Mary Louise and the Liberty Girls eBook: Page2

L. Frank Baum (2007)

Bonds. Be sureyou order him to keep at home and remain quiet--at least for to-day."

  CHAPTER IIITHE LIBERTY GIRLS

  An hour later six girls met at the home of Alora Jones, who lived withher father in a fine mansion across the street from Colonel Hathaway'sresidence. These girls were prepared to work, and work diligently,under the leadership of Mary Louise, for they had been planning anddiscussing this event for several days, patiently awaiting the word tostart their campaign.

  "Some girls," said Mary Louise, "are knitting, and that's a good thingto do, in a way. Others are making pajamas and pillows for the RedCross, and that's also an admirable thing to do. But our duty lies on ahigher plane, for we're going to get money to enable Uncle Sam to takecare of our soldier boys."

  "Do--do you think we can make people buy bonds?" asked little LauraHilton, with a trace of doubt in her voice.

  Mary Louise gave her a severe look.

  "We not only can, but we _shall_ make people buy," she replied. "Weshall ask them very prettily, and they cannot refuse us. We've all beenloaded to the brim with arguments, if arguments are necessary, but wehaven't time to gossip with folks. A whole lot of money must be raised,and there's a short time to do it in."

  "Seems to me," remarked Edna Barlow, earnestly, "we're wasting timejust now. Let's get busy."

  "Well, get on your costumes, girls," suggested Alora Jones. "They areall here, in this big box, and the banners are standing in the hall.It's after nine, now, and by ten o'clock we must all be at work."

  They proceeded to dress themselves in the striking costumes they hadsecretly prepared; a blue silk waist with white stars scattered overit, a red-and-white striped skirt, the stripes running from waistbandto hem, a "Godess of Liberty" cap and white canvas shoes. Attired inthis fashion, the "Liberty Girls," as they had dubbed themselves,presented a most attractive and patriotic appearance, and as they filedout through the hall each seized a handsome silken banner, goldfringed, which bore the words: "Buy Bonds of Dorfield's Liberty Girls."

  "Now, then," said Mary Louise, "we have each been allotted a certaindistrict in the business part of the city, for which we areindividually responsible. Each one knows what she is expected to do.Let no one escape. If any man claims to have already bought bonds, makehim buy more. And remember, we're all to meet at my house at oneo'clock for luncheon, and to report progress."

  A block away they secured seats in a streetcar and a few minutesthereafter reached the "Four Corners," the intersection of the twoprincipal streets of Dorfield. But on the way they had sold oldJonathan Dodd, who happened to be in the car and was overawed by thedisplay of red-white-and-blue, two hundred dollars' worth of bonds. Asfor old man Dodd, he realized he was trapped and bought his limit witha sigh of resignation.

  As they separated at the Four Corners, each to follow her appointedroute, many surprised, if not startled, citizens regarded the LibertyGirls with approving eyes. They were pretty girls, all of them, andtheir silken costumes were really becoming. The patriots gazedadmiringly; the more selfish citizens gave a little shiver of dismayand scurried off to escape meeting these aggressive ones, whosegorgeous banners frankly proclaimed their errand.

  Mary Louise entered the bank on the corner and made inquiry for Mr.Jaswell, the president.

  "We're off at last, sir," she said, smiling at his bewildered looks,"and we girls are determined to make the Dorfield people do their fullduty. May we depend upon your bank to fulfill your promises, and carrythose bond buyers who wish to make time payments?"

  "To be sure, my dear," replied the banker. "I'd no idea you youngladies were to wear uniforms. But you certainly look fascinating, ifyou're a fair sample of the others, and I don't see how anyone canrefuse to back up our girls in their patriotic 'drive.' God bless you,Mary Louise, and help you to achieve your noble object."

  There were many offices in the building, above the bank, and the girlvisited every one of them. Her appearance, garbed in the nationalcolors and bearing her banner, was a sign of conquest, for it seemed tothese busy men as if Uncle Sam himself was backing this crusade and alltheir latent patriotism was stirred to the depths. So they surrenderedat discretion and signed for the bonds.

  Mary Louise was modest and sweet in demeanor; her pleas were aspleasant as they were persuasive; there was nothing virulent ordominant in her attitude. But when she said: "Really, Mr. So-and-so,you ought to take more bonds than that; you can afford it and ourcountry needs the money," the argument was generally effective, andwhen she had smilingly pinned the bond button on a man's coat andpassed on to interview others, she left him wondering why he had boughtmore bonds than he ever had intended to, or even provoked with himselfthat he had subscribed at all. These were the people who had generallyresisted all former pleadings of the regular committee and had resolvedto ignore the bond sale altogether. But perhaps their chagrin wasequalled by their satisfaction in having been won over by a prettygirl, whose manner and appearance were alike irresistible.

  The men of Dorfield are a fair sample of men everywhere. At this periodthe full meaning of the responsibilities we had assumed in thistremendous struggle was by no means fully realized. The war was too faraway, and life at home was still running in its accustomed grooves.They could not take the European war to themselves, nor realize that itmight sweep away their prosperity, their liberties--even their homes.Fear had not yet been aroused; pity for our suffering and hard-pressedallies was still lightly considered; the war had not struck home to thehearts of the people as it has since. I doubt if even Mary Louise fullyrealized the vital importance of the work she had undertaken.

  When the Liberty Girls met at Colonel Hathaway's for a light luncheon,their eyes were sparkling with enthusiasm and their cheeks rosy fromsuccessful effort. Their individual sales varied, of course, for somewere more tactful and winning than others, but all had substantialresults to report. "We've taken Dorfield by storm!" was their exultantcry.

  "Altogether," said Mary Louise, figuring up the amounts, "we've soldthirty-two thousand dollars' worth of bonds this morning. That'sencouraging for three hours' work, but it's not enough to satisfy us.We must put in a busy afternoon and try to get a total of at least onehundred thousand by to-night. To-morrow we must do better than that.Work as late as you can, girls, and at eight o'clock we will meet againat Alora's house and compare results."

  The girls needed no urging to resume their work, for already they hadgained confidence in their ability and were inspired to renewed effort.

  Mary Louise had optimistic plans for that afternoon's work. She firstvisited the big flour mill, where she secured an interview with Mr.Chisholme, the president and general manager.

  "We can't buy bonds," he said peevishly. "Our business is being ruinedby the high price of wheat and the absurd activities of Hoover. Westand to operate at a loss or else shut down altogether. The governmentought to pay us compensation, instead of asking us to contribute to thewar."

  "However, if we fail to win the war," Mary Louise quietly replied,"your enormous investment here will become worthless. Isn't it betterto lose a little now, for the sake of future winnings, than tosacrifice the past and future and be reduced to poverty? We are askingyou to save yourself from threatened danger--the national calamity thatwould follow our defeat in this war."

  He sat back in his chair and looked at the girl in amazement. She wasrather young to have conceived such ideas.

  "Well, there's time enough to consider all that," he said, lessgruffly. "You'll have to excuse me now, Miss Burrows. I'm busy."

  But Mary Louise kept her seat and redoubled her arguments, which werelogical and straight to the point. Mr. Chisholme's attitude might haveembarrassed her had she been pleading a personal favor, but she feltshe was the mouthpiece of the President, of the Nation, of worldwidedemocracy, and would not allow herself to feel annoyed. She devotedthree-quarters of an hour to Mr. Chisholme, who gradually thawed in hergenial sunshine. She finally sold him fifty thousand dollars worth ofLiberty Bonds and went on her way elated
. The regular Bond Committeehad labored for weeks with this stubborn man, who managed one of thelargest enterprises in Dorfield, yet they had signally failed toconvince him or to induce him to subscribe a dollar. The girl hadsucceeded in less than an hour, and sold him exactly the amount heshould have bought.

  The mill subscription was a powerful leverage with which to pry moneyfrom other reluctant ones. Stacks, Sellem & Stacks, the big departmentstore heretofore resisting all appeals, bought from Mary Louise bondsto the amount of twenty-five thousand; the Denis Hardware Company tookten thousand. Then Mary Louise met her first serious rebuff. She wentinto