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10 Emergency Service
The drill was going on merrily. It was four days after the fire at the Hyde place and the cadets had recovered from the effects of their strenuous experience. On the day following the fire the colonel had ordered the suspension of the daily routine and a number of burns had been treated. Weary muscles and sore lungs had been rested to good advantage and now the swing of things was once more in evidence.

All of the units were having infantry drill. Even the cavalry and infantry divisions were compelled to drill with rifles every so often, and today, under Major Rhodes, a graduate of the school and one of the regular staff, they were hard at it. The sun beat down upon them from a clear sky but by this time the cadets were well used to it. The hottest days failed to shake them in their tasks.

Suddenly the colonel appeared and called the major. There was a hurried conference and then the major went back to his position. Crisply he called: “Battalion, attention! Count off in fours!”

The count ran along the line. At a further word the guns were dropped to rest and the cadets faced the colonel. He spoke to them in a ringing voice.

“Gentlemen of the Corps, we are faced with another call to duty. A good many serious things have happened while we have been here on the Ridge, but this is the most serious of them all. The little daughter of the farmer who supplies us with food has been lost or kidnapped!”

The closely packed ranks stirred. The colonel went on: “A number of organized groups are at present looking for this child all over the Ridge. We have not been asked to help, but of course it is our duty and we will form searching parties at once. There will be no more official duties until the child has been found or until some definite word has been received as to her whereabouts. I trust you will dutifully prosecute the search until every inch of the Ridge and the surrounding country has been scoured.”

The colonel saluted the major and turned away.

There was a total silence in the corps but eyes flashed with excitement.

“Companies dismissed,” ordered Major Rhodes.

The cadets broke ranks and stacked arms. From then on things moved fast. In groups the young soldiers formed for the search. It was decided that they would remain away from camp for the night if necessary, and knapsacks were hastily packed. While Don, Jim and Terry were preparing, Vench and Douglas hurried to their tent.

“Suppose we five form a bunch of our own,” Douglas suggested.

“Sure,” responded Don. “I think our best move would be to go to the Carson house and find out where the little girl was last seen. Then we can map out our campaign from that point.”

This was agreed to and the cadets hurried off down the road. It was just noontime and they wanted to get in every bit of work they could while the daylight remained.

“That was the cute little girl we were playing with the day we had the pie,” observed Vench, as they hurried along. “I certainly hope nothing has happened to her.”

“I hope not,” agreed Don. “It’s possible that she just wandered off somewhere. Wonder who told the colonel about it?”

“Little Jimmie Carson,” said Jim promptly. “I saw him come into camp just as we were leaving for drill.”

It did not take them long to reach the Carson house, which they found to be thronged with visitors. Men from the neighboring houses had come to do their bit by searching and the strong Ridge women had come to console the heartbroken mother. Mrs. Carson was delighted to see the boys.

“Oh, you have come to help look for Dorothy?” she cried, seizing Don’s hands.

“Our colonel has ordered the whole cadet corps to keep searching until we find the little one,” Don smiled. “We have divided up in bands to scour the country.”

“How very kind of your colonel—and of you!” cried the frightened woman. “With so many looking for the child I don’t see why she shouldn’t be found.”

“Unless she’s past finding!” croaked an old lady with a sad air and mournful eyes.

“She isn’t past finding,” snapped Jim, impatiently. “I haven’t any doubt that we’ll locate her. Now, Mrs. Carson, where was she last seen?”

“She went out last night about nine o’clock to bring in a rag doll that she had left out under the grape arbor,” replied the farmer’s wife. “I held the door open for her, so that she would surely find her way in, but she didn’t, poor little soul. Oh, I’m so sorry that I ever let her go out. We searched the yard immediately, but we couldn’t find a trace of her, and she didn’t answer our calls.”

“Thank you,” said Don gently. “Then she disappeared from her own back yard?”

“Yes,” nodded Mrs. Carson, wiping her eyes.

At that moment the county sheriff, a tall and disagreeable-looking man named Blount, swaggered into the room. It was evident that he regarded himself as the most important person there and as his eyes fell on the cadets his brow darkened.

“Humph!” he grunted. “So those soldier kids are looking too, eh? Well, they won’t find anything.”

Terry looked at the sheriff’s shoes, and then allowed his eyes to travel slowly up the entire length of his body until he had seen all of him. The sheriff reddened and then blustered.

“Well, what’s the matter with you?” he cried.

“Nothing,” returned Terry, mildly. “I’ve never really seen an important man before and I wanted to get a good look now that I am close to one!”

“Say, I’ll run you kids—” began the angry sheriff, as a slight snicker went up. But Don cut him short.

“Come on, you fellows,” he called. “We have work to do. No use standing around wasting breath on useless subjects.”

“Nice kindly old soul, that sheriff,” growled Vench, when the cadets were again outside.

“He isn’t worth thinking about,” said Don. “Now, boys, let’s get on the job.”

Their first job was to look under the grape arbor, but scores of feet had churned up the ground so that nothing could be learned from it. They left the yard and struck off into the woods.

“Too bad we couldn’t find a clue under the arbor,” grumbled Terry.

“I doubt if there were any clues,” advanced Jim. “Some of the men would have seen them in the first place. After all, we aren’t detectives, and our job is to beat up the Ridge much in the manner of going over it with a fine-tooth comb.”

“That is true,” nodded Vench. “Suppose we don’t run across her tonight? Are you going back to camp?”

“No,” decided Don. “We’d only lose time. We’ll stay here and get a fresh start early in the morning. The colonel wants us to stay right on the job until some trace of her is found.”

“How are we to know if she is found?” Douglas asked.

“A cannon will be fired three times,” replied Terry. “That’s the signal for recall.”

Throughout the entire afternoon and early evening the cadets tramped over the Ridge, going to parts of the rolling hills that they had never seen before. There was no sign of the little one, although they kept their eyes wide open, and it was quite late before they struck camp for the night. They made a fire and spread out their blankets and provisions.

While they ate darkness descended over the Ridge. The meal was a good one and the tired cadets ate heartily. Afterward they discussed the wisdom of keeping watch.

“Not that anyone will come along and gobble us up,” said Terry, “but if that child should call out in the night we’d miss her if we were all asleep.”

“That’s true,” Jim said. “And, anyway, I think we ought to have a fire going all night. We’ll want one in the morning. That ghost is some human being bent on mischief and we must keep our eyes open for him. I’m sure he’s mixed up in this thing, somehow.”

This was agreed to and the boys figured out watches for themselves. During the evening, before they went to sleep, they sat around on their blankets and talked quietly, listening for any call or unusual sound. None came and at nine o’clock they decided to turn in.

Throughout the night the separate watches were faithfully kept and the cadet who sat watch listened to the night sounds. But when the morning finally came and they rolled out at daybreak, not one of them had heard a single sound that would lead them to hope.

“We’ll have to put in a good hard day,” Don said, as they ate the last of their sandwiches.

Terry scrambled to his feet. “I’m going down to the brook and fill my canteen,” he announced. “I don’t know where there is a spring around and that brook looks perfectly all right.”

“Maybe you had better boil the water and make sure before you drink it,” Vench suggested.

Terry went back into the bushes some fifty feet until he found a gurgling little brook. The water looked cool and refreshing as it bubbled around the stones, and the redhead bent down to fill his canteen. It was then that a sound reached him, a sound that caused him to straighten up.

“Now, did the brook make that sound?” he wondered.

But it came again and Terry hesitated no longer. With a single bound he hopped across the water and parted the bushes on the other side. There, in a tiny hollow like a cave, her feet wet and her clothing covered with mud, sat the little Carson girl, her eyes red with weeping and her face swollen from her contact with vines and branches. She stared in wild terror at Terry as he broke his way through the bushes, but as he spoke to her the look faded for one of glad recognition.

A trembling gladness filled the boy. With a smothered cry he jumped at the child, sweeping her in his arms and pressing her to him as though she had been his own.

“You blessed little mischief-maker!” he choked. “What are you doing out here?”

“The ghost, he chase me,” wailed the child, beginning to tremble. “I go for my dolly and the ghost come after me. I want my mama.”

“You’re going to have your mama,” promised Terry. “So that confounded ghost is at the bottom of it, is he?”

“Yes, he chase me,” sighed the child. “You’re the soldier that ate mama’s pie.”

“That’s right,” grinned Terry. “Come along, I’m going to take you home.”

He gathered the little body in his arms, easily jumped the creek, and fairly flew back to the camp. The others were rolling up their bundles as he dashed up.

“Took you a long time to get that water,” Jim hailed.

“I’ll show you what kind of water I got,” whooped the happy redhead. “Allow me to introduce Miss Dorothy Carson!”

A medley of cries greeted the good news and the child and Terry were nearly knocked over in the rush. Dorothy Carson was pawed by the boys but did not seem to mind it.

“Where’d you find her?” Don asked, squeezing Terry’s arm.

“Heard her crying back of some bushes,” was the reply. “That darned old ghost chased her away from the house.”

The return journey was swiftly made to Carson’s house and the mother was nearly frantic with joy. At the farmhouse they found the colonel with Major Rhodes, and together they all listened to the story of the child regarding the ghost. She had gone out to get the doll, had seen the fearful shape near the chicken house, and too terrified to call out she had run away into the hills, where she had wandered until Terry had found her.

The boys were overwhelmed with thanks and praises and Terry’s face became as red as his hair. The boastful sheriff was away at the time with a posse and there was no one to resent their success. After a happy time at the house they all went back to camp. Terry had the honor of firing the “Gossip” three times as the recall. Before two o’clock the entire corps was back in camp, eagerly exchanging news. All of them had searched faithfully.

Just before taps that night Jordan, Terry, Don, Jim, Douglas and Vench were requested to report to the colonel after drill on the following day. Wondering what could be in the wind the cadets went to bed, to sleep soundly after their strenuous search.


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