Aunt Jane's Nieces in the Red Cross
Edith Van Dyne
This is the story of how three brave American girls sacrificed the
comforts and luxuries of home to go abroad and nurse the wounded
soldiers of a foreign war.
I wish I might have depicted more gently the scenes in hospital and on
battlefield, but it is well that my girl readers should realize
something of the horrors of war, that they may unite with heart and soul
in earnest appeal for universal, lasting Peace and the future abolition
of all deadly strife.
Except to locate the scenes of my heroines' labors, no attempt has been
made to describe technically or historically any phase of the great
The character of Doctor Gys is not greatly exaggerated but had its
counterpart in real life. As for the little Belgian who had no room for
scruples in his active brain, his story was related to me by an American
war correspondent who vouched for its truth. The other persona in the
story are known to those who have followed their adventures in other
books of the "Aunt Jane's Nieces" series.
EDITH VAN DYNE
I THE ARRIVAL OF THE BOY
II THE ARRIVAL OF THE GIRL
III THE DECISION OF DOCTOR GYS
IV THE HOSPITAL SHIP
V NEARING THE FRAY
VI LITTLE MAURIE
VII ON THE FIRING LINE
VIII THE COWARD
IX COURAGE, OR PHILOSOPHY?
X THE WAR'S VICTIMS
XI PATSY IS DEFIANT
XII THE OTHER SIDE
XIII TARDY JUSTICE
XIV FOUND AT LAST
XV DR. GYS SURPRISES HIMSELF
XVII PERPLEXING PROBLEMS
XVIII A QUESTION OF LOYALTY
XIX THE CAPTURE
XX THE DUNES
THE ARRIVAL OF THE BOY
"What's the news, Uncle?" asked Miss Patricia Doyle, as she entered the
cosy breakfast room of a suite of apartments in Willing Square. Even as
she spoke she pecked a little kiss on the forehead of the chubby man
addressed as "Uncle"--none other, if you please, than the famous and
eccentric multi-millionaire known in Wall Street as John Merrick--and
sat down to pour the coffee.
There was energy in her method of doing this simple duty, an indication
of suppressed vitality that conveyed the idea that here was a girl
accustomed to action. And she fitted well into the homely scene: short
and somewhat "squatty" of form, red-haired, freckle-faced and
pug-nosed. Wholesome rather than beautiful was Patsy Doyle, but if you
caught a glimpse of her dancing blue eyes you straightway forgot her
Quite different was the girl who entered the room a few minutes later.
Hers was a dark olive complexion, face of exquisite contour, great brown
eyes with a wealth of hair to match them and the flush of a rose in her
rounded cheeks. The poise of her girlish figure was gracious and
dignified as the bearing of a queen.
"Morning, Cousin Beth," said Patsy cheerily.
"Good morning, my dear," and then, with a trace of anxiety in her tone:
"What is the news, Uncle John?"
The little man had ignored Patsy's first question, but now he answered
absently, his eyes still fixed upon the newspaper:
"Why, they're going to build another huge skyscraper on Broadway, at
Eleventh, and I see the political pot is beginning to bubble all through
the Bronx, although--"
"Stuff and nonsense, Uncle!" exclaimed Patsy. "Beth asked for news, not
"The news of the war, Uncle John," added Beth, buttering her toast.
"Oh; the war, of course," he said, turning over the page of the morning
paper. "It ought to be the Allies' day, for the Germans won yesterday.
No--by cracky, Beth--the Germans triumph again; they've captured
Maubeuge. What do you think of that?"
Patsy gave a little laugh.
"Not knowing where Maubeuge is," she remarked, "my only thought is that
something is wrong with the London press bureau. Perhaps the cables got
crossed--or short circuited or something. They don't usually allow the
Germans to win two days in succession."
"Don't interrupt, please," said Beth, earnestly. "This is too important
a matter to be treated lightly. Read us the article, Uncle. I was afraid
Maubeuge would be taken."
Patsy accepted her cousin's rebuke with her accustomed good nature.
Indeed, she listened as intently as Beth to the thrilling account of the
destruction of Maubeuge, and her blue eyes became quite as serious as
the brown ones of her cousin when the tale of dead and wounded was
"Isn't it dreadful!" cried Beth, clasping her hands together
"Yes," nodded her uncle, "the horror of it destroys the interest we
naturally feel in any manly struggle for supremacy."
"This great war is no manly struggle," observed Patsy with a toss of her
head. "It is merely wholesale murder by a band of selfish diplomats."
"Tut-tut!" warned Mr. Merrick; "we Americans are supposed to be neutral,
my dear. We must not criticize."
"That does not prevent our sympathizing with the innocent sufferers,
however," said Beth quietly. "My heart goes out, Uncle, to those poor
victims of the war's cruelty, the wounded and dying. I wish I could do
something to help them!"
Uncle John moved uneasily in his chair. Then he laid down his paper and
applied himself to his breakfast. But his usual merry expression had
faded into one of thoughtfulness.
"The wounded haunt me by day and night," went on Beth. "There are
thousands upon thousands of them, left to suffer terrible pain--perhaps
to die--on the spot where they fell, and each one is dear to some poor
woman who is ignorant of her loved one's fate and can do nothing but
moan and pray at home."
"That's the hard part of it," said Patsy, her cousin. "I think the
mothers and wives and sweethearts are as much to be pitied as the fallen
soldiers. The men know what has happened, but the women don't. It
isn't so bad when they're killed outright; the family gets a medal to
indicate that their hero has died for his country. But the wounded are
lost sight of and must suffer in silence, with no loving hands to soothe
"My dears!" pleaded Uncle John, plaintively, "why do you insist upon
flavoring our breakfast with these horrors? I--I--there! take it away; I
The conversation halted abruptly. The girls were likewise unnerved by
the mental pictures evolved by their remarks and it was now too late to
restore cheerfulness to the morning meal. They sat in pensive silence
for a while and were glad when Mr. Merrick pushed back his chair and
rose from the table.
As Beth and Patsy followed their uncle into the cosy library where he
was accustomed to smoke his morning cigar, the little man remarked:
"Let's see; this is the seventh of September."
"Quite right, Uncle," said Patsy.
"Isn't this the day Maud Stanton is due to arrive?"
"No," replied Beth; "she will come to-morrow morning. It's a good four
days' trip from California to New York, you know."
"I wonder why she is coming here at this time of year," said Patsy
reflectively, "and I wonder if her Aunt Jane or her sister Flo are with
"She did not mention them in her telegram," answered Beth. "All she said
was to expect her Wednesday morning. It seems quite mysterious, that
telegram, for I had no idea Maud thought of coming East."
"Well, we will know all about it when she arrives," observed Uncle John.
"I will be glad to see Maud again, for she is one of my especial
"She's a very dear girl!" exclaimed Patsy, with emphasis. "It will be
simply glorious to--"
The doorbell rang sharply. There was a moment's questioning pause, for
it was too early for visitors. The pattering feet of the little maid,
Mary, approached the door and next moment a boyish voice demanded:
"Is Mr. Merrick at home, or the young ladies, or--"
"Why, it's Ajo!" shouted Patsy, springing to her feet and making a dive
for the hallway.
"Jones?" said Mr. Merrick, looking incredulous.
"It must be," declared Beth, for now Patsy's voice was blended with that
of the boy in a rapid interchange of question and answer. Then in she
came, dragging him joyously by the arm.
"This is certainly a surprise!" said Mr. Merrick, shaking the tall,
slender youth by the hand with evident pleasure.
"When did you get to town?" asked Beth, greeting the boy cordially.
"And why didn't you let us know you were on the way from far-off Los
"Well," said Jones, seating himself facing them and softly rubbing his
lean hands together to indicate his satisfaction at this warm reception,
"it's a long, long story and I may as well tell it methodically or
you'll never appreciate the adventurous spirit that led me again to New
York--the one place I heartily detest."
"Oh, Ajo!" protested Patsy. "Is this the way to retain the friendship of
"Isn't honesty appreciated here?" he wanted to know.
"Go ahead with your story," said Uncle John. "We left you some months
ago at the harbor of Los Angeles, wondering what you were going to do
with that big ship of yours that lay anchored in the Pacific. If I
remember aright, you were considering whether you dared board it to
return to that mysterious island home of yours at--at--"
"Sangoa," said Patsy.
"Thank you for giving me a starting-point," returned the boy, with a
smile. "You may remember that when I landed in your country from Sangoa
I was a miserable invalid. The voyage had ruined my stomach and wrecked
my constitution. I crossed the continent to New York and consulted the
best specialists--and they nearly put an end to me. I returned to the
Pacific coast to die as near home as possible, and--and there I met
"And Patsy saved your life," added Beth.
"She did. First, however, Maud Stanton saved me from drowning. Then
Patsy Doyle doctored me and made me well and strong. And now--"
"And now you look like a modern Hercules," asserted Patsy, gazing with
some pride at the bronzed cheeks and clear eyes of the former invalid
and ignoring his slight proportions. "Whatever have you been doing with
yourself since then?"
"Taking a sea voyage," he affirmed.
"An absolute fact. For months I dared not board the Arabella, my sea
yacht, for fear of a return of my old malady; but after you deserted me
and came to this--this artificial, dreary, bewildering--"
"Never mind insulting my birthplace, sir!"
"Oh! were you born here, Patsy? Then I'll give the town credit. So,
after you deserted me at Los Angeles--"
"You still had Mrs. Montrose and her nieces, Maud and Flo Stanton."
"I know, and I love them all. But they became so tremendously busy that
I scarcely saw them, and finally I began to feel lonely. Those Stanton
girls are chock full of business energy and they hadn't the time to
devote to me that you people did. So I stood on the shore and looked at
the Arabella until I mustered up courage to go aboard. Surviving that,
I made Captain Carg steam slowly along the coast for a few miles.
Nothing dreadful happened. So I made a day's voyage, and still ate my
three squares a day. That was encouraging."
"I knew all the time it wasn't the voyage that wrecked your stomach,"
said Patsy confidently.
"What was it, then?"
"Ptomaine poisoning, or something like that."
"Well, anyhow, I found I could stand ocean travel again, so I determined
on a voyage. The Panama Canal was just opened and I passed through it,
came up the Atlantic coast, and--the Arabella is at this moment safely
anchored in the North River!"
"And how do you feel?" inquired Uncle John.
"Glorious--magnificent! The trip has sealed my recovery for good."
"But why didn't you go home, to your Island of Sangoa?" asked Beth.
He looked at her reproachfully.
"You were not there, Beth; nor was Patsy, or Uncle John. On the other
hand, there is no one in Sangoa who cares a rap whether I come home or
not. I'm the last of the Joneses of Sangoa, and while it is still my
island and the entire population is in my employ, the life there flows
on just as smoothly without me as if I were present."
"But don't they need the ship--the Arabella?" questioned Beth.
"Not now. I sent a cargo of supplies by Captain Carg when he made his
last voyage to the island, and there will not be enough pearls found in
the fisheries for four or five months to come to warrant my shipping
them to market. Even then, they would keep. So I'm a free lance at
present and I had an idea that if I once managed to get the boat around
here you folks might find a use for it."
"In what way?" inquired Patsy, with interest.
"We might all make a trip to Barbadoes, Bermuda and Cuba. Brazil is said
to be an interesting country. I'd prefer Europe, were it not for the
"Oh, Ajo, isn't this war terrible?"
"No other word expresses it. Yet it all seems like a fairy tale to me,
for I've never been in any other country than the United States since I
made my first voyage here from Sangoa--the island where my eyes first
opened to the world."
"It isn't a fairy tale," said Beth with a shudder. "It's more like a
"I can't bear to read about it any more," he returned, musingly. "In
fact, I've only been able to catch rumors of the progress of the war in
the various ports at which I've touched, and I came right here from my
ship. But I've no sympathy with either side. The whole thing annoys me,
somehow--the utter uselessness and folly of it all."
"Maubeuge has fallen," said Beth, and went on to give him the latest
tidings. Finding that the war was the absorbing topic in this little
household, the boy developed new interest in it and the morning passed
Jones stayed to lunch and then Mr. Merrick's automobile took them all to
the river to visit the beautiful yacht Arabella, which was already,
they found, attracting a good deal of attention in the harbor, where
beautiful yachts are no rarity.
The Arabella was intended by her builders for deep sea transit and as
Patsy admiringly declared, "looked like a baby liner." While she was
yacht-built in all her lines and fittings, she was far from being merely
a pleasure craft, but had been designed by the elder Jones, the boy's
father, to afford communication between the Island of Sangoa, in the
lower South Seas, and the continent of America.
Sangoa is noted for its remarkable pearl fisheries, which were now owned
and controlled entirely by this youth; but his father, an experienced
man of affairs, had so thoroughly established the business of production
and sale that little remained for his only son and heir to do, more than
to invest the profits that steadily accrued and to care for the great
fortune left him. Whether he was doing this wisely or not no one--not
even his closest friends--could tell. But he was frank and friendly
about everything else.
They went aboard the Arabella and were received by that grim and
grizzled old salt, Captain Carg, with the same wooden indifference he
always exhibited. But Patsy detected a slight twinkle in the shrewd gray
eyes that made her feel they were welcome. Carg, a seaman of vast
experience, was wholly devoted to his young master. Indeed, the girls
suspected that young Jones was a veritable autocrat in his island, as
well as aboard his ship. Everyone of the Sangoans seemed to accept his
dictation, however imperative it might be, as a matter of course, and
the gray old captain--who had seen much of the world--was not the least
subservient to his young master.
On the other hand, Jones was a gentle and considerate autocrat,
unconsciously imitating his lately deceased father in his kindly
interest in the welfare of all his dependents. These had formerly been
free-born Americans, for when the Island of Sangoa was purchased it had
This fortunate--or perhaps unfortunate--youth had never been blessed
with a given name, more than the simple initial "A." The failure of his
mother and father to agree upon a baptismal name for their only child
had resulted in a deadlock; and, as the family claimed a direct descent
from the famous John Paul Jones, the proud father declared that to be "a
Jones" was sufficient honor for any boy; hence he should be known merely
as "A. Jones." The mother called her child by the usual endearing pet
names until her death, after which the islanders dubbed the master's
son--then toddling around in his first trousers--"Ajo," and the name had
stuck to him ever since for want of a better one.
With the Bohemian indifference to household routine so characteristic of
New Yorkers, the party decided to dine at a down-town restaurant before
returning to Willing Square, and it was during this entertainment that
young Jones first learned of the expected arrival of Maud Stanton on the
following morning. But he was no wiser than the others as to what
mission could have brought the girl to New York so suddenly that a
telegram was required to announce her coming.
"You see, I left Los Angeles weeks ago," the boy explained, "and at that
time Mrs. Montrose and her nieces were busy as bees and much too
occupied to pay attention to a drone like me. There was no hint then of
their coming East, but of course many things may have happened in the
The young fellow was so congenial a companion and the girls were so well
aware of his loneliness, through lack of acquaintances, that they
carried him home with them to spend the evening. When he finally left
them, at a late hour, it was with the promise to be at the station next
morning to meet Maud Stanton on her arrival.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE GIRL
A sweet-faced girl, very attractive but with a sad and anxious
expression, descended from the Pullman and brightened as she found her
friends standing with outstretched arms to greet her.
"Oh, Maud!" cried Patsy, usurping the first hug, "how glad I am to see
Beth looked in Maud Stanton's face and forbore to speak as she embraced
her friend. Then Jones shook both hands of the new arrival and Uncle
John kissed her with the same tenderness he showed his own nieces.
This reception seemed to cheer Maud Stanton immensely. She even smiled
during the drive to Willing Square--a winning, gracious smile that would
have caused her to be instantly recognized in almost any community of
our vast country; for this beautiful young girl was a famous motion
picture actress, possessing qualities that had endeared her to every
patron of the better class photo-dramas.
At first she had been forced to adopt this occupation by the stern
necessity of earning a livelihood, and under the careful guidance of her
aunt--Mrs. Jane Montrose, a widow who had at one time been a favorite in
New York social circles--Maud and her sister Florence had applied
themselves so intelligently to their art that their compensation had
become liberal enough to enable them to save a modest competence.
One cause of surprise at Maud's sudden journey east was the fact that
her services were in eager demand by the managers of the best producing
companies on the Pacific Coast, where nearly all the American pictures
are now made. Another cause for surprise was that she came alone,
leaving her Aunt Jane and her sister Flo--usually her inseparable
companion--in Los Angeles.
But they did not question her until the cosy home at Willing Square was
reached, luncheon served and Maud installed in the "Guest Room." Then
the three girls had "a good, long talk" and presently came trooping
into the library to enlighten Uncle John and Ajo.
"Oh, Uncle! What do you think?" cried Patsy. "Maud is going to the war!"
"The war!" echoed Mr. Merrick in a bewildered voice. "What on earth
"She is going to be a nurse," explained Beth, a soft glow of enthusiasm
mantling her pretty face. "Isn't it splendid, Uncle!"
"H-m," said Uncle John, regarding the girl with wonder. "It is certainly
"But--see here, Maud--it's mighty dangerous," protested young Jones.
"It's a tremendous undertaking, and--what can one girl do in the midst
of all those horrors?"
Maud seated herself quietly between them. Her face was grave and
"I have had to answer many such arguments before now, as you may
suspect," she began in even tones, "but the fact that I am here, well on
my journey, is proof that I have convinced my aunt, my sister and all my
western friends that I am at least determined on my mission, whether it
be wise or foolish. I do not think I shall incur danger by caring for
the wounded; the Red Cross is highly respected everywhere, these days."
"The Red Cross?" quoth Uncle John.
"Yes; I shall wear the Red Cross," she continued. "You know that I am a
trained nurse; it was part of my education before--before--"
"I had not known that until now," said Mr. Merrick, "but I am glad you
have had that training. Beth began a course at the school here, but I
took her away to Europe before she graduated. However, I wish more girls
could be trained for nursing, as it is a more useful and admirable
accomplishment than most of them now acquire."
"Fox-Trots and Bunny-Hugs, for instance," said Patricia with fine
"Patsy is a splendid nurse," declared Ajo, with a grateful look toward
that chubby miss.
"But untrained," she answered laughingly. "It was just common sense that
enabled me to cure your malady, Ajo. I couldn't bandage a cut or a
bullet wound to save me."
"Fortunately," said Maud, "I have a diploma which will gain for me the
endorsement of the American Red Cross Society. I am counting on that to
enable me to get an appointment at the seat of war, where I can be of
"Where will you go?" asked the boy. "To Germany, Austria, Russia,
"I shall go to France," she replied. "I speak French, but understand
little of German, although once I studied the language."
"Are you fully resolved upon this course, Maud?" asked Mr. Merrick in a
tone of regret.
"Fully decided, sir. I am going to Washington to-morrow, to get my
credentials, and then I shall take the first steamer to Europe."
There was no use arguing with Maud Stanton when she assumed that tone.
It was neither obstinate nor defiant, yet it conveyed a quiet resolve
that was unanswerable.
For a time they sat in silence, musing on the many phases of this
curious project; then Beth came to Mr. Merrick's side and asked
"May I go with her, Uncle?"
"Great Scott!" he exclaimed, with a nervous jump. "You, Beth?"
"Yes, Uncle. I so long to be of help to those poor fellows who are
being so cruelly sacrificed; and I know I can soothe much suffering, if
I have the opportunity."
He stared at her, not knowing what to reply. This quaint little man was
so erratic himself, in his sudden resolves and eccentric actions, that
he could scarcely quarrel with his niece for imitating an example he had
frequently set. Still, he was shrewd enough to comprehend the reckless
daring of the proposition.
"Two unprotected girls in the midst of war and carnage, surrounded by
foreigners, inspired to noble sacrifice through ignorance and
inexperience, and hardly old enough to travel alone from Hoboken to
Brooklyn! Why, the thing's absurd," he said.
"Quite impractical," added Ajo, nodding wisely. "You're both too pretty,
my dears, to undertake such an adventure. Why, the wounded men would all
fall in love with their nurses and follow you back to America in a
flock; and that might put a stop to the war for lack of men to fight
"Don't be silly, Ajo," said Patsy, severely. "I've decided to go with
Maud and Beth, and you know very well that the sight of my freckled face
would certainly chill any romance that might arise."
"That's nonsense, Patsy!"
"Then you consider me beautiful, Uncle John?"
"I mean it's nonsense about your going with Maud and Beth. I won't allow
"Oh, Uncle! You know I can twine you around my little finger, if I
choose. So don't, for goodness' sake, start a rumpus by trying to set
your will against mine."
"Then side with me, dear. I'm quite right, I assure you."
"You're always right, Nunkie, dear," she cried, giving him a resounding
smack of a kiss on his chubby cheek as she sat on the arm of his chair,
"but I'm going with the girls, just the same, and you may as well make
up your mind to it."
Uncle John coughed. He left his chair and trotted up and down the room a
moment. Then he carefully adjusted his spectacles, took a long look at
Patsy's face, and heaved a deep sigh of resignation.
"Thank goodness, that's settled," said Patsy cheerfully.
Uncle John turned to the boy, saying dismally:
"I've done everything in my power for these girls, and now they defy me.
They've declared a thousand times they love me, and yet they'd trot off
to bandage a lot of unknown foreigners and leave me alone to worry my
"Why don't you go along?" asked Jones. "I'm going."
"Of course. I've a suspicion our girls have the right instinct, sir--the
tender, womanly instinct that makes us love them. At any rate, I'm going
to stand by them. It strikes me as the noblest and grandest idea a girl
ever conceived, and if anything could draw me closer to these three
young ladies, who had me pretty well snared before, it is this very
"I don't see why," muttered Uncle John, wavering.
"I'll tell you why, sir. For themselves, they have all the good things
of life at their command. They could bask in luxury to the end of their
days, if they so desired. Yet their wonderful womanly sympathy goes out
to the helpless and suffering--the victims of the cruellest war the
world has ever known--and they promptly propose to sacrifice their ease
and brave whatever dangers may befall, that they may relieve to some
extent the pain and agony of those wounded and dying fellow creatures."
"Foreigners," said Uncle John weakly.
"Human beings," said the boy.
Patsy marched over to Ajo and gave him a sturdy whack upon the back that
nearly knocked him over.
"The spirit of John Paul Jones still goes marching on!" she cried. "My
boy, you're the right stuff, and I'm glad I doctored you."
He smiled, looking from one to another of the three girls questioningly.
"Then I'm to go along?" he asked.
"We shall be grateful," answered Maud, after a moment's hesitation.
"This is all very sudden to me, for I had planned to go alone."
"That wouldn't do at all," asserted Uncle John briskly. "I'm astonished
and--and grieved--that my nieces should want to go with you, but perhaps
the trip will prove interesting. Tell me what steamer you want to catch,
Maud, and I'll reserve rooms for our entire party."
"No," said Jones, "don't do it, sir."
"There's the Arabella. Let's use her."
"To cross the ocean?"
"She has done that before. It will assist our enterprise, I'm sure, to
have our own boat. These are troublous times on the high seas."
Patsy clapped her hands gleefully.
"That's it; a hospital ship!" she exclaimed.
They regarded her with various expressions: startled, doubtful,
admiring, approving. Presently, with added thought on the matter, the
approval became unanimous.
"It's an amazing suggestion," said Maud, her eyes sparkling.
"Think how greatly it will extend our usefulness," said Beth.
Uncle John was again trotting up and down the room, this time in a
state of barely repressed excitement.
"The very thing!" he cried. "Clever, practical,
and--eh--eh--tremendously interesting. Now, then, listen carefully--all
of you! It's up to you, Jones, to accompany Maud on the night express to
Washington. Get the Red Cross Society to back our scheme and supply us
with proper credentials. The Arabella must be rated as a hospital ship
and our party endorsed as a distinct private branch of the Red
Cross--what they call a 'unit.' I'll give you a letter to our senator
and he will look after our passports and all necessary papers. I--I
helped elect him, you know. And while you're gone it shall be my
business to fit the ship with all the supplies we shall need to promote
our mission of mercy."
"I'll share the expense," proposed the boy.
"No, you won't. You've done enough in furnishing the ship and crew. I'll
attend to the rest."
"And Beth and I will be Uncle John's assistants," said Patsy. "We shall
want heaps of lint and bandages, drugs and liniments and--"
"And, above all, a doctor," advised Ajo. "One of the mates on my yacht,
Kelsey by name, is a half-way physician, having studied medicine in his
youth and practiced it on the crew for the last dozen years; but what we
really need on a hospital ship is a bang-up surgeon."
"This promises to become an expensive undertaking," remarked Maud, with
a sigh. "Perhaps it will be better to let me go alone, as I originally
expected to do. But, if we take along the hospital ship, do not be
extravagant, Mr. Merrick, in equipping it. I feel that I have been the
innocent cause of drawing you all into this venture and I do not want it
to prove a hardship to my friends."
"All right, Maud," returned Uncle John, with a cheerful grin, "I'll try
to economize, now that you've warned me."
Ajo smiled and Patsy Doyle laughed outright. They knew it would not
inconvenience the little rich man, in the slightest degree, to fit out a
dozen hospital ships.
THE DECISION OF DOCTOR GYS
Uncle John was up bright and early next morning, and directly after
breakfast he called upon his old friend and physician, Dr. Barlow. After
explaining the undertaking on which he had embarked, Mr. Merrick added:
"You see, we need a surgeon with us; a clever, keen chap who understands
his business thoroughly, a sawbones with all the modern scientific
discoveries saturating him to his finger-tips. Tell me where to get
Dr. Barlow, recovering somewhat from his astonishment, smiled
"The sort of man you describe," said he, "would cost you a fortune, for
you would oblige him to abandon a large and lucrative practice in order
to accompany you. I doubt, indeed, if any price would tempt him to
abandon his patients."
"Isn't there some young fellow with these requirements?"
"Mr. Merrick, you need a physician and surgeon combined. Wounds lead to
fever and other serious ailments, which need skillful handling. You
might secure a young man, fresh from his clinics, who would prove a good
surgeon, but to master the science of medicine, experience and long
practice are absolutely necessary."
"We've got a half-way medicine man on the ship now--a fellow who has
doctored the crew for years and kept 'em pretty healthy. So I guess a
surgeon will about fill our bill."
"H-m, I know these ship's doctors, Mr. Merrick, and I wouldn't care to
have you and your nieces trust your lives to one, in case you become
ill. Believe me, a good physician is as necessary to you as a good
surgeon. Do you know that disease will kill as many of those soldiers as
"It is true; else the history of wars has taught us nothing. We haven't
heard much of plagues and epidemics yet, in the carefully censored
reports from London, but it won't be long before disease will devastate
Uncle John frowned. The thing was growing complicated.
"Do you consider this a wild goose chase, Doctor?" he asked.
"Not with your fortune, your girls and your fine ship to back it. I
think Miss Stanton's idea of venturing abroad unattended, to nurse the
wounded, was Quixotic in the extreme. Some American women are doing it,
I know, but I don't approve of it. On the other hand, your present plan
is worthy of admiration and applause, for it is eminently practical if
Dr. Barlow drummed upon the table with his fingers, musingly. Then he
"I wonder," said he, "if Gys would go. If you could win him over, he
would fill the bill."
"Who is Gys?" inquired Uncle John.
"An eccentric; a character. But clever and competent. He has just
returned from Yucatan, where he accompanied an expedition of exploration
sent out by the Geographical Society--and, by the way, nearly lost his
life in the venture. Before that, he made a trip to the frozen North
with a rescue party. Between times, he works in the hospitals, or acts
as consulting surgeon with men of greater fame than he has won; but Gys
is a rolling stone, erratic and whimsical, and with all his talent can
never settle down to a steady practice."
"Seems like the very man I want," said Uncle John, much interested.
"Where can I find him?"
"I've no idea. But I'll call up Collins and inquire."
He took up the telephone receiver and got his number.
"Collins? Say, I'm anxious to find Gys. Have you any idea--Eh? Sitting
with you now? How lucky. Ask him if he will come to my office at once;
Uncle John's face was beaming with satisfaction. The doctor waited, the
receiver at his ear.
"What's that, Collins?... He won't come?... Why not?... Absurd!... I've
a fine proposition for him.... Eh? He isn't interested in propositions?
What in thunder is he interested in?... Pshaw! Hold the phone a
Turning to Mr. Merrick, he said:
"Gys wants to go on a fishing trip. He plans to start to-night for the
Maine woods. But I've an idea if you could get him face to face you
might convince him."
"See if he'll stay where he is till I can get there."
The doctor turned to the telephone and asked the question. There was a
long pause. Gys wanted to know who it was that proposed to visit him.
John Merrick, the retired millionaire? All right; Gys would wait in
Collins' office for twenty minutes.
Uncle John lost no time in rushing to his motor car, where he ordered
the driver to hasten to the address Dr. Barlow had given him.
The offices of Dr. Collins were impressive. Mr. Merrick entered a
luxurious reception room and gave his name to a businesslike young woman
who advanced to meet him. He had called to see Dr. Gys.
The young woman smothered a smile that crept to her lips, and led Uncle
John through an examination room and an operating room--both vacant
just now--and so into a laboratory that was calculated to give a well
person the shivers. Here was but one individual, a man in his
shirt-sleeves who was smoking a corncob pipe and bending over a test
Uncle John coughed to announce his presence, for the woman had slipped
away as she closed the door. The man's back was turned partially toward
his visitor. He did not alter his position as he said:
"Sit down. There's a chair in the southwest corner."
Uncle John found the chair. He waited patiently a few moments and then
his choler began to rise.
"If you're in such a blamed hurry to go fishing, why don't you get rid
of me now?" he asked.
The shoulders shook gently and there was a chuckling laugh. The man laid
down his test tube and swung around on his stool.
For a moment Mr. Merrick recoiled. The face was seared with livid scars,
the nose crushed to one side, the mouth crooked and set in a sneering
grin. One eye was nearly closed and the other round and wide open. A
more forbidding and ghastly countenance Mr. Merrick had never beheld and
in his surprise he muttered a low exclamation.
"Exactly," said Gys, his voice quiet and pleasant. "I don't blame you
and I'm not offended. Do you wonder I hesitate to meet strangers?"
"I--I was not--prepared," stammered Uncle John.
"That was Barlow's fault. He knows me and should have told you. And now
I'll tell you why I consented to see you. No! never mind your own
proposition, whatever it is. Listen to mine first. I want to go fishing,
and I haven't the money. None of my brother physicians will lend me
another sou, for I owe them all. You are John Merrick, to whom money is
of little consequence. May I venture to ask you for an advance of a
couple of hundred for a few weeks? When I return I'll take up your
proposition, whatever it may be, and recompense you in services."
He refilled and relighted the corncob while Mr. Merrick stared at him
in thoughtful silence. As a matter of fact, Uncle John was pleased with
the fellow. A whimsical, irrational, unconventional appeal of this sort
went straight to his heart, for the queer little man hated the
commonplace most cordially.
"I'll give you the money on one condition," he said.
"I object to the condition," said Gys firmly. "Conditions are
"My proposition," went on Uncle John, "won't wait for weeks. When you
hear it, if you are not anxious to take it up, I don't want you. Indeed,
I'm not sure I want you, anyhow."
"Ah; you're frightened by my features. Most people with propositions
are. I'm an unlucky dog, sir. They say it's good luck to touch a
hunchback; to touch me is the reverse. Way up North in a frozen sea a
poor fellow went overboard. I didn't get him and he drowned; but I got
caught between two cakes of floating ice that jammed my nose out of its
former perfect contour. In Yucatan I tumbled into a hedge of poisoned
cactus and had to operate on myself--quickly, too--to save my life.
Wild with pain, I slashed my face to get the poisoned tips of thorn out
of the flesh. Parts of my body are like my face, but fortunately I can
cover them. It was bad surgery. On another I could have operated without
leaving a scar, but I was frantic with pain. Don't stare at that big
eye, sir; it's glass. I lost that optic in Pernambuco and couldn't find
a glass substitute to fit my face. Indeed, this was the only one in
town, made for a fat Spanish lady who turned it down because it was not
exactly the right color."
"You certainly have been--eh--unfortunate," murmured Uncle John.
"See here," said Gys, taking a leather book from an inside pocket of the
coat that hung on a peg beside him, and proceeding to open it. "Here is
a photograph of me, taken before I embarked upon my adventures."
Uncle John put on his glasses and examined the photograph curiously. It
was a fine face, clean-cut, manly and expressive. The eyes were
especially frank and winning.
"How old were you then?" he asked.
"Thirty-eight. A good deal happened in that fourteen years, as you may
guess. And now," reaching for the photograph and putting it carefully
back in the book, "state your proposition and I'll listen to it, because
you have listened so patiently to me."
Mr. Merrick in simple words explained the plan to take a hospital ship
to Europe, relating the incidents that led up to the enterprise and
urging the need of prompt action. His voice dwelt tenderly on his girls
and the loyal support of young Jones.
Dr. Gys smoked and listened silently. Then he picked up the telephone
and called a number.
"Tell Hawkins I've abandoned that fishing trip," he said. "I've got
another job." Then he faced Mr. Merrick. His smile was not pretty, but
it was a smile.
"That's my answer, sir."
"But we haven't talked salary yet."
"Bother the salary. I'm not mercenary."
"And I'm not sure--"
"Yes, you are. I'm going with you. Do you know why?"
"It's a novel project, very appealing from a humanitarian standpoint
"I hadn't thought of that. I'm going because you're headed for the
biggest war the world has ever known; because I foresee danger ahead,
for all of us; but mainly because--"
"Because I'm a coward--a natural born coward--and I can have a lot of
fun forcing myself to face the shell and shrapnel. That's the truth; I'm
not a liar. And for a long time I've been wondering--wondering--" His
voice died away in a murmur.
Dr. Gys roused himself.
"Oh; do you want a full confession? For a long time, then, I've been
wondering what's the easiest way for a man to die. No, I'm not morbid.
I'm simply ruined, physically, for the practice of a profession I love,
a profession I have fully mastered, and--I'll be happier when I can
shake off this horrible envelope of disfigurement."
THE HOSPITAL SHIP
The energy of Doctor Gys was marvelous. He knew exactly what supplies
would be needed to fit the Arabella thoroughly for her important
mission, and with unlimited funds at his command to foot the bills, he
quickly converted the handsome yacht into a model hospital ship. Gys
from the first developed a liking for Kelsey, the mate, whom he found a
valuable assistant, and the two came to understand each other perfectly.
Kelsey was a quiet man, more thoughtful than experienced in medical
matters, but his common sense often guided him aright when his technical
knowledge was at fault.
Captain Carg accepted the novel conditions thrust upon him, without a
word of protest. He might secretly resent the uses to which his ship was
being put, but his young master's commands were law and his duty was to
obey. The same feeling prevailed among the other members of the crew,
all of whom were Sangoans.
In three days Jones and Maud Stanton returned from Washington. They were
jubilant over their success.
"We've secured everything we wanted," the boy told Uncle John, Beth and
Patsy, with evident enthusiasm. "Not only have we the full sanction of
the American Red Cross Society, but I have letters to the different
branches in the war zone, asking for us every consideration. Not only
that, but your senator proved himself a brick. What do you think? Here's
a letter from our secretary of state--another from the French charge
d'affairs--half a dozen from prominent ambassadors of other countries!
We've a free field in all Europe, practically, that will enable us to
work to the best advantage."
"It's wonderful!" cried Patsy.
"Mr. Merrick is so well known as a philanthropist that his name was a
magic talisman for us," said Maud. "Moreover, our enterprise commands
the sympathy of everyone. We had numerous offers of financial
"I hope you didn't accept them," said Uncle John nervously.
"No," answered the boy, "I claimed this expedition to be our private and
individual property. We can now do as we please, being under no
obligations to any but ourselves."
"That's right," said Uncle John. "We don't want to be hampered by the
necessity of advising with others."
"By the way, have you found a doctor?"
"A good one?" asked Maud quickly.
"Highly recommended, but homely as a rail fence," continued Patsy, as
her uncle hesitated.
"That's nothing," said Ajo lightly.
"Nothing, eh? Well, wait till you see him," she replied. "You'll never
look Doctor Gys in the face more than once, I assure you. After that,
you'll be glad to keep your eyes on his vest buttons."
"I like him immensely, though," said Beth. "He is clever, honest and
earnest. The poor man can't help his mutilations, which are the result
of many unfortunate adventures."
"Sounds like just the man we wanted," declared Ajo, and afterward he had
no reason to recall that assertion.
A week is a small time in which to equip a big ship, but money and
energy can accomplish much and the news from the seat of war was so
eventful that they felt every moment to be precious and so they worked
with feverish haste. The tide of German success had turned and their
great army, from Paris to Vitry, was now in full retreat, fighting every
inch of the way and leaving thousands of dead and wounded in its wake.
"How long will it take us to reach Calais?" they asked Captain Carg
"Eight or nine days," said he.
"We are not as fast as the big passenger steamers," explained young
Jones, "but with good weather the Arabella may be depended upon to
make the trip in good shape and fair time."
On the nineteenth of September, fully equipped and with her papers in
order, the beautiful yacht left her anchorage and began her voyage. The
weather proved exceptionally favorable. During the voyage the girls
busied themselves preparing their modest uniforms and pumping Dr. Gys
for all sorts of information, from scratches to amputations. He gave
them much practical and therefore valuable advice to guide them in
whatever emergencies might arise, and this was conveyed in the
whimsical, half humorous manner that seemed characteristic of him. At
first Gys had shrunk involuntarily from facing this bevy of young girls,
but they had so frankly ignored his physical blemishes and exhibited so
true a comradeship to all concerned in the expedition, that the doctor
soon felt perfectly at ease in their society.
During the evenings he gave them practical demonstrations of the
application of tourniquets, bandages and the like, while Uncle John and
Ajo by turns posed as wounded soldiers. Gys was extraordinarily deft in
all his manipulations and although Maud Stanton was a graduate
nurse--with little experience, however--and Beth De Graf had studied the
art for a year or more, it was Patsy Doyle who showed the most dexterity
in assisting the doctor on these occasions.
"I don't know whether I'll faint at the sight of real blood," she said,
"but I shall know pretty well what to do if I can keep my nerve."
The application of anaesthetics was another thing fully explained by
Gys, but this could not be demonstrated. Patsy, however, was taught the
use of the hypodermic needle, which Maud and Beth quite understood.
"We've a big stock of morphia, in its various forms," said the doctor,
"and I expect it to prove of tremendous value in comforting our
"I'm not sure I approve the use of that drug," remarked Uncle John.
"But think of the suffering we can allay by its use," exclaimed Maud.
"If ever morphia is justifiable, it is in war, where it can save many a
life by conquering unendurable pain. I believe the discovery of morphine
was the greatest blessing that humanity has ever enjoyed. Don't you,
The one good eye of Gys had a queer way of twinkling when he was amused.
It twinkled as the girl asked this question.
"Morphine," he replied, "has destroyed more people than it has saved.
You play with fire when you feed it to anyone, under any circumstances.
Nevertheless, I believe in its value on an expedition of this sort, and
that is why I loaded up on the stuff. Let me advise you never to tell a
patient that we are administering morphine. The result is all that he is
concerned with and it is better he should not know what has relieved
On a sunny day when the sea was calm they slung a scaffold over the bow
and painted a big red cross on either side of the white ship. Everyone
aboard wore the Red Cross emblem on an arm band, even the sailors being
so decorated. Uncle John was very proud of the insignia and loved to
watch his girls moving around the deck in their sober uniforms and white
Jones endured the voyage splendidly and by this time had convinced
himself that he was not again to be subject to the mal-de-mer of his
first ocean trip. As they drew near to their destination an atmosphere
of subdued excitement pervaded the Arabella, for even the sailors had
caught the infection of the girls' eagerness and were anxious to get
into action at the earliest moment.
It was now that Uncle John began to busy himself with his especial
prize, a huge motor ambulance he had purchased in New York and which had
been fully equipped for the requirements of war. Indeed, an enterprising
manufacturer had prepared it with the expectation that some of the
belligerent governments would purchase it, and Mr. Merrick considered
himself fortunate in securing it. It would accommodate six seriously
wounded, on swinging beds, and twelve others, slightly wounded, who
might be able to sit upon cushioned seats. The motor was very powerful
and the driver was protected from stray bullets by an armored hood.
In addition to this splendid machine, Mr. Merrick had secured a smaller
ambulance that had not the advantage of the swinging beds but could be
rushed more swiftly to any desired location. Both ambulances were
decorated on all sides with the emblem of the Red Cross and would be
invaluable in bringing the wounded to the Arabella. The ship carried a
couple of small motor launches for connecting the shore with her
They had purposely brought no chauffeurs with them, as Uncle John
believed foreign drivers, who were thoroughly acquainted with the
country, would prove more useful than the American variety, and from
experience he knew that a French chauffeur is the king of his
During the last days of the voyage Mr. Merrick busied himself in
carefully inspecting every detail of his precious vehicles and
explaining their operation to everyone on board. Even the girls would be
able to run an ambulance on occasion, and the boy developed quite a
mechanical talent in mastering the machines.
"I feel," said young Jones, "that I have had a rather insignificant part
in preparing this expedition, for all I have furnished--aside from the
boat itself--consists of two lots of luxuries that may or may not be
"And what may they be?" asked Dr. Gys, who was standing in the group
"Thermos flasks and cigarettes."
"Cigarettes!" exclaimed Beth, in horror.
The doctor nodded approvingly.
"Capital!" said he. "Next to our anodynes and anaesthetics, nothing will
prove so comforting to the wounded as cigarettes. They are supplied by
nurses in all the hospitals in Europe. How many did you bring?"
"Ten cases of about twenty-five thousand each."
"A quarter of a million cigarettes!" gasped Beth.
"Too few," asserted the doctor in a tone of raillery, "but we'll make
them go as far as possible. And the thermos cases are also valuable.
Cool water to parched lips means a glimpse of heaven. Hot coffee will
save many from exhaustion. You've done well, my boy."
NEARING THE FRAY
On September twenty-eighth they entered the English Channel and were
promptly signalled by a British warship, so they were obliged to lay to
while a party of officers came aboard. The Arabella was flying the
American flag and the Red Cross flag, but the English officer
courteously but firmly persisted in searching the ship. What he found
seemed to interest him, as did the papers and credentials presented for
"And which side have you come to assist?" he asked.
"No side at all, sir," replied Jones, as master of the Arabella. "The
wounded, the sick and helpless, whatever uniform they chance to wear,
will receive our best attention. But we are bound for Calais and intend
to follow the French army."
The officer nodded gravely.
"Of course," said he, "you are aware that the channel is full of mines
and that progress is dangerous unless you have our maps to guide you. I
will furnish your pilot with a diagram, provided you agree to keep our
secret and deliver the diagram to the English officer you will meet at
They agreed to this and after the formalities were concluded the officer
prepared to depart.
"I must congratulate you," he remarked on leaving, "on having the best
equipped hospital ship it has been my fortune to see. There are many in
the service, as you know, but the boats are often mere tubs and the
fittings of the simplest description. The wounded who come under your
care will indeed be fortunate. It is wonderful to realize that you have
come all the way from America, and at so great an expense, to help the
victims of this sad war. For the Allies I thank you, and--good-bye!"
They remembered this kindly officer long afterward, for he proved more
generous than many of the English they met.
Captain Carg now steamed ahead, watching his chart carefully to avoid
the fields of mines, but within two hours he was again hailed, this
time by an armored cruiser. The first officer having vised the ship's
papers, they were spared the delay of another search and after a brief
examination were allowed to proceed. They found the channel well
patrolled by war craft and no sooner had they lost sight of one, than
another quickly appeared.
At Cherbourg a French dreadnaught halted them and an officer came aboard
to give them a new chart of the mine fields between there and Calais and
full instructions how to proceed safely. This officer, who spoke
excellent English, asked a thousand questions and seemed grateful for
their charitable assistance to his countrymen.
"You have chosen a dangerous post," said he, "but the Red Cross is
respected everywhere--even by the Germans. Have you heard the latest
news? We have driven them back to the Aisne and are holding the enemy
well in check. Antwerp is under siege, to be sure, but it can hold out
indefinitely. The fighting will be all in Belgium soon, and then in
Germany. Our watchword is 'On to Berlin!'"
"Perhaps we ought to proceed directly to Ostend," said Uncle John.
"The Germans still hold it, monsieur. In a few days, perhaps, when
Belgium is free of the invaders, you will find work enough to occupy you
at Ostend; but I advise you not to attempt to go there now."
In spite of the friendly attitude of this officer and of the authorities
at Cherbourg, they were detained at this port for several days before
finally receiving permission to proceed. The delay was galling but had
to be endured until the infinite maze of red tape was at an end. They
reached Calais in the early evening and just managed to secure an
anchorage among the fleet of warships in the harbor.
Again they were obliged to show their papers and passports, now vised by
representatives of both the English and French navies, but this
formality being over they were given a cordial welcome.
Uncle John and Ajo decided to go ashore for the latest news and arrived
in the city between nine and ten o'clock that same evening. They found
Calais in a state of intense excitement. The streets were filled with
British and French soldiery, with whom were mingled groups of citizens,
all eagerly discussing the war and casting uneasy glances at the black
sky overhead for signs of the dreaded German Zeppelins.
"How about Antwerp?" Jones asked an Englishman they found in the lobby
of one of the overcrowded hotels.
The man turned to stare at him; he looked his questioner up and down
with such insolence that the boy's fists involuntarily doubled; then he
turned his back and walked away. A bystander laughed with amusement. He
also was an Englishman, but wore the uniform of a subaltern.
"What can you expect, without a formal introduction?" he asked young
Jones. "But I'll answer your question, sir; Antwerp is doomed."
"Oh; do you really think so?" inquired Uncle John uneasily.
"It's a certainty, although I hate to admit it. We at the rear are not
very well posted on what is taking place over in Belgium, but it's said
the bombardment of Antwerp began yesterday and it's impossible for the
place to hold out for long. Perhaps even now the city has fallen under
the terrific bombardment."
There was something thrilling in the suggestion.
"And then?" asked Jones, almost breathlessly.
The man gave a typical British shrug.
"Then we fellows will find work to do," he replied. "But it is better to
fight than to eat our hearts out by watching and waiting. We're the
reserves, you know, and we've hardly smelled powder yet."
After conversing with several of the soldiers and civilians--the latter
being mostly too unnerved to talk coherently--the Americans made their
way back to the quay with heavy hearts. They threaded lanes filled with
sobbing women, many of whom had frightened children clinging to their
skirts, passed groups of old men and boys who were visibly trembling
with trepidation and stood aside for ranks of brisk soldiery who marched
with an alertness that was in strong contrast with the terrified
attitude of the citizens. There was war in the air--fierce, relentless
war in every word and action they encountered--and it had the effect of
depressing the newcomers.
That night an earnest conference was held aboard the Arabella.
"As I understand it, here is the gist of the situation," began Ajo. "The
line of battle along the Aisne is stationary--for the present, at least.
Both sides are firmly entrenched and it's going to be a long, hard
fight. Antwerp is being bombarded, and although it's a powerful
fortress, the general opinion is that it can't hold out for long. If it
falls, there will be a rush of Germans down this coast, first to capture
Dunkirk, a few miles above here, and then Calais itself."
"In other words," continued Uncle John, "this is likely to be the most
important battleground for the next few weeks. Now, the question to
decide is this: Shall we disembark our ambulances and run them across to
Arras, beginning our work behind the French trenches, or go on to
Dunkirk, where we are likely to plunge into the thickest of the war?
We're not fighters, you know, but noncombatants, bent on an errand of
mercy. There are wounded everywhere."
They considered this for a long time without reaching a decision, for
there were some in the party to argue on either side of the question.
Uncle John continued to favor the trenches, as the safest position for
his girls to work; but the girls themselves, realizing little of the
dangers to be encountered, preferred to follow the fortunes of the
"They've been so brave and noble, these people of Belgium," said Beth,
"that I would take more pleasure in helping them than any other branch
of the allied armies."
"But, my dear, there's a mere handful of them left," protested her
uncle. "I'm told that at Dunkirk there is still a remnant of the Belgian
army--very badly equipped--but most of the remaining force is with King
Albert in Antwerp. If the place falls they will either be made prisoners
by the Germans or they may escape into Holland, where their fighting
days will be ended for the rest of the war. However, there is no need to
decide this important question to-night. To-morrow I am to see the
French commandant and I will get his advice."
The interview with the French commandant of Calais, which was readily
accorded the Americans, proved very unsatisfactory. The general had just
received reports that Antwerp was in flames and the greater part of the
city already demolished by the huge forty-two-centimetre guns of the
Germans. The fate of King Albert's army was worrying him exceedingly and
he was therefore in little mood for conversation.
The American consul could do little to assist them. After the matter was
explained to him, he said:
"I advise you to wait a few days for your decision. Perhaps a day--an
hour--will change the whole angle of the war. Strange portents are in
the air; no one knows what will happen next. Come to me, from time to
time, and I will give you all the information I secure."
Dr. Gys had accompanied Jones and Mr. Merrick into Calais to-day, and
while he had little to say during the various interviews his
observations were shrewd and comprehensive. When they returned to the
deck of the Arabella, Gys said to the girls:
"There is nothing worth while for us to do here. The only wounded I saw
were a few Frenchmen parading their bandaged heads and hands for the
admiration of the women. The hospitals are well organized and quite
full, it is true, but I'm told that no more wounded are being sent here.
The Sisters of Mercy and the regular French Red Cross force seem very
competent to handle the situation, and there are two government hospital
ships already anchored in this port. We would only be butting in to
offer our services. But down the line, from Arras south, there is real
war in the trenches and many are falling every day. Arras is less than
fifty miles from here--a two or three hours' run for our ambulances--and
we could bring the wounded here and care for them as we originally
"Fifty miles is a long distance for a wounded man to travel," objected
"True," said the doctor, "but the roads are excellent."
"Remember those swinging cots," said Ajo.
"We might try it," said Patsy, anxious to be doing something. "Couldn't
we start to-morrow for Arras, Uncle?"
"It occurs to me that we must first find a chauffeur," answered Mr.
Merrick, "and from my impressions of the inhabitants of Calais, that
will prove a difficult task."
"Every man jack of 'em is scared stiff," said Ajo, with a laugh. "But we
might ask the commandant to recommend someone. The old boy seems
The next day, however, brought important news from Antwerp. The city had
surrendered, the Belgian army had made good its escape and was now
retreating toward Ostend, closely followed by the enemy.
This news was related by a young orderly who met them as they entered
the Hotel de Ville. They were also told that the commandant was very
busy but would try to see them presently. This young Frenchman spoke
English perfectly and was much excited by the morning's dispatches.
"This means that the war is headed our way at last!" he cried
enthusiastically. "The Germans will make a dash to capture both Dunkirk
and Calais, and already large bodies of reinforcements are on the way to
defend these cities."
"English, or French?" asked Uncle John.
"This is French territory," was the embarrassed reply, "but we are glad
to have our allies, the English, to support us. Their General French is
now at Dunkirk, and it is probable the English will join the French and
Belgians at that point."
"They didn't do much good at Antwerp, it seems," remarked Ajo.
"Ah, they were naval reserves, monsieur, and not much could be expected
of them. But do not misunderstand me; I admire the English private--the
fighting man--exceedingly. Were the officers as clever as their soldiers
are brave, the English would be irresistible."
As this seemed a difficult subject to discuss, Uncle John asked the
orderly if he knew of a good chauffeur to drive their ambulance--an
able, careful man who might be depended upon in emergencies.
The orderly reflected.
"We have already impressed the best drivers," he said, "but it may be
the general will consent to spare you one of them. Your work is so
important that we must take good care of you."
But when they were admitted to the general they found him in a more
impatient mood than before. He really could not undertake to direct Red
Cross workers or advise them. They were needed everywhere; everywhere
they would be welcome. And now, he regretted to state that he was very
busy; if they had other business with the department, Captain Meroux
would act as its representative.
Before accepting this dismissal Uncle John ventured to ask about a
chauffeur. Rather brusquely the general stated that they could ill
afford to spare one from the service. A desperate situation now faced
the Allies in Flanders. Captain Meroux must take care of the Americans;
doubtless he could find a driver for their ambulance--perhaps a Belgian.
But in the outer office the orderly smiled doubtfully.
A driver? To be sure; but such as he could furnish would not be of the
slightest use to them. All the good chauffeurs had been impressed and
the general was not disposed to let them have one.
"He mentioned a Belgian," suggested Uncle John.
"I know; but the Belgians in Calais are all fugitives, terror-stricken
and unmanned." He grew thoughtful a moment and then continued: "My
advice would be to take your ship to Dunkirk. It is only a little way,
through a good channel, and you will be as safe there as at Calais. For,
if Dunkirk falls, Calais will fall with it. From there, moreover, the
roads are better to Arras and Peronne, and it is there you stand the
best chance of getting a clever Belgian chauffeur. If you wish--" he
hesitated, looking at them keenly.
"If you are really anxious to get to the firing line and do the most
good, Dunkirk is your logical station. If you are merely seeking the
notoriety of being charitably inclined, remain here."
They left the young man, reflecting upon his advice and gravely
considering its value. They next visited one of the hospitals, where an
overworked but friendly English surgeon volunteered a similar
suggestion. Dunkirk, he declared, would give them better opportunities
The remainder of the day they spent in getting whatever news had
filtered into the city and vainly seeking a competent man for chauffeur.
On the morning of October eleventh they left Calais and proceeded slowly
along the buoyed channel that is the only means of approaching the port
of Dunkirk by water. The coast line is too shallow to allow ships to
enter from the open sea.
On their arrival at the Flemish city--twelve miles nearer the front than
Calais--they found an entirely different atmosphere. No excitement, no
terror was visible anywhere. The people quietly pursued their accustomed
avocations and the city was as orderly as in normal times.
The town was full of Belgians, however, both soldiers and civilians,
while French and British troops were arriving hourly in regiments and
battalions. General French, the English commander in chief, had located
his headquarters at a prominent hotel, and a brisk and businesslike air
pervaded the place, with an entire lack of confusion. Most of the
Belgians were reservists who were waiting to secure uniforms and arms.
They crowded all the hotels, cafés and inns and seemed as merry and
light-hearted as if no news of their king's defeat and precipitate
retreat had arrived. Not until questioned would they discuss the war at
all, yet every man was on the qui vive, expecting hourly to hear the
roar of guns announcing the arrival of the fragment of the Belgian army
that had escaped from Antwerp.
To-day the girls came ashore with the men of their party, all three
wearing their Red Cross uniforms and caps, and it was almost pathetic to
note the deference with which all those warriors--both bronzed and
fair--removed their caps until the "angels of mercy" had passed them by.
They made the rounds of the hospitals, which were already crowded with
wounded, and Gys stopped at one long enough to assist the French doctor
in a delicate operation. Patsy stood by to watch this surgery, her face
white and drawn, for this was her first experience of the sort; but Maud
and Beth volunteered their services and were so calm and deft that
Doctor Gys was well pleased with them.
It was nearly evening when the Americans finally returned to the quay,
close to which the Arabella was moored. As they neared the place a
great military automobile came tearing along, scattering pedestrians
right and left, made a sudden swerve, caught a man who was not agile
enough to escape and sent him spinning along the dock until he fell
headlong, a crumpled heap.
"Ah, here is work for us!" exclaimed Doctor Gys, running forward to
raise the man and examine his condition. The military car had not paused
in its career and was well out of sight, but a throng of indignant
civilians gathered around.
"There are no severe injuries, but he seems unconscious," reported Gys.
"Let us get him aboard the ship."
The launch was waiting for them, and with the assistance of Jones, the
doctor placed the injured man in the boat and he was taken to the ship
and placed in one of the hospital berths.
"Our first patient is not a soldier, after all," remarked Patsy, a
little disappointed. "I shall let Beth and Maud look after him."
"Well, he is wounded, all right," answered Ajo, "and without your kind
permission Beth and Maud are already below, looking after him. I'm
afraid he won't require their services long, poor fellow."
"Why didn't he get out of the way?" inquired Patsy with a shudder.
"Can't say. Preoccupied, perhaps. There wasn't much time to jump,
anyhow. I suppose that car carried a messenger with important news, for
it isn't like those officers to be reckless of the lives of citizens."
"No; they seem in perfect sympathy with the people," she returned. "I
wonder what the news can be, Ajo."
For answer a wild whistling sounded overhead; a cry came from those
ashore and the next instant there was a loud explosion. Everyone rushed
to the side, where Captain Carg was standing, staring at the sky.
"What was it, Captain?" gasped Patsy.
Carg stroked his grizzled beard.
"A German bomb, Miss Patsy; but I think it did no damage."
"A bomb! Then the Germans are on us?"
"Not exactly. An aeroplane dropped the thing."
"Oh. Where is it?"
"The aeroplane? Pretty high up, I reckon," answered the captain. "I had
a glimpse of it, for a moment; then it disappeared in the clouds."
"We must get our ambulances ashore," said Jones.
"No hurry, sir; plenty of time," asserted the captain. "I think I saw
the airship floating north, so it isn't likely to bother us again just
"What place is north of us?" inquired the girl, trembling a little in
spite of her efforts at control.
"I think it is Nieuport--or perhaps Dixmude," answered Carg. "I visited
Belgium once, when I was a young man, but I cannot remember it very
well. We're pretty close to the Belgian border, at Dunkirk."
"There's another!" cried Ajo, as a second whistling shriek sounded above
them. This time the bomb fell into the sea and raised a small
water-spout, some half mile distant. They could now see plainly a second
huge aircraft circling above them; but this also took flight toward the
north and presently disappeared.
Uncle John came hurrying on deck with an anxious face and together the
group of Americans listened for more bombs; but that was all that came
their way that night.
"Well," said Patsy, when she had recovered her equanimity, "we're at the
front at last, Uncle. How do you like it?"
"I hadn't thought of bombs," he replied. "But we're in for it, and I
suppose we'll have to take whatever comes."
Now came the doctor, supporting the injured man on one side while Maud
Stanton held his opposite arm. Gys was smiling broadly--a rather ghastly
"No bones broken, sir," he reported to Mr. Merrick. "Only a good
shake-up and plenty of bruises. He can't be induced to stay in bed."
"Bed, when the Germans come?" exclaimed the invalid, scornfully,
speaking in fair English. "It is absurd! We can sleep when we have
driven them back to their dirty Faderland--we can sleep, then, and rest.
Now, it is a crime to rest."
They looked at him curiously. He was a small man--almost a tiny
man--lean and sinewy and with cheeks the color of bronze and eyes the
hue of the sky. His head was quite bald at the top; his face wrinkled;
he had a bushy mustache and a half-grown beard. His clothing was soiled,
torn and neglected; but perhaps his accident accounted for much of its
condition. His age might be anywhere from thirty to forty years. He
looked alert and shrewd.
"You are Belgian?" said Uncle John.
He leaned against the rail, shaking off the doctor's support, as he
"Yes, monsieur. Belgian born and American trained." There was a touch of
pride in his voice. "It was in America that I made my fortune."
"It is true. I was waiter in a New York restaurant for five years. Then
I retired. I came back to Belgium. I married my wife. I bought land. It
is near Ghent. I am, as you have guessed, a person of great importance."
"Ah; an officer, perhaps. Civil, or military?" inquired Ajo with mock
"Of better rank than either. I am a citizen."
"Now, I like that spirit," said Uncle John approvingly. "What is your
name, my good man?"
"Maurie, monsieur; Jakob Maurie. Perhaps you have met me--in New York."
"I do not remember it. But if you live in Ghent, why are you in
He cast an indignant glance at his questioner, but Uncle John's serene
expression disarmed him.
"Monsieur is not here long?"
"We have just arrived."
"You cannot see Belgium from here. If you are there--in my country--you
will find that the German is everywhere. I have my home at Brussels
crushed by a shell which killed my baby girl. My land is devastate--my
crop is taken to feed German horse and German thief. There is no home
left. So my wife and my boy and girl I take away; I take them to Ostend,
where I hope to get ship to England. At Ostend I am arrested by Germans.
Not my wife and children; only myself. I am put in prison. For three
weeks they keep me, and then I am put out. They push me into the street.
No one apologize. I ask for my family. They laugh and turn away. I
search everywhere for my wife. A friend whom I meet thinks she has gone
to Ypres, for now no Belgian can take ship from Ostend to England. So I
go to Ypres. The wandering people have all been sent to Nieuport and
Dunkirk. Still I search. My wife is not in Nieuport. I come here, three
days ago; I cannot find her in Dunkirk; she has vanished. Perhaps--but I
will not trouble you with that. This is my story, ladies and gentlemen.
Behold in me--a wealthy landowner of Liege--the outcast from home and
"It is dreadful!" cried Patsy.
"It is fierce," said the man. "Only an American can understand the
horror of that word."
"Your fate is surely a cruel one, Maurie," declared Mr. Merrick.
"Perhaps," ventured Beth, "we may help you to find your wife and
The Belgian seemed pleased with these expressions of sympathy. He
straightened up, threw out his chest and bowed very low.
"That is my story," he repeated; "but you must know it is also the story
of thousands of Belgians. Always I meet men searching for wives. Always
I meet wives searching for husbands. Well! it is our fate--the fate of
Maud brought him a deck chair and made him sit down.
"You will stay here to-night," she said.
"That's right," said Dr. Gys. "He can't resume his search until morning,
that's certain. Such a tumble as he had would have killed an ordinary
man; but the fellow seems made of iron."
"To be a waiter--a good waiter--develops the muscles," said Maurie.
Ajo gave him a cigarette, which he accepted eagerly. After a few puffs
"I heard the German bombs. That means the enemy grows insolent. First
they try to frighten us with bombs, then they attack."
"How far away do you think the Germans are?" asked Beth.
"Nieuport les Bains. But they will get no nearer."
"Surely not, mamselle. Our soldiers are there, awaiting them. Our
soldiers, and the French."
"And you think the enemy cannot capture Dunkirk?" inquired Jones.
"Dunkirk! The Germans capture Dunkirk? It is impossible."
"Dunkirk is fortified; it is the entrance to Calais, to Dover and
London. Look you, m'sieur; we cannot afford to lose this place. We
cannot afford to lose even Nieuport, which is our last stand on Belgian
soil. Therefore, the Germans cannot take it, for there are still too
many of us to kill before Kitchener comes to save us." He spoke
thoughtfully, between puffs of his cigarette, and added: "But of course,
if the great English army does not come, and they kill us all, then it
will not matter in the least what becomes of our country."
Maurie's assertion did not wholly reassure them. The little Belgian was
too bombastic to win their confidence in his judgment. Yet Jones
declared that Maurie doubtless knew the country better than anyone they
had yet met and the doctor likewise defended his patient. Indeed, Gys
seemed to have taken quite a fancy to the little man and long after the
others had retired for the night he sat on deck talking with the Belgian
and getting his views of the war.
"You say you had land at Ghent?" he once asked.
"It is true, Doctor."
"But afterward you said Brussels."
Maurie was not at all confused.
"Ah; I may have done so. You see, I traded my property."
"And, if I am not mistaken, you spoke of a home at Liege."
Maurie looked at him reproachfully.
"Is there not much land in Belgium?" he demanded; "and is a rich man
confined to one home? Liege was my summer home; in the winter I removed
"You said Ghent."
"Ghent it was, Doctor. Misfortune has dulled my brain. I am not the man
I was," he added with a sigh.
"Nevertheless," said Gys, "you still possess the qualities of a good
waiter. Whatever happens here, Maurie, you can always go back to
ON THE FIRING LINE
Next morning they were all wakened at an early hour by the roar of
artillery, dimly heard in the distance. The party aboard the Arabella
quickly assembled on deck, where little Maurie was found leaning over
"They're at it," he remarked, wagging his head. "The Germans are at
Nieuport, now, and some of them are over against Pervyse. I hear sounds
from Dixmude, too; the rattle of machine guns. It will be a grand
battle, this! I wonder if our Albert is there."
"Who is he?" asked Patsy.
"The king. They told me yesterday he had escaped."
"We must get the ambulances out at once," said Beth.
"I'll attend to that," replied Uncle John, partaking of the general
excitement. "Warp up to the dock, Captain Carg, and I'll get some of
those men to help us swing the cars over the side."
"How about a chauffeur?" asked Dr. Gys, who was already bringing out
bandages and supplies for the ambulances.
"If we can't find a man, I'll drive you myself," declared Ajo.
"But you don't know the country."
Gys turned to the little Belgian.
"Can't you find us a driver?" he asked. "We want a steady, competent man
to run our ambulance."
"Where are you going?" asked Maurie.
"To the firing line."
"Good. I will drive you myself."
"You? Do you understand a car?"
"I am an expert, monsieur."
"A waiter in a restaurant?"
"Pah! That was five years ago. I will show you. I can drive any car ever
made--and I know every inch of the way."
"Then you're our man," exclaimed Mr. Merrick, much relieved.
As the yacht swung slowly alongside the dock the Belgian said:
"While you get ready, I will go ashore for news. When I come back--very
quick--then I will know everything."
Before he ran down the ladder Patsy clasped around his arm a band
bearing the insignia of the Red Cross. He watched her approvingly, with
little amused chuckles, and then quickly disappeared in the direction of
"He doesn't seem injured in the least by his accident," said the girl,
looking after him as he darted along.
"No," returned Gys; "he is one of those fellows who must be ripped to
pieces before they can feel anything. But let us thank heaven he can
drive a car."
Mr. Merrick had no difficulty in getting all the assistance required to
lower the two ambulances to the dock. They had already been set up and
put in order, so the moment they were landed they were ready for use.
A few surgical supplies were added by Dr. Gys and then they looked
around for the Belgian. Although scarce an hour had elapsed since he
departed, he came running back just as he was needed, puffing a little
through haste, his eyes shining with enthusiasm.
"Albert is there!" he cried. "The king and his army are at Nieuport.
They will open the dykes and flood all the country but the main road,
and then we can hold the enemy in check. They will fight, those Germans,
but they cannot advance, for we will defend the road and the sand
"Aren't they fighting now?" asked Jones.
"Oh, yes, some of the big guns are spitting, but what is that? A few
will fall, but we have yet thousands to face the German horde."
"Let us start at once," pleaded Maud.
Maurie began to examine the big ambulance. He was spry as a cat. In ten
minutes he knew all that was under the hood, had tested the levers,
looked at the oil and gasoline supply and started the motor.
"I'll sit beside you to help in case of emergency," said Ajo, taking his
place. Dr. Gys, Dr. Kelsey and the three girls sat inside. Patsy had
implored Uncle John not to go on this preliminary expedition and he had
hesitated until the last moment; but the temptation was too strong to
resist and even as the wheels started to revolve he sprang in and closed
the door behind him.
"You are my girls," he said, "and wherever you go, I'll tag along."
Maurie drove straight into the city and to the north gate, Jones
clanging the bell as they swept along. Every vehicle gave them the right
of way and now and then a cheer greeted the glittering new Red Cross
ambulance, which bore above its radiator a tiny, fluttering American
They were not stopped at the gate, for although strict orders had been
issued to allow no one to leave Dunkirk, the officer in charge realized
the sacred mission of the Americans and merely doffed his cap in
salutation as the car flashed by.
The road to Furnes was fairly clear, but as they entered that town they
found the streets cluttered with troops, military automobiles, supply
wagons, artillery, ammunition trucks and bicycles. The boy clanged his
bell continuously and as if by magic the way opened before the Red Cross
and cheers followed them on their way.
The eyes of the little Belgian were sparkling like jewels; his hands on
the steering wheel were steady as a rock; he drove with skill and
judgment. Just now the road demanded skill, for a stream of refugees was
coming toward them from Nieuport and a stream of military motors,
bicycles and wagons, with now and then a horseman, flowed toward the
front. A mile or two beyond Furnes they came upon a wounded soldier, one
leg bandaged and stained with blood while he hobbled along leaning upon
the shoulder of a comrade whose left arm hung helpless.
Maurie drew up sharply and Beth sprang out and approached the soldiers.
"Get inside," she said in French.
"No," replied one, smiling; "we are doing nicely, thank you. Hurry
forward, for they need you there."
"Who dressed your wounds?" she inquired.
"The Red Cross. There are many there, hard at work; but more are needed.
Hurry forward, for some of our boys did not get off as lightly as we."
She jumped into the ambulance and away it dashed, but progress became
slower presently. The road was broad and high; great hillocks of
sand--the Dunes--lay between it and the ocean; on the other side the
water from the opened dykes was already turning the fields into an
inland sea. In some places it lapped the edges of the embankment that
formed the roadway.
Approaching Nieuport, they discovered the Dunes to be full of soldiers,
who had dug pits behind the sandy hillocks for protection, and in them
planted the dog-artillery and one or two large machine guns. These were
trained on the distant line of Germans, who were also entrenching
themselves. All along the edge of the village the big guns were in
action and there was a constant interchange of shot and shell from both
As Maurie dodged among the houses with the big car a shell descended
some two hundred yards to the left of them, exploded with a crash and
sent a shower of brick and splinters high into the air. A little way
farther on the ruins of a house completely blocked the street and they
were obliged to turn back and seek another passage. Thus partially
skirting the town they at last left the houses behind them and
approached the firing line, halting scarcely a quarter of a mile distant
from the actual conflict.
As far as the eye could reach, from Nieuport to the sea at the left, and
on toward Ypres at the right of them, the line of Belgians, French and
British steadily faced the foe. Close to where they halted the ambulance
stood a detachment that had lately retired from the line, their places
having been taken by reserves. One of the officers told Mr. Merrick that
they had been facing bullets since daybreak and the men seemed almost
exhausted. Their faces were blackened by dust and powder and their
uniforms torn and disordered; many stood without caps or coats despite
the chill in the air. And yet these fellows were laughing together and
chatting as pleasantly as children just released from school. Even those
who had wounds made light of their hurts. Clouds of smoke hovered low in
the air; the firing was incessant.
Our girls were thrilled by this spectacle as they had never been
thrilled before--perhaps never might be again. While they still kept
their seats, Maurie started with a sudden jerk, made a sharp turn and
ran the ambulance across a ridge of solid earth that seemed to be the
only one of such character amongst all that waste of sand. It brought
them somewhat closer to the line but their driver drew up behind a great
dune that afforded them considerable protection.
Fifty yards away was another ambulance with its wheels buried to the
hubs in the loose sand. Red Cross nurses and men wearing the emblem on
their arms and caps were passing here and there, assisting the injured
with "first aid," temporarily bandaging heads, arms and legs or carrying
to the rear upon a stretcher a more seriously injured man. Most of this
corps were French; a few were English; some were Belgian. Our friends
were the only Americans on the field.
Uncle John's face was very grave as he alighted in the wake of his
girls, who paid no attention to the fighting but at once ran to assist
some of the wounded who came staggering toward the ambulance, some even
creeping painfully on hands and knees. In all Mr. Merrick's conceptions
of the important mission they had undertaken, nothing like the nature
of this desperate conflict had even dawned upon him. He had known that
the Red Cross was respected by all belligerents, and that knowledge had
led him to feel that his girls would be fairly safe; but never had he
counted on spent bullets, stray shells or the mad rush of a charge.
"Very good!" cried Maurie briskly. "Here we see what no one else can
see. The Red Cross is a fine passport to the grand stand of war."
"Come with me--quick!" shouted Ajo, his voice sounding shrill through
the din. "I saw a fellow knocked out--there--over yonder!"
As he spoke he grabbed a stretcher and ran forward, Maurie following at
his heels. Uncle John saw the smoke swallow them up, saw Beth and Maud
each busy with lint, plasters and bandages, saw Patsy supporting a tall,
grizzled warrior who came limping toward the car. Then he turned and saw
Doctor Gys, crouching low against the protecting sand, his disfigured
face working convulsively and every limb trembling as with an ague.
"Great heavens!" gasped Mr. Merrick, running toward the doctor. "Are you
Gys looked up at him appealingly and nodded.
"Where did it strike you? Was it a bullet--or what?"
The doctor wrung his hands, moaning pitifully. Uncle John bent over him.
"Tell me," he said. "Tell me, Gys!"
"I--I'm scared, sir--s-s-scared stiff. It's that yellow s-s-s-streak in
me; I--I--can't help it, sir." Then he collapsed, crouching lifelessly
close to the sand.
Uncle John was amazed. He drew back with such an expression of scorn
that Gys, lying with face upward, rolled over to hide his own features
in the sand. But his form continued to twist and shake convulsively.
Patsy came up with her soldier, whose gaudy uniform proclaimed him an
officer. He had a rugged, worn face, gray hair and mustache, stern eyes.
His left side was torn and bleeding where a piece of shell had raked him
from shoulder to knee. No moan did he utter as Mr. Merrick and the girl
assisted him to one of the swinging beds, and then Patsy, with white,
set face but steady hands, began at once to cut away the clothing and
get at the wound. This was her first practical experience and she meant
to prove her mettle or perish in the attempt.
Uncle John skipped over to the sand bank and clutched Gys savagely by
"Get up!" he commanded. "Here's a man desperately wounded, who needs
your best skill--and at once."
Gys pulled himself free and sat up, seeming dazed for the moment. Then
he rubbed his head briskly with both hands, collected his nerve and
slowly rose to his feet. He cast fearful glances at the firing line, but
the demand for his surgical skill was a talisman that for a time enabled
him to conquer his terror. With frightened backward glances he ran to
the ambulance and made a dive into it as if a pack of wolves was at his
Safely inside, one glance at the wounded man caused Gys to stiffen
suddenly. He became steady and alert and noting that Patsy had now bared
a portion of the gaping wound the doctor seized a thermos flask of hot
water and in a moment was removing the clotted blood in a deft and
Now came Jones and Maurie bearing the man they had picked up. As they
set the stretcher down, Uncle John came over.
"Shall we put him inside?" asked Mr. Merrick.
"No use, I think," panted the Belgian.
"Where's the doctor?" asked Ajo.
Kelsey, who had been busy elsewhere, now approached and looked at the
soldier on the stretcher.
"The man is dead," he said. "He doesn't need us now."
"Off with him, then!" cried Maurie, and they laid the poor fellow upon
the sand and covered him with a cloth. "Come, then," urged the little
chauffeur, excitedly, "lots more out there are still alive. We get one
They left in a run in one direction while Kelsey, who had come to the
ambulance for supplies, went another way. Mr. Merrick looked around for
the other two girls. Only Maud Stanton was visible through the smoky
haze. Uncle John approached her just as a shell dropped into the sand
not fifty feet away. It did not explode but plowed a deep furrow and
sent a shower of sand in every direction.
Maud had just finished dressing a bullet wound in the arm of a young
soldier who smiled as he watched her. Then, as she finished the work, he
bowed low, muttered his thanks, and catching up his gun rushed back into
the fray. It was a flesh wound and until it grew more painful he could
"Where are the Germans?" asked Uncle John. "I haven't seen one yet."
As he spoke a great cheer rose from a thousand throats. The line before
them wavered an instant and then rushed forward and disappeared in the
smoke of battle.
"Is it a charge, do you think?" asked Maud, as they stood peering into
"I--I don't know," he stammered. "This is so--so bewildering--that it
all seems like a dream. Where's Beth?"
"I don't know."
"Are you looking for a young lady--a nurse?" asked a voice beside them.
"She's over yonder," he swung one arm toward the distant sand dunes. The
other was in a sling. "She has just given me first aid and sent me to
the rear--God bless her!" Then he trailed on, a British Tommy Atkins,
while with one accord Maud and Uncle John moved in the direction he had
"She mustn't be so reckless," said Beth's uncle, nervously. "It's bad
enough back here, but every step nearer the firing line doubles the
"I do not agree with you, sir," answered Maud quietly. "A man was killed
not two paces from me, a little while ago."
He shuddered and wiped the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief,
but made no reply. They climbed another line of dunes and in the hollow
beyond came upon several fallen soldiers, one of whom was moaning with
pain. Maud ran to kneel beside him and in a twinkling had her hypodermic
needle in his arm.
"Bear it bravely," she said in French. "The pain will stop in a few
minutes and then I'll come and look after you."
He nodded gratefully, still moaning, and she hurried to rejoin Mr.
"Beth must be in the next hollow," said Uncle John as she overtook him,
and his voice betrayed his nervous tension. "I do wish you girls would
not be so reckless."
Yes; they found her in the next hollow, where several men were grouped
about her. She was dressing the shattered hand of a soldier, while two
or three others were patiently awaiting her services. Just beside her a
sweet-faced Sister of Mercy was bending over a dying man, comforting him
with her prayers. Over the ridge of sand could be heard the "ping" of
small arms mingled with the hoarse roar of machine guns. Another great
shout--long and enthusiastic--was borne to their ears.
"That is good," said a tall man standing in the group about Beth; "I
think, from the sound, we have captured their guns."
"I'm sure of it, your Majesty," replied the one whom Beth was attending.
"There; that will do for the present. I thank you. And now, let us get
As they ran toward the firing Uncle John exclaimed:
"His Majesty! I wonder who they are?"
"That," said a private soldier, an accent of pride in his voice, "is our
"Yes, monsieur; he is the tall one. The other is General Mays. I'm sure
we have driven the Germans back, and that is lucky, for before our
charge they had come too close for comfort."
"The king gave me a ring," said Beth, displaying it. "He seemed glad I
was here to help his soldiers, but warned me to keep further away from
the line. King Albert speaks English perfectly and told me he loves
America better than any other country except his own."
"He has traveled in your country," explained the soldier. "But then,
our Albert has traveled everywhere--before he was king."
Betwixt them Maud and Beth quickly applied first aid to the others in
the group and then Uncle John said:
"Let us take the king's advice and get back to the ambulance. We left
only Patsy and Dr. Gys there and I'm sure you girls will be needed."
On their return they came upon a man sitting in a hollow and calmly
leaning against a bank of sand, smoking a cigarette. He wore a gray
"Ah, a German!" exclaimed Maud. She ran up to him and asked: "Are you
He glanced at her uniform, nodded, and pointed to his left foot. It had
nearly all been torn away below the ankle. A handkerchief was twisted
about the leg, forming a rude tourniquet just above the wound, and this
had served to stay the flow of blood.
"Run quickly for the stretcher," said Maud to Uncle John. "I will stay
with him until your return."
Without a word he hurried away, Beth following. They found, on reaching
the ambulance, that Maurie and Jones had been busy. Five of the swinging
beds were already occupied.
"Save the other one," said Beth. "Maud has found a German." Then she
hurried to assist Patsy, as the two doctors had their hands full.
Jones and Maurie started away with the stretcher, Uncle John guiding
them to the dunes where Maud was waiting, and presently they had the
wounded German comfortably laid in the last bed.
"Now, then, back to the ship," said Gys. "We have in our care two lives,
at least, that can only be saved by prompt operations."
Maurie got into the driver's seat.
"Careful, now!" cautioned Jones, beside him.
"Of course," replied the Belgian, starting the motor; "there are many
sores inside. But if they get a jolt, now and then, it will serve to
remind them that they are suffering for their country."
He began to back up, for the sand ahead was too deep for a turn, and the
way he managed the huge car along that narrow ridge aroused the
admiration of Ajo, who alone was able to witness the marvelous
performance. Slowly, with many turns, they backed to the road, where
Maurie swung the ambulance around and then stopped with a jerk that drew
several groans from the interior of the car.
"What's wrong?" asked Mr. Merrick, sticking his head from a window.
"We nearly ran over a man," answered Jones, climbing down from his seat.
"Our front wheels are right against him, but Maurie stopped in time."
Lying flat upon his face, diagonally across the roadway, was the form of
a man in the blue-and-red uniform of the Belgian army. Maurie backed the
ambulance a yard or so as Maud sprang out and knelt beside the prostrate
The firing, which had lulled for a few minutes, suddenly redoubled in
fury. There rose a wild, exultant shout, gradually drawing nearer.
"Quick!" shouted Gys, trembling and wringing his hands. "The Germans are
charging. Drive on, man--drive on!"
But Maurie never moved.
"The Germans are charging, sure enough," he answered, as the line of
retreating Belgians became visible. "But they must stop here, for we've
blocked the road."
All eyes but those of Maud were now turned upon the fray, which was
practically a hand to hand conflict. Nearer and nearer came the confused
mass of warriors and then, scarce a hundred yards away, it halted and
the Belgians stood firm.
"He isn't dead," said Maud, coming to the car. "Help me to put him
"There is no room," protested Gys.
The girl looked at him scornfully.
"We will make room," she replied.
A bullet shattered a pane of glass just beside the crouching doctor, but
passed on through an open window without injuring anyone. In fact,
bullets were singing around them with a freedom that made others than
Dr. Gys nervous. It was chubby little Uncle John who helped Jones carry
the wounded man to the ambulance, where they managed to stretch him upon
the floor. This arrangement sent Patsy to the front seat outside, with
Maurie and Ajo, although her uncle strongly protested that she had no
right to expose her precious life so wantonly.
There was little time for argument, however. Even as the girl was
climbing to her seat the line of Belgians broke and came pouring toward
them. Maurie was prompt in starting the car and the next moment the
ambulance was rolling swiftly along the smooth highway in the direction
of Dunkirk and the sounds of fray grew faint behind them.
COURAGE, OR PHILOSOPHY?
"I never realized," said Maud, delightedly, "what a strictly modern,
professional hospital ship Uncle John has made of this, until we put it
to practical use. I am sure it is better than those makeshifts we
observed at Calais, and more comfortable than those crowded hospitals on
land. Every convenience is at our disposal and if our patients do not
recover rapidly it will be because their condition is desperate."
She had just come on deck after a long and trying session in assisting
Doctors Gys and Kelsey to care for the injured, a session during which
Beth and Patsy had also stood nobly to their gruesome task. There were
eleven wounded, altogether, in their care, and although some of these
were in a critical condition the doctors had insisted that the nurses
"It is Dr. Gys who deserves credit for fitting the ship," replied Mr.
Merrick, modestly, to Maud's enthusiastic comment, "and Ajo is
responsible for the ship itself, which seems admirably suited to our
purpose. By the way, how is Gys behaving now? Is he still shaking with
"No, he seems to have recovered his nerve. Isn't it a terrible
"Cowardice? Well, my dear, it is certainly an unusual affliction in this
country and in these times. I have been amazed to-day at the courage I
have witnessed. These Belgians are certainly a brave lot."
"But no braver than the German we brought with us," replied Maud
thoughtfully. "One would almost think he had no sensation, yet he must
be suffering terribly. The doctor will amputate the remnants of his foot
in an hour or so, but the man positively refuses to take an
"Does he speak English or French?"
"No; only German. But Captain Carg understands German and so he has been
acting as our interpreter."
"How about the Belgian we picked up on the road?"
"He hasn't recovered consciousness yet. He is wounded in the back and in
trying to get to the rear became insensible from loss of blood."
"From what I saw I wouldn't suppose any Belgian could be wounded in the
back," remarked Uncle John doubtfully.
"It was a shell," she said, "and perhaps exploded behind him. It's a bad
wound, Dr. Gys says, but if he regains strength he may recover."
During this conversation Patsy Doyle was lying in her stateroom below
and crying bitterly, while her cousin Beth strove to soothe her. All
unused to such horrors as she had witnessed that day, the girl had
managed to retain her nerve by sheer force of will until the Red Cross
party had returned to the ship and extended first aid to the wounded;
but the moment Dr. Gys dismissed her she broke down completely.
Beth was no more accustomed to bloodshed than her cousin, but she had
anticipated such scenes as they had witnessed, inasmuch as her year of
training as nurse had prepared her for them. She had also been a close
student of the daily press and from her reading had gleaned a knowledge
of the terrible havoc wrought by this great war. Had Patsy not given
way, perhaps Beth might have done so herself, and really it was Maud
Stanton who bore the ordeal with the most composure.
After a half hour on deck Maud returned to the hospital section quite
refreshed, and proceeded to care for the patients. She alone assisted
Gys and Kelsey to amputate the German's foot, an operation the man bore
splendidly, quite unaware, however, that they had applied local
anaesthetics to dull the pain. Dr. Gys was a remarkably skillful surgeon
and he gave himself no rest until every one of the eleven had received
such attention as his wounds demanded. Even Kelsey felt the strain by
that time and as Maud expressed her intention of remaining to minister
to the wants of the crippled soldiers, the two doctors went on deck for
a smoke and a brief relaxation.
By this time Beth had quieted Patsy, mainly by letting her have her cry
out, and now brought her on deck to join the others and get the fresh
air. So quickly had events followed one another on this fateful day
that it was now only four o'clock in the afternoon. None of them had
thought of luncheon, so the ship's steward now brought tea and
sandwiches to those congregated on deck.
As they sat together in a group, drinking tea and discussing the
exciting events of the day, little Maurie came sauntering toward them
and removed his cap.
"Your pardon," said he, "but--are the wounded all cared for?"
"As well as we are able to care for them at present," answered Beth.
"And let me thank you, Jakob Maurie--let us all thank you--for the noble
work you did for us to-day."
"Pah! it was nothing," said he, shifting from one foot to another. "I
enjoyed it, mamselle. It was such fun to dive into the battle and pull
out the wounded. It helped them, you see, and it gave us a grand
excitement. Otherwise, had I not gone with you, I would be as ignorant
as all in Dunkirk still are, for the poor people do not yet know what
has happened at the front."
"We hardly know ourselves what has happened," said Uncle John. "We can
hear the boom of guns yet, even at this distance, and we left the battle
line flowing back and forth like the waves of the ocean. Have a cup of
The man hesitated.
"I do not like to disturb anyone," he said slowly, "but if one of the
young ladies is disengaged I would be grateful if she looks at my arm."
"Your arm!" exclaimed Beth, regarding him wonderingly as he stood before
"It is hardly worth mentioning, mamselle, but a bullet--"
"Take off your coat," she commanded, rising from her seat to assist him.
Maurie complied. His shirt was stained with blood. Beth drew out her
scissors and cut away the sleeve of his left arm. A bullet had passed
directly through the flesh, but without harming bone or muscle.
"Why didn't you tell us before?" she asked reproachfully.
"It amounted to so little, beside the other hurts you had to attend," he
answered. "I am shamed, mamselle, that I came to you at all. A little
water and a cloth will make it all right."
Patsy had already gone for the water and in a few minutes Beth was
deftly cleansing the wound.
"How did it happen, Maurie?" asked Jones. "I was with you most of the
time and noticed nothing wrong. Besides, you said nothing about it."
"It was on the road, just as we picked up that fallen soldier with the
hole in his back. The fight jumped toward us pretty quick, you remember,
and while I sat at the wheel the bullet came. I knew when it hit me, but
I also knew I could move my arm, so what did it matter? I told myself to
wait till we got to the ship. Had we stayed there longer, we might all
have stopped bullets--and some bullets might have stopped us." He
grinned, as if the aphorism amused him, and added: "To know when to run
is the perfection of courage."
"Does it hurt?" asked Uncle John, as Beth applied the lint and began
winding the bandage.
"It reminds me it is there, monsieur; but I will be ready for another
trip to-morrow. Thank you, mamselle. Instead of the tea, I would like a
"Give him some in the tea," suggested Gys, noting that Maurie swayed a
little. "Sit down, man, and be comfortable. That's it. I'd give a
million dollars for your nerve."
"Have you so much money?" asked Maurie.
"Then I cannot see that you lack nerve," said the little Belgian
thoughtfully. "I was watching you to-day, M'sieur Doctor, and I believe
what you lack is courage."
Gys stared so hard at him with the one good eye that even Maurie became
embarrassed and turned away his head. Sipping his tea and brandy he
presently resumed, in a casual tone:
"Never have I indulged in work of more interest than this. We go into
the thick of the fight, yet are we safe from harm. We do good to both
sides, because the men who do the fighting are not to blame for the war,
at all. The leaders of politics say to the generals: 'We have declared
war; go and fight.' The generals say to the soldiers: 'We are told to
fight, so come on. We do not know why, but it is our duty, because it is
our profession. So go and die, or get shot to pieces, or lose some arms
and legs, as it may happen.' The business of the soldiers is to obey;
they must back up the policies of their country, right or wrong. But do
those who send them into danger ever get hurt? Not to the naked eye."
"Why, you're quite a philosopher, Maurie," said Patsy.
"It is true," agreed the Belgian. "But philosophy is like courage--easy
to assume. We strut and talk big; we call the politicians sharks, the
soldiers fools; but does it do any good? The war will go on; the enemy
will destroy our homes, separate our families, take away our bread and
leave us to starve; but we have the privilege to philosophize, if we
like. For myself, I thank them for nothing!"
"I suppose you grieve continually for your wife," said Patsy.
"Not so much that, mamselle, but I know she is grieving for me," he
"As soon as we find time," continued the girl, "we intend to search for
your wife and children. I am sure we can find them for you."
Maurie moved uneasily in his chair.
"I beg you to take no trouble on my account," said he. "With the Red
Cross you have great work to accomplish. What is the despair of one poor
Walloon to you?"
"It is a great deal to us, Maurie," returned the girl, earnestly. "You
have been a friend in need; without you we could not have made our dash
to the front to-day. We shall try to repay you by finding your wife."
He was silent, but his troubled look told of busy thoughts.
"What does she look like?" inquired Beth. "Have you her photograph?"
"No; she would not make a good picture, mamselle," he answered with a
sigh. "Clarette is large; she is fat; she has a way of scowling when one
does not bring in more wood than the fire can eat up; and she is very
"With that description I am sure we can find her," cried Patsy
He seemed disturbed.
"If you please," said he plaintively, "Clarette is quite able to take
care of herself. She has a strong will."
"But if you know she is safe it will relieve your anxiety," suggested
Beth. "You told us yesterday you had been searching everywhere for her."
"If I said everywhere, I was wrong, for poor Clarette must be somewhere.
And since yesterday I have been thinking with more deliberation, and I
have decided," he added, his tone becoming confidential, "that it is
better I do not find Clarette just now. It might destroy my usefulness
to the Red Cross."
"But your children!" protested Patsy. "Surely you cannot rest at ease
with your two dear children wandering about, in constant danger."
"To be frank, mamselle," said he, "they are not my children. I had a
baby, but it was killed, as I told you. The boy and girl I have
mentioned were born when Clarette was the wife of another man--a
blacksmith at Dinant--who had a sad habit of beating her."
"But you love the little ones, I am sure."
He shook his head.
"They have somewhat the temper of their father, the blacksmith. I took
them when I took Clarette--just as I took the silver spoons and the
checkered tablespread she brought with her--but now that a cruel fate
has separated me from the children, perhaps it is all for the best."
The doctor gave a snort of disgust, while Ajo smiled. The girls were too
astonished to pursue the conversation, but now realized that Maurie's
private affairs did not require their good offices to untangle. Uncle
John was quite amused at the Belgian's confession and was the only one
"Fate often seems cruel when she is in her happiest mood," said he.
"Perhaps, Maurie, your Clarette will come to you without your seeking
her, for all Belgium seems headed toward France just now. What do you
think? Will the Germans capture Dunkirk?"
The man brightened visibly at this turn in the conversation.
"Not to-day, sir; not for days to come," he replied. "The French cannot
afford to lose Dunkirk, and by to-morrow they will pour an irresistible
horde against the German invader. If we stay here, we are sure to remain
in the rear of the firing line."
THE WAR'S VICTIMS
While the others were conversing on deck Maud Stanton was ministering to
the maimed victims of the war's cruelty, who tossed and moaned below.
The main cabin and its accompanying staterooms had been fitted with all
the conveniences of a modern hospital. Twenty-two could easily be
accommodated in the rooms and a dozen more in the cabin, so that the
eleven now in their charge were easily cared for. Of these, only three
had been seriously injured. One was the German, who, however, was now
sleeping soundly under the influence of the soothing potion that
followed his operation. The man's calmness and iron nerve indicated that
he would make a rapid recovery. Another was the young Belgian soldier
picked up in the roadway near the firing line, who had been shot in the
back and had not yet recovered consciousness. Dr. Gys had removed
several bits of exploded shell and dressed the wound, shaking his head
discouragingly. But since the young man was still breathing, with a
fairly regular respiration, no attempt was made to restore him to his
The third seriously injured was a French sergeant whose body was
literally riddled with shrapnel. A brief examination had convinced Gys
that the case was hopeless.
"He may live until morning," was the doctor's report as he calmly looked
down upon the moaning sergeant, "but no longer. Meanwhile, we must
prevent his suffering."
This he accomplished by means of powerful drugs. The soldier soon lay in
a stupor, awaiting the end, and nothing more could be done for him.
Of the others, two Belgians with bandaged heads were playing a quiet
game of écarté in a corner of the cabin, while another with a slight
wound in his leg was stretched upon a couch, reading a book. A young
French officer who had lost three fingers of his hand was cheerfully
conversing with a comrade whose scalp had been torn by a bullet and who
declared that in two days he would return to the front. The others Maud
found asleep in their berths or lying quietly to ease their pain. It was
remarkable, however, how little suffering was caused these men by flesh
wounds, once they were properly dressed and the patients made
comfortable with food and warmth and the assurance of proper care.
So it was that Maud found her duties not at all arduous this evening.
Indeed, the sympathy she felt for these brave men was so strong that it
wearied her more than the actual work of nursing them. A sip of water
here, a cold compress there, the administration of medicines to keep
down or prevent fever, little attentions of this character were all that
were required. Speaking French fluently, she was able to converse with
all those under her charge and all seemed eager to relate to their
beautiful nurse their experiences, hopes and griefs. Soon she realized
she was beginning to learn more of the true nature of war than she had
ever gleaned from the correspondents of the newspapers.
When dinner was served in the forward cabin Beth relieved Maud and after
the evening meal Dr. Gys made another inspection of his patients. All
seemed doing well except the young Belgian. The condition of the French
sergeant was still unchanged. Some of those with minor injuries were
ordered on deck for a breath of fresh air.
Patsy relieved Beth at midnight and Maud came on duty again at six
o'clock, having had several hours of refreshing sleep. She found Patsy
trembling with nervousness, for the sergeant had passed away an hour
previous and the horror of the event had quite upset the girl.
"Oh, it is all so unnecessary!" she wailed as she threw herself into
"We must steel ourselves to such things, dear," said Maud, soothing her,
"for they will be of frequent occurrence, I fear. And we must be
grateful and glad that we were able to relieve the poor man's anguish
and secure for him a peaceful end."
"I know," answered Patsy with a little sob, "but it's so dreadful. Oh,
what a cruel, hateful thing war is!"
From papers found on the sergeant Uncle John was able to notify his
relatives of his fate. His home was in a little village not fifty miles
away and during the day a brother arrived to take charge of the remains
and convey them to their last resting place.
The following morning Captain Carg was notified by the authorities to
withdraw the Arabella to an anchorage farther out in the bay, and
thereafter it became necessary to use the two launches for intercourse
between the ship and the city. Continuous cannonading could be heard
from the direction of Nieuport, Dixmude and Ypres, and it was evident
that the battle had doubled in intensity at all points, owing to heavy
reinforcements being added to both sides. But, as Maurie had predicted,
the Allies were able to hold the foe at bay and keep them from advancing
a step farther.
Uncle John had not been at all satisfied with that first day's
experience at the front. He firmly believed it was unwise, to the verge
of rashness, to allow the girls to place themselves in so dangerous a
position. During a serious consultation with Jones, Kelsey, Captain
Carg and Dr. Gys, the men agreed upon a better plan of procedure.
"The three nurses have plenty to do in attending to the patients in our
hospital," said Gys, "and when the ship has its full quota of wounded
they will need assistance or they will break down under the strain. Our
young ladies are different from the professional nurses; they are so
keenly sensitive that they suffer from sympathy with every patient that
comes under their care."
"I do not favor their leaving the ship," remarked Dr. Kelsey, the mate.
"There seems to be plenty of field workers at the front, supplied by the
governments whose troops are fighting."
"Therefore," added Jones, "we men must assume the duty of driving the
ambulances and bringing back the wounded we are able to pick up. As
Maurie is too stiff from his wound to drive to-day, I shall undertake
the job myself. I know the way, now, and am confident I shall get along
nicely. Who will go with me?"
"I will, of course," replied Kelsey quietly.
"Doctor Gys will be needed on the ship," asserted Uncle John.
"Yes, it will be best to leave me here," said Gys. "I'm too great a
coward to go near the firing line again. It destroys my usefulness, and
Kelsey can administer first aid as well as I."
"In that case, I think I shall take the small ambulance to-day," decided
Ajo. "With Dr. Kelsey and one of the sailors we shall manage very well."
A launch took them ashore, where the ambulances stood upon the dock.
Maurie had admitted his inability to drive, but asked to be allowed to
go into the town. So he left the ship with the others and disappeared
for the day.
Ajo took the same route he had covered before, in the direction of
Nieuport, but could not get within five miles of the town, which was now
held by the Germans. From Furnes to the front the roads were packed with
reinforcements and wagon trains bearing ammunition and supplies, and
further progress with the ambulance was impossible.
However, a constant stream of wounded flowed to the rear, some with
first aid bandages covering their injuries, others as yet uncared for.
Kelsey chose those whom he considered most in need of surgical care or
skillful nursing, and by noon the ambulance was filled to overflowing.
It was Jones who advised taking none of the fatally injured, as the army
surgeons paid especial attention to these. The Americans could be of
most practical use, the boy considered, by taking in charge such as had
a chance to recover. So nine more patients were added to the ship's
colony on this occasion, all being delivered to the care of Dr. Gys
without accident or delay--a fact that rendered Ajo quite proud of his
While the ambulance was away the girls quietly passed from berth to
berth, encouraging and caring for their wounded. It was surprising how
interested they became in the personality of these soldiers, for each
man was distinctive either in individuality or the character of his
injury, and most of them were eager to chat with their nurses and
anxious for news of the battle.
During the morning the young Belgian who had lain until now in a
stupor, recovered consciousness. He had moaned once or twice, drawing
Maud to his side, but hearing a different sound from him she approached
the berth where he lay, to find his eyes wide open. Gradually he turned
them upon his nurse, as if feeling her presence, and after a moment of
observation he sighed and then smiled wanly.
"Still on earth?" he said in French.
"I am so glad," she replied. "You have been in dreamland a long time."
He tried to move and it brought a moan to his lips.
"Don't stir," she counseled warningly; "you are badly wounded."
He was silent for a time, staring at the ceiling. She held some water to
his lips and he drank eagerly. Finally he said in a faint voice:
"I remember, now. I had turned to reload and it hit me in the back. A
"Part of a shell."
"Ah, I understand.... I tried to get to the rear. The pain was terrible.
No one seemed to notice me. At last I fell, and--then I slept. I
thought it was the end."
She bathed his forehead, saying:
"You must not talk any more at present. Here comes the doctor to see
Gys, busy in the cabin, had heard their voices and now came to look at
his most interesting patient. The soldier seemed about twenty years of
age; he was rather handsome, with expressive eyes and features bearing
the stamp of culture. Already they knew his name, by means of an
identification card found upon him, as well as a small packet of letters
carefully pinned in an inner pocket of his coat. These last were all
addressed in the same handwriting, which was undoubtedly feminine, to
Andrew Denton. The card stated that Andrew Denton, private, was formerly
an insurance agent at Antwerp.
Doctor Gys had rather impatiently awaited the young man's return to
consciousness that he might complete his examination. He now devoted the
next half hour to a careful diagnosis of Denton's injuries. By this time
the patient was suffering intense pain and a hypodermic injection of
morphine was required to relieve him. When at last he was quietly
drowsing the doctor called Maud aside to give her instructions.
"Watch him carefully," said he, "and don't let him suffer. Keep up the
"There is no hope, then?" she asked.
"Not the slightest. He may linger for days--even weeks, if we sustain
his strength--but recovery is impossible. That bit of shell tore a
horrible hole in the poor fellow and all we can do is keep him
comfortable until the end. Without the morphine he would not live twelve
"Shall I let him talk?"
"If he wishes to. His lungs are not involved, so it can do him no harm."
But Andrew Denton did not care to talk any more that day. He wanted to
think, and lay quietly until Beth came on duty. To her he gave a smile
and a word of thanks and again lapsed into thoughtful silence.
When Ajo brought the new consignment of wounded to the ship the doctors
and nurses found themselves pretty busy for a time. With wounds to dress
and one or two slight operations to perform, the afternoon passed
swiftly away. The old patients must not be neglected, either, so Captain
Carg said he would sit with the German and look after him, as he was
able to converse with the patient in his own tongue.
The German was resting easily to-day but proved as glum and
uncommunicative as ever. That did not worry the captain, who gave the
man a cigarette and, when it was nonchalantly accepted, lighted his own
pipe. Together they sat in silence and smoked, the German occupying an
easy chair and resting his leg upon a stool, for he had refused to lie
in a berth. Through the open window the dull boom of artillery could
constantly be heard. After an hour or so:
"A long fight," remarked the captain in German.
The other merely looked at him, contemplatively. Carg stared for five
minutes at the bandaged foot. Finally:
"Hard luck," said he.
This time the German nodded, looking at the foot also.
"In America," resumed the captain, puffing slowly, "they make fine
artificial feet. Walk all right. Look natural."
"Vienna," said the German.
"Yes, I suppose so." Another pause.
"Name?" asked the German, with startling abruptness. But the other never
"Carg. I'm a sailor. Captain of this ship. Live in Sangoa, when ashore."
"Island in South Seas."
The wounded man reached for another cigarette and lighted it.
"Carg," he repeated, musingly. "German?"
"Why, my folks were, I believe. I've relations in Germany, yet. Munich.
Visited them once, when a boy. Mother's name was Elbl. The Cargs lived
next door to the Elbls. But they've lost track of me, and I of them.
Nothing in common, you see."
The German finished his cigarette, looking at the captain at times
reflectively. Carg, feeling his biography had not been appreciated, had
lapsed into silence. At length the wounded man began feeling in his
breast pocket--an awkward operation because the least action disturbed
the swathed limb--and presently drew out a leather card case. With much
deliberation he abstracted a card and handed it to the captain, who put
on his spectacles and read:
"Otto Elbl. 12th Uhlans"
"Oh," he said, looking up to examine the German anew. "Otto Elbl of
"H-m. Number 121 Friedrichstrasse?"
"I didn't see you when I visited your family. They said you were at
college. Your father was William Elbl, my mother's brother."
The German stretched out his hand and gripped the fist of the captain.
"Cousins," he said.
Carg nodded, meditating.
"To be sure," he presently returned; "cousins. Have another cigarette."
PATSY IS DEFIANT
That evening the captain joined Dr. Gys on deck.
"That German, Lieutenant Elbl," he began.
"Oh, is that his name?" asked Gys.
"Yes. Will he get well?"
"Certainly. What is a foot, to a man like him? But his soldiering days
"Perhaps that's fortunate," returned the captain, ruminatively. "When I
was a boy, his father was burgomaster--mayor--in Munich. People said he
was well-to-do. The Germans are thrifty, so I suppose there's still
money in the Elbl family."
"Money will do much to help reconcile the man to the loss of his foot,"
declared the doctor.
"Will he suffer much pain, while it is getting well?"
"Not if I can help it. The fellow bears pain with wonderful fortitude.
When I was in Yucatan, and had to slash my face to get out the poisoned
darts of the cactus, I screamed till you could have heard me a mile. And
I had no anaesthetic to soothe me. Your lieutenant never whimpered or
cringed with his mangled foot and he refused morphine when I operated on
it. But I fooled him. I hate to see a brave man suffer. I stuck a needle
just above the wound when he wasn't looking, and I've doped his medicine
"Thank you," said Carg; "he's my cousin."
In the small hours of the next morning, while Patsy was on duty in the
hospital section, the young Belgian became wakeful and restless. She
promptly administered a sedative and sat by his bedside. After a little
his pain was eased and he became quiet, but he lay there with wide open
"Can I do anything more for you?" she asked.
"If you would be so kind," replied Andrew Denton.
"Please read to me some letters you will find in my pocket. I cannot
read them myself, and--they will comfort me."
Patsy found the packet of letters.
"The top one first," he said eagerly. "Read them all!"
She opened the letter reluctantly. It was addressed in a dainty, female
hand and the girl had the uncomfortable feeling that she was about to
pry into personal relations of a delicate character.
"Your sweetheart?" she asked gently.
"Yes, indeed; my sweetheart and my wife."
"Oh, I see. And have you been married long?" He seemed a mere boy.
"Five months, but for the last two I have not seen her."
The letters were dated at Charleroi and each one began: "My darling
husband." Patsy read the packet through, from first to last, her eyes
filling with tears at times as she noted the rare devotion and
passionate longing of the poor young wife and realized that the boyish
husband was even now dying, a martyr to his country's cause. The
letters were signed "Elizabeth." In one was a small photograph of a
sweet, dark-eyed girl whom she instantly knew to be the bereaved wife.
"And does she still live at Charleroi?" Patsy asked.
"I hope so, mademoiselle; with her mother. The Germans now occupy the
town, but you will notice the last letter states that all citizens are
treated courteously and with much consideration, so I do not fear for
The reading of the letters, in conjunction with the opiate, seemed to
comfort him, for presently he fell asleep. With a heavy heart the girl
left him to attend to her other patients and at three o'clock Ajo came
in and joined her, to relieve the tedium of the next three hours. The
boy knew nothing of nursing, but he could help Patsy administer potions
and change compresses and his presence was a distinct relief to her.
The girl was supposed to sleep from six o'clock--at which time she was
relieved from duty--until one in the afternoon, but the next morning at
eight she walked into the forward salon, where her friends were at
breakfast, and sat down beside Uncle John.
"I could not sleep," said she, "because I am so worried over Andrew
"That is foolish, my dear," answered Mr. Merrick, affectionately patting
the hand she laid in his. "The doctor says poor Denton cannot recover.
If you're going to take to heart all the sad incidents we encounter on
this hospital ship, it will not only ruin your usefulness but destroy
"Exactly so," agreed Gys, coming into the salon in time to overhear this
remark. "A nurse should be sympathetic, but impersonally so."
"Denton has been married but five months," said Patsy. "I have seen his
wife's picture--she's a dear little girl!--and her letters to him are
full of love and longing. She doesn't know, of course, of his--his
accident--or that he--he--" Her voice broke with a sob she could not
"M-m," purred Uncle John; "where does she live, this young wife?"
"Well; the Germans are there."
"Yes, Uncle. But don't you suppose they would let her come to see her
"A young girl, unprotected? Would it be--safe?"
"The Germans," remarked Captain Carg from his end of the table, "are
very decent people."
"Ahem!" said Uncle John.
"Some of them, I've no doubt, are quite respectable," observed Ajo; "but
from all reports the rank and file, in war time, are--rather unpleasant
"Precisely," agreed Uncle John. "I think, Patsy dear, it will be best to
leave this Belgian girl in ignorance of her husband's fate."
"I, myself, have a wife," quoth little Maurie, with smug assurance, "but
she is not worrying about me, wherever she may be; nor do I feel
especial anxiety for Clarette. A woman takes what comes--especially if
she is obliged to."
Patsy regarded him indignantly.
"There are many kinds of women," she began.
"Thank heaven!" exclaimed Maurie, and then she realized how futile it
was to argue with him.
A little later she walked on deck with Uncle John and pleaded her cause
earnestly. It was said by those who knew him well that the kindly little
gentleman was never able to refuse Patsy anything for long, and he was
himself so well aware of this weakness that he made a supreme effort to
resist her on this occasion.
"You and I," said she, "would have no trouble in passing the German
lines. We are strictly neutral, you know, we Americans, and our
passports and the Red Cross will take us anywhere in safety."
"It won't do, my dear," he replied. "You've already been in danger
enough for one war. I shudder even now as I think of those bullets and
shells at Nieuport."
"But we can pass through at some place where they are not fighting."
"Show me such a place!"
"And distances are very small in this part of the Continent. We could
get to Charleroi in a day, and return the next day with Mrs. Denton."
"The doctor says he may live for several days, but it may be only for
hours. If you could see his face light up when he speaks of her, you
would realize what a comfort her presence would be to him."
"I understand that, Patsy. But can't you see, my dear, that we're not
able to do everything for those poor wounded soldiers? You have twenty
in your charge now, and by to-night there may be possibly a dozen more.
Many of them have wives at home, but--"
"But all are not dying, Uncle--and after only five months of married
life, three of which they passed together. Here, at least, is one brave
heart we may comfort, one poor woman who will be ever grateful for our
Mr. Merrick coughed. He wiped his eyes and blew his nose on his pink
bordered handkerchief. But he made no promise.
Patsy left him and went to Ajo.
"See here," she said; "I'm going to Charleroi in an hour."
"It's a day's journey, Patsy."
"I mean I'm going to start in an hour. Will you go with me?"
"What does Uncle John say?" he inquired cautiously.
"I don't care what he says. I'm going!" she persisted, her eyes blazing
The boy whistled softly, studying her face. Then he walked across the
deck to Mr. Merrick.
"Patsy is rampant, sir," said he. "She won't be denied. Go and argue
with her, please."
"I have argued," returned Uncle John weakly.
"Well, argue again."
The little man cast a half frightened, half reproachful glance at his
"Let's go and consult the doctor," he exclaimed, and together Uncle John
and Ajo went below.
To their surprise, Gys supported Patsy's plea.
"He's a fine fellow, this Denton," said he, "and rather above the
average soldier. Moreover, his case is a pitiful one. I'll agree to keep
him alive until his wife comes."
Uncle John looked appealingly at Ajo.
"How on earth can we manage to cross the lines?" he asked.
"Take one of our launches," said the boy.
"Skim the coast to Ostend, and you'll avoid danger altogether."
"That's the idea!" exclaimed the doctor approvingly. "Why, it's the
easiest thing in the world, sir."
Uncle John began to feel slightly reassured.
"Who will run the launch?" he inquired.
"I'll give you the captain and one of the men," said the boy. "Carg's an
old traveler and knows more than he appears to. Besides, he speaks
German. We can't spare very many, you understand, and the ambulances
will keep Maurie and me pretty busy. Patsy will be missed, too, from the
hospital ward, so you must hurry back."
"Two days ought to accomplish our object," said Uncle John.
"Easily," agreed Gys. "I've arranged for a couple of girls from the town
to come and help us to-day, for I must save the strength of my expert
nurses as much as possible, and I'll keep them with us until you return.
The French girls are not experienced in nursing, but I'll take Miss
Patsy's watch myself, so we shall get along all right."
Mr. Merrick and Jones returned to the deck.
"Well?" demanded Patsy.
"Get ready," said Uncle John; "we leave in an hour."
"Of course; unless you've changed your mind."
Patsy flew to her stateroom.
THE OTHER SIDE
The launch in which they embarked bore the Red Cross on its sides, and
an American flag floated from the bow and a Red Cross flag from the
stern. Its four occupants wore the Red Cross uniforms. Yet three miles
out of Dunkirk a shot came singing across their prow and they were
obliged to lay to until a British man-of-war could lower a boat to
investigate their errand. The coast is very shallow in this section,
which permits boats of only the lightest draught to navigate in-shore,
but the launch was able to skim over the surface at twelve miles an
"This is pleasant!" grumbled Uncle John, as they awaited the approach of
the warship's boat. "Our very appearance ought to insure us safe
conduct, but I suppose that in these times every craft is regarded with
The boat came alongside.
"Where are you going?" demanded an officer, gruffly.
"On what business?"
"Our own," replied Mr. Merrick.
"Be respectful, sir, or I'll arrest your entire outfit," warned the
"You'll do nothing of the sort," declared Mr. Merrick. "You'll examine
our papers, apologize for your interference and row back to your ship.
We have the authority of the Red Cross to go wherever our duty calls us,
and moreover we're American citizens. Permit me to add that we're in a
The officer turned first white and then red, but he appreciated the
force of the argument.
"Your papers!" he commanded.
Uncle John produced them and waited patiently for their inspection,
which was very deliberate. Finally the officer returned them and gave
the order to his men to row back to the ship.
"One moment!" called Uncle John. "You haven't made the apology."
There was no answer. The boat moved swiftly away and at a gesture from
Captain Carg the sailor started the launch again.
"I wonder why it is," mused Mr. Merrick, "that there is always this
raspy feeling when the English meet Americans. On the surface we're
friendly enough and our governments always express in diplomatic
relations the most cordial good will; but I've always noticed in the
English individual an undercurrent of antipathy for Americans that
cannot be disguised. As a race the English hate us, I'm positive, and I
"I believe you're wrong, Uncle," remarked Patsy. "A few of the British
may individually dislike us, but I'm sure the two nations are not
antagonistic. Why should they be?"
"Yorktown," muttered the captain.
"I don't believe it," declared the girl. "They're too good sportsmen to
"All the same," persisted Uncle John, "the English have never favored us
as the French have, or even the Russians."
From Dunkirk to Ostend, by the coast line, is only some twenty-five
miles, yet although they started at a little after eleven o'clock it was
three in the afternoon before they finally landed at the Belgian
seaport. Interruptions were numerous, and although they were treated
courteously, in the main, it was only after rigid questioning and a
thorough examination that they were permitted to proceed. A full hour
was consumed at the harbor at Ostend before they could even land.
As they stepped upon the wharf a group of German soldiers met them and
now Captain Carg became the spokesman of the party. The young officer in
command removed his helmet to bow deferentially to Patsy and then turned
to ask their business at Ostend.
"He says we must go before the military governor," said Carg,
translating. "There, if our papers are regular, permits will be issued
for us to proceed to Charleroi."
They left the sailor in charge of the launch, which was well provisioned
and contained a convertible bunk, and followed the officer into the
town. Ostend is a large city, fortified, and was formerly one of the
most important ports on the North Sea, as well as a summer resort of
prominence. The city now being occupied by the Germans, our friends
found few citizens on the streets of Ostend and these hurried nervously
on their way. The streets swarmed with German soldiery.
Arriving at headquarters they found that the commandant was too busy to
attend to the Red Cross Americans. He ordered them taken before Colonel
Grau for examination.
"But why examine us at all?" protested Mr. Merrick. "Doesn't our sacred
mission protect us from such annoying details?"
The young officer regretted that it did not. They would find Colonel
Grau in one of the upper rooms. It would be a formal examination, of
course, and brief. But busy spies had even assumed the insignia of the
Red Cross to mask their nefarious work and an examination was therefore
necessary as a protective measure. So they ascended a broad staircase
and proceeded along a corridor to the colonel's office.
Grau was at the head of the detective service at Ostend and invested
with the task of ferreting out the numerous spies in the service of the
Allies and dealing with them in a summary manner. He was a very stout
man, and not very tall. His eyes were light blue and his grizzled
mustache was a poor imitation of that affected by the Kaiser. When Grau
looked up, on their entrance, Patsy decided that their appearance had
startled him, but presently she realized that the odd expression was
In a chair beside the colonel's desk sat, or rather lounged, another
officer, encased in a uniform so brilliant that it arrested the eye
before one could discover its contents. These were a wizened,
weather-beaten man of advanced age, yet rugged as hickory. His eyes had
a periodical squint; his brows wore a persistent frown. There was a
broad scar on his left cheek and another across his forehead. A warrior
who had seen service, probably, but whose surly physiognomy was somewhat
The two officers had been in earnest conversation, but when Mr.
Merrick's party was ushered in, the elder man leaned back in his chair,
squinting and scowling, and regarded them silently.
"Huh!" exclaimed the colonel, in a brusque growl. "What is it, von
The young officer explained that the party had just arrived from Dunkirk
in a launch; the commandant had asked Colonel Grau kindly to examine
them. Uncle John proceeded to state the case, Captain Carg interpreting.
They operated a Red Cross hospital ship at Dunkirk, and one of their
patients, a young Belgian, was dying of his wounds. They had come to
find his young wife and take her back with them to Dunkirk in their
launch, that she might comfort the last moments of her husband. The
Americans asked for safe conduct to Charleroi, and permission to take
Mrs. Denton with them to Dunkirk. Then he presented his papers,
including the authority of the American Red Cross Society, the letter
from the secretary of state and the recommendation of the German
ambassador at Washington.
The colonel looked them all over. He uttered little guttural
exclamations and tapped the desk with his finger-tips as he read, and
all the time his face wore that perplexing expression of surprise.
Finally he asked:
"Which is Mr. Merrick?"
Hearing his name, Uncle John bowed.
"Huh! But the description does not fit you."
Captain Carg translated this.
"Why not?" demanded Uncle John.
"It says you are short, stout, blue-eyed, bald, forty-five years of
"You are not short; I think you are as tall as I am. Your eyes are not
blue; they are olive green. You are not bald, for there is still hair
over your ears. Huh! How do you explain that?"
"It's nonsense," said Uncle John scornfully.
Carg was more cautious in interpreting the remark. He assured the
colonel, in German, that the description of Mr. Merrick was considered
close enough for all practical purposes. But Grau was not satisfied. He
went over the papers again and then turned to face the other officer.
"What do you think, General?" he asked, hesitatingly.
"Suspicious!" was the reply.
"I think so, myself," said the colonel. "Mark you: Here's a man who
claims to come from Sangoa, a place no one has ever heard of; and the
other has endorsements purporting to come from the highest officials in
America. Huh! what does it mean?"
"Papers may be forged, or stolen from their proper owners," suggested
the squinting general. "This excuse of coming here to get the wife of a
hurt Belgian seems absurd. If they are really Red Cross workers, they
are not attending to their proper business."
When the captain interpreted this speech Patsy said angrily:
"The general is an old fool."
"An idiot, I'll call him," added Uncle John. "I wish I could tell him
"You have told him," said the general in good English, squinting now
more rapidly than ever, "and your manner of speech proves you to be
impostors. I have never known a respectable Red Cross nurse, of any
country, who called a distinguished officer a fool--and to his face."
"I didn't know you understood English," she said.
"That is no excuse!"
"But I did know," she added, "that I had judged you correctly. No one
with a spark of intelligence could doubt the evidence of these papers."
"The papers are all right. Where did you get them?"
"From the proper authorities."
He turned to speak rapidly in German to Colonel Grau, who had been
uneasy during the conversation in English, because he failed to
understand it. His expression of piquant surprise was intensified as he
now turned to the Americans.
"You may as well confess your imposture," said he. "It will make your
punishment lighter. However, if on further examination you prove to be
spies, your fate is beyond my power to mitigate."
"See here," said Uncle John, when this was translated to him, "if you
dare to interfere with us, or cause us annoyance, I shall insist on your
being courtmartialed. You are responsible to your superiors, I suppose,
and they dare not tolerate an insult to the Red Cross, nor to an
American citizen. You may have the sense to consider that if these
papers and letters are genuine, as I declare they are, I have friends
powerful enough to bring this matter before the Kaiser himself, in which
case someone will suffer a penalty, even if he is a general or a
As he spoke he glared defiantly at the older officer, who calmly
proceeded to translate the speech to the colonel. Carg reported that it
was translated verbatim. Then the general sat back and squinted at his
companion, who seemed fairly bewildered by the threat. Patsy caught the
young officer smothering a smile, but neither of them interrupted the
silence that followed.
Once again the colonel picked up the papers and gave them a rigid
examination, especially that of the German ambassador, which was written
in his own language. "I cannot understand," he muttered, "how one
insignificant American citizen could secure such powerful endorsements.
It has never happened before in my experience."
"It is extraordinary," said the general.
"Mr. Merrick," said Patsy to him, "is a very important man in America.
He is so important that any indignity to him will be promptly resented."
"I will investigate your case further," decided Colonel Grau, after
another sotto voce conference with the general. "Spies are getting to be
very clever, these days, and we cannot take chances. However, I assure
you there is no disposition to worry you and until your standing is
determined you will be treated with every consideration."
"Do you mean that we are prisoners?" asked Uncle John, trying to control
"No, indeed. You will be detained, of course, but you are not
prisoners--as yet. I will keep your papers and submit them to the
general staff. It will be for that august body to decide."
Uncle John protested vigorously; Patsy faced the old general and told
him this action was an outrage that would be condemned by the entire
civilized world; Captain Carg gravely assured both officers that they
were making a serious mistake. But nothing could move the stolid
Germans. The general, indeed, smiled grimly and told them in English
that he was in no way responsible, whatever happened. This was Colonel
Grau's affair, but he believed, nevertheless, that the colonel was
The young officer, who had stood like a statue during the entire
interview, was ordered to accompany the Americans to a hotel, where they
must be kept under surveillance but might follow, to an extent, their
own devices. They were not to mail letters nor send telegrams.
The officer asked who should guard the suspects.
"Why not yourself, Lieutenant? You are on detached duty, I believe?"
"At the port, Colonel."
"There are too many officers at the port; it is a sinecure. I will
appoint you to guard the Americans. You speak their language, I
The young man bowed.
"Very well; I shall hold you responsible for their safety."
They were then dismissed and compelled to follow their guard from the
Patsy was now wild with rage and Uncle John speechless. Even Carg was
"Do not mind," said the young lieutenant consolingly. "It is merely a
temporary inconvenience, you know, for your release will come very soon.
And since you are placed in my care I beg you to accept this delay with
good grace and be happy as possible. Ostend is full of life and I am
conducting you to an excellent hotel."
The courtesy of Lieutenant von Holtz was beyond criticism. He obtained
for his charges a comfortable suite of rooms in an overcrowded hotel,
obliging the landlord to turn away other guests that Mr. Merrick's party
might be accommodated. The dinner that was served in their cosy sitting
room proved excellent, having been ordered by von Holtz after he had
requested that privilege. When the young officer appeared to see that it
was properly served, Patsy invited him to join them at the table and he
"You are one of our party, by force of circumstances," said the girl,
"and since we've found you good-natured and polite, and believe you are
not to blame for our troubles, we may as well be friendly while we are
The young man was evidently well pleased.
"However evil your fortune may be," said he, "I cannot fail to be
impressed by my own good luck. Perhaps you may guess what a relief this
pleasant commission is to one who for days has been compelled to patrol
those vile smelling docks, watching for spies and enduring all sorts of
"To think," said Uncle John gloomily, "that we are accused of being
"It is not for me," returned von Holtz, "to criticize the acts of my
superiors. I may say, however, that were it my province to decide the
question, you would now be free. Colonel Grau has an excellent record
for efficiency and seldom makes a mistake, but I suspect his judgment
was influenced by the general, whose son was once jilted by an American
"We're going to get even with them both, before this affair is ended,"
declared Patsy, vindictively; "but although you are our actual jailer I
promise that you will escape our vengeance."
"My instructions are quite elastic, as you heard," said the lieutenant.
"I am merely ordered to keep you in Ostend, under my eye, until your
case has been passed upon by the commandant or the general staff. Since
you have money, you may enjoy every luxury save that of travel, and I
ask you to command my services in all ways consistent with my duty."
"What worries me," said Patsy to Uncle John, "is the delay. If we are
kept here for long, poor Denton will die before we can find his wife and
take her to him."
"How long are we liable to be detained?" Uncle John asked the officer.
"I cannot say. Perhaps the council of the general staff will meet
to-morrow morning; perhaps not for several days," was the indefinite
Patsy wiped away the tears that began to well into her eyes. She had so
fondly set her heart on reuniting the Dentons that her disappointment
was very great.
Von Holtz noticed the girl's mood and became thoughtful. Captain Carg
had remained glum and solemn ever since they had left the colonel's
office. Uncle John sat in silent indignation, wondering what could be
done to influence these stupid Germans. Presently the lieutenant
"That sailor whom you left with the launch seemed an intelligent
Patsy gave a start; Uncle John looked at the young man expectantly; the
captain nodded his head as he slowly replied:
"Henderson is one of the picked men I brought from Sangoa. He is both
intelligent and loyal."
"Curiously enough," said von Holtz, "I neglected to place the man under
arrest. I even forgot to report him. He is free."
"Ah!" exclaimed Patsy, her eyes lighting.
"I know a civilian here--a bright young Belgian--who is my friend and
will do anything I ask of him," resumed von Holtz, still musingly. "I
had the good fortune to protect his mother when our troops entered the
city, and he is grateful."
Patsy was thinking very fast now.
"Could Henderson get to Charleroi, do you imagine?" she asked. "He has a
"We do not consider passports of much value," said the officer; "but a
Red Cross appointment--"
"Oh, he has that, too; all our men carry them."
"In that case, with my friend Rondel to guide him, I believe Henderson
could accomplish your errand."
"Let us send for him at once!" exclaimed Uncle John.
Carg scribbled on a card.
"He wouldn't leave the launch without orders, unless forced by the
Germans," asserted the captain, and handed the card to von Holtz.
The young lieutenant took his cap, bowed profoundly and left the room.
In ten minutes he returned, saying: "I am not so fortunate as I had
thought. All our troops are on the move, headed for the Yser. There will
be fighting, presently, and--I must remain here," he added despondently.
"It won't be your last chance, I'm sure," said Patsy. "Will that
dreadful Colonel Grau go, too?"
"No; he is to remain. But all regiments quartered here are now marching
out and to-morrow a fresh brigade will enter Ostend."
They were silent a time, until someone rapped upon the door. Von Holtz
admitted a slim, good-looking young Belgian who grasped his hand and
said eagerly in French:
"You sent for me?"
"Yes. You may speak English here, Monsieur Rondel." Then he presented
his friend to the Americans, who approved him on sight.
Henderson came a few minutes later and listened respectfully to the plan
Miss Doyle unfolded. He was to go with Monsieur Rondel to Charleroi,
find Mrs. Denton, explain that her husband was very ill, and bring her
back with him to Ostend. He would report promptly on his return and they
would tell him what to do next.
The man accepted the mission without a word of protest. Charleroi was in
central Belgium, but that did not mean many miles away and Rondel
assured him they would meet with no difficulties. The trains were
reserved for soldiers, but the Belgian had an automobile and a German
permit to drive it. The roads were excellent.
"Now, remember," said Patsy, "the lady you are going for is Mrs. Albert
Denton. She lives with her mother, or did, the last we heard of her."
"And her mother's name and address?" inquired Henderson.
"We are ignorant of either," she confessed; "but it's not a very big
town and I'm sure you'll easily find her."
"I know the place well," said Rondel, "and I have friends residing there
who will give me information."
Uncle John supplied them liberally with money, impressed upon them the
necessity of haste, and sent them away. Rondel declared the night time
was best for the trip and promised to be on the way within the hour, and
in Charleroi by next morning.
Notwithstanding the fact that they had succeeded in promoting by proxy
the mission which had brought them to Belgium, the Americans found the
next day an exceedingly irksome one. In the company of Lieutenant von
Holtz they were permitted to walk about the city, but they found little
pleasure in that, owing to the bustle of outgoing troops and the arrival
of others to replace them. Nor did they care to stray far from their
quarters, for fear the council would meet and they might be sent for.
However, no sign from Colonel Grau was received that day. Patsy went to
bed with a nervous headache and left Uncle John and the captain to smoke
more than was good for them. Both the men had now come to regard their
situation as serious and as the American consul was at this time absent
in Brussels they could think of no way to secure their freedom. No one
knew when the consul would return; Mr. Merrick had been refused the
privilege of using the telegraph or mails. During one of their strolls
they had met the correspondent of an American newspaper, but when the
man learned they were suspects he got away from them as soon as
possible. He did not know Mr. Merrick and his own liberty was too
precarious for him to argue with Colonel Grau.
"I'm beginning to think," said Uncle John, "that we're up against a hard
proposition. Letters and endorsements from prominent Americans seem to
have no weight with these Germans. I'd no idea our identity could ever
"We must admit, sir," returned the captain, reflectively, "that the spy
system in this war is something remarkable. Spies are everywhere; clever
ones, too, who adopt every sort of subterfuge to escape detection. I do
not blame Grau so much for caution as for lack of judgment."
"He's a blockhead!" cried Mr. Merrick testily.
"He is. I'm astonished they should place so much power in the hands of
one so slow witted."
"He has insulted us," continued Uncle John. "He has dared to arrest
three free-born Americans."
"Who came into a troubled country, occupied by a conquering army,
without being invited."
"Well--that's true," sighed the little millionaire, "but what are we
going to do about it?"
"Wait," counseled the captain.
The next day dawned dark and rainy and the weather had a depressing
effect upon the prisoners. It was too damp to stir out of doors and the
confinement of the hotel rooms became especially irksome. Not only were
they anxious about their own fate but it was far past the time when they
should have heard from Henderson and Rondel. Patsy's nerves were getting
beyond her control; Uncle John stumped around with his hands thrust deep
in his pockets and a frown wrinkling his forehead; the captain smoked
innumerable pipes of tobacco and said not a word. Von Holtz, noting the
uneasiness of his charges, discreetly forbore conversation and retired
to a far corner where he hid behind a book.
It was nearing evening when a commotion was heard on the stairs,
followed by the heavy tramp of feet in the corridor. A sharp rap sounded
on the door of their sitting room. Uncle John stepped forward to open
it, when in stalked a group of German officers, their swords and spurs
clanking and their cloaks glistening with rain-drops. At sight of the
young girl off came cap and helmet and with one accord they bowed low.
The leader was a tall, thin man with a leathern face, hooked nose and
piercing gray eyes. His breast glittered with orders. It was von
Kargenbrut, the military governor.
"Pardon our intrusion," he said in English, his harsh voice having a
guttural accent. "Which gentleman is Mr. John Merrick?"
"I am John Merrick."
The eagle eyes swept over him with a swift glance.
"We owe you our apology," continued the governor, speaking as fiercely
as if he were ordering Uncle John beheaded. "I have been too busy to
take up your case before to-day, when I discover that we have treated
you discourteously. You will consider our fault due to these troubled
times, when mistakes occur in spite of our watchfulness. Is it not so?"
"Your error has caused us great inconvenience," responded Mr. Merrick
The governor whirled around. "Colonel Grau!" he called, and from the
rear of the group the colonel stepped forward. His face still wore the
expression of comical surprise. "Return to Mr. Merrick his papers and
The colonel drew the packet of papers from his breast pocket and handed
it to Uncle John. Then he glanced hesitatingly at his superior, who
glared at him.
"He cannot speak the English," said the governor to Mr. Merrick, "but he
owes you reparation."
"Grau's stupidity has been very annoying, to say the least," was the
ungracious reply. "We came here on important business, and presented our
papers--all in proper order--on demand. We had the right to expect
decent treatment, as respectable American citizens engaged in
humanitarian work; yet this--this--man," pointing an accusing finger at
the colonel, "ordered us detained--arrested!--and kept our papers."
The governor listened coldly and at the end of the speech inclined his
"Colonel Grau," said he, "has been relieved of his duties here and
transferred to another station. To you I have personally apologized. You
will find my endorsement on your papers and, in addition, an order that
will grant you safe conduct wherever you may wish to go. If that is not
enough, make your demands and I will consider them."
"Why, that is all I can expect, your Excellency, under the
circumstances," replied Mr. Merrick. "I suppose I ought to thank you for
your present act of justice."
"No; it is your due. Good evening, Mr. Merrick."
He swung around on his heel and every officer of the group turned with
him, like so many automatons, all facing the door. But Mr. Merrick
touched the governor upon the arm.
"One moment, your Excellency. This young officer, Lieutenant von Holtz,
has treated us kindly and courteously. I want you to know that one of
your men, at least, has performed his duty in a way to merit our
The governor scowled at Lieutenant von Holtz, who stood like a statue,
with lowered eyes.
"Lieutenant, you are commissioned to guide Mr. Merrick as long as he
remains within our lines. You will guard his safety and that of his
party. When he departs, come to me personally with your report."
The young officer bowed; the governor tramped to the door and went out,
followed by his staff. Grau left the room last, with hang-dog look, and
Patsy slammed the door in the hope of bumping his wooden head.
"So we're free?" she said, turning to von Holtz.
"Not only that, Fraulein, but you are highly favored," he replied. "All
German territory is now open to you."
"It's about time they came to their senses," remarked Uncle John, with a
return to his accustomed cheerfulness.
"And, best of all," said Patsy exultantly, "they've fired that awful
The captain thoughtfully filled and lighted his pipe.
"I wonder," said he, "how that happened. Was it the council, do you
Von Holtz shook his head.
"I think it was the governor," he replied. "He is a just man, and had
you been able to see him personally on your arrival you would have been
spared any annoyance."
"Perhaps," said Patsy doubtfully. "But your governor's a regular bear."
"I believe that is merely his way," asserted Uncle John. "I didn't mind
the man's tone when I found his words and deeds were all right. But
Another rap at the door. Patsy opened it and admitted Henderson. He
saluted the captain, bowed to the others and said:
"We've got her, sir."
"Mrs. Denton?" cried Patsy, delightedly.
"Yes, Miss Doyle; Mrs. Denton and the children."
"The children! Why, there aren't any."
"I beg your pardon, Miss; there are two."
"Two children!" she exclaimed in dismay. "There must be some mistake.
The young people have only been married five months."
Henderson stood stiff as a poker, refusing to argue the point.
"A governess, maybe," suggested the captain.
"More likely," said Uncle John, "young Denton married a widow,
"That's it, sir," said Henderson earnestly.
"The incumbrances, sir. No other word could describe 'em."
Patsy's heart sank; she was greatly disappointed.
"And she so young and pretty!" she murmured.
Henderson started to smile, but quickly suppressed it.
"Shall I show them up, Miss?" he inquired.
"Of course," answered Uncle John, as the girl hesitated. "You should
have brought her to us at once. Where is that Belgian--Rondel?"
"He is guarding the woman, sir."
"She's a little difficult to manage, sir, at times. She left Charleroi
willingly enough, but she's tricky, and it is our duty to deliver her to
"Get her at once, Henderson," exclaimed Patsy, recovering her wits; "and
the dear children, too."
Presently there was a sound of shuffling on the stairs and through the
corridor. The door opened to admit the arrivals from Charleroi.
Henderson first pushed in a big woman dressed in a faded blue-checked
gown, belted around the waist in a manner that made her look like a sack
tied in the middle. Her head was bare, her hair awry, her face sullen
and hard; she was undeniably "fleshy" and not altogether clean. She
resisted Henderson at every step and glared around her with shrewd and
Following her came Monsieur Rondel leading a boy and a girl, the latter
being a small replica of the woman. The boy was viciously struggling to
bite the hand of the Belgian, who held him fast.
"Ah, well," said Rondel, first sighing and then turning with a smile to
face the lieutenant, "we have performed our mission. But heaven guard us
from another like it!"
Patsy stared hard at the woman.
"This cannot be Mrs. Denton," she gasped, bewildered.
"Indeed?" answered Rondel in English. "She declares that is her name.
Question her in French or Flemish, Miss Doyle."
Patsy addressed the woman in French but could elicit no reply. She stood
impassive and silent.
"How did you make the mistake?" asked the girl, looking reproachfully
first at Henderson and then at Rondel, both of whom were evidently
astonished to find themselves at fault. "I have seen a photograph of
Mrs. Andrew Denton, taken recently, and she is young and pretty
Monsieur Rondel cleared his throat to answer:
"It happened in this way, mademoiselle: We searched one whole day in
Charleroi for Mrs. Denton but could not find her. My friends, on whom I
had relied for assistance, had unfortunately moved away or joined the
army. The townspeople were suspicious of Monsieur Henderson, who is a
foreigner. We could get no information whatever. I appealed to the
burgomaster and he said he would try to find Mrs. Denton for us the
next day. In the morning came to us this woman, who said she was the
person we sought. If we promised her safe conduct to Dunkirk, she would
go with us. She had wanted to go to Dunkirk for some weeks, but the
Germans would not let her pass the lines. We suspected nothing wrong,
for she admitted she was aware that her husband is in Dunkirk, and she
wanted to get to him. So we brought her to you."
Patsy faced the woman resolutely and said in French:
"Why did you wish to get to Dunkirk?"
"He has said it. To find my husband," replied the woman in a surly tone.
"What is your name?"
The woman eyed her obstinately and remained silent.
"Very well. Release those children, Monsieur Rondel. Madam, you have
imposed upon us; you have tricked us in order to get to Ostend at our
expense. Now go, and take your children with you."
She pointed dramatically at the door, but the woman retained her
position, only moving to cuff the boy, who was kicking Henderson on his
shins. Then, setting her hands on her hips she said defiantly:
"They promised me passage to Dunkirk, and they must take me there."
"Who promised you?"
"Those men," pointing to them, "and the burgomaster."
"Yes," admitted Henderson, "we agreed with the burgomaster to take her
out of the country. We signed a paper to that effect."
"But she is a Belgian. And she is not the person she claimed to be."
To this neither Rondel nor Henderson had an answer.
"See here," said Uncle John, "I'll untangle this matter in a jiffy. Here
is money; give it to the woman and tell her to get out--or we'll eject
her by force."
The woman grabbed the money eagerly, but after placing it in an ample
pocket she said: "I will go no place but Dunkirk. I will not leave you
until you take me there."
But here the lieutenant interfered. He suddenly faced the woman, who had
not noticed his presence before, and she shrank back in fear at sight of
his uniform. The boy and girl both began to cry.
"I know you," said von Holtz sternly. "You are the wife of a spy who has
been condemned to death by both the Belgians and the Germans, since he
betrayed them both. The last time you came to Ostend to annoy us you
were driven out of the city. There is still an edict against you. Will
you leave this room peaceably, or shall I order you under arrest?"
"Dog of a German!" she hissed, "the day is coming when I will help to
drive you out of Belgium, even as you now drive me. Brave soldiers are
you, to make war on women and children. Guh! I would kill you where you
stand--if I dared." With venomous hate she spat upon the floor, then
seized her wailing children, shook them and waddled out of the room.
There was a general sigh of relief.
"You may return to the launch, Henderson," said the captain.
"Monsieur Rondel," said Uncle John, grasping the young Belgian's hand,
"we are grateful to you for your kindness. The failure of your mission
was not your fault. We thank you. The governor has given us our liberty
and permission to travel where we please, so to-morrow we will go to
Charleroi ourselves to search for Mrs. Denton."
"My motor car is at your disposal, sir, and my services."
"To-morrow? Oh, let us go to-night, Uncle!" cried Patsy.
Mr. Merrick looked inquiringly at the Belgian.
"I am ready now," said Rondel with a bow.
"Then," said Patsy, "we will start in half an hour. You see, we have
wasted two whole days--two precious days! I hope Dr. Gys will keep his
promise, and that we shall find poor Denton alive on our return."
FOUND AT LAST
The pretty city of Charleroi had suffered little damage from the German
invasion, yet many of the townspeople had gone away since the occupation
and those who remained kept well within their houses or huddled in
anxious groups upon the streets. The civic affairs were still
administered by the Belgian burgomaster, but the martial law of the
Germans prevailed over all.
When Patsy Doyle, escorted by Uncle John and accompanied by Captain
Carg, Lieutenant von Holtz and Monsieur Rondel, arrived in the early
morning, the streets were comparatively deserted. The Hotel Royal
received them hospitably and the landlord and his daughters prepared
them an excellent breakfast.
While eating, Patsy chatted with the Belgian girls, who were neat,
modest and intelligent. She found that Henderson and Rondel had not
stopped at this hotel while in Charleroi, but at a smaller inn at the
other end of the town. The girls remembered hearing of their visit and
of their inquiries for a Mrs. Denton, but did not know whether they had
succeeded in their quest or not.
"We have lived here all our lives," said the eldest of the landlord's
three daughters, "but we have not known, during that time, any family of
Dentons in Charleroi."
"They were married only five months ago, these Dentons," said she, "and
the young man may have come from some other town. Do you remember that
any of your young girls were married about five months ago?"
Yes; there was Hildegarde Bentel, but she had married Anthony Mattison,
who was not a soldier. Could the American mamselle remember what the
girl's first name was?
"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Patsy. "She signed her letters 'Elizabeth.'"
They shook their heads.
"My name is also Elizabeth," said one. "We have many Elizabeths in
Charleroi, but none has lately married."
"And her husband told me that she was now living here with her mother."
"Ah, let us see, then," responded another. "Could she have been a lady
of rank, think you?"
"I--I do not know."
"Is her husband an officer?"
"No; a private, I believe."
"Then we are on the wrong scent," laughed the girl. "I had in mind the
daughter of the Countess Voig, whose name chances to be Elizabeth. She
was educated at a convent in Antwerp, and the countess has lived in that
city for several years, in order to be nearer her daughter. There was
some gossip here that the young lady had married in Antwerp, just after
leaving the convent; but we know little of the life of the Voigs because
they are very reserved. Two or three months ago they returned to their
castle, which is four miles to the north of Charleroi, and there they
are still living in retirement. Every day the old steward drives into
town to visit the post office, but we have not seen the countess nor
her daughter since they came back."
Patsy related this news to Uncle John, who did not understand French.
"Let us drive over to Castle Voig the first thing," she said.
"But, my dear, it's unreasonable," he objected. "Do you suppose a
high-born young lady would marry a common soldier? In America, where we
have no caste, it would be quite probable, but here--"
"He wasn't a soldier five months ago," said Patsy. "He's just a
volunteer, who joined the army when his country needed him, as many of
the wealthy and aristocratic Belgians did. He may be high-born himself,
for all we know. At any rate I mean to visit that castle. Tell Rondel to
bring around the automobile."
They had no trouble in passing the guards, owing to the presence of von
Holtz, and in half an hour they were rolling through a charming,
peaceful country that as yet had suffered no blemish through the German
At Castle Voig they were received by an aged retainer who was visibly
nervous at their arrival. He eyed the uniform of young von Holtz with
ill-concealed terror and hurried away to carry their cards to the
countess. After a long wait they learned that the countess would receive
the Americans, but it was a full half hour after that when they were
ushered into a reception room where a lady sat in solitary state.
Under other circumstances Patsy could have spent a day in admiring the
quaint, old-fashioned furniture and pictures and the wonderful carvings
of the beamed ceiling, but now she was so excited that she looked only
at the countess. The lady was not very imposing in form or dress but her
features were calm and dignified and she met her guests with a grave
courtesy that was impressive if rather chilly. Before Patsy had summoned
courage to explain her errand a younger woman--almost a girl--hurriedly
entered the room and took a position beside the other.
"Oh, it's Elizabeth--it really is!" cried Patsy, clapping her hands
Mother and daughter regarded the American girl wonderingly and somewhat
haughtily, but Patsy was not in the least dismayed.
"Isn't this Mrs. Denton?" she asked, stepping forward to lay a hand upon
the other girl's arm.
"Yes," was the quiet reply.
Patsy's great eyes regarded her a moment with so sad and sympathetic a
look that Mrs. Denton shrank away. Then she noticed for the first time
the Red Cross uniform, and her hand went swiftly to her heart as she
"You--you have brought bad news of Andrew--of my husband?"
"Yes, I am sorry to admit that it is bad news," answered Patsy soberly.
"He has been wounded and is now lying ill in our hospital ship at
Dunkirk. We came here to find you, and to take you to him."
Mrs. Denton turned to her mother, a passionate appeal in her eyes. But
it was some moments before the hard, set look on the face of the
countess softened. It did soften at last, however, and she turned to
Patsy and said simply:
"We will prepare for the journey at once. Pray excuse us; Niklas will
serve refreshments. We will not detain you long."
As they turned to leave the room Elizabeth Denton suddenly seized
"He will live?" she whispered. "Tell me he will live!"
Patsy's heart sank, but she summoned her wits by an effort.
"I am not a surgeon, my dear, and do not know how serious the wound may
be," she answered, "but I assure you it will gladden his heart to see
you again. He thinks and speaks only of you."
The girl-wife studied her face a moment and then dropped her hand and
hurried after her mother.
"I fibbed, Uncle," said Patsy despondently. "I fibbed willfully.
But--how could I help it when she looked at me that way?"
DR. GYS SURPRISES HIMSELF
Henderson was waiting with the launch at the Ostend docks. Lieutenant
von Holtz was earnestly thanked by Patsy and Uncle John for his kindness
and in return he exacted a promise from them to hunt him up in Germany
some day, when the war was ended. The countess and Mrs. Denton, sad and
black-robed, had been made comfortable in the stern seats of the boat
and the captain was just about to order Henderson to start the engine
when up to them rushed the fat Belgian woman and her two children.
Without an instant's hesitation the two youngsters leaped aboard like
cats and their mother would have followed but for the restraining hand
of Captain Carg.
"What does this mean?" cried Mr. Merrick angrily.
The woman jabbered volubly in French.
"She says," interpreted Patsy, "that we promised to take her to Dunkirk,
so she may find her husband."
"Let her walk!" said Uncle John.
"The Germans won't allow her to cross the lines. What does it matter,
Uncle? We have plenty of room. In three hours we can be rid of them, and
doubtless the poor thing is really anxious to find her lost husband, who
was last seen in Dunkirk."
"He is a spy, and a traitor to both sides, according to report."
"That isn't our affair, is it? And I suppose even people of that class
have hearts and affections."
"Well, let her come aboard, Captain," decided Uncle John. "We can't
waste time in arguing."
They stowed her away in the bow, under Henderson's care, and threatened
the children with dire punishment if they moved from under her shadow.
Then the launch sped out into the bay and away toward Dunkirk.
Three days had brought many changes to the hospital ship Arabella. Of
the original batch of patients only Lieutenant Elbl, the German, and
Andrew Denton now remained. All the others had been sent home,
transferred to the government hospitals or gone back to the front,
according to the character of their injuries. This was necessary because
their places were needed by the newly wounded who were brought each day
from the front. Little Maurie was driving the ambulance again and, with
Ajo beside him and Dr. Kelsey and a sailor for assistants, the Belgian
would make a dash to Ypres or Dixmude or Furnes and return with a full
load of wounded soldiers.
These were the days of the severest fighting in Flanders, fighting so
severe that it could not keep up for long. There would come a lull
presently, when the overworked nurses and surgeons could get a bit of
sleep and draw a long breath again.
Gys had elected to remain aboard the ship, where with Maud and Beth he
was kept busy night and day. Two French girls--young women of good birth
and intelligence--had been selected by Dr. Gys from a number of
applicants as assistant nurses, and although they were inexperienced,
their patriotic zeal rendered them valuable. They now wore the Red Cross
uniforms and it was decided to retain them as long as the ship's
hospital remained crowded.
There was plenty of work for all and the worry and long hours might have
broken down the health and strength of Beth and Maud had not the doctor
instituted regular periods of duty for each member of the force and
insisted on the schedule being carried out.
This hospital ship was by no means so gloomy a place as the reader may
imagine. The soldiers were prone to regard their hurts lightly, as "a
bit of hard luck," and since many had slight injuries it was customary
for them to gather in groups upon the deck, where they would laugh and
chat together, play cards for amusement or smoke quantities of
cigarettes. They were mainly kind-hearted and grateful fellows and
openly rejoiced that the misfortunes of war had cast their lot on this
Under the probe of the surgeon to-day, a fortnight hence back on the
firing line, was not very unusual with these brave men. The ambulances
had gathered in a few German soldiers, who would become prisoners of
war on their recovery, and while these were inclined to be despondent
and unsociable they were treated courteously by all, the Americans
showing no preference for any nation. The large majority of the
patients, however, came from the ranks of the Allies--French, English
and Belgian--and these were men who could smile and be merry with
bandaged heads, arms a-sling, legs in splints, bullet holes here and
there, such afflictions being regarded by their victims with a certain
degree of pride.
Dr. Gys was in his element, for now he had ample opportunity to display
his skill and his patients were unable to "jump to another doctor" in
case his ugly features revolted them. His main interest, however, lay in
the desperately wounded Belgian private, Andrew Denton, whom he had
agreed to keep alive until the return of Miss Doyle and her uncle.
In making this promise Gys had figured on a possible delay of several
days, but on the second day following Patsy's departure the sudden
sinking of his patient aroused a defiant streak in the surgeon and he
decided to adopt drastic measures in order to prevent Denton from
passing away before his wife's arrival.
"I want you to assist me in a serious operation," he said to Maud
Stanton. "By all the rules and precedents of human flesh, that fellow
Denton ought to succumb to his wound within the next three hours. The
shell played havoc with his interior and I have never dared, until now,
to attempt to patch things up; but if we're going to keep him alive
until morning, or until your cousin's return, we must accomplish the
"What is that?" she inquired.
"Remove his vital organs, tinker them up and put them back so they will
"Can that be done, doctor?"
"I think not. But I'm going to try it. I am positive that if we leave
him alone he has less than three hours of life remaining; so, if we
fail, Miss Stanton, as it is reasonable to expect, poor Denton will
merely be spared a couple of hours of pain. Get the anaesthetics,
With all her training and experience as a nurse, Maud was half terrified
at the ordeal before her. But she realized the logic of the doctor's
conclusion and steeled her nerves to do her part.
An hour later she stood looking down upon the patient. He was still upon
the operating table but breathing quietly and as strongly as at any time
since he had received his wound.
"This shows," Dr. Gys said to her, his voice keen with elation, "what
fools we are to take any human condition for granted. Man is a machine.
Smash his mechanism and it cannot work; make the proper repairs before
it is too late and--there he goes, ticking away as before. Not as good a
machine as it was prior to the break, but with care and caution it will
run a long time."
"He will live, then, you think?" she asked softly, marveling that after
what she had witnessed the man was still able to breathe.
Gys leaned down and put his ear to the heart of the patient. For two
minutes he remained motionless. Then he straightened up and a smile
spread over his disfigured features.
"I confidently believe, Miss Stanton, we have turned the trick! Luck,
let us call it, for no sensible surgeon would have attempted the thing.
Rest assured that Andrew Denton will live for the next ten days. More
than that, with no serious set-back he may fully recover and live for
many years to come."
He was so pleased that tears stood in his one good eye and he wiped them
away sheepishly. The girl took his hand and pressed it in both her own.
"You are wonderful--wonderful!" she said.
"Don't, please--don't look in my face," he pleaded.
"I won't," she returned, dropping her eyes; "I will think only of the
clever brain, the skillful hand and the stout heart."
"Not even that," he said. "Think of the girl wife--of Elizabeth. It was
she who steadied my hand to-day. Indeed, Miss Stanton, it was
Elizabeth's influence that saved him. But for her we would have let him
So it was toward evening of the fourth day that the launch finally
sighted the ship Arabella. Delays and difficulties had been
encountered in spite of government credentials and laissez-passer and
Patsy had begun to fear they would not reach the harbor of Dunkirk
All through the journey the Belgian woman and her children had sat
sullenly in the bow, the youngsters kept from mischief by the stern eye
of Henderson. In the stern seats, however, the original frigid silence
had been thawed by Patsy Doyle's bright chatter. She began by telling
the countess and Elizabeth all about herself and Beth and Maud and Uncle
John, relating how they had come to embark upon this unusual mission of
nursing the wounded of a foreign war, and how they had secured the
services of the clever but disfigured surgeon, Dr. Gys. She gave the
ladies a clear picture of the hospital ship and told how the girls had
made their dash to the firing line during the battle of Nieuport and
brought back an ambulance full of wounded--including Andrew Denton.
Patsy did not answer very fully Elizabeth Denton's eager questions
concerning the nature of her husband's injuries, but she tried to
prepare the poor young wife for the knowledge that the wound would prove
fatal. This was a most delicate and difficult thing to do and Patsy
blundered and floundered until her very ambiguity aroused alarm.
"Tell me the worst!" begged Elizabeth Denton, her face pale and tensely
"Why, I cannot do that, you see," replied Patsy, "because the worst
hasn't happened yet; nor can I tell you the best, because a wound is
such an uncertain thing. It was a shell, you know, that exploded behind
him, and Dr. Gys thought it made a rather serious wound. Mr. Denton was
unconscious a long time, and when he came to himself we eased his pain,
so he would not suffer."
"You came to get me because you thought he would die?"
"I came because he asked me to read to him your letters, and I found
they comforted him so much that your presence would, I knew, comfort him
There was a long silence. Presently the countess asked in her soft, even
"Will he be alive when we get there?"
Patsy thought of the days that had been wasted, because of their
detention at Ostend through Colonel Grau's stupidity.
"I hope so, madam," was all she could reply.
Conversation lagged after this episode. Elizabeth was weeping quietly on
her mother's shoulder. Patsy felt relief in the knowledge that she had
prepared them, as well as she could, for whatever might wait upon their
The launch made directly for the ship and as she came alongside to the
ladder the rail was lined with faces curious to discover if the errand
had been successful. Doctor Gys was there to receive them, smiling
horribly as he greeted the two women in black. Maud, seeing that they
recoiled from the doctor's appearance, took his place and said
"Mr. Denton is asleep, just now, but by the time you have bathed and had
a cup of tea I am quite sure he will be ready to receive you."
"Tell me; how is he? Are you his nurse?" asked the young wife with
"I am his nurse, and I assure you he is doing very well," answered Maud
with her pleasant, winning smile. "When he finds you by his side I am
sure his recovery will be rapid. No nurse can take the place of a wife,
Patsy looked at her reproachfully, thinking she was misleading the poor
young wife, but Maud led the ladies away to a stateroom and it was Dr.
Gys who explained the wonderful improvement in the patient.
"Well," remarked Uncle John, "if we'd known he had a chance, we wouldn't
have worried so because we were held up. In fact, if we'd known he would
get well, we needn't have gone at all."
"Oh, Uncle John!" cried Patsy reprovingly.
"It was your going that saved him," declared the doctor. "I promised to
keep him alive, for that little wife of his, and when he took a turn for
the worse I had to assume desperate chances--which won out."
Meantime the big Belgian woman and her children had been helped up the
ladder by Henderson, who stood respectfully by, awaiting orders for
their disposal. The mother had her eye on the shore and was scowling
steadily upon it when little Maurie came on deck and strolled toward Mr.
Merrick to greet him on his return. Indeed, he had approached to within
a dozen feet of the group when the woman at the rail suddenly turned and
"Aha--mon Henri!" she cried and made a dash toward him with outstretched
Maurie stopped short; he grew pallid; he trembled. But he did not await
her coming. With a howl that would have shamed a wild Indian he leaped
upon the rail and made a dive into the water below.
Even as her engulfing arms closed around the spot where he had stood,
there was a splash and splutter that drew everyone to the side to watch
the little Belgian swim frantically to the docks.
The woman grabbed a child with either arm and held them up.
"See!" she cried. "There is your father--the coward--the traitor--the
deserter of his loving family. He thinks to escape; but we shall capture
him yet, and when we do--"
"Hurry, father," screamed the little girl, "or she'll get you."
A slap on the mouth silenced her and set the boy wailing dismally. The
boy was accustomed to howl without provocation. He kicked his mother
until she let him down. By this time they could discern only Maurie's
head bobbing in the distant water. Presently he clambered up the dock
and ran dripping toward the city, disappearing among the buildings.
"Madam," said Uncle John, sternly, "you have cost us the best chauffeur
we ever had."
She did not understand English, but she shook her fist in Mr. Merrick's
face and danced around in an elephantine fashion and jabbered a stream
"What does she say?" he asked Patsy, who was laughing merrily at the
"She demands to be put ashore at once. But shall we do that, and put
poor Maurie in peril of being overtaken?"
"Self preservation is the first law of nature, my dear," replied Uncle
John. "I'm sorry for Maurie, but he alone is responsible. Henderson," he
added, turning to the sailor, "put this woman ashore as soon as
possible. We've had enough of her."
Although the famous battle of Nieuport had come to an end, the fighting
in West Flanders was by no means over. All along the line fierce and
relentless war waged without interruption and if neither side could
claim victory, neither side suffered defeat. Day after day hundreds of
combatants fell; hundreds of disabled limped to the rear; hundreds were
made prisoners. And always a stream of reinforcements came to take the
places of the missing ones. Towns were occupied to-day by the Germans,
to-morrow by the Allies; from Nieuport on past Dixmude and beyond Ypres
the dykes had been opened and the low country was one vast lake. The
only approaches from French territory were half a dozen roads built high
above the water line, which rendered them capable of stubborn defence.
Dunkirk was thronged with reserves--English, Belgian and French. The
Turcos and East Indians were employed by the British in this section and
were as much dreaded by the civilians as the enemy. Uncle John noticed
that military discipline was not so strict in Dunkirk as at Ostend; but
the Germans had but one people to control while the French town was host
to many nations and races.
Strange as it may appear, the war was growing monotonous to those who
were able to view it closely, perhaps because nothing important resulted
from all the desperate, continuous fighting. The people were pursuing
their accustomed vocations while shells burst and bullets whizzed around
them. They must manage to live, whatever the outcome of this struggle of
nations might be.
Aboard the American hospital ship there was as yet no sense of monotony.
The three girls who had conceived and carried out this remarkable
philanthropy were as busy as bees during all their waking hours and the
spirit of helpful charity so strongly possessed them that all their
thoughts were centered on their work. No two cases were exactly alike
and it was interesting, to the verge of fascination, to watch the
results of various treatments of divers wounds and afflictions.
The girls often congratulated themselves on having secured so efficient
a surgeon as Doctor Gys, who gloried in his work, and whose judgment,
based on practical experience, was comprehensive and unfailing. The
man's horribly contorted features had now become so familiar to the
girls that they seldom noticed them--unless a cry of fear from some
newly arrived and unnerved patient reminded them that the doctor was
exceedingly repulsive to strangers.
No one recognized this grotesque hideousness more than Doctor Gys
himself. When one poor Frenchman died under the operating knife, staring
with horror into the uncanny face the surgeon bent over him, Beth was
almost sure the fright had hastened his end. She said to Gys that
evening, when they met on deck, "Wouldn't it be wise for you to wear a
mask in the operating room?"
He considered the suggestion a moment, a deep flush spreading over his
face; then he nodded gravely.
"It may be an excellent idea," he agreed. "Once, a couple of years ago,
I proposed wearing a mask wherever I went, but my friends assured me the
effect would be so marked that it would attract to me an embarrassing
amount of attention. I have trained myself to bear the repulsion
involuntarily exhibited by all I meet and have taught myself to take a
philosophic, if somewhat cynical, view of my facial blemishes; yet in
this work I can see how a mask might be merciful to my patients. I will
experiment a bit along this line, if you will help me, and we'll see
what we can accomplish."
"You must not think," she said quietly, for she detected a little
bitterness in his tone, "that you are in any way repulsive to those who
know you well. We all admire you as a man and are grieved at the
misfortunes that marred your features. After all, Doctor, people of
intelligence seldom judge one by appearances."
"However they may judge me," said he, "I'm a failure. You say you admire
me as a man, but you don't. It's just a bit of diplomatic flattery. I'm
a good doctor and surgeon, I'll admit, but my face is no more repellent
than my cowardly nature. Miss Beth, I hate myself for my cowardice far
more than I detest my ghastly countenance. Yet I am powerless to remedy
"I believe that what you term your cowardice is merely a physical
weakness," declared the girl. "It must have been caused by the suffering
you endured at the time of your various injuries. I have noticed that
suffering frequently unnerves one, and that a person who has once been
badly hurt lives in nervous terror of being hurt again."
"You are very kind to try to excuse my fault," said he, "but the truth
is I have always been a coward--from boyhood up."
"Yet you embarked on all those dangerous expeditions."
"Yes, just to have fun with myself; to sneer at the coward flesh, so to
speak. I used to long for dangers, and when they came upon me I would
jeer at and revile the quaking I could not repress. I pushed my
shrinking body into peril and exulted in the punishment it received."
Beth looked at him wonderingly.
"You are a strange man, indeed," said she. "Really, I cannot understand
your mental attitude at all."
He chuckled and rubbed his hands together gleefully.
"I can," he returned, "for I know what causes it." And then he went away
and left her, still seeming highly amused at her bewilderment.
In the operating room the next day Gys appeared with a rubber mask drawn
across his features. The girls decided that it certainly improved his
appearance, odd as the masked face might appear to strangers. It hid the
dreadful nose and the scars and to an extent evened the size of the
eyes, for the holes through which he peered were made alike. Gys was
himself pleased with the device, for after that he wore the mask almost
constantly, only laying it aside during the evenings when he sat on
It was three days after the arrival of Mrs. Denton and her mother--whose
advent had accomplished much toward promoting the young Belgian's
convalescence--when little Maurie suddenly reappeared on the deck of the
"Oh," said Patsy, finding him there when she came up from breakfast,
"where is Clarette?"
He shook his head sadly.
"We do not live together, just now," said he. "Clarette is by nature
temperamental, you know; she is highly sensitive, and I, alas! do not
always please her."
"Did she find you in Dunkirk?" asked the girl.
"Almost, mamselle, but not quite. It was this way: I knew if I permitted
her to follow me she would finally succeed in her quest, for she and the
dear children have six eyes among them, while I have but two; so I
reposed within an ash-barrel until they had passed on, and then I
followed them, keeping well out of their sight. In that way I managed to
escape. But it proved a hard task, for my Clarette is very persistent,
as you may have noticed. So I decided I would be more safe upon the ship
than upon the shore. She is not likely to seek me here, and in any event
she floats better than she swims."
Patsy regarded the little man curiously.
"Did you not tell us, when first we met you, that you were heart-broken
over the separation from your wife and children?" she inquired in severe
"Yes, of course, mamselle; it was a good way to arouse your sympathy,"
he admitted with an air of pride. "I needed sympathy at that time, and
my only fear was that you would find Clarette, as you threatened to do.
Well," with a deep sigh, "you did find her. It was an unfriendly act,
"They told us in Ostend that the husband of Clarette is a condemned spy,
one who served both sides and proved false to each. The husband of
Clarette is doomed to suffer death at the hands of the Germans or the
Belgians, if either is able to discover him."
Maurie removed his cap and scratched the hair over his left ear
"Ah, yes, the blacksmith!" said he. "I suspected that blacksmith fellow
was not reliable."
"How many husbands has Clarette?"
"With the blacksmith, there are two of us," answered Maurie, brightly.
"Doubtless there would be more if anything happened to me, for Clarette
is very fascinating. When she divorced the blacksmith he was
disconsolate, and threatened vengeance; so her life is quite occupied in
avoiding her first husband and keeping track of her second, who is too
kind-hearted to threaten her as the blacksmith did. I really admire
Clarette--at a distance. She is positively charming when her mind is
free from worry--and the children are asleep."
"Then you think," said Ajo, who was standing by and listening to
Maurie's labored explanations, "that it is the blacksmith who is
condemned as a spy, and not yourself?"
"I am quite sure of it. Am I not here, driving your ambulance and going
boldly among the officers? If it is Jakob Maurie they wish, he is at
hand to be arrested."
"But you are not Jakob Maurie."
The Belgian gave a start, but instantly recovering he answered with a
"Then I must have mistaken my identity, monsieur. Perhaps you will tell
me who I am?"
"Your wife called you 'Henri,'" said Patsy.
"Ah, yes; a pet name. I believe the blacksmith is named Henri, and poor
Clarette is so accustomed to it that she calls me Henri when she wishes
to be affectionate."
Patsy realized the folly of arguing with him.
"Maurie," said she, "or whatever your name may be, you have been
faithful in your duty to us and we have no cause for complaint. But I
believe you do not speak the truth, and that you are shifty and artful.
I fear you will come to a bad end."
"Sometimes, mamselle," he replied, "I fear so myself. But, peste! why
should we care? If it is the end, what matter whether it is good or
Watching their faces closely, he saw frank disapproval of his sentiments
written thereon. It disturbed him somewhat that they did not choose to
continue the conversation, so he said meekly:
"With your kind permission, I will now go below for a cup of coffee,"
and left them with a bow and a flourish of his cap. When he had gone
Patsy said to Ajo:
"I don't believe there is any such person as the blacksmith."
"Nor I," was the boy's reply. "Both those children are living images of
Maurie, who claims the blacksmith was their father. He's a crafty little
fellow, that chauffeur of ours, and we must look out for him."
"If he is really a spy," continued the girl, after a brief period of
thought, "I am amazed that he dared join our party and go directly to
the front, where he is at any time likely to be recognized."
"Yes, that is certainly puzzling," returned Ajo. "And he's a brave
little man, too, fearless of danger and reckless in exposing himself to
shot and shell. Indeed, our Maurie is something of a mystery and the
only thing I fully understand is his objection to Clarette's society."
At "le revue matin," as the girls called the first inspection of the
morning, eight of their patients were found sufficiently recovered to be
discharged. Some of these returned to their regiments and others were
sent to their homes to await complete recovery. The hospital ship could
accommodate ten more patients, so it was decided to make a trip to
Dixmude, where an artillery engagement was raging, with the larger
"I think I shall go to-day," announced Gys, who was wearing his mask.
"Dr. Kelsey can look after the patients and it will do me good to get
off the ship."
Uncle John looked at the doctor seriously.
"There is hard fighting, they say, in the Dixmude district. The Germans
carried the British trenches yesterday, and to-day the Allies will try
to retake them."
"I don't mind," returned the doctor, but he shuddered, nevertheless.
"Why don't you avoid the--the danger line?" suggested Mr. Merrick.
"A man can't run away from himself, sir; and perhaps you can understand
the fascination I find in taunting the craven spirit within me."
"No, I can't understand it. But suit yourself."
"I shall drive," announced Maurie.
"You may be recognized," said Patsy warningly.
"Clarette will not be at the front, and on the way I shall be driving.
Have you noticed how people scatter at the sound of our gong?"
"The authorities are watching for spies," asserted Ajo.
Maurie's face became solemn.
"Yes; of course. But--the blacksmith is not here, and," he added with
assurance, "the badge of the Red Cross protects us from false
When they had gone Uncle John said thoughtfully to the girls:
"That remark about the Red Cross impressed me. If that fellow Maurie is
really in danger of being arrested and shot, he has cleverly placed
himself in the safest service in the world. He knows that none of our
party is liable to be suspected of evil."
A QUESTION OF LOYALTY
During the morning they were visited by a French official who came
aboard in a government boat and asked to see Mr. Merrick.
The ship had been inspected several times by the commander of the port
and the civil authorities, and its fame as a model hospital had spread
over all Flanders. Some attempt had been made to place with the
Americans the most important of the wounded--officers of high rank or
those of social prominence and wealth--but Mr. Merrick and his aids were
determined to show no partiality. They received the lowly and humble as
well as the high and mighty and the only requisite for admission was an
injury that demanded the care of good nurses and the skill of competent
Uncle John knew the French general and greeted him warmly, for he
appreciated his generous co-operation. But Beth had to be called in to
interpret because her uncle knew so little of the native language.
First they paid a visit to the hospital section, where the patients were
inspected. Then the register and records were carefully gone over and
notes taken by the general's secretary. Finally they returned to the
after-deck to review the convalescents who were lounging there in their
"Where is the German, Lieutenant Elbl?" inquired the general, looking
around with sudden suspicion.
"In the captain's room," replied Beth. "Would you like to see him?"
"If you please."
The group moved forward to the room occupied by Captain Carg. The door
and windows stood open and reclining upon a couch inside was the maimed
German, with Carg sitting beside him. Both were solemnly smoking their
The captain rose as the general entered, while Elbl gave his visitor a
"So you are better?" asked the Frenchman.
Beth repeated this in English to Carg, who repeated it in German to
Elbl. Yes, the wounded man was doing very well.
"Will you keep him here much longer?" was the next question, directed to
"I think so," was the reply. "He is still quite weak, although the wound
is healing nicely. Being a military prisoner, there is no other place
open to him where the man can be as comfortable as here."
"You will be responsible for his person? You will guarantee that he will
Mr. Merrick hesitated.
"Must we promise that?" he inquired.
"Otherwise I shall be obliged to remove him to a government hospital."
"I don't like that. Not that your hospitals are not good enough for a
prisoner, but Elbl happens to be a cousin of our captain, which puts a
different face on the matter. What do you say, Captain Carg? Shall we
guarantee that your cousin will not try to escape?"
"Why should he, sir? He can never rejoin the army, that's certain,"
"True," said the general, when this was conveyed to him by Beth.
"Nevertheless, he is a prisoner of war, and must not be allowed to
escape to his own people."
Beth answered the Frenchman herself, looking him straight in the face.
"That strikes me as unfair, sir," said she. "The German must henceforth
be a noncombatant. He has been unable, since he was wounded and brought
here, to learn any of your military secrets and at the best he will lie
a helpless invalid for weeks to come. Therefore, instead of making him a
prisoner, it would be more humane to permit him to return to his home
and family in Germany."
The general smiled indulgently.
"It might be more humane, mademoiselle, but unfortunately it is against
the military code. Did I understand that your captain will guarantee the
"Of course," said Carg. "If he escapes, I will surrender myself in his
"Ah; but we moderns cannot accept Pythias if Damon runs away," laughed
the general. "But, there; it will be simpler to send a parole for him
to sign, when he may be left in your charge until he is sufficiently
recovered to bear the confinement of a prison. Is that satisfactory?"
"Certainly, sir," replied the captain.
Elbl had remained silent during this conversation, appearing not to
understand the French and English spoken. Indeed, since his arrival he
had only spoken the German language, and that mostly in his intercourse
with Carg. But after the French officer had gone away Beth began to
reflect upon this reticence.
"Isn't it queer," she remarked to Uncle John, "that an educated
German--one who has been through college, as Captain Carg says Elbl
has--should be unable to understand either French or English? I have
always been told the German colleges are very thorough and you know that
while at Ostend we found nearly all the German officers spoke good
"It is rather strange, come to think of it," answered Uncle John. "I
believe the study of languages is a part of the German military
education. But I regret that the French are determined to keep the poor
fellow a prisoner. Such a precaution is absurd, to my mind."
"I think I can understand the French position," said the girl,
reflectively. "These Germans are very obstinate, and much as I admire
Lieutenant Elbl I feel sure that were he able he would fight the French
again to-morrow. After his recovery he might even get one of those
mechanical feet and be back on the firing line."
"He's a Uhlan."
"Then he could ride a horse. I believe, Uncle, the French are justified
in retaining him as a prisoner until the war is over."
Meantime, in the captain's room the two men were quietly conversing.
"He wants you to sign a parole," said Carg.
"You may as well. I'm responsible for your safety."
"I deny anyone's right to be responsible for me. If you have made a
promise to that effect, withdraw it," said the German.
"If I do, they'll put you in prison."
"Not at present. I am still an invalid. In reality. I am weak and
suffering. Yet I am already planning my escape, and that is why I insist
that you withdraw any promise you have made. Otherwise--"
"Instead of escaping by water, as I had intended, to Ostend, I must go
to the prison and escape from there. It will be more difficult. The
water route is best."
"Of course," agreed the captain, smiling calmly.
"One of your launches would carry me to Ostend and return here between
dark and daylight."
"Easily enough," said Carg. It was five minutes before he resumed his
speech. Then he said with quiet deliberation: "Cousin, I am an American,
and Americans are neutral in this war."
"You are Sangoan."
"My ship is chartered by Americans, which obliges the captain of the
ship to be loyal to its masters. I will do nothing to conflict with the
interests of the Americans, not even to favor my cousin."
"Quite right," said Elbl.
"If you have any plan of escape in mind, do not tell me of it,"
continued the captain. "I shall order the launches guarded carefully. I
shall do all in my power to prevent your getting away from this ship."
"Thank you," said the German. "You have my respect, cousin. Pass the
There was considerable excitement when the ambulance returned. Part of
the roof had been torn away, the doors were gone, the interior wrecked
and not a pane of glass remained in the sides; yet Ajo drove it to the
dock, the motor working as smoothly as ever, and half a dozen wounded
were helped out and put into the launch to be taken aboard the hospital
When all were on deck, young Jones briefly explained what had happened.
A shell had struck the ambulance, which had been left in the rear, but
without injuring the motor in any way. Fortunately no one was near at
the time. When they returned they cleared away the rubbish to make room
for a few wounded men and then started back to the city.
Doctor Gys, hatless and coatless, his hair awry and the mask making him
look more hideous than ever, returned with the party and came creeping
up the ship's ladder in so nervous a condition that his trembling knees
fairly knocked together.
The group around Ajo watched him silently.
"What do you think that fool did?" asked the boy, as Gys slunk away to
"Tell us," pleaded Patsy, who was one of the curious group surrounding
"We had gone near to where a machine gun was planted, to pick up a
fallen soldier, when without warning the Germans charged the gun. Maurie
and I made a run for life, but Gys stood stock still, facing the enemy.
A man at the gun reeled and fell, just then, and with a hail of bullets
flying around him the doctor coolly walked up and bent over him. The
sight so amazed the Germans that they actually stopped fighting and
waited for him. Perhaps it was the Red Cross on the doctor's arm that
influenced them, but imagine a body of soldiers in the heat of a charge
suddenly stopping because of one man!"
"Well, what happened?" asked Mr. Merrick.
"I couldn't see very well, for a battery that supported the charge was
shelling the retreating Allies and just then our ambulance was hit. But
Maurie says he watched the scene and that when Gys attempted to lift the
wounded man up he suddenly turned weak as water. The Germans had
captured the gun, by this time, and their officer himself hoisted the
injured man upon the doctor's shoulders and attended him to our
ambulance. When I saw the fight was over I hastened to help Gys, who
staggered so weakly that he would have dropped his man a dozen times on
the way had not the Germans held him up. They were laughing, as if the
whole thing was a joke, when crack! came a volley of bullets and with a
great shout back rushed the French and Belgians in a counter-charge. I
admit I ducked, crawling under the ambulance, and the Germans were so
surprised that they beat a quick retreat.
"And now it was that Gys made a fool of himself. He tore off his cap and
coat, which bore the Red Cross emblem, and leaped right between the two
lines. Here were the Germans, firing as they retreated, and the Allies
firing as they charged, and right in the center of the fray stood Gys.
The man ought to have been shot to pieces, but nothing touched him
until a Frenchman knocked him over because he was in the way of the
rush. It was the most reckless, suicidal act I ever heard of!"
Uncle John looked worried. He had never told any of them of Dr. Gys'
strange remark during their first interview, but he had not forgotten
it. "I'll be happier when I can shake off this horrible envelope of
disfigurement," the doctor had declared, and in view of this the report
of that day's adventure gave the kind-hearted gentleman a severe shock.
He walked the deck thoughtfully while the girls hurried below to look
after the new patients who had been brought, not too comfortably, in the
damaged ambulance. "It was a bad fight," Ajo had reported, "and the
wounded were thick, but we could only bring a few of them. Before we
left the field, however, an English ambulance and two French ones
arrived, and that gave us an opportunity to get away. Indeed, I was so
unnerved by the dangers we had miraculously escaped that I was glad to
be out of it."
Uncle John tried hard to understand Doctor Gys, but the man's strange,
abnormal nature was incomprehensible. When, half an hour later, Mr.
Merrick went below, he found the doctor in the operating room, cool and
steady of nerve and dressing wounds in his best professional manner.
Upon examination the next morning the large ambulance was found to be so
badly damaged that it had to be taken to a repair shop in the city to
undergo reconstruction. It would take several weeks to put it in shape,
declared the French mechanics, so the Americans would be forced to get
along with the smaller vehicle. Jones and Dr. Kelsey made regular trips
with this, but the fighting had suddenly lulled and for several days no
new patients were brought to the ship, although many were given first
aid in the trenches for slight wounds.
So the colony aboard the Arabella grew gradually less, until on the
twenty-sixth of November the girls found they had but two patients to
care for--Elbl and Andrew Denton. Neither required much nursing, and
Denton's young wife insisted on taking full charge of him. But while the
hospital ship was not in demand at this time there were casualties day
by day in the trenches, where the armies faced each other doggedly and
watchfully and shots were frequently interchanged when a soldier
carelessly exposed his person to the enemy. So the girls took turns
going with the ambulance, and Uncle John made no protest because so
little danger attended these journeys.
Each day, while one of the American girls rode to the front, the other
two would visit the city hospitals and render whatever assistance they
could to the regular nurses. Gys sometimes accompanied them and
sometimes went to the front with the ambulance; but he never caused his
friends anxiety on these trips, because he could not endanger his life,
owing to the cessation of fighting.
The only incident that enlivened this period of stagnation was the
capture of Maurie. No; the authorities didn't get him, but Clarette did.
Ajo and Patsy had gone into the city one afternoon and on their return
to the docks, where their launch was moored, they found a street urchin
awaiting them with a soiled scrap of paper clenched fast in his fist.
He surrendered it for a coin and Patsy found the following words
scrawled in English:
"She has me fast. Help! Be quick. I cannot save myself so you must save
me. It is your Maurie who is in distress."
They laughed a little at first and then began to realize that the loss
of their chauffeur would prove a hardship when fighting was resumed.
Maurie might not be a good husband, and he might be afraid of a woman,
but was valuable when bullets were flying. Patsy asked the boy:
"Can you lead us to the man who gave you this paper?"
"Then hurry, and you shall have five centimes more."
The injunction was unnecessary, for the urchin made them hasten to keep
up with him. He made many turns and twists through narrow alleys and
back streets until finally he brought them to a row of cheap, plastered
huts built against the old city wall. There was no mistaking the place,
for in the doorway of one of the poorest dwellings stood Clarette, her
ample figure fairly filling the opening, her hands planted firmly on her
"Good evening," said Patsy pleasantly. "Is Maurie within?"
"Henri is within," answered Clarette with a fierce scowl, "and he is
going to stay within."
"But we have need of his services," said Ajo sternly, "and the man is in
our employ and under contract to obey us."
"I also need his services," retorted Clarette, "and I made a contract
with him before you did, as my marriage papers will prove."
The little boy and girl had now crowded into the doorway on either side
of their mother, clinging to her skirts while they "made faces" at the
Americans. Clarette turned to drive the children away and in the act
allowed Patsy and Ajo to glance past her into the hut.
There stood little Maurie, sleeves rolled above his elbows, bending over
a battered dishpan where he was washing a mess of cracked and broken
pottery. He met their gaze with a despairing countenance and a gesture
of appeal that scattered a spray of suds from big wet fingers. Next
moment Clarette had filled the doorway again.
"You may as well go away," said the woman harshly.
Patsy stood irresolute.
"Have you money to pay the rent and to provide food and clothing?" she
"I have found a few francs in Henri's pockets," was the surly reply.
"And when they are gone?"
Clarette gave a shrug.
"When they are gone we shall not starve," she said. "There is plenty of
charity for the Belgians these days. One has but to ask, and someone
"Then you will not let us have Maurie?"
"No, mademoiselle." Then she unbent a little and added: "If my husband
goes to you, they will be sure to catch him some day, and when they
catch him they will shoot him."
"Don't you know?"
Clarette smiled grimly.
"When Henri escapes me, he always gets himself into trouble. He is not
so very bad, but he is careless--and foolish. He tries to help the
Germans and the French at the same time, to be accommodating, and so
both have conceived a desire to shoot him. Well; when they shoot him he
can no longer earn money to support me and his children."
"Are they really his children?" inquired young Jones.
"Who else may claim them, monsieur?"
"I thought they were the children of your first husband, the
Clarette glared at him, with lowering brow.
"Blacksmith? Pah! I have no husband but Henri, and heaven forsook me
when I married him."
"Come, Patsy," said Ajo to his companion, "our errand here is hopeless.
And--perhaps Clarette is right."
They made their way back to the launch in silence. Patsy was quite
disappointed in Maurie. He had so many admirable qualities that it was a
shame he could be so untruthful and unreliable.
As time passed on the monotony that followed their first exciting
experiences grew upon them and became oppressive. December weather in
Flanders brought cutting winds from off the North Sea and often there
were flurries of snow in the air. They had steam heat inside the ship
but the deck was no longer a practical lounging place.
Toward the last of the month Lieutenant Elbl was so fully recovered that
he was able to hobble about on crutches. The friendship between the two
cousins continued and Elbl was often found in the captain's room. No
more had been said about a parole, but the French officials were
evidently keeping an eye on the German, for one morning an order came to
Mr. Merrick to deliver Elbl to the warden of the military prison at
Dunkirk on or before ten o'clock the following day.
While the German received this notification with his accustomed stolid
air of indifference, his American friends were all grieved at his
transfer. They knew the prison would be very uncomfortable for the
invalid and feared he was not yet sufficiently recovered to be able to
bear the new conditions imposed upon him. There was no thought of
protesting the order, however, for they appreciated the fact that the
commandant had been especially lenient in leaving the prisoner so long
in their care.
The Americans were all sitting together in the cabin that evening after
dinner, when to their astonishment little Maurie came aboard in a skiff,
bearing an order from the French commandant to Captain Carg, requesting
him to appear at once at military headquarters.
Not only was Carg puzzled by this strange summons but none of the others
could understand it. The Belgian, when questioned, merely shook his
head. He was not the general's confidant, but his fee as messenger would
enable him to buy bread for his family and he had been chosen because he
knew the way to the hospital ship.
As there was nothing to do but obey, the captain went ashore in one of
the launches, which towed the skiff in which Maurie had come.
When he had gone, Lieutenant Elbl, who had been sitting in the cabin,
bade the others good night and retired to his room. Most of the others
retired early, but Patsy, Uncle John and Doctor Gys decided to sit up
and await the return of the captain. It was an exceptionally cool
evening and the warmth of the forward cabin was very agreeable.
Midnight had arrived when the captain's launch finally drew up to the
side and Carg came hastening into the cabin. His agitated manner was so
unusual that the three watchers with one accord sprang to their feet
with inquiring looks.
"Where's Elbl?" asked the captain sharply.
"Gone to bed," said Uncle John.
"Hours ago. I think he missed your society and was rather broken up over
the necessity of leaving us to-morrow."
Without hesitation Carg turned on his heel and hastened aft. They
followed him in a wondering group. Reaching the German's stateroom the
captain threw open the door and found it vacant.
"Humph!" he exclaimed. "I suspected the truth when I found our launch
"Which launch?" asked Uncle John, bewildered.
"The one I left with the ship. On my return, just now, I discovered it
was not at its moorings. Someone has stolen it."
They stared at him in amazement.
"Wasn't the deck patrolled?" asked Patsy, the first to recover.
"We don't set a watch till ten-thirty. It wasn't considered necessary.
But I had no suspicion of the trick Elbl has played on me to-night," he
added with a groan. Their voices had aroused others. Ajo came out of his
room, enveloped in a heavy bathrobe, and soon after Maud and Beth joined
"What's up?" demanded the boy.
"The German has tricked us and made his escape," quietly answered Dr.
Gys. "For my part, I'm glad of it."
"It was a conspiracy," growled the captain. "That rascal, Maurie--"
"Oh, was Maurie in it?"
"Of course. He was the decoy; perhaps he arranged the whole thing."
"Didn't the general want you, then?"
Carg was so enraged that he fairly snorted.
"Want me? Of course he didn't want me! That treacherous little Belgian
led me into the waiting room and said the general would see me in a
minute. Then he walked away and I sat there like a bump on a log and
waited. Finally I began to wonder how Maurie, who was always shy of
facing the authorities, had happened to be the general's messenger. It
looked queer. Officers and civilians were passing back and forth but no
one paid any attention to me; so after an hour or so I asked an officer
who entered from an inner room, when I could see the general. He said
the general was not there evenings but would be in his office to-morrow
morning. Then I showed him my order and he glanced at it and said it was
forged; wasn't the general's signature and wasn't in proper form,
anyhow. When I started to go he wouldn't let me; said the affair was
suspicious and needed investigation. So he took me to a room full of
officers and they asked me a thousand fool questions. Said they had no
record of a Belgian named Maurie and had never heard of him before. I
couldn't figure the thing out, and they couldn't; so finally they let me
come back to the ship."
"Strange," mused Uncle John; "very strange!"
"I was so stupid," continued Carg, "that I never thought of Elbl being
at the bottom of the affair until I got back and found our launch
missing. Then I remembered that Elbl was to have been turned over to the
prison authorities to-morrow and like a flash I saw through the whole
"I'm blamed if I do," declared Mr. Merrick.
The others likewise shook their heads.
"He got me out of the way, stole the launch, and is half way to Ostend
by this time."
"Alone? And wounded--still an invalid?"
"Doubtless Maurie is with him. The rascal can run an automobile; so I
suppose he can run a launch."
"What puzzles me," remarked Patsy, "is how Lieutenant Elbl ever got hold
of Maurie, and induced him to assist him, without our knowing anything
"I used to notice them talking together a good bit," said Jones.
"But Clarette has kept Maurie a prisoner. She wouldn't let him come back
to the ship."
"He was certainly at liberty to-night," answered Beth. "Isn't this
escape liable to be rather embarrassing to us, Uncle John?"
"I'm afraid so," was the reply. "We agreed to keep him safely until the
authorities demanded we give him up; and now, at the last minute, we've
allowed him to get away."
Anxiety was written on every countenance as they considered the serious
nature of this affair. Only Gys seemed composed and unworried.
"Is it too late to go in chase of the launch?" asked Ajo, breaking a
long pause. "They're headed for Ostend, without a doubt, and there's a
chance that they may run into a sand-bank in the dark, or break down, or
meet with some other accident to delay them."
"I believe it's worth our while, sir," answered Carg. "The launch we
have is the faster, and the trip will show our good faith, if nothing
"Then make ready to start at once," said Ajo, "and I'll dress and go
Carg hurried away to give orders and the boy ran to his stateroom. Five
minutes later they were away, with four sailors to assist in the capture
of the fugitives in case they were overtaken.
It was a fruitless journey, however. At daybreak, as they neared Ostend,
they met their stolen launch coming back, in charge of a sleepy Belgian
who had been hired to return it. The man frankly stated that he had
undertaken the task in order to get to Dunkirk, where he had friends,
and he had been liberally paid by a German on crutches, who had one foot
missing, and a little Belgian whom he had never seen before, but who,
from the description given, could be none other than Maurie.
They carried the man back with them to the Arabella, where further
questioning added nothing to their information. They now had proof,
however, that Elbl was safe with his countrymen at Ostend and that
Maurie had been his accomplice.
"I would not believe," said Patsy, when she heard the story, "that a
Belgian could be so disloyal to his country."
"Every nation has its quota of black sheep," replied Uncle John, "and
from what we have learned of Maurie's character he is not at all
particular which side he serves."
The escape of a prisoner of war from the American hospital ship was made
the subject of a rigid inquiry by the officials and proved extremely
humiliating to all on board the Arabella. The commandant showed his
irritation by severely reprimanding Mr. Merrick for carelessness, while
Captain Carg had to endure a personal examination before a board of
inquiry. He was able to prove that he had been at headquarters during
the evening of the escape, but that did not wholly satisfy his
inquisitors. Finally an order was issued forbidding the Americans to
take any more wounded Germans or Austrians aboard their ship, and that
seemed to end the unpleasant affair.
However, a certain friction was engendered that was later evidenced on
both sides. The American ambulance was no longer favored on its trips
to the front, pointed preference being given the English and French Red
Cross Emergency Corps. This resulted in few wounded being taken to the
Arabella, as the Americans confined their work largely to assisting
the injured on the field of battle. The girls were not to be daunted in
their determined efforts to aid the unfortunate and every day one of
them visited the trenches to assist the two doctors in rendering first
aid to the wounded.
The work was no longer arduous, for often entire days would pass without
a single casualty demanding their attention. The cold weather resulted
in much sickness among the soldiers, however, and Gys found during this
period of military inactivity that his medicine chest was more in demand
than his case of surgical instruments.
A slight diversion was created by Clarette, who came to the ship to
demand her husband from the Americans. It seemed almost impossible to
convince her that Maurie was not hidden somewhere aboard, but at last
they made the woman understand he had escaped with the German to
Ostend. They learned from her that Maurie--or Henri, as she insisted he
was named--had several times escaped from her house at night, while she
was asleep, and returned at daybreak in the morning, and this
information led them to suspect he had managed to have several secret
conferences with Lieutenant Elbl previous to their flight. Clarette
announced her determination to follow her husband to Ostend, and perhaps
she did so, as they did not see her again.
It was on Sunday, the twentieth of December, that the Battle of the
Dunes began and the flames of war burst out afresh. The dunes lay
between the North Sea and the Yser River in West Flanders and consisted
of a stretch of sandy hillocks reaching from Coxyde to Nieuport les
Bains. The Belgians had entrenched these dunes in an elaborate and
clever manner, shoveling the sand into a series of high lateral ridges,
with alternate hollows, which reached for miles along the coast. The
hollows were from six to eight feet deep, affording protection to the
soldiers, who could nevertheless fire upon the enemy by creeping up the
sloping embankments until their heads projected sufficiently to allow
them to aim, when they could drop back to safety.
In order to connect the hollows one with another, that an advance or
retreat might be made under cover, narrow trenches had been cut at
intervals diagonally through the raised mounds of sand. Military experts
considered this series of novel fortifications to be practically
impregnable, for should the enemy defile through one of the cross
passages into a hollow where the Allies were gathered, they could be
picked off one by one, as they appeared, and be absolutely annihilated.
Realizing this, the Germans had not risked an attack, but after long
study of the defences had decided that by means of artillery they might
shell the Belgians, who held the dunes, and destroy them as they lay in
the hollows. So a heavy battery had been planted along the German lines
for this work, while in defence the Belgians confronted them with their
own famous dog artillery, consisting of the deadly machine guns. The
battle of December twentieth therefore began with an artillery duel,
resulting in so many casualties that the Red Cross workers found
themselves fully occupied.
Beth went with the ambulance the first day, worked in the hollows of the
dunes, and returned to the ship at night completely worn out by the
demands upon her services. It was Patsy's turn next, and she took with
her the second day one of the French girls as assistant.
When the ambulance reached the edge of the dunes, where it was driven by
Ajo, the battle was raging with even more vigor than the previous day.
The Germans were dropping shells promiscuously into the various hollows,
hoping to locate the hidden Belgian infantry, while the Belgian
artillery strove to destroy the German gunners. Both succeeded at times,
and both sides were equally persistent.
As it was impossible to take the ambulance into the dunes, it was left
in the rear in charge of Jones, while the others threaded their way in
and out the devious passages toward the front. They had covered fully a
mile in this laborious fashion before they came upon a detachment of
Belgian infantry which was lying in wait for a call to action. Beyond
this trench the doctors and nurses were forbidden to go, and the officer
in command warned the Americans to beware of stray shells.
Under these circumstances they contented themselves by occupying some of
the rear hollows, to which the wounded would retreat to secure their
services. Dr. Kelsey and Nanette, the French girl, established
themselves in one hollow at the right, while Dr. Gys and Patsy took
their position in another hollow further to the left. There they opened
their cases of lint, plaster and bandages, spreading them out upon the
sand, and were soon engaged in administering aid to an occasional victim
of the battle.
One man who came to Patsy with a slight wound on his shoulder told her
that a shell had exploded in a forward hollow and killed outright
fifteen of his comrades. His own escape from death was miraculous and
the poor fellow was so unnerved that he cried like a baby.
They directed him to the rear, where he would find the ambulance, and
awaited the appearance of more patients. Gys crawled up the mound of
sand in front of them and cautiously raised his head above the ridge.
Next instant he ducked to escape a rain of bullets that scattered the
sand about them like a mist.
"That was foolish," said Patsy reprovingly. "You might have been
"No such luck," he muttered in reply, but the girl could see that he
trembled slightly with nervousness. Neither realized at the time the
fatal folly of the act, for they were unaware that the Germans were
seeking just such a clew to direct them where to drop their shells.
"It's getting rather lonely here, and there are a couple of vacant
hollows in front of us," remarked the doctor. "Suppose we move over to
one of those, a little nearer the soldiers?"
Patsy approved the proposition, so they gathered up their supplies and
moved along the hollow to where a passage had been cut through. They had
gone barely a hundred yards when a screech, like a buzz-saw when it
strikes a nail, sounded overhead. Looking up they saw a black disk
hurtling through the air, to drop almost where they had been standing a
moment before. There was a terrific explosion that sent debris to their
"After this we'll be careful how we expose ourselves," said the doctor
gravely. "They have got our range in a hurry. Here comes another; we'd
better get away quickly."
They progressed perhaps half a mile, without coming upon any soldiers,
when at the brow of a hill slightly higher than the rest, they became
aware of unwonted activity. A trench had been dug along the ridge, with
great pits here and there to serve as bomb-proof shelters. Every time a
head projected above the ridge, a storm of bullets showed that the enemy
was well within rifle range. In fact, it was to dislodge the Germans
that the present intrenchments were being made; machine guns would be
mounted as soon as positions had been prepared.
The German bullets had already taken their toll. In the little valley a
poor Belgian pressed his hand against a bad wound in his side, while
another was nursing an arm roughly bandaged by his fellows in the
trenches. First aid made the two comfortable for the time being at least
and the men were directed toward the ambulance. As they left, the man
with the wounded arm pointed down the narrow valley to where a deep
ravine cut through. "We were driven from there," he said. "The big guns
dropped shells on us and killed many; there are many wounded beyond--but
you cannot cross the ravine. We lost ten in doing it."
Nevertheless, the doctor and Patsy strode off. Just within the shelter
of the ridge they found another Belgian, desperately wounded, and the
doctor stopped to ease his pain with the hypodermic needle. Patsy looked
across the narrow defile; it was a bare fifty feet, and seemed safe
enough. Her Red Cross uniform would protect her, she reasoned, and
boldly enough she stepped out into the open. A cry from a wounded
soldier ahead hastened her footsteps. Without heeding the warning shout
of Doctor Gys she calmly stooped over the man who had called to her.
And then there was a sudden rending, blinding, terrifying crash that
sent the world into a thousand shrieking echoes. A huge shell had fallen
not fifty feet away, plowing its way through the earthworks above. Its
explosion sent timbers, abandoned gun-carriages, everything, flying
through the air. And one great piece of wood caught Patsy a glancing
blow on the back of her head as she crouched over the wounded Belgian.
With a weak cry she toppled over, not unconscious, but unable to raise
Another shell crashed down a hundred yards away, and then one closer
that sent the sand spouting high in a blinding cloud. She raised herself
slowly and glanced back toward Doctor Gys. He stood, his face ashen with
fear, hiding behind the shelter of the other hill. He looked up as she
stirred; a cry of relief came to his lips.
"Wait!" he called, bracing up suddenly. "Wait and I will get you."
Bending his head low he sprang across the unprotected space. He stopped
with a sudden jerk and then came on.
"You were hit!" cried Patsy as he bent over her.
"It is nothing," he answered brusquely. "Hold tight around my neck."
"Now--" another shell scattered sand over them--"we must get away from
Breathing thickly, he staggered across the open, dropping her with a
great groan behind the protection of the ridge.
"The man you were helping," he gasped. "I must bring him in."
"But you are wounded--" Patsy cried.
He straightened up--his hand clutched his side--there came across his
disfigured features a queer twisted smile--he sighed softly and slowly
sank in a crumpled heap. A clean little puncture in the breast of his
coat told the whole story. Patsy felt herself slipping.... All grew
* * * * *
It was Ajo who found her and carried her back to the ambulance, where
Dr. Kelsey and Nanette were presently able to restore her to
consciousness. Then they returned to the Arabella, grave and silent,
and Patsy was put to bed. Before morning Beth and Maud were anxiously
nursing her, for she had developed a high fever and was delirious.
The days that succeed were anxious ones, for Patsy's nerves had given
away completely. It was many weeks later that the rest of them met on
"It's the first of February," said Uncle John. "Don't you suppose Patsy
could start for home pretty soon?"
"Perhaps so," answered Maud. "She is sitting up to-day, and seems
brighter and more like herself. Have we decided, then, to return to
"I believe so," was the reply. "We can't keep Ajo's ship forever, you
know, and without Doctor Gys we could never make it useful as a hospital
"That is true," said the girl, thoughtfully. "Now that Andrew Denton,
with his wife and the countess, have gone to Charleroi, our ship seems
"You see," said Ajo, taking part in the discussion, "we've never been
able to overcome the suspicious coldness of these Frenchmen, caused by
Elbl's unfortunate escape. We are not trusted fully, and never will be
again, so I'm convinced our career of usefulness here is ended."
"Aside from that," returned Uncle John, "you three girls have endured a
long period of hard work and nervous strain, and you need a rest. I'm
awfully proud of you all; proud of your noble determination and courage
as well as the ability you have demonstrated as nurses. You have
unselfishly devoted your lives for three strenuous months to the injured
soldiers of a foreign war, and I hope you're satisfied that you've done
your full duty."
"Well," returned Maud with a smile, "I wouldn't think of retreating if I
felt that our services were really needed, but there are so many women
coming here for Red Cross work--English, French, Swiss, Dutch and
Italian--that they seem able to cover the field thoroughly."
"True," said Beth, joining the group. "Let's go home, Uncle. The voyage
will put our Patsy in fine shape again. When can we start, Ajo?"
"Ask Uncle John."
"Ask Captain Carg."
"If you really mean it," said the captain, "I'll hoist anchor to-morrow