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- The Sky Pilot in No Man's Land - 1/71 -


THE SKY PILOT IN NO MAN'S LAND

by RALPH CONNOR

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. ONLY A MISSIONARY

II. ON THE RED PINE TRAIL

III. A QUESTION OF CONSCIENCE

IV. REJECTED

V. THE WAR DRUM CALLS

VI. THE MEN OF THE NORTH

VII. BARRICADES AND BAYONETS

VIII. A QUESTION OF NERVE

IX. SUBMARINES, BULLPUPS AND OTHER THINGS

X. FRANCE

XI. THE NEW MESSAGE

XII. A MAN OF GOD

XIII. INTENSIVE TRAINING

XIV. A TOUCH OF WAR

XV. THINNING RANKS

XVI. THE PASSING OF McCUAIG

XVII. LONDON LEAVE AND PHYLLIS

XVIII. A WEDDING JOURNEY

XIX. THE PILOT'S LAST PORT

XX. "CARRY ON"

THE SKY PILOT IN NO MAN'S LAND

CHAPTER I

ONLY A MISSIONARY

High upon a rock, poised like a bird for flight, stark naked, his satin skin shining like gold and silver in the rising sun, stood a youth, tall, slim of body, not fully developed but with muscles promising, in their faultless, gently swelling outline, strength and suppleness to an unusual degree. Gazing down into the pool formed by an eddy of the river twenty feet below him, he stood as if calculating the distance, his profile turned toward the man who had just emerged from the bushes and was standing on the sandy strand of the river, paddle in hand, looking up at him with an expression of wonder and delight in his eyes.

"Ye gods, what a picture!" said the man to himself.

Noiselessly, as if fearing to send the youth off in flight, he laid his paddle on the sand, hurriedly felt in his pockets, and swore to himself vigorously when he could find no sketch book there.

"What a pose! What an Apollo!" he muttered.

The sunlight glistening on the beautiful white skin lay like pools of gold in the curving hollows of the perfectly modelled body, and ran like silver over the rounded swellings of the limbs. Instinct with life he seemed, something in his pose suggesting that he had either alighted from the golden, ambient air, or was about to commit himself to it. The man on the sand continued to gaze as if he were beholding a creature of another world.

"Oh, Lord! What lines!" he breathed.

Slowly the youth began to move his arms up to the horizontal, then to the perpendicular, reaching to the utmost of his height upon his toe tips, breathing deep the while. Smoothly, slowly, the muscles in legs and thighs, in back, in abdomen, in chest, responding to the exercise moved under the lustrous skin as if themselves were living things. Over and over again the action was repeated, the muscles and body moving in rhythmic harmony like some perfect mechanism running in a bath of oil.

"Ye gods of Greece!" breathed the man. "What is this thing I see? Flesh or spirit? Man or god?" Again he swore at himself for neglecting to bring his sketch book and pencil.

"Hello, father! Where are you?" A girl's voice rang out, high, clear, and near at hand.

"Good Lord!" said the man to himself, glancing up at the poised figure. "I must stop her."

One startled glance the youth flung down upon him, another in the direction of the voice, then, like a white, gleaming arrow he shot down, and disappeared in the dark pool below.

With his eyes upon the water the man awaited his reappearing. A half minute, a full minute he waited, but in vain. Swiftly he ran toward the edge of the pool. There was no sign anywhere of the youth.

Ghastly pale and panting, the man ran, as far round the base of the rock as the water would allow him, seeking everywhere signs of the swimmer.

"Hello, father! Oh, there you are!" Breaking through the bushes, a girl ran to him.

"What is it, pater? You are ill. What is the matter?"

"Good heavens! he was there!" gasped the man, pointing to the high rock. "He plunged in there." He pointed to the pool. "He hasn't come up. He is drowned."

"Who? What are you saying? Wake up, father. Who was there?"

"A boy! A young man! He disappeared down there."

"A young man? Was he--was he--dressed?" inquired the girl.

"Dressed? No. No."

"Did he--did he--hear me--calling?"

"Of course he did. That's what startled him, I imagine. Poor boy! I fear he is gone."

"Did he fall in, or did he dive?"

"He seemed to dive, but he has not come up. I fear he is gone."

"Oh, nonsense, father," said the girl. "I bet you he has swum round the bend. Just go over the rock and see."

"God grant it!" said her father.

He dropped his paddle, ran up over the rock and down into the little dell on the other side that ran down to the water's edge. There he saw a tent, with all the accompaniments of a well ordered camp, and a man cooking breakfast on a small fire.

"Well, I'll be combusticated!" he said to himself, weakly holding to a little poplar tree.

"I say!" he cried, "where is he? Has he come in? Is he all right?"

"Who?" said the man at the fire.

"The boy on the rock."

The man gazed at him astonished, then as if suddenly grasping his meaning, replied,

"Yes, he came in. He's dressing in the tent."

"Well, I'll be condumbusticated!" said the man. "Say! what the devil does he mean by scaring people out of their senses in that way!"

The man at the fire stood gazing at him in an utterly bewildered way.

"If you will tell me exactly what you are after, I may be able to help you."

The other drew slowly near the fire. He was still pale, and breathing quickly.

"Hello, dad, is breakfast ready?" came a cheery voice from the tent.

"Thank God, he is alive apparently," said the man, sinking down on a log beside the fire. "You must pardon me, sir," he said. "You see, I saw him take a header into the pool from that high rock over yonder, and he never came up again. I thought he was drowned."

The man at the fire smiled.


The Sky Pilot in No Man's Land - 1/71

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