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- Our Pilots in the Air - 30/30 -

deputized us to welcome you., Mr. Erwin insisted oncoming, too."

"Why, this is great, great!" enthused Blaine, his awkwardness all gone under the cordiality of this greeting. "I always wanted to get leave, you know. So did Buck. Orry seems to have got in ahead on the leave business."

He grinned at Erwin, but Andra put in with:

"Well, we're all on leave only, aren't we, Mr. Erwin?"

"You gir -- you ladies, too?" essayed Bangs, while Erwin nodded.

"Why, yes. We're enlisted in the Red Cross, you know, and they're so strict about letting us off. But we, too, got our ten days. It will give us time to show you boys about the city a bit. And we're so glad you got back safe and are in time. Besides, tonight is going to be the big time for you boys."

"You are right, Vella." Andra smiled roguishly. "Mr. Erwin has been so curious. He's always wanting to know."

Clearly something was up, but recognizing that good manners were now a point to be duly considered, the young men managed to conquer their curiosity and confine their attention to other not less agreeable things.

They motored out to the Walsen residence, near the American Embassy, and were ensconced with Erwin in a suite of apartments much superior to what they had been used to of late.

The day passed. Senator Walsen returned. With him was the American Ambassador and a stout, elderly, yet martial looking man, already one of the most famous of the high Marshals of France, and now well known in the United States.

There was a dinner of state that evening, to which not only these three aviators were invited, but also various other French and Americans who had more or less distinguished themselves.

At the hour appointed no less a personage than the President of the French Republic, with several of his leading supporters also came. Altogether some twenty or more were assembled in the Walsen drawing-room just before the dinner hour.

Somewhat nervous, yet hopeful, our youngsters carefully prepared themselves for what Bangs confessed was "a blame sight more trying than any of the Boche scrimmages we have tackled of late."

"You are making mountains out of mole-bills; you know you are." Andra and Avella were smiling now, both doubly charming in their new Red Cross gowns.

As a matter of fact all three lads in their clean, trim aviation uniforms presented both a manly, martial and genteel appearance. At the last moment in came Captain Byers just in from the front; and with him was Stanley, pale and rather thin, yet surprisingly strong, considering his severe experiences. Miss Daskam was not there, but if one had looked closely at Stanley's pockets, the edge of a small photo of that young lady might have peeped out. Most likely this would have aroused Erwin's jealousy. Who knows?

When all were assembled and the usual round of introductions had been gone through with, Senator Walsen rose, introducing the Marshal, and concluding as follows:

"We not only love our French brothers-in-arms, but we know they love us. Our distinguished leader here," indicating the Marshal, "'wishes now to substantially prove this." And he gave way to the great Frenchman, who motioned to our lads to stand up, and then proceeded to pin on each young breast a cross of honor, bestowed for gallantry on the west front.

Directly Captain Byers also came forward and read an order from our War Department authorizing the General commanding our forces in France to declare the following promotions:

Lafayette Blaine to be First Lieutenant in the new American Aviation corps, Buck Bangs to be Second Lieutenant in same; and Orris Erwin and George Stanley to be First Sergeants. Effect to be immediate. Also furloughs granted to each for ten days at full pay.

Then the Marshal, whose command of English was limited, briefly yet succinctly complimented them all, especially Captain Byers, who had just come back from the line pressing the retiring enemy.

After that, of course, there was nothing to do but announce the dinner.

"How do you feel after all this?" curiously asked Andra Walsen of Blaine while waiting for a succeeding course in the rather stately march of the repast. "Do you feel good?"

"I always feel best when you are with me," he simply replied.

"Oh!" she replied, and there was unwonted color in her face as she looked down at a rose he had given her, now pinned right over her heart.

Both Buck and Avella looked quite as if they had been discussing the fact that, after all, were they not natural neighbors? Was not she from Idaho -- he from Montana? What more would anybody have?

And so let us leave them. The war still goes on, grows in bitterness, fierceness, cruelty, all or mostly inaugurated by Fritz the Hun.

How neat, how appropriate the name!

Let us, good reader, hope that if these young folks do survive the war and return to their homes alive, that some of their dawning dreams may come true, despite the Hun and all his works.


Our Pilots in the Air - 30/30

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