The Liberty Girlby Rena I. Halsey / Young Adult
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Ah there, girls! How are you?--Page 11.]
THE LIBERTY GIRL
BY RENA I. HALSEY
Author of Blue Robin, the Girl Pioneer and America's Daughter
ILLUSTRATED BY NANA FRENCH BICKFORD
BOSTON LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.
Published, August, 1919
Copyright, 1919 By Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.
All rights reserved
THE LIBERTY GIRL
BERWICK & SMITH CO. NORWOOD, MASS. U. S. A.
INSCRIBED, WITH DEEP APPRECIATION,
THE SONS OF LIBERTY,--
ALL THOSE SOLDIERS, SEAMEN, AND AIRMEN, WHO HAVE HEROICALLY GIVEN OF THEIR BEST FOR THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN
CHAPTER PAGE I God Speed You 11 II Giving Her Best 28 III The Liberty Girls 46 IV The Liberty Garden 60 V The Liberty Pageant 73 VI The Strange Letter 89 VII The Visit to Camp Mills 106 VIII Seven Pillars 121 IX The Little Old Lady in the Red House 133 X The Sweet-Pea Ladies 147 XI The Ride Through the Notch 164 XII Nathalie's Liberty Boys 179 XIII The Mountains with the Snowy Foreheads 194 XIV Sons of Liberty 211 XV The Gallery of the Gods 222 XVI Butternut Lodge 238 XVII The Cabin on the Mountain 256 XVIII The Liberty Cheer 275 XIX The White Comrade 288 XX The Liberty Tea 302 XXI The Funnies 322 XXII The Man in the Woods 334 XXIII A Mystery Solved 348 XXIV The Winner of the Prize 362
Ah there, girls! How are you? (Page 11) Frontispiece
FACING PAGE My name is Liberty, My throne is Law 76
Is that your dog? Oh, I love dogs! 184
The girl found herself gazing into the sun-tanned face of a young man in khaki 232
Nathalie bent over in anxious solicitude 260
Oh, it is Philip, my son! 476
THE LIBERTY GIRL
GOD SPEED YOU
Oh, Nathalie, I do believe there's Grace Tyson in her new motor-car,exclaimed Helen Dame, suddenly laying her hand on her companion's arm asthe two girls were about to cross Main Street, the wide, tree-linedthoroughfare of the old-fashioned town of Westport, Long Island.
Nathalie Page halted, and, swinging about, peered intently at thebrown-uniformed figure of a young girl seated at the steering-wheel ofan automobile, which was speeding quickly towards them.
Yes, it was Grace, who, in her sprightliest manner, her face aglow fromthe invigorating breezes of an April afternoon, called out, Ah there,girls! How are you? Oh, my lucky star must have guided me, for I havesomething thrilling to tell you! As she spoke the girl guided the carto the curb, and the next moment, with an airy spring, had landed on theground at their side.
With a sudden movement the uniformed figure clicked her heels togetherand bent stiffly forward as her arm swung up, while her forefingergrazed her forehead in a military salute. I salute you, comrades, shesaid with grave formality, at your service as a member of the MotorCorps of America.
Yes, girls, she shrilled joyously, forgetting her assumed role in hereagerness to tell her news, I'm on the job, for I'm to see activeservice for the United States government. I've just returned from aninfantry drill of the Motor Corps at Central Park, New York.
No, I'll be honest, she added laughingly, in answer to the look ofamazed inquiry on the faces of her companions, and 'fess' that I didn'thave the pleasure of drilling in public, for I'm a raw recruit as yet.We recruits go through our manual of arms at one of the New Yorkarmories, drilled by a regular army sergeant. Oh, I've been in trainingsome time, for you know I took out my chauffeur's and mechanician'sState licenses last winter.
One has to own her car at this sort of government work,--Grace's voicebecame inflated with importance,--and be able to make her own repairson the road if necessary. But isn't my new car a Jim Dandy? she asked,glancing with keen pride at the big gray motor, purring contentedly atthe curb. It was a belated Christmas gift from grandmother.
But I tell you what, girls, she rattled on, I've been put through thepaces all right, but I've passed my exams with flying colors. Phew!wasn't the physical exam stiff!--before a regular high official of thearmy medical corps. I was inoculated for typhoid, and for paratyphoid.I'll secretly confess that I don't know what the last word means. Yes,and I took the oath of allegiance to the United States Government,administered by another army swell,--and that's where my Pioneer workproved O. K. And then we had the First Aid course, too, at St. Luke's.The head nurse, who gave us special lessons in bandaging, said I was ANo. 1; and in wigwagging, oh, I did the two-flag business just dandy.
But what is your special work? asked Nathalie, for the two girls weresomewhat surprised and bewildered by all these high-sounding,official-like terms. To be sure, Grace had long been known as an expertdriver, but she had never shown her efficiency in any way but by givingthe girls joy-rides once in a while; yes, and once she had driven herfather to New York.
But war work, thought Nathalie, for this aristocratic-looking,sweet-faced young girl, whose eyes gleamed merrily at you from under thepeaked army cap--with its blue band and the insignia of the Corps, atire surmounted by Mercury's wings--set so jauntily on the fluffy hair.To be sure the slim, trim figure in the army jacket, short skirt overtrousers, and high boots did have a warlike aspect, but it wasaltogether too girlish and charming to be suggestive of anything but atoy soldier, like one of the tiny painted tin things that Nathalie usedto play with when a wee tot.
Do? Why, I am a military chauffeur, returned Grace patronizingly, andin the business of war-relief work for the Government. At present I'm toact as chauffeur to one of our four lieutenants, Miss Gladys Merrill.Oh, she's a dear! I have to drive her all over the city when she isengaged on some Government errand. You should see me studying the policemaps, and _then_ you would know what I do. Sometimes we are called totransport some of the army officers from the railroad station to theferry, or to headquarters. Then we do errands for the Red Cross, too.
Why, the other day I helped to carry a lot of knitted things down onthe pier, to be packed in a ship bound for the other side; they were forthe soldiers at the front. We do work for the National Defense, and forthe Board of Exemption. I'm doing my 'bit,' even if it is a wee one,towards winning the war, ended the girl, with a note of satisfaction inher voice.
O dear, but wouldn't I like to drive an ambulance in France! But I'vegot to be twenty-one to do that sort of work,--the girl sighed. Butdid I tell you that brother Fred is doing American Field Service? I hada letter from him yesterday, and he said that he and a lot of Americanboys have established a little encampment of ambulances not far from thefront-line trench. They live in what was once a chateau belonging toCount Somebody or Another, but now it is nothing but a shell.
Oh, Fred thinks it is glorious fun, cried the girl, with sparklingeyes. He has to answer roll-call at eight in the morning, and then heeats his breakfast at a little cafe near. He has just blackbread,--_think of that_, coffee, and, yes, sometimes he has an egg. Thenhe has to drill, clean his car, and--oh, but he says it's a great sightto see the aeroplanes constantly flying over his head, like greatmonsters of the air. And sometimes he goes wild with excitement when hesees an aerial battle between a Boche and a French airman.
Yes, he declares it is 'some' life over there, animatedly continuedGrace, for even his rest periods are thrilling, for they have to dodgeshells, and sometimes they burst over one's head. Several times hethought he was done for. And at night the road near the chateau ispacked with hundreds of _marching_ guns, trucks of ammunition, and warsupplies and cavalry, all on their way to the front.
But when he goes in his ambulance after the _blesses_--they are thepoor wounded soldiers--it is just like day, for the sky is filled withstar-shells shooting around him in all colors, and then there is aconstant cannonading of shells and shot of all kinds. When he hears apurr he knows it's a Boche plane and dodges pretty lively, for if hedoesn't 'watch out' a machine-gun comes sputtering down at him. He'sawfully afraid of them because they drop bombs.
But he says it would make your heart ache to see him when he carriesthe _blesses_. He has to drive them from the _postes de secours_--theaid-stations--to the hospitals. He has to go _very_ slowly, and eventhen you can hear the poor things groan and shriek with the agony ofbeing moved. And sometimes, Grace lowered her voice reverently, whenhe goes to take them out of the ambulance he finds a dead soldier.
But dear me, she continued in a more cheerful tone, he seems to likethe life and is constantly hoping--I believe he dreams about it in hissleep--that he'll soon have a shot at one of those German fiends. Yes, Ithink it would be gloriously exciting, ended Grace with a half sigh ofenvy.
Gloriously exciting? repeated Nathalie with a shudder. Oh, Grace, Ishould think you would be frightfully worried. Suppose he should losehis life some time in the darkness of the night, alone with thosewounded soldiers? O dear, she ended drearily, I just wish some onewould shoot or kill the Kaiser! Sometimes I wish I could be a CharlotteCorday. Don't you remember how she killed Murat for the sake of theFrench?
Why, Nathalie, cried Helen with amused eyes, I thought you were apacifist, and here you are talking of shooting people. And the girl'sHa! ha! rang out merrily.
Nathalie's color rose in a wave as she cried decidedly, Helen, I'm_not_ a pacifist. Of course I want the Allies to win. I believe in thewar--only--only--I do not think it is necessary to send our boys acrossthe sea to fight.
But I do, insisted Helen, for this is God's war, a war to giveliberty to everybody in the world, and that makes it _our_ war. Weshould be willing to fight, to give the rights and privileges ofdemocracy to other people, and our American boys are not slackers wholet some one else do their work.
_Our_ boys! You mean _my boy_, said Nathalie, with sudden bitterness.It's all right for _you_ to talk, Helen, but _you_ haven't a brother togo and stand up and be mercilessly bayoneted by those Boches. And thatis what Dick will have to do. Nathalie choked as she turned her headaway.
Yes, Nathalie dear, replied Helen in a softened tone, I know it is aterrible thing to have to give up your loved ones to be ruthlessly shotdown. But what are we going to do? she pleaded desperately, we must dowhat is right and leave the rest to God, for, as mother says, 'God is inhis Heaven.' And Dick wants to go, she ended abruptly, he told me sothe other day.
Yes, that is just it, cried Nathalie in a pitifully small voice, andhe says that he is not going to wait to be drafted. Oh, Helen, motherand I cannot sleep at night thinking about it! Nathalie turned her faceaway, her eyes dark and sorrowful. No, she did not mean to be a coward,but it just rent her heart to picture Dick going about armless, or ahelpless cripple shuffling along, with either she or Dorothy leadinghim.
Oh, I would like to be a Joan of Arc, interposed Grace at this point,her blue eyes suddenly afire. I think it would be great to ride infront of an army on a white charger. And then, too, she added moreseriously, I think it takes more bravery to fight than to do anythingelse.
Perhaps it does, Grace, remarked Helen slowly, but when it comes toheroism, I think the mothers who give their boys to be slaughtered forthe good of their fellow-beings are the bravest-- The girl pausedquickly, for she had caught sight of Nathalie's face, and remorsefullyfelt that what she had just said only added to her friend's distress.But, girls, she went on in a brighter tone, I have _something_ totell you. I'm going to France to do my 'bit,' for I'm to be stenographerto Aunt Dora. We expect to sail in a month or so. You know that she isone of the officials in the Red Cross organization.
There were sudden exclamations of surprise from the girl's twocompanions, as they eagerly wanted to know all about her unexpectedpiece of news. As Helen finished giving the details as to how it had allcome about, she exclaimed, with a sudden look at her wrist-watch:Goodness! Girls, do you know it is almost supper-time? I'm just aboutstarved.
Well, jump into the car, then, cried Grace Tyson, and I'll have youhome in no time. Her companions, pleased at the prospect of a whirl inthe new car, gladly accepted her invitation, and a few minutes laterwere speeding towards the lower end of the street where Helen andNathalie lived.
After bidding her friends good-by, Nathalie, with a _tru-al-lee_, thecall-note of their Pioneer bird-group, ran lightly up the steps of theveranda. Yes, Dick was home, for he was standing in the hall, lightingthe gas. With a happy little sigh she opened the door.
Hello, sis, called out Dick cheerily,--a tall well-formed youth, withmerry blue eyes,--as he caught sight of the girl in the door-way. Haveyou been on a hike?
Oh, no, just an afternoon at Mrs. Van Vorst's. Nita had a lot of thegirls there-- Nathalie stopped, for an expression, a sudden gleam inher brother's eyes, caused her heart to give a wild leap. She drew inher breath sharply, but before the question that was forming could beasked, Dick waved the still flaming match hilariously above his head ashe cried, Well, sister mine, I've taken the plunge, and I've come offon top, for I've joined the Flying Corps, and I'm going to be an armyeagle!
Flying Corps? repeated Nathalie dazedly. What do you mean?
I mean, Blue Robin, that I'm going to be an aviator, a sky pilot,replied the boy jubilantly. I made an application some time ago to thechief signal officer at Washington. I was found an eligible applicant,for, you know, my course in the technical school in New York did me upfine. To-day I passed my physical examinations, and am now enlisted inthe Signal Corps of the Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps. I'm off next weekto the Military Aeronautics School at Princeton University. It's aneight-weeks' course. If I put it over,--and you bet your life I do,Dick ground his teeth determinedly,--I go into training at one of theFlying Schools, and then I'll soon be a regular bird of the air; and ifI don't help Uncle Sam win the war, and manage to drop a few bombs onthose Fritzies, I'll go hang!
For one awful moment Nathalie stood silent, staring at her brother indumb despair. Then she turned, and with a blur in her eyes and atightening of her throat, blindly groped for the stairway. But no!Dick's hand shot out, he caught the hurrying figure in his grasp, andthe next moment Nathalie was sobbing on his breast.
That's all right, little sis, exclaimed the boy with a break in hisvoice, as he pressed the brown head closer. Then he cried, in an attemptat jocularity, Just get it all out of your system, every last drop ofthat salted brine, Blue Robin, and then we'll talk business.
This somewhat matter-of-fact declaration acted like a cold shower-bathon the girl, as, with a convulsive shiver, she caught her breath, andalthough she burrowed deeper into the snug of her brother's arm hertears were stayed.
Dick, _how could you do it_? Think of mother! Then she raised hereyes, and went on, Oh, I can't bear the thought of your getting ki--But the girl could not say the dreaded word, and again her head wentdown against the rough gray of Dick's coat.
Well, Blue Robin, I'm afraid you have lost that cheery little_tru-al-lee_ of yours, teased the boy humorously. You've cried so hardyou're eye-twisted. In the first place, I don't intend getting killed ifI can help it. And I can't help leaving mother. You must remember I'm acitizen of the United States-- the boy was thinking of his first votecast the fall before--and I am bound by my oath of allegiance to thecountry to uphold its principles, even if it means the breaking of mymother's apron-strings, he added jokingly.
Oh, Dick, don't try to be funny, Nathalie managed to say somewhatsharply, as she drew away from her brother's arm and dropped limply onthe steps of the stairs, in such an attitude of hopeless despair thatDick was at the end of his tether to know what to say. He stared down atthe girl, unconsciously rubbing his hand through his hair, a trick theboy had when perplexed.
Suddenly a bit of a smile leaped into his eyes as he cried, in ahopelessly resigned tone, All right, sis, seeing that you feel this wayabout it I'll just send in my resignation. It will let the boys knowI've laid down on my job, for if you and mother are going to howl liketwo cats, a fellow can't do a thing but stay at home and be a sissy, ababy-tender, a dish-washer-er-er--
Oh, Dick, don't talk nonsense, broke in Nathalie sharply. I didn'tsay that you were not to go, but,--why--oh, I just can't help feelingawfully bad when I read all those terrible things in the paper. Hervoice quivered pathetically as she finished.
Well, don't read them, then, coolly rejoined Dick. Just steer clearof all that hysterical gush and brace up. My job is to serve mycountry,--she wants me. By Jove, before she gets out of this hole she'llneed every mother's son of us. And I've got to do it in the best way Ican, by enlisting before the draft comes. I'll not only have a chance todo better work, a prospect of quicker promotion, but, if you want tolook at the sordid end of it, I'll get more pay. And as to being killed,as you wailed, if you and mother will insist upon seeing it black, anaviator's chance of life is ten to one better--if he's on to hisjob--than that of the fellow on the ground. So cheer up, Blue Robin. I'mall beat hollow, for I've been trying to cheer up mother for the lasthour.
Oh, what does mother say? asked a very faint voice, just as if thegirl did not know how her mother felt, and had been feeling for sometime.
Say! Gee whiz! I don't know what she would have said if she had voicedher sentiments, replied Dick resignedly. But the worst of the wholebusiness was that she took it out in weeping about a tank of tears; allover my best coat, too, he added ruefully. You women are enough tomake a fellow go stiff.
Now see here, Blue Robin, don't disappoint me! suddenly cried the lad,as he stared appealingly into his sister's brown eyes. Why, I thoughtthat you would be my right-hand man. I knew mother would make a time atfirst, but _you_,--I _thought you had grit_; _you_, a Pioneer, too.Don't you know, girl-- added Dick, rubbing the back of his hand quicklyacross his eyes, that I've got to go? Don't you forget that. I'm on thejob, every inch of it, but, thunderation, I'm no more keen to go 'overthere' and have those Hun devils cut me up like sausage, than you ormother. But I'm a man and I've got to live up to the business of being aman, and not a mollycoddle.
But Nathalie had suddenly come to her senses. Perhaps it was the brushof the boy's hand across his eyes, or the quivering note in his voice,but she roused. She had been selfish; instead of crying like a ninny sheshould have cheered. Oh, Dick, she exclaimed contritely, standing upand facing him suddenly, I'm all wrong. I didn't mean to cry, and Iwouldn't have either, she explained excusingly, if you had only let mego up-stairs.
No, Dick, I would not have you be a slacker, or a mollycoddle, or washthe dishes, she added with a faint attempt at a smile, and we haven'tany babies to tend. Yes, old boy, I don't want you to lie down in thetraces, so let's shake on it, and I'll try to brace up mother, too,added the girl, as she held out her hand to her brother.
Now that's the stuff, Nat, old girl, cried the boy with gleaming eyes,as he took the girl's hand and held it tightly, and while I'm fightingto uphold the family honor and glory,--remember father was a RoughRider,--you stay with dear old mumsie. Keep her cheered up, and see thateverything is made easy for her. Do all you can to take my place here athome. Yes, Blue Robin, you be the home soldier. Gee whiz, you be thehome guard! added the boy in a sudden burst of inspiration.
The home guard! Yes, that's what I'll be, cried the girl, her eyeslighting with a sudden glow. And then I'll be doing my bit, won't I?I'll cheer up mother, and do all I can, she added resolutely; anddon't worry any more, Dick, for now,--the girl drew a long breath,I'll be on the job as well as you.
And then Nathalie, with a wave of her hand at the boy as he stood gazingup at her with his eyes fired with loyal determination, hurried up thestairs, straight on and up to the very top of the house to her usualweeping-place, for, oh, those hateful tears would not be restrained, andif she did not have her cry out she would strangle!
Ah, here she was in her den, the attic. Dimly she reached out her handand pulled the little wooden rocker out from the wall and slumped intoit, and a minute later, with her face buried in the fold of her arm, asit rested on the little sewing-table, she was weeping unrestrainedly.
Presently she gave a sudden start, raised her head and listened, andthen was on her feet, for, oh, that was her mother's step,--she wascoming up after her. Oh, why hadn't she waited until she had a hold onherself. The next moment the little wooden door with the padlock opened,and Mrs. Page was standing in the doorway gazing down at her.
Why--oh, mother! Nathalie cried in surprise and wonder, for her motherwas smiling. The girl's eyes bulged out from her tear-stained face insuch a funny way that her mother broke into a little laugh. Then herface sobered and she came slowly towards her.
No, daughter mine, mother is not weeping. Yes, I heard what you andDick said, and you are patriots, and have shamed mother into trying tobe one, too. Mrs. Page took the girl in her arms with tender affection.
And Dick is a dear lad. Oh, Nathalie, in our grief at the thought ofparting with him,--perhaps of losing him,-- her voice weakenedslightly, we have forgotten that he has been fighting a greater battlethan we.
It is surely a great thing, continued Mrs. Page sadly, for a youngman in the buoyancy of youth and the very heyday of life, to give it allup. For youth clings more tenaciously to life than older people do, forto them it is an untried and shining pathway, flowered with hope,anticipation, and the luring glimmer of unfulfilled aims and ambitions.
And then to have to face about, her voice lowered, and silentlystruggle with one's self in the great battle of self-abnegation, to endby taking this glorious life and casting it far behind you,--this iswhat makes a hero. Then to face the dread ordeal of a battlefield, andgo steadily forward, buoyed only with a feeling of bravery,--the heroismof doing what you believe to be right,--and, taking your one chance forlife in your hands,--plunge into the unknown darkness and the horrifyingperils of a No Man's Land.
There was a stifled sob in Nathalie's throat, but her mother wentsteadily on: No, Nathalie, we must not weep. We must smile and becheerful. We must inspire Dick with courage and hope, and if it is meantthat he is to give his life, we must let him go with a 'God speed you,'his memory starred with the thought of a mother's love and a sister'scourage, and with the soul-stirring song of the victor over death.
And, Nathalie, Dick belongs to God; he was only loaned to me,--toyou,--and if the time has come for God to call him home, we must notcomplain. We must gladly give him back. Then we must remember, too,went on the patient mother-voice, that, after all, life is not the mereliving of it, but the things accomplished for the betterment of thosewho come after. And if Dick has been 'on the job,' Mrs. Page smiled,no matter how small his share in this great warfare for the right, hewill be the better prepared to enter into the Land where there is nomore suffering, or horrible war, but just a glorious and eternal peace.
The last word was almost whispered, but, with renewed effort, she said:Now, Nathalie, let us be brave, as father would have had us,--the dearfather,--and go down to Dick with a bright smile and inspiring words ofcheer. Mrs. Page bent and kissed the girl lightly, but solemnly, on theforehead, and then she had turned and was making her way towards thedoor.