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Title: Secrets of Radar
Author: Snell, Roy J. (Roy Judson)
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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                              _Secrets of_
                                 RADAR


                            BY ROY J. SNELL


                                  The
                      Goldsmith Publishing Company
                                CHICAGO

                             COPYRIGHT 1944
                      THE GOLDSMITH PUBLISHING CO.
              MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



                               _Contents_


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  i Death In the Clouds                                                7
  ii We’re Going Back. And Soon                                       19
  iii Radar’s Secrets Are Not Told                                    27
  iv Burma or Bust                                                    35
  v A Light at the End of the Trail                                   43
  vi Temple Bells and Terror                                          51
  vii Night Bombers                                                   59
  viii I’ll Get Two of You                                            65
  ix Three Secrets of Radar                                           73
  x My Destination Is Tokio                                           81
  xi They Who Steal Out into the Night                                92
  xii The Unseen Highway                                             101
  xiii A Dangerous Hideout                                           110
  xiv Pete                                                           118
  xv An Enemy at Her Window                                          127
  xvi A Monstrous Procession                                         138
  xvii Mysterious Temple                                             148
  xviii The Lady Barber Quartette                                    157
  xix The Woman in Purple Burns a City                               166
  xx Gale! Gale!                                                     173
  xxi Gale Gets Her Plane                                            180
  xxii Two Shots and a Surprise                                      186
  xxiii This Is the Zero Hour                                        192
  xxiv Red Heads Always Come Back                                    198
  xxv What the Drums Told                                            206
  xxvi Count Your Men, Tojo                                          213
  xxvii The Fiery Cross                                              221
  xxviii This Is It!                                                 228
  xxix This Is Tokio                                                 236



                               CHAPTER I
                         _Death In the Clouds_


The girl with wind-blown hair ordered the coolie pushing a cart loaded
with instruments and strange radio-like boxes to come close to the big
anti-aircraft gun and leave the cart there.

“You runnee this-a wire backee and fixee him plenty good.” She handed
the coolie a long electric cord. The coolie vanished into the shadows of
the palm trees.

“What’s the big idea?” The sergeant in command of the anti-aircraft gun
sat up. The air of India was hot and moist that afternoon. He had been
half asleep. Now he stared at the cart and its odd contents and then
sent a second questioning look at the girl with the wind-blown hair.

“You and I are going to do a little practicing.” The girl spoke in a
steady even tone. Then she smiled.

The sergeant looked her up and down. She was, he decided one of those
rare girls who could make even the drab uniform of a WAC look good. She
was rather large but well proportioned. “An oversize copy of a beautiful
gal,” he told himself.

To the girl, after recalling her words, he said:

“Says who?”

“Says the Colonel.” Smiling a little more broadly she fished a crumpled
bit of paper from her pocket and handed it to him.

“Military papers,” he grumbled as he smoothed out the sheet. “Should be
kept in perfect condition, folded neatly.”

“And read.” She did not smile.

“Okay—okay, sister. All the same, that’s general orders I’m giving you.
I—”

He broke off to stare at the paper. “What’s this?” He glared at the
paper some more. “You are to send small balloons carrying hollow steel
balls up into the sky. Then you are to find them up there in the clouds
and I am to try and shoot them down?”

“That’s right.”

“What’s this? A new game for a soldier’s pastime in a strange and
foreign land?” He stared at her afresh.

“Ever hear of radar?” she asked.

“Sure! They use it in the Navy.”

“They do. And they’ll use it in the Army too, providing it is possible
to get the co-operation of the Army sergeants in charge of anti-aircraft
guns.”

“Meaning me? Okay. You win,” he agreed with an unwilling grin. “But
there’s one line in this paper that is coo-coo. It should say that you
are to try and find those steel balls in the clouds and I’m to shoot ’em
down.”

“Wait and see.” She stood her ground.

The coolie returned with one end of the electric cord. She connected it
to the box on the cart. Something began to burn. Some tubes lighted up.

“Now,” she sighed. “It’s hot, don’t you think?”

“What? That thing? I wouldn’t know,” he said.

“No. The weather,” she replied.

“Terrible!” he agreed with conviction. “Just at the end of the rainy
season! It’s awful having your rest period broken into by a gal in an
army uniform.” He winked at the two buck privates who helped man his
gun, and they laughed.

Paying not the least attention to this unflattering bit of drama, the
girl went about her work. Removing a short steel tube from the cart, she
connected it with a large paper balloon, then turned on a valve. A
hissing sound followed. The balloon inflated rapidly and pulled at the
cord that held it to the cart. After attaching a metal ball about a foot
in diameter to the balloon, she allowed it to float skyward. It rose
rapidly.

Squinting his eyes, the sergeant said: “You expect me to hit that steel
ball after it gets into the clouds?”

“If your shell explodes within fifteen feet of the balloon the balloon
will burst and the steel ball will come down,” she explained with the
patient tone of a born teacher. “If you burst the balloon, you score.
Hit the steel ball and you score double. Get me?” she asked.

“Oh, sure. But when do you score?” he asked.

“If you score, I score.” Her smile was broad and friendly.

“Fair enough,” the sergeant grinned. “Well, boys, we’ll give it a real
try, huh?”

“Sure! Oh, sure!” came from his crew.

The balloon went up. In silence they watched it rise to at last
disappear in the clouds.

At once the girl with wind-blown hair got busy with her instruments.
“I’m feeling for the steel ball,” she explained. “I’ll have it
presently.”

“She’s feeling for the steel ball,” one of the buck private gunners
repeated.

“She’ll have it presently,” said the other. “Like h—l,” he muttered,
under his breath.

The eyes of the gun crew were on the girl. It was as if she had learned
some Hindu magic there in India. They questioned that she could do the
trick, but gave her the benefit of the doubt, nevertheless.

“Something like making a boy climb a rope into the sky,” one of them
suggested.

“Uh huh. Probably,” the other agreed. “I saw an old guy do that trick
once. And say! Was it spookey!”

“Did the boy come back?”

“Not that I saw, he didn’t.” The two buck privates settled back in their
places.

“There now,” the girl sighed. “I’ve got it.”

“She’s got it,” one of the privates repeated. The other was silent. He
had seen magic work. A boy had gone up a rope and hadn’t come down.

“Show me how your gun is adjusted,” the girl said to the sergeant. He
showed her, carefully—painstakingly as if she were a child. She grinned,
but said nothing.

“The balloon is drifting south by southeast,—three miles an hour,” she
said at last. “I’ll find it again. Then I’ll set your gun on the spot.
Your job is to follow the drift and shoot the balloon down after a sixty
second wait.”

“Okay.” The sergeant waited. There was an odd grin on his face.

The girl bent to her task. Then suddenly she straightened up. Her keen
eyes had detected a movement in the shadow of the palm trees. A dozen
paces away she saw a man, a black dwarf, with strangely bowed legs and a
grotesquely dried up face. Her first impulse was to say: “You go away!”
She did not say it, but returned to her task.

“Now,” she sighed once more, “I’ve got the steel ball’s location. I’ll
set your gun.” This task she performed with speed and accuracy. The boys
of the gun crew watched in some surprise. One whistled softly through
his teeth.

“She knows about guns,” the other whispered. “What d’you know about
that!”

“Now.” The girl straightened up to fix her eyes on the sergeant. “You
take it.”

The sergeant took over. The girl held a watch on him. The sergeant was
on the spot. A girl had offered him a challenge. As a gentleman he had
accepted the challenge. His face tensed as the seconds—one, two, three,
four, five—ticked away.

“Now,” came from the girl in a hoarse whisper.

The sergeant’s fingers moved like triggers. Instantly the gun boomed.
They waited one, two, three, four, five seconds. Then came the dull roar
of the exploding shell.

They waited again—one, two, three, four, five—up to the count of twenty.
Fragments of the shell could be heard dropping. And then, at the edge of
the cloud appeared a gray shadow that rapidly developed into a black
ball.

“By thunder! They got that balloon in the bag!” one of the boys
exclaimed.

Turning about, the sergeant held out his hand to the girl. She took it,
man to man, a good hearty grip.

“That,” said one of the privates, “is better than the boy chinning the
rope. You’d ought to go in for magic, Miss. There’s money in magic.”

The girl smiled, but made no reply. She glanced away at the shadows of
the palm tree. The black dwarf was still there. Not knowing why, she
shuddered, but she still did not tell him to go away.

The steel ball reached earth some distance away. The first gunner, still
a bit of a skeptic, ran over to retrieve it.

“You never touched the steel ball!” he called on the way back.

“But he got the balloon!” the girl insisted. “That was very good indeed
for the first try.”

“Thank—O—Thanks.” The sergeant made a bow. “Sometimes the Captain says
I’m good and sometimes he says I’m—well, never mind just what he says.
It’s not fit language for a lady.”

“I’m no lady,” the girl laughed. “I’m just a soldier, a WAC. So let’s
just be nice and natural. Shall we have another try?”

“Oh sure! As many as you like.” The sergeant adjusted his gun.

A telephone attached to a tree jangled.

“I’ll get it.” The first gunner jumped up.

“It’s for you, Sergeant,” he announced a moment later.

“Be right there.” The sergeant was away.

There was a serious, all but stern look on the sergeant’s face when he
returned. “Sorry, lady,” he half apologized. “School’s dismissed for
today.”

“Why—what—” she began.

He broke in: “Some nasty old Jap bombers are headed this way to mess
things up a bit. And did they pick on a swell day to do their stuff!
They’ll come hopping out of the clouds, drop their bombs and drop back
into the clouds again.”

“Before we get a good crack at ’em,” the first gunner broke in. “The
dirty—”

“Lady, you’d better scram,” said the sergeant. “This is no place for you
right now.”

“I hear ’em comin’!” The second gunner’s ears were covered by a
listening device.

“I’m not leaving,” the girl said, as she shook her hair into a tangled
mass. “This may be a man’s war, but they’ll have to put me in the guard
house to keep me out of it.”

“Oh! Miss! I’m sorry,” the sergeant exclaimed, “but orders are orders.
No ladies.”

“Who’s giving the orders?” she snapped. “You’re a sergeant. I’m a second
officer of the WACS. You tell me who’s ranking officer on this gun! I’m
staying! And we’re going to get one of those bombers!”

“Get what? Get—” A strange light shone in the sergeant’s eyes like the
glint of a diamond. “Last time they got a whole gun crew and one was my
particular pal,” he grumbled. He whistled a bar of “Lady Be Good”, then
said: “Have it your own way. Let’s get set.”

By this time the enemy planes could be heard rumbling through the
overcast.

“They’re heading for the airdrome. We’re practically on the edge of it,”
the sergeant explained. “They may take time to wipe us off the map
first,” he added as a comforting afterthought.

If the girl heard, she made no sign.

“They’ll circle over the place first, won’t they?” she asked in a
matter-of-fact voice.

“That’s what they most generally do,” the sergeant agreed.

“That’s when we’ll get them,” she murmured, as she adjusted her radar
set. “They’ve got one-track minds, those Jap pilots have. They circle
about in the same track two or three times.”

“That will make it nice,” said the sergeant. “Practically no trouble at
all. Shoot ’em down like clay pigeons right out of those thick clouds.”
To him one toy balloon shot out of those clouds meant very little just
then.

“Here they come,” the gunner with the earphones announced. “They’re
headed right this way.”

“Probably got one of those cute little maps with an X marking the spot!”
the sergeant grumbled. Then his voice rose. “All right, you guys. Get
set to do your stuff. They’re practically over us now.”

Tense seconds ticked themselves away, and then the girl who had been
working and looking toward the clouds said:

“They’re beginning to circle now, at an altitude of three thousand feet.
They’re off to the right a quarter of a mile.”

Her figure stiffened. One of the privates thought she looked like
Washington at Valley Forge. He drew a long sharp breath.

“Coming in closer,” she said ten seconds later. “Now an eighth of a mile
away. They’re coming down slowly. About twenty-five hundred up now—and
almost directly over us.”

“Gee!” the first gunner exclaimed. “Why don’t we have a try at them?”

“How many more times will they circle?” she asked, turning to the
sergeant.

“Well, now,—” The sergeant’s voice sounded dry. “You can’t almost always
tell. Three is a perfect number. You might count on that.”

“That’s a go,” the girl agreed. “They’ll be down to fifteen hundred feet
by then. We’ll check on their second circle.”

“Just to see if it’s the same as the first?” The sergeant began taking
short steps back and forth.

“Yes. That’s it,” the girl agreed coolly. “Now they’re half way
’round—two thirds. There!” Her voice rose. “They passed over at exactly
the same spot.”

“Fo—four of them,” the second gunner announced with a slight stutter.

“We’ll get one of them, maybe two,” said the girl. “My father was a
Kentucky sheriff. He packed two guns.

“Now!” She was on her toes. “Everybody ready?” Her voice was husky.
“I’ll count one, two, three. Fire on three and keep on firing.”

“O—Okay,” the sergeant stammered.

Seconds passed, one—two—three—four—five—up to fifteen,—and then:

“One—two—three—Fire!” The girl’s voice rose high.

The gun roared and kept on roaring. All was wild excitement until all of
a sudden the sergeant shouted:

“Everybody duck!”

There was an air raid shelter three jumps from the gun. They landed in a
heap, the four of them, at the very center of the shelter. And then came
a terrific roar. At once all manner of things began falling on the
shelter. One was so heavy it seemed it might come through, but it stayed
outside.

“Oh!” the girl breathed, once they had unscrambled themselves. “How
terrible! We missed them and they dropped a block buster.”

“What?” the sergeant roared. “Nothing like that! We didn’t miss them. We
got one, maybe more. That little noise you heard outside was a Jap plane
in a crash with all its bombs still in the bomb bay.”

“Oh! Good!” The girl tried to stand up, bumped her head, then sat down
dizzily.

“At ease,” said the sergeant. “Our work’s done. They’d be out of range
by now. They might drop a bomb or two, but I doubt it.

“Say!” he exclaimed. “You’re wonderful! Marvelous! You can join our
outfit any time you say. What’s your name?”

“You’d never guess, so I’ll tell you.”

The girl’s face was a study. She had won her first battle with the men
of the Army. Did she want to laugh or cry? Who could tell. “My name is
Gale,” she said after an inner struggle.

“Gale—the girl with the wind-blown hair,” the sergeant murmured. “Not
bad. But at times I imagine Typhoon would be better. You should get a
medal for this day’s work.”

“No,”—her voice dropped—“I’ll not get a medal. Know what I’ll get?”

“No. What?” He stared at her.

“I’ll get a reprimand for not ducking the moment the raid was announced.
After that probably I’ll get sent back to Texas to run a radio in an
army camp.”

“Nothing like that!” he protested.

“Yes. Something like that.” Her voice rose. “This is a man’s war. That’s
what they say. Oh yeah? What about those Russian girls fighting in the
trenches? What about the women and children killed by air raids in
England?

“Work far back of the lines.” Her voice dropped. “That’s all right. It’s
fine, and it really helps. Perhaps life can be fun without excitement
for some people, but not for me.” She sank back to her place on the cold
bare floor.

“Well, sister, don’t give up hope.” The sergeant’s voice was husky.
“You’re a real sport. The Colonel in charge of this man’s army over here
ain’t just like everybody else. He’s different. You’ll see! He’ll fix
things up. We’ll march together yet.”

“Here’s hoping.” She gripped his hand. “And now, can we go out?”

“Sure thing,” the sergeant agreed. “Let’s get out and collect a few
souvenirs.”

As the girl turned to creep out at the far end of the half-dark shelter,
she caught the gleam of a pair of eyes. “Oh!” she exclaimed softly. She
had made out the shadowy form of the black dwarf crouching there.

“What’s up?” the sergeant demanded.

“N—nothing, I guess.” She hesitated. “Nothing.” Her mind flashed over
their conversation there in the shelter. “We betrayed no secrets,” she
told herself. Then to the sergeant she said:

“Come on. Let’s go.”



                               CHAPTER II
                      _We’re Going Back. And soon_


As they crept from the shelter the girl’s eyes sought out her cart and
its precious load.

“Never touched it!” was her joyous exclamation.

“Stick around and they’ll get your radar,” was the sergeant’s
encouraging comment. “Some dirty spy has put a finger on this spot.
That’s the third time they’ve been over here.”

“Spies?” Her eyes opened wide.

“Sure,” he grinned, “India is full of spies, particularly this city.
These Indian people are always hating someone. Besides, there are a lot
of Burmese people here, driven from their homes when Burma was lost. One
reason the Japs won that fight was because the Burmese people let the
British down.”

“Did they?” She was interested.

“Did they? Say! They erected road blockades everywhere. Wrecked trucks,
blew up the bridges,—everything. But I’ll bet they wish we were back
now. What the dirty Japs aren’t doing to them these days!

“And we’re going back!” The young sergeant’s voice dropped to a hoarse
whisper. “Sooner than you think. It’s in the cards.”

“Oh! Take me along!” The girl’s excited whisper told of her eagerness.

“I’ll sure fix it that way if I can. You’re a real soldier, and you’re
on the know.

“My name is Ted Mac Bride,” he went on. “Mac, for short. I’d be mighty
glad to have you in our outfit, Gale.”

“Gale Janes,” she finished for him. “Thanks a lot, Mac. If you’ve got
any drag with the colonel, pull a string or two and we’ll do the war
together.”

“That’s what I will.” For a space of seconds his mind was on the girl,
then his eyes roved over their surroundings. “Not much left but the hole
where that bomber blew up.” He nodded toward the distant palm trees.
“Want to go see?”

“No thanks. I’ll leave that to you.” She gave a little involuntary
shudder. “It’s almost time for tea over at my club.” She grinned
broadly. “I’ll find my coolie and trundle my cart away. Fine practice we
had. Less said about it the better.”

“Good hunting and mum’s the word.” He put a finger to his lips. Then he
was away.

An hour later no one would ever have guessed that Gale Janes had ever
escaped from the boredom of being a perfect lady.

Her “club” was no mere work of the imagination. It was real enough, and
quite gorgeous. In the days of peace and plenty it had been called “The
Saddle and Gun Club.” Swanky Englishmen in spats and riding breeches had
lived there. There they had talked of riding and racing and of elephant
and tiger hunts.

Now the saddles and guns were serving a sterner purpose. The men had
gone to war. And their club had been turned over to the ladies of the U.
S. Armed forces, WACS and nurses, with a visiting WAVE now and then.

The lounge of the club was an immense place, all screened in and open to
every breeze. Here an endless array of easy chairs invited one to rest.
At one end of what had once been a bar, sodas, orange juice, tea and
cakes were now being served.

After a shower Gale Janes had dressed in the blouse and khaki slacks. At
the bar she had selected cakes and a tall one of iced tea, then had
accepted the inviting comfort of a huge rattan chair.

As she sipped her tea she listened to the conversation around her. All
of a sudden she became interested in the things a little brown girl—a
native nurse—was saying.

“It was exciting! Oh, so exciting!” The brown girl’s voice rose. “It was
funny too, like a circus. There we were, a hundred and fifty of
us,—maybe not so many and maybe more—all retreating, and with a colonel
as our guide.

“You should have seen him!” She laughed a merry laugh. “There he was—a
great man! Oh yes! A very great man! Dressed in a shirt and shorts—his
brown legs all covered with hair and over his shoulder a tommy gun.
Him—the biggest fighting man in Burma.

“Oh, truly!” the native girl went on. “But he was wonderful! Not just
funny. He is an old man, but when we waded for hours in the stream,
younger men couldn’t take it. They just tumbled on the shore and
groaned. But the old colonel,—he marched right straight ahead.

“And we girls—” she laughed again. “There were six of us, all native
nurses trained by a great missionary doctor. We girls really had fun. We
splashed in the water, held our skirts high and sang silly songs.

“Because you know,”—she was very serious—“we were retreating from Burma.
All our Chinese armies had been defeated. We had to get to India, the
colonel and all of us, so we could get more men. Oh, many, many more
men! And go back to save my native land, Burma, and then to save China.”

“But Than Shwe,”—a blonde WAC addressed the native girl, “Why were there
so very few of you? Why not a whole army?”

At this Gale Janes turned her chair around to join the circle.

“Oh, yes! But no! It was impossible.” Than Shwe spread her small hands
wide. “It was a great distance. There are rivers and mountains. Oh! It
was very bad! And we must go fast. Armies, they move very slow. Always
there were the Japs. If we meet the Japs by the river or on the
mountain, then we are through, finished, all gone, and the colonel he
would be gone too, and that would be very bad, for he is a very great
man.”

“Oh! But yes, it was funny!” The native girl was bubbling over again.
“It was—how do you say it? A scream. Yes, it was a scream. We had not
much to eat. We were cold and we were sometimes very wet, but you should
have seen.

“For days we waded down that river. Then it got very big. So we made
rafts. We girls wove bamboo mats and put them on poles to keep off the
sun and the rain. And Bill, he rode on our raft.”

“Bill? Who was Bill?” someone asked.

“Bill? Oh, yes! He was a reporter, you know, he writes all about the
war.”

“But why should he ride on your raft?” the girl with a very long face
asked.

“Oh, yes! Some man must go on our raft,” the native girl went on. “So
Bill, he goes. This raft goes this way, then that way, then it hits
rocks. Bill, he must push with a pole. This way—that way—make the raft
go straight.

“Sometimes Bill, he gets very wet. Then he is cold. So he puts on Etta’s
longyi. Etta, she is large. I am very small. Oh, yes! It was a scream.
Three days we are on that raft. But I talk too much. I tell you too many
things. I not talk so much. Three days we ride on that raft. Then we are
there.”

“Where?” Gale asked.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know!” one of the girls exclaimed. “Didn’t you have a map?”

“I? No. I do not need a map. The colonel, he has the map. I go where
colonel go. Always! Always!” Than Shwe, the native girl, threw back her
small head and laughed. “And now we are going back. Sooner than you
think, we go. And next time we don’t come back walking, wading,
barefoot. Oh, no! We come back in—how you say it—in great triumph. And
that day, the colonel, he is the very great man.”

“But Than Shwe,” another girl broke in, “You left us on a raft riding
with that young reporter you call Bill. You just have to finish!”

“Bill? Oh yes, Bill.” The native girl brought herself back.

“You know,” she sat up abruptly, “We heard airplanes and we said, ‘It is
the Japs. They will bomb us. We shall die.’”

“Was it the Japs?” a girl whispered.

“No. Those were British planes. They dropped packages of food close to
the river. Bill, he went off the raft like a beaver and brought us back
oh! so much food! Ah, then we had a feast and we all were happy.

“Bye and bye we came to a mountain, a very high mountain. And by the
mountain was a very little town.

“The colonel say: ‘We will go over the mountain.’

“The people of that town say, ‘There is no trail over that mountain. It
is very high and very cold. You will die. Besides, on that mountain live
head-hunters. They will eat you.’

“But the colonel tightened up his belt. He put his tommy-gun on his
shoulder and he said: ‘We will go over the mountains!’ And by God! We
did!”

“Than Shwe,” a WAC with a long face protested, “You shouldn’t swear. It
isn’t nice.”

“Well,” the native girl’s eyes gleamed. “That’s what the colonel did
say. What he say, I say, and where he goes, I go.”

For a time there was silence. Then with a sigh, the native girl
concluded: “The mountain, he was not so bad. At the top we got very
cold, but we slept together all in a heap and it was not so bad.

“And then we came to a hut,” she sighed. “In that hut there was a white
man. He said, ‘I came for you. I have five hundred coolies. We came five
days. Now you go back five days. The coolies, they carry you, carry
everything. Then you are there.’ And see!” The girl spread her hands
wide. “Here we are.”

“Than Shwe, you forgot to swear that time.” Gale’s eyes shone with a
teasing light.

“I do that for you alone, in private.” The girl gave her an appreciative
smile. “Yes,” she added, “We come. But we go back very soon.”

Than Shwe’s story was told. She lapsed into silence. For some of the
girls, no doubt, it had been but the telling of an amusing adventure.
For Gale it was far more than that, for though a girl, she was at heart
a soldier. Her father, her grandfather and all others as far back as
could be traced had been soldiers. She was a WAC, but WACS were soldiers
too, in for the duration.

She had heard sketchy accounts of the colonel’s retreat from Burma. Now,
for the first time, in brief but vivid form, she had heard from the lips
of one who had joined in that forlorn but glorious march, the entire
story. Nothing in all her life had stirred her so deeply, not even her
success of the afternoon.

“And by God! We’re going back,” she seemed to hear the native girl
repeat.

“If she goes, I go!” she told herself with deep-seated determination.



                              CHAPTER III
                     _Radar’s Secrets Are Not Told_


Than Shwe, who had become the center of an impromptu gathering, slipped
away, and the circle broke up. After stirring her iced tea thoughtfully,
Gale drank it slowly, set the glass down, rose, stretched herself, then
retired to a secluded corner. The magazine was a blind. She did not
read—had not intended to read. She wanted to be alone to think.

Life for her had moved rapidly that day. She had gone to the field to
practice with an anti-aircraft gunner. Her sham battle had turned into a
real fight. With her help Mac had downed a Jap bomber and at this moment
was being toasted by his comrades. She had no doubt of that. She had
asked him to leave her name out of it. That he would respect her wish
she did not doubt. But there were the two gunners. What of them?

“It’s a great world,” she whispered with a sigh. “A man shoots down a
bomber and is covered with glory. A gal assists in downing the bomber,
does the heavy end of the job, if you ask me, and what does she get? I
ask you. A good bawling out, if someone gives her away. For what? For
jeopardizing her life in the defense of her country and the defense of
India, China, Burma and all the rest.”

For months this whole question of woman’s part in the war had been in
her hair. She had graduated from college in June. Her twenty-first
birthday came three days after graduation. On her birthday she had
joined the WACS. She had planned for this a long time. In college she
had taken all the courses that would help—outdoor gym work, Red Cross,
first aid, and all the rest.

From college she had gone to Fort Des Moines where many of the WACS had
received their training. How she had loved that place! Fine old brick
barracks, great spreading elms, all that went for making an army camp
seem wonderful—that was Fort Des Moines!

They had worked hard. Endless hours—up early, to bed late. She hadn’t
minded for she was preparing herself for something truly great. Was she
not to be a real soldier? To have a part in a great war? Surely this
must be true. They had taken one A out of WAAC, making it Woman’s Army
Corps. That “Army” was the really big word.

Because she had always been interested in radio, had built receiving and
sending sets with her father’s help, she had taken up the radio branch
of the service.

When her primary training was over at Fort Des Moines she had gone to a
special school for further radio training. There she had learned to
operate and repair all manner of army sets.

She had entertained fond dreams of soaring away in a flying fortress as
its radio engineer.

And then the magic of radar had come breaking into her little world.
Radar had charmed and intrigued her. She was allowed to remain for a
special course in radar.

She had gotten this far in her bittersweet meditations there on the
shady porch at the “Club” in India when a slight stir at her right
caught her attention. Someone had taken a chair close to hers. On
looking up she was surprised to see that it was the native girl nurse,
Than Shwe. She favored her with her best smile.

“Pardon,” the girl hesitated. “Just now I hear that something, they say
radar, helped bring down a Jap bomber. This is splendid. But what is
radar?”

Gale started. So there it was, so soon! Did Than Shwe suspect that she
was the one who had helped with radar? She doubted that.

“Radar,” she replied quietly, “is like radio.”

“But you do not shoot with radio,” the native girl stared.

“Nor with radar, either.” Gale laughed softly.

“What is it then that radar does? And how does it do this?” The little
native girl’s voice was eager.

“I can’t tell you much, Than Shwe.” Gale’s voice was kind. She liked
this native girl. Gladly would she march at her side on the way back to
Burma, and beyond. “This much I can tell you,” she went on. “It has been
printed in a magazine and is no military secret. With radar we send out
radio impulses, like little sparks, only you can’t see them. We send out
thousands and thousands of them. Most of these go on and on like lost
sheep. We never hear of them again.”

“But some of these,” Than Shwe whispered.

“Yes,” Gale agreed, “some of these run into a solid object like a ship
or an airplane. Then they bound back like a flash to tell us that so
many feet or inches away they ran into something and got a terrible
bump.”

“Oh!” Than Shwe gave a leap. “Then you know where the enemy ship or
plane is! That is quite wonderful!”

“Yes, Than Shwe, it is wonderful. But that’s all I can tell you,
absolutely all.” Gale’s tone was fearfully final.

“I will not ask you one more question,” said the native girl. And she
kept her promise for a long, long time.

“Than Shwe,” said Gale. “That colonel you were talking about a little
while ago, the one who waded the river in shorts with a tommy gun on his
shoulders and brought you all safely out of Burma—was that our colonel,
the one we have here now?”

“Yes, the same one.” Than Shwe’s voice was low.

“And he is going back?”

“Yes. Very soon.”

“And you are going?”

“Very soon. That is all I must say.”

“Thanks, Than Shwe,” Gale whispered. “Thanks a lot.”

A moment later Than Shwe’s chair was empty.

As Gale resumed her meditations, it was with a disturbed mind. Somehow
the story of her afternoon’s adventure had gotten round. It had not yet
been definitely connected with her. Or had it? In the end it would be.
And then?

“Oh, well! Let them do what they think they must,” she whispered.

Once more her mind was busy with the days just past. When her radar
course at the school had been completed she was ready for work.

She had been sent to Texas where she worked, not at radar, but radio,
directing traffic for an airfield. That was interesting and, for a time,
exciting. She had made many fine friends. But this had not satisfied
her. There was a war. She had joined the army. She wanted to be a
soldier.

She had applied for overseas service and was accepted. North Africa and
Australia had been suggested, and then India.

She had often dreamed of India with its temple bells, its sacred monkeys
and much else that was strange and weird. More than that, she knew that
India was to be the starting place for the march across Burma and across
China to Tokio, and the end of the war. Why should she not be in the
finish? India it should be. And India it was.

Once again Gale became conscious of the arrival of an occupant for the
chair at her side. It was the WAC with the long face. (Cora Shaw was her
name.)

Cora was slim, precise, devoted to her conventions and to the young
captain whom she served as yeoman (private secretary). Her captain was
charged with the task of securing billets for American troops arriving
in the city. No matter how many went with the colonel, “very soon”
others would be coming—two transports had arrived that very day. For
this reason Cora’s captain would remain in the city, and so too would
Cora, which was, Gale guessed, just what Cora wanted—a good safe spot
with a handsome captain at her side.

“And why not?” Gale asked herself. “Who could wish for a nicer safer way
to fight a war?” She didn’t quite know the answer to that one, so she
passed it up to turn an inquiring face toward the girl with a long face.

“Dearie, I just heard the strangest thing.” Cora could purr like a cat.
She was purring now. “They shot down a Jap bomber near the airport this
afternoon.”

“Did they?” Gale drawled. “How sort of thrilling.”

“Yes, of course. And do you know they say that somehow radar, that new
invention, helped to bring him down,” Cora purred on.

Gale was seized with a mild panic. How much did this girl know? Whatever
she knew she would tell—she was that kind. For a space of seconds Gale
said nothing. Then she managed her slow drawl again: “Oh yes! Radar?”

“The bomber came down close to the gun that fired the shot.” Cora gave
Gale a searching look. “Oh dear! I hope none of our group was mixed up
in that.”

“Mixed up in a falling bomber?” Gale exclaimed. “Goodness yes! She might
get hurt!”

“That’s not what I mean!” Cora dropped her purr. “You know as well as I
do that some of the WACS have been trained in the use of radar. And you
know also that we are not supposed to be in places of extreme danger!”

“Oh dear, no!” Gale drawled. “We’re ladies, all of us. And ladies don’t
go in for rough stuff. They don’t even swear.”

That was a blow under the belt. Cora recoiled.

But in a moment she was purring again.

“Dearie, could you tell me a little about radar? How does it work? How
can it help bring down a bomber?”

“What’s this?” Gale asked herself. “Is she a spy?”

To Cora she said, “No, I can’t tell you a thing. Radar’s been written up
in a magazine—Life, I think. All that is to be known by common, everyday
folks is written down there. The librarian can find the copy for you.”

At that she took up her own magazine. The interview was ended, but she
did not yet know how much Cora knew about the affair and would not for
worlds have asked.

“I’ll be sent back to America,” she told herself. Well, at least she had
experienced one thrill, and that was a lot more than a girl like Cora
would ever know.

At that she began again, rather sadly reviewing her past. What appeared
to be the death blow to her fond hope of having what she considered to
be a real part, a part filled with thrills and danger in a real war, had
come shortly after her landing in India. A large group of WACS had been
gathered in a USO recreation hall. There they had been assured in a
lengthy and rather severe speech by a fellow WAC who had been a matron
in a girls’ school that under no circumstances would they be asked, or
allowed, to enter the field of actual battle. That, in fact, India was
their ultimate destination, and that they had arrived.

“Well, what do you want?” a prim little gremlin was asking her at this
moment. “You are in India, and today you have had a real part in a real
battle of the air.”

“Yes,” was her reply to the gremlin. “The Japs were over this place
three months ago. They were over again today. When the colonel and his
grand American army get on the march, the Japs will be too busy for a
return visit. So then we will be quite free to dream the happy hours
away.”

“Bah!” she exclaimed aloud.

“What’s that about?” came in a brisk, masculine voice.

Startled, Gale sprang to her feet.

“As you were,” said the voice.

She found herself looking not into the face of a gremlin but at the
colonel, their colonel, he of the hairy legs and the tommy gun over his
shoulder—the little native girl’s dream of a great man, a real colonel.

“As you were,” the colonel repeated, dropping into the big easy chair at
her side.



                               CHAPTER IV
                            _Burma or Bust_


Gale was surprised and startled by her visitor. She had talked to the
colonel once, and that only the day before. He had suggested that she go
out and practice with Sergeant MacBride, and had named the hour. She had
kept the appointment. But after that? Thrills and chills still coursed
through her being at thought of those exciting moments.

The colonel carried no tommy gun now, and his dress was no longer
unconventional. She found it difficult to believe that this immaculately
dressed officer, whose buttons and insignia shone, and whose pink cheeks
were the last touch in perfection, should ever have led a group of
ragged barefooted men and girls down a river and over a mountain.

“Have good practice today?” he asked. A strange smile played about his
lips.

“Yes. Ver—very good.” She swallowed hard. “Very fine practice, and—and”
the words came unbidden “Grand hunting.”

He did not start or stare—merely smiled wisely—a smile that said plainer
than words,—“Umm! You and I have a secret, a very fine secret.”

The colonel leaned forward in his chair. “I had been tipped off that
there would be an air raid.” His voice was low. He glanced over his
shoulder. “I have had a great deal of experience with men soldiers and
nurses, but none at all with lady soldiers. I had my own ideas regarding
their reactions once they were under fire. Others,” he paused,
“Er—well—they had different ideas.

“I hope you’ll forgive me if—”

“Oh! You’re forgiven!” the girl exclaimed softly. “I—I thank you from
the bottom of my heart.”

“For what?” he asked simply.

“For believing that I wasn’t soft—that I could take it.”

“That’s all right,” he beamed. “That’s exactly what I did believe, and
now I know.

“Listen.” He leaned forward in his chair. “I lived in China a long time
before the war. I speak Chinese like a Chinaman. I was in China for
three years as an observer, watching the Japs fight the Chinese.

“I’m a hard man. War is my business. But China wrung my heart. I have
seen whole families, men, women and children who had tramped five
hundred miles to a place of safety where they could start again. And
always with a merry laugh on their lips, a laugh at Fate. The Chinese
people will win the war. A people who laugh at Fate as they have
laughed, cannot lose.

“That does not mean that they have not suffered,” he went on. “I have
seen women and children blown to bits by shells and bombs; seen them
burned in their homes; watched delicately bred women trudge on foot
weary miles day after day. And I have asked myself, ‘Are American women
more important in the sight of God than these?’ Like American women
Chinese women bear children and love them. They help to make a home for
them. If occasion arises, they die for them cheerfully. No woman can do
more. And these are the people we are to fight for. China is our
destination—China and then Tokio. Time is precious. Too many already
have perished. We must do all we can, all of us, men and women alike.”

“Yes.” Gale’s voice was husky. “Yes. That’s what I think. I—I would like
to start tomorrow for Burma and then China.”

“I believe you would. I believe you would,” the colonel repeated
solemnly.

They talked for some time about the mystery, the beauty and the
enchantment of India.

“The temples are unusual and quite fascinating,” the colonel rumbled. “I
suggest that you visit some of them, particularly the Buddhist temples.
Those Buddhist priests are very hospitable. Everyone, the humblest and
the very great are welcome there, welcome to food, shelter and all that
they have to give.

“But don’t wait too long for that. The time is short. We shall be
going—” The colonel brought himself up short. “As I was saying,” his
voice rumbled again, “India is fascinating, very enchanting.

“But I have an appointment!” He looked at his watch, then leapt to his
feet. “Well, goodbye and good hunting to you.” He shot her a flashing
gleam, then he was gone.

“This surely is a crazy world,” Gale thought to herself. “Here is the
colonel believing in us not as women but as soldiers, and here is
Colonel Mary Noble Hatch, a perfect lady, who had devoted her life to
the task of molding the character of young girls and who is now the head
of all the WACS in India, holding up a nice, soft, refined finger and
saying: ‘Tut! Tut! Naughty! Naughty! Girls weren’t made to fight wars.
How utterly terrible!’” Rising, she marched away to her room, and there
she met with a surprise.

A WAC she had seen but never spoken to, was seated in her favorite
chair, and in the corner opposite was an extra bed.

“You’re Gale Janes?” The girl sprang up. “May I salute you?”

“You may do as you like about that,” Gale replied quietly. “As you know,
I’m not an officer. My rank is the same as yours, so—”

In spite of this the girl’s hand rose in a snappy salute. “For gallantry
in action,” she said soberly.

“Great Scott!” Gale exclaimed. “Has it gotten around like that? Mary
Noble Hatch will send me back to America on the first boat.”

“No,” said the girl. “It’s not nearly as bad as that. Here. This must be
your chair. I’m the latest comer, so—”

“Keep it.” Gale waved her back. “I really like this one with the
mahogany seat. It’s so hard and sort of substantial, like—” the words
came unbidden—“like our colonel.”

The girl’s big round eyes opened wide. “Just like our colonel,” she
agreed. Then she settled back in her chair. She was a rather plump girl
with a round face, eyes wide apart, and a high forehead. Gale was sure
she was going to like her. She already had a roommate, but in this war
people lived as they must.

“They crowded me in on you,” the girl apologized. “Wanted my room for
one of the higherups. I—” Gale was due for a shock—“I’m only the
colonel’s yeoman (secretary to you).”

“Are you the colonel’s secretary?” Gale leaned forward in her chair to
extend a hand. “Here! Shake! You’re just the person I want to know most.
You shall have my easy chair for keeps, my bed too, if you want it, and
the five pound box of chocolates I just received from home.”

“Say! What’s this?” The girl’s lips parted. “I didn’t say I was the
colonel—only his yeoman!”

At that they both laughed.

“I heard you the first time,” Gale said at last. “By the way, your first
name is Isabelle, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and the last is Jackson.”

“Well, Isabelle Jackson, you’re an angel sent from Heaven. There are a
few little things I want from the colonel, and the colonel’s secretary
is just the one to get them for me.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Isabelle replied modestly. “Just what is
it you want?”

“The colonel is going back to Burma?” Gale leaned forward eagerly.

“Oh, undoubtedly!”

“And very soon?”

“That, of course, I couldn’t tell you, even if I knew.”

“Of course not. I’m sorry. It really doesn’t matter just when. The point
is, when he does go, I want to go with him.”

“There’s nothing much I can do about that.” Isabelle settled back in her
chair. “You’ll have to win the right to go. Anyway, that’s my guess. And
I might add, you’ve got a pretty swell start.”

“What do you know about all that?” Gale demanded.

“Everything,” was the quiet reply. “I’m the colonel’s secretary. There
isn’t much I can tell you, but I guess it won’t hurt if I just whisper a
word or two.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Lieutenant Hatch was in
the colonel’s headquarters late this afternoon and raised a merry fuss
about some WAC who knows, it seems, all there is to know about radar,
and who, this very afternoon, somehow got mixed up in the messy and
dangerous business of shooting down a poor little Jap bomber. Perhaps
you know who that WAC was.”

“Perhaps I do,” Gale agreed.

“That’s fine,” Isabelle beamed. “Let’s not mention her name.”

“We won’t,” Gale agreed. “But the colonel—how did he—”

“How’d he stand the storm?” Isabelle laughed happily. “How does he stand
any storm? How did he stand defeat in Burma? How did he stand the long
tough retreat? Like a man and a colonel, that’s how. And I don’t think—”
the words came slowly—“I don’t think anyone is going to tell him how he
is to use men and women under his command.”

“That,” said Gale, “is swell.”

Just then a miniature cyclone hit the place. That is to say Gale’s other
roommate breezed in and with her was Than Shwe, the little Burmese
nurse.

“Jan, this is our new roommate,” Gale said with a grin. Everyone who
looked at Jan McPherson, the girl to whom Gale spoke, grinned. Jan was
that kind of a person. More often than not she was grinning, as indeed
she was at that moment.

“Oh! One more of us!” Jan exclaimed. “Golly! That’s swell!”

“She’s Isabelle Jackson, and what’s more, she’s the colonel’s
secretary.”

“Oh, golly! The colonel’s lady!” Jan exploded.

Little Than Shwe was visibly impressed.

“I didn’t say the colonel’s lady. His yeoman—secretary!” Gale insisted.

“I’m sorry,” Jan apologized. “I was thinking of that poem, ‘Rosey
O’Grady and the colonel’s lady are sisters under the skin.’”

“Probably they are,” Gale said. “But the people who sent us over here to
help fight a war seem to think we’re all ladies and should be kept in a
good safe place.”

“Good safe place!” Jan scoffed. “Who wants that! My Dad was an army
sergeant most of his life. I was born under a truck in the rain. I’ve
been on a truck or a jeep all my life, and I’m going to this war if I
have to take a crew haircut, fake my identification papers and turn
myself into a buck private.”

“Oh! I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as that,” Isabelle protested.

“I don’t care.” Jan drew up her hundred and fifty odd pounds of good
sturdy stuff, as she said: “With me it’s Burma or bust! Where the
colonel goes, I go.”

“Burma or bust,” Than Shwe repeated. “That sounds like the colonel
himself.”

“It does, at that,” Isabelle agreed.

“Suppose we draw up a petition, asking the colonel to take all of us
along,” Gale suggested to Isabelle. “Do you think that would help?”

“It might,” Isabelle agreed. “I’m sure it would do no harm.”

At that they settled down to the task of drawing up a dignified and
appropriate petition. When it was finished, Isabelle typed it, and they
all—even Than Shwe—signed it.

“Who knows but this petition may help make history?” Isabelle murmured
impressively. And indeed, who did know?



                               CHAPTER V
                   _A Light at the End of the Trail_


The petition was delivered and acknowledged, and there the matter rested
for some time. The rainy season dwindled away more and more. Each day
increased the suspense hanging over the vast army camp. More ships
arrived, with guns, bombs, airplanes, tanks and men. Men were there from
all over,—America, Alabama, Illinois, Vermont, Washington, Texas. Not a
state but was represented. There were some guessed hundreds of thousands
of Americans and perhaps as many British. All of which added up to one
fact—the colonel was going back to Burma. Only one question remained for
the girls—“Are we to go?”

Then one day, having recalled the colonel’s words about temples, Gale
invited Isabelle to go temple hunting with her.

At first they wandered through the narrow streets in silence, just the
two of them, in an utterly foreign world. As they saw the pinched faces
of children and peeped into the narrow, cramped quarters where they
lived their life away, strange questions passed through their minds.

“Do you know,” said Isabelle, “I have always thought of this war as if
it effected only our own people in America. Now I find myself thinking
of these strange people of India. Yes, and of China, Japan and Russia.
But most of all, of these people of India—they hold my attention. They
say there are a billion people in Asia. There are only a few of our
people in America, compared to that. Life is strange. All this disturbs
me. Sometimes I almost wish I hadn’t asked to come.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Gale exclaimed, squaring her
shoulders. “For no matter how many worlds I live in after this, I can
visit this one but once. I want to see it all.”

After that they walked on in silence until they came to a winding path
leading up a hill. There were no homes on the hill—only ancient trees
and the solemn air of early evening hours.

“Let’s follow the path,” Isabelle suggested. “There’s nothing I like
better than following a strange path, and I’ve heard there’s a temple up
here somewhere.”

“Okay. Let’s go.” Gale led the way.

The path grew steep and rocky as they advanced, but the rocks were worn
smooth, as if ten million pairs of feet had passed that way.

“Ten million,” Gale thought. “India is very old. But where could they
all have been going?”

The forest trees that loomed above the trail grew thicker and taller as
they advanced until at last they shut out the sun.

“It’s like something I read in a book called Pilgrim’s Progress,”
Isabelle said with a little shudder. “I’ve never cared much for shadows
since I read that book. I was twelve then. I love the sunshine best.”

“Pilgrim’s Progress,” Gale murmured. “Perhaps we are pilgrims on some
great quest.” She spoke more wisely than she knew, but this quest was to
have a strange ending.

Gale was one of those persons whose mind is driven to thoughts of wild
determination as she walked rapidly or climbed some steep hill. The
steeper the path became, the deeper the shadows, the more fiercely her
mind worked on the problem that she knew lay very close at hand. Would
she, or would she not go forward with the colonel and his men as they
retraced the steps he had taken in retreat?

“I’ll beard him in his den,” she whispered fiercely. “I’ll say to him,
‘Colonel, all my people have been fighters,—five generations that we
know about. Dad was in the World War; Grandfather in the
Spanish-American War, and my great grandfather in the Civil War. I have
no brothers so my father sent me. You just _must_ let me go with you on
your march back to victory!’”

She closed her eyes for a moment and fell over a stone, nearly cracking
a kneecap. She had been seeing Sheridan on his black charger shouting to
his men, “Turn boys! We’re going back!”

“Turn boys! We’re going back!” she exclaimed as she picked herself up.

“Why?” Isabelle stared. “Why should we turn back? Look. There’s light at
the end of the trail. I’m dying to see what’s up there.”

“Light at the end of the trail,” murmured Gale. “Oh! Oh! Yes—by all
means, let’s go on. I—I must have been dreaming.”

“I’ll say you were!” Isabelle exclaimed.

Hurrying forward they at last burst out into a little world all aglow
with golden sunset. Just before them were beds of flowers—such flowers
as they had never before dreamed of—flowers and tall graceful palm
trees. Back of all this was a temple. It was not large, but set as it
was, a mass of red stone in the midst of a gorgeous garden of flowers,
and contrasting so strangely with the shadows that lay behind them, it
set the two girls back on their heels.

“Isabelle!” Gale murmured softly. “Did you ever see anything more
wonderful?”

“Never!” Isabelle replied in a hoarse whisper.

“Do people fight wars to defend their temples?” Gale asked.

“Perhaps,” was the solemn reply.

Even as they stood there entranced, the light of day began to flicker
and go out. As if they had been a thousand bright lamps, all alight, the
flowers lost their brightness. As if loathe to leave it, the sunlight
lingered for a moment on the dome of the temple. Then, all of a sudden,
all was in shadow.

“Come on,” Isabelle whispered. “We must see this.”

Together they hurried along the path of red gravel leading to the temple
door, and as they hurried, there came the melodious ringing of many
temple bells.

The temple door was open. At first, the large room that in the shadows
appeared vast and endless, seemed entirely dark and deserted. A closer
look showed a single red light burning before the shadowy figure of a
Buddha that even in this faint light appeared to smile.

“Come on.” Isabelle gripped Gale’s hand, and together they moved forward
and to the left of the door until they came to a low bench. There they
seated themselves.

Leaning far forward, Isabelle sat as a child sits before the opening of
some entrancing drama.

Gale leaned back. With the shadows, serious problems had again entered
her mind. “I am a soldier,” she thought fiercely. “Then I must fight!”

At that moment she seemed to see her toothless ninety-year-old great
grandfather, and to hear him tell his tales of the Civil War. Weird and
entrancing those tales had been. There was one,—a battle fought in a
great forest. He had been wounded and lay all day behind a half-rotten
log while the enemy’s bullets striking the log had knocked dirt in his
face.

“Then at night,” he would go on, “A huge black man, lookin’ like a dark
angel or a devil, found me and carried me away to a corncrib all full of
good soft corn husks.

“My wound hurt something awful,” he would continue. “But I was dog
tired. We’d fought for three days and three nights, so I fell asleep in
that good soft bed, and never woke up until my own captain called my
name. We had won the battle, and I had been found again.”

There had been more to the old man’s story, much more. He had told it
over and over, but each time Gale’s soul was fired anew, and she would
whisper:

“Oh! That’s wonderful! When I grow up I’m going to be a soldier.”

And always the old man had laughed his cackling laugh and exclaimed:

“Oh, no you won’t! Because then you’ll be a lady and ladies don’t go to
war—just only men.”

“But women do go to war,” she assured herself as she sat there in the
temple. “And I’m a soldier right now.”

On coming out of her day dream she was a little startled to find that
Isabelle was no longer at her side.

“She’s poking around to see what she can discover,” she assured herself.
That, she knew, was like Isabelle. As for herself, she had always been a
little timid in strange places of religious worship. It was so easy to
commit some prodigious blunder and to bring the wrath of gods down upon
you.

So she sat on in the waning light. As her eyes became accustomed to the
place, she made out the huge Buddha and the many banners that hung from
the walls.

As she wondered what they all meant a breeze swept through the temple.
Like avenging ghosts the banners flapped in the wind.

All of a sudden she caught the sound of movement. Then she made out the
form of some person, perhaps a monk, or a visiting pilgrim, bending
before the Buddha.

She had scarcely made this discovery when the person, who was garbed in
a long robe, arose, turned about, then began making his way toward the
door.

“He’s a monk,” she thought. “He’ll pass close to me and I’ll ask him
about the temple.”

As if he had read her thoughts and wished to avoid her, the man turned
at an angle, walked a few paces, then followed the opposite wall.

“That’s strange,” she thought. Her friends had visited such temples.
They had found these monks most eager to talk, and more eager still to
receive an offering.

There was something strange, almost fanatic about the man. He was of
ordinary height, but quite thin, and he walked rather clumsily.

“As if he were a little lame in both feet,” she told herself.

In a moment he was gone, and the place, it seemed to her, save for
herself, was deserted.

All of a sudden she started and stood up. The faint light of fading day
had blinked out.

“The door!” she thought, in mild panic. “It has been closed!” At the
same time she became conscious of a disturbing odor. “Incense,” she
whispered.

Then she discovered that by some strange magic two great bronze apes,
one on either side of the Buddha, had been set all aglow, and that from
their nostrils thin columns of smoke rose straight toward the ceiling.

“It’s dark!” she thought. “We must be getting back. I wish Isabelle
would come.”

Then, in a leisurely manner she moved toward the door. Arrived there,
she put out a hand for the knob. Then she started back. There was no
knob, no nothing—a very heavy teakwood door, perfectly blank. That was
all. And the smoke of incense in the room grew thicker with every
passing moment.

“Isabelle!” she called. No answer. “Isabelle!” Her voice rose. Still no
answer.

Determined to remain calm, she walked slowly around the room searching
for the door or some other opening. There was no door, only high, flat
walls. And all the time the Buddha smiled and the bronze apes half
hidden by smoke appeared to her.



                               CHAPTER VI
                       _Temple Bells and Terror_


In the meantime Isabelle found herself in a situation that in some ways
seemed more precarious than that of her companion. Having found her way
from the temple room through a narrow door, she had wandered all
undisturbed down a hallway past several open doors. In one room she saw
long tables with benches ranged on either side. Here, she concluded,
pilgrims from distant parts were fed when they visited the shrine of
Buddha. In another room their food was prepared, and in still another,
on hard beds, they slept.

Realizing that it was growing late, she tiptoed back down the hall into
the main temple room. She was about to join her companion, when all of a
sudden she caught a gleam of light from a small room at the right.

As she looked within, she saw that a weird blue light shone upon a
Buddha who sat bent over as if in silent meditation. The workmanship on
this Buddha seemed quite wonderful. The face and hands were exquisitely
carved.

She took three steps inside the room, studied the bowed figure for a
moment, then prepared to go.

Turning half about, she uttered a low cry. The door had vanished. She
faced a blank wall. This room, she discovered for the first time, was
made of eight panels, each forming the side of a hexagon. Which panel
was the door? She had no way of knowing, and if she knew, it would not
help, for there was neither latch nor knob.

Here there was no stifling incense, only a pale, eerie light. But there
was something more terrible—ABSOLUTE SILENCE!

Standing there breathing quite naturally she could hear each breath. She
fancied she heard her quickening heart-beats. She had supposed that she
had known absolute silence before. She now knew that she never had. The
silence of the sea is broken by the rush of waters, the whisper of the
wind. The silence of a vast forest is broken by the flutter of birds’
wings, the low notes of a bird’s song. Even in a vault there comes the
low roar of street traffic far away. Here was neither murmur, whisper,
song, nor low roar. Nothing. Absolute silence.

She examined the blue burning candle. It would last perhaps an hour.
Then absolute night would join absolute silence. She pounded on the
wall. The room roared. But when she had finished pounding, absolute
silence returned,—that—and nothing more.

                            * * * * * * * *

Unlike Isabelle, Gale knew the location of the door through which she
had entered the main temple hall, but try as she might, she could not
budge it. It was as if it were made of iron. And indeed iron has little
resisting power that six inches of solid teakwood does not possess.

After exhausting herself in a mad effort to escape, she resolved to
conserve her energies for her battle with the fumes that rose from the
nostrils of the two guardian apes.

That there would be a struggle she did not doubt, for already the fumes
were making her drowsy. Lying flat down on the floor with her face next
to the door she tried to secure at least a little fresh air through the
crack beneath the door. In this she partially succeeded. How long she
could retain her senses she could not tell.

“What an end for a soldier and the daughter of a soldier!” she thought,
as a fit of wild desperation seized her. She wanted to get up and fight.

“Fight what?” she asked herself. Then suddenly she knew—fight those
incense burners! Fight those leering apes!

At once she was on her knees. Bending low that she might avoid the fumes
as much as possible, she crept toward the Buddha and the apes.

As she came close to her goal the odor was all but overpowering. She
wanted to sleep. “Sleep!” She clenched her fists tight. “I must not
sleep!”

At last her hands were on one of the black metal apes. She grasped its
legs and pulled herself to a sitting position. The ape was solidly
fastened to the floor.

“There is a way to put incense into this burner,” she told herself.
“I’ll find it, open up the burner and scatter the fire on the stone
floor.”

She felt the thing over, inch by inch, burning her fingers where the
incense had heated the metal, but not a suggestion did she get regarding
the manner in which the strange incense burner was opened.

“I—I can do nothing.” She sank down upon the floor.

For a full minute she lay there as if asleep. Then, as strength and
courage returned, she dragged herself to the door and made one last
attempt to drink in air from the crack beneath the door.

“I can’t die like a poisoned rat,” she told herself. “I am a soldier. I
can’t die this way.” Only half conscious of what she was doing, she
screamed:

“No! No! No!” at the top of her voice.

Shocked into sudden full consciousness, she listened. Did she hear
footsteps? Encouraged, she screamed again:

“No! No! No!”

The door swung open and she rolled out on the floor.

Stunned by the sudden turn events had taken, she lay where she was for a
full moment. After a struggle to bring back her drugged senses, she sat
up to find herself staring at one of the strangest looking men she had
ever seen. For a space of seconds she believed that she had not regained
her full consciousness at all, but was in some strange dream world.

Then the man spoke, and she knew he was real. He was short and very fat.
His hands and feet were very small. His finger nails were long and
curved like the talons of an eagle. Dressed as he was in bright robes,
he seemed like some huge bright-hued tropical bird.

“Who closed this door?” he demanded in a high-pitched voice. “Who is
burning my incense? It is terrible, wasting a whole month’s supply in a
single hour!”

Without waiting for a reply, he sprang to the leering apes, and tearing
them apart by some trick known only to himself, spread powder and
glowing sparks over the floor.

After that he danced away on his tiny feet to throw open a back door,
and by some strange device to open a row of shutters beneath the eaves.

Dancing toward the girl he demanded again:

“Who did this? I was away but a moment. You or some other one did this!”

“Yes,” Gale agreed. She was standing now, and towered above him.
“Someone did it, but not I. There was a man here when we came.”

“We!” he screamed. “Then there are others?”

“Only my companion,” she replied. “Don’t forget, we are
soldiers—American soldiers.”

“But you are a woman!” He stared.

“Soldiers in uniform, all the same.”

“Ah, yes,” he sighed. “In China too the women fight. We shall win the
war. When women fight they never lose.

“But you said there was a man.” His voice changed.

“Yes. Yes—I—I remember!” he exclaimed. “He was a slim man who walked a
little lame.”

“In both feet,” Gale suggested.

“Yes, yes, in both feet. He said he was a pilgrim. Everyone is welcome
here. Come.” He took a step. “It is time to eat. You and your companion
are welcome. You shall eat. If you desire, you shall spend the night
here.”

“Oh, no! no!” she protested. “I am not hungry. My companion has
vanished. We must find her.”

“Come.” He grasped her hand. She squirmed a little. The hand with those
talons was terrible, but she did not let go. She dared not. “Come,” he
invited once more.

He led her through the door at the back of the large room and into the
dark hallway beyond. Here he lit a large candle. Once again gripping her
hand, he led her into room after room, murmuring again and again, “Not
here. Not here. It is very strange.”

At last he paused. “There is but one other room,” he murmured. “That is
the Room of Perpetual Silence. There the brethren go for meditation. If
the door is closed, we dare not open it. Never is the door opened by
another when a brother is in meditation.”

“Oh! But we must open the door,” she declared.

“Come. We will look.” He fairly dragged her along.

“The door is closed. We dare not open it.”

“What sort of room is it?” Gale stalled for time to think.

“The walls are very, very thick.” He spoke in a low chanting tone. “The
door too, is thick. There is a Buddha, a meditating Buddha. The floor is
thick. The ceiling is thick. No sound comes there. It is the Room of
Absolute Silence.”

“Then I know what you must do,” said Gale, filled with sudden resolution
as she thought what it must mean to be in such a room for a single hour.
“You must open that door.”

“It has never been done.” He stamped a small foot.

“You will open that door or I will bring a whole company of soldiers.”

“They will be welcome,” he declared, squeezing her hand. “They shall be
fed. They shall sleep here. Everyone is welcome here.”

“Even if they come to tear that door down?” she asked.

“Tear that door down?” he exclaimed. “It is impossible!”

“Nothing is impossible.” Her words carried conviction. “Our engineers
could take this whole temple down and carry it to China.”

He stared at her in astonishment. Twice he appeared about to speak. At
last he said very simply,—“In that case we shall open the door.”

That was just what he did. And there stood Isabelle, blinking at the
light.

“Someone shut the door,” she murmured. “Such a terrible place! I must
have been here a long time. I thought you’d never come.”

“That’s exactly what I thought,” was Gale’s sober reply.

At that the fat little man must have thought of the soldiers who could
“Tear down this temple and carry it to China.”

“Come!” he exclaimed, dancing about like an excited falcon. “I will
guide you down the mountain. Wait I will light a torch. Then we will
go.” He was away like a flash.

“What a strange place!” Isabelle whispered.

“We could stay all night. He said that.” Gale smiled mischievously.
“These monks are really very hospitable.”

“Never! Never!” Isabelle exclaimed.

When each had told the other her experiences, they were well agreed that
their club was a glorious place to be.

And then the gnomelike monk was at their side again. Holding a flaming
pine knot torch high, he urged them to follow him.

They truly needed no urging. And so, with the little man hopping on
ahead and the flaming torch making black giants of all the great trees,
they found their way down the mountainside.

When they reached the first house at the foot of the hill, as if afraid
of being seen, the little monk cast his torch on the ground, dashed out
the flames—then vanished into the night.

“Such a weird experience,” Isabelle murmured.

“Tomorrow I shall visit your colonel,” Gale declared. “I shall say,
‘Colonel, I no longer feel safe in India. Please take me with you into
Burma where there is a nice quiet war going on.’”

But for Gale, exciting events of quite a different nature, events that
would help to shape her future career had been ordered by the gods for
the morrow.



                              CHAPTER VII
                            _Night Bombers_


Gale did visit the colonel next day, but at his request, not hers. And
not a word did she say about the temple adventure. She was rather
ashamed of the whole affair. True enough, that had been her night off.
“But that’s no excuse for risking one’s life in a foolish adventure,”
she told herself savagely.

“How are you and Mac getting on with your practice?” the Colonel asked,
once she was seated before his teakwood desk.

“Oh, fine!” she enthused. “We’ve been working nights. Shot down at least
a dozen bombers only night before last.”

“That’s quite a record.” He laughed. “Strange we haven’t had a report on
it.”

“Well, of course,” she smiled, “the enemies were only transparent
plastic balls that light up and come floating down through the night sky
when I locate them with radar and Mac shoots them down. But if they had
been enemy bombers—”

“You would have scored a hit.”

“Oh, yes! More than one. Radar is wonderful!” Her eyes shone.

“It certainly is,” he agreed. “Of course,” he leaned back in his chair,
“It’s comparatively new to the army. And I might add, that I haven’t
another pair like you and Mac. Your record tops them all.”

“That—oh—” she stammered, “That’s fine.”

“Of course it is. You deserve some sort of a reward.”

“Reward?” Her face flushed. “I don’t want a reward. All I ask is a
chance to serve my country as my father, my grandfather and all the
others have done.”

“That’s the spirit!” He smiled his approval. “For all that, there may be
some request that you would like to make.” A strange smile made
bird-tracks about his eyes.

“No—er—at least—none that you would have a right to grant.”

“Oh! So that’s it!” He sat straight up. “In that case let us say that
your unexpressed wish may have already been granted.”

“You can’t mean—” she hesitated. “Oh, all right, we’ll say that. I’ll be
watching and waiting.”

As she left the large cool room that housed the colonel and his staff,
Gale found her head in a whirl. What had the colonel meant? Did he know
all that was in her mind, or did he know nothing? Only time would tell.

“I’ll work harder than ever,” she told herself. “No more temple bells
for me.” In this she was partly right and partly wrong. In the end,
temples were to play a very large part in her young life, and that very
night, had she but known it, she was to meet someone who would join her
in a rather wild temple adventure.

She and Mac met an hour after darkness had fallen, to resume their
practice.

They had been at it for a long time and were in the process of making
their most perfect score when the phone on the palm tree jangled.

Gale’s heart skipped a beat as her keen ears picked up the words spoken
to Mac over the phone:

“Warning! Enemy bombers, in large formation, approaching from the
northeast. Be at your station.”

“Now we’ll get them!” she exclaimed, as Mac returned to his gun.

“If they don’t get us first,” Mac grumbled. “This night fighting isn’t
so hot. I’ve only been in it twice, but one of those times they nearly
got me.”

“We’ll get them this time,” the girl insisted. “We’ve got to do it!
Think of all those women and children packed away behind those crumbling
walls beside those narrow streets in the city only a ten-minute flight
from here!”

“It’s murder to attack a city like that—”

“Nothing else,” he agreed.

“They’ll fly over us to get to the city, won’t they?” she asked.

“Sure will, if they don’t stop long enough to tear us apart.” Mac
glanced at the dugout. “One thing I want understood. When I say ‘Duck!’
you duck. I’ve seen a lot more of this night fighting than you have.”

She made no reply, but lifting a hand to her ear exclaimed softly,
“Listen! There they come!”

“That’s right.” A confused roar beat upon their eardrums. “Must be a big
flight of them tonight.”

Gale looked to her instruments. They were in perfect condition—always
were—but now they must be perfection personified. A slip might mean the
loss of a thousand lives in that crowded city.

This done, there was nothing left but to wait.

“It won’t be long now,” she whispered.

“It won’t be long,” Mac echoed, fingering his gun.

Gale wondered if she could ever describe the feelings that coursed
through her being as she waited. First a feeling of great exultation
swept over her. She had power—such power as she had never known
before—the power to destroy a hated enemy. A dozen, a score, perhaps
half a hundred enemies might fall to death because of her radar. She had
power to save countless lives.

Then she went all cold. She might fail, or be killed before she had done
her work.

After that came a steady, calm resolve. She felt free as air. Her
fingers would do her bidding perfectly. She wanted to sing.

“Here they come! Get set!” Mac was teetering on his toes. She knew that
type too. They performed the most dangerous tasks as if they were
dancing to fast music. She knew Mac. He was all right.

Now she was sending out those long electric fingers. They went here,
there, everywhere, but found nothing. They could only reach for the
stars.

“Too far away yet,” she murmured. “We’ll have to wait. We—

“There!” she exclaimed. “They’re coming in. Let me show you.” Seizing
his gun control, she set it at a definite angle. “That’s the line
they’re taking. Coming straight.”

“Swell!” Mac’s lips were drawn into a thin line. “Very kind of them. Let
me know if they leave that course. When they get in close enough I’ll
let them have it.”

“And keep it up,” she hissed. “We’ll get three of them.”

“Three of them! That’s a lot!”

“Not enough,” she murmured. Then—“Coming straight on. Still coming. Same
direction, same height. How wonderful!”

“Mar—marvelous.” Mac’s throat went dry.

“Still coming straight on. Same direction. Same height. Seems as if I
should see them.”

“But you can’t.”

“They’re close now. Get ready. Same direction. Same—Fire!” Her voice
rose to a scream. Her wind-blown hair was in a mad tangle, her face lit
as by a flame.

The big pom pom gun roared.

“Again!” Once more the gun spoke. “Again! Again! Again!”

Something was happening up there in the sky. The exploding shells
boomed, while in between the sound of oncoming planes became more and
more confused.

“They’re almost over us.” Mac glanced at the air shelter.

“We can’t stop yet. Once more,” she pleaded.

Once again the gun spoke.

Next instant, as if caught by a whirlwind, Gale was seized from behind
and sent through such a dizzy circle that she had no notion where she
was going until she landed on the floor of the air raid shelter.

“Let me go! We’ve got—”

She did not finish, for a pair of hands seized her and shook her hard.
“You fool!” a voice hissed. “Want to get—”

The voice was drowned by a roar that tore the very earth about them, and
seemed to lift their air raid shelter up to let it gently down again.

“That,” said Mac, “was one whale of a bomb.” Gale looked at Mac. He was
seated before her. Who was behind her? Who had perhaps—no, most
certainly had saved her life?

“We’ll have some hot tea,” Mac said calmly, as he reached for a small
charcoal burner in a dark corner.

“Tea? Oh yes, tea.” Gale’s head was in a whirl.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                         _I’ll Get Two of You_


Gale struggled to her feet so suddenly that she banged her head on the
low ceiling of the air raid shelter.

“We—we’ve got to get out of here,” she exclaimed. “Just got to down one
of those bombers. We—” She stopped short. The roar of more exploding
enemy bombs drowned the sound of her voice.

And then, ten times louder, though from some distance off, came another
roar.

“You got one of them, sister,” said a voice behind her. “You sure got
one.”

Scarcely had the voice died away when there came a second terrific roar.
This time it was much closer.

“Two of ’em,” the voice exclaimed. “Say! Night fighting, at that! You’re
really good!”

“I wanted three,” was Gale’s instant reply. “Come on, Mac, let’s get out
and down one more!”

“Something tells me you have nothing left but your hands to fight with,”
said the voice.

“Noth—nothing left?” she stammered.

“I’ll bet you a coke that your outfit is blown to bits,” said the voice.
“I’ve seen a lot of bombing, some of it close. Too close. But none as
close as that. That bomb came very near sending us all to Glory.”

“That’s right,” Mac agreed. “Uncle Sam’ll love to fix me up with a new
gun. I don’t mind that. A change is always welcome.”

“But I had everything fixed just the way I wanted it,” Gale all but
wailed.

“Sure,” said the voice. “That’s the way it is in war, and all of life, I
guess. Perhaps that’s what war is all about. I wouldn’t know. People get
things fixed up just the way they want them—a home—a good job—a fine
club—a golf course to play on—lots of friends, and—”

“Then they’re bored to death,” Mac put in.

“You’re just right, they are,” the voice agreed. “And then along comes
the war and they cry to Heaven, ‘I had everything fixed just the way I
wanted it!’” Suddenly the voice faded.

“Listen!” said Mac.

The sky was filled with sound, the roar of planes, some high pitched,
some low, fighters and bombers. The rat-tat-tat of machine guns and the
pom-pom of anti-aircraft made hash of it all.

“Our night fighters are up. Good show!” exclaimed the voice. “Your radar
wouldn’t do any good now. You’d get the wrong plane. Might as well
settle down and enjoy a spot of tea.”

Gale was still angry at this person who, impersonating a whirlwind, had
thrown her into the dugout. She was also curious. By this time the
charcoal burner gave off a ruddy glow, lighting up the place a bit.

She turned half about. The light fell on a sun-tanned face that seemed
in some way at the same time absurdly youthful and very old. The eyes
were dark blue and deep-set. The lips were parted in a smile. But there
were lines—deep cut lines in that face.

“Who—who are you?” she asked, without meaning to.

“Well, since you’ve asked me,” he laughed in a dry sort of way, “I don’t
mind telling you that I’m Jimmie Nightingale, and that I was once a
Flying Tiger.”

“A flying Tiger!” Her lips parted in surprise.

“Yep. That’s a fact. But now I’m just a member of the Ferry Command. I
ferry all sorts of planes and all kinds of things over the mountains
into China.”

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Over Burma?”

“Naturally.”

“Tell—tell me what it’s like,” came in an awed whisper. “I—perhaps I’m
going there.”

“It’s like nothing you ever saw before,” was Jimmie’s reply. “Mountains
all piled up in a heap. Rushing streams, giant teakwood forests,
head-hunters, villages and temples—all that. And then,”—he caught his
breath, “Palm trees, pineapple fields, rice paddies, and again sandy
deserts,—such deserts as you never dreamed of. Sands and dust that
shakes you and no water to drink. No roads worth mentioning, and silly
little brown men setting all sorts of traps to catch you. That’s Burma
at its worst and its best.”

“How about the tea, Mac?” Jimmie’s voice dropped. “My throat is dry.”

“Water’s just ready to boil,” said Mac. “Wait. I’ve got some ginger
cookies and chocolate bars hidden away here if the rats haven’t taken
them.”

“Regular feed! That’s the stuff!” Jimmie enthused.

As for Gale, she dug a comb out from beneath her khaki unionalls and
started putting her wind-blown hair to rights. “My name’s Gale Janes,”
she volunteered.

“Nice name, but it doesn’t fit. How about Hellcat?” Jimmie asked.

“You don’t have to be terrible to be of some use in the world,” she
protested. “Many a gale has moved a big ship.

“You might like to know,” she confided, “That when the time comes, I’m
going to Burma with the colonel and his army on his way back—his march
of triumph.”

“How nice!” said Jimmie. “Does the colonel know?”

“Not yet, so don’t breathe a word of it.”

“I won’t, but I’ve heard that it’s going to be hard for any woman to get
a ride on that trip. There’s going to be a lot of hard fighting.”

“So the WACS will be left behind where it’s safe.” Her voice was filled
with scorn. “The clan I belong to goes places and does things. My father
was sheriff once in one of the fightingest counties of the Cumberland
Mountains in old Kentucky.”

“Is that right? Tell me about it.” Jimmie was all attention.

“I don’t remember too much of it. I was only twelve then. We didn’t stay
long, just long enough to sort of clean things up.”

“You and your Dad?” He laughed low.

“Just Dad, that time.” She joined in the laugh. “But we’ve done things
together since. And we’d do them again over here.” Her voice went husky.
“Dad’s a little bit of all right, but he’s over age and they wouldn’t
take him.”

“So you came instead?” Jimmie’s voice was low, friendly.

“Something like that,” she agreed.

“Tell me about the Cumberlands,” Jimmie begged. “I read books about them
when I was a boy. They went like this: ‘He jerked a blue barrelled
pistol from under his arm and whang! Whang! The desperado bit the
dust.’”

“That’s not very accurate, but it will do,” Gale laughed. “Tell me more
about Burma and the route you take,” she begged. “Then I’ll tell you
about the Cumberlands. Turn about is fair play.”

“The Burma air trail,” he mused. “That’s the toughest trail there is in
all the world. No kiddin’. The Burma air route is the worst there ever
was. There’s one spot at the crest of that towering ridge that we call
‘Hell’s Half Hour.’ The rocks are like iron hands reaching up to slap
you, and the gales come up without a moment’s warning to lift you and
whirl you into the sky.

“Some of the boys have crashed there and have never been heard from
again.” Jimmie’s voice went husky. “And some of them wandered for weeks
in the trackless wilderness until some wild natives picked them up, fed
them, and brought them in.

“And then there’s the desert,” he went on. “A forced landing there can
mean anything from murder to suicide. But mostly we make it.” He drew a
long breath. “I always have.

“But let me tell you one thing, sister.” His voice rose. “We’ll be
mighty glad when you and the colonel have blazed the land trail across
Burma to China and straight to Tokio. And there are signs.” His voice
dropped to a whisper. “There are signs, sister.” His voice trailed off.

At that instant there came the sound of some slight movement at the back
of the shelter. Quick as a flash Mac threw the gleam of his electric
torch into that dark corner. Its gleam fell on the startled face of a
little dark-complected man.

“The black dwarf,” Gale whispered. “He was there when we had that other
air raid.”

“What does that mean?” Mac whispered back.

“Who knows? Probably nothing.”

“All the same, I don’t like his looks. I have a good notion to throw him
out.”

“Mac! You couldn’t do that. It’s not safe,” she protested.

“There are a lot of things that are not safe in this strange world we’re
living in now,” Mac grumbled as he turned his attention to his brewing
tea.

“You were going to tell me about your Cumberland Mountain experience,”
said Jimmie.

“Oh, yes,” she agreed. “Well, there’s not so much to tell? I was young
then. It’s all a bit vague in my mind. Some things were being done down
there that shouldn’t have been—too much moonshine and lots of trouble,
shooting at the feet of Union organizers who visited the mines, and all
that.”

“And your father cleaned all that up?” he suggested.

“Well, yes, after a while. One scene stands out in my memory. Nothing
much.” She laughed lightly. “Only you remember events that are rather
dramatic, you know.”

“That’s right.”

“Well, it seems that some of the men decided to gang up on Dad.”

“And wipe him out?”

“Something like that. They caught up with him in a big room of the old
brick court house. I was with Dad. And was I thrilled!”

“Scared?”

“No! Of course not! I said Dad was with me, didn’t I?”

“Oh, sure. But—”

“Dad didn’t let the gang get too close to him.” She tensed a little.
“There were a dozen of those men, all armed. Dad just sort of backed off
a little and then crossed his arms over his chest with one hand under
each arm.”

“And then what?” he whispered.

“Dad said,” Gale drew a long breath. “I can just hear him now. He said,
‘Well, boys, you can kill me, but I’ll get two of you’.”

“What did you do?” Jimmie asked.

“I climbed up on a chair so I could see what would happen next,” she
replied simply.

“Oh—a” Jimmie whistled softly. “What—you—you were magnificent! But what
did happen?”

“Nothing. Just nothing at all,” she said.

“For Pete’s sake!” he exclaimed. “Why not?”

“Because those men knew that Dad had a big long blue-barrelled gun in
each hand, slung from a holster under his arms, and they knew that he
was faster than they were,—a lot faster. They knew that if they started
things, two of them would die, and they didn’t know just which two.”

“Sayee!” Jimmie whistled again. “That was really something! And your
part was the best of all. Say! I’ll join your clan just any day. What’s
the countersign?”

“A good honest handshake.” She put out a hand to give his a good manly
grip.

“And then,” she added with a laugh, “I’d say, ‘Well, I’ve got to be
going down. Just come down with me.’”

“And I would say?” he asked.

“You would say, ‘I can’t today. Just go up with me’.”

“You got me that time!” Jimmie laughed. “Got me dead to rights. Well,
maybe I’ll take you up in my plane over Burma sometimes, even if it is
against the rules.”



                               CHAPTER IX
                        _Three Secrets of Radar_


“Come on. Let’s get out of here,” Gale exclaimed, as if some urgent need
had suddenly pressed in upon her. “IT’s all quiet now.”

This certainly was true, at least for the moment. There was the sound of
air battles dying away in the distance.

“Okay,” Mac agreed, snapping on his flashlight. “Let’s have a look.”

A moment later they stood staring at a deep pit dug in the ground by an
exploding shell.

“They missed my gun by at least a dozen feet,” Mac laughed low. “Pretty
good precision bombing. Or is it?”

“It may have been bad aim,” said Jimmie. “But it didn’t do your gun a
bit of good.” He was examining a mass of twisted steel that had been
Mac’s gun. “You can contribute that to the next scrap drive.”

“I’ll have nothing to contribute.” Gale did not laugh. To her the things
she worked with, tools, scissors, radios, just everything was real,
almost a part of her. And her radar set had been blown to bits.

“Come on,” said Mac, “Let’s see what we did to those Jap bombers. That
nearest one we brought down should not be far away.”

“No thanks.” Gale shuddered. “I’ll never look at a wrecked plane if I
can avoid it. I don’t mind helping to shoot down. That hardly seems
real—sort of a game. But the results! I’ll leave them to others.”

“As you like it,” Mac agreed, in a friendly voice.

Mac and Jimmie walked away, but the girl stood there staring at the hole
in the ground as if trying to convince herself it was really there. Then
suddenly she exclaimed:

“Oh! Good grief! I nearly forgot!”

At that she threw on her flashlight to begin circling that black hole.

Like a reaper mowing a field of grain, she covered just so much ground
with each circle of her light.

In the midst of her fifth circle she paused to exclaim: “Oh! Good!”

Bending over she picked something up to thrust it deep in her pocket.

She had been at this for some time with no further discoveries, when
suddenly she caught the gleam of another light moving about the edge of
the palm trees. Curious, with a little suspicion welling up in her
being, still pretending to search, she wandered in the direction of that
other light.

The mysterious gleam wavered about on the ground for a space of seconds,
then blinked out. Instantly Gale lifted her light, at the same time
clicking on a device for doubling its power. The result, considering the
time and the place, was rather startling. Within the circle of light,
blinking but apparently unmoved, stood a tall, dark complected young
woman. Her hair and eyes were very black. She was dressed in a long silk
gown of deep purple, dark as night.

“What are you doing here?” Gale asked, still advancing.

As if to meet her challenge, the woman flashed on her own light and
allowed it to play upon the American girl’s face.

“Oh! You are one of those lady soldiers. So strange.” The woman spoke in
low, musical tones. Her English was perfect, but she spoke with a
peculiar accent.

“I am a WAC,” said Gale. “And I still want to know what you are doing
here. These are military grounds. Only those in uniform are allowed to
be here without military escort.”

“This is my country!” the woman replied sharply. “I go where I please.
There has been a bombing. Is it not so? I find the results of these
bombings of intense interest. Why should I not observe them?”

“Because it is against military orders,” Gale snapped.

“You are not of the Military Police. You are only one of those women who
were sent because there are not enough men in America to fight a war.”
There was a suggestion of scorn in the woman’s voice.

“I am not a member of the military police,” Gale replied in a steady
voice. (Inside she was seething with anger.) “I can, however, report
you, and shall do so unless you leave the grounds at once.”

“In that case I shall go. But without question, we shall meet again.”
The woman laughed mirthlessly. “I am known to your colonel and many
others of some importance.” At that the woman in purple gathered up the
edges of her long gown and proudly marched away into the night.

“I got what I wanted,” Gale thought. “Wonder if it’s what I wanted,
after all?” At that she resumed her circling search, but without visible
results. So interested was she in her search that she started violently
when a voice said:

“What are you looking for?”

“Oh! It’s you, Jimmie Nightingale!” she exclaimed.

“Sure!” Jimmie grinned. “But if it’s your radar set you’re looking for,
you might as well forget it. All you’ll find won’t help you much.”

“No. It won’t help me.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. He was very near
her now. “But it might help someone else a lot.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know about radar, don’t you?”

“A little.”

“It’s a marvelous invention. The Navy has used it to locate enemy boats
thirty miles away, at night, in a thick fog. Yes, and has sent the boats
to the bottom before the Japs knew they were anywhere near.”

“Yes, I know,” said Jimmie. “And I’ve been told that the fellow who
caught the first hint of the Jap planes approaching Pearl Harbor was
experimenting with radar. And so, what about it?”

“Lots about it,” Gale whispered. “Our enemies have radar sets of a sort,
but not nearly as good as ours. We have secrets in our radar sets that
they don’t know about. You’d find them, the three most important ones,
done up in three gadgets,—none of them very large. See this?” She held
up the things she had picked up only a short time before. “That’s one of
them. That bomb tore it from my radar cabinet. It’s almost perfect
still, for all that.”

“I see what you are getting at.” Jimmie’s eyes brightened. “If our
enemies found those trinkets scattered around here they’d know the
secrets.”

“That’s right. Please help me find the rest of them.”

“Okay. Let’s go.” He snapped on his light.

                            * * * * * * * *

“Boy! Oh boy! We sure messed up those two bombers!” a voice exclaimed a
moment later. It was Mac, just back from his tour of inspection.

“Gale, old girl!” he exclaimed, “You’ll get a medal this time, whether
you like it or not.”

“If I do, I’ll trade it for a new radar set,” she replied soberly.

“Oh, you’ll get that new radar set and a swell place to use it,” Mac
exclaimed. “Radar experts better than you just don’t happen. You two
wait here a bit.” Mac’s voice dropped. “I’ll get in my jeep and spin
around to make a report. The phone’s dead.”

“Don’t hurry back,” Jimmie chuckled. “We’ve got an appointment with
destiny.”

At that Mac hurried away and the two of them, Gale and Jimmie, continued
their search for the secrets of radar.

For a full half hour, with flashlights painting circular patterns of
light on the grey earth, they continued the search. Twice Jimmie came to
her with the query:

“How about this?”

Both times the reply was: “Nope. That’s not it.”

The third time was the charm. “Jimmie!” she cried. “That’s really one of
the secrets of radar! It’s in perfect condition, too! Oh! Jimmie! You’re
a jewel!”

“I’m glad you think so,” he replied soberly. “I was afraid you’d think I
was a heel the way I dragged you into that raid shelter a while back.”

“I—I didn’t like it,” she admitted. “But that’s all forgiven now.”

“Really,”—his voice was husky—“I did just the right thing. In war, you
have to be daring but must never be reckless. Your life, Gale, is the
one priceless thing you have to give to your country. Your radar set,
your car, my plane,—all that we have and use, can be replaced. When you
and I are gone, it’s final. So for your family’s sake, for Uncle Sam,
and for me, save yourself for a good long fight.”

“Jimmie,” she whispered, “That’s a grand speech. I won’t forget it,
ever.”

“But there’s one more secret of radar lying around loose. We just must
find it,” she whispered.

“It may be gone for good,” was his answer. “But we can try.”

That is just what they did for another quarter of an hour, but without
success. Then Mac came rattling back in his jeep.

“What’s up?” he called when he saw their circling lights.

“Gale lost the three secrets,” was Jimmie’s reply. “We’ve found two of
them, but the third is still missing.”

“Skip it,” said Mac, when this puzzle had been taken apart for him.
“This has been a hard day. We need sleep. Here comes the guard. Not a
soul will be allowed on the grounds before sunrise.”

“I saw a woman,” Gale began.

“Oh, sure,” Mac broke in. “I’ve seen a lot of them. Some I wish I’d
never met. Come on. Hop in. Let’s go.”

“Here comes the guard” was right, and there was no mistaking its coming.
A jeep came careening around a cluster of palm trees.

In it rode four doughboys singing at the tops of their voices.

“Oh, we won’t go home until morning, we won’t go home until morning, we
won’t go home until morning, and that is Irish too.”

“Any smart woman could tie and blindfold that bunch,” Gale grumbled.

“All right. Stick around and try it,” Mac challenged. “Or else climb
into this jeep.”

Gale capitulated. She and Jimmie climbed in and they rattled away. But
even as she rode through the shadows, Gale could close her eyes and see
the tall, stately figure of that woman in purple.



                               CHAPTER X
                       _My Destination Is Tokio_


Mac found three of his weary comrades waiting patiently for his return
to the parking space. Like Mac, they had their billets in the city and
hoped for a ride in. They got it, too, for Jimmie volunteered to ride
with Gale in her jeep. Since a jeep is one of those vest pocket sized
imitations of a real car, whose front seat is comfortably and
delightfully crowded by two people, this was no great sacrifice on
Jimmie’s part.

“Chums for a night,” he murmured as he slipped into his place and the
jeep went gliding away. “That’s war for you!” he mused. “You are here
today, and away tomorrow, and tomorrow may be your last day on earth.”

“So you live that day as if it were your last, with all the excitement
and happiness you can pick into it,” was Gale’s comment on war and life.

“Happiness, yes. Loads of it!” he agreed. “Excitement? Well, I don’t
know. At least, if you still hope to stretch that day into several
more—and who doesn’t?—you don’t go out and make a fool of yourself, get
drunk, and all that.”

“I should hope not!” she exclaimed. “Not if you are a flyer. I’ve heard
that high octane gas and alcohol don’t mix.”

“You’re darn tootin’, they don’t,” he exclaimed. “I’ve seen it tried,
but the fellow who tried it didn’t come back to tell us how it worked.
He saw two zeroes and thought they were only one.

“But say!” his voice dropped. “I’ve just got one more day in the city,—a
day and a night, and then I’m off on a dangerous mission—big
four-motored job, loaded to the top with bombs, little gifts for the
little brown devils. How about you and me having a night off together?”

“This night is spent,” she laughed softly.

“But not tomorrow night? How about it?” His tone voiced his eagerness.

“That—I think that will be swell, if I can get the night off—and I
suppose I can,” she agreed.

“Sure you can! What chance is there of locating Jap planes with one
secret of radar missing?”

“Not a chance. But, O dear! I’ll have to be out there at break of dawn
looking for the third secret.”

“You needn’t let that bother you. It may be blown to bits.”

“Something seems to tell me it’s not. Anyway I must do my best to find
it.”

“If you do find it you’ll want to celebrate,” he insisted.

“And if I don’t find it I’ll need consolation.”

“Nice, either way,” he laughed. “So I’ll be around to—”

“My club.”

“Oh! You live in a club house?”

“Wait till you see it!”

“I’ll be there at 8 P. X. and we’ll make a night of it. Nothing rough.
Just the swellest dinner you ever ate, a little dancing, and
confessions. There must always be confessions before a parting that may
be forever.”

Gale did not know exactly what he meant by “confessions”, but let it go
at that.

                            * * * * * * * *

She did not find the “third secret of radar” next day, and that in spite
of four hours of searching in the hot sun. “It’s not here,” she told
herself at last, “But I’m still sure it’s somewhere around here.”

That evening Jimmie Nightingale called at the appointed hour.

As he stepped into the big, cool lounge of the Club his eyes wandered
from corner to corner. He took in all the big easy chairs where girls in
slacks, shorts and robes lounged in comfort. He saw the white-clad
attendants and the gleaming glasses at the bar, listened to the low
murmur of voices and the whir of electric fans, then exclaimed under his
breath:

“Boy! Oh boy! This is something!” A strange smile played around his lips
as she joined him.

“And you’d give all this up for a tent on some mountainside by a dusty
road,” was his quiet comment. “Or at the edge of a desert? You’d stand
in the mud for an hour with a mess kit in your hand waiting for a
service of ‘gold fish’—meaning canned salmon—or ‘corned Willie’—which is
soldier for corned beef? You’d sleep on a canvas cot, or on the ground,
with all sorts of insects crawling round you? You want to really be in
the war? Why?”

“Just to be a soldier, Jimmie.” Her voice was husky. “To be a real
soldier like my Dad. Just to do my part.”

“Come on,” her voice rose, “This is our night. There may never be
another. Let’s not talk about war. Let’s just have us a time.”

It was their night, just that. He took her to a place she had never so
much as heard of, a gorgeous place to dine and dance. Behind living palm
trees slow fans wafted breezes from the distant sea. From farther back,
quite out of sight, a strange Oriental band played bewitching music.
Gale could name neither the instruments nor the tunes, but together they
invited one to dance.

They did dance for a full hour until the aroma of strange, appetizing
food drew them to a table.

A waiter with gleaming black eyes set their table, then placed the menu
before them.

Without looking up Jimmie ordered for them both.

“It’s no use asking you what you’d like,” he stated without apology.
“You won’t know what you’ve eaten when you’ve finished. I know that. I’m
that way myself tonight. It’s nice to be sort of delirious, half crazy,
once or twice a year. It sort of clears one’s brain.”

“That’s right,” she smiled at him in a strange way. “This is our night.
There may never be another.”

“Something seems to tell me we are to meet again.” He did not smile.

“Over ‘Hell’s Half Hour’ perhaps,” she suggested.

“Stranger things than that have happened in this crazy war of ours. But
if this is our last meeting,” he was serious again, “I’m not afraid. In
war, after quite a time, you stop being afraid. To die is not so tough.
I died once, as hard as anyone can die.”

“How, Jimmie?” she whispered huskily.

“A Jap shot my plane from under me. There were four of them. I got
three, but the other one got me,” he explained.

“I had to bail out. In getting away I hit my head on something and went
out like a match. When I came out of it—two hours later—my watch was
still running—I was lying on a bed of flowers beside a stream on the
only flat, treeless bit of land for miles.”

“Flow—flowers for a funeral,” she murmured.

“Perhaps,” he agreed, “but not for mine. But I ask you. Didn’t I die? If
I’d gotten a little harder crack it would have split my skull and that
would have been the end. What’s the difference?”

“But if you’d gone into another world?” she spoke.

“I don’t know much about that,” he replied soberly. “I hope there’s a
future life. Here’s hoping. That’s all I can say.”

“Here’s hoping.” She held up two fingers, crossed. “But Jimmie!” she
exclaimed, bringing him back to his story. “We left you lying on a bed
of flowers with a cracked head.”

“Oh, it wasn’t so badly cracked,” he laughed. “I washed off the blood,
tied my handkerchief about my bean and stumbled along until a native in
a canoe caught up with me. The native liked the looks of my knife, so I
traded it with him for a lift back to civilization. And, so, here we
are.”

“That,” she said, “was a happy ending.”

“Jimmie,”—she leaned forward—“You’d be interested in what Dad said to me
when I went away.”

“I’m sure I would,” Jimmie grinned.

“He said, ‘Gale, you’re going to war. You’re not the sort to choose the
soft and easy way. Sooner or later you’ll find yourself in a foxhole.
They say there’s a lot of religion in foxholes. Maybe so but I never saw
much of it in France during the first World War, and I was in lots of
foxholes,—Chateau Thierry, Belleau Woods, the Argonne’.

“He said that, Jimmie.” Her eyes were shining. “Then he said, ‘I’ve
never been so strong for the kind of religion you get in big buildings
with steeples and towers. It’s all right, I guess, but for my part I
stand alone with God.

“‘Yes, I believe in God’. He said that, Jimmie. ‘That’s not all,’ he
said, ‘I trust God, just as I have trusted my fellow men. They’ve
treated me fairly well. I expect God to be as good to them, or even
better. When my work’s done here, if I discover there’s another world
after this one, I expect God to give me a square deal and a real
interesting job over there, and that’s all I ask.’

“Jimmie,”—there was a glint of tears in her eyes, “Wasn’t that a strange
speech for a father to make when his only daughter was going to war?”

“Pretty swell, I’d say!” Jimmie brushed his forehead. “Makes me think
I’d like to meet him.”

“Perhaps you will meet him, Jimmie,” she whispered.

“Could be,” he agreed.

“You will, Jimmie, if—”

“If we both come out of this thing alive. Here’s hoping.”

Lifting a glass, he was joined by the girl in a silent toast to the
future.

And then, there was the waiter with a big tray of food. Jimmie had been
mistaken. Gale did know what she was eating, and was delighted. She
could not have named one of the dishes, but she did know that this one
was a strange new soup with a wild tang to it like the glorious breath
of a tropical wilderness; that that one was a rare combination of fruits
some of which she had never before tasted, and that this was chicken
cooked in a new and delectable manner.

“Jimmie!” she exclaimed. “How did you ever discover this place!”

“I was taken to it by a very high ranking British officer,” he replied.
“Not that his rank mattered. Men are all alike to me. I neither honor
nor trust them too much until I know them well.”

“But how did it happen that he brought you here?” she asked.

“I hate to tell you.” He was plainly embarrassed. “But it seems I shot
down quite a lot of Jap Zeroes just at a time when they needed shooting
down, so this brass hat who turned out to be quite a fine fellow, got
some of his friends together and gave a party in my honor.

“I was bored,” he admitted frankly. “All I wanted to do was to go out
and shoot down more Zeroes. I wasn’t doing it for glory but for China. I
had seen what the Zeroes had done to defenseless little people—men,
women and children—in China, and I wanted to pay them back for it.”

“And I suppose that’s how you feel right now.” Gale gave him a teasing
smile. “A little bored.”

Jimmie grinned back at her, then exclaimed—“Not on your life!”

Then suddenly Gale forgot all this. “Jimmie!” she exclaimed, nodding
toward a table in the corner. “See that woman in purple?”

“Yes,” he whispered back. “Rather striking, isn’t she? An Indian woman
of very high class. Perhaps a little European blood in her veins. But
what about her?”

“She’s the woman I saw out at the field last night. She was searching
the field just as I was until I made her go away. Jimmie!” she gripped
his arm. “I suspect her of having the third secret of radar.”

“What? Impossible!”

“But why impossible?” she demanded.

“She is of very high rank. No others are allowed here except a few like
myself who have been introduced by regular—ah—members, you might say.”

“There have been high class spies,” she insisted.

“Not many,” he argued.

“She may be one of the few.”

“Well, you’ll have to prove it,” he replied, unconvinced. “And that will
be both difficult and dangerous. Let’s drop it for now. This is our
night. Besides, the ice cream here is most unusual.”

The ice cream _was_ unusual. However it is to be doubted whether Gale
really tasted its goodness, for all the time her eyes were on the woman
in purple. She was consciously memorizing her features, the color of her
hair and eyes, her high forehead that might have been European, her thin
nose, her small red mouth, and her thin chin. She memorized too the
shape of her long fingers and the rings set with two diamonds and a
ruby.

“Now,” she whispered to herself, “If I see you again I shall know you,
whether you are dressed in royal purple or in rags.”

As if the woman had heard, she turned and looked right at Gale. Did she
give a sudden start? Gale thought so. If this was true, she made a quick
recovery, for turning squarely about, the woman began talking with
animation to the man at her side.

“My destination is Tokio,” Jimmie murmured, as if talking to himself.

“What? What did you say?” Gale exclaimed.

Jimmie’s reply was in a voice lower than her own. “It is agreed, a sort
of unwritten law, that when Tokio is bombed by planes flying from China,
all the remaining Flying Tigers still fit for service shall have a place
in that flight. I hope to be one of these. That is my confession to my
goddess for tonight.”

“And my confession,” she replied instantly, “Is that I hope to be the
radar man in the bomber you fly over Tokio!”

“That—”

“Wait! Don’t say it is impossible.” She put two fingers over his lips.
“It is not impossible. I am as good as any radar man, and quite as
unafraid. It is not impossible that I should go.”

“Everything you have said is true,” he replied soberly.

“Only time will tell. If it can be arranged I shall be proud to have you
as one of my comrades at arms.”

“That,” she replied, “Is the grandest speech anyone ever made to me.”

An hour later as they said goodbye at the door of the Club, Jimmie gave
her a little something to remember. She found herself blushing as she
hurried up the stairs to her room.

She did not fall asleep at once. There were too many thoughts and
emotions to be filed away in her well ordered mind.

When at last she did fall asleep she had a most horrible dream. In the
dream she and Jimmie stood before a statue in a park. It was a simple
and unusual statue at first, but suddenly it began to grow, to stretch
up and up toward the sky. It was a purple statue.

“The lady in purple,” she seemed to whisper.

Just then, in the dream the tall statue began to lean toward them. It
leaned more and more.

“Jimmie! Jimmie!” she tried to call. “She is falling on us,—the lady in
purple!”

Her vain effort to call wakened her. She found herself in a cold sweat.
Did this dream have a meaning? She could not tell. So at last she
dropped off into peaceful slumber.



                               CHAPTER XI
                  _They Who Steal Out into the Night_


And then it came—right out of a clear sky—the order that was to change
the entire course of Gale’s life.

She got a slight inkling of what was coming from the little Burmese
nurse, Than Shwe. Like some frightened bird Than Shwe came dancing into
Gale’s room just as she was preparing for lunch.

“I have a secret,” she chanted. “Little Than Shwe has a secret. She
would tell, if she dared, but she dare not.”

“Oh! A secret?” Gale was at once torn between her love for the little
nurse and her desire to know the secret, especially if it happened to
concern her own life.

“Tell me, Than Shwe,”—she spoke as quietly as possible—“Does your secret
have anything to do with me?”

“I do not know for sure.” Than Shwe spoke slowly. “I am quite sure it
does—yes—and for Isabelle and Jan too—it may be terribly important.”

“Oh! Isabelle and Jan?” Gale caught her breath. She recalled the request
they had signed and had sent to the colonel several days before. She did
not dare hope the request had been granted. No more did she dare press
Than Shwe for a more definite answer. The little Burmese girl, she knew,
had a heart of gold! A little teasing, and—

“No!” she told herself. “It would never do. A military secret is not to
be toyed with.” So she asked no more questions.

“I’ll see you tonight. I think perhaps at nine—perhaps later.”

With this final bit of mysterious information and a teasing smile, Than
Shwe danced out of the room.

Gale’s head was in a whirl. Was the big moment near at hand? Were all
her dreams to come true? She dared not hope.

She ate very little lunch. She was too excited to eat. She drank three
pots of very strong coffee. Just as she was preparing to leave Isabelle
joined her. There was a strangely sober look on her friend’s round,
rosey face.

“Suppressed excitement,” Gale read it, and was at once more excited than
ever.

“Colonel kept me overtime,” Isabelle explained, staring at the menu.

“Toast,” she ordered. “A banana. Some cookies and tea—a large pot of
black tea.”

“What? You too?” Gale exclaimed. “Than Shwe has me all excited.” She
spoke in a casual tone. “And now you seem lost in a dream. Than Shwe
seems to have a secret. What about you?”

“A secret? Oh, yes,” said Isabelle, absentmindedly. “I shouldn’t
wonder.”

Nothing more was said until Isabelle’s lunch arrived. Even then Isabelle
appeared to be thinking out loud when she spoke.

“Can you imagine being cool, really cold, after a month of this terrible
heat of India?” she asked.

Gale could not, and said so.

“Well, try it,” said Isabelle.

“Why?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

“Oh! Go to Boston! No one has any sense today!” Gale exclaimed. “Perhaps
it’s the heat. I’ll try thinking about being cold. The shores of a
northern lake deep in the evergreen forest—wild duck—perhaps a moose—way
back in Michigan.” She laughed as she rose and hurried away.

“I’ll drive out to see Mac,” Gale told herself. “Mac is always so sober
and matter-of-fact about things.”

She found him directing the placing of a new anti-aircraft gun.

“So Mac isn’t going,” she thought. Her heart seemed to sink. She liked
Mac and had counted on working with him for a long time. They made a
good team, she thought.

And then it occurred to her that she was on the wrong track—that she
herself was going nowhere.

She thought of something else. “Mac!” she exclaimed. “I haven’t found
that third secret of radar, and I think—that is, I hope maybe I’m going
on sort of a trip.”

Mac straightened up suddenly. “What? You think—” He stopped short,
stared at her, and then in a changed voice said:

“Forget the third secret of radar! You’re as bad as the colored soldier
in the first World War who was looking for his arm that had been blown
off. When they told him the arm couldn’t be put back, he said, ‘Yas sir.
I know dat. But thar’s a thirty dollar wrist watch on that arm!’”

Mac laughed at his own joke. Then he said:

“This is war. You can’t expect to get everything back when a block
buster drops close to you.”

“Oh—I—”

“I’m sorry,” Mac interrupted. “I’ve got to get this gun in place
before—” He caught himself, and did not finish.

“Nice crowded little world,” the girl told herself. “I’m going back to
the Club and sit in a corner until something happens.”

But she didn’t—at least, not for long.

Scarcely had she downed a glass of limeade, made with real limes, when
Isabelle came rushing in to seize her by the arm and drag her up toward
their room.

“Orders!” Isabelle whispered, flapping a paper in the air. “Marching
orders.” At that Gale nearly collapsed on the stairs.

“What does it mean?” she gasped, when at last they were in their room
with the door fast closed. “Let me see the orders.”

Without a word Isabelle handed her the paper. The order was directed to
Gale alone. Isabelle had received hers straight from the colonel
himself.

As she read, Gale’s eyes widened. First there were some words of
commendation for her—“Efficient and valiant service.” Then came the
orders. These were brief and to the point. She was to be prepared to
leave the city by car that night for a “protracted absence, perhaps
months. You will travel with Isabelle, Jan and Than Shwe.” She read on:

“Isabelle, Jan, Than Shwe!” she exclaimed. “How grand! But tell me!” she
demanded, turning to Isabelle, “Is this _IT_?”

“This, as far as I can see, is it,” was the solemn reply. “The colonel
told me nothing, just gave me my marching orders. But to himself he
said, ‘We’re going back. At last, by God, we’re going back! And we’ve
got power!’”

“The power and the glory,” Gale whispered.

“He didn’t say ‘and the glory’. I don’t believe he ever thinks of that,”
was Isabelle’s solemn reply. “He’s a real soldier. All he wants is men,
machines and power.”

There was little more to Gale’s orders. She was to take with her only
such personal belongings as were necessary. These were to be carried on
their own car which Jan was to drive. Their bedding and equipment, radar
equipment and all else would go by truck.

“And Mac?” she said to Isabelle? “Is he going?”

“Mac is going,” was the quiet reply. “Please don’t ask me more.”

No more was asked, and indeed, there was little time for talking. They
launched themselves at once into the task of sorting and packing,—a real
job. They had been in India four months. In that time they had collected
a considerable treasure, rare silk gowns, carved ivory gods, green jade,
and much else. All these must be stored away in lockers.

“When will we be back?” Gale asked.

“Perhaps never,” was the solemn response.

And so they sifted, sorted and packed, sorted, sifted and packed again,
until at last one modest sized duffle bag apiece held all that would go
with them.

Darkness was falling when they had finished.

“It’s dinner time!” Gale exclaimed. “How I wish Jimmie were here to
spend these last hours of the big city with me!”

“Jimmie? Oh, yes,—that Ferry Command boy,” Isabelle murmured absent
mindedly.

In the end, the four of them, Gale, Isabelle, Jan and Than Shwe had
dinner together in a neat little place around the corner. It was run by
a Chinaman.

“We’re headed for China,” said Isabelle. “Might as well get used to
Chinese cooking.”

“How about cooking Japan?” Jan asked.

“That will take time,” Isabelle laughed.

“My destination is Tokio,” said Gale, quoting Jimmie. “But I don’t
expect to eat there. Instead, I hope to spoil Tojo’s dinner for him.”

“That’s the stuff!” Jan exclaimed. “By golly! That’s the stuff!”

Than Shwe threw back her small head with a merry laugh as she
repeated,—“By golly, yes! That’s the stuff!”

An hour after dark they stole like fugitives from the Club. No noise, no
confusion, no congratulations, no cheering. Truth was, very few knew
they were going, and those few were faithfully silent.

“The army is not going now,” Isabelle confided to Gale. “Just a selected
few of us to prepare the way.”

“A selected few,” Gale’s heart swelled with pride. To Isabelle she said,
with a laugh, “We’ll make roads, build bridges, all that, I suppose?”

“All that!” Isabelle’s tone was impressive. “All that has been done.
You’ll be amazed. Oh, no! I’ve never been there, but I can see it all
the same.

“We’ll steal out of the city like ships going out to join a convoy,” she
whispered as she and Gale climbed into the rear seat of Jan’s jeep.
“There’ll be a dozen cars in our section,—the colonel, his guard, and a
few others. A convoy of trucks will leave by another road. Other cars
will strike out by themselves. In the end, when we’re a hundred miles on
our way, we’ll discover that there are quite a lot of us after all.”

“Fascinating!” Gale murmured.

All of a sudden Gale’s eyes caught something that brought her up short.
In the shadows she had caught sight of a familiar figure. “The woman in
purple,” she whispered to herself. Oddly enough, she found herself
filled with consternation. “Seems like an ill omen,” she told herself.
“Like the croaking of a raven, or a black cat crossing your path.”

Then she received a second shock. The woman in purple was joined by a
very thin man in a long, dark robe. He had appeared like a dark ghost.
Perhaps he had been there all the time.

She watched them intently while they exchanged a few words. Then they
started to move away. Gale watched and shuddered. The tall thin man
walked as if he were a little lame in both feet.

At once Gale’s mind went speeding back to those strange startling hours
in the temple. Was this the same man? What was his relation to the woman
in purple? Were they both spies? Would she ever see them again?

In the midst of this questioning she felt the car start. The mysterious
pair passed from her view, and they were on their way.

Did some wise little gremlin whisper, “You haven’t seen the last of that
pair!”? If he did, Gale was too full of excitement to hear him.

It was to be all of that in the end. The beginning of this long, long
journey was very much like driving out of Chicago for an evening spin.
Their car was different, that was all. The road was smooth. They sped
past homes where evening lamps were alight. Here and there they swung to
one side to pass cars going in the opposite direction.

“Wouldn’t it seem strange,” Isabelle murmured, “if we were to turn about
after a bit and drive back only to find ourselves in our own home town,
in America!”

“I’ll say it would!” Gale’s voice was strange.

“Would you like it?” Isabelle asked.

There came no answer for a moment. Then in slow, even tones, Gale said:

“No. I wouldn’t like it a bit. This is my destiny. I’m in it to the
finish, and wouldn’t miss it for worlds.

“Tokio,” she whispered softly, “is my destination.” And she really meant
it.



                              CHAPTER XII
                          _The Unseen Highway_


They drove for what seemed to Gale endless hours. Smooth, paved roads
gave way to hard surfaced ones with many bumps, but still they roared
on. In their open car, with the air constantly beating on their faces,
they became very sleepy, but Gale was determined to stay awake. This,
she knew, was to be one of the memorable nights of her life. They were
going forth to battle, even ahead of the big push, the army. Yes, this
was a big night.

Gale thought of the words spoken by her father just before they started.

“Gale,”—his voice had been almost somber—“In the army you’ll be what you
young people call ‘pushed around’. You won’t like it. For years—”

“For years you’ve been trying to push me around!” she had put in with a
sly smile. “And you think you didn’t succeed. Dear old Dad, you
succeeded better than you knew. Anyway, you’re proud of me now, aren’t
you?”

“Yes! Yes! Of course!” He had coughed violently.

“But what I’m trying to tell you is that in the army you’ll really be
pushed around, and you’ll not like it. But you’ll have to take it.
You’re in for the duration.”

“What do you mean?” she had asked soberly.

“You’ll be put in a place and told to wait, when you want action. You’ll
want to do things worse than you’ve ever wanted to do anything before,
and you’ll be told you can’t do them.”

“I know! I was there!” His voice had risen. “It’s no one’s fault. It’s
war, that’s all. And because it’s war you’ll have to take it.”

“Well then, if it’s war I’ll take it,” had been her response.

She smiled a little as she recalled those words now. Only a few weeks
before she had found herself up against what seemed a stone wall. She
had been told that no WACS would be allowed to go with the army into
Burma and China. No indeed! But here she was going in ahead of the army!
She had very little notion how it had come about, nor how long her luck
would last. One thing she did know—she was not being pushed around—not
yet.

All of a sudden the car lights dimmed, then the car slowed down a bit.

“What’s up, Jan?” she asked.

“Nothin’. Dim out. That’s all,” was Jan’s quick response. “Colonel’s
orders. We’re getting into a zone where there’s not supposed to be a
road,—only a trail. The honorable enemy mustn’t be allowed to know about
this road.”

A little further on the whole procession halted, then moved on, halting
every thirty seconds.

“Guard,” Jan explained. As it came her turn Jan gave the countersign,
submitted to a brief inspection, then drove on.

A chill ran up Gale’s spine. Already they were in dangerous territory,
where roads were new.

“Jan,” she said, “Can you drive in the dark?”

“Can I?” Jan asked. “Golly, you must have slept through your weeks at
Fort Des Moines if you never saw us girls driving those big trucks in
convoy.”

“Oh yes, I saw them!” Gale recalled.

“Well, you’d better believe they trained us. Drive in the dark? Say!
They tied handkerchiefs over our eyes and made us drive for hours and
hours without seeing a thing, and us in convoy, twenty trucks all going
together.”

“Once,” Jan laughed joyously, “I ran over a duck. But was I to blame?
The duck could see, and I couldn’t.”

They drove on, a little more slowly, in all but complete darkness. No
friendly village lights now greeted their approach. There was no moon.
Here and there dark bulks loomed,—a dog barked,—the sound of their
motors changed a little, then again they were swallowed up by the night.
These were the only signs of a village just passed.

More and more trees lined the roadway. At times their towering tops shut
out the stars.

At last there came the rattle of shifting gears. “We’re going up,” Gale
whispered.

“This is the road we followed on our retreat.” There was a note of
joyous suspense in Than Shwe’s voice. “Only then there was no road, only
a rocky trail, and we girls were barefoot. Our shoes had been worn out
on the rocks of the river bed.”

“No road?” Gale exclaimed. “No road then, and now there is one. How
come?”

“It was all done by magic.” There was awe in the little Burmese girl’s
voice. “I don’t know more than that. But oh! I’m so glad we’re going
back!”

They climbed, glided forward, then climbed again. Five times Jan shifted
gears to climb. Then, after slowing down, they came to a halt. Here too
the towering trees hid the stars, but beside the road a dim light shone.

A thin point of light wavered along the ground, then pointed itself at
Jan.

“Come on. Get out,” said a familiar voice. “Time for midnight lunch at
two in the morning.”

“Mac!” Gale exclaimed. “It’s you!”

“Sure it is! What did you think? And am I tired! I’ve driven all the
way.” Mac’s voice trailed off.

“Golly! It doesn’t seem like it could be two o’clock!” Jan exclaimed.
“I’ve just started to drive!”

At this they all laughed and piled out of the car.

If Gale had hoped for a good talk with Mac, she was doomed to
disappointment, for as she and Than Shwe entered the long, low room that
was evidently an eating place, someone grabbed them both by the arms to
exclaim:

“How are you, girls? How you making it?” It was the colonel himself.
“Come on,” he urged. “We’ll all sit together at this table.” So it
happened that the four girls ate at the colonel’s table, along with his
driver and orderly.

“This is a Chinese place, but don’t order chop suey,” the colonel
warned. “The waiter won’t know what you mean.”

“Golly! Why not?” Jan asked.

“I’ll explain that later,” said the colonel. Then he exclaimed:

“Boy! Oh boy! Are we in luck! This Chink’s been raiding a hen coop.
There’s stewed chicken and dumplings to be had. How about an order all
round? This is on me. It’s the happiest night of my life.”

There was a chorus of assents, and so the meal was ordered.

“Why so happy, colonel?” Jan asked.

“Oh! Don’t you know?” Than Shwe exclaimed. “This is our road of
remembrance, is it not colonel?”

“Yes, yes!” he agreed. “Our road of remembrance. Than Shwe and I are
going back.”

“We came down this road when it was only a path. You were in ragged
shorts and I was barefoot.” Than Shwe laughed.

“We were retreating from Burma,” the colonel chuckled. “A ragged handful
of us.”

“But we were singing as if we had just won the war. We were singing for
the future, colonel!” The little nurse was as happy as her chief.

“Yes, Than Shwe, we were singing for the future. That time the Japs beat
the tar out of us. We had a ragged army of untrained Chinese soldiers
and a few English troops, all fine fighters, but scattered all over the
map. The Japs drove us out.”

“But now,” the colonel’s voice rose, “Now we’ve got what it takes—tanks,
guns, planes and men—thousands and thousands of well-trained men. We’ve
got the power and we’re going back. Back to Burma, back to Rangoon, yes,
and back to Mandalay! With God’s help we’re going back to Mandalay!”

At that the colonel’s aide, who had a splendid baritone voice, sang:

“Come ye back to Mandalay, where the flying fishes play.”

At once the entire group—it was a large eating place packed with
soldiers—roared out:

  “Come ye back to Mandalay
  Where the old flotilla lay
  Can’t you hear her paddle chunking
  From Rangoon to Mandalay?
  On the road to Mandalay
  Where the flying fishes play
  And the dawn comes up like thunder
  Out of China, ’cross the bay.”

They were in the midst of the song when Gale’s eye was caught by a
bright candle held by someone in the doorway leading to the kitchen.

At first she thought the person was a child, for the candle was held
low. The whole place was lit by candles. Then the person held the candle
higher, and she saw his face.

“Look, Colonel!” She exclaimed. “Look quick!”

“Where?”

“That door! Oh! Now he’s gone!”

“Who was there? Why all the excitement?” the colonel asked.

“It was the Black Dwarf.”

“Oh! The Black Dwarf,” he murmured. Truth was, she had only half his
attention. He had been enjoying the celebration to the very bottom of
his soul. Now as the song lagged, he roared out:

“Come ye back to Mandalay!” And they sang it all over again.

As for Gale, her eyes were still glued to that door. She fully expected
to see the Black Dwarf again. But he did not reappear. He was gone,
perhaps farther than she could dream.

When the song ended Gale found herself in a quandary. The colonel was
having the time of his life. Should she interrupt this to tell him of
the Black Dwarf? After all, what did she have to tell about this strange
little man? She had seen him once on the edge of the airfield, and twice
in the dugout during an air raid. And now he was here. What was there to
that? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps a great deal. The Black Dwarf could wait,
for here came the food.

It was a glorious feast, enjoyed by all; chicken with dumplings, baked
sweet potatoes, fruit salad, and of all things—ice cream.

“It seems strange,” she said to the colonel.

“What is strange?” His eyes twinkled.

“This food. How could they do it on such short notice?”

“They had notice enough. Everything has been planned in advance.
Everything.” He repeated. “Wait till you see how we have planned it!
Every beam—every spike is in its place. You will be amazed.”

She only half understood what he was saying, but she was impressed. “I
am to be part of something big!” she whispered to herself. Her bosom
swelled. “Something really big!”

“Colonel,” said Isabelle, “Tell us why we shouldn’t order chop suey in a
Chinese restaurant over here.”

“Because they’d laugh at you,” was the surprising reply. “Over here,
chop suey is beggar’s hash. When a beggar gets good and hungry, he goes
from door to door with a big wooden bowl. At every door some scrap of
food is thrown into the bowl. When he gets home he chops it all up fine
and eats it.”

“But in America we pay fancy prices for chop suey!” Gale protested. “How
come?”

“It goes back to the Gold Rush days of California,” said the colonel.
There were a lot of Chinese workmen in one camp. They had their own
restaurant.

“One night a bunch of white miners thought they’d try Chinese food, so
they went in demanding to be served. It was late. Only scraps were left,
so the frightened Chink threw the scraps into a big bowl, chopped them
up and served them.

“‘That’s a swell dish!’ one of the miners exclaimed. ‘What do you call
it?’

“‘Chop Suey,’ was the Chink’s reply. ‘Beggar’s hash’, to him. And that,”
laughed the colonel, “started beggar’s hash joints all over America.”

When the party rose to leave, Gale hurried to one of the waiters to
whisper:

“You have a man here who is a—a—sort of dwarf, don’t you?”

“We did have.” The man scowled. “He used to work here. That was some
time past. Tonight he came back and said he wanted to work. We took him
in. Now when we need him most he has skipped out! Gone! Bah! He’s no
good!”

Gale was tempted to repeat his words—“Bah! He is no good!” She did not,
but in the future the words were to come back to her and she was to
repeat them more than ever.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                         _A Dangerous Hideout_


The meal over, they were once more on their way. The road grew rougher
and steeper. Jan was forever switching from two-wheel to four-wheel
driving. At one time they seemed about to slide back down hill, but the
plucky driver held the jeep to its course and the jeep did its bit by
turning in a perfect performance.

The first faint touch of a false dawn was showing in the east when the
road levelled off. For another mile they drove in what to Gale seemed
complete darkness. Then they came to a halt.

A moment later a flashlight appeared by the door. They recognized the
colonel’s voice as he said, flashing his light way to the right:

“Your tent is over there.” The light shone for ten seconds on a small,
square tent. For the first time Gale discovered that they were
surrounded and probably overshadowed by immense hardwood tropical trees.

“That’s why it’s so completely dark,” she told herself.

“Drive your jeep close to the tent,” said the colonel. “Then come back
here. Someone will take you to the mess tent for a cup of coffee before
you turn in.

“We sleep daytimes and travel nights,” he added. “However, in this case
we are at the end of our journey. But not for long—not for long,” he
repeated softly. There was a meaning in these last few words that dug
deep into Gale’s soul.

A few moments later they were all set for their cup of coffee. Mess kits
and cups were passed out to them. They stood in line with the soldiers
and received their portions of oatmeal, toast, bacon and coffee.

Seated at a plain board table, they found themselves opposite a group of
doughboys who stared at them, but said never a word.

“They don’t like to see us here,” Gale thought to herself. “Or do they?”

The meal over, they returned to the tent. Buckets of hot water stood
outside the tent door. With little cries of appreciation, they fairly
dove into these to scrub the grime of the road from their faces and the
blear from their eyes.

The sun was just sending long, searching beams of light down between the
trees that appeared to reach to the sky when at last they tumbled into
their bunks, buried their faces in pillows, and prepared to sleep.

Gale did not go to sleep at once. The movement of dim lights and darting
shadows were in her eyes; the clash of changing gears rattled through
her subconscious mind.

“I’m here,” she thought, “in the heart of a wilderness, on my way to
war. Perhaps I have already arrived. This may be the fringe of an army
camp. The whole army may arrive tomorrow night. At dawn there may be a
battle.”

That her imagination was taking her for a ride she realized well enough,
but as she lay there in the midst of that vast silent forest, sounds
began to reach her ears, sounds both familiar and startling.

Indistinct at first, these sounds took on form and color. They came from
somewhere away to the right. They appeared to come from ground level.

“Airplanes,” she thought.

What were these? American planes, or enemy fighters and bombers
searching out their hiding place?

“Let them search,” she thought. “They’ll never find us here!”

Then a feeling took possession of her. “I shan’t be at work searching
them out!” She half rose from her cot, then settled back. “What
nonsense! I have neither equipment nor a gunner. And in this dense
forest it would be impossible to distinguish them from the treetops.” At
that she fell asleep.

Even in her dreams those distant roaring motors haunted her, for in
those dreams flying in the smallest kind of a plane, she darted between
great trees like pillars of a Greek temple with the greatest of ease.
Spying a spot of sunlight, like a great silver butterfly, she slipped
out into the glorious sunshine above the sea of green that was the
forest from above. Pursued by a huge enemy plane that spouted fire, she
slipped back through the hole to re-enter the shadows, only in the end
to crash a wing against a giant tree and to go spinning down.

In the agony of fright she tried to cry out, and so wakened herself to
the reality of cot, tent, and forest shadows.

That the planes were real enough she was to learn later. Still more
surprising was the fact that her friend Jimmie Nightingale flew one of
the planes. In discovering this she was to let herself in on one of the
great secrets of this dark forest. But for the time she drifted off into
dreamless sleep.

They slept until midday. After that they slicked up, soldier style, and
marched out with their mess kits. When four American and three Chinese
nurses came from tents adjoining their own to join them at mess, they
realized that they were not alone.

“You will be working with us,” a gray haired nurse said to Than Shwe.

“Oh! Then I shall be happy!” the little Burmese girl exclaimed. “To be
near the front to care for wounded soldiers, that is for me a little bit
of Heaven.”

“That is a nice way to say it,” was the quick reply. “That’s just the
way I feel about it. We shall be friends.”

“But is there a hospital here in the forest?” Isabelle asked, surprised.

“Oh yes! Not a large one, but well equipped. After our meal I am to show
it to you.” After that they marched in silence beneath the great trees.

“It’s like a big church,” Jan whispered. “The kind they have in
England.” And so it was.

“Why! This is quite a hospital!” Gale exclaimed as an hour later the
head nurse led them into a long, low building of permanent wood
construction. “I thought it would be only a tent,” she explained.

“Not a bad location for a base-hospital,” was the quiet reply. “Only one
wing is occupied now. But tomorrow? Who knows?” The motherly woman
sighed. “This is war.”

One fact amazed Gale. In one corner were sixteen wounded aviators. Six
were Chinese, the others Americans.

“I hadn’t heard about air battles in this sector.” She showed her
surprise.

“In war there are many surprises,” said the nurse. “This is only the
beginning for you. Each day your horizon will be broadened, but only at
the commanding officer’s order.”

Gale talked to some of the young American flyers. They spoke with
pleasure of America, and asked many questions. Not one word did they say
of their exploits. To a man their chief desire was to get well and to
get back into the conflict.

“Oh! I want to get back to work!” Gale exclaimed as she left the
building.

“Something tells me you will be back at work sooner than you think,”
said the nurse. She was not wrong.

That evening Gale received a message from the colonel.

“Will call for you an hour before dawn,” was all it said.

Needless to say she was dressed and ready when Jan, with the Colonel in
the back seat of her jeep, came chugging in through the dark forest.

With their destination still a mystery, the colonel, who had handed Gale
up to a place beside him, directed Jan in and out among the trees until
a winding road that climbed steeply came under their wheels.

“Follow this road until you come to a small cabin,” was the colonel’s
instruction. After that he began talking in low serious tones to Gale.

“I am taking you to your place of labor,” he told her. “It’s not much
like the one you just left. It’s much wilder and more dangerous. But you
asked for it.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “I asked for it, and I—I think I can take it.”

“Your father was a soldier, and a good one. I know him well,” he said
quietly.

“Oh! Do you?” A warm glow of appreciation and deepening friendship
flooded Gale’s being.

“In your new station,” the colonel went on, “save for Jan and two
Chinese guards, you will be alone.”

“Mac?” she asked.

“He will not be there. Your post will be an exposed spot, but you shall
be well hidden. We couldn’t risk anti-aircraft fire from that position.
It would give us away.”

Gale felt a chill run up her spine. “Jan,” she thought, “two Chinese
guards,—practically alone, no protecting guns.”

They came to a stop at the edge of the forest.

“From this spot you will always go on foot, and always before dawn, or
after dark.” The colonel produced a small flashlight. They walked round
the cliff, then began to climb. Their path was a stairway cut into the
solid rock.

When Gale and Jan were completely out of breath, they made a turn to
find themselves facing what appeared to be one more rocky wall, which it
was, save for a low, narrow door.

Once they had passed through that door and closed it, the colonel
snapped on a light, and they found themselves in a room some twelve feet
square. The wall, even the ceiling of this room were of rock. A small
window had been cut opposite the door. This, at that moment, was closed
by a heavy shutter.

“This, for the present,” said the colonel—his tone was impressive—“will
be your post. It is not entirely safe. It is extremely important. I may
tell you quite frankly,”—his voice rumbled low—“that if there was a man
under my command who could do a better job up here than you, he would be
stationed here.”

“Than—Oh, thanks!” Gale stammered.

“Don’t thank me.” His manner was almost blunt. “This is war. In war, the
best man for each post must fill it. You are the one for this station.
You have been tried by fire, and have not been found wanting. Japs beat
the tar out of us in Burma. Now we’re going back.”

“And beat the tar out of them,” said Jan.

“Exactly,” said the colonel. “And now,”—his voice dropped—“I suggest
that we have a cup of coffee. In half an hour I shall give you a glimpse
of our promised land.”

“Burma?” Gale whispered in surprise.

“None other,” he smiled.

“What magic!” she murmured. To this he made no reply. But producing a
large thermos bottle, the colonel took a loaf of bread, an electric
toaster, and half a dozen doughnuts from a niche in the stone wall.

“All the comforts of home,” he murmured as the two girls assisted in
preparing breakfast.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                                 _Pete_


Eager as Gale was for a look at the scene that lay spread out beneath
her window, she gladly followed the colonel’s lead in a slow, leisurely
breakfast. Full well she realized that this was one of the rare moments
of her life.

“It’s the lull before a storm,” she told herself. “Soon an army will
come sweeping up from below. Then we at this bleak outpost will be all
but forgotten.”

As she looked at the colonel sitting there drinking coffee and munching
toast, she found it difficult to realize that he was a truly great man.
“So simple! So kind and thoughtful of others,” ran through her mind. She
wondered in a vague sort of way if all the truly great ones of this
earth were not at some time simple and kind.

“Dawn must be here!” the colonel exclaimed at last. Putting down his
empty cup he walked to the window and raised the shutter.

“There!” he exclaimed. “That is Burma—the land we left behind. Now we’re
going back.”

“Golly!” Jan exclaimed. “Is that Burma out there?” They were looking
down first on a green ocean of treetops, then upon low rows of low
mountains, and after that, dim in the distance, green valleys.

“The distant hills and valleys are in Burma,” the colonel explained. “If
you look closely you will discover a touch of blue here and there. Those
are little patches of blue in the river down which we waded for so many
hours on our retreat.”

“Oh, I wish Than Shwe were here!” Gale exclaimed.

“This would be a rare treat for her,” the colonel agreed.
“Unfortunately, some wounded airmen were brought in this morning. Our
little nurse will be busy.”

Gale looked at him hard, but said never a word. She wanted to know about
these air battles,—wanted to be sure she would play her part in a real
war.

As if reading her thoughts, the colonel pointed down at the ocean of
treetops.

“Nature has been kind to us,” he said. “All that you see in the
foreground is tops of giant trees. Beneath these trees lies an extended
plateau. In secret, working day and night, we have cut away brush and
small trees. In this way we have prepared a vast temple for the gods of
war.”

“The secret forest,” Gale murmured, charmed and thrilled by the thought.

“You might call it that,” the Colonel agreed. “Roads have been laid out
in every direction,” he went on. “Roads and airplane runways. Some of
these runways are miles long. Because of this, airplanes based at the
center of the forest may race away to spring up at the enemy far from
their base.”

“Wonderful!” Gale murmured. “Those, I suppose, are the planes I heard in
the night.”

“That’s right,” the colonel agreed. “There has been some fighting in the
air. The Japs think we are up to something, but don’t know what. They
send over scout planes and some bombers that do no harm.”

“Golly! You HAVE been up to something!” Jan exclaimed. “Think of making
all those roads through the jungle!”

“Up to something!” the colonel exclaimed, “I’ll say we’ve been up to
something! As the days go by you’ll realize it more and more.

“Just now,” his voice dropped—“What I want most of all is to impress you
with the importance of your work here. You,”—he placed a hand on Gale’s
shoulder, “Are to be the guardian angel of the army.”

“An angel?” Gale gasped. “Well, hardly that, colonel.”

“Exactly that,” he insisted. “Radar is much better than harps for
fighting wars. Harps for angels of peace, radar for guardian angels of
war.” He laughed in a strange sort of way.

“Look!” He pointed down to the forest that lay beneath them. “Soon
beneath those trees tens of thousands of soldiers will be sleeping,
waiting for the big push. Good American boys, they are, the kind that
came from your own home town.”

“Yes, Yes—I know,” Gale murmured hoarsely.

“Long years ago,” the colonel went on, “wars were fought by professional
soldiers, men from every land, hired to fight. Even in our Civil War, if
you had money and didn’t want to go when you were called, you could pay
someone to take your place.”

“But in this war it’s different,” Gale agreed. “It’s the boy who used to
work in the Post Office, and the one who sat across from you in school,
all kinds of boys who were your playmates and pals who have gone.”

“Golly, yes!” Jan put in. “And then they think it’s funny that some of
us girls want to drive a truck in the war, or something.”

“They’ll change their ideas about that,” the colonel replied soberly.
“They ARE changing them now. You girls can help. That’s part of the
reason why I brought you.

“What I was starting to say,” he went on, “was that you’re up here like
an all-seeing eye, Gale. Below you in that great forest will be
thousands on thousands of splendid boys, ready, if need be, to give
their lives for their country when the big push comes. And here you are,
with radar eyes that can see in daylight or dark, clouds or sunshine,
three hundred miles or more. When enemy planes come this way looking for
those boys, you’ll know.”

“Yes,” Gale replied solemnly. “I’ll know.”

“Your equipment is the best,” the colonel went on. “We ran a line up
here so you won’t lack power. You have a phone and a radio for sounding
a warning.

“And here,—” he pulled a cord, letting in a flood of light from
above—“Here is your lookout above, in case the enemy is overhead. You’ll
only open this on special occasions.

“If things get too dangerous, you’ll take a few steps down, and—” he led
the way—“this is your refuge.” They went down a narrow stone stairway to
at last step into a cavern cut from the solid rock.

“Golly!” Jan exclaimed. “I’m sure glad to see this place. I was getting
all covered with goose pimples.”

As for Gale, she gave the rock-hewn room only a quick glance. All that
interested and inspired her was in the room above,—her radar set, radio
and phone.

“I can see,” said the colonel after studying her face, “that the boys
down there will have a guardian angel who never fails.”

“Not if I can help it,” Gale replied, with deep conviction.

“Of course,” the colonel added, “I wouldn’t want you to feel that the
burden is all yours. That would be too much. You are not alone. There
are other radar watchers along this ridge. But yours is the key
position.”

“It shall be guarded well!” Gale promised.

“Golly, yes!” “With our lives!” Jan, who could not tell a radar set from
a radiator added her bit, and they all laughed.

A moment later the colonel was gone, and Gale had lost herself in the
study of her radar set.

“How grand!” she murmured. “This is new, but I have studied about it. It
goes like this.” She turned on a switch, and the set began to humm.

“Jan!” she exclaimed. “What a lovely time we could have up here if it
wasn’t for the war and all the terrible responsibility it brings.”

“Ain’t it the truth!” Jan agreed.

Gale had not exaggerated. The view from their window, the one that faced
the world and Burma, was truly magnificent. The sea of waving green that
was tree-tops, the hills beyond where morning mist still slowly drifted
in the wind and the green valleys far beyond—was all like a picture
painted by some famous artist.

But the view over head? Ah, that was different. Just now it was blank,
Gale knew. At night stars would hang above them, and at times the moon
would look in upon them. But always there was the chance that some spy
would search out their high lonely post and mark it on a map. She
thought once more of the woman in purple, the black dwarf and the three
secrets of radar.

“If our hideout is marked on their map,” she thought, “then our view
overhead will be horrible.”

As she closed her eyes she seemed to see soaring planes that, banking
steeply, came shooting down. And after that the falling dots that grew
and grew and grew. “The dots that scream like demons and at last roar
like explosions in hell,”—she found herself thinking over words that
Jimmie had once spoken to her.

“I wonder where Jimmie is now,” she mused. Soon enough she was to know.

                            * * * * * * * *

In the meantime Isabelle had met with a happy surprise. In high school
she had been an “A” grade student, a real worker. Probably that was why
she was the colonel’s yeoman now. She had learned to make a perfect job
of everything, and hadn’t forgotten how.

There were times in those half-forgotten days when she had wished she
were different. Those were the times when at school parties the smooth
boys passed her up for girls with a light touch, an easy laugh and
plenty of “blue slips” along with their grades.

But Isabelle hadn’t worried too much about that, for the smooth boys
made her a little weary. She liked the rough kind, and one boy above all
others was just that. He even had a rough and rugged name—Pete Sikes.
Pete was a redhead and his hair was always in a tangle. He had freckles,
wore a broad grin, was six feet three, and could throw a forward pass
farther and straighter than anyone in the league. And when it came his
turn to carry the ball he simply faded into the growing dusk.

Pete had on weak point—he wasn’t quite all there—at least his football
togs never were. He would come to the game minus a shoe, a helmet, or
even a pair of pants.

That was where Isabelle came in. Because she was good at looking after
things and needed the money, she had worked at the school office after
hours. That was how she knew just what Pete had left behind each time he
went to the football field for a game, and why she came rushing to the
grounds in a taxi—hired by herself—to slip under the ropes and somehow
get a package to Pete.

Pete was bashful, so he’d just blush and mumble,—“Thunder! Isabelle, if
it wasn’t for you I’d be playing football in my shirt and shorts!”

He couldn’t know that Isabelle was crazy about him—that she longed to
untangle that mass of red hair and do a lot of other nice things for
him. So commencement came and went. Pete went with it, and she had lost
him. Forever?

Well, it had looked that way until that day the colonel took Gale to her
new location. Since the colonel was away, Isabelle was on her own, and
was wandering in and out among the great teakwood trees when she ran
squarely into a tall, grinning, redheaded sergeant.

“Pete! You old rascal!” she exclaimed, bracing herself to avoid making a
grand rush that would have ended in something quite startling to Pete.
“How did you ever get here?” she demanded.

“Oh,—by boat, train, automobile and foot,” he grinned. Then he said a
whole lot, for Pete. What he said was:

“Thunder! Isabelle! It’s certainly good to see you here! Any American
gal would look good to any of us doughboys, but you, Isabelle—you’re
just tops!”

There were tears in Isabelle’s eyes, and a rare smile on her face just
then, but all she said was:

“Pete! What are you doing here?”

“Looking for a parking lot location,” was the surprising answer.

“But Pete! You’re in the army!” she exclaimed.

“Sure! Oh, sure!” he agreed. “But I’ve got to get a parking place for a
thunderin’ lot of army tanks.”

“Tanks? Oh, yes! Tanks!” Isabelle stammered.

“I’m a gunner in a General Sherman tank,” Pete confided, coming in close
and speaking softly. “And Isabelle, believe it or not, I can put those
big shells just any place I please.”

“Just like you used to put the old pigskins into some player’s mitt!”
Isabelle exclaimed. “Oh, Pete! You’re wonderful! You always were!”

There might have been much more of this, but just then an orderly
hurried up to announce that the colonel would soon be at his
headquarters and would Isabelle please hurry back. So all she could say
was:

“Well, goodbye, Pete. It’s been swell seeing you again.”

And Pete, because he was Pete, said nothing at all. But Isabelle had not
heard the last of him. Far from that. Not that she wished to hear the
last of him. Far from that too.



                               CHAPTER XV
                        _An Enemy at Her Window_


For Gale, that day passed quietly, but the night offered a thrill,
sudden joy, and grave misgivings.

Three times during the day her long electric radar fingers reached out
to touch metal floating in the sky. Three times, with quickening pulse,
she followed these a hundred, two hundred miles away, but each time they
moved in a leisurely manner over the distant landscape.

“Just some enemy scout planes watching over their own troop
concentrations,” she said to Jan. “No need to report them. They’re not
headed this way.”

Shortly after nightfall, very reluctantly she yielded her post to a
smiling young sergeant who was to take over for the night.

“Nice quiet day.” He smiled again as he looked over her report.

“Quiet, but not nice,” was her quick response.

“Oh, you crave action!” He laughed. “You’ll get that soon enough, or I
miss my guess. Big doings just ahead.”

“Here’s hoping,” was Gale’s comment as she drew on her jacket. “Well,
goodnight and good hunting. I’ll see you just before dawn.”

“Wish you were staying longer,” he said, with a quiet smile. “I like
company. We don’t see many bright-eyed American girls over here. This
WAC idea is the berries, if you ask me.”

“Glad you like us,” said Gale.

“Golly, yes!” Jan agreed.

“Orders are orders,” said Gale in a friendly voice. “Going is just as
much a part of our job as coming, so once more, goodnight.”

At that she and Jan went down the steep rocky stairway to at last climb
into their jeep and rattle away.

“It’s a nice world,” Gale murmured. “Everybody is just swell.”

“Golly, yes!” Jan agreed heartily.

It was in the late evening as she wandered among the shadows not too far
from her own tent that glowed faintly from a light by which Isabelle was
writing letters, that Gale got her big surprise.

All of a sudden a voice whispered hoarsely: “Hi there!”

On the instant she knew who it was. “Jimmie!” she exclaimed softly.
“It’s you! How in the world did you get here? I thought you were out
over Hell’s Half Hour, or some other terrible place.”

“I’ll tell you all about it.” He guided her to a seat on an outgrowing
root of a huge tree.

“I completed that last mission—the big four-motored job, you know,” he
explained.

“Loaded with bombs,” she added.

“Sure. It was a swell trip. Those bombs helped win a Chinese battle.”

“Wasn’t that grand, Jimmie!” she exclaimed.

“Swell!” he agreed. “But now,”—his voice changed—“Now I’ve been pulled
off that convoy job and am part of the big push. It’s a grand layout
here,” he added. “Best I have ever seen.”

“How do you mean, Jimmie?” she asked.

“Well, you see—” He stopped. “Say!” he whispered, “This is secret. But I
know a girl who can be trusted.”

“Don’t tell me if you ought not to,” she whispered. “But what you do
tell me will be locked up tight in my memory and my heart.”

“Your heart! That’s good!” He pressed her hand. “That’s the safest place
in all the world.”

“You see,” he went on after a moment, “Since the colonel led his ragged
little army out of Burma—that was at the start of the rainy season,
months ago—he’s been planning and working.”

“I know,” she agreed. “They told him this ridge couldn’t be crossed.”

“But he and his ragged band crossed it.”

“Yes. Then they told him it would take years to make a road into Burma.”

“And he said, ‘Only a few months.’ That’s just how long it’s been!”
Jimmie drew in a long, deep breath. “And now look! There’s a road up one
side of the ridge and down the other side—a road the Japs don’t know a
thing about. That’s not all. This great forest has been cleared of
brush.”

“There are roads all through it,” she said.

“Yes, and miles of airplane runways. Our air base is in the heart of the
forest. When there is an air raid alarm we can come popping out at them
from north, south or west. They have no way of knowing where to drop
their bombs.”

“But, Jimmie!” she exclaimed softly. “Do you mean that you are flying a
fighting plane now, and will be going out after the Japs?”

“Sure! Why not?” He laughed quietly. “That’s my job. I’ve got the
swellest little fighting kite you ever want to see. It’s a new type.
You’ll be able to recognize it if you have a field glass. You see—”

“But Jimmie! That’s terrible!” she broke in.

“What’s terrible?” His voice showed his astonishment.

“If I spot some Jap bombers coming this way and send out an alarm, I’ll
practically be calling you out to fight them!”

“Sure! Why not? I’ll never be called by a finer gal.” He laughed.

“Yes, I—I suppose that’s what you think,” she replied slowly, solemnly.
“And—and I like you for saying that. But it would be hard to watch you
being shot from the sky and to know that I was the one who called you
out.”

“The Japs won’t get me,” he declared. “That little kite of mine is
really fast. Besides, if they had any such luck, you’d see my parachute
blossom in the sky. I’m really good with a parachute. And AM I!”

“That’s fine, Jimmie,” she murmured.

“But there’s a lot more to it than that.” Jimmie sat up straight.

“Yes, I know.” She caught his sense of thrill. “The whole army is coming
here to camp beneath these trees.”

“Tanks, guns, and fighting men. That’s why we must defend this forest,”
he replied in a tight, tense voice.

“Yes, Jimmie. And that’s why I’m to be cooped up there on the hill.”

“It won’t be for long,” Jimmie predicted. “I’m sure of that. The army
will go forward to victory and we’ll go with them.

“Burma, China, and then, Tokio,” he whispered.

“Here’s hoping.” She stood up. “Well, I have to be out there on the
ridge before dawn. I’ll be seeing you.” She held out a hand.

“Perhaps tomorrow,” was his reply. And tomorrow it was.

                            * * * * * * * *

It was mid-afternoon of the next day. Gale had given her entire
equipment a routine checkup and had sent her radar feelers out into the
thin air of a bright, sunshiney day, when she gave a sudden start.

“What’s up?” Jan exclaimed.

“Don’t know, just yet,” was the slow reply. “There’s something in the
air out there far beyond where we can see.”

“Must be a hundred and fifty miles. Patrol planes—don’t you think?” Jan
settled back.

“No, I don’t,” was Gale’s excited reply. “There’s not just one or two of
them—more nearly a hundred, I’d say. I get them over quite a wide area.”

For several minutes the suppressed silence lay over the lookout station.
Then Gale let out a whoop: “They’re coming this way—the whole lot of
them—maintaining a uniform speed, too. Must be flying in formation. Get
headquarters, quick!”

Jan sprang to the phone. Half a minute later Jan said: “Here you are.”

Gale’s hand trembled as she picked up the receiver. “Headquarters?” she
said in a calm voice.

“Right,” came back.

“Good! This is G. G. J. speaking. Wish to report large formation of
enemy planes due east from this station—a hundred or more miles away.
Flying west at identical speed.”

“Formation,” said the voice at the other end, “may be practice flight.
Keep on them and report again in three minutes.”

Gale obeyed orders. In exactly three minutes she was back on the phone.
“Formation of enemy planes still traveling west,” was her report.
“Maintaining identical and uniform speed. Think they can be seen as a
dark spot on the horizon.”

“Okay. We’ll check on that and send out scout planes.” was the answer.
“Keep your radar on them. Report at intervals.”

Gale did keep her radar on those planes. If they were flying to attack
the secret forest or the distant city, she had made a scoop that would
be remembered.

A quarter of an hour had not passed before she was sure that this was
indeed an enemy bombing and fighting force.

“Looks as if the Japs were planning a big show,” she said to Jan.

“Golly, yes!” Jan agreed. “Look!” She handed Gale a pair of powerful
binoculars. “You can see them plain now, even tell the fighters from the
bombers.”

Gale was really startled when she had the formation within her view. For
a full moment she studied that mass of flying hate. She fancied that she
heard the roar of the motors, but that was impossible.

After that she swept the sky with the glass. She was looking for
American planes flying out to meet them. There were none—only two
observation planes—flying high.

“I wonder what that means,” she murmured. She thought of the crowded
city she had recently left and shuddered at thought of the death and
destruction that would follow if those planes got through. “They may be
planning to attack the secret forest,” she said to Jan.

“Do they know about it?” Jan asked.

“Perhaps. Who can tell?” Gale replied slowly. “Little good that would do
them now. That forest is as long as one of our states, and quite wide.
There are only a few of us billetted there now.”

“Oh, sure! They’d never find us!” Jan was at ease again. But not for
long.

Gale got her answer to the question regarding the absence of U. S.
fighter planes. Long after she had given up hope, when the formation of
enemy bombers and fighters were all but over the forest, all of a
sudden, seeming to come from every side at once, a great flight of U. S.
fighters filled the air.

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” Jan exclaimed in wild excitement. “Now there will be a big
battle before our very eyes!”

The moments that followed will live long in Gale’s memory. Swarms of
American flyers filled the sky. To her this was no mystery. To the enemy
pilots it all must have seemed a feat of magic.

From the direction they had been taking, it seemed evident to Gale that
the enemy bombers had not been bound for the secret forest but for the
crowded city far beyond. Whatever their destination may have been, they
were at once driven off their course and when the battle began in
earnest though still some distance away, they were directly in front of
her lookout.

“Golly!” Jan exclaimed, dancing about. “It’s just like they were putting
on a show for our benefit!”

Gale did not reply. She was busy, but not with her instrument—her task
for that day was done—the enemy did not now need to be spotted—he was
here.

With her powerful binoculars she was sweeping the sky looking for just
one plane. She would know it when she saw it. It was the smallest,
fastest U. S. plane of them all. It had a sharp nose, and long, slender
wings like those of a nightingale. “And a Nightingale flies it,” she
thought, “—Jimmie Nightingale.”

Truth is she did not wish to find it there in the sky. She had hoped
Jimmie was far away on some other mission, for this would be a fearful
battle. The enemy bombers were heavily armed and had a powerful fighter
escort.

Just when she was hoping that she had seen all the planes and could
assure herself that Jimmie was not there, a very small fighter plane
with narrow wings came out from behind some enemy bombers.

“Jimmie!” she exclaimed. “There he is! Oh, Jimmie!”

“Where? Where is he?” Jan exclaimed.

“Just in front of those four bombers over to the left,” Gale pointed him
out.

“Oh! Oh! Yes! I see him!” Jan replied, breathlessly.

Just then, as if he was conscious of being watched and felt the need of
putting on a show, which of course he did not, Jimmie seemed to leap
straight at the nearest enemy bomber. With his guns spouting fire, he
flew squarely under the enemy plane’s motors. At once the enemy bomber’s
right motor began to smoke.

Ten seconds later Jimmie was back. Now it was the right motor that
received his hail of bullets. Turning slowly, like a leaf in the wind,
the bomber rolled over on its side, then went into a spin. A moment
later it struck a ledge and exploded with a terrific roar.

“Golly!” Jan exclaimed. “Suppose that one had fallen on our little
coop!”

“If you’re afraid,” Gale suggested, “Why don’t you go into our shelter?”

“Oh! I wouldn’t! Not for worlds!” Jan exclaimed.

But now it seemed that Jimmie was in trouble. In revenge for their lost
bomber, three enemy fighters had gone after him. Lightly armed, speedy
planes, these Jap Zeroes were dangerous enemies.

“Oh! Jimmie! Watch out!” Gale exclaimed, unconscious of what she was
saying in her excitement.

With the three Zeroes hot on his tail, Jimmie went into a power-dive
that was like nothing Gale had ever seen before. By the time she had
caught her breath, she saw his plane sweep into a steep spiral curve to
come up behind one of the Zeroes and send it down in flames.

Before Jimmie could swing into a safe position, a Zero got in a burst of
fire that made his plane stagger, but he was up and at them with such
speed that a second plane was sent spinning earthward.

Just when the third Zero, in what appeared to be a suicide attack, leapt
squarely at Jimmie’s plane, the whole picture disappeared, and the room
went dark.

“Jan!” Gale exclaimed in sudden desperation, “What has happened?”

“Are you deaf?” was the startling reply. “Listen!”

Gale did listen, and to her waiting ears, above the sound of battle,
came the roar of a single plane close at hand.

“It’s a Zero plane,” Jan exclaimed. “Perhaps he carries a bomb. He may
have seen the sunshine on our window.”

Jan had drawn the thick shade outside their window, but there remained a
small crack. Just as Gale peeked through this crack, the enemy plane
passed so close she saw the flyer’s ugly face. Did he look her way? She
imagined that he did. For a second he was there, then he was gone for
good.

“Gone this time,” she shuddered, “But what about next time?”

Who could answer? Had the pilot of that plane really spotted their
hideout and guessed its purpose? For the present there was nothing left
but to carry on.

When Gale opened the window a wider crack to fix her binoculars on the
few remaining fighters, Jimmie’s small plane with the slender wings was
nowhere to be seen.

“He was shot down,” she thought in sudden panic. Of this she could not
be sure. Nothing is certain in war.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                        _A Monstrous Procession_


Slowly the sound of battle faded away in the distance. With fingers that
trembled violently, Gale drew the blind before her window aside and
started her radar set working again.

Now instead of a great formation of enemy planes advancing upon her, she
picked up one here, another there, and always rapidly fading off into
the distant sky. Now and then she caught sudden movements of planes,
indicating that some daring American fighters were still after the
retreating enemy. Was Jimmie one of these? She dared hope a little, but
not too much.

“Golly!” Jan exclaimed. “Was that a battle!”

“It was a great defeat for the enemy.”

“God be praised for that,” was Gale’s solemn comment. “More than half
their bombers must have been shot down. The others dropped their bombs
where they did no harm, and fled.”

“Did some of their fighters get away?” Jan asked.

“Yes. Several of them.”

“That’s bad.” Jan’s knees trembled. “It scares me. I’m funny, I guess. I
could drive a jeep almost over a precipice and not be scared at all. But
just to think of a bomb dropping on me, that’s terrible! There would be
nothing left of me,—just nothing at all. But if that Jap in the fighter
plane spotted us—”

“Perhaps he didn’t,” was Gale’s quiet reply. “Besides, something tells
me we won’t be here much longer.”

“Why? What makes you think that?” Jan asked in surprise.

“The colonel wouldn’t have sent out all those planes to attack the Jap
bombers if this was to be an important point much longer. That’s sure to
tip them off to the fact that there’s something big around here
somewhere. They’ll be back.”

“Oh! They’ll be back!” Jan was more frightened than ever.

“Oh! Snap out of it, Jan!” Gale scolded. “We joined up to help fight a
war! We’re not worth much if we’re scared all the time!”

“Sure.” Jan’s ample figure stiffened. “Sure. That’s right. You can count
on me in the pinches every time.”

“You’re just right we can!” Gale agreed.

At dusk, when her relief arrived, Gale asked eagerly for news of the air
battle.

“I can’t tell you a thing,” was the quick reply.

“You mean you’re not allowed to,” she suggested.

“No. That’s not it,” said the young sergeant with a slow smile. “Things
are terribly secret up here these days. I’ve been here for quite a
while. With every day that passes the officers get more nervy. There’s
something really big in the air.”

“I shouldn’t wonder,” Gale murmured.

It was the same way when Gale and Jan had arrived in the shadow of the
secret forest. Isabelle, who had awaited them at the tent, was in a fine
state of excitement, but could tell them nothing of the battle.

“There’s been no report given out except that it was a great little
victory for our side,” was all she would say.

When Than Shwe arrived from the hospital she reported that three wounded
aviators had been brought in.

“Than Shwe!” Gale exclaimed. “Do you know Jimmie?”

“That handsome fellow who called for you once at the club?” the little
nurse asked.

“Yes! Yes! That was Jimmie!” Gale caught her breath. “Is—is he in the
hospital?”

“No.” The little nurse shook her head. “No, your Jimmie, he was not one
of these. But really, do you think he was shot down today?”

“I don’t really know.” Gale’s brow wrinkled. “I saw him in a terrible
fight with three Jap Zeroes. His plane was crippled, and then that was
all we saw.”

“Oh, Jimmie’ll come back,” Jan consoled. “He’s that kind of a boy.”

Since Than Shwe was to dine that night with a Burmese officer and Jan
was to eat with a truck crew that had just arrived, Gale and Isabelle
took their mess kits and went to join in the lineup for chow.

“We’ll have better arrangements for you girls later,” the colonel had
said to her.

“You couldn’t!” she exclaimed.

“Oh yes!” he had smiled. “A mess hall all your own—just for the ladies
of the camp.”

“That might please some of them,” she had said, “but not me. I like to
feel that I am a real soldier. There’s a sort of comradeship that comes
from standing in line with your mess kit and cup, the boys joshing one
another, and all that. It’s real fun. At first,” she laughed, “they sort
of leave you a space by yourself—as if you were poison, or perhaps were
made of fragile stuff.”

“But after that?” he grinned.

“After that they find out we’re real fellows, and take us in. That makes
me feel all sort of good inside.”

“The other night,” she had laughed, “they started doing a goose-step,
with hands on shoulders. At first there was no hand on my shoulder. Then
there was, and I did the goose-step with the best of them.”

“That’s the spirit!” the colonel had enthused. “That’s the sort of thing
that took my little band of boys and girls out of Burma. Comradeship!
There’s nothing like it!”

There was no goose-step on this night. The boys were a sober lot.
Perhaps the air battle of the day had warned them that big events were
just ahead.

Despite all this, the meal was a great success for Isabelle, for no
sooner had she joined the line than a great paw was placed on her
shoulder and a big voice said:

“Hi, Isabelle! How’s things?” It was her old schoolmate, Pete Sikes, of
the tanks.

“Gale!” Isabelle exclaimed, “this is Pete Sikes, the all-star player of
our old high school days—you’ll like him.”

And Gale did. They ate their corned Willie, dehydrated potatoes,
tomatoes and pineapple together beneath a great spreading tree that
appeared to offer ample protection from any attack from the air.

“Pete,” said Isabelle, when they had finished with home town talk, “What
do you know about the air battle we had today?”

“Not very much.” Pete wrinkled his brow. “I’ve been busy. Big business
tonight,” he grinned, mysteriously.

“Oh!” Gale exclaimed. “No one seems to know about that fight. We saw it
all from our coop up there in the rocks,—that is—nearly all. I missed
the part that means the most to me. One of my friends was in the fight.
He got a bomber.”

“Great!” Pete exclaimed.

“That’s not all.” Gale went on: “Three Zeroes went after him. He’d shot
down two of them, but his plane had been damaged and the third Zero was
after him when Jan pulled the curtain.”

“Pulled the curtain!” Isabelle exclaimed.

“Sure. A Jap fighter flew in close to our coop. We were afraid he’d spot
us.

“When we could open up again,”—Gale drew in a long breath—“Jimmie and
his little fighter had vanished from the air.”

“Well now, that is bad,” Pete drawled. “Just one of those things
though—you’ll have to wait for news, that’s all. War is a great little
waiting game. Something happens that you want to know about, but you
just have to wait. You get all set for something big, and then again you
have to wait.

“But I’ll tell you—” his eyes opened wide—“If you girls want to see
something really big,—a thing you’ll never forget—I’m right in position
to get you a grandstand seat.”

Gale looked at Isabelle. Isabelle nodded her head.

“All right.” Gale agreed. “Count me in.”

Two hours later, Gale, Isabelle and Than Shwe piled into Pete’s jeep and
went gliding silently out from beneath the secret forest toward some
unannounced destination.

“I’ll have to leave you out here,” Pete explained. “You’ll have to find
your own way back, thumb your way, or hoof it. I’ve got lots of work to
do. But believe me, you’ll say it’s worth it. It’s not more than four
miles, I guess.”

“Just think of this big goof asking us to tramp back four miles just to
see something we don’t know a thing about!” Isabelle laughed.

“All right.” Pete slowed down his car. “Want to go back?”

At first there was no answer. “What do you say, girls?” Isabelle asked.

“I’ll take a chance,” was Gale’s prompt reply.

“Chances. That’s all I take all my life,” Than Shwe said, laughing.

They drove on.

At a point where something like a cross between a road and a path came
out into the main highway, Pete stopped.

“This is as far as I go,” Pete announced. “The big show passes here.
There’s the trunk of a huge dead tree just back of those bushes. You can
see it all right from there. I’ve a notion that you can find your way
back to camp by this trail.”

“But you’re not dead sure?” Isabelle teased.

“That’s right. I’m not,” Pete agreed. “In this man’s war you have to
take chances.”

They piled out. Pete turned his jeep about and sped away. Like three
night birds they perched themselves on the fallen giant of the forest,
wrapped their jackets about them to keep out the chill mountain air,
then settled down to wait.

“This may be just one of Pete’s pranks,” Isabelle announced. “He was
full of tricks in high school,—kept us out in the grass hunting snipe
with a gunny-sack and a dishpan and a lantern for two hours once.”

“If this is a trick,” Gale said, “and if we hike back four miles for
nothing, you shall be shot at midnight. I’ve had a hard day, and I’m
tired.”

“Listen!” Than Shwe put her fingers to Gale’s lips.

As they all sat there at the edge of the silent jungle with the night
all about them, an ominous rumble reached their ears.

“More Jap bombers,” Gale groaned. “And I am not there to help stop
them.”

“No,” said Isabelle. “It’s not bombers. It’s too tremendous and too
indistinct for that.”

“Not bombers,” Than Shwe agreed.

“Then what is it?” Gale demanded.

“If you ask me,” said Isabelle, “I’d tell you that it was Pete’s outfit
coming into roost beneath the Secret Forest. He’s with the tanks, you
know.”

“More than that. Much more!” Than Shwe sprang to her feet to dance a
jig. “Then what is it?” Gale repeated.

“It’s what the colonel calls ‘The whole damned outfit’.” Than Shwe grew
vastly excited. “It’s not just tanks, but tanks, guns, men, trucks,
trucks, trucks, kitchens, food, guns, tanks, Tommy guns, and men, men,
men,—the most soldiers you ever saw.” Than Shwe danced all over the
place.

Than Shwe was right. Pete had not let them down. They were to witness
one of the most stupendous parades ever put on in the history of
mankind.

It began with a group of cars. Gale was not sure that they carried
officers, advance guard, or both.

The darkness that was all but complete—a pin-prick of light showed here
and there—only served to heighten the parade of monsters.

After the cars came a convoy of trucks. Some of these were closed, some
open. On some of the open trucks they made out the form of camp
kitchens, on others, bent forward, half asleep, were men,—hundreds and
hundreds of men.

And then came the big guns—guns on half tracks, on trucks, and propelled
by their own power they one and all gave out a great bang and clatter.
Now and then, as a gun threatened to leave the road, there came a shout
of warning. Once the whole parade of monsters came to a jangling halt.
Then the silence was appalling.

For each of the three girls the effect of it all was strangely
different. Isabelle seemed stunned into silence by it all. When the
tanks which followed the guns came clattering in, she wanted nothing so
much as to cut and run for it, and keep on running until she was back in
the quiet of the city. She had wanted to go forward to join in the war,
but this brought the tremendous reality of it all to her in a new and
awe-inspiring manner. “It’s as if we weren’t on earth at all,” she
murmured once. “It would seem more real on Mars or the moon.

“Civilization!” she whispered. “Is this it?”

Than Shwe was delirious with joy. Flinging her hair to the wind, she
danced about like a woods sprite. “The Japs, they drive the colonel out
of Burma. Now see! See what the colonel has got! Oh! I wish I could ride
into Burma on top of a tank!” Than Shwe was just plain mad with joy.

To Gale, that never ending procession was truly a sight she would never
forget. In her mind’s eye she could see them all,—men, trucks, guns and
tanks moving into places assigned to them beneath the Secret Forest.
“They won’t be there long,” she told herself. “But as long as they
remain, with my radar I shall be watching over them. Truly I must be
their guardian angel! I must not fail.”

At that moment though her eyes saw shadowy forms moving forward in the
night. The inner eyes of her being were seeing boys, bright American
boys she had known, and thousands she had seen but never known.

“Those are the boys riding out there tonight,” she told herself. “Riding
to battle.” Again she whispered: “I must not fail!” and the words of an
old song seemed to sing themselves in her mind: “A charge to keep I
have.”

The procession was endless,—guns, tanks, trucks, men, then more guns,
tanks, trucks, men.

“No end to it,” Gale whispered, sliding down from her seat. “Come on.
We’ve got to get back. Tomorrow I must be there in my hideout helping to
keep the Jap bombers away.”

“Pete suggested this trail,” said Isabelle.

“We’ll have to try it.” Gale sighed. “We can’t mingle with tanks and
guns, that’s sure.”

So, after snapping on a tiny flashlight, she led the way straight into
new and surprising adventure.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                          _Mysterious Temple_


The trail the three girls followed was strange. It was not a road. There
were no wheel tracks, and yet it was well traveled, trodden down and
smooth by years of constant use. Here and there in soft places beside
the path they found footprints of horses and donkeys.

“Perhaps this is the trail the colonel and you took down the mountain,
Than Shwe,” Isabelle suggested.

“I don’t think it can be,” was the answer. “This is a good trail. Ours
was horrible. We lost it more than once because it just vanished into
nothing.”

The upward climb was much longer than they had expected it to be. Gale
thought that any minute they would find themselves turning sharply to
the right, then starting down toward the Secret Forest. They did not
turn, but kept straight on up an incline that every moment grew steeper.

Gale was ready to suggest that they give it up and turn back.

“We’re paying too much for our view of the parade,” said Isabelle.

“I wouldn’t have missed it,” said Than Shwe. “For now I know we cannot
fail.”

Gale said nothing, but trudged straight on. “Tomorrow is another day,”
she was thinking. “And I must be guardian angel for many thousands. I
made a mistake by coming, but now we must get back.”

Suddenly they reached the crest of the ridge. “Oh! This is better.” Gale
sighed. “Now we’ll follow along the ridge a little way and then start
down.”

But there was no trail along the crest of the ridge, only scrub trees
and rocks.

“Look.” Isabelle flashed on her light. “The trail goes over the ridge
and down on the other side.”

“Wrong direction,” Gale groaned. “If we go that way we’ll never reach
our forest, Isabelle. That Pete of yours is some little trail blazer.”

Just then Than Shwe, who had made her way around an immense rock, called
softly to them:

“Girls! Come see!”

When they had reached her side they stood staring in amazement, for
there beneath them, seeming so close in the moonlight that Gale half
fancied she could step on its roof, stood a Buddhist temple surrounded
by a high wall.

“So that’s it! That’s the reason for the trail!” Gale exclaimed. “What a
strange place for a temple.”

“It is a monastery where Buddhist monks live,” Than Shwe explained.
“They are everywhere, these monks. Perhaps there are native villages not
too far away, or a trail where people may get lost. They are like your
Christian monks in the high Alps.”

“There is always a gate keeper,” she went on. “They may have a trail to
the Secret Forest. It is but a little way. We might go down and ask.”

“It’s worth trying,” Gale agreed. And so they took to the trail again.

They had covered two-thirds of the distance when Gale, who was in the
lead, came to a sudden halt.

“Look!” she whispered. “A woman.”

She pointed at a window of the temple that could be seen above the wall.
There was a light in the room. Through the window they saw a tall woman.
She was combing her hair.

“This is not strange,” Than Shwe whispered back. “Everyone is welcome to
spend a night in one of these temples. They make a little offering in
the morning, or perhaps a very good one if they are rich.”

“But that woman looks familiar.” Gale did not move. Taking a small pair
of binoculars from her pocket, she studied the scene, the temple, the
window and the woman standing at a crude dressing table.

“This is eavesdropping,” she whispered. “All the same it must be
excusable.

“Yes,” she whispered hoarsely ten seconds later, barely avoiding
dropping her glasses. “Yes! It surely is.” Then she whispered four
startling words:

“The woman in purple!”

“Let me look.” Than Shwe took the glass while they all shrank deeper
into the shadows.

Than Shwe studied the woman and her surroundings for some time. When at
last she returned the glasses to their owner, she said:

“This is a very bad woman.”

“What? Do you know her?” Gale whispered in surprise.

“Oh yes! For a long time.” Than Shwe shrank still deeper into the
shadows.

“She is called Madam Stark, and comes from India, but she lived a long
time in Burma. She is very dangerous.”

“But Stark is an English name,” Gale whispered in surprise.

“Yes. She married a very rich English trader. He was not a good man.
There are bad men from every land. They say he traded in opium. He
treated her badly. That is why she hates all English people.”

“Is she really a spy?” Gale asked.

“This I do not know,” Than Shwe pondered. “Perhaps she may be. Anyway
she did great harm in Burma. She paid men to wreck bridges and tear up
railway tracks when the British army was coming. She was in China, too.
Oh yes! And she was a bad one there! We have a Chinese nurse, Maida, at
our hospital here. She knows about her in China. She will tell you
plenty.

“But look!”—the little Burmese girl’s whisper changed. “Look. On her
dressing table she has a dresser set that seems very strange.”

Putting the glasses once more to her eyes Gale stared in silence for a
long time.

“Yes,” she agreed. “That IS a strange collection, stranger than you
think, Than Shwe.” She seemed greatly excited.

“Let me look,” Isabelle whispered, naming the articles in the leather
case as she looked—“The comb is missing. She is using it; a nail buffer;
sharp pointed dagger; nail file; little blue automatic pistol; shoe
horn, and—and something else I can’t make out. I’d hate to meet that
lady in the dark.”

“And I,” Than Shwe agreed.

“But that ‘something else’ is the most important of all, unless I miss
my guess,” Gale put in. “I can’t be quite sure, but I think it’s one of
the three secrets of radar.”

“Secrets of radar!” Isabelle whispered.

“Sure, Isabelle. Don’t you know how, after my radar set had been blown
up, I looked so long for the three parts that might give our secrets
away?”

“Oh yes. You found two of them, but—”

“But the third was gone. It was while I was looking for those parts that
I first saw that woman in purple. She too appeared to be looking for
something. I always have thought that she found that part. I am almost
sure of it now. It would be terrible if she succeeded in getting all
three secret parts. The Jap’s radar is a poor one, but with those
secrets—”

“They’d be shooting down our planes in the fog and the dark,” said
Isabelle.

“That’s what they would. Tell you what!” Gale exclaimed in a hoarse
whisper. “I am going down there and demand the right to see the contents
of that case!”

“Oh no!” Isabelle whispered. Her eyes were on the dagger and the
automatic.

“You will not get inside the walls,” said Than Shwe. “At sundown the
gates are locked. They are opened only at sunrise.”

“And there’s a day’s work waiting for each of us!” Isabelle suggested.

“Oh yes! A day’s work!” Gale murmured. “I’ll report this to the colonel
or the army intelligence office first thing tomorrow.”

“That makes sense,” Isabelle agreed. “Only you’ll have to leave the
reporting to me—your day starts too soon.”

“But what are we to do just now?” Gale sank to a seat.

“We’ll go down and thumb a ride in the giants’ parade,” said Isabelle.
“That at least will be an adventure.”

“Thrilling,” Gale agreed. “Well, what are we waiting for?” She prepared
to lead on the return march.

They made their way down the ridge in half the time it took to go up.
Then again, this time, quite unwillingly they witnessed the colonel’s
grand parade.

Fifteen minutes after their arrival the parade came to a halt.

“Come on!” Gale exclaimed, dashing for a truck. “Now’s our chance!”
Arrived at the back of the truck, she pulled at a canvas flap. It gave
way, letting out a flood of light.

“Hey! What?” a boyish voice began. Then the voice rose: “Jeepers! Girls!
Can you tie that!”

“We’re a couple of WACS and a nurse,” Gale grinned. “How about bumming a
ride?”

“Sure! Hop in! Crowd over, you fellows. It’s not always we ride with
ladies.”

“We’re not exactly ladies,” said Gale when they had found their places
and the flap was closed. “We’re soldiers, same as you are, in for the
duration. My friend Isabelle here is the colonel’s yeoman, and—”

“What do you know about that!” one of the boys exclaimed. “Think of
meeting the colonel’s yeoman!”

“Hey, Isabelle!” another boy exclaimed. “I don’t like this war. Not
enough fun. I want to go home. Fix it up with the colonel, will you?”
The boys all laughed.

The question required no answer, so Gale went on: “This nurse, Than
Shwe, came over the mountains with the colonel on his retreat. Now she’s
going back.”

“Leave it to us Than Whatever!” exclaimed a burly redhead. “We’ll cut a
wide path for you all the way to China.”

“That’s fine,” the little Burmese girl chimed in. “And if you stub your
toe or something, come to my hospital. I’ll fix you up.”

“Say! You’ve been up there ahead!” another boy exclaimed. “What sort of
a place is it?”

“Swell,” said Isabelle. “It’s a forest of immense trees and it’s big
enough to hide the whole army. But you won’t be there long, and neither
will we. We travel with the colonel.”

“And boy! Does he ever travel fast!” exclaimed a boy with a Cumberland
Mountain accent.

“While you’re in the Secret Forest I am to be your guardian angel,” said
Gale.

“Are you an angel?” someone exclaimed. This called for one more laugh.

“Well, not quite,” Gale replied when the laugh was over. “I sit in a box
among the rocks and watch for naughty Jap planes that might bomb you.”

“With a spyglass?” One boy was impressed.

“With radar. That’s lots better,” Gale explained. “I can spot them two
hundred miles away. I send in a report and our fighters go out to meet
them. We had a grand scrap today.”

“Beat the livin’ daylights out o’ ’em? Huh?” said a voice.

“That’s what we did. It was grand, only—” Gale hesitated. “Only I’m
afraid the Japs got one of my friends, Jimmie Nightingale. He was a
Flying Tiger.”

“Jimmie Nightingale!” a dark eyed youth exclaimed. “He’s from my home
town, and no kidding. He’s one swell guy. But say, sister, if you think
any dirty Jap got Jimmie you’ve got one more guess coming, believe me!”

And so amid laughter, vague fears and words of cheer the three girls
rode home to their Secret Forest with one little corner of the grandest
army the world has ever known.

When at the edge of the forest the truck once again came to a halt, the
tired trio tumbled out amid the low cheers of their hosts, and raced
away to their tent where they drowned the day’s adventures in a batch of
sleep.

And the morrow was another day.



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                      _The Lady Barber Quartette_


The following morning when just before dawn Gale and Jan wound in and
out among the trees of the Secret Forest on their way to work, it seemed
as if they were in another world. Where yesterday only moss and ferns
could be seen, tents had blossomed in abundance. Beside these stood
tanks and trucks.

Here and there they passed sleepy sentries. These saluted them with a
wave and a friendly smile.

“They like us!” Jan exclaimed. “Golly! Ain’t that swell!”

“It’s your figure they like,” Gale laughed.

“Yeah—sure,” Jan agreed. “Fine and sturdy.” You couldn’t get Jan’s goat.

Further on they passed a portable kitchen that gave off pungent odors of
burning wood, frying ham and brewing coffee.

“Hmm!” Jan sniffed. “Good old Virginia hickory-smoked ham! Let’s stop
for breakfast!”

“You’ll have toast, and coffee from a bottle, same as usual,” Gale
replied grimly. “This is the most important day of our lives thus far.
Think what it would mean if a big formation of enemy bombers flew over
and dropped their hate on all this.” She swung her arms wide.

Despite her fears, Gale passed a quiet day in her hideout on the ridge.
Twice she thought she had picked up the scent of a wolf-pack of enemy
planes coming her way, but both times the scent faded and she knew that
her fears were not well founded.

Just at sunset she received a sudden shock. With the skies all clear and
no sight of enemies about, she stepped out on the rocky ledge for a
breath of air. She had not been there a minute when on a ridge fully
half a mile away, she spied a lone figure walking slowly.

“He’s no soldier,” she told herself, lifting binoculars to her eyes.
“Some native in a long, black robe,” she decided. “And,” she caught her
breath—“he walks as if he were a little lame in both feet.”

At that instant, as if he had caught a flash of light from her glasses,
as indeed he might have done, the lone walker quickened his strange,
halting steps to disappear behind the ridge.

“It’s strange,” Gale said to Jan a moment later. “Twice before I have
seen such a man,—once up there in the temple at the edge of the city.”

“He was the one who locked Isabelle in the room of Absolute Silence and
tried to poison you with incense fumes,” Jan suggested.

“That’s what we thought,” Gale said. “Of course, we couldn’t prove it.”

“And the other time he was with the woman in purple,” said Jan.

“That’s right. Can you tie that! Last night it was the woman in purple
we saw in a temple! And now it’s the two-legged cripple again!”

“Looks as if they were shadowing us,” said Jan with a shudder. “Gives me
the willies.”

“They’ll get shadowed,” Gale declared. “Isabelle probably has set the
army intelligence service on them by now.”

“Or the colonel,” said Jan. “He’d be worse.”

An hour later they found themselves once more riding in the shadows of
the Secret Forest.

They were met at the tent door by a tremendously excited Isabelle. “Come
on!” she exclaimed. “Get cleaned up, quick! You won’t have much time for
chow. Here! I brought you a huge can of coffee and I’ve made you some
marmalade sandwiches. You’ll just have time to gulp them down and get
into your costumes.”

“Costumes!” Jan exclaimed, catching Isabelle’s excitement,—“You mean
uniforms, don’t you? Does the big push into Burma really start right
now, and are we to go with the army? Oh! Glory be! Yippy!” She was
fairly dancing.

“Who said anything about the big push?” Isabelle demanded. “And I don’t
mean uniforms. I said costumes, and I mean our barber costumes.”

“Barber costumes! Oh! Good grief!” Gale sat down quite suddenly. “You
don’t mean to say you brought those things along!”

“At the colonel’s request,” Isabelle nodded.

“But the colonel!” Jan exploded. “He never saw us do that skit back
there at the Club in the city.”

“That’s what you think!” Than Shwe put in. “What the colonel doesn’t see
isn’t worth seeing.”

“The colonel slid into a back seat the night of the Club entertainment
when we did our Lady Barber Quartette feature,” Isabelle explained. “He
liked it, so—”

“So we are to do it for his entire army, I suppose!” Gale did an
imitation collapse.

“It’s not really a big army,” Isabelle defended. “I don’t think there
are more than twenty thousand. There’s a much larger army striking at
the Japs from another direction, and—”

“And that’s the next spot on our barn-storming tour,” Gale exploded.

“I didn’t say that,” Isabelle replied quietly. “Truth is,” she admitted,
“I too had my misgivings. Jan is such a clown! She’s—”

“Oh! I am, am I!” Jan exploded. “Just for that I’ll do the skit alone!”

“Indeed you’ll not!” Gale stormed. “There’s got to be a little dignity
to our part of the outfit, even if we are a small group.”

“Here, you two.” Than Shwe held out steaming cups of coffee to Jan and
Gale. “Drink these and quiet down. You know what the colonel wants he’s
going to have. Besides, he brought you three WACS along when it was
against the rules, and if you’re not nice little girls he can send you
back.”

“That,” Gale agreed after burning her tongue on the coffee, “is the
plain unvarnished truth.”

All of which meant that at one of the home talent shows given by army
women at the Club for women only back there in India, the four jolly
comrades, led by Gale, had dressed up in barber’s coats and slacks, with
combs behind their ears, and had put on a Lady Barber Quartette stunt.
Jan, who blacked her face and sang as the bootblack of the shop, had
nearly stolen the show. It had been quite a success. The colonel had
seen and liked it, so there they were, confronted with the prospect of
doing their stunt all over again before thousands of khaki-clad boys
from the old USA, a breath taking adventure if ever there was one.

“I’d rather go through a bombing,” Gale declared. “But what the colonel
wants is what he’s going to get.”

The scene that lay before them when, after coming up a ridge the back
way and entering the impromptu dressing-room—an army tent—and then
taking their places on a board platform backed by a sounding-board, was
one they would not soon forget. The platform had been erected on a broad
rock facing a hillside that rose like the tiers of seats in an opera
house.

“Seats for twenty thousand, and every seat taken,” Isabelle whispered.

This, Gale thought, must be true. She found herself looking into a sea
of faces. “The colonel’s army.” She swallowed hard. “Thousands of nice
boys from my own native land. Tonight they are here to be entertained,
and tomorrow, perhaps—” She closed her eyes on the morrow.

There were other features than theirs on the program. All the
participants were on the stage.

When the great throng stood up, when some soldiers struck the chords of
Star Spangled Banner and those men, twenty thousand of them, roared out
the national anthem, Gale felt her soul lifted to the stars that shone
above the treetops.

The colonel stepped to the microphone and like a football coach before
the big game of the season, gave the boys a pep-talk that was brief as
it was impressive.

A band swarmed onto the platform and played two stirring marches. The
boys roared their approval.

“We—we’re next,” Gale gulped as the band trooped off.

The colonel announced them only as the Barber Shop Quartette. “They’ll
think we’re boys,” Jan whispered.

They sang Sweet Adeline, giving it everything.

There came a scattered applause. “We’re a flop!” Gale thought.

Then a big rawboned tank sergeant from the deep south, who had somehow
made a surprising discovery, stood up to roar:

“Hey! You guys! Them’s gals! How about givin’ ’em a hand?”

The applause was as great as the look of surprise on ten thousand faces.

Enheartened, Gale proposed a glorious song that had been the prime
favorite of another war.

  “There’s a long, long trail a-winding
  Into the land of my dreams,” they sang.
  “Where the nightingales are singing
  And the white moon beams.”

Perhaps most of those boys had never heard that song. Perhaps in the
hearts of the singers was the same old deep longing that hung over all
of the Secret Forest. However that may have been, when the song
ended—“Till the day when I’ll be walking down that long, long trail with
you,” every boy was on his feet with a shout of approval.

It had been planned that Jan should sing a solo, dressed as a ragged
colored man. “Oh, I can’t! I just can’t,” she wailed when they were back
in the dressing room and the band was back on the stage.

“Oh, you’ll wow them!” Gale insisted.

And so, ten minutes later, dressed in a coat two sizes too large,
striped trousers and plug hat, leaning on a cane, Jan slipped out on the
platform alone. For ten seconds there was silence. Then a roar shook the
treetops.

Jan had a strange voice. It wasn’t basso or tenor. It wasn’t contralto.
Just a voice singing in a wilderness. But when she began to sing “Old
Man River” there was absolute silence. When she sang on, rolling her
eyes and swaying like a rolling river,

  “That old man river, he must know something
  But he don’t say nothin’
  He jes’ goes rolling along,”

the silence continued.

When she sang,—

“Tired of livin’ an’ feared o’ dying,” a great silence hung over the
forest.

But when she finished, that forest exploded just as truly as it would
have had the Japs staged an air raid.

Nothing would do after that short of an encore. So leaning on her cane,
Jan sang: “Old Black Joe.”

Perhaps that song has been rendered in a better manner ten thousand
times before, but you’d never convince those soldiers of that. They were
from America. Old Black Joe was part of America.

“Listen to them!” Isabelle exclaimed. The applause came roaring back to
them. “You don’t have to die for them, Jan. All you’ve got to do is sing
for them.”

“I’ll sing for them!

“I’ll sing for them forever!” Jan sprang up.

This time she sang,—“I Got Plenty of Nothin’”, and as she sang she
turned her pockets wrong side out, one by one.

In the middle of the song with all her empty pockets hanging out, she
stopped suddenly.

“Say!” she exclaimed. “Has any of you all got a pipe?”

“Sure! Sure! Oh, sure!” came in a roar.

“That’s fine! Has any of you all got a little ’bacca?”

“Sure! Sure!” came again.

“That’s swell. Has any of you all got a match?”

The roar came again, this time accompanied with a shower of match boxes.

“Oh! You all keep ’em!” Jan shouted. “You all’s goin’ to need ’em—maybe
tomorrow. Nobody don’t never know. But me,” she sang, “I got plenty of
nothing, and nothing is plenty for me.”

That show was a huge success and it didn’t take a dramatic critic to
tell that the Lady Barber Quartette had been THE feature that evening.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                   _The Woman in Purple Burns a City_


It was a shame to sneak off after they had received such a grand
reception, but had they remained, they must surely have been crushed by
the mob of boys in khaki eager to congratulate the girls from America.
So, with the lady of the hour at the wheel, they piled into the old jeep
and rode away.

“They’re such nice boys!” Isabelle murmured. “It seems terrible that
some of them may die horrible deaths tomorrow, or the next day.”

“Perhaps not so many,” Gale replied hopefully. “Tonight while we were
waiting for things to start the colonel told me how well things have
been planned. He thinks they’ll just go sweeping across Burma into
China. He says this is a diversionary move. The main fight will be
farther south. The Japs don’t expect this so they won’t be prepared.”

“He told you all that?” Isabelle exclaimed. “Oh, well, nothing matters
much. It won’t be long now. And at that, he didn’t tell you a great
deal. They have been at it for months. In another forest quite a way
from here, engines with portable saw mills have been cutting timber for
bridges across the river that the colonel and his party waded on their
retreat.

“It’s really marvelous. Every piece is cut just right. The bridges are
set up, then taken down again in the forest. When the time comes the
parts will be sent over chutes built down the mountain.

“They’ve built hundreds of boats too, and they’ll go down the chutes.
The whole army will be in Burma before the Japs know they’re coming.”

“That’s marvelous.” Gale sighed. “I wish the boys luck, every one of
them. One more thing I wish.”

“What’s that?” Isabelle asked.

“I wish I could hear from Jimmie.”

“Oh! That reminds me!” Isabelle exclaimed. “A flight commander was in to
see the colonel today. The colonel was out, so I had a chance to talk to
him. I asked him about Jimmie. He said he couldn’t tell me a thing, then
smiled in a queer sort of way and said something about a secret mission.
It all sounded very strange.”

“I’ll say it does!” Gale agreed.

“But,” Isabelle exclaimed. “Did you report what we saw at the temple?”

“About the woman in purple? Oh, sure I did! I told the colonel about it
first.”

“What did he say,” Gale asked anxiously.

“He seemed interested. He’s seen the woman—met her at some big dinner.
It seems that in India she is still quite a person. It’s only in China
and Burma that she’s in bad.”

“That’s the way it is,” Gale exclaimed. “A woman in a glorious gown can
get around men. I shouldn’t wonder if a lot of those English secret
agents were really stupid.”

“Oh! They are!” Than Shwe agreed. “Some of them are very, very stupid.

“I meant to tell you,” she added as an afterthought, “that Chinese
nurse, Mai-da, is coming to visit us tonight. Believe me, she will tell
you about this Madam Stark, the woman in purple, as you call her. She
will tell you plenty.”

“The colonel wasn’t taken in by this woman.” Isabelle defended her boss.
“He just never has seen much of her—really doesn’t know much about her.
He sent me over to the Army Intelligence Headquarters to report on her.
The head man there was out. Nearly everyone is these days. Big things
just around the corner, you know. A very nice boy with pink cheeks, blue
eyes and a smile, wrote down all I told him.”

“And said he’d report on it,” Gale exploded. “Oh! Sure! That’s army life
for you! My Dad said I’d have to be a good waiter. And if I get my head
blown off by a bomb while I wait, what then? I saw the tall thin man who
is lame in both legs again today.”

“You did?” Isabelle exclaimed. “Way up here?”

“Sure. On the ridge only half a mile from our hideout. What do you
expect? He and that woman in purple are anti-British spies, I tell you!
And they’re out to wreck us—have been ever since I put my radar fingers
on those Jap planes up there in the clouds above the city and helped
bring them down. They’ll get us if they can—yes—and the Three Secrets of
Radar as well.”

At that moment a small round face appeared at the opening of the tent
flap and a voice said: “May I come in?” It was Mai-da, the Chinese
nurse.

“Come in! Come right on!” was their welcome.

Jan had been brewing tea. It was steeped now, so that all sat on the
floor sipping tea, munching gingersnaps and talking.

“You have been a long time away from your home,” Gale said to Mai-da.

“Oh, yes! A very long time,” Mai-da agreed. “India has been very kind to
me but I shall be glad to get back to my home. We ARE going back, you
know.” Mai-da’s voice rose. “Everyone believes that. We have great faith
in your major.”

As Gale looked at the Chinese girl with her small hands and feet, her
round, doll-like face and slender body, she marvelled that she could
stand up to the work of a nurse. But Mai-da had endured more than she
dreamed.

“Tell us about your home, Mai-da,” Isabelle said.

“Oh, it is really very charming. At least I hope you may say so when you
see it.” Mai-da half apologized. “It is at the foot of a hill where big,
black pines seem to be marching. It has a high stone wall about it. Ours
is an old, old family. Thirty generations have lived there. And we all
live together there now, seventy people of us, but some have gone to
war. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, great-grand-father—they are
all there.” She laughed softly.

“Once we nearly lost our home.” Her face sobered. “But perhaps you do
not care for sad stories,—only those that are good, beautiful and
happy.” Mai-da paused.

“We take life as we find it,” was Gale’s slow reply. “If there is evil
in the world, if bad men and women seem to have their way, we want to
know about it. But all the time we try to kid ourselves into believing
that ‘God is in His heavens—all’s right with the world.’

“And perhaps we’re not kidding ourselves so much after all,” she added
softly. “Tell us about the time you nearly lost your home, Mai-da.”

“It was truly terrible,” Mai-da murmured softly. “Wicked woman came to
live in a large house built by a trader. It had been her husband’s
house. He was gone now, so she claimed it. There was no one who could
tell her to go away.”

“My grandfather, he is old and very wise. He said: ‘If Madam Stark lives
in that house evil days will come to us’.”

“Madam Stark,” Isabelle murmured.

“The woman in purple,” Gale added. Mai-da continued in her sing-song
voice, so slow and musical. She had learned English in a mission school
and had traveled in America. “Grandfather was right. This woman hired
many strong men to guard her men who thought China had no chance against
the terrible Japs, men who said ‘It is better to give up and allow the
Japs to rule us’.”

“The Japs came closer and closer to the beautiful little city of May-da,
close to our home. There was a temple on the hill above our home. The
Japs bombed it. Many priests were killed, and they were oh, such good
men, those priests, always doing good, never harming anyone.”

Mai-da sighed deeply, then went on. “There was a war lord living close
to our city. He pretended to be loyal to Chiang Kai-shek, but I don’t
think he ever was. Madam Stark, in her purple gown of rich silk
fascinated him. He did what she said.

“One day she said: ‘The Japs are very close to the city. The city will
be captured. It is better to burn the city than to let the Japs have
it.’

“So the war lord told his men to burn the city,” Than Shwe murmured
sadly. “I have heard of this. It was very terrible.”

“The city was burned.” Mai-da’s voice was low. “Many people lost their
life. Others wandered homeless in the fields. Our home is outside the
city. We took in all the people we could.

“Then,”—her voice rose, “my grandfather, who was old but very brave,
said, ‘This terrible woman must be driven out.’ He talked to all the
people. They took all the guns and knives they had and went after that
woman and if she had not gone away in a plane she would have been
killed. Her big house was burned. The people joined with the soldiers.
The Japs were driven back, and the poor burnt city was never captured.
My home still smiles from the foot of the mountain. It waits for
me.—Tomorrow or the day after,” the little Chinese nurse finished quite
simply,—“I’m going home.”

“And that was the Woman in Purple,” Gale said, springing up. “If the
army doesn’t get her then we must.”

“And we will!” Than Shwe exclaimed. “By all the gods of India, Burma,
China and America, we will!”



                               CHAPTER XX
                             _Gale! Gale!_


For some time after retiring that night Gale lay on her army cot, eyes
staring at the blank walls of her tent, fully awake. Through her mind
whirled delicate chimes, ladies, long lines of marching soldiers and a
city of many small houses surrounded by a wall. Then the scene changed,
became more bright, but it shifted to her hillside. Bombers came
whirling over, bombs dropped. She trembled with fright. And then she saw
the black dwarf—or was it the thin man a little lame in both feet? As
her mind held the picture the two figures appeared to merge into one. At
that she fell asleep.

She awoke early next morning, routed the sleepy Jan from her cot, then
headed for her hideout. That this might prove a day of great importance
she knew right well. If the Japs had any way of guessing or knowing that
soldiers were camped in the shade of the Secret Forest, their planes
would come swarming over. And if she failed to detect them? “We can’t
fail!” she declared to Jan as they climbed through the dark just before
dawn to their roost among the rocks.

“Where do you get that ‘we’?” Jan exclaimed. “You know good and well
that I’m only your orderly, or—or something.”

“You do your part, and do it well,” Gale insisted. “So together we
stand.

“For all that,” she added, “you don’t need any more glory. You got your
share last night.”

“Didn’t I wow them!” Jan laughed. “I could do it all over a hundred
times and like it.

“But I keep thinking of those fine boys!” she added soberly. “How many
do you think will get to go back to America after it’s over?”

“Probably most of them. The Japs can’t do much to a bunch like that. And
Jan,”—Gale’s tone was thoughtful—“Did you ever stop to think that going
to war isn’t a total loss?” “How’d you dope that out?” Jan demanded.

“Well now, look at those boys we tried to entertain last night. What
would they be doing if the war hadn’t come along?”

“Going to school, shining shoes, driving tractors, selling shirts,
making automobiles, and—”

“There you are!” Gale exclaimed. “Most of them wouldn’t have gotten more
than a hundred miles from the old home town.”

“That’s right, and they’d have worked at the same old thing all their
lives.”

“And now look!” Gale added eagerly. “Nine out of ten will get back home
all okay, and what a lot they’ll have to talk about. India, Burma,
China. They’ll know a lot too and maybe they’ll help this poor old world
with a headache figure out some of its problems.”

“Well, yes, maybe.” Jan agreed grudgingly. “But you can’t sell me no
war. I got into this one because I thought I was needed, and it was too
big a thing to stay out of. But once it’s over, watch me get a job
driving a pie wagon, or just anything.” Jan laughed merrily.

And so here they were at their station. And a busy station it was to be
on that particular day.

“Jan, when do you think the big push into Burma will come?” Gale asked,
a bit out of breath as they reached their roost.

“Oh, very soon!” was the prompt reply. “As your Jimmie would say, ‘there
are signs’. Perhaps it will be tonight.”

“Then we’d better look out,” Gale replied solemnly.

They did look out every fifteen minutes throughout the forenoon. Gale’s
radar fingers felt their way through the sky. There was a haze along the
horizon. Those feeling fingers reached much farther than eyes could see.

“All quiet,” Gale said as the noon hour came. “Fifteen minutes out for
lunch. It’s bright outside. Let’s go out and sit on a rock.”

Lunch was soon over. They ate little at noon. Then they spread
themselves out on a narrow rock and gazed up at the cloudless sky.

“Nothing up there,” Jan murmured. “Doesn’t seem like there ever could
be.

“Come where my love lies dreaming the happy hours away,” she sang
softly.

“Don’t fool yourself.” Gale sat up, picking at the grass that grew by
the edge of the rock. “This is war. War is never like that.”

Then, as if she had heard a phone ring,—which she had not—she sprang to
her feet and hurried to her station.

Her radar set had not been humming more than a minute when she called
excitedly:

“Jan! Come quick!”

“Coming!” Jan bounded into the lookout. “What’s up?”

“Plenty! Off a hundred miles due east the sky is filled with planes.
Looks like a raid. Get headquarters at once!”

“Here you are,” Jan announced twenty seconds later.

“Headquarters?” Gale tried to keep her excitement out of her voice.
“This is G. G. J. Looks like a raid. Many planes two hundred miles
straight out.”

“Right,” was the answer. “Report again in five minutes.”

Five minutes later Gale’s report was:

“G. G. J., Refer to last report. No change except approaching at two
hundred miles per hour. That’s all.”

That was all for Gale, at least for the time being. But for the pilots,
radio men and gunners of two hundred of America’s finest fighter planes,
it was but the beginning of something big, and for some, disaster.

“They know we’re here and now they’re after us,” Danny Dean, the pilot
of a two-seater said to his gunner.

“Let them come,” was the prompt answer. “We’re as ready as we’ll ever
be. The more we knock down here the less we’ll have to fight when the
big business starts.”

Not a pilot left the Secret Forest that day but caught his breath as he
saw the eastern sky blackened by Jap planes.

“Somebody’s tipped them off,” one bright-eyed boy shouted. “But let them
come!”

In half an hour the sky was filled with planes. American fighters ganged
up like catbirds after crows, to down Jap bombers before they reached
their objective. Nor were the fighter planes all the trouble those Jap
planes met that day. Together with twenty other gunners, Gale’s friend
Mac was stationed on a rocky ledge outside the forest. A lucky shot at
the very start brought a bomber down so close to him that he was obliged
to bury himself in a bush to escape its flying parts. Even Isabelle’s
Pete had driven his tank to the edge of the forest and was having a go
at them with a machine gun.

“It’s a beautiful scrap,” Jan was all but sobbing with terror and
delight.

“Beautiful and terrible,” was Gale’s solemn reply. “I saw one of our
planes go down and the pilot didn’t bail out.”

In the main Gale had eyes for but one plane, a small one with long,
slender wings, Jimmie’s plane. After studying the sky for ten minutes
she decided he was not there.

“Oh, Jimmie!” she whispered, “Where are you?” Then with a start she
recalled a promise she had made to him. “If I disappear,” he had said,
“And you suspect that something has happened to me, listen in at your
radio every night at ten.” He had written down the wave length and given
it to her. “If I have any sort of a radio,” he had added, “I’ll be on
the air. I might even talk from the other world.” He gave a strange
laugh.

“I promised,” she told herself now. “I’ll listen tonight.”

The air battle was brief, fierce and decisive. A few of the enemy
bombers got through to drop their bombs on the Secret Forest. There were
some casualties—not many. Most of the bombers were driven off or
destroyed. Once more the boys of the U. S. Air Force had won a signal
victory and not a little of the credit was due to “Radar Gale” as the
young WAC with the flying hair was often called.

At the very end of this battle something startling and terrible
happened. Gale and Jan were in their hideout. Gale was feeling about in
the sky with her radar for possible Jap attackers when Jan exclaimed:

“Look, Gale! That Jap plane is coming straight at us and no one is after
it!”

The plane, a rather large Zero with a powerful motor was headed straight
for them. Only a few moments before Gale had seen just such a plane drop
a bomb.

“Quick!” she cried. “Get into the cellar! He’s got us spotted!”

They tumbled rather than climbed down the rocky stairs and had half way
slid the steel door to their bomb shelter shut when an explosion all but
over their heads seemed to tear the very side of the mountain away.

Jan reeled backward but stayed on her feet. Gale crumpled down, hit her
head on the rock floor, rolled over and lay still.

“Oh! My God!” Jan exclaimed. “She must be dead! It’s the concussion!
What shall I do?” Greatly excited she cried:

“Gale! Gale!”

But Gale neither moved nor answered.



                              CHAPTER XXI
                         _Gale Gets Her Plane_


Jan was frantic. In the air raid shelter, gas from the explosion was
stifling. “I’ve got to get Gale out of here,” she told herself. She
tried to move the steel door. It was jammed,—would not move—but was
still half open. She was able to crowd her ample body through the
opening. Outside she worked frantically removing rocks that shut away
the outside air. After that she dragged the unconscious form of her
companion from the cellar and up over tumbled rocks to a place in the
sunshine above.

All the time she was listening, watching. The plane might return. The
roar of motors, the rat-tat-tat of machine-gun fire now seemed far away.
But who could tell what a moment might bring?

With her companion lying on a sunny rock, Jan rushed back to the cellar
for a gallon thermos bottle filled with cold water.

Back at Gale’s side, in her excitement she poured the entire contents of
the bottle on Gale’s face. Some of it went into Gale’s mouth. Suddenly
she sat up, coughing and spouting water.

“Oh! Oh! Thank God you’re not dead!” Jan was fairly beside herself with
joy.

“Of—of course not,” Gale sputtered.

“Well, anyway, you passed out.”

“Wha—what happened?” Gale asked.

“It wasn’t a direct hit,”—Jan glanced about. “If it had been it would
have blown us to glory. It blew the top of our hideout and your radar
set down to the rocks below.”

“We—we have to get that radar set. Remember. Three Secrets of Radar!”
Gale was feeling better. “Listen!” she whispered. “They’re coming back.”

“Oh, no.” Jan studied the sky. “The fighting is far away.”

“One plane is coming. I hear it,” Gale insisted.

There came the sound of voices.

“Who’s that?” Gale opened her eyes, then wiped the water from her face.

“It’s our Chinese guard. They weren’t killed. That’s swell!” said Jan.

Two youthful Chinese soldiers appeared round a ledge, dragging a heavy
machine-gun after them.

“Too bad,” said the taller of the pair. “Wanna shoot this plane. Can’t
shoot airplane—too fast.”

“Let me see that gun.” Gale staggered to her feet.

“Made in America,” she murmured. “Good old America!”

With skilled hands she set the gun up behind a pile of rocks. Then she
examined each part with care.

“Good gun,” she told Jan. “My father is an expert on machine-guns. He
showed me all about them.”

“Can you shoot them?” Jan asked.

“Can I?” Gale laughed hoarsely. There was still some water in her
throat. “Father had a range set up. We practiced together. I used to
beat him.”

“I bet you did,” Jan replied admiringly.

“Listen!” Gale held up a hand. “That plane is coming back. Wants to see
if he got us.”

“Maybe he got one more—’nother bomb.” The tall Chinese soldier turned
green as he spoke.

“Perhaps they have,” Gale agreed. “You’d better go hide again.”

“If you wantee me, I stayee.” The Chinese boy was game.

“No. You go. I’ll shoot that plane.” Gale ran her eye over the barrel.

“You shoot him?” The Chinaman stared.

“Sure. Why not?” Gale adjusted the sight. “You scram!”

In ten seconds the guards had lost themselves among the rocks.

Gale and Jan were now lying flat on the rocks.

“Jan,”—Gale’s voice was husky. “You crawl back down into that cellar.
Crawl. Don’t walk. That way he can’t see you. Let him think we’re dead.”

“Wha—what will you do?” Jan breathed.

“I’ll lie right here and when the time comes I’ll bend my finger, that’s
all,” was Gale’s slow reply. “I don’t like that Jap, not a bit. Think of
coming back to gloat over what you’ve done to a couple of girls!”

“He didn’t know we were girls,” said Jan.

“Oh no? Well, perhaps he did. They know too much, those little brown
men, or think they do. Well, here comes one that may not know a thing
after today.

“Now you slide out of here, and slide fast!” Gale commanded. And Jan
slid.

The Jap plane had been coming in low. That was so any American planes
above wouldn’t see it. Perhaps the pilot had been ordered back to
observe and report. Gale wouldn’t know about that,—not for sure. As the
Chinese soldier had said, he might be bringing in one more bomb to
finish the job. One thing was sure. He did have a machine-gun. That was
dangerous.

Gale’s suit was the color of the rocks. But her face? She tore a hole in
her khaki handkerchief, then tied it on as a mask.

The plane was coming up now. “Report to Tojo, will you?” she hissed.
“Perhaps you’ll report to that other big man who was killed in an
airplane months ago.”

Her finger was crooked around the trigger, her gun aimed. She might have
to change the aim a bit,—not much though. These little brown men had
one-track minds. She had seen the course he took before. “He won’t
change,” she told herself.

Gale was right. He did not change, but she did. A sudden dizziness took
possession of her. Was it the fumes she had been breathing, or the knock
on her head when she fell? The reason did not matter. All that mattered
now was that everything went dim before her eyes.

Like Samson, she prayed,—“God, give me my sight.”

As if by a miracle, her sight was restored.

And now, here was the plane. It was close, very close. Three seconds
now.

“One, two, three,” she counted. Then her gun spoke in a long, rasping
chatter. She didn’t want to look but she had to. Perhaps she had missed.
Perhaps he did carry a bomb.

She saw the look of pained surprise on the pilot’s face. His engine was
half shot away. She changed her aim a little and fired another volley.
After that she did not look. It wasn’t necessary. Half a minute later
the sound of an explosion came up from below.

“Yes,” she whispered, “He did have another bomb.”

She stood up. She was trembling like a leaf.

“Gale! You are a mess!” said a voice from behind her. “Your face is
black and your hair is flying wild.”

“Who cares?” Gale laughed hoarsely. “The soldiers have a song they sing.
I don’t like it, but it fits just now:

“What makes the wild WACS wild, Bill? What makes the wild WACS wild?”
she sang.

“They’re wild because they’re wild, Bill.”

“They’re wild because they’re wild,” Jan chimed in, “They’re wild
because they’re wild.”

“Look!” Gale exclaimed suddenly. “Who’s boss here?”

“You are, of course.” Jan’s chin dropped.

“Then why didn’t you go down in that cellar as I commanded you to?”

“Listen!” said Jan. “What did you do when your father was a sheriff and
got into a fight?”

“I climbed onto a chair, of course. He was my daddy.”

“All right. You’re MY pal. You might have passed out again. Then I’d
have had to drag you into the cellar.”

“I nearly did,” Gale confessed.

“Well, then, there you are!” Jan laughed softly. “Besides, I wanted to
see you shoot that plane down,” Jan admitted. “I knew you’d do it.
You’re just wonderful.”

“Ah, Jan darling!” Gale threw an arm over the big girl’s shoulder.
“You’re a real pal!”

Had some artist seen them then, their clothes torn and disarranged,
their faces black and hair flying, two WACS facing the sun on a ridge
down which all their equipment and a Jap bomber had gone, he might have
painted their picture and immortalized them forever.

As it was, Gale heaved a deep sigh, then said in a matter-of-fact voice,
“Jan, we’ve just got to rescue my radar set.”

“It’s smashed to bits,” Jan sighed wearily.

“It may not be. And if it is, the parts are all there.” Gale’s tone was
insistent. “And think what it would mean if some dirty enemy spy got it!
Come on! Let’s see if we can get down there.” So down they started.

And as they went Gale told herself,—“I mustn’t forget to listen on the
radio tonight at ten for Jimmie. He said he might talk from another
world.” He did, almost, at that.



                              CHAPTER XXII
                       _Two Shots and a Surprise_


Gale and Jan climbed down the rocky cliff over which the radar set had
been blown by the enemy’s bomb until it seemed they could go no farther.
They at last found themselves on a narrow rocky ledge that overlooked a
perpendicular wall of rock.

“Get a grip on my leg,” Jan said. “Just in case I get dizzy. I’ll lay
down flat and look over.”

“I’ve got you.” Gripping Jan’s right ankle with both her hands, Gale sat
down and braced herself with her feet.

“Okay. Here I go,” Jan grunted. Flat on her stomach, she crept out a
foot—two feet—until her head and shoulders hung over thin air.

“Jan! That’s far enough!” Gale cried in consternation. “You’ll be
killed! Let the old radar set go!”

“I—I see it,” Jan panted.

“How far down?”

“’Bout forty feet.”

“Fine!” Gale tried to be cheerful about it. “We’ll take it at a running
jump.”

“I—I see something else,” Jan puffed. “That wire cable that brought us
our electricity is caught on this ledge we’re on, only farther over. If
we could only get hold of that—”

“We could fasten it some way and I could shinny down it!” In the
excitement Gale barely missed letting go of Jan’s leg.

“Al—all right. We—we’ll try. Pull me back,” Jan ordered.

It was only by a feat of acrobatics, plus expert mountain climbing in
which Gale narrowly escaped tumbling into the abyss below that they at
last reached the tangled mass of wire.

After testing the wire and finding it devoid of electric current, they
untangled it far enough to give Gale support on her way down.

“Now for a good secure hold.” Gale looked about her.

“There’s the very thing!” Jan exclaimed. “A regular thumb of rock
reaching up from the ledge.”

After making their way a little farther along the ledge, they found a
three-foot column of rock jutting up from the main ledge and really a
part of it.

“Fair enough!” Jan exclaimed. “An elephant couldn’t tear that loose.
Even I could go down!” she laughed. “Why not let me?”

“No. I’ll go. I want to make sure that I have all the secret parts when
you pull it up. Well,” Gale sighed, “Here I go.”

Bracing her feet against the side of the rocky wall and at the same time
gripping the cable with both hands, she went hand-over-hand and
foot-over-foot down the perpendicular wall until with a low grunt she
hit bottom.

After shouting “Yoo-hoo! Okay!” she started her search for the spot
where the radar set had landed.

This was a wide ledge. On it grew many scrub pines that, gnarled and
twisted, seemed a company of grotesque gnomes watching her at her task.

As she passed these Gale imagined she heard a sound like the scraping of
a heavy shoe on a rock.

Stepping short she thrust her hand into her jacket pocket to grip the
handle of a small blue automatic.

Jimmie had given her this dangerous plaything. “A girl with hair like
yours, wild and unruly, needs a real gun,” he had said with a laugh. “I
got it off of a dead Jap.”

“But it was made in America,” she had exclaimed.

“Just one of those nice little things we did for the Japs before the
war.” His laugh was pleasant to hear. “We sold them, of course. Someone
made money on that deal. Now the Japs use the guns to kill us.”

“But not this one,” she had said, thrusting the gun into her pocket.

She was in a lonely spot at this moment, perhaps too in a tight place.
The cold steel in her hand felt good.

For three tense moments she stood there, poised like a tiger for a
sudden spring. It was hot down there. A breeze set the gnome-like pines
whispering. Other than this, there was no sound.

“Probably imagined that,” she told herself. “Nobody here.”

At that instant Jan called: “Gale! Are you there? Did you find it?”

“Here!” Gale called back. “I’ll have it in a jiffy.” She wasn’t going to
get Jan excited about nothing.

A few moments later she came upon a tumbled pile of rocks, broken glass
and wood that had but an hour before been her hideout.

Half hidden in this pile, was her precious radar set. It had been badly
torn and crushed. For all that, it somehow managed to hang together
while she dragged it out.

“Grand prize for our enemies,” she grunted softly. Then with a start she
straightened up. Again from behind a row of twisted pines there had come
a sound. “Might be a tiger,” she thought with a shudder. That there were
tigers in these mountains she knew well enough. “Or head-hunters, or
even enemy spies,” she went on thinking. Which did she fear most? She
could not tell.

“Better get up out of here,” she told herself. Then she called:

“Jan! Jan! Here I am!”

“Coming!” Jan called.

“Jan. Draw the cable up. Bring it over this way. Then let it down
again.”

“Okay.” Gale could hear Jan moving along the ledge above.

Keeping her eyes on the dwarf pines as much as possible, Gale dragged a
tangled mass of electric wire from the mass of rocks. After untangling
this, she wound it round and round the radar set.

“There,” she breathed. “Now I can attach it to the cable and Jan can
draw it up.”

“Here it comes,” Jan called a moment later as the twisted cable came
gliding down the rocky wall.

In a twinkle Gale had the cable attached to the radar set and was
watching it go up.

Strangely enough, at that moment she was seized with a sense of wild
panic. It was only by exerting all her will power that she avoided
ordering Jan to let the radar set down so she could go up instead.
Little wonder, for she had been through much that day.

And then she heard it again,—that strange scraping on rock that was like
shuffling footsteps, but not quite. Instantly her eyes were on the dwarf
pines. Did she get a fleeting glimpse of a face and gleaming eyes? She
could not be sure.

“In case of doubt, act!” had been her father’s motto. She acted now.
Aiming low, she fired two shots. Bang! Bang! To her startled ears, the
shots echoing in the cavern seemed like cannon fire.

There followed a sound of commotion behind the pines. Then all was
silence.

Out of that silence came Jan’s voice.

“Gale! Who fired those shots? Gale! Are you hurt?”

Gale made no reply. Instead, pistol in hand, she strode across the rocks
toward the pines. Arrived there, she parted the branches to find herself
staring into a wide empty space beyond.

She stood there staring in surprise. No living creature was there.

Her eyes swept the place in all directions. Then she looked down. There,
almost at her feet, was a thing covered with leather. It was like a
shoe. There was a strap attached to it. The strap had been cut by a
bullet.

With a low cry she picked the thing up and thrust it deep into the
pocket of her coat. Then stepping back over the rocks, she called:

“Jan! Lower the cable. I’m ready to come up.”

“Cable coming down,” was the instant reply.



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                        _This Is the Zero Hour_


That night Gale kept her resolve to listen in on Jimmie’s wave-length at
ten, and with startling results.

Half an hour later an orderly from headquarters was at the door of her
tent to say that the colonel wanted to see her at once.

“What a night!” she exclaimed. “This is one night when I shouldn’t be
surprised if all the stars were to fall!”

When she at last stood before the colonel with a smart salute, her usual
composure came back to her, for the colonel at once put her at her ease.

“I understand you had a little trouble today,” he said quietly.

“We lost our station,” she admitted.

“Bombed out?”

“Yes. But not until we had done our work.”

“That’s fine.” The colonel gave her a rare smile.

“We recovered our radar set,” she added.

“You did?” He showed some surprise.

“Yes. It was blown into a gully by the bomb. Getting down wasn’t easy.
But we had it to do. There are secrets to radar, you know.”

“Yes. Of course.”

“Three main secrets. We call those the Three Secrets of Radar. I’m sure
that enemy spies are after them—a woman in purple and a black dwarf.”

“Isabelle told me about these, and that you have seen the woman in a
temple near here. It is not easy to keep track of all the people around
us. I sent two Intelligence Officers to investigate.”

“You did?” Gale leaned forward eagerly.

“Yes. They got on the woman’s trail and followed it for hours. They lost
it at last in a terrible stretch of jungle the flyers call ‘Hell’s Half
Hour’.”

“Hell’s Half Hour!” the girl breathed, in sudden surprise. “Then—” she
caught herself and did not finish. Instead, she said: “I’m sure the
Black Dwarf is not with that woman.”

“Why?” he asked simply.

“I shot at something when I was recovering my radar.” She reached deep
in her pocket. “Someone was watching me. He was after my radar. He got a
shot instead. My bullet cut the strap—from this.” She drew something
strange from her pocket.

“What is it?” he asked in surprise.

“It’s made of aluminum, covered with thin leather,” she replied. “It’s
about six inches high and fits the right foot.”

“A shoe?”

“No. Only an extension to a shoe. A pair of them would made a dwarf look
like a tall, thin man,” she explained.

“And you’ve seen such a man?” he asked.

“Three times.” Gale told of her adventures with the tall, thin man in
the temple back at the city, and of the other times she had seen him.

“Looks as if the Woman in Purple and the Black Dwarf who is sometimes a
tall, thin man, were on your trail. But that,” the colonel straightened
up in his chair, “That’s not why I sent for you. Tonight,”—he leaned
forward to speak in a whisper—“Tonight at one A.M. is the Zero-hour. The
big push starts then.” His eyes gleamed.

For a full moment Gale stared at him in awed silence. Then, speaking
with an effort, she said: “I—I wish you luck.” She put out a hand. He
gripped it hard.

“It means a lot to me.” His voice was almost solemn. “That other time we
did our best, but always we had too little, too late.”

“But now—”

“Now we’ve got everything—tanks, guns, men, airplanes—everything. We’ll
beat the tar out of them. I wondered,”—again he leaned forward, “if
you’d like to go along?”

Gale stared, but said never a word. “It’s been hard to arrange.” His
voice rumbled. “But I’ve got it all fixed.”

“I—I—,” her throat was dry. “I don’t want to go.”

It was his turn to stare. “At least,” she added, “not yet. You see,” she
went on, leaning across the desk, “Jimmie and his plane are down off
there on Hell’s Half Hour.”

“Jimmie who?”

“Jimmie Nightingale.”

“What?” He half rose from his chair. “He was on a very secret mission.”

“The mission is safe enough. It was on his way back that they got him.
Someone must have tipped the Japs off. Two planes took him by surprise.
He got away in his parachute, but hung up in a tall tree, then fell. One
leg is injured. He can only drag himself along. He got to his wrecked
plane and is living on emergency rations.”

“But how could you know all this?” He stared.

“We had an agreement about listening at ten. I listened tonight. He had
his radio going—the speaking end. The listening part is wrecked. The
Woman in Purple is up there somewhere. Jimmie is helpless. That’s where
I want to go!” Her words came out like a cry in the night.

“You’d give up the big push for Jimmie?” There was a strange light in
his eyes.

“Yes, and so would you,” was the quick reply.

“You are right, I would. Jimmie is one of my boys, one of my best. I
can’t go. The big push is on. You go. I’ll give you Jan and her jeep for
transportation. Jan will drive that jeep of hers through hell and high
water. You go, and God guide you.” He stood up.

“But—but I want to join you later,” she insisted.

“Oh, sure! Soon as you can,” he agreed. “We’ll be in China again. I’ll
team you and Mac up again to guard my headquarters.”

“Thanks. We’ll guard it well.”

Just then an orderly announced the arrival of Than Shwe.

“Than Shwe, my child,” said the colonel as the little nurse stood in the
doorway. “We march tonight. You will report here in two hours with about
four times as much baggage as you carried on our retreat.”

“Oh, my colonel!” Than Shwe rushed to the old colonel and threw her arms
about his neck. “I knew you would not leave me behind when the big push
came!”

“Certainly not,” said the colonel, after engineering his escape from the
girl’s embrace. “I would leave anyone else behind first. We went through
hell and high water together.” He laughed a joyous roaring laugh.

“We waded the river for hours.” Than Shwe was laughing too. “The younger
men they were too hot, too tired. They were about to drop. But you, you
who are sixty, you were magnificent.

“You marched along with your Tommy-gun on your shoulder and you said,
‘What’s the matter with these young men? When I was young, if I couldn’t
do this before breakfast I’d have been ashamed.’”

“And you, Than Shwe!” said the colonel. “You and all the native nurses
were magnificent. You held your dresses high and splashed the water—you
danced and sang crazy songs while all the time you knew that bombs from
a Jap plane or machine-gun fire from shore might at any moment send all
to Kingdom Come. Yes! Yes! Than Shwe, you are going, you and Isabelle
will ride in my car.”

“And Gale?” The little nurse was loyal to all her friends.

“Gale is to go on another mission. One of her own choosing,” was the
quiet reply. “And now,” he added, “scram, you girls. I’ve got to give
twenty thousand boys their final marching orders.”

“Just like that,” Gale whispered to Than Shwe. “Was there ever such a
colonel?”

“Never!” was the quick reply. “This is his great moment.”

“Yes. Perhaps the greatest of his life. And yet he has time for us.”
Gale was happy and proud. Then she thought of Jimmie, lost out there in
the wilds, injured and alone. Her step quickened. “Nothing can hold me
back,” she whispered, “just nothing at all.”



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                      _Red-Heads Always Come Back_


Though Jimmie had given Gale the name of the river that flowed out of
the narrow valley where his plane had been wrecked and had even told her
that he was on the right bank of that river, she experienced the
greatest difficulty in securing the directions necessary to speed her on
her way.

At last she came upon an English captain who could direct her. “Oh! No,
my dear!” he exclaimed. “It would be entirely impossible for you to
drive a jeep up the way this terrible woman you have spoken of has gone.
You must follow the colonel’s road back to this point.” He placed his
pencil on the map. “Then you must follow this river over a road that is
not a road really, only a camel’s track. But I daresay you’ll make it
for some distance in a jeep. Those things are more or less of a camel
breed.” He laughed heartily. “In the end, however, you’ll be obliged to
walk a long, long way.”

“Walkin’s the best thing we do,” Jan declared stoutly.

“Oh my! Yes! I daresay,” the captain agreed. “And by the way, it’s jolly
good I thought of this. There’s a Buddhist temple up that river, rather
a long way up.”

“Oh! Another temple!” Gale sighed. “Temples have brought us only bad
luck.”

“You don’t say!” the captain exclaimed. “Well now, perhaps your luck
will change. I’ve heard some good things about this particular temple—a
good little man at the head of it, and all that. But then, one never
knows. Well, cheerio! I’ll be going. I was with the colonel on his
retreat.”

“Oh! Were you?” Gale exclaimed.

“Well, rather. So I must be in on his triumph, if there is to be a
triumph. Well, rather!” He laughed as he vanished into the night.

“They’ll never believe us when we tell them at home about the things
that have happened to us,” Gale laughed.

“No. Nor the kind of people we met. I’ll say they won’t!” Jan exclaimed.
“Well, what d’you say we stuff our duffle bags, turn the old jeep over,
and ramble?”

A half hour later they rambled into the night.

At first they met many trucks and cars feeling their way over the road
with dimmed lights.

“Coming to join the big push.” Jan’s voice was husky. “And here we are,
going the other way.”

“I know,” was Gale’s slow reply. “It breaks my heart. It’s the biggest
thing we’ll ever know, and we’re stepping out of it. But you can’t
desert a pal.”

“Who wants to?” Jan demanded. “Somebody had to make this trip. That
Jimmie of yours was right up here fighting before his country was in the
war at all. Somebody had to go. They couldn’t spare fighting men—not
just now they couldn’t. So they sent us. It’s always a woman’s job to
fill in when there’s not enough men to go ’round.”

“I know,” Gale agreed. “It’s good of you to step into it all the same.”

They came at last to the spot where they must leave the Colonel’s fine
road and turn up a camel trail.

“Jeepers!” Jan exclaimed, as her jeep took a steep ridge between trees
so close together that they brushed them. “This is going to be
something!” And it was.

At times the sturdy little jeep, working on all four wheels, stood
straight up on end and pawed the air like a bucking bronco, then leapt
forward into space to land on all fours and plunge forward again.

“It’s a good thing I was raised on a ranch!” Jan exclaimed once. “If I
hadn’t been I’d never be able to wrangle this.”

The time came at last when it seemed they could go no farther and they
were still a good twenty miles from the spot on the map at which the
English captain had said, “Here you must leave your jeep.”

“He’s not been up this trail lately,” was Jan’s sad comment. The winter
rains had washed the trail away leaving a perpendicular bank of earth up
which no jeep, however stout, could hope to travel.

“Let’s get out and think,” was Gale’s suggestion.

“Think, and drink coffee,” Jan amended. “Coffee always helps.” There was
a jug of hot coffee in the car.

“Yes, coffee helps,” Gale agreed. “But it will never help enough this
time, Jeep,” she patted their iron steed with real affection, “you’ve
done nobly, but here you stay.”

Did some hopeful gremlin whisper, “Little you know about that!”? If he
did, Gale was too busy uncorking the coffee jug to hear him.

                            * * * * * * * *

In the meantime, travelling before the oncoming army, Isabelle and Than
Shwe rode with the colonel in the back seat of his big car. Driver and
orderly rode in front while three guards rode the sides.

Isabelle told herself that out of all her experiences this one might
prove to be the most thrilling. They drove in absolute darkness. There
was no moon. Great overhanging trees hid the stars. The road wound in
and out along the mountain slope. There must be a place here and there
where they hung at the brink of an abyss. She dared not think of that.
Instead, she thought of Jimmie lost in the wilds, and of her good pals
going to his rescue. She thought too of her home, thought how the trees
cast shadows on the green lawn, and how her father and mother would be
sitting at the breakfast table, perhaps talking about her. She wished
they could see her now. Of course she knew that time was different on
that side of the world. Perhaps it was noon now, or sunset. This did not
disturb her at all.

Than Shwe was thinking how she had trudged up this road, then only a
rugged trail, barefoot, and was hoping many things. The colonel thought
of victories won and of men lost. And so they rode on in silence through
the night.

                            * * * * * * * *

As Gale and Jan sat beside the trail that had come to an abrupt end,
they became conscious of a stirring in the brush. A dusky brown figure
appeared in the spot of light made by their car’s lamps. Another
appeared, another, and yet another. Short, stout appearing natives, they
were half naked, and did not seem afraid. Many were lurking in the
shadows.

“Like gnomes of the forest,” Jan whispered.

Gale made no reply. Truth is, she was frightened.

But Jan! “Hi folks!” she called. “Want a good hot drink? It’s coffee!”

A solemn old man edged closer. Gale watched, fascinated. Jan offered him
her cup. He took it, sniffed it, then drank it down.

Instantly the natives swarmed about them. Almost as quickly the hot
coffee they had hoped would last through the night and the next day was
gone.

“Might as well be sociable!” Jan laughed merrily, and the natives
laughed with her. Then they did an astonishing thing. After cutting two
stout poles, they ran them through beneath Jan’s tired jeep. Then at a
grunt from their leader, they picked up the poles, jeep and all, and
solemnly marched away. Like chief mourners, Jan and Gale marched behind.

It was quite a long march. The jeep could not have made it alone. There
were huge rocks in some places, and narrow stretches in others, but
somehow the clever savages made it, and in due time the jeep, quite
unharmed, was deposited on the trail above the mud bank. At that the
natives disappeared into the bush from which they had come.

“That,” said Jan, “was mighty stout coffee!”

“It was,” Gale agreed.

“And now, let’s ramble!” Gale took her place at the wheel and again they
rambled on into the night.

                            * * * * * * * *

In the meantime the colonel’s car had reached the end of the road.
Beyond lay the river. Here, under a rocky bank into which an air raid
shelter had been cut, he set up temporary headquarters in a tent. This
done, with orderly and guard at his heels, he strode away to make some
final arrangements for the big push.

Left to themselves, Isabelle and Than Shwe felt their way over a
hard-beaten trail to the spot where the road appeared to end at the
brink of the river.

“It doesn’t really end,” said Isabelle in great surprise. “There’s a
bridge.”

“Part of a bridge.” The little native nurse had sharp eyes.

Soon Isabelle realized that army engineers, working swiftly and silently
in the night, were throwing a bridge across the river.

“There are other bridges going up,” said a voice at her elbow. It was
the colonel. “Our road winds back and forth across the river.”

“We know that river—you and I,” Than Shwe laughed quietly.

“Boats will be coming down the hill soon, hundreds and hundreds of them.
But just now, you and I,”—he touched Isabelle’s arm, “must get out some
orders.”

From that time till dawn, under a pale light in a dark corner of the air
raid shelter, Isabelle’s portable type-writer clicked.

“There. That will do,” the colonel sighed at last. “The big parade
should arrive at any minute now. You girls might like to see it.”

“Indeed, yes!” Than Shwe exclaimed.

“It will be worth seeing,” the colonel rumbled.

“I’m sure it will,” Isabelle agreed. And it was.

The first faint flush of dawn gave them a shadowy view of the grand
parade’s vanguard, a General Sherman tank. Astride this tank rose a long
figure. Strange as it may seem, Isabelle recognized the figure
instantly. She had seen it outlined against the sunset on some football
bench too often to miss.

“Pete!” she screamed above the rattle of the tank. “Hi there, Pete!” She
struggled hard to keep the tears from her voice. It’s bad enough when
you tell your little man goodbye at the depot, but to see him riding at
the head of the procession, going to battle on a tank, that was almost
too much.

The girl’s dominant desire at the moment was to give the big redhead
something to remember her by. She racked her brain for a moment. Then
she had it.

“A red, red rose!” she whispered, snatching at her breast.

The colonel was fond of roses. He had brought a large potted rose, in
full bloom, to the Secret Forest. Intending to leave this behind, he had
cut two of the roses and given them to Isabelle and Than Shwe.

Now, as Isabelle plucked hers from her jacket where it was pinned, she
raced along beside Pete’s tank screaming “Pete! Pete! Here’s something
to take into battle!”

“What? Oh! There you are! Great stuff!” Pete leaned far over to grasp
the hand that held the rose. Then relinquishing the hand, he grasped the
rose.

“I’ll take it into battle,” he shouted. “It will bring me luck. You’ll
be proud of me, Isabelle, you really will!”

The tank rumbled on, and Isabelle turned aside to brush her eyes, then
to exclaim to Than Shwe, “War is just what Sherman said it was.”

“What did Sherman say?” Than Shwe asked.

“He said it was hot stuff,” Isabelle laughed through her tears.
“Redheads always come back,” she murmured.

And so Pete rode away to war, astride his tank, Red Dynamite, with the
stem of a red rose between his teeth. And the battle that day was to be
real enough. Red Dynamite was to have its turret blown clean off and
Pete—well, the fortunes of war are often strange.



                              CHAPTER XXV
                         _What the Drums Told_


The road that led to Hell’s Half Hour grew more difficult by the hour.
More than once Jan climbed out to push while Gale held the wheel. “Get
along there, Jeep,” she would cry. “I’ve got a strong back and a weak
mind, but we’ve just got to get through.”

When at last they reached the place marked “Impassable” on the map, they
realized that the map told the truth. They were facing a stone wall up
which only a human being or a donkey could climb.

“Well, old Jeep,” Jan patted her car affectionately, “you’ve done nobly.
We’ll have to leave you here, but we’ll be back. At least we think we
will,” she added in a sober voice.

“You take the grub-sack,” she said to Gale. “I’ll bring the stretcher we
brought for Jimmie, and the blankets.” Again her strong back was to
stand her in good stead.

To their surprise, once they had crossed the rocky ridge, they found
themselves on a well-travelled trail. Here, however, the trees stood
close together.

“Guess we should have taken this foot-trail from the start,” said Gale.
“It’s shorter. If the Woman in Purple headed this way, as the colonel
said, she must have taken this trail. Perhaps she’s waiting for us
somewhere in the shadows.” She shuddered. Darkness still hung over the
mountainside.

“Let her wait,” was Jan’s grim reply. “We’ll fix her plenty.”

The dawn that took Pete to battle with Isabelle’s red rose in his teeth
found Gale and Jan trudging, weary and more than half asleep, over a
trail that had hourly grown broader and hard-packed by the tread of many
feet.

“We’re getting somewhere,” Jan paused for a moment to down her load.
“But where? That’s the question.”

“Just one more temple and more trouble,” Gale sighed.

“Oh, you can’t be sure.” Jan was hopeful. “This is our third temple.
Third time’s the charm.”

“Here’s hoping.” Gale once again took the trail.

A temple it was, and the most gorgeous one they had ever seen. Its
towers appeared to rival the giants of the forest. It was surrounded by
a high wall, and along the top of the wall tigers, dragons and all
manner of strange beasts, all carved from hard wood and stone, appeared
to race.

Strangest of all, seeming to stand guard beside the door in the wall,
stood two huge monkeys or apes large as dogs. Their coats were
marvelously beautiful.

“Like Siberian squirrelskin,” Jan whispered. “Are they real? Alive?”

“Oh, sure!” Gale moved back a step. “I just saw one blink his eye.”

“All the same, I’m hungry,” said Jan. “They can’t do more than eat me.”
She took two steps forward. The “Monkeys of the Snows” followed her with
their eyes, and that was all.

She struck a large gong that hung beside the door. A small, square
window swung open, and like a Jack-in-the-box, a round head popped out.
A pair of small eyes stared at them. A pair of lips said “Pst!” Then the
head popped back and the window closed.

“What did he say?” Jan asked.

“Nothing.”

“What does it all mean?”

“Wait and see.” Gale sat down on a big rock.

Jan tried to make friends with the magnificent apes but they were
indifferent to her charms.

“You’re not in their class,” Gale laughed.

Moments dragged on. Then suddenly the door swung wide. A little man in a
wide robe stepped out, bowed low, then said in perfect English:

“The humble accommodations of our poor temple are at your service.”

“We—we’d like some tea,” said Jan.

“You shall have tea and hot rice cakes. Then, if you wish, you may rest.

“The monkeys,” he added, noting Gale’s look of apprehension, “are
harmless. They are great pets. No animals are ever harmed here.”

“And we too,” he smiled broadly, “are harmless. Our only wish is to
serve. And to serve ladies of your rank from the land that is to free
our land, China,—ah! That is a rare privilege.” He led the way into the
temple.

“You came a long way to see our temple. We are highly honored,” said the
monk when they were all three seated at a plain board table.

“Oh, we didn’t come to see your temple,” Jan volunteered. “We—” she
caught Gale’s eye, then stopped short.

“We have a mission that takes us farther into the mountains,” Gale
stated simply.

“Alone?” The monk stared at her.

“We are soldiers.” Gale squared her shoulders. “Soldiers go where they
are sent.”

“Ah, yes! But to go into dangerous country unescorted when protection is
to be had, that is regrettable.” There was a kind, fatherly quality in
the man’s voice that Gale liked.

“The natives can’t be so terrible,” said Jan. “A tribe of them carried
our car around a washout for us.”

“Ah, yes. The natives, they will not harm you. I can give you a sign
that will take you safely through any native village in these mountains.
But the wild beasts, that is different. Only last week a rogue elephant
visited a village and tore down the houses. The week before, a child was
carried away by a man-eating tiger.”

Gale studied the man’s face. Was he, she wondered, trying to frighten
them? She doubted that. Could he be told of their mission? She did not
know. Fortunately he was to provide the answers.

“Here is your tea,” he said. “The cakes will be here in a moment. Will
you drink tea with me?” They drank in silence.

“Now,” he said. “We are friends. Nothing that I can do for you shall
remain undone.”

“Then,” said Gale, “tell us, has a tall, gorgeously dressed woman
visited this temple in the last three days?”

“Ah! There you have me!” The monk’s eyes flickered. “This temple is a
place of refuge for all. I am not free to tell who comes and who goes.
You might remain here for a month and no one would know.” This speech
set Gale back on her heels. If she could not ask a simple question and
get an answer from this man, what could she expect? They ate their cakes
and drank a second cup of tea in silence.

“You must not leave our house in silence.” Their host seemed genuinely
disturbed. “Come. Let me tell you a little. I have lived and studied in
America. America is my foster-mother. I love her for that, and because
she has come to the aid of my first mother, China. Listen?” He held up a
hand.

They caught the low drone of a distant airplane.

“This,” he said, “is one gateway to Burma. The pass is over yonder among
the clouds. More than one of your brave fighters has fallen among those
jagged crags, and not a few have been rescued by our monks or by the
natives who gladly aid them.”

“Oh!” Gale breathed softly. Hope had flamed in her heart. “Has—has one
been rescued lately?”

“Not within a month,” was the quiet reply. Hope fled.

“But if one has fallen,” came after a brief silence. The monk did not
finish.

“Yes, yes! One has been lost,” Gale exclaimed softly, throwing caution
to the wind. “A very good friend of mine is down at the place they call
Hell’s Half Hour. We have come to find him.”

“You—you two came alone to find him?” Fresh surprise, not unmixed with
admiration, was written on the man’s face. “Then I beg of you, allow me
to assist you.”

In the end, when the two girls again took up the trail, four monks, one
of them a Chinese doctor of some ability, went with them.

As they came to the crest of a ridge overlooking the temple, Gale was
surprised to see the extent of the grounds. Besides the main building,
there were many others, some small and some quite large. She recalled
the words of the head monk: “You could live here for a month and no one
would know.” Then she thought of the Woman in Purple, and shuddered.

They had tramped for two hours up the jungle trail when one of their
guides gave a grunt, then motioned for silence.

Out of the profound, mystery-laden silence came a strange sound—the
distant roll of a drum. The drumbeats were measured and spaced. They
came to an end, only to begin again. From time to time the guide spoke
in Chinese to the doctor. At last Gale could stand it no longer.

“What does it mean? Tell me!” she begged.

“Your friend has been found. He is far in the heart of the jungle and
has been injured,” said the doctor.

“How could you know that?” she demanded.

“The drums, they have told us.”

“The drums?” Gale stared.

“All the natives in these hills are our friends,” the doctor explained.
“When a flier falls near a village they do all they can for him. Then,
on the signal drums they beat out a message in code all their own. Other
villages take up the story. In the end, it reaches us. Our guide
understands the code.

“Come. We must hasten,” he added. “They are bringing your friend out of
the jungle. We must go to meet them. We shall do what we can.”



                              CHAPTER XXVI
                         _Count Your Men, Tojo_


In the brightening dawn of that eventful day Isabelle watched Pete ride
away leading the big push, atop his tank. She saw him cross the bridge
that only a few hours before had not been there, then follow the river
along the opposite side, only to cross and re-cross the river, then to
vanish into the great unknown.

Overhead three Jap planes appeared. There came a roar from the hills.
American planes went swooping down. A short, sharp fight, and the Jap
planes vanished.

And the procession moved steadily forward. After the tanks came guns,
and after these an endless procession of trucks loaded with men and
equipment. After these, most impressive of all, came marching men,
thousands of them. Rifles and Tommy-guns over shoulders, pack on backs,
they tramped steadily forward.

Isabelle swallowed hard as she whispered, “God, this is too much. Why
must all this happen?”

But Than Shwe was dancing. “The people of Burma, my people, are
starving. The Japs have taken all the rice. But now they shall be set
free. They shall eat again. See, Isabelle, tanks, guns, men and
Tommy-guns! The colonel fetched out a Tommy-gun on his shoulder. Now we
have thousands of Tommy-guns. It is beautiful and wonderful!”

“And terrible,” Isabelle murmured. For all that, she was thrilled as
never before. It was strange.

With Isabelle’s rose tightly gripped in his teeth Pete rode on into the
dawn.

They came at last to enemy territory. Here the road was old and quite
rough. But still they rumbled on.

They went several miles without a shot being fired.

“I don’t like this.” Pete took the rose from between his lips to consult
the captain of his tank. “It’s sort of ominous.”

“Like moving pictures of them frontier days,” Bud Rankin, the tank’s
boss, agreed. “Indians lyin’ for you on the edge of some river bank, an’
all that.”

“Sure! Sure!” Pete agreed, sticking the rose in his cap as if it were a
red feather. “Look!” he exclaimed suddenly. “There’s some kind of a
track going over that clay bank. Let’s have a look.” They had gone into
the lead of the other tanks by several hundred feet.

Quickly climbing down, he made a running leap and was atop the clay
bank.

“Man! Oh man!” he exclaimed softly. “Track of a giant!”

At that he raced back to mount the tank once more.

“Bud,” he spoke in a low tone, leaning far over, “that’s the track of a
giant tank. Alongside of that tank ours is just a baby. The Japs never
made that tank. It came all the way from Hitlerland. They’ve been
dodging our blockade, bringing in guns and tanks and taking out rubber
and tin. They must have brought these tanks, maybe a whole shipload.”

“What do you know about that!” Bud exclaimed.

“They’ll hang around behind these banks, then come up and blast us,”
said Pete. “We’ve got to get them first. Wait. I’ll have one more look.”

Again he streaked up the bank. He dropped flat when he reached the top,
then crept forward. A moment later Bud saw him hold up three fingers.

“Three of them!” Bud groaned, speaking to his engineer. “Three giants.
What now?”

When Pete returned, his strategy was all worked out. “They’re German
Mark Sixes,” he exclaimed. “Sixty ton babies. But what do we care for
that? This here gun of ours can shoot.”

“An’ you sure can lay ’em down in the groove,” said Bud, who was from
the Kentucky mountains. “You’re the gunshootinest feller I most ever
seen.”

“Sure I am,” Pete agreed. “Now look! This is the way it is. The ground
is level about half a mile farther up. They’re waitin’ up there to blast
us. We’ll climb right up the next ridge behind these little low trees
and we’ll give them the surprise of their lives.”

“I’ll leave it to you, Pete. Let’s ramble.” Bud agreed.

So with the red rose still in his cap, Pete again mounted the tank and
directed its course.

When they started up the bank the treads began to slip but increased
power drove them forward until at last they stood at the crest. There
Pete squinted through low trees for a space of seconds. Then tumbling
down into the tank he dropped the door softly, swung his turret about,
squinted down the gun, moved the turret just a little, squinted again,
then exclaimed:

“Here’s something for you, Tojo!” At that his gun roared.

The smoke had not cleared before a second shot rang out, and after that
a third.

“Now! Let’s see!” Shoving back the door, Pete climbed to the turret top.

“Running like blazes,” he exclaimed. “We got ’em all right. Now, Tojo!
Count your men! Count your men!” He sent a hail of machine-gun fire
after the fleeing Japs.

“We’ve got to move fast!” Pete exclaimed, once more popping out of the
tank’s top. “I can’t see the next one. Slide her up a bit.” The General
Sherman rumbled forward.

“There! Stop her!” He tumbled back into the tank and in ten seconds had
his gun in action. The second shot resulted in a tremendous roar.

“Blowed up. That Mark Six blowed right up,” he exclaimed. “What d’you
know about that? Come on! Let’s ramble again.”

Like some rogue elephant roaming the hills, the third big tank had
rambled from sight.

“Shucks!” Pete exclaimed. “He’s gone and lost himself! We’ll have to
hunt him up. There’s a higher hill. Let’s roll up there for a look.”

They rolled to the crest of the hill. Pete was about to pop out for a
look around when an enemy shell saved him the trouble of lifting the
tank’s lid. The shell blew the lid off.

“Poor old Red Dynamite!” Pete exclaimed. “He’s lost his lid! Oh, well, I
never did think much of that lid.”

He thrust up his head for a look.

“Watch out! You’ll git it too!” Bud warned.

“Lightnin’ never strikes twice in the same place,” said Pete, climbing
half way up for a better look. “Neither do Tojo’s shells.”

This might be true, but it would seem that the Japs are good at near
misses, for just then a shell whizzed past him so close that the suction
almost dragged him from the tank.

“Why! You dirty—” He stopped short. After dropping back into the tank,
he put up a hand. His cap was gone and with it Isabelle’s rose.

“He can’t do that to me!” he stormed. “That’s a big field gun. I saw
where that shell came from. Let me at him.”

No one held him back. He squinted once, then fired three shells in quick
succession.

There came no reply from the enemy. “Got him!” he exclaimed. “Now maybe
I can enjoy a little fresh air.” He climbed back to the tank’s shattered
top.

In the meantime three other U. S. tanks had cornered the remaining giant
enemy and proceeded to beat him into submission.

And so as the grand parade proceeded to spread itself out over the
landscape, the battle went on.

And far away in the wilds the native drums told their story over and
over while Gale and Jan moved ever closer to their goal.

At last, an hour before sunset, a weird sound began drifting through the
trees.

“What is it?” Gale asked, pausing to rest her tired body.

“It’s the native marching chant,” said the doctor. “They are coming.
Soon they will be with us. We may wait here.”

Tired as she was, Gale could not wait. Hurrying forward, she met the
dusky caravan with Jimmie carried on a litter in their midst.

“Jimmie!” she called. “Are you badly injured?”

“Gale!” he exclaimed in astonishment. “Are you here?”

“Sure! Why not? I heard your call and I came. I hear you calling,
calling me,” she chanted.

Needless to say the native marchers were given a rest while Jimmie and
Gale made up for lost time in certain little matters.

“But Jimmie, are you badly injured?” she repeated at last.

“I’ll be flying again soon, and I’d better be,” was his reply. “The
colonel must be half way across Burma by now. And don’t forget, we have
a date. Our destination is Tokio!”

“Oh, Jimmie! You must take me with you!” she exclaimed.

“I surely will, if I have to kidnap you!” he vowed.

Arrived at the spot where the monks were busy preparing a camp for the
night, they rested while tea was brewed and some sort of wild meat was
roasted over the fire.

Jungle dinner over, the doctor took charge of Jimmie. He discovered an
arm out of its socket, a cracked rib, and a badly bruised leg that,
after all, was not broken. When these injuries had been cared for, they
all rolled up in their blankets and slept while dusky forms took turns
at watching through the night.

Just after dark on that same day Pete came bursting into the colonel’s
temporary headquarters, a deserted roadside store—a full fifty miles
inside Burma.

Isabelle, who sat typing orders, looked up wearily to say:

“Did you want to see—” She broke off short to exclaim, “Pete! It’s you!”

“Who else?” Pete grinned. “The colonel sent for me. He wants to see me.”

“Does he? Then come on in here.” She led him to an improvised washroom
where a wooden tub full of water awaited him.

“Dust an inch thick on your face and caked with blood at that,” she
grumbled. “And your hair’s a mess.”

“They blowed my hat off and my rose! Blast ’em!”

“Never mind that. Duck your head,” she commanded.

When she had scrubbed his neck and hair she rubbed him down good with a
coarse towel.

“Now!” she exclaimed, laughing, “the colonel can really see you. He
wants to congratulate you and pin a medal on you for being the best
gunner of the day.”

“Shucks! Isabelle! It was nothing!” he said with a grin. “It was just
because they made me mad, blowing away my rose the way they did.

“But Isabelle,” he squared off for a good look, “you sure are one swell
gal. I shouldn’t wonder if we’d have a lot of dates when we get back
home. Maybe we’ll have so many we’ll just decide to move in together.”

“That,” said Isabelle, “will be just swell.” And to prove she meant it,
she sealed the bargain with something better than a handshake.

After that they hunted up the colonel to collect Pete’s medal, which to
Pete, considering what had happened before, was practically nothing at
all. And so the war went on.



                             CHAPTER XXVII
                           _The Fiery Cross_


It required all the next day to bring Jimmie by slow stages down the
rough mountain trail to the temple. There they were given a real treat,
some rare vegetable soup, rice bread and such fruit salads as they had
never tasted before.

When Jimmie had been put to rest for the night, Gale and Jan were shown
to their room. There they found comfortable beds and blankets of virgin
wool to keep out the night’s chill.

“Golly!” Jan exclaimed. “This is better than army life!”

It was better, Gale admitted that to herself. She was tired too. It
seemed she must fall asleep at once, but she did not. The days that had
just passed had been too exciting for that. Besides, within her being
was a feeling of vague uneasiness. “It’s some sort of a forewarning of
evil,” she told herself. “I’ve felt it before when something terrible
threatened.” She had learned many strange signs and tokens from the old
black mammy who cared for her as a child.

At last she whispered hoarsely, “Jan! Jan! Are you asleep?”

“No. Of course not,” was Jan’s reply. “Don’t you think I hear you
tumbling about?”

“All right,” Gale laughed. “Let’s slip into our jackets and slacks and
slip out on the trail. We’ll walk off the strong tea we drank.”

“Anything you say.” Jan tumbled out of bed.

There was a watchman at the main gate, but at the back was a narrow hole
in the wall that was not locked. With a pinpoint light they made their
way through this gate, then along the wall to the main trail.

“Jan,” Gale whispered. “I wish the war was over right now.”

“Who doesn’t?” was the quick reply. “The whole world is waiting.”

“But if it was over I’d stay right here for a month,” said Gale. “Think
what fun it would be studying the birds, the gorgeous butterflies, the
monkeys and everything!”

“Yes, everything,” Jan laughed softly. “Rogue elephants, man-eating
tigers, mad water-buffalo! No! No! Let me out, PDQ.”

“Listen,” Gale whispered. “I think I hear a plane.” By this time they
were some distance from the temple.

“Sure. I suppose a lot of our planes cross over the pass.”

“Quiet!” Gale warned. “I do hear planes, more than one, but they are far
away.”

For a time they tramped in silence.

“Those planes are coming closer,” Gale murmured. “The sound is strange,
not quite like a squadron of our own ships. They—”

“Look!” Jan exclaimed. “Up there ahead in that open space that’s like a
clearing! There’s a queer light! Come on! Let’s have a look!”

Their rubber shoes making no sound, they sped forward to a bend in the
trail. Then they saw it. A figure bending over a long stretch of flames
in the trail.

“It’s a woman,” Gale whispered excitedly.

“A monk,” said Jan.

Woman or monk the figure darted into the brush.

And then the two girls saw it—a large, fiery cross burning in the trail.

“Some religious fanatic did it,” said Jan, “someone who doesn’t like the
Buddhists.”

“Nothing of the sort!” Gale sprang forward. “It’s a signal fire for
those planes. See! The cross points toward the temple. It’s the Woman in
Purple!

“Look!” She sprang to one side of the trail where some ancient pine
trees stood. “This mass of moss and pine needles is damp from recent
rains. Grab a big armful and come on! Quick!”

Thirty seconds later they were hovering over the flames, burying them
under sodden masses of debris. “That fire is made of pine cones. How it
burns!” Jan exclaimed.

“It’s half out. Bring more!” Gale exploded. “They may come back. I—I’ll
stand guard.” She drew out her small automatic.

Jan raced away to return again and yet again. The fire was almost out
when Gale heard a sound in the brush. Like a flash she fired a shot.

Jan came running. “Did—did you see someone?” she panted.

“No. But I heard them,” was Gale’s steady reply. “After I fired there
was a sound like a low cry.”

“I’ll have a look!” Before Gale could stop her Jan sprang into the
brush.

She was gone a long time. Gale was about to despair when suddenly she
reappeared.

“Didn’t find a thing. Got good and scratched by briars,” said Jan. “Oh
yes! Just this. That’s all.” She held out a bit of thin cloth.

“Purple!” Gale whispered.

The planes were close now, circling like wild geese looking for a
landing.

“Looking for the light to guide them,” said Gale. “They meant to destroy
the temple.” “And us.” Jan shuddered.

“Oh, sure! They’d like to get us and Jimmie and they hate the temple
because the monks help to rescue our airmen. But they’ll never find the
temple now,” Gale added. “On a night like this it cannot be seen from
the sky. The monks should know about this,” said Jan.

“That’s right,” Gale agreed. “You go hurry back and tell them. I’ll
stand guard.”

“Give me that gun.” Jan put out a hand. “I can shoot as straight as you
can. Besides, I could handle that woman and her black dwarf with one
hand.”

“Can you?” Gale hesitated. “Don’t forget the contents of her toilet
case.”

“Oh, oh!” Jan breathed. “A gun and a dagger! All the same, I’m staying!”

“Okay. Here’s the gun. I’ll be back before you know it.” Gale was away.

As Jan stood there in the shadows waiting, listening, she caught all
manner of strange sounds. A bird whistled in its sleep. There came a
chattering. Then came the sound of monkeys racing through trees.

“How you going to know what’s going on?” she breathed with a shudder.
“They could spring at you from the dark and you’d never know—you—”

Her thoughts were broken into for from the distance came heavy tramping
footsteps. They sounded louder second by second. Then down the trail a
vast form moved. Jan dived silently into the brush as a huge elephant
went lumbering past.

“I only hope Gale got there,” she breathed.

Gale was at the temple. She had roused the head of the household, the
little man with shining eyes.

“I can scarcely believe you,” he said when her story was told. “Yet I
must believe. Wait.”

He rang a bell. A monk appeared. The Superior said a few words in
Chinese.

“We must send someone to relieve your friend.” The Superior rang his
bell three times. Three monks appeared. He spoke to them in Chinese.
They departed on the run.

“We have no guns,” said the Superior. “Nevertheless we have our manner
of handling such things,” he added in a mysterious whisper. “This will
not happen again.”

A moment later the first monk returned to report. When he had finished
the Superior turned again to Gale. “You are right,” he said. “A woman
who dresses always in purple has been our guest.”

“Aha!” the girl breathed.

“She had a servant, a black dwarf.”

“Then—”

The Superior held up a hand. “There is little that we can do now. Their
lodgings are empty. They have departed, taking all their belongings with
them. There are many trails. Should we overtake them, there is nothing
we could do. We are not the law, only humble monks striving to make the
people of this earth a little happier.

“Listen!” He held up a hand. The droning sound of motors was fading
away.

“They are gone,” he said. “You have done us a great service. I shall
send a message to the Superior of all temples along the way to treat you
as a sister.

“From now on,” he added, “our temple will be guarded at night. Three
brothers will watch this night through. You may sleep in peace.”

Gale and Jan did sleep in peace. Early next morning four monks took up
Jimmie’s litter and carried him before the girls down the mountain to
their jeep.

There they wove him a hammock of ropes that fitted across the back of
the car. The girls thanked them, bade them goodbye and drove away.

Early that same evening Jimmie found himself in a bed at the hospital
beneath the shadows of the Secret Forest with the gentle doll-like
Mai-da as his nurse.

“We’ll have to be off in the morning,” said Gale as she sat beside him.
“I’m told that the colonel and his army are half way across Burma.”

“Took the Japs by surprise,” Jimmie laughed. “That’s great. He’ll be in
China before we know it.”

“That’s just it,” Gale agreed. “He’ll be setting up a more or less
permanent base there, and I must be there to guard him with my radar.”

“You and Mac,” he teased.

“Yes. Sure,” she smiled. “Mac is grand. But Jimmie,” her voice dropped,
“there’s a one-time flying Tiger who will be in all my dreams.”

“That’s swell,” Jimmie beamed. “But don’t forget, that one-timer will be
along before you know it. Then you’ll have to keep a date over Tokio.”

“Oh, Jimmie!” she breathed. “Do you really believe you can fix it that
way?”

“Wait and see.” He shook a finger at her. “I’m the grandest little fixer
you ever met.”

And so, next day at dawn, Gale and Jan in their jeep rattled away toward
the battle front and fresh adventure.



                             CHAPTER XXVIII
                             _This Is It!_


For many days after that, out on the battle front, life for the American
forces was an almost monotonous succession of victories. Taken by
surprise, the small force of Japs defending their foothold in Burma were
pushed back, back, back by the colonel’s onrushing army. They reached
the Chinese border and rolled right on. Great forces of Chinese
fighters, hungry, ragged, ill armed but eager, joined in the battle.
Great convoys of trucks laden with food, clothing, rifles, Tommy-guns
and ammunition for these fighters rolled in a never-ending stream over
the colonel’s road.

The colonel set up temporary headquarters in an abandoned ranch house, a
bomb-shattered store, the home of a rich Chinese merchant, and at last
in a small but beautiful temple.

Always the team of Gale and Mac were on hand to watch the skies for
enemy bombers. Since the days were bright they did their work only at
night. Twice Gale spotted oncoming marauders, twice Mac, and
night-fighting U. S. planes blasted them from the skies.

Jan stuck to her jeep. She was always at the colonel’s service. At times
she drove the colonel about, at others she did some rough riding with
tough buck privates, and enjoyed it. “Golly!” she would exclaim as she
came in covered with sweat, dust and grease, “this is the life! It
really is!”

Yes, for Gale and Jan life took on a definite pattern. Then, as often
happens in war, that pattern was suddenly torn into small bits.

It started when one day the colonel called Gale to his headquarters to
say:

“You’ve been on night work for some time now. You need a change.”

“Oh, no! I—”

“I’m sure you’ll like the change I am offering you.” A strange smile
played about his lips. “I have a friend who has just arrived at the
airfield. I think perhaps he has some sort of proposition to make you.
You have my permission to accept. His name—” A smile spread over his
face, “is Jimmie.”

“Jimmie?” She sprang to her feet. “Is he—”

“He’s back in the saddle. Your old pal Jan is waiting outside. I suggest
that you go for a ride with her.”

Ten seconds later as Gale tumbled into Jan’s jeep she exclaimed. “The
airfield, James! And make it snappy!”

A half hour later Gale and Jimmie were drinking hot black coffee in a
cubbyhole just off of the airfield where they could talk in absolute
secrecy.

“Well, Gale,” Jimmie’s smile was strange. “You asked for it. Now you’ll
have to take it or leave it. I’ve got it all arranged. Don’t ask me how,
just tell me yes or no.”

“You mean—” she stared at him in silence for a space of seconds.

“I think you get me.” His face sobered. “If your answer is yes—and I’m
no one to blame you if it’s no, for at best it’s a rather dangerous
mission—all you have to do is to dress up in these,” he placed a hand on
a large rubber-wrapped bundle, “and meet me here at dawn.” He removed
his hand from the bundle. Her hand took its place.

“Good girl!” His hand closed over hers. “Then we fly at dawn!”

“Yes, Jimmie!” Her voice was husky. “And Jimmie, if our ship gets it, if
we’re headed for earth’s last checkout, the last roundup, you know, what
shall we say? ‘Here goes nothing’?”

“No, Gale.” His face sobered. “That’s the way I used to think of it.
It’s a grand gesture, but you can’t hold it. I tried it once when I
thought my time had come. You can’t stick it. No one can at the last
second, for you see it’s not really nothing that’s going from the earth.
It’s YOU, and you suddenly decide that you don’t want to go—that you
really want terribly to stay.”

“I think I know what you mean,” she said slowly. “All right, Jimmie.”
She stood up. “I’ll join you at dawn.”

Ten minutes after that dawn Gale found herself on board the most
gorgeous four-motored bomber she had ever seen. Jimmie was at the stick
and she frantically at work studying the ship’s radar set, teaching
herself in one short hour all she needed to know.

From time to time Jimmie glanced back, and if she was not looking,
grinned wisely. Once he turned to his co-pilot and winked. That was all.
And so for a full three quarters of an hour they flew on.

At last with her head in a whirl, Gale took time out for a glance at the
scenery that lay beyond and beneath them. Then lips parted, she stared.

“Jimmie!” she exclaimed, racing to his side. “This is not the way to
Tokio! Those are the mountains up ahead!”

“Who says this is the way to Tokio?” he demanded.

“Are—aren’t we going to bomb Tokio?” She felt a terrible vacancy where
her heart should have been.

“Sure! Why sure we are!” he exclaimed, “when we get around to it. But
this is a pickup crew and you are one of them. Just now we’re headed for
the Secret Forest and at least five days of good, tough practice.” He
laughed merrily.

“Jimmie, you’re a bad boy!” she exclaimed. “Just for that I have a mind
to take a jump and walk back to my colonel!”

“You wouldn’t do that for worlds,” he said. “Just take it easy. We’ll
make it to Tokio yet.”

Gale did take it easy, all she could. So did the rest of the crew for
everyone of them had known the restful peace of the Secret Forest and
not a man of them but knew the gamble with life that lay before him.

There was work aplenty. First flying as a crew, co-ordinating their
every movement, and then as a member of a large formation they prepared
themselves for the final ordeal.

One morning Gale arrived on the field to find the land crews loading
bombs.

“Is this it?” she said to Jimmie.

“This is it,” was his reply. That was all. In half an hour they were off
on the great adventure.

                            * * * * * * * *

If life had been strange and fascinating for Gale, it had been scarcely
less so for her friends, Isabelle, Jan and Than Shwe. The same morning
Gale left the colonel called them into his office.

“You’ve been working hard,” he said. “Gale has just left on a—well, you
might say a change of scene. I want you to take a leave. What’s more, I
want you to see what we’re fighting for here in China.”

“That’s what I’d like,” said Isabelle.

“You shall have the opportunity,” said the colonel. “The home of your
friend, the little Chinese nurse, Mai-da, is only a short way from here.
She has just arrived at the front and would like to take you there for a
few days. How about it?”

“Swell!” “I’d love it!” “Golly! That will be keen!” were the responses
he received.

And so it happened that in Jan’s jeep they all rattled away to learn in
a few short lessons what life could be like in China.

Mai-da’s was one of the truly old families of China. The high wall that
surrounded it was more than three hundred years old. Inside were no
great mansions but many small houses. Though in peace time seventy
people lived here everyone had a little place all his own.

To Jan their strange customs, eating rice with chop-sticks, gathering at
night to hear the aged grandfather read from the Chinese classics, and
their curious religious customs were amusing. But to Isabelle, who was
interested in the life lived by all the people of the world, this seemed
a charming interlude in the midst of a great and terrible war.

They were not, however, to be free from the war for long. On the fifth
day of their stay, with the remark that her jeep was getting rheumatism
in its joints, Jan drove back for an hour’s visit at camp. She had not
been gone long when just at twilight from the west came the roar of
heavy planes. No one paid any attention at first, believing them to be
American planes.

All of a sudden Isabelle, who had given much time to the study of
airplane spotting, sprang up with a cry:

“Those are enemy bombers, and they are headed this way!” Something
seemed to tell her that this home that had stood so long was to be the
target of those bombers.

“They’ll bomb his place,” she exclaimed, scarcely knowing why she said
it. “We should all escape into the hills.”

“Why? Why? Why?” came from every side. But having more than once
witnessed the terror of the Jap’s fury, they all raced away into the
hills. There, sitting on the sloping side of a deep gully, they waited
the coming of terror from the sky.

There can be no doubt but that Isabelle’s advice saved their lives, for
flying straight as swallows, three heavy bombers sped across the sky to
at last go sweeping in a wide circle and drop their loads of hate on the
defenseless homes.

Women wept, children screamed, and old men gnashed their teeth as they
saw the small homes leap into the air, then burst into flames.

Just when the home was burning fiercest and the sound of bombers was
fading into the night that had fallen, Jan came rattling up the hill.

Seeing the plight they were all in, she said never a word, but gathering
two small children who had learned to love her into her arms, sat down
in silence.

“It’s that woman,” said the aged grandfather. “She was seen only
yesterday at the home where her friend the war lord lived. It is she who
set these bombers upon us.” He spoke in Chinese, but Mai-da translated
his speech for Isabelle and Jan.

“What woman does he mean?” Isabelle asked.

“She is the one you call the Woman in Purple,” was Mai-da’s reply.

“Oh!” Isabelle cried in dismay.

“I hoped she was dead!” Jan exclaimed. “She’s too bad to live!”

The old grandfather was speaking again.

“There is a small dark man with her. Wherever this pair goes destruction
follows. She has caused the destruction of a thousand homes and the
death of many people.”

“Isabelle!” Jan sprang up. “Know what? Gale’s radar set is gone! It was
stolen from headquarters! That woman took it! We—we’ve got to get it
back! Don’t forget, Three Secrets of Radar. She must not keep that set.”

“Where is this war lord’s house?” she demanded of Mai-da.

Mai-da pointed to a house half a mile away where a small square of light
shone.

“Come on!” Isabelle exclaimed, lifting Jan to her feet, then seizing a
rifle brought to the scene by the grandfather. “We’ll get that radar
set. Now!”

Scarcely knowing what she was doing, Isabelle marched away beside her
stout and resolute companion.



                              CHAPTER XXIX
                            _This Is Tokio_


Without any definite plan of attack, and not once looking back, the two
girls trudged up the hill leading to the large house built in the
American style.

They had just reached the top of a flight of steps leading to the lawn
when all of a sudden a door leading to a second story balcony flew open,
releasing a flood of light. In this light stood a tall, handsome woman
and a diminutive black dwarf.

Reaching for the light brought Jan and Isabelle out in full relief.

“So you wanted to see me again?” The woman’s voice was full of scorn.
“Well, take a good look.” She held out a long blue automatic. In his
hands the dwarf clutched a rifle. Jan’s heart sank. She was not even
sure her rifle was loaded. “Take a good long look,” the woman repeated.
“You’ll remember that you saw a handsome woman as you draw your last
breath.” She laughed hoarsely.

At that instant Isabelle heard a sound behind her but dared not look
back.

“You take the fat one, Paedro,” Isabelle heard the woman say. “She’s a
good mark for you. I could kill a bird at that distance.”

Isabelle’s blood ran cold. As the black dwarf lifted his rifle she
thought of flight but her feet would not move.

Then all of a sudden from behind her something set up a tremendous
clatter. As if she were watching a movie she saw the woman and her dwarf
tumble in a heap. Then the bright light blinked out, leaving all in
darkness.

“Jan!” Isabelle cried. “What happened?”

“I shot them.”

It was the voice of Than Shwe who spoke. She was standing behind them.
In her hand was a smoking Tommy-gun. “I shot them,” she repeated in a
cool even tone. “They deserved to die. They brought death to hundreds of
my people. They would have killed you. I saw you go, so I came too.”

“But Than Shwe! Where did you get that Tommy-gun?” Jan demanded.

“This?” The little nurse held the gun up proudly. “This is the Tommy-gun
the colonel carried out of Burma on his shoulder. When I came to
Mai-da’s house he let me take it.

“Now,” she added, “I go get Gale’s radar set.” With her gun across her
shoulder she marched away.

Ten minutes later she returned, lugging the set. “They are quite dead.
That is good,” she said. “We will tell the Army Intelligence. When they
see what is in that house they will say I am a very good girl. She was a
very bad spy, that woman.”

                            * * * * * * * *

Next morning at dawn a squad of U. S. engineers with a hundred Chinese
workmen appeared at Mai-da’s home prepared to rebuild it. And at that
same dawn Jimmie and Gale tuned up their bombing plane to join their
flight of forty big ships bound for Tokio.

They dropped down half way to Tokio to take on gas, then sped on their
way.

It was a glorious day, with white clouds floating high. The beauty and
peace of the land far beneath them told nothing of war.

As they came closer to the sea, clouds thickened. Soon they were passing
through miles of gray mist.

Gale, busy with her instrument, feeling for danger here, there and
everywhere, suddenly exclaimed:

“Airplanes almost straight ahead; lower down than we are; ten miles
away.”

“Gale! You must be wrong!” Jimmie exclaimed.

“I can’t be,” Gale insisted. And it was right there that the girl earned
her passage.

Jimmie lowered his plane, altered his direction, slowed down, then
popped out of a cloud almost upon three Jap scouting planes. Had the
pilots of these planes been given thirty seconds of life Tokio must have
been warned. Thirty seconds was denied them. Cannons and machine guns
raked them from engine to tail, and down they went, one, two, three.

“Good girl!” Jimmie said. “That will get you a medal.”

“I don’t want a medal,” was Gale’s quick reply. “Show me Tokio. That’s
all I ask.”

In half an hour her request was granted. They came out of a cloud to see
a great city bathed in bright sunshine. Smoke rolled from factories
making airplanes, tanks and guns for destroying American boys. Trains
sped away with their loads of hate. All the city was busy and perhaps
happy. Who knows?

“That,” said Jimmie, “is Tokio and yonder is our target.” He nodded
toward an airfield where a hundred planes resting on the runways tossed
back the sun-light.

“Beautiful! Glorious! Great stuff!” he exclaimed as he set his big ship
roaring over the field.

At just the right second bombs began to drop. “One, two, three, four,
five,”—Gale found herself counting as they fell among the Jap bombers
and exploded with such force that whole planes were blown into the sky
to explode there like rockets.

“Get ready!” Jimmie warned his gunners, “here come the Jap fighters.”

As the gunners stiffened at their posts Gale took up a post that would
permit her to replace any man in the body of the ship who fell.

A Zero plane came in so close that she saw the leer on the pilot’s face.
Receiving a burst of fire, he faded from her sight. But on they
came,—one—two—three—four, a whole squadron wheeled into view.

Cannons roared, machineguns rattled. The din was a terrible thing to
hear. Little planes went whirling down, but still they came.

All of a sudden the right waist-gunner wavered at his post, then fell
like an empty sack. As if indeed he were just that, Gale dragged him
aside, seized his gun, looked to its loading, then stood ready.

A plane flashed past, too far and too fast. It wheeled to come shooting
straight at her. Had the pilot contemplated suicide? If so, it was his
last thought. Her gun spoke. He crumpled in his place, his engine died,
then his plane went whirling down.

But here was another. Approaching with caution, this pilot swung to the
right, then sent out a burst of small slugs from a free machine gun.
Gale felt a push at her left shoulder. But her eye was on the target.
She did not waver but allowing for the enemy’s speed, placed her shots
before him. His ship began to smoke, then exploded in mid air.

Then, all of a sudden everything faded into gray fog. Jimmie had headed
his plane into a huge cloud that lay on the road home.

“Here!” he said to the co-pilot. “Take the stick. I’ll look things
over.”

Already two men were working over the fallen gunner. Jimmie counted his
men.

“One casualty,” he murmured. “Not bad.” Then his eyes fell on Gale who
was sitting beside her gun. Catching a suspicious blotch of red, he tore
at her blouse.

“You’re hit!” he exclaimed.

“Am I?” Her eyes opened wide.

“You know you are, you little fool!” he exploded.

“I—I feel fine.”

“Here,” he said, throwing out a blanket. “Lie down there. Here’s a roll
for a pillow. Now! Let me have a look.”

Unbuttoning the blouse, he shoved it aside. “Shoulder,” he murmured.
“Not so bad. How’s the bone?”

“How should I know? I—I’ll try to—”

“No, no don’t move. I’ll just fix it up a bit. I’m no doctor. Little
first aid, that’s all. But boy! If it had been a little lower there’d
have been a dead WAC.”

“And Jimmie Nightingale would have been in disgrace for letting a WAC
get killed,” she said.

“Something like that.”

“But now he’ll get another medal,” she teased.

“And so will you, dam—I mean dum it. You’ll get it if I have to make it
out of a coin I took from a dead Jap.

“And now,” he said as he finished his first aid, “I suggest that you
relax and forget. There’ll be no more Japs on our trail.”

“Relax and forget,” she whispered to herself. How could she ever do
that. Relax, yes, but forget, never! Never! She did not even want to
forget. She had joined the WACS, had asked for active service, and had
gotten it in good measure. Who ever would want to forget?

Strange as it may seem, by the time they reached home base she was more
than half asleep. But there was an ambulance waiting for her and in it,
Jan and Than Shwe to welcome her home.

“Golly! Does it hurt much?” Jan asked.

“Don’t talk,” Than Shwe warned, “Just relax and try to forget.”

There it was again,—“relax and forget.” Gale wanted to scream just to
let them know she was still very much alive. But remembering that she
was a patient, she did relax, even though she did refuse to forget.

                            * * * * * * * *

“The Army Intelligence found plenty to prove that the Woman in Purple
and the Black Dwarf were spies,” Isabelle said to Gale as she sat by her
cot in the hospital next day and told her story. “They found two
servants who told them plenty more.”

“It’s good they’re gone,” said Gale. “But now,” she groaned, “I suppose
I’ll be shipped off to some place to convalesce.”

“That’s right,” said a man’s voice. It was the colonel who had just come
in. “Well, you wanted to see Tokio. You saw Tokio, so now you must pay
your passage.

“But it won’t be half bad,” he added. “I’ll send you to the Secret
Forest.”

“Lovely,” Isabelle murmured. “I’d almost be willing to get myself shot
to go there.”

“You’ll have Than Shwe for your nurse and Jimmie to fly you there. And,
hmm, I’ll give Jimmie a week’s leave. He’s really earned it, and so have
you.”

“You’re very thoughtful.” Gale gave him a grateful smile. “But I’m
coming back.”

“Oh, sure! Sure!” he agreed. “As soon as the doctor says you’re able.”



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.





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