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Title: Norma Kent of the WACS
Author: Snell, Roy J. (Roy Judson)
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 "Norma Kent of the WACS" ***

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Crawford, Dave Morgan and the Online Distributed


                              Norma Kent
                                 of the
                                  WACS


                           _By_ ROY J. SNELL

                            _Illustrated by_
                           HEDWIG JO MEIXNER

                             [Illustration:

                                FIGHTERS
                                  FOR
                                FREEDOM
                                _Series_]



                       WHITMAN PUBLISHING COMPANY
                           RACINE, WISCONSIN

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



                         _Copyright, 1943, by_
                       WHITMAN PUBLISHING COMPANY
                          PRINTED IN U. S. A.


            _All names, events, and characters in this story
                        are entirely fictitious_

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



                           TABLE OF CONTENTS


                                                   PAGE
                     I Mrs. Hobby’s Horses            9
                    II The Test That Told            15
                   III Interceptor Control           24
                    IV A Light in the Night          33
                     V Spy Complex                   41
                    VI A Startling Adventure         50
                   VII A Hand in the Dark            58
                  VIII Rosa Almost Flies             68
                    IX Something Special             78
                     X I’m Afraid                    84
                    XI Two Against Two               91
                   XII Harbor Bells                 102
                  XIII A Wolf in WAC’s Clothing     113
                   XIV Pale Hands                   122
                    XV Spotters in the Night        131
                   XVI The Vanishing Print          137
                  XVII Those Bad Gremlins           146
                 XVIII Sudden Panic                 157
                   XIX A Battle in the Night        167
                    XX Patsy Watches Three Shadows  178
                   XXI Night for a Spy Story        186
                  XXII Flight of the Black Pigeon   196
                 XXIII Rosa Flies the Seagull       208
                  XXIV The Decoy Beacon             220
                   XXV The Masterpiece              232
                  XXVI A Sub—On the Spot            238

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

[Illustration: _The Girl on the Cot Next to Hers Whispered Something_]

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



                               NORMA KENT
                                 of the
                                  WACS



                               CHAPTER I

                            GIRLS IN UNIFORM


Norma Kent stirred uneasily. Her army cot creaked.

“You’ll have to lie still,” she told herself sternly. “You’ll keep the
other girls awake.”

Even as she thought this, the girl on the cot next to her own half rose
to whisper:

“We’re Mrs. Hobby’s horses now.”

“That’s the girl called Betty,” Norma thought as she barely suppressed
a disturbing laugh.

“Shish,” she managed to whisper. Then all was silent where, row on row,
fifty girls were sleeping. Fifty! And Norma had spoken to barely half a
dozen of them! It was all very strange.

Strange and exciting. Yes, it had surely been all that. They had all
been jumpy, nervous as colts, on the train from Chicago. If they were
walking down the aisle and the train tipped, they had laughed loudly.
They had been high-pitched, nervous laughs. And why not? Had they not
launched themselves on a new and striking adventure?

As Norma recalled all this she suddenly started, then rose silently on
one shoulder. She had caught a flash of light where no light was
supposed to be.

“A flash of light,” she whispered silently. At the same instant she
caught the gleam of light once more. This time she located it—at the
head of the cot by the nearest window.

“Rosa Rosetti!” she thought, with a start. She did not know the girl,
barely recalled her name. She had a beaming smile, yet beyond doubt was
foreign-born.

“What would you do if you suspected that someone was a spy?” That
question had, not twenty-four hours before, been put to her by a very
important person. She had answered as best she could. Had her answer
been the correct one? Her reply had been:

“Nothing. At least, not at once.”

Now she settled back in her place. The flash of light from the head of
Rosa Rosetti’s cot did not shine again. Nor did Norma Kent fall asleep
at once.

“A flash of light in the night,” she was thinking. “How very
unimportant!”

And yet, as her thoughts drifted back to her childhood days not so long
ago—she was barely twenty-one now and just out of college—she recalled
a story told by her father, a World War veteran. The story dealt with a
stranger in an American uniform who, claiming to be lost from his
outfit, had found refuge in their billet for the night.

“That night,” her father had said, “flashes of light were noticed at
the window of our attic lodging. And that night, too, our village was
bombed.”

“Suppose we are bombed tonight?” the girl thought. Then she laughed
silently, for she was lodged deep in the heart of Iowa, at old Fort Des
Moines.

As the name drifted through her dreamy thoughts, it gave her a start.
She was fully awake again, for the full weight of the tremendous move
she had made came crashing back upon her.

“I’m a WAC,” she whispered, “a WAC! I’m in the Army now!”

Yes, that was it. She was a member of the Woman’s Army Corps. So, too,
were all the girls sleeping so peacefully there. Here at Fort Des
Moines in four short weeks they would receive their basic training. And
then—“I may drive a truck,” she thought with a thrill, “or operate an
army short-wave set, or help watch for enemy planes along the seacoast,
or—” she caught her breath, “I may be sent overseas.” North Africa, the
Solomons, the bleak shores of Alaska—all these and more drifted before
her mind’s eye.

“Come what may,” she whispered, “I am ready!”

She might have fallen asleep then had not a cot less than ten feet from
her given out a low creak as a tall, strong girl, who had caught her
eye from the first, sat straight up in her bed to whisper three words.

The words were whispered in a foreign tongue. Norma was mildly shocked
at hearing them whispered here in the night.

“She was talking in her sleep,” Norma assured herself as the girl
settled quietly back in her place. Then it came to her with the force
of a blow. “She too might be a spy!”

“What nonsense!” she chided herself. “How jittery I am tonight! I’ll go
to sleep. And here’s hoping I don’t dream.”

She did fall asleep, and she did not dream.

From some place very, very far away, a bugle was blowing and someone
seemed to sing, “I can’t get ’em up, I can’t get ’em up. I can’t get
’em up in the morning.” Then an alarm clock went off with a bang and
Norma, the WAC recruit, was awake.

Her feet hit the floor with a slap and she was putting on her clothes
before she knew it. A race to the washroom, a hasty hair-do, a dash of
color to her cheeks and, twenty minutes later, together with thirty
other raw recruits, she lined up for Assembly.

It was bitter cold. A sharp wind was blowing. A bleak dawn was showing
in the east. Norma shivered in spite of her thick tweed coat. She
looked at the slender girl next to her and was ashamed. The girl’s lips
were blue. Her thin and threadbare coat flapped in the breeze. She
wanted to wrap this girl inside her coat, but did not. This would be
quite unsoldierlike. So she stood at rigid attention. But out of the
corner of her mouth she said:

“It won’t be long now. Those soldier suits we’ll wear are grand.”

“It wo-won’t be-be long!” the girl replied cheerfully through
chattering teeth.

Norma permitted herself one quick flashing look to right and left. To
her right, beyond the slender girl, stood the tall girl who had
whispered so strangely in her sleep. Wrapped in a long black fur coat
she stood primly at attention. There was something about this girl’s
prim indifference to those about her that irritated Norma.

She turned to the left to find herself looking into a pair of smiling
blue eyes. The girl said never a word but her bright smile spoke
volumes. This girl’s dress, short squirrelskin coat, heavy skirt, neat
shoes, and small hat spoke both of taste and money. Beyond this girl
stood the little Italian who flashed a light at night. She stood, lips
parted, eyes shining, sturdy young body erect, very sure of herself and
unafraid.

“Whatever happens, I’m going to like her a lot, and that can’t be
helped,” Norma assured herself.

Five minutes later they were all back in the barracks making up their
bunks and preparing for a busy day ahead.

“Bedding down Mrs. Hobby’s horses,” said a laughing voice.

“Say! What does that mean?” Norma demanded, looking up from her work
into a pair of laughing blue eyes.

“Don’t you know?” asked the other girl, as she sat down on her cot.

“I don’t. That’s a fact,” Norma admitted.

“Well, I’ll tell you. But first,” the other girl put out a hand, “my
name’s Betty Gale. Something tells me that we’ve both just finished
college and that we’re likely to be pals in this great adventure until
death or some Lady Major does us part.”

“You’re right in the first count,” Norma laughed. “And I hope you are
in the second. My name is Norma Kent.”

“Swell,” said Betty Gale. “Now—about Mrs. Hobby’s Horses.”

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



                               CHAPTER II

                           THE TEST THAT TOLD


“Mrs. Hobby’s Horses.” Betty laughed. “That’s really no great secret.
Perhaps you didn’t notice it, but we’ve been sleeping in a stable.”

“A stable!” Norma stared. “A stable with polished floors?”

“Oh, they fixed them up, of course. But the row of buildings to which
this belongs was all stables only a short while ago.”

“For horses?”

“Why not?” Betty laughed again. “Fort Des Moines has always been a
cavalry post.”

“Oh! And I suppose it was from these very stables that cavalry horsemen
rode thundering away to fight the Indians.”

“Absolutely!”

“How romantic!” Norma exclaimed. “But I still don’t see what that’s got
to do with hobby horses.”

“I didn’t say hobby horses. I said they called us Mrs. Hobby’s horses.
Don’t you see?” Betty’s voice dropped. “Mrs. Hobby is director of the
Corps. And they say she’s a wonder. All of us raw recruits must spend a
week in these stables before we go to live in Boom Town. So you see,
they call us Mrs. Hobby’s horses.”

“But Boom Town? Where’s that?” Norma demanded.

“Oh! Come on!” Betty exclaimed. “You want to know too much too soon.
Let’s get our bunks made. We have a lot of things to do this day. One
of them is to eat breakfast. That cold air made me hungry. Let’s get
going.”

A short time later they found themselves caught in a brown stream of
WACs pouring toward a long, low building. Once inside they were greeted
with the glorious odor of frying bacon, brewing coffee, and all that
goes with a big delicious breakfast.

And was it big! In this mess hall twenty-five hundred girls were being
served.

As she joined the long line that moved rapidly forward Norma was all
but overcome by the feeling that she was part of something mammoth and
wonderful.

“It’s big!” she exclaimed.

“Biggest thing in all the world.” Betty pressed her arm. “We’re in the
Army now!”

Yes, they were in the Army. And this was Army food. On their sectional
trays, oatmeal, toast and bacon were piled.

Their cups were a marvel to behold. Half an inch thick, big as a pint
jar, and entirely void of handles, they presented a real problem. But
Norma mastered the art of an Army coffee drinker in one stride. So too
did Millie, the girl from a department store.

“Boy!” Millie giggled, balancing her cup in one hand. “Now let the Japs
come! I’ll get one of them and never even nick this cup! Honest,” she
confided, “I think this is going to be fun.”

“Fun, and lots of work,” was Norma’s reply.

“Oh! Work!” Millie sobered. “Lead me to it! It can’t be worse than
Shield’s Bargain Basement during the Christmas rush. It’s ‘Can you find
me this?’ or ‘Can you give me that?’ and ‘Miss Martin, do this,’ and
‘Miss Martin, do that,’ hours and hours on end. Bad air, cross
customers, bossy floorwalkers. And for what? I ask you? Sixteen dollars
a week!”

“Could you live on that?” Norma asked in surprise.

“No, but I did,” Millie giggled. “But honest, I think this will be a
lot better.”

“It’s not so much a matter of it being better or worse,” Norma replied
soberly, “as it is of what we have to give. This is war, you know. Our
war!”

“Yes, I know.” The little salesgirl, it seems, had a serious side to
her nature. “I’ve thought about that, too. In the city where they
examined us they said I might do library work. I sold books, you know,
and I know an awful lot about them. And I can cook, too,” she added
hopefully.

“They have a cooking and baking school,” Betty encouraged. “They teach
you how to cook in a mess hall and out of doors for a few people and a
great many. Perhaps for a thousand people at a time. And you do it all
in the baggage car of a special train.”

“Ee-magine little me cooking for a thousand people!” Millie wilted like
an unwatered flower. “Honest, girls, I’m just scared stiff! I couldn’t
go back! I just couldn’t! I’d rather die! And today they give us our
special interviews and everything.”

“You’ll make it all right,” Betty assured her. “Just drink the rest of
your coffee. That will pep you up.”

Once again Millie lifted her huge army cup. “Here’s to us all,” she
laughed.

At that they clinked their cups and drank to their day that had just
begun.

Mid-afternoon found Norma sitting at the end of a row of girls, waiting
her turn at a private interview. In twenty-five open booths twenty-five
interviewers sat smilingly asking questions in low tones of twenty-five
new recruits, and carefully writing down the answers. In her row as she
sat waiting her turn Norma saw Lena, the tall, strong girl who
whispered strangely in the night, Rosa, who had flashed a light, Betty,
Millie, and a few others.

As she waited—just waited—she began to be a little afraid. The
interviewers were smiling, but after all, those were serious smiles.
She could not hear the questions. She could guess them. These
interviewers were asking, “What can you do? What would you like most to
do? What else can you do?”

All of a sudden Norma realized that she had never done a real day’s
work in all her life. She had always gone to school. Oh, yes! She could
cook, just a little. But so little!

“I guess,” she thought, “that I’m what they call a typical American
college girl, not a bad student, and not too good, fairly good at
tennis and basketball. I’ve got brown hair and eyes, and I’m not too
tall nor yet too short.” She laughed in spite of herself. “A good
fellow, and all that. But,” she sobered, “what can I do? What do I want
to do? What else can I do?”

She had felt a little sorry for the shopgirl, Millie. Now she envied
her. Millie knew all about books and she could really cook. At this
very moment, smiling with fresh-born confidence, Millie was stepping
into a booth for her trial-by-words. And she, Norma Kent, a college
graduate, sat there shivering in her boots! Surely this was a strange
world.

The booth that Millie had entered was wide open. Norma could see all
but hear nothing of what went on. At first she was interested in
watching the smiles and frowns that played across Millie’s frank and
mobile face. Of a sudden her interest was caught and held by the
examiner. Tall, slim, looking very much the soldier in her neatly
pressed uniform that bore a lieutenant’s bar on its shoulder, this
examiner seemed just what Norma hoped in time to become—a real soldier.

“She’s not too young—perhaps thirty,” the girl told herself. “And she’s
wearing some sort of medal pinned to her breast. Say! That’s strange!”

And indeed it was strange. The Woman’s Army Corps was as yet very
young. Only a few had gone overseas and none, as far as she knew, had
either won honors or returned to America.

“She’s keen,” she whispered to the girl next to her.

“Who?” The girl stared.

“That examiner,” Nonna nodded toward the booth.

“Oh! Oh sure!” The other girl resumed polishing her nails.

“All the same she is,” Norma told herself. “And I’d like to know her.”

As Millie, the shopgirl, at last rose from her place, a happy smile
played about her lips.

“She made it,” Norma said aloud. “And am I glad!” She smiled at Millie
as she passed.

Lena, the “night whisperer” was next to enter the vacated booth. As the
interviewer began her task her body appeared to stiffen.

“On her guard,” Norma thought. “I wonder why.”

On the officer’s face there was still a smile, but somehow it was a
different sort of smile.

And the tall girl? She too seemed rather strange. She appeared always
on her guard. “As if she were speaking a piece and feared she might
forget,” was Norma’s thought.

Still, in the end all must have gone well for, as she passed her on the
way out, the tall girl flashed Norma a look that said plainer than
words. “See? That’s how you do it.”

Whatever may have been Norma’s reactions to this they were quickly
lost, for suddenly she realized that the black eyes of the examining
officer were upon her and that her name was being called. Her time had
come. Swallowing hard, she rose to step into the booth.

“You are Norma Kent,” said the examiner, flashing her a friendly smile.
“And your home is—”

“Greenvale, Illinois,” was the prompt reply. The date of her birth,
when she entered and left grade school, high school, and college, and
other details followed.

“And now,” said the examiner, leaning forward, “what can you do?”

“I—I really don’t know,” the girl faltered. “I’ve never worked at
anything.”

“Ah! So you’ve never worked? Can you cook?”

“Not very well.”

“I see.” The examiner studied Norma’s face.

“How many in your family?”

“Just father and I.”

“And your father? What does he do?”

“He’s with the Telephone Company, in charge of a wide
territory—equipment and all that.”

“Hmm.” The examiner studied her report. “Just two of you. You should be
great pals.”

“Oh—we are!” Norma’s eyes shone. “You see,” she exclaimed, “Dad was in
the other World War. I’ve always loved him for that. He was in France.”

“France,” said the examiner, with a quick intake of breath. Norma did
not at all understand. “What a lovely land to die for.”

“Dad lost his right arm,” Norma stated in a matter-of-fact tone.
“That’s why he can’t go back this time, and—and that’s why he wants me
to go.”

“Would you like to go overseas?” The examiner’s eyes shone with a
strange new light.

“I’d love to!” the girl whispered hoarsely. “But what could I do?”

“Oh! Loads of things.” The examiner made a record on her sheet. “Your
father must have driven about a great deal looking things over in his
present occupation.”

“Of course.”

“Did you ever go with him?”

“Oh! Many, many times!”

“Did you ever assist him?”

“Oh, yes! Of course! It was all great fun. He had big charts showing
every center, every phone. I helped him mark down each new
installation.”

“Ah!” the examiner breathed.

“Yes, and we had a grand little shop in the basement where we worked
things out—lots of new things.” Norma’s eyes shone. “There were many
rural centers where the switchboards were in stores. When a number was
called a light shone on the board. But that wasn’t enough. The
storekeeper couldn’t always see the light.”

“And what did you do about it?”

“We fixed up a new board, just Dad and I. Put a tiny bell on every
line.”

“I see. The light flashed, the bell rang, and then the storekeeper
really knew all about it?”

“Yes. But the light sometimes failed, so we put on bells with different
tones. Each line spoke for itself.” Norma laughed. “We called it the
musical switchboard.”

“And you say you’ve never worked?” The examiner laughed.

“That! Why, that was just fun!”

“Perhaps it was. The best work in the world is the kind we can think of
as fun. All that time you were fitting yourself for two of our most
important departments—Communication and Interceptor Control.”

“Can—can you really use me?” Norma was close to tears.

“Can we? Oh! My child!” The examiner all but embraced her. “We’ll make
a major out of you! See if we don’t!”

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



                              CHAPTER III

                          INTERCEPTOR CONTROL


Norma was not long in discovering the reason for that last surprising
outburst of her examiner. When at last the report was finished, they
looked up to find the row of chairs empty.

“Well!” the examiner breathed. “That’s all for today. This,” she added,
“is not my regular work. My training was finished many weeks ago. I
have been away from the Fort for some time doing a—well” she
hesitated—“a rather special sort of work. Now I’m back for a brief
spell. They were shorthanded here.”

“So you’ve been helping out?”

“That’s it.” The examiner rose. Norma too stood. “We all have one great
purpose. Each of us must do what she can wherever she is.”

“To bring this terrible war to an end,” Norma added.

“You’re right again,” the other smiled.

“Whew!” she exclaimed after looking Norma over from head to toe. “You
certainly do look fit.”

“I should,” Norma grinned. “Our college has put us through _some_
training, I can tell you. We marched five miles bare-legged in shorts,
with the snow blowing across the field!”

“Climbed fences. I’ll bet.” The examiner smiled.

“Yes, and walls too. We did gym work and took corrective exercises.”

“Grand! They were preparing you for—”

“Just anything.”

“That’s swell. My name is Warren.” The officer put out a hand.
“Lieutenant Rita Warren, to be exact. I’m going up to Boom Town. Want
to go along?”

“I’d love to!”

“Right! Then come. Let’s go.” Swinging into the regulation thirty-inch
stride, Lieutenant Warren marched out of the hall with her recruit and
along the snow-lined path.

“That Interceptor Control sounds intriguing,” Norma said as they
marched over the crusted snow.

“Oh, it is! It really is!” Lieutenant Warren’s face glowed. “The most
interesting work in the world. I’ll tell you a little about it. But
don’t let me tell you too much.”

“I’ll flash the red light.” Norma laughed, as she asked, “How much is
too much?”

Lieutenant Warren did not answer, instead, she said, “We are stationed
along the seacoast.”

“Just any seacoast?”

“Any coast of America. There are a number of us in each group. We take
over some small hotel. The hotel is run just for us.”

“Must be grand!”

“Oh, it is! But we don’t have much time to think of that. We have work
to do. Plenty of it. You see, along every coast there are thousands and
thousands of volunteer watchers. They are there day and night.”

“Watching for enemy planes?”

“Yes, that’s it, and for possible enemy landings.”

“But none have come?”

“Not yet. But let us relax our vigil—then see what happens! If an
aircraft carrier stole in close in the fog and sent over fifty bombing
planes, hundreds—perhaps thousands would die. That must never happen.”

“No! Never!” Norma’s hand clenched hard.

“That’s the why of the Interceptor Control.”

“Do the WACs help with the watching?”

“In a way, yes. But not out on the sandbanks and rocky shores.”

“That’s done by volunteers?”

“Yes. The WAC works inside. There’s plenty to be done if an enemy plane
is sighted. Just plenty.

“This,” she said, changing the subject, “is Boom Town. Six months ago
it was open country.”

Norma looked up, then stared. So interested had she become in their
talk that she had failed to note that they were now passing before a
long row of new red brick buildings.

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

[Illustration: _“This,” She Said, Changing the Subject, “Is Boom
Town.”_]

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

“The two-story ones are barracks,” her companion explained. “Some of
the one-story buildings are Company Headquarters, some are mess halls,
and some day rooms.”

“Day rooms?” Norma was puzzled.

“Day rooms that you mostly visit at night,” Lieutenant Warren laughed.
“Lights in the barracks are out at nine-thirty. Most of the girls
prefer to retire then. When you’ve been here three days you’ll know why.

“Some hardy souls wish to stay up another hour, so they retire to the
day room to lounge in easy chairs, write letters, read, or play cards.
Bed check is at ten-forty-five. You’d better be in bed by then or
you’ll get a black mark.”

“Every night?” Norma asked in surprise.

“From Saturday noon to Sunday night is all your own. You’ll learn about
that later.”

For a moment they walked on in silence. It was Norma who broke that
silence.

“Can you tell me a little of what the WACs of the Interceptor Control
do?”

“A little is right,” was the quick reply. “Much of it is a deep, deep
secret. You’d love it all, I know.

“But listen. This is how it works,” she went on. “Some high school girl
is watching from a cliff. There are many girl watchers, and how
faithful they are!”

“This girl hears a plane in the dark. It’s off shore. She rushes to a
phone and calls a number. A WAC at the switchboard replies.”

“And then?” Norma whispered.

“Then the girl on the cliff says: ‘One single. High. Off five miles.
Going south.’

“The WAC knows from the spot on the switchboard where the girl is. She
reports the call. Another girl locates the spot on a chart. A third WAC
reports to three men. One of these men represents the Army, one the
Navy, and one the Civil Aeronautics Authority. These men consult their
records. Perhaps they discover that no plane belonging to any of their
organizations is supposed to be on that spot.”

“And then they send out a fighting plane,” Norma suggested.

“Not yet. Perhaps that girl watcher heard a vacuum sweeper instead of a
plane, so they wait.”

“And?”

“Then, perhaps two minutes later, there comes a flash from another
watcher—this time a fisherman’s wife.

“Flash! One single. High. Going south. Very fast.”

“‘Three hundred miles an hour,’ someone says. Then a fighter plane goes
up. And soon, if it’s really an attack, the sky will be filled with
fighter planes.”

“Lives saved—many lives saved by the WACs,” Norma enthused.

“We shall have done our part,” Lieutenant Warren replied modestly. “And
that is all our country expects from any of us.”

“Lieutenant,” Norma asked suddenly in a low tone, “did you notice
anything unusual about the two girls who went into your booth just
ahead of me?”

“Why no—let me see,”—the lieutenant paused to consider. “One was rather
short and chunky—of Italian stock. And the other—”

“Tall, strong—and, well—rather silent.”

“Yes. Now I recall her. No—nothing very unusual. Quite different in
character, but capable, I’d say. They’ll fit in. Of course, they’re
both of foreign extraction The tall girl’s parents were German-born.
She’s an American, as we all are. She was raised by her uncle.
Something unusual, did you say? Why did you ask that?” She fixed her
dark eyes on Norma’s puzzled face.

“Nothing, I guess. No real reason at all. I—I’m sorry I asked. I
wouldn’t hurt anyone—not for all the world.”

“Of course you wouldn’t, my dear.” The Lieutenant pressed her arm.

Lieutenant Warren seemed fairly bursting in her enthusiasm for the
Interceptor Control. She told Norma more, much more, as they marched
along. Then suddenly, as if waking from a trance, she stopped dead in
her tracks to exclaim softly:

“Oh! What have I been telling you? I shouldn’t have breathed a word of
that! It’s so hard not to talk about a thing that’s got a grip on your
very soul. Promise me you won’t breathe a word of it!”

“I promise,” Norma said quietly. “I’m sure I know how important it is.”

“Do you know?” some sprite might have whispered. Soon enough the girl
was to learn.

“Come on in here,” the Lieutenant said a moment later. “I must pick up
a suit I’ve had pressed.”

The air in the large room they entered was heavy with steam. “On this
side,” said the Lieutenant, pushing a door open a crack, “is the beauty
parlor. Some young reporters have made fun of it. As if it were a crime
for a soldier to look well!

“Those girls working in there,” she said as she closed the door, “are
civilians. They come over from the city every day. Sometimes they worry
me.”

“Worry you?” Norma was puzzled.

“Yes. You see, they’re not checked.”

“Checked?” Norma stared.

“Their records, you know. After all, this is an Army camp and, as such,
is just packed with secrets. We send out a thousand freshly trained
WACs a week. One of these days we’ll be sending a trainload all at
once. Where are they going? Are they being sent overseas? Will they be
secretaries to commanding officers? What other important tasks will
they perform? Our enemy would like to know all this and much more. And
these hairdressers just come and go. Who are they? No one knows.”

“But have _we_ been checked?”

“Have you been checked?” the Lieutenant whispered. “Oh, my dear! The
F.B.I. knows all about you. Your fingerprints are in Washington. Your
life from the time you were born has been checked and double-checked.”

“So none of us could possibly turn out to be spies?” Norma breathed a
sigh of relief.

“I wouldn’t quite say that,” her companion replied thoughtfully. “But
it would be very difficult.”

“Oh!” Norma exclaimed, fussing at her hair. “Do you suppose I could
possibly get my hair set?”

“I can’t see why not. This is a slack hour.”

“I’m going to try it!” the girl exclaimed. “Tomorrow I’ll be getting my
uniform, won’t I?”

“Yes, you will.”

“Then my cap must be fitted properly.”

“Try it, and good luck.” The Lieutenant held out a hand. “It’s been a
pleasure to talk to you.”

“Oh!” Norma exclaimed. “I want to see you many, many times!”

“My visit here at this time is short. But in the future. Here’s hoping.”

“In the future. Here’s hoping,” Norma whispered to herself as she
passed through the door.

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



                               CHAPTER IV

                          A LIGHT IN THE NIGHT


On entering the small, crowded beauty parlor Norma found only one
vacant chair. She looked at the girl standing behind the chair.
“Spanish,” Norma thought. And yet her eyes were set at a slant like
those of an Oriental. For all this she was decidedly not an Oriental.

“Oh, well.” Norma thought, “she looks capable. It will soon be time for
rattling those trays again. And do I need to get my fingers wrapped
round one of those mugs of strong coffee! Boy! Has this been a day!”

“Hair set,” she said, as she settled back in her chair.

Without a word the girl went to work. She was half finished before she
spoke. Then in the most casual manner she said:

“Lieutenant Warren is a friend of yours?”

Norma was surprised. The door had been opened only a little way, and
for a space of seconds, yet this girl had seen. “Yes,” was her
noncommittal reply.

“It is always quite fine to have an officer for a friend. She can help
you, tell you things, and guide you,” suggested the hairdresser.

“Yes—I—I suppose so,” Norma murmured.

“She told you about the Interceptor Control?” The girl’s whisper
invited confidence.

At once Norma was on her guard. “We talked about Boom Town,” she
replied evenly. “It’s interesting. Built so quickly, and all that. Yet
it looks warm and cozy.”

“Boom Town. Oh! Yes, it’s quite grand.” These words were spoken without
enthusiasm.

After that they talked about trivial things—clothes, shampoos, and the
weather. Twice the strange girl led back to the Interceptor Control.
Twice Norma led her away again.

“Now why would she, a hairdresser, want to talk about Interceptor
Control?” she asked herself.

As she left the chair she was not a little surprised to see the tall
recruit, Lena, waiting to take her place. More surprising was the fact
that as Lena’s eyes met the hairdresser’s, there appeared to pass
between them an instant flash of recognition.

“And Lena hasn’t been on the grounds a whole day!” she thought with a
start.

“Spies!” her mind registered as she left the building. Then she threw
back her head and laughed. “Spies in the heart of America!” she
whispered. “In a woman’s camp! I’m getting a spy complex—seeing ghosts
under the bed! What’s the matter with me?”

That evening, not wishing to retire at the “lights out” signal, she
sought out the day room that is used at night, and found it.

It was a comfortable place, that day room. Half underground, it was not
subject to draft. A large round stove gave off a genial glow and plenty
of heat. A large cushioned lounging chair awaited her.

Only one other girl was in the room. “Lena, the one who whispers in the
night,” Norma thought. “Guess she’s asleep.”

Lena was not asleep, for as Norma sank into her chair, she opened one
eye and drawled:

“Had a good day, didn’t you?”

“Just fine!” was the smiling reply.

“Hobnobbing with the brass hats.” Was there a suggestion of a sneer on
Lena’s face?

If it was there Norma chose to ignore it. “There don’t seem to be any
brass hats around this place,” she replied, good-naturedly.

“Oh! Aren’t there?” the girl exclaimed. “You just wait and—” At that
the girl caught herself. “Well,” she finished lamely, “I’ll admit I’ve
been treated fine.”

“Tomorrow we get measured for our uniforms,” she added.

“Your uniform should need very little fitting.” Norma could not help
admiring the girl’s look of perfect fitness and form as she stood up.

“I didn’t get it sitting ’round,” Lena laughed. “I’m going out for some
air and a look at the moon. You’re rather a perfect thirty-six
yourself,” she said over her shoulder as she marched toward the door.

Norma wondered in a vague sort of way how Lena had got her training.
She knew about her own. It hadn’t been easy.

After a time she began wondering about the moon. Seeing it shine over
the stables, the barracks and mess halls would be a pleasant
experience. She wasn’t dressed for the outdoors, so she stepped to the
window and looked up. She did not see the moon. Instead, her eyes fell
upon two shadowy figures. One was Lena. The other, too, was a girl.

“Just another raw recruit,” she thought.

But then the girl turned so the light of a distant lamp was on her
face. She was the girl who had done Norma’s hair that afternoon.

“Should have been back in the city hours ago,” she told herself.

It all seemed very strange to her. Where had Lena known this girl
before? Or had she? Why were they together now? Only time could tell,
and perhaps time wouldn’t.

She was just thinking of retiring when Lena again entered the room.
Seating herself before the fire she held out her hands to warm them.
For some time neither girl spoke. At last leaning far over and speaking
in a hoarse whisper Lena said:

“You know that little Italian girl?”

“Rosa?”

“Yes.”

“What about Rosa?”

“I think she’s a spy. I saw her flashing a light in the night. Her cot
is by the window, you know,” came in Lena’s insinuating whisper.

“Oh! Do you really think so?” There was little encouragement in Norma’s
tone. “Who’s a spy?” These words were on her lips. She did not say
them. Nor, having said them, could she have given the answer.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Two days later found them all in uniform. And did they look grand!

“Oh! Millie!” Norma exclaimed. “You look like a million dollars!”

“Do I? Then I’m glad.” Millie beamed. “I was afraid I’d still look like
a salesgirl.”

“How does a salesgirl look?” Betty asked.

“Oh, sort of dumb.” At that they both laughed.

“It’s the grandest outfit I ever had!” Millie exclaimed. “Such a soft,
warm woolen suit. And such tailoring! And my coat! Oh gee! I feel like
Christmas morning!”

“The shoes weren’t marked down to two dollars and thirty-nine cents
either!” said Betty. “I’ve had a lot of fine shoes, but none better
than these.”

That afternoon a corporal formed them into a squad—Norma, Betty, Lena,
Millie, Rosa and five other girls. Then they began to drill.

“One! Two! Left! Right! Left! Right,” the corporal called. “Squad
right! Squad left! March! March! Doublequick! March!”

Some of the girls found it difficult to keep in step and maintain that
thirty-inch stride. But not Norma. The whole manual of drill was an old
story to her.

Soon they were joined by other squads. Then, eager that her squad might
look its best, when the Lieutenant who had taken them over was not
near, Norma began calling in a hoarse whisper the counts and changes.
“Left! Right! Left! Right! Squad right! March! Double quick!” They
drilled until many a girl was ready to cry “quits.”

When they broke ranks Lieutenant Drury singled out Norma’s squad.

“Say!” she exclaimed. “You girls are wonderful! Been practicing behind
the stable or somewhere?”

“It’s her,” Millie nodded toward Norma. “She keeps us going.”

“That’s swell. How come?” The Lieutenant turned to Norma.

“I knew it all before I was five years old,” Norma laughed. “My father
was an officer in the last war, and I am his only boy. He started
drilling me when I was a mere tot. I liked it, so we kept it up. That’s
all there is to it.”

“Well,” the Lieutenant laughed, “I guess there are many of us who are
our fathers’ only sons. And by the grace of God we’ll make them mighty
proud of us before this old war is done!”

That night in a corner of the day room Norma had a little time all by
herself. Her father was home all alone now. The chair she had occupied
by the fire for so long was empty now, and would be for a long time.

“But I wouldn’t go back,” she told herself, biting her lip. “Not for
worlds!”

And he would not want her back. She recalled his parting words at the
train. “Norma,”—his voice had been husky. “For a long time I wanted a
son. Now I’m proud to have a daughter to give for the defense of my
country. Get in there, girl, and fight! Perhaps you’ll not be carrying
a gun, but you’ll be taking a fighting man’s place. And I’m sure you’ll
help show those fine boys how a girl can live like a soldier and die
like one, if need be.”

“I’ll be back,” she had whispered, “when the war is won.”

That night Lena may have whispered in her sleep. She may even have gone
out to talk with her hairdresser. If so, Norma knew nothing of it. She
was too weary for that. She retired early. She did, however, remain
awake long enough to twice catch the gleam of light from Rosa’s cot.
She liked the little Italian girl, but—

Once again she recalled one question asked her back there in Chicago.
She had been given a final examination before her induction into the
service. One of the women in that examining group, she had been told,
was a psychologist. In the back of her mind all during the examination
she had asked herself, “Which one is she?”

When a little lady with keen dark eyes had leaned forward to ask: “If
you suspected that one of your companions was a spy, what would you
do?”—a flash came to her. “She’s the psychologist.”

She had thought the question over, then replied slowly, “If I saw her
setting a fire or stealing papers I’d report her at once.”

“But if not?” the little lady had insisted.

“If I merely suspected that she was a spy, I’d wait and watch, that’s
all,” had been her whole reply.

In the eyes of her examiners she had read approval. That’s what she was
doing now—watching and waiting.

“All the same,” she told herself now, “I’m going to ask Rosa why she
flashes that light at night.”

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



                               CHAPTER V

                              SPY COMPLEX


The next day three things happened. Norma saw her favorite Lieutenant.
She asked Rosa a question and received a surprising reply, and Millie,
the shopgirl who was in the Army now, led them all in an amusing
adventure that might not have turned out so well.

In the afternoon they drilled as a squad, as a platoon, and as a
company. It was a hard workout, but to Norma it was a thrilling
adventure.

“All this is the real thing!” she exclaimed once.

“I’ll say it is!” Betty laughed. “These new shoes are burning up my
feet!”

“It’s the real McCoy, all the same,” Norma insisted. “It’s what I’ve
been training for all my life! My father thought it was just for fun,
for after all, I was a girl.”

“How little he knew!” Betty replied soberly.

Marching and drilling were not hard for Norma. She had time to think of
other things. She began studying the ancient fort, and the atmosphere
that hung about it like a cloud.

She had begun to love the place, and at times found herself wishing
that she might remain here for a long time.

“Four weeks seem terribly short,” she told Betty.

“It may be much longer,” Betty suggested. “You might join the motor
transport school and learn to drive a truck in a convoy.”

“Yes, and I might not,” was her reply.

“Or attend the bakers’ and cooks’ school,” Betty suggested.

“Not that either.”

“Well then,” Betty exclaimed, “since you’re so awfully good at this
drilling stuff, perhaps they’d let you attend the officers’ training
school.”

“Hmm.” she murmured. “Now you’re talking! Maybe. I don’t know.”

On that particular day, as a bright winter sun shone down on the long
parade ground, Norma thought only of the old fort and what it stood for.

It was quite ancient, but just how old, she could not tell. Always a
lover of horses, she tried to picture the parade ground in those old
days when a thousand, perhaps two thousand men, all mounted on glorious
cavalry horses, came riding down that stretch of green.

“Dignified officers in the lead—band playing and horses prancing! What
a picture!” she murmured.

On each side of the parade ground were rows of red brick buildings. On
the right side had been the homes of officers. Now these were occupied
by the officers of the school.

On the opposite side were barracks occupied by officer candidates in
training.

“That’s where I’d be training,” she thought with a little thrill, “if I
applied for entrance and was accepted.”

On bright, warm days, she had been told, the whole school, six thousand
strong, assembled on the parade ground and marched down the field.
“That,” she thought, “would be glorious!” She hoped that they would
have fine weather before she went away.

It was after drill was over that a rather strange thing happened. There
was, she had discovered, an air of grim, serious determination about
this place that was almost depressing. You seldom heard a laugh. There
was always the tramp-tramp of feet.

Even now, when her squad of ten had been put on their own, and they
were headed for the Service Club for a bottle of coke or a cup of hot
chocolate, they were still going tramp-tramp, in regular file.

“It’s a little bit too much!” she thought.

Just at that moment a shrill voice cried out sharply:

“Left! Right! One! Two! One! Two.” She recognized that voice. It was
Millie, the shopgirl!

For a space of seconds they kept up the steady tramp, tramp, tramp.
Then, with a burst of laughter, they all took up the chant: “One! Two!”

They kept this up to the very door of the Club. Then, all of a sudden,
the chant ended with a low escape of breath. There in front of the Club
stood a captain of the WACs.

As they filed past, the girls saluted, and the captain gravely returned
their salute.

“Wasn’t that terrible!” Millie whispered, gripping Norma’s arm. “And I
started it! Do—do you suppose they’ll put me in the guardhouse?”

“I don’t know,” Norma hesitated. “No—not the guardhouse. No WAC is ever
put in there. I guess it wasn’t so bad. We were just letting off steam,
that was all.” Truth was, she didn’t know the answer. Of one thing she
was sure—she for one felt better for this little bit of gaiety.

The Service Club had a cheerful atmosphere about it. Straight ahead, as
they entered, they saw at the back of a fairly large lounging room, a
fire in a large open fireplace. From the right, where chairs stood
about small tables, came the pleasant odor of hot coffee and chocolate.

As Norma turned to the right she caught the eye of Lieutenant Warren.
She was seated alone at a table, sipping coffee. At once she motioned
to Norma to come sit across from her. With some hesitation, Norma
joined her.

“What will you have? It’s on me,” the Lieutenant smiled.

“That coffee smells just right,” was the reply.

“Doughnuts—a sweet roll, or cookies?”

“A—a sweet roll. But please let me get them!”

“No! No! Permit me!” Lieutenant Warren was away.

“That training you received at college was fine,” the Lieutenant said
when they were seated. “Grand stuff. I only wish all colleges went in
for it. And they will. Our quota now is a hundred and fifty thousand.
It will be a half million before you know it.”

“But Lieutenant Warren!” Norma’s brow puckered. “We’re not to carry
guns, are we?”

“No. That’s not contemplated.”

“Then why all this drilling?”

“We’re going in for hard things—driving trucks, carrying messages on
motorcycles, repairing radios, cars, airplanes. We’re to take the
places of soldiers so they can carry guns and fight. We’ve got to be
hard—hard as nails.”

“I—I see.”

“That’s not all.” The Lieutenant’s eyes shone. “Learning to drill
properly is learning to obey orders. That’s necessary. If I say to you,
‘Take this message down that road where the bullets are flying,’ you’ve
jolly well got to do it.”

“I—I see,” Norma repeated.

“You don’t mind this drilling, do you?”

“I love it!” This time Norma’s eyes shone.

“I thought so. And you know a great deal about it—perhaps more than
most of us.”

“Per—perhaps,” the girl agreed, hesitatingly.

“With your permission, I am going to suggest that you be given a
company to drill.”

“Oh! Oh, please! No!” Norma held up a hand.

“Wait.” The tone was low. “You saw me examining recruits?”

“Yes.”

“I was the only officer doing that work.”

“I—I didn’t notice.”

“All the same it was true. Why do you think I did it?”

“Because you wished to serve,” Norma replied in a low voice. “But with
me it would be a step up too soon.”

“We are in a war. A step up or down does not matter. All that matters
is that we should be prepared for that step. You are well prepared. You
won’t refuse?”

“I won’t refuse,” the girl answered solemnly.

“Lieutenant,” Norma said in a low tone a moment later, “when I had my
interview they asked me what I’d do if I suspected someone of being a
spy. Why did they ask me that?”

“The psychologist was taking your measure. That was a problem question.
The answer would give her a slant on your general character.”

“Then they don’t expect to find a spy among the WACs?”

“It’s not impossible for a spy to join our ranks, but certainly not
easy. You filled out a questionnaire that told every place you had
lived and when, every school you attended, and when.”

“And if I had been working, I would have had to tell how long and when,
why I quit, and all the rest. All the same,” Norma spoke slowly,
guardedly,—“spies have gotten into every sort of place, so—”

“So you think we have a spy?” The Lieutenant’s voice was low. “Anything
you’d like to tell me?”

“No. Not—not yet.”

“Okay. Let’s skip it. But just one thing. We all need to be careful
about members of our organization who are children of the foreign-born.
It’s easy to do them an injustice. Too easy. They form a large group in
our population. Take that little Italian girl over there. She’s an
attractive young lady.”

“That’s true,” Norma agreed.

“And that big girl—Lena. Her parents are foreign-born. What a truck
driver she’d make!”

“Yes—Oh yes. Sure she would.”

The Lieutenant gave Norma a short, sharp look.

Nothing more was said. A moment later Millie stood by their table.
There was a worried look on the shopgirl’s face.

“Wasn’t that terrible?” She did not smile.

“What’s so terrible?” The Lieutenant smiled.

“What we did a little while ago,” said Millie.

“Want to tell me about it?” the Lieutenant asked.

Millie dropped into a chair to tell the story of their hilarious march.

“Now,” she exclaimed at the end, “It was I who started it. What will
they do to me?”

“Nothing,” was the instant response, quite as quickly rewarded by a
golden smile.

“You were on your own,” the Lieutenant explained. “We want you to be
happy. When an army loses its sense of humor it begins losing battles.”

“I—I’m so glad,” Millie exclaimed.

“But let me tell you.” The Lieutenant held up a warning hand. “There
are other times and places. Take Inspection as an example. When you
line up by your cots for inspection be sure there are no wrinkles in
your blanket; that your locker is in order and open; that your shoes,
towel, washcloth and laundry bag are in place. And above all, look
straight ahead. Don’t smile. Don’t frown. Just look—and don’t move a
muscle—not even if a fly gets inside your glasses or a bee stings you.”

“Jeepers!” Millie exclaimed. “This is some woman’s army!”

That evening, by some strange chance, Norma found herself in the day
room with Rosa, alone.

“It’s my chance.” she told herself with a sharp intake of breath. “Now
I’ll ask her.”

“Rosa,” she said quietly, “why do you flash a light by the window at
night?”

“Oh!” Rosa exclaimed sharply. “Does it show?” Her face was flushed.

“Yes. Just a little.” Norma was trying to make it easy. “But why should
you do it at all?”

“I don’t like to tell you.” Rosa backed away. “You’ll laugh at me.”

“Rosa, I’ll never laugh at you about anything.”

“Honest?” Rosa’s dark eyes searched her face.

“Honest. Never! Never!”

“All right, then. I’ll tell you. My mother didn’t want me to join up.
She believes much in prayer. She gave me a book of prayers and said:
‘Read one prayer every night.’ I have read one prayer every night. But
it was dark, so I hid a small flashlight in my bed. Now you can laugh.”
Rosa turned away.

“Rosa,”—Norma put an arm about her—“I think that’s wonderful! But Rosa,
your mother did not say ‘Read a prayer in bed.’”

“No, she did not say that.”

“Rosa, we are forbidden a light in the barracks after nine-thirty, so
why don’t you come down here to read your prayer?”

“Thank you! Thank you so very much. I shall do that.” Instantly Rosa
was away after her book.

Long after Rosa had read her prayer and left the room, Norma sat
staring at the fire. In that fire she read many questions. Would she be
asked to drill a company? Should she ask for the privilege of entering
officers’ training? Had Rosa told the truth? And Lena? What of Lena and
the strange girl in the beauty parlor?

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



                               CHAPTER VI

                         A STARTLING ADVENTURE


At Fort Des Moines the WACs are on their own from Saturday noon until
Sunday night. Needless to say, over at the mess hall, in the barracks,
and on the field there was much talk among the new recruits about how
these hours were to be spent.

“What do you do?” Norma asked a tall, slender girl from Massachusetts
who had been in training for three weeks.

“Well,” the girl drawled, “the first week I went dashing off to Des
Moines, rented a room at a nice hotel, ate oysters on the half-shell,
Boston baked beans, brown bread and all the things I wanted, and had a
grand time all by myself. But now,” she added, “I just get some books
from the library, settle down in a big chair at the Service Club and
loaf.”

“But isn’t Des Moines interesting?” Norma asked in surprise.

“Sure it is,” a bright-eyed girl from Texas exclaimed. “Beth is just
lazy, that’s all. Des Moines is a nice big overgrown town, all full of
nice, friendly people. It has the grandest eating spots! Yes, and halls
where you can dance—really nice places.”

“And boys to dance with! Umm!” exclaimed a girl from Indiana. “There
are soldiers and sailors who come in from their camps and all sorts of
college boys.”

“A nice big, overgrown town, all full of nice friendly people.” Norma
recalled these words later. Truth was, she found herself a little
homesick. At that moment she would have loved a good romp with her dog
Spark, and after that a quiet talk with her dad.

“I know what I’ll do!” she thought. “And I won’t tell a soul! They’d
laugh at me.”

Betty, who more than any girl at camp had begun to seem Norma’s chum,
had decided to stay in camp. When the day came, Norma too remained
until four o’clock. Part of the time she spent having her hair washed
and set. It was no accident that she took the chair of the Spanish
hairdresser who served her before.

“I’ll bring up the subject of the Interceptor Control. If she asks
questions I’ll tell her things I read in that little book called ‘The
Battle of Britain.’ Anything that’s been published. Then perhaps I’ll
string her a little.”

The hairdresser fell for the bait. Norma loaded her up with commonly
known facts, then drew pictures from her fertile imagination. In the
end she was hearing planes at unbelievable distances.

“But why are you so interested in all this?” she asked at last.

The girl shot her a swift look. “Oh! Miss Kent!” she exclaimed—there
was a shrill note in her voice—“It is all so very interesting!
Everything you WACs do is thrilling! It is a great organization!”

“Yes,” Norma agreed. “It is one of the big things that has come out of
the war.”

To herself she was recalling Lieutenant Warren’s words:

“These girls worry me a little. Their records have not been checked.”

Then again she remembered how her own record had been checked to the
last detail. “The examiners do not take your word for a thing,” she had
been told. “The F.B.I. questionnaire you filled out is checked and
double-checked by men who know. Even your fingerprints are sent to
Washington.”

All this she knew was true. And yet the girls in the beauty parlor were
not checked. “That tall girl, Lena, could tell this hairdresser
anything—just anything at all. If she became the secretary to a colonel
she could report anything to this hairdresser.”

“But Lena—” it came to her with the force of a blow—“Lena’s record has
been checked. Her fingerprints were sent to Washington.”

“What a silly young fool you are!” she chided herself as a short time
later she took the car to Des Moines. But she was not even sure of that.

Arrived at the heart of the city she looked up a long street to see a
tall, inviting brick hotel standing on a hill.

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

[Illustration: _And Yet the Girls in the Beauty Parlor Were Not
Checked_]

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

After walking and climbing for fifteen minutes she found herself
entering a long room filled with lounge chairs and lined on two walls
by tall glass cases. The contents of these cases surprised her, for in
them were more kinds of mounted fish than she had ever seen.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Am I in the wrong place? Is this a museum?”

“No, Miss.” the smiling bellboy who took her bag replied. “This hotel
was once owned by a very rich man who collected fish. He’s dead now.”

“But his collection lives on.” She wondered vaguely what would live on
when she was gone.

The first thing she did when she had been shown to a neat and
comfortable room was strange. Opening her bag, she took out a cardboard
folder tied with a ribbon. From this folder she selected a dozen
pictures. These she proceeded to thumbtack, one by one, to the wall
directly under a mellow light.

After that, without further unpacking, she dropped into a chair and sat
for a long time looking at those pictures through moist eyelashes.

The house with the broad lawn and tall shade trees about it was her
home. The tall, distinguished looking man with one empty sleeve was her
dad. The picture done in color was her college chum. And the grinning
young man in the uniform of a private was Bill—just plain Bill.

There were other pictures but these were the ones that counted most.
They had adorned the walls of her room at college for a long time. When
you bunk in a stable—even a glorious, glorified stable—with a hundred
other girls, you don’t thumbtack your pictures to the wall. It isn’t
allowed. Besides, it would be silly.

Norma wanted to see her pictures in their proper setting. Now she was
seeing them.

“Norma, you’re a silly goose,” she told herself aloud. Then she
wondered whether she had spoken the truth. Sometimes one drops into a
new world too hastily. It does one good to take a look back.

It was Bill who had started her thinking of the WACs. She and Bill were
grand good friends, that’s all. No diamond ring—no talk of wedding
bells—just friends.

All the same, when Bill came to the school all togged up in a new
uniform, she had felt a big tug at her heart strings.

“Oh! Bill!” she had cried. “You look like a million!”

“And I feel like a millionaire,” was Bill’s reply. “Army life is the
berries, and regarding the Japs, all I’ve got to say is they’d better
look out!”

“Getting pretty good with a Tommy gun, Bill?” she laughed.

“And how!” was his prompt reply.

They found a log down among the willows at the edge of the campus, and
there Bill, in his big, boisterous way, told her all about the Army.

“Oh, Bill!” she exclaimed when he had finished. “You make it sound so
wonderful! I wish they’d let girls join.”

“They do!” Bill stopped grinning. “Ever heard of the WACs?”

“Yes, I—” she paused. Yes, she had heard of them. That was about all.

“Bill, I’ll really look into this.”

“You’d better. They’re a grand outfit. And boy! Are they going places!”

“I’ll be seein’ you,” she said to Bill as their hands clasped in
farewell.

“In the Army?”

“I shouldn’t wonder.”

“Hot diggity! That’s the stuff!” He gave her hand a big squeeze, and
was gone.

“And now I’m here, Bill,” she said to the picture on the wall. “I’m in
the Army now. But, oh, Bill! I do hope our companies will some time
march in the same parade!”

After an hour with her pictures, Norma felt herself ready for one more
week of drilling, police duty, study, and all that went on from dawn
till dark at old Fort Des Moines.

After a hearty meal eaten in a big bright cafeteria where all the
people seemed carefree and gay, she stepped out to see the lights of
Des Moines at night.

Thrills she had experienced more than once came to her from exploring a
strange city at night. Certainly exploring a city of friendly people,
many of whom smiled at her in a kindly way as she marched along in her
spick-and-span uniform, could not be dangerous.

For an hour she prowled the streets alone. Past dark public buildings
that loomed at her from the night, down narrow dark streets where taxi
drivers and workers sat or stood before narrow lunch counters, she
wandered. And then back to the broad street where lights were bright
and the throngs were gay.

A feeling of utter loneliness drove her once again into the shadows.
And there she met with a startling adventure.

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



                              CHAPTER VII

                           A HAND IN THE DARK


She had rounded a corner and was walking slowly north, admiring the
sight of the moon shining over the jagged line of rooftops, when
suddenly two figures emerged from a narrow alley to turn in ahead of
her.

“Been taking a short cut,” she thought.

The steady swinging stride of the taller of the two girls, as they
marched on before her, suggested that she might be a WAC.

“But she’s wearing civilian clothes,” she told herself in surprise.

The two shadowy figures seemed vaguely familiar. Because of this she
followed them. They had gone two blocks when all of a sudden the taller
of the two turned her head half about. The moonlight painted her
features in sharp outline.

“It’s Lena!” she whispered. “Lena, in civilian clothes!” What did it
mean? Had this girl been found out and dismissed from the service?

As if the question had been put directly to her, the shorter of the two
girls paused and looked back. Just in time Norma dodged into the
shadows.

An inaudible gasp escaped her lips. The other girl was the one from the
beauty parlor at the Fort.

As the two girls resumed their march, Norma followed them, without
thinking too much about the reason or possible consequence.

At the next corner they turned west on a dark street. Here, on both
sides, were auto repair shops and cheap second-hand stores.

Scarcely had Norma rounded this corner when the two girls swung through
a door to disappear into a shop that was almost completely dark.

Acting purely on impulse. Norma caught the door before it had
completely closed. Pushing it a little farther open she slipped inside
and then allowed it to close noiselessly.

At the same instant a thought struck her all in a heap. Lena had a
perfect right to dress in civilian clothes on her day off. All WACs
have. She, Norma, had chosen to wear her uniform.

“In a way it is a sort of protection,” she had said to Betty.

“Yes, like a nun’s cape and veil,” Betty had laughed.

“Is it a protection?” Norma asked herself now. At first the place
seemed completely dark. Then she caught a gleam of light at the far end
of the room. She began hearing low voices. The two girls were back
there. Someone was with them.

“What a goose I am,” Norma thought. “Lena has a right to dress as she
pleases. Nothing unusual has happened. That other girl probably has a
friend who works here. They have come here to meet him. I’ll just slip
out of the door.”

But she couldn’t. Not just yet. The door was closed and locked. Just a
little frightened, she felt for some sort of bolt or spring lock that
could be released. There was none.

For the first time in her life she was seized with a feeling very near
to panic. She wanted to dash to the heavily shaded windows and pound on
them for help. She wanted to scream. And yet she did not dare. Perhaps
those people did not know she was there.

“And after all, why should I be afraid?” she asked herself. “This is
some sort of a repair shop.” That faint light from the back brought out
the looming bulks of cars and trucks. “There’s no law against going
into a repair shop, even at night.”

All of a sudden she realized that it was not fear of those who enforce
the law that inspired her with fear, but those who hated the law.

“Spies,” she whispered softly.

But were there spies in this city? Perhaps. Who could tell? Spies were
everywhere.

Once again she tried the latch, lifting it up and down, pulling at the
door without a sound. It was no use. Some mysterious type of lock held
the door fast shut.

In the hope of finding a smaller door, she began gliding along the
wall. All at once she bumped into something that toppled over to fall
with a loud bang.

Like a wild bird in a cage she flew to the door to try the latch with
all her strength.

“Who’s there?” came in a hoarse voice.

She neither moved nor spoke.

A minute passed—two—three minutes—or was it an hour? Her heart was
beating painfully. She had the sense of someone approaching, yet she
neither heard nor saw a moving thing.

Then suddenly she did see it—a groping hand. The flash of light cutting
through a spot beside a windowshade revealed it.

A scream was on her lips. And yet she did not scream.

And then the hand gripped her arm.

“What are you doing here?” a voice growled.

She tried to speak, but no words came.

“Oh! You are one of them.” The voice changed suddenly. Now it was low,
apologetic. “You are one of them lady soldiers. A WAC they call them,
don’t they?”

“Yes. Yes. That’s what I am.” She formed the words but could not say
them.

There was no need, for the man went on, “You were perhaps looking for
the WAC garage. It is not here. That is another place. You came in—the
door locked itself. Is it not so?”

“Yes! Yes! That is it,” she whispered. Lena must not hear her voice or
see her face.

“I shall unlock the door. This is all too bad,” said the man who had
gripped her arm.

By some magic the door was opened and she stepped out into the night.
The light of a car illuminated the man’s face for a second. Then the
door slammed shut.

“I’ll know that face if I see it again,” she told herself. She wondered
if after all Lena had seen _her_ face—and if she had, what then?

Ten minutes later, panting a little, she entered the hotel, called for
her key, then dashed up two flights of stairs to her room.

Having locked and bolted the door, she sank into the chair before her
array of pictures.

“Oh, Bill!” she whispered, “I wish I hadn’t come.” She was thinking not
alone of Des Moines, but Fort Des Moines, the Army, and all the rest.
She was wishing desperately that she might be back with her dad and her
dog Spark.

After that she sat looking at her father’s picture. From his square
shoulders and his twinkling gray eyes she drew strength. She seemed to
feel again his hand on her shoulder as he said in his slow calm voice,
“You’re the only boy I’ve got. Thank God they’re giving you a chance. I
know you’ll do your duty as a good soldier.”

“No,” she whispered, “I’m not sorry. I’m glad.”

One thing she decided before she fell asleep in that big comfortable
bed. This was that she would cease playing the part of an F.B.I. agent
and start being a real WAC.

“I’ll put this Lena business out of my life,” she whispered. “This is
the end of it forever and ever.”

Did some sprite whisper, “Oh, no, sister! No you won’t!” If so, it was
all lost on her, for she had fallen fast asleep. But if there was a
sprite hovering about and he did say that, he would have spoken the
truth. There are some things that just won’t be put out of our lives.

When she awoke the sun was shining in her window. It was Sunday
morning. But she was not thinking of that. Instead, a question had
popped into her head. How had that man known she was a WAC? He had not
seen her. The place had been completely dark. There could be but one
answer—by the sense of feeling. He had gripped her arm. He had
recognized the feel of her soft wool WAC uniform. And how had he come
to know the feel of fine wool? Here too there could be but one
answer—Lena. It was strange.

On the following Monday Norma was asked to take charge of the drilling
of her company.

“I realize that this is an unusual request,” the officer in charge said
soberly. “But this is an unusual war, and ours an unusual organization.
For that reason we must perform unusual tasks.

“We are short of officers. The Army camps are constantly calling for
more and more of our workers. They go out in small groups. An officer
goes with each group. So now you see how it is.” She smiled. “What do
you say?”

“I—I’ll try it.” Norma agreed.

She undertook the task with fear and trembling. It was not so much that
she distrusted her own ability. She had been well trained. But how
would the other girls take it?

“Some of them are thirty years old. One is a grandmother,” she said to
Betty, as she broke the news. “And I am barely old enough to vote.”

“It’s not age that counts,” Betty replied in a tone that carried
conviction. “It’s ability and experience. Go in there, old pal, and
win. This is war. We all must do our best. And you can bet I’ll be
right in there rooting for you.”

“Then—thanks! Oh, thanks!” Norma replied huskily.

All the same, when the time came for her first order: “Company,
attention!” her throat was dry and her heart was in her mouth.

There was a surprised look on many faces as they turned about to line
up. There was a smile or two, but they were not unkind smiles.

Then a thing happened that broke the tension. An officer of the old
school, her father had drilled her in an unusual way. When as a child
she stood at attention, he would call: “Hup, two, three.”

Now, in her excitement she called to her company:

“Hup, two, three!”

Then suddenly realizing what she had done, she laughed. And they all
laughed with her. The ice was broken.

“Mark time! One! Two! One! Two! March.”

Feet came down with an even thud—thud—and crunch—crunch on the frozen
path. The march was on.

Oddly enough, at the first rest period one of the older members said:

“Why not ‘Hup, two, three,’ for us?”

“Sure. That’s the way the soldiers get it. And we’re in the Army now.”

“They’ll call us the Hup company,” someone laughed.

“That will be swell,” exclaimed another. “And that’s what we’ll be, the
‘Hup an’ comin’ Company’.”

And so it came to be.

For two hours Norma put them through their paces. Only once did her
attention waver. That was when Lena gave her a long, searching look.
“She knows about that night,” she told herself, and all but lost a step.

When at last the tired marchers were once more on their own, many of
the girls came forward to congratulate her and tell her how well she
had done.

“They are won over. Just wonderful!” Tears of gratitude stood in
Norma’s eyes as she reported to her superior.

“These came here for just one purpose,” the Lieutenant said.

“To help win the war.”

“Yes. That’s it. To hasten the end of this terrible affair and to help
bring their brothers, sweethearts, and friends back home again.

“So how could they fail to do their best or refuse to respond to the
orders of any leader? But you, my child,”—she placed a hand on Norma’s
shoulder—“you have real officer’s blood coursing through your veins.”

Norma thanked her, then marched away.

“She spoke wiser than she knew,” Norma thought with a smile. She had
not told her that her father had been an officer in the other World War.

But did she really want to become an officer of the WACs? She did not
know.

After that the days glided by. Drill was not all there was to their
training. Far from that. The Articles of War were read to them. They
studied long hours learning what it meant to be a soldier. They studied
military regulations. They took gas mask drill, first aid, and a score
of other activities that were likely to fall to the lot of any WAC.

From time to time each girl was assigned to K. P.—Kitchen
Police—peeling potatoes, washing dishes, scrubbing floors, dishing up
food.

Betty, who was a real student, hated this, for on that day they were
excused from study. But Millie, who found study difficult, wished that
K. P. came five times a week.

Though Norma had sworn that the spy complex should not tempt her again,
strange things happened, and always her mystery-loving mind would ask,
“Why? Why?”

There was the time she went with the little Italian girl, Rosa, to
visit the airport on their day off. Then, too, Betty more than once
tempted her to start spy hunting all over again.

“I won’t!” she told herself. “I won’t! I just won’t!” Positive as she
was at the time, Norma did not succeed long in keeping this resolution.

It was really Rosa’s strange and mysterious adventure at the airport
that got her going all over again.

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



                              CHAPTER VIII

                           ROSA ALMOST FLIES


On the Saturday that Norma and Rosa went to visit the airfield they
doffed their uniforms and put on their civies.

“All the same,” Norma said, “we’ll take along our identification cards,
just in case—”

Airplanes, especially those flown by the Army Air Forces, had always
interested Norma, so she was more than delighted when shortly after
their arrival at the field, a flight of small, sleek fighter planes
came winging in out of the blue.

“Look, Rosa!” Norma exclaimed. “Aren’t they wonderful! Like a flock of
beautiful white pigeons!”

There was no need to say “Look” to the little Italian WAC. As if in a
hypnotic trance, she stood with eyes glued on the flight of planes.

“See how they circle!” Norma herself was entranced. “This is like war.
This is how they will come sweeping in after escorting a bomber
squadron in Africa, or China, or who knows where. That’s the way
they’ll look when we watch them beyond the seas.”

“Yes, this is war,” was all that Rosa said, as one by one the fighting
planes taxied across the field into position.

Like a troop of boys the fliers came walking across the field.

“Bill is in flight training right now,” Norma said, all excited. “If
only he were in that group!”

“Who’s Bill?” Rosa’s eyes left the planes for an instant.

“Oh, he’s just Bill.” Norma laughed. “But he’s not here.”

Always interested in any person in uniform, Norma moved closer to the
joking, laughing group.

“How young they seem!” she said, half aloud. It shocked her to think
that some day, perhaps not too far away, from the blue sky, shot out of
his plane, Bill would come hurtling down, tumbling over and over like a
stick thrown into the air crashing at last to earth.

“This is war,” she thought, with a shudder. “We WACs must do all in our
power to make it end. And we will! Now we are a hundred and fifty
thousand. Next it will be three hundred thousand—half a million—a
million WACs marching away to win the war.”

Looking up, she allowed her eyes to sweep the field. It was an
inspiring picture—the men, the planes, the flag floating in the breeze.

“Oh!” she whispered. “Oh! How I wish Dad were young again!”

And then, with a sudden start, she realized that Rosa was gone from her
side.

“She’s vanished!” she thought, with a sudden sense of panic, as her
eyes sought the girl in vain.

Just then, as if moving of its own will, one of the fighter planes
began gliding toward the center of the field.

At once the quiet scene became one of action. A young pilot close to
the plane made a running jump to grab the tail of the plane. He had
just reached it when, in the midst of shouting and sound of rushing
feet, the plane’s motor went silent, and the plane itself came to a
sudden stop.

Norma was thunderstruck when, from the pilot’s seat of that plane, none
other than her companion, Rosa, the little Italian WAC, was dragged out.

“Rosa! Rosa! You little dunce! Why did you do it?” she screamed as she
raced forward.

By the time she reached the side of the plane Rosa was on the ground. A
stalwart member of the Military Police had her by the arm, and was
saying:

“Come along, sister. What’s wrong with you? Drunk? Or just plain
nuts—or nothin’ at all?”

“It’s the guardhouse for her,” a second M. P. predicted loudly.

Realizing that for the moment nothing could be accomplished, Norma
joined three grinning young pilots as they followed the M. P.’s and
Rosa across the field.

“What’s the matter with that girl?” one of the pilots asked in a
friendly tone.

“I don’t know,” was all Norma could say.

“She was with you, wasn’t she?” a second pilot asked.

Norma made no reply.

“She really had that plane going,” said the first pilot. “One minute
more, and she’d have been right up in the sky.”

“And there’s secrets in those planes that nobody but us are supposed to
know,” put in number three. “By George! Maybe she’s a spy!”

“Hush,” said Norma. “She’s no more a spy than you are. She’s a WAC.”

“A WAC!” the first pilot exclaimed. “Well I’ll be jiggered! And I
suppose you’re one too?”

“Sure I am,” Norma agreed.

“Well, all I got to say is you’d look swell in any uniform,” was the
final rejoinder.

Just then the flight commander, a very youthful-appearing major who had
come across the field in long strides, caught up with the procession.

“Caught this girl trying to steal one of your planes,” said an M. P.

“Yes,” said the other. “We’re taking her to the guardhouse. C’mon,
sister.” He gave the weeping Rosa a gentle push.

“Wait a minute. Not so fast. Those are our planes. I’m flight
commander. Let the girl go. She won’t run away, will you, young lady?”

Rosa tried to speak, but no words came.

“Here’s a young lady who was with her,” said a pilot, moving Norma
gently forward. “She says they’re both WACs.”

“WACs?” said the officer. “Hmm! Where are your uniforms?”

“We’re on leave.” Norma swallowed hard, then threw her shoulders back.
“Saturday afternoon and Sunday we can wear what we please. And—and
Major,” she stammered, “I don’t know why Rosa did it. I—I think the
plane charmed her.”

“Charmed her! Hmm! Now let’s see.”

“She’s one of the best little WACs in our squadron,” said Norma, half
in despair.

“And are you the squadron’s leader?”

“No, but I drill the entire company. And that’s not all!” Norma
exclaimed, gathering courage from the major’s smiling eyes. “I’m the
daughter of Major John M. Kent, who fought in the World War—”

“John M. Kent!” The major studied her face. “You do look like him.
You’ve got his eyes.”

“Then you know him?” Norma exclaimed.

“Quite well. He’s a splendid man.”

“His eyes are not all I have,” said Norma. “I have his picture.” She
fumbled in her billfold.

“Here—here it is.”

The officer studied the photograph, and, across the bottom of it, he
read:

“To my beloved daughter Norma.”

“Norma,” he smiled. “That’s a pretty name for a pretty girl. So you’re
a WAC? A chip off the old block. Shake.” He held out his hand. She
seized it in a good, friendly grip.

“And here’s a picture of our squadron,” Norma said half a minute later.
“There’s Rosa, right there, uniform and all. You know we wouldn’t do
anything wrong. I guess Rosa just lost her head.”

“Yes, lost my head,” Rosa sobbed.

“All right, boys,” said the major. “You may let the young lady go. You
can’t put a WAC in the guardhouse. It just isn’t being done, especially
not here.”

To Norma he said: “If I’m here long enough I’m coming to visit your
camp. Yours is a grand outfit. We’re going to need you all before this
scrap is over.”

“Oh! Please do come!” Norma exclaimed. “I—I’ll get you the keys to Boom
Town and to every other place in old Fort Des Moines!”

“Well, I’m jiggered!” exclaimed one of the pilots, as Norma and the
still silently weeping Rosa hurried off the field.

Once she was safe on the streetcar and headed for the city, Rosa ceased
her weeping, but every now and again Norma heard her whisper:

“Why did I do it? Oh why?”

What was back of all this? Hidden away in the little Italian girl’s
mind were secrets. Norma would never be able to doubt that from this
day on.

“I’d like to go exploring in that mind of yours,” she thought. That
this type of exploring often leads to disaster she knew all too well.
So, for the time being, she did not explore.

Arrived at the city, Norma at once sought out a restaurant with a
little nook in the wall where lights were subdued and where delicious
foods were served.

By the time they had gone all the way from soup to ice cream and were
sipping good strong black tea, the little Italian girl’s eyes were
shining once again.

“Was that after all so terrible?” she asked.

“Of course it was,” Norma replied instantly. The question surprised and
shocked her.

“I did no harm to the plane.”

“You might have killed someone, wrecked the plane, or even flown away
in it.”

“Oh, no, I—” For a space of seconds it seemed that Rosa was on the
verge of revealing some important secret. “But—but I didn’t do any of
those terrible things,” she ended lamely.

“The secret must wait,” Norma told herself. To Rosa she said: “There
were secrets in that plane.”

“I didn’t want their secrets,” Rosa’s cheeks flushed.

“How could they know that?” Norma was a little provoked.

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

[Illustration: _“You Might Have Wrecked the Plane,” Norma Replied_]

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

“I’m a WAC. When they knew that they saw it was all right.”

“It was I who got you off.” Norma’s voice rose. “They thought you were
a spy.”

“I, a spy?” Rosa stared. “Yes, that is what they said, but they were
joking.”

“They were not joking.” Norma was in dead earnest.

“But I’m a WAC! How can a WAC be a spy? My record, it was checked. My
fingerprints—”

“Yes, I know all that. But even in a WAC uniform you might be a spy. My
father told me once that during the World War many spies in France wore
Y. M. C. A. uniforms. They were very hard to catch. Believe me, the
Mata Haris of this war will be wearing WAC uniforms, too. We have to be
careful, very, very careful.” Norma settled back in her place to study
the Italian girl’s face. It was indeed an interesting moving picture of
lights and shadows. But from it Norma learned little.

Twice Rosa seemed on the point of replying, but in the end no words
were spoken.

By this time their group, though still together, had moved to newer and
more comfortable quarters in Boom Town. That night Norma lay staring at
the darkness for a long time before she fell asleep.

She was thinking of Rosa and Lena. Rosa’s actions on that day had
started her thinking things all over again and her thoughts were long,
long thoughts.

Once again she caught the gleam of light from Rosa’s cot and saw Lena
sit up in her place at night as she whispered three mysterious words.

The picture of Lena and the Spanish hairdresser standing in the
moonlight again fascinated her, and once more she felt that terrifying
grip on her arm as a man’s voice said, “Oh! You are one of them!”

A chapter or two had been added to Lena’s story. Betty was responsible
for this. One night she had come in rather late, but had remained up
long enough to whisper to Norma:

“Who do you think I saw tonight down by the big gate? Lena and the
Spanish hairdresser!”

“Is that so strange?” Norma had tried to seem indifferent.

“But there was a man with them.” Betty’s whisper rose. “He had a small
mustache that turned up, and sort of staring eyes.”

“Did he?” Norma’s voice betrayed her excitement.

“Yes; and he said to Lena, ‘You must!’ Only his ‘you’ sounded like
‘Du’.”

“And Lena has her hair done every other day by the Spanish hairdresser.
That costs money. Do you think she always pays?”

So Betty too had a spy complex! Well, let her have it. She wasn’t going
to be drawn into it. For all that, some things did seem very strange.

At that Norma turned over and fell asleep.

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



                               CHAPTER IX

                           SOMETHING SPECIAL


The period of their basic training at old Fort Des Moines was drawing
to a close. Three more days and they would be scattered far and wide.
Some, it is true, would remain for further training in the Motor
Transport School, and Cooks’ and Bakers’ School. Some would take up
officers’ training, but out of the thousand who had been in training
for nearly four weeks, the greater number would be scattered to the
four winds.

“Just think,” Betty sighed as she and Norma stepped out into a glorious
springlike morning. “To leave this lovely place for some Army camp!”

“But that’s why we came here!” Norma protested. “I’m eager to start
doing some real work.”

“Yes, and you’re just the one who is most likely to be kept here to
enter officers’ training.” There was admiration in Betty’s voice, and a
suggestion of envy. “Lucky girl, to have such a grand Dad.”

Then Norma made a strange remark. “I’m not sure that I want to be an
officer—at least, not yet.”

“Don’t be silly!” Betty exploded. “Who wouldn’t like to be an officer?
When you arrive at your Army camp you’re right up there with the rest
of the officers.”

“Bill’s a buck private, and he’s good enough for me. Besides—Oh! Come
on. Let’s get our morning coffee. This is the day of the big parade.”

Yes, this was the day. And such a glorious day! For weeks it had been
too cold for a parade. Snow had lain on the parade ground. But now the
snow was gone. The ground was frozen, but the sun was bright.

“Six thousand women!” Norma thought as a thrill ran up her spine.

Then suddenly her heart skipped a beat. She was to lead her own
company. She was the only basic on whom such an honor had been
conferred. She would do her best. Would it be good enough? Then there
was that other—that very special thing. She shuddered afresh. And that
morning for the first time she dropped her big handleless cup with a
bang and a splash on the table.

“Nerves,” suggested Betty.

“A bad omen.” Norma frowned.

“No, a good one,” Betty countered. “Shows you’re sweating them out
right now. You’ll be cool as a cucumber when the time comes.”

At one-thirty that afternoon they assembled on the parade grounds.
Slowly they formed into companies and took their places in line.

Since this was to be a gala occasion, a military band from an Army post
had been imported.

Each company had its flag and its leader. Norma thrilled to her finger
tips as she stepped out before her “Hup! Two! Three!” Company.

“If only Dad were here!” she thought. “Why? Oh, why didn’t I ask him to
come!”

By the time they were all in their places, the reviewing stand was all
aglitter with officers’ insignia and decorations.

A hush fell over the ancient parade ground.

As the band struck up _The Star-Spangled Banner_ they stood at rigid
attention. When this was over, Norma glanced hastily over her company.
It was perfect. Never, she was sure, had there been such a group of
girls.

Suddenly the band struck up Sousa’s stirring march, _The Stars and
Stripes Forever_, and the parade began.

To Norma it was all a glorious dream. The flags, the music, the bright
sunshine, great officers—some young and dashing, some subdued and
grave, standing in review.

“But this is only the beginning,” she told herself. “There is more—much
more.”

This was true, for once as she drilled her own company at dusk on the
ancient grounds, having chosen a dark corner, they had put on something
very special. It had been great fun, and gave them a thrill as well.

They had, however, made one mistake—the red brick officer’s home facing
that corner of the parade ground was occupied by the commanding officer.

Hearing the rattle of drums, she had slipped on her fur coat and had
stepped out on the veranda.

“Thrilled and charmed,” as she expressed it, by their performance, she
had come down off the porch to congratulate their officer.

When she found a private at their head, she was amazed, for Norma was
putting her company through an intricate drill.

“My dear, it is marvelous!” she enthused, when it was over. “And this
little—ah—specialty of yours is charming. Let us keep it a secret,
shall we? Until the day of the parade?”

“You mean—” Norma stared.

“Your company shall do this as something extra after the parade is
over.”

Norma gulped as she recalled the stirring words.

Without a word she saluted the commanding officer.

                  *       *       *       *       *

And that was why a chill sometimes ran up her spine, as the grand
little army of WACs swept down the field. That certain “something
extra” was yet to come.

The parade, with its marches and counter marches, in close formation
and open formation, following the band down the long field and back
again, was an inspiring sight. There were those there that day who
realized as never before what war could do to a nation and her people.

Since it had been announced by megaphone that an extra feature would
follow the grand parade, the WACs, once their formation was broken,
joined the onlookers at the side, all but Norma and her company. These
hastened to one of the barracks.

Marching in close formation they were soon back on the field. However,
three of their members had undergone a speedy transformation. Or were
they members of the company at all? The spectators were unable to tell.

Leading the trio was what appeared to be a tall, gray haired man. In
his hand he carried a drum. Behind him marched a mannish figure
carrying a fife, and after him came a boy, also with a drum. Hatless,
the man with the fife wearing a bandage on his head; and the other two
lined up behind their leader, Norma, and behind them marched the
khaki-clad company.

Suddenly, at a signal from Norma, the trio snapped to attention.
Instantly the roll of drums and the shrill whistle of a fife greeted
the listeners’ ears.

Then, electrified, the audience knew. The three figures represented a
picture they had known from childhood, _The Spirit of Seventy-six_.

Led by these three, the khaki host marched with perfect rhythm halfway
down the field and back again.

An awed silence followed. Then rose such a cheer as the ancient
barracks had seldom echoed back, even in the old Indian days.

Frightened—all but overcome by her sudden triumph, Norma tried to hide
among her now broken ranks, but all in vain.

She was searched out and led to the grandstand. The first person she
met was a distinguished-looking, gray-haired man with one empty sleeve.

“Dad!” she cried.

Soon she was being greeted by high-ranking officers and other honored
guests.

“I shall recommend you for officers’ training,” the commanding officer
whispered in her ear.

“Oh! But I’m not sure that I want to be an officer!” The cry escaped
unbidden from Norma’s lips.

“We shall see,” was the reply.

Lieutenant Warren, her beloved Lieutenant, who was standing near, said:

“I would like to have you and your father at my house for dinner
tonight. You know my house?”

Norma nodded.

“Will you come?”

Norma looked into her father’s eyes. Then she said, “Yes, thank you.
That will be fine.”

As she stepped from the platform, Norma felt that she had lived a whole
week in one short hour. But her day was not half done.

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



                               CHAPTER X

                               I’M AFRAID


Oddly enough, when Norma had conceived the idea of depicting _The
Spirit of Seventy-six_, and had gone about the task of selecting her
fife player and drummers, she had discovered that in all the company
there were but two drummers, Rosa and Lena.

At first she hesitated to ask Lena to play the part for, to say the
least, their relations had been none too cordial. In the end she had
swallowed her pride and made the request.

“Oh, sure!” Lena had agreed. “I think it will be loads of fun!”

In the end, with her long legs encased in knee-length stockings and
short breeches and with a white wig, she had played the part of a
Revolutionary grandfather superbly. As for Rosa, she had been every
inch a boy. A girl named Mary played the fife.

And so it happened that it was in the company of Lena, Rosa, Betty, and
Millie that shortly after the breakup of the parade Norma found herself
tramping toward the main chapel. Her father had been taken on an
inspection of the grounds.

The company in which these girls at last found themselves was a
thousand strong. These girls had all completed their training and in
two or three more days would scatter north, south, east, and west to
take up the tasks for which they had been trained.

“It’s going to be swell!” Lena exclaimed. “We’re headed for the coast!”

“The coast!” Norma stared. “How do you know?”

“Haven’t you been told?” Millie exclaimed. “We’ve all been told. We’re
to be part of an Interceptor Control—catch planes that are coming to
bomb us.”

“Or spies that try to land from submarines,” Rosa exclaimed. “It will
be thrilling and dangerous, I guess.”

“Only thing is,” Millie pouted, “I’m afraid there won’t be many
soldiers there.”

“Soldiers?” Norma stared at her.

“Well, you do like a date now and then,” Millie drawled. “You get
awfully lonesome when you don’t.”

At that they all laughed.

“Honest, haven’t you been told?” Betty asked when she had Norma by
herself.

“Not yet,” was the slow reply.

“Oh! I know!” Betty exclaimed. “They’re going to send you to officers’
training school! Some people have all the luck!”

“Do they?” Norma said. Truth was, she was tired.

The thousand WACs now streaming into the chapel were being assembled
for a final word from the top-ranking officers of the camp before they
went out to their work.

“Where do you suppose we’ll be sent?” Norma heard one girl ask as she
took her seat.

“Perhaps North Africa,” someone whispered.

“Surely not just like that!” was the surprised reply.

“A lot of WACs landed there just last Sunday. I saw it in the paper.
And did they have thrills going over! Heard the siren telling of
prowling subs, felt the thud of depth bombs, and—”

“Shish!” the girl’s friend whispered. “You’re almost shouting!”

“All the same they had a grand time! Danced with soldiers on deck, and
all that. Right over there in Africa now. Girls! Tell me how I can get
to go!”

Then all at once the khaki-clad throng was silent. The ranking officers
were mounting the platform. In a silent salute, the girls all rose.
When the Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the post, the commanding
officer and two officers Norma did not at once recognize were seated,
they all sat down.

The Lieutenant Colonel rose. “Fellow soldiers of America,” she began.
Norma was thrilled. “You have assembled here in order that we may give
you a final greeting and farewell. During your four weeks of training
you have conducted yourselves like soldiers. You will shortly be going
to your various posts of duty. Your country looks to you for service,
faithfulness to your task, and loyalty. We know you will not fail.”

“No—no—no. We will not fail!” came in an inaudible whisper. Had one
woman, or a hundred, said it? No one knew. It was enough that an
electric thrill passed over the room.

“On such an occasion as this,” the Colonel went on, “it has been
customary for the commanding officer or myself to give you a brief talk
in an effort to acquaint you with that which lies ahead. This afternoon
we have delegated that task to one who, not so many months ago, went
through her baptism of fire in Flanders Field.

“Lieutenant Warren,”—she turned about—“will you be so kind as to tell
these young women what it really means to be a WAC?”

As Lieutenant Warren rose, the Colonel said:

“Some of you know Lieutenant Warren. To those of you who do not know
her, may I say that during the fall of Holland, Belgium, and France
Miss Warren drove an Ann Morgan Ambulance, evacuating old men, women,
and children from those unfortunate lands, and that the medal pinned
upon her breast is a Croix de Guerre presented to her by a grateful
nation.”

There was a rustle in the audience. Someone sprang to her feet.
Instantly they were all on their feet in silent tribute to a member of
their own ranks who had seen service on the bloody fields of France.

“My Lieutenant!” Norma whispered chokingly. At that instant she knew
that she would gladly follow this leader round the world.

“Tonight,” she thought as she sank again into her seat, “Father and I
are to dine with her. What a privilege!” She wondered what would be
said at that dinner. And then the speech began.

Lieutenant Warren spoke slowly, distinctly. Norma caught every word and
yet her voice never rose to a high pitch. She spoke at length of what
she had seen, little of what she had done. Speaking of the enemy planes
she said:

“They swooped low over roads that were crowded with carts drawn by
horses or weary old men, and two-wheel carts pushed by women and
children.

“These people were refugees. Driven from their homes, they were trying
to save a little of that which they had once owned, for they had always
been poor.

“But those enemy pilots!” There was biting anger in her low voice.
“They came swooping down to shower machine-gun bullets upon these
defenseless people.

“What did they want? To clog the road with helpless and innocent women
and children so their armies might more easily destroy the defeated
soldiers.”

As the speaker paused for breath, Norma stole a glance at her
companions. Millie and Rosa were leaning forward, lips parted, eyes
wide, drinking in every word. Betty sat well back in her seat,
listening as one listens who has heard many rare speeches, yet there
was on her face a look that said:

“This is real, though it is terrible. I shall not forget it.”

But Lena? Norma was startled. There was on her face a look as cold as
marble.

Without knowing why, at sight of that face Norma suddenly felt terribly
afraid. This mood passed quickly, for again Lieutenant Warren was
speaking.

“We worked hour after hour, day after day, without sleep. On our
ambulances we carried white-haired men whose legs had been shot away,
mothers whose children had perished, children who had lost their
mothers forever, and babies—tiny babies in cribs, in blankets.” Her
voice broke.

Then standing tall and straight, with the medal gleaming on her breast,
she said:

“Hate! Terrible hate did all this! It is for you and me to take the
places of brave young men who are eager to help put down this terrible
enemy and to silence their machine guns forever. Are we going to do it?”

Instantly there came a cry that was like the roar of the sea. “Yes!
Yes! Yes!”

But Norma stole a look at Lena’s face.

Then, as if afraid she might leave a picture too terrible for all these
young minds, Lieutenant Warren went back to the days before the defeat
of France. She painted pictures of friendly villages in France. The
grocer, the baker, the aged shoemaker, and all the little farmers—they
were all there.

“These,” she went on quietly, “are the people we are fighting for—the
good, kindly, simple common people. In France, Belgium, the
Netherlands, in Poland—all over Europe they are starving slaves today.
We are fighting that they may be made free and that our own people
shall never be enslaved.”

Then she told of those good, brave days in unoccupied France, when a
great general had pinned the _Croix de Guerre_ on her blouse and all
the good people had wept.

All in all Norma thought it the grandest speech she had ever heard.

Once again as the speaker resumed her seat the audience rose to its
feet in a silent ovation.

Then someone swept her hands softly over the organ keys, and they sang
as they had never sung it before: “Oh say, can you see!”

As the last note died away, Norma stole a look at Lena’s face. It was
cold, gray, and hard as steel. She had not been singing.

When, at last, dry-eyed but determined, Norma left the room she
whispered, “Betty, I’m afraid.”

“Afraid? Why?” Betty asked.

“I don’t know—just afraid, that’s all.”

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



                               CHAPTER XI

                            TWO AGAINST TWO


At seven that evening Norma found herself in a place of great
enchantment. Since her father was with her, the fear of mid-afternoon
was gone, and joy reigned supreme.

Those ancient officers’ homes that lined one side of the parade ground
had always intrigued her. Now she was really inside one of them, and it
was indeed charming.

The mantel above the huge living-room fireplace, as well as the walls
on all sides, were lined with fascinating objects of art which she
realized must have been brought by her hostess from France.

“Yes, they came from France, all of them—except these.” Lieutenant
Warren indicated a small group of photographs. “These,” there was a
change in her voice, “these are my people—my mother, my sister, my
grandfather. They are from home.”

“Yes, I know how you feel about them.” Norma smiled. “You might be
interested to know what I did on my first weekend here.”

“That is always interesting,” replied the hostess. “Girls are so
different.”

Norma told how she had rented a hotel room and had put up all her
pictures. In her eagerness and excitement she came very nearly going
right on, telling of her mysterious and startling experience following
Lena and being trapped in a repair shop at night. Just in time she
caught herself.

“These things are important,” the Lieutenant replied in a quiet tone.
“Don’t let those feelings escape you. When you realize to the full what
home and loved ones mean to you and when you contrast America and
France as it is today, it makes you want to fight!”

“I am sure of that!” Norma’s father agreed heartily.

“But all these beautiful pictures, these tiny statues, all carved in
marble, those silver candlesticks, these etchings!” Norma exclaimed.
“How could you afford them?”

“These, my dear,” the Lieutenant beamed—“these all were gifts from
those kindly and grateful French people. When I protested they said:
‘But yes! You must take them! You really must! All France will be
overrun. The Boche will get them. A thousand times better that you have
them.’

“There are names on all of them,” she added. “See? Pierre. Jeanne.
Margot. When this terrible war is over many of them shall go back.”

“How wonderful!” Norma murmured.

“These etchings are from that last war. I saw them in Paris,” said Mr.
Kent. “They are wonderful.”

“Wonderful and terrible,” Lieutenant Warren murmured.

One etching pictured a huge cannon belching forth hate in the form of
black smoke, and emerging from that smoke was a beautiful woman. Her
hands had been turned into claws, and on her face was a look of
unutterable rage.

“And yet she is gorgeous,” Norma whispered.

The second etching showed a valiant French pilot falling from his
wrecked and burning plane down to certain death. But beneath him, hands
locked, waiting, ready to catch him and bear him away, were two
beautiful angels.

“Yes,” said the Lieutenant who had been through so much in France.
“This is war. It is beautiful and it is terrible.”

“This is war,” the gray-haired man agreed.

“And he really knows,” Norma thought.

“Come,” invited the hostess. “Dinner is about to be served.”

There were busy and exciting times in Norma Kent’s life when she ate a
meal and enjoyed it to the full and yet, two hours later, she could not
have told what she had eaten. This was to be just such a meal. The food
was delicious, the silver and dishes charming, but the conversation
absorbed all her attention. Little wonder, for it seemed to her that
her whole future hung in the balance.

Somewhere between soup and roast chicken Lieutenant Warren said all too
casually:

“Did I hear them say you had been asked to enter officers’ training?”

“You may have heard that,” Norma flushed. “It has been suggested by a
lady in high position.”

“It’s quite an honor, don’t you think so, Mr. Kent?” The Lieutenant
turned to Norma’s father.

“Yes, indeed. It’s the first step up.”

“And you deserve it,” Lieutenant Warren said, with a bright smile.
“We’re proud of you. Please accept my congratulations, and allow me to
wish you all the luck in the world.”

“Wait a minute!” Norma exclaimed. “Put on the brakes! I haven’t said I
would accept.”

Her father gave her a quick look. The smile on Lieutenant Warren’s face
appeared to light up a little as she said: “Do you mind telling me why
you said that?”

“Not a bit,” was the quick response. “It’s because I want to come up
the hard way, Dad,” she said. “That’s how you climbed up in that other
war.”

“Yes.” A rare smile spread over the gray-haired man’s face. “However, I
had no choice. With me it was that way or not at all.”

“All the same,” Norma insisted, “I want to get out and do some real
work. I was in college for four years, and now at the Fort for a month.
What I want to know is, can I really do any worthwhile work?”

“Good!” exclaimed Lieutenant Warren. “I hoped you would say that. And
now may I serve you some of this chicken while it is hot?”

“But why are _you_ glad?” Norma asked in a puzzled tone, after the
chicken had been served.

“Because I am leaving here in two days and I want to take you with me.”

“Going where?” Norma asked in surprise.

“To the coast. I can’t tell you the exact spot because I don’t happen
to know, and because if I did know, I would not be permitted to tell.
It will be somewhere on the rugged coast of New England, rather far
north, I imagine. I am to be given a station of the Interceptor
Control, and—”

“Interceptor Control!” Norma exclaimed. “Those words charmed me from
the first. They somehow seem to suggest dark night patrols, intrigue,
mystery, and perhaps real danger.”

“Perhaps you are making too much of it. That depends,” Lieutenant
Warren drew a deep breath. “Be that as it may. I’m in for it, and I am
to select a squad to take with me. It’s a relatively small station. One
squad will be enough at first.”

“She’s asked my squad to go,” Norma thought. “She didn’t ask me because
she thought I might want to take a step up, join the officers’ training
school at once.” Then she asked a question on impulse:

“Are you planning to take all my squad—all ten of them?”

“I had hoped to, if you cared to join us.”

“Bu—but—” Norma caught herself. She had been about to betray her
secret—her spy complex. What she had wanted to say was, “But how about
Lena?”

“It is for you to choose,” the Lieutenant said quietly.

“Oh, I want to go!” Norma exclaimed. “Count me in. Please don’t leave
me out, only—” There it was again.

“Only what?”

“Only nothing. Please forgive me,” Norma begged.

And so it was settled. Norma was to be given a two-day leave to be
spent at home with her father. Then she was to meet Lieutenant Warren
and the squad in Chicago. There they were to board an eastbound train
for fields of fresh toil and adventure.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Norma stirred uneasily in her place by the car window. She was on her
way—had been for some time. Two or three hours more and she would be
looking at the place she and her fellow WACs would call “home” for some
time.

“I should be thrilled,” she told herself. “But I’m half scared, that’s
all.”

Lena and Rosa were together, five seats ahead of her. They had been
together all the way. Nothing strange about that, really. They had
shared a Pullman compartment, just as she and Betty had. All the same,
it disturbed her.

Suddenly she made a great decision—she would tell Betty all about it.
Betty, like as not, would laugh the whole thing off. Then she’d be rid
of the spy business for ever.

“Betty,” she said in a low tone, “There is something I want to tell
you—a whole lot of things.”

“Okay,” said Betty. “I’m listening.”

“Betty, do you remember the first night we slept in that stable at Fort
Des Moines?”

“Do I?” Betty laughed. “First time I ever slept on a cot, and with
fifty other girls! That was one nightmare!”

“Well, on that night Lena sat up in her bed and whispered. ‘Gott in
Himmel,’ and Rosa flashed a light in her cot, where no light is
supposed to show. That got me going.”

“Going? How?” Betty stared.

“I thought they might be spies.”

“Spies? Nonsense! But then—” Betty paused for thought. “I did see Lena
down by the gate once. She was talking to that Spanish hairdresser and
a strange man, who said, ‘Du must!’ There have been whisperings about
that hairdresser. Three days before we left the Fort she disappeared.”

“Betty!” Norma exclaimed softly. “You’re no help at all. You just make
matters worse.”

“How? What do you mean?”

“I was hoping you’d rid me of my spy complex—just laugh it off, and
here you are, taking the thing seriously. What’s more, I haven’t told
you a thing yet.”

“Well then, tell me the rest,” Betty invited. “Then perhaps we’ll both
have us a good big laugh.”

“And perhaps we won’t,” Norma added gloomily. “But all right. Here
goes.” She leaned over close, talking low. “I saw Rosa’s light three
times. One night I asked her why.”

“What did she say?”

“She said her mother had asked her to read a prayer from her prayer
book every night.”

“That was nice,” Betty murmured in approval.

“Yes, if it’s true.”

“How could you doubt her?”

“You have to doubt when you don’t really know. Besides, how about this?
We went out to visit the airfield one day, and Rosa, without anyone
seeing her, climbed into a fighter plane and started across the field
with it.”

“She did?” Betty whispered in astonishment.

“Absolutely.” Norma laughed in spite of herself. “And did that start
something! She was almost arrested! You see, they were trying out some
secret devices in those planes.”

“How did she ever explain that?” Betty was filled with astonishment.

“She never explained it.”

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

[Illustration: _Norma Leaned Over Close, Talking Low_]

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

“Just left it in the air?”

“I thought she was going to tell me later, but then she appeared to
change her mind. How would you explain it?” Norma asked. There was an
eager note in her voice. She really wanted it explained.

“Fascinated by airplanes, perhaps,” was the slow reply. “Some people
are that way. Climb in, you know. Touch something here, another there,
and away they go. Children often do that with a car.”

“But Rosa’s not a child!”

“We’ll keep an eye on her,” Betty said after a moment’s thought. “We’ve
got a real job to do. We can’t have things going wrong. But Lena,” she
suggested. “She never did anything as bad as that, did she?”

“Perhaps yes, and perhaps no. Let me tell you. Then you be the judge.”
Norma leaned close. “I followed Lena and the Spanish hairdresser into a
place as dark as a stack of black cats.”

“You didn’t!”

“I certainly did.”

“Then what happened?”

“The door silently locked itself.”

Betty caught her breath. “What chances you take!”

“I just sort of walked into that one.” Norma sighed. “There were
voices. Then I saw a hand. The hand gripped my arm until it hurt. A
man’s rough voice said something. He was very angry.”

“And then?” Betty breathed.

“All of a sudden his voice changed. He was humble, apologetic. He said,
‘You are one of the lady soldiers. You came here by mistake perhaps.’”

“But how could he know you were a WAC?”

“Only by the feel of the material in my WAC coat. Wasn’t that strange!”

“Perhaps he’d been a tailor. It’s wonderful the things you can do by
the sense of touch when your hands are trained.”

“He let me out,” Norma said quietly.

“And you never went back?”

“Never!”

“We’ll watch Lena, too,” Betty said.

“If there’s a traitor in our ranks, it’s Lena.”

“You can’t be sure of that. In a murder mystery, it’s always the one
you least suspect.”

“Yes, but in a murder mystery you always have a murder. What has Lena
done that she could be arrested for?”

“Nothing that we know about. All the same, we’ll watch her. We’ll watch
them both.”

Just then Lieutenant Warren’s voice rang out. “Our station is next. Get
your coats on. And don’t forget your parcels.”

At Indian Harbor Betty whispered, “Lots of hard work and some little
adventure.”

“Or perhaps the other way round,” Norma laughed low.

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



                              CHAPTER XII

                              HARBOR BELLS


The train came to a jolting stop and they all piled off. “Indian
Point!” Lena exclaimed. “So this is it! But where’s the city?”

“It’s not quite a city,” Lieutenant Warren said. “Two thousand people
in summer, one thousand in winter, I should say. But there are
year-round stores and shops.”

“And a beauty parlor?” Lena asked.

“Oh, yes, I should guess so. At least a hairdressing establishment.”

At that both Norma and Betty laughed. Lena gave them a sharp look.

Two large ancient cars appeared, together with a truck. Their bags were
piled into the truck; they crowded into the cars and were driven away.

“Harbor Bells, that’s the name of our little hotel,” their leader
explained. “And they call the building where we’ll be working the Sea
Tower.”

“What fascinating names!” Betty exclaimed.

“You’ll find them as fascinating as their names,” Lieutenant Warren
prophesied.

“And there’s the sea!” Norma exclaimed. “How I shall love it!”

“It comes almost to our door when there’s a storm. And the Sea Tower
really gets its feet wet.”

The road twisted and turned, first along the rocky slope, then above
the edge of a beach that Norma thought must be grand in summer.

“There it is!” Lieutenant Warren exclaimed as they rounded a turn.
“There’s our Harbor Bells!”

Just as she said this their ears were treated to a shock—a great
booming roar shook the silent air.

“Good grief!” Millie exclaimed. “Are we being bombed?”

“Not yet,” Lieutenant Warren laughed. “That came from the fort up there
on the cliffs, two miles away. You can see just a little of its wall
from here.”

“One gun salute for us,” Norma suggested.

“Hardly that. Probably a practice shot. They don’t waste shots like
that on a handful of WACs.”

At that they all laughed. And here they were at the gate of Harbor
Bells.

Leaving their bags to be brought in by the truck driver and his
assistants, they paired off and marched soldierwise up the broad
sloping path to the wide veranda of the hotel.

Above the door hung five bells of different sizes.

“Oh! Harbor Bells!” Betty exclaimed.

Seizing a small wooden hammer that lay on the ledge, she struck the
bells one at a time. Then, as they all stood by enchanted, she played
in a simple manner a tune they all loved:

               “Sweet evening bells, sweet evening bells,
                How many a tale their music tells.”

“Glorious Harbor Bells!” Norma exclaimed.

Harbor Bells, as they discovered very quickly, was no ordinary summer
hotel. It had been built for both summer and winter. In the rich days
when people had plenty of gasoline, tired business men from far and
wide drove to Harbor Bells for the weekend.

Mrs. Monahan, the proprietor, was a rare cook. Her clam chowder,
swordfish steaks, and home-fried chicken were famous.

“And this,” said Lieutenant Warren after she had explained all this,
“is Mrs. Monahan herself. She’s agreed to stay with us and take care of
us for a while, at least.”

“Sure, an’ if ye can stand to have me about!” Mrs. Monahan, a round,
red-faced lady, let out a cackling laugh.

“We’ll stand you for the duration if you’ll only stay,” the Lieutenant
exclaimed.

At Harbor Bells there was both a large and a small dining room, with a
huge fireplace, and plenty of cozy rooms upstairs. When the girls had
eaten a hearty meal of fried swordfish steak, baked potatoes, blueberry
pie, and coffee, and had settled themselves in their rooms, they were
for the most part ready for a good long sleep.

Not so Norma and Betty. Mrs. Monahan had kindled a fire on the open
hearth. Before this they dragged large, comfortable chairs and settled
themselves for a good chat.

“This,” said Betty, “is the real thing! But boy! Is it going to be hard
to work here! It’s too much like Natoma Beach in Florida. Dad has a
shack down there. Oh, quite a place! And that’s where we have our
fun—or did, before the war.”

“We have a shack—a real one,” Norma said. “Nothing fancy—not even a
fireplace, just a big kitchen stove—up on Isle Royale, in Lake
Superior. It’s really grand!” There was a pause.

“Work?” she murmured. “Oh, I guess we’ll work right enough, and hard.”

“You’re just right you will!” It was Lieutenant Warren who spoke.

“Oh!” Norma exclaimed. “Let me drag you up a chair.”

“No. Sit still. I’ll get it.”

“No! No!”

In the end they all took a hand at bringing up the chair.

“Umm! I like this!” Lieutenant Warren murmured.

“Who wouldn’t?” Betty exclaimed.

“And you’ll love the Sea Tower.”

“I’m eager to see it,” said Norma.

“You know,” Lieutenant Warren mused, “every time I settle down in a new
place I feel an urge to tell a story of a rather strange thing that
happened to me in India. It’s a spy story, really, although it didn’t
start out that way.”

“India!” Betty exclaimed.

“A spy story!” came from Norma. She gave the Lieutenant a searching
look.

“Does it have a moral for young WACs?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Then please tell it to us,” Norma urged.

“Just after I finished college,” Lieutenant Warren began, “a friend
secured a position for me as a teacher of English in a high-class
school for British girls, in India.

“The school was located close to a fort, very much like Fort Des
Moines, only much larger. Ten thousand British troops were stationed
there.

“On my way over I had taken many pictures and wanted to get them
developed and printed. I was told that a very good German photographer
had a shop facing the army parade ground, so I hunted him up.

“‘Oh, no! I couldn’t do your pictures!’ he exclaimed when I suggested
it. ‘I am far too busy. Besides, amateurs, they never take good
pictures. Never! Especially young women! Their pictures are always
horrible!’

“I didn’t say anything for a moment, just stared at him and then at his
studio. It was a remarkable studio. Every inch of the wall was covered
with pictures—remarkable pictures, too. All the leading British
officers were there, and rich rulers of India, too. And there were
pictures of wild animals in the jungle, elephants, tigers, and water
buffalo.

“Did you do all these?” I asked.

“‘Yes, and many, many more. You see, Miss, I am really very famous as a
photographer.’

“He was a remarkable man. His hair was white, and stood straight up.
And his face was lined but round and smooth—unnatural, as if it might
have been made up for a stage performance.

“‘And you won’t do my pictures?’ I asked him.

“‘I can’t waste my time and money on such rubbish,’ he fairly fumed.”

“I can just see him.” Betty laughed. “But did he do the pictures?”

“Oh yes. I was young then, and usually got my way. I told him that at
least he wouldn’t be wasting his money, for I meant to pay him. So he
said:

“‘Oh, all right! Bring them in and we shall see!’

“Well.”—Lieutenant Warren leaned back in her chair. “My father was a
good amateur photographer, he had taught me how to take pictures. My
pictures came out very well. This eccentric photographer, who hadn’t
had time for me, complimented me.”

“And after that,” Norma laughed, “Herr Photographer was one of your
best friends.”

“Not quite that. But he did make many pictures and took an unusual
interest in showing me his treasures.”

“And that was how you discovered he was a spy?” suggested Betty.

“Well, yes—and no. Truth is, when I left India I had not the slightest
notion that he was a spy.”

“Then how in the world—” Norma broke in.

“Now—now!” the Lieutenant exclaimed mockingly. “No turning to the back
of the book.”

“But to make a long story short,” she went on, “this photographer had a
beautiful place back up in the hills. Once he took me there in his car.
It was a gorgeous estate. Palm trees, rare birds, a fountain fed by
springs, and a house built of teakwood.

“Back of the house were dovecotes where many rare varieties of pigeons
billed and cooed. Some were jet black, the only black ones I’ve ever
seen.

“Dogs! He had a dozen of them. Some of them really looked ferocious.
And there were monkeys staring at you from the trees.”

“Regular menagerie.” Norma drawled.

“Yes, just that. And all for a purpose.”

“What came of it?” Norma asked.

“Well,” Miss Warren went on, “he made many pictures for me. We became
quite good friends. He helped me and complimented me often.

“For all that he appeared to be a very strange person. He took pictures
if it suited his fancy. If not, he refused. Some stuffy old grand dame
wanted to sit for a picture and he refused to do the work. Then too he
was away for weeks at a time. How he could support his shop and that
mansion in the hills with so little real work I could never understand.

“In summer, when it was hot, I went to stay in a very lovely resort
high up in the mountains. The resort keeper wrote Herr Photographer,
asking him to come up and take some pictures. His reply was:

“‘Miss Rita Warren is with you. She can take them as well as I.’”

“And were you flattered!” Betty laughed.

“Naturally. I went to see him as soon as I returned. He was very
cordial. ‘Come,’ he said, taking my hand as if I were a child. ‘I have
a picture to show you. It is, I think, a masterpiece.’

“He led me into a fairly large room and switched on a light. There were
three objects in the room—a large picture in a dull gilt frame, and two
very ordinary chairs.

“‘Sit here,’ he said, ‘it is the best light.’ I sat down.

“‘You know,’ he said, ‘that this part of India was once ruled by the
French. Far up in the mountains is one of their ancient churches. I
found this picture in the tower of that church. I think it is a Madonna
by Godin.’

“I had studied art in college and was inclined to agree with him.

“One thing that struck me as strange was that in the background, on a
large rock, sat three black pigeons. Then too, in many places there
were overtones of color that did not appear to belong there. Strangest
of all, there were in places faint suggestions of geometric figures.

“He read the look on my face. ‘I am now restoring it,’ he explained.

“‘Well, I don’t like your part of the work!’ I had spoken without
thought.

“This appeared to offend him. Or did it? I couldn’t quite tell.

“He let a cloth fall over the picture. Then with a look that seemed to
say: ‘You may know too much,’ he led me from the room. That look
puzzled me for a long time.”

“But it doesn’t any more,” Norma suggested.

“Bright girl!” Lieutenant Warren exclaimed. “No, it doesn’t.”

“Why? What happened?” Betty asked.

“Well. I left India and returned to America. I heard nothing from my
photographer for a long, long time. Then England and Germany went to
war.

“One day I had a letter from a friend in India. In it she said, ‘You
know that photographer who took such a shine to you? Well, he’s dead.
The British jerked him up and shot him as a master spy.’”

“Oh!” Norma breathed.

“End of romance,” Betty exclaimed.

“Oh, it wasn’t quite that, but I was shocked, to think that I could be
so dumb. Those pigeons were, of course, for carrying messages all over
India to his fellow-spies. The dogs were to ward off strangers.”

“And the pictures?” Norma questioned.

“I never found out about that for certain.” Lieutenant Warren rose.
“However, I have been told that pictures such as those are often
shipped from place to place to convey secret information. Each bit of
‘restoring,’ as they call it, means something. Properly coded, that
picture could tell a whole lot.

“Well,” she sighed. “He’s dead. But he was rather good fun while he
lasted.” The three girls looked into the fire in silence.

“Millie is our bugler,” Lieutenant Warren suddenly said, as she started
for the stairs. “When you hear that bugle you’ll know what it means.”

“Breakfast, then work,” Norma said.

“Yes, and lots of it. You get two weeks of hard training. Then you take
over.” She was gone.

“Do you suppose she suspects we’re natural-born spy chasers?” Norma
whispered.

“Can’t tell.” Betty whispered back. “But jeepers! If she didn’t know
that man was a spy, what about us?”

“We’ve not even got a clue.” Norma agreed. “And, yet—” She did not
finish.

Betty went at once to her room, but Norma, having caught a gleam of
light through a window, stepped out on the porch for a look at the moon.

To one who sees it for the first time, the moon casting shadows over
the rugged cliffs and painting a path of gold across the sea is a
gorgeous sight.

Slipping silently to the top of the steps leading to the path, she
stood there in the shadows.

Then, for some reason, or perhaps none at all—she snapped on the
flashlight she held in her hand to paint her own path of gold down the
gravel walk.

Then it was that she got a shock, for there, half hidden by the broad
stone post of the street wall stood a man. He wore no hat. White hair
gleamed over a round face. In his hand he held a black box with a
reflector at the top, the sort of camera used most by newspaper men and
other professionals.

To say that she was startled would be to put it mildly. This mood ended
quickly, for the man snapped at her in the voice of an angry dog:

“Keep your light to yourself! This is a public street. I’ll stand here
as long as I choose.”

Turning about, the girl marched back into the hotel. She was trembling
all over.

“Right out of that story,” she whispered. “Halfway round the world.”

As she climbed the stairs she thought. “I’ll not tell a soul. I didn’t
really see him—just imagined it.”

As if to verify this, she went to her window and looked down. The
moonlight was brighter now. There was no one by the gate. And yet, cold
reason told her she had seen that man beside the pillar.

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



                              CHAPTER XIII

                        A WOLF IN WAC’S CLOTHING


The Sea Tower was all that could be desired. To Norma’s romantic young
mind it offered both comfort and romance.

“It used to be a lighthouse,” the young sergeant, who led them up the
stairs next morning, explained. “There are dangerous shoals off shore
around Black Knob Island. Fishing boats have often been wrecked there
in storms. Now there are modern lights to the north and south of us.”

“I saw one flashing from the north,” Millie put in.

“That’s Fisherman’s Home light. The light in this tower was taken out
long ago. It’s been empty for a long time.”

“And now it’s been all fixed up for us, like Mrs. Hobby’s stables.”
Norma laughed.

“You going to work here?” the sergeant asked in surprise.

“Sure enough!”

“Well, blow me down!” He stared for a moment—then without further
comment, led them to a large circular room where three officers and six
enlisted men were working with maps, charts, and typewriters.

“You won’t be working here,” the Major in command explained. “We just
want you to see it. I’m Major Henry Stark. Sort of in charge here, you
might say.”

He was a big man, not at all pompous, nor soft, either. His was a
friendly smile.

“Want you to take the thing quite seriously from the start,” he said.
“Look at that map. We’re way up here. Not close to any cities. Rather
unimportant post, you might say.

“But look at this globe.” He whirled a large globe around, then put his
finger on a spot. “That’s Norway. Here’s Greenland. Planes coming from
Norway to bomb Boston, New York, or Pittsburg would pass right over
this post.”

“We’d be the first to spot them,” said Betty.

“That’s the truth, Miss. And no mistake. So—” he let out a big
breath—“we are important. Mighty important.” He let that sink in.

“Lieutenant Warren tells me you’re all serious-minded gals. Gals.”—he
laughed—“That’s what she called you. That’s fine. I take it she spoke
the truth, and if so, we can use you.”

“I—I hope so,” Norma spoke for the group.

“We can, all right! Just wait and see!” he exclaimed.

There was little of adventure or romance in the days that followed for,
as in Fort Des Moines, they were hard at work learning the tasks that
lay ahead. Up at five forty-five each morning, they were glad enough to
creep into their fine, warm beds at nine-thirty each night.

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

[Illustration: _“Take a Look at This Globe,” the Major Said_]

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

During the first week they worked only during the day. They were being
instructed, that was all. Eventually they would be divided into three
eight-hour shifts, and the task of watching would go on and on round
the clock. When the work really started in earnest, Norma, Millie, and
Rosa were to work in one shift. Norma would be in charge of marking
maps and charts; Millie would manage the switchboard and receive calls;
Rosa’s job was to carry messages and be on the alert for any task.

In the second shift Betty took Norma’s place. A girl named Mary ran the
switchboard, and Lena took Rosa’s place.

The third shift was made up of the remaining girls of the squad.

Saturday, with its half-holiday, arrived. Norma and Betty rented
bicycles and went for a joyous ride into the country. Norma, who had
stocked up on films, took many interesting pictures, but on Major
Stark’s suggestion, avoided all military subjects.

It was because they were, as yet, working only in the daytime that an
exciting event occurred that threatened disaster. One morning as the
WACs were enjoying their wheatcakes, Vermont maple syrup, and coffee,
Major Stark came walking into the room.

“Good morning, Major Stark,” Lieutenant Warren exclaimed. “You’re just
in time. I’ll have a plate set on for you.”

“Thanks, very much.” The Major’s smile was slow. “I’ve had my
breakfast. It’s your young ladies I wished to talk about. Now, zeal is
a commendable virtue. But I really can’t have them coming to the Sea
Tower demanding further education near midnight. It’s a bit
demoralizing and, besides, that is the most important hour of all.”

“But I don’t understand,” Miss Warren looked puzzled. Turning to the
girls she said:

“Which of you went to the Sea Tower after hours?”

Not a girl spoke.

“Do you see, Major?” She smiled. “Not one was there.”

“But are they all here now?”

“Yes, all here.”

“Then it was the ghost of a WAC, for Tom, my most trustworthy sergeant,
told me a woman in a WAC uniform and with her identification card all
correct, was at the Tower for an hour learning about charts and other
matters last night. She looked dark and sort of Spanish,” he said.

They all looked at Rosa, but Rosa shook her head.

“She was in bed,” Lena stated simply. “We’re roommates.”

“And besides, she doesn’t look Spanish,” said the Major. “Well, there’s
a mystery for you. I’ll send for Tom at once.”

Norma leaned over to whisper in Betty’s ear:

“The Spanish hairdresser!”

Betty nearly fell off her chair.

They were all in the big living room when the Major returned with a
good-looking young sergeant.

“Now then, Sergeant,” he challenged. “Which one was it?”

Sergeant Tom looked them over carefully, then replied:

“None of these, sir.”

“Well now, Tom, make up your mind!” The Major’s temper was rising.
“You’ve been saying one was up there, and now you say—”

“There was a WAC uniform with a lady in it at the Tower last night!”
Tom insisted.

“But don’t you know all these ladies, Tom?”

“No, Major. I don’t. I work at night, you know.”

“So all the soldiers don’t know all the WACs?” the Major exclaimed.
“We’ll fix that. We’ll hold a dance.”

Then suddenly his face purpled. “By thunder!” he exclaimed. “It’s
happened! A lady spy in a WAC uniform! It was bound to be that way. But
why must we be her first victims! Tom, how much did you tell her?”

“To tell the truth. Major,” Tom smiled sheepishly, “I didn’t tell her
much—at least nothing of importance. The truth is, sir, some of us boys
sort of feel that having the girls around—well, sir—that’s fine. But
when they start doing our work—”

“Then you didn’t tell her about secret devices and all that?” the Major
broke in.

“Not a thing that she couldn’t have gotten out of a book.”

“That’s fine!” the Major exclaimed. “Glad to see you so cautious.”

“Beg pardon, sir,” said Tom. “But this is my time for sleeping. I’ll
see you all at the dance.” He grinned broadly as he went out.

“This thing must be looked into at once,” said the Major. “I’ll have a
man in for that purpose. I shall need your help.”

“We’ll give you every assistance possible,” said Lieutenant Warren.

At that the Major bowed himself out. Fresh coffee was poured, and the
meal resumed.

“How terrible!” Millie exclaimed.

“The Spanish hairdresser,” Norma whispered to Betty once more.

Late that afternoon the Major returned, bringing with him a bright-eyed
little man who called himself Mr. Sperry.

“Mr. Sperry wishes to know,” he explained, “if any of you can give him
a clue regarding the young lady who undoubtedly is masquerading in a
WAC uniform.”

“That’s it,” the little man cackled. “Just that. The sergeant in charge
tells me she had an identification card—forged, no doubt. Have any of
you, by chance, lost your card?”

There followed a hasty delving into purses and pockets. Each girl held
up her card.

“Ah, yes! I see! All quite in order. I suggest that fresh photographs
of these ladies be taken—each young lady in uniform—and that they be
placed on identification cards. These should bear your signature. Your
men are acquainted with that signature?”

“Every man,” the Major agreed. “The pictures shall be taken. There’s a
good photographer—excellent man, but eccentric—at Granite Head.
Lieutenant Warren, have your young ladies ready at nine tomorrow. I
shall send cars for them.”

“Now,” exclaimed the little man, dancing about. “Any of you know a
young lady who wears her black hair high, and has rather slanting
Spanish eyes?”

“Here?” Norma asked.

“Anywhere.”

“There was one at Fort Des Moines,” Norma hesitated. “But that—that’s a
long way off.”

“Was she in training?”

“No. One of our hairdressers.”

“Ah!” The little man whistled between his teeth. “Just the type! You
haven’t seen her here?”

“No.”

Mr. Sperry asked the other girls about the hairdresser. Some recalled
her and some did not. Watching out of the corner of her eye, Norma
thought she saw Lena start as her name was called.

“Oh, yes. I remember her,” she said in a low drawl. “She did my hair
many times. She was really good. But I don’t see—”

“No, of course not.” the little man snapped. “That’s not to be
expected.”

At that he closed his notebook and indicated by a nod that he had
finished.

“The jeeps will be here at nine.” said the Major.

“The girls will be ready,” replied Lieutenant Warren.

“Oh, I just remembered something!” Norma exclaimed in a whisper a short
time later.

“What was that?” Betty asked.

“I took a few pictures at Des Moines, but never had the film finished.”

“Well?” Betty drawled.

“One was a picture of that Spanish hairdresser, just as she passed
through the gate. Just a snap, but in bright sunlight. It should be
good.”

“That might be something.”

“Sure, Mr. Sperry could show it to Sergeant Tom for identification. I
have three films now. I’ll take them to that photographer tomorrow.”

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



                              CHAPTER XIV

                               PALE HANDS


Next morning at nine the girls, all but Lena, who had obtained
permission to ride ahead on a bike, piled into two jeeps and were
driven away to the photographer’s studio.

The moment Norma stepped into the studio she had a strange feeling that
she had seen it before. Its walls were crowded with pictures, many of
them officers in uniform—from the fort above their post, she guessed.
Then too, there were ship’s officers, some of them from the United
States and British Navies. There were pictures from the wilds of Maine
and Canada as well, wolves prowling over the snow, a moose charging up
from the waters of a lake, and many others. There were many wonderful
pictures in the collection and she was charmed at the thought of having
her films developed and printed here.

If the studio had been a surprise, the proprietor, as he came bustling
into the room, was a great shock. His hair was white and bristling. His
face was lined in spite of its round softness. It was he whom she had
seen at the gate of Harbor Bells, he who had growled at her because she
threw her light upon him.

“Good grief!” she whispered to Betty. “I hope he doesn’t recognize me!”

“Recognize you?” Betty murmured in surprise.

“Shish!” Norma warned. She had never told Betty of that other encounter.

In her hand she held the films she wished developed. “Will you do these
for me?” she asked.

“Amateur work!” he exclaimed. “Bah! What do amateurs know about
pictures, especially young women? No! I cannot waste my time and money.”

“But you’ll not be wasting your money.” Norma felt like one speaking a
piece. “I expect to pay you for them.”

“Put them down there on this table,” he replied rudely. “We shall see.”

“And now—” His voice took on a professional tone. “You are soldiers, is
it not so?”

There came a murmured “Yes—yes.”

“Lady soldiers! Ha—ha—ha! This is delightful! And I am to take your
pictures. No retouching. Is it not so?”

“That’s right.” It was Betty who spoke.

“Then you will not be very beautiful in these pictures.” He laughed
again.

“They are for identification cards.” Norma said—a suggestion of
irritation creeping into her voice. “Beauty doesn’t count. They must
look like us, that’s all. They are to keep spies from pretending they
belong to our group.”

“Spies? Ah! Is that so!” he said seriously. “Then they shall be very
real indeed, these pictures.”

He began his work at once. Since she did not particularly like the man
and wished to get her part over with, Norma posed first. She realized
at once that he proposed to take her in an unfavorable light and at a
bad angle, yet she made no objection. As he was about to make the shot,
she managed a derisive grin.

“No! No!” He stomped the floor. “That way you spoil the picture!”

Norma at once put on a perfectly dumb look. Then the picture was
snapped.

“What’s wrong with you?” Betty demanded in a whisper when they were
alone.

“Nothing.” was the quiet reply.

“Lena’s not here.” said Rosa.

“She’ll be here.” Norma said.

While the other pictures were being taken Norma wandered along the wall
looking at pictures until she was near an open door leading to another
room.

As she stood there she heard a man’s voice say:

“You must!”

“I won’t!” came a woman’s reply.

Carl Langer, the photographer, must have heard, for he said, “Excuse
me, ladies,” and shut the door.

“What wonderful ears!” Norma thought. “He should be a plane spotter.”

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

[Illustration: _“No! No! That Way You Spoil the Picture.”_]

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

When the pictures had been taken and the girls were filing out of the
room, Betty said to Norma:

“Lena didn’t show up.”

“Oh! Sure she—” Norma hesitated. “Well, anyway, her picture will be in
the lot, you can depend upon that.”

As they climbed into the jeeps, Norma heard a pigeon cooing and,
looking up to the studio roof, she saw two pigeons. They were jet
black. This gave her a start, but she said never a word.

They were halfway back to the post when suddenly she realized that she
had left her films without any decision having been made about them.

“I left my films,” she said to Betty. “Do you suppose he’ll develop
them?”

“My guess is that he will.”

Betty’s guess was right. And this Norma would live to regret.

“All the while I was there I felt I had been in that place before,”
said Norma.

“I shouldn’t wonder,” was Betty’s strange reply.

There was one extra person in the squad which meant that while the
others were taking their turn at training, three at a time, one was
free to undertake some special task. This was Norma’s day off.

“Norma,” Lieutenant Warren said to her after she had spent the greater
part of the day working over some special type of chart, “I think you
told me once that you had ridden a motorcycle.”

“Oh, yes, many times,” was the quick reply. “My father and I used to
cover part of his territory on a motorcycle.”

“Good! One of our tasks is to be that of keeping in touch with the
plane spotters in our territory. They are all volunteers. They work
without pay and are, I am sure, very conscientious people.”

“They must be.” Norma agreed. “And do you know, I really like these
real New Englanders.”

“They seem more genuinely American than most people I’ve come to know,”
Miss Warren agreed. “What I wanted to suggest was that now and then you
take a motorcycle—there are two in the basement room of the Sea
Tower—and visit these spotter sheds. There’s one near Granite Head.”

“I think I saw it as I passed this morning.”

“I haven’t a doubt of it. You might like to take a run out there right
now,” the Lieutenant suggested.

“That would be real fun. Thank you so much.” A quarter of an hour
later, dressed in her fatigue suit and with stout coveralls drawn over
it, Norma leapt on her motorcycle and went pop-popping away.

She was not long in reaching the place in the road nearest the spotter
shed.

As she paused to study the steep road leading up to the shed, two girls
who were undoubtedly twins came hurrying from the opposite direction.
Seeing that they were about to start the climb, Norma said:

“Going up? Hop on behind. I think this thing will take us all up.”

“Oh, fine!” they exclaimed. “We’re late.”

“Late for what?” Norma asked.

“We’re spotters. I’m Beth and this is Bess, my sister,” one of the
twins explained.

“We’re on from now until midnight,” the other said.

“Whew!” Norma exclaimed. “That’s a long spot for a spotter.”

“Oh, we don’t mind,” said Beth, laughing. “Only one is needed to watch
at a time.”

“The other one studies. We’re still in high school,” said Bess.
“Sometimes we fall asleep.”

With a final snort the motorcycle reached the crest of the hill, then
circled to a stop at the foot of a crooked stairway leading to a
crow’s-nest perch above.

Up, then around, then up again, they climbed thirty feet into the air
to arrive at last at a broad enclosed platform.

“All right, girls, you may take over.” A tall man with prematurely gray
hair turned toward a door leading from the platform. “Who’s your
friend?” he asked, turning half about. Behind his thick glasses Norma
saw keen, smiling eyes.

“Why, she—” Beth hesitated.

“I’m one of those WAC’s,” Norma laughed, holding her cap bearing the
insignia in the light.

“Oh! We’ve been reading about you. Welcome to our community.” He held
out a hand for a firm and friendly clasp. “So when we report ‘One
single, flying high,’ we’ll soon be talking to a lady soldier?”

“Guess that’s right,” Norma agreed. “My name’s Norma Kent.”

“I’m Vincent Garson,” he said. “Here’s hoping we meet again.”

“Oh, we shall,” Norma exclaimed.

At that a distinguished-looking man opened the door and stepped out.

“And this is Jim Marston,” said Garson. “Used to be a parson. Now he’s
a plain American.”

“And that,” said the retired parson, “is a great privilege.”

“They’re really very famous men,” Beth whispered as they disappeared
down the stairs. “Mr. Garson designed the stained glass windows for
half the big churches in Boston. And Mr. Marston was a famous Bishop.
It takes all sorts, you see,” she added.

“Well, here we are,” Bess exclaimed. “This is our spotter shed. Isn’t
it neat?”

“Neat, and very comfortable.” Norma held her hands before the glowing
coal fire.

“It cost a thousand dollars. Everyone chipped in, but it’s worth it. It
must stand for the duration,” said Beth.

“So you’ll be listening to our reports?” said Bess. “It’s nice to know
you. We—we’ll all stand together.”

“That’s right, we must.” Norma’s heart was warmed.

“Oh!” Bess exclaimed. “We’ve forgotten we’re late. It’s time to talk to
grandfather.”

Hastily unlocking a closet door in the corner, she wheeled out a
strange-looking mechanism with a square of glass at its front.

After connecting some heavy electric wires, she turned on a switch and
at once there came a low buzzing sound.

Night was falling. The room was full of shadows.

“Watch,” said Bess.

The square of glass gave forth a faint glow. Then at the center of it,
something moved.

“A hand!” Norma thought, with a start.

It was true. Behind that glass appeared a pale hand. It moved. It took
on different forms. Now it was clenched with the thumb outside. Now
three fingers were folded in while the forefinger and thumb stuck
straight out. This was repeated. Once again the hand was clenched, this
time with the thumb folded in tight. Three fingers up, one down—all
fingers down, thumb bent in, then again three fingers down, forefinger
and thumb up, and repeat.

Then the hand vanished.

“He says ‘All is well.’” Bess said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Talking with the dead,” Norma thought with a shudder.

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



                               CHAPTER XV

                         SPOTTERS IN THE NIGHT


“That’s spooky,” Norma whispered. “Your grandfather doesn’t by any
chance happen to be in Heaven?”

“Yes, he is.” Beth laughed. “His kind of Heaven. He’s over on Black
Knob.”

“Black Knob? What’s that?”

“It’s an island ten miles off shore. Grandfather calls it his retreat.
He’s a writer on technical subjects, and an inventor.”

“He has plenty of money,” put in Bess, “so he just writes and invents.”

“And by and by someone gives him money for an invention so he can
invent some more,” Beth finished.

“Sounds wonderful!” said Norma. “But what about this thing?” She
pointed to the square of light where that expressive hand was opening
and closing, pointing and writhing again.

Beth was writing down letters rapidly, so it was Bess who replied in a
whisper:

“It’s a great secret. Only Beth, grandfather, and I know about it.
Shall I tell her?” She turned to her sister. Beth nodded.

“Cross your heart and hope to die,” Bess whispered impressively. “You
won’t tell a soul?”

“Not a soul—cross my heart and hope to die.”

“Well then—it’s television,” Bess confided. “Only there’s no sound.
Words without sound. It’s a perfectly secret way of communication, as
long as no one knows about it.”

“But I don’t see—” The hand was still going through its weird motions.

“It’s very simple,” said Bess. “Grandfather has two moving picture
cameras trained on his hand over there on Black Knob.”

“I guessed that much.”

“The rest is deaf and dumb alphabet, that’s all. A is a clenched fist
with the thumb turned in, and C—”

“How stupid I am!” Norma exclaimed. “I should have guessed it at once!”

“Oh, no!” Bess laughed. “Strange things always stick us. We want a
weird explanation, when it is something just as simple as that.”

“It’s quite wonderful,” Norma exclaimed. “I shouldn’t wonder if
something tremendously important would come out of it.” She was not
wrong in this prediction.

“Black Knob is an important point,” said Bess. “It’s so far off shore.”

“It must be,” was the quick reply. “Particularly for enemy submarines.
I’m going to tell Lieutenant Warren about it.”

“But not about television,” Bess warned. “At least, not without
grandfather’s consent.”

“Not about television,” Norma agreed.

Once again the hand had vanished from the square of light. This time
Beth pushed the apparatus into a corner and threw a cloth over it.

“He reports once each hour until midnight,” she explained. “If anything
really startling comes up, he gives us a buzz on a short-wave radio and
we turn on television for a special report.”

“After midnight?” Norma asked.

“Two elderly ladies take over until morning. They use short wave
entirely. During the day fishermen who live there keep a sharp watch.”

“It’s not much of a setup for so important a spot,” Bess said. “One old
man, two women and some fishermen. But it’s all there is there in
winter.”

“It might be improved upon,” Norma agreed.

“Well,” said Bess, drawing on a heavy coat, “I’ll get out on the
listening platform. It’s all ears from now till morning.”

“Unless they show a light,” Norma suggested.

“No enemy would show a light,” was the reply.

As Bess left her comfortable place by the fire Norma noticed that
outside the wind was picking up and snow beginning to fall.

“Not going to be a nice night,” was her comment.

“Winter’s almost gone,” was Beth’s reply. “We’ve had some really bad
nights, I can tell you.”

“What’s the payoff?” Norma asked without thinking.

“This is our country!” Beth drew herself up proudly. “No enemy planes
have ever got past us—I mean all of us—not just Bess and me. And they
never will! There are hundreds of watchers all along the coast.”

“And if you hadn’t been here they would have tried?” Norma suggested.

“Absolutely!”

“It’s grand work! We’re going to help you all we can.”

“That’s not all there is to it.” Beth leaned forward. “We saved two
lives. Fighting men they were, too. They gave us the credit, just Bess,
grandfather, and me. See?” She held out a medal that read FOR VALIANT
SERVICE.

“That’s wonderful!” Norma exclaimed. “I hope I can do as much.”

“Oh! You will! And a lot more. You’re a WAC—you are really in the Army.
I wish I could be a WAC.” There was intense longing in the younger
girl’s voice.

“Perhaps they’ll lower the age limit.”

“Here’s hoping!”

“Want to tell me about this rescue?” Norma asked.

“Oh! Sure! It wasn’t much,” was the modest reply. “Just our good luck,
that’s all.

“It was grandfather who spotted the plane first, just before midnight.
He gave us the radio buzz, then started talking fast with his
hands—television, you know. This plane had just passed over Black Knob.
There was a fog. He heard it, that’s all. It was going north slowly. We
thought—”

Beth stopped short. Bess thrust her head in at the door.

“One single, going south fast, about five miles off shore,” she
announced. Instantly Beth was on the phone saving in a clearcut voice:

“One single going south, fast. About five miles off shore. Granite Head
speaking.”

She kept a head-set over one ear, but went on with her story.

“Bess reported that plane over Black Knob at once. The Army, Navy, and
Civil Air Patrol had no such plane out that they knew of.

“That made it exciting, I can tell you. Might have been an enemy plane
scouting. And there were too many lights burning in Portland that
night.”

“What happened?” Norma demanded eagerly.

“Grandfather kept hearing them and reporting for half an hour. Then a
fighter plane went out, but couldn’t find them in the fog.

“They came in quite close to Black Knob. Then the motor went off.
Grandfather was outside. He was sure they went into the sea—thought he
heard a splash. They—”

Bess broke off suddenly to press the head-set to her ear. She listened
intently for a moment, then murmured into her speaker:

“Okay.”

Stepping to the door she said to her sister:

“Just another Navy plane off its course. Pilot called for directions
and got them.”

“See? That’s the way it is.” she said to Norma.

“I see,” said Norma. “Disappointing?”

“Yes. Every time but one out of a hundred, or a thousand, I guess, and
then—”

“Tell the rest,” Norma urged.

“Oh, about those two fliers? That was exciting, I can tell you.
Grandfather gave us the word that the plane was down.

“Then he got the fishermen out of bed. Three boats went out.
Grandfather’s boat spotted them, just in time. Their plane sank ten
minutes later.

“They were Army fliers—a trainer and a student. Umm! That student was
handsome!”

“And he would have drowned if it hadn’t been for you spotters,” Norma
said.

“Absolutely.”

“That,” said Norma, “was wonderful!”

As she stepped out of the comfortable room into the night, Norma saw a
white-robed figure—Bess, covered with snow.

“Spotters,” she whispered as she went down the stairs. “Spotters in the
night.”

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



                              CHAPTER XVI

                          THE VANISHING PRINT


Norma was up bright and early next morning. As she stepped out on the
porch for a breath of air, her eyes were greeted by a scene of
marvelous beauty. Back of a dark spot rising from the sea which must,
she thought, be Black Knob, the sun was rising.

“What a picture!” She knew just how it should be taken.

Racing into the house she put her hand on the mantel at the spot where
she had left her camera.

“Gone,” she murmured. “It’s gone!”

Well, after all, she might be mistaken. Perhaps she had taken it to her
room. Rushing upstairs, she began a hurried search.

“What’s up?” Betty demanded. “House on fire?”

“No, a gorgeous picture to be taken and I’ve misplaced my camera.”

“Here. Take mine!” Betty took her camera from the shelf.

Without a word Norma grabbed the camera and raced down the stairs to
take three exposures before the sun was too high.

“I can’t imagine what could have happened to my camera,” she exclaimed,
after a thorough search. “I’m sure I left it on the mantel downstairs.
I took two shots of the fishermen’s boats coming in yesterday, then put
it on the mantel and forgot it.”

“Oh! it will show up.” Betty was a cheerful soul.

At breakfast that morning, Norma sat by Lieutenant Warren and told her
all about Bess, Beth, their grandfather, and Black Knob.

“That seems an admirable spot for a spotter shed,” said Miss Warren.

“It must be,” Norma agreed. “Of course it has its watching post but it
seems undermanned—a grandfather and two old ladies for the night and
fishermen keeping an eye out during the day. Doesn’t sound very good.”

“No, it doesn’t. We may want to lend them a helping hand. I’ve asked
for six more auxiliaries for just such emergencies.”

“I’m glad of that,” Norma said. “We may need them more than you think
before a month has passed.”

“Why? What do you mean by that?” The Lieutenant gave her a sharp look.

“Just a hunch, I guess,” Norma evaded. She wasn’t going to tell of the
photographer with bristly white hair, of the voices behind scenes at
the studio, the black pigeons, or the missing camera until she had more
to tell.

Late that afternoon she picked up another shred of evidence. When the
day’s work was done, she got out one of the motorcycles and rode back
to the photography studio. Carl Langer had promised that the pictures
for their identification cards would be done. Then, too, she was
wondering about the three films she had left on his table.

By the time she arrived fog had driven in from the sea, making
everything look dark and gloomy. The studio seemed darkest, most gloomy
of all. Only a faint light showed through the window. The three black
pigeons sat silently along the ridge of the roof.

As if her arrival had disturbed them, they took off with noisy flapping
of wings to soar away and lose themselves in the fog out over the sea.

Norma tried the door. It was locked. She rang the bell. No response. A
second ring failed. A third long one brought an angry response.

The door flew open and Langer’s white hair seemed to give off sparks as
he stormed angrily:

“Why do you ring now? You know my hours. Everybody knows. You—”

He broke off short. At last he had taken time to look at his caller.

“Oh, it is you.” His voice changed. “You are Miss Kent, one of those
lady soldiers.” He laughed hoarsely. “Come in. The pictures are done.
They are not beautiful, but natural.” He laughed again.

He did not turn on more light. A small lamp on a table gave out a
feeble glow.

“See,” he said, shuffling a pack of prints as if they were playing
cards, “Here they are, all of them.”

Yes, there they all were and Lena’s picture was on top. “Really the
best of the lot,” Norma thought. She was not surprised.

“About my films?” She hesitated.

“Oh, yes! I have done these, too,” he exclaimed with sudden enthusiasm.
“They’re very good. You really understand timing, light, grouping, and
all that. Some of these village pictures, they are excellent. With your
permission I shall retain three films for a short time only, that I may
make enlargements.”

“That—that’s all right,” Norma replied. She was looking at the pictures
one by one and at the same time counting them.

In the end, she drew in a deep breath. There should have been
twenty-four. One was missing. “And that one,” she thought with a start,
“is the one I took of the Spanish hairdresser at Fort Des Moines.

“What a fool I was to let this man do them!” she told herself.

“There are only twenty-three prints here,” she suggested, trying to
keep her voice on an even scale.

“Twenty-three good pictures out of twenty-four!” he exclaimed. “This is
remarkable for an amateur, my dear. What should one expect?”

She wanted to say, “You are telling a lie. That was a good picture.
Taken in bright light, time—one twenty-fifth of a second and shutter
half open, I couldn’t have failed.”

She said nothing of the sort. Instead she said:

“You’ll make the some enlargements of the films you are keeping?”

“To be sure.” He rubbed his hands together. “Very fine ones. And, my
dear, they shall cost you absolutely nothing. I shall charge you
nothing for these. You are almost a genius at light, shadows, and
grouping. Such a choice of subjects! Such placing, to bring out the
angles, and the contrasts. Please allow me to do all your films.”

“Where have I heard all that before?” the girl asked herself as she
left the place. The answer, she felt sure, was, “Never anywhere
before.” It was strange.

As she mounted her motorcycle and set it pop-popping, the three black
pigeons, who had returned, once more went flapping out to sea.

“Pointing the way to Black Knob,” she told herself. “I wonder if they
ever go all the way?”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Days glided by. There was study and work, hours on end. At last more
work and less study.

They studied types of airplanes and subs until they were fairly sure of
recognizing them in daylight. Learning them by sound would be quite
another matter. For some enemy planes they had sound recordings. Norma,
who had quite a remarkable ear for sound variations, spent hours on end
listening first to the American fighter planes that every day zoomed
overhead, and then to the recordings of Zeros and Messerschmitts.

The day after her camera disappeared, she found it just where she had
left it. Had someone taken it by mistake and returned it? Did Mr.
Sperry or someone else suspect her of taking forbidden snapshots? This
seemed improbable for she had taken two pictures and the spot still
showed number three. What was more, the shutter was just as she had
left it and the time, still set at one-twenty-fifth of a second.

“It can’t have been someone who wished to use it for taking forbidden
pictures either,” Betty assured her. “No pictures have been taken.”

To her great surprise, when at last the film was used up and she had it
developed, she was told that the first two pictures had turned out as
blanks. Carl Langer showed her the blanks as proof positive.

Yet, to Norma this was not absolute proof. “For,” she told herself,
“those were very ordinary snapshots. The other pictures were taken
under the same circumstances, nothing had been done to the camera, and
yet they came out very well.”

Her curiosity was aroused. After two days had elapsed, she again left
her camera lying about. Once again it vanished. In two days it was
back. This time she had left number four showing. Hastily using up the
film, she hurried to the studio and had the film developed.

“Some of your pictures are quite wonderful,” Carl Langer commented.
“but the first three—”

“I know. They are blank.” Norma thought this, but didn’t say it. She
was wrong. The first three were quite black. Very much overexposed.
They showed nothing.

“Perhaps,” said Langer, “you were a bit careless putting in that film.
It looks light-struck at the beginning.”

She had not been careless. The film was not light-struck, yet she said
never a word. She would get to the bottom of this yet.

The next day Norma forgot her photographic problems for at last a visit
to Black Knob was on the calendar. Norma had made two more visits to
the spotter shed at Granite Point. With ever-increasing interest she
had watched the talking hands from the island and had listened to weird
and interesting tales told of the great rock called Black Knob by those
fascinating twins, Beth and Bess.

At first it was planned that only Norma and Betty should accompany
Lieutenant Warren on the trip to Black Knob but at the last moment Lena
asked permission to go.

Perhaps Miss Warren knew some things about this tall, strong girl that
Norma had never learned. Certain it is that, had it been left to her,
she would have said, “No, let’s not take her.”

Lena went along. The journey out was uneventful. Norma and Betty took
turns at the wheel. Their experience piloting boats at summer camps
stood them in good stead.

As Black Knob loomed up larger, they made out trees growing like bushy
hair on its crest and, close beside a small harbor formed by an
outcropping of rocks, a group of fishermen’s cottages and summer
tourist cabins.

A small, bright-eyed man with a full gray beard took their line at the
narrow dock.

“Lieutenant Warren!” he exclaimed. “I am glad to see you. The girls
have been telling me on short wave radio about you and one of your
workers. They call her Norma.”

“This is Norma,” said Miss Warren, helping Norma out of the boat.

“Ah,” said the little man. “I am indeed glad to meet you. As you must
have guessed, I am the grandfather of Bess and Beth. Dudley Norton is
the name I drew when I was born.” He laughed in a friendly, cackling
way. “And here,” he added, as a nine-year-old girl came dancing down
the path, “is my chief assistant, Patsy. Her principal task is keeping
the bad Gremlins away.”

“Gremlins,” said Norma. “What are Gremlins?”

“Oh! They are little people,” the girl, who was the living picture of
Bess and Beth, explained. “The bad ones put ice on your airplane’s
wings and stop up your guns when you want to shoot. But the good ones
get out, hundreds and hundreds of them, and blow on the sea to make a
big storm when the enemy subs are about.”

“Oh! That’s the way it is,” Lieutenant Warren said. “But aren’t you
afraid to live way out here when so many Gremlins are about?”

“No!” said the girl. “I’m not afraid.” She took her grandfather’s hand.
“Besides I’m not allowed to be afraid. Grandfather and I have a big job
to do over here on Black Knob—and we’re in for the duration, aren’t we,
Grandpa?”

“That we are!” The little, gray-haired man agreed heartily.

“That’s the spirit!” Lieutenant Warren exclaimed. “We’ll win now for
sure!”

After Betty and Lena had been introduced, they all took the winding
path that led to Grandfather Norton’s “House of Magic,” as Norma had
named it, long before she saw it.

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



                              CHAPTER XVII

                           THOSE BAD GREMLINS


This House of Magic she discovered was really a home and a spotter shed
combined. Originally it had been a well-built summer home made of pine
logs that had broken from a jam and drifted to the rocky shore of Black
Knob. Since this cabin had been built on a high point, overlooking the
sea, it was necessary to erect only a twenty-foot tower with a winding
stairway. This led up from the front porch. Atop this tower was a room
eight feet square with windows on every side. Outside was a two foot
walk, railed in, which gave the watcher a view of every spot on the
island and, on a clear day, many square miles of sea.

“It’s an admirable spot for a lookout,” Lieutenant Warren exclaimed.
“But what about your force? Have you enough to do a really good job?”

“No-o,” the little old man hesitated. “The Misses Morrison, Jane and
Mildred, retired school teachers of uncertain age, who like myself have
come to love the privacy of this rock, do their best to aid me, but
Jane, I fear, is becoming hard of hearing.”

“Not so good for night watching,” the Lieutenant smiled.

“Oh! I have a way of—” The old man paused, studied the circle of eyes
about him, then ended lamely, “a way, er—of using the help that is at
hand.”

“He doesn’t trust us,” Norma whispered to Betty. “At least not all of
us.” She glanced at Lena who was all eyes and ears.

“He was going to tell us of some secret hearing device,” Betty agreed.

“There are other and more interesting secrets,” Norma half confided.
She had never told Betty of the talking hands.

“If there are,” Betty whispered, “we’ll have to wait for another time
to learn about them.”

At that moment the little girl came dancing up. Pulling Norma’s head
low, she whispered:

“My name’s Patsy. I’d like to take you around the island and show you
where I saw the sub.”

“Oh! A sub!” Norma whispered. “I guess you must have imagined that!”

“No, a really, truly sub.” The girl pulled at her hand.

“Patsy and I are going exploring,” Norma explained to her commander.

“Quite all right,” was the smiling reply. “If you sight an enemy plane,
let us know.”

Norma and Patsy were away.

“It’s an awful little island,” Patsy said as they marched along. “I can
walk clear to the end of it in ten minutes.”

“Then it won’t take us long,” Norma said. “But don’t you get lonesome
here?” she asked.

“Oh, no! There are three fishermen and two Miss Morrisons without any
husbands, and Grandfather, and all the good Gremlins. Oh! there are a
lot of us—

“Besides,” she added a moment later, “I’d have to stay here anyway.
Daddy’s an officer in the Navy. And Momsie’s helping make machine guns
in a big factory. She makes good machine guns, good, good ones. No bad
Gremlin can keep the bullets from coming out of her machine guns.”

“I’ll bet they can’t,” Norma said seriously.

“Grandfather says we couldn’t beat our enemies at all if it wasn’t for
the women of America.”

“I’m sure of that,” Norma agreed again.

They were passing through a grove of pines that whispered over their
heads.

“That’s the bad Gremlins whispering.” A note of mystery crept into
Patsy’s voice. “They’re fixing up a storm, a really bad storm. They
always whisper like that before a storm.”

“Oh! then we had better hurry,” Norma exclaimed. “My chum, Betty, and I
piloted the boat. It’s neither fast nor large. We don’t know much about
boats so we wouldn’t like to get caught in a storm.”

“Oh, we’ll get back before they are through talking,” was the quick
reply. “We’ll hurry. You just must see Black Head, Gray Head, and Bald
Head.”

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

[Illustration: _“Oh, We’ll Get Back Before They Are Through Talking.”_]

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

“Who are they? People?”

“No, they’re huge rocks that slant away into the sea. When there’s a
bad storm it’s just terrible to see the way the waves come roaring in.

“When that sub came up out of the water,” the child’s voice dropped to
a whisper, “I laid right down on Black Head and—and hid my face behind
a little bush.”

“That was a wise thing to do.” Had this child really seen a German
submarine rise close to this island? Norma wondered. “It makes it all
seem so close and so real,” she whispered to herself.

“There they are!” the child cried as they emerged from the pines.
“That’s Black Head.” She pointed. “That’s Gray Head—”

“And the other must be Bald Head,” Norma laughed.

“Yes, and right out there was where the sub came up.” Again the girl
pointed. “Come on!” Seizing her companion’s hand, she dragged her along
at a furious pace.

“Right here,” she said, vastly excited. “I was just sitting here
watching for planes, when I looked down—”

Suddenly she broke off. There came the whir of wings and then, just
before them in the water at the foot of Black Head, two beautiful eider
ducks came to rest.

“Going north,” Patsy whispered. “The first ones I’ve seen this year.”

In her excitement she allowed her voice to rise and suddenly the ducks
were gone.

“Did you see that?” Patsy exclaimed. “They crash dived, just the way
the sub did, only it didn’t crash dive right away. Oh, no! You can’t
think how scared I was. Three men came up from the conning tower. They
had a rubber boat and were blowing it up.”

“Coming ashore,” Norma whispered.

“Yes, that’s what I thought. And was I scared! If they had seen me they
would have shot me. Grandfather would have heard and there would have
been a battle.”

“A battle?”

“Oh, sure! We can fight a battle, a real battle. Grandfather has two
tommy-guns. You ought to see him shoot them. Even Miss Jane Morrison
can shoot them, and so can I.”

How strange all this seemed to Norma as she sat there in the glorious
sunshine watching the eider ducks who had come up again some distance
away.

“Why did they crash dive?” she asked at last.

“Because they heard a plane. I heard it, too. It was coming from the
land, an American fighter plane. I can tell them when I hear them, yes,
and when I see them, too.

“You should have heard those men on the sub,” Patsy laughed. “How they
jabbered! They went down below, then they crash dived.”

“What did you do?”

“I jumped up and told Grandfather, and he told Beth and Bess and they
told the fort. Pretty soon there were just lots and lots of planes, but
just no sub at all.”

“Too bad,” said Norma, “but how did your grandfather tell Beth and
Bess?”

“Shish!” Patsy put a finger to her lips. “That’s a military secret.”

“Not bad for a nine-year-old,” Norma thought. “She’ll be a lady soldier
some day.”

Of a sudden the calm sea appeared to have been lashed by ten thousand
tiny whips. Then there came a race of a million tiny waves.

“That’s the bad Gremlins,” Patsy sprang to her feet. “They are whipping
the sea. Soon the sea will be very, very angry and then—”

“Yes—yes, let’s go. I’ll race you back!” Norma exclaimed. “Now get set.
One! Two! Three! Go!”

They were away like a flash.

Because she knew a short cut, Patsy was first in.

“Oh, good! Here you are!” Lieutenant Warren exclaimed. “We’ve been
thinking of starting back.”

“Yes, yes!” Norma panted. “We must go at once. The Gremlins are
whipping the water and—” she broke off short. “What nonsense!” she
thought.

“So she’s got you believing in the Gremlins!” the gray-haired man of
magic chuckled. “She’s got all of us here on the island converted to
belief in those little people.”

There was little enough to make anyone believe in the bad Gremlins as
they took off from the small dock. Now and then little flurries of wind
rose and raced across the sea. That was all. Betty was at the wheel.

“I’m going to send three of you over there to help out, at least for a
while,” Miss Warren confided to Norma.

“Oh! I’m glad!” Norma exclaimed. “It’s really not safe for them there,
three old fishermen, an aged inventor, two spinsters, and a child.”

“And if you were there, you would protect them!” the Lieutenant
laughed. “However, I wasn’t thinking of safety, but of the rare
opportunity they have for airplane spotting.

“Of course,” she added after a moment, “it will, at best, be only an
outpost. Our main station will always be at Indian Harbor.”

If her superior was not, at that moment, thinking of the possible
dangers of life on Black Knob, Norma most surely was. After recalling
Patsy’s words, she thought, “Spies have been landed on American shores
from submarines and may try again. Black Knob would make a marvelous
hideout if only—”

At that moment she was seeing a picture of herself and the aged
inventor standing at the log cabin’s windows that were like loop-holes,
and firing tommy-guns while Patsy dragged up fresh belts of ammunition.

Real danger replaced her dreams and that in a very short time for, as
if by magic, the sea began rolling in a most alarming manner and the
wind began to tear at them like mad.

“I—I can’t hold her on her course,” Betty panted. “It’s a
quar—quartering wind and every wave thro—throws—”

At that a wave, larger than the rest, came splashing across the deck.

Half drowned Norma sprung to her feet, but Lena was before her.
Crowding Betty aside, she seized the wheel and, bracing herself like a
veteran, she brought the boat about to head it squarely into the storm.

She held it to this course until there came a brief lull. Then again
she took up a direct course toward the shore.

The lull was short-lived. Soon the wind was once again cracking about
their ears and the boat was bouncing like a cork.

With lips set in a straight line and every muscle drawn tight as a bow
string, Lena braced herself for the task that lay before her.

Dark clouds engulfed them like a shroud. Waves, reaching for the boat
and missing, gave forth serpent-like hisses as they broke into foam.

Suddenly Norma’s lips parted for a scream of warning. The scream
failed. A fierce gust of wind drove it down her throat. Before them, so
close it seemed they could not miss, were two jagged piles of gray rock.

“Like the jaws of a giant sea serpent,” she told herself with a shudder.

She stole a look at Lena. She was like a statue. Her strong arms were
rigid. One moment they raced toward one reef, the next they had whirled
half about and were racing for the other. Then, as a great wave, white
with foam, hit them, they were lifted high to be shot forward in a mass
of foam.

“Made it,” Norma heard the astonishing Lena murmur.

It became apparent at once that this reef formed a barrier that held
the water back for, once across it, they found themselves in calmer
waters.

Lena’s answer to this was full speed ahead and not one of them dared
cry:

“Lena! You are wrong!”

All too well Lieutenant Warren, who had spent many months on the New
England coast, knew that they had been caught in one of those brief but
terrific storms that from time to time ravage the coast.

A quarter hour passed, then again they were in the midst of the storm.

For a full hour after that, never flinching, nor asking for quarter,
the stout Lena held to her post until with a deep breath that was half
groan and half a sigh of relief she slid the small boat into the narrow
slip by the dock. Here, behind the breakwater, they were safe.

Sergeant Tom, who had been anxiously awaiting word from them, caught
the line. Lena leaped to the dock, then, drenched as she was by cold
salt water spray, went racing for Harbor Bells.

At that moment words were running through Norma’s mind, the words of a
child:

“The bad Gremlins do that.”

As she trudged up the hill toward the spot where dry clothes, a
roaring, open fire, and steaming coffee awaited them, Norma said to her
Lieutenant:

“Lena was magnificent!”

“Yes,” was the quiet reply. “We all have our big moments. Your big
moment too will arrive, perhaps sooner than you think.”

“Will it?” Norma asked herself. There was no answer.

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



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                              SUDDEN PANIC


When Norma awoke, a half hour before her regular time, next morning, it
was with the feeling of one who has had her little world of thought
turned topsy-turvy.

“It is Lena who has done it,” she told herself.

Yet she could not hate Lena for that. It is not easy to hate any person
who in the past twenty-four hours has saved your life. Lena, she was
sure, had done just that. Neither she nor Betty could have brought the
boat safely home through that storm.

And yet, when she had seen Lena in the big living room the night
before, after dinner, and had tried to thank her, Lena had shrugged,
mumbling something about, “All in a day’s work,” and “Handled a boat
before,” then had walked away.

“You’d think she was a man,” Norma had said to Betty later. “That’s the
way men talk.”

“We’ve given her rather a cold shoulder,” was Betty’s quiet comment.
“It wouldn’t be surprising if she paid us back in cold shoulders.”

“Well,” Norma had started to reply, “perhaps we had reasons. We—” She
had gone no farther and, appearing to understand, Betty had not
encouraged her to continue.

“But life with Lena has been strange,” she told herself now.

Yes, there had been the whispered words on that first night at Fort Des
Moines, Lena’s apparent friendship with the Spanish hairdresser and
that startling affair of the self-locking door at night in a Des Moines
repair shop.

Then, too, she had quite recently heard a man at the back of the
photographer’s studio say, “You must!” and had heard a voice, which she
was sure must be Lena’s say, “I will not!” That Lena was there at the
photographer’s studio at one time or another was certain, for a picture
had been taken there for her identification card.

“But why not?” Norma whispered now, almost fiercely. What did she,
Norma, have against that photographer. He was undoubtedly a German, yet
there were hundreds of thousands of loyal German-Americans. He looked
like her mental picture of a spy she had heard Lieutenant Warren tell
about, yet her mental picture of that spy of India might be all wrong.
She had never seen him. Both these men were photographers, yet there
were many like them in the world. Both kept black pigeons. She didn’t
know a great deal about pigeons so, for all she knew, there might be a
million black ones in America.

Even the Spanish hairdresser had not been convicted of espionage. She
had disappeared from Fort Des Moines, that was all. Some woman, with a
Spanish look, had showed up at night at the Sea Tower with a faked
identification card and dressed in a WAC uniform. But was this the
Spanish hairdresser? Who could answer that question?

This brought her around to the missing picture from her film developed
by Carl Langer.

“That was a picture of the Spanish hairdresser,” she assured herself.
“The film for it is still in his studio and I am going to have it even
if I have to break in and steal it.” At that she sprang out of bed and
raced for the showers.

This, she recalled with sudden thrill, was their last day of training
and probation. Today for the last time she would sit for eight hours
with Sergeant Tom McCarthy at her elbow making sure that she marked on
her chart the exact spot where an airplane had been spotted and seeing
to it that she checked correctly with the representative of the Army,
Navy, and Civil Aeronautics Authority to make sure that the plane
really belonged where it had been spotted.

“Tomorrow,” she told herself, “I’ll be there all alone, doing my bit.”

Ah, yes, and that was not all. Rosa, Betty, Millie, Lena, and all the
rest would be there at their appointed hours. And ten sturdy young men
would oil up their guns and go marching off.

Did these boys like it? Some, she knew, were raring to go and some
would have been glad to stay for they were, after all, very human.

“What they want doesn’t matter now,” she thought grimly.

At the Major’s dance held in the big dining hall at Harbor Bells, she
had enjoyed their lively fun. Working shoulder to shoulder with them in
the Sea Tower, she had come to know them better than she knew her
fellow WACs.

Yes, she would miss them. One consolation was that Sergeant Tom
McCarthy was not leaving. He had serious work to do here for, in the
narrow harbor, between docks, was a seaplane called “Seagull.” In this
plane Sergeant Tom did patrol duty, and, if occasion demanded, could do
his bit at hunting out an enemy plane, to shower its pilot with
machine-gun fire, or drop a bomb on a prowling sub.

Today, however, since it was Saturday and she had an afternoon off, she
was planning a land adventure, none other than obtaining by hook,
crook, or downright house-breaking, the film showing the Spanish
hairdresser. Little wonder then that, try as she might, she missed the
exact spot in her chart for a reported plane and got her ears not too
playfully boxed by Sergeant Tom.

In the end, however, Tom gave her an A rating and she was all ready for
the big step forward, a WAC in the active service of her country.

It was a bright, brisk day. An inch of snow had fallen the day before.
Cars had swept the snow from the roads. The night before it had frozen
hard. In the bright sunlight the valleys, hills, trees, and forests
were all aglitter.

“A grand day for taking pictures,” Norma exclaimed as she and Betty
hurried home for lunch. “I’m going for a long, long bike ride.”

“Wish I could go with you,” Betty sighed, “but I just must catch up
with my letter writing. I have a hunch that I’m going to be sent over
to Black Knob for a while. There, getting off letters won’t be so easy.”

“I’d be glad to have just such a hunch myself. I like that little girl
and her grandfather,” was Norma’s reply. “And the bad Gremlins!”

“I have an idea that Lieutenant Warren has other plans for you,” Betty
said slowly. “Something like making you second in command, a sergeant
perhaps. Then there’ll be two sergeants,” she laughed. “Tom and Norma!
That will be grand!”

“And will we tell you where to get off!” Norma’s eyes shone. “But just
you wait a while for that!”

“It won’t be long now,” Betty chanted.

“Look!” Norma’s voice dropped. “That photographer over at Granite Head
held out one of my pictures.”

“He did!”

“He certainly did! The one of that Spanish hairdresser at Fort Des
Moines.”

“You don’t think—” Betty stared.

“No, I don’t think anything, but I’m going to have that picture if I
have to lose an arm getting it.”

“Don’t be rash,” Betty warned. “It’s not worth it.”

“Who knows?” Norma murmured thoughtfully.

She was still weighing this question when she arrived at the studio at
Granite Head.

As she entered the studio she found Carl Langer talking excitedly to an
elderly fisherman’s wife. The woman’s face, bronzed by many winds and
seamed by many a care, was, she thought, most attractive.

Carl Langer was saying in a harsh tone, “No, madam! I can not take your
picture. I am too busy, and besides—just one print. Bah! That is not
enough! I would lose money.”

“It is for my son.” The woman’s voice was low, pleading. “It is for my
only son. He is a soldier fighting in Africa.”

“Soldier! Bah!” The photographer’s eyes bulged. “There are many million
soldiers and most times they are drunk.”

This last Norma knew was not true. Her face flushed but she said never
a word until the woman was gone. Then she said:

“You don’t know a picture when you see one!”

“How is that?” Carl Langer scowled.

“If you had seated that woman on a log, put a sea scene behind her, and
given her a net to mend, you might have had a masterpiece.”

Carl Langer shot her a look but said never a word.

“Mr. Langer,” she said, after a moment, “a while back you kept some of
my films.”

“To make some prints? They were very fine pictures. I gave you some
enlargements.”

“Yes, that was generous of you.”

“That was nothing! Nothing!” The photographer’s chest swelled.

“You forgot to give me my films,” she suggested.

“That is true. Wait. I shall bring them.” He hurried to the back room.

“It’s no use trying to get the Spanish hairdresser’s picture today,”
she told herself. “He’s in an explosive mood.”

The films she had asked for showed scenes—a cozy white, New England
village, a boy bringing in wood, and a rare shot of a deer deep in the
forest drinking from a pool at the foot of a tiny waterfall.

“Here they are.” He handed her an envelope.

“That’s fine. Now sell me three films and I’ll be off for another
afternoon of shooting.”

“You lady soldiers,” he laughed, “you are the dead-sure shots.”

“Who knows?” she murmured. She was seeing a little gray-haired man and
a girl standing at the window of a log cabin on Black Knob Island with
tommy-guns on their knees.

“Here are the films. And good shooting to you,” he laughed.

“He wouldn’t say that if he could read my thoughts,” she told herself.

Having paid for her films, she stepped once more into the crisp air.

After wrapping her camera and new films in her utility coat and placing
them in the bike basket, she paused to examine the old films he had
given her.

“There are four instead of three,” she thought with a start. Then,
without knowing why, she pocketed the films and rode rapidly away.

Did she hear a distant shout while only a quarter of a mile down the
road? She did not look back. She peddled for a mile or more along the
shore road and entered a small fishing village. She was just in time to
see the fisherwoman turn up the path leading to her own door.

“Wait a minute,” she called. The woman waited.

“Will you allow me to take your picture?” she asked as she came close.

The woman looked at the girl’s uniform for a moment. Then, as a smile
spread over her wrinkled face, she said:

“You are one of them WACs, a lady soldier. Yes, miss. Take as many as
you like fer my son. He is a soldier, too.”

“I’ll take two for you and one for me,” Norma replied cheerily. “You
must send one to your son in Africa.”

“He shall have them both,” said the woman tidying up her faded dress.

Norma posed her before her cottage, then down by the seashore.

“We’ll say a prayer tonight asking that your son may come back safely,”
she said in a low, quiet tone.

“And may the good Lord bless you,” said the woman.

“See!” said Norma, taking the envelope of films from her pocket. “I can
take as good pictures as Carl Langer ever made and they won’t cost you
a cent.”

She very nearly dropped the first film she held to the light. It was a
good, clear picture of the Spanish hairdresser standing by the gate at
Fort Des Moines.

“Did Carl Langer mean to give me that film?” she asked herself as she
left the fishing village. She doubted it. He probably had put the film
in the envelope by mistake, or had forgotten it was there.

She took a long, long ride that day. She seemed to hear more than once,
when she thought of turning back, the good Gremlins urging her to go on.

At last, having circled a row of hills, she turned once more toward the
sea and there, just before her, nestling on a sloping hillside and half
hidden by pines that stood out black against the snow, was the most
charming colonial home she had ever seen.

It was a large house. Shapely white pillars adorned its broad porch.
There were three great chimneys.

“A fireplace in every room,” she thought. “How old and perfectly
charming it must be.”

Back of the house was a red barn with three white cupolas. On the roofs
of the cupolas were many pigeons.

“All black pigeons,” she thought with a start.

Just then the bark of a dog startled her. The broad door to the house
had opened. Three large dogs had come dashing out.

Their master called them back. She was glad. For a moment she had been
terribly frightened.

She took one more look at the house, the barn, the dogs, and their
master. Then, in sudden panic, she turned squarely about, leaped on her
bicycle, and peddled back over the way she had come.

The man with the three dogs by the door of that lovely house was Carl
Langer, the photographer. She still had that film he had tried to hide
from her. But there were other causes for her sudden panic. Pictures
were playing back and forth in her mind and she was hearing Lieutenant
Warren telling of the man in India who had been shot as a spy.

“First it is Carl Langer who looks like that spy. Then he acts like
that spy. He steals my film. He refuses to take honest people’s
pictures. He keeps black pigeons. And now I find him at his own rich
estate back in the hills. It’s too much, far too much.”

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



                              CHAPTER XIX

                         A BATTLE IN THE NIGHT


Norma did not slacken her speed until she reached the shore road. When
she passed through Granite Head lamps were being lighted. On coming to
the narrow road leading to the spotter shed she caught a gleam of light
up there. Feeling in need of friendship and good cheer, she sprang from
her bike to go trudging up the hill.

She was given a joyous welcome by Bess and Beth.

“Come on in,” Bess exclaimed. “We’re just brewing a cup of tea.”

“Just what I need.” Nonna sank into a chair. “Tea, a kind word, and a
smile.”

“You shall have all three,” Beth declared. “And you surely deserve it.
Patsy told me all about your wild ride on the sea. Those bad Gremlins
nearly got you that time.”

“Patsy? Is she over here?” Norma asked.

“No, not here,” was the reply. “She, too, can talk with her hands. Just
as soon as she told me with those expressive hands of hers that you
were out in the storm, I got on the wire and stayed there until I knew
you were safe.”

“That was kind of you.” Norma felt that she surely was making warm
friends. “Probably I shall need them,” she told herself.

Bess went outside to take up her spotter’s post. When tea was served,
they passed her a big, steaming cup.

After eating delicious homemade cakes and thin nut-bread sandwiches
with her tea, Norma felt ready once more for journey and battle.

“I’ll be going now,” she stood up, “and thank you a lot.”

“Don’t go yet,” Beth begged. “We’ll have a little chat with Patsy and
perhaps with Grandfather, though he’s often prowling about the island
at this hour, looking for subs,” she laughed.

After dragging both a television camera and receiving set from
cabinets. Beth watched the clock for a short time, then set things
humming.

Half a minute later a pair of tiny hands appeared in the square of
light and began to talk.

“Patsy is here,” Norma whispered.

Beth nodded, “Here and ten miles away. Isn’t it strange?” She watched
those hands and at the same time wrote down letters one by one. “She
says Grandfather has been gone for an hour and she’s a little bit
afraid.”

“I shouldn’t wonder,” said Norma with a shake of the head.

“He takes too many chances,” Beth said soberly.

“Can you talk to her?” Norma asked.

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

[Illustration: _“Tea Is Just What I Need,” Said Norma_]

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

“Oh, sure. Watch me.” Soon, with the television camera trained upon
them, Beth’s hands were twisting themselves in all manners of strange
forms.

“Tell her I’m here,” said Norma.

Again Beth’s hands talked across ten miles of black waters.

Then it was little Patsy’s time to talk. The words fairly flew from her
nimble fingers.

“She says she loves you,” Beth laughs. “She hopes you’ll come often.
But, oh, is she glad the bad Gremlins didn’t get you that other night!”

“She’s a dear child.” said Norma. “I only wish I were going there to
live for a time. But I’m a little afraid that is out.”

“Too bad, I’m sure. Patsy’d love it. You’d have experiences you’d not
forget.”

“Looks as if I might have unforgettable experiences anyway,” Norma
laughed nervously. She was thinking of the Spanish hairdresser, of Carl
Langer, and all the strange surprises that had come to her. “I’ll tell
Lieutenant Warren all about it very soon,” she told herself.

Again Patsy was talking. It was an animated and joyous conversation
they held with Patsy while Bess stood watch outside.

Then, of a sudden, all was changed. Patsy broke off short in the middle
of a sentence. Her tiny hands disappeared and in their stead were
larger, older hands.

“Grandfather,” Beth whispered as if afraid he might hear. “And is he
excited!”

Soon enough they knew there was reason for excitement. The trembling
hands spelled out the words rapidly, one by one:

“Submarine—half mile off shore—Send help!”

Norma sprang for the telephone. Taking down the receiver she tried to
speak calmly, distinctly:

“N-K speaking at G-P.” Her words seemed to tremble. “Black Knob reports
submarine, half mile off shore. Send planes.”

At that instant Bess thrust her head in at the door to report:

“One single off Black Knob coming this way, moderate speed.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

At that same instant Millie, who was standing watch on the top of the
Sea Tower, took a frosty telephone from its hiding place and called
down to Betty:

“One single. About six miles off shore, looks like coming from Black
Knob, coming west, moderate speed.”

At once Betty got in touch with the men below. In ten seconds she had
her answer. “No plane due to be at that point. Wait for second report.”

The second report came, not from Norma at Granite Point spotter shed,
but from a fisherman’s wife at the village which Norma had visited a
few hours before.

On receiving the report, Sergeant Tom sprang up the stairs to stand at
Millie’s side and add his keen listening ears to hers.

“Circling as if for a landing,” was his first comment. “Mighty strange,
a small plane way out there at this hour of the night. It’s not any
American plane I’ve ever heard. I’m going out there. Tell Betty to
notify the Rock Point airfield. Tell her to give the details.”

Going down the stairs he all but fell over Rosa who was just going off
duty.

“Oh, Tom!” she exclaimed. “Are you going after that plane?”

“Looks like I am.” Tom bounded out into the uncertain light of night.
There was no moon.

Rosa, who was right at his heels, called in a low, eager voice: “Tom,
take me with you!”

“What, a lady? It can’t be done!”

“I’m a soldier. I’ll handle the spotlight.”

“And the machine gun, too, I suppose,” he grumbled.

“Yes, and that, too. Tom, please take me,” she pleaded.

When the Seagull rose from the dark sea, Rosa rode in the second seat.
Tom had extracted from her a promise of absolute secrecy, that was all.

                  *       *       *       *       *

There was reason enough why Norma’s report of the plane and the sub had
not come in. The phone at the Granite Head spotter shed was dead.
Beyond a doubt the wires had been cut.

While they were finding this out, Beth had received a more complete
report from her grandfather. He had been hearing sounds from the sea
for a full half hour. Someone was working on a motor or some other
thing. At first he thought some fisherman’s boat was stalled.

As the craft was carried in by the tide, he caught words spoken in
German. Then he made out the long, low bulk of the sub. Now he was
telling of a mysterious plane that had appeared from just nowhere and
was soaring out over the sea.

“I’ve got my bike!” Norma exclaimed excitedly. “I’ll ride like mad. Be
at the Sea Tower in no time at all!” She was away at once.

As Norma sped down those winding stairs she was thinking of the old man
and the child out there on Black Knob and their great peril. “Those men
were rigging out a boat,” she told herself. “They were going ashore on
the island. And then—”

She coasted down the hill at a terrific speed. Only a miracle saved her
from a crash at the bottom.

She got her crash all the same. Having covered a quarter of the
distance to the Sea Tower, she rounded a curve when to her
consternation she saw a ghost-like figure, all in white, standing in
the middle of the road.

Swinging as far as she could to the right, she attempted to pass when,
with an astonishing leap, the figure landed upon the back of her
bicycle and wrapped long arms about her. Instantly they went down in a
heap.

“It’s a spy,” she thought. “He cut the wire. Now he means to stop me.
But he won’t.”

Summoning all her courage and drawing heavily on her feeling of sudden
desperation, she threw all her strength into tearing away those arms.

The ease with which this was done astonished her. Those were not strong
arms. They seemed to be the arms of a woman.

Norma’s escape was, she discovered, not to be so easy. Her opponent was
surprisingly fast. No sooner were her arms free than she was gripped by
both ankles and thrown with a crash to the ground.

At last, struggling to a sitting position, she pushed the creature away
and sprang up.

Leaping like a panther, her enemy landed on her back to send her
crashing once again.

“I’ve got to be cool,” the girl told herself. “This may be a fight to
the death.”

When once again she found herself on her feet she began sparring like a
boxer.

Then, seeing an opening, she seized her opponent by one arm. Hanging on
desperately with both hands, she started whirling. Finding her
assailant surprisingly light, she at last swung her off her feet. Three
more dizzy turns, then she let go.

The white figure crashed into the bank ten feet away. Without looking
back, Norma seized her bike, mounted, and rode away at terrific speed.

In the meantime Tom and Rosa were out over the sea. First they headed
for the spot where the plane had last been heard. They circled in an
ever growing spiral but discovered nothing.

Switching on a light, Tom looked back at Rosa. The look on her round
face betrayed no sign of fear. Instead there was a look of grim
determination.

“We’ll climb,” he spoke into his phone. “It may be cold.”

“Okay by me,” Rosa called back cheerfully.

“We’ll get up high. Then I’ll shut off my motor and glide. Then you
listen with both your ears.”

“With both my ears,” came echoing back.

They climbed. Then they began a silent glide.

“Out to sea.” Rosa’s ears had caught the sound of a motor. “Near the
island I think. Black Knob, you know?”

Tom had heard, too. They were away.

Over Black Knob they circled again “No soap,” Tom grumbled. “You much
scared?” he asked.

“Not scared at all.”

“Want to turn on the searchlight and sweep the sky as we circle?” he
asked. “They may see us and shoot. That may mean curtains for us.”

“But if it’s an enemy scout plane from an aircraft carrier,” this was
the girl’s answer, “then it is curtains for many people—women and
children.” Rosa snapped on the light. After that, as they circled low
over the water, a pencil of light searched the sky.

Now and then the girl played the light on dark waters.

“Looking for the aircraft carrier,” Tom thought. “She’s sure got what
it takes.”

Suddenly Rosa exclaimed, “Look! What’s that?”

“What? Where?”

“It was on the water. Not big, but long and low.”

“A fishing boat, perhaps,” said Tom. “They’re coming in from the Banks
these days.”

“Mebby, yes, mebby no,” was the odd reply.

Truth was, they had sighted the sub, but, since Norma’s report had
failed, they knew nothing of that sub. So they circled on.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Norma! You’re a sight!” Betty cried as her pal at last stumbled into
their Sea Tower watchroom. “Did you have a crash?”

“Yes—yes—a crash,” Norma murmured half in a daze. “But, Betty, quick!
Notify the airfield! There’s an enemy submarine clo-close to Black
Knob. They—they’re trying to land, I think. That—that will be terrible!”

“A squadron of planes is on the way now!” Betty said.

“Who—who told them about the sub?” Norma stared.

“Not the sub,” Betty corrected. “There is an unidentified airplane.”

“Oh, oh, yes. Then, tell them to send out planes to look for the sub.”

Betty got off the message while Norma collapsed into a chair.

“Here, drink this,” Betty offered her a cup of steaming coffee.

“Oh, Betty!” Norma exclaimed. “It was terrible! I tried to call from
the spotter shed but the wires were cut. I started coming here like mad
on my bike. Someone attacked me—”

“Attacked you!”

“Threw me off my bike! We—we had a terrible fight. It was a woman or a
boy in a white snow suit. Woman, I think. The Spanish hairdresser, I
shouldn’t wonder!”

“The Spanish hairdresser!” Betty’s eyes opened wide.

“Yes—I have her picture.” Norma dug into the pocket of her coat.

“It—it’s gone!” she gasped. “It was the Spanish hairdresser. The
picture was what she wanted. I—I lost the fight after all.”

“Not by a long way,” Betty declared stoutly. “If she’s around here,
we’ll get her yet. I—

“Wait,” she held up a hand, then listened.

“Five more planes going out. We’ll get that sub.”

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



                               CHAPTER XX

                      PATSY WATCHES THREE SHADOWS


Once again Tom McCarthy and Rosa climbed to the upper sky where the
stars seemed to reach down for them and the air was bitter cold.

“Now,” Tom muttered hoarsely, as he shut off the motor and they started
on a spiral glide, “listen!”

“Listening,” came in a hoarse whisper.

At first no sound reached their listening ears. Then they caught a low,
indistinct roar, like the approach of an on-rushing storm.

“A terrible storm coming.” Rosa seemed a little frightened.

“That’s no storm,” Tom’s voice was husky. “It’s the roar of lots of
planes.”

“Lots of planes,” Rosa repeated. “They come from an airplane carrier.
They will fly to Portland, Boston, perhaps New York!”

“Who knows?” Tom’s eyes were on his instruments. They were still
spiraling rapidly.

“Darn!” he murmured, scowling fiercely. Where was the sea? To strike it
head-on meant death. At night sky and sea look alike. And yet he wanted
to listen to get the direction of that on-rushing squadron. At that
moment he saw himself at the controls with Rosa manning the machine
gun, surrounded by ghost-like enemy fighters shooting by them in the
night. It was a fantastic, but not impossible, scene.

Suddenly a single flash of light appeared beneath them. One instant it
was there, the next it was gone.

“Rosa! Quick! The spotlight!” He pulled the plane up so short that
blood rushed to Rosa’s head and it was with the greatest difficulty
that she set the light playing on the water.

One frightened look down and she gasped. They were all but upon the
water and going like the wind.

One more short pull and their ship leveled off. It was then that their
spot of light, gliding swiftly across the water, revealed a secret.
Their light crossed a long, low craft with a tower at its center.

“Sub,” Tom shouted. But already it was too late to drop a bomb. They
were over it and gone.

Instantly he began to climb. Not very high this time, perhaps ten
thousand feet, then again silence.

The roar of distant motors was louder now, but even louder and closer
at hand sounded a single motor.

“That’s the enemy plane,” Tom muttered. After listening with all his
senses, he changed the direction of his plane and they went shooting
away at full speed. Tom was flying by sense of direction alone, a
dangerous business in the night.

Ten long minutes he stuck to his course, then, after climbing once
more, he shut off the motor and began to glide.

“Huh!” he grunted. “We had that plane’s course to a ‘T’, but they’re
fast. They’ve gone straight out to sea.”

“Then we can’t catch up with them?” Rosa asked.

“Never!”

“They go back to Europe?”

“That’s impossible. Plane’s too small to carry enough gas.”

“Then the ocean will get them.”

“No chance,” Tom grumbled. “They’ll keep a secret meeting with that
sub!”

Realizing that his supply of gas would not carry him much further and
allow them to fly back, Tom put his motor in motion and very
reluctantly turned back.

At that moment, hidden by the night and the shadow of a great rock,
Patsy and her grandfather sat huddled in the cold at the foot of Bald
Head, listening and straining their eyes for some sight or sound from
the sea.

“That was Tom McCarthy in the seaplane,” the grandfather whispered.

“Yes, and that other plane, that was an enemy plane,” said Patsy. “I
hope the good Gremlins will pack its wings with ice until it falls into
the sea!”

“But for us,” said the grandfather, “the sub is more important!”

“Yes, they might land,” the child answered and crowded close.

“Let them come,” came in a low, even tone. “We’ll take care of that.”
He patted the tommy-gun on his knee. “We—”

“Sh—” Patsy placed a finger on his lips. Her young ears were sharper
than his. Had she caught the low murmur of voices? She could not be
quite sure.

“People talking,” she whispered, after a moment of intent listening.

Another moment of breathless silence and then: “Sounds like water
splashing.”

“Paddles.” The old man gripped his gun tight.

Old for her years, Patsy knew this meant a boat of one sort or another.
Without saying a word, she glided down the slope of Bald Head until her
face was a scant two yards from the water that gently lapped the shore.
Then, dropping flat on her stomach, she looked straight out across the
dark surface of the sea. If a boat was out there it would show against
the dull gray of the night sky.

A full five minutes passed without a sound. Then she whispered back:

“Not a boat, but three men sitting on the sea.”

“A rubber boat!” Without a sound the grandfather slid down the dock to
her side. Then, bidding her lie quite still, he put his gun across her
slender body. She did not flinch.

He could see the men. There were three or four of them. They came
slowly shoreward, pausing now and then to rest.

“Afraid?” the girl said.

“Yes, of a trap,” was the all but inaudible answer.

Grandfather was thinking slowly, carefully, weighing the wisdom of
laying a volley across the spot in the sea.

“They could be friends,” he whispered. “We’ll wait. Perhaps they will
speak. Then we’ll know.”

So they waited and while they waited the low roar of many planes began
beating on their eardrums.

“Oh!” Patsy squirmed in fear. “If these are enemy planes from a
carrier—”

“They’ll not bomb Black Knob,” was the cheering assurance. “They only
drop bombs where there are many people.”

“Listen,” he ended. “See if you can get their direction.”

Once again, save for the occasional dip-dip of a paddle, silence hung
over Black Knob.

Suddenly, after gripping the old man’s arm with intense eagerness, the
girl whispered:

“Grandfather! Those planes are coming from the south!”

“From Rocky Point airfield! They should have started sooner. Something
must have gone wrong. But now—”

“Now will there be a battle?” The child was trembling all over.

“I don’t know, child.”

“Shall you shoot out there?”

“We must wait and see,” was the calm reply, always in a slow whisper.
“We cannot afford a horrible mistake.”

And so, with the roar beating ever louder in their ears, they lay
there, not daring to move, the man and the child.

As for the shadowy figures “sitting on the water,” they too must have
heard, for there came no longer the dip-dip of their paddles.

Tom and Rosa, too, were being cheered by the ever increasing roar.

“We’ll leave that sub to them,” Tom said through the speaker. “We can’t
have much more than enough gas to take us in.”

At last they circled low, dropped to the surface inside the breakwater
at Indian Point, then taxied in.

The instant the motor stopped and Tom had secured a tie line, he said
in a low tone:

“This is our secret, Rosa. To anyone else, you just didn’t go with me.”

“Okay,” was the frank agreement.

“Grab that skiff and row as fast as you can to the dock!”

“But you will come, too?” the girl demurred.

“Not yet!” He lifted her into the skiff. “Don’t you see, you little
goose? If you come back for me, then it will all be quite regular. You
just happened along and gave me a lift.”

“I see.” The girl rowed swiftly away.

When, a quarter of an hour later, Rosa, still fairly shaking with cold,
but managing a casual stride for all that, walked into the big living
room, Norma exclaimed, “Rosa! Where have you been? They have looked for
you everywhere!”

“I went out for a little fresh air, that’s all.”

Norma, studying Rosa’s face, whispered: “Little Rosa has one more
secret.” And little Rosa had—just that!

Still the old man and the child lay in the darkness on the great rock,
feeling the sound of motors growing louder, ever louder in their ears.
Still the old man’s fingers trembled as they gripped the gun that might
have spelled death to those shadowy forms on the black waters.

At last the girl whispered, “They’re paddling again! I can hear them,
dip-dip-dip. Will they come ashore now? Will you shoot, Grandfather?”

“If they come ashore I will shoot.”

Still, quite breathless, the child lay quiet, tensing as she lost the
sound of the paddles. The roar of motors drowned it out. As her eyes
searched the waters, it seemed to her that the shadowy forms were
fading.

Then she lost interest in the sea, for coming like the wind, were
airplanes, good American planes.

“They’re coming to drive the horrible sub and all the bad Gremlins
away!” she whispered.

She wanted to leap to her feet and scream, “Hurrah! Hurrah for our
planes!” but she dared not.

The planes were not looking for the sub. They had been sent out to find
an enemy plane. As if by magic a gray mist came sweeping in from the
sea.

“It’s the bad Gremlins.” She spoke aloud at last. “They have hidden
those men!”

“The men on the sub have made a fog to hide them,” was the
grandfather’s reply. “Even the airplanes will not find the sub now.”

“Come,” he lifted her up, “we must go back to the cabin. You are
freezing. We will listen there. You may talk with your hands.”

“Grandfather,” she said, as she trotted beside him, “will the sub come
back?”

“Perhaps another day.”

“And then will you shoot at those shadows on the water?”

“Yes, if I know they are our enemies, I will!”

Little Patsy did not talk with her hands that night, for, after
drinking a big cup of hot chocolate and being wrapped in two warm
blankets, she curled up on the broad couch and fell fast asleep.

It was the grandfather who, with his hands, spelled out their story to
Beth and Bess, the faithful watchers at the Granite Head spotter tower.
And all the while the searching planes roared on in the night.

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



                              CHAPTER XXI

                         NIGHT FOR A SPY STORY


And Norma too was on the watch—

It was one of those nights when one does not wish to sleep. The air was
full of sounds, of airplanes roaring in close ashore, then speeding
away to sea.

There were wild tales going the rounds of the village as Norma went
there for a walk. There would be an invasion of America. Spies were
being landed all along the coast from subs.

“I heard,” said a fisherman, “that one of them lady soldiers, a WAAC do
they call them, was beat to death on the road from Granite Head.” As
Norma listened in on this bit of conversation, she smiled. She, beyond
doubt, was that “lady soldier.” It all went to show how stories grew as
they traveled.

“Or does it?” she asked with a start. “Perhaps someone is starting
these wild tales to frighten us. If that’s it,” she squared her
shoulders, “they’ve got a long way to go.”

As she returned to Harbor Bells, she found herself in a mood for
talking, telling tales, confiding in someone.

And there, sitting alone by the half-burned fire, as if she had been
waiting for her, sat Lieutenant Warren.

“It’s a wild night,” she said, as Norma dropped into a seat beside her.

“Yes, a strange night. It seems to bring the war close.”

“So very close to America,” the Lieutenant agreed. “It’s a night for a
ghost story.”

“Yes, or a spy story,” Norma replied quickly. “Lieutenant Warren, I’ve
discovered your German spy from India right here in America.”

“What? Why, that’s impossible!” The officer sat straight up to stare at
her. “He was shot as a spy, two years ago in India!”

“Are you sure? Did your friend really say your photographer friend was
shot?”

“Well, now,” Lieutenant Warren went into a brown study, “perhaps not
just that. She did say that a photographer who had a studio facing the
parade ground—I supposed he was the one I knew—was shot.”

“It might not be. Let me tell you all about it.” Norma’s voice dropped
as she moved her chair close. From outside came the roar of a motor
that slowly faded away.

“He calls himself Carl Langer,” Norma said.

“That wasn’t the name. But it’s easy to take a new name. Most spies do,
I guess,” Lieutenant Warren said.

“I saw him the very first night we were here,” Norma went on. “I went
out for a look at the moon and the sea and there he stood by the gate
with a camera in his hand.”

“Oh, is he a photographer here, too?” Lieutenant Warren’s voice rose a
bit.

“Yes, of course, and a very good one. His hair stands up the way it
does on a pig’s back, only it’s scrubbed and shines white. His face is
lined but is round and soft-looking.”

“What a remarkable resemblance!” Rita Warren murmured. “But why didn’t
you tell me any of this before?”

“I wanted to be sure,” Norma said. “I could not accuse people....”

“Of course,” Lieutenant Warren said.

“But listen! You haven’t heard anything,” Norma warmed to her subject.
“He has a grand pose, didn’t want to do my snapshots for me, said he
couldn’t waste his time and money.”

“And you said—”

“I said, ‘You wouldn’t be wasting your money because I mean to pay
you!’” At that they both laughed.

“Oh, it’s been like doing a part in a play,” Norma exclaimed. “Just as
if I had been drilled in advance for every act!”

“And did he do your pictures for you?”

“Of course, but Miss Warren—” Suddenly Norma’s face grew tense. “He
held out on me. He kept the one I took of the Spanish hairdresser at
Fort Des Moines.”

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

[Illustration: _“I Had to Be Sure Before Accusing People.”_]

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

“The Spanish hairdresser?”

“Yes. Don’t you remember her? She and Lena seemed to be great friends.
She did Lena’s hair for her every other day and I doubt if she always
was paid for it ... I followed her and Lena.” Unthinkingly, Norma raced
on.

“Followed them?”

“Yes, in Des Moines.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know why, I just did, that’s all. They went into a dark repair
shop on a spooky side street. I followed them in and the door closed
behind me. It locked itself. I couldn’t get out.”

“Girl alive!” Rita Warren exclaimed sharply. “You might have been
murdered!”

“Yes,” Norma drew in a deep breath. “Yes, but I wasn’t.”

“What happened?”

“Some man gripped my arm. He seemed very angry. Then, suddenly, he
changed and was very polite.”

“Why?”

“Because he knew I was a WAC.”

“But you said it was dark!”

“It was—I guess he knew me by the fine wool in my coat. That’s one time
when it really paid to wear my uniform.”

“It may have saved your life,” was the Lieutenant’s slow comment. “He
wouldn’t have dared harm a WAC. Not in Des Moines. That would have
brought the town down on his head.

“But, wait!” Rita Warren’s voice rose as she continued. “How does Lena
fit into the picture? Why did this Carl Langer hold out your picture of
this Spanish hairdresser? Or did he? Perhaps the shot was no good. That
often happens—”

“It didn’t happen this time.” Norma’s voice dropped to a whisper. “He
gave the film to me by mistake this very day. I got a look at it,
that’s all.”

“Let’s have another look.”

“We can’t,” Norma whispered. “Someone in a white snow suit waylaid me
on the coast road and took it from me, after a fight!”

“A fight!”

“And how!” Norma’s voice carried conviction.

“This sounds interesting and rather dangerous.” Rita Warren was
impressed. “Tell me the rest. Tell me more of Fritz Kurnsen, no—no, I
mean your Carl Langer. Fritz was my spy in India. It would be really
ridiculous to think they were the same. He was shot, I’m sure!”

“Yes, that’s what you think.” The words were on Norma’s lips, but she
did not say them. Instead she said: “Let me see—oh, yes, Carl Langer is
very selfish and doesn’t work any more than he has to. He refused to
take a picture of a poor fisherwoman. And she wanted to send the
picture to her son in the service over in Africa.”

“He would!” Rita Warren agreed. “That is, if he were Fritz Kurnsen. But
tell me about this fight with the white-robed figure.”

Norma told her. In a dramatic manner she described the entire battle.

“That’s bad!” the Lieutenant exclaimed. “So they cut the wires to the
spotter’s shed!”

“They must have.”

“The war comes closer to us every day. I must put Mr. Sperry, the FBI
agent, on the tracks of these people at once—”

“But Lena?” The words slipped out unbidden.

“Lena must look out for herself.” Rita Warren’s words were spoken in
tones cold as ice. “We are in a war. If Lena has been associating with
spies, if she’s been doing wrong things she must suffer for them.”

“But it’s not been proven yet.”

“Not yet.”

“Then there’s Rosa,” Norma said quietly.

“Rosa? Is she in on this, too?”

“I—I don’t know. Just tonight she came in after she had been away a
long time, with a strange, secretive look on her face. And back at Fort
Des Moines, there was her flashing of light at night and the crazy
thing she did at the airport.”

“Tell me.”

Norma told of the flashing lights and Rosa’s book of prayers.

“That sounds innocent enough,” said Rita Warren.

“I hoped you’d say that, but the airplane story is, well, sort of
different.”

Norma told of the time Rosa had come very close to running away with a
secret fighter plane.

“What in the world made her do that?” Rita Warren exclaimed, when the
story was finished.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” Norma seemed troubled. Then she exclaimed,
“Oh, I’m sorry I told you! I never wanted to suspect anyone of doing
anything wrong!”

“It’s all right, your telling me,” was the reply.

“About Carl Langer, yes!” Norma exclaimed in a low, tense voice. “He’s
a pig and in spite of the fact that he flatters me, I hate him. But
Lena and Rosa—that’s different.” Her voice dropped. “Rosa’s been a good
sport and a regular pal. And Lena—well, she practically saved our lives
in that storm.”

“You forget that she was, at the same time, saving her own life.”

“Yes—oh—yes, of course, but, Lieutenant Warren!” Norma’s voice rose.
“There is still more to be told about Carl Langer!”

“Let’s hear it!”

“He keeps black pigeons. They roost on his studio roof. And today,” she
caught her breath. “Today I went for a long ride up into the hills. And
what do you suppose I saw?”

“An estate all surrounded with palms, with your Carl Langer standing at
the door,” Rita Warren laughed.

“The picture is perfect.” Norma did not laugh. “Only instead of palms
there were huge pine trees standing out against the snow. Even the dogs
were there, three of them—fierce-looking beasts. And the pigeons were
on the barn roof, lots of them.”

“And you went up to the door and said: ‘Carl Langer, please show me
your ancient masterpiece.’”

“I jumped on my bicycle and peddled away as fast as ever I could. I was
scared. Scared to the tips of my toes.”

“The picture will come later no doubt. What a remarkable coincidence! I
must see your Carl Langer!”

“I—I’ll take you there. I’d love to.”

“I’ll go with you. Let me see,” Rita Warren considered. “Not tomorrow.
I am going to Black Knob, taking three girls out to assist with the
spotting. That’s just temporary, of course. Later we’ll either make it
a real center, such as we have here, or enlist more volunteers for the
work.”

“You—you’re not sending me?” Norma asked.

“No, I think not. I need you here as my right-hand man. Then there’s
this spy business. We must look into that. You won’t mind, will you?”

“Of course not. We’re all soldiers and must serve where we can do the
most good. Of course,” Norma added with a touch of longing, “it would
be nice to live there a while with that fine, old grandfather, the imp
of a child, and all the good Gremlins.”

“I’m planning to send Betty,” said Lieutenant Warren. “She has a good
head for things.”

“She certainly has!”

“I’ll send Millie and Mary. There’ll be other girls arriving tomorrow.
You’ll have to help train them.”

“Looks like a busy time ahead,” Norma laughed.

“You don’t know the half of it!” Lieutenant Warren agreed.

As they parted for the night, the clock on the mantel struck slowly
twelve times.

“Midnight,” Norma whispered, slipping out on the porch.

The stars were shining bright. The moon was just rising back of Black
Knob. All the planes had gone home. The night seemed very still.

Had she been able to look in at windows at Black Knob, as the good
Gremlins do, she might have seen the grandfather and child fast asleep
while on the spotter tower a gray-haired woman walked slowly back and
forth. And in a warm corner, downstairs, two rough fishermen, guns at
hand, nodded sleepily, keeping watch, just in case—

As Norma turned to go in she whispered, “Lieutenant Warren said she
would go with me to Langer’s place, but not tomorrow. I hope she makes
it soon.”

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



                              CHAPTER XXII

                       FLIGHT OF THE BLACK PIGEON


“I’m going to miss you terribly,” Norma said to Betty, as they all
gathered at the fisherman’s wharf next day.

“Wish you were going along to Black Knob,” said Betty. “I know it’s
going to be loads of fun, and there might be a thrill or two. Who
knows?”

“Thrills,” Norma shuddered. She had not fully recovered from the shock
of being sat upon by a white-robed figure in the dark. Every muscle in
her body ached and there were three long scratches on her cheek.

“Tell me all about it, when you get to work,” she whispered, drawing
Betty to one side.

“Tell you!” Betty exclaimed. “Why, my voice doesn’t carry that far!”

“No, but your hands will.” There was a note of secrecy in Norma’s
voice. “They have a wonderful way of talking to the folks on shore,
from over there—”

“Ah! A mystery!” Betty exclaimed in a whisper.

“Just that!” Norma agreed. “Sorry I can’t tell you more, but they’ll
tell you more, when they learn to trust you and that will be very soon,
I’m sure.

“Goodbye and good luck.” She gripped Betty’s hand hard. “Watch out for
the bad Gremlins and give my love to Patsy.”

“Okay, I will.” Betty sprung into the motorboat and they were away.

Norma returned to Harbor Bells to sit by the fire for a long time
thinking and dreaming, then to eat her dinner and retire for a few
hours of sleep. Her shift at the Sea Tower for the present was to be
the wee, small hours of the morning. “The most important of all,” had
been Lieutenant Warren’s words for it. “It is during these hours that
thieves, housebreakers, and safe-crackers prowl a city’s streets, that
ghosts walk, and spies fly the skies or creep beneath the sea.”

“And that the bad Gremlins get in their dirty work,” Norma laughed.

In spite of their fun Norma knew that the task she was undertaking was
a serious one. Rosa and a girl named Marie were to work with her but
she was to be in charge.

When at last Norma took her place at the chart table with Rosa at the
switchboard and Marie ready for any task that might come her way, there
was a sober look on her face such as had seldom been there before.

Two hours passed. Norma’s eyelids were growing heavy; the first night
was going to be hard. Then the switchboard rattled and Norma repeated
after some voice:

“Two heavy twin-motors going south, fast!”

“That’s from Kittywake,” said Rosa. Norma searched her chart, then
marked a spot while Marie was droning through a phone:

“Two heavy twin-motors going south, fast. That’s from Kittywake.”

“Okay, stand by!” came back in a man’s voice.

A moment later the switchboard again rattled and once more Rosa
repeated:

“Two heavy twin-motors going south.

“That’s from Brink’s Point,” she said this time.

Norma marked the spot and marveled at the distance that had been
covered. “If they’re enemy planes!” She chilled and thrilled at the
thought of a sky battle.

Before Marie got in her second report, there came a buzz and the man’s
voice from below reported:

“Those are Army planes of the Ferry Command. A little off their course,
but they’ll take care of that. As you were.”

They all settled back to await the night’s next little adventure.

At 3:16 a small plane was reported off Crow Point. It turned out to be
a Navy patrol plane that had lost its way in an early morning mist.

A few moments later a wavering light was reported off Preston Beach.
The watcher said it was six miles off shore. It was really only one
mile and was a lantern atop the mast of a fishing schooner.

And that was the total bag of missing, misled, and enemy planes.

“Not so exciting,” was Marie’s sleepy comment as they went off duty.

“No,” Norma agreed, “but standing guard at the edge of no man’s land
when nothing happens for months on end over there on the other side
isn’t exciting either. But let the patrol relax—”

“And then comes trouble.” Rosa finished.

“Yes, and if we relax it will come here,” said Norma. “Look at last
night!”

“Okay,” Marie agreed good-naturedly. “When it comes you’ll find me
right here with you, and I’ll hope to do my bit.”

“I know you will,” said Norma with a friendly grip on the arm.

That first night might have served for the whole week’s pattern, and
for another half week after that. A plane lost and found, three planes
off their course, a fast speed boat taken for a plane, these were the
simple little stories recorded in Norma’s book. But, for all that, they
were learning their tasks, going through their work with greater skill
every day, preparing themselves for any world-rocking and
nerve-wracking events that lay ahead.

That is not to say that in this week and a half nothing exciting
happened. Many things did happen, but these came during off-duty hours.

One day, with Tom McCarthy as her escort, Norma peddled back to Carl
Langer’s studio. Her excuse for coming was to leave an unimportant film
to be developed, her real reason to talk to Carl Langer about his
estate up in the hills.

“Mr. Langer,” she said, after the film had been listed and stored away,
“that’s a fine farm you have back in the hills.”

The photographer started and stared.

“So you have seen it.” He regained his composure instantly.

“He didn’t see me on my bike,” she thought.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “I rode up that far on my bike.”

“That farm,” he said, swelling a little with pride, “occupies all my
spare time. I am particularly fond of it because it belonged to my
father before me.

“You see,” his voice took on a conversational tone, “I was born in
Portland. My father was a man of business. This farm was for him, you
might say, a sideline. He kept a man to farm it. He spent week-ends
there. I, too, enjoyed it when I was a boy. So now, you see—” he
smiled, “it brings me great pleasure.”

“That’s quite wonderful,” said Norma. “And did your father also raise
black pigeons?”

“Black pigeons?” It seemed to Norma that Carl Langer started again, but
once more he made a quick recovery. “Pigeons? Oh! No—this is something
I have done. These pigeons, they are quite rare.”

“I thought they were,” said Norma.

“Oh, yes—very rare indeed. I only wish you had come in, when you were
by my house. Gladly would I have shown you the choicest ones of the
lot. And besides, I have something I should wish to show you. It is in
the house, a picture. It is a masterpiece, I think.”

“A—a picture,” Norma’s voice cracked. “There it is,” she thought, “but
I must not betray myself.”

“Oh! A picture,” she exclaimed. “A masterpiece—how fine! I’d love to
see it. And I have a friend who is very much interested in pictures.
But then, she’s a very important and busy person.”

“Surely she must not be too busy to look at a masterpiece. I truly
think it is by Millet, the man who painted the Angelus.”

“Oh! Then I’m sure she would come,” said Norma. “She’s a lover of
Millet’s work. His characters are so simple, so human and real.”

“Ah! I see you also know pictures.”

“A little,” Norma admitted.

“Bring your friend out any time, just any time.” The photographer’s
face fairly beamed.

“I’ll bring her some time,” Norma agreed.

“What’s all this about a masterpiece?” Tom asked on the way home. “I
don’t get it.”

“Oh, that!” Norma laughed low. “That’s a sort of military secret
between my big, high chief and myself. When it—well, when the story
breaks, you might say, I’ll try to let you in on it. But for the
present mum’s the word.”

“Have it your own way,” Tom grinned, “but, see here, sister, if you go
out to that old geezer’s house, don’t go alone. Take that from me. I
don’t like his looks!”

“I won’t,” Norma agreed.

                  *       *       *       *       *

That night, on lonely Black Knob Island, Betty had a rather weird
experience.

To make life safer for the plane spotters on the island, six enlisted
men had been sent there. These had taken up their quarters in a small
summer hotel that had been closed for the winter. Betty, Millie, and
Mary were given rooms at the Norton cabin, but took their meals at the
hotel which was presided over by Mrs. Pearl Tratt, a busy, friendly
fisherman’s wife.

In no time at all, Betty had won her way into the hearts of Patsy and
her grandfather.

On this particular night. Betty was sharing the first spotter watch
with Grandfather Norton and Patsy, who had not yet retired for the
night.

Since the moon was not up, it was quite dark on the spotter stand.
Grandfather Norton, who had already begun teaching Betty the deaf and
dumb alphabet so she could talk to Norma “by hand,” was now introducing
her to a device which he had been working on for a long time.

“It’s not yet perfect,” he explained, “but I think it has great
possibilities. With the unaided ear, one seldom spots a plane, by
sound, more than six miles away. Even with my imperfect hearing, aided
by my listening device, I have been able, more than once, to spot a
plane coming from the sea ... American planes, of course ... at a
distance of ten miles. Want to try it?” he asked.

“Of course,” was Betty’s instant reply. “Anything that helps us do our
job well is just swell!”

“Well, now,” said Grandfather Norton, “this listening device of mine
appears to work best on sounds rather close at hand, so we’ll just try
it out on Joe Tratt. Just you put on these earphones, then I’ll turn on
the electricity. Got a small electric plant in the furnace room, you
know.”

“Joe Tratt—” Betty repeated. “What’s he going to do, stand off
somewhere and shout?”

“No—No!” The old inventor’s voice cracked. “Joe always comes in from
setting his nets out on the reef about this time. He’s coming in now,
probably, only his boat’s motor doesn’t make a great deal of noise, so
you don’t hear him with the unaided ear.

“Now—you ready?”

“Ready.”

He touched a button. A faint light appeared. He put his hand on a large
metal horn and began turning it slowly.

“When you pick up the sound of a motor say, ‘Now’,” he shouted.

For ten seconds she listened intently. Then suddenly she said:

“Now!”

“I’ll test it.” He swung it back and forth. As the sound of the boat’s
motor rose and fell with the turning, Betty told him, by lifting and
lowering a hand, how the sound rose and fell. When at last the spot was
found where the sound was strongest, she held both hands straight out.

“It’s like tuning in on a radio program,” she laughed as she continued
to listen. “This should be great. I only wish there were an airplane
coming in.”

“Oh! They’ll come!” the old man crackled. “Perhaps sooner than you want
them.”

As she listened the sound of the motor grew steadily louder. “Coming
in,” she thought. Then she wondered what it would be like, setting nets
off the shores of the British Isles where many subs lurked and planes,
like birds of prey, haunted the skies, ready to pounce down upon you.

“Brave people,” she thought. “They deserve all that we can do for them.”

Tiring of the constant pounding on her eardrums, she nodded to Patsy,
at the same time executing a circle with her hand.

Understanding instantly, Patsy began turning the big horn slowly.
Gradually the sound of the motor faded into nothing. For a time, Betty
caught only the slow wash, wash of waves on the shore. Then, little by
little, she began to make out a different sound.

At first only a low snap-snap, like clothes cracking on a distant
clothesline, the sound at last became a steady flap-flap that increased
in volume with each second.

“I hear wings.” She made a motion to Patsy, and the girl stopped
turning.

“It’s a bad flying Gremlin.” Patsy danced up and down in her excitement.

“A seagull,” said the more practical grandfather.

The speaker picked up their voices. Betty heard them.

“It’s not like a gull’s flight,” she said. “I’ve heard them too often.
This is something else.”

“See!” Patsy danced again. “I told you. It’s a Gremlin! A bad, bad
Gremlin.” Then, “Oh!” She covered her eyes. “I don’t want to see him.
He may come real close.”

“We’ll put the spotlight on him,” said Grandfather, taking up a
portable spotlight and adjusting a switch.

“He’s coming right this way,” said Betty. “He should pass over us.”

“I’ll be ready with the light,” said Grandfather. “You tell me when.”

In the dim light Patsy’s face was a strange study, alternating
curiosity and fear. Curiosity at last won the day. When at last the
searchlight cut across the sky, she was watching, big-eyed and eager.

For ten seconds the light played across an empty sky and then:

“It is a Gremlin!” Patsy cried. “A big, black Gremlin!”

“No!” said Betty. “I’m sorry. It’s a black pigeon. I didn’t know you
kept pigeons.”

“We don’t,” said Grandfather. “What’s more, he doesn’t belong on this
island. He’s going straight on. Turn the horn about, Patsy—”

Patsy obeyed and once again Betty heard that steady flap flap of wings.

When the horn had been properly adjusted, she listened until the sound
of the pigeon’s flight faded into nothing.

For a moment Grandfather Norton studied the pointing horn, then he said:

“That’s a homing carrier pigeon. The rookery he is seeking is somewhere
near Granite Head. You may have made a very important discovery.”

“I—I don’t understand,” said Betty.

“That pigeon never came all this way from shore by himself. That’s not
the way of pigeons.”

“Then you think he came from a boat?” Betty was beginning to understand.

“Yes, or from an airplane.”

“Or a sub.” Patsy put in.

“Any of these or even an airplane carrier. Which means,” Grandfather
went on, “that somewhere on the mainland we have a nest of spies.”

“Spies-spies! Oh, yes, spies,” Betty murmured. She was thinking of her
talks with Norma about many strange doings. There might be something to
it after all, she concluded.

“They’re up to something,” said Grandfather. “Sending messages back and
forth like that. Perhaps it’s something really big. Just now they’re
just feeling us out, trying to see how well prepared we are.”

“They got a sample the other night,” said Betty.

“A very fine sample,” the aged inventor agreed. “A very fine sample,
indeed. What I fear most is that they may make this island a stepping
stone.”

“We have some soldiers now,” Betty suggested.

“Yes, a few men. We’ll have more men later.”

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



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                         ROSA FLIES THE SEAGULL


The next day, on the mainland, Norma visited a place of many wonders,
perfected some plans, was treated to a great surprise and made an
interesting discovery, all in one afternoon.

Norma and Rosa retired as soon as their late night vigil was ended. By
mid-afternoon they were up and ready for a prowl.

They struck off on foot over the road leading to the fort on the ridge
that overlooked their village, Harbor Bells, and the Sea Tower.

They had gone but a little way when Tom McCarthy overtook them in a
jeep. “Hop in,” he invited after stopping his car. “I’ll give you a
lift. Where you bound for?”

“Nowhere in particular,” was Norma’s reply as they all crowded into the
front seat. “We’re out for fresh air.”

“I’m going up to the fort,” Tom said. “There’s going to be a little
target practice by the big guns. I want to see how good they are.”

“Think we’ll need their help some of these days?” Norma asked half
jokingly.

“Well, now, you never can tell.” Tom did not laugh. “There seems to be
a difference of opinion. Some think America may be invaded, at least by
the air.”

“And others think it won’t,” said Norma.

“That’s right,” Tom agreed. “Me? I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

“Oh, Tom!” Rosa broke in. “Take us to the fort. I’d just love to see
it.”

“You’re on your way right now,” Tom assured her. “At least you’ll see
the target practice at a distance. And that’s really something! But the
fort, that’s different. Too many secrets in there. It takes a terrific
pull to get in.”

“I’ll bet it’s a spooky place!” Rosa exclaimed.

“Oh, absolutely,” was the quick reply. “Built right out of solid rock.
It would take some bomb to smash into it.”

A half hour later they found themselves standing on a sloping hillside,
gazing out to sea. And at Norma’s side was a handsome young Artillery
Major. For the first time in her life, Norma found herself wishing she
had remained behind at Fort Des Moines for officer’s training. An
officer may not date a private in the WACs, no matter how bright and
attractive she may be.

For all that even a major can show just any attractive young lady who
happens to visit his camp the proper degree of interest and respect due
her. And Major Fairchild was not one to neglect this duty.

He explained that the large square far out on the water was not a sail
but a target, that it was being towed on a long cable by a small
motorboat some distance from it.

He also assured her that those huge guns poking their black barrels
from the hillside would soon speak and that, when they did speak, she
would do well to plug up her ears.

Some ten minutes later he said, “Now the target is in position.”

“Such a long way off,” Norma murmured.

“It’s as far as Black Knob Island,” Rosa exclaimed.

“Just about the same,” Tom McCarthy agreed.

“We can blow the top off Black Knob any time we care to,” said Major
Fairchild.

“Please don’t try it,” Norma begged, half laughing. “I’ve got a good
pal over there, a very good-looking WAC.”

“Are all WACs good-looking?” the Major teased.

“My pal, Betty, is,” was the prompt reply. “That’s not all, her folks
are rich. Her father owns a war plant. They have a Florida estate, a
yacht, and all that!”

“And she’s a WAC!” The Major whistled.

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

[Illustration: _Even a Major Can Show Interest in an Attractive Lady_]

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

“Why not?” Norma’s voice rose. “It’s our war. We’re all in it. One
woman gave up a $20,000 a year job to join the WACs. We have several
girls who won the _Croix de Guerre_ driving ambulances before France
fell. Yes, and some of the girls joined us because their young husbands
died at Pearl Harbor, or North Africa. Don’t you think that’s really
wonderful?”

“I salute the WACs.” Major Fairchild saluted the girl and she returned
it in proper form. And he was not joking either. She could read that in
his eyes.

And then Tom McCarthy said, “Get ready. There’s the signal. They are
about to fire.”

“Here.” The Major pressed balls of cotton into Norma’s hand. “Put these
in your ears. Then take these—” He held out a pair of powerful field
glasses. “Watch the target. See if they miss. Your eyes are as good as
mine.”

The terrific flash and the roar of the big gun, together, made the
rocks shudder! Norma felt her knees tremble but she held her glasses on
the target and was rewarded by a black spot that appeared almost as if
by magic on the white square.

“Good! Almost perfect!” she exclaimed. “A little to the right, that’s
all!”

“And how far from the surface of the sea?” the Major asked.

“Almost on the sea,” was the quick response.

“This is important,” said the young Major.

“It meant that this shot would have destroyed a submarine if it had
been in the place of the target,” Norma suggested.

“Good girl! Go to the head of the class,” he exclaimed.

“Give the credit to my father,” she replied modestly. “He was a major
in the last war. He knows a great deal and since I was his only son, he
taught me about them.”

“Oh! Then we belong to the same tribe,” exclaimed the Major. “My father
was an officer, too. Very often officers are born and not made. You too
will be an officer in time.”

“When I’m made an officer,” she said with a proud smile, “I’ll bring my
bars to you and you shall pin them on my shoulders.”

“That,” he said, “will be a privilege and an honor.”

“They invited me to stay in Des Moines and train in the officer’s
school,” she stated in a matter-of-fact tone.

“And why not?” he asked.

“I wanted some actual service first.”

“Well, you’re getting it.” He smiled. “And unless I read the signs
wrong, you are going to get your experience in overdoses from now on.”

“Oh! Do you think so?”

“I’m sure of it. There are things I can’t tell you. Keep your eyes and
ears wide open and don’t miss any bets. You’ll get your bars sooner
than you think.

“And now,” he handed her the glasses again, “plug up your ears. Here
they go.”

This time she took things more calmly. But the hit was hard to spot.

“Right at the water’s edge,” she exclaimed at last.

“Getting better. That’s real sub shooting.”

“But if the sub comes in the night?” she suggested.

“Then you’ll have to get out there in a plane and spot the sub for us
with a spotlight.”

“That,” said Tom, with a good-natured grin, “is my job.”

“And I’ll fly the plane for you,” Rosa volunteered.

“You fly my plane?” Tom gave vent to a roaring laugh.

Rosa’s face crimsoned. For a time she did not speak. Then in a slow,
even tone, she said: “Try me!”

“All right, I will.” This time Tom did not laugh.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“All right, Rosa,” Tom said, when their jeep drew up to the fisherman’s
dock, off which the Seagull lay at anchor, “the plane is yours, if you
can fly her.”

“You don’t mean that!” Norma said in a low tone, as Tom bent over to
untie his skiff.

“Sure I do!” he replied promptly. “Give everyone a chance to show what
he can do, that’s my motto. Climb in. The back seat is wide enough for
you and me. We’ll have Rosa for our sky pilot.”

Norma hung back. “Come on,” he urged. “I’ll guarantee that no harm will
come of it.”

Ten minutes later Norma found herself beside Tom in the rear seat.
Lines had been cast off and Rosa was warming up the motor. Norma,
uneasy, heaved a sigh of relief when she noticed that Tom too could
work the controls from where he sat.

As they taxied out from behind the dock, Norma noted that the water was
a bit rough but she clenched her hands and said never a word.

The motor began to roar in earnest. Behind them raced the white foam.
The plane appeared to skip from wave to wave. Then Tom said:

“Up!”

And up they rose.

Climbing steadily, they rose a thousand feet, two, three, four, five,
six thousand. There above the bumpy clouds the plane leveled off and
they headed straight for Black Knob.

Tom looked first at Rosa, then at Norma. Then he grinned as he formed
the words with his lips, “Great stuff!”

Before they knew it they were over Black Knob and soaring down for a
landing.

Near the tiny dock and harbor the water was calm. With real skill Rosa
taxied the ship right to the dock where they were greeted with joyous
shouts by Betty, Millie, Mary, Grandfather, Patsy, and all the rest.

“Norma,” Betty exclaimed when the two were alone, “Rosa wasn’t really
flying the plane, was she?”

“She certainly was!” Norma’s tone was impressive. “She took off,
climbed high, spiraled down, and all the rest!”

“Then that explains—”

“What?” Norma asked.

“Oh! A lot of things.”

Norma’s mind was too busy to carry this thought through for, as they
wandered over the island, she felt like a general looking over a
battlefield where the enemy might attack on the morrow. She noted low
spots among the rocks where men might land from a plane or a rubber
boat, tried to find the marks of high tide and studied with great care
the narrow beach beside the harbor.

Why was she doing all this? Perhaps she could not have told herself.
She just did, that was all.

After a delicious lunch served at the small hotel that had been made a
barracks, they prepared for the return trip.

Again Rosa took the controls and once more she made a perfect take-off.

It was growing dusk now and, as they circled above the island, Norma
turned on the spotlight allowing it to play upon the dark clusters of
pines, the gray rocks and the cottage roofs. She was astonished to see
how clearly everything stood out.

“An enemy plane could bomb it to bits,” she said.

“Sure, but why?” Tom asked.

“It’s an outpost and so dangerous to approaching enemy ships or planes.”

“You mean it could be,” Tom corrected. “Just now the few who are here
could perhaps protect the island itself. That’s about all. But, I say!”
he exclaimed. “You’re really good with that light!”

“Oh! Sure!” she laughed. “Rosa and I, we’re a great team!”

Oddly enough, at that moment she had the feeling of one who acts a part
in a drama, a part she is sure to act again. It was strange.

“Rosa,” Norma said when at last they were back at Indian Point, headed
for Harbor Bells and a good dinner, “I never dreamed you could fly a
plane.”

“Fly a plane,” Rosa threw back her plump shoulders and laughed. “My
father is a flier; he is also a guide. In summer he takes hunting and
fishing parties deep into the wilds of Canada. Ah! That is the life, to
come dropping from the skies like a wild duck and to light on a perfect
spot of blue water where almost no one has ever been.

“And,” she paused to look into her companion’s eyes, “will you believe
me? I have done that, too, since I was seventeen years old. Fly!” she
exclaimed. “I know you thought I was crazy in Des Moines. And, yes, I
was crazy. Crazy to feel the stick in my hands, to hear the motor and
feel a plane move.

“Yes, I was crazy. But those boys who made fun of me, those young
fliers—I could have flown circles around every one of them. But you,
you were very kind to get me out of it so very well. I have you to
thank for that. And we’ll fly again some time maybe, huh? What do you
think?”

“Rosa,” said Norma, “you are a dear. And if we do fly again, I shall
not be afraid.”

After dinner Norma made a call. In her own village she had discovered a
bearded veteran of the photographic world, who still did a little work
in his own home. He was a picturesque character who, only two years
before, had moved from Portland to Indian Harbor.

To this man she had entrusted the pictures she had taken of the poor
fisherman’s wife.

“How did they come out?” she asked as she entered his small, crowded
room.

“Excellently, my dear.”

He held up some fairly large prints he had made.

“Oh! You’ve done them so well!” she exclaimed. “Won’t she be pleased!”

“She will,” he agreed. “I have a son who works on a Portland paper.
With your consent I should like to send him some prints of these
studies. They should show up well in the roto.”

“So little Norma makes the roto,” she laughed. “That would be
something. Wouldn’t Carl Langer open his eyes!”

“What’s that pig got to do with it?” the old man demanded.

“He refused to take her picture. Said he couldn’t waste his time.”

“My dear,” said the old man, “time spent in bringing happiness to those
who have very little of this world’s goods is never wasted.”

“That’s right,” Norma agreed, “but have you seen Carl Langer’s estate?
It is truly beautiful.”

“Yes, I have seen it. It is attractive. However, Carl Langer did
nothing to it. He only bought it.”

“Bought it? He told me he inherited it from his father who lived in
Portland.”

“Neither Carl Langer nor his father lived in Portland. I was there for
fifty years. I know. He purchased his estate from the heirs of old
Judge Clark. Where he got the money I don’t know. But I could make a
good guess.”

“Ah!” Norma thought as she walked slowly back to Harbor Bells. “So
someone else is suspicious! I wonder why Carl Langer lied to me about
his estate.”

She found herself hoping that Lieutenant Warren would go with her to
visit that estate and to look at the picture, the masterpiece, very
soon. Yet she found herself dreading it and shuddering a little.

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



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                            THE DECOY BEACON


Once again the following night the trio, Norma, Rosa, and Marie, were
on duty in the upper room of the Sea Tower, Rosa at the switchboard,
Norma before her charts, and Marie at attention for any emergency.

For more than an hour, save for the clock on the wall that ticked
loudly, there was silence in the room.

Then came a buzz at the switchboard.

“That’s Beth calling from the Granite Head spotter tower.” Norma knew
the number. “What does she want?”

“She’s relaying a report from Betty at Black Knob,” Rosa explained.
“They have discovered a light against the sky well out to sea.”

“Tell her to ask Betty if it’s an airplane light,” Norma suggested.

Rosa relayed the message. For a time after that there was silence, and
then came a second buzz. Rosa pressed the headphone to her ear and
listened intently.

“She says that Betty does not think it is a plane light. It does not
move across the sky and doesn’t grow brighter as it would if it was
coming in. It just sort of sways.”

“Light on the mast of some ship,” Norma suggested.

“Beth says she suggested that,” Rosa explained. “Betty told her it
seemed too high.”

“Oh! Sublime sweet evening star,” Norma sang softly. “How I wonder what
you are.”

Then came a third buzz. “She says Bess has heard a large plane, a long
way off the shore, heading south.”

“Might be an enemy bomber,” Norma said, and sat straight up.

Marie got the men below on the phone.

Before they could report, the WAC watcher on the water tower roof
popped her head through a hole to report the same plane.

Ten seconds later Beth relayed one more message for Black Knob. They,
too, had heard the powerful motors of a large plane. It was some
distance north of the mysterious light and apparently flying straight
toward it. Here surely was a mix-up.

Then the report from the men below came up. No large plane was due
anywhere in this region except some new transport planes being flown
overland.

“But what would one of these planes be doing fifteen miles out to sea?”
was the question that came from the puzzled representatives of the Army.

In the meantime, out on the Black Knob spotter tower, Betty and
Grandfather Norton were wracking their brains for answers to all these
problems.

“That big plane certainly is going straight for that strange light,”
Betty insisted.

“There’s no denying that,” Grandfather Norton agreed, moving his
listening horn first this way, then that, to get its exact location.

It was strange, standing there, watching that light and at the same
time hearing but not seeing the big plane.

Just then someone stepped out on the platform. It was Lena. Having a
day off, she had, strangely enough, chosen to spend it on the island. A
fisherman would take her ashore next morning.

“Lena!” Betty exclaimed. “I thought you were fast asleep!”

“I was.” Lena shuddered from the chill of the night. “But something
woke me up—so I came out here.”

“It doesn’t take much to waken you,” said Betty. “The motor of a
distant plane.”

“What’s up? Why are you so excited?” Lena studied their faces.

“See that light over there against the sky?”

“Yes, I see it.”

“What is it?”

“Why that—” Lena broke off suddenly. She seemed greatly disturbed.
“I—hear a plane!” she exclaimed suddenly.

“Yes, we’ve been hearing it for some time,” said Grandfather Norton.

“What’s it doing out there?” Lena asked. There was a strange quality in
her voice. “As if she herself knew the answer,” Betty told herself.

“Well,” Grandfather Norton spoke slowly, “if I wasn’t dead sure that
there was nothing but water out there, miles and miles of water, I
should say that the light was a beacon to a landing field and that the
plane was heading toward it for a landing.”

“Oh! But that’s impossible!” Betty exclaimed.

“Certainly it is,” Norton agreed.

Like a caged animal Lena began pacing the narrow platform. Once Betty
thought she heard her murmur tensely, “It’s terrible. Just terrible.”

What was terrible and how did this big girl know it was terrible?

In the meantime the big plane was coming closer, ever closer to the
swaying light. Those on shore, Beth, Bess, Norma, Rosa, and the rest,
could hear the plane but could find no answer to the question, “Why is
it there?”

Lena continued to pace the platform. Watching her, Betty realized that
within the big girl’s mind a terrific battle was raging. “What battle?”
she asked herself. “And why?”

For a time she found no answer. Then suddenly the answer came. Or was
it the answer?

“See here!” Lena exclaimed, suddenly gripping Betty’s arm until it
hurt. “I can’t stand it! That plane is going to come down, close to
that light. It will crash. The pilot will be drowned and—and all on the
plane—unless—”

“Unless what?” Betty’s throat was dry.

“Unless we go to the rescue!” Lena pulled at her arm. “There’s not a
moment to lose.”

“But we have no plane.” Betty stared first at Lena, then at Norton. It
was a tense moment of indecision.

“There’s a motorboat, a pretty fast one. I can run it, you know that!”
Lena’s voice was tense with emotion.

“Yes, I know. Norma told me how you saved them.”

“Then come on. Come on, now! We—” Lena’s voice broke; she did not
finish.

Betty looked at Grandfather. He did not speak, merely nodded his head.

“All—” Betty gulped, “all right, I’ll go!”

Instantly the two girls were down from the tower and racing like mad
for the dock.

Once at the dock Lena unscrewed the gas tank cap, flashed a light down
into the tank, then, after a few twists at the cap said, with
astonishing calmness:

“Get in. We are off.”

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

[Illustration: _“There’s Not a Moment to Lose!” Lena Exclaimed_]

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

Strange questions and wild emotion came and went over Betty’s active
mind as they headed straight for that light and at full speed.

“Has this girl lost her mind?” she asked herself. “Or does she know
some terrible secret? Will the plane really come down?” For the moment
she found no answer. But the answer must come soon. Even as she thought
this Lena exclaimed:

“There! What did I tell you? The plane is beginning to circle. It will
come down. It is flying high, but it will come down.”

This Betty knew was true. The sounds that came from the plane told the
whole story.

As she watched, frightened, yet fascinated, she tried to measure the
time it would take for the plane to come down. Now it must, she
thought, be a quarter of the way down, now a half, and now
three-quarters of the way. Her heart skipped a beat. What plane was
this? Would it really crash? Was it friend or foe? Should she hope for
a crash or an upward swing just in time? Her brain was in a whirl.

“The light has vanished!” Lena exclaimed suddenly.

It was true. The light had blinked out.

Still the plane came down, rapidly. There seemed no stopping it now.
After breathing a prayer, Betty began to count. One, two, three,
four—she had reached twelve when there came the sound of a muffled
crash.

“Now, if only we can save them,” she thought with a tightening of her
throat. And yet, after all, who were they?

While Lena kept the boat at its utmost speed, Betty stood in the prow
and strained her eyes for some sign of the wreck.

At last her vigil was rewarded.

“There’s a tiny light. But perhaps that’s the one that disappeared.”

“It is not that one!” Lena headed straight for it.

The light grew brighter. A dark bulk loomed ahead. Betty heard a voice
calling. A woman’s voice. That, she thought, was strange.

They came closer. “Are you hurt?” she called.

“No, we’re not hurt,” a woman’s voice answered.

“But please hurry,” came in a different voice. “The plane may sink.”

“We’ve been hurrying, quite a while,” Betty called.

“How did you know we’d crash?” came back.

“I didn’t. We—we just came,” said Betty.

“That light was a decoy,” came from the plane.

“You thought there was a field here?” Betty suggested.

“We were off our course and our gas was low,” one voice explained. “We
came down to see.”

“And I took the plane too far,” the other explained.

“Well, now you’re safe enough,” Betty said a minute later as Lena eased
the boat in close to the plane’s wing where the two women sat. At the
same time she threw her light upon them. They were, she discovered,
surprisingly young and, beyond a shadow of doubt, Americans. At that
moment words from a very old book came to her. ‘An enemy hath done
this.’

“But what about our plane?” one of the girls on the plane asked. “We
are of the Ferry Command. It’s worth a lot of money.”

“And it’s hardly damaged at all,” said the other.

“It’s equipped with sort of water-wings that can be filled with gas in
just no time,” said the first one.

“Why don’t you fill them?” Betty asked. “We’ll stand by.”

“We will!” They both sprang up. “We’ll be right back. Right back.”

A moment later there came a hissing sound and the plane began to lift
slowly.

“The water is smooth. I’m sure we can save the plane,” said Lena.

“Listen!” Betty said. “There’s a boat coming.”

Before the two girls returned, their arms loaded with personal
belongings, two fishing boats pulled alongside. One was quite long, the
other small.

“What happened?” Joe Tratt asked.

“They crashed,” Betty explained. No mention of the decoy light. That
would come later.

“We’re going to try towing it in,” said Lena.

“I’ll help you,” said Joe. “My boat draws a lot of water. Bill can take
you all in. His boat is small.”

So it was agreed. Betty and the two strange girls piled into Bill’s
boat. Betty called, “So long and good luck!” Then they were away.

“Lena is the strangest girl I ever knew,” Betty told herself as she
settled in her place. She wanted terribly to talk, but if she did, she
might say the wrong thing. So she said never a word—not, at least,
until she sat across a table from Grandfather Norton in his secret den.
Then she really opened up.

They talked for an hour. The old man’s voice was mellow. His words came
slowly, thoughtfully, from a well-stored mind. Betty was not a child
and still at times she sprang to her feet to exclaim, “Lena knew it was
going to happen. She really knew!”

“Perhaps,” was the slow reply. “Then again, perhaps not. Some people
are gifted with intuition, particularly women.”

“Yes, I know, but—”

“Even I suggested first that the plane might try to make a landing,” he
added. “There was the whole set-up, night, a plane seeking a landing
place, and a light that seemed a beacon.

“And at the most, we must admit,” he added thoughtfully, “that this big
friend of yours, Lena, might well have been the means of saving lives.
It was a mere chance that saved the plane.”

For a time after that there was silence. Then he spoke again.

“It would seem that, after all, we are discussing a minor problem. The
real problem is, who put out that decoy light, if it was a decoy, and
how did they take it down?”

“Decoy?” Betty exploded. “Of course it was a decoy to lure our
airplanes into the sea.”

“Perhaps. Let’s pass that up for the moment and ask ourselves how the
light got there. Did you see or hear any surface craft leave the spot?”

Betty shook her head. “Not a sign, nor an airplane either.”

“Then, only a sub could have put up that light. With a long telescoped
steel pole, like a giant fishing rod, guyed by wires, they could hang
out a very high light.”

“It might have been an electric light on a wire,” Betty suggested.
“Then they could have blinked it out on the instant.”

“Certainly. And when the plane came close, that’s what they did. Has it
not occurred to you that they might have been afraid of the plane?”

“I think they were afraid of us.”

“With the plane thundering overhead, they could not have heard your
motor. I fancy they thought the plane was out to bomb them. More than
likely they crash-dived.”

“Then why the light?” Betty was more puzzled than ever.

“That is a big sub. These large subs carry small seaplanes that can be
catapulted from their deck. If their plane was out landing spies on our
shores or spying out the land itself, they may have had a beacon out to
guide it back.”

“That,” Betty laughed, “is good enough for a night cap. I’m going to
retire. Goodnight!” She was gone.

When, at dawn, Lena and Joe Tratt arrived at the harbor the big girl
appeared ready to drop. And yet, as soon as the plane was safely
grounded on the sandy beach, she hired a fisherman to take her ashore.

Once there, she drank three cups of black coffee and then, still
teetering on her toes, she climbed the stairs, entered her room, threw
off her coat and shoes, and crept under the blankets to fall fast
asleep.

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



                              CHAPTER XXV

                            THE MASTERPIECE


Early that afternoon, Norma, who had cut her sleeping hours short,
joined Lieutenant Warren in one of those toy-like cars, known as peeps,
and went spinning down the shore road.

Their first stop was the cottage occupied by Bess and Beth. School,
Norma had learned, was out because of a teacher’s convention so the
twins were free to go with them to the spotter shed.

There they were able, with Beth’s help, to hold a long, hand-to-hand
conversation with Betty.

It was evident at once from the nervous movements of Betty’s hands
before the television camera that the affair of the night before had
left her greatly excited.

They discussed the situation very thoroughly.

As they left the spotter shed Lieutenant Warren said, “It looks very
much as if we were heading straight into a crisis of one sort or
another. Such things as these can’t go on. Big planes don’t always
crash-land safely in the sea.”

“They seldom do,” Norma added.

“That black pigeon of Betty’s was taken from the shore by some traitor
to our cause, and put aboard some craft.”

“Probably the sub,” Norma suggested.

“Yes, and in this way every secret of our defense will in time leak
out.”

“And any number of spies may land on our shores. Which leads us—

“To Carl Langer, his black pigeons, his rich estate, his masterpiece,
and, just perhaps, to the Spanish hairdresser.” Norma found herself
rather breathless at the end of this speech.

“You hope for too much,” was the Lieutenant’s quiet comment. “However,
we will present Carl Langer with our calling card.”

The photographer was not at his studio but the girl who kept the shop
in his absence offered to call him at the big house.

“Tell him that Norma Kent and Lieutenant Warren would like to see his
masterpiece,” said Norma.

Word came over the wire at once that the great, little man would be
delighted to see them.

“Now,” said Norma, as they drove through the gate, “if his three huge
dogs don’t eat us up, peep and all, we’ll get on fine.”

Black pigeons, looking like dwarfed nuns, sat in rows on the barn roof,
but no dogs appeared to announce their coming.

For all the world as if he had been watching at the keyhole, the
photographer, whose hair seemed whiter and more bristling than ever,
threw open the door the instant they rang the bell.

“Come in! Come in!” he welcomed.

“Mr. Langer, this is Lieutenant Warren,” said Norma.

For a brief space of time he studied the newcomer’s face intently. But
Rita Warren was older than when she was in India. Then, too, she had
made her face up rather well for the occasion and was wearing tinted
glasses. Add to this fact that a woman’s olive-drab uniform is in
itself something of a disguise, and it may not seem strange that at
first, at least, he did not recognize her.

“But then,” Norma chided herself, “more than likely he is not the man
at all. Spies who are shot seldom show up somewhere else!”

If Lieutenant Warren recognized the man, neither Norma nor Carl Langer
could have detected it from her action. She thanked him for his
interest and repeated her desire to see his masterpiece.

“You shall see it at once,” he assured them. “After that we will have
some tea—tea brought straight from India. You don’t often get that. But
first—”

He stepped to a table to press a hidden buzzer that sounded in a
distant room.

“Is that for a servant or a couple of murderers?” Norma asked herself
with a shudder. To Lieutenant Warren she whispered, “India!”

Lieutenant Warren lifted her eyebrows—that was all.

“Now if you will come this way,” said their strange host, leading the
way.

As they passed down a long corridor, Norma stole a glance or two into
other rooms. In one, whose door stood ajar, she saw an open traveling
bag, half packed.

“What is that for?” she asked herself.

At the far end of the hall they entered a room where but one light
shone. This came from a long slender tube close to the ceiling. This
light fell upon a large canvas.

Striking a pose, Carl Langer said, “Well, what do you think?”

For a full sixty seconds he received no answer. They all stood there
looking at the picture. One of those simple things that can, if well
done, be magnificent, it showed a peasant youth and a maid in her
middle teens seated among the stubble of a partly mown field. Beside
them were their scythes and rake and a rustic lunch basket. Back of
them was a shock of wheat and behind that the waving grain. On their
faces were smiles and over their faces played the sunlight.

“It’s lovely,” was Norma’s comment.

“It may be a Millet,” Lieutenant Warren said slowly. “Surely it is like
his work, but some of the colors are a little strange. There are
overtones—”

“To be sure,” Carl Langer laughed hoarsely. “The picture has been
neglected. I found it in an old church in a French-Canadian village. I
am restoring it.”

Norma saw Lieutenant Warren start and stare. But she said never a word
as they left the room.

As they prepared to take tea in the sunny living-room, a small brown
man entered with a tray.

“You need not be afraid of Hanada,” said Langer with a forced laugh.
“It is true that he is of Japanese blood, but his home is in India. He
has never seen Japan.”

At that the little brown man showed all his teeth in a grin.

“I brought him with me from India,” was the hasty reply.

“So you have lived in India? How grand!” Norma exclaimed.

“Yes, I practiced my art there for several years. Only four years ago,
I sold out and came to America.”

“Ah-ha,” Norma breathed.

“Has your successor been successful?” Lieutenant Warren asked in an
even tone.

“Oh, yes, indeed. In fact, he has become a permanent resident,” was the
odd reply.

“I shouldn’t wonder,” said Lieutenant Warren.

Norma barely suppressed a laugh. So it was the man who followed Carl
Langer in India who had been shot as a spy!

All during the tea Carl Langer seemed ill at ease. His eyes often
sought the room in which an open traveling bag awaited his return.

“Wonder if he is going on a journey?” Norma thought. The answer
was—yes, a long, long journey.

“We’ll have to be going back,” Lieutenant Warren said at last. “Our
watch changes very soon, and I must be there.”

Their host expressed polite, but uneasy regrets. They bade him a polite
farewell and were away.

As their car started they were greeted by a loud roar as three huge
dogs came leaping at their peep. They were, however, quite safe in the
car; so, avoiding running over one of the beasts, they glided out of
the gate and were away.

“Well?” Norma breathed deeply.

“Believe it or not,” said Lieutenant Warren, “he is my spy of India. I
shall get Mr. Sperry on his trail first thing in the morning.”

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



                              CHAPTER XXVI

                           A SUB—ON THE SPOT


Shortly after noon of that same day rain squalls came sweeping in upon
Black Knob. It whipped the waters into foam and hid the island from all
the world.

Riding the crest of this storm, three small craft approached the island
from the east. One, boasting a small and ragged sail, towed a second.
The third was being rowed by six rugged seamen who swung their long
oars as men sometimes seem to do in their sleep.

It was Betty who first discovered them. She had wandered down to the
dock when she saw them looming out of the fog.

At first she was frightened, but a second look told her that no
invading force would be so poorly equipped so she raced away to the
fishing village to tell the news.

At once two fishing boats took off. In due time they came in, with the
boats in tow.

By that time everyone on the island was down by the dock.

There were men, women, and children in that boat, seventy-six of them
in all, and they were a sorry sight.

“Ours was the Mary Sachs,” one seaman explained. “She were a coastwise
steamer bound for Baltimore. We had these ladies an’ children with us
as passengers.”

“It were a sub to be sure,” another took up the story. “They torpedoed
us without warning.”

“Yes,” a woman broke in shrilly, “and they had an airplane with them.
The plane swooped down and machine-gunned our lifeboats. Look at Sally
here.” She held up a child whose face was white as a sheet. “Both her
legs are broken.”

“We had a doctor with us. Thank God for that,” said another woman. “He
fixed her up good as he could.”

Betty swallowed hard as she put out her hands for the child. Then, with
sturdy tread she led the battered and half frozen band to the hotel
where a great fire of driftwood roared up the chimney.

All that afternoon the WACs and, in truth, every other person on the
island, worked with the ship’s doctor making their new-found friends
comfortable.

Cots and beds were improvised. Every available blanket or quilt was
pressed into service. Great kettles of beef, beans, and soup boiled
constantly on the hotel’s range. It was only toward night that Betty
felt free to creep away to the log cabin for an hour of rest.

Little Patsy went with her, but did not remain long. Soon she was out
wandering among the rocks, keeping an eye out for bad Gremlins.

Just before dark Mr. Sperry, the FBI agent, made a surprise visit to
the cabin. Grandfather Norton was there. Betty was wakened by Sperry’s
knock on the door, so these three shut themselves in the Norton den.

“I came over here looking for a spy,” Sperry announced.

“A spy!” Grandfather Norton exclaimed. “We are all loyal people out
here.”

“You don’t understand,” said Sperry. “He was last seen heading this way
in a small motorboat.

“It’s that photographer over at Granite Head,” he explained to Betty.
“You may know him.”

“Oh—oh, yes!” Betty was startled. “He did all our work. I never
dreamed—well, yes, there were some queer things about him.”

“Queer!” the secret agent exploded. “I’d say so. He’s one of the most
dangerous men on foot. We’ve been looking for him. He was a spy in
India. Got out just in time to save his neck. He’ll do the same thing
here if he can. You haven’t seen a small motorboat?”

“No motorboat,” was Mr. Norton’s reply. “Three lifeboats came ashore
shortly after noon. They were in a sorry plight. Their ship had been
torpedoed by a sub.”

“Ah! Those subs,” Sperry clenched his fists. “There are rumors of a sub
being seen off shore here this very afternoon. Fisherman coming in from
the Banks claims he saw it. All our small boats are out scouting for
it. But me, I’m after just one man; and his name’s Carl Langer!”

“Well, we haven’t got him,” said the gray-haired inventor. “But if we
see him, we’ll hold him for you. Never doubt that.”

“I’ll have a look about the island.” Sperry was up and away.

A half hour later, just as Betty was thinking, “I should be out on the
spotter platform right now,” Patsy came crashing through the door. Her
face was white, her eyes bulging.

“The sub!” she whispered hoarsely. “It’s so close! I saw it! And there
was a small boat, yes, and an airplane. There were men, many big men. I
think they have come to carry us away.”

“This,” Betty thought, as she stood up, with shaking knees, “this is
not one of Patsy’s dreams about Gremlins. It’s the real thing.”

Thirty seconds later she was racing with Norton and Patsy for the hotel.

“They’re invading the island,” Betty exclaimed as they burst into the
lounge room of the hotel. “There’s a sub, a boat, an airplane, and many
men.”

“Where? Where? Where?” came in a chorus.

“Where?” Betty turned to Patsy.

“By Bald Head,” was the prompt answer.

“The other end of the island,” Grandfather Norton explained in a steady
voice.

Instantly there was a rush for the door. But Grandfather Norton was
there before them.

“Steady, boys,” he held up a hand, “you’re not going to a picnic. I
don’t know why those men are there, but I do know they are armed. We
must organize our party.”

“That’s right, sir!” an Army sergeant agreed. He gave an order to his
men. They disappeared.

Next instant the door opened, silently, and in stepped Sperry. His eyes
were wide, his tongue fairly hanging out. “I ran into a hornet’s nest,”
he whispered. “I got away just in time!”

What he had to say left no room for doubt. A fight was in the making.

When the Army squad returned it was with arms loaded. There were
rifles, tommy-guns, pistols, and stacks of ammunition.

Then after one weapon had been selected for each Black Knob man, the
sergeant said, “Take your pick.”

Instantly, from every corner, came the men whose boat had been struck.

“We’ll kill the rats,” the burly seaman snarled. His right arm was in a
sling, but with his left he gripped an automatic.

“Somebody find me a cane,” one seaman begged. His leg was bandaged and
splinted. “I’m the best darn shot in the crew. That’s what I am!” From
somewhere a crutch was produced.

One man half rose from his cot, whirled about, then fell on the floor.
“No! Not you, Tom!” The doctor’s voice was gentle. “You’re too badly
broken up.”

It was a motley and dangerous crew that at last marched silently out
into the night.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In the meantime things were happening fast at Harbor Bells.

While preparations were being made for the battle Patsy had slipped
back to the cabin. There she wakened Millie and Mary, who were to take
the midnight watch. With their help she set up the television camera
and began telling the exciting news to Beth and Bess.

As fast as the words were told off by Patsy’s talking hands, Bess
phoned them to Norma at the Sea Tower.

Norma got Tom on the phone.

“Tom! Oh! Tom!” she stammered with excitement. “The sub is out by Black
Knob, and the plane, too. If you could just go out and spot it, the big
guns would blow the sub from the sea!”

“We’ll go!” said Tom. “You and I!”

“Oh, Tom!”

“You’ll have to go!” Tom’s voice insisted. “There’s not a man in the
harbor who knows the tricks. They’re all out in boats looking for that
sub.”

“All right, Tom. I’ll meet you at the dock.” She hung up.

“Marie!” she commanded. “You keep the switchboard. Rosa, get your coat
and come with me.”

One minute more and they were joined by Lieutenant Warren, who somehow
had learned the news. Then all three raced for the dock.

Norma was faster than the others. She arrived in sight of the dock just
in time to see a ghostly figure emerge from the shadows, leap at Tom,
who was just coming to the dock, and deal a heavy blow with some blunt
instrument square on his head. Without a sound, Tom dropped like an
empty sack.

Norma had seen that white-robed figure before. She had battled with it
and won. Not the least afraid, without warning, she landed upon it with
a head-on blow that sent it crashing against a wall. It crumpled into a
white heap and lay there like a pile of snow.

“Wha—what happened?” Lieutenant Warren panted, as she came racing up.

In a few, well-chosen words, Norma told her. “It’s terrible!” she
groaned. “Tom is out for keeps. Per-perhaps he’s dead. We can’t go!”

“We _can_ go!” Rosa insisted stoutly. “I can pilot the plane as well as
Tom could!”

“What do you think?” Norma turned to the Lieutenant.

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

[Illustration: _A Ghostly Figure Leaped at Tom and Dealt a Heavy Blow_]

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

“I’ll not command you,” was the slow and steady answer. “But if you two
wish to volunteer for the task, I shall not stop you.

“I’ll take care of Tom,” she added. “There are fishermen near who will
help me.”

One minute more and the two girls were rowing rapidly toward the
Seagull that was to fly them into new perils.

                  *       *       *       *       *

On Black Knob the battle lines were forming. Never had a band of
Indians, in the days long since gone, moved more swiftly or silently
than the island’s defenders. And they were bent on swift vengeance.

Driven on by an irresistible impulse, Betty followed the last man, the
one with a crutch.

As she glided through the night, one question was uppermost in her
mind. Why were those men with sub, motorboat, and plane there? The sub
had come from the sea, the plane from the sub, and the motorboat from
the land. One thing was plain. They had chosen this island as a place
of meeting. But why? And how—how had they dared?

“They haven’t scouted the island recently,” was her conclusion. “They
thought it was occupied only by old men and women. Well, they’ll soon
know better. Just one more ridge and we are there!” Her pulse quickened.

Just as they left the grove of pines, the moon came out. A shadowy
figure rose above the crest of the ridge. There was something vaguely
familiar about that figure. One second it was there, the next it was
gone, for rifles had cracked. The fight was on. There came shouts from
beyond. They raced up the ridge. Their fire was returned, but feebly.
There was the sound of scrambling feet. A motor roared, then another.

It was all over in a minute, and over forever for three huddled figures
that would never move again.

“Enemies,” Betty thought. “Perhaps they helped machine-gun women and
children.” Yet, in a way, she was sorry.

She flashed her light on the nearest figure. Then she gasped. It was
Carl Langer. This time the spy had really been shot.

When the men reached the shore the moon was under a cloud again, the
sub had vanished, the motorboat heading out to sea, and the airplane
thundering somewhere in the sky.

Or was it the Seagull they heard out there over the black waters? One
thing was sure—it was there. At the controls sat Rosa. Norma was
casting her light about in search of the sub.

“We’ll find the sub if we can,” she had phoned to the major over at the
fort. “When I hold the light on one spot, you’ll know we’ve found it.”

“We’ll be waiting and watching,” had been his answer. “Ready to blow
them into Kingdom Come!”

And so now they circled slowly back and forth.

Only one question troubled her, and that was, “Is that enemy plane
still in the air?”

“If that plane is armed and they attack us?” she said to Rosa.

“We will climb too fast for them,” was the calm reply.

And then Norma’s light fell upon something, a white spot. Not the sub.
She was disappointed. Then her heart leaped. Off to the right was a
long, dark bulk.

“The sub,” she said aloud. “And that’s the motorboat. They are coming
together.”

With all the skill she possessed she held her wide spot of light on the
sub. Slowly, surely, the sub and the motorboat moved closer together.
Breathlessly she awaited the roar from the shore.

“The major can’t fail us,” she clenched her teeth. “He must not!”

They were losing altitude and coming closer to the sub. Suddenly they
were surrounded by balls of smoke and flame.

“Pom-poms!” she screamed to Rosa. “The sub is firing at us!”

The plane gave a sudden lift and shuddered.

“We are hit.” But still they glided on.

Then came the distant roar.

“Thank God!” Norma screamed. “Climb, Rosa! Climb!” But they did not
climb. They could not. The Seagull had been hit.

The first shot from the fort was quickly followed by another. Both
shells burst almost beneath them, giving them a lift they would not
soon forget. The shells, Norma saw, must have found their mark for,
when she played her light on the water she found only tiny bits of
something. The sub and motorboat had vanished.

“Quick, Rosa!” she cried. “Head for the shore.”

“We will go to shore,” was the slow reply. “Perhaps we shall go, but
not quick. The Seagull, she is hit. She may die.”

Norma came to realize this more and more as the gallant plane sank
slowly toward the sea.

They were in close to land when, with a suddenness that was startling,
the seaplane’s motor stopped and then they plunged into the sea.

Norma hit the water hard. She sank. She rose. She sank again and then,
as she rose, she began to swim.

“I’m not hurt,” she told herself. “The water is terribly cold, but I
can keep up for a time.”

Her time was about up. Her body was numb with cold, her breath was
coming in gasps when she became conscious of someone near her.

Then a voice said, “Put your hand on my shoulder. I’ll take you in.”

“Rosa?” she panted. “I can’t do that, you’ll drown!”

“Not Rosa,” said the voice. “I am Lena. Believe me, I am fresh and
strong. Put your hand on my shoulder.”

“Lena!” she thought. “Why is she here? She is always where danger is.”

At that she surrendered herself to the other’s superb strength.

They had gone so for some time, when a skiff pulled in close to them.
One man held a lantern. Another put out two hands to pull her in. It
was the major from the fort.

Several hours later she awoke from a long sleep to find Lieutenant
Warren sitting by her side.

“Everything is all right,” the Lieutenant smiled. “More than all right.
You got the sub and the motorboat, everyone on it. The sub was bringing
spies to America. In their haste they left their traveling bags on the
island. They were packed with American clothes, faked passports,
everything. Then they had plans, maps, all they needed for destroying
factories and shipyards.

“I think,” she added, “that they meant to take Carl Langer back with
them on the sub.”

“But they didn’t,” Norma whispered.

“Lena has confessed,” Lieutenant Warren added.

“Con-confessed? Lena?” Norma’s heart sank.

“She was part of the spy ring, a very small part, and against her will.
Her uncle drove her to it by terrible threats. She is a loyal American
at heart. She has turned state’s witness. That will trap the real
culprits and she, I think, will go free.”

“I’m glad,” Norma murmured. “And Rosa?” she asked after a moment’s
reflection.

“Oh! Rosa? She’s a dear. Loyal all the way through.”

“I know. But she was in the plane with me!”

“Oh—yes, of course! She wasn’t thrown from the plane.

“We found her paddling about on a rubber raft, still searching for you.”

“Good old Rosa,” Norma murmured. “So I was partly right and partly
wrong about all this spy business?”

“Yes. It is often like that.”

“How’s Tom?” Norma sat up suddenly.

“Tom’s all right,” was the reply. “He came round almost at once. And
was he mad when he knew you were gone!”

“Then he wasn’t really injured?”

“She couldn’t hit him very hard.”

“She?”

“Yes, the Spanish hairdresser. You guessed right there again. She
turned out to be a professional spy, the lowest creature on earth.
Sperry knew her the moment his eyes fell on her. She’s through spying
for good and all.”

“Someone took my camera twice,” said Norma. “Perhaps she did that.”

“No. I’m sorry to tell you, but that was Lena. The pictures she took,
however, were of no consequence.”

“And the enemy plane from the sub?” Norma suggested as she settled back
on her pillow.

“It was shot from the air by one of our fighter planes.”

“Looks as if we have been in on something really big and carried it
off,” Norma murmured sleepily.

“There will be promotions all round,” was the happy reply. “Very soon
you will be wearing bars on your shoulders.”

“Oh! And Major Fairchild is to pin them on,” Norma exclaimed. “That
will be one big day!”

“They’re sending WACs to Africa now,” Rita Warren said after a time.

“Shall we be sent there?”

“I don’t know. Would you like to go?”

“I’m too tired to think about it.” At that Norma turned over and was
soon fast asleep.

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



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                              _for Girls_


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                   THE OUTDOOR GIRLS ON A HIKE
                   THE OUTDOOR GIRLS ON A CANOE TRIP
                   THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT CEDAR RIDGE
                   THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN THE AIR
                   JOY AND GYPSY JOE
                   JOY AND PAM
                   JOY AND HER CHUM
                   JOY AND PAM AT BROOKSIDE
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                   ROSE’S GREAT PROBLEM
                   HELEN’S STRANGE BOARDER

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


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

[Illustration]

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

[Illustration]

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



                           Transcriber’s Note


Punctuation has been normalized. Variations in hyphenation have been
retained as they were in the original publication. The following
changes have been made:

Her {principle --> principal} task is keeping the bad Gremlins away.
{p. 144}

POLLY {AT --> OF} PEBBLY PIT {dust jacket advertisement}

The following discrepancy exists in the original:

  The index lists the title for Chapter I as "Mrs. Hobby's Horses" while
  in the text, the title is "GIRLS IN UNIFORM."

Italicized phrases are presented by surrounding the text with
_underscores_.





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