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Title: Captain Lucy in France
Author: Havard, Aline
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: “THOSE ARE OUR GUNS THAT SOUND SO CLOSE”]


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



                              CAPTAIN LUCY

                               IN FRANCE

                                   BY

                              ALINE HAVARD

                              _Author of_

                   “CAPTAIN LUCY AND LIEUTENANT BOB”


                          [Illustration: Logo]

                            _Illustrated by_

                            RALPH P. COLEMAN


                              PHILADELPHIA

                      THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY
                                  1919


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



                               COPYRIGHT
                                1919 BY
                                THE PENN
                               PUBLISHING
                                COMPANY

                          [Illustration: Logo]



                         Captain Lucy in France


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



                              Introduction


=TO= those who made friends with Lucy Gordon on Governor’s Island it
will seem a great change to find her, in this second story, so far away
from home. She is only one of thousands, though, to whom a few months of
the great war brought more changes than they ever thought could be
crowded into a lifetime.

Lucy can look back over less than a year to her old life at the army
post in New York Harbor before the Colonel was ordered overseas. To that
brief summer time when the Gordon family was united during her brother
Bob’s West Point graduation leave, and to the dark days of the winter of
1917 when Bob was in a German prison.

Even then Lucy never lost hope, and her brave confidence was gloriously
rewarded with Bob’s freedom. But in those dreadful weeks of waiting she
outgrew her childhood, as though even in that pleasant home on
Governor’s Island she knew that peace and content could never come back
to her and to those she loved until America had fired her final shot at
Germany’s crumbling lines.

She could not guess what lay before her,—what old friends she was to
meet again in strange new places. Yet she had resolved, even before she
had any hope of crossing to the other side, that, come what might, she
would serve in her own way as steadfastly as her father served, as
valiantly as Bob.


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



                                Contents


               CHAP.                                 PAGE
                  I. THE SUMMONS                        9

                 II. ON THE ALLIED FRONT               34

                III. A GLIMPSE OF BOB                  56

                 IV. THE FORTUNE OF WAR                82

                  V. THE ENGLISH PRISONER              97

                 VI. A GERMAN ALLY                    115

                VII. BOB GORDON AND CAPTAIN BEATTIE   141

               VIII. A LITTLE FRENCH HEROINE          170

                 IX. THE FIGHT OVER ARGENTON          194

                  X. THE PLAN OF THE DEFENSES         216

                 XI. A CHANCE IN A THOUSAND           235

                XII. MRS. GORDON AND BOB              261

               XIII. THE PRICE OF VICTORY             281

                XIV. A DESPERATE RESOLVE              302

                 XV. ACROSS THE LINES                 326

                XVI. THE YANKS ARE COMING             356


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



                             Illustrations


                                                       PAGE
             “THOSE ARE OUR GUNS THAT SOUND SO CLOSE” _Frontispiece_

             “THIS MEADOW IS THE BEST LANDING-PLACE”     77

             “WHO’S THAT WITH YOU?”                     145

             “WHAT’S YOUR BUSINESS HERE?”               253

             SHE APPROACHED THE CHIMNEY                 336



Captain Lucy in France


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



                         Captain Lucy in France



                               CHAPTER I

                              THE SUMMONS


“=THE= really nice part about doing hard work is that you feel so happy
when you’ve left off,” remarked Janet Leslie, stretching her lazy length
on the shady grass with arms beneath her head. “Lie down again, Lucy. We
have still half an hour to rest.”

“I’m not tired. I haven’t worked as hard as you and Edith, because I
stopped to read Bob’s letter,” said Lucy Gordon, turning toward the
other girl of the trio, who was likewise lying on the grass, her heavy
pigtail fallen across one sunburned cheek.

“U-h!” grunted Edith Morris with closed eyelids. “That last row of beans
was almost too much for me. Gardening isn’t my strong point. I’d rather
be junior hospital aide all day.”

Lucy’s hazel eyes wandered from her two companions across the wide,
level stretch of green, lit by the noonday sun, to where the light,
spring shadows of the oak groves checkered its edges. The smooth turf
was all cut up into a dozen big truck-gardens. With reckless disregard
of the beautiful velvet lawn, busy hands had plowed and planted, until
everywhere were springing up young corn and beans, peas, lentils and
potato plants. Mr. Arthur Leslie’s big estate was given up to raising
food for hungry mouths, and this little corner of it showed but a part
of the changes that had come to Highland House since the beginning of
the war.

It was the second week of May, 1918, and Lucy Gordon was in England.
Though only a few miles from London, this quiet countryside seemed very
peaceful, but that was only when you looked up at the clear, bright sky,
or across the green fields. To watch the people at their daily tasks was
to see that not one of them, from school children to old men and women,
was for one moment idle, or forgetful of the burden each had to share.
Certainly Lucy could not forget it, but she often thanked the constant
work for the distraction it gave her anxious thoughts. It was two months
since her father, now Colonel Gordon, had been ordered from his home
station at Governor’s Island, in New York Harbor, to the western front.
His departure had followed quickly her brother Bob’s convalescence after
his German captivity, and on top of it had come her mother’s decision to
put her knowledge of the care of the sick and of children to some use in
the country which held her son and husband. Six weeks ago Mrs. Gordon
had sailed to join English and American workers in the reclaimed French
villages behind the lines, and with her had gone Lucy, after countless
prayers to her mother, as well as to Mr. Leslie, her kind and
sympathetic Cousin Henry, to be allowed to accept her English cousins’
invitation and remain as near as she could to her family.

“I’ll take care of her, Sally,—let her come,” Mr. Leslie had begged for
her in those last, hurried days at Governor’s Island. “Arthur Leslie’s
girl will love to have her there, and it’s tough leaving her behind,
even at your mother’s. I’ll be back and forth often from the Continent,
you know, and can bring you news of each other.” For Mr. Leslie, giving
up the active superintendence of his big lumber camps, had organized and
equipped a Red Cross unit which he meant to accompany to the French
front. In the end he had his way, and Mrs. Gordon, only too glad to have
Lucy near her so long as she was safe, had given her consent.

That was six weeks ago, and they had passed more quickly than any weeks
in the fifteen years of Lucy’s life. For since coming to the beautiful
Surrey home of her unknown English cousins, she had worked, like them,
in almost every waking moment, and longed like them to do more, far more
than was in their power, for the cause of the Allies.

Presently Janet roused herself to say thoughtfully, as she blinked up at
the sun, “It is harder for Lucy than for us, because her family are all
away. Our brothers are gone, Edie, and my father, but we both have our
mothers left—though Mum wants to join Cousin Sally this summer, Lucy, so
perhaps we’ll be left alone. You know your mother wrote how few there
are over there to help, and how many of those poor French children are
without homes. I wish I were old enough to go.”

Lucy’s eyes flashed instant response to her cousin’s words. In spite of
her hard daily tasks her eager, restless spirit was still unsatisfied,
and she dreamed, as in the year gone by, of greater and braver efforts.

“That’s so,” assented Edith, lazily opening her eyes, as she pondered
Janet’s first words. “Of course Janet is your cousin, but she’s Scotch
and English, and you’re American. Is all your family in France, Lucy?”

“No—there’s William,” said Lucy, smiling to herself as a little figure
came before her mind’s eye with the name. “He’s my six-year-old brother,
at my grandmother’s in Connecticut. But my father is with the A.E.F.[1]
So is Bob—in aviation—and Mother is behind the lines.” She sighed, but a
quick realization of the truth made her add more cheerfully, “Still,
it’s a lot to be as near to them as I am.”

Footnote 1:

  American Expedition to France.

“I should think so!” exclaimed Janet, sitting up with a sudden return of
energy at sight of a quick moving figure among the gardens. “Think if
you’d been left way off in America.” She turned to her cousin as she
spoke with a look of real understanding, for already frank, generous
Janet felt a warm friendship for the courageous little American, and
found in Lucy no less a devotion than her own to the Allies’ cause.
“Here comes Mary Lee,” she said, nodding toward the advancing figure of
a tall girl of eighteen, dressed, like themselves, in khaki working
suit. “Time’s up, I guess.”

The two rose quickly to their feet, and gathered up rakes and hoes.
“Time, Mary?” asked Edith, lingering for a final stretch. “It seems
about ten minutes to-day since we came out from luncheon.”

“It’s a whole hour, lazybones,” said Mary Lee, smiling as she showed the
watch on her tanned wrist. “I want you three to finish hoeing the corn
over here, if you will.”

With no great enthusiasm but with obedient alacrity, the young
farm-hands shouldered their hoes and walked off across the grass, for
the Junior War Workers were under orders, and submitted like good
soldiers to discipline. For days after her arrival in England Lucy had
marveled at the organization which had marshaled thousands of schoolboys
and schoolgirls in efficient squads, under the direction of their
elders, and told them off for countless duties throughout the land.
Since she herself became a member of the army of war workers she had
gardened for endless hot, weary, satisfying hours. She had mended linen
and sewed on buttons in the wardrobe room of the near-by base hospital,
and had canvassed the countryside with Janet in the little donkey-cart,
for eggs and other delicacies promised for the sick and wounded. It was
extraordinary the amount of work that could be got, at no great
hardship, from one willing and active girl; and when the three got
together it really seemed as though they accomplished something, in
spite of all Lucy’s unsatisfied longings.

It was four o’clock, and the sun had commenced to throw long shadows
from the oak trees on the grass, when Mary Lee called to the dozen
girls, busy here and there among the gardens, to stop work for the day.

“Phew!” breathed Janet, pushing back the thick, dark hair from her hot
face, and stepping gingerly along the well cultivated row of tiny green
shoots. “I know what I’m going to do. I’m going in to lie down on my
sofa, and just be perfectly worthless until it’s time for tea. Perhaps
I’ll play with the kitten, but nothing more strenuous.”

Lucy said nothing, but inwardly she knew what she should do. At the noon
rest she had only skimmed over Bob’s letter, and now it fairly burned
the pocket of her khaki blouse. She had not seen her brother since they
said good-bye on the Governor’s Island dock in September, 1917. She
shouldered her hoe and followed quickly in her cousin’s footsteps,
waving to Edith, who had started homeward through the grove as Lucy and
Janet set off toward the house.

Half an hour later, bathed and free from clinging chunks of Surrey
earth, Lucy was sitting in the window-seat of her bedroom in the
beautiful old house, beside the diamond-paned bay window. Her soft, fair
hair was smoothly brushed and tied with a black ribbon, and her khaki
uniform changed for a blue linen dress. With a sigh of satisfaction she
took Bob’s hastily written letter from its envelope and settled back
among the cushions to read.

    “DEAR OLD LUCY:

    “Hope you are not too homesick for the U.S.A. It’s no use, so cheer
    up and do all you can to help. But I know there’s no need to tell
    you that.

    “I am as well as possible, and, as you may imagine, frightfully busy
    since the Boches began their last big slugging at our lines. I can’t
    tell you where I am, but it is, I’m sorry to say, nowhere near
    Mother or Dad, so I haven’t seen either of them for a month. I hope
    you got my last letter telling the good news that I brought down my
    first German plane. I am a full-fledged pilot at last, and a first
    lieutenant, with some sweet little Nieuports of my own that can do
    wonders in the air. Cousin Henry watched me fly the other day. His
    work brought him near here last week, and he gave me news of Mother,
    which I was awfully glad to get. Transportation in these parts is
    pretty crowded just now and letters come through slowly. I shouldn’t
    be surprised if you heard from her oftener than I do. Cousin Henry,
    like the trump he is, is working for all he’s worth. Time and money
    are nothing for him to give where they will help, and I wish I could
    write you some of the fine things he has done. I didn’t see him
    long, for we are on pretty constant duty now, and most of my outlook
    lately consists of German trenches seen eight thousand feet below
    me, with shrapnel spouting up from them like fireworks. I float
    around among the clouds and keep out of reach, while my observer
    makes his maps or gets his little machine gun ready if the German
    taubes come buzzing too near.”

“Out of reach,” Lucy murmured, with a quick frown. “Not if I know him!”
and a worried wrinkle persisted on her forehead as she turned to the
last page.

    “The Yanks are doing their good little bit on the battle line. I
    wish there were more of us, but we’re not to be despised. Fritz
    doesn’t seem to think so, anyway, from the bombing he gives our
    trenches whenever our Allies give him a little respite. Father’s
    regiment did a fine piece of work the other day near you know where.
    I can’t write more definitely now, but he, with a number of his
    officers, was recommended for decoration by the French divisional
    commander.”

Lucy’s forehead cleared a little over this, and her serious eyes
brightened as she read the words. Bob had only written a few lines more:

    “I know you like the Leslies. If they are Cousin Henry’s sort you
    couldn’t help it. Janet’s brother Arthur is not far from here, and I
    intend to meet him as soon as we can manage it. I saw him last when
    I was ten and he was about seventeen. I haven’t a second more to
    write, so good-bye. Love and best wishes from

                   “Yours as ever,

                        “BOB.”

“Lucy!” called Janet’s soft voice outside the door, after half an hour
had stolen by. “Aren’t you coming down to tea?”

Lucy sat up and recalled her thoughts from where Bob’s letter had led
them, and her eyes from the darkening fields and woods beyond the leaded
panes.

“I’m coming, Janet,” she answered, putting back the letter in its
envelope and rising swiftly from the window-seat.

Lucy seldom indulged now in the reveries she had once been so fond of.
They were too apt to become sad ones, and she wanted only to follow the
example of her cousins and do each day’s work cheerfully. Rebellious
moments came, and this last half hour had been one of them, when nothing
seemed to matter but the endless salt waves that separated her from all
she loved the best. But Lucy had gained stores of both patience and
courage since that dark day in December of the year before when Bob had
been reported missing.

She went out of her room and ran down the wide staircase to the floor
below. The big, many-windowed drawing-room on the right had most of the
furniture removed or pushed close to the wall to make place for bales of
gauze and muslin, for Highland House was the headquarters of the
district Red Cross Chapter. Beyond the drawing-room was the library, and
there a table at one side was set with kettle and teacups, and the
jingle of china and silver sounded from the doorway.

“Here I am, Cousin Janet. I hope you’ve kept a muffin for me?” said
Lucy, looking inquiringly at the table and at the small, bright-eyed
lady who presided at it with quick-moving fingers.

“Of course we have,” declared Mrs. Leslie with a nod and smile, as she
handed Lucy a cup of hot milk and water, with a dash of tea in it.

“We’ve kept two, even,” said Janet, pointing to the muffin plate from
her lazy seat in a big chair. “It’s wonderful what an appetite hoeing
corn gives one—even for war rations.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever again complain of food at home,” sighed Lucy as
she sank into a chair. She had learned some lessons about the value of a
hearty meal during those eight weeks in England. There was enough to eat
at Highland House, but it was simple food, limited to each one’s needs.

“This looks wonderful,” she added, carefully spreading the hot, split
muffin with a slender share of margarine, for butter was an unknown
luxury outside the hospitals.

“That must have been a long letter you had from Bob,” remarked Janet,
searching her cousin’s face for signs of unusual worry or homesickness,
after her hour’s seclusion. “But perhaps you weren’t reading it much of
the time?”

“No, I wasn’t,” said Lucy. “I was thinking about—oh, you know—all sorts
of things. But everything Bob wrote was pretty good news. He’s a pilot,
as he told me last week, and doing the work he loves to do. He spoke of
seeing Arthur very soon, as they’re not far apart.”

“Then he’s near Cantigny,” said Mrs. Leslie quickly, “for that’s where
Arthur is now.”

At mention of her eldest son she flushed a little, chiefly with pride,
but that feeling was always mixed with fear, and more than ever now,
since the opening of the great offensive. Arthur Leslie had served for
over three years, had received four wounds, and had been decorated with
the Victoria Cross and the Croix de Guerre. In his mother’s anxious
thoughts it seemed almost too much to hope that he should be longer
spared.

Lucy glanced up at Mrs. Leslie’s face, in that moment when her thoughts
were far away from the tea-table and the cheerful room, thinking as she
had often done before, how gay and merry Cousin Janet must have been in
the happy days before the war. She was cheerful still, in spite of the
daily crushing weight upon her, but her lips were close set, and her
dark eyes had a sad earnestness behind their glancing brightness. “Two
sons and her husband,” Lucy thought. “That’s one more than Mother has to
worry for.”

“Come, children,” Mrs. Leslie said, rousing herself after a moment.
“Let’s go in and get the gauze cut and arranged for to-morrow’s work. I
expect a good many will be here.”

The two girls rose obediently, and as they did so, the ring of the front
door-bell sounded through the house.

“Perhaps that’s some one come to help us,” suggested Janet, while her
mother, putting behind her the ever-present dread of a telegram from the
War Office, said:

“More likely it’s old Mrs. Fry with those eggs she promised to collect
for me.”

She turned as she spoke to learn from the servant who the visitor was.
The newcomer, however, did not wait for announcement, but came straight
on, and in another moment Mr. Henry Leslie walked into the room.

“Cousin Henry!” cried Lucy and Janet in one amazed breath.

He carried his hat and gloves still in his hand, and his kind, bright
face was heavily marked with weariness and anxiety.

“Your boys were both well, Janet—Arthur too,” were his first words as he
met Mrs. Leslie’s eyes.

“You’re not on leave again so soon?” Lucy faltered, and as she spoke a
dreadful fear clutched at her heart and she caught tight hold of Janet’s
shoulder as she stood beside her.

“Only for two days,” was Mr. Leslie’s still unsmiling answer, and as
Lucy’s frightened eyes searched his he reached out for her hand and took
it in a warm clasp.

“Let me speak to this child a minute, Janet,” he said to Mrs. Leslie,
and the next moment she and Janet had left the room and Lucy was staring
pale and trembling into his face.

“Mother—Father—Bob,” were the thoughts that whirled through her brain.

“Yes, Lucy dear, I have bad news for you,” said Mr. Leslie in answer to
that unspoken question. “Bob is safe, thank God, but your father is
seriously wounded. Now be brave, little girl,” he added as Lucy’s hand
grew cold beneath his clasp. Leading her to a chair he made her sit down
and knelt beside her. “Listen to every word I say, for I can’t waste a
moment.”

The awful dizziness in Lucy’s brain seemed to subside a little. In a
dazed sort of calmness she forced herself to listen.

“Your mother is only twenty miles away from him, but that stretch of
twenty miles is impassable just now. There are not trains enough to
carry shells and reinforcements to our hard pressed trenches, and Bob,
farther up the line, where the press is hardest on the American front,
cannot desert his post. Your father wants most awfully to see one of
you, and you are the only one I can reach now. I’ve got permission where
it seemed impossible. I’m going to take you to him to-night.”

There was not the slightest doubt of Lucy’s consent in Mr. Leslie’s
words, and there was no longer any fear or shrinking in the hazel eyes
from which Lucy shook the tears before she met his gaze. While he spoke
she had buried her face in her hands, and the promise, made when Bob
came out of German captivity, never again to give way to despair, seemed
suddenly very hard to keep. But she stopped trembling and sat erect. For
months she had breathed the atmosphere of brave endurance. Now the
thought uppermost in her mind was this, “I must think only of Father.
How we can get to him most quickly.” Aloud she asked, “When do we start,
Cousin Henry?”

“You’re a brick!” said Mr. Leslie, but under his breath, for his own
voice would not obey him just then, at sight of Lucy’s pale and
tear-stained face. He managed to say, “We must leave here by seven
o’clock.”

The next two hours seemed all one hurried flight to Lucy, with dinner
forced upon her, which she choked down somehow, and Cousin Henry and
Janet hovering about her with hopeful words and tender, sympathetic
hands, and eyes that would fill up with tears in spite of them. Then
hurried farewells, and the train that drew up in the gloom of the little
station. After that came the long ride to Dover. It was not more than a
few hours, but to Lucy it was endless.

It seemed to her that days already had gone by, when in the darkness of
the first hours of the morning she felt beneath her feet the gangway of
the ship that was to carry them across the channel. And here for a
moment she forgot her surroundings and stood on the wind-swept deck,
silent and motionless. All at once she seemed to have come very close to
the great battle-field, for, borne through the misty darkness, she
heard, for the first time clearly audible, the distant thunder of the
guns.

The water was whipped into choppy waves by the shifting wind, and Lucy,
standing by the cabin window at Mr. Leslie’s side, saw the dim lights of
Dover bob up and down as the ship got under way. The cabin and decks
were crowded with people, officers and men returning to duty from brief
leaves at home, as well as a number of nurses and women war workers of
various kinds. More than one of these cast a friendly, pitying glance in
Lucy’s direction, but they were strangers to her, and she could not so
much as return their smiles just then. The courage she had so resolutely
summoned up at Highland House was fast sinking. She dropped down in the
chair Mr. Leslie offered her in a secluded corner, and, sheltered by the
darkness enforced by lurking submarines, buried her face in her hands
and cried until the tears ran down between her fingers. Mr. Leslie let
her alone for a while, but presently she felt his arm steal about her
shaking shoulders, and raising her wet face she faltered, suddenly
ashamed, “I guess I’m a coward, Cousin Henry, but I couldn’t help it.”

“I guess you’re _not_ a coward,” was the quick answer, and, as he had
done months before, the day he promised to go in search of Bob in
prison, Mr. Leslie sat silent and patted his little cousin’s shoulder,
with a tender, comforting hand. His thoughts went back to his own little
daughter, whom Lucy’s unselfish care and comradeship had restored to
health and strength. “It isn’t always easy to be brave, Lucy,” he said
at last, “not for the bravest of us.”

Gradually Lucy dried her tears, and, tired out now almost beyond the
power to think, she leaned back in her chair and fell half asleep. But
even in her dreams her father’s face appeared before her. She could see
plainly his clear gray eyes and bronzed cheeks. She saw him again as he
stood on the Governor’s Island dock, the day he left to join his
regiment,—tall and soldierly, in the uniform which always seemed a part
of himself, and which he had worn for twenty-five years. The dream was
almost a reassuring one, even when she woke, for it seemed somehow as
though her father must still be determined and confident. But on top of
this came the bitter certainty that when Mr. Leslie had said, “He wants
most awfully to see one of you,” he had shrunk from adding “before he
dies.”

At last she made up her mind to ask the question until now evaded.

“Where is Father wounded, Cousin Henry?” she whispered.

“He received a bullet through the lungs. His regiment pushed ahead five
hundred yards, against heavy odds, and took the enemy’s trenches.” Mr.
Leslie bent down toward his little cousin as he spoke, but a slow nod
was her only answer.

At daybreak Calais was but a few miles distant. Lucy went into a cabin
to wash her tear-stained face, and returning to Mr. Leslie’s side was
persuaded to eat a sandwich and drink a glass of milk. The precautions
observed during the crossing were cast aside, and with the French coast
in plain sight beyond a narrow blue stretch of water, tramping feet
filled the decks, and windlasses began hauling goods up from the crowded
hold.

An hour later, after interviews in which Mr. Leslie showed his papers
half a dozen times over to curious officials, he and Lucy walked down
the gangway onto the quay.

“France!” flashed across Lucy’s tired mind, with even then a thrill, as
slowly her eyes wandered over the varied crowd of officers and men,
French, British and Americans, intent on landing and getting their
effects ashore, while stores were lowered after them onto the docks.
American soldiers in campaign hats not yet exchanged for the steel
helmets, French guards with vigilant eyes on everything around them,
British officers and Tommies, with here and there a big Highlander in
kilt and bonnet—all hurried about their business, shouting what must be
said in tones loud enough to rise above the clamor, to which the
continuous firing from the front made a dull rumble of accompaniment.

It was a wonderful picture, but it all seemed strange and indistinct to
Lucy at that moment. Her mind was too oppressed with grief to have a
keen realization of what was going on around her. Mechanically she
followed her cousin’s lead, and found herself in a motor-bus bound for
the Calais station. Half a dozen English and as many American officers
shared the crowded seats. The Americans were strangers to her, and she
was glad of it.

The ride was short, and then, after an hour’s wait, they were on board a
train again, still crowded in with soldiers and war workers. Mr. Leslie
urged Lucy to try to sleep a little, but she could not. The guns were
like thunder in the first mutter of an approaching storm, and they were
nearing the storm every moment. About her sounded shouting voices as the
slow train moved on, with frequent jolting stops and whistled signals.

Beyond the windows a lovely spring sun shone down on the French fields
and orchards, and as the train followed the French coast line toward
Boulogne, her tired eyes brightened at sight of the lovely scene
unfolding on every side.

Here was France unconquered, undespoiled, still in the beauty of its
springtime, as in the days of peace. The guns pounded at its doors and
troop-trains passed and repassed endlessly to its defense through a
world of green meadows and apple blossoms. Women and children thronged
the fields, hard at work cultivating the ripening crops. They stopped to
wave friendly greetings to the soldiers in the train. Near every
red-roofed farmhouse grew a little orchard, laden with pink and
fragrant-smelling blossoms. Through the open windows Lucy caught whiffs
of the sweet air, and, closing her eyes a moment, could not believe she
was nearing the great battle-field.

After an hour they left the countryside behind to enter Boulogne, and in
the noise and confusion of the big station Mr. Leslie insisted on Lucy’s
getting down with him for something to eat. It was a hurried meal, taken
among a crowd of traveling officers and soldiers, for the train made
only a short stop.

“A quarter of our journey is over,” Mr. Leslie told her, trying to put a
little hopeful encouragement into his voice, when they had started on
their way again.

Only a day ago, Lucy thought, as head on hand she stared out at the
flowery meadows, while the train continued its slow way south, this
journey had held for her all that was marvelous and unobtainable. In
fancy she had made it more than once, with quickening breath and beating
heart. To be in France—heroic France—nearing the very field over which
Bob had flown so boldly, the land where the hard-pressed Allies stood
undaunted. But now she no longer looked with pleasure at that lovely
landscape outside the window. She was in a strange, far country; America
was thousands of watery miles away, and her father lay wounded—alone,
and wanting her. The train seemed a cruel tyrant as it lagged along, and
she saw nothing but her father’s face, then her mother’s, tired and
despairing, from where she vainly sought to reach him.

It was after a long morning’s travel that Mr. Leslie pointed out the
majestic walls of Amiens Cathedral above the distant town. Lucy nodded
silently, her eyes upon the noble beauty of it, but her mind wandering
eastward beyond. The noise of the guns, until now merged into one
muffled roar, seemed all at once to break apart into a hundred mighty
voices. Overpowered with a terrible sense of dread she clasped Mr.
Leslie’s hand for comfort, and felt it close over hers with a kind,
understanding pressure.

“Are we almost there?” she asked faintly.

“Only an hour more, when we’ve passed Amiens,” was the hopeful answer.
“Then a short ride in whatever we can find to pick us up, and we’ll be
in the town. It’s Château-Plessis—taken from the Boches only two days
ago—so communications are at loose ends just now. Hold on a little
longer, dear—you’ve been such a trump all day.”

Lucy nodded dully, half deafened by the guns.

They were crashing out in one tremendous thundering volley, till the
tearing din struck on Lucy’s ears and made them ring and tingle, while
she shrank back more than once as from a blow, when two hours later they
entered the paved streets of Château-Plessis. The motor-lorry, which had
made a difficult way among the heaps of broken stone, dropped them
before the old town hall, over which the Red Cross flag now floated. Mr.
Leslie took Lucy’s arm and led her up the wide stone steps. A nurse came
forward, and some men in uniform, but Lucy hardly saw them. They entered
a great, many-windowed hall which had once been a court of justice, but
now was a crowded ward, filled to overflowing with cots on which lay
wounded men. On the floor lay more men, on blankets or mattresses, and
between them stepped nurses and orderlies, intent and earnest, without
time to so much as lift their tired eyes at sight of the newcomers. A
surgeon had exchanged a few quick words with Mr. Leslie, and now he led
the way to a door some distance down the ward. This door he opened, and
after glancing inside the room, made Lucy a silent sign to enter.

Lucy was trembling from head to foot as she crossed the threshold. The
hand that clutched at Mr. Leslie’s left red marks across his fingers.
But she fought desperately to hide her fear as she raised her eyes to
face the nurse who came forward from beside the cot at one end of the
little room. She might have spared herself that effort at self-control
made for her father’s sake. Colonel Gordon lay motionless upon the
pillows, his sun-tanned cheeks not quite hiding the deadly pallor of his
face. His breathing was quick and labored and his eyes were closed. But
when Lucy knelt beside him and, forgetting all else around her, caught
his responseless hand in hers, for a second his lids quivered and parted
and the wide gray eyes looked into hers. Then the lids fluttered down
again, and behind her she heard the surgeon, speaking loud against the
roar of the guns, say, “He will hardly know her now. He’s but half
conscious.”

Lucy bent her head over her father’s hand, and the tears, so long
restrained, poured down her cheeks in a warm, salty shower. Sobs choked
her, but she forced them back, or buried them in the blanket’s woolly
folds. Then the hand she held stirred slowly in her clasp, and at the
same time she felt a soft touch upon her tumbled hair. Incredulous, she
raised her head, winking away the tears, and saw her father’s eyes fixed
full upon her. Puzzled and uncertain, dimmed with pain, they met her
eager, longing gaze, but recognition was somewhere in their depths.

“Lucy—you?” he murmured, and while Lucy, at the faint smile that touched
his weary face, struggled for power to answer him, he added clearly,
“Poor little girl! I wanted so to see you. It was hard for you—this
journey.” His smile had faded to a frown of pain, but his hold on Lucy’s
hand did not relax, and she, suddenly by some help outside of herself
grown strong again, bent down and spoke close to his ear.

“I didn’t mind it, Father! I couldn’t leave you here to get well all
alone.” Could it really be her old cheerful voice that spoke for her—the
voice she had thought never to hear again? She smiled into the wondering
eyes once more upraised to hers and went on confidently: “You’re going
to get well, Father dear, you know. That old bullet in the Spanish War
didn’t get you, and neither will this one. I _know_ it—the way I knew
that Bob was coming back, even when the Germans had him.”

Was it hope or only longing for life that touched with a new light the
eyes until now so dim and sombre? The surgeon leaned forward, his gaze
intently fixed on the wounded officer’s face. To Lucy’s brave and
resolute heart it seemed an echo of her own prayers, as though her
father felt already what in her wakening confidence she so longed to
make him feel—that he was not going to die.

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



                               CHAPTER II

                          ON THE ALLIED FRONT


“=YOU’RE= a good little nurse, Lucy Gordon! That’s the way to talk to a
sick man,” said a strong, eager voice beside her, as Lucy left her
father’s room at last, a long hour later. A tall young army surgeon,
with bright blue eyes and ruddy, freckled face, had crossed the ward at
sight of her. Lucy looked quickly up and for very astonishment her heart
skipped a beat, while a slow smile lighted up her tired face. For an
instant she was at home again on Governor’s Island, in that happy time
when her family had all been together. Was it only two years since
Captain Greyson had brought her through the measles—or was it a hundred
years? Anyway he was a major now, from the leaves upon his shoulders.

“Was it you in there all the time?” she asked dazedly. “I never
noticed.”

“That’s not surprising,” said the officer smiling. He took Lucy’s arm
and led her through a doorway into a little ruined garden, lit by the
afternoon sunlight. “Here’s a bench; sit down until Miss Pearse brings
you out something to eat.”

Thankful beyond words for the presence of this old friend to care for
her in her utter weariness, Lucy dropped down upon the stone seat and
looked again into Major Greyson’s face. “I’m glad to see you,” she said
simply. “Do you think—is there a chance——?” She could get no further,
her shaky voice half lost in the cannons’ roar, but Major Greyson bent
down to catch her words.

“Yes, there is, and don’t stop for one moment thinking it,” was his
swift answer, as he looked at Lucy with keen, honest eyes. “There’s more
of a chance since you talked with him than since he was wounded. There’s
a tide in the succession of weary pain-racked days when nature needs
hope and nothing else to keep up the battle, and, by Jove, you plucky
little girl, you brought it!”

“I _won’t_ cry again,” thought Lucy, fighting for self-control. She
clenched her hands together with all her strength, while a solitary tear
dropped down upon them. Major Greyson saw her struggle and, prompted by
a heavy burst of firing from the French and American batteries in front
of Château-Plessis, began to speak of the town’s capture.

“Things are still in poor shape here—hospitals and everything. You see,
we’ve been in possession only since Tuesday,” he said, glancing about
the little garden, cluttered with fallen stones and rubbish, to where,
through a gap in the battered wall, the half-ruined street showed
beyond. “We had a hard fight to get it but, strangely enough, in spite
of the heavy bombardment, the place wasn’t deserted. Some of the
inhabitants have simply stuck it out, German occupation and all. It
takes a lot to drive these poor French people from their homes.”

“But weren’t lots of them killed?” asked Lucy, amazed.

“Not those who hid in their houses at the further end of the town. It
was the poor refugees trying to get out of the place between
bombardments who suffered most. We are doing all we can for them. Mr.
Leslie has worked night and day, I’m certain, since the opening of this
last offensive.”

“But aren’t the German lines still very near? The guns sound almost on
top of us,” said Lucy, her voice grown scared and trembling again as a
thunderous explosion hurt her ears.

“Oh, their lines are more than five miles away. Those are our guns that
sound so close,” said Major Greyson reassuringly. He glanced over Lucy’s
shoulder as he spoke, and gave a nod of satisfaction. “Good for you,
Miss Pearse,” he said. “That’s just exactly what she needs. Here’s your
breakfast and luncheon, Lucy, rolled into one.”

A young Red Cross nurse, with brown hair curling beneath her veil, and
lips that smiled a pleasant welcome at the little newcomer, came quickly
up with a full tray, which she set down upon the bench.

“Miss Pearse, here is Miss Lucy Gordon,” said Major Greyson, nodding in
Lucy’s direction. “Miss Pearse has promised to take a little bit of care
of you, Lucy, if you’re not too big now to be taken care of.”

“Indeed I’m not,” Lucy protested, rising to hold out a friendly,
grateful hand, which the young nurse took warmly, saying:

“Perhaps you won’t think I’m taking much care of you when you see what
I’ve brought, Miss Gordon. It isn’t even a lunch, but we’re rather hard
up here.”

“Oh, I’m not particular,” smiled Lucy, thinking back a day to tea at
Highland House, and to what she had thought hardship then. Now, she
suddenly discovered that she was dying of hunger, at sight of the eggs
and bread and the cup of chocolate on the little tray, when Miss Pearse
uncovered the dishes.

“Sit down and eat it all,” urged Major Greyson. “Your father is asleep
and, anyway, I’m going back to him.”

Lucy needed no more urging, and taking the tray upon her knees she ate
the little meal with keen enjoyment, and a great feeling of returning
strength in both mind and body.

“That’s better,” remarked Miss Pearse ten minutes later, when some of
the healthy color had stolen back into Lucy’s pale cheeks. “Now you
don’t look like a ghost any more. Here’s your cousin coming to find
you.”

She pointed to the doorway from which Mr. Leslie was just coming out,
and picked up the tray of empty dishes, saying, “I’ll take these and go
back, for you won’t be alone now.”

“Don’t go far; how can I find you?” asked Lucy, anxiously clinging to
this new friend in the sad strangeness of her surroundings.

“I shan’t be more than a hundred yards away,” smiled the girl, nodding
toward the door leading to the big crowded ward, and taking up the tray
she crossed the garden, stopping to point out to Mr. Leslie the bench
where Lucy was.

Mr. Leslie had been snatching a little of the sleep denied him for the
past thirty-six hours, and now, almost rested, he looked better than
when Lucy had first seen him at Highland House. Her spirits rose
unaccountably at sight of his more cheerful face, as she made swift room
for him on the seat beside her.

“Major Greyson said Father _could_ get better,” were the eager words
that came first to her lips. She scanned Mr. Leslie’s face for
confirmation of her hopes, and found a part of what she sought in the
slow nod with which he answered:

“Major Greyson wouldn’t have said it if it were not true; and, more than
that, he told me he had hopes. Thank God I brought you, dear. Your
father has been sleeping quietly ever since your visit. He longed so for
some of you to come, and wondered in his fever where you were.”

“Oh, Cousin Henry,” Lucy cried, a desperate longing rising in her own
heart, “how many days before Mother can be here? Surely the trains must
be running better now?”

“They are running every minute of the day and night, but not just along
her way, which is north-west. And mostly they are freight cars, crammed
with men and munitions, being rushed to where they are most needed. You
see, it’s hard to tell just when she can get here, for of the several
telegrams I know she has sent only one reached me.”

Lucy sat drearily silent.

“It won’t be many days, though,—I’m sure of that,” declared Mr. Leslie,
speaking in a more hopeful tone after having put the facts frankly.
“Look for her any hour, and you may be just as right as I am. And now
see here,” he added, rising from the bench and holding out his hand. “I
want you to come and get some sleep. You won’t be any good to your
father if you are all worn out. Major Greyson says you may lie down in
the nurses’ resting room off the ward. I promise to call you as soon as
your father wakes.”

Sunset was streaming through the narrow lancet-shaped windows of the
room and gleaming on the old stone floor when Miss Pearse’s voice,
calling to her, roused her from sleep. “The Colonel is awake now,” she
said, bending over the cot as Lucy rubbed her heavy eyes.

Lucy sprang up, struggling to collect her thoughts, as she followed the
nurse out of the room. She had fallen asleep almost as soon as her head
had touched the pillow, and now awake again to the never-ending hammer
of the guns upon her ears, she marveled at it. She smoothed back her
hair, remembering dimly that she had not fixed it since that morning on
the boat, and wondering how long before people living in a place like
this could learn to get up and go to bed as though they lived through
regular, peaceful hours. Miss Pearse looked as neat and calm as the
young nurse who had taught the army girls first-aid on Governor’s
Island, though her cheeks were flushed just now with weariness after a
long, hard day. “Come in,” she said to Lucy on the threshold of Colonel
Gordon’s room.

Lucy entered softly, for not yet had the uselessness of quiet footsteps
in the midst of thundering guns occurred to her, and went to her
father’s side. His long sleep had lifted a little of the shadow from his
pale face, but his breathing was still short and difficult, and his eyes
were closed. Lucy’s heart sank miserably as she looked at him. Behind
her Major Greyson entered, and kneeling beside the cot, clasped the
wounded officer’s wrist, looking keenly into his face.

“Father,” said Lucy at last, her voice shaking in spite of all she could
do, “won’t you speak to me?”

Colonel Gordon stirred a little and opened his eyes. For a moment he was
silent, then, as before, a smile flickered over his set lips, and taking
a hard breath he murmured, “Lucy—here—where’s——?” The rest was lost as
in sudden weakness he closed his eyes again and turned his face to the
pillow.

“Where’s Mother, did you say?” entreated Lucy, bending over him. “She’s
coming, Father, truly, she’ll soon be here!” But Colonel Gordon could
not speak in answer this time. Only his hand, moving for a second toward
Lucy’s arm, showed that he felt her presence.

Lucy turned a despairing face to Major Greyson, but his look of patient
hopefulness had not changed. He motioned to her to leave her father’s
side, and when, with a backward glance at that still figure on the cot,
she had obeyed, he drew her outside the door and spoke as though
answering her question.

“It’s all right; I didn’t expect any more. This is the worst time of the
day for him. I still hope, and have every reason to think he is better
to-day than yesterday.”

“Oh, Major Greyson,” Lucy faltered, vainly seeking to put her thoughts
into words.

The surgeon led her out again into the little garden, over which
darkness had now begun to fall, unbrightened by lights from the sombre
streets of the half-ruined town. Lucy looked up at the first twinkling
stars in the clear sky, and they seemed the only familiar things in all
that dreary cannon-racked desolation.

“You’re tired, poor little girl,” said Major Greyson, when a great sigh
had fallen involuntarily from Lucy’s lips. “Miss Pearse is going to take
you across the street to the house where the nurses sleep. You will be
right by her, and I give you my word at the slightest change in your
father you shall be sent for. You won’t be any good to-morrow if you
don’t sleep to-night. Mr. Leslie is waiting in my room to have some
supper with you now.”

It was soon after eight o’clock when Lucy bade her Cousin Henry
good-night and left the hospital in Miss Pearse’s charge. Mr. Leslie had
done his generous best in the past hour to cheer her, but without
success, though she had tried hard to respond to his kind efforts. Her
eyelids were like leaden weights, her brain seemed to have no thought
nor feeling left in it, and she crossed the street, which was cluttered
with stones and débris, stumbling as she walked, and vaguely wondering
if all this were true. Miss Pearse was very kind and helped the tired
girl to bed with gentle hands and in understanding silence. But once in
her narrow cot, in the room adjoining that in which Miss Pearse and
another nurse slept, Lucy’s dulled mind amazingly awoke and flashed
before her pictures of everything she had seen and done in the past day
and night. The pounding of the guns, which had become for a while an
almost unnoticed part of her surroundings, seemed swelled to a horrible
din that beat like hammers on her forehead, and not even with her head
buried in the pillow could she find peace enough to sleep.

For months afterward Lucy remembered that first night at
Château-Plessis. The misery of her loneliness overwhelmed her as she lay
there wide-eyed in the thundering darkness, beset by fears she vainly
struggled to put aside, afraid to look back at what seemed peaceful days
behind, or ahead, to what might come to-morrow. At last she could bear
it no longer, and sitting up in bed she determined to go and beg Miss
Pearse’s company, tired though she knew the poor nurse must be after her
long day’s work. But Miss Pearse had not quite forgotten the lonely
little girl near her. Before Lucy had left her bed she heard some one at
the door of her room, and a kind voice said, “Lucy! Can’t you sleep? I’m
going to lie down on your bed beside you.”

There was not much room, but Lucy made all she could, with a heart
almost too grateful for speech, and her faltered thanks was lost in the
roar of the cannon. With Miss Pearse dropping off to exhausted sleep at
her side, the thoughts that had tormented her weary mind faded off into
blankness. At last she fell asleep.

When morning came Lucy opened her eyes and found she was alone. The sun
shining onto her cot had awakened her, and, sitting up, she looked
soberly around at the bare, unfurnished room. The plaster on the walls
was cracked, and fallen stones had nearly blocked up the chimney. Only
in one corner hung a picture, as though forgotten in hurried flight. It
was of a dog, jumping up to beg, with ears pricked forward and twinkling
eyes behind his silky hair. Lucy smiled at it, wishing it were alive.
With heavy heart she shrank from facing the new day, and desperately
longed to fall back into dreamland. But, unlike the night before, she
felt strength enough within her to summon up her courage and make a
prompt and vigorous effort.

“Come on, Lucy Gordon, _buck up_! You _can’t_ give in. Have they brought
you this near the battle line to be a coward, or are you going to help
your father and,” scornfully, “they used to call you Captain Lucy?”

Like Alice in Wonderland, she was fond of scolding herself, and could do
it as effectively as any one else could have done it for her. Close on
top of the scolding she got up and in her anxious eagerness to be
dressed and to see her father she forgot to pity herself further, and
thought more than anything else that this day might bring her mother to
her before it ended. “But if only those guns would stop one minute!” she
faltered, as she paused in her dressing to cover her ears, half deafened
by the double bombardment.

Out of the bag so hurriedly packed at Highland House she selected a blue
gingham dress, for the day was warm and sunny. She gave a hasty glance
at her hair-ribbons in the little mirror she had brought with her, and,
after putting the bare room in order, went out in search of the
stairway. It was close at hand, beyond the adjoining bedroom, the foot
of it opening directly on the street. Lucy ran down it, the sound of
voices coming to her from outside above the cannons’ noise.

The street was crowded with French soldiers, together with a scattering
of Americans, who looked very much a part of things as they passed by,
joined in friendly groups with the poilus. One and all were hot, dusty
and loaded down with field equipment, for there were few _permissions_
just now, and these men had been sent back for but a few hours’ respite
from the fighting-line. Lucy’s eager, shining eyes followed each
American soldier as he passed, all else forgotten but those dear
familiar figures, until two women, coming by with baskets on their arms,
stopping to smile and point in her direction, recalled her to herself.
She returned their smiles as cheerfully as she could, wondering much at
the patient endurance which had left their thin faces neither frightened
nor despairing. A dozen women passed her as she stood on the threshold
breathing the soft spring air, and several children too. All were
hurrying, intent upon their errands, but they looked quiet and
self-possessed, not seeming even to hear the never ceasing explosions
which forced them to speak loudly in each other’s ears.

A minute later Lucy caught sight of Miss Pearse and Mr. Leslie crossing
the street from the hospital, and she quickly made her way among the
broken paving stones to meet them. With beating heart she searched both
their faces, and drew a sigh of relief when Mr. Leslie met her anxious
eyes with a nod and smile of greeting.

“It’s all right, Lucy,” were his first words. “Your father is, if
anything, better. He is waiting to see you now.” He looked with some
concern into her face, which was pale after the hours she had lain
awake, but she smiled with quick reassurance.

“Don’t say I look tired, Cousin Henry,” she begged. “I did sleep some of
the time, didn’t I, Miss Pearse? And I feel perfectly well.”

“You slept more than I expected you to in this racket,” said the nurse
frankly. “It takes several days to get so you don’t mind it.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” remarked Mr. Leslie, as they mounted the
steps of the quaint old building, crowned with its two Gothic towers.
“I’ve been near here for several weeks now, but to tell the truth I’m
not used to it yet.”

The sun was shining brightly into Colonel Gordon’s room, and as Lucy
entered it her spirits rose with a sudden great rush of hope. Her
father’s eyes were open and for the moment his slow, heavy breathing did
not contract his forehead into lines of pain.

“Oh, good-morning, Father!” she said, gulping down a wild desire to cry,
and smiling crookedly instead. She dropped onto the little chair beside
the cot and took his hand in hers. “You’re better, I know you are,” she
told him, with shining eyes.

“Hope so,” murmured Colonel Gordon, shifting his weight cautiously on
the pillows. The fingers that Lucy held tightened and clasped hers, and
her father looked down at the little hand in the blue sleeve. “Lucy,” he
said slowly, as though making an effort to collect his thoughts, “Leslie
is here with you—isn’t he?”

“Yes, indeed—he’s right outside,” said Lucy quickly. Looking into her
father’s eyes she saw that they had grown clear and purposeful in spite
of the dark shadows of pain beneath. With a sudden clearing of his brain
he spoke more quickly:

“You ought not to be here. I asked for you when I was too far gone to
think.” He stopped for a moment, listening to the guns. “They’re not far
off. Our lines cannot be more than four miles away. You must go back to
England.”

“Oh, Father!” cried Lucy breathlessly, “you won’t make me go back as
soon as this? The town is quite safe, and I must see you a little
stronger before I go. Mother will be here soon, you know. Think what a
chance it is for me—to help you to get well. Don’t you know how I’ve
always longed to help?”

A smile touched Colonel Gordon’s pale lips as he answered slowly, “You
have helped, little daughter; I’ve _got_ to get well. I know it since
you came. Before that it seemed easier not to—fight.” He struggled for
breath and closed his eyes.

Terrified, Lucy started up, but her father’s fingers still clasped hers,
and, conquering her fear, she sat quietly beside him until footsteps
sounded at the door and Major Greyson entered.

“All right—stay where you are,” he nodded, his eyes on Colonel Gordon’s
face.

The sun moved slowly across the floor, as for an hour Lucy sat silent
and motionless, until her father’s fingers at last relaxed, and he fell
into a quiet sleep.

Miss Pearse put an arm about Lucy’s cramped shoulders and led her from
the room and out into the garden.

“You poor little kid, you haven’t had your breakfast,” she said,
pointing to the tray she had made ready and set on the old stone bench.
“We’ve finished long ago. Sit down this minute and eat, and I’ll call
Mr. Leslie. He’s been waiting to talk to you.”

Lucy thought she had never tasted anything so delicious as that
breakfast of bread and army bacon. She could not stop for more than a
nod to Mr. Leslie when he approached her, but his thoughtful smile had a
far-away look in it as though he had plenty to think over while he
waited for his little cousin to satisfy her hunger. At last she put
aside her tray and he sat down by her on the bench, drawing some papers
and envelopes from his pocket.

“I’m going off to-day, Lucy,” he began, “to attend to some business of
my own, and secondly, to arrange for your return to England. Hold on a
minute and let me finish,” he said quickly, as Lucy showed every sign of
interrupting him. “I have to make those arrangements a day or two ahead
if you are to get through with as little delay as we had in coming here.
These papers have to be signed by the proper authorities, and they
cannot always be found at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t mean that you
must leave to-morrow or even the day after, though I have just had
rather a debate with Major Greyson on the subject.”

“Does he wish me to go?” asked Lucy indignantly.

“No, I’ll have to confess it was I who made the suggestion. I said this
beastly bombardment was too hard on your nerves. Your father is better,
your mother is on her way here, and you ought to go. Major Greyson
seemed to think he knows you better than I. He declared that your nerves
could stand the strain, and that so long as you were here you might stay
two or three days longer, for your father’s sake.”

“He’s right; I can stand it,” exclaimed Lucy with a quick, happy smile,
for it is happiness to have struggled hard for courage and to have found
it at last. “I may stay, Cousin Henry—you said I might?” she pleaded,
all her fear and loneliness forgotten in renewed longing to be of
service to her father, and to see her mother again, if only for an hour.

“I’m going to find out about the journey back,” was Mr. Leslie’s
cautious answer. “We needn’t decide just yet on the time for
it—especially as we shouldn’t be able to keep to any schedule. We shall
have to return as best we can.”

“Are you going now, Cousin Henry? Which way?” asked Lucy, feeling
suddenly very down-hearted at the thought of losing his brave,
comforting presence.

“To Amiens to-day; to American Headquarters in this sector some time
to-morrow, and back here to-morrow night. The distances are short, and
I’ve already booked a ride in a motor-lorry to Amiens. I know you’re in
good hands, little girl,” he added, rising from the bench and taking
Lucy’s hands in his. “Miss Pearse has promised me to take care of you,
and Major Greyson is right on the spot. I won’t be gone longer than
to-morrow night.”

“All right—don’t worry about me,” said Lucy, summoning the ghost of a
smile as she slipped her arm through his and walked with him to the
ruined gateway of the little garden. All around the gate rose-bushes
were bursting into leaf and bud as though this spring the stones of the
wall were still solidly in place, and the garden paths still swept and
tidy. Outside they met Major Greyson crossing the street from the
officers’ mess.

“Are you off, Leslie?” he inquired, stopping at the gate. Then with a
frank nod of cheerful encouragement at sight of Lucy’s serious face, he
added, “We’ll have good news for you when you come back.”

“Keep your eye on this little soldier,” urged Mr. Leslie, trying not to
feel anxious at the moment of departure.

“Don’t worry about Captain Lucy—oh, yes,” to Lucy, “that’s what they
used to call you!”—was the prompt response. “I’m going to take her in
now to see the Colonel. He’s really better, and the guns have slowed
down a trifle—perhaps they can hear each other speak.”

“Good-bye, Cousin Henry,” said Lucy, still lingering at the gate. “Bring
Mother back with you, that’s all I ask.”

On that day and the next, to Lucy’s unspeakable gratitude, Colonel
Gordon continued to improve. Slowly he came back from the shadowy depths
of unconsciousness, and hour by hour his powerful frame gained a new
victory over his desperate weakness. His heavy, hard breathing grew
gradually more natural, and on the morning following Mr. Leslie’s
departure, for the first time in many days, the deadly pallor was gone
from his thin face, and the lines of pain faded from his forehead as he
slept. The artillery fire had slackened on both sides into what seemed
comparative quiet. For long hours Lucy had sat beside him, a silent
prayer of utter thankfulness in her heart, her only desire that her
mother should come and find them together at this happy moment. Again
and again she had imagined the meeting. Her mother’s tired and anxious
face, worn with a long journey’s dreadful apprehensions, and the swift
and joyful relief of the good news awaiting her. “If she would only come
to-night,” she thought on the evening Mr. Leslie had promised to return.
Fears and doubts on her mother’s account began to trouble her, though
Miss Pearse assured her they were needless.

“She may have to endure a hundred tiresome delays on the road, but she
will not be in danger,” the kind young nurse persuaded her. “The
railroads are out of range of the guns. Just have patience a little
longer.” Once more she repeated this as she and Lucy crossed the street
that night on their way to bed. Mr. Leslie had not yet come, but it was
early to expect him.

Whether Lucy took her companion’s words to heart or whether she was too
sleepy to worry about anything for long, she went to sleep that night
without much trouble, glad of what was really a lull in the bombardment.

For several hours in the welcome quiet she slept peacefully, until a
dream began disturbing her until she tossed restlessly on the hard,
narrow cot. The dream became a nightmare—a whirling thing about some mad
adventure. It roused her almost to wakefulness, but not enough to know
she was awake. Was she at home on Governor’s Island? The drums were
beating wildly in her ears. Now she had risen into the air—with Bob in
his airplane. But they were in a thunder-storm, or else what was that
awful thunder? She sat up, wide awake, conscious of having called out
with all her strength.

Miss Pearse’s voice spoke to her from the door. “Did you call, Lucy?
Don’t be frightened. I was coming in to stay with you.” She shouted, but
Lucy could not hear her. The roar and crash of the guns was like the
noise of thunderbolts above the house—a thousand of them together. Miss
Pearse sat down on the cot beside her and spoke into her ear.

“The town is not in danger, but the firing started again an hour ago.
The Germans have begun a big attack for miles along the line.”

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



                              CHAPTER III

                            A GLIMPSE OF BOB


=LUCY= knew she could sleep no more that night. She got up and began to
dress, with pounding heart and uncertain fingers. There was no use
trying to talk. Miss Pearse and her companion, Miss Willis, were also
getting dressed, intending to return to duty at the hospital in
anticipation of heavy casualties from the front. Dawn was just breaking
through the shadowy darkness. Lucy stood by the open window, her
ear-drums ringing from the quivering air, and thought of the peace of a
Surrey morning, when often she had looked out at dawn on the quiet
woodland, and of the first soft notes of the birds around them when she
and Janet had started out early to their gardens. If she were only back
there! As this thought came unbidden she tied her hair-ribbon with a
sharp, reproachful jerk, and answered herself with genuine scorn.

“Is this what all your longing to get nearer to the front and be as
brave as Bob amounts to? Slacker! Heavens, what a big one,” she
breathed, her mind distracted from all else as a mighty explosion shook
the house.

“Lucy, are you ready?” asked Miss Pearse in her ear. “I don’t want to
leave you here alone. Come to the hospital.”

Out in the street in the half darkness, figures of men were hurrying
past, calling to each other in scraps of French or English that went
unheard in the increasing uproar. The eastern sky was illumined before
the dawn by bursts of red and yellow fire, and the air smelt thickly of
smoke and dust. Lucy thought dazedly of her father, then of her mother,
remembering thankfully Miss Pearse’s confidence that she must be further
from the guns than Château-Plessis. Perhaps Mr. Leslie might be with
her—he must surely be almost back by now. Lastly, her anxious thoughts
hovered about her brother and could find no comfort there. Was Bob in
the midst of that awful conflict? She knew he was, since the attack must
reach as far as Cantigny. At that moment, though, it did not seem
possible that such a bombardment could last many hours.

Outside the ward Major Greyson was talking with a convalescent infantry
officer whom Lucy knew. At sight of her they both came forward, and
Captain Lewis said close to her ear, “Don’t be frightened. We are
holding them well. Half of this infernal racket comes from our own guns,
you know.”

“It isn’t pleasant to hear, though, is it, Lucy?” asked Major Greyson.
“Your father had a little morphine, so he is sleeping. He’s doing
splendidly. Think of that instead of your other worries. It will soon be
daylight now, and this won’t last forever.”

Lucy nodded without speaking, for even in shouts she could hardly hear
her own voice. The officers left her, each bound on a different errand,
and she followed Miss Pearse into the nurses’ dining-room.

The first shafts of light were stealing through the narrow windows and
in the dusk a dozen nurses were hurriedly breakfasting. Miss Pearse made
room for Lucy beside her and handed her a plate and cup. A general haste
of preparation filled the air. As they ate in silence, the bursting
shells making speech next to impossible, other nurses and orderlies went
back and forth outside the room, carrying blankets and mattresses in a
last effort to find more room in the already crowded building. This
hospital, improvised by the American Medical Corps, and a second, in
charge of a French staff, were the only ones in Château-Plessis, and the
need had grown overwhelming.

Before the nurses scattered Miss Pearse brought word to Lucy that she
might go to her father’s room. The darkness had vanished now, and the
clear light of dawn filled the hospital. Lucy found Major Greyson by
Colonel Gordon’s bedside.

“He’s still asleep,” he said when she was close enough to hear him,
nodding his head toward the quiet figure on the cot. “His pulse is good,
and he breathes easily. You may stay here a while, if you like—he may
wake any minute.”

Major Greyson had risen from the chair and, seeing him ready to go, Lucy
hastily asked the questions that were trembling on her tongue. “Major
Greyson, where do you think Mother is? And Cousin Henry promised to be
back last night!” She shouted into his ear as he bent down to listen,
but the bursting shells almost drowned her words. He nodded quickly to
show he understood.

“They are held up,” he said with certainty. “The railroad is open to
nothing but troop-trains to-day. With luck they may manage to get on a
supply-train, but I’m afraid they’re blocked somewhere along the road.
You mustn’t worry,” he added, speaking as hopefully as he could in a
voice which in a quiet place would have carried across a field. “They
are well out of danger—further from the front than we are.”

Lucy sat down beside her father, thankful that he had slept through this
much of the tumult, and fell to thinking of Bob until her fear for him
grew greater than her courage, and resolutely she tried to turn her
thoughts away. Had not Bob come back once from deadly peril? From the
merciless hands of the enemy? Remembering her own despair in that
dreadful December of 1917, Lucy never failed to find some hope for her
brother’s safety. Her father did not wake, and when a nurse came to take
her place she left him and went out into the little garden. The sun was
rising gloriously behind the clouds of dust and smoke blown from the
batteries before the town. The pounding of the cannon seemed for a
moment to have slackened, even a slight lessening of the din bringing a
quick relief to her tired ears. Down by the ruined gate there was a
little crowd of people, and she made haste to join them. They were
doctors, nurses and convalescents together with a few people of the
town, their eyes all turned toward the rising sun, and their hands
lifted as a shield against its rays.

“What is it?” asked Lucy of a medical officer who stood beside her,
binoculars in hand.

He pointed to where the sky was touched with pale rose above the clouds
of smoke. Three little specks were darting up toward the blue. “Can you
see those planes? The Germans are trying hard to get a detailed plan of
our new batteries. Their airmen have been up for hours, but so far our
scouts have been too much for them. Look there!”

Above the mounting specks appeared two others, seeming to pounce down
upon them. Lucy held her breath as the newcomers swooped and circled,
closing in upon the three below, until a feathery cloud cut them off
from the eager, watching eyes.

The moment of suspense among the little group changed to a stirring of
anxiety and disappointment, felt rather than heard in the cannon’s roar.
Most of the hospital staff members tore themselves away to return to
their duties, but Lucy could not take her dazzled eyes from that glowing
sky. Half unconsciously she followed the little group of townspeople
who, seeking a place in the open, away from the pointed towers of the
old town hall, moved step by step down the ruined street to the square
of which the hospital made a corner. The sun had risen higher now, and
beneath it the planes were again visible against a background of pearl
and rose. As they gazed breathlessly up at those moving dots that were
men in desperate struggle, one of the planes fell swiftly toward the
earth. Lucy gave a quick gasp of anguish. She could not bear to watch,
but neither could she turn her eyes away. Was the plane just brought
down Allied or enemy? She inquired of her nearest neighbor in disjointed
shouts of French, but the woman shook her head sadly, knowing no more
than she. Was Bob among them? Lucy longed most to know that, for better
or worse. “It’s waiting I never can bear,” she had said to Marian Leslie
months before. Now it seemed as though the war was all made up of
waiting.

The young doctor had left her his binoculars, but she found it hard to
use them in the quivering roar of the guns against the glaring sky. If
the airplanes would come a little nearer she thought she could find out
something. That wish at least was quickly granted. Out of the distance
the specks grew bigger with amazing swiftness. Lucy winked her eyes,
before which disks of red and black were dizzily floating, from the
glowing sunlight. Around her, fingers were pointed in excited gestures,
and her ears caught fragments of shouts and exclamations. On came the
airplanes, until in what seemed but a breath of time they had grown to
big winged objects that hovered in plain sight, far overhead, but not a
mile away in horizontal flight. Now they were out of the sun’s path, and
the watching eyes could look at them undazzled. There were six, as
nearly as Lucy with fast beating heart could count them in among the
feathery clouds that flecked the sky. The little crowd had gathered to
three times its size, and for all the thunder of the guns, the cries of
the excited people could be heard in their anxious expectancy.

Lucy gave a quick look around her as she lowered her head for an instant
to ease the aching muscles of her eyes and throat. A few people from the
hospital had rejoined the crowd and familiar faces were among them. A
queer sensation of having caught a glimpse of some one intently watching
her—of a keen pair of eyes looking out from among the group of shawled
women and old men and boys gathered from the near-by streets—made her
glance around once more. There was no one now whose gaze was not turned
upward, and she looked at the clouds again, the strange impression
forgotten.

The six planes had separated into two groups. Two were high among the
clouds, the remaining four moving here and there below them. Of the four
one was clearly out of the fight, for in another moment it turned and
veered off in the direction of the French and German lines, sinking
slowly as it flew.

“That’s a Boche,” said a voice in Lucy’s ear. Captain Lewis was at her
side and, taking the glasses she held, he leveled them at the sky. “Now
they are in range again,” he added. “Our men are above in those little
Nieuports. The Boches below are in big Fokker battle-planes. They could
eat up our little fellows if they could reach them. Luckily the
Nieuports can keep above. That fourth who was put out of the game leaves
them three to two—pretty close.” Lucy leaned nearer to catch his words,
for in his preoccupation he forgot to speak loud enough. A burst of fire
from a big German plane made one of the Nieuports veer sharply from its
level poise above the enemy. The glasses stiffened in the young
officer’s hands, but in a moment the Nieuport righted itself and rose
again beside its fellow. From the French trenches anti-aircraft guns
were sending shots that burst below the German craft in spouts of flame.
But they fell short of the targets, the gunners evidently fearing to hit
the little Nieuports so close above them.

As the battle shifted nearer the planes flew over the eastern end of the
town. In another five minutes Captain Lewis seized Lucy’s arm, saying,
“Come on—come back to the hospital. They may be over us in a moment.” As
Lucy, too lost in that terrible and thrilling struggle to even hear his
words, stood silent and unheeding he shook her arm and shouted in her
ear, “Come on! Look, here’s the patrol come to break up the crowd. You
can’t stay here.”

A guard of a dozen French soldiers with a sergeant had arrived to
disperse the people, who, oblivious like Lucy to possible danger, still
stood gazing spellbound into the sky. Even when ordered with shouts and
unceremonious gestures to get under shelter they walked slowly from the
spot, turning again and again toward the clouds among which the five
planes darted, each pouring a deadly fire upon its enemy.

Lucy got back somehow into the hospital garden, but there she stopped,
and Captain Lewis, seeing the planes were not directly overhead, stopped
with her. They were not alone, but the few others stood like them in
tense silence, watching the two little Nieuports still swooping about
their big opponents in quick attack or momentary retreat, and every
watcher awaited with eager hopes and prayers the final decision. Lucy’s
racing heart beat until her throat ached intolerably and her head began
to swim. She clutched at the stone heap that was the gate-post, trying
to quiet her panting breath. Suddenly a shout went up around her. One of
the big German Fokkers had tilted oddly on its side. One wing was
drooping helplessly, its wire supports cut by machine-gun bullets; and
now flames darted from the body of the plane and it began to fall. Lucy
covered her face with her hands. Then an arm stole around her shoulders
and Miss Pearse’s kind voice said in her ear, “Oh, Lucy, don’t tremble
so! I know it is awful to see for the first time—but it’s war, you know.
And I think the fight is ours!”

Lucy looked up again, not trying to answer. The German plane was gone. A
quick stir among the little group told her that things were happening
swiftly. At that moment the tide of battle turned.

The two enemy biplanes, unwilling to remain beneath the galling fire of
the little Nieuports which hung like deadly hornets above them, had made
tremendous efforts to rise to a level with their antagonists. But fast
as they rose, the lighter planes rose still faster, until a cloud drove
in between Allied and German craft, concealing each from the other. Only
the Germans were visible to the watchers below. They evidently saw in
the momentary check a good chance of escape and sped off swiftly like
great birds through the bright morning air toward the safe shelter of
the German lines. A perfect hail of fire from the French and American
trenches met them as they passed this perilous frontier. Puffs of smoke
and balls of red and yellow fire enveloped them, while from behind the
drifting cloud the Nieuports darted in pursuit. But the target was
beyond the reach of the anti-aircraft gunners. The German planes sailed
majestically on, and the little Nieuports, remembering that discretion
is a part of valor, forbore to cross into German territory.

“They’re coming back. They’re quite all right, you see!” cried Captain
Lewis at Lucy’s side. From the little group a wild cheer went up at
sight of the two daring little scouts returning unharmed from a battle
which had cost the enemy dearly without the compensation of a glimpse at
the Allies’ defenses.

“They are looking for a place to land,” continued Captain Lewis, his
glasses pointed again at the sky. “One fellow has a badly riddled wing.
There they come—they are going to land on that big meadow just outside
the town, inside our lines.”

As he spoke the Nieuports slowly dropped in a long slanting course until
in a moment the hospital towers hid them from sight.

Lucy stirred and sighed as though waking from a dream. Her neck and
shoulders ached so she could hardly straighten them, and her eyes were
almost blinded by long gazing at the sunny sky. She looked around,
blinking, at the little crowd of people who seemed, like herself, slowly
coming back to earth to take up their tasks again. The street had once
more filled with people, chiefly women who had paused with baskets on
their arms, oblivious of what they set out to do. Now they moved on with
hurried steps as if trying to overtake the time. Lucy suddenly
remembered the face that she had seen watching her with such furtive
intentness from among the townspeople in the square. The impression,
made at a moment when she was too preoccupied to give it any thought,
was too strong to be forgotten. Some one’s eyes had been fixed upon her
with a piercing earnestness, but beyond that she had seen nothing—no
definiteness of face or figure. In the midst of wondering she remembered
her father and ran back at once to the hospital.

Colonel Gordon was awake, lying quietly upon his pillows, his lips set
and his eyes keen and thoughtful as the crash of the bombardment struck
his ears. At sight of Lucy he smiled and held out a welcoming hand, but
the searching look did not fade from his eyes, and his thin face wore
some of the old confident determination that Lucy so well remembered.
For a moment joy at the change in his appearance overwhelmed her, until
the look in his eyes deepened to one of painful anxiety as he said,
struggling to make himself heard above the guns:

“You must go, Lucy—you can’t stay here. Where is Cousin Henry?”

Eager to relieve his mind, Lucy shouted, “I’m going, Father—soon! Cousin
Henry will be back to-night or to-morrow. Major Greyson says he is held
up somewhere. Like Mother, you know—she’s on her way here too. I’m going
back to England just as soon as he can take me. Anyway, the Germans
haven’t got ahead a bit, and the bombardment is letting up—so Captain
Lewis says.” She stopped, breathless, wondering if the firing really had
slackened, as in her ears the merciless pounding still continued.

Colonel Gordon’s face remained unchanged, and drawing Lucy down to him
he kissed her, saying, “Send Major Greyson to me as soon as he can
manage it. You are going back now if it is any way possible.”

Lucy went thoughtfully out into the ward and, meeting Major Greyson,
sent him to her father’s room. Then Miss Pearse found her and took her
off to lunch, at which she sat down tired and famished.

“I guess you are hungry,” remarked the young nurse, helping her to a
steaming ladleful of cabbage soup. “I would lie down a little while
after this if I were you,” she added, with a glance at Lucy’s flushed
cheeks. “You mustn’t be too tired for your journey back to Calais, for
I’m afraid it will be a long and tiresome one.”

She rose from the table as she spoke in answer to a knock at the door.
Almost at once she came back saying, “Major Greyson would like to speak
to you a minute, Lucy.”

Outside the door the officer gave Lucy a nod of greeting and spoke
quickly.

“I wanted to tell you that we have arranged for you to leave here
to-morrow morning. One of the nurses sent back for rest to Calais is
going too. I can’t stop to give you the details now, but your father
will not have you wait for Leslie, in case he does not get here
to-night.” He gave an emphatic nod at sight of Lucy’s troubled face.
“He’s right, you know. Leslie would have taken you off before this; but
things turn up so quickly, one can’t plan everything. Go back and eat
your lunch now. I’ll see you later.”

Lucy went back and sat down again, her appetite chased away. Now that
departure was really at hand her thoughts and feelings were very
conflicting. Longing for the peace of Surrey and its freedom from the
terrible sights and sounds about her was mixed with a great and growing
sense of pride and satisfaction in her nearness to the heart of the
great struggle; in the never-dying hope that she might be of service to
the cause she loved so well. Thinking these things she choked down her
bread untasted, wishing desperately that her mother would come. Suddenly
something struck her ears like a great shock. She started up, gasping,
and saw that the nurses had started up likewise, but now they were
dropping back into their chairs, with faint smiles of pure relief. In a
flash she understood. The bombardment had ceased. Not died away to utter
silence, but compared with the ear-splitting din of the night and
morning the scattering fire remaining seemed no more than rifle shots.

Miss Pearse said, “Sit down, Lucy. It’s stopped, thank heaven!”

She spoke in her ordinary tone of voice, and Lucy, answering her, did
not know how to pitch her own voice and half shouted, uncertain if she
could be heard. “Is it all over?” she stammered, wanting to cry,
strangely enough, and swallowing hard to keep from it.

“Oh, I don’t know,” was the doubtful reply. “Be thankful, anyhow, that
it has stopped for a little while.”

Just the low sound of the voices around the table was a pleasure, after
the fragments shouted in each other’s ears so long. It took some minutes
to get used to the sudden change—the long continued noise left a great
vacancy not at once filled up by ordinary sounds. The nurses hurried
through their meal and rose one by one to go back to their duties.
Outside the door a nurse whom Lucy did not know had come up and was
speaking to Miss Pearse.

“They came down on that biggest hay-field—the one right outside the
town,” Lucy heard her saying. “Just two of them. One of the airplanes
had a badly cut wing. I stopped to see them as I was coming back from
the farmhouse with the orderly, after getting old Mère Breton’s eggs and
milk.”

“Who were the aviators? Do you know their names?” interrupted Lucy,
forgetting everything but her eagerness.

“Yes,” said the nurse, turning toward her with a pleasant nod and a look
of curiosity on her own part at sight of the little stranger. “One of
them is Captain Jourdin of the French Flying Corps. The other is an
American—Lieutenant Gordon.”

Lucy’s heart gave such a bound she could hardly gasp out to Miss Pearse
the wonderful truth.

“Your _brother_, Lucy?” the nurse exclaimed. “Are you sure? Of course it
must be!”

“Oh, I’m sure! There’s not another Gordon in the Aviation Corps. How can
I get to him? Who will take me?” cried Lucy, each moment’s delay beyond
words unbearable.

“I’ll go with you myself—I can get off for an hour. We’ll have to run
all the way,” said Miss Pearse in one hasty breath, Lucy’s wild
eagerness awaking instant sympathy in her kind heart. “Wait here until I
get permission.”

She was off as she spoke, leaving Lucy standing at the doorway to the
garden trying to calm her whirling thoughts and to realize the truth of
the happy chance that had come to her. So it had really been Bob all the
time whom she had watched with such desperate hope and fear as he fought
for his life in the clouds above her! At that moment it seemed days and
days since she had risen from troubled dreams to the thunder of the guns
that morning.

Miss Pearse came up behind her saying, “All right—come on!”

Together they ran through the garden and out into the street. It was a
mile to the big level meadow just east of Château-Plessis, through
streets heaped with fallen stones and rubbish, the houses scarred and
battered by flying shrapnel, and here and there collapsed in utter ruin.

As Lucy ran on tirelessly, looking only to the goal ahead, thoughts
raced tumultuously through her excited brain until her father, mother,
Bob and William, the past and the uncertain present, were jumbled
together into a maze of doubt and wondering. Only to see Bob—to talk to
him—somehow everything would then be straightened out. She thought of
Captain Jourdin. What ages since she had bound up his injured hand on
Governor’s Island. For two months now he had been back in the French
Service and Bob’s letters had told her of his new and brilliant
exploits. How Bob had dreamed of having a part in all this, that was now
coming true! With a rush of strange happiness Lucy felt that she herself
had now a part in it as well. For a moment she had forgotten the
leave-taking so near at hand.

“Tired, Lucy?” asked Miss Pearse, slowing up to catch her breath. “We’re
almost there.”

The streets became lanes as they neared the outskirts of
Château-Plessis. The houses thinned to scattered cottages set among
neglected gardens—almost all empty and forlorn, for this side of the
town had been most exposed during the bombardment which ended in its
capture. In another few moments they passed the last house of the lane
and, beyond what was left of a grove of bright green poplars, opened a
wide grassy meadow. It stretched with several others, in broad
undulating lines as far as the wood which lay between the fields and the
French trenches. The nearest meadow was a favorite landing-place for
aviators scouting above the town.

A few hundred yards to the left a little crowd of people had gathered
around two airplanes resting on the grass. At sight of them Miss Pearse
and Lucy both cried out with the little breath left them. For a second
they stood still, panting aloud, with crimson cheeks and hair stuck in
damp wisps to their hot foreheads. Then they ran on to the edge of the
crowd which had collected close about the aviators, eager to offer help
and friendly greetings.

Bob Gordon was standing by one of the planes, his hands full of tools.
His gloves and helmet he had flung upon the grass, but now his work was
done, and he stood idly by while his companion put the finishing touches
to the repair of his bullet-riddled wing. Bob’s face was hot and
streaked with oil and dust to the roots of his brown hair. His sunburned
cheeks were thinner than when he had left West Point less than a year
ago. He looked calm and self-reliant beyond his years, his whole lean
figure filled with energy and decision. He was not yet twenty-one, but
to Lucy he seemed a boy no longer.

The crowd made way for her in astonishment as she begged and pushed her
panting way among them. Then Bob turned at the disturbance and caught
sight of her. His face was a study of unbelieving wonder and delight as
he let fall the tools and sprang to meet her. Lucy flung her arms about
his neck and he hugged her so close he could feel her heart beating as
she fought for breath. For a moment neither of them spoke a word, Lucy
too breathless and Bob too overcome. Around them the friendly little
crowd broke into delighted cries of sympathy and pleasure. Captain
Jourdin lifted astonished eyes from his forgotten work, and Miss Pearse,
with swimming head and parching throat, dropped down upon the grass.

“Lucy! You!” said Bob at last, drawing back from his little sister and
holding both her hands to look into her face. “You’re here at
Château-Plessis!” Still he seemed almost incredulous, and his eyes
wandered over Lucy, while he held her hands, as though he thought his
eyes had tricked him.

“Oh, Bob, how are you?” Lucy faltered, getting her breath at last, but
struggling desperately with the strangling emotion that caught her at
sight of her brother. September, 1917—how long ago that seemed since she
had said good-bye to him that morning at Governor’s Island. And what
dreadful days they had been through since then!

Bob pulled her down beside him on the grass with an eager, searching
look into her face. “How is Father? Tell me that first.”

“He’s better—truly, Bob—much better,” Lucy answered quickly.

“He’s safe—he will get well?” Bob whispered, and Lucy, seeing the lines
of anxiety that had chased away the smile about his lips and the look of
tired suffering in his eyes, almost choked before she managed to say,
“Oh, Bob dear, he’s safe! He talks to me just like himself. He made me
promise to go back to England to-morrow.”


[Illustration: “THIS MEADOW IS THE BEST LANDING-PLACE”]


“And Mother—where is she?” Bob asked, after a moment’s silent
thankfulness. Lucy’s words had brought back a little of the old
brightness to his face. He spoke hurriedly in sudden realization of the
short time they had together. Then, as Lucy shook her head, he added, “I
had telegrams, you know. One reached me at Cantigny from Cousin Henry
saying you had come to Father and that he had improved a little. But of
course the name of the town was suppressed, so I didn’t know where you
were. If I could have come myself I should have learned at General
Headquarters where Father was. But I never thought to drop down on the
lucky spot like this! I was here before, you know, nearly a month
ago—before the Germans took the town. This meadow is the best
landing-place around here.”

The little crowd of people had dwindled, some moving off to leave
brother and sister alone together, for Miss Pearse had been questioned
until every one there knew the story of Bob and Lucy’s meeting. Others,
too interested to go, still stood watching with smiling faces, and
neither Bob nor Lucy minded them. But in another moment Lucy sprang up
from the grass and held out her hand to Captain Jourdin. He took it with
a quick bow, his face lighting up as he returned her greeting, in a
voice deeply touched with friendly feeling.

“Welcome to France, Miss Lucie! I never thought to see you here.”

There was no use trying to put into words the strangeness of their
meeting. Lucy tried to say a little of what she felt, and could not.
Looking into the Frenchman’s fine grave face she saw again the
snow-covered land by the sea-wall on Governor’s Island, herself and
William standing beside a sled and Captain Jourdin getting out of his
stranded airplane and limping toward them. She had told him that day of
Bob’s imprisonment, hoping against hope that he could give her
encouragement of some sort for his safety. She glanced involuntarily at
his wrist, and he smiled and held it up, saying, “You see, it is quite
all right again, Captain Lucy!”

“You are back in the service—that’s better than anything, isn’t it?” she
said at last, and his eyes, lighting up at her words, told her the depth
of his satisfaction.

“I shall not soon forget that American surgeon,” he answered softly. “He
gave me back to France.”

“Lucy,” said Bob suddenly from behind her, “a fellow I just spoke with
here says the American hospital is not a mile away. I’m going to see
Father. I can run all the way. How about it, Jourdin? Will you wait half
an hour?”

“But certainly! the firing has almost ceased,” was the willing answer.
“We shall have a quiet night, so it appears. I will stay here on guard
until you return.”

“Lucy, don’t try to run again—you’ll kill yourself,” urged Bob, putting
his arm about his little sister’s shoulders and giving her an
involuntary hug. “Stay here, and I’ll be back as soon as possible. This
man who told me where the hospital was will take me there.”

“I can run, Bob, but of course you can go faster alone,” said Lucy
reluctantly, hating to lose her brother for any of these precious
moments. “Go on—Father will love so to see you,” she added quickly. “And
then you will know yourself that he is really getting well.”

Her words were hardly spoken when the heavy crashing boom of a cannon
broke the quiet of the German lines. Other shots followed before the
screaming shell had burst. At once from the wood in front of the meadows
the French and American guns replied. The bursting German shells
increased in number, and now once more a thunderous din reëchoed through
the quivering air.

Speechless with despairing terror, Lucy threw her arms about Bob’s neck,
and he held her while he shouted in her ear, “It’s on again—I can’t go
now! Buck up there, Captain!”

The old name roused Lucy’s sinking courage. She stood erect and dazedly
saw the little crowd around them fast dispersing, Captain Jourdin
putting away the tools and picking up his helmet, and Miss Pearse
running quickly to her side. She did not hear the words the nurse
shouted, but she heard Captain Jourdin speaking hastily to Bob. “——to
get back to the squadron before the fire grows hotter—no time to lose—we
shall be needed if the German lines are stiffening before the town——”
These fragments caught her ear. She understood, too, that Bob was in
greater danger if he delayed, and that was enough to make her forget
everything else. She put her arms about his neck again and said a brief
good-bye, hoping the shake in her voice was drowned by the cannon.

The next moment Bob was seated in his plane, leaning down to her for a
final leave-taking. A mechanic from the town stood ready by the
propeller. Captain Jourdin was in his own machine, and now he turned to
Lucy, raising his hand in a farewell gesture that seemed to speak his
own dauntless courage. In another moment he was off down the meadow like
a skimming bird. Bob’s last words were quickly spoken.

“Give lots of love to Father—and Cousin Henry. You’ll go back to England
to-morrow?” he shouted. Lucy had not even had time to tell him Mr.
Leslie was not there. He nodded to the man at the propeller, then turned
to Lucy once more. “Do you know whom I saw in Château-Plessis a month
ago—might—here—still!” The roaring propeller drowned his words.

“Bob—what?” begged Lucy, straining her ears as she leaped back from the
machine, but Bob could not hear her either. She saw his lips move,
though not a sound came from them. But he thought she understood and
with a last nod and smile which he tried hard to make cheerful, for that
lonely little figure standing there brought an aching pang to his heart,
he pressed forward his control stick and sped off down the field.

Side by side Miss Pearse and Lucy watched the two Nieuports rise into
the air over the wood, soaring far above the bursting shells. Then they
turned and with one accord ran swiftly toward the town, while the
thundering guns shook the earth beneath their feet.

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



                               CHAPTER IV

                           THE FORTUNE OF WAR


=DAWN= was hardly breaking on the morning of May 21st, when Lucy woke
from the heavy sleep into which she had fallen early the night before.
Nothing—not the crash of the bombardment nor the ceaseless anxiety of
her own thoughts—could have kept her awake for long after her head
touched the pillow the evening of Bob’s visit. Sleep had been stronger
than all fears, though now she wondered that it had ever come, for the
shock of the battle seemed louder and more terrible as it struck her
protesting ears. Miss Pearse and her companion were already up, and Lucy
hastily dressed herself, eager to learn what Major Greyson had decided
about her departure. Last night the plan had still been unsettled, as it
must be while trains and motor trucks had three times their normal work
to do. It was a bitter disappointment to give up all hope of seeing her
mother, though Major Greyson had told her that the renewed bombardment
might last for days and that Mr. Leslie would have reached
Château-Plessis before this, had any sort of undelayed travel been
possible.

She was swayed by alternate hopes and fears as she brushed her hair in
the half-darkness, and felt about on the little table for her comb and
ribbons. It was so desperately hard to think at all with that unearthly
noise dazing her brain, but in spite of her tormenting uncertainty she
clung steadfastly to one consoling thought. She had helped to bring her
father out of danger. Her journey had not been in vain, however hopeless
her longing to do more than stand weakly by watching the struggle in
which Bob and the rest fought so gallantly. She knew she could help—even
here on the battle-front. Last year it seemed impossible that she could
do anything toward winning Bob’s freedom, and yet did she not have a
hand in sending Mr. Leslie on that long, hard journey? Lucy had not much
conceit in her nature, but she did have a good deal of her brother’s
confident energy, and, her courage once firmly grasped, she could
persevere in a cause on which her heart was set, like a true soldier’s
daughter.

“I’m ready, Miss Pearse,” she called presently, waking from her serious
thoughts as the nurse came to her door.

They went in silence down the stairs into the street, for this morning
Miss Pearse did not try any of her usual kind and encouraging means of
bolstering up Lucy’s cheerfulness. She was strangely silent and
preoccupied. In the street a hurrying throng of soldiers, women and
children were passing by, dim shadows in the first light of the dawn.
Lucy wondered at their numbers as she made her way among them, her eyes
turning with a fearful fascination toward the east, where the light of
bursting shells outshone the pale streaks of day. The hospital was the
scene of a great though orderly confusion. Almost a hundred wounded men
had been brought in during the night, and every spare foot of space had
been used to lay down a mattress or to unfold a narrow army cot.
Doctors, orderlies and nurses were moving in every direction about the
crowded halls, and Lucy stole away with painfully beating heart, and
found refuge in her father’s little room.

A nurse was sitting there, with her arms upon the window-sill, staring
out into the shadowy street. She turned pale cheeks and troubled eyes
toward Lucy, and her faint smile had nothing cheerful in it as she rose
and offered her a chair by her father’s side. Lucy felt a pang of fear
at sight of that tired face. The nurse looked as though she had kept an
anxious watch, and Lucy turned searching eyes upon her father, fearing a
change for the worse.

“He’s doing well,” the nurse said in her ear, guessing her thoughts, and
she accompanied the words with a little encouraging nod, though the
color did not come back to her pale cheeks, nor the apprehension leave
her eyes.

Lucy sat down at her father’s side, wondering greatly, and the nurse
went out. Colonel Gordon was just beginning to wake, but for a few
moments more he lingered in a doze. At last he opened his eyes and
looked at Lucy with a slow understanding smile of recognition.

“You, little daughter?” he asked, reaching out a hand. “What time is it,
anyway? It’s not light yet. What are you doing here?” Then as the full
force of the guns smote upon his ears and brain he started up on his
pillows, saying with quick earnestness, “You’re going to-day, eh—Lucy?
They’ve arranged it? Greyson promised me. Henry’s not back?”

“I don’t know yet,” Lucy answered, bending over him to be heard. “I
haven’t seen Major Greyson, he’s so busy, but I think he’s going to send
me off some time to-day.” Just then it was real happiness to hear her
father’s voice so full of energy and purpose—so nearly like his old
confident self. She smiled and forgot her worries for a moment. In all
Colonel Gordon’s eager interest of the evening before at the news of
Bob’s visit he had seemed tired and restless, but this morning even
Lucy’s unskilled eyes could see a real improvement. She began to tell
him about Bob once more.

“If you could only have watched him yesterday morning in the air,
Father! You’ve seen him fly though, of course. They were so wonderful,
he and Captain Jourdin, keeping after those big German planes until they
drove them home. He looks well, I think.” She checked herself and added
truthfully, “But he’s thinner than he was.” She did not tell her father
of the anxiety Bob had undergone in his behalf. She wanted to describe
his surprise at their meeting, but the effort needed to talk was
terrific. It was like speaking in a never-ending peal of thunder.

Soon Colonel Gordon’s nurse came back and told Lucy that breakfast was
ready. It was daylight now in the wards, where the workers still passed
from one patient to the next, along the rows of cots and mattresses.
Lucy glanced down the long room with a little shuddering tremor of pity
and horror, not daring to look too closely at those silent bandaged
figures. But in the depths of her heart the longing still persisted,
first roused months ago at that little nursing class on Governor’s
Island, to do something to help from the stores of her own health and
energy.

She went on into the nurses’ rest and dining-room and, finding no one
yet at the table, stood by one of the quaint, narrow windows, from which
the glass had been shattered long ago, looking out across the garden
into the street. The crowd of people had grown dense in the last hour.
Now it was entirely made up of townspeople; women, old men and children,
who seemed to-day to have forgotten their orderly routine and to be
hurrying blindly through the streets with baskets on their arms and
bundles on their shoulders. The children clung to their mothers’ skirts
with looks of fear and bewilderment. In the few minutes that Lucy stood
there not a person passed by going toward the eastern side of
Château-Plessis. They were fleeing from the battle-front toward the
other end of the town, where already the transport lines were overloaded
until not a horse or mule was to be had for miles around. As she watched
a deadly fear crept over Lucy’s heart. She tried to stifle it, but could
not. Her eyes did not deceive her, and had not Miss Pearse’s face two
hours ago first stirred her to uneasiness? She went to the door of the
room, wondering why the nurses did not come, and caught sight of Major
Greyson and another medical officer talking earnestly together. They
were forced to speak so loud that the words came plainly to her ears, as
uncertainly she started forward.

“It’s impossible, Major!” exclaimed the younger man. “She can’t go now.
She’s better off here than lost in that raging torrent of humanity
behind the town. We may be——”

A shell that seemed to burst over the hospital itself drowned his last
words, and Lucy could not hear Major Greyson’s reply as the two moved
off together. Her heart had begun to pound with terror, and she longed
desperately to follow Major Greyson and find out the worst. But the
wards were a place of battle now, where the workers strained every nerve
to do what their small number could for the growing hundreds of wounded
men. She could not enter it yet, and hastily deciding to go back to her
father, who was often alone in these crowded hours, she dropped down on
a chair for a moment until she could calm her frightened breathing. She
buried her face in her hands, and while she sat there, running steps
came up behind her and Miss Pearse fell on her knees beside the chair
and caught hold of Lucy’s hands. The young nurse’s cheeks were deadly
pale, but her brave, honest blue eyes met Lucy’s frankly. She took the
terrified girl by the shoulders and spoke close to her ear.

“They said for me to tell you, but you’ll need all your courage, so
don’t you let it go. Oh, Lucy, Lucy! The French and Americans are far
outnumbered! They are retreating on both sides of us, and
Château-Plessis will soon be inside the German lines.” In spite of all
her self-control her voice trembled and broke, and for a second she hid
her face on Lucy’s shoulder, while the two clung together.

Too dazed to realize at that moment the extent of the catastrophe, Lucy
tried to put her whirling thoughts together and make this awful thing
seem real. “The Germans will take Château-Plessis,” she told herself,
and still the words had little meaning for her. She felt that somewhere
she had stopped living and begun to dream, but just where was the
question. Only Miss Pearse’s face recalled her a little—that brave,
young face with lips tight closed to hide their trembling and undaunted
purpose in her clear eyes.

“It began with a new push against our lines at Argenton,” Lucy heard her
saying. “They’ve given countless lives to take it, but now they are
there we have to fall back to straighten out our line. It was all in an
hour of the early morning,—the turning-point of the battle. Our reserves
were held up somewhere, and the Germans brought two divisions for every
one of ours into the fight.” She stopped, breathless, and Lucy,
beginning to understand, asked suddenly:

“All those people running by; can they get away?”

“Not unless they walk for miles—there is no other chance. Major Greyson
is nearly wild because you have not gone. Of course there was no
question of evacuating the hospital—we have to stay.”

“And I have to stay,” said Lucy slowly, but Miss Pearse did not hear the
words.

“Your father does not know,” she continued. “They have given him
something to make him sleep, and he is comfortable.” A sob rose
unchecked in Lucy’s throat, but in a moment Miss Pearse had drawn her to
her feet, saying earnestly, “Whatever happens, we must look ahead and
hope, or we shall have no courage left. They will leave us in the
hospital, you know. We shall be safe enough here.”

_Safe_ sounded a strange word to use, Lucy thought, as she walked dully
toward the table.

She tried her best, in spite of that numbing paralysis of fear, to
capture something of Miss Pearse’s calm and steadfast bravery, but that
hurried breakfast and the whole morning after it seemed no more than a
great waking nightmare. The other nurses had joined them for a few hasty
mouthfuls, every one with that desperate struggle between fear and
courage written upon her tired face. For it is harder to be brave when
one is spent with weariness, and none of the nurses had slept more than
three or four hours out of the twenty-four since the opening of the
second attack.

When Lucy was left alone again she sat on the window-ledge, staring at
the ever-changing scene outside. Big motor-lorries, loaded with stores
and equipment, were making their difficult way through the streets now.
Perched on top of the loads were men hanging on somehow, for the
convalescent patients who were at all able to stand a journey had begged
or stolen transportation for a few miles toward the rear, whence they
could strike another blow instead of falling into the enemy’s hands.
Along with these came the crowd of civilian refugees, weighed down with
the shabby household furnishings that meant too much to them to leave
behind, just as their homes had meant so much that they had clung there
in desperate hope until escape became all but impossible. The straggling
lines looked sadly unable to cover the long, hard miles that lay between
them and any refuge. Lucy’s eyes grew blurred with tears of pity as,
forgetting her own overpowering fear and dread, she watched a
heavily-burdened woman shuffle past, carrying her baby as well as bulky
bundles of clothes and bedding. After her toddled two other children,
one of them no more than able to walk, stumbling helplessly among the
heaps of stone.

“Oh, how dreadful—how terrible!” cried Lucy, burying her face in her
trembling hands with a quick sob. Then she thought, “This is war. I
never knew what it was until now.”

In another hour fragments of the retreating French and American
regiments passed through the town. Field artillery, too, whose wheels
and galloping horses were almost unheard in the fire of the German guns.
But the greater part of the troops which had so stubbornly held the
trenches in front of the wood retreated around the edge of the town to
their prepared defenses in the rear, preferring to abandon
Château-Plessis at once than to submit the two hospitals to a prolonged
bombardment.

Toward noon the noise of the guns seemed to Lucy’s aching ears to have
grown intolerable. Too restless to sit still, she visited her father’s
room and found him peacefully asleep. She was glad of it, and yet she
longed so desperately for the comfort of his companionship. Where were
her mother and Cousin Henry? As for Bob, she dared not think of him. She
went toward the door leading out into the little garden. The street was
filled with dust, but the lines of fleeing people had passed on out of
sight. She stepped onto the threshold and as she did so an orderly,
opening a box of Red Cross dressings close by, let fall his tools and
caught her arm in an iron grip.

“No, Miss! Not another step!” he shouted.

Lucy stared at the American’s hot, tired face, as he bent toward her to
be heard in the uproar. He was a Hospital Corps man whom she had spoken
with often in the past few days. Now, in excuse for his rough handling,
he beckoned her to look quickly through the doorway. As she did so the
explosion of a German shell threw up a great heap of stones and earth
not two hundred feet away, across the square.

“They’ve got our range,” he said, close to her ear. “But this old
building’s pretty solid. It will stand some hammering.” His voice was
steady as ever and Lucy looked at him with respect and admiration in her
frightened eyes, longing for his courage. But he had faced the enemy
before. He had told her of service on Filipino and Mexican
battle-fields.

Would there be fighting in the streets, in which the Germans would be
victorious? Lucy had seen fighting once in the streets of a village in
the island of Jolo. But then the enemy had been Filipino savages,
quickly overpowered by the soldiers, and she had been too little to do
more than cling to her mother’s skirts in wonder. As she turned back
toward the street another shell struck a house close to the hospital,
leaving a huge, gaping hole in the brick wall when the smoke and dust
cleared away. Still she stood frozen to the spot, her heart beating in
great throbs, helplessly waiting for she knew not what. Presently Major
Greyson’s hand was laid on her trembling arm and he was saying:

“Come away from here, Lucy. Come into your father’s room.”

It was the only spot free from hurrying workers making their difficult
way among beds too close together. Even here cots had been brought in
and made ready for two more wounded officers. Colonel Gordon still slept
on, unconscious of the day’s calamity, and Lucy breathed a quivering
sigh of misery as her eyes rested on his peaceful face. Major Greyson
led her to the window and pointed toward the sky above the square. “It’s
almost over,” he said. “These last shots are only for bravado. Don’t you
notice the slackening of the fire?”

In the sky the clouds of dust and smoke were clearing, and Lucy did
distinguish a lessening in the terrific wave of sound. Its quality had
changed, too. As the German infantry engaged the retreating troops,
rifle and machine-gun fire was mingled with the bursting shells. In
another few minutes the bombardment had sunk to single explosions at
irregular intervals. Even at that awful moment the relief to her ears
seemed almost like peace.

“Our batteries in the wood have been withdrawn to the new line, or
silenced,” Major Greyson went on. “The Germans will stop firing until
their airmen get the range again.” He took Lucy’s hand in his and held
it in a strong clasp. “We’ll just have to bear up, Lucy, shan’t we? I
have no fear for your courage. You’ve got the good American stuff in
you—the sort that never fails. We’ll show them their new enemy is worthy
of their steel.” His eyes flashed in his haggard and anxious face as he
searched the street with watchful gaze. “We’ll do well enough here, you
know. They’ll want us to look after their own wounded. With any luck in
the counter-attack our troops will recover the town.”

At these words a great flood of hope swept back to Lucy’s heart The
Germans could not hold Château-Plessis! Then she _would_ be brave. For
only a few days she could face it as Bob would do.

Suddenly she felt Major Greyson’s hand leave hers to steal about her
shoulders, as though warning her to summon all her strength of will. She
looked through the broken window and that arm about her shoulder
tightened. Up the street were advancing a squad of mounted officers,
gray-clad figures with helmets like no others in the world. Behind them
came a company of infantry. The noise of the guns had died down almost
to silence. Lucy’s throat began to choke her until she pressed one cold
hand against it, struggling for breath. Her eyes could not bear to look
upon that hateful sight, and still she could not force herself to turn
away. On they came, another company behind the first and still another.
She was looking at the Kaiser’s soldiers, servants of the man who was
the author of all this horror—who had made the world into a
battle-field. These were a part of Germany’s army, of the greedy power
which had roused even peaceful America at last in furious self-defense.
It had torn apart the Gordons’ happy home, sent Bob to prison and to
hourly peril, and brought her father close to death.

Lucy did not put these flying thoughts in words. They passed through her
mind in half-formed images of trembling dread and bitter indignation.
From the hopeless conflict of her brain a despairing sigh escaped her
lips, and Major Greyson’s eyes left the advancing troops to look at her.

“Come, Lucy, be a soldier,” he begged, pity shining in his eyes at sight
of her white face, struggling for composure, beneath the childish mop of
fair hair. Then as she turned her wide hazel eyes, filled with a
desperate resolution, upon him, he said with stubborn confidence, “This
isn’t the end of things, you know, Lucy. This is only the dark hour
before the dawn.”

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



                               CHAPTER V

                          THE ENGLISH PRISONER


=AS= Major Greyson spoke, both he and Lucy turned again by a common
impulse to the street, where the German mounted officers had advanced as
far as the square in front of the hospital. Lucy looked at them more
calmly now and for the first time saw ranks of stretcher-bearers and
motor ambulances following in the wake of the companies. The men, too,
who at her first terrified glance had seemed only pitiless visitors,
were not formed into the full strength of companies. They marched in
column of fours, but the columns were short and straggling ones. The
men’s step was slow and heavy, their gray uniforms thickly covered with
mud and dust and more than one bandaged arm or head showed among them.
They crossed the broken pavement of the square with the springless tread
of utter weariness, no light of triumph in their faces as they came to a
halt in front of the old town hall of the recaptured town.

“Huh! Pretty well done for!” ejaculated Major Greyson, a kind of
exultation in his voice as he stepped back from his place by the window.
“Not much of the conquering hero left just now! I must go to the officer
in charge, Lucy. We are likely to have a hundred or so of German wounded
quartered on us.”

With a last reassuring pat on her shoulder he left the room, and Lucy
stayed alone by the window. In a moment the nurse stole in behind her
and, after a glance at Colonel Gordon, joined her in a silent,
fascinated watch for the next move of the invaders. Two officers had
dismounted and gone up the hospital steps. The other four wheeled about
and rode across the square in the direction of the Mayor’s office and
the French hospital. Not a human being except themselves was to be seen
about the place. The remaining townspeople did not come out to act as
audience to the German entrance. Perhaps the conquerors were just as
well pleased that few eyes saw the second half of the column. The
soldiers of the depleted companies at a second order now sprang forward
and began helping to unload the motor-lorries packed with wounded, and
to assist the stretcher-bearers to carry their burdens into the
hospital. Some of the ambulances had turned across the square toward the
other hospital, but long before Lucy stopped counting the wounded men
the nurse beside her had hurried away to hear her part in the tremendous
task.

For a few minutes more Lucy stood there, but she was no longer watching
without purpose. Her fear and horror she had resolutely fought down, not
down for good, but under her control. She saw now clearly the hard,
inevitable facts that Château-Plessis was in German hands, that the
price of safety for the people in the hospital—for her father and the
other wounded soldiers of the Allies—lay in caring for the enemy’s
wounded, and that the task was very great. She was here in the midst of
it, and here she must stay. She was strong and able to help, and in hard
work she saw her only chance for any peace of mind. With a determination
firmly taken she turned from the window and, dropping down beside her
father’s cot, laid her face for a moment against his hand. He stirred a
little, as though about to wake, but she rose cautiously from beside him
and with a last look, as though for courage, at that brave soldier’s
quiet face, went out into the wards.

The hospital was filled with German soldiers carrying in their wounded,
while the American staff did all in their limited power to bring order
out of the confusion. Lucy took but one timid glance among them. She
caught sight of Miss Pearse on one side of the hall kneeling by a
mattress to unfold a blanket. Her face was flushed and weary, and her
eyes bright with troubled emotion, but at Lucy’s approach she looked up
at her to say, “What is it, Lucy? What can I do?”

Lucy chopped down beside her and spoke quickly, knowing how little time
could be spared to listen. “That’s what I came to ask you. What can I
do? May I help in the wards? You _must_ let me do something. I’m strong
and can stand a lot. Don’t say you won’t. I can do more than you think.”

Miss Pearse smiled faintly at the eager rush of words. “Of course I
shan’t refuse,” she answered, and her eyes met Lucy’s with a silent
tribute to that battle for courage she had fought and won. “You can’t
work in the wards—at least not now. But there are, oh, so many things to
do. Come with me to the steward’s room.”

In after days, when Lucy had time to think it over, she dated from that
hour the change in herself from a mere bewildered onlooker at the mighty
struggle to a real sharer instead in the work that must be done. With
that little part assigned to her she began dimly to understand the
secret of the calm determined courage of those about her. They had their
task to do, and nothing must turn them from it.

This work went on, uninterrupted, while the Germans took possession of
the town. Not a very imposing possession with an almost decimated
battalion of which the survivors had been hammered into exhaustion by
the dogged French and American resistance. But their presence,
nevertheless, meant everything of the bitter humiliation and
helplessness of surrender to Château-Plessis. The hospital was now under
German control, dependent on whatever supplies the conquerors accorded
them, in fact, beneath the German heel. Just now, however, the hospital
was as much a German as an Allied refuge. The major in command of the
battalion assigned three German surgeons and a dozen orderlies to help
in the enormous labor of caring for the five hundred patients crowded
into the old town hall.

Early that afternoon Lucy started out under German orders on her first
duty. In company with a French convalescent soldier, who carried two
empty baskets like the one slung across her own shoulder, she left the
hospital armed with permits from the German senior surgeon. She had
faced the new chief, a big, gray-whiskered Boche with red face and
bristling eyebrows, and had obtained his kind permission to walk two
miles in the sun in search of dairy supplies to feed the German wounded.
But if food for the enemy were not forthcoming the Allies’ wounded would
be the first to suffer, so the two willing helpers, the little American
and the poilu, he still pale and limping as he walked, did not linger on
their errand. Beyond the square their way led through the desolate and
deserted streets where the bombardment had been heaviest. This was the
part of Château-Plessis from which the inhabitants had earliest fled,
and not a human being was in sight, not even a pilfering German soldier,
for the place had been in the German hands before, and they well knew
there was little worth stealing left in it.

Lucy’s heart beat hard and painfully as she neared once more the broad
meadows beyond the outskirts of the town. How short a time it was since
she had gone free and unmolested to that field to give Bob joyful
welcome. She had thought it hard that day to bear the ceaseless roar of
the artillery in her ears, yet then she had been on Allied ground, safe
in the power of those she loved and trusted, while now——She glanced up
at the wounded poilu beside her and suddenly felt ashamed. He was
breathing quickly as he limped along, for it was not a week since he had
left his bed. Yet he had begged to do this little bit to help his
comrades. She was so well and strong, surely she ought to be as brave as
he. Just then he broke into her thoughts.

“Look, Mademoiselle,” he said, stopping to take breath as he pointed on
ahead. “There is the Boche patrol. They’ll want our papers when we pass,
so get ’em ready.”

At the corner of the last street before the lanes began, a little house
remained almost undamaged. Before it paced a German sentry, and over the
gabled roof the red, white and black flag hung lifeless in the warm,
still air. Lucy hastily drew out the papers from her blouse, for the
sentry, at sight of the pedestrians, stopped his march and stood in the
narrow street to bar the way. Inside the open door of the house a half
dozen gray-clad figures sat or stood, and one of them strolled to the
doorway on hearing the sentry’s challenge. He was a short, burly captain
of infantry, with keen, bright eyes and stiff, upstanding hair, his
uniform, though lately brushed, still dirty and mud-stained after the
desperate encounter of the past three days. He glanced down at Lucy with
a look of surprise as he held out his hand for the papers which the
sentry ran to present him. She kept her eyes on the ground, fearful lest
some of her thoughts might show in her too expressive face, while the
officer looked over the surgeon’s permits for Lucy Gordon, American
non-combatant, and Jean Brêlet, French prisoner of war, to pass freely
for the good of the German Hospital Corps. After a moment he gave a
short nod and handed them back to the sentry. But as Lucy, with a deep
sigh of relief, snatched the papers from the sentry’s hand and was
starting on again, she was stopped by an imperious gesture from the
doorway. A second officer had joined the first and while speaking he
nodded his head inquiringly toward Lucy and her companion. The infantry
captain motioned the two to approach the steps, and addressing the
poilu, who had obeyed the summons with obvious reluctance, asked him in
slow, labored French, “Do you speak any German?”

Brêlet shook his head with emphasis. “Not the least bit in the world!”
he said exultantly.

The German gave him a quick, contemptuous look, and forbearing to
continue his questions, turned to Lucy. “Sprechen Sie Deutsch,
Fräulein?” he asked, with a shade more of civility in his masterful
tone.

Lucy longed with all her heart to answer as the poilu had done. At that
moment she bitterly repented of the once pleasant hours spent in the
company of Elizabeth, a German servant at Governor’s Island, when she
had learned something of the language Bob refused to bother with. In her
uncertainty and confusion she stammered out the truth, “A little.”

The German gave a nod of approval, the irritation fading from his
arrogant face. Without a word or glance vouchsafed to Brêlet he motioned
Lucy to come into the house. Most unwillingly she obeyed, with a
backward imploring glance at her companion, which had the effect of
making the good fellow start boldly forward to accompany her, only to be
thrust back into the street by the watchful sentry. With beating heart
and knees that shook with apprehension, Lucy mounted the few steps that
led into the principal room of the old house. The officers within made
way for her with slight bows, and from the rear a Feldwebel, or
Sergeant, brought a chair which he placed beside the table near the
centre of the room. The captain signed to Lucy to sit down, and, taking
a seat across the table from her, said at once, “You are American,
Fräulein. What are you doing here?”

Lucy’s momentary fright and weakness had swiftly given way to a great
burst of hatred and indignation at finding herself subject to the
commands of these triumphant enemies. She was too angry to be afraid,
and it was in a confident and defiant voice that she returned, “If you
wish me to understand, you will have to speak more slowly.”

The German glanced up at her with an air of surprise, a faint smile at
the corners of his mouth, but he only said, “Very well. Did you
understand my question?”

“Yes,” Lucy answered, looking across at him with steady eyes. “I came
here to see my father, who is badly wounded. I was going back to England
when the town was taken.”

The officer nodded without comment, then, turning to the sergeant beside
him, he ordered, “Bring in the prisoner.”

The junior officers in the room had taken seats about the table, with
much clumping of boots and rattling of swords. The sergeant opened a
door at the back of the room and, entering it, returned almost at once,
preceded by a tall young fellow in the khaki of the British army. He was
covered with dirt and dust, even his face was stained with mud and the
grime of powder, through which his blue eyes shone oddly out, above his
lean, sunburned cheeks. He looked desperately weary, almost done for,
but he squared his shoulders and crossed the room with a firm step. Lucy
bit her lip until it bled to force back the tears of sympathy that
rushed to her eyes. The young officer was not more than twenty years
old; and how terribly like Bob he seemed, with that close-cropped brown
hair, and the still boyish curve about his lips. Just as Bob must have
appeared when he too, tired and despairing, faced his German captors
without a friendly face to look upon. She met the young Englishman’s
weary but undaunted gaze with such a look of eager friendliness that he
stopped short, and for a second the cold defiance left his face, and
astonishment, confusion and a kind of welcoming light played over it.
But it was hardly a moment. Room was made for him to stand before the
table, and the German captain once more addressed Lucy, only this time
with a frown of annoyance.

“As you know, few English or Americans speak German.” He paused as
though this fact was strange enough to ponder over, then continued, “As
it happens, we do not any of us speak English. For that reason, we have
need of you.”

Lucy had already guessed that she was to act as interpreter, and this
knowledge had relieved her vague fears of detention or imprisonment. But
now her thoughts began to whirl again. Did she know enough German to
fulfil her task to her captor’s satisfaction? More troubling still,
would she be asked to put questions which the young Englishman would not
answer? At this her heart leaped with a sudden confidence. If there was
any game of wits to be played, she thought that she and this boy with
the brave blue eyes and steady lips would be more than a match for their
pompous questioner. To make sure of her powers she asked the captain
suddenly in English, “Shall I translate for you?”

He stared frowningly at her, understanding not a word, nor did any signs
of intelligence appear on the others’ faces. One little fair-haired
lieutenant exclaimed, “Ach! English,” as though making a discovery, but
could get no further, and the captain with a mutter of annoyance said
sharply:

“Speak German, Fräulein.”

With a faint excuse for her forgetfulness, Lucy repeated the question,
to which the captain nodded agreement, adding still more sharply, “Do
your best, and keep your wits alert. The more he tells us, the better
for him—you understand?”

As Lucy nodded in silence he commenced at once: “Ask him his name.”

The question being translated, the Englishman answered, “Archibald
Beattie, Captain, Royal Infantry.”

“Ask him what Army Corps he belongs to.”

After a second’s hesitation, the prisoner answered, “The eighteenth.”

“What division?”

“The second.”

“Be careful!” said the German sharply. “Tell him that division was moved
toward Château-Thierry day before yesterday, and he was taken last
night, before Argenton.”

The Englishman shrugged his shoulders. “That is my division,” he said
calmly. “They must have gone down to Château-Thierry without me.”

The German gave his prisoner an ill-natured glance when this was
translated. “What regiment?” he persisted.

“The fifth.”

This time Lucy repeated the number with something like a cold chill down
her back. The fifth regiment of the second division had passed with
others through Château-Plessis three days ago, on its way south. She
knew now what she had really never doubted, that the young Britisher was
feeding false information into the brain of his questioner, and trusting
to the Germans’ very imperfect knowledge of the disposition of the
Allied troops at this point to make his bluff pass muster. And it had
evidently done so in the case of the distant division he had joined on
such short notice. The captain was not well enough informed to
contradict him with much assurance. Bob had been right, Lucy thought
with triumph. The Allied airplanes had kept the enemy from observing the
troops’ movements. With the same ascendancy in men, he had said,—with
something even approaching equality in numbers, not a foot of ground
would have been captured.

“How long was your regiment at Argenton?”

While Lucy translated the Englishman’s answers, she could not reflect,
for to translate the English into German was all she could manage. She
spoke German far from well, though some terms much alike in the two
languages, such as “corps,” “regiment,” “company,” helped her a little.
But when she put the English questions to the prisoner, and in the
pauses while the German captain pondered frowningly over his next words,
she thought out and decided on her scheme.

Her chance came with a long question. “How was it that the British and
American troops south of Argenton retired westward after their
artillery?”

As Lucy translated this into rapid English, she looked hard at the
prisoner, and, without pausing, added the words, “_Where are they
sending you?_”

The Englishman did not change countenance as he answered, “The artillery
had to move. Cannon are valuable. We stayed where we were posted until
the guns were safe. _No further than this. The old prison outside the
town._”

Trembling with joy at her success, Lucy translated the first half of the
reply.

The German received it with a sneering smile, demanding promptly, “How
many prisoners do you claim were taken by your regiment?”

To this inquiry Lucy added, “_Are you certain?_”

The Englishman answered, “About five thousand in three days’ fighting.
_Some French prisoners told me so. What are you doing here?_”

He was trying her own game, anxious, she could see, to account for her
presence in this place.

Burning with eagerness to offer a few words of hope or comfort to the
brave young officer, who brought Bob’s face so vividly before her, as
well as to satisfy his own curiosity in her behalf, Lucy turned
expectantly for the next question. But the German captain, with the
gesture of a man who feels that he is wasting his time, rose noisily
from his seat at the table. He gave a keen, unfriendly look at his
prisoner, as though he would like to have compelled his confidence, but
perhaps his keenness told him that not all the German army could
accomplish that. The four juniors had sprung to their feet beside him,
and he waved a hand toward Lucy, saying shortly:

“That will do, Fräulein.”

Lucy turned for one farewell glance at her ally, left in the enemy’s
hands. His face lighted up for a second also, as though her sympathy had
not been wasted. With relief, too, she guessed that she was quite free
to leave. Then she was in the sunny street again, and patient Brêlet,
greeting her with a look of thankful joy, limped forward eagerly,
saying:

“_Mon Dieu_, Mademoiselle! I don’t know what I thought waiting here! I
would have gone for help, but where is help, when the Boches are on
top?” He wiped his hot face, shouldering the baskets once more, while
Lucy hurried him on, explaining in her difficult French:

“It’s all right, Brêlet. They only wished me to speak German.” She
breathed a deep sigh of relief, looking up toward the blue sky and the
soft green leaves of the poplar grove before them. “I’ll tell you about
it, Brêlet, but first let’s hurry to get the eggs from old Mère Breton.
That’s her cottage, isn’t it, beyond the trees?”

The long afternoon was almost over when Lucy’s tired feet once more
climbed the steps of the hospital. Her arms ached with the weight of her
basket of eggs and vegetables, and her head, too, with the heat of the
sun and the throb of anxious thoughts. With a blank depression stealing
over her, she made her way among the crowd of never-resting workers and
found herself at last by her father’s room. Miss Pearse was just coming
out, and at sight of Lucy her face wakened to a glad relief as she
exclaimed, “Oh, thank Heaven, you’re back! I couldn’t think what had
happened, you were gone so long. Were you all right?”

“Yes, I’ll tell you about it later,” said Lucy briefly. “How is Father?”

“He has been awake all the afternoon and asking for you. He doesn’t know
yet that the Germans have the town. In another day it won’t hurt him to
hear it—he’s getting well so fast. Don’t let him guess it to-night,
though, Lucy. He thinks you are going back to England to-morrow. He has
fallen asleep just now, but go in and sit by him. He’ll wake again
before long.”

Lucy nodded, looking at the young nurse’s tired face. “What an awful day
you’ve had, Miss Pearse! Oh, I’m going to help more to-morrow.”

“We have a few women now, of those left in the town, to help us, so we
are better off than we expected,” was the still cheerful answer. “And
you have helped, Lucy. Some one would have had to take that long walk if
you hadn’t been here.”

Lucy smiled faintly, not convinced that she had done much, and went
softly into her father’s room. His cot was sheltered by a screen since
morning, for the beds of two other officers, British and American, had
been made room for in the little space. More than anything in the world,
Lucy longed now to find her father awake and filled with all his old
strength of purpose. She wanted to tell him the whole dreadful story of
the town’s capture and to ask what the chances really were that the
Allies would get it back again. She wanted to hear him share her grief
and anger, and lay down the law of hope and courage with unshaken
resolution. She needed him to stand by her in spirit, that she might
lean on his strength of mind, in spite of his weakness of body. But she
could not have her wish. He had fallen asleep, ignorant of her desperate
need. Overcome at last with the weight of a long day’s crushing anxiety,
the lonely little girl dropped down beside the cot and buried her hot
face in her father’s pillow.

Presently she heard footsteps approaching, but indifferent to everything
she did not move. Then some one knelt down on the floor behind her, and
two arms stole gently about her trembling shoulders. For a moment Lucy
could not believe she really heard the familiar voice that, filled with
the tenderest affection, cried softly in her ear, “Miss Lucy! Dear Miss
Lucy! Is it so I see you again at last?”

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



                               CHAPTER VI

                             A GERMAN ALLY


“=ELIZABETH=!” Lucy’s lips could hardly frame the word, as with
bewildered gaze she stared into the face so close to hers.

There were the same bright dark eyes, filled with shrewd kindliness, and
the smiling, patient mouth. Lucy seized hold of the hands that held her
shoulders to make sure she was not dreaming, and the touch of
Elizabeth’s thin work-roughened fingers made her presence real. The
strangeness of their meeting was for that moment quite forgotten. Lucy
felt nothing but an overwhelming relief and joy as her kind old nurse’s
arms once more went around her. She was no longer alone with her sad
thoughts in the gloomy twilight. Elizabeth, who had loved her and shared
her worries for ten years back, who had said good-bye to Bob with tears
that day on Governor’s Island, was here to help and comfort her. Lucy
forgot Karl’s treachery,[2] remembering only that Elizabeth had saved
Bob from her husband’s hands. How often had both Lucy and her mother
longed to tell her of their gratitude! She leaned against Elizabeth’s
kind shoulder and shed a few tears of weariness and joy, giving way to
her feelings for a brief comforting moment. Then she sat up and wiped
her eyes.

Footnote 2:

  See “Captain Lucy and Lieutenant Bob.”

“How did you get here, Elizabeth? Oh, if things go on happening this way
I won’t be surprised at anything!”

“Many days have I been here, Miss Lucy,” Elizabeth answered, as she too
wiped away tears of quiet rejoicing. “Since the Germans hold the town
before, was I here, but only to-day have I come to ask if I may help in
the hospital.”

“And, Karl—where is he?” Lucy stammered over the question.

“He is with his regiment, not far off.” Lucy thought that Elizabeth
hesitated before she added, “I could not follow him, so here I came from
Petit-Bois, working with the wounded, when the Germans take
Château-Plessis the first time. Already I saw you once, Miss Lucy, the
day of the battle—when you watched the airplanes in the square.”

In a flash Lucy remembered the face among the crowd, and the eyes she
had fancied were watching her. “That was it! I saw you, too, Elizabeth.
At least I felt sure that some one was looking at me. Why didn’t you let
me see you?”

“I thought better not, Miss Lucy. The Germans must keep very quiet while
the French and Americans were here.” Elizabeth’s voice shook a little as
she spoke, and in spite of herself, Lucy felt an unreasoning pity for
her as the little German woman went on, “I thought maybe you learn from
Mr. Bob that I was here,—but you have not seen him, no? I saw him once,
about a month back.”

The words were on Lucy’s lips to tell Elizabeth of Bob’s visit to
Château-Plessis the day before the town’s capture, but before they were
spoken she checked herself. The trust and affection of nearly ten years’
companionship were not ties lightly cast aside, but now, her first
childish delight at Elizabeth’s presence over, a barrier rose between
them—strong and impassable. Elizabeth was a German, and the wife of a
German soldier. Summoning the prudence she had so nearly forgotten, Lucy
kept silent, and pressed her lips close together. The vision of the
German officer questioning the young Englishman came before her eyes.
What might her unconsidered words mean to Bob?

Elizabeth’s expressive face looked both hurt and downcast at Lucy’s
sudden silence, of which the meaning was plain enough. But she made no
complaint, and, pointing toward Colonel Gordon’s cot, beside which they
sat on the floor, said softly, “Your father wakes now, Miss Lucy.
Already have I talked with him to-day.”

“Did you stay with him this afternoon, Elizabeth?” asked Lucy, reaching
out to clasp her old nurse’s hand in sudden remorse at her own
suspicion. For had not Elizabeth saved Bob’s life?

“Yes,” Elizabeth nodded. “I stay with him a little while.” She rose to
her feet, looking toward the cot where the wounded officer had begun to
stir in waking. “I leave you with him now,” she said, and with a
lingering glance at Lucy from her brown eyes, went quietly out of the
room.

Lucy turned eagerly to her father, hardly waiting for him to open his
eyes before she exclaimed, “Oh, Father, I’ve seen Elizabeth, and she
said she had talked to you! Isn’t it wonderful to find her here?”

Colonel Gordon smiled, settling his big, lean shoulders among the
pillows as he gave an understanding nod to his daughter’s quick words.
But Lucy had paused suddenly in her outburst of joy over Elizabeth’s
presence. She remembered Miss Pearse’s warning, and with a pang of fear
lest some unconsidered word escape her, realized that her father was
still ignorant of the town’s capture. Unless Elizabeth——But her father’s
first words put her mind at rest on that score.

“I saw her for only a minute after I woke up,” he said, turning on his
side with a slight painful effort, to look into Lucy’s face. “But that
was long enough to thank her for what she did last year. She told me
that she had been allowed to help in the hospital, and that she hoped to
see you. How she got here I can’t imagine, nor why they trust her to
work among the wounded—though we both know there couldn’t be found a
better nurse.”

Lucy was silent, afraid to answer, since she could not tell the
truth—that Elizabeth was trusted because the hospital was in the hands
of her compatriots. Colonel Gordon did not notice her confusion as he
continued earnestly:

“I’m very glad she’s here—however she came—for your sake, Lucy. She is
devoted to you, beyond all doubt, and I won’t be quite so uneasy with
her here to look after you. Greyson seems almighty slow about getting
you off to Calais. I suppose he can’t help it. I can imagine what the
state of transportation is, but surely you won’t have to stay much
longer. Of course, if it were possible to get right on, your mother and
Henry would have been here long ago.”

He paused, breathing a little hard, and frowning, unreconciled, as he
silently considered the obstacles to Lucy’s departure.

Lucy sat wretchedly silent, knowing the truth to be a hundred times
worse than what already greatly troubled him. In a moment he found
breath to speak again.

“Lucy,” he said thoughtfully, “I said I knew Elizabeth was devoted to
you, and so she is. But don’t forget for a moment, however kindly we
feel toward her, that her country is our enemy. We have good proof that
she would not harm Bob, even at Karl’s command, but that is a personal
affection with her. It does not mean she would not harm the Allies’
cause. You must be on the watch lest you speak a word that might be
repeated to the enemy’s advantage.”

Lucy murmured her agreement as her father, his emphatic tone changing to
one of wonder, said again, “Why they allow her to work here I can’t
imagine. I must ask Greyson.”

“You’re tired, Father,” said Lucy, getting up after a moment from the
floor beside the cot, as Colonel Gordon lay wearily back after his
prolonged talk. Her voice shook a little with threatening tears, for it
seemed dreadful to her that he should not know the truth, and that she
should help to deceive him, though common sense told her it was wise and
necessary. He would certainly sleep more peacefully that night thinking
the Allies in possession of the town. But it was a deception which could
not be kept up much longer.

She bade him good-night with a brave attempt at cheerfulness, and went
out into the big ward, which was just dimmed by approaching twilight.
Elizabeth was carrying a heavy basket of Red Cross supplies across the
hall to the storeroom, and Lucy, without asking permission, ran up to
her and seized one of the straw handles, taking half the weight on her
own arm. “Go on; I’m going to help,” she said briefly. Elizabeth obeyed,
glancing back with troubled solicitude at the serious, determined face
of the little girl she knew so well, while Lucy, with that familiar
figure before her, bringing swift memories of happy days at home, looked
down the rows of wounded men and wondered again if this could all be
real.

That night, in spite of the welcome silence of the guns, Lucy’s natural
fear and dread at the strange fate that had befallen her brought
wakefulness and feverish dreams. But she was too worn out to lie awake
long, and Miss Pearse’s footsteps, moving about in the gray dawn, roused
her from deep sleep. She struggled at that moment with desperate
drowsiness, intensified by the longing to fall back where the bitter
truth could be forgotten. But she fought hard against her weakness and,
fearful of yielding, sprang out of bed and plunged her face into cold
water. Her sleepy eyes blinked stupidly back at her from the shadowy
mirror as she vigorously rubbed away the drops, but her resolution was
triumphant. To-day she meant to work, that by nightfall she might feel
the satisfaction of having done what she could to help—the only thing
that was worth doing here.

The guns had commenced again with intermittent bursts of firing, but
they were not so close now, and the vibration of the air not so
terrific. The Allied guns were turned toward Château-Plessis since the
capture, and the German batteries had found new emplacement outside the
town’s western edge; the edge nearest to the railways and the channel.
Lucy looked from the window toward the eastern sky, where the clouds
were gleaming with a soft, pearly light. There were no bursting shells
to mar the sunrise to-day. All was quiet on this side now. She glanced
down at the street, along which a dozen German soldiers were strolling.
A few shouted words reached her ears, and once more she wished with all
her heart she did not understand that language of which every word had
grown hateful. Then suddenly she remembered Captain Beattie and the
possibility of help to him which that knowledge had put into her hands.
It would give her glorious satisfaction to bring the enemy’s own tongue
to use against them. She had first, though, to learn the whereabouts of
the old prison to which he had been taken.

She quickly finished dressing and joined the two nurses, who saw her
with surprise and a little protest on Miss Pearse’s part against her
early rising. She did not scold much though, and seemed glad of the
promise of Lucy’s help. “I’ll give you work to do the minute you are
ready for it,” she said in answer to Lucy’s eager demand, as they
crossed the street and climbed the hospital steps under the inspection
of the gray-uniformed sentry. “Go in and speak to your father first, and
then we’ll see.”

Lucy entered the little room softly, mindful of the other wounded
officers as well as of her father, and found Colonel Gordon awake, with
eyes turned toward the door. He looked rested and stronger with the
improvement each day now brought, but his lips were firmly set, as Lucy
had often seen them when he was thinking out a hard piece of work, and
his smile was but a faint one as he greeted her.

“Did you sleep well, Father? Are you all right?” she asked, stammering a
little because she hated to remember the unhappy secret between them.

Colonel Gordon’s keen, far-seeing eyes studied her flushed and anxious
face as he answered quietly, “Yes, I’m all right, little girl. You may
drop the camouflage now. I know we’ve lost the town.”

“Oh, Father, who told you? I didn’t,” cried Lucy, dropping down beside
him, a great rush of relief overpowering all her fears. He knew the
worst and they could share it together, and he had borne the news with
his old, unshakable courage. Lucy thought of what Bob had said more than
four years ago at Fort Douglas, when the Mexican rebels rose over night,
threatening the border. “Father may get excited if breakfast is late,
but when anything is really wrong, he’s all right.”

“Greyson told me,” said Colonel Gordon. “I suppose he thought I should
guess it anyhow, when I began asking him about Elizabeth. Funny idea—not
letting me know.” He spoke with a faint scorn for the ways of the
Medical Corps, forgetting, as a man on the road to recovery is apt to
do, how ill he had been only a few days before.

“I wondered what in thunder was the matter that they couldn’t get you
off,” he went on. “Poor little daughter—it’s pretty tough luck.” His
face was drawn with anxiety as he reached out a hand and caught hers in
a strong clasp, but she broke in eagerly:

“I’m all right, Father! Please don’t feel so worried. I’m working in the
hospital, and, honestly, you don’t know how glad and proud I am—now the
scary part is getting better—that I can be of use here.”

“It can’t be helped,” was her father’s slow and almost unheeding answer.
“Greyson tells me the enemy has left the hospital pretty much in our own
hands. They are rather too tired to bother us,” he said, a flash of
satisfaction lighting his face. “I know that much from the action in
which I was hit. Their advance is made with a desperately driven force
that leaves them limp and done for when it is over. A couple of million
Americans will turn the great tide. Long before that time our
counter-attack should free the town—but meanwhile, you poor little girl,
you’re in the German lines.”

“I’m quite used to it now!” Lucy insisted, not realizing the absurdity
of her words in her longing to reassure her father’s keenly suffering
mind. “And Elizabeth is here, you know—she will take care of me.”

“Yes—how thankful I am for that,” said Colonel Gordon quickly.

“Here comes Major Greyson, so I’ll leave you,” said Lucy, rising from
her place as the surgeon entered for his morning visit. “I’ll go and get
my breakfast.”

In the little dining-room she found Elizabeth setting the table with
plates and spoons. The sight was such a reminder of breakfast-time on
Governor’s Island that, forgetting all her repugnance to Elizabeth’s
German sympathies, she threw her arms around her old nurse’s thin,
little shoulders, and gave her a hug for a morning greeting. Elizabeth
turned a delighted face toward her, exclaiming:

“Good-morning, dear Miss Lucy! How early you are up! Come, in this chair
sit, and I will get you the best I can.”

It seemed very pleasant to sit down and be waited on by Elizabeth’s deft
fingers, but the strangeness of her being there had not yet passed from
Lucy’s mind and she said, wistfully, “Oh, Elizabeth, if we were only
back at home. Father and Mother and Bob and William and you and I.
Wouldn’t it be great?”

“That will come again, Miss Lucy,” suggested Elizabeth hopefully. But
Lucy, unable to say frankly, “Not while there are enough Germans left
alive to fight,” lifted a spoonful of weak cocoa to her lips in silence.

“And William—how he is?” asked Elizabeth, stopping her work to make the
inquiry with eager affection in her eyes.

“He is well, and, thank goodness, safe at home,” sighed Lucy, seeing
again before her the forlorn, stumbling little children of the refugees
from Château-Plessis.

Miss Pearse came in presently and joined her, famished after an hour’s
hard work. “I have a job all ready for you, Lucy,” she said, when she
had taken a sip of hot coffee and eaten a piece of black bread. “It is a
tiresome one, but very necessary.”

“I’ll do anything,” said Lucy quickly.

“Our hospital garments are falling into rags, and no one has any time to
mend them. Elizabeth has been helping, but I am going to send her for
Mère Breton’s supplies this morning while you stay here and sew in her
stead.”

Miss Pearse had heard all about Lucy’s adventure of the day before, and
did not wish her sent on the same errand again, until the Germans should
have their own interpreters, or officers who spoke the barbarous English
tongue. In any case, Elizabeth could serve their purpose. Lucy had also
told Miss Pearse of the years the German woman had spent with the Gordon
family, and of the never-to-be-forgotten service she had rendered them.
Miss Pearse had shown both interest and sympathy, wondering much, like
Lucy, at the strange chance of war which had brought these two old
friends together, on such hard terms for friendship. Like Colonel
Gordon, she warned Lucy repeatedly against speaking unguardedly before
her old nurse. “She is the most German person I ever saw,” she said with
conviction. “She has all their good qualities, so I shouldn’t be
surprised if she had some of their bad ones. Anyway, you may be sure her
husband could make her try to worm out information about the troops. You
don’t know what trifling little facts they can make use of. Don’t answer
any questions about what troops were in the town, or anything like
that.”

“She hasn’t asked me any,” said Lucy. “She has been here herself since
the last German occupation, anyhow. But I’ll be careful.”

She was thinking over these warnings as she sat, half an hour later, by
the narrow windows of the nurses’ room, mending long rips and tears in
pillow-cases and pajamas. Outside the window the German sentry paced the
little garden by the budding rose-bushes and crumbling walls, and within
the hospital the workers continued their never-ending task. While she
meditated, Elizabeth came out from the side door into the garden,
carrying two baskets on her arms, and with a nod to the sentry passed
quickly out through the ruined gate.

She could have obtained Brêlet’s company and assistance, but she had
started off alone with her big baskets. Lucy, as she looked after her,
thought she guessed why. The little German woman suspected that the
poilu would have gone with her most unwillingly.

Outside the gate Elizabeth turned east through the same deserted streets
which led toward the cottages in the lanes and to the meadows beyond the
town. She walked quickly, for the supplies were urgently needed.
Besides, she had worked so hard all her life that active occupation had
become second nature to her. Bob had once said, “Elizabeth never sits
down to rest—only to work more easily that way.” She found a path among
the broken stone with patient care, for her shoes were old and gave
little protection to her feet. Once she stopped to exchange a word with
a German sentry during a lull in the firing. When she neared the edge of
the town she was challenged by the guard in front of the Headquarters
building, but her German tongue and written permission won her ready
passage. At the border of the meadow stood a little improvised shack,
put up to accommodate a guard and a field telephone, in case of any
alarm from this side of the town. In front of it a corporal was idly
walking about, stopping to stare at Elizabeth as she hurried by. She
called out a good-morning to him, which he answered with the inquiry:

“Where are you going, _Frau_, to fill those big baskets?”

Elizabeth nodded over toward Mère Breton’s cottage, hidden behind its
little grove of apple and plum trees, of which many were reduced to
blackened and leafless trunks. The cottage itself had been twice struck,
but the sturdy old Frenchwoman refused to abandon it, and in the deadly
rain and thunder of bursting shells had gone on cultivating her garden,
and coaxing her frightened hens to eat and fatten for the wounded poilus
in the hospitals. Now she feared they would nearly all go down German
throats, but Lucy had the day before tried her best, in her halting
French, to convince Mère Breton that only by feeding the Boches could
their own people expect a share.

Elizabeth looked up at the blue, cloud-flecked sky, away from the
shattered trees of the wood in front, as she crossed the meadow. Her
eyes, always anxious and watchful these days, felt a relief in turning
from the scarred earth to the untroubled heavens. But this war is not
only on the earth, as she realized with a swift start, when out from
behind the clouds darted two flying specks which hung poised above the
meadow, the sun just touching their tiny wings. She hurried on, reached
Mère Breton’s house, and found the old woman in the garden among her
cabbages. Elizabeth did not know a word of French, but she held out the
hospital baskets with a pleasant nod and smile to cover the deficiency
of language. Mère Breton’s sharp blue eyes, from beneath her white cap,
gave the German woman a look of bitter hostility, quite untouched by the
smile, which faded from Elizabeth’s lips unanswered. Mère Breton took
the baskets, trudged off to fill them, and presently returned them in
silence. Her thoughts were as plain as though she had spoken. She knew
that not an egg nor a fowl would go to her poilus with a Boche for
messenger. Elizabeth nodded good-bye without attempting any further
friendly advances, and started on her hot walk back, this time weighed
down with a heavy load. She looked quickly up at the sky again as she
came out from beneath the trees, for the noise of an airplane was now
distinctly heard as it circled not more than half a mile above her head.
As she stared up, squinting in the sunlight, the machine dived suddenly
and flew around the meadow, hardly two hundred yards above the earth.

Elizabeth stood paralyzed between an impulse to drop down upon the grass
and another to run for shelter. At the observation post behind her the
corporal had rushed inside to the telephone. No batteries were stationed
at this point, for the Germans counted on the Allies not caring to drop
bombs on Château-Plessis, but a telephone call could bring anti-aircraft
guns to bear on intruding planes from the north of the town. While
Elizabeth stood frozen to the spot, the airplane above her, as though
scorning to recognize the fact that Château-Plessis was in German hands,
flew over her so close that she could see the glistening paint of the
American emblems on its wings and tail, and the pilot, sitting alone in
his little monoplane, leaned over the side and looked at her.

Elizabeth let fall her baskets, heedless, she who was always so careful,
of the fragile provisions within. The face looking down with eager eyes
from a hundred feet above her was Bob Gordon’s. He reached toward his
feet, and, through the roaring of the propeller, Elizabeth heard a wild
shout of warning directed to her from the observation post behind. But
no bomb was flung from the plane which had her at its mercy. Instead she
was suddenly enveloped in a shower of papers fluttering down toward the
grass from the pilot’s hand. As she brushed them dazedly from her
shoulders, Bob leaned out once more and threw a last paper, only this
one was crushed into a ball with a hasty pressure of his fingers. Then
the anti-aircraft guns crashed out, and the Nieuport rose like a bird
and winged its way toward the sun, dropping another shower of papers as
it mounted, which scattered over the green, daisy-starred surface of the
field. The balls whistled through the air, but before any accurate shot
was possible, the daring little scout had disappeared behind a drifting
cloud beyond the reach of fire.

Elizabeth had picked up the ball of paper as soon as it touched the
grass. With trembling hands, while she watched the Nieuport make its
swift escape, she smoothed out the wrinkled sheet and held it against
the sunlight.

“What’s that you have there, _Donnerwetter_!” asked an angry voice
behind her, and the corporal, red-faced and panting, looked over her
shoulder, then stooped to pick up another of the leaflets.

“Some more of President Wilson’s talk,” said Elizabeth, still looking
with a critical air at the printed sheet before her. “But _Himmel_!” she
added, turning to the corporal with an anxious shake of the head. “For a
moment I thought I was done for. I did not know what to do!”

“It was no time to stand staring, like a dummy,” was the corporal’s
comment. “Come, _Frau_, help me gather up this trash, and I’ll burn it
and give the impertinent Yankee that for his pains.”

Elizabeth nodded, leaning down to pick up the papers thickly scattered
over the grass. Her heart was beating so hard she could hardly conceal
her hurried breathing, in spite of her calm and docile exterior as she
obeyed the corporal’s orders. She gathered up the crumpled sheet
together with the others, crumpling them all into a wad before handing
them to her companion. She had seen all she wanted in those two or three
minutes while she held the paper against the sunlight. The printed
leaves were copies in English and German of a part of President Wilson’s
speech made in New York on the 18th of May. But the paragraph that
Elizabeth read had been pricked with pinholes[3] before it was dropped
at her feet. It was as follows:

    There are two dut=i=es with which we are face to face. The fir=s=t
    duty is to win t=h=e w=a=r. And the second duty, that goes hand in
    hand with it, is to win it great=l=y and worthi=l=y, showing =t=he
    =r=eal qualit=y= of our power no=t= =o=n=l=y, but the re=a=l quality
    of our purpose a=n=d of ourselves. Of course, the first =d=u=t=y,
    the duty that we must keep in the f=o=regrou=n=d of our thought
    unt=i=l it is accomplished, is to win the war. I have heard
    =g=entlemen recently say t=h=a=t= we must get five million men
    ready. Why limit it to five million?

Footnote 3:

      [TN] The letters that were marked with pinholes are marked here in
      =bold=.

Against the glowing sunlight Elizabeth read Bob’s message: “I shall try
to land to-night.”

Back in the hospital Lucy worked hard at the big pile of garments with
their long, ragged tears. Her neck ached and her fingers, after two
hours, but she kept steadily at it, with the satisfying sense of being
one of the hospital workers; of doing, right where the product of her
hands was so urgently needed, what she had often done from far away.
When the morning was half over Elizabeth came back through the garden,
walking slowly with her loaded baskets, and presently she came
empty-handed into the room where Lucy was.

“Hello, Elizabeth!” exclaimed Lucy, tired of her own thoughts and
welcoming her old nurse with a smile. “Are you coming to sew with me?
I’d love some one to talk to.”

“Yes, for a few minutes I help you,” said Elizabeth in a quick, earnest
voice that made Lucy look up at her curiously as she continued. “Because
I something have to tell you that no one must hear, so I sit by you and
softly speak.”

Always when Elizabeth was excited her English grew worse, and now Lucy,
astonished at her words and manner, stopped sewing and asked hurriedly,
“What is it, Elizabeth? Oh, tell me quickly—there’s nobody to hear.”

Not convinced of this, Elizabeth gave a sharp glance outside the open
door and, taking a torn garment on her lap, drew her chair close to
Lucy’s by the window before she answered. “I have Mr. Bob seen, and he
gave me a message.”

“Bob!” gasped Lucy, her terrified eyes devouring Elizabeth’s face. “Oh,
what is he doing here!”

“He is not here now,” said Elizabeth quickly. “He has got safe away.”
With her needle poised between her fingers while she forgot all pretense
of sewing, she told Lucy in a voice just above a whisper of her
morning’s adventure.

Lucy heard her in stupefied silence, only her glowing cheeks and shining
eyes giving sign of her overpowering excitement. Other feelings, too,
beside joy at this news of her brother, showed in her face. A puzzled
wonder was strongest, with the realization of her old nurse’s German
sympathies. When Elizabeth came to the part of her story where Bob
contrived to drop his message and she to decipher it, Lucy could contain
herself no longer.

“But how did you _know_ there was a message hidden there? How could Bob
know you would find it?” she burst out, speaking but a part of her
confused thoughts aloud.

For answer Elizabeth first looked earnestly into her face, as though she
read clearly what Lucy would not say—that she wondered greatly at Bob’s
trust in her—then putting down her needle clasped her thin hands
anxiously together. “Miss Lucy,” she said a little shakily, “I hope you
believe me, because I nothing tell you but the truth. Did I not tell you
I saw Mr. Bob here a month ago, when the Allies take the town? At that
time we talk, and Mr. Bob explain to me a way that he could a message
send, if he needs. He have the charge to let fall those papers—you
know—with speeches of the president, over the German lines. He show me
how with a pin he could a message make that no one would see, if they
had no thought for it. When he said this he spoke of war news only—of
course he not think then that you be left here if the Germans take the
town.”

“But, Elizabeth,” Lucy stammered, more at sea than ever, “he arranged a
cipher with _you_? He spoke to you of war news?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth nodded. “I know what you would say, Miss Lucy. You
wonder that he tell me, but it was first me who tell him something.”
Elizabeth’s dark eyes were filled with pain and sorrow as she looked
into Lucy’s face and whispered, “No longer do I wish for Germany to
win.”

Never in ten long years had Lucy doubted Elizabeth’s word, but now a
wretched fear shot through her. Did she dare trust blindly to Karl’s
wife? But even while she hesitated, the kind, steady, honest gaze of
those dark eyes swept her last doubts away. With impetuous remorse and
thanksgiving she reached out her hands and clasped Elizabeth’s closely,
while her tongue struggled for words to express her new-born joy and
confidence.

“Oh, Elizabeth, I’m glad! I’m so glad!” was all she said, but her face
spoke for her, and Elizabeth’s anxious eyes shone with relief and
friendliness.

“You believe me, dear Miss Lucy—you know I speak truth?” she asked
eagerly. Then at Lucy’s swift assent she continued earnestly, “I tell
you _all_ the truth, and then you see I do not deceive you. Miss Lucy, I
do not love France or England, or even America better than my
Fatherland. Germany I love, and always will I love her. Only, Miss Lucy,
now is no longer with us the dear country I before knew.”

A look of horror flashed into her kind face as she said heavily:

“I have things seen that never could I tell you of. At first I believe
my countrymen who say the English prisoners are guilty of crimes—for I
never any Englishmen knew. I think perhaps they deserve the deadly
punishment. But when America send her soldiers against us——” Elizabeth’s
voice trembled. “When Mr. Bob so nearly was given up to death; when they
tell me lies of how the Americans, they are worse than any—I believe
them not! Too long was I in America to be so fooled, and now I know it
is a cruel war that has brought her against us. For those men who have
put the world on fire, who have made to die those many innocent
children—oh, Miss Lucy, better they are beat and conquered by America,
and so may God let the old Germany live again!”

The little German woman’s low, cautious voice shook with earnestness.
Her clasped hands opened and closed in quick, restless gestures so
unlike quiet, steady Elizabeth that Lucy’s heart beat with pity and
understanding. In Elizabeth’s simple nature love of country was very
strong, and her disillusionment, at returning to war-time Germany, very
bitter. Yet she still found courage to hope for better things. Lucy
marveled at her patient faith, but she could not at all put her thoughts
into words, nor indeed find thoughts that would not hurt more than
console, so after a look of warm affection she sat silent. But in a
moment curiosity prompted her to ask:

“How about Karl, Elizabeth? Does he know how you feel?”

A shadow settled once more on Elizabeth’s face, but she answered
quietly, “Karl is very angry with me, Miss Lucy; but it is not that he
knows I would help the Allies now.”

“Then why is he angry?” But even as Lucy asked the question she knew the
answer. “Is it because of Bob?” she faltered, and, seeing she had
guessed, Elizabeth nodded.

“Somehow, Karl find out that it is my fault Mr. Bob was not taken as a
spy. Not yet will he forgive it, but I not think he feel so always; and
still if he need me I go to him.”

“Where is he now?” asked Lucy, thinking how little Karl deserved such
faithfulness and ashamed that she had ever wondered at Bob’s trusting
Elizabeth so entirely.

“He is in Brussels—cook in a hospital. He is safe, Miss Lucy. I not
think I could work to help America to win if Karl was in the trenches.”

Lucy had no sympathy for this feeling, but she dimly understood it.

Another desire had grown stronger than all else in her mind now; the
wish to make sure of reaching Bob’s rendezvous. The great meadows behind
the town were his only possible landing-place, but they were more than a
mile away, and sentries were on guard all night in the town.

“Oh, Elizabeth, how shall we ever manage to get there to-night?” she
questioned, in a torment of anxiety.

Elizabeth gave her a funny little smile—half-ashamed and yet resolute.
“You have forgot, Miss Lucy, that I am a German. Almost where I like can
I go, since the town is taken.”

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



                              CHAPTER VII

                     BOB GORDON AND CAPTAIN BEATTIE


=ABOUT= nightfall of the same day Lucy left the hospital and crossed the
street to return to her bedroom. Miss Pearse had urged her to go early
to bed, though the truth was she did not feel so tired after a long
afternoon spent in helping unpack supplies, as she had done on the days
when she sat unoccupied, waiting for she knew not what. She picked her
way among the broken paving-stones slowly, burdened with many thoughts.
She had not told Miss Pearse a word about Bob’s coming, nor of her own
and Elizabeth’s intention. It was not that she was unwilling to confide
in her kind friend, but that she dreaded to face Miss Pearse’s doubts
and fears, weighed down as she was with plenty of her own. It seemed
much easier to go, as Elizabeth had planned, without causing anxiety or
alarm to any one. For, however difficult the way and severe the trial to
her courage, Lucy knew that the chance of seeing Bob, and of hearing
news of himself and of their mother, was enough to overcome all her
fears.

She lay down, dressed as she was, on her bed and promptly fell asleep,
for she had been up since five o’clock that morning. She set Miss
Pearse’s alarm clock before lying down and put it beside her pillow in
case she should sleep too long, but after an hour a prolonged burst of
firing roused her. She sat up and looked at the clock, but it was too
dark to see anything. She found some matches, and striking a light,
discovered that it was nine o’clock, just time for the alarm. Miss
Pearse did not come off duty till eleven. With fast beating heart Lucy
threw around her shoulders a little cape which she often wore on summer
evenings, for the night had grown damp and chilly. Breathing a fervent
prayer for the success of her expedition and for her brother’s safety,
she left the room, and closing her door, that Miss Pearse might think
her asleep when she came in, stole softly to the stairs and down into
the street.

It was a starlit night, and the figure of the sentry, patrolling the
square in front of the hospital, showed clearly, his bayonet touched
with a faint gleam as he shifted his gun on his shoulder. The handful of
French townspeople were all indoors, none of them being allowed by the
Germans on the streets after eight o’clock, unless on hospital duty. But
an occasional soldier passed by, with clumping boots or clinking spurs,
while Lucy stood hidden in the doorway. The lights of the hospital
windows twinkled now and then, as a hurrying figure passed in front of
them. A bat whizzed close by Lucy’s ear. She felt so lonely at that
moment that she welcomed the sound of its blundering wings. It was a
nice French bat, she thought, bent on some peaceful errand. But she had
not much longer to wait. In a moment quick, light footsteps sounded near
her, and Elizabeth’s little figure took shape out of the darkness.

“Here I am, Elizabeth!” Lucy whispered.

Elizabeth stepped inside the door, reaching out to touch Lucy’s arm, as
she caught her breath after her rapid walk.

“Then right away we start,” she said, panting a little. “So soon as we
get there, the better.”

“Do you think we can do it? Shan’t we be stopped?” asked Lucy fearfully.

“The most they can do is to send us back,” Elizabeth answered. “But I
think we get by all right. My room in the house of my friend is close to
the town’s edge. That far I go every night. And of the soldiers who are
here on guard I many know. Last autumn was this regiment in Petit-Bois.
Often have I seen that big sergeant now working at the hospital, when I
help in my nephew’s shop.”

While Elizabeth talked in a quick, nervous undertone, she had drawn Lucy
from the doorway and the two were making their way along the gloomy
street. Nothing more than an occasional lantern lighted the captured
town when the lights of the few occupied houses were put out, and
passers-by were left to find their way by the starlight, or by the
occasional bursting of a star-shell in the heavens.

“Oh, I wish the guns would not start again!” sighed Lucy, when a new
burst of explosions had shaken the air.

“No, Miss Lucy, it is better so,” Elizabeth objected. “With the guns
firing no one hears Mr. Bob’s machine.”

“Of course!” Lucy exclaimed, suddenly welcoming the vibrations of the
cannon against her ears. “Why didn’t I think of that! Oh, Elizabeth, I
can’t bear to think of the risk he runs. I wish he were not coming.”

“Be sure he comes not unless a good chance he has,” Elizabeth reassured
her. “He said only ‘I shall try.’”

They had covered half a mile, through streets leading to the town’s
outskirts by a more southerly direction than the way Lucy had taken the
day before. Now, at the corner of a street that remained quite
undamaged, a sentry stood out from the shadow of the wall. Elizabeth
gave a sharp glance at his tall, thin figure, and, as they drew nearer
and the man brought his gun to the challenge, she called out in German:

“Well, Hans Eberhardt, don’t you know me yet? You’re younger than I am,
and should have better eyes.”


[Illustration: “WHO’S THAT WITH YOU?”]


The soldier lowered his piece and said with a laugh, “It was your
footsteps I was going to challenge, Frau Müller. I couldn’t see you in
this murk.” Then, as the two approached him, he added, “But who’s that
with you?”

“Just a little girl who helps in the hospital. I’m going to take her
home to sleep.”

Lucy, trying to follow the rapid German speech, felt her heart pound at
these words. But the sentry offered no objection, inquiring sleepily of
Elizabeth as she paused close by him, “Isn’t it eleven o’clock yet,
Frau? I must have been on guard here almost a week.”

“It is nearly ten—you’ll soon get off,” said Elizabeth encouragingly.
“What sort of quarters have you here?”

“Pretty good. Better than those at Petit-Bois, though the French guns
haven’t left us many whole roofs to sleep under. And, Donnerwetter! We
need a little sleep.” He gave a weary sigh as Elizabeth, starting on
again at Lucy’s side, said with a friendly nod:

“Well, good-night to you, Hans.”

“Good-night,” said the sentry, shouldering his gun once more.

Lucy held fast to Elizabeth’s arm in an ecstasy of relief as they walked
quickly on through the starlit darkness.

“No others shall we meet inside the town,” Elizabeth said softly. “Once
outside we must be careful, and on the lookout keep.”

They were already near the border of Château-Plessis, but not among the
lanes, with which Lucy was familiar. They had come further south, making
an abrupt turn, after passing the sentry, away from the real route to
Elizabeth’s lodgings. She wished to give the German headquarters on this
side of the town a wide berth, as well as the field observation post in
the meadow. Bob’s probable landing-place she and Lucy had discussed that
morning, for Lucy had faith in Elizabeth’s shrewd judgment, sharpened by
months of experience on or near the battle line.

“Mr. Bob dares not to land now where three days ago you saw him, Miss
Lucy,” Elizabeth said with certainty. “Nor yet near the place where he
let fall to me the message. But there is a further meadow where
sometimes aviators have the landing made, and that is on the other side
of the old Frenchwoman’s house, and nearer to the wood. It is there I
look for him to come.”

Now, as they passed the scattered houses between them and the open
fields, Lucy guessed that they would come out about a quarter of a mile
south of Mère Breton’s cottage. Already she saw the safety of the way
Elizabeth had chosen, for this corner of Château-Plessis was the
farthest removed from the German front and the least frequented. The
fields it bordered on were too near the wood where the French batteries
had been hidden to have been tilled or cultivated. They lay neglected,
torn up by shell holes and overgrown with weeds.

The stars gave light enough to show the outline of Mère Breton’s cottage
among the trees at their left as they emerged at last from a
poplar-bordered lane into the grass of the nearest meadow. Lucy stumbled
a little as her feet met the rough clods of earth, and Elizabeth,
breathing fast after her anxious walk, said softly in her ear, “We can
sit down and rest a while, Miss Lucy. Too early is it yet for him to
come.”

“Where shall we go?” asked Lucy uncertainly. “Near to the cottage, I
think. Then we shall be safely hidden and can see around us.”

Elizabeth nodded, cautiously choosing her steps in the darkness, fearful
of the treacherous shell holes here and there. At Mère Breton’s back
gate they paused, and Lucy held her breath, listening with a shiver of
fear for she knew not what. But only the pounding of the cannon as the
bombardment fitfully continued broke the silence, while far to the west
on the battle line beyond the town, bursting shells threw a glaring
light against the sky.

Through the soft darkness near at hand a cricket by the gate-post made a
brave effort to chirp against the guns. Lucy and Elizabeth sat down on
the worn stone steps outside the gate and peered across the fields and
up at the sky in anxious expectancy.

“He may not come, Elizabeth. I almost hope he doesn’t!” Lucy said again,
the old dreadful fear for Bob clutching at her heart. Inside the gate
and drooping above it grew a big lilac bush, and as they sat there, the
night air shook the blossoms and floated over them laden with fragrance.
Lucy leaned back against the post and drank in the sweet air in deep
refreshing breaths. Never again, she thought, would she smell lilacs
without remembering this night.

After a long time of waiting she felt certain it must be late enough for
Bob to come. Out of many thoughts an idea had occurred to her, as she
sat gazing up into the sky. The most dangerous part of the descent would
be when Bob drew near enough to be seen against the stars. Once in the
black shadow of the wood he could land unseen, and Bob knew these
meadows well and would make use of such protection. This meant that he
would land at some distance from where they were, and she wanted to be
as near as possible, to save every precious minute. She waited a moment
for a good pause in the firing to tell her thoughts more easily to
Elizabeth, but before it came a sound made her suddenly clutch at her
companion’s arm. In the distance, between the scattering shots, she
heard the whir of an airplane. Silently Elizabeth nodded, pointing
upward toward the sky above the wood. A little dark speck showed for an
instant against the clear, starry blue, then before Lucy’s eager eyes
had more than caught it, sank swiftly down among the shadowy tree tops.

Lucy sprang to her feet, not speaking a word, all her energy and breath
reserved for that mad dash across the fields to Bob’s landing-place. But
Elizabeth’s hand caught hers and her voice entreated:

“Don’t run in the dark across there, Miss Lucy! Surely you will in the
holes fall. Mr. Bob will come this way himself to look for us.”

Only a little deterred by this warning, Lucy began running toward the
wood, searching every yard of ground ahead of her and narrowly avoiding
more than once a bad fall into a yawning shell hole close at hand.
Elizabeth was soon lost sight of but she could not stop to wait. Before
long her breath began to come hard and fast, and her back to ache
unbearably from leaning forward as she ran to watch for dangerous
ground. On she went until presently a wide field lay between her and
Mère Breton’s cottage. A hummock in the grass at one side made her dodge
a little to the left, uncertainly. It looked like an animal asleep, but
as she came closer it moved and up beside her sprang a tall figure. Two
strong arms were around her trembling shoulders, while a familiar voice
said quickly in her ear, “It’s Bob, Lucy dear—I’m not a Boche! That’s
what I took you for!”

“Oh, Bob—if I had been!” Lucy gasped as she caught tight hold of him and
glanced shivering into the darkness.

“Don’t worry—he wouldn’t have got me. I shan’t fall tamely into their
hands a second time.” Suddenly his fingers on Lucy’s arm stiffened.
“Who’s that?”

“It’s Elizabeth. I ran ahead of her. Where shall we go, Bob? Won’t you
be safer close by your machine?”

“We’re near enough. I can see all around me here. Elizabeth can tell me
where the guards are posted. I bet she knows them all. Oh, Lucy,” and
here Bob’s momentary cheerfulness collapsed with a dismal groan, “I
never thought this could happen—that you should be left here! They beat
us back with six full divisions. Jerusalem!—how many men they must have
lost, for we gave them a good fight, though we were outnumbered three to
one.”

“Don’t mind, Bob—we can’t help it, and I’m all right. Before long we’ll
surely get the town again.”

“That’s what we hope for. Is Father doing well? He must have been nearly
wild when he knew you couldn’t get away.”

“Yes, but you know how calm he is when things are really wrong. He’s
better, in spite of everything.”

“I’m thankful for that. Here’s Elizabeth.” Bob took a few steps forward
and caught hold of the little German woman’s arm, as she came panting up
to them. “You’re a brick, Elizabeth,” he said with eager earnestness. “I
was so afraid you wouldn’t get the message or understand it—but I might
have known you would. I’ve hung over these meadows looking for you again
and again since the town was taken.”

“Oh, yes, Mr. Bob, I understand the message all right,” nodded
Elizabeth, breathing fast. “It was just like you showed me. And you are
well—you don’t get hurt?” she asked, the same affectionate anxiety in
her voice as when she watched over Lucy’s welfare.

“I’m as fine as a fiddle. Look here, Elizabeth, where’s the nearest
outpost?”

“More than half a mile from here, Mr. Bob. Pretty safe you are here, and
I a good watch will keep while you say all you want to the little
sister.”

“Bob, I’m so frightened for you,” said Lucy, trembling afresh when any
pause in the firing made the little night noises audible around them.
“Why did you come?”

“Because I had to see you and know that you were safe. Father, too. You
can imagine how Mother and Cousin Henry have felt since Château-Plessis
was taken.”

“Oh, Bob, you’ve seen Mother? Where is she?” Lucy cried, in a burst of
relief and longing.

“She is near our line, about fifteen miles south-west of here. That’s
where the trains were blocked—except those carrying troops—so that she
couldn’t get on. She tried every possible way—horse, mule and
ambulance—and she would have made it on foot if the town had held out
another day. Come, let’s sit down on this bank. And stop shaking like
that! I’m all right.”

They dropped down beneath a ragged row of poplars which separated the
field from its neighbor as Bob continued:

“I was so thankful to have the good news of Father’s recovery for her at
the same time that she heard of the town’s capture. Now I can at least
tell her something of you. You’re in the hospital, Lucy? Do the Germans
let us run it as before? I know something of what goes on in
Château-Plessis—can’t stop now to tell you how—but I know that the town
is held by only a company, and that the enemy is too fagged out to do
more than care for their own wounded.”

“Make us care for them, you mean,” said Lucy. “But where can you get
news from? Never mind now, tell me more of Mother. Oh, how often I’ve
thought of her, and longed to tell her I was safe!”

“It’s Elizabeth being here with you that has comforted her most. Did you
find Elizabeth that day I told you she might still be here?”

“The day you landed over there on the meadow? You never told me,” said
Lucy, puzzled. Suddenly a light broke through her mind. “Was that what
you tried to tell me as you started off? I couldn’t hear a word with the
propeller whirling.”

Bob put his arm suddenly about her in the darkness and looked up into
the starry sky. “If only I could take you back with me,” he groaned. “It
seems too awful to leave you here! But I have to cross the German lines,
and their guns and scouts are fiendishly watchful. My little one-man
Nieuport can skim over their heads and dodge them. With a two-seater I
need a fellow in front of me pumping a machine gun for all he’s worth.”
He fell silent for a despairing moment, then said more calmly, “Never
mind, Lucy. Just be a plucky sport. I won’t leave you here long, if I
have to bring a squadron after you. If only we could force them out of
Argenton! That’s the place where they threaten to outflank us if we
advance.”

At the name Argenton Lucy all at once forgot the sickening fear and ache
of her own heart in a vivid recollection. That was the place where
Captain Beattie had been taken. “What makes it so hard to get through
there, Bob?” she asked eagerly. “You mean the enemy is too strong?”

“Not that—they don’t need a large force. There’s a long fortified ridge
in front of the town that keeps us from approaching. It’s a piece of
rolling ground about three miles long. Their trenches run through it,
and they have a collection of anti-aircraft guns and battle-planes. We
hang over the place day in and out, but we can’t fly low enough to get
sight of their batteries.”

“Would any one who had been in their trenches know what you want to
learn?” asked Lucy, peering into her brother’s face through the
darkness.

“Of course—if he wasn’t blind. But people who have reached their
trenches from our side haven’t come back to tell us. Look here, Lucy,
what I want more than anything to know is this: Do you get enough to
eat? If you don’t, I can manage to bring over supplies on nights when
things look quiet, and leave them in the wood.”

“Oh, no, Bob; please!” Lucy entreated. “The hospital has a garden and
the place is so packed with German wounded that we get all there is to
be had. I know the danger you run to come here, and I don’t want you to
try it again, much as I long to see you.” As Bob sat in troubled,
helpless silence for the moment, she added quickly, “But if I should
learn anything that might help the Allies to retake the town, how could
I get news to you?”

“What could you learn, you foolish kid? There’s nothing about this town
we don’t know. And for heaven’s sake don’t put your finger into such a
risky business. Keep out of anything like spying, and be satisfied to
help where it is safe. Elizabeth might not get you out of trouble as she
did me.”

“Do you know of a place called the Old Prison somewhere in
Château-Plessis?” asked Lucy irrelevantly.

“Yes; it’s about a mile from here. It’s nothing but an old jail the
French used as a sort of town office, keeping one or two cells for an
occasional prisoner. We let out some French soldiers the Germans had
stuck there, when we took the town. Why, have they any one in there
now?”

“Yes, I heard of some one being put there,” said Lucy briefly. “I think
I remember the place now. Bob,” she added anxiously, “don’t you think
you’d better go? It seems as though the firing were much heavier. I’ll
be so horribly worried about your getting back.”

“Please don’t be. I’ll keep way over their heads and play safe. How I
wish I could leave you and Father some good news; but I can’t, except to
promise you that Château-Plessis won’t stay in German hands one second
after we can take it.”

Lucy choked down a sob and, thankful that the darkness hid her eyes
brimming with tears of lonely wretchedness, threw her arms about Bob’s
neck in a desperate embrace.

“Give Mother my dearest love,” she said huskily in his ear. “Tell her
I’m safe, and please go now. Good-bye!”

“Good-bye, Elizabeth,” said Bob, having a hard time with his own
unsteady voice. “Take care of her, won’t you? And whenever you cross
that field keep a lookout for me.”

“Yes, Mr. Bob,” assented Elizabeth, patting the tall young aviator on
the shoulder with a loving hand. “Tell your mother she should not too
much worry over Miss Lucy. I do my best for her.”

“I know you will,” said Bob, with some relief in his heavy anxiety.
“Good-bye, Captain.”

Another moment and he was swallowed up in the shadows, while Lucy and
Elizabeth stood gazing after him with straining eyes, their ears on the
alert for every sound, though nothing could be heard around them just
then in the noise of the cannon.

Still silent and motionless they stood there after Bob had gone with
eyes lifted now to the sky above the wood. Within a quarter of an hour
the little Nieuport rose like a winged speck over the tree tops. Lucy
clutched Elizabeth’s arm, her heart pounding intolerably. “There he is!
There he is!” she whispered, her mind hovering between relief that Bob
had got safely away from German territory and dread of what he had still
to face. Another second and the little monoplane had disappeared in the
blue, and Elizabeth was tugging at Lucy’s arm and saying earnestly in
her ear:

“Come, Miss Lucy! We should go back quickly now!”

Lucy turned away from the wide starry spaces on which her eyes were
still fixed, and, obedient to Elizabeth’s urging began to retrace her
steps across the fields behind her old nurse’s cautious feet. She walked
mechanically, her eyes on possible shell holes, but her mind far
distant. Lucy’s moments of fear and weakness had one redeeming feature.
They were usually followed by a great scorn of herself in which her
courage and endurance rose to a high pitch. So it was with her now,
after the despairing terror which had made her hold fast to Bob, and
forget half she had to say to him at the moment of parting. At sight of
him flying back through the night to make his perilous way among the
swarming German planes above the trenches, all her courage returned to
her. She could do nothing toward Bob’s safety, but while he was in
danger she would do the one thing in her power which might be of some
distant help to the Allies.

“Elizabeth,” she said, as together they made a difficult way through a
tangle of bushes near Mère Breton’s cottage, “I’m going back by way of
the Old Prison.”

“But why, Miss Lucy? For what?” Elizabeth demanded in amazement,
stopping short to catch her breath.

As quickly as she could, Lucy told her of the encounter of two days ago
with the young Englishman, and of her hopes that he might have some of
the information Bob so sorely needed. Elizabeth listened with no
answering enthusiasm for the risky project, but the vigorous objections
which she launched when Lucy paused in her rapid explanation fell on
deaf ears.

“You needn’t come with me. I can find the place, and there are so few
sentries I know I can keep out of their way,” was the only answer
vouchsafed her. In her impulsive resolution Lucy forgot Elizabeth’s
larger share in the dangers of the expedition. She had only one thought
just then; to succeed in her undertaking. And this required such a
desperate keying up of her own courage as to make her thoughtless for
her kind and unselfish companion.

“Oh, Miss Lucy, I beg you not to go!” implored Elizabeth in a last
attempt to dissuade the determined girl from her purpose.

To this Lucy returned doggedly, “It’s all I can do for Bob, and I must
do it.”

Elizabeth sighed despondently, but her faithful affection answered
without hesitation on her own account, “Very well; if you must, I go
with you.”

“Oh, thank you, dear Elizabeth! I knew you’d help me,” cried Lucy with
genuine relief and gratitude. “Now come into Mère Breton’s garden till I
show you what I’m going to do.”

Along with Lucy’s mad eagerness to learn from Captain Beattie’s lips
what he knew of the defenses of Argenton—information which Bob himself
had told her might free Château-Plessis from German hands—was another
and more womanly motive for her visit to the prison. The sight of her
brother had reminded her of the young prisoner who had so aroused her
admiration and pity. She could not help Bob to safety, but could she not
do something for this other boy, now that chance had brought her within
possible reach of him? She thought to herself how she would despise an
English girl who could have seen Bob taken off to prison, as she had
seen Captain Beattie, without lifting a finger to ease his unhappy fate.
Somewhere this young officer’s family was waiting anxiously for news of
him, and hoping that one kind hand might be stretched out to offer him
help and comfort. While she thought this Lucy had entered Mère Breton’s
garden and, feeling for Elizabeth in the shadowy darkness, said softly,
“Gather some of whatever you can find. I know where the eggs are put
after they are collected in the evening. I’m going for some.”

The little hen-house was not far off, where the basket of eggs was
nightly placed inside the door. Lucy felt for the key upon the roof,
unlocked the door and putting in her hand, took out half a dozen eggs
and tied them in her handkerchief. She felt no compunction about making
off with the old Frenchwoman’s property. She and Mère Breton had talked
together in confidence and Lucy knew that this food was far better
destined in her eyes than if it had gone down the throats of the German
wounded. She hurried back across the garden and found Elizabeth
collecting a small supply of the only ripe vegetables to be had just
then.

“Got them?” she asked, breathing hard with uncontrollable excitement.
“All right, come on.”

They stole out of the gate into the meadow, and now Elizabeth, trying to
resign herself to the attempt since she could not prevent it, asked
anxiously:

“What shall we do there, Miss Lucy? Better we think of that now, while
there is time.”

“Well, first, how far from here is the prison?” Lucy hoped it was no
farther than Bob had said. She knew her courage would not last forever.

“Only a little way after we reach the town. I know the shortest way. But
always a guard there is, when in daylight I have passed the place. No
good it will do there that I am German, Miss Lucy, for I have not any
excuse to make him for us.”

Lucy thought for a minute. “I don’t believe there are many guards, do
you, Elizabeth?”

“No, only one, I think.”

“Because Bob said there were cells on just one side. If I can only get
to his window and talk with him for five minutes it will be enough. It
doesn’t seem as though they would watch the prisoners all the time.”

“No, more likely they very little watch; but, oh, Miss Lucy, I am not
sure how it will be, and I wish you do not go!”

“I must try, Elizabeth. Be nice and just think how to help the most
instead of worrying. I know we will be all right.”

“Very well. I help you all I can,” agreed Elizabeth with quiet
resignation. She spoke not another word of protest as, entering the
silent, abandoned streets, they stole cautiously along the town’s
outskirts, toward the south.

After a few moments’ walk, Elizabeth pointed to an open square ahead, at
one corner of which a low building gloomed against the sky. A church,
with the steeple shot away, rose opposite it. “There is the prison,”
Elizabeth said in Lucy’s ear. “The cells are on the other side.” Now
that they were near to danger Elizabeth seemed once more to take command
of things. “Miss Lucy, you must here in the shadow stay,” she continued
quickly, “while I go to see who is on guard. Better I some excuse can
make alone, if he should see me.”

Without waiting for an answer she was gone, and Lucy shrank close
against the brick wall of the house behind her, and stood there with
suddenly quaking heart, and ears listening vainly for any other sound
than the occasional bursts of shell fire. In five minutes Elizabeth was
back again, and the moment she spoke Lucy felt the joyful relief in her
voice.

“Oh, Miss Lucy,” she said, softly, “the best of luck we have! The guard
inside the house sits—where was the office. They are a couple of sleepy
fellows, leaning on their guns. I watch the door while you in back to
the barred windows go. So soon as the guard should move I come to warn
you. So in the dark we safely get away.”

“Elizabeth, you’re a brick!” Lucy whispered, squeezing her companion’s
hand in eager gratitude, as she followed her toward the dark wall of the
old building.

A square of light showed on the side toward the church, and here
Elizabeth took up her watch from the shadow of the corner, leaving Lucy,
carrying the little spoils of Mère Breton’s garden in her cloak, to make
her way to the right, or prison end of the building. With a hard clutch
at her already waning courage, Lucy felt with her free hand for the
angle of the corner on the rough stone wall, and stepping cautiously
around it, reached the side of the prison which opened on a narrow
courtyard.

She stared up at the wall, seeing no break at first in its dim outline,
but, as she looked, three windows detached themselves faintly from the
shadows. In another moment she could see that each was criss-crossed
with bars. Only one course of action suggested itself to her excited
mind, and whatever its drawbacks she dared not delay. She went close up
to the first window and, dropping her cape, stood on tiptoe and put her
face against the bars. She could see nothing inside the room but, making
a trumpet of her hands, she said, “Captain Beattie!”

She dared not call out, for as luck would have it, in the last five
minutes there had come a decided pause in the firing, and a loud voice
might very well carry between the shots. The occupant of the cell made
no response, only Lucy fancied that she heard some one sigh, and the
rustle of a straw mattress beneath a sleeper’s weight. With pounding
heart she stood a minute longer listening, then stepping back, crept on
to the next window. She reached up on tiptoe to grasp the bars, and as
she did so her fingers touched something soft inside—somebody’s
clothing. At the same moment a voice, speaking within a few inches of
her face, asked breathlessly in English, “Who’s that?”

Lucy’s heart gave a wild throb of triumph. “Captain Beattie?” she
stammered, clutching at the bars.

“Yes—who on earth——?” The voice was shaky with bewilderment. Lucy knew
she had not a second to lose. She said hastily:

“You remember the girl who translated the German questions for you, the
day the town was taken? I’m an American; my father is an
officer—wounded—and I came to see him from England and couldn’t get away
in time.”

“But what are you doing here now?” asked the amazed young Englishman. As
he spoke, his hand reached through the bars for Lucy’s, as though to
establish the comradeship of touch out of the darkness.

“I came to see you because I knew you’d be lonely—I had a brother in a
German prison—and for another reason too. But first,” she reached down
for her cape and gathered up the meager supplies it held, “do you get
enough to eat?”

“I should say not. But quite as much as I expected. How about yourself?”

“Oh, I’m all right. I’m in the hospital and there is always enough
there. Look here, I’ve brought you a few things. I know raw eggs are
horrid, but they’re nourishing. It’s all I could manage to-night. Do you
want them?”

“Do I want them!” The rest of the prisoner’s answer was to reach through
the bars and take the scanty provisions carefully from Lucy’s hands.
“You plucky little kid! I’m as hungry as a wolf. Don’t tell me you came
here all alone to-night?”

“Oh, no. A—a friend from the hospital came with me. But, Captain
Beattie, please listen now while I tell you something.” She paused for a
second and a sudden thought prompted her to preface her words by asking,
“Are you quite sure I’m all right and that you trust me? You can put out
your hand and feel my hair and face if you like, so you’ll see I’m
really who I said.”

“I believe you!” said the Englishman, and his voice sounded as though he
were smiling. “What’s your name? You haven’t told me.”

“Lucy Gordon. My brother is Lieutenant Robert Gordon of the American
Aviation Corps.”

“No! Is he? I’ve seen him fly.” From inside the barred window Lucy heard
a deep sigh as though the young prisoner had suddenly realized again his
hopeless captivity.

She went on quickly. “He came here to see me to-night.”

“What? Here?”

“Yes. He got word to me that he was going to try to land behind the
town, and I came out to meet him.” She plunged into the story of Bob’s
coming, repeating all he had told her of the difficulties in the way of
the Allied advance, and her own new-found hope, at mention of Argenton,
that the young Englishman might have some of the information so vital
for the recovery of Château-Plessis and the adjoining ground.

“Oh, if I could only have seen him for one moment! What a chance in a
thousand!” her listener broke in with desperate eagerness.

“Then you do know about Argenton? You could have told him?” Lucy panted.

“Didn’t I walk all through their trenches and wait for hours in the
broiling sun above their beastly batteries? But I had no hope of getting
news of it to our lines. If I could have seen Gordon for five minutes!”

“I never thought of it in time. I always do things too late,” moaned
Lucy, almost in despair. “Couldn’t you tell me anyhow, Captain Beattie?
So that if he does come again—he’s going to try to—I won’t fail a second
time?” Her voice shook with the sobs that rose uncontrollably in her
throat. To have been so near success and to have missed it! A weight of
disappointment settled on her heart.

“I couldn’t explain the defenses to you now,” said Captain Beattie
doubtfully. “You wouldn’t remember them accurately enough to do any
good. Anyhow, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to make the trip again.”

“Never mind—he might.”

“Well, I have paper and pencil, and I’ll draw a sketch—a camouflaged
one. You could tell him, of course, what it is. But I don’t think you
ought to come here a second time.”

“I’m coming. I’ll bring you things to eat. Didn’t I tell you Bob had
been in a German prison? Anyway, I’ve made such a mess of this I’m going
to try to succeed in the end.”

“Don’t feel bad,” said the young officer, concealing his disappointment.
“It would have been a horrible risk to bring your brother here—though so
far as I can see the town is empty and deserted as a tomb. I wish you’d
go now yourself, though. I’m awfully anxious about you. Where is your
friend?”

“She’s watching to see that your guard doesn’t come out. All right, I’m
going; but you’ll see me soon again.”

“Good-night—God bless you.” The young captain reached quickly through
the bars and took Lucy’s hands in a warm clasp. “You don’t know what
it’s meant to talk English again—and with a friend.”

Lucy sprang down from her foothold in the wall, and, with one swift
glance about her through the darkness, picked up her cape and stole
around the corner of the building. Elizabeth was still standing by the
shadow of the wall, but as Lucy came up she reached out and caught her
arm, leading the way swiftly down the narrow street.

“Oh, Miss Lucy,” she exclaimed, “I thought you never come! I have prayed
for you every moment you were gone! The soldiers stay there, but I feel
so afraid they change the guard, and I have no time to get to you!”

“I’m sorry. I know I stayed too long—but I found him!” Now that her
disappointment was not so sharp, Lucy was glad that at least she had
accomplished half her mission. “I’ll tell you all about it, Elizabeth.
Where are we going—to the hospital?”

“No, indeed, Miss Lucy. I take you to my room, and there we can sleep a
little while. By four o’clock we will back to the hospital go. So you
will get there as soon as the others.”

“All right,” said Lucy faintly. “I don’t know whether I’m sleepy or not,
but I think we started out to find Bob about a week ago.”

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



                              CHAPTER VIII

                        A LITTLE FRENCH HEROINE


“=LUCY=, will you do something for me?” asked Miss Pearse, as they
mounted the hospital steps early in the morning, two days later. “Miss
Willis and Brêlet are going to the German supply depot after some things
we need. I wish you would go with them and see if you can’t bring back
more soap and matches. We want them terribly, and we always have to wait
for them at a separate door from the food depot. It’s impossible to
spare any one else from here,” she added, turning toward Lucy a
decidedly reproachful look, “or I’d keep you working in the hospital.
Goodness knows what you’ll do, once I let you out.”

Lucy, not having any defense ready, said nothing. But she did not look
particularly repentant. Miss Pearse had come face to face with her
outside the hospital when she returned the morning after Bob’s visit.
Astonished at catching sight of her charge, whom she thought still in
bed and asleep, she had insisted on a complete explanation. Lucy had
received a scolding, but underneath all of her severity, Miss Pearse
could not hide the sympathetic heart that beat in warm response to
Lucy’s hope and anxiety. Her lecture had weakly broken down into a fire
of questions about Bob’s daring flight, which left Lucy feeling less
remorseful than Miss Pearse intended.

Now, after waiting a moment while their passes were inspected by a
deliberate German sentry, she followed the nurse into the hospital,
saying, “Of course I’ll go, Miss Pearse. Right after breakfast? Just let
me tell Father good-morning first.”

Colonel Gordon was sitting up in bed, for his convalescence had now
really begun, and his thin face, from which the tan had almost faded,
was tinged with the first suggestion of returning health. His eyes,
though, held a sombre look in their gray depths, and at sight of Lucy it
did not leave them, even when he smiled cheerfully and held out a
welcoming hand.

Lucy had told her father everything about Bob’s visit and the news that
he had brought, and in the thrilling story Colonel Gordon’s fear for his
son’s safety had been almost outweighed by admiration of his pluck and
skill. His face had lighted up as he listened, and Lucy had repeated the
details of Bob’s message and landing twice over. It meant much to the
wounded officer to feel that, if he himself must remain a helpless
prisoner of war, his son at least was doing a brave part alone.

Lucy had not told him a word about her visit to Captain Beattie’s
prison. She had not accomplished what she hoped, and she dreaded lest
her father’s fears for her safety might lead him to make her promise not
to go there again. Just now she felt she could not give up the one
chance that might mean so much. And had she not given a promise, too,
that she would do what she could to make the young Englishman’s lot more
bearable?

This morning she told her father of her intended trip across the town
for the supplies doled out by the German conquerors. Colonel Gordon lay
watching his daughter with anxious eyes as she sat beside him, thankful
to see that her cheeks had not yet lost their color, in spite of all she
had endured, nor her hazel eyes their brightness.

“I’m all right, Father, so long as I have work to do,” said Lucy,
reading his troubled thoughts. “It was sitting idle and worrying that I
couldn’t stand. Now that you are getting well, and we know the worst
about the town, I can grin and bear it.”

“A weight is off my mind since I know Bob has told your mother we are
safe,” said Colonel Gordon. “As for grinning and bearing it, our troops
won’t be satisfied to do that, thank heaven. They’ll push through again
somehow—they must! I don’t know what I’d do if I thought I was a
prisoner for the rest of the war.”

Lucy was silent, but again she resolved to tell her father nothing of
the secret Captain Beattie held, until she had revisited the prison and
accomplished at least a part of what she sought.

“I must go to breakfast now, Father,” she said, after a moment. “I’ll
come in to see you again just as soon as I get back from my morning’s
work.”

Lucy needed no urging to do all in her power to help inside the
hospital. To her natural eagerness to be of service to the Allies’ cause
was added a keen desire to show the Germans in command that she was
useful. She had a secret dread that they might think her in the way and
forbid her to remain where she longed to stay, close by her father’s
side.

The streets were glowing in hot sunshine when she started out with Miss
Willis and Brêlet, an hour later. Since the night before, the guns had
been almost silent, and every soul among the Allies in the town wondered
how things were going on the battle-front, but steadfastly refused to
ask their conquerors, certain they would hear of nothing else than a
German victory. But even the Germans could not claim much of an advance,
for the firing of the past night showed their line to be still held at
about four miles west of Château-Plessis.

The German food supply depot was about a mile north from the American
hospital. It was inconveniently placed for both hospitals and for the
few hundred inhabitants remaining in the town, but naturally the Germans
gave no thought to this. Every one wishing to buy or beg food was
obliged to go in person, showing the registry card which had been
furnished each inhabitant soon after the town’s capture. This systematic
arrangement promised well, but in reality many a tired and over-worked
French citizen had a long, hot walk to the supply depot for nothing. The
food was scanty, and only the worst portions of it were reserved for the
townspeople. In addition to this, the long wait necessary to secure
anything kept those away who had a few vegetables left growing in their
little gardens.

The old men and boys of Château-Plessis had been put to work clearing
the streets of broken stone and rubbish, for there was no more than a
company of soldiers in the town, and these contented themselves with
mounting guard and exercising a general supervision. But the civilian
workers received no more food than if they had been idle, and, hungry
and dejected, worked grudgingly at their task, fearful lest they should
be in some way aiding the German advance. Lucy watched these unwilling
workers, as the three passed close to a little group of them, on their
way across the town. Somehow they seemed even more pitiful to her than
soldier prisoners. The soldier has at least had a chance to strike his
enemy, and he is at a time of life when blows are given and endured. But
these old men, weather-worn and bent with labor, had earned a quiet home
in the little town where most of them were born. The boys, from twelve
to about sixteen years old, glanced up with shamefaced and defiant
looks. They had had no chance at self-defense, and Lucy guessed with a
quick throb of sympathy how their young, loyal hearts must suffer in
obeying the conqueror’s commands.

“Suppose it were America, and the Germans were ordering us to work for
them,” she thought, and her cheeks flushed with anger at the triumphant
foe who caused such misery. Then she shook her head impatiently at
herself, as the house used for the food depot came into sight. “I’ll
have to feel a little more polite than this, if I’m to get any soap and
matches out of them,” she decided.

“There’s not much of a crowd to-day, thank goodness,” remarked Miss
Willis, looking at the scattered handful of people standing about the
building. “But I suppose there are enough more indoors to keep us
waiting half the morning.”

“Well, I’ll go to the other side and try my luck,” said Lucy, making for
the left-hand door and taking her place in line, with the written
request from the hospital in her hand. Presently her turn came to step
inside the door and hand her paper to the sergeant at the desk. He read
it, pursing his lips doubtfully, glanced at a written list beside him,
and finally told Lucy to come back in half an hour. He shouted it, under
the odd impression that people who could not understand German would get
his meaning somehow if he spoke loud enough. Lucy nodded, wanting to
laugh at his hot, bothered-looking face, and went out in search of Miss
Willis and Brêlet.

The people of the hospital, owing in great part to the German wounded
sheltered there, were in a much easier position than the rest of the
population in regard to food. The German authorities allowed them
hand-carts to convey the somewhat variable supplies allotted to them.
To-day the chief part of the food had already been sent over, but some
necessary things were missing, and these Miss Willis had volunteered to
bring back. The chances looked uncertain, however. The German non-com in
charge as a matter of course appeared doubtful about granting her
request. Perhaps—after a while——When Lucy entered the room things had
advanced no further than this. Seeing every prospect of a long wait she
glanced about her to see who else was in the same plight. Twenty-five or
thirty people were standing wearily waiting on the sergeant’s pleasure.
Some of them had sat down on the floor and leaned against the wall.

Among these last was a slight delicate-looking woman whom Lucy noticed
because she seemed so sadly out of place seated on the dusty floor in
the midst of the noisy and perspiring crowd. She was plainly dressed in
black with a widow’s cap over her soft, dark hair, but something about
her face and bearing set her apart from the peasants and townspeople
around her. Beside her stood an old woman who was evidently a servant,
with an empty basket on her arm and an angry scowl on her forehead as
she watched the German soldiers leisurely dealing out supplies to the
waiting crowd. But it was the third member of the little group to whom
Lucy’s attention quickly shifted. This was a girl about her own age, who
stood leaning against the wall by her mother’s side, a kind of scornful
patience on her face. Her blue eyes, which looked as though not long ago
they had been full of childish gaiety, now held a defiant resolution in
their depths. Her hair was so black it reminded Lucy of Julia Houston’s,
except that Julia’s hair was straight, and this girl’s fell in soft
waves over her thin shoulders.

Lucy could not take her eyes away from that pretty, sensitive face, so
pathetic in its look of having been roughly wakened from the happy
childhood that French girls know until well into their teens. In another
moment the object of her gaze looked around and caught sight of her.
Lucy did not hesitate. She had longed for the companionship of a girl
her own age since she had found time to think in these last few days,
and she had seen this girl once before in crossing the town with Brêlet
and Elizabeth, and had heard from Brêlet something of her history. She
made a difficult way across the crowded room to her side and, overcoming
a sudden shyness as the stranger’s eyes met hers, she said in French
with a friendly smile, “You won’t mind if I speak to you? I’d like so
much to have another girl to talk to.”

For a second her listener looked puzzled, for Lucy’s French was much
worse than her German. Then her face lighted comprehendingly, and a
bright smile chased away all the scornful sadness from her look.

“I shall be glad!” she exclaimed, her pretty voice sounding pleasantly
on Lucy’s ears after the shouts of the German soldiers calling off the
names upon their lists. Then, hesitating for a second, the girl said in
careful, foreign-sounding English, “If you prefer, we can talk in
English. I speak enough that you can understand me, though I make some
mistakes at every moment.”

“Oh, yes,” cried Lucy, enormously relieved at the loosening of her
tongue. “I can understand you perfectly, and you tell me if I talk too
fast.”

“Then let us sit on the floor,” the French girl suggested, dropping down
as she spoke against the wall.

Lucy quickly followed suit, and when they were seated side by side on
the rickety floor, which shook and creaked under many footsteps, her
companion continued, “I know a little of you already. Clemence, our
servant, has told me how you came here to see your father.” A look of
such keen sympathy shone in the blue eyes fixed on hers that Lucy for a
moment could not speak, and the French girl added, “You are American,
no? Tell me your name.”

“Lucy Gordon. And I know part of yours. You are Mademoiselle de la Tour,
but what is your first name?”

“Michelle. It was the poilu who was with you when you saw me in the
street who has told you that. He knows well this town. He was—how you
call it? _Jardinier_ of my uncle, very near here, before the war.”

Brêlet had in fact told Lucy more of Michelle de la Tour than her name.
He had described the first German advance early in the war, which had
driven the widow and her little daughter from their beautiful
country-place to find refuge in the town. Since then things had gone
from bad to worse with this family, once so honored and fortunate.
Madame de la Tour’s only son was fighting for his country, while his
mother and sister were left, poor and needy, in German hands.

Lucy wondered what stories of privation and sacrifice Michelle’s lips
could tell. But she also guessed that she would hear little of them.
Impelled by an instinctive confidence and liking which made her feel
more warmly toward this girl than five minutes’ acquaintance warranted,
she began telling her a little of her own history. Of her coming from
England, of her father’s recovery in the midst of the German advance, of
her mother’s vain attempts to reach them, and lastly she spoke of Bob.
Not, of course, of his visit since the town’s capture, for Lucy had
learned prudence enough in the last week. She did not say a word that
could have brought danger to any friend of the Allies, however unlikely
it was that her English would be understood. Michelle heard her with an
eager intentness, and Lucy’s friendly interest seemed reflected in her
listener’s eyes, which in their changing brightness expressed her
thoughts far better than her halting English. At last she turned to
where her mother sat, and reached out an eager hand to her.

“_Maman!_ I have a friend—a little _Americaine. Mees_, here is my
mother.”

Lucy crawled over and held out a dusty hand to Madame de la Tour, who
gave her in return a firm, lingering clasp of her delicate fingers.
Michelle’s mother had her daughter’s radiant smile, and it hid for an
instant even the heavy lines of weariness and anxiety in her pale face.

“I am very glad if you will be company to my little girl,” she said, in
better English than Michelle’s. At the same time her dark eyes searched
Lucy’s face, as though the terrible years of doubt, dread and suspicion
had made her slow to accept any friendship, even one so innocent as this
little American’s. But Lucy’s frank, honest glance seemed to convince
her. She patted her hand and smiled again, as though the ever-lurking
dangers were forgotten for the moment in motherly pity for the lonely
child before her.

“Michelle,” she said quickly, “you must ask _la petite_ to come and
visit us. Very sad it must be for her always in the hospital.”

“Will you come, _Mees_?” asked Michelle, eagerly.

“Yes, but please call me Lucy,” was the prompt reply, to which Michelle
agreed with a nod and a smile, saying:

“You, too, call me Michelle. So it is much pleasanter.”

“Where do you live?” was on the tip of Lucy’s tongue, but at that moment
she saw Brêlet making energetic signals to her across the room. With a
sudden conscience-stricken remembrance of her supplies next door, she
sprang up and bade her new friends a hasty good-bye.

“I hope to see you very soon again,” she found time to say, before she
squeezed her way through the increasing crowd.

“All right, Brêlet, just wait a minute until I get my things. Is Miss
Willis ready to go?” she asked the poilu, who stood by the door, his
full basket slung over his shoulder.

“Yes, I will come with Mademoiselle,” he said, following Lucy outside to
the other door, where a scanty supply of the articles she wanted were
handed from the desk after a further wait of a quarter of an hour.

All during the hot walk home Lucy thought of Michelle and wondered how
soon she should be able to see her again. That afternoon as soon as she
sat down to work on the torn linen with Elizabeth, she asked her old
nurse how she could manage to visit her new friend. “You see, I suppose
she works in the French hospital with her mother, so I don’t know how we
can do any work together. Will the Germans let me go to her house?” she
asked doubtfully.

“The Germans here not so many are that they will bother to see what you
do, unless you the town try to leave,” was Elizabeth’s answer. “When I
in the morning to the cottage in the meadows go, you may come with me
and stop at the house of your friend.”

“Oh, do you know where she lives?” cried Lucy, overjoyed.

“Surely do I. Near by to where stood the sentry when we passed him the
other night.”

Lucy left off working toward sundown to go and sit with her father, and
in him she had an interested listener to Elizabeth’s plan for visiting
Michelle.

“I’m so glad you’ve found a friend, little daughter,” he said, with
sober satisfaction. “It must be so almighty hard and lonesome for you
here. But remember, you’re never to cross the town even that far without
Elizabeth or some one else from the hospital.”

Lucy nodded, thinking rather guiltily of her determination to visit
Captain Beattie on the first night that Elizabeth was off duty.

Just now, though, she had only one thought in her head. It is no small
thing to find a companion one’s own age after many days spent among
grownups. And this girl had appealed to Lucy from the first glimpse she
caught of her in the street a week ago. Lucy was not given to rushing
headlong into friendships, but she did follow her impulses frankly, and
on the whole did not often have reason to regret it.

By the following morning Elizabeth had forgotten all about Lucy’s
inquiries of the day before, and looked up in surprise when she came
early into the dining-room greeting her with, “Well, Elizabeth, when may
we start?”

Lucy had risen at daybreak, obtained Miss Pearse’s consent to her plan,
and arranged breakfast trays for the convalescents an hour under the
nurse’s direction. Then she had sat with her father a while, for it was
early in the day that he felt most rested and ready for conversation.
Now she felt that it was time her wish was gratified, and sighed
regretfully when Elizabeth answered:

“So soon as I can I will go, Miss Lucy. But first I have some work to
do, and the Sergeant must sign us the permissions for to-day.”

“Oh, all right,” agreed Lucy, somewhat pacified at sight of the
breakfast Elizabeth was placing on the table.

It was a beautiful early summer morning, with white clouds piled against
the soft blue sky, and the sun just warm enough to make the shade feel
pleasant. After the unusual heat of the past few days it was
exhilarating to both mind and body. Lucy felt filled to the brim with
life and energy. In spite of herself her spirits soared with hope and
confidence in better things to come. Somehow she believed to-day, when
she and Elizabeth set out from the hospital half an hour later, that
Château-Plessis must soon be restored to its rightful owners. It seemed
as though this nightmare of German conquest were but a passing thing and
could be bravely borne with that assurance.

There was nothing whatever to suggest a change for the better in reality
as they crossed the town. The guns were still silent, except for
scattered shots, the German sentries still kept guard over the desolate
streets, and the gangs of unhappy old men and boys labored at the piles
of débris in sullen submission. Still Lucy’s spirits refused to be much
dampened. In her mind she debated schemes for carrying food to Captain
Beattie, resolving to tell Michelle all about the prisoner at the first
opportunity.

“Look, Miss Lucy,” said Elizabeth, presently, as they neared the
southeastern part of the town. “There is the house of Madame de la
Tour.” She pointed down the street to a little brick house with a gabled
roof. “It is one that she owns before, but now she goes there to live,
because it is not much by the shells hurt.”

In a minute they stopped in front of the door and Lucy asked eagerly,
“May I go in and see them now? Will you come back for me?” She glanced
along the street, which was deserted except for a shuffling old woman
making her weary way toward the food depot, and looked back at
Elizabeth, who answered thoughtfully:

“I will be only an hour gone, but no longer can I wait to take you back.
I have plenty work to do in the hospital to-day. Anyway, you will have
with your friend a little visit. But first I wait to see if she is
here.”

Lucy ran up the short flight of steps and was just about to knock on the
door when it opened and Michelle herself stood on the threshold, smiling
a welcome.

“I have seen you by the window,” she explained, “so I came to open.”

“Oh, I’m so glad you are at home,” said Lucy, delighted. “All right,
Elizabeth! Don’t forget to come back for me.”

She followed Michelle into the house, which was a bare, homely little
place, oddly furnished with a few splendid pieces brought from the old
home, eked out with simple stools and tables got from near at hand. But
it was neat and homelike, and that meant much to Lucy, after her days
spent in the midst of the hospital’s terrible activity.

Madame de la Tour had already gone to the French hospital, and Michelle
was putting the house in order while the old servant was busy in the
kitchen.

“Sit down upon this chair,” she said to Lucy, bringing an old, carved
armchair close to the open window. The windows had been open ever since
the glass was shattered by the shell-fire, but now that summer had come,
the boards which helped keep out the winter cold were put aside.

Michelle pulled up a second chair for herself, and taking some knitting
on her lap, exclaimed with a look of pleasant anticipation, “Now we are
comfortable, no? It is so long since I have company. I feel almost
strange to see a friend.”

“There is so much I want to talk about, I can’t think where to begin,”
said Lucy frankly. But as she spoke she remembered her need of making
another visit to the old prison, and realized also that such chance of
speaking in safe privacy with Michelle might not come soon again. She
did not have very long, either, for Elizabeth walked fast.

“Michelle, I want first to tell you about my brother’s coming here the
other night,” she began quickly.

“Your brother—he come here?” gasped Michelle, her English failing her in
her amazement.

“Yes,” Lucy nodded. She plunged into her story and repeated the whole
incident of Bob’s coming and of her own visit to Captain Beattie’s
prison. By the time she finished Michelle’s eyes were shining, her
cheeks were flushed with pink, and the knitting lay unheeded in her
hands. When Lucy stopped for breath she burst into such enthusiastic
praise and comment that Lucy was almost overcome.

“Goodness, I didn’t do anything,” she said hastily, for she had not told
the story with any idea of winning applause for herself. “The reasons I
want you to know about it are, first, because I hope you will let me
bring things for Captain Beattie here, and stop for them on my way to
the prison. Secondly, because we are friends, and I wanted to tell you
about Bob.”

Michelle’s face was a study; the strangest mixture of warm sympathy and
a kind of puzzled doubt. Lucy looked at her wonderingly, for she
answered with evident sincerity, “Very gladly will I help you to take
things to the poor Englishman. I will go with you if I may—I long so to
help a little bit! Oh, Lucy, only to make pass that news of Argenton
across the German lines!”

Lucy’s heart eagerly responded to this wish, but a queer discomfort at
the baffling look in Michelle’s eyes kept her a moment silent. Suddenly
she realized that while she had told this almost stranger her dearest
secrets, Michelle, on the other hand, had not opened her lips on the
subject of her brother, or of her hopes for the success of the Allies.
Lucy was too candid and impulsive to bear this state of things
unquestioningly. She looked into Michelle’s troubled face and asked,
“Why won’t you tell me anything about yourself and your family,
Michelle? I’ve trusted you in speaking of Bob’s coming. Don’t you trust
me?”

The French girl started, hesitated, looked again into Lucy’s wondering
eyes, and burst into a flood of speech.

“Oh, Lucy, I _know_ you are with us—like all America! But some Americans
are not enough on guard against our enemies. For what you are a friend
with that German woman, who has the husband in the fight against us?”

“Of course! What a donkey I am!” exclaimed Lucy, relieved beyond words
as things were thus made plain to her. “I forgot all about Elizabeth,
Michelle, or I should have guessed what you might think from seeing me
always with her. You see, Elizabeth was our old nurse in America—and
I’ve known her since I was four years old. But that would not be enough
to make us real friends now. She is just as pro-ally as we are. She does
not wish to see the Kaiser win.”

As Michelle still looked utterly unconvinced, Lucy went back to tell of
Elizabeth’s rescue of Bob from German hands the year before. She did not
stop until Michelle knew of Bob’s confidence in the German woman’s
sincerity, of the message dropped from the airplane, and of Elizabeth’s
repudiation of her country’s war aims and her promise to help in all
Lucy’s efforts.

Michelle sat silent and astonished, her blue eyes fixed upon Lucy’s
face.

“Does she hate Germany?” she asked at last.

“Oh, no, but she hates the Junkers ruling her. It is for Germany’s own
sake that she is pro-ally. Do you see what I mean? Besides, she loves
America, where she lived so long. It was the lies that they told her
about America that first taught her the truth.”

Michelle reflected for a long moment. Then she said slowly, “Lucy, I
know your brother would not be deceived, and I believe what you tell me.
But it is hard to think the wife of a Boche soldier to be pro-ally.”

“Karl isn’t a soldier—he’s too old. He’s only a cook. He was our cook
for nearly ten years at home. Anyway, Michelle, you know that I’m all
right, and you will soon see that Elizabeth is too. I know how you feel,
for I wouldn’t have believed her myself, though I’ve known and trusted
her so long, if she had not brought the message from Bob.”

Michelle nodded quickly. “Lucy, I go to tell you now about my brother.
But all the same, though I believe you, promise me you will not tell the
old nurse a word of what I say.”

“I promise,” said Lucy, wondering.

An ever-present fear, the look that Madame de la Tour’s glance had held
when she first saw Lucy’s face, lighted Michelle’s clear eyes as she
bent forward and whispered:

“My brother Armand is a spy for the French army. Once already after the
first German victory he made his way into the town.”

“How could he!” breathed Lucy with fast beating heart, sudden glorious
possibilities awaking in her thoughts.

“I tell you how,” said Michelle, her voice trembling with pride and
emotion at her brother’s gallant exploit. Changed from Michelle’s slow
and halting English, the story of Armand de la Tour’s entrance into the
captured town was this:

During an attempted night-raid made by a dozen Germans on the French
trenches before Château-Plessis, one of the Germans fell, mortally
wounded, in no-man’s-land, close to the French lines. Armand, wearing
the uniform of a German soldier, leaped out and took the fallen man’s
place in the darkness. The German attacking party, with Armand among
them, regained their own trenches, the Germans surprised at the sudden
pause in the rifle fire from the French side. Dawn found the spy inside
the town, having made a perilous way in on pretense of special duty.
Once under the shelter of his mother’s roof, he obtained the information
he came for and at nightfall returned to the German trenches. Having
arranged with his friends on the French side a preconcerted time and
place, he went over the top in a pretended attack and reached his own
lines in safety.

This feat had led directly to the capture of the town by the French and
American troops—the action in which Lucy’s father had been wounded.

There was no chance, so far as the Allies knew, of learning anything in
Château-Plessis now, but Michelle and her mother knew that anxiety on
their behalf would lead Armand to run great risks to enter the town
again, and they dreaded lest he attempt it.

“If he should, Michelle,” cried Lucy, thrilled at this story of
unselfish heroism, “he could take back word from Captain Beattie of what
they long to know.”

“That is why I make haste to tell you,” said Michelle, nodding. “Better
you get the English _Capitaine_ to write you what he knows, and you
bring it here; for though Armand wear the German uniform, he dare not
show himself about the streets. Look,” she added, pointing through the
window, “there is the German woman come for you. Poor thing, she has the
heavy basket.”

Lucy was not sure whether Michelle really believed in Elizabeth or not,
but more than satisfied in any case with her morning’s visit, she got
up, nodding to Elizabeth that she was coming. Michelle, rising too,
slipped an arm through Lucy’s with shy friendliness as they went out
toward the door.

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



                               CHAPTER IX

                        THE FIGHT OVER ARGENTON


=BOB GORDON= was reading a letter from his mother as he sat in the
principal room of a little farmhouse outside of Cantigny. The place had
long been abandoned by its owners, and now sheltered a dozen American
airmen and as many mechanics, in spite of the serious damage it had
suffered when the town was taken. Bob was seated on a three-legged
stool, tilted dangerously as he propped his feet against the
chimneypiece—or what was left of it in a heap of brick and mortar
fragments. The morning sun streamed in on the earthen floor and fell
across his face as he read the closely written lines. His thin, brown
cheeks were tinged with healthy color, and his whole lean figure in its
well-worn khaki looked full of life and vigor. But just now his face was
serious and sad, and the eyes he raised from the letter toward the sunny
window were darkened with painful anxiety.

He could see his mother’s pale face before him as he read, her lips set
with that brave firmness that war-time women learned to keep in the
midst of fear and suffering. Even in her letter she tried to hide her
thoughts, and to write hopefully for Bob’s sake, though she spoke
frankly of the trouble they shared together.

“I can think of nothing but Lucy, Bob, wondering when the time will ever
come that I shall see her safe and beyond the power of the enemy. But
since that night you saw her with Elizabeth, I can find courage to hope
again. How strange things are—the dreadful and the good all mixed
together! For I feel so sure that your father would not have made his
wonderful recovery if dear little Lucy had not been there beside him.”

Bob looked up once more, pondering. His reveries these days were one
long rebellion against his helplessness. All his courage and strength of
purpose were not enough to bring his little sister out of
Château-Plessis across the hotly contested battle line. He and his
comrades had all they could do to hold back the German tide, without yet
advancing to retake the town. The success of the American troops at
Cantigny could be repeated at Château-Plessis—must be—but not without
adequate plans of attack and further reinforcements—those reinforcements
that every one wanted at once. “Thank heaven, our men are coming
overseas now at a good rate,” he thought with a sudden hope illuminating
his dejection. “And things seem just endurable in Château-Plessis. The
Boches are few enough there, except those who are flat on their backs.”
For Bob had news from inside the captured town of which Lucy never
guessed.

His restless and unsatisfactory thoughts were cut short by the sound of
a footstep on the stone threshold behind him. He swung around toward the
door, while the newcomer at sight of him exclaimed:

“Here you are, Bob! I’ve been looking for you on the field. We’re to go
up at once. The sergeant is running around with orders just telephoned
from up the line.” The speaker was a young aviator about Bob’s age, so
wrapped up in his leather helmet that little of his face could be seen
but a pair of twinkling blue eyes.

“What are the orders, Larry?” asked Bob, getting up and cramming his
letter into his pocket. “The guns don’t seem to be firing very heavily.”

“No, it’s the same old business. The French observers are trying to get
a peep at Argenton. The Boche scouts seemed to be asleep for a while and
the French made some bold swoops, but now the enemy has waked up with a
vengeance, and if the observers are to see anything they must have some
guards to engage the Boche. Where are your duds? I’ve got to go back to
my plane. You’re to go up with Jourdin, I think. He’s got two fine new
machine guns on his Spad—you ought to bring down half the German air
force with them. Well, I’m going.”

Bob slipped into his flying coat, put on his helmet, picked up half a
dozen things he needed, and went out just as the sergeant met him at the
door with the orders in his hand.

“All right, Sergeant; I’m off,” he said, returning the salute. “Where is
Major Kitteredge, do you know?”

“He’s on the field, sir, or was a minute ago. I think the Lieutenant
will find him near the stables.”

The sergeant pointed across the farmyard to a broad field behind it, and
Bob nodded to him as he started off. The sergeant was a friend of his,
and Bob never had a moment’s talk with him before his thoughts turned
with a pang at his heart to that other friend, Sergeant Cameron, whom he
had left behind in a German prison. He had sent him many packages of
food and comforts since then, and had even received a printed card of
acknowledgment from him, forwarded under Red Cross supervision. But what
were presents of food and tobacco—priceless as they were to the
prisoner—compared with freedom and a chance to strike a blow in the good
cause on such a day as this?

Bob crossed the farmyard and vaulted the fence into the hay-field. The
old barn had been converted into a workshop, and near it stood a dozen
men preparing for flight. Six biplanes were waiting on the field, to
some of which the mechanics were giving a last careful inspection. Bob
found Major Kitteredge beside one of them.

“Good-morning, Major,” he said, saluting. “Any further orders for me?”

“You are to go up as gunner to-day, Gordon,” said the officer, looking
up from the papers he held. “We’re short one gunner, and Jourdin wants
you. He has received all the orders I have here, so he will pass them on
to you. Get off as soon as possible.”

“Yes, sir.”

Major Kitteredge had known Bob when Bob was twelve years old and he, the
Major, was a lieutenant in his father’s company. In their most formal
intercourse there was an undercurrent of friendliness never quite
hidden. He watched Bob keenly for a second now, as the young officer
crossed the field to Captain Jourdin’s side.

“You are here, eh, Gordon?” said the Frenchman, throwing away his
cigarette with a smile of welcome. “Then we will lead the rest and be
the first off the field.” He drew on his gloves and shouted orders to
his French mechanics, who shouted back “_Oui, mon capitaine!_” through
the whirling of a propeller close by.

The big biplane in which Bob now took the front, or gunner’s seat,
strapping himself in behind the two machine guns, was a far different
craft from the little thirteen-metre monoplane in which he had landed
behind Château-Plessis. Foreseeing, that night, that he might have to
dodge and fly for his life, he had chosen one of these swift, strong
little hornets, capable of performing the most breakneck evolutions at
incredible speed. But this morning he and Jourdin were out to face and
force back the enemy, and the heavy-armed Spad was built for combat.

Jourdin gave him the plan of operation in a few quick sentences. The
biplanes were to act each one independently, attempting to drive off as
many as possible of the enemy planes from their own scouts. At the same
time they must keep a sharp lookout for whatever information they might
be in a position to pick up.

“We will fly north to Château-Plessis, then on to Argenton,” he
finished. “Try the speaking-tube, Gordon. All right? _Eh, bien!
Partons!_” he shouted to his mechanic, who responded by giving a twirl
to the propeller which sent it spinning.

Jourdin opened his throttle and pressed forward on the control stick.
They were off down the field in a buoyant, bounding rush. Bob settled
himself comfortably, fastening the flap of his helmet. Jourdin pulled
back his stick, and the machine steadied to a glide, swaying ever so
little. The rushing grass disappeared from alongside and in a moment the
earth had grown a distant scene below.

In ten minutes they were flying swiftly northward at a height of four
thousand feet. Two other flyers had risen from the field after them and
were in close pursuit. No enemy planes as yet disturbed the solitude,
and Bob fell to looking over his machine guns, the cold air of these
high spaces blowing pleasantly against his face. Jourdin led the way
confidently for the little squadron, and where he led any airman was
well content to follow. In half an hour they were over Château-Plessis,
while below them the German trenches spouted fire from long-range
anti-aircraft guns. The bombardment at this point was not heavy, the
enemy’s persistent attempt to push the French and American line further
west having met with dismal failure. A few German airplanes darted up
from their guard over the trenches, but Jourdin had no desire to engage
in battle here. He pointed his machine upward, and Bob had no more than
a glimpse of the little town that meant so much to him, before they had
mounted to five thousand feet, just below the clouds which hung under
the deep blue arch in soft fluffy piles. Below them the enemy planes had
given up the chase. The town was only a little square made up of dots
and lines. Before it, where the trenches ran, rose little smoky puffs
that hung in the still air. Even the bursting of the shells was deadened
to a dull roar. Captain Jourdin spoke through the tube.

“We’ll go a little higher, Gordon, and hide behind those clouds. We
shall sight the enemy any moment now, and shall have the advantage if we
take him unawares.”

While he spoke Château-Plessis was left behind. Argenton was only
fifteen minutes distant. Again he pointed the big plane upward another
thousand feet, into the midst of a great enveloping, smothering bank of
cloudy vapor. The soft, cottony mass gave way, dissolving into clinging
wisps of fog that trailed along with them like streamers. Then they
burst through a hole in the cloud roof into the upper sunlight—a world
of celestial loveliness. Often as Bob had risen above the clouds, he
could never do it without marveling anew at the strange beauty around
him when the airplane pushed its way through the last foggy barriers. No
sky, however beautiful, seen from the earth could compare with the
absolute clearness of the dazzling blue about them. Below, the clouds
were banked again into close, white masses, tinged here and there with a
gold edge where the sun struck them. A mile behind came following two
growing dots—a part of the squadron which, it seemed to Bob, had laid
aside for the moment all thought of battle and, like themselves, were
idly exploring this upper dreamland.

A rift in the clouds below put an end to these thoughts, for through it
he saw eight airplanes darting back and forth, maneuvering for position.
Beyond and below them, near the narrow line of the Avre River, lay the
town of Argenton, and, another mile to the west, the old medieval fort
behind the fortified ridge. Bob turned his binoculars upon the moving
planes, and as he focused the glass he spoke to Jourdin. “Do you see
them? Go down a thousand feet.”

“All right,” returned the pilot promptly. He pushed the stick and the
machine dropped swiftly. Bob could see the Allied emblems now on the
tails of three of the planes. They were French scouts, and the other
five were German Taubes, distinguished by their shape as well as by the
great black crosses painted on their wings. At a little distance another
group was swaying in combat. He shifted his glass to these and saw that
here Allies and enemies were equally matched. Two French scouts and one
American battle-plane were fighting three German fliers.

Jourdin seemed to divine his thoughts, for, without waiting for a
signal, he bore swiftly down upon the Taubes which had surrounded the
three Frenchmen just below and were pouring a deadly fire upon them. The
scouts were willing enough to run away but, unable to do so, were
fighting gamely against impossible odds. Another moment and Jourdin had
brought his plane and its weapons into range. Bob turned the trigger
handle of his machine gun and pumped a hail of bullets into the wing of
the Taube nearest him. He saw the German aviator dart a glance upward as
he tried to get his plane out of range in a quick climbing turn. But,
before he could sheer off, his wing hung warped and crippled, the silk
out almost to ribbons. The pilot pointed downward, making a try for a
landing on one wing, three thousand feet below. Bob saw no more of him.
He turned his gun on a Taube which had abandoned the scouts and was
firing at him with furious and accurate aim. The bullets whizzed about
the big battle-plane, but Jourdin did not remain an easy target. He took
a tail-spin, dropped in short circles for a thousand feet, then came up
again behind the enemy. Two more Americans had now arrived to engage the
Taubes, and the scouts were out of danger. Jourdin spoke into the tube
at Bob’s ear. “We’ll go on west. We’re not needed here. I should like to
follow our scouts, who are making for the defenses.”

As he spoke they mounted a little and flew off toward the edge of the
town marked by the German trenches. A second plane of the squadron
followed them as they crossed the French lines and flew over the enemy’s
trenches, above the fortified ridge. Below, the anti-aircraft gunners
were sending up a continuous fire of shells to hinder their further
descent. Around them hovered the French scouts, vainly endeavoring to
catch a glimpse of the camouflaged defenses through the curtain of fire
and smoke spread out beneath them.

“It isn’t a bit of use,” Bob thought bitterly, after half an hour of
this useless watching. “What can we see from here? We are keeping the
Boches from sending more planes after our scouts, but What does that
amount to?”

As he fumed in helpless impatience, scheming a desperate attempt to
penetrate that curtain of fire, Jourdin’s calm voice, in its
deliberate-sounding English, came to him with a shock of reality.

“We’ll go down now, Gordon. I have orders to report at noon through the
field telephone station near here, behind our lines. Our squadron can be
called together, and at least put some of these Taubes out of the
combat. The scouts can accomplish nothing now.”

“All right,” Bob answered reluctantly. He was roused to the point where
it was hard to give up without having done anything more than scare off
a few German fliers. “Well, the day’s not over,” he consoled himself,
casting a resentful glance down at the German defenses along the ridge,
where smoke and flame were spouting from a dozen batteries. The pilot’s
feet were on the rudder and already the plane was making westward again
across the French lines.

Though Captain Jourdin was flying only temporarily with the Americans at
Cantigny, he had been given orders to report the morning’s events to
headquarters, because he could do so with the greatest ease and
dispatch. To most of the American fliers the country along the battle
line was still a thing to be puzzled out with the aid of maps and
glasses by day, and stars and compass by night. But to Jourdin it was
old and familiar ground, for this part of Picardy was his home, and
these ruined fields and villages he had known since boyhood. Bob thought
of Argenton only as a town half destroyed by shell-fire, a place he
could always find easily from above, because of the still-standing
towers of the old fort behind the blazing line of German batteries. But
to the Frenchman it had a different meaning. It was the little town
whose quaint, cobbled streets he had often passed through on summer days
in his childhood to visit his grandfather, whose old home outside
Argenton was now a ruin. If it was late enough in the afternoon the
peaceful townsfolk had brought their babies out to the old fort to hear
the sunset bugle and see the soldiers change guard. No one would have
believed in those days that the Germans would ever hammer at its gates
and take possession.

Behind the French lines the country stretched in rolling fields to a
burned wood. Jourdin steered for a little clump of larches beside which
was a telephone shack, sheltered by a bit of rising ground. Bob had the
glasses at his eyes, and swiftly picked out a landing-place.

“To the right, Jourdin—make it a hundred yards before you dip. There’s a
nice level bit before those shell-holes begin.”

The pilot leisurely studied the ground, shut off his gas, and glided
beautifully downward until the earth rose to meet them with a rush, and
the wheels of the big plane touched and ran along the grass to a gradual
standstill.

Bob unstrapped himself and got out, glad to stretch his legs. But the
next moment he caught sight of a wire slightly out of adjustment on the
plane’s broad wing, and pointed it out to his companion. “That can’t be
left, Jourdin. Shall I fix it while you go to report?”

“There’s a mechanic in the shack. I’ll bring him out,” said Jourdin. “If
we wait for the repair, let us take this chance to eat our ration on the
ground. We shall have fifteen minutes.”

“Good idea,” said Bob with enthusiasm. As Jourdin walked off toward the
shack he brought out the little packages of food and laid them on a
convenient rock. For a moment he forgot his disappointment at the
morning’s failure. Nothing can rouse such an appetite as flying, and Bob
had not yet learned to enjoy a meal snatched on the wing. He could read,
write, think, in fact do many things during a swift flight, but he liked
to eat on level ground.

When Jourdin returned and set the mechanic to work, the two young
aviators took off their gloves and helmets and, sitting down, devoured
their rations of sandwiches and chocolate, along with a canteen of cool
water.

A gentle breeze was blowing from the west across the blackened fields.
It blew the drifting smoke away from them, and except for the noise of
the shells, it seemed almost peaceful in the deserted meadow. Above them
the airplanes still floated, but none very near. For the time being the
French scouts had given up their search. On a little rising ground not
far off stood a ruined windmill, its burned stumps of arms stretching
out dismally above level shell-plowed earth that had once been a green
wheat-field. There was an old brick chimney near it, too—all that was
left of a little farmhouse. “The Allies have got that much back,
anyway,” Bob thought. “The Boches were here last winter.”

Captain Jourdin had risen to his feet and was looking off across the
fields in silence. More than once in their familiar intercourse Bob had
recognized moments when the Frenchman’s devoted heart was bitterly
wrung, and his whole mind distracted from his work at sight of some such
hard reminder of his country’s fate. The hands clasped behind his back
clenched themselves tightly together as, turning, he said to Bob, “I
remember the windmill when that farm was a prosperous little place. The
farmer had lived there many years.”

Bob could not think of any answer. There was no asking for pity or
encouragement in Jourdin’s calm, melancholy voice. It held more of
resolute defiance than any German’s burst of bravado. Bob thought of the
lines he had read in an English paper a few days before. They were
Spoken by a Frenchman, looking over the ruined fields of France, almost
as though the writer had seen Jourdin’s shining, dark eyes and written
for him:

              And we that remember the windmill spinning,
                We may go under, but not in vain,
              For our sons shall come in the new beginning
                And see that the windmill spins again.

“_C’est fini, mon capitaine_,” said the soldier-mechanic, coming up with
a quick salute and a backward gesture toward the airplane.

Bob picked up his helmet, while Jourdin followed the man over to inspect
his work. Bob looked up into the blue sky, streaked with feathery cloud
streamers, devoutly hoping for better success in the afternoon’s
offensive. A desperate eagerness took hold of him once more. He had
learned a part of the secret of the French soldier’s valor—what it means
to be fighting to rescue one’s family and home—since his father and Lucy
were prisoners in Château-Plessis.

“It is all right now,” said Jourdin, turning, as Bob came up, from a
critical examination of the wing’s supports. “Let us get off at once.
Look there!” He pointed upward to where three German planes were
deliberately crossing the French lines, from which several aircraft
quickly rose to intercept them.

“Most of our little squadron stayed near Château-Plessis to engage the
enemy there,” said Captain Jourdin. “I think we shall be needed to help
drive these fellows back.”

As he spoke so modestly of what might be expected of him, the light of
battle shone in the Frenchman’s eyes. He hurriedly completed his
preparations for flight. Bob, no less eager, seconded him in silence,
with one more quick glance at the planes now circling overhead. In five
minutes they were off down the meadow, and rising swiftly toward the
scene of the fight.

No sooner had the Germans seen the French planes mounting to the attack
than they sent reinforcements from their own lines. Evidently the
persistent hovering of the Allies’ scouts over the Argenton defenses was
beginning to annoy them. According to their usual tactics when suffering
from wounded dignity, they prepared to take the offensive. As the
battle-plane carrying Bob and Jourdin approached a height of six
thousand feet, and came on a level with the combatants, the situation
had not as yet advanced beyond a skirmish. There were eight enemy and
seven Allied planes, not counting the newcomer, which evened the
numbers. Of the French and American planes, three were heavy machines
from the Cantigny squadron, the remaining five light, scouting craft.
The Germans were all armored planes, but three were of a heavy,
slow-going type, almost invincible by bullet fire, but unable to quickly
follow up an advantage. Jourdin gave one keen look around him, as though
summing up the odds, then spoke through the tube to Bob:

“We have a good chance of victory, Gordon, but we’ll have to fight hard
for it!”

Bob was already convinced of that. He caught sight of Larry Eaton on his
left, pouring a murderous fire from his Lewis gun into the heavy German
craft maneuvering beside him. But he also saw the man who skilfully
guided the Boche machine into position for a swift retaliation on
Larry’s flank. This pilot was Von Arnheim, the German for whom Bob had
been exchanged. One of his feet had been rendered useless by shrapnel
fragments, but that had not prevented his returning to the air service.
His steel-blue eyes shone out from behind his helmet with all his old
reckless audacity, and Bob felt his determination harden and his courage
mount to fearlessness at sight of him.

A big German plane swooped down upon him as these thoughts took shape.
He saw the gunner jerking his weapon into range. A bare second quicker
than his enemy, Bob began pumping his port machine gun. A jet of flame
burst out, and the next moment the German machine quivered, its planes
twisted to one side, and like a shot bird it fell from sight.

Through the tube Bob faintly heard Jourdin shout, “To the left—look out!
I’ll put you in range!” He had no time to take breath after his recent
victory, before two more of the enemy were upon him. The privilege of
flying with the famous French ace had its perils, too. Every Boche who
could manage to do so made for Jourdin, hoping to down the hero who,
once already disposed of, had returned by some miracle to active
service. Jourdin brought his machine around in a climbing turn to avoid
one aggressor, while Bob pressed the handle of his starboard gun, hoping
to rid himself of his right-hand opponent. Instead of the burst of flame
which should have resulted, the gun remained silent—jammed.

Bob frantically maneuvered his other gun into position, but the Boche
had opened a deadly fire upon him. Bullets spattered through the wings
and whizzed around him. At the same instant a third enemy descended from
above. Suddenly a machine gun began firing from the other side. Bob saw
Larry Eaton’s face behind it, and the next moment his newest antagonist
wavered, tilted, and the wreck hurtled down six thousand feet to earth.
Bob could catch only a glimpse of this, for Jourdin had grasped the need
of a momentary retreat. He made a tail-spin, fell a thousand feet, then,
having thrown off his enemy, rose in a climbing circle while Bob
remedied the jam in his gun and looked around for further developments.

He had not long to wait. Close beside him a German plane was getting
into range, and now it began a heavy fire in the midst of a series of
plunging dives which did not allow Bob to return the fire with any
effect. Jourdin made another tail-spin, hoping to come up beneath the
enemy, but the German was too quick for him. He dived again and came up
in a swift turn beside the Frenchman, pouring out a hail of bullets. Bob
was at a white heat of rage. “Once more, Jourdin!” he shouted.

The pilot dived again, simultaneously with the German, and this time the
enemy was caught at his own game. Jourdin slowed up and let the other
plane sweep past. As the Boche shot upward he followed close in his
wake, and for the first time Bob poured shot after shot from a range of
a few feet. The big German machine continued swiftly upward, then it
lost speed, fell tail foremost, recovered, and finally nose-dived to the
ground.

Bob drew a long hard breath and glanced below him. The Allies were
holding their own, but two of them were missing. Of the German planes
three were gone. He saw no more than this before another airman made for
him in a climbing turn. The two planes were in easy range and each
gunner began to pour a deadly fire on his opponent. The bullets
spattered around Bob over the big plane and lost themselves in space,
and still both machines remained uninjured. Jourdin maneuvered with all
his skill for an advantage, but his antagonist matched him at every
turn. Bob had not even to snatch a look at the enemy pilot to know whose
hand was on the throttle. Von Arnheim, pale and shining-eyed, sat behind
his gunner as though calmly awaiting victory. But it would not be quite
so easy as that, Bob thought. His mind was wildly excited, so that the
sudden burning pain in his left shoulder seemed to be only a part of his
mad eagerness. Jourdin dipped and rose with incredible skill. The fire
from the enemy was growing haphazard as the target dodged in every
direction, and Bob’s steady hand on the trigger grew steadier as his
brain grew hot and throbbing. Suddenly Jourdin gave a shout. The gunner
of the enemy plane fell forward across his starboard gun. Von Arnheim
snatched at the weapon beside him, but in that second Bob had sent a
burst of fire through his right plane. The German gave one flashing
glance at the torn, bullet-riddled wing, and pushed upon his stick. His
big machine pointed swiftly downward. The next instant Jourdin followed,
but this time Bob’s fire was less accurate in that dizzy descent. At
three thousand feet Jourdin stopped in his downward flight and hovered,
for Von Arnheim, useless wing and all, had guided his plane to a safe
landing inside the German lines.

For a second Bob’s disappointment outweighed all his victories, as his
eyes followed his enemy’s retreat. He had risked death to go down inside
his own lines, and Bob understood that feeling. He thought Von Arnheim
would have it in much stronger measure if he had ever endured the German
sort of captivity. Bob knew that never again could he let himself be
taken prisoner. From the French trenches over which they floated came a
faint sound of voices. He peered over the side of the cockpit and saw
hands and helmets waved in the air. They were cheering! His heart leaped
with a sudden exultation. Then he glanced upward. The Allies were four
to two—victory there, at any rate.

“Jourdin, do you hear them cheering?” he asked through the tube, and as
he spoke a strange and painful weakness overpowered him until he
clutched at the hot barrel of the gun at his right. Cautiously he felt
of his aching shoulder and drew away a hand wet with blood. “So that’s
it,” he murmured. “I’ll have to go back, Jourdin—I’m sorry,” he said,
unsteadily.

The pilot’s quick eyes had already seen the red stain oozing through
Bob’s torn leather sleeve. With a swift touch he sent the plane speeding
through the air at ninety miles an hour, its nose pointed, above the
silver ribbon of the Avre, back toward the safe shelter of Cantigny.

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



                               CHAPTER X

                        THE PLAN OF THE DEFENSES


=IT= was a dull, gloomy day, with rain clouds dissolving into showers at
intervals, and the half-ruined streets of Château-Plessis looked sad and
sodden in their battered abandonment. Only an occasional German soldier,
wrapped in his poncho, or a woman hurrying by with a shawl over her head
passed in front of the hospital. Within, things looked dreary too, Lucy
thought, as in her little cap and apron she helped Brêlet wheel the last
of the convalescents into the hall off the old court of justice. For the
past three days she had undertaken the task of finding amusement and
occupation for fifteen or twenty men on the road to recovery, and she
had found it the hardest kind of work, since her own spirits were none
too high or hopeful. Some of the convalescents were Germans, too, and
Lucy had not quite mastered the Red Cross motto of “Neutrality,
Humanity.”

But to-day she was cheerful and felt equal to doing her very best. The
most trying work grows easier if it is done in pleasant company, and
Major Greyson had obtained from the German senior surgeon an indifferent
consent for Michelle de la Tour to help occasionally among the
convalescents at the American hospital. There Michelle sat now, by one
of the windows opening on the garden, talking to a French soldier with
bandaged eyes. Lucy smiled across the room at her, and in her gratitude
for her friend’s presence on this dark and depressing morning, she
seated herself by the side of a young German, who leaned languidly back
in his chair, still weak from fever.

“What would you like, Paul?” she asked, kindly. “Some water? All
right—in a moment.”

She rose to bring the water and, after satisfying half a dozen other
demands for it, helped Brêlet distribute the few books and papers
available among those well enough to read. Some of the men who felt too
weak to make any effort were wheeled in front of the windows, though the
outlook of driving rain on crumbling walls Lucy did not think
particularly cheering for the wounded poilus. It was extraordinary,
though, how little attention it took to brighten up a soldier’s tired
face. Often a few words were enough to start them talking among
themselves. Of the twenty in the hall eight were Americans, and the
poilus always got some amusement in practising their English on their
new allies.

Michelle, far more inventive and resourceful than Lucy, made up her mind
at once to help find occupation for the convalescents.

“Maman and I have already done so in our hospital,” she said eagerly.
“It is not so hard—though of course we can do little.”

“What, for instance?” asked Lucy, puzzling. “We can’t possibly get any
more papers—except German ones, and the German patients have too many of
those already.”

“No, but there are other ways,” Michelle insisted. “We have many willows
over by Mère Breton’s cottage. I have brought the young branches for our
poilus to cut with the knife and weave _paniers_. Oh, they are glad to
have work in their fingers! Also, Clemence and I dug the clay from the
little brook near the old château. It is far from here. They send a
Boche soldier with us. I know well the place, for Armand and I were
friends, in the peace, with the children of the château. The poilus can
make of the clay all kinds of cups and bowls. I know that is pleasant
work, for Armand and I have made them, when I was sick long ago and he
played with me.”

“I never thought of those things, Michelle,” said Lucy, but in the same
breath she added, doubtfully, “Who will show them how to make baskets?
Can you?”

“Oh, you will find more than one soldier here who already knows. Only we
have to bring the willow twigs, and they will make of them baskets in
one afternoon.”

“I’ll get some to-morrow. I can go to the meadows, if Elizabeth comes
with me. I must stay a while with Paul Schwartz now, Michelle. He is not
well to-day, and I said I would look after him.”

“I will come with you for a moment,” said Michelle, making a wry face,
but hiding her feelings quickly. “They will never let me come here to
help if I do nothing for the Boches. He looks not so _vilain_ as the
rest, I think—like a poor silly boy.”

The German to whom Michelle gave this unusual praise had certainly
nothing bold nor ferocious about him. As he lay weakly back in his
chair, his blue eyes wandered about the hall with a kind of vague
curiosity, his blond hair lying in uncut locks against his pale face.
For the little that Lucy had seen of him, he had been quiet and
melancholy, making few demands on her attention or on that of the
nurses. So far, she had not felt interested enough to ask him questions,
but this morning as she sat down beside him, with sewing in her hands,
she could think of no other way to amuse him.

“Where do you live, Paul?” she asked, wrinkling her forehead a little
over the effort of speaking German. Michelle laughed at her labored
accent, but the soldier understood her, and his dull, blue eyes lighted
up a trifle at her words.

“I come from the _Schwarzwald, Fräulein_,” he answered, nodding his head
slowly as he spoke, as though for him the simple fact was full of
meaning.

“Oh, do you?” said Lucy, suddenly reduced to silence. His words held a
strange meaning for her, too. The Black Forest, in which she had never
set foot, was familiar ground, nevertheless. All Elizabeth’s stories in
the old days had been about it. It was full of gnomes and elves—that she
knew. The people you first met when you ventured into it were Hansel and
Gretel, going toward the house built of cake and candy. She had never
thought of German soldiers living there.

“What did you do in the forest, Paul?” she asked vaguely.

“I lived there,” said the soldier, his interest growing with awakening
recollection, “in my little house with my family, just inside the
forest’s border. I am a wood-cutter and we had a fine herd of pigs. The
market town is not three miles away—I had a donkey, too.” The light died
out of his eyes as he looked gloomily down at his injured leg. Lucy
thought she had never seen a man so unfitted to be a soldier.

“How long have you been fighting?” asked Michelle, her eyes lifted
suddenly to his face.

“About—three years.” The German seemed uncertain. “Yes,” he added,
nodding thoughtfully, “it must be all that time since the day I got my
papers and was told to join my regiment. At the village I heard how the
Russians were getting ready to invade the Fatherland. Then how the
English would attack us on the other side. At first my wife hoped they
would not call me—there were so many others. They said, too, that we
could quickly beat the enemy. But they did call me.” He ended with a
dull melancholy that took the little life out of his face. “I had to
leave everything and go. I don’t know how things are with Hedwig now.”

“But the Russians weren’t invading Germany,” said Lucy indignantly,
while Michelle flashed a warning glance at her. She lowered her voice,
but finished obstinately, “Nor the English, either.”

“Yes, that is what we heard,” maintained Paul, indifferently. “Our
Kaiser called us to defend the Fatherland. It was all strange to me, for
we don’t get much news there in the forest.”

Michelle smiled at Lucy’s flushed and angry face. “It is no use to talk
with him of that,” she said in English, with a shake of the head. “He
would not understand you—not in many days. The Kaiser told him.
_‘Allons! Marchez!’_—that’s all he knows.”

Lucy was silent a moment. “Were you ever in the Black Forest, Michelle?”
she asked, giving up her argument.

“Oh, yes, often. Two summers I have been there. It is beautiful—so big
and still.” Michelle’s eyes shone with the words, as though at the
remembrance of happy summer days gone by.

“What are there in it besides Germans?” Lucy asked, smiling to herself
at the question.

“Bears,” said Michelle, laughing—“and many animals. Herds of pigs, too,
like this man’s. Many wood-cutters live near the border. And, further
in, are lodges for huntsmen.”

“I’ve always wanted to go there,” said Lucy rather sadly. “I don’t care
so much about it now.”

“Oh, it is lovely still,” Michelle objected. “Perhaps when the war is
ended the Germans will not be so many there.”

“I have a pretty little girl,” Paul interrupted them. “She has hair like
yours, Fräulein.” He pointed to Lucy’s corn-colored head with one
upraised finger. “She must be four—five years old now.”

Lucy smiled faintly. She tried to imagine this man on the battle-field,
engaged in a fierce hand-to-hand fight for the Allies’ trenches. He was
the very opposite to Karl’s brutal and aggressive type, yet he was
driven forward by the same irresistible force of blind obedience.
Perhaps more than one Allied soldier had met death by his hand.

The vision of the firing-line led her thoughts back into another
channel, with a quick pang at her heart that was half fear and half
eager anticipation. The coming night Elizabeth would be off duty, and
the time had come for a second visit to Captain Beattie’s prison. The
evening promised to be dull and rainy. Lucy was thankful at the prospect
of cloudy darkness in place of summer starlight. Michelle had crossed
the hall to visit another convalescent, and Lucy rose, too, nodding
good-bye to Paul, who had relapsed once more into silent apathy. Her
mind was so filled with the evening’s expedition, and with her desire to
talk to Michelle about it, that her thoughts wandered for a moment. The
American soldier, by whom she had sat down to translate a French paper
of a month back, remarked shrewdly as he glanced at his little nurse:

“Got somethin’ on your mind, Miss?” He bent down to her ear and spoke in
a loud whisper. “They haven’t pushed on again? Look here, you don’t want
to believe all these Fritzes tell you!”

“No, no,” said Lucy, smiling, “they haven’t got on an inch. Major
Greyson says he can tell by the guns, when he goes to the depot at that
end of the town. Shall I read you this?” she asked, looking over the old
paper again. “You’ll have to be patient, though, for I can’t translate
French very fast.”

At noon she got the moment with Michelle for which she had been waiting.
She caught her friend by the arm as she was returning to the nurses’
room to take off her cap and apron.

“Michelle, wait a minute! What about tonight?” she asked eagerly.

Michelle darted a look of angry reproach from her blue eyes. She drew
Lucy after her in silence into the room and over to a window opening on
the deserted garden.

“Oh, Lucy,” she faltered, “will you not be careful?” She caught Lucy’s
hands in hers and looked entreatingly into her downcast face. “Do you
know it is my brother’s life—his life, that is in danger if they should
suspect me? There are Germans all around us here, waiting to learn of
any help given to their enemies. If they suspect me they will watch our
house—they will catch Armand if he come——” She spoke so low Lucy could
hardly hear her, but she understood and hung her head in sharp remorse
and shame.

“I’m sorry, Michelle. I’m an idiot,” she said humbly.

Lucy had not Michelle’s long and bitter experience to develop her powers
of caution and concealment. She was not made for a conspirator, and her
frank and candid nature did not easily get used to a life in which walls
had ears as truly and as perilously as in any old story of intrigue and
adventure.

“Can we talk safely here, do you think?” she asked timidly.

“Yes, but speak softly,” said Michelle, flashing a forgiving smile. “You
wish to tell me the hour when I should look for you?” she asked, once
more growing grave and earnest.

“Yes. We will be there as near to nine o’clock as possible. Of course we
can’t be sure.”

“Come to the door by the garden path—you know? I will have ready all
that we can spare. It is little.”

“Oh, he’ll be glad to get it. I can’t bring much from here,” said Lucy.
She had nothing to give but a part of her own scanty food, but
remembering the young Englishman, half-starved in his dismal captivity,
how trifling her sacrifice seemed.

“I will watch for you. Oh, Lucy, I hope all goes well!” Michelle’s eyes
were troubled as she spoke, but Lucy, feeling courageous at that moment,
smiled back at her, saying:

“Don’t worry. The night will be too dark for any one to see us. Look,
there’s Clemence.”

The old Frenchwoman, returning from the food-depot with her basket, was
standing outside the garden gate, glancing doubtfully past the sentry
toward the hospital window. Michelle bade Lucy a hasty good-bye and,
drawing her pass from the pocket of her dress, made for the door into
the garden.

Elizabeth had taken on herself the task of setting the nurses’ table and
bringing in their food, so as to watch over Lucy and see that she had
enough to eat. It was lunch-time now, and Lucy left the window to help
in carrying in the meagre supplies. A platter of baked potatoes, a pot
of coffee and two slices apiece of coarse black bread, was what the
nurses sat down to after a hard morning’s work; but they were hungry
enough to find it good. Lucy was, too, but curbing her appetite, she
managed in the course of the meal to slip her two potatoes and a slice
of bread into her apron pocket unnoticed. It was little enough, she
felt, to take a hungry man, but the dairy supplies were strictly
reserved for the wounded, and she saw no chance of getting to Mère
Breton’s cottage that day. She could only hope, with Michelle’s help, to
eke out a tolerable meal.

She felt the injustice of not confiding in her faithful companion the
real need for their visit to the prison. But she had promised Michelle
not to reveal a word of her brother’s possible coming to any one but
Captain Beattie.

As on the night of their first visit, Lucy made a pretense of going
early to bed. She had no difficulty in leaving the empty house
unobserved, and ten o’clock found her and Elizabeth on their way to the
eastern edge of the town. The rain still fell and the wind blew in gusts
around the street corners, and, sweeping through the shell-holes in the
walls, brought down loose bricks which fell with a sodden crash. Lucy
and Elizabeth had coats wrapped closely about them, but in a few moments
they were drenched by the warm pelting downpour. Their feet stumbled
among loose stones and splashed into puddles. Lucy stared helplessly
ahead into the darkness, trusting entirely to Elizabeth for guidance.

In half an hour, not having met even a sentry, they stole up the garden
path to the side door of the de la Tours’ house, and Michelle instantly
admitted them.

“Oh, poor things! But you are wet like from the river! Sit down, Lucy,
_ma pauvre amie_. Stay one moment by the kitchen fire,” she exclaimed at
sight of the soaked and bedraggled visitors.

“Oh, no, we can’t wait,” said Lucy, pushing her wet hair from her face,
eager to get on and accomplish her purpose before her courage failed.
“It’s only a warm rain, anyhow—I rather like it.”

“Let me go with you?” begged Michelle, bringing out a little basket she
had got ready and looking entreatingly at Lucy. “Maman has gone to bed.
She will not know to be afraid for me. I do not want that you should
have all the danger.”

“No, no, Mademoiselle!” Elizabeth hastily interposed. “Enough it is that
I fear for Miss Lucy. You can nothing do to help, and much better you do
not go.”

“She’s right, Michelle. There’s nothing you could do. I’m going to bring
the paper he gives me here to-morrow so that if—so it will be safe.” She
had almost blurted out Captain de la Tour’s name. When Elizabeth was
risking so much to help them, it seemed absurd to Lucy that Michelle
should still suspect her. A startled look sprang into the French girl’s
eyes, but Lucy gave her a reassuring smile to show that she had not
forgotten her promise, and cautiously opened the door. “Good-bye,
Michelle,” she whispered.

In another moment they were out in the rain again, with the little
basket of food carefully protected beneath Elizabeth’s shawl. It was but
half a mile further to the prison and after fifteen minutes’ walk
through the empty streets, Lucy stood once more before the barred
windows in the wall. The drip, drip of the rain against the stone was
the only sound except the occasional boom of a cannon from the watchful
German lines. Elizabeth had taken up her post commanding the window of
the guard-room, but to-night a curtain was drawn to shut out the rain,
and all was silent inside. Even German guards relax their vigilance with
so little to fear as in deserted and ruined Château-Plessis. They knew
their prisoners were securely barred and bolted in.

Lucy grasped the wet iron and pulled herself up a step to the window’s
level, softly calling the young officer’s name. No sound came back but
the steady drip of the rain which fell upon her upturned face.

“Captain Beattie!” she said again, imploringly.

Some one stirred on a rustling straw bed and footsteps sounded on the
stone floor. Then the Englishman’s voice from just inside the bars asked
uncertainly, “Is that you, Lucy Gordon?”

Then with a little more of its natural energy the voice out of the
darkness added, “But you poor child, what a night to be out! Why did you
come again?”

“I told you I would,” said Lucy, peering through the bars in a vain
attempt to see beyond them. “This sort of night is the safest to come.
The rain doesn’t hurt me. I have something for you, Captain Beattie. I
can’t get the basket through the bars. Will you hold out your hands?”

“You’ve brought me some grub, you little friend in need!” exclaimed the
prisoner with a sudden shake in his low voice. “Can you honestly spare
it? I bet you can’t.”

“Oh, yes indeed; I have plenty. Here, I’ll put the things into your
hands. They are only two baked potatoes, some bread and eggs and a
little chocolate. Be careful—all right, I see now where your hand is.”

“I hate to be a funker, but I’m horribly hungry,” admitted the young
officer, as his careful hands drew in the contents of the little basket.
“They give us the most beastly food. I’m all right, though—I get along.
But it’s jolly to have a friend like you.”

The attempt at cheerfulness in his sad voice struck at Lucy’s heart.
“I’ll come often, Captain Beattie. I’ll bring you all I can,” she
promised eagerly.

“No you won’t, Lucy. You mustn’t. You don’t mind if I call you Lucy?
I’ll tell you why I like to. I have a little sister named Lucy—at least
she was a kid like you before the war, when we used to be together. Now
she’s eighteen, and learning to be a nurse; but I always think of her as
a little girl.”

“Of course you may call me that. I’m so glad if I can cheer you up the
least bit. Didn’t I tell you that my brother Bob was in a German
prison?”

“Yes. See here,” said Captain Beattie suddenly, “how about that brother
of yours? I don’t suppose he’s been able to pull off that stunt again?”

“No, but I want the plan of the defenses. Bob may not come again, nor I
get word to him, but I’ve found another way.” She stopped for a second,
looking fearfully back into the rainy darkness, then turned once more to
the window and told him of the chance of Armand de la Tour’s coming.

When she had finished her listener was silent for a moment, then he said
slowly, “It’s pretty doubtful that he will get into the town again.
Still, those French spies have incredible skill and daring. Anyway, it’s
a chance, and I’ll give you the paper. I have it all ready and hidden in
the straw of my bed.”

He went further back into the room and after a minute returned to the
window. “Can you put it where it will keep dry, Lucy? It’s only drawn on
a scrap of the paper they gave me to write home with.”

“Oh, yes, I’ll keep it dry,” Lucy promised, her heart beating high with
hope as she took the folded slip from the young officer’s hand.

“I don’t like to give it to you,” he said doubtfully. “It’s beastly
bringing you into danger. I’ve camouflaged it pretty well. You’ll see
that it looks like a little sketch of German soldiers changing guard,
here in the road. The crooked road I’ve shaped like the ridge at
Argenton, and each group of men stands for a battery. That’s all you
need tell the Frenchman. Of course it isn’t complete, for I couldn’t
learn everything, but it’s enough to give our airmen and gunners the
exact range. Oh, what luck, if you could really contrive to get it over!
I can’t help hoping, though it may be silly. You’ve managed to do so
much already under the Boches’ very noses.”

“I can’t make Captain de la Tour come,” said Lucy wistfully. “But if he
does I’ll surely get this to him.”

“Now go, Lucy. I can’t bear to have you out there in the rain, and I
don’t feel so sure of their not seeing you. It’s so jolly to have you to
talk to, I’m selfish and hate to let you go.”

“I’m coming again,” said Lucy, smiling with pleasure at his words and at
the happy knowledge of success in this much of her plan as, dripping
wet, she clung with aching fingers to the rusty bars. “What do you do
all day, Captain Beattie? How I wish I could make things better for
you.”

“I don’t do anything. I sit, and walk up and down and then sit again,
and wonder by the hour when we’ll begin to push the Germans back. Then I
look at these bars and convince myself I can’t get out, and end by
longing for the next meal—if you could call it a meal. I’ve tried
tapping on the wall to the soldiers next to me, but either they have
gone or the stone is too thick. They don’t answer.”

At this dismal picture Lucy sighed. She knew how such confinement had
tried Bob’s active spirit and overcome his power to resist sickness when
it came. She was about to offer some words of feeble encouragement when
a muffled step around the corner of the building made her hold her
breath in terror. The next moment she dropped to the ground and crouched
on the wet earth in the shadow of the wall. A German soldier came
sauntering by, looking up at the barred windows from under his rubber
hood. He seemed to have no particular duty here, for he walked along
humming to himself, as though on his way to bed. Before he passed the
window beneath which Lucy crouched trembling, another figure came up
behind him, splashing with heavy boots through the muddy pools.

“Is that you, Franz?” asked a guttural German voice.

“Yes,” responded the man in front, stopping to wait. “You off guard,
too?”

“For three hours—not time enough to sleep,” grumbled the first speaker.
“Why don’t they send enough men to garrison the place, if these empty
streets must be watched like treasure-chests?”

“Because the front line needs more watching still,” said the first man,
pausing to cover his rifle carefully with his rubber cape. “Those
American devil-dogs are getting nasty. You know the little hill with the
old _Schloss_ on it? There’s our weak point, if you ask me. How could we
hold the pond and swamp below when they won’t spare us artillery for the
hill? I’ve been on guard there to-night, and I tell you we couldn’t. I
know that much without wearing shoulder straps.”

“You seem to know a lot,” remarked the other man, still bad-humoredly.
“Suppose you tell me where we are to get supper to-night.”

They passed on out of hearing, and Lucy, breathing fast with terror,
sprang up from the ground. “Good-bye!” she whispered to the darkness of
the window, and fled swiftly but with infinite caution through the mud
and water of the road, toward the place where Elizabeth waited.

The talk she had just heard meant little at first, when her mind was
filled with the wild thought of flight. But the gruff words, spoken in
that language she had learned to hate, stuck in her memory as vividly as
did the two disconsolate figures standing in the rain before her
hiding-place.

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



                               CHAPTER XI

                         A CHANCE IN A THOUSAND


“=IT= looks like a regular workshop. Oh, Michelle, I’m so glad you
thought of it!” exclaimed Lucy, looking around the hall with admiring
eyes. Almost every convalescent soldier had a lump of clay or some
willow splits in his fingers, of which he was trying to fashion
something pretty or useful, generally without much success. A few of the
poilus and Germans were expert basket weavers, and one potter was among
them. The rest knew enough to get along with help. As for the Americans,
they caused more amusement than had been heard among the men in a long
time. Not one of them could weave the willow splits into a symmetrical
shape, and only one succeeded in making of the clay anything more than a
dumpy jug. This was a little red-headed westerner, who formed his lump
into a dozen animals in as many minutes, to the great interest of the
Frenchmen about him, ending the exhibition with a figure of a cowboy on
horseback, waving a lasso made of a willow sliver.

It was not the quality of the work that made the two girls proud and
delighted at the result of their hard labor. It was the atmosphere of
interested occupation and rivalry, so different from the listless
melancholy that takes possession of a roomful of idle men. The work was
trifling and almost useless, but it was far better than nothing, and
Lucy felt well repaid for her hot walks and the heavy loads carried in
her aching arms.

It was two days since her visit to the prison, and she had spent the
intervals from work in vain attempts to scheme out a means of getting
her precious paper to the Allied lines. One idea she communicated to
Michelle, rather expecting to be laughed at.

“Do you think we could tame one of the pigeons that fly around the
hospital roof, Michelle? It could take the message so easily.”

“But this is their home,” Michelle objected. “You must have a bird who
longs to return across the lines—who is a stranger here. There were many
like that guarded here last month by the French _état-major_. I do not
know where they are now.”

“What an easy way that would be, and what a safe one,” Lucy thought this
morning as she went back and forth among the convalescents, giving
encouragement since she could not give advice, and seeing that each man
had material to work with.

“Oh, how too bad we must give so much to the Boches!” whispered
Michelle, as Lucy picked up a handful of splits for Paul Schwartz to
finish his neat basket.

“But we have to,” said Lucy, resignedly. It was the sight of the German
soldiers working away at the materials furnished by the hard efforts of
the two little aides which had caused the German surgeon in charge to
give Lucy a brisk nod of approval in passing. She felt more angry than
gratified at this condescending reward for her trouble, but she knew his
good will was necessary if they were to continue helping the French and
Americans.

“I cannot stay long with you this afternoon,” said Michelle a few
minutes later, when all the patients were again supplied with
occupation. “Poor Maman does not get up to-day. She has a bad cold from
coming in the rain from the hospital.”

“I’m so sorry, Michelle. Could I do anything to help? I suppose the
French doctors can give you what she needs?”

“Yes. But one thing I would like to ask of you. I am not sure if you can
do it.” The French girl gave her friend an appealing look as she said,
with a more natural childishness than she had shown Lucy before, “I am
very lonely while Maman is ill. If you could come and pass the night
with me—I would be grateful.”

“To-night, Michelle? Of course I will! I know how I can manage it. I’ll
go home with Elizabeth—no one objects to that—and she can leave me at
your house. It will be late, though. She can’t leave here before ten.”

“Oh, how glad I shall be of your company!” Michelle exclaimed, her face
instantly brightening. Then her lip curved to a mocking smile as she
added, “What could we do without that _chère Boche_, Elizabeth?”

“Laugh at her all you like,” said Lucy, unruffled. “I know her better
than you.”

“I do not laugh at her,” Michelle protested. “But to be friend with her
seems strange. Never I thought to trust in one of that country again.”

“Oh, Michelle, that’s not quite fair,” Lucy began, but her arguments
died away on her lips. She had no right to lecture Michelle, who had
seen the worst and would be more than human if the name of German were
not hateful to her. “You’ll know before long that Elizabeth can be
trusted,” she contented herself with saying.

“Oh, yes, _sans doute_,” answered Michelle, unconvinced, but anxious to
make amends for her frankness. “You will come to-night then, Lucy? I
will wait for you.”

The eagerness in her eyes made Lucy respond quickly, “I certainly will.
I may be late, but that can’t be helped. I’m never sure when Elizabeth
can get off.”

“Then _au revoir_, and thank you,” smiled Michelle, stopping on her way
down the hall to carry a handful of wet clay to the American cowboy
artist. He in turn presented her with a clay buffalo, quite lifelike
with its lowered head and threatening horns. “Only mind you don’t break
off the horns,” he cautioned.

“I’d ’a’ given that little Mamzel a fair treat if I hadn’t been skeered
to try it,” he confided to Lucy, after Michelle’s departure. “I wanted
to make her a little Boche soldier—square head, pig eyes and all—with
one of our boys getting a good swipe at him with a bayonet. I’ll do it
yet.”

“Hush!” said Lucy, laughing, but glancing apprehensively around. “You
mustn’t talk about Boches so loud, Tyler.”

At the end of another hour she went off duty in the hall to help
Elizabeth bring in the nurses’ supper. At the first opportunity she
explained the promise made Michelle.

“You’ll take me with you, won’t you, Elizabeth?” she asked anxiously.

“Oh, yes, Miss Lucy, I think so. In the morning I stop to bring you back
after I get the basket full from the little farm. Only,” Elizabeth
added, looking earnestly into Lucy’s face, “promise me you don’t by
yourself to the old prison go.”

“I promise—if you’ll take me there soon again,” said Lucy, thinking
sadly that the little stock of provisions she had left Captain Beattie
must be already gone. “I hope you can leave early, Elizabeth,” she said,
returning to the evening’s plan. “If you can’t Miss Pearse will make
such a fuss.”

She was happy at the chance of doing Michelle a service, as well as at
the prospect of seeing her friend for longer than a hurried hour.
Elizabeth was more sympathetic this time, too, than when Lucy had
proposed the other expedition. Elizabeth did not encourage patriotism or
daring on Lucy’s part, and, if she had had her way, would have kept her
in safe seclusion.

She did her best to get through her long day’s work early, and it was
not yet ten o’clock when she left Lucy at the side door of Michelle’s
house. Lucy was instantly admitted, and her hostess gave her a warm
welcome.

“I thought perhaps you do not come, and I feel so sorry,” said Michelle,
smiling with pleasure as she took Lucy’s cape from her shoulders. “Maman
is asleep, and Clemence working in the kitchen, because she stayed with
Maman to-day while I was at the hospital. You know we give the breakfast
every morning to the German sentinel on this street.”

“You do!” cried Lucy, indignantly.

“Yes, we must. Come and sit here by the candle,” said Michelle, leading
the way into the little parlor, “and show me what gave you the English
_capitaine_. You said that I should see it.”

“Of course. I’m going to leave it here with you, anyway. It’s the first
chance I’ve had.”

Michelle glanced keenly toward the windows, across which calico curtains
were drawn, as Lucy raised the hem of her dress and, ripping a few
stitches, drew out a folded slip of paper. The two girls sat down at the
table on which the flickering candle burned, and Lucy spread the paper
out before them.

“I’ve hardly done more than peek at it myself,” she remarked. “You’ve
made me so cautious, Michelle, I don’t do anything without stopping to
think if it is safe.”

“I am glad of that,” said Michelle, soberly. “It is better you should be
too careful than to forget once that the Boches are always listening.
Oh, see; he has drawn it like a picture, that the danger may not be so
great for you.”

Lucy remembered the Englishman’s brief explanation as she bent over the
little sketch, and repeated it to Michelle. The drawing was cleverly but
roughly made with quick strokes of the pen, and, to her eye at least,
would have suggested nothing suspicious. Beneath it were scrawled the
words, “Changing the Guard.” The six groups of German soldiers, leaning
lazily on their guns as they awaited their orders to relieve the various
out-posts, might have been seen any day from Captain Beattie’s prison
window. As for the curving line of the road as he had drawn it, only an
observing eye would notice that the road behind the prison had really
far less width and fewer windings. The flower-beds sketched in beyond
completed the zigzag outline. Lucy saw it all now, with a rush of
comprehension. The carefully measured lines behind the lounging figures
of the guard were the bastions of the great fortified ridge at Argenton.
The soldiers were the hidden batteries whose locations had been the
object of such deadly and ineffectual search.

“Oh, Michelle,” she sighed, filled with eager and helpless longing, “I’d
do anything—anything—to get this over to our lines.”

“And I, too,” exclaimed the French girl with flashing eyes. “But what
can we do? We can only wait.”

Lucy frowned in bitter rebellion as she folded the paper once more and
slipped it carefully into her pocket.

“I must return to Maman,” said Michelle, picking up the candle. “Perhaps
she is awake again.”

Lucy followed her friend up the narrow, dingy stairs, and, as she did
so, her exasperation began to give place to a pleasanter and more
helpful feeling. She looked forward to spending the night in the de la
Tours’ little house. Though they were in enemy hands this house still
kept some of the elements of home. Its neat, simple interior, and the
united affection of the three who made up the family—for Clemence was
one of them by virtue of hardships long shared in common—meant much to
Lucy after her days in the crowded hospital and nights in the
half-furnished house across the street.

Madame de la Tour was lying awake, but she declared that her sleep had
made her feel much better. “There is no need to remain up for me, _mes
enfants_,” she said decidedly. “But I am glad you came, _ma petite_,”
she added, taking Lucy affectionately by the hand. “My Michelle is very
happy to have your company.”

“I wanted to come. It’s lovely to be in a real house—in somebody’s home
again,” said Lucy warmly, her eyes filled with sympathy and pity as she
looked at the fragile little figure in the bed—an old French peasant
bed, with clumsy wooden side boards.

“Then try to have a good night’s sleep,” urged Madame de la Tour, fixing
her bright eyes on Lucy’s face. “Your checks are grown thinner than I
like to see them.”

Lucy was glad to go to bed in these surroundings and made no objection
when Michelle led the way with a candle to the little chamber next her
own. Old Clemence slept just now on a sofa by her mistress’s side.
Already, down below, they could hear her noisily bolting doors and doing
her best to secure the broken windows by fastening the shutters. The two
girls talked a while together, for their sleepiness was not quite proof
against the many things each wanted to hear about the other. But
presently Michelle stole out to see that her mother wanted nothing, and
coming back took up Lucy’s candle and wished her good-night.

“I must wake you very early in the morning, you know. How good it will
be to have you here for breakfast,” she said with friendly satisfaction
as she went away.

For the first time in many nights Lucy slept deep and dreamlessly as
though she were safe at home again. She could not believe the night was
over when, at the first peep of dawn, she woke to find Michelle standing
at her bedside, her pretty black hair tumbled about her shoulders and
her eyes still heavy with sleep.

“I am very sorry I must call you from the bed so early,” she apologized.
“But I must help Clemence to-day, before I go to the hospital. It is for
that we take the breakfast as soon as it grows light.”

“All right,” said Lucy, yawning and stretching herself awake before she
added, “I have to be ready early, anyway, for Elizabeth will stop for me
at seven o’clock. I’ll help you, too, Michelle. What do you have to do?”

“Not so much,” Michelle responded, sitting down for a moment at the foot
of Lucy’s bed to comb her hair free from its curling tangles. “I make a
little coffee for Maman, while Clemence is preparing breakfast for the
sentinel. He eats well, _ma foi_!”

“Oh, to think of having to feed him!” exclaimed Lucy, tossing about in
her indignation. “Sometimes when I first wake in the morning I can’t
believe we really are in the German lines. It seems too awful to be
true.”

“It is much better now than when the Boches make their first capture of
the town,” said Michelle, the brightness dying out of her face with the
words. “Then there were many more here—a regiment. They were proud with
victory and cared for no one’s prayers. They went into the houses,
stealing all they found. Maman and I for two days hid in the hospital.
When the officers made again a little order in the town we returned to
poor Clemence—for she would not leave the house, rather, she tell us,
she will stay and fight the Boches who enter. But for all her scolding
they take away the little food we have, and Maman and I must go and beg
for bread from the sergeant at the _Commissariat_. For wood, also, we
must beg, for the soldiers take all we have, and it was February—very
cold—with snow upon the ground.”

As Michelle spoke her quiet voice became filled with trembling
indignation. She let fall her hair upon her shoulders and pressed her
hands together, while her blue eyes shone with the bitter resentment
reawakened. She had told Lucy but a tenth part of the suffering and
humiliation of those days which, far from being safely past, might be
repeated at any moment. Lucy’s indignant sympathy was for an instant too
strong for words, and the next Michelle had regained her self-control.
Rising from the bed she exclaimed with a kind of scornful impatience at
herself:

“It is no good to think of those bad times! Enough that is bad we have
still with us.” She turned to smile faintly back at Lucy as she said
more cheerfully, “We must have a pleasant breakfast together, so you
will like to come and give me your company again.”

Lucy dressed very thoughtfully, her mind filled with the glimpse
Michelle had given her of that terrible past which had been even harder
to endure than the uncertain present. Now Lucy better understood the
look that had arrested her attention at first sight of Michelle’s face.
Lucy had thought that she herself was bearing much, and with passable
courage. But how much smaller her trials seemed when compared with
Michelle’s long years of suffering and anxiety, borne with no other
companion than her frail little mother.

When she finished dressing and ran down-stairs Michelle was already in
the dining-room, engaged in setting the table with a breakfast of hot
pea soup and two slices of coarse black bread. Lucy knew it was the best
the house afforded, and she felt reluctant to eat of the precious little
store. But evidently her company was worth far more to Michelle than a
few mouthfuls of food. The French girl had cheered up from her
melancholy, and greeting Lucy with a bright smile, made place for her at
the bare wooden table.

“Oh, Lucy,” she exclaimed, “if only you had come to see me four years
ago, what a nice breakfast I should have given you!” This was the first
reference Michelle had ever made to her beautiful old home which was now
a ruin. “But perhaps,” she added thoughtfully, “you never would have
come to France without this war.”

“But after the war I’ll come again, Michelle,” said Lucy eagerly. “I
don’t think a friendship begun like ours can ever be forgotten. France
and America will never seem so far apart as they did. We won’t think of
France any more as a foreign country.”

She looked across the table at her friend for response to her sincere
enthusiasm, for Michelle had fallen suddenly silent. Lucy followed her
eyes in astonishment, to where they were fixed on the little door which
led from the back of the room down to the cellar. As she looked closely
at it, trying to discover the cause of Michelle’s motionless attention,
she saw that it was not quite shut. Before she had time to think
further, she saw the door pushed open, and a German soldier entered the
room.

The spoon in Lucy’s hand dropped on the table. A bewildered fear took
possession of her. The soldier was a tall, stalwart blond, with dusty
and mud-stained uniform, as though fresh from active duty. As he stood
there against the door he had closed behind him he panted a little, and
his face, seen in the shadowy light, though young, looked haggard and
lined with weariness. This picture formed itself in an instant on her
mind. The next she heard a trembling cry from Michelle’s lips. The
soldier pushed off his little round cap and held out his arms.
“Michelle!” he said.

“Armand!” Michelle answered, in a voice that was half a sob. With one
bound she had crossed the floor and thrown her arms about the soldier’s
neck, while over his tired face broke a smile as sweet and radiant as
her own. “Oh, Armand, _cheri, why_ did you come? _Mon Dieu_, why did you
come!” was all she could say in the first moment of her joy and terror.

“I had to come, to learn that you were safe,” he said unsteadily.

Lucy’s heart had given one leap, and now it began racing furiously, as
her paralyzing fright changed to different emotions. Fear for Michelle’s
brother, in the deadly peril in which he had placed himself, and a
thrill of admiration at his daring exploit, were mingled with the wild
delight of knowing that Captain Beattie’s paper was safely in her pocket
ready to be confided to the Frenchman’s keeping.

While these thoughts chased each other through her mind, Michelle turned
from her brother, with blue eyes shining in her white, frightened face,
to say tremblingly in English, “Oh, Lucy, it is Armand! My friend,
_cher_ Armand, Mademoiselle Lucy Gordon, who knows all we hope and fear.
A brother she has, too, with the Americans.”

Captain de la Tour stretched a friendly hand to Lucy, with a courteous
bow which seemed strange to her from a man in German uniform. He spoke
English without Michelle’s difficulty.

“Gordon? Is your brother Lieutenant Gordon, the aviator? Then,
Mademoiselle, we are not strangers. I have brought him news of how
things are in Château-Plessis. For once since the capture I crossed the
lines, but could not manage to reach this house.”

“We have something to give you—something that will help the Allies,”
stammered Lucy, almost choking over the words in her realization of
success at last in sight.

“Truly? But first of all I must see Maman. She is up-stairs, Michelle?
Ill, you say? In bed?” He ran to the stairs, while Michelle, half mad
with anxiety, called Clemence from the kitchen and in a few hasty words
bade her watch the street and the entrance to the garden.

“I’ll watch from the other side,” Lucy offered, but Michelle objected:

“You can see better from above. All should be well, and if not, we have
no way to forbid that they come in. He will stay only a few minutes. The
guard is not changed before two hours more, so not till then will the
sentinel come for breakfast. If only it did not grow light so soon!”

Up-stairs, Armand was kneeling by his mother’s bed, questioning her
about her welfare with feverish eagerness.

“I had no peace not knowing that you were safe,” he said in answer to
his mother’s reproaches, made in an agony of fear. “How could you think
I would not come?”

Lucy stood by the front window breathing fast, her face flushed and
burning in the cool morning air. Outside, the sentry was lazily pacing.
He passed the house perhaps once in fifteen minutes, but this time he
had turned toward it with a curious glance that set Lucy in a frenzy of
uncertainty. He had not the look of suspecting that an enemy spy was in
the neighborhood, but the house seemed to interest him. Perhaps, Lucy
thought, with a rush of hope as he passed on, he was only longing for
the hour of relief and the sausages and potatoes awaiting him.

She turned back to the room, where Armand was telling of his entrance
into the town, interrupted by a hundred questions from his mother and
Michelle. There were such endless things to be asked and answered on
both sides, and Lucy herself would have given much for a few words with
him. She was listening to his rapid talk, following the French with an
effort, when a loud knock sounding on the front door echoed through the
house.

Captain de la Tour sprang to his feet, his body alert and his blue eyes
flashing. Michelle, seizing his hand, with ashy cheeks and quivering
lips, entreated him, “Hide, Armand! Come quickly—in my room!”

The young Frenchman gave a quick shake of the head. “If they suspect me
all concealment is useless. You forget I am well disguised. Do as I say
and nothing more. Go down, Michelle, and do not deny a German soldier is
here.”

He listened intently as Michelle silently obeyed him. His mother, white
and motionless, waited likewise for signs of what was taking place
below. Clemence had admitted some one, and now they heard her voice
protesting, and a man’s voice, short and surly, in reply. Then Michelle
interposed, calm and conciliating. Steps crossed the floor of the hall
toward the stairway. There was no time for any plan, Lucy thought
wildly. But in the moment that Clemence preceded the intruder up the
stairs, Captain de la Tour had drawn from his gray tunic a note-book and
pencil, and, standing by his mother’s bedside, began jotting down notes
with a steady hand. Clemence, red-faced and terrified, ran into the
room, her hands wound frenziedly about her apron. After her came the
German sentry, a frown on his heavy face and curiosity lighting up his
eyes. At sight of the occupants of the room he made the suggestion of a
bow, but he offered no apology for his intrusion as, fingering his gun,
he stared at Armand’s tall, commanding figure.


[Illustration: “WHAT’S YOUR BUSINESS HERE?”]


“Hello, mate,” said Armand in German, looking quietly up from his
note-book, as Michelle followed the soldier into the room.

Lucy could not restrain a gasp of amazement at the scene before her. She
knew Michelle’s wonderful self-control, and did not so much marvel at
her hastily assumed look of angry annoyance, unmixed with the least sign
of her mortal anxiety. But to see delicate little Madame de la Tour
lying back on her pillows with an expression of cold exasperation, her
eyes, glancing from Armand to the sentry, saying plainly that one German
soldier had been quite enough without another forcing himself upon her,
was such a wonderful change from her helpless terror of a moment past
that Lucy could hardly believe her eyes. Even the German sentry looked
uncomfortable before the little French lady’s calm and silent dignity.
He shuffled his feet awkwardly as he answered, with a nod at Armand:

“Hello! You a stranger? What’s your business here?”

“Because I’m a stranger to you doesn’t mean I’m one to the whole town,”
returned Armand, with a twitch at the corner of his mouth, as though
hiding a smile at his own wit. Then, in a more friendly tone, he added,
“However, I’ve no objection to telling you my business. I’m detailed
from the third regiment up the line to help here in the supply depot.
They’re making a new list of the population. The food’s not holding
out.”

“I know that well enough,” grumbled the sentry, his inquisitive look
changing to one of gloomy dissatisfaction. “Much good you can do about
it.”

“Now suppose you tell me what you are doing here?” suggested Armand,
with a return of his faintly mocking tone.

The sentry leaned on his gun a little sheepishly as he answered, “I’m
supposed to keep an eye on who goes in and out along this street.” He
did not care to confess the real motive for his precipitate entrance.
Seeing a fellow soldier enter the garden path and disappear in the
shrubbery, he had been seized with a greedy suspicion that the newcomer
had designs on his breakfast. A chance shortening of his usual beat had
given him this glimpse of Armand, and he had shortened it once more to
enter the house after Lucy had watched him pass.

To change the subject he inquired amicably, “The third, did you say you
belonged to? That’s in the trenches now, isn’t it? How did you get off?”

“Two days only,” said Armand, without enthusiasm. “I’m on sick leave.
Light work, they call this.” He closed his note-book and slipped it back
inside his tunic.

“Well, are you ready to go?” asked the sentry, restored to good humor.
“I’d like some company as far as the end of my beat. I suppose you’re
not going nearer the meadows than this? There’s no one living there.”

“No, I’m starting back now,” said Armand. He turned toward the bed where
Madame de la Tour lay, and giving a slight, stiff bow murmured,
“Good-morning, ladies.”

The sentry, moved by force of example, made a faint bow likewise, and
followed his companion to the stairs. Motionless and silent, Armand’s
mother and sister watched him go. They heard him engaged in friendly
conversation with the German in the hall below, where Armand paused to
get his cap from the dining-room. The next minute the door slammed
behind the sentry’s heavy hand and their footsteps sounded on the stone
flags outside.

Lucy and Michelle with one accord rushed to the window. Armand and the
sentry were walking slowly down the street. With another few steps a
projecting wall hid them from sight. Michelle was shaking from head to
foot, and the hand that touched Lucy’s was icy cold. But she overcame
herself enough to return with Clemence to her mother’s side and give
poor Madame de la Tour the comfort of her presence at that moment. Lucy
had not their awful anguish of fear to endure. It was not her brother
who walked the streets of Château-Plessis in imminent danger of
recognition and certain death. But she was almost as wretched as they in
the bitterness of her disappointment. She felt an unreasoning confidence
that Captain de la Tour would manage to reach the Allied lines in
safety. His nerve and coolness were powerful weapons among the
dull-witted German soldiery. But he would return without the slip of
paper which she had dared so much to obtain, and which might have
brought safety and freedom to them all.

“Twice I’ve failed,” she thought, as with choking throat and eyes
blurred with tears she sank miserably down on the little window-seat.
“Oh, it seems as though any one could have done better than I!”

Before the occupants of the room had collected their stunned and
bewildered thoughts, a second knock sounded on the front door, this time
a gentler one.

“That’s Elizabeth,” exclaimed Lucy, starting to her feet, and winking
the tears from her eyes. At the same moment an idea occurred to her at
sight of Michelle’s white face, and Madame de la Tour’s pitiful struggle
for hope and courage. “Michelle, I’ll ask Elizabeth to find out about
your brother. To learn where he goes and if he gets safely away. She can
go among the soldiers and ask them any questions without being
suspected.”

“No, no! I beg you!” cried Michelle, suddenly restored to speech and
movement. “Never could I trust her with Armand’s secret!” Her blue eyes
had lighted up with that never-forgotten dread and terror of every
German.

Lucy opened her lips to say frankly that her doubts were absurd, and
that now, if ever, was a time when Elizabeth could be of service and
could relieve the agony of Madame de la Tour’s mind. But unwilling to
argue the subject before Michelle’s mother, she drew her friend toward
the stairway instead, saying, “Come down with me while I let Elizabeth
in. I want to speak to you.”

Michelle agreed, but as they descended the stairs she forestalled Lucy
by repeating earnestly, “You must not tell the German woman of my
brother! Enough enemies he has already.” Her voice broke as she ended,
the deadly fear at her heart overwhelming her once more.

Lucy had reached the lower floor and stood staring into the dining-room,
uncertain what to say or do. For Elizabeth, receiving no answer to her
knocks, had become anxious for Lucy and had entered the house, left
unlocked since Armand’s departure. She stood there within a few feet of
them, and the day was bright enough for Lucy to see by her face that she
had heard Michelle’s words.

Michelle gave a gasp herself, but Elizabeth did not wait for either one
to speak.

“You need not fear me, Mademoiselle,” she said quietly, and Lucy thought
she had never seen in that little figure so much proud dignity. “I am
not among the enemies of your brudder, since for France I suppose he
fights. When I tell Miss Lucy I am pro-ally, it is that I am changed in
heart and soul—not only in my tongue. Better you trust me and that we
together work, for else it is little good that I can do.”

For a moment Michelle was silent, for the struggle in her mind was too
intense for words. But at the end of that short pause she spoke, and the
hatred and suspicion had left her voice. Grief and anxiety alone
remained as she said falteringly, “I will trust you, Elizabeth. You must
forgive me that I could not before. I think I do so truly now.”

“Only time will show you that I am true,” replied Elizabeth, still with
a little hurt accent in her voice, as though she felt Michelle’s
conversation was not yet complete. “It is not for love of France that I
have turned against my country. It is for love of Germany.”

“Michelle,” said Lucy, breaking in, fearful the new alliance would not
withstand an argument, and wildly anxious to make use of Elizabeth’s
help, “I’m going now, and—I’ll do all I can. You trust me, too.” She put
her arms around Michelle’s neck, with all the warmth of her sympathy and
understanding, and looked into her face. In her eyes she read unwilling
consent, and no further objection came from her lips. “I’m going to tell
her,” Lucy whispered, absolving herself from her promise. “I’ll come
again as soon as I possibly can.”

The next moment she and Elizabeth were outside in the street, walking
silently back in the direction of the hospital. Lucy gave a keen glance
about her, and seeing only ruined desolation on both sides, quickly
began telling Elizabeth the story of Armand’s coming, and of the
miserable ill-luck that had prevented the delivery of Captain Beattie’s
message. “Elizabeth, what Michelle didn’t want to tell you was that her
brother is making his way out of the town now. Can’t you discover for us
whether he gets safely out? They are in such awful uncertainty.”

“I will try, Miss Lucy,” Elizabeth promised. “Tell me how he looks, and
to what regiment he pretends that he belongs.”

Lucy gave all the details she was able, and, as she spoke, the
realization of her failure came over her again in a bitter flood of
disappointment. “Oh, Elizabeth,” she groaned, feeling a desperate need
of her old nurse’s comforting affection, “to think I should have such a
chance and miss it! A chance we can never hope will come again.”

Elizabeth could not see Lucy unhappy and remain unmoved. Her dark eyes
tenderly softened as she said, with a vain attempt at the consolation
beyond her power to give, “Ach, dear Miss Lucy, be not so sad! Long ago
when I was a child, there comes to our house a so kind old man, the
friend of my father. When any of us children wished long for something
he would say: ‘Remember the proverb: Many times your cake may to coal
turn, but the last time come fair from the oven.’”

“I don’t want to hear your old German proverbs!” were the words that
rose angrily to Lucy’s tongue. But she kept them back. Instead, after a
little silence, she said very thoughtfully, a resolution, as yet vague
and uncertain, waking to life behind her words, “I think the best
proverb is one that an American made up: If you want a thing done, do it
yourself.”

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



                              CHAPTER XII

                          MRS. GORDON AND BOB


=AN= hour after Mrs. Gordon received news that Bob was wounded she had
turned over her little flock of orphans to a fellow-worker’s charge and
was on her way to Cantigny. Her companion had almost more work of her
own than she could manage, in spite of her cheerful willingness to
accept the added responsibility. Mrs. Gordon felt conscience-stricken at
imposing the task upon her, but nothing at that moment could keep her
from her son, if she must walk every step of the way to reach him. The
telegram was scarcely a reassuring one. It said, “Wounded, degree
undetermined,” and it had taken twenty-four hours to come the short
distance.

At the moment that she set out, however, fortune favored her. A big
motor-lorry, loaded with stores, was crawling along the village street,
and a Q.M. officer, to whom she had already appealed for transportation,
crossed the street at sight of her, saying:

“Here’s your chance, Mrs. Gordon. I’m so glad we can manage. This lorry
is going to Cantigny and will be faster traveling than the railroad. I
can’t offer you anything but a seat with the driver.”

Mrs. Gordon thanked him from the depths of her heart in a few hurried
words, as he stopped the lorry and helped her to a place beside the
soldier at the wheel. “Make as good time as you can, Adams,” he said.
“No short cuts, though. Keep well out of range.”

It was only fifteen miles to Cantigny directly northeast, but the
necessary détours made the real distance nearer twenty-five. The road
was full of holes and cut up into ruts by the heavy traffic to and from
the front. On every side the ruin and desolation of blackened shell-torn
fields and woodland overpowered the beauty of the springtime, still
struggling to show itself in nooks and corners that had escaped the
cannon. The soldier at Mrs. Gordon’s side, a lanky, pleasant-faced New
Englander, withdrew his eyes from the road occasionally to look at his
passenger with pity and a kind of troubled helplessness in his glance.

Mrs. Gordon had begun preparing for her journey immediately after
reading the telegram. She had not yielded to a moment’s weakness or
inaction, but had gone methodically through the details of turning over
her charges and getting herself ready. It was a hot, sultry morning, and
in her preoccupation she did not realize how hard she worked in the hour
before leaving. Now, seated in the lorry, with two hours at least of
waiting before her, her courage seemed all at once to give way, and the
dreadful suspense she must endure became unbearable. Her vivid
imagination saw Bob seriously wounded, perhaps dying, and wondering why
she did not come. The sight tormented her so that she sank her face into
her hands, welcoming the hard jolting of the heavy vehicle as at least a
momentary distraction from her suffering. Her husband had been given
back to her, and could she hope that Bob would be spared too? Then,
remembering Lucy, she unreasonably hoped again. Surely Lucy’s captivity
was enough to bear, and nothing further would be asked of her just now.

“I got a little cold water here, Ma’am,” said the soldier, breaking the
sound of the laboring motor with an embarrassed cough. “This dust is
sure the limit.”

Mrs. Gordon looked up at him and read the sympathy in his eyes. He held
out to her a full canteen, and she took it gratefully, for the
dust-clouds had dried her throat in the first half hour of travel. The
dust stuck to her face and hands, too, and powdered her clothing, but
she hardly noticed it. She unscrewed the canteen and poured a little of
the water into her mouth. It was cool and refreshing and, as she
swallowed it, she tried hard to get back a little courage and calmness.
She had by nature plenty of both and, in a moment, handing back the
canteen to the soldier with a word of thanks, she clasped her hands in
her lap and looked about her. She could not tell how far they had come,
for the landscape was much the same, except that a church tower, with
its belfry shot away, rose now from the woody distance.

“When do you think we shall get to Cantigny?” she asked longingly.

“Well,” was the thoughtful answer, “sometimes I make it in two hours,
but that ain’t often. I’ll do the best I can, Ma’am. We’ll be there by
noon, sure. It’s not but ten now.” He glanced at the pale face beside
him, and at the delicate hands clasped so tightly together and added
diffidently, “Don’t feel so bad, Ma’am. The Lieutenant is a strong young
feller. He’ll come out right enough.”

“Do you know him?” asked Mrs. Gordon, surprised.

“Sure I do. I took over this bus full of stuff for the aero field only
last week. Lieutenant Gordon checked off my list, and when he got
through he nodded to me and says, ‘Good work, Adams. You really brought
everything you were supposed to. How did it happen?’ I had to laugh at
that, Ma’am, because the truth was I did forget a bundle of wire, and
the Sergeant called me back for it.”

Bob’s mother tried to smile at the soldier’s story, though the
remembrance of Bob’s health and cheerfulness was small comfort now. But
she had controlled herself, dreading to become ill and useless at the
end of her journey if she yielded longer to her fears. She straightened
up resolutely against the hard seat and in a moment answered the man’s
kindly encouragement by saying, “Oh, I have good hope that he is not
seriously wounded. What part of the United States are you from, Adams?
Where is your home?”

It was hard to interest herself in the account the Yankee willingly
poured forth, but nevertheless she managed it. In return, the time
passed more quickly for her, and her nerves grew steadier.

It was about a quarter past twelve when at last they entered Cantigny.
It seemed a whole day to Mrs. Gordon that she had sat enveloped in the
dust of that endless road, but on the whole the journey had been a quick
one. She turned to the soldier with brief thanks and farewell, as they
drew up at the steps of the house made into a hospital. An officer
appeared in the doorway and Mrs. Gordon, summoning all her reserves of
courage, in case she should have to hear the worst, asked hurriedly:

“Lieutenant Gordon, Captain? How is he? I am his mother.”

She never afterward forgot the smile with which the surgeon promptly
answered, “You may stop worrying right now, Mrs. Gordon. Your son had a
bullet through his shoulder muscle; but what’s that to a strong young
man?”

Not until that moment did Mrs. Gordon realize the dread she had endured.
Now that the fear was lifted from her heart, she leaned weakly against
the doorway, tears blinding her eyes, and hardly knew that the surgeon
had taken her arm and was urging her to follow him. But the next minute
she was herself again, strengthened by her longing to see with her own
eyes that Bob was safe. The surgeon led her into a good-sized room made
into a ward, which could accommodate about twenty wounded officers.

He had no need to point Bob out to his mother. In a second she was
beside him. He was leaning against his pillows with one arm and shoulder
closely bandaged, but his face was not pale nor his bright smile changed
as he cried out at sight of her:

“Mother! I knew you’d come! Oh, I’m afraid you’ve been dreadfully
anxious.”

Mrs. Gordon could hardly speak, but her eyes told her that Bob was safe
and the touch of his cool, strong fingers swept her last fears away.
Near by, on a cot half hidden by a screen, lay a young man tossing about
and muttering to himself. His face was flushed and a wide bandage was
wrapped about his head, from which the brown hair had been cut away.
Mrs. Gordon turned back to Bob with unspeakable thankfulness in her
heart.

“I knew you’d be worried,” he said, with a frown of anger at sight of
his mother’s pale face. “I was in such a hurry to get off the telegram,
for fear you would hear the news some other way, that I bungled things.
The obstinate old sergeant here copied the message right off the card
they pinned on me at the dressing-station, before they examined my
wound. I told him to say ‘slightly wounded,’ but nothing could make him
change it.”

“Never mind, Bob dear. I know now that you are all right,” smiled Mrs.
Gordon, sinking down on the little chair beside the cot with a sigh of
peaceful weariness. Her face and hands were grimy with dust, but she did
not think yet of her discomfort. “Tell me all about it, Bob—how it
happened,” she begged. “They let you talk, don’t they?”

“Yes, indeed. They let me do anything but shrug my shoulders, and I
don’t particularly want to do that.” Happy in his mother’s presence and
in the knowledge that she was freed from anxiety about him, Bob began
telling the story of the fight in which he was wounded. A quarter of an
hour passed quickly while Mrs. Gordon listened with fascinated interest,
too proud of Bob’s skill and daring to wish him more prudent, but sadly
fearful for the future in the midst of her satisfaction. His account was
cut short by the sound of a footstep at the door of the ward. Bob paused
to look up, then forgot his story as he called out with a welcoming
smile, “Come on in, Harding! Here she is at last.”

While he spoke a young Infantry Captain with a bandaged hand crossed the
room, holding out his sound left hand to Mrs. Gordon. A frank, merry
smile, that no hardships had yet robbed him of, lighted up his face at
the pleasure of the meeting.

“Mrs. Gordon!” he exclaimed, “I _am_ glad to see you.”

“Dick! You here too?” cried Mrs. Gordon, starting to her feet.

He took her hand and, looking earnestly into her tired face, the smile
faded from his lips and he said remorsefully, “If I’d only known in time
I’d have gone to you myself with the news of Bob’s wound, and saved you
all this worry. I’m convalescent and could have got off.”

Mrs. Gordon patted the young officer’s shoulder, looking at him with
friendly affection. “I know you would have, Dick. Thank you for thinking
of it. But tell me what you’re doing here. You’ve been wounded again?”
Her eyes shrank a little from the sight of his bandaged hand, for Dick
Harding’s first wound had been a serious affair, and well remembered by
the Gordons, for it was coincident with Bob’s capture and imprisonment.

He held up his hand to show her, saying reassuringly, “It’s nothing this
time—just a bullet wound. Fingers are all right. Sit down and tell me
about yourself.” A shadow stole over his face and his eyes saddened as
he added, “Don’t talk about Lucy if you don’t feel like it, but I’ve
thought of her so much. I can’t think of anything else.”

Mrs. Gordon’s eyes filled with sudden tears at his words. His grief and
sympathy were so sincere and real that the little he said meant much to
her. He had suffered with them during Lucy’s captivity, and she and Bob
had no secrets from him.

“I have nothing to tell you, dear Dick,” she said unsteadily. “The news
Bob brought is the last we have.” As she spoke her thoughts went back a
year to Governor’s Island, to Lucy’s and this young officer’s pleasant
friendship. How long it seemed since the July morning that Lucy had
waked her to tell her that Dick’s regiment had gone.

“I can’t help hoping for the best,” Captain Harding was saying when she
listened to him again. “It seems so wonderful that the Colonel has
recovered and that Lucy has found that precious old Elizabeth to watch
over her. With such good luck I keep looking for more, and, do you know,
I’m almost sure it will come.”

It was faint enough consolation, but somehow it cheered Mrs. Gordon a
little. She smiled at the young officer, thanking him in her heart for
his determined optimism. At the same moment a nurse came up to offer her
a cup of tea and a chance to wash her dusty face and hands. Beginning to
realize her travel-stained appearance she gladly accepted, leaving
Captain Harding at Bob’s side for a few minutes.

“Dick,” said Bob thoughtfully, after his mother had left the two alone,
“I’m going to tell her my scheme. It’s only fair.”

“Your plan to bring Lucy out?” asked Captain Harding, ruffling his hair
with a nervous hand, while the troubled anxious look returned to his
face. “It seems—almost impossible. No, I won’t be a wet-blanket,” he
added quickly, as Bob frowned at him. “I don’t blame you for attempting
the impossible. It’s beyond endurance to leave her there, and we don’t
seem much nearer to recapturing the town.”

“It’s a question of getting some of the information we need or of
waiting for reinforcements for a mass attack along this front. I _can’t_
wait any longer without trying something. Mother is worrying herself
sick. If I landed once behind Château-Plessis why can’t I do it again,
and even recross the German lines in safety, with help from you fellows
on this side?”

“May I join you, comrades?” asked Captain Jourdin’s voice from a few
steps away. The Frenchman had paused on his way across the ward for
Bob’s invitation, which was not slow in coming.

“You’re just the person we wish to see!” Bob exclaimed, reaching out a
hand to his friend in warm welcome. “It was bully of you to come over.
No flights this morning? There’s another chair for you, Dick,” he added
to Captain Harding, who had yielded his own seat to the aviator.

“Yes, but I came down again early. Things are quiet along the line since
last night. What is your discussion, if I may know?”

“It’s about trying to bring Lucy out of Château-Plessis. Now don’t shake
your head and say it’s a difficult undertaking. I know that well enough,
but I’m going to try it.”

“Then it is not my advice you wish, but my assistance,” remarked the
Frenchman. “Tell me your plan and I promise you all the help in my
power. I will lead a guarding squadron to keep off enemy fire—is that
what you wish?”

“Just exactly,” said Bob with enthusiasm. “I don’t see why it can’t be
done. Anyway, once over their lines, I’ll know if I can bring her safely
back. Lucy could crouch down in the observer’s seat so as to be almost
entirely sheltered.”

“And you, Harding?” asked Captain Jourdin. “You will direct your
anti-aircraft battery? That will be ticklish work at night, but you can
keep the Boches wary and unwilling to fly. Once they are up you cannot
do much.”

“I can scare them off a part of the line—enough for Bob to make a safe
crossing. Our trenches are very near theirs at that point. I’ll need
search-lights, of course. With luck we might even find a night when they
did not fly. They seem decidedly short of scouts around Château-Plessis.
They have massed them at Argenton.”

“But it seems to me you are two wounded men. How are you to accomplish
all this?” inquired Captain Jourdin, in the puzzled tone of a man who
thought the adventure more gallant than feasible. Before his mind’s eye
came some of the many airmen—Allied and enemy—he had seen fall to death.
Bob’s chance of safety was no more than theirs, and Lucy must helplessly
share his danger.

“I’ll be up in a week—the surgeon said so,” Bob insisted. “And Harding
is all right now. He expects they will let him out in three days.”

Captain Jourdin rose quickly at sight of Mrs. Gordon, who was just
reëntering the ward. “Your mother has come, Gordon!” he said, with keen
surprise and pleasure. “She knows of your plan—we may talk of it?”

“No, but I will tell her right now,” said Bob. “I certainly can’t try it
without her consent.”

Jourdin had met Bob’s mother in Governor’s Island days, and now, in the
midst of common fears and perils, they seemed rather friends than
acquaintances. Mrs. Gordon greeted him warmly as she joined the little
group, looking herself again with the dust quite got rid of.

“What were you saying, Bob?” she asked, smiling at her son, from whom
she could hardly take her eyes.

Bob told his plan without delay, and Mrs. Gordon, paling a little,
listened in silence until he had finished. She no longer felt as she
would have a few months ago at hearing such a proposal. She had endured
so much, and had seen such terrific obstacles overcome by skill and
daring, that she hesitated to call any feat impossible. It was dreadful
to her to think of Lucy’s share in such a desperate venture, but no more
dreadful than what she was bearing every day in the knowledge of her
captivity.

“What can I say?” she asked, her voice shaking a little. “It seems a mad
attempt, but if there _is_ a good chance——” She turned to the Frenchman,
fancying that his willingness to help Bob outran his confidence of
success. “Would you have proposed this yourself, Captain Jourdin?” she
said earnestly. “You have had more experience than Bob—does it seem too
foolhardy to you?”

Jourdin considered a moment, his fine, candid face grave and thoughtful.
“We have first of all to make known our coming to Mademoiselle,” he said
at last. “Successful in that I shall be eager to go on. If the firing is
heavy we must come back without her, that is all.”

Captain Harding stirred in his chair, frowning as he inquired
doubtfully, “How about the old man? I can’t see him allowing his
squadron to go off like that on private business.”

Major Kitteredge, thus referred to, did seem a stumbling-block, and for
a moment Bob could find no reply. “Oh, well, he can only refuse,” he
said finally. “I’ll ask him. He’s coming to see me to-morrow.”

“Anyway, Mrs. Gordon, it is a very indefinite plan yet,” said Captain
Harding, thinking Bob’s mother had endured enough anxiety for one day.
“Nothing can be settled until Bob is well, and you know how many things
may happen before then. Château-Plessis may even be retaken.”

Here the conversation ended, for so many uncertainties entered into the
project it was hard to talk it over. Mrs. Gordon had only that day to
remain with Bob, and the other two officers rose to leave her alone with
him.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Early on the following day Mrs. Gordon returned to her duty, and, soon
afterward, Bob had his conversation with Major Kitteredge.

His superior officer had been very kind about paying him short visits,
and the old friendship between them would ordinarily have made Bob speak
boldly. But this time caution urged him to be wary. He had narrowly
escaped disaster the night he returned from Château-Plessis, and he
doubted much that his chief would sanction a second visit there, or
would believe in its possible success. He broached the subject nearest
his heart by idly remarking:

“Funny, isn’t it, Major, how different the discipline of the Aviation
Corps is from that of the other arms of the Service. I mean, every man
is more or less on his own—he can carry out his plan, once he is in the
air, without consulting anybody.”

“You mean he can obey orders in whatever way he thinks best,” Major
Kitteredge corrected. “He is always following out a plan from
Headquarters, though it may be a vague one. He can’t, for instance, sail
off and drop bombs on Frankfort, if he has been told to harass the enemy
troops at Montdidier—though both are praiseworthy objects.”

Bob was silent a moment. “Yes, of course,” he assented. “But if an
aviator asked permission to make a certain flight over enemy territory
his superior would probably consent, wouldn’t he?”

“For instance?” asked Major Kitteredge, looking keenly at him.

“Well, I know a fellow who is anxious to cross the Boche lines near here
for reasons of his own. A risky flight, as it happens, but worth it to
him. I wonder if he can get leave.”

“Reasons of his own? You mean he chooses to take great risks on a flight
of no military value? No, his commander ought to refuse him leave,” said
Major Kitteredge frankly.

“But if he—took the flight, and—let the cat out of the bag later?” Bob
persisted.

The elder officer still kept his eyes on his companion. It was fairly
plain that he guessed who the fellow was of whom Bob spoke. Watching his
chief’s face, Bob oddly remembered an incident of long ago in the West,
at Fort Leavenworth, when he had watched that same face with equal
anxiety. Bob had coaxed the driver of the Q.M. ambulance which took the
post children to school to let him drive the four frisky mules. Neither
he nor the soldier had counted on passing Lieutenant Kitteredge on the
lonely road just outside the reservation. How Bob had hoped that morning
that the young officer would not raise his eyes to the driver’s seat and
notice this serious breach of orders. Bob had already been punished once
for it. It seemed impossible that the Lieutenant should not see him, and
he scorned to hand over the reins at the last second, even if it could
have been done in safety. The officer slightly turned his head and cast
a glance in their direction, then he looked straight up the road again,
as the ambulance rolled swiftly by. Bob’s boyish heart had warmed with
gratitude for that friendly blindness. He pulled up the mules, handed
the reins back to the driver without a word, and climbed over to his own
place.

It was his eager study of Major Kitteredge’s face now that brought this
little scene so vividly back. Would he be generous once more, in this
new favor that Bob sought, and ignore what he could not approve?

“So you want to go into Château-Plessis again, and bring Lucy out?” was
the surprising answer he received after a long moment. To Bob’s “How did
you guess it?” look Major Kitteredge added, smiling, “You’re a great
conspirator, Bob.” Then, grown serious again, he said slowly, “It’s a
hard question to answer. I hesitate as much on Lucy’s account as for
other reasons. She must share all the danger.”

“But if Mother consents——” Bob put in eagerly.

“At any rate, you can do nothing until you are fit for duty,” declared
Major Kitteredge. “You know how useless it is to plan a week ahead. Wait
until you are well, and then we’ll talk about it.”

Bob was willing to change the subject for a while. He stretched his
injured shoulder carefully, to try its strength. “Another week and I’ll
be back on duty, Major. It’s tough, waiting all this time. I’m so afraid
we’ll commence a push and I shan’t be there, after hoping so long for
it.”

Bob believed that a week would see him back at work, but the surgeon
thought differently, and it was ten days after Mrs. Gordon’s departure
when he returned to duty. His desire to get on with the plan for Lucy’s
rescue had only increased with the delay, and now he was determined to
make at least a beginning. Major Kitteredge could not object to his
communicating with his sister and arranging some signal which should
announce their coming when the attempt was made. It was a beautiful
morning, with a cloud-flecked sky ideal for his flight over
Château-Plessis. The firing along the line was light and scattered. He
could surely hang over the meadows, in and out of the veiling clouds,
with a fair chance of discovering Elizabeth on her daily round. It was
still early enough to meet her on her morning trip across the fields.

He had a bundle of papers, containing Lloyd-George’s latest speech,
beside him on the farmhouse floor. One copy he had spread against a book
on his knee, and was carefully pricking it full of holes.

“That you, Jourdin?” he called out, hearing a footfall outside the door.

“Yes,” was the answer, as the Frenchman entered the room with his quick,
light step.

“Good. Come and help me with this message, will you? I want to say as
much as possible in a few words, so Elizabeth can read it quickly. See
what you think of this.”

He held the sheet of paper to the light, and was about to decipher it
when Jourdin, laying a hand upon his shoulder, interrupted him.

“I am very sorry, Bob,” he said. “We cannot think of this now. I came to
tell you that we must go up at once. The Boches are out in force over
Montdidier, and half our little squadron has engaged them. They need
help quickly.”

Before he finished speaking Bob had sprung to his feet. The German
airplanes were always thick around Montdidier. He knew what straits the
Americans must be in if they had encountered a full squadron of their
heavy-armed Fokkers.

“I’ll be with you in two minutes,” he said. “I’ve been feeling ever
since I got up that something was going to happen to-day, but I couldn’t
tell what. Blessings on my shoulder for getting well just in time.”

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



                              CHAPTER XIII

                          THE PRICE OF VICTORY


=EIGHT= members of the squadron had remained in Cantigny, and these now
took to the air—two biplanes and four light monoplanes. Both Bob and
Jourdin were in single-seaters this time; little craft in which the
pilot must trust to speed and dexterity of handling for his defense.
Bob’s heart beat high with hope and confidence as he rose from the field
into the bright morning air. They were pointed south for Montdidier, and
in ten minutes’ flight the monoplanes had outstripped their heavier
comrades. Bob carefully examined his guns and everything within reach in
the cockpit. His little plane was flying beautifully; the rhythmic pulse
of the engine told him all was in perfect order, and a world of glorious
opportunity opened again before him. The last days in the hospital had
filled him with restless longing. His efforts in Lucy’s behalf were for
the time being thwarted, and for that very reason he must put in good
work to-day against the Boches.

Jourdin flew right ahead of him and Larry Eaton was in a third monoplane
at his side. In twenty minutes they had neared Montdidier and, above the
hot fire from the German trenches, there came swiftly into view the
battle in the air. Bob had taken part in several fierce engagements and
had grown familiar with the wild thrill that comes with plunging into
conflict at thousands of feet above the earth. But, as the little
reinforcing squadron drew nearer to the city, he realized that this
fight was the greatest he had ever seen.

The air was so filled with planes whirling hither and thither, in
furious attack or swift retreat, and the noise of the nearest propellers
made such a volume of sound that he could make but a vague guess at the
numbers engaged. Gathered together into squadrons, or pursuing each one
his enemy independently, the airplanes were fighting in and out among
the clouds above the whole of Montdidier and far beyond the city. Bob’s
thoughts got no further than this in his momentary confusion, when, from
a group a few hundred yards in front, a German Albatross scout darted
toward him.

He needed no more than this to restore his coolness and determination.
He saw the black crosses on the little plane’s silvery wings, and the
wide muzzle of the machine gun, into which the German was fitting a belt
of ammunition. His own gun was already loaded. The two weapons crashed
out together, the bullets spattering over both moving targets; then each
swooped lightly out of range to maneuver again for the advantage. Bob’s
tactics were different now when no heavy metal body protected him. His
Nieuport could not withstand the hail of bullets that Jourdin’s
battle-plane had received in the fight above Argenton, and to use his
guns he must swing his whole machine into range. He glanced quickly over
the cockpit and saw that the fire from the trenches was too distant to
be dangerous. He was flying at just nine thousand feet. The next instant
his enemy came up from below him, trying for a shot at the tail of his
machine. Bob dropped in a spin, then paused to discharge a stream of
bullets on the German’s flank. His enemy dodged, but failed to return
the fire. Bob guessed why. His gun was jammed. The German ran away
northward, Bob following. The two machines were fairly matched in speed.
Another German, scenting danger for his comrade in the escaping plane,
made northward too. A third plane followed, and as Bob turned his head
to see if this last were friend or foe, the pilot’s hand was raised in
greeting, and Larry Eaton signaled with a quick gesture that the second
German was his quarry.

Bob nodded agreement and, putting on speed, flew after his retreating
foe. He was soon making a hundred miles an hour and the summer air, thin
and cold at this height, cut sharply against his face and made welcome
the protection of his leather coat and helmet. The German was speeding
too, in spite of having to clean and reload his guns. In another moment
he dived so suddenly that Bob flashed right over the spot where he had
been, as his enemy mounted in a climbing turn directly underneath. Bob
passed too swiftly to receive a close hit, but the German managed to
deliver a broadside which cut holes in Bob’s left plane and sent bullets
whizzing against the cockpit and about his head. Now Bob was in front,
his enemy following. Not liking this new arrangement, Bob himself dived,
circled up at terrific speed, and fired a burst at his pursuer as the
latter was grasping his stick for a plunge. For a second Bob thought he
had downed his foe, for the German plane wavered and one wing tilted as
though the shots had fatally injured it. But the next moment the plane
righted itself. The sudden turn the pilot made in seeking to escape the
broadside had caused his machine to veer to one side. The wing was cut
by bullets, but not more than Bob’s own. Before Bob could bring his gun
to bear again upon his shaken enemy, the German darted upward at
lightning speed and vanished in a soft white cloud.

Bob hovered, reloaded his guns and, picking up his binoculars, looked
around for Larry and the antagonist he had pursued. How had Jourdin ever
managed, he wondered, to send down the forty-eight enemy planes the
famous ace had to his credit. It seemed to Bob sometimes as though the
winged fighters were almost invincible. His best efforts, when he flew
alone, were usually rewarded by seeing his enemy elude him uninjured.

A cloud lay right beneath him, but as he peered down, searching for the
other planes, it floated by, leaving a clear view of the distant earth
below. To Bob’s astonishment he discovered that he was over
Château-Plessis. There, off to his right, were the wide meadows so
familiar to his eyes. Directly beneath was the town itself, looking
half-ruined on the side nearest the meadows, but growing less damaged
toward the centre. His surprise once over at the distance he had covered
from Montdidier, his feeling was one of keen regret. His father and Lucy
would see the fight above their heads and suffer all the pain of
suspense and uncertainty. Their conquerors would give them no news of
the battle unless they could announce a German victory. For as these
thoughts flashed through Bob’s mind he saw that this minor fight was
growing into a battle.

From the cloud beneath him darted up two German planes, after one of
which Larry Eaton’s Nieuport, with its red, white and blue emblems,
closely followed. The other German was engaged in a duel with a second
American plane, which now appeared behind it, and their loops and
spirals left Bob at a loss for the moment to see which had the
advantage. His hand was on his control to fly to Larry’s aid, for the
foe at that instant had turned upon his pursuer. But some good fortune
prompting him to glance upward, Bob saw his old enemy descending on him
from the shelter of the cloud-bank. The German opened fire, and Bob made
a climbing turn to elude him before attempting any offensive. From his
height of some fifty feet above his antagonist he saw the German copying
his tactics and rising swiftly to get into range. Bob planned a little
stratagem. He wanted above all things to get rid of this pursuer, for
with the tail of his eye he saw that the fighters below were engaged in
deadly struggle.

As the German rose above him, Bob hovered uncertainly, firing at his
enemy from an ineffectual distance, while the latter, contemptuous of
these scattering bullets, flew nearer on a higher level, and prepared to
pounce. Bob left off firing, gave a swift touch to his responsive motor,
and rose like lightning to the other side of his adversary. The German
snatched at his port machine gun, but in that second Bob’s deadly
broadside had riddled his left wing and torn the fabric to rags. The
wire supports cut loose left the wing sagging and powerless. Bob was so
close he saw the pilot’s look of furious despair. He saw, too, that even
at this moment when his machine wavered to fall, the German’s hand was
on his trigger. Bob dropped in a tail-spin as the gun crashed out. A
hundred feet down he paused, hovering, and glanced over the cockpit. His
enemy’s descent had been quicker than his. He saw the helpless German
machine fall to earth among the streets of Château-Plessis.

The next moment he had darted to the aid of the three Allied planes who
were now engaged by six Germans. Three of these last had risen from the
trenches in front of Château-Plessis. Bob saw with joy that Jourdin was
fighting near Larry Eaton’s side. The second American was a veteran of
the Lafayette squadron. “We have a good chance,” Bob thought with rising
confidence. At the same time he saw the face of the German pilot, who
was gracefully maneuvering his monoplane for a shot on Jourdin’s flank.
Von Arnheim! Bob sent his plane speeding forward, his determination
roused as never before, his eyes on the German’s every movement as Von
Arnheim sought with incredible nimbleness to throw Jourdin off his
guard.

Meanwhile, in Château-Plessis, the friends of the Allies were watching
the fight with desperate interest. The planes were too high to be
clearly seen without glasses, and every pair of French or American
binoculars had been confiscated. Colonel Gordon’s eagerness had led him
out into the garden, his longest walk since his illness, and Lucy
glanced anxiously at his pale face from time to time, as side by side
they watched the distant planes dart back and forth against the bright
blue sky. It was torment to see the fighters’ swift movements without
being able to distinguish friend from enemy or even to guess at the
progress of the battle. When Bob’s antagonist fell Lucy hid her eyes in
horror and dismay. She clung to her father’s arm in panting silence, for
words were useless. He knew no more than she whether it was Ally or
German, or even Bob himself, who had fallen. The little group gathered
around them shifted back and forth in hopeless efforts to get a better
sight of the combatants. Only the German officers at Headquarters knew
who was winning, and they were not likely to send any news of a
reassuring sort to the American hospital.

At Lucy’s entreaty, Elizabeth had gone on a vain search for information.
Vain at least so far as getting any accurate news was concerned, for
Elizabeth dared not question any one higher in rank than a
non-commissioned officer, and these were not supplied with glasses and
knew scarcely more than she. The little crowd in the square, among which
she paused, was alive with excited speculation, animated or cast down
each moment by alternate hopes and fears. Pro-German hopes and fears
this time, for most of the crowd, at least the noisiest part of it, was
made up of German soldiers. All those off duty or convalescent at the
hospitals were there, and Elizabeth soon found an acquaintance.

“Good-day, Sergeant Vogel,” she said politely to a burly,
broad-shouldered German who stood staring upward at her side. “We are
winning, likely enough, I suppose. I can’t tell though, from here.”

The Sergeant looked down from the sky with a short laugh. “To be sure
you can’t, Frau. No more can I. All I know is that one of the birds fell
just now. I hope with all my heart it brought a Yankee down.”

“Where did it fall?” asked Elizabeth, cold with apprehension. Bob’s
smiling young face flashed before her eyes, and it was hard for her to
listen calmly to the Sergeant’s reply.

“Off toward the eastern part of the town. It was some enemy, be sure of
that. I can guess at the shape of our planes well enough to see that we
far outnumber them.”

Elizabeth dared not show her agitation, nor continue her inquiries. Only
a few days past she had questioned this same man about the German
soldier who was Armand de la Tour, until he wondered at her idle
curiosity. She had learned that Michelle’s brother succeeded in getting
away undiscovered, but her unusual inquisitiveness had excited some
surprise. While she hesitated now whether to go off by herself and try
to stumble on some news, or to return to console Lucy as best she could,
a soldier came up and murmured something in Sergeant Vogel’s ear. The
message was not a welcome one. The German’s eyebrows and mustaches
bristled in an angry frown. His face flushed red and his jaw closed
sharply. All the good-humor had left his face, but Elizabeth hazarded a
timid question:

“What is it, Sergeant? May I hear the news?”

“No!” snapped the German. “Can’t you bottle up your curiosity for a
moment? Am I to answer your questions all day?”

Elizabeth guessed that he was only venting his ill-humor on the nearest
object, and waited unresentfully in silence. The Sergeant raised his
eyes again to the sky, where the airplanes still swooped and circled,
and the frown and flush gradually left his face. In a moment Elizabeth
spoke gently once more.

“I should be so much obliged to you, Sergeant, for a little news. One
good turn deserves another. Don’t you remember how often I supplied you
the best bread and sausage from my nephew’s shop? You and Karl were
pretty good cronies then.”

The German laughed his short laugh again. The recollections Elizabeth
called up were pleasant ones. “Well, well, Frau, I see there’s no peace
until I tell you.” He stooped close to her ear and spoke in a gruff
whisper. “It was a German plane that fell. The pilot was killed. Keep
your mouth shut, now!” he added sharply. “I tell you a bit of news for
friendship’s sake, but it’s not the sort to spread about. Our men are
none too cheerful lately as it is. A lot of grumbling dogs!”

Elizabeth sadly shook her head, with a look of silent grief and
disappointment. It was not all affected, either, for beneath her genuine
joy that the unfortunate pilot was not Bob, and that she could bring
relief to Lucy’s anxiety, her heart ached at the death of her young
countryman. With all her honest soul Elizabeth longed for the Kaiser’s
bloody tyranny to be overthrown, but sometimes she wondered despairingly
if there would be any Germans left to enjoy the blessings of peace.

Eager to return to Lucy, she made her way quickly through the crowd, and
across the square to the hospital garden. Lucy and her father were still
standing there, gazing up at the sky. Colonel Gordon rested his arm
against the broken gatepost, but, weary as he was, neither Lucy nor
Major Greyson could persuade him to go in. Elizabeth went up to them and
as Lucy’s anxious eyes met hers, she said in her soft, quick voice:

“It was not Mr. Bob who fell, dear Miss Lucy—nor any American.” Her
voice sank still lower as she added, “A German it was, but nothing say
of it to any one.”

The two faces before her lighted as though a cloud were lifted from
them. “Oh, Elizabeth, thank you!” breathed Lucy from the depths of her
grateful heart. “I knew you’d——” Her words broke off in a quick gasp.
Roused by the stir about her she had again glanced upward. Another
airplane was falling to the earth, whirling down through the clear air
on one helpless broken wing.

The battle had begun to shift south again, toward Cantigny, but, in the
hot fighting of the past few minutes, Bob failed to notice that they
were no longer directly above Château-Plessis. Jourdin had sent down one
of his antagonists, and Bob tried hard to do as much for Von Arnheim,
but without success. Jourdin still eluding him, the German turned all
his attention to the young American. Never until that moment had Bob
fully realized Von Arnheim’s skill and coolness. His own movements,
lightning-like as they had seemed before, became suddenly slow and
clumsy, while a swift and deadly fire enveloped him from the enemy
swooping and dodging alongside.

He himself dodged, fell in a tail-spin, then rose again, vainly seeking
to throw Von Arnheim off or get him within range. The stream of bullets
from his own machine gun scarcely touched the little plane that circled
like a gnat around him, never an instant still. Bob’s heart began to
pound in his ears, and his cool brain grew furious and desperate. Unable
to endure the galling fire which was cutting his wings and beating
against the body of his plane, he determined to risk a rush at his
pursuer. Suddenly the nose of a monoplane shot up in front of him. As
Bob’s tense fingers felt for the trigger of his second gun the stranger
pilot gave a shout, and Larry Eaton’s eyes looked into his. Never was
help more welcome. Bob’s courage soared again, and while Larry pumped
bullets on Von Arnheim’s flank, Bob climbed swiftly, and, once above his
enemy, at last turned an effective fire upon him.

Von Arnheim dodged in a graceful circle, turning this time upon Larry
with undiminished vigor. Bob saw that his friend was no more able than
himself to withstand these tactics. He shot downward to Larry’s help,
and, diving between the two planes, delivered a heavy burst of fire on
Von Arnheim’s right, just as the German had got into range to make an
end of his new adversary.

Larry’s blue eyes flashed acknowledgment to Bob, as Von Arnheim,
staggered for the moment, sank in a tail-spin, seeking a chance to
reload. Bob did not follow him. With frantic haste he reloaded both his
guns, feeling cautiously of his left wrist, where a bullet had grazed
it. A German Fokker had swooped down upon Larry, and Bob, after one
quick glance about him at the airplanes darting in and out among the
light clouds, made for the new enemy’s left. A German Albatross scout
was flying toward Larry on the other side, and Bob thought to engage the
Fokker himself, and give Larry a chance for a fair fight with the
newcomer. At that instant he heard the familiar crackling of machine-gun
fire directly above, and, looking up, saw Von Arnheim coming down upon
him.

He dropped, his spin becoming a spiral dive that sent him down a
thousand feet, but still the German followed. Bob darted to one side and
rose at top speed, looking for the friendly shelter of a cloud. There
was none near enough to give him a moment’s respite. As he maneuvered
his starboard gun into range, resolved to retreat no longer, Von
Arnheim, rushing upon him from a slightly higher level, drew his pistol
and leveled it at Bob’s head. In that breath of time a monoplane,
swooping like a hawk from above, came between Von Arnheim and his prey
with a mastery equal to the German’s own. Jourdin’s fire struck Von
Arnheim full on the flank—impossible to withstand. He dropped like a
plummet, avoiding new attack by a zigzag fall, as Bob and Jourdin
closely followed. The three were almost on a level. Jourdin glanced
keenly in Bob’s direction, for Bob’s left wing was badly riddled. At
that instant Von Arnheim, quick as a flash of light, leaned forward and
discharged his pistol at the Frenchman’s breast.

Bob did not know that he cried out. Overcome with grief and horror, he
saw Jourdin fall helplessly against his gun. The little monoplane,
abandoned by its pilot, reeled and tilted. Bob flung his arm up to shut
out the sight, but at the sound of a propeller near at hand he raised
his head and looked dizzily about him. With one hand he felt blindly for
his trigger. Jourdin had fallen, and close to Bob Von Arnheim was
circling into range, the light of triumph in his eyes. Bob’s troubled
glance had hardly rested on his enemy when Larry Eaton, stealing up from
below, opened a burst of fire upon Von Arnheim’s rear. In that instant,
without Larry’s interference, Bob would have unresistingly met Jourdin’s
fate. But as the German turned on his new aggressor, the despair that
had held Bob paralyzed gave way before a new emotion. Never in his life
had he felt anything like the spirit of indomitable purpose that surged
now within him. His face grew hard and pale, his eyes flashed like Von
Arnheim’s own, and with a swift, light touch on his control stick, he
flew after Larry in the German’s wake.

One thing Bob was sure of. He would send Von Arnheim down or fall
himself. Both of them could not survive this battle. He thought coolly
and quickly now, every sense on guard as he stole up behind his enemy.
The German was beating off Larry’s pursuit with steady firing. Larry
would try to rush closer in another moment, Bob thought, planning how to
take his friend’s place in the duel. For Larry’s plane was not flying
well. It veered too much at a turn of the rudder, and Bob looked at the
wings to see if they were badly torn. As he looked, Larry’s plane began
to sway and the propeller’s speed slackened. Engine trouble, Bob guessed
now, and gave a shout of warning. The next moment the engine stopped
dead, and Larry, abandoning his attack, was forced to volplane down as
best he could for a landing.

Von Arnheim followed, firing at the helpless plane in its swift descent,
but before he had dived a hundred feet Bob was beside him. All sense of
his own danger had vanished as completely as though he were invulnerable
to Von Arnheim’s skill. With careful aim he fired full at the body of
the German plane. It quivered and tilted while Von Arnheim, oblivious to
his damaged left wing, returned the attack by a withering blast of fire.
The bullets sprayed Bob’s little monoplane. His riddled right wing began
to bend and sag. The instruments on the board in front of him were
smashed to atoms. Von Arnheim had dodged again and was behind him. Bob
flashed a glance at his own wings and thought he could risk one loop.
Without lessening his speed he turned completely over, and darting up
behind Von Arnheim in a swift and skilful maneuver discharged his port
gun, from a distance of a few yards, on the right wing and rudder.

With a throb of glorious triumph he saw the German plane pitch forward.
Unable to recover, it fluttered a moment, vainly struggling for life,
then plunged down toward the green fields below. Bob leaned out and
watched it crash against the earth. Then, panting a little, he rubbed
one hand across his forehead and looked about him. He had left the other
fighters behind. No new enemy threatened him, and fortunately, for his
plane would hardly answer the rudder. The right wing was a mass of
flying ribbons, and the cockpit was dented and hammered in by countless
bullets. Even protected by its metal sides, he could not think how he
had escaped unhurt. One hand was bleeding, but the wound was only a
trifle. He began cautiously flying down, fearing to put his damaged
wings to the pressure of high speed. His one thought now was to reach
Jourdin’s side. He might have fallen in some lonely spot where no one
would come to him. By the look of the country beneath him, Bob guessed
that he was somewhere near Cantigny. He picked out a level bit of ground
and glided safely to the grass.

As he landed he caught sight of a fallen airplane in an adjoining field.
A little group of four or five men were gathered about it. Von Arnheim,
Bob thought, not realizing that his course had been confined to a small
circle in the past few moments. He climbed out and began running toward
the group in search of information. Passing through a line of shell-torn
poplars he came upon Larry Eaton’s plane resting at the edge of the
field. The next minute Larry himself left the others and came toward
him. Bob looked again at the wrecked monoplane beyond, and saw that it
was Jourdin’s.

Larry slowly nodded in answer to Bob’s sad, questioning glance. “He’s
dead, Bob. He was dead before he fell. He had no other injury when they
lifted him out.”

In silence Bob drew near and stood by the body of his friend where it
lay upon the grass. They had taken off his helmet, and Jourdin’s fine
face looked calm and peaceful in its utter repose. The officers and
mechanicians gathered about him gave tribute of their grief in downcast
looks and gloomy silence. At Bob’s approach a flash of satisfaction
lighted their eyes for the swift retribution he had meted to Von
Arnheim. The officer beside him murmured some words of congratulation
and sympathy, but Bob could only nod in answer. He was not ashamed of
the tears that rushed to his eyes as he knelt bareheaded at Jourdin’s
side. He thought of the fight above Argenton, and of the words that had
come to his mind that day, as Jourdin stood looking at the ruined
countryside:

“We may go under, but not in vain——”

Not in vain, while America was free and had men left to fight. At that
moment, as never before, Bob felt his consecration to the cause that he
upheld. Jourdin’s faith and deathless courage became part of him.

As he rose unsteadily to his feet, Larry Eaton flung an arm about his
shoulders and drew him a little to one side.

“You’re wounded, Bob,” he said anxiously. “Let me look.”

“It’s nothing,” said Bob, showing the hand he had concealed in his
flying-coat. “I don’t even feel it.”

“It’s bleeding, all the same. I’ll tie it up for you.”

Under Larry’s commonplace words Bob felt such genuine friendly sympathy
that he was dumbly grateful. Larry was just a boy like himself who had
left Yale to join the army when Bob had left West Point. Their thoughts
and feelings had much in common. He held out his hand and let his
companion dress the slight wound that caused the bleeding.

“Von Arnheim—is he dead, too?” he asked presently. “Where did he come
down?”

“On the other side of that little slope. He was killed by the fall. Bob,
you did a wonderful day’s work! Think what Von Arnheim’s loss means!”

“We paid dearly enough for it,” said Bob sombrely.

On the day following the battle Captain Jourdin was buried behind
Cantigny, in a part of his well-loved Picardy that the Boches had never
reached. Officers, men and townspeople followed the body covered with
the Tricolor; his brother aviators flew overhead along his path, and
every honor that love and homage could devise was paid him.

At almost the same hour the body of Von Arnheim received honorable
burial within the Allied lines. Above his grave were fired the three
volleys which are the privilege of every soldier. Under Major
Kitteredge’s directions Larry Eaton flew over the German lines and
dropped a message announcing their ace’s death.

It was the 21st of June, one month after the capture of Château-Plessis.

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



                              CHAPTER XIV

                          A DESPERATE RESOLVE


=WHEN= the air battle shifted south again toward Cantigny Lucy and her
father were left in a state of dreadful uncertainty. Neither on that day
nor the next did they learn the result of the fight, except for the
vague rumors that went constantly from mouth to mouth among the friends
of the Allies. These felt some hope that the Germans had met defeat,
because of the complete silence their conquerors kept on the subject.
German Victories were usually loudly proclaimed before them. But there
was talk of heavy French and American losses, and this depressing news
was all that Elizabeth could learn for Lucy.

Unable longer to bear the continual sight of the German officers and men
in authority at the hospital, Lucy sought out Michelle the afternoon of
the day after the battle.

“Michelle, I can’t stand it any longer,” she told her friend, in the
privacy of the de la Tours’ little house. Her calmness and patience had
all at once fallen from her. Michelle looked at her flushed cheeks and
trouble-haunted eyes, and exclaimed, frightened at the change in her:

“But, Lucy—what can you do? No good comes from fear and anger. I know
that well. We can do nothing but wait and hope.”

“I _can’t_ wait and I _can’t_ hope any longer! I’m not like you,
Michelle—brave all the time. My courage comes in spurts, and when it
goes I am a coward. The one thing I cannot stand is waiting!”

Michelle was silent, but her expressive face said as plainly as words
that Lucy might have to bear longer than a month what she herself had
borne four years.

“Yes, I know what you think, Michelle,” cried Lucy, reading her mind.
“It’s you who should be desperate, not I. But it was watching the fight
yesterday that finished me. Before that I still had a little courage
left.”

“You mean—your brother?” Michelle asked softly.

“Yes, not knowing anything—if he is safe, or who won the battle. Like
Father, I’m getting so I can’t sleep or eat or do anything but wonder
why on earth the Americans haven’t tried to push on.”

“I know—I know,” Michelle agreed with instant sympathy. “But they will,
Lucy. It seems bright to us now, who remember the black days before
America was with us.”

“But, Michelle, Major Greyson and the others who can get near the German
lines think the Allies are going to attack. You know how the firing has
recommenced toward Montdidier, the last two days? Last night a regiment
marched through Château-Plessis on its way south. I’m sure the Germans
expect something.”

“I hope they will wait for it at the wrong place,” said Michelle,
sighing, “but they are very hard to surprise.”

“I know Captain Beattie’s plan of the batteries isn’t everything,” Lucy
went on earnestly, “but he and Bob are so sure that Argenton is the key
to an advance along this line. If the Allies can take Argenton they
think Château-Plessis and the towns north toward Amiens will fall too. I
don’t know about Montdidier.”

“Yes, so thinks Armand as well,” said Michelle, a trifle wearily. “But
we cannot reach the other side to tell them what we know.”

Lucy fell into gloomy silence. Presently, with an effort at
self-control, she raised her hands to smooth her loosened hair, and
tried to recover some of her calmness. “You have enough to stand,
without bearing my tantrums,” she said, looking at Michelle
remorsefully. “I’ll behave now. Shall we go to the hospital? The
convalescents are waiting for their work.”

“Yes,” Michelle nodded, “Clemence goes to the Commissariat now. I can
stay at the hospital with you until she returns.”

Neither of the two felt much like talking as they crossed the town a few
minutes later. Their spirits were heavily clouded, and the occasional
sighs and ejaculations of the patient old Frenchwoman trudging beside
them found an echo in their own hearts. On entering the hospital Lucy
noticed an unusual stir and activity about the wards. That some of the
faces turned toward her were sadder than an hour before did not at first
strike her, because she was sad herself. But the next moment she met
Miss Pearse, and, seeing the young nurse’s troubled face, asked
anxiously:

“Is anything wrong, Miss Pearse? Anything more, I mean?”

“Only that they are sending some of our convalescents to prison camps
to-day. The order came just after you left. Oh, Lucy, I hated so to tell
them!” Her voice shook and tears started to her eyes, but she swallowed
hastily to overcome her weakness. “I must go and help them get off. Come
into the hall and try to cheer them up a bit.”

“Easier said than done!” Lucy thought wretchedly. She wanted to do
nothing so much as to cry, but she had begun to learn the uselessness of
that. Michelle caught her hand with a hard squeeze of angry
understanding as they went on into the convalescents’ hall, where the
men to be sent away were assembled.

One of the first that Lucy saw was the little Westerner, Tyler, whose
cheerful spirit and jolly little clay images had done so much for the
others in the past few days. She longed overwhelmingly to give all she
had of help and sympathy to her unfortunate countrymen, for the ten or
twelve soldiers, French and American, gathered there were the picture of
despondency. The strength which might have upheld them was wanting, for
they were scarcely recovered or able to be about. Their cheeks were pale
and their bodies thin from suffering and fever. All the courage they
could summon was only enough to give their set faces a look of grim
endurance.

Of them all Tyler seemed to Lucy the most pitiful. His hopeful cockiness
was almost gone, and the strain of getting ready and standing about,
after the days spent in bed or in a chair, had nearly exhausted his wiry
little frame. Major Greyson went here and there among them, giving what
help or advice he could, cast down like them by the knowledge that
another hour would see them beyond his power to aid.

Tyler nodded to Lucy with a last attempt at his persistent cheerfulness.

“Well, Miss,” he remarked, in such a sad ghost of his old chaffing tone
that Lucy could hardly bear to listen, “I guess it’s a case of ‘Where do
we go from here?’ all right, for us. On to Berlin’s the idea, I suppose.
Hope the Kaiser don’t take a fancy to adopt me. Say,” he added, with a
look of utter misery in his eyes, “who’d ’a’ thought, after twenty-five
years I’ve spent in Arizona, that I’d end up in Germany?”

Lucy stammered out words of hope and encouragement which deceived him no
more than they did herself. As she went on down the line, repeating the
same useless efforts, Michelle ran up behind her and caught her sharply
by the arm.

The French girl’s eyes were gleaming and two crimson spots burned in her
pale cheeks. “Come with me, Lucy!” she commanded rather than asked. “The
hard time will come when they leave Château-Plessis! There we must be to
say farewell, for they go almost at once! I heard speak the German guard
this moment.”

Only half understanding, Lucy allowed herself to be led out of the hall
into the big ward. In the bustle and confusion no one noticed their
departure. They went out by the side door into the garden and from here
Michelle led the way across the square and eastward toward the edge of
the town.

As they hurried along, half-running through the almost deserted streets,
Michelle explained again her purpose.

“They must pass on the road that goes across the meadows, on their way
from Château-Plessis,” she said, breathing fast. “It is there when they
say _adieu_ to the town that they will be _triste_! It is the last
French town where they can set foot, for but two miles from here the
train will take them into Germany.”

“Oh, Michelle, it’s too dreadful to bear!” cried Lucy, bitterly
rebelling once more against the inevitable.

“It is not the first time that I have seen it,” said Michelle, her voice
suddenly trembling. “Never before, though, have Americans gone, too.”

As they neared the meadows, making for the road that ran across them,
north of the German observation post, the empty streets became filled
with a steady line of people, hurrying eastward like themselves. Women,
their faces half concealed by shawls, with children running beside them,
shared the road with bent old men who found a cautious way among the
débris of broken stone. Michelle’s was not the only loyal French heart
to foresee the desolation of the prisoners on reaching the outskirts of
Château-Plessis. One and all had learned the news somehow and had come
out at any cost for a last farewell.

At the edge of the field where Lucy and Michelle paused among the little
crowd, stood old Mère Breton with a covered basket on the ground at her
feet. The bright eyes beneath her white cap were sparkling with
defiance, as with hands on her hips she stared across the grass at the
German post, where a sentry walked, looking curiously toward the little
throng. Lucy went up to her with a faint smile of greeting, guessing at
the contents of the basket and thinking how hopeless any kindness was
which could not follow the prisoners beyond the German border.

“I have something here,” nodded the Frenchwoman, pointing to her basket
in answer to Lucy’s glance. “They will get a taste of it on their way,
if I should be beaten for befriending them.”

Before Lucy could reply, Michelle drew her attention by pointing
silently down the street they had left behind. The little column of
prisoners was coming along it, preceded by two German soldiers. The
faded blue and khaki of the French and American uniforms showed beyond
the armed gray figures leading the way. The pace had not been slackened
for these men just from the hospital, in spite of the hot sun and the
difficulty of walking among the broken stone.

As they neared the field some of the men glanced back into the desolate
streets of Château-Plessis. Lucy knew how dear and greatly to be desired
the little town must seem. Here they had cherished a never-dying hope of
freedom, and here, too, were friendly hands to tend them, and friendly
faces to look upon. Ahead lay Germany, where how many of their comrades
had gone to misery and death; where at best only wretchedness awaited
them.

In a moment they had come out on to the meadow road, and with one accord
every voice in the little crowd was raised in greeting and farewell.
Kind faces, eyes brimming with tears, and hands out-stretched with
trifling presents of fruit and flowers met the prisoners on their way.
The children ran to clasp the soldiers’ hands, and Mère Breton, her
basket on her arm, gave out her little store of provisions as fast as
her quick fingers could move.

All this took so short a time that the guards at the front and rear of
the column had scarcely time to interfere. But now, as the cries on
every side grew louder and the crowd closed in almost on the prisoners’
path, one of the rear guards sprang threateningly forward with upraised
rifle. Astonishment and fury were written on his face, that these
townspeople, so docile and downtrodden, should have dared thus to show
their unquenchable love and loyalty. The prisoners passed, and the
little crowd, gazing after the retreating column with eyes blurred with
tears, hardly noticed the brutal figure advancing upon them. Mère Breton
had emptied her basket and was standing now in the road with one hand
shading her wrinkled forehead. She was hoping that a little present had
found its way to each man’s hands. Her thoughts were all with the
prisoners on their hard way, but the German guard took her preoccupation
for defiance. He had charged down upon the people remaining in the road,
and, as these scattered, the butt of his heavy rifle was raised directly
above Mère Breton’s head.

Whether he really meant to strike the old woman down, or only to terrify
her, Lucy never knew. In common with half a dozen others she sprang to
Mère Breton’s side and dragged her back as the German’s rifle cut
through the air. Lucy’s horror almost robbed her of power to think at
that moment, but she had to think quickly, nevertheless. Michelle had
rushed in front of the old Frenchwoman, in furious defense. She stood
facing the guard with hands clenched at her sides, her blazing eyes
confronting the man’s angry face, as his rifle struck the earth in its
harmless descent. His fingers clutched it as though for another blow
and, still seeing Mère Breton as the intended victim, the enraged girl
was actually going to offer battle to the burly man before her. But Mère
Breton had slipped safely among the crowd, and Lucy, with Madame de la
Tour’s face before her eyes, seized her friend’s arm and dragged her
back with all her young strength. The guard, indulging in more
brandishings of his rifle and a burst of abusive words, turned to rejoin
his prisoners.

The little group of people were now fast dispersing, their courage
shaken and only fear remaining at the thought of possible punishment.
Lucy led Michelle quickly across the meadow toward the town. She did not
try to speak at first, for Michelle was still deadly pale and shaking
with anger. But she struggled to recover her self-control, and in five
minutes more had calmed herself enough to say unsteadily:

“I did not think what I did, Lucy. Only to save that poor old woman I
would fight the Boche. I could not help it.”

“I know, but think of your mother, Michelle—she comes first,” said Lucy,
this time the wiser of the two.

“Yes, you are right,” responded Michelle, sighing. She walked on with
downcast eyes, depressed and miserable after her useless outburst of
indignation.

Lucy could not find words to express the pity she felt for her. Instead,
she changed the subject by saying, “I’m coming to spend the night with
you, Michelle. Had you forgotten?”

“No, not at all. I am too glad that you will come to forget,” said
Michelle sincerely. She looked up at Lucy as she spoke, the blazing
light quenched in her eyes. “What time will you come? Perhaps a little
more early?”

“I’m not sure. I—Elizabeth may not be able to go when she promised,”
said Lucy, floundering a little.

“But she said she could bring you early to-night—soon after the dark,”
Michelle persisted.

“Yes—she said so, but you never know. Don’t expect me very early,” was
Lucy’s rather evasive answer. At any other time Michelle would have
remarked her friend’s lack of candor, but just now she was too unhappy
to be observant.

“I’d better leave you here,” said Lucy, as they approached the middle of
the town. “You are near home, and I shall go straight to the hospital.
I’m breaking my word to Father and Miss Pearse every minute—though I
suppose our being together isn’t quite like running off alone. Anyway, I
was so excited I never thought.”

“Yes, poor Maman would be sadly anxious if she knew,” Michelle agreed
soberly. “Good-bye then, _mon amie_. I will wait for you to-night.”

Lucy reëntered the hospital with slow and heavy steps, a quarter of an
hour later. She had grown deeply thankful that her father’s
convalescence was slow and uncertain. Suppose he had been one of those
to whom she had just said good-bye? But he was gaining strength daily.
Could the time be deferred much longer when he would be sent away? As
she pondered these things Major Greyson, who had known her well in the
old days, glanced at her, startled by the change in her face. Her hazel
eyes had become sombre and watchful, her lips were pressed together, and
her cheeks at that moment had lost their healthy color. The surgeon
looked after her frowning and troubled. He was thin and worn himself,
but he did not think of that.

Lucy was crossing the convalescents’ hall, now so sparsely occupied,
toward the nurses’ dining-room, when a voice called eagerly, “Fräulein!
Fräulein!”

Rebelling at the sound of the hateful German tongue, she would have gone
on unheeding, but a German doctor was right in her path, and she dared
not risk his ill-will. She turned toward the voice and saw Paul Schwartz
leaning from his chair with a bright smile on his face. Half Lucy’s
anger left her at sight of him. She could not cherish it against this
simple peasant with the mild eyes and childish flaxen hair.

“What is it, Paul?” she asked, going up to him.

“I am discharged!” he cried, his voice trembling with joy and his blue
eyes shining. “To-morrow I start for home—for the Schwarzwald! I will be
lame,” he added, his smile fading a little, “but I can get about, and it
is much to be at home again.”

Lucy had not the heart to say less than, “Oh, that’s fine, Paul. I’m so
glad. You will see your wife then, and the little girl?”

“Yes, yes, all! And I have my pension, too—quite a sum.”

“I will come and say good-bye before you go,” Lucy promised, stumbling
with the German words, as pity and anger struggled together in her
heart. Paul was going back to his peaceful home, thankful to get out of
the war. But her father and brother and countrymen were but just
entering it. A long, hard fight was ahead of them.

In a minute, however, her natural good sense began to overcome the
brooding dread that was tormenting her. “It may not happen,” she told
herself, trying to be hopeful again. “Anyhow, I won’t be any good, this
way, for what I have to do.” And at thought of one task that lay before
her she felt the need of calmness and courage as never before. She
nodded to Paul, and went on with a quicker step into the nurses’
dining-room.

That evening, a little after eight o’clock, Lucy drew near to Michelle’s
house, and at the garden gate Elizabeth turned to leave her. The German
woman had snatched this time to bring Lucy across the town, but her work
was by no means done and she was returning at once to the hospital. Lucy
bade her good-bye with strange reluctance. She was about to deceive her
faithful friend, and she hated the necessity for doing so. But Elizabeth
could not spare her any more time to-night, and Lucy well knew she could
never win her old nurse’s consent to her project.

When Elizabeth had turned her back Lucy went a few steps into the garden
and waited behind the shelter of a bush. She must deceive Michelle, too,
for on Madame de la Tour’s account she did not want her company, glad as
she would otherwise have been of it. But, frightened or not, her
increasing horror at the German captivity now far outweighed her
timidity at venturing alone to the prison. For it was Captain Beattie
she was determined to see again, and without another night’s delay.

After a moment she went back to the gate and looked cautiously down the
street. Elizabeth had disappeared. It was clear moonlight and the
deserted street was sharply outlined in light and shadow. There was
little chance of moving unobserved in the moon’s path, but by contrast
with its soft radiance the shadows looked black and deep along the
walls. Lucy left the garden and made her way as quickly as constant
watchfulness would permit along the now familiar streets leading toward
the prison. She was in a miserable state of mind, but the fear that
hurried her footsteps was not caused by her own solitary errand. It was
all for her father at thought of the irrevocable fate hanging over him.
Irrevocable unless she could do something to prevent it, for, however
feeble her efforts must be, she saw no other help in sight. Remembering
the chances she had missed of communicating with the Allied lines she
came near to thorough dejection. How differently Bob would have managed
things in her place! She could not know how close to despair her brother
was at that moment, and how his cherished plan for her release had died
with Jourdin’s death. Since the battle of yesterday Lucy hardly dared
think of Bob.

She reached the prison square, and slackening her pace, began creeping
along in the shadow of the walls. The prison guard-room was lighted and
the door open. As she paused uncertainly, flattening herself against the
stones of the house opposite, the old guard came noisily out and,
shouldering their guns, marched off across the square. The relief
proceeded to make a round of the prison. Finding all secure, both men
retired into the guard-room again and shut the door.

Lucy breathed a thankful sigh and moved cautiously on to where a shadow
falling on the street gave her a chance to cross unseen. The next moment
she was behind the prison and lifting herself up to Captain Beattie’s
window.

He was there close by it, as though expecting her, and the warmth of his
welcome did something toward cheering her depression.

“You got off safely that night, Lucy?” was his first eager question.
“Those prowling soldiers didn’t see you? How that’s worried me!”

“Oh, they didn’t catch a glimpse of me. I’m sorry you’ve been anxious.
Here’s all I could bring you, Captain Beattie,” she said smiling. “It’s
better than nothing.”

For two days Lucy had saved a part of her bread and potatoes, and these
she held out in her handkerchief, close to the bars. The young
prisoner’s gratitude made her almost happy for a moment. The prison wall
cast a deep shade on the moonlight-flooded courtyard, but in spite of it
a little light penetrated the bars and, for the first time since she had
visited the prison, Lucy could see the young officer’s face. It was thin
and sad, though a brave smile touched his lips now in answer to her
searching glance.

“What should I do without you, Lucy?” he asked, giving her hand a warm,
friendly grasp, as she clung to the bars.

“Goodness, I don’t do much,” said Lucy, sighing. As she spoke she
remembered that time was precious, and her voice grew alert and earnest.
“You can’t possibly get out of here—that’s sure, isn’t it?”

The Englishman laughed rather bitterly. “Quite sure. The surest thing I
know. Some famous prisoners I’ve read of contrived to saw their bars
with a fish-bone or a pair of scissors, but I don’t seem to have the
knack of it.”

“Don’t you ever wonder, though, what you’d do if you could manage to get
out—how you would escape to our lines?”

“Of course I do! There never was a prisoner, I expect, who didn’t dream
of escape. More than that, I have planned it all out—getting across the
German lines, I mean. It’s a beastly waste of time, but Heavens, I have
to think of something. However, I’ll be out soon enough,” he added
grimly. “They’ve kept me here to be questioned by the divisional
commander. He came yesterday, and our talk was so dull I dare say I’ll
be on my way to Germany within the week.”

“Oh, perhaps not—don’t think of it,” stammered Lucy wretchedly. Then she
drew a quick breath. “I wish you’d tell me, anyway, about your plan to
cross the lines, Captain Beattie. You must be so tired of thinking here,
all alone. I want to talk to you a little while. The guard has just been
around, so they won’t come again.”

“You know, I heard what those two fellows said the other night when they
stopped in front here. Poor kid, how scared you must have been.”

“I was! You mean what one said about the château hill being a weak point
in their defenses?”

“Yes—and he was right, too. I’ve been all over that part of the
town—last month when the Germans were pushed back. I’m so sure of the
ground that my plan for breaking through was made for that spot, even
before I heard those soldiers talking.”

“How would you go about it? They must have some defenses there.”

“Oh, yes. There’s a trench line running right through the château
park—an old one. But, poorly garrisoned as they are here, they don’t
hold it in any force. They simply mount guard on the hill, as that
fellow told us. They count on being able to reinforce the trenches long
before an infantry column could advance across that pond and marsh.”

“But the big guns—aren’t there any up there?”

“There were last winter, but, from what he said, there are none now.
They must plan to rush them from the rear, in case of an attack. It
looks like a real shortage of artillery.”

“Well, aren’t you going to tell me your scheme?”

“If you really want to hear it. I’ve spent hours devising it, but I’ll
cut the telling short. First, you’ll have to pretend that I’m outside
the bars—for getting out is beyond me.”

“All right. You are here where I am.”

“And it’s about ten at night; but no moon, or at least a clouded one.
Starlight would be much better. I creep along the streets to the eastern
edge of the town—for I don’t dare cross it straight west—until I reach
the meadows. These I skirt, gradually getting westward and nearer their
lines, until I come out behind the château hill, the south-western point
of the town. This far I’m pretty confident of success. The place is too
deserted for me to be discovered, short of villainous ill-luck.”

“Now you’re behind the château hill,” Lucy prompted.

“Getting up the hill through the wood is not very dangerous—past the
stream, you know the place? I’m not likely to meet a soul there, for the
guards probably go up by the trenches. Now I’m at the top, with the
château in front of me, also the trench line and the sentries. But we
can take it that the trench isn’t held, or they wouldn’t have sentries.

“To right and left stretches the German line. This part is ticklish.
Some nights I make it easily enough; others I’m challenged at the second
step. I turn left, around the park, avoiding the open lawns, where the
artificial lake and the fountains are, and, keeping well under the
trees, cross the trenches at an unguarded point. But by the time I’m on
the left of the château the cover ends, and, to avoid coming out on to
the grass in full sight of a sentry, I have to climb down the side of
the hill—a regular precipice just here, if I remember right, but it
can’t be helped. It’s dark, mossy rock—no one from the trenches below
could see a moving figure against it—and with care I get down to the
foot safely and find myself at the edge of the swamp. The trenches are
behind me, on the left of the hill, and they are strongly occupied here.
The Allies’ lines are a mile away, beyond the swamp and pond and a
stretch of level ground. My back aches at thought of covering it, though
my khaki is good protection—nearly earth color in the dark.”

“But the swamp—can you get through that?”

“Oh, it’s not a real bog. You don’t go in above your ankles, but every
step is likely to make a squelching sound. This is the place where the
chances are I would be seen or heard. I have to walk bent almost double
among the long grass and reeds. My only hope is that the big night-birds
in the marsh have accustomed the soldiers’ ears to strange noises—for
the trenches are only a hundred yards behind me on this side of the
hill. Once safely through the marsh, I drop down at the edge of the pond
to get my breath and reconnoitre. The pond extends so far that to avoid
it would mean a long détour in the open. It’s not wide, though, scarcely
two hundred feet. The castle hill is a quarter of a mile behind me. I’m
well on my way, if a stray bullet from one side or the other doesn’t
find me about this time. If not, I guarantee to slip into that pond
without a sound and swim across undiscovered, provided the moon doesn’t
shine upon it to show me climbing out on the far bank. Star-shells, too,
would be my finish. I can only trust there won’t any fall my way. Once
I’ve slipped out of the pond and started crawling forward again, barring
bullets—and I have faced a lot and missed them—I’m pretty near success.”

“But when you get to our trenches—won’t they shoot? How will you prove
who you are?” Lucy asked with breathless eagerness.

“I’ll call out, and show that I’m alone. I’d convince them, right
enough. Wish I had the chance! They won’t shoot without a look at me.
Too many of their own men are likely to be out on listening post.”

There was a moment’s silence, then the young officer said quickly, a
keen self-reproach in his low voice, “What am I thinking of, keeping you
here to listen to all this nonsense! Go back now, Lucy, at once. You’ve
been here long enough.”

“All right,” she agreed, after a minute’s preoccupation. She began to
speak again, stopped short, and finally stretched her hand through the
bars and gave her friend’s a warm, lingering clasp. “Good-bye, Captain
Beattie,” she said, and the Englishman fancied her voice shook a little.

“Good-bye, Lucy! Wish better luck for us both. And come soon again, or
you’ll find me gone,” he answered, forcing what cheerfulness he could
into the cheerless words, his pity for Lucy just then stronger than any
for himself.

“Good-bye,” she repeated, as earnestly as before. Then dropping down
from the bars she began her cautious progress back around the prison.

“I will get to the de la Tours’ by ten o’clock,” she thought, wondering
if Michelle had been long expecting her. Then, all Captain Beattie had
said crowding into her mind, she glanced up at the moon with troubled
eyes. As though it felt that appealing and reproachful look, its bright
face vanished from her sight behind a fleecy little cloud.

Early the next morning, when Lucy returned to the hospital, she met
Major Greyson in the ward. The surgeon’s face was so sad and filled with
dismay that Lucy stared dumbly at him. He did not wait for her to speak.

“I’ve been looking for you,” he said, drawing her aside to a window, his
usually brave and hopeful voice dull and heavy. “I’ve done everything
possible. I pretended to the last moment. But the German doctor himself
examined all the patients to-day. He saw that the Colonel had no fever.”

As Lucy, with swiftly mounting fear, struggled to understand these
incoherent phrases, Major Greyson reached out and took her hand in his.

“It’s no use, Lucy. I’ve got to tell you. Your father is considered well
enough to travel. He will be sent to Germany day after to-morrow.”

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



                               CHAPTER XV

                            ACROSS THE LINES


_ABOUT_ half-past nine that night Lucy entered Miss Pearse’s bedroom and
left a note on the little dressing-table. Miss Pearse did not come off
duty till eleven, so there was time enough, Lucy thought. Then she
returned to the hospital and stole into the dining-room. Elizabeth had
finished her work there, and against the wall hung the apron the German
woman would put on again at daybreak to begin her hard day’s labor. Lucy
slipped another note into the pocket and turned back to the door with a
heavy sigh. She had not the courage for farewells made without betraying
her purpose, and to betray it meant to put an end to her plan. Her
father’s answer would be instant prohibition; Elizabeth would certainly
tell Colonel Gordon if Lucy confided in her, and even Michelle’s
terrified persuasions she could not face just now. The hospital was
filled with its usual stream of tireless workers. Lucy made her way
unnoticed into the garden and out into the street.

She looked up at the sky with deep gratitude, for the moon was
completely hidden behind dull, heavy clouds. A warm wind was blowing,
with rain in its wake. It tossed Lucy’s hair about her face, and every
gust brought down loose fragments of brick and stone from some crumbling
wall near by. She longed for another talk with Captain Beattie, but she
knew well enough that the young Englishman would never have told her
what he did if he had for a moment guessed her purpose. She was puzzled
to discover at that moment that all fear had left her. She did not
realize that it was only submerged beneath a far greater fear—the dread
of standing at that meadow road and watching her father go by into
German captivity.

Her mind was but little excited as she walked quickly along the dark
streets toward the west—the road to the supply depot. Her thoughts just
then were all with her mother, that mother she had trusted in so
entirely for guidance until these last few months, and to whom she could
not turn now for help in her necessity. But even this thought of her was
some comfort. Lucy felt dimly that her mother, did she know, would
understand, in spite of fearing for her safety, that she could not stay
helplessly in Château-Plessis, and leave her father to his fate. “If
Captain Beattie’s knowledge can help the Allies, I must try to reach
them,” she thought, without any further doubt or hesitation.

At the end of half a mile she came to a narrow street leading south, up
a gentle slope. It was the one that she and Michelle had followed when
they went to the stream below the château hill in search of clay for the
convalescents. Lucy recognized it by the little church that stood at the
corner, its pointed spire, still undamaged, showing faintly against the
cloudy sky. She turned to the left up the street and stole cautiously
along it. This was the part of town nearest the firing-line, and
soldiers were likely to be met with. In the south, toward Montdidier,
she could hear the guns faintly booming, but in front of Château-Plessis
all was quiet enough. The street gradually rose higher, becoming a lane
that opened out into woodland part way up the château hill.

It was nearly half a mile from the little church to where the lane
ended, and Lucy’s cautious feet took some time to cover it. The moon was
still hidden, for the storm-clouds had grown heavier. The wind, too, had
increased, and when she came out on to the hill the pine branches were
tossing furiously about, with a noise like dashing water. She paused for
breath, after her quick climb up the slope, and peered ahead through the
trees, and then back toward the town. The scattered houses along the
street she had left were in darkness, for no unnecessary lights were
permitted after eight o’clock. All around her was darkness, too, through
which she could distinguish the black tree-trunks, the outline of the
wooded hill in front of her, and the clouds scudding overhead. Her heart
had begun to pound with exertion and excitement, and her mind wavered in
its calm confidence. But her determination was as strong as ever. If she
could not go on cool and fearless, she would do so trembling and afraid,
but go on she must.

She drew a long breath and began climbing the hill, through the dense
growth of pines. In a few minutes she came to the stream whose course
she and Michelle had followed down to the clay bed at the foot of the
slope. She could hear the water flowing swiftly over the stones close
beside her, and shaping her course by it, she kept near the middle of
the hill and before many moments reached the level ground above. Here
she stopped, resting her hand on a swaying pine trunk and listening
intently. No sound but the wind in the trees came to her ears. Thinking
of Captain Beattie’s words, “Some nights I make it easily enough—others,
I’m challenged at the second step,” she crept out of the wood to the
edge of the wide open lawns behind the château.

The towers of the beautiful old building rose dimly against the sky
about five hundred yards ahead, at the end of a broad avenue of pines.
One tower had been destroyed by shell-fire, leaving only a crumbling
ruin. Across the lawns she saw the broad, dark line that marked the
trenches. Further on, the pine groves closed in again, covering the
slopes of the hillside. To the right of the château Lucy caught sight of
the little artificial lake, by the dull gleam reflected on its surface.
Near the edge stood a summer-house, with slender marble columns. Her
eyes lingered on it, trying to detach a dark shadow from the climbing
roses that fell in a shower over the white columns. In a minute the
shadow moved and became the figure of a German sentry. He strolled out
to the border of the lake and raised his head toward the stormy sky.
Lucy glanced quickly around her, suddenly cold in spite of the sultry
heat before the storm. She felt surrounded, trapped, before she had even
left the cover of the woods. That solitary sentry became a company of
men searching for her with keen, merciless eyes. Furious at her own
weakness, she looked around once more for reassurance. There were no
other guards in sight. Anyway, she must go on. She crept back into the
shadow of the pines and began circling the crest of the hill to the
left, watching and listening with infinite caution. Of the trenches
running across the lawns she had seen nothing but a dark line of
sand-bag defenses. If there were men behind them they were invisible.
She was following one of the pretty paths that wound through the wooded
park of the château. In another moment she came upon felled pine trunks
and heaped-up earth, over which she stumbled. Breathless with terror,
she waited tensely for a challenge, but none came. Not a voice was
heard, though before her she could now see the trench-line, a deep cut
in the ground, with piled-up earth in front of it. She stole up to the
very edge and looked down. A fallen pine trunk had been laid across as a
foot-bridge. The complete lack of human voices or movement below told
her that the trench was deserted.

But no answering hope or confidence sprang up within her. That lazy
figure by the lake had not looked as if he had the entire hill to guard.
If the trenches were empty the line was watched some other way. In her
wary and suspicious advance Lucy put one foot on the slab of pine trunk
that served as bridge, testing her foothold and staring across into the
shadows. Just as she started forward a twig cracked beneath a heavy foot
and a sentry came into view on the other side of the trench. Lucy had
flung herself on the ground among the fallen boughs before the German
had even time to turn his head. The wind sighing through the branches
effectively drowned whatever slight noise she made. The sentry shifted
his gun without a glance in her direction and passed up the line among
the trees.

For five minutes Lucy lay there motionless, and at the end of that time
the sentry returned along his beat. At his reappearance despair almost
conquered Lucy’s terror. She knew she dared not venture across that
“abandoned” line. In the darkness, on unknown ground, she stood little
chance of passing undiscovered. To judge by the length of the soldier’s
beat, at least a dozen sentries must be patrolling the woods about the
castle. The lawns were easily watched from the summer-houses or from the
château. For one desperate minute retreat suggested itself to Lucy’s
mind. But self-reproach and anger mounted swifter than the thought took
shape, and she knew that her purpose remained undaunted. All courage
aside, she was as afraid to turn back as to go on; to make her way to
the town again, confessing failure and facing the certainty of her
father’s departure. As that realization swept over her, she crept up to
a pine tree, and leaning against its base, searched feverishly for some
way to go on.

The château! That was a part of the line of defense, and to pass through
it would be to pass the trenches. However full of unknown perils it
might be, she thought she could face them better there than in this
gloomy and terrifying wood. But here difficulties again confronted her.
Was the château inhabited? She had seen no lights, but surely the
sentries would be likely to take refuge in it from the storm. Could she
possibly get through that great building unseen, since not a step of the
way would be familiar? But think as she would no other solution came to
her. Even in her dark dress she dared not try to cross the open lawns.
The wind was bending the pliant pine boughs in every direction, and some
of them struck against her as she rose to her feet and started back the
way she had come. In a few minutes she paused uncertainly, for she no
longer felt the path beneath her feet. Fearful of completely losing her
way, she turned directly toward the château and presently came out at
the edge of the lawn not far from the avenue. The château was approached
by a drive winding up the gentler slope on the side of the hill toward
the town. This road became the pine-bordered avenue that ran over the
lawns, offering Lucy shelter from near where she stood to the terrace at
the rear of the building.

A flash of lightning cut through the dark clouds as she reached the
avenue. By that flash she saw the road stretching empty before her. She
began running, oblivious to prowling sentries, the only sounds in her
ears the sigh of the swaying branches on each side and the distant
rumbling thunder. In five minutes she stopped, panting, a few yards from
the terrace at the back of the château. Long French windows opened on to
it, but their glass had long ago been shattered, and in the wind the
neglected shutters were banging to and fro. Lucy stole up the steps of
the terrace, and, approaching one of the windows, flattened herself
against the wall and glanced back about the lawns and gardens. By the
lake the sentry was still pacing. She could see the faint gleam of his
bayonet as he moved. But he had not discovered her. No other sentry was
in sight, so far as she could pierce the shadows. She turned to the
window and peeped cautiously through. Darkness reigned within, and the
wind, whistling through the rooms, made the heavy hangings against the
walls flap like sails in a storm. With a quick sigh that was something
like a gasp at thought of the unknown dangers before her, Lucy stepped
through the window, shrinking from the jagged edges of the broken glass
that caught at her hands and clothing.

Inside, she stopped for a second, making sure of her direction, then
moved on through the room, feeling every step of the way and more than
once narrowly avoiding a collision with some piece of furniture in her
path. She reached the opposite side and saw an open doorway leading
onward. Beyond it was a large hall or drawing-room, for at the far end
were windows, and the lightning playing against them showed the vast
interior, filled with the débris of broken furniture, but quite
deserted. Enormously relieved, Lucy started quickly forward, urged by a
rising hope of success. In her impulsive haste she ran full against a
stool or small table. Startled, she sprang back, and the object, flung
aside by her sudden movement, fell to the floor with a noise that echoed
through the building. Almost with the sound a door was thrown open
somewhat on her right. As she stood frozen to the spot with horror, a
candle shone out of the darkness and a loud, commanding voice shouted,
“Wilhelm! Wilhelm!”

Scarcely were the words spoken when Lucy, recovering her power of
motion, fled across the room, glancing wildly about her for some way
out. The windows in front were raised from the floor, and she dared not
try to climb through one and risk showing herself against a glare of
lightning. On her left she dimly saw an open doorway. With pounding
heart she darted to it, and, arms outstretched before her, passed
through the opening, down a corridor, and found herself before an arched
entrance lighted by a faint red glow.

The room beyond, into which she ran, mortal fear of what lay behind
driving her on, was huge and lofty, with narrow, pointed windows whose
leaded panes were imitated in the glass doors of the countless bookcases
which lined the walls. The fire which gave light to see burned faintly
in a massive marble chimney-place and was mostly fed by some of the
priceless books torn from these very shelves. Before the chimney were
several pots and kettles, and other evidences that the fire was used by
the sentries to cook their food, since an abundance of fuel lay close at
hand in the thousands of volumes the library contained. They were strewn
all over the polished floor, and Lucy stumbled over them as she stopped
in the middle of the room, looking desperately around her for some place
of concealment or escape.

There were no hangings on the walls and the bookcases seemed to offer no
safe hiding-place. She approached the chimney, with a vague idea of
crouching behind its shadowy columns. By the flickering firelight the
motto cut into the marble caught her eyes: _En avant pour le droit_.


[Illustration: SHE APPROACHED THE CHIMNEY]


But now, hearing no sound of pursuit, her terrified mind regained a
little power of thought. She stole over toward the windows on the right,
one of which was entirely shattered. Fearful of listening ears she moved
with infinite caution, and reaching the window, stood aside from it to
peer out on to the terrace and lawns in front of the château. A clearing
had been cut in the trees that crowned the hilltop, to open a view of
the valley below. Just now the trees were only dark blotches framing a
stormy sky. Lucy drew back after one swift glance. A sentry was walking
across the lawn beyond the terrace. Struggling with the confusion that
began to take possession of her, she looked toward the windows at the
far end of the room. At that moment heavy footsteps sounded in the
corridor, with the gruff murmur of conversation between two advancing
men. Then the voice from which she had fled, raised more angrily than
before against the increasing noise of the wind, shouted:

“Wilhelm! Wilhelm! Sehen sie!”

There were no two ways open. As the Germans entered the library Lucy
slipped through the broken window, and dropping on her hands and knees,
crawled along the stone terrace, over a broad parapet of sand-bags
rising in her way, until she reached the lawn. That voice had been heard
beyond the château walls, for as, shaking with fear, she looked back to
where the sentry paced, she saw the man running up the steps of the
terrace toward the library windows. Without waiting for more she rose to
her feet and ran like a deer to the crest of the hill, where it sloped
down to the valley. She was well ahead of the precipitous rocks down
which Captain Beattie had planned his descent. She made for the gentler
declivity in front, dodging about a big raised platform that was a
German gun-emplacement. As she crossed the clearing, which opened like a
little amphitheatre in the woody hillside, a marble summer-house set in
the centre, big raindrops began to fall. Lightning glared from the heavy
storm-clouds and the rumbling thunder was succeeded by a tremendous
peal. Then the pine trees swallowed her up, and she began to feel her
way among the trunks, which bent and groaned about her in the fierce
gusts of wind.

Whether the front of the hill was guarded below the crest Lucy had no
idea. Even had she known there were sentries about her she could have
done nothing else than press on, panting, in the windy darkness, the
growing downpour of rain penetrating the branches and striking on her
head and shoulders. Now and again the lightning shone on her path,
revealing the rough, wet trunks and writhing green boughs around her,
and the thunder, crashing overhead, drowned the incessant noise of the
wind and rain. The storm had become the only enemy against which she
struggled as, step by step, she fought her way down the slope. At last,
when a strong blast of wind showed her she was nearing the open, a flash
of lightning disclosed the gleaming wet swamp and the level ground
around it at the base of the hill.

Beneath the last pine tree Lucy flung herself on the ground to catch her
breath. She was drenched from head to foot. With wet fingers she felt
inside her dress to see that Captain Beattie’s precious paper was safely
held in its scrap of canvas and protecting handkerchief. Reassured, she
pushed her dripping hair from her face and stared out over the swamp.
She knew that great obstacles were still before her. But she had burned
her bridges. To retreat through the château was unthinkable.

In a few minutes the rain and wind began to diminish, and the clouds
overhead parted, turning from black to gray. The lightning became less
frequent and the thunder sank to a sullen muttering. Lucy studied the
sky with deep anxiety. She was eager to have the lightning cease, but
knowing the uncertainty of summer storms, she dreaded lest the clouds
should drift entirely by and the moon appear, while she was still before
the enemy’s eyes. There was no time to lose, and she had begun to fear
that Wilhelm’s master might put the men in the trenches on guard against
the unknown intruder. She sprang up and stepped out on level ground, and
into the spongy, yielding earth at the border of the marsh.

She knew that the trenches were close behind on her left, and a shiver
ran through her as her foot withdrew from the soaked ground with a loud
squelching noise. On a quiet night any sound might have reached her from
where the soldiers watched behind their defenses, but in the rumbling
thunder and the gusts of wind blowing away the last of the rain she
heard no sign of their presence. The reedy grass came above her waist as
she stooped forward, feeling her way along the precarious footing, every
nerve and muscle on the alert to receive the warning of danger. An
occasional backward glance at the château towers rising above the gloom
of the hill was her only guide, for the plain stretched dimly in front
until it was lost in obscurity. Suddenly, with a frightened squawk, a
big marsh-bird rose with flapping wings from under her very feet. With
loud cries at such unexpected disturbance it fluttered over her head,
and only settled down once more when she had been reduced to abject
terror. Whether the keen ears behind her became suspicious at the bird’s
alarm, or whether the quieting of the storm made sounds more clearly
audible, Lucy at that moment heard a voice.

It came from the trenches, but what it said or ordered she had no idea.
It gave strength and speed to her tired and trembling limbs, so that she
fled on across the marsh nearly as fast as though she were on dry and
level ground. Her ankles ached unbearably, and her beating heart
hammered against her ribs when she stumbled on to a little ridge of
grassy ground just beyond the swampy bottom. With stooping shoulders and
head bent down she had no chance to see ahead. Now she looked up and saw
the dull gleam of water only a few yards in front. With a sigh of utter
weariness she dropped to the wet earth and lay motionless.

A bright glow reflected in the waters of the pond made her start up. She
thought of lightning, but one glance showed her the graceful,
rocket-like form of a star-shell falling across the sky. It came from
the Allies’ lines. The French and Americans were on the watch for any
surprise attempted under cover of the cloudy darkness. Lucy sank back to
earth, a bitter reproach in her heart for this friendly weapon
discharged against her. The light sputtered out, and with the return of
darkness she sat up and struggled for courage to go on. She drew Captain
Beattie’s message from inside her dress and tied the handkerchief around
her forehead like a close-fitting bandage. She felt doubtfully of her
rubber soled sneakers, and deciding they were too light to impede her
progress, crept forward to the edge of the pond.

At that moment a sound which she had heard a second before and wondered
at was unmistakably repeated. The Germans in the trenches were replying
to the star-shell with a scattering fire. The shots were few and far
apart, but Lucy heard one bullet sing over her head, and that was
enough. There is a courage that comes with desperation, and it was this
which caused her to crawl instantly forward into the lake and strike out
across it.

The cool water brought a welcome sense of refreshment and cleared her
whirling mind a little. She swam on strongly, trying hard to make no
sound and to keep her arms beneath the surface, and searching the sky
with frightened eyes, dreading to see another star-shell flaring up. She
heard no more shots behind her, and this brought back a little hope. She
struggled to keep the stroke even, and not to hurry it, for the pond was
at least one hundred feet across, and she was burdened by her clothing.
But to swim slowly and calmly was too much for her. She could not resist
bursts of speed as, from the darkness behind, her straining ears
imagined every sort of approaching peril. When at last she neared the
opposite bank, her breath was coming in painful gasps and she was
dangerously near exhaustion. With a few more frenzied strokes she
managed to get within her depth, and in another moment crawled weakly
out on to the grassy field beyond.

She lay there on her back, a prayer of thankfulness on her lips, though,
as she untied the handkerchief from about her head, she watched the sky
with fresh anxiety. The clouds were rapidly dispersing and a faint
silvery gleam announced the moon’s coming. She thought that in another
quarter of an hour these level fields would be flooded with moonlight,
and she, too far from either line to be closely distinguished, would be
a target for both sides. But she had to have breath to move, and for
five minutes longer she lay panting before she rose from the ground and
began plodding wearily on, her body bent forward and her feet stumbling
over the little grassy hummocks in her way. A line of dark objects,
coming suddenly into view, gave her a sickening pang of fear. But as she
crept up to them they proved to be only the stumps of what had been a
row of trees bordering a field. It seemed to Lucy that she had struggled
on for long miles through the darkness when all at once the moon shone
out in cloudy radiance. With a gasp she stopped short, staring wildly
before her. Not three hundred yards in front a tangle of posts and
barbed wire extended before the Allies’ trenches.

She was in plain sight, but at that moment even a bullet from her own
countrymen seemed better than what she had fled from so long. She raised
both arms above her head and walked straight on toward the edge of the
barbed wire, behind which showed the sand-bagged parapet of the
trenches. Rifle barrels glinted over the top and a helmeted head popped
into sight.

“F-friend!” stammered Lucy, her scared little voice sounding strangely
out of the night. “Don’t shoot! I’m an American!”

“It’s a woman—it’s a girl!” cried an astonished voice.

A dozen heads were raised above the trench, a murmur of voices filled
the air, and the next instant two soldiers had sprung over the top and
were running toward her. The first caught her by the arm and drew her
swiftly toward the trenches, saying:

“Through this way—here’s a lane in the wire!”

“But where on earth do you come from?” demanded the second, slipping
between her and the distant German lines.

“Just follow on now, as quick as you can!” urged her guide.

Lucy hardly heard them. She knew that she was led safely through the
wire, and that strong arms lifted her down inside the American lines.

For a minute she was near to fainting, but the triumph filling her heart
cleared her brain and overcame her exhaustion. A light flashed in front
of her, and some one held a cup of water to her lips as she sat on the
fire-step of the trench and leaned panting against the parapet. A dozen
soldiers had crowded around her, expressing every degree of pity, wonder
and admiration. The next moment the light revealed a sergeant hurrying
along the trench, with an officer following.

“Here she is, Lieutenant,” said the sergeant as they stopped at Lucy’s
side.

The lantern raised above Lucy’s head illumined her figure, as,
disheveled and drenching wet, she sat on the muddy fire-step. The young
officer’s astonished face was on a level with hers as he sank down
beside her, asking hurriedly:

“You’re an American? What on earth were you doing out there in front of
our lines?”

“In front of——?” Lucy repeated faintly. “Why, I came from behind the
German lines—I came from Château-Plessis.”

“From Château ——” The lieutenant’s words were lost in a cheer that rang
out deafeningly between the trench’s narrow walls. Helmets were
frantically waved in the air, and a dozen hands were held out for Lucy’s
grasp by the eager listeners about her. She felt her face flush hot and
her heart bound with happiness. It was true—she had succeeded! It was
hard to realize.

“She crossed the German lines!”

“That girl—all alone!”

“Be still—the Lieutenant wants to talk to her.”

The murmur died away as the officer, no less enthusiastic than his men
at that moment, inquired once more:

“You got over here from inside the town without being seen? You deserve
a war medal! What were you doing in Château-Plessis?”

“My father is there a prisoner. He’s Colonel Gordon. I had to come,”
Lucy answered, still breathless and somewhat incoherent. Then she
started forward from where she had leaned wearily against the supporting
timbers of the trench, saying earnestly, “I can’t tell you the rest now.
Where is the divisional commander? Will you take me to him? I have news
for him that mustn’t wait any longer, and I am afraid he is a long way
from here.”

“No—General Clinton is at a farm only five miles behind us—between here
and Cantigny. He has been inspecting along the line. Of course you may
see him,” the lieutenant added, rather puzzled, “but must it be at once?
You look used up, and the trip will be pretty uncomfortable after all
this rain. The roads are a sea of mud—not to mention a walk through the
trenches.”

Mud—discomfort—Lucy almost laughed aloud at his words. She had seen a
good deal of both that night, and what were they compared to the anguish
of mind she had borne in the past weeks? She could endure any hardships
now with this glorious hope flooding her heart.

“I don’t mind how bad it is,” she said quickly. “I only want to see the
General as soon as I can.”

The young officer read the clear, eager purpose in her eyes and gave a
nod of consent. At his order a soldier led the way with alacrity,
lantern in hand, along the trench. Lucy rose and followed, and the
lieutenant came behind her, after stopping for a word with the sergeant.

“We have half a mile to walk,” he told Lucy, pointing ahead along the
mud and water of the trench bottom.

She nodded, undismayed. The line of men standing behind their rifles at
the parapet, of whom many turned to her with looks of astonishment and
eager friendliness, were but dim figures that seemed a half-waking
dream. “They’re Americans. I’m with Americans,” she repeated to herself,
and the joy welling up at the thought made her almost dizzy as she
trudged along the wet, slippery path.

It is at such moments that physical discomfort is hardly felt and, weary
though she was, Lucy did not suffer greatly during the long hour’s
journey. The tramp through the trenches was followed by a ride in the
bottom of a motor-truck, along a dark road that the rain had transformed
into a bog. The three passengers were flung from side to side as the
heavy wheels struggled through the ruts, or careened into the deep
gullies. The laboring motor stalled and missed fire, and the moon,
hidden again behind a cloud, gave no light now when it was so sorely
needed.

At last the truck reached drier ground, and stopped before a lighted
house in the middle of a grassy meadow. Mud-splashed and bruised from
the terrific jolting, Lucy was helped down, and the young officer took
hold of her arm and led her inside the door. In the little hallway he
left her to speak with an orderly, who preceded him to an adjoining
room. Lucy heard murmurs of conversation and, beyond the doorway, saw a
second officer standing, with papers in his hand. She took out the
handkerchief from inside her dress, making also a futile effort to
smooth her hair, which, drying during the long ride, had begun to curl
in a tangled mass about her head. In another moment the young lieutenant
who had brought her returned, saying:

“Come right in, the General will see you.”

Lucy followed him into the anteroom, whose farther door the other
officer was holding open.

Beyond it a broad-shouldered man with iron-gray hair was seated at a big
desk under the electric light. His face was turned toward the door, and
as Lucy entered he rose sharply to his feet, saying with quick
earnestness, “You are Colonel James Gordon’s daughter? You came from
Château-Plessis?”

He put his hands on Lucy’s shoulders, fixing his eyes on hers.

“Yes, General,” Lucy answered with trembling eagerness. “I am Lucy
Gordon. I have been in Château-Plessis since before the Germans took it.
My father is there still.”

“You got through the enemy lines—you crossed over to us alone?” the
General insisted, his glance softening with pity and wonder as he
surveyed Lucy’s mud-stained and bedraggled figure, and the shining,
eager eyes in her tired face.

“Yes, I did; I had to. They are going to send Father into Germany, and I
couldn’t stay there and do nothing, when I thought I had a chance to
save him.”

“You have courage enough for anything! What can we do, though, poor
child—unless they will delay your father’s going for some days longer?
But tell me how on earth you got over here!”

“I brought you something that I know will help,” Lucy persisted, and
with shaking fingers she unfolded her handkerchief and laid the precious
slip of paper in General Clinton’s hands. “A British officer who is a
prisoner in Château-Plessis gave me this. He was captured at Argenton,
and that drawing shows what he learned of the defenses.”

“The defenses of Argenton?” As the General spoke he sat down at his desk
with the paper quickly spread before him, and the two young officers
with one accord sprang to his side.

“The road is the fortified ridge. The soldiers are the batteries. He
explained it to me,” said Lucy, breathing fast.

The General wheeled about in his chair and looked at her with a new
light in his eyes. “You’ve done us a good turn, my little girl!” he
exclaimed, and reaching for Lucy’s hand he took it in a strong clasp.
“You are of the sort that will bring victory to America, and I’m proud
of you!”

Lucy’s heart was too full for words and her eyes filled up with sudden,
smarting tears. The two junior officers, seeing her emotion, checked and
cut short the burst of generous praise that rushed to their lips.

Almost at once the General continued, “I must question you in detail
before any use can be made of this plan. Also, I must hear how you got
out of the town. But first I will let you dry your clothes and rest a
little. You have done enough for one night.”

Lucy raised her head, dashing the tears from her eyes. “I can answer any
questions now, General Clinton,” she said quickly. “Do you think I have
come all this hard way, and almost died of fear, to go and rest before
telling you all I can? Don’t think of me, or anything but learning what
you want to know.”

Her firm, earnest voice, and the steady light in her eyes carried
reassurance and conviction. General Clinton gave a nod of satisfaction,
and his voice, as he ordered Lucy to take a seat beside him, told her
that her answers would hold a new weight and value in his mind.

“My only fear,” he began, “in trusting to this plan you have brought is
that you may have been deceived by some sharp-witted German knave. Who
was this officer who gave you the information?”

“Captain Archibald Beattie of the Royal Infantry. He is a prisoner in
Château-Plessis.”

“Wheeler,” said the General, turning to his aide, “where is that British
liaison officer who was with us to-day? Could you get hold of him?”

“Yes, sir, he is right in the other farm building,” said the aide,
saluting.

“Find one of our machine-gun officers, too,” the General added as the
lieutenant turned to leave. “Where did you see this Englishman?” he
continued, facing Lucy once more.

“The first time was when a German officer made me interpret for him what
Captain Beattie said, because I speak a little German. After he was in
the old town prison I used to see him through the bars of his window. He
gave me this plan in case I should ever be able to send it to our lines.
I missed two chances in succession, so there was no way but to come
myself.”

“What chances could you have had?”

“My brother Bob landed in Château-Plessis once, but that was before I
knew about the hidden guns at Argenton. Then a French spy got into the
town, but I failed that time, too.”

“Here they are, sir,” said the other lieutenant, going toward the door.

Steps sounded outside and crossed the outer room. The aide reappeared,
with two officers behind him. One was a tall, handsome Britisher about
thirty years old, whose face was so strangely familiar to Lucy that she
stared at him wonderingly as his hand rose to the salute. But the
impression passed, for he bowed to her without recognition. Before the
General had more than spoken a word of greeting, the second officer
entered the room and stood at attention. Then at sight of Lucy he gave a
gasp of such surprise as almost caused him to forget the General’s
presence.

“Lucy! Lucy Gordon! You are free!” he cried.

The General looked up sharply. “You know her then? And you, Miss
Gordon?”

For Lucy had leaped to her feet to hold out both hands to the young
officer, her face all lighted up with joyful recognition.

“Oh, yes, General,” she stammered, struggling for words in her happiness
at sight of this long-lost friend, “it’s Captain Harding!”

“Well, Captain Harding, I congratulate you on your friend,” said the
General with a kindly smile. “This young lady crossed the German lines
to bring us this plan of the Argenton defenses. I will ask you two
gentlemen to give me your opinion on it.”

Making a respectful effort to hide his astonishment, and to silence his
unbounded admiration, Captain Harding bent, together with the British
officer, over the little paper on the General’s desk.

“Now, Miss Gordon, please tell us again about that British officer who
gave you this plan,” the General commanded.

“He is Captain Archibald Beattie, Royal Infantry, captured at Argenton
on May 17th,” Lucy repeated.

“Beattie—Archibald Beattie!” exclaimed the British liaison officer. “I
know him, General; he is a prisoner now.”

“Yes, in Château-Plessis,” Lucy nodded. “He is young—about
twenty-one—with light brown hair and blue eyes, and a little scar on his
forehead.”

“Just so! He got that scar from a grazing bullet at Ypres. If this plan
is from him, sir, it’s trustworthy. Why, that’s his writing at the
bottom, ‘Changing the guard’!” The Britisher’s calm face had grown
flushed with excitement. “Then the group of men must represent
batteries?”

“Yes, so he told this young lady. What part of the ridge would that be,
Harding?”

“The west front, sir, where the concealed batteries are. The main
front!” Captain Harding exclaimed, overcome with joy. “Oh, sir, we
should be able to silence those guns now!”

His hand, behind the General’s back, came down on Lucy’s shoulder with a
pressure that would have been painful if its friendly and delightful
meaning had not increased her happiness. “Oh, but you’ve done a good
piece of work, Captain Lucy! I always knew you had it in you,” he
whispered.

“Next week—the attack we had planned——” the General was saying.

Forgetting herself, Lucy interrupted him. “Oh, not next week, General!
Right away! My father will be sent into Germany day after to-morrow.”

The General swung around in his chair and looked at her with keen,
thoughtful eyes. “I can’t make promises,” he said at last. “But if any
one has deserved to have her father saved it is you. And the army cannot
afford to lose Colonel Gordon if there’s a chance of reaching him. Tell
us what else you know.”

“I can tell you the weakest point in the line before Château-Plessis.
Captain Beattie and I heard two German soldiers talking about it outside
his prison window. But he knew it before anyway. It was there that I got
through.”

“Wheeler, bring that scale map and put it on the desk,” ordered the
General. “Gentlemen, draw up, and Miss Gordon will show us just exactly
where she crossed the lines.”

The British officer, rising to obey this invitation, held out his hand
to Lucy as he neared the desk. His face had in it something more than a
friendly admiration for her brave exploit.

“I want to congratulate you myself, Lucy Gordon,” he said. “I’m your
cousin. I’m Janet’s brother, Arthur Leslie.”

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



                              CHAPTER XVI

                          THE YANKS ARE COMING


=AT= daybreak of the morning following Lucy’s departure from
Château-Plessis Colonel Gordon awoke to the boom of cannon. He raised
his head, listening intently. In a moment he was aware that the fighting
had recommenced along the whole front. He guessed that the bombardment
extended from Argenton as far south as Cantigny, though as yet the lines
in front of Château-Plessis were quiet enough. He rose and dressed and
went out into the garden.

The sentry glanced at him with a look of surprise and annoyance, for he
was not the only one who had been roused by the guns. Several of the
convalescents were strolling about the garden, though in the faint light
of a foggy dawn Colonel Gordon could distinguish them but vaguely.
Neither could he see the sky beyond the town, but the fog could not
prevent his hearing, and his ears told him much. The bombardment was
steadily increasing. The German artillery in front of Château-Plessis
had gone into action now, and the vibrations of the powerful explosions
began to shake the air. From the distant boom of the guns before
Argenton to the crash of those but a mile away, the mighty volume of
sound rolled ever increasingly on the listeners’ ears.

As Colonel Gordon stood motionless by the garden wall, the figure of a
French officer advanced out of the fog and came to his side.

“Good-morning, Colonel,” said his fellow prisoner, and in the
Frenchman’s voice Colonel Gordon detected something of the longing hope
that was stirring his own heart. “What do you think of it? It sounds as
if they were in earnest.”

He spoke very low, and Colonel Gordon answered him as softly, “It is
evident that the Allies began the attack. I’m sure the firing commenced
from our own lines. The German batteries in front of the town have but
just come in.”

“The attack appears to be developing on our flanks—Château-Plessis is
not directly menaced yet. I fear it could not be held, even if taken,
while the enemy holds Argenton.” The Frenchman’s eager voice had grown
more anxious than hopeful as the situation grew clearer to his mind.

“That is probable enough,” Colonel Gordon muttered thoughtfully, “but,
Captain Remy, I think the Americans are opposite us, and they are not
likely to attempt an advance over this unknown terrain without good hope
of success.”

Colonel Gordon was not at heart quite as confident as he appeared, as
the Frenchman easily recognized, but both men knew the value of a little
optimism, and Captain Remy allowed himself to be somewhat encouraged. In
fact, notwithstanding the obstacle of Argenton’s formidable defenses,
the thought of that American army about to strike with all the ardor of
its growing strength and determination was cause for hope and even for
confidence.

An hour passed while the two officers stood there, listening in silence,
and occasionally exchanging a few words. When a German orderly came to
call them back to the hospital they left reluctantly. The crash of the
guns was the only sound they cared to hear just then, and the only sight
their eyes looked for the dark puffs of bursting shells in the sky
beyond the town, from which the fog had begun to clear away.

Inside the hospital Colonel Gordon caught sight of Elizabeth and stopped
the German woman on her hurried way across the ward. “Where is Lucy,
Elizabeth?” he asked. “She is usually here before this time.”

Elizabeth’s face was flushed and troubled, and her hands began clasping
each other nervously. Colonel Gordon thought he guessed the reason for
her uneasiness. Convinced as he was of his old servant’s loyalty to the
Allies’ cause he could not but suppose that her feelings would undergo
some conflict on the eve of another fight.

Elizabeth stammered a little as she answered, “Miss Lucy not yet is
here, Colonel. She told me I should say to you that she will before very
long see you.”

This vague reply satisfied Colonel Gordon for the moment, and he went in
to breakfast, still deeply thoughtful over the commencing battle. It was
easy to see that every one in the hospital shared his preoccupation. The
Americans and their allies listened to the roaring cannon with eager,
intent faces. Between patients and nurses many a hopeful word or meaning
glance was exchanged, in spite of German doctors and orderlies near by.
These seemed not to share in the keen interest the others showed. They
looked sullen, anxious and ill-tempered. Many a poor French or American
soldier was roughly handled that morning by a German orderly who saw a
chance to vent his smouldering resentment. By no stretch of imagination
could any German in Château-Plessis see a cheerful prospect ahead. When
the French and British had exacted from them such a fearful toll during
the progress of Germany’s victorious spring offensive, what would the
price be now that America had joined the ranks of the Allies?

The bombardment had grown heavy and continuous all along the line.
Colonel Gordon presently started back to the garden, but was prevented
by the sentry on the path outside, who shook his head scowlingly, with
upraised rifle. Surprised at this sudden change of front, Colonel Gordon
went back to his room and looked out of the main window toward the west.
The sky was filled with darting airplanes, and bursting shrapnel formed
countless dark spots among the white clouds beyond the town. As he
looked, the scream of a shell drowned for a moment every other sound.
The next instant, with a terrific explosion, a jet of earth and stone
rose into the air not five hundred yards distant, leaving a gaping hole
in the street leading westward from the hospital.

Colonel Gordon turned to the door of the room, and catching sight of
Miss Pearse, motioned quickly to her. The big ward had suddenly taken on
a look of excitement and confusion. A German doctor was loudly issuing
orders right and left. Miss Pearse ran to Colonel Gordon’s side, her
face reflecting the emotions that filled her heart almost to bursting at
that moment. Colonel Gordon gave her no time to speak before he asked
sharply:

“Where is Lucy? Why isn’t she here?”

Miss Pearse gave a quick sigh, as though she had nearly reached the
limit of endurance. She drew Colonel Gordon back into the room, and said
with what calmness she could muster:

“I will have to tell you, Colonel, and I can’t take long to do it. I
hope and believe that Lucy is safely inside the Allies’ lines.”

“Where? What?” gasped Colonel Gordon, stupefied.

Miss Pearse took Lucy’s note from her apron pocket and put it in his
hands. “That will tell you all I know,” she said.

With trembling fingers Colonel Gordon held the slip of paper to the
light and read the following, in a hurried, blotted likeness of Lucy’s
writing:

    “DEAR MISS PEARSE: I am going to try to cross the German lines
    to-night, to take Captain Beattie’s plan to the Allies. I cannot
    stay here and see Father sent to Germany. I know a way—by the
    château hill—where perhaps I can get through. If I succeed I will
    beg the American commander to attack at once. Pray that he can. I
    wrote Elizabeth not to let Father know sooner than can be helped.
    You, too, please, don’t tell him before to-morrow. LUCY.”

Colonel Gordon could not find breath to speak. As he stood staring at
Miss Pearse in horror and amazement, the young nurse cried in an agony
of longing:

“Oh, Colonel Gordon, if only the Allies could take the town to-day! The
Germans have given orders to evacuate the hospitals. They are taking out
the German patients now, and in another hour the rest must follow.” Her
voice shook and her eyes filled with tears as they met his with a look
of almost hopeless misery, but in the same moment she wiped the tears
away and turned back to the ward to resume her share of the tremendous
task.

Colonel Gordon stood motionless where she had left him. Then, his
thoughts a little collected, he glanced sharply out into the hurry and
movement of the ward, where the work of evacuation had begun. He sprang
toward the window once more, trying to learn something of the battle’s
progress amidst the roar of the artillery. A German regiment was running
along the street toward the west, making its utmost speed among the
impeding stones and rubbish. The shells no longer fell near by. He could
hear them screaming over the town, but they fell short of the centre,
avoiding the hospitals and searching out the German main headquarters
and supply depot, behind the trenches. He thought the two airplanes
circling far overhead were accountable for this change. The sentry had
deserted the garden to help in the interior of the hospital.
Motor-lorries and ambulances were drawn up outside the doors, and the
German wounded had begun to be carried out.

Colonel Gordon entered the ward, and finding himself unobserved in the
general confusion, went out into the garden, and from there to the
street beyond. The regiment had passed, and the street was deserted. He
glanced back and saw that the angle of the hospital wall hid him from
the group about the ambulances. He drew a long breath and began to run
in the direction of the firing.

Not far from the street which Lucy had followed to the château hill the
night before he stopped, breathing a little hard after his enforced
idleness of the past weeks. The chief reason for his pause, however, was
the change in the noise of the attack which became distinguishable to
his ears as he drew nearer. The rat-tat-tat of machine guns and rifle
fire was plainly audible in the midst of the bombardment. It came from
his left, the direction of the hill. He ran forward again until between
the houses he could obtain a distant view of the hillside.

The fog had now lifted from all but the lowlands, and at the sight which
met his eyes he gave a shout of amazement and exultation. All over the
hill-tops behind the château khaki-clad men were advancing in skirmish
line. Now they ran on a few steps, now dropped to earth or fell back
before a sudden onset from the enemy concealed in the woods in front of
them, while the bursting flame from machine guns, the volleys of
musketry fire, and the gaps opening in the thinning ranks announced a
bitter and desperate struggle. It could mean but one thing. The German
line still held before Château-Plessis, but at this, the extreme
southern point of the town, it had been broken by a bold surprise.
Colonel Gordon stood staring toward the hill, convincing himself of the
truth of what he saw. While his heart throbbed with triumph, every nerve
in his body rebelled at remaining an idle spectator to that thrilling
and unequal conflict. Barely two companies of Americans had breasted the
hill from the swampy land below, and they had all they could do to hold
their own. At that moment he heard the thud of footsteps behind him and
glanced quickly back. A German infantry column, making double-time
toward the front, was debouching from a street on his right.

The foremost officer gave one look at the uniformed American and sent a
shot from his pistol at Colonel Gordon’s breast. The bullet whizzed by
his shoulder, and a second kicked up the dust behind him. For he did not
wait to furnish a target to the German captain. Those shots more than
anything else added to the strength and ardor of his purpose. The German
thought him a combatant, and a combatant he was from that instant.

He had slipped around the corner of the church at the head of the street
leading to the hill. Once out of sight of his enemy, who was leading his
men on too desperate an errand to turn aside in pursuit, he ran on until
the road sloped upward. The American shells had penetrated this far
before the infantry had advanced to climb the hillside under cover of
the fog. Right before him gaped a huge shell-hole, whose flying earth
had partly concealed a shattered German machine gun, with the crew lying
dead beside it. Colonel Gordon bent over one of the dead soldiers,
seized the pistol from his holster and unbuckled his cartridge-belt. In
another second he stood up, no longer unarmed and defenseless. With
every pulse on fire, though his brain remained keen and watchful, he ran
on toward the hill.

To skirt its northern side would be to run full into the German
trenches. Any way was perilous enough, but he was thoroughly familiar
with the ground. It was the same over which he had advanced six weeks
before to victory. He could not linger at the base of the hill either,
where bodies of troops might be met with at any moment. Just now he saw
only a straggling group of women and children fleeing from a near-by
cottage toward the town. He plunged into the wood and began mounting the
hill among the thick growth of pines, while above him increased the
hammer of machine-gun fire, the rattle of musketry and the shouts of
furious men. The hillside up which he climbed was deserted. The Germans
had gone to the defense of the position by way of the trenches, and,
though already driven back to seek cover in the woods, they had not yet
retreated down the slope.

As he neared the crest, Colonel Gordon crept cautiously up behind a rock
which overhung the hillside, and, breathing fast, crouched low to peer
out from its concealing shelter. Directly in front of him, about twenty
yards away, gray-clad soldiers were falling back in disorder, though
firing as they retired. In a moment they were almost at the rock’s
level, and now the Americans burst out from the lingering fog wreaths
among the pines, pursuing the demoralized foe at the point of the
bayonet. Colonel Gordon started up from the ground, victory the one
thought in his exultant heart. At that instant a sharp command rang out
from the trees on his right. Before it died away a heavy rifle-fire was
discharged on the flank of the advancing Americans, a dozen of whom fell
forward in the midst of their triumphant charge. He knew in a second
what had happened. German reinforcements had crept up by the road which
wound about the hillside. The swift retreat of the Germans defending the
hill was playing into the very hands of these newcomers, who had the
surprised Americans for the moment at their mercy.

An American soldier, pitching forward as he fell, rolled down to the
rock close by Colonel Gordon’s side. He was already dead. Colonel Gordon
saw the gaping wound in his temple, and in the same glance he read the
number on his insignia. These men were from his own regiment! In that
breath of time that he had remained inactive his mind had been
desperately planning how to make the most of the help he could offer.
Now he hesitated no longer.

A captain, frantically trying to rally his men to withstand the flank
attack of twice their own number, fell dead in the act of urging on his
company. Their leader shot down, a murderous fire cutting their ranks to
pieces, for an instant the men wavered. At that moment there appeared in
front of them the tall figure of an officer, bareheaded, a pistol in his
upraised hand. There was no time to express any of the emotions which
seized the soldiers’ bewildered minds at sight of their lost commander.
A bullet struck Colonel Gordon in the arm, but he did not feel it. His
voice, ringing out clear, strong and confident, in the midst of death
and confusion, cried:

“Forward, men of the 39th! Follow me!”

It was all they needed. What were overwhelming odds with that familiar
figure leading them to victory? A cheer that shook the enemy’s sense of
easy triumph burst from their panting throats. Colonel Gordon was no
longer alone, for the whole company had sprung to his side. A solid
volley met the German attack, and then in the face of a rain of bullets,
the Americans charged.

The Germans saw that hedge of bayonets rushing down upon them, and
commenced to give way a little. Trained fighters as they were they could
not stand before that onslaught. Leaping down the slope, between the
trees and over rocks and brushwood, the Americans came irresistibly on.
The Germans, retiring faster now, scowled in sullen rage at this enemy
who advanced shouting, against such withering fire, their eyes aflame
with the eager light of victory.

As they neared the foot of the hill the German fire had almost ceased.
Hand to hand the men of the 39th and their enemy continued the bitter
struggle. Now more Americans had reached the hill-crest from the château
and, while some remained to lend aid to those men of the 39th who had
fought as rear-guard, others came bounding down the hill. Their help was
welcome, but the fight was already won. A hundred survivors of the two
hundred men who had followed Colonel Gordon down the hill faced the
shattered remnant of the German reinforcing column. Those of the enemy
who managed to escape alive or uncaptured fled into the town, through
which, at news of the broken line, the German troops from the trenches
in front of Château-Plessis could be seen retreating in disorder. Two
officers, reaching Colonel Gordon’s side, seized hold of him and cried
inaudible words of astonishment and joy through the rattle of musketry
and the shouts around them. But their faces spoke plainly enough. One
thing Colonel Gordon knew in that glorious moment, even before the
silencing of the artillery fire confirmed it. Château-Plessis was in the
hands of the Allies.

The American regiments now poured unimpeded down the hillside road,
hoping to take the fleeing Germans on the flank or rear. A thought
struck Colonel Gordon in the midst of his joy. To a signal officer
pausing beside him, the vanguard of the new communication lines, he
asked hurriedly:

“Can we hold the town, Major? It’s a regular pocket. How far does our
advance extend?”

“Can we hold it?” repeated the officer with triumph in his voice.
“Colonel, we entered Argenton an hour ago!”

Before passing on he pointed to Colonel Gordon’s left sleeve. It was
stained with blood, and the elder officer, noticing for the first time
his wounded arm, found that it hung powerless by his side.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Lucy and her mother were in the little hospital at Cantigny when the
news reached them. Lucy had been sent there by General Clinton to rest
after her fatigue of the night before, and it was Captain Harding who
had instantly sent word to Mrs. Gordon. At half-past nine the morning of
the advance Mrs. Gordon reached Cantigny, and ten minutes later Lucy’s
arms were around her mother’s neck, and all the suffering and anxiety of
the past two months seemed to slip like a heavy burden from her
shoulders. She was free and her mother was with her—no longer to be
tormented with fears for her safety. After the first happy moments all
their thoughts turned to Bob and Colonel Gordon and to the battle now
raging, which would decide Château-Plessis’ fate.

They had not long to spend in uncertainty, for that morning events moved
quickly. Mrs. Gordon saw from the window a soldier running up the
hospital steps.

“I wonder what news he has, Lucy,” she said, her voice shaking with
mingled hope and fear.

The next moment the door of the little room opened and a nurse, whose
shining eyes and radiant face spoke plainer than words, ran in and
handed Mrs. Gordon a folded paper. “A soldier brought it,” she
explained, darting out again. “I haven’t time to stop.”

Mrs. Gordon unfolded the paper and together she and Lucy devoured the
few pencil-scribbled lines:

“We have won! Argenton has fallen. Château-Plessis follows. R. H.”

The guns were still thundering a few miles away, and at that distance
neither Lucy nor her mother distinguished the slackening of the fire.
They could not sit quietly any longer, and, going into the wards, they
joined in the general rejoicing.

“Oh, Lucy, it’s too good to be true!” Mrs. Gordon exclaimed a dozen
times over. “Now if only I can see Bob and Father safe.”

They went out into the streets of Cantigny, and it was in front of the
brick house which was the Staff Headquarters in the town that Lucy
caught sight of General Clinton. He was standing by a big military
automobile, the door of which his aide, Lieutenant Wheeler, was holding
open. At thought of what the General had done for her in trusting to
Captain Beattie’s plan and ordering the advance Lucy’s eyes, as they
were raised to his, filled up with quick, grateful tears. At that moment
he turned and saw the young girl watching him. He gave her one sharp
glance and leaving the car came forward to her side. With a bow to Mrs.
Gordon he held out his hand.

“Shake hands, Lucy Gordon,” he said, his grave face lighting with keen
satisfaction. “We’ve won, and your brave act made victory possible. Our
troops occupy Argenton and Château-Plessis.”

As Lucy, too overcome to speak, put her hand in his with burning cheeks
and wildly beating heart, he turned quickly to his aide.

“Any empty seats in that other car, Wheeler? I know this girl and her
mother are anxious to get to Château-Plessis.”

“Yes, sir, there is plenty of room,” responded the young officer with
alacrity. He led the way to a second machine while the General stepped
into his own before Lucy could find words to thank him.

It was almost noon when Lucy and her mother entered Château-Plessis. The
automobiles of General Clinton’s staff made a slow way among the
soldiers and civilians crowding the once desolate streets in cheering
throngs. The poor townspeople had robbed their little gardens to shower
the victorious troops with lilacs and roses. Cries of friendly greeting
filled the air on every side, and General Clinton advanced to joyful
shouts of “_Vive l’Amérique! Vive nos libérateurs!_”

A shower of rose petals fell in Lucy’s lap, and, gazing about her with
wide, unbelieving eyes, she caught her breath in a quick sob. Too many
feelings struggled in her heart for any connected thought. Most of all
she longed to see her father and know that he was safe.

They neared the old town hall, no longer a hospital since the German
evacuation, and bearing signs of their rage for destruction in the heaps
of torn mattresses and broken furniture flung outside the doors into the
street. American soldiers were hurriedly restoring things to order, for
the Allies’ wounded had been removed to the French hospital and here
were to be General Clinton’s headquarters for the time being.

Even before they drew up in front of the old building Lucy recognized
some familiar faces among the group of officers gathered in the doorway.
They had preceded the General from Cantigny to establish his
headquarters, and now came forward to receive him. A few doctors and
nurses, too, were among them. Lucy scanned each face with eager eyes,
for Bob had flown into Château-Plessis immediately after the German
retreat, in search of his father, and she and her mother waited to hear
from him of Colonel Gordon’s safety. Major Arthur Leslie was standing in
the road, talking with a young British officer. Lucy’s throbbing heart
gave a bound as she saw Captain Beattie’s face. The look of cold
defiance with which he had faced his captors—the bitter melancholy of
his days in prison, had utterly vanished, and he looked like a happy boy
as Arthur Leslie clapped him on the shoulder and shook his hands in
joyful greeting. At that instant Lucy caught sight of Bob from behind a
little group of men. The next, she sprang from the automobile and ran
across the street. For Colonel Gordon, his left arm closely bandaged,
was standing at Bob’s side.

Five minutes later, when the Gordons had begun to realize the wonderful
and happy truth that they were reunited, General Clinton made his way
from among his aides to Colonel Gordon’s side. He held out his hand to
the wounded officer, glancing from one to the other of the faces before
him with real sympathy in his shrewd, understanding eyes.

“I congratulate you on your gallant service,” he said with simple
directness. “It shall not be forgotten, Colonel—or rather General
Gordon,” he corrected. “Your son has no doubt told you that you were
awarded that rank a month ago.” In the same breath he turned to Bob with
hand out-stretched again. “You, too, deserve congratulation—more than I
can offer you.”

“What does he mean, Bob?” Lucy whispered, when General Clinton had
turned to speak to Mrs. Gordon.

Bob had lost for a moment his dignity, and was looking flushed and
boyish with so many eyes fixed upon him. “My promotion, I suppose,” he
explained, a little huskily. “I’m a captain—or will be to-morrow.”

“But that’s not all,” interrupted Arthur Leslie, smiling at Bob’s
confusion. “He hasn’t told you that he is recommended for decoration by
both French and American commanders.”

Lucy thought her heart was too full for any more emotion, but the next
minute she heard General Clinton saying:

“We expected your devoted service, General Gordon, and your son’s as
well. But we had no claim on your daughter’s, yet she has given all she
had of resourcefulness and bravery to the common cause. She deserves a
reward as much as any soldier!”

Lucy could not have spoken a word in the midst of her happiness without
bursting into childish tears. She wanted to explain Captain Beattie’s
part in her success. More than anything she hoped the General understood
how complete her reward was in seeing honors heaped upon those she loved
so dearly.

“He’s right. It’s you who deserve it all,” Bob whispered in her ear.

Unable to stay quietly where she was, with such hot cheeks and pounding
heart, she edged her way toward the door, when an officer had drawn
General Clinton to one side.

Out in the street the cool air touched her face gratefully. At that
moment she thought of Elizabeth, longing to see her again in this
triumphant hour. To-day was Lucy’s fifteenth birthday, and Elizabeth, in
the midst of their fears of the past weeks, had promised Lucy a present,
in one of her kind efforts to cheer the anxious girl from her growing
depression. Lucy eagerly questioned the people around her, but without
avail.

“There’s not a German left in Château-Plessis,” Captain Harding told
her, when she explained to him the object of her search. “Elizabeth must
have gone on with the German wounded from the hospital. We advanced
before they could force our own people to go.”

For a moment a cloud dimmed Lucy’s happiness. Was she not to see that
faithful friend again after those dreadful weeks of captivity? Did
Elizabeth mean to vanish from Château-Plessis, now that her work there
was ended? Before she could answer her own doubts she caught sight of
old Clemence, standing with Michelle at the edge of the little crowd.

Michelle’s eyes were raised to meet her own, and Lucy saw that the
French girl’s lovely face was transfigured, as Captain Beattie’s had
been, with the glad light of freedom. The look of scornful rebellion had
left her eyes and the sad curve of her lips had changed to a serene
smile of happiness. Lucy seized both her hands in a clasp that said more
than the few halting words in which she tried to express their
rejoicing.

Michelle had not managed to respond much, either, except with her
shining eyes, when a wild cheer, rising on every side, caused the two
girls to look quickly around. Caps were snatched off and flung in the
air; the remaining flowers were pelted at the officers in the doorway by
children shouting themselves hoarse in jubilation.

All eyes were turned toward the roof of the old town hall of
Château-Plessis. Willing hands had raised two poles between the pointed
towers, and now, from the roof, side by side with the heroic Tricolor,
there floated the Star-Spangled Banner.



                       The Stories in this Series are:
                 CAPTAIN LUCY AND LIEUTENANT BOB
                 CAPTAIN LUCY IN FRANCE
                 CAPTAIN LUCY’S FLYING ACE (in press)


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



 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_);
      text that was bold by “equal” signs (=bold=).





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