THE TWO LIEUTENANTS

Nine hundred miles of their journey were over. The Girl Scouts had
reached Chicago.

It was a little after two o’clock in the afternoon, and the train was
to lay over until five. With more eagerness than any of the other
passengers displayed, the girls hurried out to make the most of their
time.

“Let’s go to a movie, and then have afternoon tea at a big hotel,”
suggested Lily, as soon as they were in the station. “I’d love to
treat.”

“No, thanks, Lil–that would really be too much,” objected Alice.
“Suppose we take one of those sight-seeing busses, and ‘do the town.’
I’ve never been in Chicago before. Besides, we’d see so many people,
maybe we would run some chance of finding Olive.”

“Yes, and run more risk of running into that awful lieutenant,” said
Lily, mischievously. She winked slyly at Marjorie, although of late
the latter had grown somewhat tired of the joke. As a new officer,
she longed to wear her lieutenant’s shield upon her coat, instead of
keeping it hidden in the depths of her trunk.

“Now, Lily, you know that’s nonsense!” protested Ethel. “If the old
lieutenant is going to find us, she knows what train we’re on, and all
about us. We simply couldn’t hide from her! No, let’s take the bus–we
can go to a movie anywhere. And maybe, if you really want to, there
would be time to take us for tea afterward.”

The girls all chimed in approvingly at Ethel’s suggestions, and
inquired for the nearest bus.

The experience of seeing a city in this ordinary way was a novel one
for most of them. Perched high up in the air, amid a crowd of noisy
people, they listened with great amusement to the remarks of their
fellow passengers, and the cut-and-dried descriptions and ancient jokes
of the guide. They hardly opened their mouths during the ride, and when
they did volunteer an observation to one of their comrades, it was in
a whisper. It required most of their efforts to keep themselves from
laughing out loud.

They stopped at one of the big hotels near the station, and, as it was
only four o’clock, they looked forward to a delightful hour in the
tea-room. They were entering the lobby when Alice suddenly grasped
Daisy’s arm.

“Look! look! Daisy! Could that be Olive?” she whispered, breathlessly.
“See–over there–by the elevator!”

Daisy’s eyes followed the direction indicated by her companion. The
young woman was about her sister’s age, and she had dark hair; but in
no other way did she resemble Olive. The girl shook her head sadly.

“Well, I’m going to keep right on watching,” said Alice, as the girls
entered the dining-room. “There, let’s ask the waiter to let us sit
over there by the window–then we can see everybody who comes into the
room.”

When they were finally established at one of the larger tables to the
side, Florence expressed herself frankly in regard to Alice’s attitude.

“Alice,” she said, “I think you’re really silly for a grown-up girl.
Daisy said herself that there isn’t a chance that her sister could be
out West, and yet you continually keep looking for her, and talking
about her, till Daisy can never hope to get her mind away from the
thing for a minute.”

Alice flushed painfully at Florence’s severe criticism. She was very
sorry for Daisy, and was only trying to help her solve the mystery.
It seemed cruel of Florence to intimate that she was only making it
harder for the girl.

Daisy, however, took a different view of the situation.

“Florence is mistaken, Alice,” she said, kindly. “It doesn’t make me
feel badly to have you so interested; instead it gives me more hope.
Before, when I never told anybody about it, I thought I’d go crazy–but
now Alice’s enthusiasm makes me feel as if Olive really must be alive,
and maybe everything will come out all right in the end.”

Alice flashed Daisy a grateful look; but before anything further could
be said, the waiter appeared with their sandwiches and iced-drinks, and
the girls gave all their attention to them.

“This lime-ade is wonderful, Lil,” observed Doris, appreciatively, as
she slowly sipped the dainty beverage. “Let’s take as long as we can
here–it’s so delightfully cool.”

On this hot July day it would have been hard to find any other spot in
the city so pleasant. The big, airy dining-room, with all its windows
wide open, was artificially cooled by electric-fans and a cool-air
system. The pale green curtains and green shaded lamps, the glistening
white linen, and the fresh flowers on each table heightened this
effect. The girls thought of the stuffy train, and agreed with Doris
that it would be nice to stay here as long as possible.

“And yet the journey hasn’t seemed a bit long, or tiresome,” said
Marjorie. “I’ve really enjoyed it a lot.”

“Well, you see you and Alice are blessed with beaux,” teased Mae.
“Those Brooks youths certainly are devoted.”

Marjorie and Alice both laughed.

“You better say Brooks _children_,” corrected Alice. “They do both wear
long trousers, but I declare Walter’s voice hasn’t changed yet!”

“Well, they’re better than the old bachelor who was talking to Ethel
last night,” said Marjorie. “I honestly pitied you, Ethel!”

“He wasn’t so bad, though,” said Ethel. “Did you know he and his
sister–that middle-aged woman who travels with him–are actors? Well,
he was telling me about some of his experiences and it really was quite
interesting. Still, I wasn’t sorry when you rescued me, Marj.”

“Come, girls!” said Lily, consulting her watch. “I hate to break up the
party, but we simply must go!”

The journey from Chicago to St. Paul was uneventful, but after they had
passed through the latter, the girls began to notice real indications
of the West. Now and then, at stations, they caught sight of a
broad-brimmed hat with a leather strap for a band; they saw many riders
over the prairies, and innumerable cattle. And here, too the girls
noticed a change in the air. Just as one becomes conscious of the damp,
salt air of the seaside some miles before the ocean is even in view,
so the pure, dry air of the mountains began to make itself felt. The
sun was clear and bright, casting sharp black shadows from objects like
those cast by electric lights.

The girls were so impressed with the vastness of the landscape that
they often sat gazing out of the window for a long time without saying
anything. The scarcity of trees, the rarity of houses, and the total
absence of fences seemed strange; then the appearance of a small
town, twenty or thirty miles from the last, would again attract their
attention.

When they had finally reached Dakota, they had their first good view of
the cowboys. Their large felt hats with the broad brims, their fancy
“chaps,” or overalls made of calves’ skin or of hair, their boots with
high heels, and big red handkerchiefs about their necks made them
appear most picturesque. When Marjorie actually spied one with a fancy
pistol with a carved ivory handle and gold mountings, she burst into
laughter.

“Imagine being that vain!” she remarked to Walter Brooks. “I always
said men were worse than women!”

“Well, maybe they are,” laughed the young man, good-naturedly. He was
thinking of something else, and willingly agreed to anything.

“Time for dinner!” called Alice, opening the door of the sitting-room
compartment. “Come on, everybody!”

“Miss Wilkinson,” asked Walter, “may I request a favor? Could I sit
here to finish a letter while you girls eat? I can’t find a private
place, away from that infernal brother of mine, in the whole train!”

“Certainly!” laughed Marjorie. “But when you go out, pull the door to,
and I’ll take my key.”

When they had reached the diner, Ethel reproved her slightly for her
confidence.

“Of course I trust Walter,” she said; “but he’s awfully careless, and
ten chances to one he’ll get so absorbed in his puppy-love-letter that
he’ll forget all about the door. And almost anybody might get in.”

“Oh, I guess not,” said Marjorie, carelessly. “Anyway, I’ll take a
chance.”

But when the girls all returned to their compartment, they found, to
their amazement, that somebody not only had been there, but was still
occupying the best chair in the room–somebody so totally unlike anyone
they had ever seen that they felt as if they must be dreaming. An old
woman, so powdered and rouged as to conceal her real age, dressed in an
ill-fitting, long, black dress and gray bonnet, gazed at them as they
entered. Doris, who was the first to enter the room, immediately jumped
to the conclusion that this was the new lieutenant. But Marjorie and
Lily, who knew that this was not the case, were at their wits end for
an explanation.

“How do you do!” said Doris, politely.

The woman eyed her critically, with a scowl on her face.

“You the Girl Scouts?” she asked, in a shrill, unpleasant voice. “I’m
Miss Proctor, your new lieutenant.”

The other girls had all pressed into the compartment, and stood with
wide open eyes, listening with horror to the woman’s announcement.
Doris continued as spokesman for the party.

“Yes,” she said, “Mrs. Remington wrote that we might expect you.”

“Well, here I am! And look here–you’re all going to walk the
chalk-line! No more foolin’ with boys, as long as I’m your boss! And no
card-playing! To bed every night at nine o’clock!”

The girls heard these words with increasing anger; inwardly they all
felt a rising hostility. It was Alice, however, who impulsively voiced
the sentiment of the group.

“And you actually expect to go to the ranch with us?” she blurted out,
in an insolent tone. “You!”

“Those are your captain’s orders!” replied Miss Proctor.

“The captain has gone mad!” cried the girl, completely losing control
of herself.

Marjorie and Lily, however, who knew that no such person as Miss
Proctor existed, began to guess that someone was playing a practical
joke on them. Marjorie decided to find out, if possible, while still
keeping the other girls in the dark as to the real situation. So she
struck upon a bold plan.

“Are you sure,” she began sarcastically, “that you are old enough to be
a lieutenant, Miss Proctor?”

The other scouts opened their mouths in speechless amazement at the
audacity of such a speech from Marjorie Wilkinson. Could this be the
same girl who was always so courteous and polite, especially with older
people? But if they were surprised at the girl’s question, they were
dumbfounded at the old woman’s reply.

“Don’t get fresh!” she snapped, in a voice suspiciously youthful.

“And have you passed your examination?” continued Marjorie, calmly.

“Certainly I have! The captain gave it to me herself!”

“Can you do the semaphore alphabet?”

“Watch me!” cried the old lady, springing quickly to her feet, and
displaying for a second two very mannish shoes.

“A–B–C–” she began, waving her arms in illustration.

Marjorie held up her hand.

“I believe you–that will do,” she said, suppressing a smile. Then,
with a sly wink at Lily,

“Won’t you shake hands with all the girls, Miss Proctor?” she suggested.

Doris advanced a trembling hand, but Alice put hers behind her
stubbornly. She had no intention of accepting this freak, except under
pressure.

“Oh, take off your glove, and give the scout handshake,” commanded
Marjorie.

As the woman complied with her request, both Marjorie and Lily noticed
the large, boyish hand she put forth. But the other scouts were all too
nervous or too angry to observe this.

“I’m not going to shake hands!” said Alice, firmly. “I’ll get out of
the scouts first!”

Marjorie looked dismayed; this was just what the joker, whoever she
was, wanted. She sighed wearily; then a sudden idea came to her.

“Go ahead, Alice,” she whispered, “we’ll make her life pretty hot for
her once we get her on the ranch. We’ll make her change her attitude,
and wish that she had never seen the members of Pansy troop! One poor
old lady hasn’t much chance with eight scouts!”

Alice’s face brightened at the suggestion, and she hastened to do as
Marjorie wished.

“And now, Doris, will you get the flag out of my trunk, and we’ll
salute it with our new officer. But you must take your hat off, Miss
Proctor.”

Marjorie had been standing beside the stranger’s chair, and with a
sudden movement, she reached over for her hat, and, as if by accident,
pulled off her wig. The short, black hair of a young man was visible
underneath.

“Now, Walter Brooks!” she cried, triumphantly, “suppose you ’fess up!”

The boy, who had encountered difficulty all along in controlling his
laughter, now let himself go, and burst into hysterical mirth. The
girls, too, dropped into chairs, holding their sides, and wiping the
tears from their eyes.

“I was trying so desperately to get away,” he said, “before Miss
Wilkinson was sure of her suspicion. But she was too quick for me!”

“What ever made you guess, Marj?” asked Alice. “I was too mad to think
of anything like that.”

“I guessed,” replied Marjorie, slowly, “because Lily and I knew there
was no real Miss Proctor, so somebody must be playing a joke on us.”

“No real Miss Proctor?” repeated Ethel, in the most relieved tone.
“Then we have no awful lieutenant–”

“Yes, you have a lieutenant, and she’s pretty awful,” interrupted
Marjorie, her eyes twinkling mysteriously.

“Who? Tell us quick, Marj!” demanded Alice.

“Well, she’s just passed her eighteenth birthday,” said
Marjorie,–“and–and–oh, you tell them, Lil!”

Lily stepped forward, and proudly put her arm about her chum.

“The long and the short of it is, girls,” she said, “that Marj is our
new lieutenant!”

The gasps of happiness, together with the congratulations that followed
this announcement removed any doubts which Marjorie might have
entertained as to the approval of the other girls. Amid the confusion
Walter Brooks made an effort to escape unnoticed. But Marjorie detained
him.

“Not without your punishment!” she said. “Doris, lock the door! Now,
tell us how you worked this clever little trick!”

The young man flushed, and looked helplessly from one girl to another.
He made such a ridiculous picture in his long black dress, and his
short hair, bereft of the wig, that the girls again broke into laughter.

“I know it was partly my fault,” volunteered Lily, coming to Walter’s
rescue. “I told him about the fake lieutenant.”

“But where did you get the clothing?” demanded Alice. “No woman on this
train would have a rig like that!”

“Yes, and the wig, and rouge, and–”

“Why, they belong to the actress, of course!” answered Walter. “And she
was awfully nice about lending them to me!”

“Girls,” said Marjorie, thoughtfully, “how do you suggest that we
punish him?”

The scouts were silent for a moment; then the resourceful Alice hit
upon a happy plan.

“Let him wear my Girl Scout uniform to dinner tonight!” she said. “And
if he makes any resistance, I think we can round up his brother and one
or two other boys on the train to use physical force!”

The girls shrieked with joy at the brilliancy of the penalty, but the
young man winced at the idea.

“I’d rather go without dinner,” he said.

“Oh, you’ll go to the dining-room!” said Marjorie. “We’ll see to that!”

“Please be merciful!” he pleaded. “That’s such an awful punishment.”

“But you seem to enjoy wearing women’s clothing,” said Alice, pleased
with herself for thinking up the plan.

“It will be put through,” said Marjorie, with a finality that made
Walter know that she meant what she said. “Alice, will you go get your
uniform?”

And so, aided by three of the boys, the Girl Scouts made the poor
youth go through with the punishment, much to his discomfort and
embarrassment, but much to the others’ amusement. He made the
resolution, however, that never again in his life would he attempt to
play a joke upon Girl Scouts.

“For they’re sure to get the best of you,” he remarked mournfully to
his brother, after the affair was all over.