Grace Harlow - Chapter 1
A Drive That Ended Violently
WHAT, drive with you, Grace Harlowe!" demanded Elfreda Briggs.
"Why not? The front is quiet on our sector. Jerry isn't dropping any bombs, nor is the road being shelled. You will have a pleasant ride out to the front lines and back, and you will benefit by the change and the air."
Grace had just started the engine of her motor preparatory to a trip to the front lines on the St. Quentin sector to bring back a load of wounded men to the field hospital.
"I rode with you once, you will recall," observed Miss Briggs. "I landed in a roadside ditch with one of those huge French trucks on top of me. If I go out with you now I probably
shall be smacked by a shell, even if there is but one fired during the night from the enemy lines. Why, I came out hero to see you off and say good-bye, for every time you drive toward the front I fully expect that they will be bringing you back with yourself as an ambulance case."
''Don't be silly, Elfreda. One has accidents even in peaceful Oakdale, and one occasionally turns over with her car. Out here it is war and we look for variations. I am rather inclined to think that they make life interesting. Are you going with me7"
"If you will promise not to ditch me, I will," promised J. Elfreda in a doubtful tone.
"Wait until I run in and ask the major's permission," directed Grace, skipping over to the office of the commanding officer of the field hospital. She was back a few moments later.
"All right," she cried. "The major has charged me to bring you back safely, and threatens me with dire punishment if I smash you up. The major said he cannot spare you until after the end of the war, with all the hospitals over here evacuated for good. I told him that if you got smacked or smashed, it was reasonable to expect that I would share the same fate, and that that would be punishment enough. Wasn't that liberal of me-agreeing to be wrecked, crushed or smashed as the case
might be, just because you were. To me that seems perfect hospitality."
"If von don't stop that I'll not move from this field hospital, Grace Harlowe. Are you trying to 'get my wind up!'" demanded Miss Briggs, using the parlance of the doughboy for being afraid.
"Hop in," directed Grace. "I must be off or the chief of my section will be putting me on report for neglect of duty. Goodness knows, I have enough black marks against me for wrecking ambulances, violating the rules of war by walking into the enemy lines and back again without asking permission of either side, so, if you love me get hand be lively about it." Grace laughed merrily, and Elfreda dragged herself to the seat in the ambulance as though the effort gave her pain. The young hospital attendant sighed a long deep sigh of resignation as she settled down.
"The lamb has permitted herself to be led to the slaughter. C'est le guerre-it is war," she added with a typically French shrug of the shoulders, much to the amusement of her companion.
Grace threw in the clutch and was off with a rattle and a bang so characteristic of the type of cars that the ambulance sections were using. Elfreda had been relieved from duty for the
night, and Grace knew that her friend really needed a change, even if that change did lead her up near the front lines where, at any moment, the dogs of war might break their leashes and be at it tooth and jowl. She also was aware that many clashes between pdtrols had taken place that evening, and it was to bring back the wounded from these night-raiding parties that she was going out to an advanced dressing station on this occasion, as shc had been doing every night for the last week.
Traffic was heavy on the road, and, though E].freda's heart was literally in her throat, Grace did not appear to be the least disturbed by the many narrow escapes from collisions that they experienced. Elfreda had worked herself into a nervous sweat before they had proceeded a mile from the field hospital. Finally they got on a road that was used exclusively by ambulances, and there the going was much better, so that Elfreda relaxed a little.
"I should die did I have to travel over this road every night as you do," she declared with emphasis. "How your nerves ever stand up under the strain is beyond my comprehension. Then the shells and the machine-gun fire and-"
"Nevermind the rest, Elfreda. As for nerves, one must forget that she has such
things, otherwise she will wear out quickly. The few weeks that Tom was missing nearly caused the wreck of my nervous system, and after I got my head plumbed I made up my mind that never again would I worry, no matter what happened. You understand what I mean-that it doesn't pay to tear one's self to pieces with worry and-"
"Will you please watch the road and keep your hands on the wheel!" begged Miss Briggs. "You can talk without gazing up into my eyes and emphasizing your remarks by whacking me on the shoulder. There is something else that I wish to say, and this is as good a time as any. Listen but keep on driving."
"I intend to," replied Grace Marlowe Gray laughingly.
"It is about yourself. Many things have occurred since we came out near the front, but it is of the significant ones that I am speaking now, that relate to yourself."
"You know quite well what I mean-the frequent attempts on your life."
Grace laughed good-naturedly.
"Why should anyone, especially the enemy, wish to be rid of so inconsequential a person as myself, Elfreda! Isn't it a little far-fetched to think that such a thing could be possible!"
"Not when one has observed as I have done."
"I must admit that the attempts of the spy Andró were a little disconcerting. I have wondered if the attempts, made to capture all the ambulances of our section that night, when I landed inside the German lines, might possibly have been part of a plan to get me, but the probabilities are that there was another reason for it. You know the Runs are making war on those whose work is a work of mercy, just as they are doing to the combat sections of the American Expeditionary Forces. I am thankful that they did not identify Tom as my husband. Had they done so I fear it might have gone hard with him while he was a prisoner in their hands. The same with Yvonne, all of which leads me to the conclusion that the Bodies are thick-heads," added Grace laughingly.
"It is not a subject for jest," rebuked her companion. "One day they will get you unless you safeguard yourself. Why, you go about everything you do with an utter disregard for your own safety that, with most persons, would be considered suicidal."
"I have found that the bold course-I presume I should say the unexpected course-is most likely to succeed. Now for instance take
our present situation. We are driving calmly along a peadeful French highway with no enemy within a mile or two of us-we are positive of that-when, suppose an enemy patrol should rise up and order us to surrender, what then V Do you get the point! The bold course might succeed. Mind you, I am not saying it would, but it might. The very unexpectedness of it would make for its success and for our downfall"
"Don't talk like that," she begged. "It's spooky enough out here in the darkness without your conjuring up a ghost in the form of a Hun. Should such a thing occur, I should 'expire on the spot,' as Anne Pierson would put it. I wouldn't travel over this road alone at night if, by doing so, I could win the Congressional Medal. You-you don't think it possible that anything of the sort could occur to us-us here!"
"It's here now!" cried Grace sharply, throwing on the power and sending the ambulance ahead at a terrific pace, until the car rocked and skidded, threatening to turn over with every side slip.
Elfreda was speechless. She did not know what had caused her companion's exclamation, but that something terrible was about to hap2-gt. Qasentft.
pen she felt instinctively. Cold chills were chasing each other up and down her spine and her brain seemed benumbed, nor had Elfreda the power to move hand or foot. Grace was leaning forward a little more than was her wont, peering at the road, every faculty keyed to concert pitch.
The blow fell. Neither woman knew what bad happened, but they felt the blow, a blow that threw Elfreda forward on the dashboard, a blow that laid Grace Marlowe across her steering wheel and knocked her nearly breathless. ri2lie ambulance, amid a jangling, ripping, rending sound, leaped up into the air as though it were a flying machine "taking off" for a flight.
"Hold fast and keep your head!" cried Grace, with the same cool-headedness that had given her a leading place on the basketball team in Oakdale, oh so long ago. It seemed a far cry from those happy days, as related in Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School, to the part she was now playing in the greatest war in the world's history, but she was fighting this last thrilling battle with the same spirit that had so often carried her to victory in the old happy days.
Grace's friends who have followed her career and who have learned to love her, will recall the experiences of Grace and her friends in those
exciting times as related in Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School, Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School, and Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School. They also well remember those dear friends and associates of Grace, Nora O'Malley, Anne Pierson and Jessica Bright, comprising the "Original Four."
Raving graduated at high school, Grace and Anne entered Overton College, while Nora and Jessica chose a conservatory of music for their further training. New friends gathered about Grace at Overton, friends whose lives were now linked with hers on the western front, such friends as Elf reda Briggs, Emma Dean, Anne Thayer, Mabel Ashe and others. The stories of those happy years, the readers of this volume will recall, were fully told in Grace Harlowe's First Year at Overton College, Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College, Grace Harlowe's Third Year at Overton College, Grace Harlowe's Fourth Year at Overton College, Grace Harlowe's Return to Overton Campus and Grace Harlowe's Problem.
In a following volume, Grace Harlowe's Golden Summer, the Overton girl became the bride of her lifelong friend, Tom Gray. After a year of the most perfect happiness Grace had
ever known, the great world war called Tom to the service of his country, soon to be followed by Grace herself, who joined the Overton Unit and went to France. The story of her experiences there is related in Grace Harlowe's Overseas, in which she becomes involved in the plots and counterplots of the Old World. In Grace Harlowe With the Red Cross in France she reaches the desire of her heart, and is assigned to drive an ambulance on the American front. In a following volume, Grace Harlowe With the Marines at Chateau Thierru, the Overton girl meets with many perils and hardships; but for sheer daring, her experiences as related in Grace Harlowe with the United States Troops in the Argonne outrival all that had gone before.
The scene has now shifted to the St. Quentin front, where the Second Corps of the United States Army was facing the ramparts of Germany in the form of the Hindenbnrg Line, heralded far and wide as being impregnable. The hosts of American bran were moving up, ready to crouch for the spring that would carry them through the enemy lino and deliver a blow that would break the morale of the enemy and bring the great World War to an early close.
Grace, now a seasoned veteran, believed, from what she had observed, that this end was
not far away. She saw that the enemy's ammunition was becoming more and more def cctive, that the prisoners taken by her own side had little morale left, showing that the manpower of the Boches was at low ebb. These young boys in the enemy army were a clean-cut lot of fellows, boys who could smile, who looked as if they might be moulded into human beings and decent citizens. Still, the Overton girl had little faith in anything that came out of Germany and viewed all things German with suspicion. During her long war experience she had come to know something of German kultur. She was experiencing it now, as her car suddenly leaped into the air, for Grace, at the moment of the shock, had seen several helmeted heads rise from the roadside ditch and recognized those helmets as belonging to the enemy.
Another thing that Grace had observed n a quick glance as she flashed past was an ambulance bottom side up at the side of the road. It was an American ambulance too.
The steering wheel was jerked from Grace Marlowe's hand as the car, in its leap, headed for the ditch. Its front wheels landed fairly in it, the rear wheels were lifted high in the air, and the car was whacked down on its top, which crushed in with a mighty crash, leaving the ambulance a wrecked and shapeless mass.