The Ranch Girls and Their Great Adventure

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THE RANCH GIRLS SERIES

The Ranch Girls and Their Great Adventure

BOOKS BY MARGARET VANDERCOOK

THE RANCH GIRLS SERIES

THE RANCH GIRLS AT RAINBOW LODGE THE RANCH GIRLS' POT OF GOLD THE RANCH GIRLS AT BOARDING SCHOOL THE RANCH GIRLS IN EUROPE THE RANCH GIRLS AT HOME AGAIN THE RANCH GIRLS AND THEIR GREAT ADVENTURE

THE RED CROSS GIRLS SERIES

THE RED CROSS GIRLS IN THE BRITISH TRENCHES THE RED CROSS GIRLS ON THE FRENCH FIRING LINE THE RED CROSS GIRLS IN BELGIUM THE RED CROSS GIRLS WITH THE RUSSIAN ARMY THE RED CROSS GIRLS WITH THE ITALIAN ARMY THE RED CROSS GIRLS UNDER THE STARS AND STRIPES

STORIES ABOUT CAMP FIRE GIRLS

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT SUNRISE HILL THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AMID THE SNOWS THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN THE OUTSIDE WORLD THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS ACROSS THE SEA THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS' CAREERS THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN AFTER YEARS THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN THE DESERT THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT THE END OF THE TRAIL

YOU MUST ABIDE BY MY DECISION]

THE RANCH GIRLS SERIES

The Ranch Girls and Their Great Adventure

--BY-- MARGARET VANDERCOOK

ILLUSTRATED BY WILSON V. CHAMBERS

THE JOHN C. WINSTON COMPANY PHILADELPHIA

Copyright, 1917, by THE JOHN C. WINSTON COMPANY

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE I. KENT HOUSE 9 II. FRIEDA'S RIFT 22 III. THE VOICE 34 IV. A LATE ARRIVAL 49 V. AN APPARITION 63 VI. THE CLOUD 81 VII. SO AS BY FIRE 92 VIII. SEVERAL MONTHS LATER 101 IX. CHURCH AND STATE 116 X. THE LETTER 127 XI. A SURPRISE 138 XII. NO QUARTER 148 XIII. THE BREAK 159 XIV. PROFESSOR AND PROFESSORESS 171 XV. THE OLD RANCH 187 XVI. VIVE 201 XVII. FAREWELL 212 XVIII. ”UNDER TWO FLAGS” 225

ILLUSTRATIONS

YOU MUST ABIDE BY MY DECISION _Frontispiece_ PAGE IN A FEW MOMENTS SHE WAS IN A PANIC 74 HIS OWN MEN CARRIED HIM BACK TO A FIELD HOSPITAL 128 I ASSURE YOU I HAVE OFFICIAL PERMISSION 180

The Ranch Girls and Their Great Adventure

CHAPTER I

KENT HOUSE

THE deep-rutted English lane was bordered with high box hedges. On oneside was a sloping park with trees a century old and on the other side awide field filled with meadow grass and scarlet poppies. It was in July.

”In all the world there is nothing so peaceful as this English country,is there? It is like another world when one first gets away from theturmoil of New York.”

The girl who said this was undoubtedly an American, both in her mannerand appearance, although her dark hair and eyes and her deep-toned oliveskin were almost Spanish in coloring.

Her companion--in spite of the fact that her costume was a typicalEnglish walking one, a mixed brown tweed skirt, Norfolk jacket and highboots,--was equally an American. She smiled before replying.

”I don't know that I agree with you, Olive. Of course that is whatpeople from home always say. Jim Colter declares he is half asleep theentire time he is in England. But that is because Americans,particularly my beloved westerners, don't understand England and theEnglish. Things are not always peaceful just because they are quiet. Wethink so because we are noisy. Frank says there was never more unrest.”

But at this Lady Kent, who a number of years ago was Jacqueline Ralstonand one of the four Ranch girls at Rainbow Lodge, slipped her armthrough her friend's, Olive Van Mater's.

”But, Olive dear, for goodness sake don't let us talk politics the dayafter your arrival. It is so English. Sometimes I feel scarcely fittedto play the part of an English 'Lady,' now that Frank has come into thetitle of 'Lord' and is a member of Parliament. I often long for a ridewith Jim over my own prairies to search for lost cattle.” Lady Kentlaughed.

”Once a Ranch girl, always a Ranch girl, so far as I'm concerned, Olive;and yet I'm farther away from the old place than any of you. But, tellme, what made you decide to come abroad so suddenly without evenwriting? I have had letters from everybody at home except that lazyFrieda, and yet not one with a suggestion of your trip in it. Tell meabout every member of my family--Ruth and Jim and their babies and Jeanand Ralph and Frieda and her Professor. Funny, I never can think ofFrieda really being married. You see, although it has been nearly fouryears, I have never seen her since we went over for the great event.”

Jack ceased talking for a moment, for she was still ”Jack” to her ownfamily and the friends who knew her intimately. Olive never had talkedso much as the other Ranch girls, but now it occurred to Jack that shewas asking a great many questions, without allowing an opportunity forthem to be answered.

Olive turned, apparently to glance through the opening in the hedge atthe splendid mass of colour in the field.

”Suppose we sit down a while, Jack,” she suggested. ”Remember, I haven'thad the English habit of walking for a long time. You told me Frank'strain would not get in from London for another hour.”

In spite of the fact that her tone was as casual as she knew how to makeit, her companion understood at once.

”You have come to tell me bad news, haven't you? and I never dreamed ofit until this instant. You have been brave, Olive.”

In spite of her nervousness over having so suddenly guessed the reasonfor her friend's unexpected visit, Jack quietly looked about for acomfortable resting place, remembering that Olive had just had a longtrip and was never so strong as the other Ranch girls.

A few yards farther on a gate led into Kent Park.

Lady Kent opened this and a moment or two later the two friends wereseated under one of the great oak trees for which the Kent estate wasfamous--the estate now presided over by Jacqueline Ralston and the FrankKent, whom we once knew as a guest at a neighboring ranch to theRalstons' in Wyoming, but who were now Lord and Lady Kent of the countyof Kent, England.

”Don't be frightened, Jack; my news isn't so bad as you may think. Atleast I don't know just how bad it is,” and Olive smiled and thenfrowned the next moment. ”The truth of the matter is that Frieda RalstonRussell has left her Professor. I was out in Wyoming having a peacefulvisit at Rainbow Ranch when I received a mysterious telegram from Friedatelling me to come to her at once in New York city--not in Chicago,where she was supposed to be safe with her Professor husband. Of courseI went at once to her. In New York I found a yellow-haired and not somiserable Frieda, who calmly told me she had decided that marriage was afailure. I could not find out her special reasons for thinking so, butperhaps she will tell you more herself, Jack. She is coming to you onthe next steamer, only she preferred my first breaking the news to youand Frank.”

Jack whistled, after a boyish fashion of her youth, which was notbecoming to her present age and position.

”And you came, Olive dear, all the way across the ocean by yourself,just because my spoiled small sister wished to save herself the troubleof a confession? You are an angel, Olive. And I am afraid it is Frieda'sselfishness--her remaining such a completely spoiled young person--thatmay be the answer to her present behavior. But I thought her husbandspoiled her more even than her own family had in the past. Besides, Ican't imagine the Professor doing anything wicked, can you, Olive? Ohdear, Frank and I always opposed Frieda's marriage. Professor Russelldid seem too old and serious for her.”

Just as she had always done whenever it was possible as a girl, LadyKent at this moment took off her hat and flung it on the ground besideher. It was of brown cloth with a small green and brown feather to matchher walking outfit; nevertheless she looked far handsomer without it.

Jack was no longer a girl. A good many years had passed since hermarriage to Frank Kent, which was to occur soon after the close of thelast Ranch girls' book, known as ”The Ranch Girls At Home Again.” Alsoin the final chapter, when the family had lately moved into their newhome, built on the ranch not far from the old Rainbow Lodge, where theRanch girls had first lived, their cousin Jean Bruce's engagement hadbeen announced to Ralph Merritt, an old friend and the Rainbow Mineengineer. Then, as a great surprise to her family, Frieda Ralston, theyoungest of the Ranch girls, at that time only eighteen, had insistedupon her own engagement to Professor Charles Henry Russell, a Professorof dead languages at the University of Chicago and more than ten yearsher senior.

”Oh, well, what is an old maid worth in a family if she is not to bemade useful?” Olive answered. ”But, of course, Jack, you understand Idon't require a great deal of persuasion to come to you, and besides Iwas afraid if I did not come ahead, Frieda would not come at all. Youare the only person who has any influence over her. If she goes back tothe ranch, Ruth and Jean will only make such a fuss over her that shewill become more and more convinced she has been badly treated. Jim, youknow, never has approved of any of his Ranch girls being married,although he misses none of us as he does you.”

Jack rose. ”I hope you are rested, Olive, as we must walk on if we areto arrive in time to meet Frank. Oh, dear, what a business marriage is!I suppose we could not expect all the Ranch girls to be successfullymarried, although it is odd for it to be Frieda who is in trouble. Asfor you, Olive, don't congratulate yourself too soon on being an oldmaid; you'll probably yield some day. I do wonder what has happened tolittle Frieda? Perhaps things are worse than we imagine.”

Olive shook her head.

She was recalling an extremely pretty Frieda sitting up in bed atmidnight at the hour of her arrival in New York city, with a blue silkdressing gown over her nightgown and a box of chocolates open on thetable beside her, which she must have been eating before going to bed.

It was true Frieda had cried a good deal when making her confession, andhad insisted that she never intended to speak to her husband again. Why,Olive could not find out. She gathered that Frieda thought her husbandunsympathetic and that their temperaments were too unlike for them ever,ever to understand each other. But the details of her love tragedyFrieda had declared she could tell only to her sister Jack.

Now, as Olive studied her companion's face, she believed that Frieda haddecided wisely. When they were the four Ranch girls, Jack, Jean, Oliveand Frieda, they had always relied upon Jacqueline Ralston's judgment.Now, as a woman, she seemed even finer than she had been as a girl.Well, fortunately Jack's marriage seemed to have turned out ideallyhappy, although there were reasons why it might not. Jack had never beenfond of society or a conventional life, had hated the indoors and themanagement of even so small and casual an establishment as they had atRainbow Lodge before the coming of Ruth as governess to take theresponsibility out of Jack's hands. Now Jack was not only mistress of agreat home, but must play ”Lady Bountiful” to an entire village, as wellas to the people on the Kent estate, and she was really the mostdemocratic person in the world.

They were entering the adjoining village of Granchester now and LadyKent had actually forgotten to put on her hat. Yet all the people theymet along the little narrow streets bowed to her, as if she were notunpopular. Several times Jack stopped to inquire about sick babies andold ladies in the most approved fashion. However, Olive remembered thatshe had been great friends with all the cowboys on her own ranch and theadjoining ones in the old days, and was interested in their families,when they chanced to have them, which was not often. Nevertheless thisnew life of her friend's did seem extraordinarily different from her oldlife.

Only once since Jack's marriage had Olive visited her and then only fora few weeks, when her mother-in-law was alive and Frank's sisters hadnot yet married. Therefore she had never really seen Frank and Jackalone.

As they came to the little railroad station, covered with roses andsurrounded by flower beds, Jack hastily put on her hat.

”Gracious! why didn't you tell me to do that before, Olive?” she asked”I must have looked ridiculous. Frank would have been discouraged if hehad seen me. After all, you see, Olive, Frank is an Englishman and fondof the proprieties. At least I don't think he minds so much himself, buthe does not enjoy having the country people talk about me, especiallynow that we have come into the title.”

”But they don't criticize you, do they?” Olive demanded with a good dealof feeling.

However, Lady Kent only laughed, ”Not more than I deserve.” And thenforgetting what she had just said, she took off her hat for the secondtime to wave it boyishly at the approaching train.

The next moment Frank Kent jumped out on the platform. He had changedmuch more than his wife. Olive saw that he took his new position and hisresponsibilities seriously, for he had only come into the title twoyears before. He looked far more like what one feels to be the typicalEnglishman, as he had an air of distinction and of firmness. Indeed,Olive thought he had almost a hardness in the lower part of his facewhich had not been there as a younger man. But he greeted her with thesame old cordiality and friendliness.

”You and I seem often to meet Frank at railroad stations, Olive,” Jackremarked. ”Remember when he last came to Wyoming before we were marriedand we went together to meet him?”

Frank appeared so uncertain that Jack laughed.

”Husbands haven't very good memories for the sentimental past.”

The next instant Frank protested.

”Of course I remember and how badly you treated me, Jack, so that Olivehad to come to my rescue.” And then: ”Did you drive over? Where is thetrap?”

Lady Kent shook her head. ”No; Olive and I wanted a walk and it is muchbetter for you. If you don't look out we shall both be growing asportly as a dowager duke and duchess.”

Jack was a few steps ahead so that both her friend and husband looked ather admiringly, Olive appreciating, however, that Frank would havepreferred his own wish to be carried out in this matter.

But it had always been a pleasure to see Jacqueline Ralston out-of-doorsand it was no less so now. Although she now had two babies she hadmanaged to keep as slender and erect as a girl--a most unusualcharacteristic in a woman.

Jack was walking on ahead so freely and so unconscious of her own speedthat the others had to hurry to catch up with her.

When they finally joined one another, Frank slipped his arm through hiswife's.

”Oh, I have a piece of news for you, dear. I forgot to tell you. I had acable from Frieda's husband telling me that he expected to sail forEngland in about ten days. He did not give his reason, nor mentionFrieda's coming with him.”

”No,” Lady Kent answered apparently in a state of abstraction, ”I don'tsuppose he did.” But at the moment she made no mention of theinformation Olive had brought her concerning Frieda.

As they reached Kent House and were entering the broad hall, Jack saidto her husband under her breath, so that Olive who was a little inadvance of them, did not hear:

”There is something else you have on your mind, isn't there, Frank--somenews you have not yet told me?”

Frank Kent nodded.

”Yes, Jack, something so serious that I dare not speak of it even toyou. Perhaps it will all blow over though, and I may be able to discussthe subject with you in a few days.”