Text - "The Ranch Girls in Europe" Margaret Vandercook

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Frequently she had to use a cane in walking. Today, however, she
had insisted that she was able to get along without it. So Olive feared
that this sudden and surprising news of her little sister might prove
too much for her. It was characteristic of the two friends' relations
that Olive's first thought in this crisis was not so much for Frieda as
for Jack.

Nevertheless her friend did not yet require her aid. Although at Jean's
surprising words Jacqueline Ralston had turned pale, she was perhaps not
more so than Ruth and the other two girls. However, she was evidently
doing her best to hold on to her self-control and not to allow the
moment's bewilderment and fright to overwhelm her.

"No, Frieda did not come on the ship with us the second time, Ruth," she
explained, turning quietly toward their chaperon. "But please do not let
us be alarmed. She must have come aboard by herself beforehand. For I
can remember hearing her say her last good-by to Jim while I was still
talking to Peter. Frieda is nearly seventeen; why, it is ridiculous to
suppose that she would be so foolish as to let the steamer sail off
without her! Besides, wasn't Jim right there! And isn't he always
possessed of the idea that we will be late for things and that unknown
catastrophes will overtake us? If necessary he would have put Frieda on
board by main force. So let's go find her."

Very quickly, then, the little party of four turned from their former
places. And Jean's face, which had been the gayest in the group at the
beginning of this conversation, was now the most terrified.

"If Frieda Ralston isn't on board the Martha Washington with us, she
most certainly is not on land with any of our friends," Jean insisted,
"for I know that Frieda left them on the pier before I did. So if she
isn't on this ship something dreadful must have happened to her; some
one must have stolen her away. Oh, what on earth shall we do?"

Jean was following the others in such a complete state of panic that she
hardly knew what she was saying. So at first she scarcely heard the low
voice sounding close to her ears. Only one thought occupied her mind.
Frieda was lost before they had fairly started on their journey. If she
could not be found on the ship, what were they to do? Of course they
could send Marconigrams back to Jim Colter and Ralph Merrit, who had
come all the way from the ranch to New York City to say farewell to
them. But if Frieda should happen not to be with them or with any of
their other friends, must there not be days and days of horrible waiting
and anxiety before they could return home? Each moment the great steamer
was carrying them farther and farther away from the United States and
not all the gold in the Rainbow Mine could persuade her to alter her
course or to stop until they reached Gibraltar.

The voice spoke again. Evidently its owner must have pursued Ruth and
the three girls.

"I am afraid you are in some difficulty. If my maid or courier can be of
any service to you I shall be most happy. Evidently you have not crossed

This final suggestion, even in the midst of her anxiety, made Jean
flush uncomfortably. Immediately she stopped and turned around,
recognizing the young woman who had previously both attracted and
annoyed her. Something in Jean's expression must have betrayed her
irritation, for the stranger smiled again.

"I hope I haven't offended you," she apologized. "I only wished to be
useful. You are in trouble, so you must let me try to serve you."

In their overwhelming anxiety Ruth, Olive and Jack had continued on the
way to their staterooms, leaving Jean to answer for all of them. Now, to
her chagrin, the tears began overflowing her eyes like a frightened

And only a few moments before had she not secretly hoped to make a
favorable impression upon this most interesting of their fellow

Jean had believed that she was looking unusually well herself. For her
blue silk dress with its touches of red embroidery, her blue chinchilla
coat with its scarlet lining and her hat with the single red wing in it
had been considered the most effective of the Ranch party's going-away

So why should she be making herself so ridiculous before a total

Jean did not realize that the emotion of parting with her friends and of
leaving her own country had been greater than she cared to admit even to
herself. Then this sudden overwhelming worry about Frieda had left her
nerves completely unstrung.

Therefore she was extremely grateful when the older woman led her to a
more secluded part of the promenade deck. New York was now out of sight,
and most of the passengers were hurrying off to their rooms. Jean and
her companion were almost entirely alone.

"We-we have lost our little sister," the young girl began incoherently.
"Or at least we have been unable to find her and do not feel altogether
sure that she came aboard with the rest of us. Oh, I realize that this
must sound absurd and impossible to you. It does to all of us. But what
can have become of her?"

With a slight but imperious nod of her head, which, even in her
excitement, Jean did not fail to observe, her new acquaintance summoned
her courier. And although she spoke to him in Italian the girl was able
to understand. The man was told to await their return. Then if
ordered he was to see that the ship was thoroughly searched for a
missing passenger without unnecessary notoriety.

A little later the young woman moved away with Jean. "Your sister is
probably in her own stateroom by this time. However, if she is not and
is on the ship we shall find her in a few moments." Her tone was that of
absolute authority, as though the great vessel were her private yacht.
Jean wondered how any woman not more than twenty-eight could give such
an impression of poise and experience.

Notwithstanding Frieda had not yet been discovered in any one of the
staterooms. She had been expected to occupy a room with Jean. Olive and
Jack were to be together and Ruth to sleep alone. However, in Ruth's
stateroom, which the girls had chosen as being specially attractive,
Jean and her new friend found Jacqueline Ralston waiting alone.

"I have promised to remain here while Miss Drew and Olive have gone to
speak to the proper authorities," Jack explained, with the curious
self-control which she was almost always able to summon under special
strain. "We hope my sister has simply mistaken her stateroom and may
come to us at any moment. But if you will be so kind as to have your man
assist us in our search, why we shall be deeply grateful. You see, we
are rather too frightened to be sensible, besides being inexperienced
travelers. And Frieda is so much the younger!" Here, with a break in her
self-command, Jack dropped unexpectedly into the nearest chair. She had
forgotten even to ask their visitor to be seated, nor did she have the
faintest idea of her name, nor the reason for her interest in their

An hour later and the Martha Washington had been thoroughly and quietly
searched for the missing Frieda Ralston. Yet there appeared to be
absolutely no trace of her. Of course her baggage had been brought
aboard the ship with the other girls'. Even her silver toilet bag, Jim's
parting gift, was safely stored in her stateroom. Frieda had been last
seen ashore with nothing in her hands except a small gold link purse.

Finally when the news reached the Ranch party that Frieda was positively
not to be found on the steamer, for the first time in her career Ruth
Drew collapsed.