Aunt Jane's Nieces in the Red Cross eBook: Page1

L. Frank Baum (2005)




  Author of "Aunt Jane's Nieces Series,""Flying Girl Series," etc.

  The Reilly & Britton Co.Chicago



  This is the story of how three brave American girls sacrificed thecomforts and luxuries of home to go abroad and nurse the woundedsoldiers of a foreign war.

  I wish I might have depicted more gently the scenes in hospital and onbattlefield, but it is well that my girl readers should realizesomething of the horrors of war, that they may unite with heart and soulin earnest appeal for universal, lasting Peace and the future abolitionof all deadly strife.

  Except to locate the scenes of my heroines' labors, no attempt has beenmade to describe technically or historically any phase of the greatEuropean war.

  The character of Doctor Gys is not greatly exaggerated but had itscounterpart in real life. As for the little Belgian who had no room forscruples in his active brain, his story was related to me by an Americanwar correspondent who vouched for its truth. The other persona in thestory are known to those who have followed their adventures in otherbooks of the "Aunt Jane's Nieces" series.


























  "What's the news, Uncle?" asked Miss Patricia Doyle, as she entered thecosy breakfast room of a suite of apartments in Willing Square. Even asshe spoke she pecked a little kiss on the forehead of the chubby manaddressed as "Uncle"--none other, if you please, than the famous andeccentric multi-millionaire known in Wall Street as John Merrick--andsat down to pour the coffee.

  There was energy in her method of doing this simple duty, an indicationof suppressed vitality that conveyed the idea that here was a girlaccustomed to action. And she fitted well into the homely scene: shortand somewhat "squatty" of form, red-haired, freckle-faced andpug-nosed. Wholesome rather than beautiful was Patsy Doyle, but if youcaught a glimpse of her dancing blue eyes you straightway forgot herlesser charms.

  Quite different was the girl who entered the room a few minutes later.Hers was a dark olive complexion, face of exquisite contour, great browneyes with a wealth of hair to match them and the flush of a rose in herrounded cheeks. The poise of her girlish figure was gracious anddignified as the bearing of a queen.

  "Morning, Cousin Beth," said Patsy cheerily.

  "Good morning, my dear," and then, with a trace of anxiety in her tone:"What is the news, Uncle John?"

  The little man had ignored Patsy's first question, but now he answeredabsently, his eyes still fixed upon the newspaper:

  "Why, they're going to build another huge skyscraper on Broadway, atEleventh, and I see the political pot is beginning to bubble all throughthe Bronx, although--"

  "Stuff and nonsense, Uncle!" exclaimed Patsy. "Beth asked for news, notfor gossip."

  "The news of the war, Uncle John," added Beth, buttering her toast.

  "Oh; the war, of course," he said, turning over the page of the morningpaper. "It ought to be the Allies' day, for the Germans won yesterday.No--by cracky, Beth--the Germans triumph again; they've capturedMaubeuge. What do you think of that?"

  Patsy gave a little laugh.

  "Not knowing where Maubeuge is," she remarked, "my only thought is thatsomething is wrong with the London press bureau. Perhaps the cables gotcrossed--or short circuited or something. They don't usually allow theGermans to win two days in succession."

  "Don't interrupt, please," said Beth, earnestly. "This is too importanta matter to be treated lightly. Read us the article, Uncle. I was afraidMaubeuge would be taken."

  Patsy accepted her cousin's rebuke with her accustomed good nature.Indeed, she listened as intently as Beth to the thrilling account of thedestruction of Maubeuge, and her blue eyes became quite as serious asthe brown ones of her cousin when the tale of dead and wounded wasrecounted.

  "Isn't it dreadful!" cried Beth, clasping her hands togetherimpulsively.

  "Yes," nodded her uncle, "the horror of it destroys the interest wenaturally feel in any manly struggle for supremacy."

  "This great war is no manly struggle," observed Patsy with a toss of herhead. "It is merely wholesale murder by a band of selfish diplomats."

  "Tut-tut!" warned Mr. Merrick; "we Americans are supposed to be neutral,my dear. We must not criticize."

  "That does not prevent our sympathizing with the innocent sufferers,however," said Beth quietly. "My heart goes out, Uncle, to those poorvictims of the war's cruelty, the wounded and dying. I wish I could dosomething to help them!"

  Uncle John moved uneasily in his chair. Then he laid down his paper andapplied himself to his breakfast. But his usual merry expression hadfaded into one of thoughtfulness.

  "The wounded haunt me by day and night," went on Beth. "There arethousands upon thousands of them, left to suffer terrible pain--perhapsto die--on the spot where they fell, and each one is dear to some poorwoman who is ignorant of her loved one's fate and can do nothing butmoan and pray at home."

  "That's the hard part of it," said Patsy, her cousin. "I think themothers and wives and sweethearts are as much to be pitied as the fallensoldiers. The men _know_ what has happened, but the women don't. Itisn't so bad when they're killed outright; the family gets a medal toindicate that their hero has died for his country. But the wounded arelost sight of and must suffer in silence, with no loving hands to soothetheir agony."

  "My dears!" pleaded Uncle John, plaintively, "why do you insist uponflavoring our breakfast with these horrors? I--I--there! take it away; Ican't eat."

  The conversation halted abruptly. The girls were likewise unnerved bythe mental pictures evolved by their remarks and it was now too late torestore cheerfulness to the morning meal. They sat in pensive silencefor a while and were glad when Mr. Merrick pushed back his chair androse from the table.

  As Beth and Patsy followed their uncle into the cosy library where hewas accustomed to smoke his morning cigar, the little man remarked:

  "Let's see; this is the seventh of September."

  "Quite right, Uncle," said Patsy.

  "Isn't this the day Maud Stanton is due to arrive?"

  "No," replied Beth; "she will come to-morrow morning. It's a good fourdays' trip from California to New York, you know."

  "I wonder why she is coming here at this time of year," said Patsyreflectively, "and I wonder if her Aunt Jane or her sister Flo are withher."

  "She did not mention them in h
er telegram," answered Beth. "All she saidwas to expect her Wednesday morning. It seems quite mysterious, thattelegram, for I had no idea Maud thought of coming East."

  "Well, we will know all about it when she arrives," observed Uncle John."I will be glad to see Maud again, for she is one of my especialfavorites."

  "She's a very dear girl!" exclaimed Patsy, with emphasis. "It will besimply glorious to--"

  The doorbell rang sharply. There was a moment's questioning pause, forit was too early for visitors. The pattering feet of the little maid,Mary, approached the door and next moment a boyish voice demanded:

  "Is Mr. Merrick at home, or the young ladies, or--"

  "Why, it's Ajo!" shouted Patsy, springing to her feet and making a divefor the hallway.

  "Jones?" said Mr. Merrick, looking incredulous.

  "It must be," declared Beth, for now Patsy's voice was blended with thatof the boy in a rapid interchange of question and answer. Then in shecame, dragging him joyously by the arm.

  "This is certainly a surprise!" said Mr. Merrick, shaking the tall,slender youth by the hand with evident pleasure.

  "When did you get to town?" asked Beth, greeting the boy cordially."And why didn't you let us know you were on the way from far-off LosAngeles?"

  "Well," said Jones, seating himself facing them and softly rubbing hislean hands together to indicate his satisfaction at this warm reception,"it's a long, long story and I may as well tell it methodically oryou'll never appreciate the adventurous spirit that led me again to NewYork--the one place I heartily detest."

  "Oh, Ajo!" protested Patsy. "Is this the way to retain the friendship ofNew Yorkers?"

  "Isn't honesty appreciated here?" he wanted to know.

  "Go ahead with your story," said Uncle John. "We left you some monthsago at the harbor of Los Angeles, wondering what you were going to dowith that big ship of yours that lay anchored in the Pacific. If Iremember aright, you were considering whether you dared board it toreturn to that mysterious island home of yours at--at--"

  "Sangoa," said Patsy.

  "Thank you for giving me a starting-point," returned the boy, with asmile. "You may remember that when I landed in your country from SangoaI was a miserable invalid. The voyage had ruined my stomach and wreckedmy constitution. I crossed the continent to New York and consulted thebest specialists--and they nearly put an end to me. I returned to thePacific coast to die as near home as possible, and--and there I metyou."

  "And Patsy saved your life," added Beth.

  "She did. First, however, Maud Stanton saved me from drowning. ThenPatsy Doyle doctored me and made me well and strong. And now--"

  "And now you look like a modern Hercules," asserted Patsy, gazing withsome pride at the bronzed cheeks and clear eyes of the former invalidand ignoring his slight proportions. "Whatever have you been doing withyourself since then?"

  "Taking a sea voyage," he affirmed.


  "An absolute fact. For months I dared not board the _Arabella_, my seayacht, for fear of a return of my old malady; but after you deserted meand came to this--this artificial, dreary, bewildering--"

  "Never mind insulting my birthplace, sir!"

  "Oh! were you born here, Patsy? Then I'll give the town credit. So,after you deserted me at Los Angeles--"

  "You still had Mrs. Montrose and her nieces, Maud and Flo Stanton."

  "I know, and I love them all. But they became so tremendously busy thatI scarcely saw them, and finally I began to feel lonely. Those Stantongirls are chock full of business energy and they hadn't the time todevote to me that you people did. So I stood on the shore and looked atthe _Arabella_ until I mustered up courage to go aboard. Surviving that,I made Captain Carg steam slowly along the coast for a few miles.Nothing dreadful happened. So I made a day's voyage, and still ate mythree squares a day. That was encouraging."

  "I knew all the time it wasn't the voyage that wrecked your stomach,"said Patsy confidently.

  "What was it, then?"

  "Ptomaine poisoning, or something like that."

  "Well, anyhow, I found I could stand ocean travel again, so I determinedon a voyage. The Panama Canal was just opened and I passed through it,came up the Atlantic coast, and--the _Arabella_ is at this moment safelyanchored in the North River!"

  "And how do you feel?" inquired Uncle John.

  "Glorious--magnificent! The trip has sealed my recovery for good."

  "But why didn't you go home, to your Island of Sangoa?" asked Beth.

  He looked at her reproachfully.

  "_You_ were not there, Beth; nor was Patsy, or Uncle John. On the otherhand, there is no one in Sangoa who cares a rap whether I come home ornot. I'm the last of the Joneses of Sangoa, and while it is still myisland and the entire population is in my employ, the life there flowson just as smoothly without me as if I were present."

  "But don't they need the ship--the _Arabella_?" questioned Beth.

  "Not now. I sent a cargo of supplies by Captain Carg when he made hislast voyage to the island, and there will not be enough pearls found inthe fisheries for four or five months to come to warrant my shippingthem to market. Even then, they would keep. So I'm a free lance atpresent and I had an idea that if I once managed to get the boat aroundhere you folks might find a use for it."

  "In what way?" inquired Patsy, with interest.

  "We might all make a trip to Barbadoes, Bermuda and Cuba. Brazil is saidto be an interesting country. I'd prefer Europe, were it not for thewar."

  "Oh, Ajo, isn't this war terrible?"

  "No other word expresses it. Yet it all seems like a fairy tale to me,for I've never been in any other country than the United States since Imade my first voyage here from Sangoa--the island where my eyes firstopened to the world."

  "It isn't a fairy tale," said Beth with a shudder. "It's more like ahorrible nightmare."

  "I can't bear to read about it any more," he returned, musingly. "Infact, I've only been able to catch rumors of the progress of the war inthe various ports at which I've touched, and I came right here from myship. But I've no sympathy with either side. The whole thing annoys me,somehow--the utter uselessness and folly of it all."

  "Maubeuge has fallen," said Beth, and went on to give him the latesttidings. Finding that the war was the absorbing topic in this littlehousehold, the boy developed new interest in it and the morning passedquickly away.

  Jones stayed to lunch and then Mr. Merrick's automobile took them all tothe river to visit the beautiful yacht _Arabella_, which was already,they found, attracting a good deal of attention in the harbor, wherebeautiful yachts are no rarity.

  The _Arabella_ was intended by her builders for deep sea transit and asPatsy admiringly declared, "looked like a baby liner." While she wasyacht-built in all her lines and fittings, she was far from being merelya pleasure craft, but had been designed by the elder Jones, the boy'sfather, to afford communication between the Island of Sangoa, in thelower South Seas, and the continent of America.

  Sangoa is noted for its remarkable pearl fisheries, which were now ownedand controlled entirely by this youth; but his father, an experiencedman of affairs, had so thoroughly established the business of productionand sale that little remained for his only son and heir to do, more thanto invest the profits that steadily accrued and to care for the greatfortune left him. Whether he was doing this wisely or not no one--noteven his closest friends--could tell. But he was frank and friendlyabout everything else.

  They went aboard the _Arabella_ and were received by that grim andgrizzled old salt, Captain Carg, with the same wooden indifference healways exhibited. But Patsy detected a slight twinkle in the shrewd grayeyes that made her feel they were welcome. Carg, a seaman of vastexperience, was wholly devoted to his young master. Indeed, the girlssuspected that young Jones was a veritable autocrat in his island, aswell as aboard his ship. Everyone of the Sangoans seemed to accept hisdictation, however imperative it might be, as a matter of course, andthe gray old captain--who had seen muc
h of the world--was not the leastsubservient to his young master.

  On the other hand, Jones was a gentle and considerate autocrat,unconsciously imitating his lately deceased father in his kindlyinterest in the welfare of all his dependents. These had formerly beenfree-born Americans, for when the Island of Sangoa was purchased it hadno inhabitants.

  This fortunate--or perhaps unfortunate--youth had never been blessedwith a given name, more than the simple initial "A." The failure of hismother and father to agree upon a baptismal name for their only childhad resulted in a deadlock; and, as the family claimed a direct descentfrom the famous John Paul Jones, the proud father declared that to be "aJones" was sufficient honor for any boy; hence he should be known merelyas "A. Jones." The mother called her child by the usual endearing petnames until her death, after which the islanders dubbed the master'sson--then toddling around in his first trousers--"Ajo," and the name hadstuck to him ever since for want of a better one.

  With the Bohemian indifference to household routine so characteristic ofNew Yorkers, the party decided to dine at a down-town restaurant beforereturning to Willing Square, and it was during this entertainment thatyoung Jones first learned of the expected arrival of Maud Stanton on thefollowing morning. But he was no wiser than the others as to whatmission could have brought the girl to New York so suddenly that atelegram was required to announce her coming.

  "You see, I left Los Angeles weeks ago," the boy explained, "and at thattime Mrs. Montrose and her nieces were busy as bees and much toooccupied to pay attention to a drone like me. There was no hint then oftheir coming East, but of course many things may have happened in themeantime."

  The young fellow was so congenial a companion and the girls were so wellaware of his loneliness, through lack of acquaintances, that theycarried him home with them to spend the evening. When he finally leftthem, at a late hour, it was with the promise to be at the station nextmorning to meet Maud Stanton on her arrival.