Mary Louise and the Liberty Girls
By Edith Van Dyne
Author of "Mary Louise," "Mary Louise in the Country," "Mary Louise Solves a Mystery," "The Aunt Jane's Nieces Series," etc.
Frontispiece by Alice Casey
The Reilly & Lee Co. Chicago
Copyright, 1918 by The Reilly & Britton Co. —- Made in the U.S.A.
Mary Louise and the Liberty Girls
JUST A WORD
The object of this little story is not especially to encourage loyalty and devotion to one's country, for these are sentiments firmly enshrined in the hearts of all true American girls. It is rather intended to show what important tasks girls may accomplish when spurred on by patriotism, and that none is too humble to substantially serve her country.
Organizations of Liberty Girls are possible in every city and hamlet in America, and are effective not only in times of war but in times of peace, for always their Country needs them—always there is work for their busy hands.
One other message the story hopes to carry—the message of charity towards all and malice towards none. When shadows are darkest, those who can lighten the gloom are indeed the blessed ones.
EDITH VAN DYNE
I THE MASS-MEETING II MARY LOUISE TAKES COMMAND III THE LIBERTY GIRLS IV THE TRAITOR V UNCONVINCING TESTIMONY VI TO HELP WIN THE WAR VII THE LIBERTY SHOP VIII THE DETECTIVE'S DAUGHTER IX GATHERING UP THE THREADS X THE EXPLOSION XI A FONT OF TYPE XII JOSIE BUYS A DESK XIII JOE LANGLEY, SOLDIER XIV THE PROFESSOR IS ANNOYED XV SUSPENDERS FOE SALE XVI MRS. CHARLEWORTH XVII THE BLACK SATCHEL XVIII A HINT FROM ANNIE BOYLE XIX THE PRINTING OFFICE XX ONE GIRL'S WITS XXI SUPRISES XXII A SLIGHT MISTAKE XXIII THE FLASHLIGHT XXIV AFTER THE CRISIS XXV DECORATING XXVI KEEPING BUSY
Mary Louise and the Liberty Girls
CHAPTER I THE MASS-MEETING
One might reasonably think that "all Dorfield" had turned out to attend the much advertised meeting. The masses completely filled the big public square. The flaring torches, placed at set intervals, lighted fitfully the faces of the people—faces sober, earnest, thoughtful—all turned in the direction of the speakers' platform.
Mr. Peter Conant, the Chairman, a prominent attorney of Dorfield, was introducing the orator of the evening, Colonel James Hathaway, whose slender, erect form and handsome features crowned with snow-white hair, arrested the attention of all.
"You have been told," began the old colonel in a clear, ringing voice, "of our Nation's imperative needs. Money must be provided to conduct the great war on which we have embarked—money for our new army, money for ship-building, money for our allies. And the people of America are permitted to show their loyalty and patriotism by subscribing for bonds—bonds of the rich and powerful United States—that all may participate in our noble struggle for the salvation of democracy and the peace of the world. These bonds, which you are asked to buy, bear interest; you will be investing in the Corporation of Right, Justice and Freedom, with the security of the Nation as your shield. As a stockholder in this noblest of corporations you risk nothing, but you gain the distinction of personally assisting to defeat Civilization's defiant and ruthless enemy."
Loud applause interrupted the speaker. On one of the rows of seats at the back of the stand sat Mary Louise Burrows, the granddaughter of Colonel Hathaway, with several of her girl friends, and her heart leaped with pride to witness the ovation accorded her dear "Gran'pa Jim."
With well chosen words the old gentleman continued his discourse, stating succinctly the necessity of the Liberty Bond issue and impressing upon his hearers the righteousness of the cause for which this money was required.
"The allotment of Dorfield," he added, "is one million dollars, seemingly a huge sum for our little city to raise and invest, but really insignificant when apportioned among those who can afford to subscribe. There is not a man among you who cannot without hardship purchase at least one fifty-dollar bond. Many of you can invest thousands. Yet we are approaching our time limit and, so far, less than two hundred thousand dollars' worth of these magnificent Liberty Bonds have been purchased in our community! But five days remain to us to subscribe the remaining eight hundred thousand dollars, and thereby preserve the honor of our fair city. That eight hundred thousand dollars will be subscribed! We must subscribe it; else will the finger of scorn justly be pointed at us forever after."
Another round of applause. Mr. Conant, and Mr. Jaswell, the banker, and other prominent members of the Liberty Loan Committee began to look encouraged and to take heart.
"Of course they'll subscribe it!" whispered Mary Louise to her friend Alora Jones. "The thing has looked like a failure, lately, but I knew if Gran'pa Jim talked to the slackers, they'd see their plain duty. Gran'pa Jim knows how to stir them to action."
Gradually the applause subsided. The faces of the multitude that thronged about the stand seemed to Mary Louise stern and resolved, determined to prove their loyalty and devotion to their country.
And now Mr. Jaswell advanced and seated himself at a table, while Mr. Conant requested those present to come forward and enter their subscriptions for the bonds. He urged them to subscribe generously, in proportion to their means, and asked them not to crowd but to pass in line across the platform as swiftly as possible.
"Let us raise that entire eight hundred thousand to-night!" shouted the Colonel, in clarion tones. Then the band struck up a popular war tune, and the banker dipped a pen in ink and held it ready for the onslaught of signers.
But no one came forward. Each man looked curiously at his neighbor but stood fast in his place. The city, even to its furthermost suburbs, had already been systematically canvassed by the Committee and their efforts had resulted in a bare two hundred thousand dollars. Of this sum, Colonel Hathaway had himself subscribed twenty-five thousand. Noting the hesitation of his townsmen, the old gentleman again arose and faced them. The band had stopped playing and there was an ominous silence.
"Let me encourage you," said Colonel Hathaway, "by taking another twenty-five thousand dollars' worth of these wonderful bonds. Put me down for that amount, Mr. Jaswell. Now, then, who are the patriots eager to follow my lead!"
There was applause—somewhat more mild in character—but none came forward. Alora's father, Jason Jones, who had already signed for fifty thousand dollars, rose and added another twenty-five thousand to that sum. This act elicited another ripple of applause; more questioning looks were exchanged between those assembled, but there were no further offers to subscribe.
The hearts of the committeemen fell. Was this meeting, on which they had so greatly depended, destined to prove a failure, after all?
Jake Kasker, the owner of "Kasker's Clothing Emporium," finally made his way to the platform and mounting the steps faced his townspeople. There was a little murmur of surprise and a sudden tension. The man had been distrusted in Dorfield, of late.
"You all know what I think about this war," said Kasker in a loud voice and with a slight German accent. "I don't approve of it, whatever anyone says, and I think we were wrong to get into it, anyhow."
A storm of hisses and cries of "Shame!" saluted him, but he waited stolidly for the demonstration to subside. Then he continued:
"But, whatever I think about the war, I want to tell you that this flag that now waves over my head is as much my flag as it is yours, for I'm an American citizen. Where that flag goes, Jake Kasker will follow, no matter what fools carry the standard. If they don't think I'm too old to go to France, I'll pack up and go to-morrow. That's Jake Kasker—with a Dutch name but a Yankee heart. Some of you down there got Yankee names an' hearts that make the Kaiser laugh. I wouldn't trade with you! Now, hear this: I ain't rich; you know that; but I'll take two thousand dollars' worth of Liberty Bonds."
Some one laughed, jeeringly. Another shouted:
"Make it three thousand, Jake!"
"I will," said Kasker; "and, if there ain't enough of you war-crazy, yellow-hearted patriots in Dorfield to take what we got to take, then I'll make it five thousand. But if I have to do that—an' I can't afford it, but I'll do it!—it's me, Jake Kasker, that'll cry 'Shame!' and hiss like a goose whenever you slackers pass my door."
There was more laughter, a few angry shouts, and a movement toward the platform. The German signed the paper Mr. Jaswell placed before him and withdrew. Soon there was a line extending from the banker's table to the crowd below, and the signatures for bonds were slowly but steadily secured.
Colonel Hathaway faced the German clothier, who stood a few paces back, a cynical grin upon his features.
"Thank you, Kasker," said the old gentleman, in a cold voice. "You have really helped us, although you should have omitted those traitorous words. They poisoned a deed you might have been proud of."
"We don't agree, Colonel," replied Kasker, with a shrug. "When I talk, I'm honest; I say what I think." He turned and walked away and Colonel Hathaway looked after him with an expression of dislike.
"I wonder why he did it?" whispered Mary Louise, who had overheard the exchange of words and marked Kasker's dogged opposition.
"He bought the bonds as a matter of business," replied Laura Hilton. "It's a safe investment, and Kasker knows it. Besides that, he may have an idea it would disarm suspicion."
"Also," added Alora Jones, "he took advantage of the opportunity to slam the war. That was worth something to a man like Kasker."
CHAPTER II MARY LOUISE TAKES COMMAND
When Mary Louise entered the library the next morning she found her grandfather seated at the table, his head resting on his extended arms in an attitude of great depression. The young girl was startled.
"What is it, Gran'pa Jim?" she asked, going to his side and laying a hand lovingly on his shoulder.
The old gentleman looked up with a face drawn and gray.
"I'm nervous and restless, my dear," he said; "that's all. Go to breakfast, Mary Louise; I—I'll join you presently."
She sat down on the arm of his chair.
"Haven't you slept well, Gran'pa?" she asked anxiously, and then her eyes wandered through the open door to the next room and rested on the undisturbed bed. "Why, you haven't slept at all, dear!" she cried in distress. "What is wrong? Are you ill?"
"No, no, Mary Louise; don't worry. I—I shall be all right presently. But—I was terribly disappointed in last night's meeting, and—"
"I see. They didn't subscribe what they ought to. But you can't help that, Gran'pa Jim! You did all that was possible, and you mustn't take it so much to heart."
"It is so important, child; more important, I fear, than many of them guess. This will be a desperate war, and without the money to fight—"
"Oh, the money'll come, Gran'pa; I'm sure of that. If Dorfield doesn't do it's duty, the rest of the country will, so you mustn't feel badly about our failure. In fact, we haven't failed, as yet. How much did they subscribe last night?"
"In all, a hundred and thirty thousand. We have now secured barely a third of our allotment, and only five days more to get the balance!"
Mary Louise reflected, eyeing him seriously.
"Gran'pa," said she, "you've worn yourself out with work and worry. They ought not to have put you on this Liberty Bond Committee; you're too old, and you're not well or strong enough to endure all the anxiety and hard work."
"For the honor of—"
"Yes, I know, dear. Our country needs you, so you mustn't break down. Now come and drink a cup of coffee and I'll talk to you. I've a secret to tell you."
He smiled, rather wanly and hopelessly, but he permitted the girl to assist him to rise and to lead him to the breakfast room. There Mary Louise poured his coffee and attacked her own breakfast, although with indifferent appetite.
Gran'pa Jim was the only relative she had in all the world and she loved him devotedly. Their life in the pretty little town had been peaceful and happy until recently—until the war. But the old Colonel, loyal veteran that he was, promptly made it his war and was roused as Mary Louise had never seen him roused before. In his mind was no question of the justice of our country's participation in the world struggle; he was proud to be an American and gloried in America's sacrifice to the cause of humanity. Too old to fight on the battlefield, he felt honored at his appointment to the membership of the Liberty Bond Committee and threw all his energies into the task assigned him. So it is easy to understand that the coldness and reluctance to subscribe for bonds on the part of his fellow townsmen had well nigh broken his heart.
This the girl, his closest companion, fully appreciated.
"Gran'pa," she said, regarding him across the table after their old black mammy, Aunt Sally, had left them together, "I love my country, as you know; but I love you better."
"Oh, Mary Louise!"
"It's true; and it's right that I should. If I had to choose between letting the Germans capture the United States, or losing you, I'd let the Germans come! That's honest, and it's the way I feel. Love for one's country is a fine sentiment, but my love for you is deeper. I wouldn't whisper this to anyone else, for no one else could understand it, but you will understand it, Gran'pa Jim, and you know my love for you doesn't prevent my still being as good an American as the average. However," continued the young girl, in a lighter tone, "I've no desire to lose you or allow the Germans to whip us, if I can help it, so I've got two battles to fight. The truth is, Gran'pa, that you're used up with the hard work of the last few weeks, and another five days of begging for subscriptions would wreck you entirely. So you're to stop short—this very minute—and rest up and take it easy and not worry."
"See here, Gran'pa Jim," with assumed sternness, "you've worked hard to secure Dorfield's quota, and you've failed. Why, the biggest subscribers for bonds in the whole city are you and Jason Jones! There's plenty of wealth in Dorfield, and over at the mills and factories are thousands of workmen who can buy bonds; but you and your Committee don't know how to interest the people in your proposition. The people are loyal enough, but they don't understand, and you don't understand how to make them understand."
"No," he said, shaking his head dolefully, "they're a dense lot, and we can't make them understand."
"Well, I can," said Mary Louise, cheerfully.
"Yes. You mustn't imagine I've tackled the problem this very morning; I've been considering it for some time, and I've talked and consulted with Alora and Irene and Laura and the other girls about the best way to redeem the situation. We knew the situation was desperate long before last night's meeting. So all our plans are made, and we believe we can sell all the bonds required. It was our policy to keep silent until we knew what the big mass-meeting last night would accomplish, but we suspected it would turn out just the way it did—a fizzle. So the job's up to us, and if you'll sit quiet, Gran'pa Jim, and let us girls do the work, we'll put Dorfield in the honor column by Saturday night."
"This is nonsense!" exclaimed the Colonel, but there was an accent of hope in his voice, nevertheless.
"We girls are thoroughly organized," said Mary Louise, "and we'll sell the bonds."
"Why, just think of it, Gran'pa. Who would refuse a group of young girls—earnest and enthusiastic girls? The trouble with you men is that you accept all sorts of excuses. They tell you they're hard up and can't spare the money; there's a mortgage to pay, or taxes or notes to meet, and they can't afford it, anyway. But that kind of talk won't do when we girls get after them."
"What arguments can you use that we have disregarded?"
"First, we'll coax; then we'll appeal to their patriotism; then we'll threaten them with scorn and opprobrium, which they'll richly deserve if they hang on till it comes to that. If the threats don't make 'em buy, we'll cry—and every tear will sell a bond!"
The Colonel stirred his coffee thoughtfully.
"You might try it," he suggested. "I've read that in some cities the Boy Scouts have been successful in placing the bonds. It's an honorable undertaking, in any event, but—I hope you will meet with no insults."
"If that rank pro-German, Jake Kasker, will buy bonds, there isn't a man in Dorfield who can give a logical excuse for not doing likewise," declared Mary Louise. "I'm going to use Kasker to shame the rest of them. But, before I undertake this job, I shall make a condition, Gran'pa. You must stay quietly at home while we girls do the work."
"Oh, I could not do that, Mary Louise."
"You're not fit to leave the house. Will you try my plan for one day—just for to-day."
"I'll think it over, dear," he said, rising.
She assisted him to the library and then ran down the street to the doctor's office.
"Dr. McGruer," she said, "go over at once and see my grandfather. He's completely exhausted with the work of selling Liberty Bonds. Be sure you order him to keep at home and remain quiet—at least for to-day."
CHAPTER III THE LIBERTY GIRLS
An hour later six girls met at the home of Alora Jones, who lived with her father in a fine mansion across the street from Colonel Hathaway's residence. These girls were prepared to work, and work diligently, under the leadership of Mary Louise, for they had been planning and discussing this event for several days, patiently awaiting the word to start their campaign.
"Some girls," said Mary Louise, "are knitting, and that's a good thing to do, in a way. Others are making pajamas and pillows for the Red Cross, and that's also an admirable thing to do. But our duty lies on a higher plane, for we're going to get money to enable Uncle Sam to take care of our soldier boys."
"Do—do you think we can make people buy bonds?" asked little Laura Hilton, with a trace of doubt in her voice.
Mary Louise gave her a severe look.
"We not only can, but we shall make people buy," she replied. "We shall ask them very prettily, and they cannot refuse us. We've all been loaded to the brim with arguments, if arguments are necessary, but we haven't time to gossip with folks. A whole lot of money must be raised, and there's a short time to do it in."
"Seems to me," remarked Edna Barlow, earnestly, "we're wasting time just now. Let's get busy."
"Well, get on your costumes, girls," suggested Alora Jones. "They are all here, in this big box, and the banners are standing in the hall. It's after nine, now, and by ten o'clock we must all be at work."
They proceeded to dress themselves in the striking costumes they had secretly prepared; a blue silk waist with white stars scattered over it, a red-and-white striped skirt, the stripes running from waistband to hem, a "Godess of Liberty" cap and white canvas shoes. Attired in this fashion, the "Liberty Girls," as they had dubbed themselves, presented a most attractive and patriotic appearance, and as they filed out through the hall each seized a handsome silken banner, gold fringed, which bore the words: "Buy Bonds of Dorfield's Liberty Girls."
"Now, then," said Mary Louise, "we have each been allotted a certain district in the business part of the city, for which we are individually responsible. Each one knows what she is expected to do. Let no one escape. If any man claims to have already bought bonds, make him buy more. And remember, we're all to meet at my house at one o'clock for luncheon, and to report progress."
A block away they secured seats in a streetcar and a few minutes thereafter reached the "Four Corners," the intersection of the two principal streets of Dorfield. But on the way they had sold old Jonathan Dodd, who happened to be in the car and was overawed by the display of red-white-and-blue, two hundred dollars' worth of bonds. As for old man Dodd, he realized he was trapped and bought his limit with a sigh of resignation.
As they separated at the Four Corners, each to follow her appointed route, many surprised, if not startled, citizens regarded the Liberty Girls with approving eyes. They were pretty girls, all of them, and their silken costumes were really becoming. The patriots gazed admiringly; the more selfish citizens gave a little shiver of dismay and scurried off to escape meeting these aggressive ones, whose gorgeous banners frankly proclaimed their errand.
Mary Louise entered the bank on the corner and made inquiry for Mr. Jaswell, the president.
"We're off at last, sir," she said, smiling at his bewildered looks, "and we girls are determined to make the Dorfield people do their full duty. May we depend upon your bank to fulfill your promises, and carry those bond buyers who wish to make time payments?"
"To be sure, my dear," replied the banker. "I'd no idea you young ladies were to wear uniforms. But you certainly look fascinating, if you're a fair sample of the others, and I don't see how anyone can refuse to back up our girls in their patriotic 'drive.' God bless you, Mary Louise, and help you to achieve your noble object."
There were many offices in the building, above the bank, and the girl visited every one of them. Her appearance, garbed in the national colors and bearing her banner, was a sign of conquest, for it seemed to these busy men as if Uncle Sam himself was backing this crusade and all their latent patriotism was stirred to the depths. So they surrendered at discretion and signed for the bonds.
Mary Louise was modest and sweet in demeanor; her pleas were as pleasant as they were persuasive; there was nothing virulent or dominant in her attitude. But when she said: "Really, Mr. So-and-so, you ought to take more bonds than that; you can afford it and our country needs the money," the argument was generally effective, and when she had smilingly pinned the bond button on a man's coat and passed on to interview others, she left him wondering why he had bought more bonds than he ever had intended to, or even provoked with himself that he had subscribed at all. These were the people who had generally resisted all former pleadings of the regular committee and had resolved to ignore the bond sale altogether. But perhaps their chagrin was equalled by their satisfaction in having been won over by a pretty girl, whose manner and appearance were alike irresistible.
The men of Dorfield are a fair sample of men everywhere. At this period the full meaning of the responsibilities we had assumed in this tremendous struggle was by no means fully realized. The war was too far away, and life at home was still running in its accustomed grooves. They could not take the European war to themselves, nor realize that it might sweep away their prosperity, their liberties—even their homes. Fear had not yet been aroused; pity for our suffering and hard-pressed allies was still lightly considered; the war had not struck home to the hearts of the people as it has since. I doubt if even Mary Louise fully realized the vital importance of the work she had undertaken.
When the Liberty Girls met at Colonel Hathaway's for a light luncheon, their eyes were sparkling with enthusiasm and their cheeks rosy from successful effort. Their individual sales varied, of course, for some were more tactful and winning than others, but all had substantial results to report. "We've taken Dorfield by storm!" was their exultant cry.
"Altogether," said Mary Louise, figuring up the amounts, "we've sold thirty-two thousand dollars' worth of bonds this morning. That's encouraging for three hours' work, but it's not enough to satisfy us. We must put in a busy afternoon and try to get a total of at least one hundred thousand by to-night. To-morrow we must do better than that. Work as late as you can, girls, and at eight o'clock we will meet again at Alora's house and compare results."
The girls needed no urging to resume their work, for already they had gained confidence in their ability and were inspired to renewed effort.
Mary Louise had optimistic plans for that afternoon's work. She first visited the big flour mill, where she secured an interview with Mr. Chisholme, the president and general manager.
"We can't buy bonds," he said peevishly. "Our business is being ruined by the high price of wheat and the absurd activities of Hoover. We stand to operate at a loss or else shut down altogether. The government ought to pay us compensation, instead of asking us to contribute to the war."
"However, if we fail to win the war," Mary Louise quietly replied, "your enormous investment here will become worthless. Isn't it better to lose a little now, for the sake of future winnings, than to sacrifice the past and future and be reduced to poverty? We are asking you to save yourself from threatened danger—the national calamity that would follow our defeat in this war."
He sat back in his chair and looked at the girl in amazement. She was rather young to have conceived such ideas.
"Well, there's time enough to consider all that," he said, less gruffly. "You'll have to excuse me now, Miss Burrows. I'm busy."
But Mary Louise kept her seat and redoubled her arguments, which were logical and straight to the point. Mr. Chisholme's attitude might have embarrassed her had she been pleading a personal favor, but she felt she was the mouthpiece of the President, of the Nation, of worldwide democracy, and would not allow herself to feel annoyed. She devoted three-quarters of an hour to Mr. Chisholme, who gradually thawed in her genial sunshine. She finally sold him fifty thousand dollars worth of Liberty Bonds and went on her way elated. The regular Bond Committee had labored for weeks with this stubborn man, who managed one of the largest enterprises in Dorfield, yet they had signally failed to convince him or to induce him to subscribe a dollar. The girl had succeeded in less than an hour, and sold him exactly the amount he should have bought.
The mill subscription was a powerful leverage with which to pry money from other reluctant ones. Stacks, Sellem & Stacks, the big department store heretofore resisting all appeals, bought from Mary Louise bonds to the amount of twenty-five thousand; the Denis Hardware Company took ten thousand. Then Mary Louise met her first serious rebuff. She went into Silas Herring's wholesale grocery establishment and told Mr. Herring she wanted to sell him bonds.
"This is outrageous!" cried Herring indignantly. "When the men can't rob us, or force us to back England in her selfish schemes, they set girls on us to wheedle us out of money we have honestly earned. This hold-up game won't work, I assure you, and I advise you to get into more respectable business. My money is mine; it doesn't belong to the Allies, and they won't get a cent of it." He was getting more angry as he proceeded in his harangue. "Moreover," he continued, "our weak administration can't use me to help it out of the hole it has foolishly stumbled into, or make America the cat's-paw to pull British chestnuts out of the fire. You ought to be ashamed, Miss Burrows, to lend yourself to such unpatriotic methods of bulldozing honest citizens!"
Mary Louise was distressed, but undaunted. The man was monstrously wrong, and she knew it. Sitting in Mr. Herring's private office at the time were Professor John Dyer, the superintendent of Dorfield's schools, and the Hon. Andrew Duncan, a leading politician, a former representative and now one of the county supervisors. The girl looked at Professor Dyer, whom she knew slightly, and said pleadingly:
"Won't you defend our administration and our country, Mr. Dyer?"
He smiled deprecatingly but did not speak. He was a tall, lean man, quite round-shouldered and of studious appearance. He wore double eyeglasses, underneath which his eyes were somewhat watery. The smile upon his thin features was a stationary one, not as if assumed, but molded with the features and lacking geniality.
It was the Hon. Andrew Duncan who answered the Liberty Girl.
"The difference between Mr. Herring and eighty percent of the American people," said he in stilted, pompous tones, "is that our friend Herring unwisely voices his protest, while the others merely think—and consider it the part of wisdom to say nothing."
"I don't believe that!" cried Mary Louise indignantly. "The American people are loyal to their President. There may be a few traitors; we're gradually discovering them; but—"
"I am busy," Herring interrupted her, scowling, and he swung his chair so that his back was toward her.
"You won't be busy long, if you keep talking that way," predicted the girl.
"Tut-tut!" said the Hon. Andrew, warningly. "Your threats, young lady, are as unwise as Mr. Herring's speech."
"But they carry more weight," she asserted stoutly. "Do you think any grocery man in Dorfield would buy goods of Mr. Herring if he knew him to be disloyal in this, our country's greatest crisis? And they're going to know it, if I have to visit each one and tell him myself what Mr. Herring has said."
A tense, if momentary silence, followed, broken by the Professor, who now said in his smooth, unctuous way:
"Mr. Herring's blunt expression of his sentiments was not intended for other ears than ours, I am sure. In confidence, one may say many things to friends which he would prefer to withhold from an indiscriminating public. We are well assured, indeed, that Mr. Herring is a loyal American, with America's best interests at heart, but he does not regard our present national activities as leniently as we do. I have been endeavoring, in my humble way, to change his attitude of mind," here Herring swung around and looked at the speaker stolidly, "and though I admit he is a bit obstinate, I venture to assure you, Miss Burrows, that Silas Herring will stand by the Stars and Stripes as long as there is a shred of our banner to wave in the breeze of freedom, justice and democracy."
A cynical smile gradually settled on the grocer's stern face. The Hon. Andrew was smiling with undisguised cheerfulness.
"We are all loyal—thoroughly loyal," said the latter. "I've bought some Liberty Bonds already, my girl, but you can put me down for a hundred dollars more. We must support our country in every possible way, with effort, with money, with our flesh and blood. I have no children, but my two nephews and a second cousin are now in France!"
"For my part," added Professor Dyer, "I have hesitated as to how much of my meagre salary I can afford to spend. But I think I can handle five hundred dollars' worth."
"Thank you," said Mary Louise, somewhat puzzled by these offers. "It isn't like risking the money; it's a solid investment in the best securities in the world."
"I know," returned the Professor, nodding gravely, "But I'm not thinking of that. I'm a poor man, as you probably know, but what I have is at my country's disposal, since it is evident that my country needs it."
"Doesn't that shame you, sir?" asked Mary Louise brightly, as she turned to Silas Herring. "You're a business man, and they say—although I confess I doubt it—that you're a loyal American. You can convince me of the fact by purchasing a liberal share of bonds. Then I can forget your dreadful words. Then I can carry to everyone the news that you've made a splendid investment in Liberty Bonds. Even if you honestly think the administration has been at fault, it won't do any good to grumble. We are in this war, sir, and we've got to win it, that you and every other American may enjoy prosperity and freedom. How much shall I say that you have subscribed, Mr. Herring?"
He studied her face, his expression never changing. Mary Louise wondered if he could read her suspicion and dislike of him, despite her efforts to smother those feelings in the cause of Liberty. Then Herring looked at Professor Dyer, who stood meekly, with downcast eyes. Next the grocer gazed at the supervisor, who smiled in a shrewd way and gave a brief nod.
Mr. Herring frowned. He drummed nervously with his fingers on his mahogany desk. Then he reached for his check-book and with grim deliberation wrote a check and handed it to Mary Louise.
"You've won, young lady," he admitted. "I'm too good an American to approve what has been done down at Washington, but I'll help keep our flag waving, as the Professor suggests. When we've won our war—and of course we shall win—there will be a day of reckoning for every official who is judged by our citizens to have been disloyal, however high his station. Good afternoon!"
The first impulse of Mary Louise was to crumple up the check and throw it in the man's face, to show her resentment of his base insinuations. But as she glanced at the check she saw it was for ten thousand dollars, and that meant sinews of war—help for our soldiers and our allies. She couldn't thank the man, but she bowed coldly and left the private office. Professor Dyer accompanied her and at the outer door he said to the girl:
"Silas Herring's heart is in the right place, as you see by his generous check. Of course, he might have bought more bonds than that, as he is very wealthy, but he is an obstinate man and it is a triumph for our sacred cause that he was induced to buy at all. You are doing a noble work, my child, and I admire you for having undertaken the task. If I can be of service to you, pray command me."
"Urge everyone you meet to buy bonds," suggested Mary Louise. She did not care to discuss Silas Herring.
"I'll do that, indeed," promised the school superintendent. But as he watched her depart, there was a queer expression on his lean face that it was well Mary Louise did not see.
CHAPTER IV THE TRAITOR
When the Liberty Girls met that evening at the home of Alora Jones, it was found that Mary Louise had sold more bonds than any of the others, although Laura Hilton had secured one subscription of fifty thousand dollars from the Dorfield National Steel Works, the manager of which industry, Mr. Colton, was a relative of the girl. Altogether, the day's work had netted them two hundred and fourteen thousand dollars, and as soon as she could escape Mary Louise rushed home to report their success to her grandfather.
"In one day, Gran'pa Jim!" she cried exultantly, and the old colonel's eyes sparkled as he replied:
"That makes our great mass-meeting look pretty small; doesn't it, my dear? I consider it wonderful! With four more such days our quota would be over-subscribed."
"That's what we shall try for," she declared, and then told him who the biggest bond buyers had been—mostly those who had refused to listen to the regular Committee or had not been influenced by their carefully prepared arguments.
"It's just because we are girls, and they are ashamed to refuse us," she acknowledged. "It seems like taking an unfair advantage of them, I know, but those who need urging and shaming, to induce them to respond loyally to the nation's needs, deserve no consideration. We're not robbing them, either," she added, "but just inducing them to make a safe investment. Isn't that true, Gran'pa Jim?"
"What surprises me most," he responded, "is how you ever managed to load your little head with so much mature wisdom. I'd no idea, Mary Louise, you were so interested in the war and our national propaganda for waging it successfully."
"Why, I read the newspapers, you know, and I've listened to you spout patriotism, and ever since we joined the Allies against Germany, my girl chums and I have been secretly organized as a band of Liberty Girls, determined to do our bit in winning the war. This is the first chance, though, that we've ever had to show what we can do, and we are very proud and happy to-night to realize that we're backing Uncle Sam to some purpose."
"This war," remarked the old soldier, thoughtfully, "is bringing the women of all nations into marked prominence, for it is undeniable that their fervid patriotism outranks that of the men. But you are mere girls, and I marvel at your sagacity and devotion, heretofore unsuspected. If you can follow to-day's success until Saturday, and secure our quota of subscriptions to the bonds, not only Dorfield but all the nation will be proud of your achievement."
"We shall do our best," replied the girl, simply, although her cheeks glowed pink under such praise. "There are enough slackers still to be interviewed to bring the quota up to the required amount and with to-day's success to hearten us, I am sure we shall end the week triumphantly."
Next morning the Liberty Girls sallied forth early, all six aglow with enthusiasm. Mary Louise consulted her carefully prepared list and found that her first calf was to be at McGill's drug store. She found Mr. McGill looking over his morning's mail, but moments were precious, so she at once stated her errand.
The old druggist glanced up at the girl under his spectacles, noted her patriotic attire and the eager look on her pretty face, and slowly shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Miss Burrows, but I can't afford it," he said evasively.
"Oh, Mr. McGill! I'm sure you are mistaken," she replied. "You can afford insurance, you know, to protect your stock, and this money for Uncle Sam is an insurance that your home and business will be protected from the ravages of a ruthless foe."
He stared at her thoughtfully a moment. Then he selected a paper from his mail and handed it to her.
"Read that," he said briefly.
Mary Louise read it. It was a circular, printed in small, open-faced, capital type on plain white paper, and unsigned. It said:
"The Treasury Department is asking us to invest billions in what are termed Liberty Bonds. It has the 'liberty' to lend these billions to irresponsible or bankrupt nations of Europe, who are fighting an unprofitable war. Some of our dollars will equip an army of Amer- ican boys to fight on Europe's battle- fields. This may be good business. Our excited politicians down at Washington may think they are acting for our best good. But what becomes of the money, finally? Will our millionaire government contractors become billionaires when the money—our money—is spent? Do you think the days of graft are past and gone? Have politicians become honest now that they are handling untold sums? Let us consider these questions when we are asked to subscribe for Liberty Bonds."
"Why, this is treason!" cried Mary Louise, gasping from sheer amazement and indignation. "It's a—a—treacherous, vile, disloyal insinuation. Some German spy wrote that, and he ought to be hanged for it!"
The druggist nodded. He picked up the envelope that had contained the circular and scrutinized it closely.
"Really, it looks like foreign handwriting; doesn't it?" he agreed, handing her the envelope. "It is postmarked 'Dorfield' and was posted last evening. The whole town is buzzing about the wonderful work of the Liberty Girls yesterday. Perhaps your success is responsible for this— this—opposition."
Mary Louise's cheeks were burning. Her eyes flashed.
"May I keep this—thing?" she asked, with a shudder of disgust as she thrust the circular into its envelope.
"Certainly, if you wish."
"And will you let an enemy attack like that influence you, Mr. McGill?"
He smiled, rather grimly.
"Yes. I'll invest five hundred in the bonds. I had already decided to put in a hundred dollars, but for a moment this veiled accusation bewildered me. You're right; it's treasonable. It will be hard for me to raise five hundred, just now, but I'll do it. I want that to be my answer to the German."
Mary Louise thanked him and hurried away. Next door was Lacey's Shoe Store, and Mr. Lacey was reading a duplicate of that identical circular when the Liberty Girl approached him.
The man bowed low to Mary Louise, a deference she felt rendered to her red-white-and-blue uniform.
"Good morning!" he said pleasantly, recognizing the girl as one of his good customers. "Glad to see you, Mary Louise, for if I give you a good fat check it may take a nasty taste out of my mouth, acquired by reading a bit of German propaganda."
"I know, Mr. Lacey," she replied earnestly. "I've seen that circular before. Do you mind my having it—and the envelope?"
"I wouldn't touch the filth, if I were you," he protested.
"I'm going to run the traitor down," she said. "No man has the right to live in Dorfield—or in America—who could be guilty of such disloyalty."
He gave her the circular and his check for Liberty Bonds, and she passed on to the next store. During the morning Mary Louise discovered several more of the traitorous circulars. Some merchants would not admit having received the warning; others, through their arguments, convinced the girl they had not only read the screed but had been influenced by it. Perhaps it did not seriously affect her sales of bonds, but she felt that it did and her indignation grew steadily. By noon she was tingling with resentment and when she joined the other Liberty Girls at luncheon, she found them all excited over the circular and demanding vengeance on the offender—whoever he might happen to be.
"Isn't it dreadful!" exclaimed Lucile Neal, "and what could the person hope to gain by it?"
"Why, he wanted to kill the Liberty Bond sale," explained Alora Jones.
"A suspicion that this money is to be misapplied, or that officials will steal part of it, is likely to prevent a lot of foolish people from investing in the bonds. All this morning I could see that men were influenced by this circular, which has been pretty generally distributed."
"Yes; one or two repeated the very words of the circular to me," said Laura Hilton; "but I just asked them if they considered the United States able to pay its bonds and they were forced to admit it was a safe investment, however the money might be used."
"I'd like to know who sent that circular," exclaimed Edna Barlow.
"I'm going to find out!" asserted Mary Louise.
"How, my dear?"
"There must be ways of tracing such a bunch of circulars as were mailed last evening. I'm going to see the Chief of Police and put him on the trail."
"Do you know," said Edna, a thoughtful and rather quiet girl, "I already have a suspicion who the traitor is."
"Who?" an eager chorus.
"I'm not sure I ought to speak his name, for it's only a suspicion and I may be wrong. It would be an awful thing to accuse one unjustly of such a dastardly act, wouldn't it? But—think, girls!—who is known to be against the war, and pro-German? Who did we consider an enemy to the cause of liberty until—until he happened to buy some bonds the other night and indulge in some peanut patriotism to disarm a criticism he knew was becoming dangerous?"
They looked at one another, half frightened at the suggestion, for all knew whom she meant.
"Perhaps," said Alora, slowly, "Jake Kasker really believes in the bonds. He certainly set the example to others and led them to buy a lot of bonds. It doesn't seem reasonable, after that, to credit him with trying to prevent their sale."
"Those pro-Germans," remarked little Jane Donovan, "are clever and sly. They work in the dark. Kasker said he hated the war but loved the flag."
"I'm afraid of those people who think devotion to our flag can cover disloyalty to our President," said Mary Louise earnestly.
"But the flag represents the President, and Kasker said he'd stand by the flag to the last."
"All buncombe, my dear," said Edna decidedly. "That flag talk didn't take the curse off the statement that the war is all wrong."
"He had to say something patriotic, or he'd have been mobbed," was Lucile's serious comment. "I hadn't thought of Jake Kasker, before, but he may be the culprit."
"Isn't he the only German in town who has denounced our going into the European war?" demanded Edna.
"No," said Mary Louise; "Gran'pa has told me of several others; but none has spoken so frankly as Kasker. Anyhow, there's no harm in suspecting him, for if he is really innocent he can blame his own disloyal speeches for the suspicion. But now let us check up the morning's work and get busy again as soon as possible. We mustn't lose a single minute."
"And, as we go around," suggested Alora, "let us keep our eyes and ears open for traces of the traitor. There may be more than one pro-German in the conspiracy, for the circular was printed by somebody, and there are several kinds of handwriting on the addressed envelopes we have gathered. We've no time to do detective work, just now, but we can watch out, just the same."
Mary Louise did not mention the circular to Colonel Hathaway that evening, for he was still ill and she did not wish to annoy him.
The next day she found another circular had been put in the mails, printed from the same queer open-faced type as the first. Not so many had been sent out of these, but they were even more malicious in their suggestions. The girls were able to collect several of them for evidence and were 'more angry and resentful than ever, but they did not allow such outrageous antagonism to discourage them in their work.
Of course the Liberty Girls were not the only ones in Dorfield trying to sell bonds. Mr. Jaswell and other bankers promoted the bond sale vigorously and the regular Committee did not flag in its endeavors to secure subscriptions. On account of Colonel Hathaway's illness, Professor Dyer was selected to fill his place on the Committee and proved himself exceedingly industrious. The only trouble with the Professor was his reluctance to argue. He seemed to work early and late, visiting the wealthier and more prosperous citizens, but he accepted too easily their refusals to buy. On several occasions the Liberty Girls succeeded in making important sales where Professor Dyer had signally failed. He seemed astonished at this and told Mary Louise, with a deprecating shrug, that he feared his talents did not lie in the direction of salesmanship.
Despite the natural proportion of failures—for not all will buy bonds in any community—on the fourth day following the mass-meeting Dorfield's quota of one million was fully subscribed, and on Saturday another hundred and fifty thousand was added, creating jubilation among the loyal citizens and reflecting great credit on the Liberty Girls, the Committee, and all who had labored so well for the cause.
"Really," said Professor Dyer, his voice sounding regretful when he congratulated the girls, "our success is due principally to your patriotic organization. The figures show that you secured subscriptions for over half a million. Dear me, what a remarkable fact!"
"More than that," added Jason Jones, Alora's father, who was a wealthy artist and himself a member of the Committee, "our girls encouraged the faltering ones to do their duty. Many a man who coldly turned our Committee down smiled at the pretty faces and dainty costumes of our Liberty Girls and wrote their checks without a murmur."
"All the credit is due Mary Louise," declared Alora. "It was she who proposed the idea, and who organized us and trained us and designed our Liberty costumes. Also, Mary Louise made the most sales."
"Nonsense!" cried Mary Louise, blushing red. "I couldn't have done anything at all without the help of you girls. No one of us is entitled to more credit than the others, but all six of us may well feel proud of our success. We've done our bit to help Uncle Sam win the war."
CHAPTER V UNCONVINCING TESTIMONY
On Sunday "Gran'pa Jim," relieved of all worry, felt "quite himself again," as he expressed it, and the old gentleman strutted somewhat proudly as he marched to church with his lovely granddaughter beside him, although her uniform was to-day discarded for a neat tailor-suit. Mary Louise had always been a favorite in Dorfield, but the past week had made her a heroine in the eyes of all patriotic citizens. Many were the looks of admiration and approval cast at the young girl this morning as she passed along the streets beside the old colonel.
In the afternoon, as they sat in the cosy study at home, the girl for the first time showed her grandfather the disloyal circulars, relating how indignant the Liberty Girls had been at encountering such dastardly opposition.
Colonel Hathaway studied the circulars carefully. He compared the handwritings on the different envelopes, and when Mary Louise said positively: "That man must be discovered and arrested!" her grandfather nodded his head and replied:
"He is a dangerous man. Not especially on account of these mischievous utterances, which are too foolish to be considered seriously, but because such a person is sure to attempt other venomous deeds which might prove more important. German propaganda must be dealt with sternly and all opposition to the administration thoroughly crushed. It will never do to allow a man like this to go unrebuked and unpunished."
"What, then, would you suggest?" asked the girl.
"The police should be notified. Chief Farnum is a clever officer and intensely patriotic, from all I have heard. I think he will have no difficulty in discovering who is responsible for these circulars."
"I shall go to him to-morrow," decided Mary Louise. "I had the same idea, Gran'pa Jim; it's a matter for the police to handle."
But when she had obtained an interview with Chief of Police Farnum the next morning and had silently laid one of the circulars on his desk before him, an announcement of her errand, Farnum merely glanced at it, smiled and then flashed a shrewd look into the girl's face.
"Well!" said the Chief, in an interrogative tone.
"Those treasonable circulars have been mailed to a lot of our citizens," said she.
"They are pro-German, of course. The traitor who is responsible for them ought to be arrested immediately."
"To be sure," replied Farnum, calmly.
"Well, then do it!" she exclaimed, annoyed by his bland smile.
"I'd like to, Miss Burrows," he rejoined, the smile changing to a sudden frown, "and only two things prevent my obeying your request. One is that the writer is unknown to me."
"I suppose you could find him, sir. That's what the police are for. Criminals don't usually come here and give themselves up, I imagine, or even send you their address. But the city isn't so big that any man, however clever, could escape your dragnet."
"Thank you for the compliment," said the Chief, again smiling. "I believe we could locate the fellow, were such a task not obviated by the second objection."
"If you'll read this circular—there are two others, by the way, mailed at different times—you will discover that our objectionable friend has skillfully evaded breaking our present laws. He doesn't assert anything treasonable at all; he merely questions, or suggests."
"He is disloyal, however," insisted Mary Louise.
"In reality, yes; legally, no. We allow a certain amount of free speech in this country, altogether too much under present conditions. The writer of this circular makes certain statements that are true and would be harmless in themselves were they not followed by a series of questions which insinuate that our trusted officials are manipulating our funds for selfish purposes. A simple denial of these insinuations draws the fangs from every question. We know very well the intent was to rouse suspicion and resentment against the government, but if we had the author of these circulars in court we could not prove that he had infringed any of the existing statutes."
"And you will allow such a traitor as that to escape!" cried Mary Louise, amazed and shocked.
For a moment he did not reply, but regarded the girl thoughtfully. Then he said:
"The police of a city, Miss Burrows, is a local organization with limited powers. I don't mind telling you, however, that there are now in Dorfield certain government agents who are tracing this circular and will not be so particular as we must be to abide by established law in making arrests. Their authority is more elastic, in other words. Moreover, these circulars were mailed, and the postoffice department has special detectives to attend to those who use the mails for disloyal purposes."
"Are any of these agents or detectives working on this case?" asked the girl, more hopefully.
"Let us suppose so," he answered. "They do not confide their activities to the police, although if they call upon us, we must assist them. I personally saw that copies of these circulars were placed in the hands of a government agent, but have heard nothing more of the affair."
"And you fear they will let the matter drop?" she questioned, trying to catch the drift of his cautiously expressed words.
He did not answer that question at all. Instead, he quietly arranged some papers on his desk and after a pause that grew embarrassing, again turned to Mary Louise.
"Whoever issued these circulars," he remarked, "is doubtless clever. He is also bitterly opposed to the administration, and we may logically suppose he will not stop in his attempts to block the government's conduct of the war. At every opportunity he will seek to poison the minds of our people and, sooner or later, he will do something that is decidedly actionable. Then we will arrest him and put an end to his career."
"You think that, sir?"
"I'm pretty sure of it, from long experience with criminals."
"I suppose the Kaiser is paying him," said the girl, bitterly.
"We've no grounds for that belief."
"He is helping the Kaiser; he is pro-German!"
"He is helping the Kaiser, but is not necessarily pro-German. We know he is against the government, but on the other hand he may detest the Germans. That his propaganda directly aids our enemies there is no doubt, yet his enmity may have been aroused by personal prejudice or intense opposition to the administration or to other similar cause. Such a person is an out-and-out traitor when his sentiments lead to actions which obstruct his country's interests. The traitors are not all pro-German. Let us say they are anti-American."
Mary Louise was sorely disappointed.
"I think I know who this traitor is, in spite of what you say," she remarked, "and I think you ought to watch him, Mr. Farnum, and try to prevent his doing more harm."
The Chief studied her face. He seemed to have a theory that one may glean as much from facial expression as from words.
"One ought to be absolutely certain," said he, "before accusing anyone of disloyalty. A false accusation is unwarranted. It is a crime, in fact. You have no idea, Miss Burrows, how many people come to us to slyly accuse a neighbor, whom they hate, of disloyalty. In not a single instance have they furnished proof, and we do not encourage mere telltales. I don't want you to tell me whom you suspect, but when you can lay before me a positive accusation, backed by facts that can be proven, I'll take up the case and see that the lawbreaker is vigorously prosecuted."
The girl went away greatly annoyed by the Chief's reluctance to act in the matter, but when she had related the interview to Gran'pa, the old colonel said:
"I like Farnum's attitude, which I believe to be as just as it is conservative. Suspicion, based on personal dislike, should not be tolerated. Why, Mary Louise, anyone might accuse you, or me, of disloyalty and cause us untold misery and humiliation in defending ourselves and proving our innocence—and even then the stigma on our good name would be difficult to remove entirely. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the countries of Europe through false accusations. But America is an enlightened nation, and let us hope no personal animosities will influence us or no passionate adherence to our country's cause deprive us of our sense of justice."
"Our sense of justice," asserted Mary Louise, "should lead us to unmask traitors, and I know very well that somewhere in Dorfield lurks an enemy to my country."
"We will admit that, my dear. But your country is watching out for those 'enemies within,' who are more to be feared than those without; and, if I were you, Mary Louise, I'd allow the proper officials to unmask the traitor, as they are sure to do in time. This war has placed other opportunities in your path to prove your usefulness to your country, as you have already demonstrated. Is it not so?"
Mary Louise sighed.
"You are always right, Gran'pa Jim," she said, kissing him fondly. "Drat that traitor, though! How I hate a snake in the grass."
CHAPTER VI. TO HELP WIN THE WAR
The activities of the Liberty Girls of Dorfield did not cease with their successful Liberty Bond "drive." Indeed, this success and the approbation of their fellow townspeople spurred the young girls on to further patriotic endeavor, in which they felt sure of enthusiastic encouragement.
"As long as Uncle Sam needs his soldiers," said Peter Conant, the lawyer, "he'll need his Liberty Girls, for they can help win the war."
When Mary Louise first conceived the idea of banding her closest companions to support the government in all possible ways, she was a bit doubtful if their efforts would prove of substantial value, although she realized that all her friends were earnestly determined to "do their bit," whatever the bit might chance to be. The local Red Cross chapter had already usurped many fields of feminine usefulness and with a thorough organization, which included many of the older women, was accomplishing a 'vast deal of good. Of course the Liberty Girls could not hope to rival the Red Cross.
Mary Louise was only seventeen and the ages of the other Liberty Girls ranged from fourteen to eighteen, so they had been somewhat ignored by those who were older and more competent, through experience, to undertake important measures of war relief. The sensational bond sale, however, had made the youngsters heroines—for the moment, at least— and greatly stimulated their confidence in themselves and their ambition to accomplish more.
Mary Louise Burrows was an orphan; her only relative, indeed, was Colonel James Hathaway, her mother's father, whose love for his granddaughter was thoroughly returned by the young girl. They were good comrades, these two, and held many interests in common despite the discrepancy in their ages. The old colonel was "well-to-do," and although he could scarcely be called wealthy in these days of huge fortunes, his resources were ample beyond their needs. The Hathaway home was one of the most attractive in Dorfield, and Mary Louise and her grandfather were popular and highly respected. Their servants consisted of an aged pair of negroes named "Aunt Sally" and "Uncle Eben," who considered themselves family possessions and were devoted to "de ole mar'se an' young missy."
Alora Jones, who lived in the handsomest and most imposing house in the little city, was an heiress and considered the richest girl in Dorfield, having been left several millions by her mother. Her father, Jason Jones, although he handled Alora's fortune and surrounded his motherless daughter with every luxury, was by profession an artist—a kindly man who encouraged the girl to be generous and charitable to a degree. They did not advertise their good deeds and only the poor knew how much they owed to the practical sympathy of Alora Jones and her father. Alora, however, was rather reserved and inclined to make few friends, her worst fault being a suspicion of all strangers, due to some unfortunate experiences she had formerly encountered. The little band of Liberty Girls included all of Alora's accepted chums, for they were the chums of Mary Louise, whom Alora adored. Their companionship had done much to soften the girl's distrustful nature.
The other Liberty Girls were Laura Hilton, petite and pretty and bubbling with energy, whose father was a prominent real estate broker; Lucile Neal, whose father and three brothers owned and operated the Neal Automobile Factory, and whose intelligent zeal and knowledge of war conditions had been of great service to Mary Louise; Edna Barlow, a widowed dressmaker's only child, whose sweet disposition had made her a favorite with her girl friends, and Jane Donovan, the daughter of the Mayor of Dorfield and the youngest of the group here described.
These were the six girls who had entered the bond campaign and assisted to complete Dorfield's quota of subscriptions, but there was one other Liberty Girl who had been unable to join them in this active work. This was Irene Macfarlane, the niece of Peter Conant. She had been a cripple since childhood and was confined to the limits of a wheeled chair. Far from being gloomy or depressed, however, Irene had the sunniest nature imaginable, and was always more bright and cheerful than the average girl of her age. "From my knees down," she would say confidentially, "I'm no good; but from my knees up I'm as good as anybody." She was an excellent musician and sang very sweetly; she was especially deft with her needle; she managed her chair so admirably that little assistance was ever required. Mrs. Conant called her "the light of the house," and to hear her merry laughter and sparkling conversation, you would speedily be tempted to forget that fate had been unkind to her and decreed that for life she must be wedded to a wheeled chair.
If Irene resented this decree, she never allowed anyone to suspect it, and her glad disposition warded off the words of sympathy that might have pained her.
While unable to sally forth in the Liberty Bond drive, Irene was none the less an important member of the band of Liberty Girls. "She's our inspiration," said Mary Louise with simple conviction. Teeming with patriotism and never doubting her ability to do something helpful in defeating her country's foes, Irene had many valuable suggestions to make to her companions and one of these she broached a few days after the bond sale ended so triumphantly. On this occasion the Liberty Girls had met with Irene at Peter Conant's cosy home, next door to the residence of Colonel Hathaway, for consultation as to their future endeavors.
"Everyone is knitting for the soldiers and sailors," said Irene, "and while that is a noble work, I believe that we ought to do something different from the others. Such an important organization ought to render unusual and individual service on behalf of our beloved country. Is it not so?"
"It's all very well, Irene, to back our beloved country," remarked Laura, "but the whole nation is doing that and I really hanker to help our soldier boys."
"So do I," spoke up Lucile. "The government is equal to the country's needs, I'm sure, but the government has never taken any too good care of its soldiers and they'll lack a lot of things besides knitted goods when they get to the front."
"Exactly," agreed Mary Louise. "Seems to me it's the girls' chief duty to look after the boys, and a lot of the drafted ones are marching away from Dorfield each day, looking pretty glum, even if loyally submitting to the inevitable. I tell you, girls, these young and green soldiers need encouraging, so they'll become enthusiastic and make the best sort of fighters, and we ought to bend our efforts to cheering them up."
Irene laughed merrily.
"Good!" she cried; "you're like a flock of sheep: all you need is a hint to trail away in the very direction I wanted to lead you. There are a lot of things we can do to add to our soldiers' comfort. They need chocolate—sweets are good for them—and 'comfort-kits' of the real sort, not those useless, dowdy ones so many well-intentioned women are wasting time and money to send them; and they'll be grateful for lots and lots of cigarettes, and—"
"Oh, Irene! Do you think that would be right?" from Edna Barlow.
"Of course it would. The government approves cigarettes and the French girls are supplying our boys across the pond with them even now. Surely we can do as much for our own brave laddies who are still learning the art of war. Not all smoke, of course, and some prefer pipes and tobacco, which we can also send them. Another thing, nearly every soldier needs a good pocket knife, and a razor, and they need games of all sorts, such as dominoes and checkers and cribbage-boards; and good honest trench mirrors, and—"
"Goodness me, Irene," interrupted Jane Donovan, "how do you think we could supply all those things? To equip a regiment with the articles you mention would cost a mint of money, and where's the money coming from, and how are we to get it?"
"There you go again, helping me out!" smiled Irene. "In your question, my dear, lies the crux of my suggestion. We Liberty Girls must raise the money."
"I object to begging."
"The people are tired of subscribing to all sorts of schemes."
"We certainly are not female Croesuses!"
"Perhaps you expect us to turn bandits and sandbag the good citizens on dark nights."
Irene's smile did not fade; she simply glowed with glee at these characteristic protestations.
"I can't blame you, girls, for you haven't thought the thing out, and I have," she stated. "My scheme isn't entirely original, for I read the other day of a similar plan being tried in another city, with good success. A plan similar, in some ways, but quite different in others. Yet it gave me the idea."
"Shoot us the idea, then," said Jane, who was inclined to favor slang.
"In order to raise money," said Irene, slowly and more seriously than she had before spoken, "it is necessary for us to go into business. The other day, when I was riding with Alora, I noticed that the store between the post-office and the Citizens' Bank is vacant, and a sign in the window said 'Apply to Peter Conant, Agent.' Peter Conant being my uncle, I applied to him that evening after dinner, on behalf of the Liberty Girls. It's one of the best locations in town and right in the heart of the business district. The store has commanded a big rental, but in these times it is not in demand and it has been vacant for the last six months, with no prospect of its being rented. Girls, Peter Conant will allow us to use this store room without charge until someone is willing to pay the proper rent for it, and so the first big problem is solved. Three cheers for Uncle Peter!"
They stared at her rather suspiciously, not yet understanding her idea.
"So far, so good, my dear," said Mary Louise. "We can trust dear old Peter Conant to be generous and patriotic. But what good is a store without stock, and how are we going to get a stock to sell—and sell it at a profit that will allow us to do all the things we long to do for the soldiers?"
"Explain that, and I'm with you," announced Alora.
"Explain that, and we're all with you!" declared Lucile Neal.
"All I need is the opportunity," protested Irene. "You're such chatterboxes that you won't let me talk! Now—listen. I'm not much of an executioner, girls, but I can plan and you can execute, and in that way I get my finger in the pie. Now, I believe I've a practical idea that will work out beautifully. Dorfield is an ancient city and has been inhabited for generations. Almost every house contains a lot of articles that are not in use—are put aside and forgotten—or are not in any way necessary to the comfort and happiness of the owners, yet would be highly prized by some other family which does not possess such articles. For instance, a baby-carriage or crib, stored away in some attic, could be sold at a bargain to some young woman needing such an article; or some old brass candlesticks, considered valueless by their owner, would be eagerly bought by someone who did not possess such things and had a love for antiques.
"My proposition is simply this: that you visit all the substantial homes in Dorfield and ask to be given whatever the folks care to dispense with, such items to be sold at 'The Liberty Girls' Shop' and the money applied to our War Fund to help the soldier boys. Lucile's brother, Joe Neal, will furnish us a truck to cart all the things from the houses to our store, and I'm sure we can get a whole lot of goods that will sell readily. The people will be glad to give all that they don't want to so good a cause, and what one doesn't want, another is sure to want. Whatever money we take in will be all to the good, and with it we can supply the boys with many genuine comforts. Now, then, how does my idea strike you?"
Approval—even the dawn of enthusiasm—was written on every countenance. They canvassed all the pros and cons of the proposition at length, and the more they considered it the more practical it seemed.
"The only doubtful thing," said Mary Louise, finally, "is whether the people will donate the goods they don't need or care for, but that can be easily determined by asking them. We ought to pair off, and each couple take a residence street and make a careful canvass, taking time to explain our plan. One day will show us whether we're to be successful or not, and the whole idea hinges on the success of our appeal."
"Not entirely," objected Alora. "We may secure the goods, but be unable to sell them."
"Nonsense," said little Laura Hilton; "nothing in the world sells so readily as second-hand truck. Just think how the people flock to auctions and the like. And we girls should prove good 'salesladies,' too, for we can do a lot of coaxing and get better prices than an auctioneer. All we need do is appeal to the patriotism of the prospective buyers."
"Anyhow," asserted Edna, "it seems worth a trial, and we must admit the idea is attractive and unique—at least a novelty in Dorfield."
So they planned their method of canvassing and agreed to put in the next day soliciting articles to sell at the Liberty Girls' Shop.
CHAPTER VII THE LIBERTY SHOP
Mary Louise said to her grandfather that night, after explaining Irene's novel scheme to raise money: "We haven't been housekeeping many years in Dorfield and I'm not sure I can find among our household possessions anything to give the Liberty Shop. But I've some jewelry and knickknacks that I never wear and, if you don't mind, Gran'pa Jim, I'll donate that to our shop."
The Colonel was really enthusiastic over the plan and not only approved his granddaughter's proposition to give her surplus jewelry but went over the house with her and selected quite an imposing lot of odds and ends which were not in use and could readily be spared. Eager to assist the girls, the old colonel next morning went to town and ordered a big sign painted, to be placed over the store entrance, and he also induced the editors of the two newspapers to give the Liberty Girls' latest venture publicity in their columns, inviting the cooperation of the public.
Peter Conant turned over the keys of the big store to the girls and the first load of goods to be delivered was that from the Hathaway residence.
The Liberty Girls were astonished at the success of their solicitations. From almost every house they visited they secured donations of more or less value. It may have seemed "rubbish" to some of the donors, but the variety of goods that soon accumulated in the store room presented an interesting collection and the girls arranged their wares enticingly and polished up the brass and copper ornaments and utensils until they seemed of considerable value.
They did not open their doors to the public for ten days, and Joe Neal began to grumble because one of his trucks was kept constantly running from house to house, gathering up the articles contributed to the Liberty Girls' Shop. But the girls induced other trucks to help Joe and the enthusiasm kept growing. Curiosity was spurred by the big sign over the closed doors, and every woman who donated was anxious to know what others had given to the shop. It was evident there would be a crowd at the formal "opening," for much was expected from the unique enterprise.
Meantime, the girls were busily occupied. Each day one group solicited donations while another stayed at the store to arrange the goods. Many articles of furniture, more or less decrepit, were received, and a man was hired to varnish and patch and put the chairs, stands, tables, desks and whatnots into the best condition possible. Alora Jones thought the stock needed "brightening," so she induced her father to make purchases of several new articles, which she presented the girls as her share of the donations. And Peter Conant, finding many small pieces of jewelry, silverware and bric-a-brac among the accumulation, rented a big showcase for the girls, in which such wares were properly displayed.
During these ten days of unflagging zeal the Liberty Girls were annoyed to discover that another traitorous circular had been issued. A large contingent of the selective draft boys had just been ordered away to the cantonment and the day before they left all their parents received a circular saying that the draft was unconstitutional and that their sons were being sacrificed by autocratic methods to further the political schemes of the administration. "Mr. Wilson," it ended, "is trying to make for himself a place in history, at the expense of the flesh and blood of his countrymen."
This vile and despicable screed was printed from the same queer type as the former circulars denouncing the Liberty Bond sale and evidently emanated from the same source. Mary Louise was the first to secure one of the papers and its envelope, mailed through the local post-office, and her indignation was only equalled by her desire to punish the offender. She realized, however, her limitations, and that she had neither the time nor the talent to unmask the traitor. She could only hope that the proper authorities would investigate the matter.
That afternoon, with the circular still in her handbag, she visited the clothing store of Jacob Kasker and asked the proprietor if he had any goods he would contribute to the Liberty Girls' Shop.
Kasker was a stolid, florid-faced man, born in America of naturalized German parents, and therefore his citizenship could not be assailed. He had been quite successful as a merchant and was reputed to be the wealthiest clothing dealer in Dorfield.
"No," said Kasker, shortly, in answer to the request. Mary Louise was annoyed by the tone.
"You mean that you won't help us, I suppose?" she said impatiently.
He turned from his desk and regarded her with a slight frown. Usually his expression was stupidly genial.
"Why should I give something for nothing?" he asked. "It isn't my war; I didn't make it, and I don't like it. Say, I got a boy—one son. Do you know they've drafted him—took him from his work without his consent, or mine, and marched him off to a war that there's no good excuse for?"
"Well," returned Mary Louise, "your boy is one of those we're trying to help."
"You won't help make him a free American again; you'll just help give him knickknacks so he won't rebel against his slavery."
The girl's eyes flashed.
"Mr. Kasker," she said sternly, "I consider that speech disloyal and traitorous. Men are being jailed every day for less!"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"I believe that is true, and it proves what a free country this is—does it not? Mr. Wilson's democracy is the kind that won't allow people to express their opinions, unless they agree with him. If I say I will stand by the American constitution, they will put me in jail."
Mary Louise fairly gasped. She devoutly wished she had never approached this dreadful man. She felt ashamed to breathe the same air with him. But she hated to retreat without a definite display of her disgust at his perfidious utterances. Drawing the circular from her bag she spread it before him on his desk and said:
He just glanced at it, proving he knew well its wording. Mary Louise was watching him closely.
"Well, what about it?" he asked brusquely.
"It expresses your sentiments, I believe."
He turned upon her suspiciously.
"You think I wrote it?" he demanded.
"My thoughts are my own," retorted Mary Louise.
Kasker's frown deepened.
"Your thoughts may get you into trouble, my girl," he said slowly. "Let me tell you this: However much I hate this war, I'm not fighting it publicly. To you I have spoken in private—just a private conversation. The trouble with me is, I talk too much; I don't know enough to keep my mouth shut. I guess I'll never learn that. I ain't a hypocrite, and I ain't a pacifist. I say the United States must win this war because it has started the job, and right or wrong, must finish it. I guess we could beat the whole world, if we had to. But I ain't fool enough to say that all they do down at Washington is right, 'cause I know it ain't. But I'm standing by the flag. My boy is standing by the flag, and he'll fight as well as any in the whole army to keep the flag flying over this great republic. By and by we'll get better congressmen; the ones we got now are accidents. But in spite of all accidents—and they're mostly our own fault—I'm for America first, last and all the time. That's Jake Kasker. I don't like the Germans and I don't like the English, for Jake Kasker is a George Washington American. What are you doing, girl?" he suddenly asked with a change of tone.
"I'm putting down that speech in shorthand in my notebook," said Mary Louise, "and I think I've got every word of it." She slipped the book in her bag and picked up the circular. "Good afternoon, Mr. Kasker!"
The German seemed bewildered; he ran his fingers through his bushy hair as if trying to remember what he had said.
"Wait!" he cried, as she turned away. "I've changed my mind about those goods; I'll send some over to your shop to be sold."
"Don't do it," she replied, "for we won't accept them. Only those whose patriotism rings true are allowed to help us."
Then she marched out of the big store, the proprietor at the desk staring at her fixedly until she had disappeared.
"That's it, Jake," he said to himself, turning to his papers; "you talk too much. If a man prints a thing, and nobody knows who printed it, he's safe."
CHAPTER VIII THE DETECTIVE'S DAUGHTER
"I'm pretty sure, Gran'pa Jim," said Mary Louise that evening, "that I've trailed the traitor to his lair, and he's none other than—Jake Kasker!"
This was the first time she had mentioned her suspicion of Kasker to him, and her statement was received by the colonel with moderate surprise, followed by a doubtful smile.
"I know Jake," he remarked, "and while he is uneducated and his mind is unformed concerning most things outside the clothing business, I should hesitate to accuse him of downright disloyalty."
"He's a German, and sympathizes with the Kaiser," asserted Mary Louise.
"Did he say that?"
"Well, not in so many words."
"A German-American is not usually pro-German," the colonel declared, "for Germans who come to America come to escape the militarism and paternalism of the Junkers, which is proof in itself that they disapprove of what we term kaiserism. I know that Kasker talks foolishly against the war and resents the drafting of his son, but I think he is a good American at heart. He has bought Liberty Bonds more liberally than some who proclaim their patriotism from the housetops. I don't fear these outspoken objectors, my dear, as much as those who work slyly in the dark—such as the writers of those disgraceful circulars."
"I practically accused Kasker of sending out those circulars," said Mary Louise, "and his defense was very lame and unconvincing. Listen, Grand'pa, to what he said. I took the speech down in shorthand, and that worried him, I'm sure."
The colonel listened and shook his head gravely.
"Yes, Jake Kasker talks too much," he confessed, "and much that he says is disloyal to our government and calculated to do much harm, especially if widely circulated. This is no time to criticise the men who are working hard to win the war; we should render them faithful support. The task before us is difficult and it will require a united country to defeat our enemies. I must talk to Jake Kasker."
"Won't it be better to let the authorities deal with him?" suggested the girl. "They're certain to get him, in time, if he goes on this way. I believe I frightened him a bit this afternoon, but he's too dull to take warning. Anyhow, I shall relate the whole interview to Chief Farnum to-morrow morning."
This she did, but the Chief gave her little satisfaction.
"No one pays any attention to Kasker," he said.
"He's a German, and a traitor!" she insisted. "A woman's intuition is seldom at fault, and I'm convinced he's responsible for this latest and most dreadful circular," and she laid it before him.
"A girl's intuition is not as mature as a woman's intuition," the Chief answered in an impatient tone. "You force me to say, my dear young lady, that you are dabbling in affairs that do not concern you. I've plenty of those circulars on file and I'm attending to my duty and keeping an eye open for the rascal who wrote them. But there is no proof that Kasker is the man. The federal officers are also investigating the case, and I imagine they will not require your assistance."
Mary Louise flushed but stood her ground.
"Isn't it the duty of every patriotic person to denounce a traitor?" she inquired.
"Yes, if there is proof. I think you are wrong about Kasker, but if you are able to bring me proof, I'll arrest him and turn him over to the federal agents for prosecution. But, for heaven's sake, don't bother me with mere suspicions."
Mary Louise did not accept this rebuke graciously. She went away with the feeling that Chief Farnum was, for some reason, condoning a crime, and she was firmly resolved to obtain the required proof if it could be secured without subjecting herself to the annoyance of such rebuffs as the one she had just endured.
"We ought not to permit such a snake in the grass to exist in dear old Dorfield," she told her girl associates. "Let us all try to discover absolute proof of Kasker's treachery."
The other Liberty Girls were as indignant as Mary Louise, but were too intent on their present duties to pay much attention to Jake Kasker. For the Liberty Girls' Shop was now open to the public, and men, women and children crowded in to see what the girls had to offer. Sales were so brisk during the first week that the stock became depleted and once more they made a house to house canvass to obtain a new supply of material.
This kept all six of the girls busily occupied. Irene each morning rode down to the shop in the Hathaway automobile—wheel-chair and all—and acted as cashier, so as to relieve the others of this duty. She could accomplish this work very nicely and became the Liberty Girls' treasurer and financial adviser. Each day she deposited in the bank the money received, and the amounts were so liberal that enthusiasm was easily maintained.
"The soldier boys have reason to rejoice," said Irene complacently, "for we shall soon be able to provide them with numerous comforts and luxuries—all of which they are surely entitled to."
So the new enterprise was progressing finely when, one evening, on reaching home from a busy day at the shop, Mary Louise found a letter that greatly pleased her. It was from an old and valued girl friend in Washington and after rambling along pleasantly on a variety of subjects the writer concluded as follows:
"But we can talk all this over at our leisure, my dear, for I'm going to accept one of your many pressing invitations (the first one, of course) and make you another little visit. I love Dorfield, and I love you, and the dear Colonel, and Irene and Alora, and I long to see all of you again. Moreover, Daddy is being sent abroad on a secret mission, and I should be lonely without him. So expect me at any time. In my usual erratic fashion I may follow on the heels of this letter, or I may lag behind it for a few days, but whenever I turn up at the Hathaway gate, I'll demand a kiss and a welcome for "JOSIE O'GORMAN."
Now, this girl was in many ways so entirely unlike Mary Louise that one might wonder what link of sympathy drew them together, unless it was "the law of opposites." However, there was one quality in both their natures that might warrant the warm friendship existing between the two girls. Mary Louise was sweet and winning, with a charming, well-bred manner and a ready sympathy for all who were in trouble. She was attractive in person, particular as to dress, generous and considerate to a fault. The girl had been carefully reared and had well repaid the training of the gallant old colonel, her grandfather, who had surrounded her with competent instructors. Yet Mary Louise had a passion for mysteries and was never quite so happy as when engaged in studying a baffling personality or striving to explain a seeming enigma. Gran'pa Jim, who was usually her confidant when she "scented a mystery," often accused her of allowing her imagination to influence her judgment, but on several occasions the girl had triumphantly proven her intuitions to be correct. You must not think, from this statement, that Mary Louise was prone to suspect everyone she met; it was only on rare occasions she instinctively felt there was more beneath the surface of an occurrence than appeared to the casual observer, and then, if a wrong might be righted or a misunderstanding removed—but only in such event—she eagerly essayed to discover the truth. It was in this manner that she had once been of great service to her friend Alora Jones, and to others as well. It was this natural quality, combined with sincere loyalty, which made her long to discover and bring to justice the author of the pro-German circulars.
Josie O'Gorman was small and "pudgy"—her own expression—red-haired and freckled-faced and snub-nosed. Her eyes redeemed much of this personal handicap, for they were big and blue as turquoises and as merry and innocent in expression as the eyes of a child. Also, the good humor which usually pervaded her sunny features led people to ignore their plainness. In dress, Josie was somewhat eccentric in her selections and careless in methods of wearing her clothes, but this might be excused by her engrossing interest in people, rather than in apparel.
The girl was the daughter—the only child, indeed—of John O'Gorman, an old and trusted lieutenant of the government's secret-service. From Josie's childhood, the clever detective had trained her in all the subtle art of his craft, and allowing for her youth, which meant a limited experience of human nature and the intricacies of crime, Josie O'Gorman was now considered by her father to be more expert than the average professional detective. While the astute secret-service agent was more than proud of his daughter's talent, he would not allow her to undertake the investigation of crime as a profession until she was older and more mature. Sometimes, however, he permitted and even encouraged her to "practise" on minor or unimportant cases of a private nature, in which the United States government was not interested.
Josie's talent drew Mary Louise to her magnetically. The detective's daughter was likewise a delightful companion. She was so well versed in all matters of national import, as well as in the foibles and peculiarities of the human race, that even conservative, old Colonel Hathaway admired the girl and enjoyed her society. Josie had visited Mary Louise more than once and was assured a warm welcome whenever she came to Dorfield. Most of the Liberty Girls knew Josie O'Gorman, and when they heard she was coming they straightway insisted she be made a member of their band.
"She'll just have to be one of us," said Mary Louise, "for I'm so busy with our wonderful Shop that I can't entertain Josie properly unless she takes a hand in our game, which I believe she will be glad to do."
And Josie was glad, and proclaimed herself a Liberty Girl the first hour of her arrival, the moment she learned what the patriotic band had already accomplished and was determined to accomplish further.
"It's just play, you know, and play of the right sort—loyal and helpful to those who deserve the best we can give them, our brave soldiers and sailors. Count me in, girls, and you'll find me at the Liberty Shop early and late, where I promise to sell anything from an old hoopskirt to a decayed piano at the highest market price. We've had some 'rummage sales' in Washington, you know, but nothing to compare with this thorough and businesslike undertaking of yours. But I won't wear your uniform; I can't afford to allow the glorious red-white-and-blue to look dowdy, as it would on my unseemly form."
CHAPTER IX GATHERING UP THE THREADS
Josie O'Gorman had been in Dorfield several days before Mary Louise showed her the traitorous circulars that had been issued by some unknown obstructionist. At first she had been a little ashamed to acknowledge to her friend that a citizen of her own town could be so disloyal, but the matter had weighed heavily on her mind and so she decided to unload it upon Josie's shrewder intelligence.
"I feel, dear, that the best service you can render us while here—the best you can render the nation, too—will be to try to discover this secret enemy," she said earnestly. "I'm sure he has done a lot of harm, already, and he may do much more if he is left undisturbed. Some folks are not too patriotic, even now, when we are facing the most terrible ordeal in our history, and some are often so weak as to be influenced by what I am sure is pro-German propaganda."
Josie studied the various circulars. She studied the handwriting on the envelopes and the dates of the postmarks. Her attitude was tense, as that of a pointer dog who suddenly senses a trail. Finally she asked:
"Do the police know?"
Mary Louise related her two interviews with Chief Farnum.
"How about the agents of the department of justice?"
"I don't know of any," confessed Mary Louise.
Josie put the circulars in her pocket.
"Now, then, tell me whom you suspect, and why," she said.
Until now Mary Louise had not mentioned the clothing merchant to Josie, but she related Jake Kasker's frank opposition to the war at the Liberty Bond mass-meeting and her interview with him in his store, in which he plainly showed his antagonism to the draft and to the administration generally. She read to Josie the shorthand notes she had taken and supplemented all by declaring that such a man could be guilty of any offense.
"You see," she concluded, "all evidence points to Kasker as the traitor; but Chief Farnum is stubborn and independent, and we must obtain positive proof that Kasker issued those circulars. Then we can put an end to his mischief-making. I don't know how to undertake such a job, Josie, but you do; I'm busy at the Liberty Shop, and we can spare you from there better than any one else; so, if you want to 'practise,' here's an opportunity to do some splendid work."
Josie was a good listener. She did not interrupt Mary Louise, but let her say all she had to say concerning this interesting matter. When her friend paused for lack of words, Josie remarked:
"Every American's watchword should be: 'Swat the traitor!' War seems to breed traitors, somehow. During the Civil War they were called 'copperheads,' as the most venomous term that could be applied to the breed. We haven't yet coined an equally effective word in this war, but it will come in time. Meanwhile, every person—man or woman—who is not whole-heartedly with President Wilson and intent on helping win the war, is doing his country a vital injury. That's the flat truth, and I'd like to shake your Jake Kasker out of his suit of hand-me-down clothing. If he isn't a traitor, he's a fool, and sometimes fools are more dangerous than traitors. There! All this has got me riled, and an investigator has no business to get riled. They must be calm and collected." She slapped her forehead, settled herself in her chair and continued in a more moderate tone: "Now, tell me what other people in Dorfield have led you to suspect they are not in accord with the administration, or resent our entry into the Great War."
Mary Louise gave her a puzzled look.
"Oughtn't we to finish with Kasker, first?" she asked, hesitatingly, for she respected Josie's judgment.
The girl detective laughed.
"I've an impression we've already finished with him—unless I really give him that shaking," she replied. "I'll admit that such a person is mischievous and ought to be shut up, either by jailing him or putting a plaster over his mouth, but I can't believe Jake Kasker guilty of those circulars."
"Why not?" in an aggrieved tone.
"Well, in spite of his disloyal mutterings, his deeds are loyal. He's disgruntled over the loss of his son, and doesn't care who knows it, but he'll stand pat and spank the kid if he doesn't fight like a tartar. He hates the war—perhaps we all hate it, in a way—but he'll buy Liberty Bonds and help win a victory. I know that sort; they're not dangerous; just at war with themselves, with folly and honesty struggling for the mastery. Let him alone and in a few months you'll find Kasker making patriotic speeches."
"Think of someone else."
Mary Louise shook her head.
"What, only one string to your bow of distrust? Fie, Mary Louise! When you were selling Liberty Bonds, did you meet with no objectors?"
"Well—yes; there's a wholesale grocer here, who is named Silas Herring, a very rich man, but sour and disagreeable."
"Did he kick on the bonds?"
"Then tell me all about him."
"When I first entered his office, Mr. Herring made insulting remarks about the bonds and accused our government of being dominated by the English. He was very bitter in his remarks, but in his office were two other men who remonstrated with him and—"
"What were the two men doing there?"
"Why, they were talking about something, when I entered; I didn't hear what, for when they saw me they became silent."
"Were they clerks, or grocers—customers?"
"No; one was our supervisor, Andrew Duncan—"
"And the other man?" asked Josie.
"Our superintendent of schools, Professor Dyer."
"Oh; then they were talking politics."
"I suppose likely. I was obliged to argue with Mr. Herring and became so incensed that I threatened him with the loss of his trade. But Mr. Duncan at once subscribed for Liberty Bonds, and so did Professor Dyer, and that shamed Silas Herring into buying a big bunch of them also."