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- Air Service Boys in the Big Battle - 2/29 -
evidence of joy.
"We must have won a big battle!" cried Jack.
"Seems so," agreed Tom. "Hi there! what is it?" he asked in French of a fellow aviator.
"What is it? You ask me what? Ah, joy of my life! It is you who ought to know first! It is you who should give thanks! Ah!"
"Yes, that's all right, old man," returned Jack in English. "We'll give thanks right as soon as we know what it is; but we aren't mind readers, you know, and there are so many things to guess at that there's no use in wasting the time. Tell us, like a good chap!" he begged in French, for he saw the puzzled look on the face of the aviator Tom had addressed.
"It is the best news ever!" was the answer. "The first of your brave countrymen have arrived to help us drive the Boche from France! The first American Expeditionary Force, to serve under your brave General Pershing, has reached the shores of France safely, in spite of the U-boats, and are even now marching to show themselves in Paris! Ah, is it any wonder that we rejoice? How is it you say in your own delightful country? Two cheers and a lion! Ah!"
"Tiger, my dear boy! Tiger!" laughed Jack. "And, while you're about it, you might as well make it three cheers and done with it. Not that it makes any great amount of difference in this case, but it's just the custom, my stuffed olive!"
And then he and Tom were fairly carried off their feet by the rush of enthusiastic Frenchmen to congratulate them on the good news, and to share it with them.
"Is it really true?" asked Tom. "Has any substantial part of Uncle Sam's boys really got here at last?"
He was told that such was the case. The news had just been received at the headquarters of the flying squad to which Tom and Jack were attached. About ten thousand American soldiers were even then on French soil. Their coming had long been waited for, and the arrangements sailed in secret, and the news was known in American cities scarcely any sooner than it was in France, so careful had the military authorities been not to give the lurking German submarines a chance to torpedo the transports.
"Is not that glorious news, my friend?" asked the Frenchman who had given it to Tom and Jack.
"The best ever!" was the enthusiastic reply. And then Jack, turning to his chum, said in a low voice, as the Frenchman hurried back to the cheering throng: "You know what this means for us, of course?"
"Rather guess I do!" was the response. "It means we've got to apply for a transfer and fight under Pershing!"
"Exactly. Now how are we going to do it?"
"Oh, I fancy it will be all right. Merely a question of detail and procedure. They can't object to our wanting to fight among our own countrymen, now that enough of them are over here to make a showing. I suppose this is the first of the big army that's coming."
"I imagine so," agreed Jack. "Hurray! this is something like. There's going to be hard fighting. I realize that. But this is the beginning of the end, as I see it."
"That's what! Now, instead of tinkering over our machines, let's see the commandant and---"
Jack motioned to his chum to cease talking. Then he pointed up to the sky. There was a little speck against the blue, a speck that became larger as the two Americans watched.
"One of our fliers coming bark," remarked Tom in a low voice.
"I hope he brings more good news," returned Jack.
The approaching airman came rapidly nearer, and then the throngs that had gathered about the headquarters building to discuss the news of the arrival of the first American forces turned to watch the return of the flier.
"It's Du Boise," remarked Tom, naming an intrepid French fighter. He was one of the "aces," and had more than a score of Boche machines to his credit. "He must have been out 'on his own,' looking for a stray German."
"Yes, he and Leroy went out together," assented Jack. "But I don't see Harry's machine," and anxiously he scanned the heavens.
Harry Leroy was, like Tom and Jack, an American aviator who had lately joined the force in which the two friends had rendered such valiant service. Tom and Jack had known him on the other side--had, in fact, first met and become friendly with him at a flying school in Virginia. Leroy had suffered a slight accident which had put him out of the flying service for a year, but he had persisted, had finally been accepted, and was welcomed to France by his chums who had preceded him.
"I hope nothing has happened to Harry," murmured Tom; "but I don't see him, and it's queer Du Boise would come back without him."
"Maybe he had to--for gasoline or something," suggested Jack.
"I hope it isn't any worse than that," went on Tom. But his voice did not carry conviction.
The French aviator landed, and as he climbed out of his machine, helped by orderlies and others who rushed up, he was seen to stagger.
"Are you hurt?" asked Tom, hurrying up.
"A mere scratch-nothing, thank you," was the answer.
"Where's Harry Leroy?" Jack asked. "Did you have to leave him?"
"Ah, monsieur, I bring you bad news from the air," was the answer. "We were attacked by seven Boche machines. We each got one, and then--well, they got me--but what matters that? It is a mere nothing."
"What of Harry?" persisted Tom.
"Ah, it is of him I would speak. He is--he fell inside the enemy lines; and I had to come back for help. My petrol gave out, and I--"'
And then, pressing his hands over his breast, the brave airman staggered and fell, as a stream of blood issued from beneath his jacket.
A GIRI'S APPEAL
At once half a score of hands reached out to render aid to the stricken airman, whose blood was staining the ground where he had fallen.
Tom, seeing that his fellow aviator was more desperately wounded than the brave man had admitted, at once summoned stretcher-bearers, and he was carried to the hospital. Then all anxiously awaited the report of the surgeons, who quickly prepared to render aid to the fighter of the air.
"How is he?" asked Jack, as he and Tom, lingering near the hospital, saw one of the doctors emerge.
"He is doing very nicely," was the answer, given in French, for the two boys of the air spoke this language now with ease, if not always with absolute correctness.
"Then he isn't badly hurt?" asked Jack.
"No. The wound in his chest was only a flesh one, but it bled considerably. Two bullets from an aircraft machine gun struck ribs, and glanced off from them, but tore the flesh badly. The bleeding was held in check by the pressure DU Boise exerted on the wounds underneath his jacket, but at last he grew faint from loss of blood, and then the stream welled out. With rest and care he will be all right in a few days."
"How soon could we talk with him?" asked Tom.
"Talk with him?" asked the surgeon. "Is that necessary? He is doing very well, and--"
"Tom means ask him some questions," explained Jack. "You see, he started to tell us about our chum, Harry Leroy, who was out scouting with him. Harry was shot down, so Du Boise said, but he didn't get a chance to give any particulars, and we thought--"
"It will be a day or so before he will be able to talk to you," the surgeon said. "He is very weak, and must not be disturbed."
"Well, may we talk with him just as soon as possible?" eagerly asked Jack. "We want to find out where it was that Harry went down in his machine--out of control very likely--and if we get a chance--"
"We'd like to take it out on those that shot him down!" interrupted Torn. "Du Boise must have noticed the machines that fought him and Harry, and if we could get any idea of the Boches who were in them-- "
"I see," and the surgeon bowed and smiled approval of their idea. "You want revenge. I hope you get it. As soon as we think he is able to talk," and he nodded in the direction of the hospital, "we will let you see him. Good luck to you, and confusion to the Huns!"
"Gee, but this is tough luck I" murmured Tom, as he and his chum turned away. "Just as we were getting ready to go back into the game, too! Had it all fixed up for Harry to fly with us in a sort of a triangle scheme to down the Boches, and they have to go and
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