain and fire,—the lightning—but declared that
the thunder was his voice.”

The Indian legend of Pawan was eagerly listened to, as Nathalie told how
the Indians asserted that when the earth was covered with water and
every one was drowned, he and his wife, carrying a hare, had ascended to
the highest peak. When the waters began to abate, Pawan sent forth the
hare, and when it did not return he and his wife descended to the earth
and dwelt there in safety, for the waters had dried up from off the
land. From this man, the Indians declared, every one on the earth had
descended.

During the recital of these stories, Sheila’s red-brown eyes darkened to
black, and every mountain peak assumed a weird and wonderful personality
to her imaginative mind, fed, as it had been, by stories of fairies,
pixies, and gnomes, as told to her by Danny, when playing the little
mother.

But the tourists now found that their appetites had been whetted by the
keen mountain air, and gladly started on their homeward way to enjoy the
supper that awaited them. After tea they gathered on the veranda, and
Tony entertained them by playing on his violin. Nathalie soon discovered
that he not only played with considerable skill, but that Danny could
whistle like a bird, while Jean and Sheila could pipe forth snatches of
song in clear, childish trebles.

The boys were rendered exuberantly happy a few days later at the
unexpected arrival of Mr. Banker, who had come to give them a day’s
outing at Littleton. Morning chores, military tactics, and other
occupations were quickly forgotten, as Nathalie and her mother made them
tidy for the trip, Danny, by the way, having kindly washed Jean’s one
shirt the day before,—a housewifely occupation that he had become
proficient in, from sheer necessity,—and Nathalie had ironed it.

It was long past tea-time when the boys returned from their pleasure
jaunt, and told in high good spirits of the “bully” time they had had,
what they had seen at the movies, and many other sights. Nathalie’s joy
almost equaled the boys’ when they descended from the car, and she saw
three smartly equipped lads, each one in a khaki suit, with brown shoes,
a brimmed hat, a knapsack, and, the most prized possession of all, a
gun! The girl’s eyes filled with tears, and she had rather a tremulous
time of it as she thanked Mr. Banker for his kindness, and especially
for those _much-needed clothes_.

Nathalie, with her brown-suited boys,—Tony with his violin and his
embroidered vest, as he had soon discarded his khaki suit, Jean with his
empty sleeve, and yellow-brown terrier,—and Sheila, in a pink
sunbonnet, soon became familiar objects on the mountain roads. They were
always greeted with pleasant smiles and nods from the passing tourists,
Jean being regarded with more than the usual curiosity, as his story had
been rumored about.

Many of them would stop and give him money, until he had so many silver
coins that Nathalie had to make him a bag to keep them in, as he had
declared that he was going to save them to take him back to France, so
he could find his father. It was not long before they had not only
become hardy mountaineers, but familiar with all the near-by walks in
and around Franconia and Sugar Hill. Jean, too, had begun to show a
decided improvement, not only having gained flesh and color, but having
a brighter and more cheerful expression in his eyes.

And so the sunny days passed, cementing the bond between Nathalie and
her charges, and each one learning something that would be of help in
the days to come. And then, one day, Nathalie had an inspiration!



                              CHAPTER XIV

                           “SONS OF LIBERTY”


One day Nathalie led the boys to a terrace, a few feet back of a
brown-shingled cottage across the road from Peckett’s, and which stood
on a lower spur of Garnet Mountain, facing the Franconia Range. Here, on
this grassy ridge, gently sloping down to a green meadow below, skirted
by a tree-fringed road edging the rocky pasture-land which gradually
merged into the lower slopes of the range, she pointed out King
Lafayette, and his lower mate, Lincoln, with his two slides. The
Sleeping Infant, lying between the latter and Garfield’s sharply defined
peak, was immediately heralded by the little maid, Sheila, as the
long-lost infant, which some kind-hearted fairy some day, with her magic
wand, would awaken. The Twins, and the huge Sleeping Giant, and some of
the lower peaks, all came in for a share in the mystic doings of the
little girl’s fanciful imagination.

The atmosphere was so translucent that each shaggy crest, pointed dome,
and spire of the range, sharply defined against the sapphire-blue of the
sky, stood forth with a strange lucidity, seemingly so near that one had
the inclination to put forth a hand to touch them.

Lafayette’s craggy foretop, standing up from the deep green-verdured
gorge that cleft one side of it, was startlingly like some huge
elephant’s head, with a mouse-colored, wrinkly and baggy-skinned trunk.
The boys accentuated the resemblance by locating two big rocks, which,
they declared, were the beady eyes of the animal, while Sheila insisted
she could see the eyes move.

As they rested on the ledge of a little circling wall of cobble-stones,
evidently the unfinished foundation of a stone tower, Nathalie told how
Lincoln’s rounded dome had been named in honor of a great American named
Abraham Lincoln. “Some people used to call him ‘Old Abe,’ or ‘Father
Abraham,’ not from any disrespect,” continued the girl, “but because he
was so kindly in his nature, his heart so filled with love for mankind,
that it was a title of honor, and showed the love of the people for
him.”

“Ain’t he the gink that got to be President of the United States, and
made the darkies free?” inquired Danny eagerly.

Nathalie nodded, and then led the boy on to tell how Lincoln, from a
long-legged, ungainly pioneer youth, brought up in a log cabin in the
wilds of Indiana, ended his career as the hero of the greatest republic
in the world.

The little newsie told his story importantly, proud to think that he had
remembered these odd bits of knowledge from the little schooling he had
received. And what he didn’t remember Nathalie did, dwelling at length
on the part this leader of men took in freeing the slaves, and what
slavery meant to the negroes of the South.

As the little group listened with wide-eyed interest, the girl suddenly
cried, “Oh, children! think what it would mean to you if you were not
allowed to move about as you pleased, but were forced to do what you did
not want to do, although you might be tired and hungry, and were driven
about like cattle, and lashed if you disobeyed your master!”

She then explained that all men were born free and equal, and that God
never intended that any man should be a bond-servant to his fellow-men.
“Every one,” she emphasized, “has the right to enjoy the beautiful
things of life without being subjected to cruel treatment, and forced to
hard labor, as the slaves had been, just because their skin was black
instead of white.

“But there is another kind of slavery.” said Nathalie earnestly, “which,
although it may not mean the slavery of the body, like that of the
negroes on a plantation, is the slavery of the will. That is, a man may
not be lashed on his back, but his will is made subject to another man’s
will, and he has to obey and direct his life the way this man says,
whether he wants to or not. All over the world, for centuries, the
people of different nations have been forced to obey the will of one
man, that is, the ruler, or the king, of the nation to which they
belonged. The peoples of the world have not been free; they have not had
the right, or the liberty, to do as they thought or felt.”

She then tried to make the children understand that liberty was
something as high and wide, and as vast, as the beautiful mountains
which rose before them. “It is like the air,” she said, “or the
atmosphere, which stretches about you on every side, and around the
great earth like a gray blanket. It is so big it can’t be seen, like the
mountains, or measured, and yet it can be felt. For if you were shut up
in a box without any air, or atmosphere to breathe into your lungs, you
would die. So liberty, God’s special gift, is so dear and sweet to man,
that without it he can’t grow or expand, for he is like a man shut up in
a box without air. He is like a little Tom Thumb, for he can only grow
just so high.”

Nathalie now interested the children in the story of the Pilgrims, the
pioneers of liberty in America, telling how, because they were not
allowed to have liberty under the rule of the English king, they came to
this new world and sought to worship God as they deemed right. In doing
this, she explained, they not only founded a colony where they had the
right to worship God as their conscience dictated, but they made
religious freedom possible for the people who came after them. By the
signing of the Compact in the cabin of the _Mayflower_, they gave this
nation democratic liberty, by giving every man the right to express his
thoughts and feelings, thus giving him a say as to how the people should
be ruled, which meant a government for and by the people.

Nathalie now told of the patriots, and how, in the War of the
Revolution, they fought the mother-country, England, in order to
maintain the liberty given them by the founders of the nation. “By
uniting the thirteen colonies into one, they not only added unity to
justice and liberty, but gave us the United States of America.

“These lovers of liberty also organized a society, in New York, which
became known as the Sons of Liberty, all the members determined to
defend with their lives the liberty and principles given them by their
forefathers. As liberty means the right to express our thoughts and
feelings, it also means that these thoughts and feelings must be good
and pure, _the best within us_,” added the girl with sudden gravity.
“And these Sons of Liberty were so called not only because they _fought
for liberty_, but because _they gave of their best to mankind_.”

Danny added another link to this story of liberty by telling about the
Declaration of Independence, and how the Liberty Bell was rung from the
old State House in Philadelphia, so that every one should know that a
new nation had been born. The ride of Paul Revere was described with
spirited impressiveness by the boy, as well as what had occurred on
Lexington common, and the famous battle by the old North Bridge at
Concord.

Whereupon Nathalie pointed out Mount Washington’s cone-tipped crest,
majestically rising above a wreath of silver-gray clouds, and explained
that, although the Indians had named it Agiochook, in later years the
white people had named it Mount Washington, in honor of the great man
Danny had been telling about.

After dwelling upon Washington’s magnificent character, and recalling
little incidents from his life, Nathalie said that, like the great
mountain that towered so far above its fellows, so George Washington,
the first President of this great nation, was known to civilization as
one of the greatest men in the world, because he had given of his best
to help his fellow-men, and proved that he was a _true_ Son of Liberty.

Jefferson Mountain, its crest rising in low humility near Washington’s
greater height; Adams, whose stony front stood forth in rugged grandeur
on the left; and Madison, Monroe, Franklin, Clay, and Webster, as well
as other peaks, were pointed out to the children, each one named for
some great American, who had proved his right to be known as a Son of
Liberty.

To be sure, some of the peaks were shrouded in a veil of mystical haze,
while others were but dimly discerned, as they peeped between the gaps
made by their nearer mates, but each and every one served to illustrate
in whose honor it had been named, and why he was a lover of what every
one loved—liberty.

Nathalie now drew the children’s attention to Mount Lafayette, and said
that this peak had also been named in honor of a great man, also a Son
of Liberty, although he was not an American. The children had heard the
name of Lafayette mentioned so often in connection with the present war,
that they listened with greedy avidity as the girl told about this “Boy
of Versailles,” as some one had called him, when, as the young Marquis
de Lafayette,—a mere boy,—he used to lead the revels at that famous
French palace in helping the girl queen, Marie Antoinette, make merry at
her garden parties, when her boy husband was too busy in his workshop,
taking some old clock apart, to entertain his guests at court.

She told how the little marquis loved to walk behind the brave soldiers
of the day, the one ambition of his life being his longing to be a
soldier. She told, too, of his life in the lonely castle among the
southern mountains of France, where his only companions were governesses
and masters, all intent upon drilling him to dance, to bow with courtly
grace, to pick up a lady’s handkerchief, and other accomplishments of
the court.

After leaving the College du Plessis, where his education as a courtier
was completed, he returned to his estate, now the heir to great wealth,
where he used to spend his time making friends with the peasants,—the
people who lived on his lands,—thus becoming acquainted with their mode
of life. In this way he learned the need of liberty, the liberty that
gave people the right to think and feel, and to express their thoughts
and feelings, and the great need that the people of the nations in the
world should have a voice in their own government, and thus learn to
govern themselves.

Nathalie then told how, when the patriots of America began to fight
against King George in order to gain their rights, that the young
nobleman, now tall and slender, with reddish hair and bright eyes, heard
of it, and, although an officer in the French army, he determined to go
to America and help these people of the colonies to win their liberty.
He had a young and lovely wife,—they had been sweethearts when
children,—and yet so inspired was he to help the Americans that he left
her. With a friend, the Baron de Kalb, he eluded the spies and officers
of his own country, and in various disguises finally reached Spain,
whence he embarked for America, and gallantly fought with the American
patriots during the War of the Revolution, winning fame not only for his
bravery, but for his great friendship for Washington.

“Indeed,” said the girl, as she finished her recital, he was a real Son
of Liberty, and it is a splendid thing to think that these two grand old
mountains, facing each other in such magnificent grandeur, should now be
the monuments to these two wonderful men, monuments, too, that can only
perish when the mountains turn and flee away at the command of the Most
High God.

“Lincoln, whose life-story you know,” Nathalie pointed to the
green-wooded heights of Mount Lincoln, “also proved himself a Son of
Liberty when he gave of the noblest and best that was in him to the
people, in his great struggle to free the slaves. In fact,” the girl
spoke a little sadly, “this great man was not only a Son of Liberty, but
he was a martyr to Liberty.” And then she told how he had lost his life
because of his heroic determination to do what he thought was right.

“Children,” cried the girl suddenly, facing the row of intent, eager
faces regarding her, “can any of you tell me who to-day are proving
themselves true Sons of Liberty?”

“The soldiers who are fighting in the trenches!” burst from Danny
quickly.

Before Nathalie could assent, a thin, quavering voice burst out with the
ringing cry, “Vive la Belgique! Vive la Belgique!”

“Good for you, Jean,” cried the girl, as she enthusiastically clapped
her hands in approval. “_It is long_ _live Belgium_. Yes, Jean, the
soldiers of Belgium, of France, England, and America, too, now, are
proving themselves Sons of Liberty, because they are all fighting to
give liberty to the world. And brave Belgium,” patting the shoulder of
the refugee, whose pale face was strangely illumined, “every man in that
little country has proved that he is a Son of Liberty, when, rather than
dishonor the great principles of liberty and justice, he took up arms
and defended it against the Germans when they made their mad rush to
Paris. They not only saved France, but every nation as well, saved it so
that each man in it could fight and thus give liberty to the world. Now,
children, let us cry with Jean, ‘Vive la Belgique.’”

When this cry ceased, Tony’s velvety black eyes, with a sly gleam of
humor lurking in their shadows, became scarlet flames, suddenly
remembering that his native land was also in the war, and, with dramatic
fervor, he yelled, “Viva l’Italia!”

Danny, not to be outdone in this burst of patriotism, immediately
started in with the lusty shout of, “Hurrah for the United States!
Hurrah for the United States!”

Altogether it was a very patriotic little company that stood by the old
stone ledge facing those blue-hazed mountains on that sunny afternoon
and “yelled their heads off,” as Danny said, in honor of the Sons of
Liberty, who were fighting in the trenches across the sea to give
liberty to the world.

After the shouting and demonstration of the patriots had begun to wane,
Nathalie put up her hand for silence, and then, in her simple way, the
way that somehow always seemed to go right to the heart of every child,
said very softly, “And now, children, let us show that we, too, each one
of us, want to do what is right, to give of our best to make others
happy. Let us show that, although we cannot go and fight in the
trenches, we are still Sons of Liberty, by keeping a big, deep place in
our hearts for the boys in the trenches, not only our American boys, but
the boys of the Allies, every soldier of every nation who is fighting
for the victory of peace and right.

“I know you all want to belong to the Sons of Liberty, that you would
like to show that you are real soldiers, fighting for the right; and so,
will you not bow your heads for a moment, and down in the big, deep
place in your hearts, silently say a little prayer? Just ask God that He
will bless the soldiers, these Sons of Liberty across the sea, who are
fighting for you and me, and give them a great victory in this world’s
battle for the rights of men, a victory that means happiness, love, and
peace for every one in the world.”



                               CHAPTER XV

                        THE GALLERY OF THE GODS


There was a frightened look on the faces of the children for a moment or
so, and then Sheila cried in a distressed tone, “But, Miss Natty, I
don’t know how to pray that way.”

Danny immediately flung about and flashed an annihilating look upon the
little girl, but Nathalie, drawing the child close, explained what a
silent prayer meant. Then, as she solemnly bowed her head, every little
head went down, and for the space of a moment or so, up there on that
high mountain,—that Nathalie always felt must be very close to
God,—there was a reverent silence, a sacred moment, as from each
child-heart went up a prayer. Perhaps it was only a dumbly spoken word,
or a reverent desire, but surely God heard.

As Nathalie raised her head, and the children followed her
example,—evidently there had been some peeping eyes,—all but Jean, who
still kept his head down, his pale lips slowly moving, there was a
moment’s quiet, and then Nathalie exclaimed, “Oh, boys, what do you say
to calling these rocks a fort?”

“Crackie! that will be dandy!” responded Danny quickly. “And, Miss
Nathalie,” he added, his face lighting with sudden thought, “why can’t
we call it Liberty Fort?”

And so the round ledge of cobble-stones was named Liberty Fort, and
then, before Nathalie realized what the suggestion carried, Tony
proposed that the path at the foot of the terrace on which the fort
stood, on the summit of the lower slope leading down to the meadow, be a
trench.

Other suggestions followed, which culminated in a lengthy discussion,
leading the children the following afternoon to the woods, where they
gathered dried leaves, and little pebbles and twigs, to fill some bags,
which Janet and Nathalie had made out of some old potato-sacks, to
represent sand-bags to pile on top of the trench. The two girls
meanwhile sat in the fort and not only made epaulettes for the young
soldiers’ shoulders, but also gas-masks, which these Sons of Liberty
vociferously declared that they must have, or they would be gassed.

After the Stars and Stripes, with the various flags of the Allies, had
been fastened to a pole and mounted on the fort, the battle of the Marne
took place, represented by these small soldiers, with guns held high,
leaping over the sand-bags and rushing madly down the slope to the
meadow below, which had been named “No Man’s Land.” Here, with eyes
aflame and hair all tousled, they fought frenziedly with the imaginary
gray uniforms of the German soldiery, who were supposed to have rushed
towards them from their entrenchments, the stone wall by the road just
beyond the meadow.

It was great sport, notwithstanding that their helmets—old tin
pails—would insist upon falling over their faces just when some very
wonderful capture was about to be made. But they soon learned not to
mind a little thing like that, as Danny observed with officer-like
brusqueness—he was the general-in-chief of these liberty forces—that
only slackers or mollycoddles would stop fighting for a hat. So they
fought most furiously, imitating in every way possible the maneuvers and
tactics of the soldiers in France.

They took possession of a rustic seat on the ridge near the woods for an
outpost, and here Sheila, with a big paper soldier’s cap on her head,
was posted to parade with military precision before it as a sentry.
Danny, meanwhile would climb a tree, to watch a make-believe enemy’s
aëroplane, or to play the rôle of a bird-man, getting ready to fly in a
patrol over the enemy’s entrenchments.

The parts the little girl played were numerous, sometimes acting as a
canteen girl, selling lemonade and make-believe “smokes,”—twigs trimmed
to represent cigarettes,—or again, playing the part of a captured
Boche, always insisting that she was a prince, or some high German
official. She entered into the playing of holding up her hands in token
of surrender, while calling “Kamerad” with dramatic fervor. Then, as if
suddenly reminded that she was a scion of royalty, she would take to
fighting and kicking furiously to be released, bringing her teeth into
action, and inflicting sundry bites on her captor with such energy that
Nathalie, or Janet, tricked out with a white head-gear, starred with a
red cross, would hurry to the scene, and bind up with soft rags the
wounds of the afflicted one.

Jean, who had begun to prove that his real self was only lying dormant
beneath a shroud of sorrow, was triumphantly happy as the bugler, and
one day suggested that they have a tank,—he had seen one on a
battle-field. An old tin can was then procured from Sam, which had done
duty in holding chicken-feed. It was now made to roll, in a horribly
queer way, down the slope and over No Man’s Land, maneuvered by Jean,
who was inside of it, and who proved that he was a keen trailer of the
Boches, as the lad always called the Germans.

The boy frightened Nathalie, sometimes, by the intense hatred he
displayed whenever the Germans were mentioned, as his face would grow
tense and a sudden fire would flame up in his eyes, while his one hand
would clench rigidly and his little form trembled with the force of the
passion within his breast.

But the children did not always play at war in France, for sometimes
they were Indians, and would wriggle over the grass snake-fashion. They
were all sachems, or big chiefs, named after some red-skinned hero of
some Indian tale Nathalie had told them, each one intent on scalping
some white man. Sometimes Jean would teach the boys how to play some of
the games played in Belgium, as _jet_, a game which seemed to be played
with a stick on a stone, and which they all seemed to enjoy. Then again
they would play hopscotch in Jean’s way, and which he called “Kalinker.”
But always at the end of their play they would line up in the circling
ledge of stones, and, as if inspired by Nathalie’s suggestion on the day
of their first visit to the fort, stand very still as they again bowed
their heads in a silent prayer for the boys who were fighting “over
there.”

Then, one morning, a telephone message came from Mr. Banker that he
would be up that afternoon and take the children to the Flume. Whereupon
they all became so exuberantly happy that Nathalie had rather a hard
time pinning them down to their usual duties.

After a delightful drive, in which Nathalie and Mr. Banker were kept
busy answering the many queries propounded by the sightseers, as they
gazed in awed wonder at the strange rock formations with their purple
and green tints, the silvery waterfalls, and the many natural beauties
of the Notch, they arrived at the Flume.

Here, opposite the Flume House, they climbed a zigzagging path up a hill
backed by two massive mountains, and then went through a belt of
woodland to inspect the Pool. This was a mountain freak, a great basin
over a hundred feet wide and forty deep, hollowed out by the
Pemigewasset River’s age-old tools, sand and water, as they flowed over
its rocky bed.

The lustrous green of its waters rippling between lichen-covered cliffs,
and canopied by overhanging trees—that looked as if they would fall
from age—was so transparent that the children could see the shiny
pebbles at the bottom of the Pool.

On returning to the road they started for the Flume, passing over a
wooden bridge, and then up an incline, a sort of up-hill-and-down-dale
road, as it followed the mountain brook flowing from the cascade that
dashed over the rocks at the head of the gorge. The wild picturesque
beauty of this “Gallery of the Gods,” as Mr. Banker called it, not only
elicited many exclamations from the children, but brought forth more
weird fancies from Sheila, which challenged the humorous gleam in that
gentleman’s eyes many times.

The child’s mind was so rich in imagery, that every hooded mountain or
queer-shaped cliff, every passing cloud or glint of sunlight as it
filtered down through the leaves in the forest, and the soft patter of
the raindrops as they danced on the window-pane in a storm, were sources
of constant delight. In childish prattle she would tell Nathalie what
the wind said as it swept through the trees, or came with a soft rustle
around the corner of the veranda on a breezy day. The soft twirl of a
leaf, the trill of a bird in the silent forest, were all pixie-whispers.

She would pick up a leaf from the road, beautiful to her in its satiny
greenness, or some gay-petaled flower, and talk to it as if it were her
dolly, or some tricksy creature from fairy-land, always giving it some
fanciful name that was keenly suggestive of its nature. Animals she
caressed and fondled with the fearless confidence and love of trusting
childhood.

They finally reached the remarkable rock gallery in the very heart of
the mountain, which Nathalie now introduced to them as Liberty Mountain.
She explained that it was cut in two by the deep gorge, or fissure,
known as The Flume, whose walls reached to a perpendicular height of
fifty or seventy feet, while at its farther end a mountain-brook came
dashing down with great splashes of white foam.

The children were hushed to profound wonder at the frowning gloom of the
great wall that reached so high and dark above their heads, with its
patches of green moss, and where, from its many crevices, young birches
had fastened their roots, and ferns and vines clung to soften its harsh
gray. Every now and then a tiny white mountain-flower could be seen
peeping down at them, like a fairy, Sheila declared, from a mossy bed of
green.

They climbed up and up, stepping from rock to rock, to clamber at last
over the slippery smoothness of the granite ledges. Here the cascade had
simmered to a lazy flow, to eddy with a silver tinkling into the many
hollows that perforated the rocks, making tiny glistening pools, which
gave the children unfeigned delight as they dipped their hands in its
soft trickle.

But when they reached the narrow foot-bridge, sometimes only railed by a
single birch pole, or a rope that clung tremblingly to one side of the
steep wall, and looked down into the gorge below, they came to a sudden
halt. With a haunting fascination they watched the brook as it now
dashed with a mad plunge, splashed with patches of snowy foam, over the
masses of green-embossed boulders, that looked as if they had been
tossed, helter-skelter fashion, into the narrow slit of rock, in angry
mood, by old Father Time.

With strange awe they glanced up the gorge, through the weird gloom of
the scene, at the pearly glitter of the falling water, with its blur of
green background, that appeared as if some miraculous hand had suddenly
wrenched the earth apart to send forth its flashing spray. And then they
grew curiously still as they spied the eerie shadows on the high black
wall, where the sunlight, as it glinted down into the glen in wanton
sport, played hide-and-seek with golden glimmer.

But the silence was broken as Mr. Banker pointed out a huge tree-trunk
that had fallen across the stream, reaching from side to side of the
gorge, making an aërial pathway high above their heads. When the
gentleman said it was called “The Devil’s Bridge,” and that sometimes
people had walked on it across the gorge, their tongues began to
clatter.

Fired by curiosity, the boys regained their nerve and pushed manfully up
the foot-bridge, barred with slats, like a horse’s plank, while Mr.
Banker, holding little Sheila by the hand, followed close behind.
Nathalie, with a strange timidity, hesitatingly followed, always being
oppressed by an odd, queer feeling when ascending any great height, a
feeling that she wanted to cling to something more tangible than space.
But there was nothing to cling to but that shaky old railing, and little
Jean was hanging to it fearsomely with his one hand, his little form
shaking tremulously, and his eyes black with an odd fear.

Stirred to pity, Nathalie drew the child to the other side of her, near
the high wall, away from that gaping rut in the earth beneath, and then
caught him firmly by the shoulder. Then suddenly, perhaps it was a quick
glance down into the depths below, she felt a strange, indefinable
sensation pass through her. A deathly faintness seized her; she closed
her eyes, and then she felt herself falling, falling——

But a pitiful cry from the boy, “Oh, Mademoiselle Natty! No, you not
fall! Jean will hold you,” aroused her, and she opened her eyes to see
the white face of the boy, as he stared up at her while clutching her
frantically with his one hand.

“Oh, no, Jean; I’m all right now,” but even as she spoke that same old
sensation again thrilled her. She felt sick and faint again, and
then——

“Rather steep just here, isn’t it? But cling to that rail, and you’ll be
all right; you can’t fall.”

The girl turned quickly, once more roused from the sudden fear that had
assailed her, and found herself gazing into the sun-tanned face of a
young man in khaki. He had slipped his arm back of her, against the
railing, as if to prevent her from falling, while from under the shadow
of his wide-brimmed hat two dark-blue eyes, heavily lashed, smiled down
at her reassuringly.

Nathalie heaved a deep sigh. Oh, it was such a relief to see that
strong, brown hand grasping the rail. And then, with a quick little
smile, in sudden realization of her foolish fancy that she was slipping
down into the gorge below, she cried, “Oh, I don’t suppose I could fall,
but something—— O dear! I know I am very foolish, but I always feel so
queer when I stand on any great height, especially when I look down.”

“That is a sensation that is shared by many people when they get up in
the air, I guess,” was the kindly response. And then, as if to give the
girl time to regain her poise, he turned to Jean. “Do you see that place
between the walls?” directing the child’s gaze to a place midway between
the top of the gorge and the brook below. “Well, ever since the Flume
has been known to white men,” he continued, “a great rock, or boulder,
was wedged, or suspended, between the two walls. It was like a nut in a
cracker, a most curious sight.

“I remember it as a child, when up in the mountains,” he related, “and
always had a strange fear that it would tumble down. But every one
asserted that it was an impossibility, for it would take an earthquake,
or some great convulsion of nature, to dislodge it. Nevertheless I
always fought shy of it, and would scurry by as if a witch was after me.
But, strange to say,” continued the young man, smiling, and showing his
even white teeth, “the prophets were away off, for it fell just a few
years ago, and without the aid of an earthquake.”

“Oh, did it fall on any one?” gasped the girl quickly.

“No, luckily for the wise-alls; for it fell in the middle of the night,
and no one was hurt.”

Nathalie drew a relieved sigh. “What an escape! Oh, suppose it had
fallen when some one was passing beneath it!”

[Illustration: The girl found herself gazing into the sun-tanned face of
a young man in khaki.—_Page 231._]

“Well, they would have been pulverized,” laughed the young man. “I beg
your pardon, Miss, but would you not like to have me help you to the
top? For I see you have the little boy with you, and, as you are timid,
I do not think I would risk it alone.”

“Oh, thank you; you are very kind,” replied the girl hastily, her face
dimpling, for she had begun to feel like her old self. “But no; I don’t
think I will venture any farther. I guess I am too timid. I will go
back.” She glanced down at Jean, who was gazing up at the young soldier
with worshipful awe in his eyes.

“Let me assist you down, then, to where you will not be affected by the
height.” And Nathalie, glad to think that she did not have to turn back
and go down that plank alone, allowed the young man to pilot her down,
firmly grasping her by the arm, until she stood where she asserted she
felt no fear. She would wait there on the rocks, until the rest of her
party came down, she said, after thanking her rescuer.

The young man bowed silently, lifted his hat, and turned to ascend the
foot-bridge again, while Nathalie sought a rock where she and Jean could
sit down. But in a moment he was back at her side, crying, “I beg your
pardon,” Nathalie noticed that he had a pleasant voice that somehow had
a familiar ring to it, “but perhaps the little boy would like to go up
to the top, as every one likes to see the cascade as it plunges over the
rocks. I will take good care of him if he would like to go,” glancing at
the little empty sleeve with a compassionate expression in his eyes.

Nathalie was on the verge of saying, “Oh, no; I think Jean would rather
stay with me,” when she caught a sudden expression in the boy’s eyes
that caused her to say, “Jean, would you like to go to the top with this
gentleman? Mr. Banker and the boys are up there, you know.”

There was no doubt as to the child wanting to see and to do as the other
children, or his evident trust in the young soldier, and a minute later
the young man, with Jean’s hand held firmly in his, was guiding the
child’s steps up the foot-bridge.

Some time later, as the car glided along the road on its homeward
journey, a short distance from the Flume House, Mr. Banker showed the
party a singular rock-formation, caused by the undulations of the
topmost ridge of Liberty Mountain. The outlines were those of a huge
recumbent figure, wrapped in a cloak or shroud, and bore such a close
resemblance, especially the contour of the forehead and nose, to those
of General Washington, as after his death he lay in state, on view to
the public, that it had been called “Washington in State.” Many people,
he asserted, claimed that the great American’s body should lie at rest
on this mountain ridge, named for what the great man had striven so hard
to maintain, liberty, and thus be his everlasting mausoleum.

A six-mile ride and they descended from the car, to walk to the shores
of Profile Lake, a few feet from the road. But it was not to look at the
sunlit sheen of silver water, embedded like a gem in a green and purple
forest setting, but to gaze with awesome wonder at a huge stone face. It
was the Old Man of the Mountain that gazed forth with a stony stare from
a steep and craggy setting, twelve hundred feet high above the lake, on
the battlemented spires of Profile, or Cannon Mountain.

It was another weird formation created by Father Time, that Mr. Banker
claimed looked as if it had been stuck on the huge mountain-cliff, like
the head of some criminal of medieval days, when spiked on the stone
gateway of some kingly stronghold for some dastardly deed.

“But this face is not that of a felon, for note the calm majesty, the
beautiful benignity of its expression. To me,” commented the gentleman,
“it is an unchangeable token and an everlasting confirmation that there
is a Creator, and bears witness to the account in Genesis where it says
that God created man in His own image, ‘in the image of God created he
him.’”

Mr. Banker explained that the face was composed of three masses of rock,
one forming the forehead and helmet, another the nose and upper lip, and
the third the chin, and that the whole length of the rock-face was
eighty feet from the top to the bottom. When viewed at a close range it
lost its contour, and seemed but a few huge rocks tumbled one upon
another, with no regularity of form or feature.

After the boys had studied the gigantic “face in air,” as Sheila called
it, and deciphered many oddities upon it, evoked by her imagination,
Nathalie told them the story of “The Great Stone Face.”

They were all greatly interested in Hawthorne’s tale, and readily
grasped its meaning, that, after all, it was goodness and greatness
gained by studying the great and good in others, the giving of our best
to our fellows as Sons of Liberty, Nathalie tried to explain, that
helped one to become godlike.

Mr. Banker then told the legend called Christus Judex, which told of an
artist, who had resolved to paint a picture of Christ sitting in
judgment, and how he wandered up and down the world from one place to
another, seeking in art galleries, palaces, or churches, a face that
would serve him as a model for his great masterpiece. But alas, it was
not to be found, not even among the paintings of the old masters, and
finally, lured by some wayfarer’s tale, he crossed the sea, and in this
great stone face found the countenance that embodied the features and
the expression that satisfied his ideal.

After walking a short distance around the lake, to view its beauties,
and picking out the stone cannon on the top of the mountain, they drove
to the Basin, another rock-wonder, a miniature edition of the great
Pool. Giant’s Heel, a rock-formation of a human leg and foot, seemed to
possess a luring charm to the children, and after they had studied it,
and then discussed it with curious wonder and awe, the little party
started on their homeward drive.

On the way Mr. Banker pointed out various stone formations, among them
the Elephant’s Head and the head of a dog, while Echo Lake, alight with
the calm glow of a setting sun, revealed so many tempting bits of
lake-wonders that the children begged that they might spend a day there,
as it was not far from Franconia village.

Nathalie was unusually quiet on the homeward ride, not only feeling
almost too tired to talk, but pondering with a puzzled air over the
young soldier-boy. She had a vague feeling that she had seen his face
before, but where? She finally determined to push the matter from her
mind, when a sudden smile leaped to her eyes. Oh, what a ninny she was,
for he was one of the soldier-boys she had met at Camp Mills, to whom
she had proffered the cherries! And he had not only helped to gather
them up from the dust of the road, but _he_ was the boy who had waved
his hat to them in a parting salute as the car whirled out of sight!



                              CHAPTER XVI

                            BUTTERNUT LODGE


One afternoon, as Nathalie was preparing to take the children on a tramp
to Butternut Lodge, an old farmhouse on the opposite side of Garnet
Mountain, that had been fitted up for picnic parties by the proprietor
of a near-by hotel, her mother called her.

“Nathalie,” she said, as the girl appeared in answer to her call, “I
wish you would run over to the little red house and see Mrs. Carney. Sam
tells me she is ill, and that his wife, who generally looks after her,
is visiting some relatives. It would be only neighborly if you would
take her some fruit custard; there is plenty in the ice-box, left over
from dinner.”

“But mumsie,” pleaded the girl in an annoyed tone, “I can’t go this
afternoon, for I have promised to take the children to Butternut Lodge.
And then,” she added rebelliously, “I don’t want to go to see that
horrid old woman. Why, I thought that you had decided not to have
anything to do with her, after the disagreeable way she acted!”

“Yes, that is so, daughter,” replied Mrs. Page with a slight smile,
“but, like a good Christian, I changed my mind, a privilege I reserve to
myself when occasion warrants. When I heard from Sam that the poor
creature was alone in the world, I made up my mind to play the part of
the good Samaritan. We can well overlook the oddities of the aged, and
it must be trying to lie there all alone, with no one to give you a
helping hand or a comforting word.”

Nathalie was not conquered, as she had a stubborn will, and she had been
rudely repulsed so many times that she felt her duty did not require her
to accept any more humiliations. She was about to argue the case, when
suddenly the motto that she had vowed to make her own that summer,
flashed before her mental vision with a vivid distinctness.

Making no reply, she slowly walked out on the lawn, where the children
stood waiting for her. After explaining her reasons for giving up the
afternoon hike, she turned to hurry into the house, determined to get
the disagreeable task over as soon as possible. Halfway up the steps she
paused, her eyes lit up with an amused thought evidently, for, with a
half-laugh, she turned and hurried back to the group standing with
woe-begone faces, trying to think what they could do to ease their
disappointment. A moment later they were crowding about her, listening
eagerly as she talked, their faces keen and bright, as if with the
inspiration of a novel appeal.

Some time later, Nathalie, with a queer little smile dimpling the
corners of her mouth, knocked softly on the screen-door leading into the
little red house. As she heard a faint “Come in!” in answer, she gently
pushed the door open and entered. In her hands she carried a bowl, while
behind her, all cautiously tiptoeing, as if afraid of making the
slightest sound, came four small figures, each one carefully holding
something for the invalid, whom they found lying on a couch in the front
room.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Carney,” said Nathalie, and then, in a distressed
tone, “Oh, I’m afraid we have disturbed you, but Sam said you were not
feeling well, and mother sent me over with the boys, to see if we could
not help you in some way. We have brought you something, too, that may
possibly make you feel better.”

The girl was in the throes of despair, as no reply came from the
recumbent figure, only the slow-moving of a big fan. O dear! she
thought, perhaps her little ruse to relieve the awkwardness of a most
curious situation was not going to succeed.

But at this instant, Sheila came forward. Her sympathies had been
aroused on learning about the curious old lady, and on finding that
there was nothing for her to carry to the sick one, she had gone out to
the roadside and gathered a big bunch of wild flowers, to her a panacea
for every ill.

These she now thrust towards the figure on the couch, crying, in her
sweet childish treble, “I’m sorry, lady, you’re sick, but here’s some
flowers; I picked ’em for you.” The child spoke in a half-frightened
tone, somewhat at a loss to understand the silence beneath the
handkerchief-covered face.

Suddenly the handkerchief was withdrawn, and the old lady sat bolt
upright, with a startled exclamation, gazing in amazed wonder at the
four small figures, with their pleading eyes and offerings of sympathy,
standing in a row before her.

“Bless me!” she cried, a half smile dawning in her sharp eyes. “Where
did these children come from?”

“Oh—why—they’re my Liberty boys,” answered Nathalie quickly, with a
sudden flash of relief that at last the old lady’s silence was broken.

“Your Liberty boys?” she questioned with some bewilderment, as she
peered keenly at the slim young figure. “But you’re too young to have
these boys.”

“Oh, but they’re not mine! I’m not married.” exclaimed Nathalie, a merry
note in her voice. “Why, I’ve just adopted them for the summer, so I
call them my boys. I suppose they’re what you call Fresh-Air-Funders;
that is, they live on the East Side in New York, and I’m afraid the poor
things wouldn’t have had any outing if I hadn’t brought them up here to
get a breath of this mountain air, and—”

But at this point, Jean, scrupulously faithful to Nathalie’s drilling,
took a step forward, and, holding out his plate of fruit, in his fright
forgetting the little English he knew, cried, “Voici du fruit!”

The woman peered at the boy, and then, with a slight cry as she saw the
little empty sleeve, drew him to her, as she took the plate of fruit
carefully from his hand. “Why, you poor lad!” she exclaimed in sudden
tenderness. “So you have some fruit for me. Is he a refugee?” she
queried softly, turning inquiringly towards Nathalie.

As the girl nodded dumbly, Tony pushed forward his offering, a covered
dish of milk toast. Quickly removing the cover, he smacked his lips with
gusto, while his velvety eyes glanced in a smile, as if to say, “Here’s
something nice for you, too!”

By this time Nathalie saw that the atmosphere had cleared, and after she
and Danny had proffered their gifts,—some chicken soup and
custard,—with the help of the boys she drew a table to the side of the
couch. Deftly unfolding a napkin for a covering, she spread out the
toothsome dainties before her hostess, while Sheila, in childish
prattle, entertained her new friend by telling about the fairies, whom
she insisted lived in the flowers.

As the old lady partook of the edibles that had been prepared for her,
the children, won by her seeming interest, with childish confidence told
her about their lives in the city, how they liked the beautiful
mountains, all about their many battles down at the old stone ledge, and
how they were all learning to be Sons of Liberty. This drew Nathalie
into the conversation, and she was soon animatedly telling how she
happened to become a Liberty Girl, and how she was not only trying to
carry out her plans in regard to liberty up there in the mountains, but
was anxious to help the children know what it meant to become good
Americans, and to understand why our nation had sent soldiers across the
sea to fight the Hun.

Tony needed but one invitation, and the violin was brought forth from
under his arm,—he always carried it,—and presently he was playing some
little Italian airs, after which Jean sang Belgium’s national anthem, at
Mrs. Carney’s request, and Danny recited a war-poem that Janet had
taught him. Even Sheila contributed her quota to the impromptu
entertainment and recited “Betsy’s Battle Flag,” as she, too, was a
pupil of Janet’s, that young lady having become so interested in the
children that she had not only helped her friend to teach them to sing,
but had taught them to recite.

But now it was time to go, as Nathalie did not want to weary Mrs.
Carney, although, to the girl’s surprise, that lady insisted that her
sick headache had disappeared, cured, she laughingly confessed, by the
young visitors, who had entertained her so charmingly.

With the promise to call again with her charges, Nathalie hurried them
away, happily content that she had followed her mother’s suggestion and
tried to be helpful and kind to her seemingly odd little neighbor. “It
pays to be pleasant with people,” she remarked sagely, as she related
the results of the visit. “For even if you don’t like them it gives you
a pleasant feeling to think that you have done ‘your bit’ in keeping the
chain of brotherly love well oiled.”

Mrs. Page sat knitting on the veranda the following morning when
Nathalie came hurrying out of the house with an angry light in her eyes.
“Oh, mother, what do you think?” she exclaimed irritably. “Cynthia has
set the children all looking for that _mystery thing_. Did you ever hear
of anything so absurd? And they have gone wild about it, and are running
around the attic and the upper floors, pulling things about in a most
disorderly fashion. Oh, I do think she is the limit!”

Mrs. Page looked at Nathalie in silence for a moment, and then said,
with some amusement in her eyes, “It is absurd, but don’t get wrought up
about it. Cynthia hasn’t stopped to think. She is so anxious to find it
that it has become an obsession with her. But it won’t do to let the
children get mixed up in anything of that kind.” Her face sobered, and
for a space the only sound was the clicking of her knitting-needles,
while Nathalie, with a frown on her face, pondered how she was going to
undo the mischief that Cynthia had wrought, keenly realizing what would
follow if the children were not stopped in looking for something that
she knew they would never find.

“Go and tell the children to come here, Nathalie,” said her mother, “and
we’ll have a little talk.” The girl, with a brighter face, complied, as
she always felt greatly relieved, when anything went wrong with her
boys, to have her mother straighten things out.

In a moment they were on the veranda, looking very much bedraggled and
dust-begrimed, as, with faces eagerly alert, they told what they had
been doing, after a little adroit questioning on the part of Mrs. Page.
It did not take the good lady long to make it clear to the
mystery-seekers that this _valuable thing_ that they had been searching
for was something that only concerned Nathalie and her cousins.

She now made it clear to them that the searching was undoubtedly a whim
on the part of the former inmate of Seven Pillars, and that the finding
of it simply meant a reward to the one of the three girls who had proved
the most industrious in looking for it. She ended by saying that it
would not likely be of any great value, adding, “And, children, it would
not be yours even if you found it.”

“Oh, but we’re going to give it to Miss Natty!” came a chorus of
determined little voices. “And Miss Cynthia said it was something awful
rich,” added Sheila, “and I just guess that it must be a great big
jewel, or a pot of gold.” “Sure, and we want Miss Natty to have it,”
ended Danny, with big, disappointed eyes.

This was not the first time that Mrs. Page had had to do away with a
seeming mystery connected with Mrs. Renwick’s peculiar instructions. For
the mystery-room had proved a source of morbid curiosity to the
children, as they questioned as to what was behind that great, dark red
curtain. They would scurry by the door with bated breath and big,
excited eyes, in whose depths lurked a latent fear of some unknown
terror, until Mrs. Page had ordered the curtain down, declaring that the
door simply closed, and barred, would end the mystery.

Fortunately the children’s attention was now turned to other matters,
but Nathalie, somehow, could not put the incident from her mind. She had
a vague, conscience-stricken feeling that _she_ would never gain the
reward for being industrious, for although she had not failed to make an
entry in her diary, she _had failed_ to search as diligently as she
should have done. Whereupon, with a silent vow that she would put aside
an hour every day for this disagreeable task, she hastened upstairs to
put her plan in execution.

Nathalie was lying in the hammock in the moonlight a few evenings later,
half-drowsing. She was more than usually tired, for they had spent the
day at Butternut Lodge. It had been an all-day hike, setting forth in
the forenoon with a climb up old Garnet, starting in at the log
gate-posts opposite Peckett’s flower-garden.

Ascending a grassy incline studded with rocks, where mountain-sheep and
a gray donkey meandered, nibbling the coarse grass, they entered the
cool damp of the forest gloom, where hundreds of trees confronted them.
Age-ringed and gnarled, their limbs twisted in eerie contortion to
grotesque shapes, they stood in the dim cathedral light bristling with
shadows, a battalion of ghoulish-looking sentinels, guarding the
rock-crowned heights.

But on they climbed, up the pine-needled path, stepping from
lichen-covered rocks to gnarled tree-roots, or clambering deftly over
blackened, flame-licked tree-trunks, that barred their way like yawning
chasms. Every now and then they would stop to gather some tiny wood posy
peeping coquettishly from the crevice of a broken crag, or a
crimson-dyed leaf on a mossy patch, or to brush aside the black loam to
burrow among dead leaves for feathery ferns, or one of the tiny
umbrellas, as Sheila called the many-colored toadstools that grew by the
path. But when the little maid spied a _fleur des fées_, a
daintily-colored anemone, her delight was beyond bounds.

Sometimes they would pause to listen to the mountain-wind as it swayed
the tops of long rows of trees, that, with the daring recklessness of
new life, stretched their bare-limbed trunks upward to catch the golden
sunlight on their glossy leaves. But the sweetest melody, perhaps, was
the wind that swept in solemn-toned harmony through the twisted boughs
of the old mountain-guard.

But the wind was not the only musician that sunny morning up there in
the stilled hush of the green wood, for sometimes it was the soft note
of a belated bird’s warble, coming with a haunting sweetness from the
dim recesses of the shadowed gloom, or the hammer of a woodpecker as he
plied his tool of trade.

But feathered songsters and musical wind were forgotten when the
children struck the Red Trail,—splashes of red paint smeared at
intervals on the bark of the trees to keep travelers in the path. The
boys, as they scurried ahead, soon discovered a Yellow Trail, and then a
Blue Trail, sign-posts to the lone woodchopper, perhaps, as he comes
down the woodland path in the deep snows of winter. The Yellow Trail,
they discovered, led down the mountain, coming out on the road near
Lovers’ Lane, the wooded path opposite Seven Pillars. Nathalie now
showed them how to blaze a trail that belonged exclusively to the Girl
Pioneers, and their interest became tense with excitement as she became
their leader and deftly bent the twigs in the shapes that meant so many
things to the Pioneers.

A little log cabin nestling beneath a clump of pine trees, on the edge
of a slope, just below Agassiz’s Rock, tempted the children to wander
from the beaten path. But they soon returned, and, in wide-eyed wonder,
declared that they had seen a pair of shoes by the door. Sheila was
quite insistent that some fairy godmother lived there, whereupon she was
rudely told by the boys that fairies never wore shoes. The children,
however, were loth to leave the spot, curiously wondering as to who
lived in the log hut.

But as no one was to be seen, either within or without the cabin, they
followed Nathalie, and were soon standing on a jagged rock on Garnet’s
top, in a wonderland of views that made them feel that they were indeed
birds of the air, skimming swiftly through a dim, mystical atmosphere.
With hushed breath and wide-seeing eyes they gazed down upon low-lying
valleys,—dabs of green between craggy rocks and lofty steeps, gemmed
with silver water, yellow corn-fields, and brown pasture-land. And above
all, in picturesque grandeur, towered a rim of battlemented crests and
ridges, silhouetted against curtains of crystalline blue, where sweeps
of white cloud drifted in gossamer veils.

On the wide green slopes surrounding the farmhouse the children reveled
in a summer-land of daisies and buttercups, that jeweled the softly
creeping grass. While Sheila wove a wreath of mountain posies Nathalie
told how, some years before, a bag of gold had been found in a log of
wood in the old farmhouse. This added a new glory to the scene, and
there were many surmises in regard to this find, while the Girl Pioneer
plied her craft and showed them how to make leaf-impressions in their
little note-books, as each one had gathered a leaf from many trees on
their way up the mountain.

After Danny had made a camp-fire and they had had a hike lunch of
frankfurters, roasted potatoes, and many toothsome edibles found in
their lunchboxes, they hurried back to the old farmhouse, and while the
children peeped into the old-fashioned brick ovens in search of another
pot of gold, Janet played on the yellow-keyed piano. Then came a stroll
to a weather-beaten barn, where an old coach was stored, which had once
been the mountain’s only method of conveyance, some decades ago, and on
which was the name “Goodnow House.” Of course they all had to mount the
rickety steps and crawl inside on the wide leather-cushioned seat, large
enough to hold almost a dozen children. Danny and Tony, however, soon
clambered out and mounted still higher, up to the two-step-driver’s
seat, where they pretended they were driving a tally-ho, with Sheila and
Jean sitting back, within the railed top, as outside passengers, while
Nathalie and Janet, on the wide old seat within, acted the part of
tourists traveling to the top of Mount Washington.

Wearying of these childish sports, Nathalie and Janet hied themselves
back to the farmhouse, where, after resisting the inclination to drowse,
induced by the lulling hum of the bees as they darted busily about in
the sweet-scented, sunny air, they sat down on the little porch and took
out their knitting.

Suddenly the deep silence that they had drifted into, lured to thought
by their active fingers, was broken by loud squeals, mingled with boyish
shouts of laughter. And then a thrill came, as Nathalie suddenly
perceived the old stage-coach, drawn by Danny and Tony as horses, while
Jean, as the driver, was exultantly happy, perched up in the driver’s
high seat. Sheila, meanwhile, bewreathed and betwined with wild posies,
sat within the coach, posing as a beautiful white princess who had been
captured by bandits.

Nathalie’s heart swung in wild leaps as she saw the one-armed boy’s
perilous position, as the ramshackle, clumsy coach rocked like a cradle,
and realized what it would mean if anything happened to it, as it was a
most valuable relic to the proprietor of the hotel.

With a sudden cry she jumped to her feet, and a moment later was
excitedly explaining to the would-be bandits the wrong they had
committed. In disappointed silence Jean was helped down from the top of
the coach, and Sheila, in whimpering protest, was hauled out. Then, amid
a profound and tragic stillness to the children, they managed, with the
help of the two girls, to get the stage back in the barn. Whereupon,
Nathalie closed the door and marched her charges off in another
direction, while pondering how to amuse them, for she had learned that
their active brains and nimble fingers must be kept busy or mischief
would brew.

A low cry from Sheila roused her, to see a few feet away, on the
outskirts of the wood, a baby deer, gazing at them with mild eyes of
wonder. But the cries from the boys caused it to leap wildly into the
woods.

Such had been the events of the day.

Nathalie stirred uneasily, as a ray of moonshine fell athwart her face.
She rubbed her eyes, and then sat up in the hammock, staring about in a
bewildered, sleepy fashion. “Why, I must have been dreaming,” she
thought, vaguely conscious that she had been living over again the long
day with its many adventures.

“But it must be late; the children should be in bed.” She could hear
Danny and Tony down on the lawn, their voices in loud and excited
argument. O dear! she hoped they were not going to fight again, and then
she gave a hurried “Tru-al-lee!”

At the familiar call the boys came hurrying across the lawn, when, to
her surprise, she saw that Sheila was not with them. As she questioned
them sharply as to her whereabouts, they insisted that they supposed
that she was with her. The girl, somewhat alarmed, for the little lady
was inclined to wander off by herself, instituted a search. The barn,
grounds, Lovers’ Lane opposite, and even the little red house were
peeped into, but all to no purpose.

As Sam was in Littleton for the night, the boys were dispatched to Sugar
Hill village to make inquiries, while she and Janet, who had just
returned from a stroll in the moonlight with Mrs. Page, started to look
on the road leading to “The Echoes.” Some time later the searchers
returned to Seven Pillars to report that no clews as to the child’s
whereabouts had been discovered. Suddenly distracted,
conscience-stricken, Nathalie gave a low wail.

“Oh, I do believe she has gone to the top of Garnet Mountain!” The girl
had suddenly remembered that for several days Sheila had been telling
how one of the boarders at Peckett’s—a lady as white as snow—had told
her that every moonlight night at twelve o’clock the fairies came out of
the woods and danced on the top of Garnet. She had even suggested that
if Sheila could see them, she might be rewarded by receiving some of the
beautiful garnets that were hidden in the rocks, and which only the
fairies knew where to find.

There was a grim silence at Nathalie’s cry, as each one stared at the
other with a white, dismayed face, while Nathalie, with clasped hands,
nervously swayed herself to and fro.

A sudden scuffle of small feet caused them all to swing about, to see
Danny hurrying towards the door.

“Oh, where are you going, Dan?” cried Nathalie in a choked voice,
staring at the lad with bewildered eyes.

“I’m going to find my sister—Sheila—” came in a strangled sob from the
boy.

“But don’t go alone. I will go with you,” exclaimed Nathalie, quickly
springing to his side, as he stood with his face buried in his elbow,
while his slim body heaved convulsively.

It was soon decided that Janet and Dan would climb the mountain-trail
that came out near Lovers’ Lane, Mrs. Page and Tony would hurry in the
direction of Hildreth’s farm, while Nathalie and Jean would follow the
Red Trail of the mountain, opposite Peckett’s hotel.

Twenty minutes later Nathalie and Jean, breathless from their hurried
climb, paused for a moment by a big tree that stood ghoulishly somber by
the path. As the girl, still panting, leaned against it, a ray of
moonlight filtering through the canopy of leaves overhead showed that it
was the Seat Tree, as they had named it on their climb that morning, on
account of its singular formation.

By some freak of nature, from its main trunk, a short space from the
ground, another trunk had sprung, giving it the appearance of two trees
in one, and in this hollow some kindly-intentioned person had placed a
seat. As the girl perceived the seat she sat down, and feeling Jean’s
soft breath come puffing against her cheek, drew the tired boy down on
her lap. Tige, the yellow terrier, crouched at their feet, his red
tongue hanging out of his mouth like a signal-light in the weird
darkness.

Fortunately the darkness of the ascent had been lightened at intervals
by the moon, which was at its full, so that the girl had not been
compelled to use her flashlight except in the deeply shadowed places.
When they had begun to climb, Jean had whistled, his customary way of
calling Sheila, while Nathalie had not only called the child by name,
but had given her Pioneer call of “_Tru-al-lee_.”

But these calls had only re-echoed through the cathedral arches with
such a dismal, dirge-like sound that they had desisted. Feeling sure
that the child would keep near the path, Nathalie had kept her eyes busy
peering on all sides of her, thinking that she could easily discern
Sheila’s white dress if she was anywhere near.

All at once a low cry escaped the girl, as, with a convulsive clutch of
Jean’s slight body, she bent forward, and peered through the eerie
tree-shadows to a dim, flickering light that shone some distance beyond
in the deep recesses of the forest. As the boy’s eyes followed her
glance, in a tense whisper he cried, “Oh, Mademoiselle! see, there is a
man digging in the ground!”



                              CHAPTER XVII

                       THE CABIN ON THE MOUNTAIN


Yes, it was a man digging in the ground. The quivering, yellowish glare
from a torch that had been stuck in the ground by his side—as it
flickered and flared, sometimes almost extinguished by the night air,
and then suddenly blazing to a vivid flame—silhouetted his form in
sharp outline against the high rock by which he was standing.

As the girl’s eyes dilated in puzzled wonder as to who the man was, and
why he was digging in the woods at this hour of the night, a queer, odd
quiver, or twitching of his head at times, as he bent over the spade,
aroused within her a vague consciousness that she had seen some one
before who had that same peculiar motion.

Tige, the little yellow dog crouching at their feet, at this moment gave
a low growl, a warning that he might betray their presence. Nathalie,
quickly pushing Jean from her lap, grabbed the dog, and snuggled him
close to smother the growl, afraid that the man would discover that he
had been seen. Assailed by a nameless fear, she seized Jean’s hand and
pushed on up the incline, stepping cautiously, almost noiselessly, on
the fallen leaves and stones, ever and anon glancing back, as if fearful
that the man would pursue them.

Recalled to herself at Jean’s wide, frightened eyes, and the tremor of
his slight form, she whispered with assumed courage, “Oh, I guess the
man is only burying some dead animal, or something of that kind up here
in the woods.” Nevertheless she was almost as frightened as the child,
and was devoutly thankful when they reached a little clearing nearer the
top, where the moon shone down with the brightness of day.

Yes, it would be about here that Sheila would come, for it was not far
from the jutting rock where they had seen such beautiful views that
morning. With keen eyes the girl peered around, but only craggy rocks,
scrubby bushes, tree-stumps—weird black objects in the moonlight—here
and there, backed by a forest of heavily-branched trees met her gaze.
Oh! what was that tiny glimmer of light over by the tree yonder? Was it
a light held by the man who had been digging, and who was perhaps
watching them from behind the tree?

Nathalie’s heart gave a wild leap, again shaken by that nameless fear,
and then, to her intense relief, she saw that the light came from the
little log cabin the children had found that morning in prowling about
the clearing. Yes, some one must live there. But suppose it should be
the man they had seen? Ah, they would hurry on, and gripping Jean’s hand
in a closer pressure, she started forward. But no; Jean stood
obstinately still, with low-bent head, as if listening.

What was it? Oh, it was a noise,—a low sound like a moan. Could it be
Sheila? Was she lying somewhere there in the woods? Why, it sounded as
if it came from the little cabin! Nathalie’s head went up as she peered
resolutely through the gloom. No, she would not allow her foolish fear
to master her. She would go forward and see what it was—perhaps. A
moment or so later the girl, still frenziedly clinging to the little
boy’s hand, her heart leaping with anxious agitation and nervous fear,
tapped loudly on one of the log posts of the open doorway, which was
hung with what appeared to be a large dark-colored shawl that waved
dismally in the wind. Almost immediately, in answer to her rap, the
shawl was pushed hastily aside and a man stood in the doorway.

From the weird red gleam of a lantern that hung from the center of the
cabin, Nathalie perceived that the man was young, with a strange pallor
on his lean, brown face, which was lighted by large, densely black eyes,
that were peering down at her from beneath a tangle of soft, wavy black
hair.

Inwardly quaking, but determined not to show her fear, Nathalie
inquired, “Have you seen anything of a little girl about?” Without
answering, the man turned and was pointing towards a log couch built up
against the wall, spread with an old army-coat. Nathalie gave a hurried
glance, and then made a wild rush forward, for the little form lying so
strangely still on the coat was Sheila!

But the man’s hand stayed her as he said in a low, but pleasant-sounding
voice, “Sh-sh! I would not awaken her. Poor little thing, she cried
herself to sleep.” He then briefly explained how he had been awakened by
the low whimpering of a child, and, on going out to the clearing, had
found her sitting on a rock, crying piteously for the fairies to come
and get her. He was moved to question her, and then, by a little
coaxing, and the explanation that the fairies had all gone back to
fairyland, as it was long after midnight, he had coaxed the child into
the cabin, and finally she had fallen asleep. As Nathalie bent over her
in anxious solicitude she saw the undried tears still on her lashes,
while low, whimpering moans—the sounds that had arrested her
attention—came at intervals from between the soft, red lips.

As the girl pondered as to how she was to get Sheila home, Danny’s
policeman’s whistle, as he called it, followed by Janet’s shrill
“hoo-hooing,” announced that the rest of the party of searchers had
arrived. In a short space they were all in the little cabin, animatedly
discussing how to carry the little girl down the mountain. Danny,
meanwhile, had hastened to the couch and was down on his knees, softly
kissing the little hand thrown over the side, in the abandon of sleep,
while the young man stood at one side, quietly watching the little
group.

It was soon decided, at his suggestion, that they leave the little girl
there in the cabin with Danny until morning, when there would be more
light to get her down the mountain. This difficulty settled, with
relieved hearts they were about to set forth on their return journey
down the trail, when Nathalie, whose eyes had been wandering about the
rustic hut, cried, “But do you live here all alone up on this mountain?”

The young man’s eyes lighted. “Why, yes, I live alone up here. It is not
much of a summer-resort,” he said, with a rarely winning smile. “Still
it answers my purpose, for I am guaranteed plenty of pure air. I am an
English soldier,” he volunteered somewhat slowly, “and have recently
come over here from England. I was wounded,—” he glanced down at his
arm with its gloved hand, and which Janet had been eying rather sharply,
for it hung down in a strangely stiff way,—“and I thought the mountains
would benefit me. But I am very glad I found the child,” he broke off
abruptly, as if he had been revealing something he did not care to talk
about. “I hope she will be none the worse for her adventure,” he
continued kindly, “even if she failed to find the fairies.” Nathalie had
explained how the child had come to wander away.

[Illustration: Nathalie bent over in anxious solicitude.—_Page 259._]

Early the next morning Danny and Sheila appeared, the little girl now
quite wide-awake, but she grew very shamefaced when Mrs. Page scolded
her gently for giving them such a fright, dwelling upon the deep anxiety
she had caused Miss Natty, when she had been so good to her, too. The
tears came into the brown eyes at this rebuke, and, impulsively running
to the girl, she protested with a stifled sob that she would not run
after any more fairies.

Of course Nathalie had to kiss the woeful little damsel, but perceiving
that the auspicious moment had arrived to impress her with a fact that
she should know, she took her out on the porch, and then gravely and
carefully made clear to the little mind that there were no fairies, but
just beautiful fancies that existed in the brains of people, who put
them in stories so as to make them interesting to children.

But Danny, apparently greatly distressed, now drew Nathalie to one side,
and confided to her that he believed that the young man must be hungry
and very poor, for there seemed to be no food in the cabin. And he had
heard him mutter,—when he thought the boy was asleep,—as he counted
some loose change he had taken from his pocket and thrown on the table,
“Well, that won’t get much food.” And then he had sat very quiet for a
long time, as if thinking.

Nathalie immediately rushed to impart this news to her mother, with the
result that, a half-hour later, Danny and Tony, each with a basket
filled with food, started up the mountain-trail. In his pocket Danny
carried a note written by Mrs. Page, in which she not only thanked the
young man again for his kindness to Sheila, but made it clear that the
food came from the child, a thank offering to him, and that she hoped he
would find it acceptable, as she knew that it must be a difficult matter
to obtain much food up there on the mountain top.

Some time later the two boys returned in a state of great excitement.
They claimed that they had found the young man asleep on the couch, and
although they had tried to awaken him, and had “hollered and hollered
right into his ear,” as Danny expressed it, he had not even stirred. The
faces of the listeners grew grave as they heard this, and Janet, with a
sudden sharp exclamation, turned and rushed up-stairs, to reappear in a
moment with a medicine-case and her hat. Her training as a district
nurse was now to be put to a real test. “I just believe that boy has
been starved to death,” she ejaculated, her blue eyes luminous with
sympathy, “for I could see by the look of him last night that he was in
a bad way.”

Of course Nathalie would not let Janet go alone, and so the two girls
and the boys again hurried up the mountain to the cabin, where they
found the young man not dead, as Nathalie had vaguely feared, but in a
state of unconsciousness. Under Janet’s able ministrations he was
finally brought to, and after Nathalie had warmed some broth—Danny had
made a fire in the open—it was gently fed to him by Janet. As Nathalie
watched her, she opened her eyes in amazement at the girl’s deftness and
gentleness in handling her charge, for this indeed was a new phase of
her cousin’s character.

Won by the girls’ sympathy and interest, Philip de Brie—as that proved
to be the young man’s name—said he had been wounded at the battle of
Loos, and then wounded again and taken a prisoner at the battle of the
Somme. After many months, under most harrowing circumstances, he had
made his escape, and finally reached England, only to find that his
mother had died in the meantime. “As I was alone,” there was a
perceptible quiver in his voice,—“my father had died when I was a
lad,—I decided to come over here.

“My father was an American,” he continued. “I was born in America, and,
as I knew that I had a grandmother living here, now my only relative, I
felt that I wanted to see her. But I found that she, too, had died,” the
young man’s eyes saddened, “and, well, once up on these grand old
mountains, somehow I wanted to stay, they seemed so restful after the
nerve-shocked life of a battle-field and my prison experience. I found
this old shack up here one day in wandering about, and, after finding
its owner, hired it for the summer. You see, my arm was bayoneted by a
German,” his mouth set in a hard line, “and was never properly treated
in the German camp. Sometimes I fear I will lose it altogether. But you
have been very kind to me—I shall get along now.” He attempted to rise,
but Janet, forcing him back, insisted upon ripping open the sleeve
covering the bayoneted arm, notwithstanding his protests, and here she
found a condition that made her eyes grow very grave.

After cleaning the wound and applying what remedies she had on hand, she
rebandaged the arm, which made the patient feel much better, he
affirmed. After giving him a soothing draught, and fixing him as
comfortably as she could with the meager bed-clothing in the cabin, so
he could sleep, she and Nathalie withdrew outside.

Under the trees the two girls sat and discussed the situation with much
perplexity, for Janet maintained that it was a serious case,—that the
young man’s temperature was not only rising, but that his arm needed a
surgeon’s care. But what were they to do? And the girls’ eyes grew
tragically grave as they realized that the young man was an object of
much solicitude, alone and ill in a strange country, and evidently
without any means.

It was finally decided that they take turns in caring for him, with the
help of Danny, who was not only sympathetically interested, but who was
quite a handy man in many ways. He said he had learned to care for
Sheila, and for the old woman whom he called his nurse, who had cared
for them, and who was not only very aged, but miserably ill for some
time before she died.

But the next morning, unfortunately,—Janet and Danny had remained
during the night,—the patient’s condition was worse and Janet, with
tears in her eyes, besought Nathalie to go to the village and see if she
could get help.

As the girl hurried down the trail her mind was active. Oh, she did hate
to make the young man a public charge, as he looked so refined, and had
such a noble, winning way with him. And he was a soldier, too; yes, a
“Son of Liberty,” as she confided to Tony, who was by her side. For had
he not been fighting in France to give liberty to the world? “Why, there
isn’t anything too good for him,” lamented the girl, “and yet there he
is up there alone, perhaps at the point of death for want of proper
care.” And yet where was she to get the money to call a physician, and
where could she find one, were perplexing questions.

As these thoughts ran rapidly through the girl’s brain, sometimes spoken
aloud in her stress, inspired perhaps by Tony’s unspoken sympathy, as he
gently patted her hand, she caught her breath quickly, and a bright
flash illumined her eyes.

“Yes, I will do it,” she muttered aloud, absent-mindedly returning the
boy’s caresses. “I will take the money. I was saving it. O dear!”
Nathalie almost wailed, “shall I ever be able to save even a _sou_
towards going to college? Well, it can’t be helped. I’ll just have to
take it and see if I can’t get some one to tell me where I can get a
physician.”

Hurrying into the house, Nathalie informed her mother as to the
patient’s condition, and then told that she intended taking the money
she had saved and call a doctor. Mrs. Page kissed the girl softly with
troubled eyes, saying gently, “Never mind, Nathalie, you are investing
your money at a greater per cent of interest in giving it to this
unknown stranger, than if you used it for yourself. And then, who knows,
dear? Something may turn up some day——”

“Oh no,” cried Blue Robin in a discouraged voice, “_nothing_ will ever
turn up.” And then, with a feeble smile, she cried, “But, as you often
say, mumsie, things are foreordained, and so perhaps it wouldn’t be for
my good to have my wish. And then, anyway, I shall have the
satisfaction,” the brown eyes were sparkling again, “of knowing that the
‘drop in the bucket,’ is going to do some good to some one.”

After finding Sam, who was rarely ill and could give her no information
as to where to get a physician unless it was at Littleton, she started
for the village. As she passed the little red house she ran in for a
moment to tell Mrs. Carney about the man in the cabin, as she had become
much interested in the young man’s story. The queer old lady and the
girl had become very good friends since that visit with the children,
for Nathalie had learned that the sometimes sharp gray eyes covered a
kindly nature, notwithstanding the old lady’s brusque, queer ways.

“Yes, it just breaks my heart to take my college money,” she dolefully
confided. Then, half-ashamed of her repining, she tried to explain how
college had been the dream of her life, and how many times she had been
disappointed. A kindly gleam in Mrs. Carney’s eyes, however, assured her
that the old lady understood how she felt, and after a hurried good-by
she was on her way to the post-office.

Nathalie feared she was going to get no more information here than what
Sam had imparted, when suddenly a lady, who had been standing near, and
who had been interested in her story, informed her that there was a
famous surgeon from New York up at the Sunset Hill House, and that
possibly she could get him.

Thanking her warmly, the girl hurried up the board walk to the
hotel,—the children tagging on behind her,—feeling extremely nervous
as she realized her boldness in asking a big physician, who had probably
come to the mountains for a rest, to be bothered with a poor patient.
And then, too, who knew what terribly high prices he might ask for his
services? Nathalie began to feel that her “drop in the bucket” might not
prove of any help after all.

But, bracing to the ordeal, she told the children to wait at the little
Observation Tower, as she called it, in front of the hotel, and hurried
to the office. She had just nervously cleared her throat to question the
clerk when the sudden cry, “Oh, Nathalie! Nathalie! where did you come
from?” caused her to swing about. The next moment Nita Van Vorst had her
arms about her, and was hugging and kissing her excitedly, while her
mother stood by with pleased, shining eyes.

After a hearty greeting from Mrs. Van Vorst, Nathalie cried laughingly,
although the sudden revulsion from nervous anxiety had brought tears to
her eyes, “Oh, where did you come from, and when did you get here?”

“We arrived last night,” replied Nita, bubbling over with delight at
being with her friend again. “Our coming here is a surprise _for you_,
and we were just going to see if we could get some information as to
where Seven Pillars was, so as to motor there.”

“Oh, I’m so glad to see you, and now you can see my boys!” And then,
after Mrs. Van Vorst had led them into one of the little side-rooms
opening from the long hall, where they could converse without being
heard, she told all about her boys,—Sheila, the boy-girl, as she called
her, the good times they were all having, and about the young man who
was lying so ill up on the mountain, and what had brought her to the
hotel. “I am so nervous,” sighed the girl, as she finished her story,
“for I don’t know this big man, and I dread to speak with him, for fear
he will be brusque and sharp with me, but _something_ must be done for
that poor soldier boy.”

“Excuse me a moment,” exclaimed Mrs. Van Vorst after she had conversed a
while; “I want to go and see if I have any mail.” But, to Nathalie’s
surprise, she did not go in the direction of the desk, but hurried after
a tall, rather stout gentleman who at that moment passed through the
hall.

But the little incident was forgotten, as Nathalie and Nita had so much
to say to one another that they both talked at once, as if their tongues
were hung in the middle. Nita insisted that her friend would have to
remain to dinner with her, as she had so much news to tell, especially
about the Liberty Girls, that it would take hours to tell it.

In the midst of these many bits of enjoyed information, Nita’s mother
returned, and Nathalie in a moment was dazedly bowing to the tall
gentleman, whom her friend presented as Dr. Gilmour. “He is the surgeon,
Nathalie,” she added smilingly, “whom you came after. As he is a very
old friend of mine, and a good American to boot,” she nodded at the
gentleman, “he has consented to go with you up the mountain to see your
Son of Liberty, as you call him.”

“Oh, I am so glad! I am so glad!” burst from the girl with a
joy-thrilled voice. “And, oh, I thank you so much; it is so kind of
you,” she added with misty eyes, turning impulsively towards the
physician.

But the big man, with an amused smile in his keen gray eyes, patted her
on the shoulder as he said, “My little lady, I think that every true
American should stand ready to do anything to help any man, or boy, who
has been brave enough to face those fiendish Huns.”

“Oh, I think so, too,” cried the relieved girl, a wave of color flushing
her cheeks, “and I think it must have been that thought that gave me the
courage to come and ask you.”

“Oh, isn’t it just dandy!” enthused Nita, as Dr. Gilmour hurried away to
get his little black case, while Nathalie led her friend down the steps
of the veranda to where three little figures sat patiently waiting for
her on the tower-steps.

But the girl’s eyes widened as she suddenly perceived that they were not
alone, for a brown-clad figure with soldierly bearing, but with a
golf-bag slung over his shoulder, with one foot on the steps, was
bending down and talking to the children. And then a sudden thrill
stirred her as she recognized the soldier lad who had helped her down
the foot-bridge that day at the Flume, and who had so kindly taken Jean
to see the cascade.

As Nathalie reached the children, she became embarrassed, as she
suddenly realized that she did not know the name of the young soldier.
But her embarrassment was momentary, as Nita called out merrily, “Hello,
Van. Is _that_ what you are doing, making love to the kiddies? I thought
you were going to play golf.”

“That was my intention,” replied the boy, straightening up and lifting
his hat, and then his dark blue eyes brightened quickly, as he perceived
Nita’s companion.

Nathalie was now introduced to Mr. Van Darrell, the son of a friend of
Nita’s mother, and then the little group were chatting merrily as they
waited for Dr. Gilmour, and Mrs. Van Vorst, who had gone to order the
car to take them to the foot of the Trail that led to the top of Garnet
Mountain.

All at once young Darrell turned towards Nathalie as he said, “But, Miss
Page, have we not met before? Were you not one of the girls at Camp
Mills one day last month, who asked a party of us if we did not want
some cherries? And then, if I remember rightly, we all helped you to
gather up the fruit after you had knocked the basket from the car.”

“Oh, yes, I remember you,” dimpled Nathalie. “No, not when I met you
that day at the Flume, although your face haunted me as being familiar,
but it all came to me on the ride home.”

“But I knew you right away,” said the boy half shyly, “although I did
not like to make myself known, for, of course, I did not even know your
name.”

“Or I yours,” laughed Nathalie. And then, with her mind filled with
thoughts of the young English soldier, she told his story to Mr.
Darrell, who immediately became so interested in Tommy Atkins, as he
called him, that he begged Nathalie to let him go with her, quite
assured, he declared, that he could be of some assistance to him.

Before the girl could reply a new voice suddenly shrilled, “Oh,
Nathalie, how do you do? Did you come up here to call on us?”

The girl, thus addressed, stared with some bewilderment, to see her two
New York schoolmates hurrying towards her. They looked very fetching in
their modish golf-costumes, with their bags slung carelessly over their
shoulders, as each one seized her hand and shook it cordially, while
smiling down upon her in a most friendly and chummy way.

For a full second the girl simply stared, dazed and confused, as it
suddenly flashed into her consciousness that the last time she had met
these girls they had snubbed her, deliberately turning their backs upon
her, when she greeted them, the day she had come to the hotel to leave
the sweet peas. Ah, a sudden red leaped into Nathalie’s cheeks, her eyes
flamed angrily, and she was about to return their snub by turning her
back upon them, for she had intuitively divined that they were nice to
her because they wanted to be introduced to her friends. Yes, they
wanted to know the soldier-boy.

But something deep within the girl, her finer nature, whispered, “Never
mind, ignore their slight, and show that you are above them by acting
the lady.” With simple dignity the girl coolly returned their effusive
greeting, and then, with cold formality, introduced them to her two
friends. Oh, how delighted they were to meet Miss Van Vorst; they had
heard all about her from a friend of hers,—Nita never was able to
discover this friend. Then, turning from Nita as quickly as possible,
they made an onslaught upon the soldier lad. Oh, how pleased they were
to meet him, they had been just wild to know him ever since they had
sighted his uniform. Was he a New York guardsman? What regiment did he
belong to? These and a score of similar questions were quickly hurled at
the young man, somewhat to his embarrassment. Nathalie could not hear
all they said as she chattered with Nita, but vaguely realized, as they
rattled on, with an angry flutter of her heart, that they were again
ignoring her, as she heard them urging Mr. Darrell to join them at a
game of golf.

But a few moments later, when Nita waved a good-by to her mother from
the car, she was seated between the soldier lad and Nathalie, with the
children crowding upon their laps, and the doctor in front with the
chauffeur.

As the car whizzed away from the hotel Nita gave Nathalie’s sleeve a
sudden twitch as she cried, “Oh, look, Nathalie; there’s the _Count_!”

“The _Count_,” repeated her friend in mystified wonder, as she bent
forward to gaze after a young man who had just flashed by in an
automobile. But suddenly, with a curious gleam in her eyes, the girl
drew back, a slight flush on her cheeks.

“Oh, no, he’s not a _real Count_,” informed Nita with some amusement in
her eyes; “but every one calls him that because they think he’s so
Frenchy-looking, with his dark skin and big black eyes. The girls seem
quite wild about him, for he takes them riding in his car. Some one told
mother that he was from Chicago, and was quite wealthy.”

But Nathalie manifested no further interest in the gentleman whom Nita
had dubbed the Count, although she immediately recognized the young man
as the one who had repaired her car the day she had gone after the
children. But, alas, she felt that he was no gentleman, for had he not
stared at her rudely in the post-office, and then accosted her near the
cemetery a short time later?



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                           THE LIBERTY CHEER


After Nita’s arrival the two Pioneer-Liberty girls were so occupied with
things to see and do, that at the week’s end it was hard to realize it
was not a month since her coming.

In the order of events had been the anxious moments waiting to know the
doctor’s decision as to the condition of the young English soldier. This
had been followed by Nathalie’s deep joy when she realized that her
“drop in the bucket” was doing its bit. Yes, the doctor announced that
the young man’s condition was serious, induced by his gangrenous wound
and the life he had lived for the last two years. Still, as he had a
good constitution, and youth is a ready up-builder, with proper care and
food,—emphasizing the word “food,”—he would be all right in a short
time. Yes, Janet had sensed the situation when she had proclaimed that
she believed the man was more than half starved.

Under the care of the skillful surgeon, with Janet’s good nursing,
assisted by Nathalie and Nita, who had begged hard to be allowed to
help, the patient soon began to improve. Possibly the atmosphere created
by having three young nurses, the soldier-boy as orderly, Danny as handy
man, with the other children as servitors, with nourishing food, had
done as much as medicine and skill in giving renewed ambition to a man
who had been dragging out his life on half-rations, in the solitude of a
friendless existence.

The most important aid to the convalescent’s recovery, undoubtedly, was
the thought of being able to refill an empty pocketbook, for Mrs. Van
Vorst, as soon as she learned that he was a proficient French
scholar,—he had lived in France, his mother being a French woman,—and
was graduated from Oxford, had immediately made the suggestion that he
give Nita French lessons. With her usual tact the suggestion had been so
delicately made, pleading it as a personal favor to her, so as not to
offend the fine sensibilities of the young man, that it had been soon
arranged.

The young soldier’s peculiar situation had been noised about, and
general interest and sympathy being awakened, many of the guests from
the near-by hotels had climbed the mountain trails, with offerings of
fruit or some delicacy for the invalid.

When the fact became known that Nita was to take French lessons from
him, other young ladies at the hotels were eager to be his pupils, among
them Nathalie’s two New York schoolmates, who ardently sounded the
praises of the handsome English soldier, whose refined scholarly face,
tall, athletic figure, his romantic story, bade fair to make him a
possible rival of the Count, who was considered the most eligible
_parti_ at the hotel. But the fact that the young man up in the cabin
had played a soldier’s part in the present war, was an asset that
carried more weight than mere wealth, in the minds of the ladies,
particularly when it was fashionable to be patriotic.

Possibly Nathalie’s two friends seized upon this opportunity to make
themselves one of a very happy party of young people, who somehow
managed to have a most enjoyable time in ministering to their charge. As
soon as the sick man was able, he was made comfortable in a hammock
under the trees, on a clearing near the cabin, where each one vied with
the other to cheer him.

Sometimes there would be a reading, then again just a merry chat, but as
the meetings gained in numbers, stories became the vogue, the
story-teller generally relating some tale about the mountains, or an
Indian legend, while the listeners sat and knitted for the soldiers, as
even Sheila and the boys,—all but poor Jean,—had become expert
knitters, under Nathalie’s tutelage. As the patient had brightened so
perceptibly at these little mountain-top gatherings, Nathalie had dubbed
them Liberty Cheers.

When Blue Robin saw that her two schoolmates had foisted themselves upon
the party, she felt indignantly grieved, as the snub they had
administered to her still rankled. She had been on the point of
revealing the incident to Nita, in one of their little confidential
chats, when that young lady had remained at Seven Pillars over night, as
she loved to do. But second thoughts stayed her, as she knew her
friend’s loyal devotion to her, and her vehement way of disposing of
people when they displeased her, the result of her spoiled childhood.
Nathalie, also, was afraid to offend the two girls, for fear they would
not continue to take lessons of Philip de Brie, and she knew that would
mean a loss to him.

Van Darrell, the Camp Mills soldier, and Philip had fraternized as
“mates”; for the latter, by his life on the battlefield, and in the
trenches, and with his experiences in a German prison-camp, had a stock
of information at his command that Van was greedy to devour. With the
wholehearted patriotic enthusiasm of our young American boys when called
to the colors, he was keen to be on the “firing-line,” so as to get a
chance, as he expressed it, “to get a few jabs at the Big Willie gang.”

Philip’s deep appreciation of Nathalie’s kindness to him, and also that
of her friends, was not only expressed in words, but by the warm,
eloquent glances of his dark eyes. His deferential courtesy to all, his
chivalrous manner towards her and Janet, and his kindly, winning way of
making friends with the children, had won the girl’s admiration.
Nevertheless she had noticed that it was Janet who had won his deepest
regard. It was to her that he turned with questioning eyes when anything
of moment came up, on her that his admiring, ardent glances fell when
that young lady appeared in some simple, but fluffy, bewitching little
costume, which she had taken to doing lately, somewhat to Nathalie’s
surprise.

When he grew tired and showed a restlessness, a desire to be free of the
merry-makers, a pleased look would dawn in his eyes when they left him
to the ministrations of the head nurse. The somber shadows in his eyes
would light with a strange glow as she hovered about him, trying to make
him comfortable, or giving him the medicine that he probably would have
forgotten if she had not been there to give it to him.

And Janet? Well, she had been, as it were, curiously transformed into a
new creature, seemingly, by the sweet pity in her soft eyes, and the
flush on her winsome face, as, with tireless patience and quiet
diligence, she performed her duties. Evidently, for the nonce, her
vocation of mingled pacifist, farmerette, and suffragette had been
relegated to the past.

Oh, no, the girls did not spend all their time with Philip, for, as this
was Nita’s first visit to the White Hills, there were many things to
see. One of the first places she had been taken by her friend was to the
Sweet Pea Tea-House, to meet the invalid and the deaf-and-dumb lady. She
was not only charmed with their garden of gardens, but enthusiastic in
her warm admiration of the charms of its owners. And it was not long
before she was alternating with Nathalie in reading to Miss Whipple, for
Nathalie had managed, with her many duties and joys, to keep up the
readings to the shut-in.

Mrs. Carney, of the little red house, also received a call, and the
young girl had come away curiously impressed with the oddities of the
queer little old lady, whose small black figure, with her basket of yarn
for knitting, always in that funny poke-bonnet, was a familiar sight on
the road.

Janet, Nita declared, was “just lovely,” and that this admiration was
reciprocated was evidenced by Janet taking her down to her farm,
although sadly neglected at present. Here Nita not only did her share of
weeding, but returned with such glowing accounts of the farm’s
luxuriance, expatiating so glowingly upon its fertility, and what
wonders Janet had been able to accomplish so late in the season, that
Nathalie forebore poking fun at it, as she generally did.

Nita had gazed at the mystery room with a keen desire to peep within,
had read Nathalie’s diary of each day’s doings, and had prowled all over
the house, intent on selecting what she thought was the most valuable
thing for Nathalie to select, as she, too, was anxious that she should
“win the prize,” as the children called it. She had even visited Cynthia
in her sanctum sanctorum, to Nathalie’s astonishment, the artist
apparently having taken a great fancy to the hunchback girl, being
particularly cordial to her, and returning Mrs. Van Vorst’s call, to the
amazement of Mrs. Page, before that lady had had a chance to do so.

But the reason therefor was apparently explained, when it became known
that she had suggested to Mrs. Van Vorst that she allow her to paint
Nita’s portrait, insisting that her golden hair and violet eyes would
show up beautifully on a canvas. Nathalie was still more surprised when
that kind-hearted lady, whose income was amply sufficient to allow her
to indulge in many whims, consented, and Cynthia was in a glorified
state at the success of her plan.

Liberty Fort had proved a good inspirer of patriotism, as Nita not only
became, for the time, a most valiant Son of Liberty, entering with great
zest into the children’s sham battles on the meadow below, but she
introduced an element of war that was hailed with delight. This was a
battery gun, which she contrived to make, with the help of Jean, out of
an old lead pipe found in the cellar, and which was placed on wheels,
the remains of an old hayrack, and installed at the top of the terrace
in front of the fort.

She had also helped the boys to make wooden swords out of sticks, and
also hand-grenades of thick paper filled with gravel, which would have
had a most disastrous effect upon the enemy if the latter had not been
imaginary.

It was here one afternoon, as the boys were having a battle with all the
horrors of war, that young Darrell appeared, and as he and the two girls
sat on the stone ledge, he told them how he was “all in” by having had a
boxing-match with a prisoner when on police duty.

“The chap was a foreigner,” he explained. “He could only speak a little
English, and I had heard him mutter to himself several times in rather a
queer way. Suddenly, when I was off my guard, he let his club fly at me
and gave me a whack on the head that knocked me silly. I saw stars for a
moment, and then I let out on the chap,—he was a big fellow, as strong
as an ox,—and was just about to use my automatic when the Military
Police rushed up and in a few moments they had him as tight as a drum.
It turned out that he was off his nut, and I believe he is now in some
asylum. Anyway he put me in the hospital with a cracked skull for a
while, and then I was granted a furlough, and came up here with mother.”

The girls, under the spell of the military, were inclined to make a hero
of the soldier-boy, with the long-lashed, merry blue eyes and cheery
laugh, in their minds at least, if not openly. Later, when he was
sitting alone with Nathalie, in a burst of confidence, with sudden
gravity, he lamented that he feared that he would never reach the
“firing-line” overseas. When Nathalie expressed her surprise at his
fears, he explained that he had been detailed to sanitary work in the
hospital, and then he added, with gloom-shadowed eyes, “And it looks to
me as if it would be steady company; but it is up to Uncle Sam, and a
soldier is no soldier if he kicks at his job.”

“Oh, I just wish I were a man, so I could go over there,” sighed
Nathalie a little dolefully. “Sometimes I wish I had a million lives so
I could give them to my country, and go over and fight.”

“Ho! ho! Blue Robin! You have changed your mind then, haven’t you?”
good-naturedly jeered Nita, who had just come up behind them. Her blue
eyes gleamed mischief as she continued laughingly, “Surely that was not
the way you felt a short while ago.”

“No, that is true,” replied Nathalie with reddened cheeks, “but I was
selfish then, and failed to read the handwriting on the wall.”

As Nathalie looked up in a shamefaced way at the young soldier she saw a
strange expression flit across his face as he gazed down at her.

“Did you call Miss Page Blue Robin?” he asked hurriedly of Nita, with a
sudden, strange interest.

“Oh, that is just a nickname,” began Nathalie, “and——”

“No, it isn’t a nickname,” returned Nita, with a defiant toss of her
head. “It is just your own particular name. Shall I tell Mr. Darrell how
you came by it?” And then, without waiting for permission, she told
their companion the story of how Nathalie found the nest of bluebirds in
the old cedar tree and thought they were blue robins. And when the Girl
Pioneers claimed that she must become one of them, she had to join the
Bluebird group. “Because, you see, she was a real bluebird,” ended the
girl.

It was then that Nathalie, who hated to be the subject of a
conversation, began to tell the young soldier of her many trials in
training her boys in military tactics. To her joy he offered to give
them a lesson, whereupon the young Sons of Liberty were lined up, Nita
and Sheila with them, and drilled in a simple manual-of-arms,—how to
stand as a sentinel on post, how to salute an officer or civilian, and
how to stand at attention when the national anthem, the “Call to the
Colors,” or “To the Standard,” were played, and when the flag went by.

There was a drill in calisthenics, and then the young military
instructor explained to his youthful audience the necessity for a Son of
Liberty—he had caught the phrase from Nathalie—to have clean hands,
face, teeth, and finger-nails. “No boy or young man,” he emphasized,
“will ever make a good soldier who will not discipline himself in these
small things. It is also essential for a soldier not only to be clean,
but to be courteous, helpful, and kind, especially to the aged and
weak.”

The drill was conducted in such a masterful, soldier-like way, and the
little talk made significant by so many points that Nathalie was
laboring to teach her boys, that the girls were greatly impressed, and
also the children, if one were to judge by their alert attention and the
worshipful glances they cast upon the young soldier as they went through
their war maneuvers.

Nathalie and the boys were anxious to show Nita their mountain walks,
and so, with young Darrell, they spent many an afternoon, from glen and
vale, in studying the mountains, with their rugged crests and beautiful
cloud-effects. Their ever-changing beauty, their gigantic immensity,
their awe-inspiring silences lifted the newcomers to a reverent calm, as
they gazed at these everlasting memorials to the omnipotency of the
Creator.

Sometimes the little party would walk four or five miles, something that
the little hunchback had never been able to do until she became a
Pioneer. The visit to the Flume was not only repeated, but they visited
the Lost River. The weird mystery of the silver stream, as it gleamed
luringly between massive gray bowlders, tempted them down the little
ladder, to slide over rocky ledges, and climb stony declivities, until
at last they were standing beneath the rocks in Shadow Cave. The Giant’s
Pot Hole, with the shiny water peering at them from between the stone
walls, so suggestive of giants and strange dragons, with its weird,
mystical stream, made the underground trip to Mother Nature’s caverns a
revelation and a delight to all of the party.

They ascended Mount Agassiz at Bethlehem, where they tried to signal to
Philip and Janet on the top of Garnet, through the sun’s rays shining on
a mirror, but although this method of signaling was greatly enjoyed, it
was not very successful. With all of the merry times, however, the young
invalid on the mountain was not forgotten, although he and Janet—with
Mrs. Page for company sometimes—passed many hours in each other’s
company.

Then came a cool, sunny afternoon in August, when they all gathered
around a trench camp-fire on the top of Garnet, for Philip had
convalesced sufficiently to do a little climbing, and had a luncheon in
the woods. And it was the two young soldiers who boiled the potatoes in
a pot that hung from a green pole, fastened in crotches on two upright
saplings over the fire-pit, from which a trench a foot deep branched out
on each of its four sides. This new kind of fire, as Sheila called it,
was a real soldier’s fire, for it was where Philip had cooked his meals
before he was visited by Nathalie and Janet, his good angels, as he
called them.

With keen satisfaction the children watched Philip toast the sweet,
nutty bacon for his guests, while Van showed the girls _his way_ of
making flapjacks, as he tossed them so high in the air that a shrill,
“Oh, you’ll lose it!” almost unnerved the would-be cook.

But no such dire catastrophe happened, and soon they were all enjoying
the brown cakes spread with maple sugar, and war-bread sandwiched with
bacon between. After the edibles had been disposed of and the fire was
banked, as Philip called it, for a later meal, Danny and Tony made a
Pioneer Camp-fire, and around its glowing embers—for the wind was keen
that cool August day up there on those craggy heights—they held a
Liberty Cheer.

As they were about to cast lots as to who should tell the first story,
Van, who never tired of listening to Philip’s experiences, begged him to
tell the girls something of his life as a soldier fighting in France.



                              CHAPTER XIX

                          “THE WHITE COMRADE”


Philip, who sat leaning against a tree, with his arm around Jean, softly
stroked the lad’s dark head. Somehow he had shown more than the usual
interest in the little refugee, undoubtedly drawn to him in recognition
of the fact that he was also a victim of German barbarity, and because
they both spoke the same language. Nathalie, with a thrill of joy, had
noticed his tender, protecting watchfulness over the boy, and how Jean’s
big eyes would gaze up at the young man with a gleam in their depths
like that of some adoring dog, who yearns for the hand of his master in
silent caress!

“There is not much to tell,” returned Philip after a pause, with the
hesitancy of one who dislikes to talk about himself, “for you must know
I am no hero.” He smiled at the girlish faces so eagerly watching him.
Suddenly he sat bolt upright, unconsciously pushing Jean from him. “I am
an American,” he exclaimed abruptly, “for my father came of good old New
England stock, although I was born in the South. But my heart has been
strangely stirred since I came over here, for the Americans are
asleep,—they do not sense what they are up against in this war of the
nations.” His dark gray eyes flashed into flame. “Sometimes I feel I
would like to be another Paul Revere, and ride like the wind, knocking
on doors and windows, shouting to the slumberers, ‘The Huns are coming!’
_They must_ be roused to the truth that this war is their war, and that
they have not buckled to their job.”

He paused a moment, the fire dying out of his eyes as he continued, “I
was feeling in unusually good spirits that summer of 1914, for I had
just formed a partnership with a well-known architect, and business gave
assurance of giving me a very comfortable income, and place me in a
position to repay my mother, who had denied herself in order to put me
through college.

“Into this mood of complacent satisfaction with myself and world in
general, came a jar one day in June when the newspapers announced, in
glaring headlines, the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand. And,
almost before we had digested its portent, came Austria’s ultimatum to
little Serbia. People began to grow restive, alarm-fired, keyed to a
tense state of expectancy that something was in the air, but—what? Then
tongues were loosened and eyes flashed fire as the Prime Minister’s
scathing denunciation of Germany’s ‘infamous proposal’ was bandied from
mouth to mouth, followed by Great Britain’s ultimatum that Belgium’s
neutrality must be respected.

“Then came hours of anxious suspense, a harrowing waiting-time, with
every one’s heart aquiver, while a little group of men in Downing Street
held their watches in their hands as they awaited Germany’s reply. It
came. The deep-toned clang of Big Ben told to English hearts that the
world’s decades of peace had been shattered, and that the Prussian
barbarians had struck their first blow at civilization.

“From every corner and window now glared forth, ‘Your King and your
Country need you.’ Those words seared my heart like fire, but no, I
argued, I must make good with mother. But no matter how I tried to
cajole myself, the words seemed to follow me around like an accusing
finger. No, he wasn’t my king. I was an American by right of birth, but
still they blazoned at me until I could see them with my eyes shut. They
starred the darkness of night; why, even in my sleep they clutched me in
a ghostly dream. The next day and for many days I saw them aflame on the
pavement, they were written on the sky in white letters, but still I
fought.

“When England’s young manhood sprang, as it were, from the earth, armed
to the teeth, and marched shoulder to shoulder in regular beat,—it
seemed like the pulsation of my own heart—as they swung along through
the streets of London, my head swam, my throat tightened, and—But when
I read of heroic little Belgium so nobly holding out against the
ruthless destroyer of justice and honor, I gave in and became one of
Kitchener’s mob.

“Those were not pleasant hours,” continued Philip, “waiting at the Horse
Guard Parade to read when I must report at the regimental depot at
Hounslow, for I felt I was a misfit, in with a lot of men that, to my
inexperienced eyes, seemed the scum of England, and I sickened of my
job.

“But when the news continued to pour in that Liège had fallen, that the
Germans had entered Brussels, that the British Expeditionary Forces were
retreating, heroically fighting, that Namur, Louvain, and other towns
were being ruthlessly seized and devastated by the enemy, and their
hellish atrocities began to be rumored about, the past, together with
all hopes and desires for the future, were wiped out as clean as a slate
in a spirit of forgetfulness. I lived in the moment, buoyed by the grim
determination to fight like hell to down the oppressor of men’s rights,
to lose my life if need be, in order to give freedom to those who were
to come after.

“My spirits took a leap when I registered at the Hounslow Barracks as a
Royal Fusileer, although I grinned humorously, for if I had felt like a
misfit in London I was a guy now, appareled like a bloomin’ lay-figure
in the cast-off rags of some old-clothes shop, and had sensed that I was
only a steel rivet in a big machine. I was no duck either, taking to the
drills like water, for I would stand hopelessly bewildered at the sharp
orders, ‘Form fours! One-one-two! Platoon! Form Fours!’ and similar
commands, that were like kicks on a befuddled brain. But I gritted my
teeth and stuck to my guns.

“As soon as my rawness wore off and I began to get the hang of it, the
martial spirit asserted itself. I began to be obsessed by the desire to
show that I was the right stuff, that the heroism of my American
ancestors, the spirit of ’76, was in me. Through all my intensive
training I was feverishly eager to know every detail of company and
battalion drill, musketry and target-practice, and all the daily grind
of the other sundry factors in military discipline.

“When I began to ‘matey’ my comrades, I soon understood why a Tommy
Atkins is not like an American, who is born with a fine sense of
personal independence, and who feels that he is as good as any Lord or
Duke; or like a volatile Frenchman, with his easy grace of manner and
buoyant spirit. I realized that although there may be a ‘Sentimental
Tommy’ here and there, the average Tommy Atkins is a stolid chap,
humdrum and prosaic, but with as kind a heart as any rookie in the
world.

“As spring came along, after months of soldiering in many different
quarters, which meant roughing it in leaky tents where cold, rain, and
mud played a large part, and poor equipment a larger, we were no longer
raw rookies, parading or drilling before an unadmiring public,—a target
for pretty girls’ laughter, or the ire of a berating sergeant,—for our
battalion had acquired a high degree of efficiency.

“Our arms were one with us, we had done with squad, platoon formation,
and company drills, had shown our metal at the rifle-range at Aldershot,
taken part in field maneuvers, bayonet charges, and mimic battles. We
had become experts at trench-digging, bomb-throwing, and sniping, while
the machine-gunners were quite up to the mark in that important weapon;
in fact, we had become familiar with all branches of the army service.

“Then when every man was ‘in the pink’ the marching orders came, and we
assembled on the barrack-square at Aldershot. Not only were we
physically fit, fine specimens of the trained soldier, but we were
completely equipped, even to the identification tag, which registered
your name, regimental number, regiment, and religion; besides, we
carried the first-aid field dressing,—an antiseptic gauze pad and
bandage, and a small bottle of iodine. Also, each soldier carried a copy
of Lord Kitchener’s letter, as to what was expected of every British
soldier. The words ‘Do your duty bravely. Fear God. Honor your King,’
meant much to me, although I was an American.

“And then we were off, merry and blithe, no matter what our hearts
registered, cheering like fiends when some of the boys in khaki chalked
the gun-carriages ‘at Berlin,’ a new challenge to each Tommy to do his
stunt in making the Huns pay. Then came a drifting period when we were
herded like cattle from one train to another, or made long, weary
marches in the blind,—for nobody seemed to know our destination. But at
last we were in the shadow of the great battle, down in the earth, in
one sector of a long line of a serpentine trench, zigzagging from the
sea to the Alps.

“This burrowing underground like a mole, digging trenches, or holes, in
No Man’s Land, to string up barbed wire entanglements, or to pile
sand-bags on the parapet, or to clean out the wreckage of a trench that
had been battered by German gunners, or a trench-mortar—sometimes to
gather up the pieces of some ‘matey’ whom you had chummed with,—all
meant new activities. They were experiences and sounds—the sounds of
hell—and sights that cut deep, with an impelling remembrance haunting
you like grewsome shadows.

“Yes, it was a strange new life,” the young soldier paused musingly,
“for this kind of fighting is no battlefield with glittering helmets and
bayonets, the furling of colors, the prancing of horses, the roll of
gun-carriages, but stinging eyelids and a choking in thick gray smoke,
with the roar of cannonading, the sharp screech of shrapnel, the
bursting of star-shells, or the whir of strange, queer monsters above
your head.

“There was the turning of night into day,”—Philip’s face had a weary
expression,—“the daily mental strain, the danger constantly facing you,
the learning to know the sounds of the different shells and in what
direction they were going to fall. Involuntarily, with stilled breath,
you waited, and then came the sinking of your heart when you sensed that
it was _your turn now_, and then to find yourself still there, but to
realize that some of your mates had ‘gone West.’

“And the gas. Oh, the horror of the great, greenish balls that came
rolling towards you, close to the earth, the celerity of getting into
your gas-masks, and the _horrible thing_ that a comrade became if he
failed to accomplish this job on time, and lay writhing in an ugly,
venomous atmosphere of green.

“Then there were the cooties, the parasites that feed _on you_, and with
whom you maintain a constant warfare,” Philip smiled as he saw the girls
squirm; “and the rats, as big as cats, with sharp, ferret-like eyes,
darting from some dark crevice, or playing leap-frog over your legs at
night, or mistaking your head for their nest. Ugh! But the dead-and-gone
feeling—exhausted nature asserting her rights—which assailed you at
some critical moment, perhaps when you were trying to be a man at your
job, just got you through and through.

“Ah, there was the first ‘over-the-top’ experience, when you stood on
the fire-step with gun in hand, palefaced, but with clenched teeth, in
an oppressive silence, waiting to hear the command come down the
line,—whispered from mouth to mouth. Then you leaped wildly over into
long-anticipated perils, to become entangled in barbed wire, or perhaps
to get your first shock, as the man next you dropped like lead at the
first ‘ptt’ of a German sharpshooter’s bullet.

“But on you rush in a mad frenzy with red-misted eyes, in the face of a
heavy artillery fire and a pitiless gale of shrapnel, through a dense
smoke-screen, split with lurid flashes of flame, over a ground pitted
with shell-holes—to stumble over some dead Tommy, whose glazed eyes
stare up at you as if in mockery of your determination to play the man
in this crusade for humanity.

“Then _my adventure_ came,—a raid on a German trench, an undertaking
attended with great peril. With blackened faces, each man, with his bag
of bombs and automatic, at the flicker of a white light crawled
stealthily into the sable blackness of ‘dead man’s yard,’ and, in a
downpour of drenching rain, crept on hands and knees, sometimes wiggling
on his stomach,—quickly rolling into a shell-hole if a sound was
heard,—until the German trench loomed menacingly only a few feet
beyond.

“Everything was deadly still. Then the signal came, and with a rush we
clambered stealthily up and peeped over, to see a yellow-haired Heinie
asleep in the little alcove back of his gun-emplacement, the head of the
sentry-on-post tipsily nodding on his chest, and two big fellows snoring
like porpoises on the floor near. In just one minute we had slid into
that trench and had our men with hands up. Sure it was a surprise-party
for Fritz, for the Germans came running out of their dug-outs, wrapped
in blankets, noisily demanding to know what was up. They soon knew, and
then came a riot of a time as we let our hand-grenades fly, and our
bayonets too, aided by a lively fire from our machine-guns. And then we
were out, making a quick run for our own trenches with our trophies, and
several of the surprised ones, with the German guns thundering in our
rear.

“Yes, I had captured my first Hun, and mighty proud I was of my
achievement, and pictured my delight-to-be when retailing my adventure
to my comrades, when Zipp! and I was downed by the pieces of a bursting
shell that got me in the hand and foot. And the prisoner? Oh, the dirty
Boche saw his chance. I saw his hand go up,—he must have had a stiletto
hidden somewhere,—but I was too quick for him for I let fly a
hand-grenade, and—well, he bothered me no more.

“For hours I crawled, or wiggled, along, dropping into a chalk-pit or a
shell-hole every few moments, for it was like hell under that liquid
fire, Fritzie’s aërial bombs and the machine-gun fire; in fact, it
seemed as if every kind of projectile had been let loose, for now the
Germans were mad clean through. Finally, being too exhausted to make any
further headway, I crept into a shell-hole, where I lay for a day and a
night, lying on my face most of the time, playing dead, for the German
fiends would sneak out into No Man’s Land at night after a bombardment,
and kill every wounded enemy soldier they could find.

“What did I think about, you ask, Miss Nathalie, while lying in that
shell-hole?” Philip smiled a little sadly. “Well, at first I was crazed
with thirst and hunger, and the cold—oh, it was something fierce. And
then the doubts and misgivings that had assailed me at times, as to
whether there was a God in heaven, returned with renewed force. I dumbly
felt that my faith was leaving me, for why this useless slaughter of
men’s bodies, this agonizing devil’s gas, this torturing of the aged and
weak, this violating of womanhood, this maiming of little, innocent
children? Ah, the agony of body was nothing compared to the agony of my
soul, as I lay in that hole.

“Then that night—there was no moon, and everything was a dead calm, for
a lull had come in fighting—I turned over, face upward, to ease the
aching that racked my body. As I lie gazing up at the stars,—they
seemed unusually bright,—something white suddenly flashed before me,
and then I saw a face bend down and gaze at me. It was a marvelously
beautiful face, with such calm serenity of expression as the eyes smiled
into mine, that a strange peace came into my soul, my pains were eased,
I was filled with a wonderful joy, and—then I knew;—it was the face of
the Great White Comrade,—the face of Christ!

“It may have been a delusion from overwrought nerves,—I may have been
dreaming,—I don’t know, for there had been great talk among the
soldiers of seeing the white apparition of Christ on the battlefield. He
was said to have appeared to the soldiers, showed them His bleeding side
and hands, and then the suffering ones had felt a wonderful peace come
into their souls, and their very agonies had made them triumphant in the
thought that as He had died to make men holy, so He had given them the
great privilege of suffering and dying to make men free. No, I didn’t
see any bleeding side, or the nail-prints on the hands, but I saw
Christ’s face, and, oh, it was Heaven!

“Then my brain cleared. I realized that I had been groping in a great
darkness, but that a wonderful light had come, and I knew God was in His
Heaven. That smile had brought revelation. It had told me that we were
no better than Christ, and He had suffered,—He, an innocent soul. And
as He had agonized on the cross, and God had suffered with Him, so every
moan, sob, and cry had reached His ears in this great wail from
humanity. It told me that this bruising of bodies, this rending of
women’s hearts, this wringing of men’s souls, had wrung _His_ heart with
a suffering greater than men could know.

“It told me that it was all the working-out of God’s great plan for the
good of mankind. It told me that the men, women, and children, who had
passed through these seas of blood were to come forth with white
garments, to be a great host led by the Angel of His Presence, and that
their deeds were to live after them, to bring light into the dark places
in men’s souls. It told me that these blood-soaked battlefields were to
become gardens, where flowers would spring, the glorious flowers of
freedom, and that every tear shed was to become great waters, to flow
like a river of peace to all nations.”

As Philip ceased speaking, the faces of his young listeners became very
grave, and for a moment there was an impressive stillness, as if each
one had been hushed to a reverent silence. “Well, after that, I was
strangely happy,” continued the young man slowly. “I think I must have
fallen asleep, for I was suddenly aroused by the cold snout of a dog
nosing into my face. He was a little beast, not much bigger than Tige
here,” softly stroking the refugee’s yellow dog as he spoke, at which
Jean’s eyes grew soft and bright, for with the lad it was “Love me, love
my dog.”

“Yes, it was a Red Cross dog, whose beautiful eyes seemed almost human
as they told me that help was near, and—” Philip stopped abruptly. He
had had a weary, tired look for some time, but now a sudden pallor
overspread his face, and Janet, who had been watching him nervously,
stepped quickly to his side, crying, “And now you _must_ stop talking,
Mr. de Brie, for you are overdoing.”

Philip smiled into her blue eyes, but waved her aside as he cried,
sitting up with sudden resolution, “But no, you must let me finish my
story.”

“Oh, yes, do let him finish his story!” came a chorus of eager voices.

But at this moment Nathalie, whose face had suddenly brightened, cried,
“Oh, no; let’s wait, for a big idea has suddenly come to me, and,” the
girl’s eyes sparkled, “if it turns out all right it will add to our
enjoyment if we wait to hear Mr. de Brie’s story some other time.”

“A big idea,” cried Nita, all aquiver with curiosity. “Oh, Nathalie, do
tell us what it is!”

“No, not now,” answered the girl. “It will keep; but in the meantime let
us have a story from Mr. Darrell. You know he promised to tell us about
Lovewell, the Ranger, and now is his chance, and we are not going to let
him off.”



                               CHAPTER XX

                            THE LIBERTY TEA


As Nathalie was ably seconded by the rest of the Liberty Cheerers,
Van—he claimed he was a chump at story-telling—began the story of
Lovewell, the Ranger, by saying that it was like one of the old Norse
_Sagas_, for it had been told and retold by the mountaineer’s fireside
for many generations.

“When the white settlers were being harassed in the early times by
marauding bands from the neighboring tribe of Sokoki Indians,” said the
young soldier, “John Lovewell, a hardy ranger, set out from the Indian
village of Pigswacket, now Fryeburg, near North Conway, and made his
way, with forty-five of his followers, to Ossipee. Here they built a
fort, and his scouts having found Indian tracks, they pushed farther on
to a lake by whose shores they encamped for the night. The following
morning, while trailing an Indian in the woods, Paugas, an Indian
chieftain, whose name was a terror to every white settler on the
frontier, stole up behind the rangers, to their encampment, which
unfortunately they had left unguarded, and counted their packs. Finding
that they were only thirty-four in number, the Indians placed themselves
in ambush in the woods near, and when the rangers returned it was to be
surrounded by the redmen, while the air was filled with their deadly
fire and hideous warwhoops.

“Here, by this little lake, under the very shadow of Mount Kearsarge,
fifty miles from any settlement, was fought one of the bloodiest battles
in Indian warfare, as the loyal rangers fought for their lives. They
finally compelled the Indians to flee, but not before Lovewell and many
of his men had been killed. The survivors made their way back to the
fort at Ossipee, only to find it empty, for the guard, on hearing that
Lovewell and his band had been killed, had deserted it.

“After many incredible hardships,” continued Van, “twenty emaciated men
finally reached the white settlement, many of them only to fall dead
from wounds, or from hunger and exhaustion. But, practically, Lovewell’s
band had won a great victory, for Paugas had been killed, and the
remainder of the tribe forsook their strongholds among the foothills,
and the white settlers were molested no more.”

Van also related how a ranger, the only remaining one of three brothers
who had set forth with Lovewell, when one of his brothers fell dead at
his feet from the wounds inflicted by the savages, had started for their
village, only to find his other brother’s body riddled with bullets.

“Determined to be revenged, he pursued the Indians to the mountain
fastnesses, where the defeated tribe, under the chief Chocorua, still
lingered. He finally sighted the chieftain, who had ascended a high
mountain to see if the white men had departed. As he started to descend
he was confronted by the ranger, who, with his gun in hand, slowly
forced the Indian back, step by step, until he stood on the verge of the
precipice where he had been standing. As the chieftain saw that his end
had come,—as he had no alternative between the precipitous cliff and
the white man’s weapon,—with a cry of bitter defiance he leaped from
the pinnacle, to be dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Hence the name,
Chocorua Mountain.”

A mountain romance was now told by Janet, in the story of Nancy Stairs,
a native of Jefferson, who had fallen in love, and become engaged to a
farm-hand. On the eve of the wedding the girl’s lover disappeared,
carrying with him a small sum of money, her _dot_. How Nancy set forth,
to overtake him at a camp many miles away, walking at night through the
dark woods, clambering over rocks and fording the Saco, finally to reach
the place where he had encamped, to find it deserted, aroused the
sympathies of all. “Finally,” continued Janet, “the girl sank exhausted
on the banks of a brook, to be found some time later in the calm repose
of a deathless sleep, almost buried under the snow, under a canopy of
friendly evergreen that stretched above her.

“But Nancy had her revenge,” smiled the storyteller, “for when the
farm-hand heard of her fate he lost his reason, and tradition tells us
that, on the anniversary of her death, the mountain-passes through which
she pushed, in her weary pursuit of her lover, resound to his cries of
grief.”

Nita’s contribution to the Liberty Cheer was a little tale of an Indian
maiden, who was so beautiful that no hunter was found worthy of her.
Suddenly she disappeared, and was never seen again, until one day an
Indian chief, on returning from the chase, told how he had seen her
disporting in the limpid waters of the river Ellis, with a youth as
peerless as she. When the bathers saw the chieftain they had immediately
vanished from sight, thus showing the girl’s parents that her companion
must have been a mountain-spirit. From now on they would go into the
wilds and call upon him for a moose, a deer, or whatever animal they
chose, and lo! it would immediately appear, running towards them.

Danny’s story was about some white settlers captured by the Indians on
their way to Canada. When they came to the banks of a beautiful stream,
one of the captives, a mother with several children, from a babe in arms
to a girl of sixteen, gathered her little ones about her in dumb
despair. She had toiled through trackless forests, forded swollen
streams, climbed rocky heights, slept on the cold, bare earth, and then,
when she had refused to obey the commands of an Indian chieftain, from
lack of strength, she had been goaded with blows, or the gory scalps of
two of her children, which still hung from his belt, had been flourished
menacingly before her eyes.

As she stood on the banks of the river, feeling that her reason would
forsake her from anguish, she suddenly heard one of the Indians ask her
oldest daughter to sing. The girl stood speechless with amazement, not
knowing what to do for a moment, and then there floated out through the
vast solitudes of these lonely mountains a curiously fresh young voice,
as the girl chanted the sublime words of the psalmist in the plaintive
river-song.

There was a slight pause, and then Danny’s voice, sweet and clear, to
the accompaniment of the soft strains of Tony’s violin, was heard as he
chanted:

     “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yes, we wept,
     when we remembered Zion.

     “We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

     “For there they that carried us away captive required of us a
     song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth.”

Tony’s hands lovingly fingered his bow, and the music, like the rippling
flow of the river Ellis, continued its sweet low murmur, as the little
newsie told how the magic charm of these beautiful words must have
touched some chord in the savage breasts, for, as the girl ceased, the
fiercest Indian caught the babe gently from the mother’s arms and
carried it across the river. One of his companions also softened, and,
picking up another child, bore it safely over the stream.

Nathalie chose the familiar Willey story, about the family who lived in
an inn on the side of Mount Willey, at the entrance to the great Notch.
“In 1826,” said the girl, “one evening in June they heard a queer,
rumbling noise, and hurried out to see an avalanche of stones and
uprooted trees making its way with great speed down the mountain.
Fortunately, before it reached the house it swerved one side, and the
Willeys, believing it quite safe, returned to the house, and, as time
passed on, carelessly forgot the warning that had been given them.

“In August a severe storm occurred, which raged with indescribable fury
for a day and a night, the rain falling in sheets, while the Saco
overflowed its banks, thus creating a state of general upheaval. Two
days later, a tourist traveling through the Notch arrived at the inn, to
find it uninjured, but deserted, with the exception of a half-starved
dog who was whining dismally. He made his way to Bartlett, and the
mountaineers, hurrying to the scene, finally discovered the bodies of
Mr. and Mrs. Willey and two hired men, who were buried in a mass of
wreckage not far from the inn. The bodies of the children were never
discovered.

“It is supposed,” explained Nathalie, “that they had all rushed out on
again hearing the rumbling noises, and had evidently tried to seek the
shelter of a cave near. But they were too late,” she ended with a
pathetic sigh, “for the avalanche was upon them before they reached it.
If they had only remained in the house they would have been saved.”

A little later, as Philip and Van became engaged in a conversation about
the war, a topic of which they never seemed to weary, Nathalie and Nita,
with arms intertwined in long-cemented _camaraderie_, wandered to the
high, jutting rock which Nathalie called “Heaven’s window.” Here in awed
silence they gazed at the faraway, scintillating blue peaks, huge
escarpments, and yawning mountain crevasses towering above the alpine
meadow, that, rich in many shades of verdure, darkened with
cloud-shadows, and cut with ribbon-like trails of forest foliage, were a

                   “Wondrous woof of various greens.”

In the sun-dyed splendor it was like a cloth of gold, a wondrous
tapestry woven by Nature in her most majestic mood, a picture that held
them with the calm of its infinite beauty.

Suddenly Nita, who never was quiet very long, cried: “Oh, Nathalie, you
must tell us what you meant when you said that you had a big idea. Don’t
you remember, it was when Janet made Philip stop his story?”

“I don’t know as it is a very big idea,” replied her companion, “for its
bigness depends, as Dick says, on whether we make a go of it or not. I
spoke of it then, not only because I had just thought of it, but because
I wanted to second Janet, for Philip was as white as a ghost.

“You know,” she continued slowly, “the afternoon teas at the Sweet Pea
Tea-House have not been very well attended lately. I presume the minds
of the people have been diverted by some new form of amusement. I’m
awfully sorry, too, for I think my dear Sweet-Pea ladies need the money.
Now what do you think of having Philip tell the rest of his story some
afternoon at the Tea-House? We’ll get Jean to tell his story, too, and
the boys can sing patriotic songs; and then, there’s Tony, with his
violin. I think we can get up a real good entertainment, and we can call
it a Liberty Tea.”

“Oh, Nathalie, that’s a peach of an idea!” Nita’s blue eyes glowed
enthusiastically.

“You see,” returned her friend, “it would attract the people to the
Tea-House again, and also bring Philip into notice. I think his story
would interest every one, and it might get him a few more pupils.”

As the little party wended their way down the trail, they were busy
making plans and devising ways to make Nathalie’s “big idea” feasible.
They had broached the subject to Philip,—Nathalie being careful not to
make it appear as if he would gain by the performance,—and he had
readily consented to do his part. Janet, too, was won over, and as for
the children, they were in a beatific state at the idea of appearing on
a platform, and “speaking a piece,” as Sheila called it.

Miss Whipple, when the idea was suggested to her, Nathalie making it
appear that Philip would derive great benefit from it, heartily favored
the plan. So, for the next two days Nita and Nathalie were as busy as
bees, drilling the children, making posters to feature the event at the
different hotels, and then motoring to each one, and tacking them up,
after getting the desired permission, so that the affair would be well
advertised.

The boys and Van Darrell, with the help of some friends of Nita’s at the
Sunset Hill House, the morning of the event decorated the Tea-House with
greens, goldenrod, and flags. Sam assisted by erecting a small platform
so gaudily festooned with red, blue, and white bunting that Nita said it
was a regular “call to the colors,” as she stood off and surveyed his
work. Chairs, rustic seats, in fact, everything that could be used for a
seat was now brought into the room, while the veranda was not only
decorated with bunting and Japanese lanterns, the posts being twined
with the national colors in crêpe paper, but filled with small
tea-tables and chairs.

At the hour designated for the performance to begin—to the girls’
delight, the room was crowded—Janet began to play softly on the piano,
suddenly breaking into “Hail Columbia,” then a patriotic march,
following these selections with “The Royal March of Italy,” the
“Lorraine March” and several other well-known favorites either of the
Americans or the Allies, ending with France’s adored march, “Sambre et
Meuse.”

The boys, in their khaki suits, each one carrying his gun, now marched
before the audience. They were headed by Sheila, who, as a little
Goddess of Liberty, acted as the color-bearer. As she stepped to one
side of the stage and stood at attention, the boys saluted the flag and
then repeated the oath of allegiance.

Sheila now fell in line, and they went through a manual-of-arms, and
then, amid loud applause, broke into the “Red, White, and Blue.” This
was followed by a number of patriotic airs, and the national anthem,
when all rose to their feet and joined in the singing with patriotic
fervor. After a short pause Danny started to whistle “La
Marseillaise”—Janet playing the accompaniment on the piano very
softly—as the children joined in, coming out with startling effect with
the words:

                       “To arms! Ye warriors all!
                       Your bold battalions call!
                           March on, ye free!
                           Death shall be ours,
                           Or glorious victory!”

Van Darrell now appeared in front of the little platform—he had
modestly refused to ascend it—and introduced Mr. Philip de Brie as a
British soldier, a member of “Kitchener’s mob,” known as the greatest
volunteer army in the world. As Philip stepped forward in response to an
enthusiastic ovation he bowed courteously, but with a certain diffidence
of manner that showed that this was a more trying ordeal than being
under fire at the front.

The personal part of Philip’s story was quickly told,—how he came to
join the army,—the audience cheering lustily when he claimed he was an
American, while a tenseness seized them as he related his strange
experience while lying in a shell-hole, and the revelation the
apparition of the White Comrade had brought to him.

Their interest continued as he told how, in the British offensive south
of the Somme, he and his company, with four machine-guns, had cleaned
out a Prussian machine-gun nest that had been making havoc with their
men. They peppered the enemy so severely, he asserted, while playing a
crisscross game with their guns, that the only remaining German gunner
was captured, surrounded by his dead comrades.

When their ammunition failed, and they attempted to return to their
lines under a fierce artillery fire, with bursting shells and shrapnel
flying around them, they were compelled to take refuge under a bridge,
where they remained for four hours under a fierce gas attack. He was
again cheered as he told how, in another attempt to regain the
firing-line, a bomb exploded, killing several of their men, and how,
when their lieutenant was missed, noted for his bravery and daring, he
started out to find him.

This recital was made graphic as he told of crawling on his stomach to
dodge a bomb, or wiggling along to peer into shell-pits, and how, when a
flare was thrown up by the enemy, illuminating the battlefield like some
big electric show, he suddenly found himself, as it were, back to the
wall,—for he had no ammunition,—desperately fighting a big, husky
German who was fumbling in his pocket, evidently for a hand-grenade.
Another cheer, and then almost a groan went through the room as Philip
continued, and told how, as he tried to get him by the throat, he made a
lunge at him and thrust his bayonet through his arm. The German finished
off his work by knocking him on the head with his rifle, finally leading
him, dazed and blinded, behind the German lines, a prisoner.

The neglect he received in the field and base hospital and the horrible
treatment he was compelled to witness, as endured by the wounded
prisoners, was received with a storm of hisses. How he was pronounced
cured, although he had been rendered dumb, either from nerve-shock or
the force of the blow on the head, and then taken to a German
prison-camp, and crowded in with hundreds of men in a wooden shed, with
a flooring of mud four inches thick, aroused renewed indignation. Here,
with no blankets, no ventilation, overcoat, or personal belongings, he
slept on a straw tick, with insufficient food, and that of such a
horrible quality that he grew emaciated and covered with boils.

When some of the prisoners were transferred to another camp Philip told
how he had the good luck to be one of them, and how, when the train was
struck by a bursting bomb, crashing in the roof when going at a speed of
thirty miles an hour, he, with two other prisoners, climbed up and
jumped to the ground, one man being killed.

This was the beginning of his race for life, in which he dodged guards
and sentries, cut his way through barbed wire, and hid in a forest for
three days, and, after many other thrilling adventures, finally came to
a field within a few miles of the British lines.

“Here,” Philip continued, “as we lay concealed in a dugout under a bank,
we heard a familiar whirr, and looked up to see an air-battle taking
place between a French and Boche plane. With taut breath I watched the
planes circle round and round in the air, while keeping up a steady fire
at one another, until the French plane began to drive its enemy back and
back, until they were directly over the British entrenchments. Then we
heard the rat-tat-tat, and knew that one of the planes had been fired
upon from below. Suddenly it burst into flames, lunged to one side, and
then, in a long sweep through the air, began to circle downward like a
great flash of fire, sending forth a shower of sparks as it fell. And
then I screamed from sheer joy, for I recognized that it was the Boche
plane that had fallen. It is needless to say that my speech had
returned.”

After telling how they had regained the British lines, and how he had
finally reached a hospital in London, where he remained for some weeks
in a miserably depressed state of mind, on learning that his mother had
died during his absence, Philip finished his story by telling how he
came to sail for America. He told of his search for his grandmother, and
how he came to live in the little cabin on the mountain. From the
plaudits that greeted him, as he bowed and retired from the platform, it
was evident that his story had been greatly enjoyed by his listeners.

When Tony a moment or so later, in his old velveteen vest, with his
violin under his arm, and his velvety black eyes aglow in a beatific
smile, bobbed a funny little bow to his audience, he was warmly
received. But a sudden hush succeeded as the little violinist, with his
instrument tucked under his chubby chin, fingered the bow lovingly as he
moved it over the strings, evoking such sweet, rich music that the
violin seemed like some enchanted thing.

Surely this little slum lad, with no training to guide him, of his own
volition could not have produced such ravishing melody as floated
through the room. As he played his face lost its smile, and there came a
play of expression, now tender and sad, now dreamy or grave, in accord
with the varied moods of the music, as he played on and on with a
passion, a rich tenderness, every note in tune, that seemed almost
marvelous. When he ended with a vehement little shake of his head—that
sent his waving hair flying about—in much the same manner that great
musicians affect, it brought down the house in loud applause.

As an encore he played several Italian airs, weird, dreamy music,
finally ending with “Traumerei,” Schumann’s “Dream Song.” No, he didn’t
play it all, only snatches, and these were not always rendered according
to the score, but he held his audience in a hushed stillness, until,
with a little shake of his bow, and a low bow, he turned and ran quickly
from the platform.

Sheila hid her face in Nathalie’s skirt when her turn came to ascend the
platform and speak her “liberty piece.” Nathalie was in the throes of
despair, for fear that she was going to fail her, when Tony leaned
forward and teasingly whispered, “Oh, Boy!” This reminiscent remark
caused the little lady’s head to go up, and her chin, too, and in angry
defiance she marched up on the platform. As Nathalie, who was sitting
down in the front row of chairs, gave her the cue, her little treble was
heard repeating James Whitcomb Riley’s poem “Liberty,” her voice ringing
out loud and clear when she came to the stanza:

                “Sing for the arms that fling
                  Their fetters in the dust
                  And lift their hands in higher trust,
                Unto the one Great King;
                Sing for the patriot home and land,
                Sing for the country they have planned;
                Sing that the world may understand
                  This is Freedom’s land!”

It was pathetic to see the little empty-sleeved Jean, as he straightened
up his slender form, and, in an attempt at bravery, hurried on the
platform. Without waiting for the accompanist,—forgetting to greet his
audience in his fright,—he burst into the words of Belgium’s national
anthem, “Brabanconne,” singing it with a verve and spirit,—as he stood,
with his one hand nervously clinched in front of him and his eyes
uplifted,—that showed that the soul of Belgium was not dead.

This impassioned appeal from the boy as he ended, and stood in mute
bewilderment, his eyes again haunted by that look of hopeless terror,
aroused the audience to prolonged applause. Philip now stepped to his
side, and, as he laid his hand reassuringly on the little shoulder, the
refugee began his pitiful tale.

His arm had been cut off, he told, by a German soldier, who had made his
mother cry, when he had rushed up and pounded him with his fists to make
him desist. The soldier had dragged his mother away, and then he had
been told that she had died. There was a quiver to the lad’s voice as he
related this sorrowful incident, but he winked his eyes together to keep
back the tears.

Two days later, with his aged grandparents, he had been driven to the
town square, and there a soldier had shot his grandfather because the
old man had rebuked him for dragging the boy’s grandmother roughly
about. She had shrieked and fallen, to be trampled in the crush, for
when they picked her up she was very white, and had never opened her
eyes again. When all the women and children were herded together like
cows, and driven along a road, with a big German soldier pointing his
gun at them, Jean had suddenly run away, as fast as he could, and he had
run and run with his eyes shut, for he was afraid of the bullets that
came whistling on all sides of him.

Finally he had fallen from exhaustion, and then he had crawled into the
dark cellar of a shelled house. Here he had remained for a long time,
going out at night to a battlefield near and taking what food he could
find from the knapsacks of the dead soldiers. At last he could find no
more food, and then he had wandered on, walking wearily along for miles
and miles, until he had become part of those fleeing throngs of refugees
that blocked the roads for many long miles, sleeping on the roadside at
night. Sometimes he would have a little bread, or a piece of cheese
given to him, and then for days he went hungry. Finally he reached a
town, where a lady with a red cross on her white cap had cared for him
in a hospital. But the Germans shelled the hospital, and they said the
lady was killed, and then— Well, he had gone on again, walking at
night, alone, from place to place, when no one could see him, while
hiding in the woods by day.

On learning that he was not far from the French army, he had struggled
on until he was within a short distance of their lines, where he hid in
a forest. When a dark still night came, he stealthily crept into No
Man’s Land, and, on his hands and knees, worked his way from hole to
hole, quickly wiggling into one if he heard the slightest sound, until
he reached the French sentry, who pointed his gun at him and told him to
halt.

He was so frightened when he saw that gun aimed at him that he burst
into tears, but a moment later attempted to sing “La Marseillaise,” so
as to let the soldier know that he was not a German. The soldier took
him behind the front, where a regiment of artillery not only fed and
cared for him, but adopted him as their “kid mascot,” as Philip
interpreted it, when it was learned that his father, who was fighting in
the Belgian army, had been captured and carried a prisoner to Germany.
When the regiment had left for service at the front he was delivered
into the hands of Father Belloy, a French priest, who finally gave him
to a kind lady, who had brought him, with a number of other children, to
America. As the little lad finished his story, he turned to rush from
the stage, and then, as if inspired by a sudden thought, he threw up his
one hand and lustily cried, “Vive la Belgique!”

A second more and the audience, caught by the contagion of this cry, and
the appeal to their sympathies by the Belgian’s story, broke into
enthusiastic clapping and cheering, mingled with loud hurrahs for
Belgium. It was at this point that a guest from the Sunset Hill House
jumped to his feet, and proposed that a silver collection be taken up,
to be divided between the American-British soldier, the little Sons of
Liberty, and the ladies of the Tea-House, who had so kindly given it for
the entertainment of the guests.

This suggestion was heartily seconded, and while Van and the gentleman
were passing the hat, into which flowed a goodly collection of silver
coins, the little Sons of Liberty appeared, and, as a finish to the
entertainment, gave them a sing-song. The old, sweet songs, the songs
that lie very near to the heart of every Anglo-Saxon, were sung by these
clear childish voices, Danny either singing or whistling, while Tony
accompanied them on his violin, with Janet, Nathalie, and Nita,—even
the audience at times,—proving good seconds in this musical song-feast.
“Annie Laurie,” “The Blue Bells of Scotland,” “Wearing of the Green,”
“My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” “Mother Machree,” “Dixie,” were given,
followed by the new war-songs, as, “Keep the Home Fires Burning,” “Pack
up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag,” “There’s a Long, Long Trail,”
“Over There,” and, as a grand finale, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” when
the audience rose and joined in with patriotic fervor.

And then Miss Mona, Janet, Nathalie, Nita, the two soldiers, and even
the little “Sons of Liberty” were all busy serving tea, out on the
veranda, to the many guests, who all declared that they had not only
enjoyed Philip’s and Jean’s stories, but the children’s singing.

Two days later, Nathalie was darning her boys’ socks on the veranda,
when Nita drove up in her car. She was so excited that she began to
shout that she had good news to tell, as soon as she caught sight of
Nathalie’s brown head.

“Oh, Nathalie,” she continued, all out of breath, as her friend hurried
to meet her, “what do you think? The manager up at the Sunset Hill
House,—you know he is a dear—has asked Mr. de Brie and the whole crowd
who took part at the Liberty Tea, to come to the hotel next Saturday
night and repeat the performance. And he says there will be another
silver collection. And, oh, isn’t it just the dandiest thing that lots
of the girls want to join the French class!” And then the young lady, in
the exuberance of her joy, fell upon the neck of her friend and began to
kiss her with hearty unction.



                              CHAPTER XXI

                              THE FUNNIES


Nathalie, with a limpid brightness in her eyes, and a deep pink in her
cheeks, was whirling about—doing a one-step—with her soldier friend,
Van Darrell, who she had discovered was “a love of a dancer.” It was the
night of the second Liberty Tea, this time held at the Sunset Hill
House. The affair had not only proved a glorious success, each one of
the performers doing his or her part even better than at the Tea-House,
but it had also netted quite a pile of silver coins, to the delight of
the children, and added several new pupils to Philip’s French class at
the hotel, besides giving him a few private ones.

The informal little hop at the end of the performance contributed to the
pleasure of the evening, proving a real joy-time to Nathalie, who loved
dancing. The girl had laughingly asserted to Nita that she had fairly
worn her slippers to a thread.

Compelled from sheer fatigue to rest, the young couple, in order to
escape from the heat of the ballroom, had sought refuge in one of the
little card-rooms opening from the long corridor. It was here, as they
happily chatted, that Van suddenly made the announcement, somewhat
regretfully, “Do you know, Miss Blue Robin, that this is my last evening
with you and the mountains, for I leave for Camp Mills to-morrow
morning?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” exclaimed the girl with a note of disappointment in
her voice, for she was _disappointed_ as well as surprised, for,
somehow, she had taken a liking to this soldier-boy, with the frank,
open gaze, who could be very merry at times, and then again unusually
silent and grave. “We shall miss you at our Liberty Cheers, and Mr. de
Brie, I know, will be lonely without his soldier ‘matey.’”

“I shall miss you all,” rejoined Van slowly, “for you girls have given
me the joy-time of the summer, and I shall be sorry to say good-by to
you all, especially you.” Van looked appealingly into the girl’s brown
eyes, as if he wanted her to assure him that she would miss him.

Nathalie flushed a little, as she replied, “Well, it has been a great
pleasure to meet you. I can assure you, however, that I never thought of
meeting one of Uncle Sam’s soldiers when I came up here to these White
Hills.”

“I would like to tell you,” continued Van,—he gave his companion an odd
look as he spoke,—“that I know a girl by the name of Blue Robin. She’s
an awfully good sort,—” again that funny little gleam in his eyes. “I
had a letter from her a short time ago. It was the kind of a letter to
set a fellow thinking. I would like to show it to you sometime,” he
added hesitatingly.

“Why, isn’t that funny! Are you sure her name is like mine?” questioned
Nathalie in a whirl of amazement. Van nodded and smiled with some
amusement, as he assured Nathalie that he was quite positive her name
was Blue Robin. But, as the girl continued to ply him with questions
about this girl who, he insisted, bore her name, his answers grew
evasive, until finally Nathalie desisted from her questions, in a maze
of mystery.

Presently they were in the ballroom again, and while taking another turn
Van asked his partner if she would answer his letter if he wrote to her.
Nathalie grew red with embarrassment at this direct question, for, as
she had been whirling about, it had suddenly occurred to her what a
queer thing it was for Van to say he would show her another girl’s
letter.

Somehow the thought jarred her serenity, and, not knowing what reply to
make, she finally settled the doubt in her mind by saying that if he
wrote to her she would answer him if her mother thought best. For,
happily, Nathalie was a real mother-girl, and, when in doubt about
anything, always went to her for advice.

On the way home—Mrs. Van Vorst had sent them in her car—she had a
disappointed feeling. She wished Van had not asked her to write to him,
or told her about that other Blue Robin, for—O dear! she had heard of
boys who would coax a girl to write to them, and then show their letters
and make a boast of them. Ah, well, she sighed regretfully, she had not
supposed he was that kind.

A few days later Nathalie was sitting under the trees before a small
sewing-table, writing a letter to Helen. Presently she laid down her
pen, and glanced over at her mother, who, while resting in the hammock
near, had fallen asleep. Then, so as not to awaken her, almost in a
whisper, she read:

    “Dear Helen:

    “I am going to call this letter ‘The Funnies,’ for I have some
    awfully funny things I want you to know, but first, I must tell
    you about my liberty kids, as I have promised to do many times.
    Danny is fourteen, a regular street-gamin, steeped and
    double-dyed in the ways of the slums and the habits of a newsie.
    There is an alert sharpness about him at times that baffles me,
    and yet his freckled, peanut face, with its twinkling blue eyes,
    has an open, merry expression that assures me he has the makings
    of a splendid man in him. I call him my handy man, for he not
    only does all the laundering for the children, but can cook, and
    wait on the table in fine style.

    “He is a loyal little chap, so watchful of Sheila, and always
    tells the truth. He used to belong to the Junior Police
    Force,—he’s awfully proud of that,—and I think that has kept
    him on the square. I have an idea that his parents must have
    been refined people, for, when cleaning his room one day, his
    bag flew open—it was standing in a corner—and a little blue
    book fell out, scattering a lot of letters about, and a picture.
    The picture was a miniature of a young woman. She had a lovely
    face, it reminded me of Sheila, and her eyes had the same
    laughing glints in them that Danny has in his. The blue book
    seemed to be a diary, for on it in gilt letters was the name,
    Sheila Gloom.

    “I have told you how quaint and interesting Sheila is, and lots
    about Jean, so I am going to tell you about Tony. He reminds me
    of one of Raphael’s cherubs, with his soft, liquid brown eyes,
    his red lips and ivory-tinted skin, and his wavy black hair that
    is always in a frowse. He adores me, and has an odd, sweet
    little trick of taking my hand, and then bending down and
    kissing it, in such a gallant way that he makes me think of the
    knights of mediæval days, who knelt to their ladies fair. And I
    love to hear him say, ‘I lova you, Mees Natta,’ for his voice is
    so soft and musical. But alas, he is not as open as Danny, and
    will tell _teeny, teeny_ white lies, while looking right up into
    your face with such a cherubic, innocent expression, that you
    have the feeling that you are the guilty one, and not he.

    “Did I tell you in my last letter what good friends the little
    old lady in the red house and I have become? I run in there
    quite often. Sometimes I read to her, or hold her yarn, and for
    two days I nursed her when she was ill. I am a great chatterbox,
    for, O dear! I just talk about everything to her, but she says
    my chats cheer her up. But, you see, she keeps asking me
    questions, first about one person of our household, and then
    another. She loves to have me tell her about Janet, but she
    doesn’t seem to like Cynthia very much.

    “I am getting used to her queer ways now, and can tell, by the
    gleam in her gray eyes,—sometimes they snap with humor,—the
    mood she is in, for, frankly speaking, at times she is most
    cantankerous. I feel sorry for her then, for I imagine that some
    great sorrow has come into her life and soured the sweetness of
    it. She is always greatly interested in Mr. de Brie, and I have
    promised to take him in sometime to see her.

    “Oh, I must not forget to tell you that Dick is with us for a
    few days—on a furlough. And mother,—well, she goes about like
    a glorified saint. Now come the funnies. Cynthia Loretto’s young
    man is here. His name is Buddie, but he looks anything but a
    bud, although Cyn always speaks of him as if he had just gone
    into long trousers.

    “He is queerly interesting, for he sits and looks at Cynthia in
    a meek, adoring way, while his big solemn blue eyes keep up a
    blinking that have made the kiddies—you know boys always
    feature peculiarities—dub him, ‘The Blink.’ As to other
    details, he’s insignificant-looking, with a shock of yellow hair
    that gives him an unkempt, Hunnish appearance, and a sharp,
    ferret-like nose with an inquisitive tip on it that is sunburned
    to a bright red. Imagine!

    “Now for funny number one. The Blink—we all unconsciously call
    him that—and the make-believe lady—that’s the boys’ name for
    Cynthia—have monopolized the hammock on the veranda ever since
    the gentleman’s arrival. It has been annoying, for they—Well,
    they spoon, and it gets on one’s nerves, and after a while these
    lovers are the star performers on the stage.

    “The other morning I caught Danny and Tony fooling with the
    hammock. They said they were fixing it so it wouldn’t slip down.
    That evening every one had disappeared but your lonesome and the
    lovers, who were in the hammock with arms intertwined, with the
    usual turtle-dove cooing.

    “All at once I heard a queer sound, and looked in the direction
    from which it proceeded, to see two pairs of legs sweeping
    through the air with a wild, frantic clawing, while shrill cries
    and a swear-word informed me that the hammock had turned over,
    and that the pair of love-makers were standing on their heads. I
    tried not to laugh, but a wee little giggle slipped out, and
    then I flew to the rescue and turned down, or turned up,
    Cynthia’s skirts, and then gave a helping hand to The Blink, who
    rose to his feet with a wild, bewildered stare in his blinking
    eyes. Then I flew, for if I hadn’t, I should have collapsed with
    merriment, for, as it was, I was stuffing my handkerchief in my
    mouth to keep in my laughter.

    “As I flew through the hall queer sounds arrested my flight, and
    there, on the floor, were those two kids, Danny and Tony,
    rolling about in exultant joy, while emitting squeals of
    delighted glee. And then I knew _why_ they had been fooling with
    the hammock that morning. I was smothering with laughter, but
    grabbed each one by an ear and marched them to mother, with
    appropriate explanations, leaving her to administer the
    punishment they deserved. Naturally Cynthia blamed me, insisting
    that I had encouraged the boys in their mischief, and hasn’t
    spoken to me since.

    “Funny number two. I have told you of Cynthia’s obsession for
    searching for the valuable thing. Well, evidently she has
    imparted her obsession to her lover, for we find him poking
    around into all sorts of out-of-the-way places, that annoys
    mother extremely. The other morning Mrs. Van Vorst sent me to
    the studio with a message for Cynthia. The door was open, and,
    to my amazement, I saw the lady in question hoisted up on a
    ladder,—The Blink was holding it,—poking about among the
    rafters of the attic.

    “As I stood wondering what she was doing, I saw her suddenly
    duck her head, and then, to my stupefaction, the Make-believe
    Lady was perched up there on that ladder like a poll-parrot, for
    her head was as bare as a billiard-ball, while her hair that
    was, was swaying gracefully on a nail some distance above.

    “Suddenly discovering her nudity, she made a frenzied grab, not
    at the suspended wig, but at her skirts, hurriedly throwing them
    over her head, as if to hide its bareness, and then made frantic
    attempts to unhitch the black hairy thing that wiggled and
    wobbled just out of reach of her arm. At this moment Mr.
    Buddie—patience was written in his drooping pose, as he clung
    to that ladder—raised his head. His face immediately became the
    hue of his nose, for, alas, Cynthia, in her hurried endeavor to
    cover her denuded poll, had raised not only her dress-skirt but
    her under-skirts, and two black-hosed legs, lean and lank, stood
    forth from beneath her short, beruffled skirt. I waited to see
    no more, but hastily made my exit, to explode my mirth in the
    depths of my pillow on the bed in my room.

    “Funny number three. My bedroom was next to the mystery-room,
    and then comes Cynthia’s,—she and Janet room together. There is
    a door between, which is generally closed, unless it is very
    warm. The other evening we were just getting ready for bed, when
    I suddenly remembered something I wanted to tell Janet, so
    stepped to the door, which was open. The room was dimly lighted
    by a single candle, and Cynthia, who likes to undress in the
    dark, was on her knees by the bed, saying her prayers, while
    Janet sat near, taking off her shoes.

    “As I turned away so as not to disturb Cynthia at her devotions,
    I suddenly spied a man’s face peering in the transom over the
    door. Before I could cry out, Cynthia arose, and, carelessly
    glancing up, saw the face. With a wild scream she seized one of
    Janet’s shoes lying on the floor, and sent it flying at the head
    peeping over the door.

    “I gasped, for it struck the man square on the nose. Then I
    heard a suppressed expletive, followed by a jarring crash, a
    general smashing sound, and then a dead silence. I gave one
    prolonged scream and rushed to the door. You can guess the rest,
    for Dick, mother, and even the boys had heard the racket, and a
    moment later, when they appeared on the scene, it was to find me
    trying to extricate the figure of a man, in a bath-robe, with a
    somewhat dazed expression on his meek, bewildered face,—that
    would have been pitiful if it had not been so ludicrous—from
    the débris of broken chairs and a turned-over table.

    “And his eye, well, it was already beginning to swell; for
    Cynthia had been game, Dick said, and had not only given her
    lover a swelled nose, but a swelled eye as well. O dear! it was
    comical to see the way she glared at the poor creature, meekly
    trying to explain that he was only trying to peer into the
    mystery-room, for he seems to think that the valuable thing is
    hidden in that room, and had gotten as far as he could get—into
    the wrong room. Mother says she is glad it happened and hopes he
    will now stop his prowling.

    “Now for funny number four. After the excitement caused by Mr.
    Buddie’s efforts to peep into the mystery-room quietness reigned
    for a while, until the other night. I was terribly tired, for I
    had been doing the kids’ ironing, and my feet ached so that I
    carried a pail of hot water to my room to soak them. I am on the
    upper floor now, near the boys, for Cynthia insisted that they
    made such a noise at night that they kept her awake. But
    everything that goes wrong she lays on their little shoulders,
    so I have mounted guard, to avoid any future unpleasantness. As
    I sat there, trying to make up my mind to plunge my feet in that
    hot water, I heard a queer sound.

    “There has been a report lately that burglars are in the
    neighborhood, for several of the ladies at the Sunset Hill House
    have missed articles of jewelry. Somehow that noise brought it
    to my mind, and I jumped up,—I was in my bare feet,—quickly
    turned off the light, stepped to the window, and poked my head
    out, and—if there wasn’t a man on the roof of the veranda,
    creeping stealthily towards the mystery-room, directly under
    mine. O dear! and its two windows were both unlatched,—one of
    the boys had discovered that,—but no one had dared to break the
    rule and go in to fasten them. In a moment he had begun to work
    at the shutters, very cautiously,—he had a flashlight in his
    hand,—stopping every moment or so to listen, to see if any one
    had heard him.

    “My heart bounded into my throat, but while I was making up my
    mind what to do, there came a wrench, and I knew that in a
    moment or so that man would be in the room! Desperate with
    fright, I flung about, and then my glance fell on that pail of
    water. Without further ado I seized it, pushed it softly out of
    the window, hurriedly turned it upside down, and then hurled the
    pail after the water. There came a smothered sound, a half-cry
    and groan, and then a funny, swishy noise.

    “As I peered down through the darkness I saw a black object
    slipping down the roof, and heard a sudden imprecation, as it
    rolled over the edge. There came a splashy sound, a deep groan,
    and then I knew that the thief had fallen off the roof, and
    landed in a hogshead of water that always stood under the
    veranda by the kitchen porch.

    “Now came a fierce barking, mingled with growls, and I realized
    that Jean’s little dog, Tige, was chewing up the thief. The next
    instant I made a mad rush for the door, to see Dick flying down
    the stairs in his bath-robe, followed by mother and the boys!

    “I plunged blindly forward, managed to grab him by the arm, and,
    between hysterical gasps, explained what I had seen, and begged
    him not to go out for fear the man would shoot him. But Dick
    shook me off like a feather, and, although mother tearfully
    seconded my plea, he was about to dash into the darkness when
    Cynthia rushed up and handed him her revolver,—Janet says she
    always sleeps with one under her pillow. The boys—each little
    chap, even Jean, was armed to the teeth, Danny with his
    policeman’s club, Tony with an iron bar, and Jean with a
    mountain-staff—lost no time in following him, with mother close
    behind.

    “I grabbed a chair—it could fell a man, at least—and followed
    mother, while Janet, Cynthia, and Sheila alternately yelled and
    wept as they sat huddled on the stairs, each one expecting to be
    shot. But by the time I reached the veranda Dick appeared,
    dragging a miserable-looking little object by the collar of his
    pajamas,—for his trousers had been about chewed off by
    Tige,—with rivulets of water oozing over his face, who was
    abjectly pleading and howling that he was no thief.

    “But Dick was obdurate, and as we all stared with bulging eyes,
    he marched him up to Cynthia. As he shook him fiercely by the
    collar, as one would shake a dog, he cried, ‘Here, Miss Cynthia,
    here’s the thief, your estimable friend and lover, Mr. Buddie!’
    I leave the rest for you to imagine. Mr. Buddie left the next
    morning.

    “Now good-by. Be sure and tell me more about yourself and your
    work when you write again, for I am anxious to know everything
    that happens to you, girl of my heart, for you are a brave dear,
    and I miss you more than I can express.

                                                   “Again with love,
                                                    “Nathalie Page.”



                              CHAPTER XXII

                          THE MAN IN THE WOODS


“Oh, Nathalie, what do you think? They have sent for a detective up at
the hotel!” The speaker was Nita, who, with her friend, was sitting on
the veranda of Seven Pillars, a few afternoons subsequent to Nathalie’s
sending her letter to Helen.

“A detective?” echoed Nathalie, looking at Nita in surprise. “What for?”

“Why, about those robberies. I told you some time ago how the guests
were missing jewelry and other small articles of value. It has been kept
very quiet, but mother heard this morning that the manager is getting
worried as to who is the thief, and has sent for a secret-service man to
come up and ferret out the mystery. But, Blue Robin,” she added, with a
more serious expression, “those school friends of yours are not going to
take any more French lessons.”

“And pray, why not?” demanded Nathalie. Then she ejaculated, “Dear me,
what have we done to offend them now?”

“I don’t know. But, Nathalie, did you notice the night of the Liberty
Tea at the hotel, how they sat in a corner, whispering most of the time?
I had an uncanny feeling that they were making unkind remarks about us,
not that _I care_, for I don’t like them anyway,” added Nita
disgustedly.

“I’m sorry,” said Nathalie regretfully, “for I hate to have Mr. de Brie
lose any pupils. I imagine they were angry at the last Liberty Cheer,
for, you remember, when they joined us we all grew very quiet. Not that
any one meant to be rude, but they are so snobby that they cast a cloud
over one’s fun.”

“Well, I guess Philip can get along without them,” returned Nita
confidently. “Did you notice that he was quite the lion the other
evening? He cast the Count quite into the shade, for every one fell in
love with him.”

“Yes, he can be very charming,” acquiesced Nathalie, “for he is so
distinguished-looking in his uniform of a British lieutenant. Mother
says that in his manners he combines the fineness of an American
gentleman with the courtesy and charm of a Frenchman. I am sorry about
his arm, for the doctor says he will always have to carry it stiffly.

“But, Nita,” continued Nathalie, “I just adore that big doctor friend of
yours. What do you think? I was worrying about his calling so many times
on Philip, for I was afraid that my ‘drop in the bucket’ would not be
enough to pay the bill, and of course Philip wouldn’t have enough from
his earnings to pay it. Finally I wrote the doctor to send his bill to
me. And oh, Nita, he wrote me a love of a letter, in which he said that
he never charged girls anything. And as for Mr. de Brie, he considered
it his great privilege to be allowed to give his services to a man who
had given the best of himself to give liberty to the world. Oh, I think
he is just the dearest old thing!” ended the girl enthusiastically.

“Oh, I knew he would do _that_,” answered Nita, with a wise little
smile, “for he has the best heart in the world.”

“But listen,” went on her companion earnestly. “Janet told Philip about
it, excusing herself by saying that he was worrying over the bill, and
that she wanted to relieve his mind.”

“Of course she did,” giggled Nita, “for one can see with half an eye
what is going on in that direction for it is a clear case of ‘spoons,’
all right.”

“Do you really think so?” cried Nathalie with sudden animation. “Why, I
suggested something of that kind to mother, and she said I was a silly.
Well, they were made for one another. Why, Philip just adores the ground
she walks on, and as for Janet, it’s just a guessing game as to how she
feels. But, to go on with my tale,” continued the girl. “As soon as
Philip heard what Janet had to tell, he came straight to me, and, with a
voice that fairly shook with emotion, said that my kindness to him would
be one of the unforgettable things in his life. Of course I had to make
light of the matter, for I saw the poor fellow was terribly affected
over it. Oh, I do hope things will brighten for him this fall, for he is
going to the city, to make an attempt to get some pupils to tutor until
his health is better. You know,” she added, dropping her voice, “I think
there must have been some mystery about his grandmother, or his family,
for although he loves to come down here and be one of us,—he says it is
so homey with us,—he never says a word about her or his family.”

Nita had been reading to Miss Whipple, and Nathalie had been tying up
sweet peas, one morning a few days after Nita’s news about the
detective, and the two girls were on their homeward way, when Nathalie
suddenly exclaimed with a little burst of laughter, “Oh, Nita, I have
something funny to tell you.”

“Well, tell it to me then,” rejoined her companion somewhat dolefully,
“for although I have something to tell you, alas, it is anything but
funny.”

“Oh, is it about Philip?” cried Nathalie, a sudden premonition of evil
darkening the golden lights of her eyes. “Or are any more of the girls
going to give up taking French lessons?”

“It is worse than _that_,” answered Nita, with such grave import in her
voice that Nathalie stared at her with big eyes as she cried, “Oh, Nita!
do hurry and tell me. Have those girls—”

“Yes, those girls, your friends—”

“Please don’t call them my friends,” pleaded poor Nathalie tremulously,
“for they are anything but friends.”

“So it seems,” nodded Nita dryly, “for they have told—well, just about
every one in the house—that they suspect that Mr. de Brie is the thief
who has been robbing the hotel. You know he has been giving them private
lessons. Nelda declares that she believes Philip took her watch,—it was
lying on the table when she left the room to answer a ’phone call from
the office. Justine was out riding with the Count. When Nelda returned
the watch was gone. Five other girls came to me this morning and told me
that they were not going to take any more lessons.

“These girls have circulated all over the house,” continued Nita
gloomily, “that Philip is an impostor; that you picked him up without
knowing anything about him and that he is not a British soldier at all.
O dear! how hateful people can act! And the clerk of the hotel—Well, he
informed me this morning that the Profile House had sent word that they
did not care to have Philip speak to their guests, as people were tired
of hearing about the war.”

“Nita, this is terrible! Oh, I know Philip is not an impostor,”
protested Nathalie with a dismayed face. “Why, Nita, he showed me a
letter written to him by a soldier at the front, and he called him
Lieutenant de Brie. And where could he have gotten his uniform if he is
an impostor? Oh, I just believe those horrid, hateful girls have made
the whole thing up.” Nathalie stopped, suddenly remembering that she was
not speaking kindly, and not living up to her motto. She gave a long
sigh, and then asked, “But, Nita, have you heard anything more about the
detective coming up from the city?”

“Yes. Oh! there he is now, coming down the walk,” cried Nita, lowering
her voice. Then she added, with a laugh, “Talk of the angels and you’ll
hear the flutter of their wings.”

“Well, he doesn’t look much like an angel,” answered Nathalie, her eyes
lighting humorously, as she watched a stout, red-faced man with a sandy
moustache coming down the path towards them.

As the gentleman under discussion approached the girls he lifted his hat
courteously, as he said, “I beg your pardon, but could you tell me how I
can reach the top of Garnet? I understand that there are several trails
up the mountain, but could you tell me which one would be the best one
to ascend?”

The girls made no reply for a moment, assailed by the miserable fear
that the man was going up the mountain to trail Philip. Then Nathalie,
with an effort, turned and pointed down the road, explaining in a few
words that one of the trails started in near the Grand View road.

As the man thanked her and walked slowly on, Nathalie drew a deep
breath, while a troubled light shone in Nita’s eyes, as she cried, “Oh,
do you suppose he is going to arrest Philip?” She spoke in a
half-whisper.

“Arrest Philip? Why, the idea of such a thing! No, of course not,”
Nathalie answered determinedly, as if she was not going to allow herself
to become frightened. “Philip has committed no crime. That man can’t
arrest him unless he has some evidence, and where is he going to get
it?”

Nita made no reply, and the two girls, depressed by the unpleasant
occurrence, and the vague fear that trouble was brewing for their
friend, sat down in one of the summer-houses near the board-walk. Here
they sat in silence for a few moments, and then Nathalie, as if
determined to throw off the depression that assailed her, cried, “Oh,
Nita, I have not told you the funny thing.”

“Well, tell it to me, then; for I think it will take something real
comical to get me out of the blues.”

“It is about Tony,” explained Nathalie. “You know the child is obsessed
with the desire to have me find the mystery thing. Well, the other day
Danny came running to tell me that Tony was rolling on the floor with
the colic. I was alarmed, for I immediately thought he had been eating
green apples, the way Sheila did the other day, and mother had to
poultice her with mustard.

“I flew to his room and there was the little fellow moaning and
squirming about, apparently in great pain. When he saw me he immediately
begged me to put a mustard plaster on his stomach. I was surprised, for
generally children will suffer quite a little before they will have one
on. I found some old linen,—mother was out,—hurried down to the
kitchen closet, and got the mustard-box.

“But when I opened it, imbedded in the yellow, powdery stuff, was
something that glittered strangely. I shook the box, and out rolled a
little gold coin. I carefully examined it, and immediately saw that it
was an ancient Roman coin, for although one side was so blurred and worn
with age that I could not decipher anything on it, the other side bore
the name and head of Cæsar within a circle of fine gold beading.

“Something immediately told me that the coin belonged to Tony, and that
he had placed it there so I would find it, for, not long ago he lost
something from his vest-pocket,—he keeps all of his treasures sewed up
in that old vest. Danny had helped him look for it,—it had slipped out
of a hole,—and after it had been found he came and told me about it,
describing it as a little round piece of gold, the kind that you see, he
said, up in the museum at Central Park.

“I made the plaster and carried it, with the coin, up to Tony, but
before I put on the poultice I showed him the gold piece and asked if it
was not his. But the little chap, with a bland and innocent expression,
vowed that he had never seen it. No amount of coaxing or persuasion
could make him confess to the truth. You know that is the great trouble
I have with Tony, he will tell _teeny little stories_.” Nathalie sighed
dolefully.

“Although I was sure that he didn’t have any colic, and that the whole
thing was just a trick to get me to look in the mustard-box to find the
coin, I put the plaster on, and made him stay in bed, thinking that when
it got to burning that he would ’fess up.’ But he didn’t, and although
he howled and writhed with the sting of it,—while I was reading him a
lecture on the sin of lying,—I told the story of Ananias and
Sapphira,—he stuck it out. Then, finally, my conscience wouldn’t let me
torture the boy any longer, and I took the plaster off. That night while
he was asleep I found his old vest, and after putting the coin in the
pocket, sewed it up.”

After the girls had laughed over the incident, Nathalie started
homeward, her mind full of dismal forebodings in regard to Philip. “Oh,
I wish I could prove in some way that he is not an impostor. But suppose
he should be?” The girl came to a sudden halt. Then, with her eyes full
of a strange bright light, she went on. No, she just knew that Philip
was good and true.

“But I must do something,” she half moaned. “For how dreadfully he will
feel if he thinks that people believe him a thief; and he will soon know
something is wrong, when all the girls stop taking lessons. But Nita and
I will have to pretend that the season is drawing to a close,—as it is.
But, O dear! he does need the money so much. And Janet,—how it will
hurt her, for I am sure she cares—” the girl halted at the thought, for
it seemed too sacred a thing even to whisper to herself. Then she was
busy again, trying to think how she could prove that her friend was what
he claimed to be.

As she unconsciously uttered her thoughts aloud, by some mysterious
process of thought, or strange correlation between mind and matter,
before her mental vision flashed the picture of a dark wood, lighted by
gleams of moonlight that filtered through the tall tree-tops. In the
foreground of a forest-gloomed retreat, in front of a high rock, a man
was digging in the ground, plainly seen by the yellow flickerings from a
burning torch that had been stuck upright in the ground, a few feet
away.

Although the girl reasoned and tried to convince herself that there was
no possible connection between that man and the thief at the hotel, she
could not drive the impression from her mind. On going home she
questioned Jean, and found that he, too, still vividly remembered the
incident.

That night Nathalie could not sleep, for she was haunted by the picture
of the man in the woods, although she hurled every name she could think
of at herself for being so foolish. The next night again found her
sleepless, but when morning dawned, as if pursued and driven by the
haunting vision, she called the boys together, and stated the
circumstances to them. She did not tell her mother, as _she_ would say
that she was losing her reason, and, well, she was determined to find
out—_something_.

Early the following morning, before any one had gone through the woods,
Nathalie and the boys met Nita at the Red Trail; she had been taken into
their confidence, and accordingly was weirdly and thrillingly excited.
They soon reached the seat-tree, and then, after locating the big rock,
they all began to dig.

They had dug for almost an hour, by Nita’s wristwatch, and then, feeling
tired, and on the verge of absolute despair, were talking about giving
the whole thing up, when all at once Jean’s little terrier began to
scratch in the ground on one side of the rock, and partly under it. Jean
gave a queer little cry as he watched Tige, and the next moment had
driven the dog away, and had begun to dig as furiously as he could with
his one hand, in the place where the dog had been scratching up the
earth.

Nathalie watched him listlessly, for she had abandoned all hope, and
felt utterly weary, too, after her two sleepless nights. Suddenly Jean
gave a loud shout, and then a moment later they had all rushed to his
side, and presently were boring down into the earth under the rock as
quickly as they could, to unearth in a few moments a gold chain. Nita
gave a loud scream as she snatched it from Danny, for she immediately
recognized it as belonging to an old lady at the hotel, who had been
bemoaning its loss. A few moments’ digging, and then, with pale faces,
in repressed excitement, they replaced the chain in the hole, covered it
with dirt, so as to make it appear that the spot had not been disturbed,
and then they started home, stopping to rest on the stone ledge of
Liberty Fort, while discussing their discovery. It was enough to excite
any one, and might mean a great deal to Philip.

Nita was quite insistent at first that they should immediately tell the
manager of the hotel what they had seen. But Nathalie demurred,
convinced, on second thought, that if the jewelry was found hidden up in
the woods, because Philip lived up on the mountain, every one would say
that that was sure proof that he was the thief. “No,” declared the girl
determinedly, “we can’t do that; but we will have to come up here and
watch for the man so we can identify him.” This plan was finally decided
upon, and the little party, seething with suppressed excitement under
the weight of their momentous secret, returned home.

That night Nathalie, Danny, and Jean stole up the trail. Strange to say,
it was again a moonlight night, the same as a month ago, when the man
had been seen by Nathalie and Jean. After finding the seat-tree they all
sat down and waited, alternately dozing and waking, but although they
remained until the first streaks of gray dawn appeared, nothing
happened.

The following night, Jean—Nathalie had put the boy to bed for the day,
letting her mother think that he had one of his headaches to which he
was subject—and Tony accompanied the girl to the tree. But alas, for
the second time nothing came to pass. Nathalie began to be discouraged.
Fortunately it rained that night, and, as they could not venture out,
they all had a good night’s rest.

The fourth night again found the girl with the boys at her post,
oppressed and miserable, for by this time she began to fear that the man
in the woods was a snare and a delusion,—something she had dreamed, or
else he had gone. But why did he leave that jewelry behind?—for the
children had discovered that there were other pieces hidden in that
hole, or very near it.

All at once—Nathalie had fallen quite sound asleep—Jean gave her a
pinch; he was snuggling up against her, seated on her lap. The girl
opened her eyes sleepily, rubbed them drowsily, and then stretched them
wide, caught by the gleam of a light over by the rock. Yes, the man was
there! Her heart leaped excitedly, for he was digging under the rock,
just where they had found the jewelry!

With stilled breath, the three figures, hidden by the tree, watched him,
Nathalie’s mind keeping up an incessant query as to how she could steal
around behind the rock to get a view of his face. Ah, that queer shaking
of the head! Who was it that she had seen who had that peculiar nervous
affliction? And then, in a sudden revelation, she knew! It was the man
who had stared at her so rudely in the post-office, the man who had
repaired her automobile. Why, it was the man known as _the Count_!



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                            A MYSTERY SOLVED


Several hours later, Nathalie, Nita, Sheila, the three boys, and Mrs.
Van Vorst were seated in that lady’s sitting-room on the second floor of
the Sunset Hill House, overlooking the roof of the front veranda.
Nathalie was nervously tapping the floor with her foot, as, with a
perplexed, uneasy expression in her eyes, she watched Mr. Grenoble, the
secret-service man, who had been employed to fathom the strange mystery
of the many jewelry thefts that had occurred at the hotel within the
last few weeks.

She had told her story, not only to the detective, but to the manager of
the hotel, explaining how she had come to discover the man digging in
the woods the night that Sheila had wandered away. She had told also how
they had all dug under the rock, to find the pieces of missing jewelry,
and how she and the boys had hid in the woods, and finally had seen the
man again digging by the rock. She had verified her story in its
details, and, although sharply questioned by the detective and the
manager, she had stoutly maintained that the man whom she had seen was
Mr. Keating, known as the Count. But her intuition immediately revealed
to her that they were not inclined to accept her theory as to the
identification of the thief.

The manager immediately protested that she _must be_ mistaken, that his
guest was too well known, his position too assured, to identify him in
any way with the man at the rock. As the girl realized that her story
was doubted, a strange numbness seized her, and she had a paralyzing
premonition that not only would her well-founded suspicions prove
futile, as well as her long, watchful hours, and her many efforts to
clear Philip, but that possibly these things would increase the
circumstantial suspicions already directed towards him.

Seeing the apparent uselessness of further conversation the girl rose,
oppressed by the dread that if she remained in that room a moment longer
she would burst into tears. But no, _she would not give up_! She would
go somewhere and think it all over, to see if there was not some way of
ascertaining who the man was. Perhaps she could go again to the
woods,—she would try and get behind that rock,—and make sure—

At this moment Sheila, who was standing with Jean by the window,
watching the automobiles constantly coming and going in front of the
hotel, uttered a sharp cry. As Nathalie turned towards the child as if
to still her, she heard her exclaim: “Oh, Jean, there’s the funny ’phone
man! See, there he is! Don’t you remember, he’s the man who put the
black trumpet on top of his head when he was in the ’phone-box?” Sheila
always called the receiver a “black trumpet.”

Nathalie, aroused by the remark, mechanically allowed her glance to
follow the direction of the child’s finger, as she pointed towards Mr.
Keating, who was coming up the walk leading to the hotel. Unconsciously
she bent forward, and with alert eyes watched the man, for she had again
seen that peculiar motion of the head that had identified him as the man
whom she had seen digging in the woods.

But Sheila’s exclamation had been overheard by the detective, who
stepped quickly to the child’s side, crying: “What was that you said,
little girl, about a funny ’phone man? Tell me about him.”

The man’s manner was so abrupt and commanding, that Sheila shrank back
against Nathalie, and shyly hid her face. But the girl, startled also by
Mr. Grenoble’s abruptness, with a quick glance at his face, cried, “Yes,
Sheila, tell the gentleman what you saw.” Oh, yes, she remembered now
that the two children had told her about this “funny ’phone man” whom
they had seen at the hotel one day, but she had paid no attention to
their prattle at the time.

Sheila, with a quick upward glance into the girl’s face, as if instantly
divining the seriousness of the situation, answered, “Why, that’s the
man I saw in the ’phone-box,” again pointing towards the Count, who had
stopped to chat with a lady on the walk. “He put the black trumpet right
up on top of his head, like this,”—she imitated the man’s
motion,—“when he was talking through the ’phone.”

“Did you see him, too?” questioned the detective, turning towards Jean,
his eyes suddenly illumined with an odd gleam. Jean nodded silently, and
then, seeing that further confirmation was needed, in his odd,
hesitating English, repeated the same words, accompanied by the same
motion, as the little girl.

The detective nodded absently, still with that odd gleam in his eyes,
and then walked hastily towards the door. As he reached it, as if
suddenly remembering their former conversation, he turned towards the
occupants of the room and, with slow deliberation, said, “Well, ladies,
I think our problem is still unsolved; however, I will look into the
matter and let you know the result in a few days.” With an abrupt nod he
motioned to the manager, whose kindly face was strangely perturbed, as
he quickly followed him from the room.

Nathalie and the children, a few mornings after the conference at the
Sunset Hill House, were standing in front of the big white Roslinwood
barn watching Teddy and Billy, two little black pigs that were the
delight of Sheila’s heart. But they were tantalizing joys, for as soon
as they caught sight of their admirer, as they peered out of the big
barn-door, with their bright, bead-like eyes, they would scurry away as
quickly as their round, shiny black bodies would permit, greatly to that
young lady’s disappointment.

As Sheila ran to gather a roadside nosegay, and the boys hurried
homeward, for Philip had promised to teach them some new military
tactics in their soldier-drill at the Liberty Fort, Nathalie, beguiled
by the calm stillness of the woods, sat down on the seat under the trees
where the sign, “Hit the Trail,” showed that was where the path started
that led through Lovers’ Lane.

The woods, aglow with the yellow and reds of the maples, were strangely
still that beautiful September morning, save for the occasional chirp of
some belated songster, or the loud caw of a crow as he signaled to his
mates, who were making a noisy clatter in some leafy retreat of the
greenwood.

To Nathalie, the crimson branches of the reddening maples, showing
vividly bright from among the green leaves of the spruce, fir, oak, or
beech, softened with the glow from the silver poplars as they quivered
in the wind, seemed like red banners. As they swayed in undulating
motion, to her they were flags, curling and beating the air for that
which is every man’s right, liberty.

The girl felt a little depressed at the thought that the summer was
over, for the crumpled and autumn-hued leaves, as they fell from the
trees, or swept by on the wings of the wind in their dying splendor,
seemed to be calling a sad and mournful farewell. Oh, how she would hate
to leave these rocky heights that rose in such statuesque grandeur
before her, the splendors of the sky with its glory of sunset, the
forest gnomes in their crooked and gnarled ugliness, and the green
fields, now starred with the yellow beauty of our national flower, the
goldenrod!

What an odd summer it had been! So different from what she had expected.
How she would miss her beautiful companions on her morning walks, the
blue-hazed mountains! And yet she had made friends. Ah, there was the
soldier-boy. She wondered if he would write to her. Then there was
Janet. Well, she was never going to let her go out of her life, for she
was to visit them next winter.

Her eyes saddened as she thought of the Sweet-Pea ladies. Oh, how sorry
she would be to bid them good-by, for Miss Whipple seemed to grow
frailer every day, and then what would become of poor Miss Mona? And her
queer little old friend in the red house? Well, she didn’t suppose that
she would ever see her again, for she said that she never wrote to
people. Yes, it was depressing to think that you had to meet people you
liked, and then go away and just have to forget them, because they
passed out of your life.

And the kiddies? She hated to think of their going back to that slum
life again. She wondered if any of the country people up in the
mountains would like to take them to live with them, for, yes, Tony and
Danny could learn to be very useful. But poor Jean—and Sheila! Then she
wondered if her trying to make them Sons of Liberty would help them to
be good and honorable men. Sometimes it seemed as if she hadn’t
accomplished much, and then again she could see how different they were
from what they had been when they came to her. O dear! they _were_
problems.

And Philip de Brie? Surely she had made a friend of him, at least he was
more than a friend to Janet, who—the perverse thing!—was so careful
not to let her know if she really cared for him or not. Perhaps it was
on account of Cynthia, for she had overheard that young lady telling
Janet that Philip was an impostor, and that he had fooled her the way he
had Nathalie Page and her mother. The story of his being a British
soldier, and that story, too, about his grandmother, was all folderol.

And poor Janet had meekly made no reply to this tirade, but Nathalie, in
imagination, saw the red mount into her cheeks, and knew how humiliated
she felt. Well, he was better than that funny little Mr. Buddie anyway.
She believed it was _just_ jealousy on Cynthia’s part, for she herself
had tried to be very nice to Philip, but somehow he didn’t seem to
understand her,—no sensible person could,—and although he had always
been very courteous to her, he had never made a friend of her.

Well, she had done her best to clear him of the horrible suspicion that
had lost him his pupils; but, alas, she seemed to have made the matter
worse, or, at least, she had not done him any good, for when his cabin
on the mountain had been burned one night, people had declared that he
had set it afire himself to destroy evidences of his guilt.

And then, when the manager of the hotel had the ground dug up, where she
and the children had discovered those pieces of jewelry, nothing had
been found. And Mr. Keating, alias the Count, had gone, called to
Chicago, he claimed, the very night before they dug up around the
rock,—the very night, too, that the cabin had been burned. No, Philip
had not been arrested, for certainly the evidence was not strong enough
to warrant such action. And then the detective had disappeared, although
Nathalie had a feeling at times that he was hanging around somewhere
near the place, in disguise, perhaps, watching Philip.

And the people who had been so nice to Philip, now acted very queerly
whenever they saw him, and Philip, the poor fellow, had said nothing,
although Nathalie was afraid that he suspected that something was wrong.
Her mother had persuaded him to come down to Seven Pillars after the
burning of the cabin, and although he had accepted their kind
hospitality for the time being, he chafed under the favors showered upon
him, and showed that he was inwardly suffering to have to be placed in
such a position, for Janet said he resented charity. Yes, and ten days
had passed, and Nathalie had not heard one word from the detective. O
dear! the world was a queer place to live in, anyway.

Just after luncheon, as Nathalie and her mother sat knitting on the
veranda, a loud “Honk! Honk!” announced the arrival of Nita, who, with
her cheeks red with excitement, burst upon the group like a young
whirlwind.

“Oh, Blue Robin,” she cried, as she caught sight of Nathalie, “I have
the most wonderful news for you.” And then, without waiting to be
questioned by her friend, who had risen to her feet in nervous
expectancy, she added excitedly, “Philip has been cleared!”

“Oh, Nita, how do you know?” cried Nathalie, her face turning white, as
she nervously clutched at her chair.

“The news came this morning from the detective, and the manager told
mother. He said Mr. Grenoble got his clew from Sheila. You just come
right here, little girl,” broke off Nita abruptly, as she beckoned for
Sheila to come to her, “so I can kiss you for a blessed dear.” She
seized the somewhat astonished child and began to hug her with excited
exuberance.

“But who is the thief?” exclaimed Nathalie breathlessly. “Oh, do tell
us!”

“The thief? Why, Mr. Keating, the Count, of course,” laughed Nita
gleefully; “and he was caught all through Sheila’s crying out about the
funny ’phone man. When she spoke of the man in the booth placing the
receiver on his head when telephoning, it gave Mr. Grenoble a big clew.
It seems that the detective-bureau had been on the lookout for some time
for a gentleman burglar who had the peculiar eccentricity of holding the
receiver on the top of his head, as Sheila stated. He was born without
any folds to his ears,—no, that isn’t the word; I guess it was ganglion
cells. No, _that_ isn’t right—Well, anyway he had something the matter
with his auditory nerve, so that his hearing was defective. By placing
the receiver on the top of his head, as he had very good
bone-conduction,—yes, that’s right,—he could hear better.

“As soon as the detective heard what Sheila said he began to shadow our
friend, the Count. He saw him do the same thing that Sheila told about,
and _that_, with certain other clews, led to his arrest. He was not _the
Mr._ Keating from Chicago that he claimed to be, whom the manager
asserted had spent a summer at the hotel two years ago. That gentleman
died this spring, and this ‘count’ fellow impersonated him, so as to
gain a social standing in the hotel.

“The manager now admits that at times he had been puzzled by certain
changes in Mr. Keating’s appearance, but he attributed it to the fact
that he was older, and was now clean-shaven, when two years ago he wore
a mustache. The detective thinks that the Count burned the cabin up in
the woods so as to deepen the suspicion already fostered in regard to
Philip.”

“But he got away with the jewelry,” exclaimed that young gentleman, who,
with Janet, had just stepped up to the edge of the veranda, while Nita
had been talking.

“But he did not get far,” rejoined Nita, “for when he walked into the
New York station a few days ago,—that was just a ruse, talking about
being called to Chicago,—he simply walked into the net that the
detectives had spread for him, and he is now in jail.”

“I saw that the detective doubted my story,” remarked Nathalie, “and it
made me feel unpleasant. But, oh, I am so glad the thief has been
caught—and—”

“That Philip is cleared,” interrupted that young man. “Yes, Miss
Nathalie, you have added to the store of kind things that you have done
for me. But wait,” Philip’s eyes glowed, “some day,—well, perhaps I can
repay every one. And little Blue Robin,” he continued, laughingly, “I
knew that I was the suspected one, although you were all so careful not
to let anything slip out that would tell me, so as to save my
sensitiveness, but as I was innocent I knew that things would clear up
somehow.”

And then he and Janet returned to their seats under the trees, where
Philip had been reading to her, while Nathalie, with a glad light in her
eyes, continued to discuss the many details of the affair. As Nita rose
to go she suddenly exclaimed: “Oh, there, I forgot to tell you that we
are going home in a couple of days. Mother is anxious to get back to the
city.”

“Oh, I shall miss you terribly,” cried her friend, as she placed her arm
affectionately around the little hunchback; “but then I presume we shall
be going soon ourselves. But, Nita,” she added abruptly. “I came very
near forgetting to tell you that we have all handed our diaries to Mr.
Banker, and I am so glad that irksome task is over, for I hated to have
to write in it every day. We are to meet Mr. Banker in the mystery-room
to-morrow afternoon. It all sounds very thrilling, doesn’t it? We are
all very curious to know what is hidden there.”

“Oh, I am just dying to know, too,” cried Nita. “Well, come over to tea
to-morrow, and then perhaps the mystery will be a mystery no longer.”

“But have you selected the _valuable thing_?” asked the girl laughingly,
after she assured her friend that she would surely accept her
invitation.

“Why, no, not as yet,” returned Nathalie, “for I am swayed by two loves.
But it is all nonsense anyway, so I don’t think it will make much
difference what any of us select. Cynthia will probably win the prize,
as the kiddies say, for she has chosen a very valuable painting. Janet
has selected a most curious thing,—a necklace. It came from China, and
has a series or chain of heads; they say every one is a likeness of some
old mummified mandarin. When you touch a spring—Janet didn’t know this
until mother showed it to her, for she saw this necklace years ago, when
Mrs. Renwick brought it home with her from one of her Oriental
trips—each one of these mummified Chinamen sticks out his tongue.”

“Well, good-by until to-morrow,” cried Nita, and then she was in her car
and a moment later went whizzing along the road towards Sugar Hill
village.

Nathalie had just finished putting her boys through their morning drill
the following day, and seen them hurry away with Janet to do some
weeding and hoeing for her in her garden, when she was joined by Philip.
As he finished telling her a bit of war news,—she was industriously
trying to finish a sweater for Dick,—his glance was arrested by the
little Bible lying on the chair by her side, for Nathalie had continued
her Scripture readings to the children.

Picking the book up, he began to turn over its leaves carelessly, almost
mechanically, as if his mind was occupied with some other matter, when
suddenly Nathalie heard a surprised exclamation, and looked up to see
Philip staring at the fly-leaf of the Bible, with an odd, curious
expression on his face.

“Where did you get this Bible?” he asked hurriedly, turning towards the
girl.

“In one of the upper rooms of the house. I think it must have belonged
to Mrs. Renwick’s son, Philip. Why, your name is Philip, too,” she cried
smilingly. “Why, I never thought of that before.”

“Yes, my name is Philip, and this Bible belonged to my father—”

“Your father?” repeated the dazed girl. But before Philip could answer
her, in a quick revelation she cried, “Why, is your name Renwick?”
staring at him with wide-open eyes.

“Yes, Philip de Brie Renwick.”

“And Mrs. Renwick, who used to live here?”

“Was my grandmother!”



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                        THE WINNER OF THE PRIZE


As Nathalie sat in dazed surprise upon hearing Philip’s announcement, he
went on and told her of the early life of his father, of his going to
Europe, of his marriage with Marie de Brie, a French girl, of his return
to America, and of his subsequent quarrel with his mother, who had
refused to receive his wife, a story that the girl had already heard,
but not in detail, from Mrs. Page.

When his father left his grandmother, Philip stated, he was in a mood of
mingled anger and humiliation, while his heart had been deeply seared
with disillusioned love. He could not realize that the mother who had
made him her idol, the mother whom he adored, could, from mere motives
of false pride, wound him so deeply by refusing to receive the girl to
whom he had given the affections of his young manhood.

On leaving his mother, Philip Renwick had remained at the hotel for a
time, vainly hoping that she would attempt a reconciliation, but when no
word came from her, he took his wife to a southern town, where, a few
months later, he, Philip the second, had been born. A couple of years
later the young couple had returned to England, where they had lived
until his father’s death. Shortly after losing her husband, young Mrs.
Renwick had returned to France, and had become the home-keeper for a
bachelor brother. On his death she was left a small annuity on the
condition that she retain her maiden name of de Brie; hence the reason
that Philip had become known by his mother’s maiden name.

“But did you know that it was _here_, at Seven Pillars, that your
grandmother used to live?” asked Nathalie, as Philip finished.

“Yes, and that was why I felt that I could not refuse your mother’s kind
invitation to spend a short time here as her guest, for the house had so
many associations for me, for my father, as well as my grandmother, were
very fond of this old place up here in these mountains.

“The night you found me in the cabin, Miss Nathalie,” resumed the young
man, “I had become tired of life, for it seemed as if there was nothing
for me to live for, for I hadn’t enough ambition to try to better my
condition. I could only face the fact that mother was gone, that I had
not a cent in the world, as my mother’s annuity ceased with her life,
and my soldier’s pension was only a few dollars a week. I realized that
I would probably lose my arm, for I knew that it should have a surgeon’s
care and I had no money to pay one. And it is right here, Miss Nathalie,
that I want you to understand my deep appreciation of, and my hearty
thanks for, what you have done for me; also the kindness of Miss Janet,”
a sudden light flamed in the young man’s eyes, “and the thoughtfulness
of your mother, and your friends, Mrs. Van Vorst and Miss Nita.

“The companionship of you all, even of the kiddies, your Liberty boys,
has put new life into me. I did become a little discouraged, it is true,
when I began to lose my French pupils, and surmised the reason, from
various hints that were dropped by some of the people, who were the
victims of the thief, for it is not an enlivening thought to fear that
your _only_ and very best friends might grow to think you a rascal.

“But you all proved so true to me, especially _you_, little Blue Robin,
I call you that name, as the bluebird is a bird of cheer, and certainly
you have inspired me with the ambition for a new career-to-be, as you
have proved yourself such a loyal little comrade in my time of need.
Remember, Nathalie, I shall never forget you, or what you have done for
me.”

Nathalie, her face a wave of color from the unexpected warmth of
Philip’s praise, in hasty confusion, as if to change the subject to
another one than herself, cried, “But why did you not go, when you were
in Boston, to Mrs. Renwick’s trustees, and make yourself known to them?
For, if you are her grandson, you are entitled to some of her money.”

“For two reasons,” replied Philip slowly. “One was that, in my hasty
departure from England it slipped my mind to bring my credentials with
me. And then, again,—perhaps my grandmother’s pride has descended to
me,—I felt that if she did not love my father,—she had let him go so
easily,—that I could have pride, too, and did not care to accept her
money. If I could have met her when alive, and had learned that she did
have some love for my father, why, then I would have revealed myself to
her, and naturally would have felt differently in regard to accepting
her money. But I have one thing by which I could have proved my identity
to her if she had been still alive. See, it is this little ring. She
gave it to my father, who always wore it, as I have done, ever since it
came into my possession.”

Philip took from one of his little fingers an odd, peculiar-looking seal
ring. After showing his father’s and his grandmother’s initials and the
date of its presentation, he touched a tiny spring back of the stone,
and Nathalie saw a miniature picture of Mrs. Renwick. She knew it
immediately from its resemblance to several pictures of her that were
scattered about the house.

At this moment there was a loud wail from Sheila, who, in picking
flowers in the meadow where Sam was mowing, had been injured by the
mower. It was some time before her cries were stilled, and her wound
properly bandaged, so that, for the time being, the wonderful news that
Philip had told was forgotten.

When it finally came to mind, Nathalie was tempted to run and claim him
as her cousin, to tell him about Mrs. Renwick’s peculiar letter, and
what was expected to take place there that afternoon. But after some
thought she wisely concluded to remain silent until after she had talked
with Mr. Banker and her mother. Not but that she had faith in Philip’s
story, but because it seemed the most prudent thing to do.

These thoughts were hasty ones, for the girl had suddenly remembered
that she had not selected the valuable thing as yet, and that it was
almost four o’clock, the hour of Mr. Banker’s arrival. She had partly
decided to select a set of rubies,—a necklace and pair of
bracelets,—and then a Russian curio had made its appeal, but somehow
she bordered upon a state of indecision that was becoming intolerable.

As she turned to enter the house, her eyes fell on the little Bible
that, in her hasty rush to Sheila, when she appeared with her bleeding
foot, she had left lying on the chair under the trees. She ran hastily
across the lawn and picked it up. As she did so, the book flew open and
her attention was arrested by the name, _Philip Renwick_, on the
fly-leaf, and its connection with what Philip had just told her. And
then, she stood a minute, pondering. Why had not she thought of that
before? and then, with a dimpling face, she closed the book and hurried
back to the veranda, almost knocking down Tony, who stood wistfully
regarding her.

“Pleass, scusa, Mees Natta, haf you gotta da theeng for de
preez?—Mister Banka, hees com’ bimeby to looka for eet.” Tony’s big,
velvety eyes were mutely pleading as he looked up at Nathalie.

The girl laughingly mimicked the boy as she patted him on the head,
understanding that he was worried because she had not selected the thing
that the children were so anxious should “win the prize,” as they called
it, for her. Then her eyes sobered, and, drawing the little lad to her,
she showed him the Bible she held in her hand, explaining that she had
selected it, as it told about Christ the Savior, and contained God’s
wonderful message to His people, telling them how to love Him and be
good. “Yes, Tony,” she added solemnly, “the Bible is the most precious
thing to everybody in the world. And then, as _this_ little Bible used
to belong to Mrs. Renwick’s only son, I am sure that it would be the
most valuable thing to her, so I am going to select it.”

As the girl saw the child’s eyes light up, as if he comprehended what
she meant, she laid the Bible on a chair and ran hastily up to her room
to hunt for some white paper and blue ribbon. In a moment or so she was
back, wrapping up the book, and then, to Tony’s infinite delight, she
slipped her card under the blue ribbon and gave the book to him, to
place at the door of the mystery-room with the other packages.

Some time later, Nathalie, in company with her mother, Janet, Cynthia,
and Mr. Banker, entered the mystery-room, no one perceiving as they
entered that the children had slyly followed them, and were staring
about with wondering, curious eyes. Ah, so this was the room they had
all been so curious about; and Nathalie smiled as she saw that it was a
homey, cozy room, suggestive of feminine tastes and occupations, but,
after all, it was just nothing but Mrs. Renwick’s sitting-room, the room
where she had sewed, read, and wrote her letters.

The low book-cases lining the wall, the hardwood floor with its costly
Persian rug, the open fireplace set with fagots ready to light on a cool
morning, the desk in one corner, with the Victrola near, and the antique
furniture, all of solid mahogany, certainly did not savor of a mystery
or anything uncanny. In fact, the little table in the center of the
room, with its shaded lamp, books, and magazines, and the little upright
work-basket near, rather intimated that the owner of the room had just
left it for a moment or so.

But Mr. Banker was speaking. He stood by the little center-table on
which lay the three valuable things. He held up Cynthia’s selection as
he said: “I have here a picture, a most valuable painting, as it is a
Van Dyke. It has been selected by Miss Cynthia Loretto Stillwell, as I
see by the name on the card. This little box bears the name of Miss
Janet Page, and is a curio from China. And here is a Bible,” the
gentleman’s voice deepened as he held up Nathalie’s selection. The
girl’s heart, notwithstanding her indifference to the outcome of the
selection, was beating against her side in a very annoying way.

“It is a curious selection,” continued Mr. Banker, “and—oh, what is
this?” as something round and glittering fell from the book. “A gold
coin,” he commented with some surprise; “yes, a Roman coin, for it bears
the head of Cæsar, and I should imagine he turned the coin over as it
lay in his palm, that it was of considerable value, as, from what I can
decipher between the obliterations, it has a very ancient date. But I do
not understand,” he glanced inquiringly, “which is the article that has
been selected as the valuable thing, the coin or the Bible? The card on
the letter bears the name of Nathalie Page,” turning as he spoke, and
looking at the girl, who was staring at him, with mystified, bewildered
eye, “A coin!” she finally managed to gasp. “Why, I didn’t see—”

“Pleass ’scusa. Mister Banka,” cried Tony’s soft, musical voice at this
point, “da coin eet belona to Mees Natta,—she fina eet wan day een a
box.” The liquid black eyes of the boy were brilliant with a strange
glow of joy.

“Oh, no, Tonio, the coin is not Miss Natta’s,” cried Nathalie, a sudden
light breaking in upon her bewilderment. “It is your coin. Don’t you
remember, I found it in the mustard-box the day you were ill? But it is
yours, Tony; you placed it there for Miss Natta to find.” The girl,
strangely amused, smiled down at the lad.

“You bet my life, Mees Natta, Tonio, no, hees neva hada coin. Eet verra
old, da coin, eet com’ f’om a beeg keeng wat liva een da Roma lan’. Ees
belonga to Mees Natta,” the boy ended persistently.

“Oh, Tony, you are in the wrong,” pleaded the girl, suddenly feeling
that she wanted to cry, as she saw that the child was determined to
persist in his untruth. “_You know_ it is _your coin_, for Danny found
it one day for you when it had dropped from your embroidered vest.
Didn’t you, Danny?”

And Danny, with a troubled look in his blue eyes,—he, too, wanted Miss
Natta to have that prize,—mutely nodded in confirmation of her word.
But Tony, with a sudden tightening of his red lips, again protested in a
sullen tone, “No, eet ees no Tonio’s coin. Eet belona to Mees Natta.”

“Oh, Tony,” exclaimed the girl, as the tears swelled up into her eyes,
“you hurt ‘Mees Natta.’ ‘Mees Natta’ rather not have the prize than have
Tonio tell what is not so.”

Tony’s eyes fell, as he shifted uneasily from one foot to the other, and
then, glancing up, still with that stubborn look on his face, and seeing
the tears in the girl’s eyes, he dropped his face into the curve of his
arm. Not a sound came from him, but the long, convulsive shivers of the
slim little body told that the lad was crying.

Nathalie turned towards Mr. Banker, distress depicted on her face, as
she cried, “Oh, Mr. Banker, I am so sorry, but _I_ selected the Bible.”

Mr. Banker hesitated a moment, and then his sharp eyes softened, as he
saw the mute anguish of the little Italian lad and realized his keen
disappointment, for he had often commented upon the boy’s affection for
the girl. Stepping to his side, he patted him on the head, as he said
cheerily: “Never mind, son; don’t cry. Who knows, perhaps ‘Mees Natta’
may win the prize, as you call it, even without the coin. Here, lad,
take what belongs to you, and mind you,” he added in a sterner tone,
“never again be tempted to tell an untruth, even for ‘Mees Natta.’” With
another pat on the bowed head he stepped back beside the table, where he
had been standing.

“I have gone over these diaries,” said the gentleman, as he picked up
one of the three books that lay on the table, “and I find that Miss
Cynthia Loretto Stillwell has not passed a day in this house, within the
last two months in which she has not searched for the valuable thing.
Certainly her diligence should be rewarded,” ended the gentleman, as he
bowed ceremoniously to that lady, whose eyes radiated with triumphant
joy.

“Miss Janet, I find,” his eyes gleamed pleasantly at that winsome young
woman, “has been somewhat of a delinquent at times, for there are
several entries missing in her diary. But as its reading shows that her
heart is a kindly one, as shown by her careful nursing of the young
British soldier, I certainly think that she should be well favored.

“Miss Nathalie, I am afraid, has not done her duty as faithfully as she
might have, in looking for the valuable thing”; he spoke somewhat
severely as he peered over his glasses at the girl, whose cheeks
flushed, their red deepening, as she caught a gleam of satisfaction
emanating from Cynthia’s eyes.

“But her negligence has been more than compensated for,”—there was a
queer note in the gentleman’s voice, “as this record of two months is so
filled with kind acts for others, that— Well, ladies, possibly you have
begun to sense that it is not the finding of the valuable thing that is
to win out, but the acts it typifies. Each day has been conscientiously
noted in Miss Nathalie’s diary, and almost every day bears a record of
some good work done for others. I think—well—I am inclined to believe
that the young lady—”

Mr. Banker paused abruptly, for at this moment a loud knocking sounded
on the door. Cynthia, who was standing near it, with a frown on her
face, stepped impatiently forward, and with a hasty movement threw it
open.

On the threshold stood Mrs. Carney, who, the next moment, with her sharp
gray eyes peering defiantly out from under the queer poke-bonnet, while
the basket on her arm stuck out aggressively, brushed quickly past
Cynthia and into the room. But that lady, with two red spots on her
cheeks, seized her by the arm, crying, “You can’t come in here now; we
have company,” turning the old lady, as she spoke, and roughly shoving
her towards the door.

“Oh, Cynthia, don’t be rude to Mrs. Carney!” pleaded distressed
Nathalie, as she sprang to the side of her queer little friend. “How are
you, Mrs. Carney?” she asked gently, smiling at the face under the
bonnet. “We are very glad to see you. You don’t mind Mrs. Carney joining
us, do you?” continued the girl, looking at Mr. Banker. “If you do,” she
added quickly, “and will excuse me, I will go down-stairs with her, so
we can have a little chat.”

“No, Miss Nathalie, we do not mind Mrs. Carney joining us; in fact,”
again that queer little note in Mr. Banker’s voice, “I was just about to
ask you to go and bring her here.” He advanced as he spoke and cordially
shook the hand of the old lady, who pressed his warmly, but said
nothing.

“Ah, here is your favorite seat,” continued the gentleman; “perhaps you
would like to sit down in it. But I forgot, ladies; perhaps you have not
met Mrs. John Renwick,” he had turned towards the occupants of the room
smilingly, “the lady who has allowed you the privilege of summering in
her house for the last two months, your neighbor of the little red
house. As you see, Mrs. Renwick is alive, and I will ask her to take
charge of her own letter of instruction, and see that the reward is
given to the right one—and—”

The gentleman paused, for Mrs. Page, with a glad light in her eyes, was
already at the lady’s side, crying, “Oh, sister Mary, it was kind of you
to take this way of giving us such a lovely summer. And I am so glad
that you are alive and well.” She kissed Mrs. Renwick with warm
cordiality. “Do you know,” she continued smilingly, “I was rather
suspicious that you were up to one of your—”

“Eccentricities,” interrupted the old lady pleasantly, with an odd
twinkle in her eyes. “Well, I was anxious to know these young ladies.
Yes, I guess I know them now, one of them at least.” She glanced
wrathfully at Cynthia, who stood with down-cast eyes, her face as
crimson as a poppy, and her heart in a strange tumult of amazement,
anger, and regret.

But Nathalie, in her quick, impulsive way, had thrown her arms around
Mrs. Renwick’s neck and was giving her a good hug, as she cried, “Oh! my
dear little lady of the red house, I am so glad you are Aunt Mary, for
now you will _have to be my friend_, and answer my letters whether you
want to or not.”

The old lady’s gray eyes softened, as she bent forward and kissed the
girl softly on each cheek as she answered gently, “Nathalie, you are
just like your father,—he was my favorite brother,—but it is for
yourself, child,” she added gravely, “that I have learned to love you.
But who has won the prize?” she inquired abruptly, smiling down at the
children who were staring at her uncomprehendingly, recognizing her as
the inmate of the red house, who seemed to have suddenly assumed a new
character.

“Come over here and look them over,—I mean the valuable things,”
advised Mr. Banker, at this moment, as he led Mrs. Renwick to the table,
“for the diaries you saw last night.” And then he pointed out in quick
succession the three articles of value that were grouped on the table.

Mrs. Renwick glanced carelessly at the picture. “Yes, it is most
valuable,” she assented quietly, “a Van Dyke. And so is this”; she
fingered Janet’s choice. “But what is this?” she added suddenly, as her
eyes fell on the little Bible that lay at her elbow.

“This is Philip’s Bible,” said the gentleman, “and it was selected by
Miss Nathalie—”

“Why, Nathalie, my child, did you select my dear son’s Bible?” As
Nathalie mutely assented, Mrs. Renwick motioned for her to come and tell
her why she had made this choice. With some embarrassment the girl gave
her reasons. As she finished, her aunt said: “Yes, my dear child, there
is nothing in the house I value as highly as Philip’s Bible. Nathalie,
you have won the prize, and you deserve it, my dear, for you have not
only selected the most valuable thing, but you have learned what is the
most valuable thing in life.” The old lady drew Nathalie close to her,
as she again kissed her on both of her flushed cheeks.

But Nathalie drew quickly away, for a sudden thought had come to her.
“Oh, wait a moment!” she exclaimed hurriedly. “I’ll be back presently,”
and then, without waiting to be excused, she flew from the room.

“Oh, Philip!” screamed the girl a moment or so later, as she rushed up
to her friend, who was reading in the hammock, “I want you to come with
me—quick! Oh—I—” she paused as if at a loss to explain, and then
added hurriedly, “Oh, do come! I have something to show you!”

Philip looked up at the girl in surprise, but, instantly perceiving from
her bright, shining eyes, that she was more than usually excited, he
jumped from the hammock crying, “All right, Blue Robin, you look very
happy, so I suppose it is something very good to see, or good to eat.”

[Illustration: “Oh, it is Philip, my son!”—_Page 377._]

Two minutes later the girl had pushed open the door of the mystery-room,
and was trying to pull Philip in with her, but that gentleman, on seeing
that strangers were present, had stepped back.

“No, no, you _must come in_,” cried the girl in happy excitement. The
young man, seeing the determination on his companion’s face, somewhat
puzzled, silently followed her into the room. And then Nathalie swirled
him about so that he faced Mr. Banker, crying, “Mr. Banker, this is
Philip de Brie Renwick!” And then, without waiting for that gentleman to
acknowledge the introduction, she took Philip’s hand and led him towards
Mrs. Renwick, who, as she saw the young man approaching, tremblingly
arose, and, with clasped hands, cried, “Oh, it is Philip, my son!”

“No it is not Philip, your son,” quickly answered the young man, who had
instantly divined who the old lady was, “but Philip’s son, your
grandson, Philip de Brie Renwick.”

The next moment Philip was holding the old lady in his arms, while he
quietly tried to soothe her sobs, as she wept in happy joy on his
breast. As her sobs subsided somewhat, Philip said gently, “Mother
Mine,”—it used to be his father’s pet name for his mother,—“here is
the ring you gave father when at college.” He drew the seal ring from
his finger and held it up before his grandmother, who, with one look at
it, cried, “Yes, grandson, I know _he_ has gone, for he promised me—”
there was a quiver in her voice—“that the ring should never be removed
until—” she drew a deep breath that threatened to turn into a
sob—“until he was no more. But he has given me—you, his son. Oh, my
dear boy, my own grandson!”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Nathalie sat by her little sewing-table under the trees, gazing off at
her grand old friends, the purple-misted mountains. It had seemed hard
to do anything, this her last day at Seven Pillars, but gaze at the
lofty heights that stood forth so calm and beautiful in their mystical
splendor on this gloriously White Mountain day. But she _must_ read over
that letter to see if it was all right, so, in soft, low tone she read
slowly,

    “Dear Helen:

    “I have such good news to tell you that I can hardly
    write,—for, oh, Helen! the little old lady who lived in the red
    house is Mrs. Renwick, and Philip de Brie, the British soldier
    whom we found up in the cabin on the mountain, is her grandson!
    And I have won the prize. No, of course, it is not really a
    prize, but the good-will and affectionate regard of Aunt Mary,
    because—well—I made her happy by selecting her son’s Bible as
    the most valuable thing in her house. And now I have dandy news
    to tell. She is going to send me to college. I have just lived
    in a dream ever since I heard the good news. Yes, and I have one
    hundred dollars for my _very own_, to do just as I like with—no
    restrictions, reparations, or indemnities, but just for _wee
    little me_. I think that blessed sum was given to me, because
    the boys, when told I had won the prize, could not understand
    anything so vague as going to college, but they did finger that
    crisp bank-note with eager, curious little fingers when I showed
    it to them. Sometimes I feel a little guilty, for _really_
    Cynthia’s selection, a Van Dyke painting, was the most valuable
    from a certain point of view.

    “And, oh, what I told you would happen about Philip and Janet is
    true, for they are engaged, and go about looking into each
    other’s eyes in a state of beatific happiness. Now she will be a
    grand lady, for she to live with her new husband, and mother, in
    a beautiful mansion in Boston. And Cynthia. Well, Mrs. Renwick
    was quite angry with her, but finally, after mother and I had
    talked to her, and told her the disadvantages she labored under,
    and how she wanted to marry Mr. Buddie, why she partly relented,
    for she is to set Cynthia up in a studio in Boston, and try to
    get her friends to buy her pictures, for she insists that
    Cynthia is a real artist.

    “And Mrs. Renwick—mother says I must learn to call her Aunt
    Mary—wanted Sheila to live with her, and as there was no
    question of separating her from Danny, he goes to Boston with
    her and is to be educated, and I know he will grow to be just a
    splendid man. Mrs. Van Vorst has taken another one of my kids,
    Tony. She has always been in love with those black eyes of his,
    and she insists that he is going to be a great musician. Then
    there was dear little Jean. Yes, he had to have something good
    come into his life, too, so mother and I have decided to take
    him to live with us.

    “And now for another bit of news. I had a nice, long letter from
    the soldier-boy, Van Darrell, and isn’t it too funny, but that
    Blue Robin girl of his was just _me_ all the time. Now for the
    fairy-tale part of my story. Do you remember my telling you
    about writing a letter to a soldier-boy, and slipping it into a
    comfort-kit that, with a lot of others, was to be given to the
    boys at Camp Mills?

    “Well, Van got it. He says that it set him to thinking, and made
    him realize that we were not only going into this war of wars to
    get even with the Huns, but because it is our duty to give the
    liberty that we enjoy in our country to all the nations in the
    world. And he has been ordered overseas. Yes, and he says he’s
    going, ready to make the sacrifice if necessary, and to give his
    life that all men may be free. Oh, I’m so glad I wrote that
    letter, and to think it has done some one some good. Yes, and
    I’m going to pray as hard as I can that the soldier-boy will
    come back to his mother, and to his friend, Blue Robin. Yes,
    indeed, I am glad that he is not just a conceited boy, as I at
    one time feared.

    “So good-by, you dear little maid, serving the Lord so
    faithfully with those busy fingers of yours. I think of you
    every day, and pray for you every night, so, with a bushel of
    love, I am, as ever,

                                                           “Your own
                                                       “Blue Robin.”

                                THE END

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             DOROTHY BROWN

                            By NINA RHOADES

                  Illustrated by Elizabeth Withington

                     Large 12mo    Cloth $1.50 net

[Illustration: image of Dorothy Brown book cover]

This is considerably longer than the other books by this favorite
writer, and with a more elaborate plot, but it has the same winsome
quality throughout. It introduces the heroine in New York as a little
girl of eight, but soon passes over six years and finds her at a select
family boarding school in Connecticut. An important part of the story
also takes place at the Profile House in the White Mountains. The charm
of school-girl friendship is finely brought out, and the kindness of
heart, good sense and good taste which find constant expression in the
books by Miss Rhoades do not lack for characters to show these best of
qualities by their lives. Other less admirable persons of course appear
to furnish the alluring mystery, which is not all cleared up until the
very last.

“There will be no better book than this to put into the hands of a girl
in her teens and none that will be better appreciated by her.”—Kennebec
Journal.

                           MARION’S VACATION

                            By NINA RHOADES

         Illustrated by Bertha G. Davidson    12mo    $1.25 net

[Illustration: image of Marion’s Vacation book cover]

This book is for the older girls, Marion being thirteen. She has for ten
years enjoyed a luxurious home in New York with the kind lady who feels
that the time has now come for this aristocratic though lovable little
miss to know her own nearest kindred, who are humble but most excellent
farming people in a pretty Vermont village. Thither Marion is sent for a
summer, which proves to be a most important one to her in all its
lessons.

“More wholesome reading for half grown girls it would be hard to find;
some of the same lessons that proved so helpful in that classic of the
last generation ‘An Old Fashioned Girl’ are brought home to the youthful
readers of this sweet and sensible story.”—Milwaukee Free Press.

      For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of
                        price by the publishers

                   LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., Boston

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           JEAN CABOT SERIES

                        By GERTRUDE FISHER SCOTT

            Illustrated by Arthur O. Scott    12mo    Cloth

                         Price, Net, $1.35 each

                          JEAN CABOT AT ASHTON

[Illustration: image of Jean Cabot at Ashton book cover]

Here is the “real thing” in a girl’s college story. Older authors can
invent situations and supply excellently written general delineations of
character, but all lack the vital touch of this work of a bright young
recent graduate of a well-known college for women, who has lost none of
the enthusiasm felt as a student. Every activity of a popular girl’s
first year is woven into a narrative, photographic in its description of
a life that calls into play most attractive qualities, while at the same
time severely testing both character and ability.

                    JEAN CABOT IN THE BRITISH ISLES

This is a college story, although dealing with a summer vacation, and
full of college spirit. It begins with a Yale-Harvard boat race at New
London, but soon Jean and her room-mate sail for Great Britain under the
chaperonage of Miss Hooper, a favorite member of the faculty at Ashton
College. Their trip is full of the delight that comes to the traveler
first seeing the countries forming “our old home.”

                       JEAN CABOT IN CAP AND GOWN

Jean Cabot is a superb young woman, physically and mentally, but
thoroughly human and thus favored with many warm friendships. Her final
year at Ashton College is the culmination of a course in which study,
sport and exercise, and social matters have been well balanced.

             JEAN CABOT AT THE HOUSE WITH THE BLUE SHUTTERS

Such a group as Jean and her most intimate friends could not scatter at
once, as do most college companions after graduation, and six of them
under chaperonage of a married older graduate and member of the same
sorority spend a eventful summer in a historic farm-house in Maine.

        For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt
                       of price by the publishers

                  Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.    Boston

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       HANDICRAFT FOR HANDY GIRLS

                            By A. NEELY HALL

      Author of “The Boy Craftsman,” “Handicraft for Handy Boys,”
                            “The Handy Boy”

                          AND DOROTHY PERKINS

        Illustrated with photographs and more than 700 diagrams
                          and working drawings

          8vo    Cloth    Price, Net, $2.00    Postpaid, $2.25

[Illustration: image of Handicraft for Handy Girls book cover]

With the aid of an experienced craftswoman, A. Neely Hall, who is in a
class by himself as a thoroughly reliable teacher of handicraft, every
operation that he describes being first practically worked out by
himself, and every working drawing presented being original, new, and
actual, has opened the door for the great and constantly increasing
number of girls who like to “make things.” Such girls see no reason why
the joy of mechanical work should be restricted to their brothers, and
with this book it need no longer be. The first part of the book is
devoted to a great variety of indoor craft that can be followed in
autumn and winter, while the second part, “Spring and Summer
Handicraft,” deals with many attractive forms of outdoor life, including
an entire chapter on the activities of “Camp Fire Girls.”

“This book will be hailed with delight by all girls who have a
mechanical turn.”—Watchman-Examiner.

“Girls will love just such a book and will find interest for every day
of the year in it.”—St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

“Triumphs of ingenuity never dreamed of are to be found in this volume
of handicraft that girls can make, but its chief charm is to be found in
the practical value of most of the things to be made.”—Lexington
Herald.

        For sale by all booksellers or sent postpaid on receipt
                       of price by the publishers

                  Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.    Boston

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        BOOKS BY RENA I. HALSEY

                   Illustrated    Cloth    $1.50 each

                      BLUE ROBIN, THE GIRL PIONEER

Nathalie Page is just such a girl of sixteen as one likes to read about.
Obliged to exchange affluence in a large city for a modest home in a
small one, she develops into capable young womanhood by becoming a
member of The Girl Pioneers of America.

“Any girl of a dozen years or more, or even less, will enjoy this
thoroughly, and anyone, young or old, will be the better for having read
it.”—Pittsburgh Times-Gazette.

                           AMERICA’S DAUGHTER

[Illustration: image of America’s Daughter book cover]

This is a rarely good and inspiring story of girls in a select school in
Brooklyn who organize a club called “Daughters of America,” and under
the care of a well-liked teacher take a trip to points on the New
England coast made famous in our history. One of the girls has been
brought up without knowledge of her own family, and so is called
“America’s Daughter.” In the course of the trip she unravels the mystery
of her birth and all ends happily and profitably.

“It is an inspiring story, well told and will be appreciated by girls
who love an active, out of doors life.”—Daily Press, Portland, Me.

                            THE LIBERTY GIRL

Nathalie Page, seventeen, bright and popular with all her mates, forms a
club called the “Liberty Girls” and enthusiastically does her bit to
help win the war. A surprising invitation to the White Mountains takes
her from organized activity with her companions, but a girl like
Nathalie will not be idle wherever she goes, and in carrying out the
principles of patriotic service she wins great and deserved credit.

                  Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.    Boston

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          Transcriber’s Notes

    1. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

    2. Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation in the original
    document have been preserved.





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