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Title: High Adventure - A Narrative of Air Fighting in France
Author: Hall, James Norman, 1887-1951
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                    The Riverside Library

                       High Adventure

            A Narrative of Air Fighting in France

                             By

                      JAMES NORMAN HALL


                       [Illustration]


                     BOSTON AND NEW YORK
                  HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
                The Riverside Press Cambridge

  COPYRIGHT, 1917 AND 1918, BY THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY COMPANY
            COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY JAMES NORMAN HALL
                     ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


                   _Published June, 1918_


                     The Riverside Press
                  CAMBRIDGE · MASSACHUSETTS
                    PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.


                             TO
              SERGENT-PILOTE DOUGLAS MACMONAGLE
                KILLED IN COMBAT NEAR VERDUN
                     SEPTEMBER 25, 1917


[Illustration: THE AUTHOR]



                          Contents


   I. THE FRANCO-AMERICAN CORPS         1

  II. PENGUINS                         24

 III. BY THE ROUTE OF THE AIR          47

  IV. AT G. D. E.                      79

   V. OUR FIRST PATROL                107

  VI. A BALLOON ATTACK                144

 VII. BROUGHT DOWN                    167

VIII. ONE HUNDRED HOURS               182

  IX. "LONELY AS A CLOUD"             200

   X. "MAIS OUI, MON VIEUX!"          209

  XI. THE CAMOUFLAGED COWS            216

 XII. CAFARD                          226

LETTER FROM A GERMAN PRISON CAMP      233



                       HIGH ADVENTURE



                              I

                  THE FRANCO-AMERICAN CORPS


It was on a cool, starlit evening, early in September, 1916, that I
first met Drew of Massachusetts, and actually began my adventures as a
prospective member of the Escadrille Américaine. We had sailed from
New York by the same boat, had made our applications for enlistment in
the Foreign Legion on the same day, without being aware of each
other's existence; and in Paris, while waiting for our papers, we had
gone, every evening, for dinner, to the same large and gloomy-looking
restaurant in the neighborhood of the Seine.

As for the restaurant, we frequented it, not assuredly because of the
quality of the food. We might have dined better and more cheaply
elsewhere. But there was an air of vanished splendor, of faded
magnificence, about the place which, in the capital of a warring
nation, appealed to both of us. Every evening the tables were laid
with spotless linen and shining silver. The wineglasses caught the
light from the tarnished chandeliers in little points of color. At the
dinner-hour, a half-dozen ancient serving-men silently took their
places about the room. There was not a sound to be heard except the
occasional far-off honk of a motor or the subdued clatter of dishes
from the kitchens. The serving-men, even the tables and the empty
chairs, seemed to be listening, to be waiting for the guests who never
came. Rarely were there more than a dozen diners-out during the course
of an evening. There was something mysterious in these elaborate
preparations, and something rather fine about them as well; but one
thought, not without a touch of sadness, of the old days when there
had been laughter and lights and music, sparkling wines and brilliant
talk, and how those merrymakers had gone, many of them, long ago to
the wars.

As it happened on this evening, Drew and I were sitting at adjoining
tables. Our common citizenship was our introduction, and after five
minutes of talk, we learned of our common purpose in coming to
France. I suppose that we must have eaten after making this latter
discovery. I vaguely remember seeing our old waiter hobbling down a
long vista of empty tables on his way to and from the kitchens. But if
we thought of our food at all, it must have been in a purely
mechanical way.

Drew can talk--by Jove, how the man can talk!--and he has the faculty
of throwing the glamour of romance over the most commonplace
adventures. Indeed, the difficulty which I am going to have in writing
this narrative is largely due to this romantic influence of his. I
might have succeeded in writing a plain tale, for I have kept my diary
faithfully, from day to day, and can set down our adventures, such as
they are, pretty much as they occurred. But Drew has bewitched me. He
does not realize it, but he is a weaver of spells, and I am so
enmeshed in his moonshine that I doubt if I shall be able to write of
our experiences as they must appear to those of our comrades in the
Franco-American Corps who remember them only through the medium of the
revealing light of day.

Not one of these men, I am sure, would confess to so strange an
immediate cause for joining the aviation service, as that related to
me by Drew, as we sat over our coffee and cigarettes, on the evening
of our first meeting. He had come to France, he said, with the
intention of joining the _Légion Étrangère_ as an infantryman. But he
changed his mind, a few days after his arrival in Paris, upon meeting
Jackson of the American Aviation Squadron, who was on leave after a
service of six months at the front. It was all because of the manner
in which Jackson looked at a Turkish rug. He told him of his
adventures in the most matter-of-fact way. No heroics, nothing of that
sort. He had not a glimmer of imagination, he said. But he had a way
of looking at the floor which was "irresistible," which "fascinated
him with the sense of height." He saw towns, villages, networks of
trenches, columns of toy troops moving up ribbons of road--all in the
patterns of a Turkish rug. And the next day, he was at the
headquarters of the Franco-American Corps, in the Champs Élysées,
making application for membership.

It is strange that we should both have come to France with so little
of accurate knowledge of the corps, of the possibilities for
enlistment, and of the nature of the requirements for the service. Our
knowledge of it, up to the time of sailing, had been confined to a few
brief references in the press. It was perhaps necessary that its
existence should not be officially recognized in America, or its
furtherance encouraged. But it seemed to us at that time, that there
must have been actual discouragement on the part of the Government at
Washington. However that may be, we wondered if others had followed
clues so vague or a call so dimly heard.

This led to a discussion of our individual aptitudes for the service,
and we made many comforting discoveries about each other. It is
permissible to reveal them now, for the particular encouragement of
others who, like ourselves at that time, may be conscious of
deficiencies, and who may think that they have none of the qualities
essential to the successful aviator. Drew had never been farther from
the ground than the top of the Woolworth building. I had once taken a
trip in a captive balloon. Drew knew nothing of motors, and had no
more knowledge of mechanics than would enable him to wind a watch
without breaking the mainspring. My ignorance in this respect was a
fair match for his.

We were further handicapped for the French service by our lack of the
language. Indeed, this seemed to be the most serious obstacle in the
way to success. With a good general knowledge of the language it
seemed probable that we might be able to overcome our other
deficiencies. Without it, we could see no way to mastering the
mechanical knowledge which we supposed must be required as a
foundation for the training of a military pilot. In this connection,
it may be well to say that we have both been handicapped from the
beginning. We have had to learn, through actual experience in the air,
and at risk to life and limb, what many of our comrades, both French
and American, knew before they had ever climbed into an aeroplane. But
it is equally true that scores of men become very excellent pilots
with little or no knowledge of the mechanics of the business.

In so far as Drew and I were concerned, these were matters for the
future. It was enough for us at the moment that our applications had
been approved, our papers signed, and that to-morrow we were leaving
for the _École d'Aviation Militaire_ to begin our training. And so,
after a long evening of pleasant talk and pleasanter anticipation of
coming events, we left our restaurant and walked together through the
silent streets to the Place de la Concorde. The great windy square was
almost deserted. The monuments to the lost provinces bulked large in
the dim lamplight. Two disabled soldiers hobbled across the bridge and
disappeared in the deep shade of the avenue. Their service had been
rendered, their sacrifices made, months ago. They could look about
them now with a peculiar sense of isolation, and with, perhaps, a
feeling of the futility of the effort they had made. Our adventures
were all before us. Our hearts were light and our hopes high. As we
stood by the obelisk, talking over plans for the morrow, we heard,
high overhead, the faint hum of motors, and saw two lights, one green,
one red, moving rapidly across the sky. A moment later the long,
slender finger of a searchlight probed among little heaps of cloud,
then, sweeping in a wide arc, revealed in striking outline the shape
of a huge biplane circling over the sleeping city. It was one of the
night guard of Paris.

On the following morning, we were at the Gare des Invalides with our
luggage, a long half-hour before train-time. The luggage was absurdly
bulky. Drew had two enormous suitcases and a bag, and I a steamer
trunk and a family-size portmanteau. We looked so much the typical
American tourists that we felt ashamed of ourselves, not because of
our nationality, but because we revealed so plainly, to all the world
military, our non-military antecedents. We bore the hallmark of fifty
years of neutral aloofness, of fifty years of indifference to the
business of national defense. What makes the situation amusing as a
retrospect is the fact that we were traveling on third-class military
passes, as befitted our rank as _élève-pilotes_ and soldiers of the
_deuxième classe_.

To our great discomfiture, a couple of _poilus_ volunteered their
services in putting our belongings aboard the train. Then we crowded
into a third-class carriage filled with soldiers--_permissionnaires_,
_blessés_, _réformés_, men from all corners of France and her
colonies. Their uniforms were faded and weather-stained with long
service. The stocks of their rifles were worn smooth and bright with
constant usage, and their packs fairly stowed themselves upon their
backs.

Drew and I felt uncomfortable in our smart civilian clothing. We
looked too soft, too clean, too spick-and-span. We did not feel that
we belonged there. But in a whispered conversation we comforted
ourselves with the assurance that if ever America took her rightful
stand with the Allies, in six months after the event, hundreds of
thousands of American boys would be lugging packs and rifles with the
same familiarity of use as these French _poilus_. They would become
equally good soldiers, and soon would have the same community of
experience, of dangers and hardships shared in common, which make men
comrades and brothers in fact as well as in theory.

By the time we had reached our destination we had persuaded ourselves
into a much more comfortable frame of mind. There we piled into a
cab, and soon we were rattling over the cobblestones, down a long,
sunlit avenue in the direction of B----. It was late of a mild
afternoon when we reached the summit of a high plateau and saw before
us the barracks and hangars of the _École d'Aviation_. There was not a
breath of air stirring. The sun was just sinking behind a bank of
crimson cloud. The earth was already in shadow, but high overhead the
light was caught and reflected from the wings of scores of _avions_
which shone like polished bronze and silver. We saw the long lines of
Blériot monoplanes, like huge dragon-flies, and as pretty a sight in
the air as heart could wish. Farther to the left, we recognized Farman
biplanes, floating battleships in comparison with the Blériots, and
twin-motor Caudrons, much more graceful and alert of movement.

But, most wonderful of all to us then, we saw a strange, new
_avion_,--a biplane, small, trim, with a body like a fish. To see it
in flight was to be convinced for all time that man has mastered the
air, and has outdone the birds in their own element. Never was swallow
more consciously joyous in swift flight, never eagle so bold to take
the heights or so quick to reach them. Drew and I gazed in silent
wonder, our bodies jammed tightly into the cab-window, and our heads
craned upward. We did not come back to earth until our ancient,
earth-creeping conveyance brought up with a jerk, and we found
ourselves in front of a gate marked "École d'Aviation Militaire de
B----."

After we had paid the cabman, we stood in the road, with our mountain
of luggage heaped about us, waiting for something to happen. A moment
later a window in the administration building was thrown open and we
were greeted with a loud and not over-musical chorus of

    "Oh, say, can you see by the dawn's early light--"

It all came from one throat, belonging to a chap in leathers, who came
down the drive to give us welcome.

"Spotted you _toute suite_" he said. "You can tell Americans at six
hundred yards by their hats. How's things in the States? Do you think
we're coming in?"

We gave him the latest budget of home news, whereupon he offered to
take us over to the barracks. When he saw our luggage he grinned.

"Some equipment, believe me! _Attendez un peu_ while I commandeer a
battalion of Annamites to help us carry it, and we'll be on our way."

The Annamites, from Indo-China, who are quartered at the camp for
guard and fatigue duty, came back with him about twenty strong, and we
started in a long procession to the barracks. Later, we took a
vindictive pleasure in witnessing the beluggaged arrival of other
Americans, for in nine cases out of ten they came as absurdly
over-equipped as did we.

Our barracks, one of many built on the same pattern, was a long, low
wooden building, weather-stained without and whitewashed within. It
had accommodation for about forty beds. One end of the room was very
manifestly American. There was a phonograph on the table, baseball
equipment piled in one corner, and the walls were covered with
cartoons and pictures clipped from American periodicals. The other end
was as evidently French, in the frugality and the neatness of its
furnishings. The American end of the room looked more homelike, but
the French end more military. Near the center, where the two nations
joined, there was a very harmonious blending of these characteristics.

Drew and I were delighted with all this. We were glad that we were not
to live in an exclusively American barracks, for we wanted to learn
French; but more than this, we wanted to live with Frenchmen on terms
of barrack-room familiarity.

By the time we had given in our papers at the captain's office and had
passed the hasty preliminary examination of the medical officer, it
was quite dark. Flying for the day was over, and lights gleamed
cheerily from the barrack-room windows. As we came down the principal
street of the camp, we heard the strains of "Waiting for the Robert E.
Lee," to a gramophone accompaniment, issuing from the _chambre des
Américains_.

    "See them shuffle along,
    Oh, ma honey babe,
    Hear that music and song."

It gave us the home feeling at once. Frenchmen and Americans were
singing together, the Frenchmen in very quaint English, but hitting
off the syncopated time as though they had been born and brought up to
it as we Americans have.

Over in one corner, a very informal class in French-English
pronunciation was at work. Apparently, this was tongue-twisters'
night. "_Heureux_" was the challenge from the French side, and
"_Hooroo_" the nearest approach to a pronunciation on the part of the
Americans, with many more or less remote variations on this theme. An
American, realizing how difficult it is for a Frenchman to get his
tongue between his teeth, counter-challenged with "Father, you are
withered with age." The result, as might have been expected, was a
series of hissing sounds of _z_, whereupon there was an answering howl
of derision from all the Americans. Up and down the length of the room
there were little groups of two and three, chatting together in
combinations of Franco-American which must have caused all deceased
professors of modern languages to spin like midges in their graves.
And throughout all this before-supper merriment, one could catch the
feeling of good-comradeship which, so far as my experience goes, is
always prevalent whenever Frenchmen and Americans are gathered
together.

At the _ordinaire_, at supper-time, we saw all of the _élève-pilotes_
of the school, with the exception of the non-commissioned officers,
who have their own mess. To Drew and me, but newly come from remote
America, it was a most interesting gathering. There were about one
hundred and twenty-five in all, including eighteen Americans. The
large majority of the Frenchmen had already been at the front in other
branches of army service. There were artillerymen, infantrymen,
marines,--in training for the naval air-service,--cavalrymen, all
wearing the uniforms of the arm to which they originally belonged. No
one was dressed in a uniform which distinguished him as an aviator;
and upon making inquiry, I found that there is no official dress for
this branch of the service. During his period of training in aviation,
and even after receiving his military brevet, a pilot continues to
wear the dress of his former service, plus the wings on the collar,
and the star-and-wings insignia on his right breast. This custom does
not make for the fine uniform appearance of the men of the British
Royal Flying Corps, but it gives a picturesqueness of effect which is,
perhaps, ample recompense. As for the Americans, they follow
individual tastes, as we learned later. Some of them, with an eye to
color, salute the sun in the red trousers and black tunic of the
artilleryman. Others choose more sober shades, various French blues,
with the thin orange aviation stripe running down the seams of the
trousers. All this in reference to the dress uniform. At the camp most
of the men wear leathers, or a combination of leathers and the
gray-blue uniform of the French _poilu_, which is issued to all
Americans at the time of their enlistment.

We had a very excellent supper of soup, followed by a savory roast of
meat, with mashed potatoes and lentils. Afterward, cheese and beer. I
was slightly discomfited physically on learning that the beef was
horse-meat, but Drew convinced me that it was absurd to let old
scruples militate against a healthy appetite. In 1870 the citizens of
France ate _ragoût de chat_ with relish. Furthermore, the roast was of
so delicious a flavor and so closely resembled the finest cuts of
beef, that it was easy to persuade one's self that it was beef, after
all.

After the meal, to our great surprise, every one cleaned his dishes
with huge pieces of bread. Such waste seemed criminal in a country
beleaguered by submarines, in its third year of war, and largely
dependent for its food-supply on the farm labor of women and children.
We should not have been surprised if it had been only the Americans
who indulged in this wasteful dish-cleansing process; but the
Frenchmen did it, too. When I remarked upon this to one of my American
comrades, a Frenchman, sitting opposite, said:--

"Pardon, monsieur, but I must tell you what we Frenchmen are. We are
very economical when it is for ourselves, for our own families and
purses, that we are saving. But when it is the Government which pays
the bill, we do not care. We do not have to pay directly and so we
waste, we throw away. We are so careful at home, all of our lives,
that this is a little pleasure for us."

I have had this same observation made to me by so many Frenchmen since
that time, that I believe there must be a good deal of truth in it.

After supper, all of the Americans adjourned for coffee to Ciret's, a
little café in the village which nestles among the hills not far from
the camp. The café itself was like any one of thousands of French
provincial restaurants. There was a great dingy common room, with a
sanded brick floor, and faded streamers of tricolor paper festooned in
curious patterns from the smoky ceiling. The kitchen was clean, and
filled with the appetizing odor of good cooking. Beyond it was
another, inner room, "_toujours réservée à mes Américains_," as M.
Ciret, the fat, genial _patron_ continually asserted. Here we gathered
around a large circular table, pipes and cigarettes were lighted, and,
while the others talked, Drew and I listened and gathered impressions.

For a time the conversation did not become general, and we gathered up
odds and ends of it from all sides. Then it turned to the reasons
which had prompted various members of the group to come to France, the
topic, above all others, which Drew and I most wanted to hear
discussed. It seemed to me, as I listened, that we Americans closely
resemble the British in our sensitive fear of any display of fine
personal feeling. We will never learn to examine our emotions with
anything but suspicion. If we are prompted to a course of action by
generous impulses, we are anxious that others shall not be let into
the secret. And so it was that of all the reasons given for offering
their services to France, the first and most important was the last to
be acknowledged, and even then it was admitted by some with a
reluctance nearly akin to shame. There was no man there who was not
ready and willing to give his life, if necessary, for the Allied
cause, because he believed in it; but the admission could hardly have
been dragged from him by wild horses.

But the adventure of the life, the peculiar fascination of it--that
was a thing which might be discussed without reserve, and the men
talked of it with a willingness which was most gratifying to Drew and
me, curious as we were about the life we were entering. They were all
in the flush of their first enthusiasms. They were daily enlarging
their conceptions of distance and height and speed. They talked a new
language and were developing a new cast of mind. They were like
children who had grown up over night, whose horizons had been
immeasurably broadened in the twinkling of an eye. They were still
keenly conscious of the change which was upon them, for they were but
fledgling aviators. They were just finding their wings. But as I
listened, I thought of the time which must come soon, when the air, as
the sea, will be filled with stately ships, and how the air-service
will develop its own peculiar type of men, and build up about them its
own laws and its own traditions.

As we walked back through the straggling village street to the camp, I
tried to convey to Drew something of the new vision which had come to
me during the evening. I was aglow with enthusiasm and hoped to strike
an answering spark from him. But all that I was thinking and feeling
then he had thought and felt long before. I am sure that he had
already experienced, in imagination, every thrill, every keen joy, and
every sudden sickening fear which the life might have in store for
him. For this reason I forgave him for his rather bored manner of
answering to my mood, and the more willingly because he was full of
talk about a strange illusion which he had had at the restaurant.
During a moment of silence, he had heard a clatter of hoof-beats in
the village street. (I had heard them too. Some one rode by
furiously.) Well, Drew said that he almost jumped from his seat,
expecting M. Ciret to throw open the door and shout, "The British are
coming!" He actually believed for a second or two that it was the year
1775, and that he was sitting in one of the old roadside inns of
Massachusetts. The illusion was perfect, he said.

Now, why--etc., etc. At another time I should have been much
interested; but in the presence of new and splendid realities I could
not summon any enthusiasm for illusions. Nevertheless, I should have
had to listen to him indefinitely, had it not been for an event which
cut short all conversation and ended our first day at the _École
d'Aviation_ in a truly spectacular manner.

Suddenly we heard the roar of motors just over the barracks, and, at
the same time, the siren sounded the alarm in a series of prolonged,
wailing shrieks. Some belated pilot was still in the air. We rushed
out to the field just as the flares were being lighted and placed on
the ground in the shape of an immense T, with the cross-bar facing in
the direction from which the wind was coming. By this time the hum of
motors was heard at a great distance, but gradually it increased in
volume and soon the light of the flares revealed the machine circling
rapidly over the _piste_. I was so much absorbed in watching it
manoeuvre for a landing that I did not see the crowd scattering to
safe distances. I heard many voices shouting frantic warnings, and so
ran for it, but, in my excitement, directly within the line of descent
of the machine. I heard the wind screaming through the wires, a
terrifying sound to the novice, and glancing hurriedly over my
shoulder, I saw what appeared to be a monster of gigantic proportions,
almost upon me. It passed within three metres of my head and landed
just beyond.

When at last I got to sleep, after a day filled with interesting
incidents, Paul Revere pursued me relentlessly through the mazes of a
weird and horrible dream. I was on foot, and shod with lead-soled
boots. He was in a huge, twin-motor Caudron and flying at a terrific
pace, only a few metres from the ground. I can see him now, as he
leaned far out over the hood of his machine, an aviator's helmet set
atilt over his powdered wig, and his eyes glowing like coals through
his goggles. He was waving two lighted torches and shouting, "The
British are coming! The British are coming!" in a voice strangely like
Drew's.



                             II

                          PENGUINS


Having simple civilian notions as to the amount of time necessary for
dressing, Drew and I rose with the sound of the bugle on the following
morning. We had promised each other that we would begin our new life
in true soldier style, and so we reluctantly hurried to the
wash-house, where we shaved in cold water, washed after a fashion, and
then hurried back to the unheated barrack-room. We felt refreshed,
morally and physically, but our heroic example seemed to make no
impression upon our fellow aviators, whether French or American.
Indeed, not one of them stirred until ten minutes before time for the
morning _appel_, when, there was a sudden upheaval of blankets down
the entire length of the room. It was as though the patients in a hospital
ward had been inoculated with some wonderful, instantaneous-health-giving
virus. Men were jumping into boots and trousers at the same time, and
running to and from the wash-house, buttoning their shirts and drying
their faces as they ran. It must have taken months of experiment to
perfect the system whereby every one remained in bed until the last
possible moment. They professed to be very proud of it, but it was
clear that they felt more at ease when Drew and I, after a week of
heroic, early-morning resolves, abandoned our daily test of courage.
We are all Doctor Johnsons at heart.

It was a crisp, calm morning--an excellent day for flying. Already the
mechanicians were bringing out the machines and lining them up in
front of the hangars, in preparation for the morning work, which began
immediately after _appel_. Drew and I had received notice that we were
to begin our training at once. Solicitous fellow countrymen had warned
us to take with us all our flying clothes. We were by no means to
forget our goggles, and the fur-lined boots which are worn over
ordinary boots as a protection against the cold. Innocently, we obeyed
all instructions to the letter. The absurdity of our appearance will
be appreciated only by air-men. Novices begin their training, at a
Blériot monoplane school, in Penguins--low-powered machines with
clipped wings, which are not capable of leaving the ground. We were
dressed as we would have no occasion to be dressed until we should be
making sustained flights at high altitudes. Every one, Frenchmen and
Americans alike, had a good laugh at our expense, but it was one in
which we joined right willingly; and one kind-hearted _adjudant-moniteur_,
in order to remove what discomfiture we may have felt, told us,
through an interpreter, that he was sure we would become good air-men.
The _très bon pilote_ could be distinguished, in embryo, by the way he
wore his goggles.

The beginners' class did not start work with the others, owing to the
fact that the Penguins, driven by unaccustomed hands, covered a vast
amount of ground in their rolling sorties back and forth across the
field. Therefore Drew and I had leisure to watch the others, and to
see in operation the entire scheme by means of which France trains her
combat pilots for the front. Exclusive of the Penguin, there were
seven classes, graded according to their degree of advancement. These,
in their order, were the rolling class (a second-stage Penguin class,
in which one still kept on the ground, but in machines of higher
speed); the first flying class--short hops across the field at an
altitude of two or three metres; the second flying class, where one
learned to mount to from thirty to fifty metres, and to make landings
without the use of the motor; _tour de piste_ (A)--flights about the
aerodrome in a forty-five horse-power Blériot; _tour de piste_
(B)--similar flights in a fifty horse-power machine; the spiral class,
and the brevet class.

Our reception committee of the day before volunteered his services as
guide, and took us from one class to another, making comments upon the
nature of the work of each in a bewildering combination of English and
Americanized French. I understood but little of his explanation,
although later I was able to appreciate his French translation of some
of our breezy Americanisms. But explanation was, for the most part,
unnecessary. We could see for ourselves how the prospective pilot
advanced from one class to another, becoming accustomed to machines of
higher and higher power, "growing his wings" very gradually, until at
last he reached the spiral class, where he learned to make landings at
a given spot and without the use of his motor, from an altitude of
from eight hundred to one thousand metres, losing height in volplanes
and serpentines. The final tests for the military brevet were two
cross-country flights of from two hundred to three hundred kilometres,
with landings during each flight, at three points, two short voyages
of sixty kilometres each, and an hour flight at a minimum altitude of
two thousand metres.

With all the activities of the school taking place at once, we were as
excited as two boys seeing their first three-ring circus. We scarcely
knew which way to turn in our anxiety to miss nothing. But my chief
concern, in anticipation, had been this: how were English-speaking
_élèves-pilotes_ to overcome the linguistic handicap? My uneasiness
was set at rest on this first morning, when I saw how neatly most of
the difficulties were overcome. Many of the Americans had no knowledge
of French other than that which they had acquired since entering the
French service, and this, as I have already hinted, had no great
utilitarian value. An interpreter had been provided for them through
the generosity and kindness of the Franco-American Committee in Paris;
but it was impossible for him to be everywhere at once, and much was
left to their own quickness of understanding and to the ingenuity of
the _moniteurs_. The latter, being French, were eloquent with their
gestures. With the additional aid of a few English phrases which they
had acquired from the Americans, and the simplest kind of French, they
had little difficulty in making their instructions clear. Both of us
felt much encouraged as we listened, for we could understand them very
well.

As for the business of flying, as we watched it from below, it seemed
the safest and simplest thing in the world. The machines left the
ground so easily, and mounted and descended with such sureness of
movement, that I was impatient to begin my training. I believed that I
could fly at once, after a few minutes of preliminary instruction,
without first going through with all the tedious rolling along the
ground in low-powered machines. But before the morning's work was
finished, I revised my opinion. Accidents began to happen, the first
one when one of the "old family cuckoos," as the rolling machines were
disdainfully called, showed a sudden burst of old-time speed and left
the ground in an alarming manner.

It was evident that the man who was driving it, taken completely by
surprise, had lost his head, and was working the controls erratically.
First he swooped upward, then dived, tipping dangerously on one wing.
In this sudden emergency he had quite forgotten his newly acquired
knowledge. I wondered what I would do in such a strait, when one must
think with the quickness and sureness of instinct. My heart was in my
mouth, for I felt certain that the man would be killed. As for the
others who were watching, no one appeared to be excited. A _moniteur_
near me said, "Oh, là là! Il est perdu!" in a mild voice. The whole
affair happened so quickly that I was not able to think myself into a
similar situation before the end had come. At the last, the machine
made a quick swoop downward, from a height of about fifty metres, then
careened upward, tipped again, and diving sidewise, struck the ground
with a sickening rending crash, the motor going at full speed. For a
moment it stood, tail in air; then slowly the balance was lost, and it
fell, bottom up, and lay silent.

An enterprising moving-picture company would have given a great deal
of money to film that accident. It would have provided a splendid
dramatic climax to a war drama of high adventure. Civilian audiences
would have watched in breathless, awe-struck silence; but at a
military school of aviation it was a different matter. "Oh, là là! Il
est perdu!" adequately gauges the degree of emotional interest taken
in the incident. At the time I was surprised at this apparent
callousness, but I understood it better when I had seen scores of such
accidents occur, and had watched the pilots, as in this case, crawl
out from the wreckage, and walk sheepishly, and a little shaken, back
to their classes. Although the machines were usually badly wrecked,
the pilots were rarely severely hurt. The landing chassis of a Blériot
is so strong that it will break the force of a very heavy fall, and
the motor, being in front, strikes the ground first instead of
pinning the pilot beneath it.

To anticipate a little, in more than four months of training at the
Blériot school there was not a single fatality, although as many as
eleven machines were wrecked in the course of one working day, and
rarely less than two or three. There were so many accidents as to
convince me that Blériot training for novices is a mistake from the
economic point of view. The up-keep expense is vastly greater than in
double-command biplane schools, where the student pilot not only
learns to fly in a much more stable machine, but makes all his early
flights in company with a _moniteur_ who has his own set of controls
and may immediately correct any mistakes in handling. But France is
not guided by questions of expense in her training of _pilotes de
chasse_, and opinion appears to be that single-command monoplane
training is to be preferred for the airman who is to be a combat
pilot. Certain it is that men have greater confidence in themselves
when they learn to fly alone from the beginning; and the Blériot,
which requires the most delicate and sensitive handling, offers
excellent preliminary schooling for the Nieuport and Spad, the fast
and high-powered biplanes which are the _avions de chasse_ above the
French lines.

A spice of interest was added to the morning's thrills when an
American, not to be outdone by his French compatriot, wrecked a
machine so completely that it seemed incredible that he could have
escaped without serious injury. But he did, and then we witnessed the
amusing spectacle of an American, who had no French at all, explaining
through the interpreter just how the accident had happened. I saw his
_moniteur_, who knew no English, grin in a relieved kind of way when
the American crawled out from under the wreckage. The reception
committee whispered to me, "This is Pourquoi, the best bawler-out
we've got. 'Pourquoi?' is always his first broadside. Then he wades in
and you can hear him from one end of the field to the other.
_Attendez!_ this is going to be rich!"

Both of them started talking at once, the _moniteur_ in French and the
American in English. Then they turned to the interpreter, and any one
witnessing the conversation from a distance would have thought that he
was the culprit. The American had left the ground with the wind behind
him, a serious fault in an airman, and he knew it very well.

"Look here, Pete," he said; "tell him I know it was my fault. Tell him
I took a Steve Brody. I wanted to see if the old cuckoo had any pep in
'er. When I--"

"Pourquoi? Nom de Dieu! Qu'est-ce que je vous ai dit? Jamais faire
comme ça! Jamais monter avec le vent en arrière! Jamais! Jamais!"

The others listened in hilarious silence while the interpreter turned
first to one and then to the other. "Tell him I took a Steve Brody." I
wondered if he translated that literally. Steve took a chance, but it
is hardly to be expected that a Frenchman would know of that daring
gentleman's history. In this connection, I remember a little talk on
caution which was given to us, later, by an English-speaking
_moniteur_. It was after rather a serious accident, for which the
spirit of Steve Brody was again responsible.

"You Americans," he said, "when you go to the front you will get the
Boche; but let me tell you, they will kill many of you. Not one or
two; very many."

Accidents delayed the work of flying scarcely at all. As soon as a
machine was wrecked, Annamites appeared on the spot to clear away the
débris and take it to the repair-shops, where the usable portions were
quickly sorted out. We followed one of these processions in, and spent
an hour watching the work of this other department of aviation upon
which our own was so entirely dependent. Here machines were being
built as well as repaired. The air vibrated with the hum of machinery,
with the clang of hammers upon anvils and the roar of motors in
process of being tested.

There was a small army of women doing work of many kinds. They were
quite apt at it, particularly in the department where the fine strong
linen cloth which covers the wings was being sewn together and
stretched over the framework. There were great husky peasant-women
doing the hardest kind of manual labor. In these latter days of the
great world-war, women are doing everything, surely, with the one
exception of fighting. It is not a pleasant thing to see them, however
strong they may be, doing the rough, coarse work of men, bearing great
burdens on their backs as though they were oxen. There must be many
now whose muscles are as hard and whose hands as horny as those of a
stevedore. Several months after this time, when we were transferred to
another school of aviation, one of the largest in Europe, we saw women
employed on a much larger scale. They lived in barracks which were no
better than our own,--not so good, in fact,--and roughed it like
common soldiers.

Toward evening the wind freshened and flying was brought to a halt.
Then the Penguins were brought from their hangars, and Drew and I,
properly dressed this time, and accompanied by some of the Americans,
went out to the field for our first sortie. As is usual on such
occasions, there was no dearth of advice. Every graduate of the
Penguin class had a method of his own for keeping that unmanageable
bird traveling in a direct line, and every one was only too willing to
give us the benefit of his experience. Finally, out of the welter of
suggestions, one or two points became clear: it was important that
one should give the machine full gas, and get the tail off the ground.
Then, by skillful handling of the rudder, it might be kept traveling
in the same general direction. But if, as usually happened, it showed
willful tendencies, and started to turn within its own length, it was
necessary to cut the contact, to prevent it from whirling so rapidly
as to overturn.

Never have I seen a stranger sight than that of a swarm of Penguins at
work. They looked like a brood of prehistoric birds of enormous size,
with wings too short for flight. Most unwieldy birds they were, driven
by, or more accurately, driving beginners in the art of flying; but
they ran along the ground at an amazing speed, zigzagged this way and
that, and whirled about as if trying to catch their own tails. As we
stood watching them, an accident occurred which would have been
laughable had we not been too nervous to enjoy it. In a distant part
of the field two machines were rushing wildly about. There were acres
of room in which they might pass, but after a moment of uncertainty,
they rushed headlong for each other as though driven by the hand of
fate, and met head-on, with a great rending of propellers. The
onlookers along the side of the field howled and pounded each other in
an ecstasy of delight, but Drew and I walked apart for a hasty
consultation, for it was our turn next. We kept rehearsing the points
which we were to remember in driving a Penguin: full gas and tail up
at once. Through the interpreter, our _moniteur_ explained very
carefully what we were to do, and mounted the step, to show us, in
turn, the proper handling of the gas _manet_ and of the
_coupe-contact_ button. Then he stepped down and shouted, "Allez! en
route!" with a smile meant to be reassuring.

I buckled myself in, fastened my helmet, and nodded to my mechanic.

"Coupe, plein gaz," he said.

"Coupe, plein gaz," I repeated.

He gave the propeller a few spins to suck in the mixture.

"Contact, reduisez."

"Contact, reduisez."

Again he spun the propeller, and the motor took. I pulled back my
_manet_, full gas, and off I went at what seemed to me then breakneck
speed. Remembering instructions, I pushed forward on the lever which
governs the elevating planes, and up went my tail so quickly and at
such an angle that almost instinctively I cut off my contact. Down
dropped my tail again, and I whirled round in a circle--my first
_cheval de bois_, as this absurd-looking manoeuvre is called. I had
forgotten that I had a rudder. I was like a man learning to swim, and
could not yet coördinate the movements of my hands and feet. My bird
was purring gently, with the propeller turning slowly. It seemed
thoroughly domesticated, but I knew that I had but to pull back on
that _manet_ to transform it into a rampant bird of prey. Before
starting again I looked about me, and there was Drew racing all over
the field. Suddenly he started in my direction as if the whole force
of his will was turned to the business of running me down. Luckily he
shut off his motor, and by the grace of the law of inertia came to a
halt when he was within a dozen paces of me.

We turned our machines tail to tail and started off in opposite
directions, but in a moment I was following hard after him. Almost it
seemed that those evil birds had wills of their own. Drew's turned as
though it were angry at the indignity of being pursued. We missed each
other, but it was a near thing, and, not being able to think fast
enough, I stalled my motor, and had to await helplessly the assistance
of a mechanic. Far away, at our starting-point, I could see the
Americans waving their arms and embracing each other in huge delight,
and then I realized why they had all been so eager to come with us to
the field. They had been through all this. Now they were having their
innings. I could hear them shouting, although their voices sounded
very thin and faint. "Why don't you come back?" they yelled. "This
way! Here we are! Here's your class!" They were having the time of
their vindictive lives, and knew very well that we would go back if we
could.

Finally we began to get the hang of it, and we did go back, although
by circuitous routes. But we got there, and the _moniteur_ explained
again what we were to do. We were to anticipate the turn of the
machine with the rudder, just as in sailing a boat. Then we
understood the difficulty. In my next sortie, I fixed my eye upon the
flag at the opposite side of the field, and reached it without a
single _cheval de bois_. I could have kissed the Annamite who was
stationed there to turn the machines which rarely came. I had mastered
the Penguin! I had forced my will upon it, compelled it to do my
bidding! Back across the field I went, keeping a direct course, and
thinking how they were all watching, the _moniteur_, doubtless, making
approving comments. I reduced the gas at the proper time, and taxied
triumphantly up to the starting-point.

But no one had seen my splendid sortie. Now that I had arrived, no one
paid the least attention to me. All eyes were turned upward, and
following them with my own, I saw an airplane outlined against a
heaped-up pile of snow-white cloud. It was moving at tremendous speed,
when suddenly it darted straight upward, wavered for a second or two,
turned slowly on one wing and fell, nose-down, turning round and round
as it fell, like a scrap of paper. It was the _vrille_, the prettiest
piece of aerial acrobatics that one could wish to see. It was a
wonderful, an incredible sight. Only seven years ago Blériot crossed
the English Channel, and a year earlier the world was astonished at
the exploits of the Wright brothers, who were making flights,
straight-line flights, of from fifteen to twenty minutes' duration!

Some one was counting the turns of the _vrille_. Six, seven, eight;
then the airman came out of it on an even keel, and, nosing down to
gather speed, looped twice in quick succession. Afterward he did the
_retournement_, turning completely over in the air and going back in
the opposite direction; then spiraled down and passed over our heads
at about fifty metres, landing at the opposite side of the field so
beautifully that it was impossible to know when the machine touched
the ground. The airman taxied back to the hangars and stopped just in
front of us, while we gathered round to hear the latest news from the
front.

For he had left the front, this birdman, only an hour before! I was
incredulous at first, for I still thought of distances in the old way.
But I was soon convinced. Mounted on the hood was the competent-looking
Vickers machine gun, with a long belt of cartridges in place, and on
the side of the _fuselage_ were painted the insignia of an escadrille.

The pilot was recognized as soon as he removed his helmet and goggles.
He had been a _moniteur_ at the school in former days, and was well
known to some of the older Americans. He greeted us all very
cordially, in excellent English, and told us how, on the strength of a
hard morning's work over the lines, he had asked his captain for an
afternoon off that he might visit his old friends at B----.

As soon as he had climbed down, those of us who had never before seen
this latest type of French _avion de chasse_, crowded round, examining
and admiring with feelings of awe and reverence. It was a marvelous
piece of aero-craftsmanship, the result of more than two years of
accumulating experience in military aviation. It was hard to think of
it as an inanimate thing, once having seen it in the air. It seemed
living, intelligent, almost human. I could readily understand how it
is that airmen become attached to their machines and speak of their
fine points, their little peculiarities of individuality, with a kind
of loving interest, as one might speak of a fine-spirited horse.

While the mechanicians were grooming this one, and replenishing the
fuel-tanks, Drew and I examined it line by line, talking in low tones
which seemed fitting in so splendid a presence. We climbed the step
and looked down into the compact little car, where the pilot sat in a
luxuriously upholstered seat. There were his compass, his _altimétre_,
his revolution-counter, his map in its roller case, with a course
pricked out on it in a red line. Attached to the machine gun, there
was an ingenious contrivance by means of which he fired it while still
keeping a steady hand on his controls. The gun itself was fired
directly through the propeller by means of a device which timed the
shots. The necessity for accuracy in this timing device is clear, when
one remembers that the propeller turns over at a normal rate of
between fifteen hundred and nineteen hundred revolutions per minute.

It was with a chastened spirit that I looked from this splendid
fighting 'plane, back to my little three-cylinder Penguin, with its
absurd clipped wings and its impudent tail. A moment ago it had seemed
a thing of speed, and the mastery of it a glorious achievement. I told
Drew what my feeling was as I came racing back to the starting-point,
and how brief my moment of triumph had been. He answered me at first
in grunts and nods, so that I knew he was not listening. Presently he
began to talk about romance again, the "romance of high adventure," as
he called it. "All this"--moving his arm in a wide gesture--was but an
evidence of man's unconquerable craving for romance. War itself was a
manifestation of it, gave it scope, relieved the pent-up longings for
it which could not find sufficient outlet in times of peace. Romance
would always be one of the minor, and sometimes one of the major
causes for war, indirectly of course, but none the less really; for
the craving for it was one reason why millions of men so readily
accepted war at the hands of the little groups of diplomats who ruled
their destinies.

Half an hour later, as we stood watching the little biplane again
climbing into the evening sky, I understood, in a way, what he was
driving at, and with what keen anticipation he was looking forward to
the time when we too would know all that there was to know of the joy
of flight. Higher and higher it mounted, now and then catching the sun
on its silver wings in a flash of light, growing smaller and smaller,
until it vanished in a golden haze, far to the north. It was then four
o'clock. In an hour's time the pilot would be circling down over his
aerodrome on the Champagne front.



                             III

                   BY THE ROUTE OF THE AIR


The winter of 1916-17 was the most prolonged and bitter that France
has known in many years. It was a trying period to the little group of
Americans assembled at the École Militaire d'Aviation, eager as they
were to complete their training, and to be ready, when spring should
come, to share in the great offensive, which they knew would then take
place on the Western front. Aviation is a waiting game at the best of
seasons. In winter it is a series of seemingly endless delays. Day
after day, the plain on the high plateau overlooking the old city of
V---- was storm-swept, a forlorn and desolate place as we looked at it
from our windows, watching the flocks of crows as they beat up against
the wind, or as they turned, and were swept with it, over our
barracks, crying and calling derisively to us as they passed.

"Birdmen do you call yourselves?" they seemed to say. "Then come on
up; the weather's fine!"

Well they knew that we were impostors, fair-weather fliers, who dared
not accept their challenge.

It is strange how vague and shadowy my remembrance is of those long
weeks of inactivity, when we were dependent for employment and
amusement on our own devices. To me there was a quality of unreality
about our life at B----. Our environment was, no doubt, partly
responsible for this feeling. Although we were not far distant from
Paris,--less than an hour by train,--the country round about our camp
seemed to be quite cut off from the rest of the world. With the
exception of our Sunday afternoons of leave, when we joined the
_boulevardiers_ in town, we lived a life as remote and cloistered as
that of some brotherhood of monks in an inaccessible monastery. That
is how it appeared to me, although here again I am in danger of making
it seem that my own impressions were those of all the others. This of
course was not true. The spirit of the place appealed to us,
individually, in widely different ways, and upon some, perhaps, it had
no effect at all.

Sometimes we spent our winter afternoons of enforced leisure in long
walks through country roads which lay empty to the eye for miles. They
gave one a sense of loneliness which colored thought, not in any
sentimental way, but in a manner very natural and real. The war was
always in the background of one's musings, and while we were far
removed from actual contact with it, every depopulated country village
brought to mind the sacrifice which France has made for the cause of
all freedom-loving nations. Every roadside café, long barren of its
old patronage, was an evidence of the completeness of the sacrifice.
Americans, for the most part, are of an unconquerably healthy cast of
mind; but there were few of us who could frequent these places
light-heartedly.

Paris was our emotional storehouse, to use Kipling's term, during the
time we were at B----. We spent our Sunday afternoons there, mingling
with the crowds on the boulevards, or, in pleasant weather, sitting
outside the cafés, watching the soldiers of the world go by. The
streets were filled with _permissionnaires_ from all parts of the
Western front, and there were many of those despised of all the rest,
the _embusqués_, as they are called, who hold the comfortable billets
in safe places well back of the lines. It was very easy to distinguish
them from the men newly arrived from the trenches, in whose eyes one
saw the look of wonder, almost of unbelief, that there was still a
goodly world to be enjoyed. It was often beyond the pathetic to see
them trying to satisfy their need for all the wholesome things of life
in a brief seven days of leave; to see the family parties at the
modest restaurants on the side streets, making merry in a kind of
forced way, as if every one were thinking of the brevity of the time
for such enjoyment.

Scarcely a week went by without bringing one or two additional
recruits to the Franco-American Corps. We wondered why they came so
slowly. There must have been thousands of Americans who would have
been, not only willing, but glad to join us; and yet the opportunities
for doing so had been made widely known. For those who did come this
was the legitimate by-product of glorious adventure and a training in
aviation not to be surpassed in Europe. This was to be had by any
healthy young American, almost for the asking; but our numbers
increased very gradually, from fifteen to twenty-five, until by the
spring of 1917 there were fifty of us at the various aviation schools
of France. Territorially we represented at least a dozen states, from
the Atlantic to the Pacific. There were rich men's sons and poor men's
sons among our number; the sons of very old families, and those who
neither knew nor cared what their antecedents were.

The same was true of our French comrades, for membership in the French
air service is not based upon wealth or family position or political
influence. The policy of the Government is as broad and democratic as
may be. Men are chosen because of an aptitude that promises well, or
as a reward for distinguished service at the front. A few of the
French _élèves-pilotes_ had been officers, but most of them N.C.O.'s
and private soldiers in infantry or artillery regiments. This very
wide latitude in choice at first seemed "laxitude" to some of us
Americans. But evidently, experience in training war pilots, and the
practical results obtained by these men at the front, have been proof
enough to the French authorities of the folly of setting rigid
standards, making hard-and-fast rules to be met by prospective
aviators. As our own experience increased, we saw the wisdom of a
policy which is more concerned with a man's courage, his
self-reliance, and his powers of initiative, than with his ability to
work out theoretical problems in aerodynamics.

There are many French pilots with excellent records of achievement in
war-flying who have but a sketchy knowledge of motor and aircraft
construction. Some are college-bred men, but many more have only a
common-school education. It is not at all strange that this should be
the case, for one may have had no technical training worth mentioning;
one may have only a casual speaking acquaintance with motors, and a
very imperfect idea of why and how one is able to defy the law of
gravity, and yet prove his worth as a pilot in what is, after all, the
best possible way--by his record at the front.

A judicious amount of theoretical instruction is, of course, not
wanting in the aviation schools of France; but its importance is not
exaggerated. We Americans, with our imperfect knowledge of the
language, lost the greater part of this. The handicap was not a
serious one, and I think I may truthfully say that we kept pace with
our French comrades. The most important thing was to gain actual
flying experience, and as much of it as possible. Only in this way can
one acquire a sensitive ear for motors, and an accurate sense of
flying speed: the feel of one's machine in the air. These are of the
greatest importance. Once the pilot has developed this airman's sixth
sense, he need not, and never does, worry about the scantiness of his
knowledge of the theory of flight.

Sometimes the winds would die away and the thick clouds lift, and we
would go joyously to work on a morning of crisp, bright winter
weather. Then we had moments of glorious revenge upon the crows. They
would watch us from afar, holding noisy indignation meetings in a row
of weather-beaten trees at the far side of the field. And when some
inexperienced pilot lost control of his machine and came crashing to
earth, they would take the air in a body, circling over the wreckage,
cawing and jeering with the most evident delight. "The Oriental
Wrecking Company," as the Annamites were called, were on the scene
almost as quickly as our enemies the crows. They were a familiar sight
on every working day, chattering together in their high-pitched
gutturals, as they hauled away the wrecked machines. They appeared to
side with the birds, and must have thought us the most absurd of men,
making wings for ourselves, and always coming to grief when we tried
to use them.

We made progress regardless of all this skepticism. It was necessarily
slow, for beginners at a single-command monoplane school are permitted
to fly only under the most favorable weather conditions. Even then,
old Mother Earth, who is not kindly disposed toward those of her
children who leave her so jauntily, would clutch us back to her bosom,
whenever we gave her the slightest opportunity, with an embrace that
was anything but tender. We were inclined to think rather highly of
our own courage in defying her; and sometimes our vanity was increased
by our _moniteurs_. After an exciting misadventure they often gave
expression to their relief at finding an amateur pilot still whole,
by praising his "presence of mind" in too generous French fashion.

We should not have been so proud, I think, of our own little exploits,
had we remembered those of the pioneers in aviation, so many of whom
lost their lives in experiment with the first crude types of the
heavier-than-air machines. They were pioneers in the fine and splendid
meaning of the word--men to be compared in spirit with the old
fifteenth-century navigators. We were but followers, adventuring, in
comparative safety, along a well-defined trail.

This, at any rate, was Drew's opinion. He would never allow me the
pleasure of indulging in any flights of fancy over these trivial
adventures of ours. He would never let me set them off against "the
heroic background" of Paris. As for Paris, we saw nothing of war
there, he would say, except the lighter side, the homecoming,
leave-enjoying side. We needed to know more of the horror and the
tragedy of it. We needed to keep that close and intimate to us as a
right perspective for our future adventures. He believed it to be our
duty as aviators to anticipate every kind of experience which we might
have to meet at the front. His imagination was abnormally vivid. Once
he discussed the possibility of "falling in flames," which is so often
the end of an airman's career. I shall never again be able to take the
same whole-hearted delight in flying that I did before he was so
horribly eloquent upon the subject. He often speculated upon one's
emotions in falling in a machine damaged beyond the possibility of
control.

"Now try to imagine it," he would say: "your gasoline tanks have been
punctured and half of your _fuselage_ has been shot away. You believe
that there is not the slightest chance for you to save your life. What
are you going to do--lose your head and give up the game? No, you've
got to attempt the impossible"; and so on, and so forth.

I would accuse him of being morbid. Furthermore, I saw no reason why
we should plan for terrible emergencies which might never arrive. His
answer was that we were military pilots in training for combat
machines. We had no right to ignore the grimness of the business
ahead of us. If we did, so much the worse for us when we should go to
the front. But beyond this practical interest, he had a great
curiosity about the nature of fear, and a great dread of it, too. He
was afraid that in some last adventure, in which death came slowly
enough for him to recognize it, he might die like a terror-stricken
animal, and not bravely, as a man should.

We did not often discuss these gruesome possibilities, although this
was not Drew's fault. I would not listen to him; and so he would be
silent about them until convinced that the furtherance of our careers
as airmen demanded additional unpleasant imaginings. There was
something of the Hindoo fanatic in him; or perhaps it was the
outcropping of the stern spirit of his New England forbears. But when
he talked of the pleasant side of the adventures before us, it was
more than compensation for all the rest. Then he would make me
restless and impatient, for I did not have his faculty of enjoyment in
anticipation. The early period of training, when we were flying only a
few metres above the ground, seemed endless.

At last came the event which really marked the beginning of our
careers as airmen: the first _tour de piste_, the first flight round
the aerodrome. We had talked of this for weeks, but when at last the
day for it came, our enthusiasm had waned. We were eager to try our
wings and yet afraid to make the start.

This first _tour de piste_ was always the occasion for a gathering of
the Americans, and there was the usual assembly present. The beginners
were there to shiver in anticipation of their own forthcoming trials,
and the more advanced pilots, who had already taken the leap, to offer
gratuitous advice.

"Now don't try to pull any big league stuff. Not too much rudder on
the turns. Remember how that Frenchman piled up on the Farman hangars
when he tried to bank the corners."

"You'll find it pretty rotten when you go over the woods. The air
currents there are something scandalous!"

"Believe me, it's a lot worse over the fort. Rough? Oh, là là!"

"And that's where you have to cut your motor and dive, if you're going
to make a landing without hanging up in the telephone wires."

"When you do come down, don't be afraid to stick her nose forward.
Scare the life out of you, that drop will, but you may as well get
used to it in the beginning."

"But wait till we see them redress! Where's the Oriental Wrecking
Gang?"

"Don't let that worry you, Drew: pan-caking isn't too bad. Not in a
Blériot. Just like falling through a shingle roof. Can't hurt yourself
much."

"If you do spill, make it a good one. There hasn't been a decent
smash-up to-day."

These were the usual comforting assurances. They did not frighten us
much, although there was just enough truth in the warnings to make us
uneasy. We took our hazing as well as we could inwardly, and of course
with imperturbable calm outwardly; but, to make a confession, I was
somewhat reluctant to hear the businesslike "Allez! en route!" of our
_moniteur_.

When it came, I taxied across to the other side of the field, turned
into the wind, and came racing back, full motor. It seemed a thing of
tremendous power, that little forty-five-horsepower Anzani. The roar
of it struck awe into my soul, and I gripped the controls in no very
professional manner. Then, when I had gathered full ground speed, I
eased her off gently, and up we went, over the class and the assembled
visitors, above the hangars, the lake, the forest, until, at the
halfway point, my altimetre registered three hundred and fifty metres.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw all the beautiful countryside spread
out beneath me, but I was too busily occupied to take in the prospect.
I was watching my wings, nervously, in order to anticipate and
counteract the slightest pitch of the machine. But nothing happened,
and I soon realized that this first grand tour was not going to be
nearly so bad as we had been led to believe. I began to enjoy it. I
even looked down over the side of the _fuselage_, although it was a
very hasty glance.

All the time I was thinking of the rapidly approaching moment when I
should have to come down. I knew well enough how the descent was to be
made. It was very simple. I had only to shut off my motor, push
forward with my "broom-stick,"--the control connected with the
elevating planes,--and then wait and redress gradually, beginning at
from six to eight metres from the ground. The descent would be
exciting, a little more rapid than Shooting the Chutes. Only one could
not safely hold on to the sides of the car and await the splash. That
sort of thing had sometimes been done in aeroplanes, by over-excited
pilots. The results were disastrous, without exception.

The moment for the decision came. I was above the fort, otherwise I
should not have known when to dive. At first the sensation was, I
imagine, exactly that of falling, feet foremost; but after pulling
back slightly on the controls, I felt the machine answer to them, and
the uncomfortable feeling passed. I brought up on the ground in the
usual bumpy manner of the beginner. Nothing gave way, however, so this
did not spoil the fine rapture of a rare moment. It was shared--at
least it was pleasant to think so--by my old Annamite friend of the
Penguin experience, who stood by his flag nodding his head at me. He
said, "Beaucoup bon," showing his polished black teeth in an
approving grin. I forgot for the moment that "beaucoup bon" was his
enigmatical comment upon all occasions, and that he would have grinned
just as broadly had he been dragging me out from a mass of wreckage.

Drew came in a few moments later, making an almost perfect landing. In
the evening we walked to a neighboring village, where we had a
wonderful dinner to celebrate the end of our apprenticeship. It was a
curious feast. We had little to say to one another, or, better, we
were both afraid to talk. We were under an enchantment which words
would have broken. After a silent meal, we walked all the way home
without speaking.

We started off together on our triangles. That was in April, just
passed, so that I have now brought this casual diary almost up to
date. We were then at the great school of aviation at A---- in central
France, where, for the first time, we were associated with men in
training for every branch of aviation service, and became familiar
with other types of French machines. But the brevet tests, which every
pilot must pass before he becomes a military aviator, were the same
in every department of the school. The triangles were two
cross-country flights of two hundred kilometres each, three landings
to be made _en route_, and each flight to be completed within
forty-eight hours. In addition, there were two short voyages of sixty
kilometres each--these preceded the triangular tests--and an hour of
flight at a minimum altitude of sixty-five hundred feet.

The short voyages gave us a delightful foretaste of what was to come.
We did them both one afternoon, and were at the hangars at five
o'clock on the following morning, ready to make an early start. A
fresh wind was blowing from the northeast, but the brevet _moniteur_,
who went up for a short flight to try the air, came back with the
information that it was quite calm at twenty-five hundred feet. We
might start, he said, as soon as we liked.

Drew, in his joy, embraced the old woman who kept a coffee-stall at
the hangars, while I danced a one-step with a mechanician. Neither of
them was surprised at this procedure. They were accustomed to such
emotional outbursts on the part of aviators who, by the very nature
of their calling, were always in the depths of despair or on the
farthest jutting peak of some mountain of delight. Our departure had
been delayed, day after day, for more than a week, because of the
weather. We were so eager to start that we would willingly have gone
off in a blizzard.

During the week of waiting we had studied our map until we knew the
location of every important road and railroad, every forest, river,
canal, and creek within a radius of one hundred kilometres. We studied
it at close range, on a table, and then on the floor, with the
compass-points properly orientated, so that we might see all the
important landmarks with the birdman's eye. We knew our course so
well, that there seemed no possibility of our losing direction.

Our military papers had been given us several days before. Among these
was an official-looking document to be presented to the mayor of any
town or village near which we might be compelled to land. It contained
an extract from the law concerning aviators, and the duty toward them
of the civilian and military authorities. In another was an itemized
list of the amounts which might be exacted by farmers for damage to
growing crops: so much for an _atterrissage_ in a field of
sugar-beets, so much for wheat, etc. Besides these, we had a book of
detailed instructions as to our duty in case of emergencies of every
conceivable kind--among others, the course of action to be followed if
we should be compelled to land in an enemy country. At first sight
this seemed an unnecessary precaution; but we remembered the
experience of one of our French comrades at B----, who started
confidently off on his first cross-country flight. He lost his way and
did not realize how far astray he had gone until he found himself
under fire from German anti-aircraft batteries on the Belgian front.

The most interesting paper of all was our _Ordre de Service_, the text
of which was as follows:

     It is commanded that the bearer of this Order report himself
     at the cities of C---- and R----, by the route of the air,
     flying an avion Caudron, and leaving the École Militaire
     d'Aviation at A---- on the 21st of April, 1917, without
     passenger on board.

             Signed, LE CAPITAINE B----
                        Commandant de l'École.

We read this with feelings which must have been nearly akin to those
of Columbus on a memorable day in 1492 when he received his clearance
papers from Cadiz. "By the route of the air!" How the imagination
lingered over that phrase! We had the better of Columbus there,
although we had to admit that there was more glamour in the hazard of
his adventure and the uncertainty of his destination.

Drew was ready first. I helped him into his fur-lined combination and
strapped him to his seat. A moment later he was off. I watched him as
he gathered height over the aerodrome. Then, finding that his motor
was running satisfactorily, he struck out in an easterly direction,
his machine growing smaller and smaller until it vanished in the early
morning haze. I followed immediately afterward, and had a busy ten
minutes, being buffeted this way and that, until, as the brevet
_moniteur_ had foretold, I reached quiet air at twenty-five hundred
feet.

This was my first experience in passing from one air current to
another. It was a unique one, for I was still a little incredulous. I
had not entirely lost my old boyhood belief that the wind went all
the way up.

I passed over the old cathedral town of B----at fifteen hundred
metres. Many a pleasant afternoon had we spent there, walking through
its narrow, crooked streets, or lounging on the banks of the canal.
The cathedral too was a favorite haunt. I loved the fine spaciousness
of it. Looking down on it now, it seemed no larger than a toy
cathedral in a toy town, such as one sees in the shops of Paris. The
streets were empty, for it was not yet seven o'clock. Strips of shadow
crossed them where taller roofs cut off the sunshine. A toy train,
which I could have put nicely into my fountain-pen case, was pulling
into a station no larger than a wren's house. The Greeks called their
gods "derisive." No doubt they realized how small they looked to them,
and how insignificant this little world of affairs must have appeared
from high Olympus.

There was a road, a fine straight thoroughfare converging from the
left. It led almost due southwest. This was my route to C----. I
followed it, climbing steadily until I was at two thousand metres. I
had never flown so high before. "Over a mile!" I thought. It seemed a
tremendous altitude. I could see scores of villages and fine old
châteaux, and great stretches of forest, and miles upon miles of open
country in checkered patterns, just beginning to show the first fresh
green of the early spring crops. It looked like a world planned and
laid out by the best of Santa Clauses for the eternal delight of all
good children. And for untold generations only the birds have had the
privilege of seeing and enjoying it from the wing. Small wonder that
they sing. As for non-musical birds--well, they all sing after a
fashion, and there is no doubt that crows, at least, are extremely
jealous of their prerogative of flight.

My biplane was flying itself. I had nothing to do other than to give
occasional attention to the revolution counter, altimetre, and
speed-dial. The motor was running with perfect regularity. The
propeller was turning over at twelve hundred revolutions per minute
without the slightest fluctuation. Flying is the simplest thing in the
world, I thought. Why doesn't every one travel by route of the air?
If people knew the joy of it, the exhilaration of it, aviation schools
would be overwhelmed with applicants. Biplanes of the Farman and
Voisin type would make excellent family cars, quite safe for women to
drive. Mothers, busy with household affairs, could tell their children
to "run out and fly" a Caudron such as I was driving, and feel not the
slightest anxiety about them. I remembered an imaginative drawing I
had once seen of aerial activity in 1950. Even house pets were granted
the privilege of traveling by the air route. The artist was not far
wrong except in his date. He should have put it at 1925. On a fine
April morning there seemed no limit to the realization of such
interesting possibilities.

I had no more than started on my southwest course, as it seemed to me,
when I saw the spires and the red-roofed houses of C----, and, a
kilometre or so from the outskirts, the barracks and hangars of the
aviation school where I was to make the first landing. I reduced the
gas, and, with the motor purring gently, began a long, gradual
descent. It was interesting to watch the change in the appearance of
the country beneath me as I lost height. Checkerboard patterns of
brown and green grew larger and larger. Shining threads of silver
became rivers and canals, tiny green shrubs became trees, individual
aspects of houses emerged. Soon I could see people going about the
streets and laundry-maids hanging out the family washing in the back
gardens. I even came low enough to witness a minor household
tragedy--a mother vigorously spanking a small boy. Hearing the whir of
my motor, she stopped in the midst of the process, whereupon the
youngster very naturally took advantage of his opportunity to cut and
run for it. Drew doubted my veracity when I told him about this. He
called me an aerial eavesdropper and said that I ought to be ashamed
to go buzzing over towns at such low altitudes, frightening
housemaids, disorganizing domestic penal institutions, and generally
disturbing the privacy of respectable French citizens. But I was
unrepentant, for I knew that one small boy in France was thinking of
me with joy. To have escaped maternal justice with the assistance of
an aviator would be an event of glorious memory to him. How vastly
more worth while such a method of escape, and how jubilant Tom Sawyer
would have been over such an opportunity when his horrified warning,
"Look behind you, aunt!" had lost efficacy.

Drew had been waiting a quarter of an hour, and came rushing out to
meet me as I taxied across the field. We shook hands as though we had
not seen each other for years. We could not have been more surprised
and delighted if we had met on another planet after long and hopeless
wanderings in space.

While I superintended the replenishing of my fuel and oil tanks he
walked excitedly up and down in front of the hangars. He was an
odd-looking sight in his flying clothes, with a pair of Meyrowitz
goggles set back on his head, like another set of eyes, gazing at the
sky with an air of wide astonishment. He paid no attention to my
critical comments, but started thinking aloud as soon as I rejoined
him.

"It was lonely! Yes, by Jove! that was it. A glorious thing, one's
isolation up there; but it was too profound to be pleasant. A relief
to get down again, to hear people talk, to feel the solid earth under
one's feet. How did it impress you?"

This was like Drew. I felt ashamed of the lightness of my own
thoughts, but I had to tell him of my speculations upon after-the-war
developments in aviation: nurses flying Voisins, with the cars filled
with babies; old men having after-dinner naps in twenty-three-metre
Nieuports, fitted, for safety, with Sperry gyroscopes; family parties
taking comfortable outings in gigantic biplanes of the R-6 type;
mothers, as of old, gazing apprehensively at speed-dials, cautioning
fathers about "driving too fast," and all of the rest.

Drew looked at me reprovingly, to be sure, but he felt the need, just
as I did, of an outlet to his feelings, and so he turned to this kind
of comic relief with the most delightful reluctance. He quickly lost
his reserve, and in the imaginative spree which followed we went far
beyond the last outposts of absurdity. We laughed over our own wit
until our faces were tired. However, I will not be explicit about our
folly. It might not be so amusing from a critical point of view.

After our papers have been viséed at the office of the commandant, we
hurried back to our machines, eager to be away again. We were to make
our second landing at R----. It was about seventy kilometres distant
and almost due north. The mere name of the town was an invitation.
Somewhere, in one of the novels of William J. Locke, may be found this
bit of dialogue:--

"But, master," said I, "there is, after all, color in words. Don't you
remember how delighted you were with the name of a little town we
passed through on the way to Orleans? R----? You were haunted by it
and said it was like the purple note of an organ."

We were haunted by it, too, for we were going to that very town. We
would see it long before our arrival--a cluster of quaint old houses
lying in the midst of pleasant fields, with roads curving toward it
from the north and south, as though they were glad to pass through so
delightful a place. Drew was for taking a leisurely route to the
eastward, so that we might look at some villages which lay some
distance off our course. I wanted to fly by compass in a direct line,
without following my map very closely. We had planned to fly together,
and were the more eager to do this because of an argument we had had
about the relative speed of our machines. He was certain that his was
the faster. I knew that, with mine, I could fly circles around him. As
we were not able to agree on the course, we decided to postpone the
race until we started on the homeward journey. Therefore, after we had
passed over the town, he waved his hand, bent off to the northeast,
and was soon out of sight.

I kept straight on, climbing steadily, until I was again at five
thousand feet. As before, my motor was running perfectly and I had
plenty of leisure to enjoy the always new sensation of flight and to
watch the wide expanse of magnificent country as it moved slowly past.
I let my mind lie fallow, and every now and then I would find it
hauling out fragments of old memories which I had forgotten that I
possessed.

I recalled, for the first time in many years, my earliest
interpretations of the meanings of all the phenomena of the heavens.
Two old janitor saints had charge of the floor of the skies. One of
them was a jolly old man who liked boys, and always kept the sky swept
clean and blue. The other took a sour delight in shirking his duties,
so that it might rain and spoil all our fun. Perhaps it was Drew's
sense of loneliness and helplessness so far from earth, which made me
think of winds and clouds in friendly human terms. However that may
be, these reveries, hardly worthy of a military airman, were abruptly
broken into.

All at once, I realized that, while my biplane was headed due north, I
was drifting north and west. This seemed strange. I puzzled over it
for some time, and then, brilliantly, in the manner of the novice,
deduced the reason: wind. I was being blown off my course, all the
while comfortably certain that I was flying in a direct line toward
R----. Our _moniteurs_ had often cautioned us against being
comfortably certain about anything while in the air. It was our duty
to be uncomfortably alert. Wind! I wonder how many times we had been
told to keep it in mind at all times, whether on the ground or in the
air? And here was I forgetting the existence of wind on the very
first occasion. The speed of my machine and the current of air from
the propeller had deceived me into thinking that I was driving dead
into whatever breeze there was at that altitude. I discovered that it
was blowing out of the east, therefore I headed a quarter into it, to
overcome the drift, and looked for landmarks.

I had not long to search. Wisps of mist obstructed the view, and
within ten minutes a bank of solid cloud cut it off completely. I had
only a vague notion of my location with reference to my course, but I
could not persuade myself to come down just then. To be flying in the
full splendor of bright April sunshine, knowing that all the earth was
in shadow, gave me a feeling of exhilaration. For there is no
sensation like that of flight, no isolation so complete as that of the
airman who has above him only the blue sky, and below, a level floor
of pure white cloud, stretching in an unbroken expanse toward every
horizon. And so I kept my machine headed northeast, that I might
regain the ground lost before I discovered the drift northwest. I had
made a rough calculation of the time required to cover the seventy
kilometres to R---- at the speed at which I was traveling. The rest I
left to Chance, the godfather of all adventurers.

He took the initiative, as he so frequently does with aviators who, in
moments of calm weather, are inclined to forget that they are still
children of earth. The floor of dazzling white cloud was broken and
tumbled into heaped-up masses which came drifting by at various
altitudes. They were scattered at first and offered splendid
opportunities for aerial steeplechasing. Then, almost before I was
aware of it, they surrounded me on all sides. For a few minutes I
avoided them by flying in curves and circles in rapidly vanishing
pools of blue sky. I feared to take my first plunge into a cloud, for
I knew, by report, what an alarming experience it is to the new pilot.

The wind was no longer blowing steadily out of the east. It came in
gusts from all points of the compass. I made a hasty revision of my
opinion as to the calm and tranquil joys of aviation, thinking what
fools men are who willingly leave the good green earth and trust
themselves to all the winds of heaven in a frail box of cloth-covered
sticks.

The last clear space grew smaller and smaller. I searched for an
outlet, but the clouds closed in and in a moment I was hopelessly lost
in a blanket of cold drenching mist.

I could hardly see the outlines of my machine and had no idea of my
position with reference to the earth. In the excitement of this new
adventure I forgot the speed-dial, and it was not until I heard the
air screaming through the wires that I remembered it. The indicator
had leaped up fifty kilometres an hour above safety speed, and I
realized that I must be traveling earthward at a terrific pace. The
manner of the descent became clear at the same moment. As I rolled out
of the cloud-bank, I saw the earth jauntily tilted up on one rim,
looking like a gigantic enlargement of a page out of Peter Newell's
"Slant Book." I expected to see dogs and dishpans, baby carriages and
ash-barrels roll out of every house in France, and go clattering off
into space.



                             IV

                         AT G. D. E.


Somewhere to the north of Paris, in the _zone des armées_, there is a
village, known to all aviators in the French service as G. D. E. It is
the village through which pilots who have completed their training at
the aviation schools pass on their way to the front; and it is here
that I again take up this journal of aerial adventure.

We are in lodgings, Drew and I, at the Hôtel de la Bonne Rencontre,
which belies its name in the most villainous fashion. An inn at
Rochester in the days of Henry the Fourth must have been a fair match
for it, and yet there is something to commend it other than its
convenience to the flying field. Since the early days of the
Escadrille Lafayette, many Americans have lodged here while awaiting
their orders for active service. As I write, J. B. is asleep in a bed
which has done service for a long line of them. It is for this reason
that he chose it, in preference to one in a much better state of
repair which he might have had. And he has made plans for its purchase
after the war. Madame Rodel is to keep careful record of all its
American occupants, just as she has done in the past. She is pledged
not to repair it beyond the bare necessity which its uses as a bed may
require, an injunction which it was hardly necessary to lay upon her,
judging by the other furniture in our apartment. Drew is not
sentimental, but he sometimes carries sentiment to extremities which
appear to me absurd.

When I attempt to define, even to myself, the charm of our adventures
thus far, I find it impossible. How, then, make it real to others? To
tell of aerial adventure one needs a new language, or, at least, a
parcel of new adjectives, sparkling with bright and vivid meaning, as
crisp and fresh as just-minted bank-notes. They should have no taint
of flatness or insipidity. They should show not the faintest trace of
wear. With them, one might hope, now and then, to startle the
imagination, to set it running in channels which are strange and
delightful to it. For there is something new under the sun: aerial
adventure; and the most lively and unjaded fancy may, at first, need
direction toward the realization of this fact. Soon it will have a
literature of its own, of prose and poetry, of fiction, biography,
memoirs, of history which will read like the romance it really is. The
essayists will turn to it with joy. And the poets will discover new
aspects of beauty which have been hidden from them through the ages;
and as men's experience "in the wide fields of air" increases, epic
material which will tax their most splendid powers.

This brings me sadly back to my own purpose, which is, despite many
wistful longings of a more ambitious nature, to write a plain tale of
the adventures of two members--prospective up to this point--of the
Escadrille Lafayette. To go back to some of those earlier ones, when
we were making our first cross-country flights, I remember them now
with a delight which, at the time, was not unmixed with other
emotions. Indeed, an aviator, and a fledgling aviator in particular,
often runs the whole gamut of human feeling during a single flight. I
did in the course of half an hour, reaching the high C of acute panic
as I came tumbling out of the first cloud of my aerial experience.
Fortunately, in the air the sense of equilibrium usually compels one
to do the right thing, and so, after some desperate handling of my
"broom-stick," as the control is called which governs ailerons and
elevating planes, I soon had the horizons nicely adjusted again. What
a relief it was! I shut down my motor and commenced a more gradual
descent, for I was lost, of course, and it seemed wiser to land and
make inquiries than to go cruising over half of France looking for one
among hundreds of picturesque old towns. There were at least a dozen
within view. Some of them were at least a three hours' walk distant
from each other. But in the air! I was free to go whither I would, and
swiftly.

After leisurely deliberation I selected one surrounded by wide fields
which appeared to be as level as a floor. But as I descended the
landscape widened, billowing into hills and folding into valleys. By
sheer good luck, nothing more, I made a landing without accident. My
Caudron barely missed colliding with a hedge of fruit trees, rolled
down a long incline, and stopped not ten feet short of a small
stream. The experience taught me the folly of choosing landing-ground
from high altitudes. I needn't have landed, of course, but I was then
so much an amateur that the buffeting of cross-currents of air near
the ground awed me into it, come what might. The village was out of
sight over the crest of the hill. However, thinking that some one must
have seen me, I decided to await developments where I was.

Very soon I heard a shrill, jubilant shout. A boy of eight or ten
years was running along the ridge as fast as he could go. Outlined
against the sky, he reminded me of silhouettes I had seen in Paris
shops, of children dancing, the very embodiment of joy in movement. He
turned and waved to some one behind, whom I could not see, then came
on again, stopping a short distance away, and looking at me with an
air of awe, which, having been a small boy myself, I was able to
understand and appreciate. I said, "Bonjour, mon petit," as cordially
as I could, but he just stood there and gazed without saying a word.
Then the others began to appear: scores of children, and old men as
well, and women of all ages, some with babies in their arms, and
young girls. The whole village came, I am sure. I was mightily
impressed by the haleness of the old men and women, which one rarely
sees in America. Some of them were evidently well over seventy, and
yet, with one or two exceptions, they had sound limbs, clear eyes, and
healthy complexions. As for the young girls, many of them were
exceptionally pretty; and the children were sturdy youngsters, not the
wan, thin-legged little creatures one sees in Paris. In fact, all of
these people appeared to belong to a different race from that of the
Parisians, to come from finer, more vigorous stock.

They were very curious, but equally courteous, and stood in a large
circle around my machine, waiting for me to make my wishes known. For
several minutes I pretended to be busy attending to dials and valves
inside the car. While trying to screw my courage up to the point of
making a verbless explanation of my difficulty, some one pushed
through the crowd, and to my great relief began speaking to me. It was
Monsieur the Mayor. As best I could, I explained that I had lost my
way and had found it necessary to come down for the purpose of making
inquiries. I knew that it was awful French, but hoped that it would be
intelligible, in part at least. However, the Mayor understood not a
word, and I knew by the curious expression in his eyes that he must be
wondering from what weird province I hailed. After a moment's thought
he said, "Vous êtes Anglais, monsieur?" with a smile of very real
pleasure. I said, "Non, monsieur, Américain."

That magic word! What potency it has in France, the more so at that
time, perhaps, for America had placed herself definitely upon the side
of the Allies only a short time before. I enjoyed that moment. I might
have had the village for the asking. I willingly accepted the rôle of
ambassador of the American people. Had it not been for the language
barrier, I think I would have made a speech, for I felt the generous
spirit of Uncle Sam prompting me to give those fathers and mothers,
whose husbands and sons were at the front, the promise of our
unqualified support. I wanted to tell them that we were with them now,
not only in sympathy, but with all our resources in men and guns and
ships and aircraft. I wanted to convince them of our new understanding
of the significance of the war. Alas! this was impossible. Instead I
gave each one of an army of small boys the privilege of sitting in the
pilot's seat, and showed them how to manage the controls.

The astonishing thing to me was, that while this village was not
twenty kilometres off the much-frequented air route between C---- and
R----, mine was the first aeroplane which most of them had seen.
During long months at various aviation schools pilots grow accustomed
to thinking that aircraft are as familiar a sight to others as to
them. But here was a village, not far distant from several aviation
schools, where an aviator was looked upon with wonder. To have an
American aviator drop down upon them was an event even in the history
of that ancient village. To have been that aviator,--well, it was an
unforgettable experience, coming as it did so opportunely with
America's entry into the war. I shall always have it in the background
of memory, and one day it will be among the pleasantest of many
pleasant tales which I shall have in store for my grandchildren.

However, it is not their potentialities as memories which endear these
adventures now, but rather it is because they are in such contrast to
any that we had known before. We are always comparing this new life
with the old, so different in every respect as to seem a separate
existence, almost a previous incarnation.

Having been set right about my course, I pushed my biplane to more
level ground, with the willing help of all the boys, started my motor,
and was away again. Their shrill cheers reached me even above the roar
of the motor. As a lad in a small, Middle-Western town, I have known
the rapture of holding to a balloon guy-rope at a county fair, until
"the world's most famous aeronaut" shouted, "Let 'er go, boys!" and
swung off into space. I kept his memory green until I had passed the
first age of hero worship. I know that every youngster in a small
village in central France will so keep mine. Such fame is the only
kind worth having.

A flight of fifteen minutes brought me within sight of the large white
circle which marks the landing-field at R----. J. B. had not yet
arrived. This was a great disappointment, for we had planned a race
home. I was anxious about him, too, knowing that the godfather of all
adventurers can be very stern at times, particularly with his aerial
godchildren. I waited for an hour and then decided to go on alone. The
weather having cleared, the opportunity was too favorable to be lost.
The cloud formations were the most remarkable that I had ever seen. I
flew around and over and under them, watching at close hand the play
of light and shade over their great, billowing folds. Sometimes I
skirted them so closely that the current of air from my propeller
raveled out fragments of shining vapor, which streamed into the clear
spaces like wisps of filmy silk. I knew that I ought to be savoring
this experience, but for some reason I couldn't. One usually pays for
a fine mood by a sudden and unaccountable change of feeling which
shades off into a kind of dull, colorless depression.

I passed a twin-motor Caudron going in the opposite direction. It was
fantastically painted, the wings a bright yellow and the circular
hoods, over the two motors, a fiery red. As it approached, it looked
like some prehistoric bird with great ravenous eyes. The thing
startled me, not so much because of its weird appearance as by the
mere fact of its being there. Strangely enough, for a moment it seemed
impossible that I should meet another _avion_. Despite a long
apprenticeship in aviation, in these days when one's mind has only
begun to grasp the fact that the mastery of the air has been
accomplished, the sudden presentation of a bit of evidence sometimes
shocks it into a moment of amazement bordering upon incredulity.

As I watched the big biplane pass, I was conscious of a feeling of
loneliness. I remembered what J. B. had said that morning. There _was_
something unpleasant in the isolation; it made us look longingly down
to earth, wondering whether we shall ever feel really at home in the
air. I, too, longed for the sound of human voices, and all that I
heard was the roar of the motor and the swish of the wind through
wires and struts, sounds which have no human quality in them, and are
no more companionable than the lapping of the waves to a man adrift on
a raft in mid-ocean. Underlying this feeling, and no doubt in part
responsible for it, was the knowledge of the fallibility of that
seemingly perfect mechanism which rode so steadily through the air; of
the quick response that ingenious arrangement of inanimate matter
would make to an eternal and inexorable law if a few frail wires
should part; of the equally quick, but less phlegmatic response of
another fallible mechanism, capable of registering horror, capable--it
is said--of passing its past life in review in the space of a few
seconds, and then--capable of becoming equally inanimate matter.

Luckily nothing of this sort happened, and the feeling of loneliness
passed the moment I came in sight of the long rows of barracks, the
hangars and machine shops of the aviation school. My joy when I saw
them can only be appreciated in full by fellow aviators who remember
the end of their own first long flight. I had been away for years. I
would not have been surprised to find great changes. If the brevet
monitor had come hobbling out to meet me holding an ear trumpet in his
withered hand, the sight would have been quite in keeping with my own
sense of the lapse of time. However, he approached with his ancient
springy, businesslike step, as I climbed down from my machine. I
swallowed to clear the passage to my ears, and heard him say, "Alors
ça va?" in a most disappointingly perfunctory tone of voice.

I nodded.

"Where's your biograph?"

My biograph! It is the altitude-registering instrument which also
marks, on a cross-lined chart, the time consumed on each lap of an
aerial voyage. My card should have shown four neat outlines in ink,
something like this--

[Illustration]

one for each stage of my journey, including the forced landing when I
had lost my way. But having started the mechanism going upon leaving
A----, I had then forgotten all about it, so that it had gone on
running while my machine was on the ground as well as during the time
it was in the air. The result was a sketch of a magnificent mountain
range which might have been drawn by the futurist son, aged five, of a
futurist artist. Silently I handed over the instrument. The monitor
looked at it, and then at me without comment. But there is an
international language of facial expression, and his said,
unmistakably, "You poor, simple prune! You choice sample of mouldy
American cheese!"

J. B. didn't return until the following afternoon. After leaving me
over C----, he had blown out two spark-plugs. For a while he limped
along on six cylinders, and then landed in a field three kilometres
from the nearest town. His French, which is worse, if that is
possible, than mine, aroused the suspicions of a patriot farmer, who
collared him as a possible German spy. Under a bodyguard of two
peasants, armed with hoes, he was marched to a neighboring château.
And then, I should have thought, he would have had another historical
illusion,--this time with a French Revolutionary setting. He says not,
however. All his faculties were concentrated in enjoying this unusual
adventure; and he was wondering what the outcome of it would be. At
the château he met a fine old gentleman who spoke English with that
nicety of utterance which only a cultivated Frenchman can achieve. He
had no difficulty in clearing himself. Then he had dinner in a hall
hung with armor and hunting trophies, was shown to a chamber half as
large as the lounge at the Harvard Club, and slept in a bed which he
got into by means of a ladder of carved oak. This is a mere outline.
Out of regard for J. B.'s opinions about the sanctities of his own
personal adventures, I refrain from giving further details.

These were the usual experiences which every American pilot has had
while on his brevet flights. As I write I think of scores of others,
for they were of almost daily occurrence.

Jackson landed--unintentionally, of course--in a town square and was
banqueted by the Mayor, although he had nearly run him down a few
hours earlier, and had ruined forever his reputation as a man of
dignified bearing. But the Mayor was not alone in his forced display
of unseemly haste. Many other townspeople, long past the nimbleness of
youth, rushed for shelter; and pride goeth before a collision with a
wayward aeroplane. Jackson said the sky rained hats, market baskets,
and wooden shoes for five minutes after his Blériot had come to rest
on the steps of the _bureau de poste_. And no one was hurt.

Murphy's defective motor provided him with the names and addresses of
every possible and impossible _marraine_ in the town of Y----, near
which he was compelled to land. While waiting for the arrival of his
mechanician with a new supply of spark-plugs, he left his monoplane in
a field close by. A path to the place was worn by the feet of the
young women of the town, whose dearest wish appeared to be to have an
aviator as a _filleul_. They covered the wings of his _avion_ with
messages in pencil. The least pointed of these hints were, "Écrivez le
plus tôt possible"; and, "Je voudrais bien un filleul américain, très
gentil, comme vous."

Matthews' biplane crashed through the roof of a camp bakery. If he had
practiced this unusual _atterrissage_ a thousand times he could not
have done it so neatly as at the first attempt. He followed the motor
through to the kitchen and finally hung suspended a few feet from the
ceiling. The army bread-bakers stared up at him with faces as white as
fear and flour could make them. The commandant of the camp rushed in.
He asked, "What have you done with the corpse?" The bread-bakers
pointed to Matthews, who apologized for his bad choice of
landing-ground. He was hardly scratched.

Mac lost his way in the clouds and landed near a small village for
gasoline and information. The information he had easily, but gasoline
was scarce. After laborious search through several neighboring
villages he found a supply and had it carried to the field where his
machine was waiting. Some farmer lads agreed to hold on to the tail
while Mac started the engine. At the first roar of the rotary motor
they all let loose. The Blériot pushed Mac contemptuously aside,
lifted its tail and rushed away. He followed it over a level tract of
country miles in extent, and found it at last in a ditch, nose down,
tail in air, like a duck hunting bugs in the mud. This story loses
nine tenths of its interest for want of Mac's pungent method of
telling it.

One of the _bona-fide_ godchildren of Chance was Millard. The
circumstances leading to his engagement in the French service as a
member of the Franco-American Corps proves this. Millard was a real
human being,--he had no grammar, no polish, no razor, safety or
otherwise, but likewise no pretense, no "swank." He was _persona non
grata_ to a few, but the great majority liked him very much, although
they wondered how in the name of all that is curious he had ever
decided to join the French air service. Once he told us his history at
great length. He had been a scout in the Philippine service of the
American army. He had been a roustabout on cattle boats. He had boiled
his coffee down by the stockyards in every sizable town on every
transcontinental railroad in America. In the spring of 1916 he had
employment with a roofing company which had contracted for a job in
Richmond, Virginia, I think it was. But Richmond went "dry" in the
State elections; the roofing job fell through, owing, so Millard
insisted, to the natural and inevitable depression which follows a dry
election. Having lost his prospective employment as a roofer, what
more natural than that he should turn to this other high calling?

He was game. He tried hard and at last reached his brevet tests. Three
times he started off on triangles. No one expected to see him return,
but he surprised them every time. He could never find the towns where
he was supposed to land, so he would keep on going till his gas gave
out. Then his machine would come down of itself, and Millard would
crawl out from under the wreckage and come back by train.

"I don't know," he would say doubtfully, rubbing his eight-days'
growth of beard; "I'm seeing a lot of France, but this coming-down
business ain't what it's cracked up to be. I can swing in on the rods
of a box car with the train going hell bent for election, but I guess
I'm too old to learn to fly."

The War Office came to this opinion after Millard had smashed three
machines in three tries. Wherever he may be now, I am sure that Chance
is still ruling his destiny, and I hope, with all my heart,
benevolently.

Our final triangle was completed uneventfully. J. B.'s motor behaved
splendidly; I remembered my biograph at every stage of the journey,
and we were at home again within three hours. We did our altitude
tests and were then no longer _élèves-pilotes_, but _pilotes
aviateurs_. By reason of this distinction we passed from the rank of
soldier of the second class to that of corporal. At the tailor's shop
the wings and star insignia were sewn upon our collars and our
corporal's stripes upon our sleeves. For we were proud, as every
aviator is proud, who reaches the end of his apprenticeship and enters
into the dignity of a brevetted military pilot.

       *       *       *       *       *

Six months have passed since I made the last entry in my journal. J.
B. was asleep in his historic bed, and I was sitting at a rickety
table writing by candle-light, stopping now and then to listen to the
mutter of guns on the Aisne front. It was only at night that we could
hear them, and then not often, the very ghost of sound, as faint as
the beating of the pulses in one's ears. That was a May evening, and
this, one late in November. I arrived at the Gare du Nord only a few
hours ago. Never before have I come to Paris with a finer sense of the
joy of living. I walked down the rue Lafayette, through the rue de
Provence, the rue du Havre, to a little hotel in the vicinity of the
Gare Saint-Lazare. Under ordinary circumstances none of these streets,
nor the people in them, would have appeared particularly interesting.
But on this occasion--it was the finest walk of my life. I saw
everything with the eyes of the _permissionnaire_, and sniffed the
odors of roasting chestnuts, of restaurants, of shops, of people,
never so keenly aware of their numberless variety.

After dinner I walked out on the boulevards from the Madeleine to the
Place de la République, through the maze of narrow streets to the
river, and over the Pont Neuf to Notre Dame. I was surprised that the
spell which Hugo gives it should have lost none of its old potency
for me after coming direct from the realities of modern warfare. If
he were writing this journal, what a story it would be!

It will be necessary to pass rapidly over the period between the day
when we received our _brevets militaires_ and that upon which we
started for the front. The event which bulked largest to us was, of
course, the departure on active service. Preceding it, and next in
importance, was the last phase of our training and the culmination of
it all, at the School of Acrobacy. Preliminary to our work there, we
had a six weeks' course of instruction, first on the twin-motor
Caudron and then on various types of the Nieuport biplane. We thought
the Caudron a magnificent machine. We liked the steady throb of its
powerful motors, the enormous spread of its wings, the slow, ponderous
way it had of answering to the controls. It was our business to take
officer observers for long trips about the country while they made
photographs, spotted dummy batteries, and perfected themselves in the
wireless code. At that time the Caudron had almost passed its period
of usefulness at the front, and there was a prospect of our being
transferred to the yet larger and more powerful Letord, a
three-passenger biplane carrying two machine gunners besides the
pilot, and from three to five machine guns. This appealed to us
mightily. J. B. was always talking of the time when he would command
not only a machine, but also a "gang of men." However, being
Americans, and recruited for a particular combat corps which flies
only single-seater _avions de chasse_, we eventually followed the
usual course of training for such pilots. We passed in turn to the
Nieuport biplane, which compares in speed and grace with these larger
craft as the flight of a swallow with the movements of a great lazy
buzzard. And now the Nieuport has been surpassed, and almost entirely
supplanted, by the Spad of 140, 180, 200, and 230 horse-power, and we
have transferred our allegiance to each in turn, marveling at the
genius of the French in motor and aircraft construction.

At last we were ready for acrobacy. I will not give an account of the
trials by means of which one's ability as a combat pilot is most
severely tested. This belongs among the pages of a textbook rather
than in those of a journal of this kind. But to us who were to undergo
the ordeal,--for it is an ordeal for the untried pilot,--our
typewritten notes on acrobacy read like the pages of a fascinating
romance. A year or two ago these aerial maneuvers would have been
thought impossible. Now we were all to do them as a matter of routine
training.

The worst of it was, that our civilian pursuits offered no criterion
upon which to base forecasts of our ability as acrobats. There was J.
B., for example. He knew a mixed metaphor when he saw one, for he had
had wide experience with them as an English instructor at a New
England "prep" school. But he had never done a barrel turn, or
anything resembling it. How was he to know what his reaction would be
to this bewildering maneuver, a series of rapid, horizontal, corkscrew
turns? And to what use could I put my hazy knowledge of Massachusetts
statutes dealing with neglect and non-support of family, in that
exciting moment when, for the first time, I should be whirling
earthward in a spinning nose-dive? Accidents and fatalities were most
frequent at the school of acrobacy, for the reason that one could not
know, beforehand, whether he would be able to keep his head, with the
earth gone mad, spinning like a top, standing on one rim, turning
upside down.

In the end we all mastered it after a fashion, for the tests are by no
means so difficult of accomplishment as they appear to be. Up to this
time, November 28, 1917, there has been but one American killed at it
in French schools. We were not all good acrobats. One must have a
knack for it which many of us will never be able to acquire. The
French have it in larger proportion than do we Americans. I can think
of no sight more pleasing than that of a Spad in the air, under the
control of a skillful French pilot. Swallows perch in envious silence
on the chimney pots, and the crows caw in sullen despair from the
hedgerows.

At G. D. E., while awaiting our call to the front, we perfected
ourselves in these maneuvers, and practiced them in combat and group
flying. There, the restraints of the schools were removed, for we were
supposed to be accomplished pilots. We flew when and in what manner
we liked. Sometimes we went out in large formations, for a long
flight; sometimes, in groups of two or three, we made sham attacks on
villages, or trains, or motor convoys on the roads. It was forbidden
to fly over Paris, and for this reason we took all the more delight in
doing it. J. B. and I saw it in all its moods: in the haze of early
morning, at midday when the air had been washed clean by spring rains,
in the soft light of afternoon,--domes, theaters, temples, spires,
streets, parks, the river, bridges, all of it spread out in
magnificent panorama. We would circle over Montmartre, Neuilly, the
Bois, Saint-Cloud, the Latin Quarter, and then full speed homeward,
listening anxiously to the sound of our motors until we spiraled
safely down over our aerodrome. Our monitor never asked questions. He
is one of many Frenchmen whom we shall always remember with gratitude.

We learned the songs of all motors, the peculiarities and uses of all
types of French _avions_, pushers and tractors, single motor and
bimotor, monoplace, biplace, and triplace, monoplane and biplane. And
we mingled with the pilots of all these many kinds of aircraft. They
were arriving and departing by every train, for G. D. E. is the dépôt
for old pilots from the front, transferring from one branch of
aviation to another, as well as for new ones fresh from the schools.
In our talks with them, we became convinced that the air service is
forming its traditions and developing a new type of mind. It even has
an odor, as peculiar to itself as the smell of the sea to a ship.
There are those who say that it is only a compound of burnt castor oil
and gasoline. One might, with no more truth, call the odor of a ship a
mixture of tar and stale cooking. But let it pass. It will be all
things to all men; I can sense it as I write, for it gets into one's
clothing, one's hair, one's very blood.

We were as happy during those days at G. D. E. as any one has the
right to be. Our whole duty was to fly, and never was the voice of
Duty heard more gladly. It was hard to keep in mind the stern purpose
behind this seeming indulgence. At times I remembered Drew's warning
that we were military pilots and had no right to forget the
seriousness of the work before us. But he himself often forgot it for
days together. War on the earth may be reasonable and natural, but in
the air it seems the most senseless folly. How is an airman, who has
just learned a new meaning for the joy of life, to reconcile himself
to the insane business of killing a fellow aviator who may have just
learned it too? This was a question which we sometimes put to
ourselves in purely Arcadian moments. We answered it, of course.

I was sitting at our two-legged table, writing up my _carnet de vol_.
Suzanne, the maid of all work at the Bonne Rencontre, was sweeping a
passageway along the center of the room, telling me, as she worked,
about her family. She was ticking off the names of her brothers and
sisters, when Drew put his head through the doorway.

"Il y a Pierre," said Suzanne.

"We're posted," said J. B.

"Et Hélène," she continued.

I shall never know the names of the others.



                              V

                      OUR FIRST PATROL


We got down from the train late in the afternoon at a village which
reminded us, at first glance, of a boom town in the Far West. Crude
shelters of corrugated iron and rough pine boards faced each other
down the length of one long street. They looked sadly out of place in
that landscape. They did not have the cheery, buoyant ugliness of
pioneer homes in an unsettled country, for behind them were the ruins
of the old village, fragments of blackened wall, stone chimneys filled
with accumulations of rubbish, garden-plots choked with weeds,
reminding us that here was no outpost of a new civilization, but the
desolation of an old one, fallen upon evil days.

A large crowd of _permissionnaires_ had left the train with us. We
were not at ease among these men, many of them well along in middle
life, bent and streaming with perspiration under their heavy packs. We
were much better able than most of them to carry our belongings, to
endure the fatigue of a long night march to billets or trenches; and
we were waiting for the motor in which we should ride comfortably to
our aerodrome. There we should sleep in beds, well housed from the
weather, and far out of the range of shell fire.

"It isn't fair," said J. B. "It is going to war _de luxe_. These old
poilus ought to be the aviators. But, hang it all! Of course, they
couldn't be. Aviation is a young man's business. It has to be that
way. And you can't have aerodromes along the front-line trenches."

Nevertheless, it did seem very unfair, and we were uncomfortable among
all those infantrymen. The feeling increased when attention was called
to our branch of the service by the distant booming of anti-aircraft
guns. There were shouts in the street, "A Boche!" We hurried to the
door of the café where we had been hiding. Officers were ordering the
crowds off the street. "Hurry along there! Under cover! Oh, I know
that you're brave enough, mon enfant. It isn't that. He's not to see
all these soldiers here. That's the reason. Allez! Vite!"

Soldiers were going into dugouts and cellars among the ruined houses.
Some of them, seeing us at the door of the café, made pointed remarks
as they passed, grumbling loudly at the laxity of the air service.

"It's up there you ought to be, mon vieux, not here," one of them
said, pointing to the white _éclatements_.

"You see that?" said another. "He's a Boche, not French, I can tell
you that. Where are your comrades?"

There was much good-natured chaffing as well, but through it all I
could detect a note of resentment. I sympathized with their point of
view then as I do now, although I know that there is no ground for the
complaint of laxity. Here is a German over French territory. Where are
the French aviators? Soldiers forget that aerial frontiers must be
guarded in two dimensions, and that it is always possible for an
airman to penetrate far into enemy country. They do not see their own
pilots on their long raids into German territory. Furthermore, while
the outward journey is often accomplished easily enough, the return
home is a different matter. Telephones are busy from the moment the
lines are crossed, and a hostile patrol, to say nothing of a lone
_avion_, will be fortunate if it returns safely.

But infantrymen are to be forgiven readily for their outbursts against
the aviation service. They have far more than their share of danger
and death while in the trenches. To have their brief periods of rest
behind the lines broken into by enemy aircraft--who would blame them
for complaining? And they are often generous enough with their praise.

On this occasion there was no bombing. The German remained at a great
height and quickly turned northward again.

Dunham and Miller came to meet us. We had all four been in the schools
together, they preceding us on active service only a couple of months.
Seeing them after this lapse of time, I was conscious of a change.
They were keen about life at the front, but they talked of their
experiences in a way which gave one a feeling of tension, a tautness
of muscles, a kind of ache in the throat. It set me to thinking of a
conversation I had had with an old French pilot, several months
before. It came apropos of nothing. Perhaps he thought that I was
sizing him up, wondering how he could be content with an instructor's
job while the war is in progress. He said: "I've had five hundred
hours over the lines. You don't know what that means, not yet. I'm no
good any more. It's strain. Let me give you some advice. Save your
nervous energy. You will need all you have and more. Above everything
else, don't think at the front. The best pilot is the best machine."

Dunham was talking about patrols.

"Two a day of two hours each. Occasionally you will have six hours'
flying, but almost never more than that."

"What about voluntary patrols?" Drew asked. "I don't suppose there is
any objection, is there?"

Miller pounded Dunham on the back, singing, "_Hi-doo-dedoo-dum-di_.
What did I tell you! Do I win?" Then he explained. "We asked the same
question when we came out, and every other new pilot before us. This
voluntary patrol business is a kind of standing joke. You think, now,
that four hours a day over the lines is a light programme. For the
first month or so you will go out on your own between times. After
that, no. Of course, when they call for a voluntary patrol for some
necessary piece of work, you will volunteer out of a sense of duty. As
I say, you may do as much flying as you like. But wait. After a month,
or we'll give you six weeks, that will be no more than you have to
do."

We were not at all convinced.

"What do you do with the rest of your time?"

"Sleep," said Dunham. "Read a good deal. Play some poker or bridge.
Walk. But sleep is the chief amusement. Eight hours used to be enough
for me. Now I can do with ten or twelve."

Drew said: "That's all rot. You fellows are having it too soft. They
ought to put you on the school régime again."

"Let 'em talk, Dunham. They know. J. B. says it's laziness. Let it go
at that. Well, take it from me, it's contagious. You'll soon be
victims."

I dropped out of the conversation in order to look around me. Drew
did all of the questioning, and thanks to his interest, I got many
hints about our work which came back opportunely, afterward.

"Think down to the gunners. That will help a lot. It's a game after
that: your skill against theirs. I couldn't do it at first, and shell
fire seemed absolutely damnable."

"And you want to remember that a chasse machine is almost never
brought down by anti-aircraft fire. You are too fast for them. You can
fool 'em in a thousand ways."

"I had been flying for two weeks before I saw a Boche. They are not
scarce on this sector, don't worry. I simply couldn't see them. The
others would have scraps. I spent most of my time trying to keep track
of them."

"Take my tip, J. B., don't be too anxious to mix it with the first
German you see, because very likely he will be a Frenchman, and if he
isn't, if he is a good Hun pilot, you'll simply be meat for him--at
first, I mean."

"They say that all the Boche aviators on this front have had several
months' experience in Russia or the Balkans. They train them there
before they send them to the Western Front."

"Your best chance of being brought down will come in the first two
weeks."

"That's comforting."

"No, sans blague. Honestly, you'll be almost helpless. You don't see
anything, and you don't know what it is that you do see. Here's an
example. On one of my first sorties I happened to look over my
shoulder and I saw five or six Germans in the most beautiful
alignment. And they were all slanting up to dive on me. I was scared
out of my life: went down full motor, then cut and fell into a vrille.
Came out of that and had another look. There they were in the same
position, only farther away. I didn't tumble even then, except farther
down. Next time I looked, the five Boches, or six, whichever it was,
had all been raveled out by the wind. Éclats d'obus."

"You may have heard about Franklin's Boche. He got it during his first
combat. He didn't know that there was a German in the sky, until he
saw the tracer bullets. Then the machine passed him about thirty
metres away. And he kept going down: may have had motor trouble.
Franklin said that he had never had such a shock in his life. He dived
after him, spraying all space with his Vickers, and he got him!"

"That all depends on the man. In chasse, unless you are sent out on a
definite mission, protecting photographic machines or avions de
bombardement, you are absolutely on your own. Your job is to patrol
the lines. If a man is built that way, he can loaf on the job. He need
never have a fight. At two hundred kilometres an hour, it won't take
him very long to get out of danger. He stays out his two hours and
comes in with some framed-up tale to account for his disappearance:
'Got lost. Went off by himself into Germany. Had motor trouble; gun
jammed, and went back to arm it.' He may even spray a few bullets
toward Germany and call it a combat. Oh, he can find plenty of
excuses, and he can get away with them."

"That's spreading it, Dunham. What about Huston? is he getting away
with it?"

"Now, don't let's get personal. Very likely Huston can't help it.
Anyway, it is a matter of temperament mostly."

"Temperament, hell! There's Van, for example. I happen to know that he
has to take himself by his bootlaces every time he crosses into
Germany. But he sticks it. He has never played a yellow trick. I hand
it to him for pluck above every other man in the squadron."

"What about Talbott and Barry?"

"Lord! They haven't any nerves. It's no job for them to do their work
well."

This conversation continued during the rest of the journey. The life
of a military pilot offers exceptional opportunities for research in
the matter of personal bravery. Dunham and Miller agreed that it is a
varying quality. Sometimes one is really without fear; at others only
a sense of shame prevents one from making a very sad display.

"Huston is no worse than some of the rest of us, only he hasn't a
sense of shame."

"Well, he has the courage to be a coward, and that is more than you
have, son, or I either."

Our fellow pilots of the Lafayette Corps were lounging outside the
barracks on our arrival. They gave us a welcome which did much to
remove our feelings of strangeness; but we knew that they were only
mildly interested in the news from the schools and were glad when they
let us drop into the background of conversation. By a happy chance
mention was made of a recent newspaper article of some of the exploits
of the _Escadrille_, written evidently by a very imaginative
journalist; and from this the talk passed to the reputation of the
Squadron in America, and the almost fabulous deeds credited to it by
some newspaper correspondents. One pilot said that he had kept record
of the number of German machines actually reported as having been
brought down by members of the Corps. I don't remember the number he
gave, but it was an astonishing total. The daily average was so high,
that, granting it to be correct, America might safely have abandoned
her far-reaching aerial programme. Long before her first pursuit
squadron could be ready for service, the last of the imperial German
air-fleet would, to quote from the article, have "crashed in
smouldering ruin on the war-devastated plains of northern France."

In this connection I can't forbear quoting from another, one of the
brightest pages in the journalistic history of the legendary
Escadrille Lafayette. It is an account of a sortie said to have taken
place on the receipt of news of America's declaration of war.

     "Uncle Sam is with us, boys! Come on! Let's get those
     fellows!" These were the stirring words of Captain Georges
     Thénault, the valiant leader of the Escadrille Lafayette,
     upon the morning when news was received that the United
     States of America had declared war upon the rulers of
     Potsdam. For the first time in history, the Stars and
     Stripes of Old Glory were flung to the breeze over the camp,
     in France, of American fighting men. Inspired by the sight,
     and spurred to instant action by the ringing call of their
     French captain, this band of aviators from the U.S.A. sprang
     into their trim little biplanes. There was a deafening roar
     of motors, and soon the last airman had disappeared in the
     smoky haze which hung over the distant battle-lines.

     We cannot follow them on that journey. We cannot see them as
     they mount higher and higher into the morning sky, on their
     way to meet their prey. But we may await their return. We
     may watch them as they descend to their flying-field,
     dropping down to earth, one by one. We may learn, then, of
     their adventures on that flight of death: how, far back of
     the German lines, they encountered a formidable
     battle-squadron of the enemy, vastly superior to their own
     in numbers. Heedless of the risk they swooped down upon
     their foe. Lieutenant A---- was attacked by four enemy
     planes at the same time. One he sent hurtling to the ground
     fifteen thousand feet below. He caused a second to retire
     disabled. Sergeant B---- accounted for another in a running
     fight which lasted for more than a quarter of an hour.
     Adjutant C----, although his biplane was riddled with
     bullets, succeeded, by a clever ruse, in decoying two
     pursuers, bent on his destruction, to the vicinity of a
     cloud where several of his comrades were lying in wait for
     further victims. A moment later both Germans were seen to
     fall earthward, spinning like leaves in that last terrible
     dive of death. "These boys are Yankee aviators. They form
     the vanguard of America's aerial forces. We need thousands
     of others just like them," etc.

Stories of this kind have, without doubt, a certain imaginative
appeal. J. B. and I had often read them, never wholly credulous, of
course, but with feelings of uneasiness. Discounting them by more than
half, we still had serious doubts of our ability to measure up to the
standard set by our fellow Americans who had preceded us on active
service. We were in part reassured during our first afternoon at the
front. If these men were the demons on wings of the newspapers, they
took great pains to give us a different impression.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many of the questions which had long been accumulating in our minds
got themselves answered during the next few days, while we were
waiting for machines. We knew, in a general way, what the nature of
our work would be. We knew that the Escadrille Lafayette was one of
four pursuit squadrons occupying hangars on the same field, and that,
together, these formed what is called a _groupe de combat_, with a
definite sector of front to cover. We had been told that combat pilots
are "the police of the air," whose duty it is to patrol the lines,
harass the enemy, attacking whenever possible, thus giving protection
to their own _corps-d'armée_ aircraft--which are only incidentally
fighting machines--in their work of reconnaissance, photography,
artillery direction, and the like. But we did not know how this
general theory of combat is given practical application. When I think
of the depths of our ignorance, to be filled in, day by day, with a
little additional experience; of our self-confidence, despite
warnings; of our willingness to leave so much for our "godfather"
Chance to decide, it is with feelings nearly akin to awe. We awaited
our first patrol almost ready to believe that it would be our first
victorious combat. We had no realization of the conditions under which
aerial battles are fought. Given good-will, average ability, and the
opportunity, we believed that the results must be decisive, one way or
the other.

Much of our enforced leisure was spent at the bureau of the group,
where the pilots gathered after each sortie to make out their reports.
There we heard accounts of exciting combats, of victories and narrow
escapes, which sounded like impossible fictions. A few of them may
have been, but not many. They were told simply, briefly, as a part of
the day's work, by men who no longer thought of their adventures as
being either very remarkable or very interesting. What, I thought,
will seem interesting or remarkable to them after the war, after such
a life as this? Once an American gave me a hint: "I'm going to apply
for a job as attendant in a natural-history museum."

Only a few minutes before, these men had been taking part in aerial
battles, attacking infantry in trenches, or enemy transport on roads
fifteen or twenty kilometres away. And while they were talking of
these things the drone of motors overhead announced the departure of
other patrols to battle-lines which were only five minutes distant by
the route of the air. For when weather permitted there was an
interlapping series of patrols flying over the sector from daylight
till dark. The number of these, and the number of _avions_ in each
patrol, varied as circumstances demanded.

On one wall of the bureau hung a large-scale map of the sector, which
we examined square by square with that delight which only the study of
maps can give. Trench-systems, both French and German, were outlined
upon it in minute detail. It contained other features of a very
interesting nature. On another wall there was a yet larger map, made
of aeroplane photographs taken at a uniform altitude and so pieced
together that the whole was a complete picture of our sector of
front. We spent hours over this one. Every trench, every shell hole,
every splintered tree or fragment of farmhouse wall stood out clearly.
We could identify machine-gun posts and battery positions. We could
see at a glance the result of months of fighting; how terribly men had
suffered under a rain of high explosives at this point, how lightly
they had escaped at another; and so we could follow, with a certain
degree of accuracy, what must have been the infantry actions at
various parts of the line.

The history of these trench campaigns will have a forbidding interest
to the student of the future; for, as he reads of the battles on the
Aisne, the Somme, of Verdun and Flanders, he will have spread out
before him photographs of the battlefields themselves, just as they
were at different phases of the struggle. With a series of these
pictorial records, men will be able to find the trenches from which
their fathers or grandfathers scrambled with their regiments to the
attack, the wire entanglements which held up the advance at one point,
the shell holes where they lay under machine-gun fire. And often they
will see the men themselves as they advanced through the barrage fire,
the sun glinting on their helmets. It will be a fascinating study, in
a ghastly way; and while such records exist, the outward meanings, at
least, of modern warfare will not be forgotten.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tiffin, the messroom steward, was standing by my cot with a lighted
candle in his hand. The furrows in his kindly old face were outlined
in shadow. His bald head gleamed like the bottom of a yellow bowl. He
said, "Beau temps, monsieur," put the candle on my table, and went
out, closing the door softly. I looked at the window square, which was
covered with oiled cloth for want of glass. It was a black patch
showing not a glimmer of light.

The other pilots were gathering in the messroom, where a fire was
going. Some one started the phonograph. Fritz Kreisler was playing the
"Chansons sans Paroles." This was followed by a song, "Oh, movin' man,
don't take ma baby grand." It was a strange combination, and to hear
them, at that hour of the morning, before going out for a first sortie
over the lines, gave me a "mixed-up" feeling, which it was impossible
to analyze.

Two patrols were to leave the field at the same time, one to cover the
sector at an altitude of from two thousand to three thousand metres,
the other, thirty-five hundred to five thousand metres. J. B. and I
were on high patrol. Owing to our inexperience, it was to be a purely
defensive one between our observation balloons and the lines. We had
still many questions to ask, but having been so persistently
inquisitive for three days running, we thought it best to wait for
Talbott, who was leading our patrol, to volunteer his instructions.

He went to the door to look at the weather. There were clouds at about
three thousand metres, but the stars were shining through gaps in
them. On the horizon, in the direction of the lines, there was a broad
belt of blue sky. The wind was blowing into Germany. He came back
yawning. "We'll go up--ho, hum!"--tremendous yawn--"through a hole
before we reach the river. It's going to be clear presently, so the
higher we go the better."

The others yawned sympathetically.

"I don't feel very pugnastic this morning."

"It's a crime to send men out at this time of day--night, rather."

More yawns of assent, of protest. J. B. and I were the only ones fully
awake. We had finished our chocolate and were watching the clock
uneasily, afraid that we should be late getting started. Ten minutes
before patrol time we went out to the field. The canvas hangars
billowed and flapped, and the wooden supports creaked with the quiet
sound made by ships at sea. And there was almost the peace of the sea
there, intensified, if anything, by the distant rumble of heavy
cannonading.

Our Spad biplanes were drawn up in two long rows, outside the hangars.
They were in exact alignment, wing to wing. Some of them were clean
and new, others discolored with smoke and oil; among these latter were
the ones which J. B. and I were to fly. Being new pilots we were given
used machines to begin with, and ours had already seen much service.
_Fuselage_ and wings had many patches over the scars of old battles,
but new motors had been installed, the bodies overhauled, and they
were ready for further adventures.

It mattered little to us that they were old. They were to carry us out
to our first air battles; they were the first _avions_ which we could
call our own, and we loved them in an almost personal way. Each
machine had an Indian head, the symbol of the Lafayette Corps, painted
on the sides of the _fuselage_. In addition, it bore the personal mark
of its pilot,--a triangle, a diamond, a straight band, or an
initial,--painted large so that it could be easily seen and recognized
in the air.

The mechanicians were getting the motors _en route_, arming the
machine guns, and giving a final polish to the glass of the
wind-shields. In a moment every machine was turning over _ralenti_,
with the purring sound of powerful engines which gives a voice to
one's feeling of excitement just before patrol time. There was no more
yawning, no languid movement.

Rodman was buttoning himself into a combination suit which appeared to
add another six inches to his six feet two. Barry, who was leading the
low patrol, wore a woolen helmet which left only his eyes uncovered.
I had not before noticed how they blazed and snapped. All his energy
seemed to be concentrated in them. Porter wore a leather face-mask,
with a lozenge-shaped breathing-hole, and slanted openings covered
with yellow glass for eyes. He was the most fiendish-looking demon of
them all. I was glad to turn from him to the Duke, who wore a
_passe-montagne_ of white silk which fitted him like a bonnet. As he
sat in his machine, adjusting his goggles, he might have passed for a
dear old lady preparing to read a chapter from the Book of Daniel. The
fur of Dunham's helmet had frayed out, so that it fitted around the
sides of his face and under the chin like a beard, the kind worn by
old-fashioned sailors.

The strain of waiting patiently for the start was trying. The sudden
transformation of a group of typical-looking Americans into monsters
and devotional old ladies gave a moment of diversion which helped to
relieve it.

I heard Talbott shouting his parting instructions and remembered that
I did not know the rendezvous. I was already strapped in my machine
and was about to loosen the fastenings, when he came over and climbed
on the step of the car.

"Rendezvous two thousand over field!" he yelled.

I nodded.

"Know me--Big T--wings--fuselage. I'll--turning right. You and others
left. When--see me start--lines, fall in behind--left. Remember stick
close--patrol. If--get lost, better--home. Compass southwest. Look
carefully--landmarks going out. Got--straight?"

I nodded again to show that I understood. Machines of both patrols
were rolling across the field, a mechanician running along beside each
one. I joined the long line, and taxied over to the starting-point,
where the captain was superintending the send-off, and turned into the
wind in my turn. As though conscious of his critical eye, my old
veteran Spad lifted its tail and gathered flying speed with all the
vigor of its youth, and we were soon high above the hangars, climbing
to the rendezvous.

When we had all assembled, Talbott headed northeast, the rest of us
falling into our places behind him. Then I found that, despite the
new motor, my machine was not a rapid climber. Talbott noticed this
and kept me well in the group, he and the others losing height in
_renversements_ and _retournements_, diving under me and climbing up
again. It was fascinating to watch them doing stunts, to observe the
constant changing of positions. Sometimes we seemed, all of us, to be
hanging motionless, then rising and falling like small boats riding a
heavy swell. Another glance would show one of them suspended bottom
up, falling sidewise, tipped vertically on a wing, standing on its
tail, as though being blown about by the wind, out of all control. It
is only in the air, when moving with them, that one can really
appreciate the variety and grace of movement of a flock of
high-powered _avions de chasse_.

I was close to Talbott as we reached the cloud-bank. I saw him in dim
silhouette as the mist, sunlight-filtered, closed around us. Emerging
into the clear, fine air above it, we might have been looking at early
morning from the casement

                "opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faëry lands forlorn."

The sun was just rising, and the floor of cloud glowed with delicate
shades of rose and amethyst and gold. I saw the others rising through
it at widely scattered points. It was a glorious sight.

Then, forming up and turning northward again, just as we passed over
the receding edge of the cloud-bank, I saw the lines. It was still
dusk on the ground and my first view was that of thousands of winking
lights, the flashes of guns and of bursting shells. At that time the
Germans were making trials of the French positions along the Chemin
des Dames, and the artillery fire was unusually heavy.

The lights soon faded and the long, winding battle-front emerged from
the shadow, a broad strip of desert land through a fair, green
country. We turned westward along the sector, several kilometres
within the French lines, for J. B. and I were to have a general view
of it all before we crossed to the other side. The fort of Malmaison
was a minute square, not as large as a postage-stamp. With thumb and
forefinger I could have spanned the distance between Soissons and
Laon. Clouds of smoke were rising from Allemant to Craonne, and these
were constantly added to by infinitesimal puffs in black and white. I
knew that shells of enormous calibre were wrecking trenches, blasting
out huge craters; and yet not a sound, not the faintest reverberation
of a gun. Here was a sight almost to make one laugh at man's idea of
the importance of his pygmy wars.

But the Olympian mood is a fleeting one. I think of Paradis rising on
one elbow out of the slime where he and his comrades were lying,
waving his hand toward the wide, unspeakable landscape.

"What are we, we chaps? And what's all this here? Nothing at all. All
we can see is only a speck. When one speaks of the whole war, it's as
if you said nothing at all--the words are strangled. We're here, and
we look at it like blind men."

To look down from a height of more than two miles, on an endless
panorama of suffering and horror, is to have the sense of one's
littleness even more painfully quickened. The best that the airman can
do is to repeat, "We're here, and we look at it like blind men."

We passed on to the point where the line bends northward, then turned
back. I tried to concentrate my attention on the work of identifying
landmarks. It was useless. One might as well attempt to study Latin
grammar at his first visit to the Grand Cañon. My thoughts went
wool-gathering. Looking up suddenly, I found that I was alone.

To the new pilot the sudden appearance or disappearance of other
_avions_ is a weird thing. He turns his head for a moment. When he
looks again, his patrol has vanished. Combats are matters of a few
seconds' duration, rarely of more than two or three minutes. The
opportunity for attack comes almost with the swiftness of thought and
has passed as quickly. Looking behind me, I was in time to see one
machine tip and dive. Then it, too, vanished as though it had melted
into the air. Shutting my motor, I started down, swiftly, I thought;
but I had not yet learned to fall vertically, and the others--I can
say almost with truth--were miles below me. I passed long streamers of
white smoke, crossing and recrossing in the air. I knew the meaning of
these, machine-gun tracer bullets. The delicately penciled lines
had not yet frayed out in the wind. I went on down in a steep spiral,
guiding myself by them, and seeing nothing. At the point where they
ended, I redressed and put on my motor. My altimeter registered two
thousand metres. By a curious chance, while searching the empty sky, I
saw a live shell passing through the air. It was just at the second
when it reached the top of its trajectory and started to fall. "Lord!"
I thought, "I have seen a shell, and yet I can't find my patrol!"

While coming down I had given no attention to my direction. I had lost
twenty-five hundred metres in height. The trenches were now plainly
visible, and the brown strip of sterile country where they lay was
vastly broader. Several times I felt the concussion of shell
explosions, my machine being lifted and then dropped gently with an
uneasy motion. Constantly searching the air, I gave no thought to my
position with reference to the lines, nor to the possibility of
anti-aircraft fire. Talbott had said: "Never fly in a straight line
for more than fifteen seconds. Keep changing your direction
constantly, but be careful not to fly in a regularly irregular
fashion. The German gunners may let you alone at first, hoping that
you will become careless, or they may be plotting out your style of
flight. Then they make their calculations and they let you have it. If
you have been careless, they'll put 'em so close, there'll be no
question about the kind of a scare you will have."

There wasn't in my case. I was looking for my patrol to the exclusion
of thought of anything else. The first shell burst so close that I
lost control of my machine for a moment. Three others followed, two in
front, and one behind, which I believed had wrecked my tail. They
burst with a terrific rending sound in clouds of coal-black smoke. A
few days before I had been watching without emotion the bombardment of
a German plane. I had seen it twisting and turning through the
_éclatements_, and had heard the shells popping faintly, with a sound
like the bursting of seed-pods in the sun.

My feeling was not that of fear, exactly. It was more like despair.
Every airman must have known it at one time or another, a sudden
overwhelming realization of the pitilessness of the forces which men
let loose in war. In that moment one doesn't remember that men have
loosed them. He is alone, and he sees the face of an utterly evil
thing. Miller's advice was, "Think down to the gunners"; but this is
impossible at first. Once a French captain told me that he talked to
the shells. "I say, 'Bonjour, mon vieux! Tiens! Comment ça va, toi!
Ah, non! je suis pressé!' or something like that. It amuses one."

This need of some means of humanizing shell fire is common. Aviators
know little of modern warfare as it touches the infantryman; but in
one respect, at least, they are less fortunate. They miss the human
companionship which helps a little to mask its ugliness.

However, it is seldom that one is quite alone, without the sight of
friendly planes near at hand, and there is a language of signs which,
in a way, fills this need. One may "waggle his flippers," or "flap his
wings," to use the common expressions, and thus communicate with his
comrades. Unfortunately for my ease of mind, there were no comrades
present with whom I could have conversed in this way. Miller was
within five hundred metres and saw me all the time, although I didn't
know this until later.

Talbott's instructions were, "If you get lost, go home"--somewhat
ambiguous. I knew that my course to the aerodrome was southwest. At any
rate, by flying in that direction I was certain to land in France. But
with German gunners so keen on the baptism-of-fire business, I had been
turning in every direction, and the floating disk of my compass was
revolving first to the right, then to the left. In order to let it
settle, I should have to fly straight for some fixed point for at
least half a minute. Under the circumstances I was not willing to do
this. A compass which would point north immediately and always would
be a heaven-sent blessing to the inexperienced pilot during his first
few weeks at the front. Mine was saying North--northwest--west--
southwest--south--southeast--east--and after a moment of hesitation
reading off the points in the reverse order. The wind was blowing
into Germany, and unconsciously, in trying to find a way out of the
_éclatements_, I was getting farther and farther away from home and
coming within range of additional batteries of hostile anti-aircraft
guns.

I might have landed at Karlsruhe or Cologne, had it not been for
Miller. My love for concentric circles of red, white, and blue dates
from the moment when I saw the French _cocarde_ on his Spad.

"And if I had been a Hun!" he said, when we landed at the aerodrome.
"Oh, man! you were fruit salad! Fruit salad, I tell you! I could have
speared you with my eyes shut."

I resented the implication of defenselessness. I said that I was
keeping my eyes open, and if he had been a Hun, the fruit salad might
not have been so palatable as it looked.

"Tell me this: Did you see me?"

I thought for a moment, and then said, "Yes."

"When?"

"When you passed over my head."

"And twenty seconds before that you would have been a sieve, if either
of us had been a Boche."

I yielded the point to save further argument.

He had come swooping down fairly suddenly. When I saw him making his
way so saucily among the _éclatements_ I felt my confidence returning
in increasing waves. I began to use my head, and found that it was
possible to make the German gunners guess badly. There was no menace
in the sound of shells barking at a distance, and we were soon clear
of all of them.

J. B. took me aside the moment I landed. He had one of his fur boots
in his hand and was wearing the other. He had also lighted the cork
end of his cigarette. To one acquainted with his magisterial
orderliness of mind and habit, these signs were eloquent.

"Now, keep this quiet!" he said. "I don't want the others to know it,
but I've just had the adventure of my life. I attacked a German. Great
Scott! what an opportunity! and I bungled it through being too eager!"

"When was this?"

"Just after the others dove. You remember--"

I told him, briefly, of my experience, adding, "And I didn't know
there was a German in sight until I saw the smoke of the tracer
bullets."

"Neither did I, only I didn't see even the smoke."

This cheered me immensely. "What! you didn't--"

"No. I saw nothing but sky where the others had disappeared. I was
looking for them when I saw the German. He was about four hundred
metres below me. He couldn't have seen me, I think, because he kept
straight on. I dove, but didn't open fire until I could have a nearer
view of his black crosses. I wanted to be sure. I had no idea that I
was going so much faster. The first thing I knew I was right on him.
Had to pull back on my stick to keep from crashing into him. Up I went
and fell into a nose-dive. When I came out of it there was no sign of
the German, and I hadn't fired a shot!"

"Did you come home alone?"

"No; I had the luck to meet the others just afterward. Now, not a word
of this to any one!"

But there was no need for secrecy. The near combat had been seen by
both Talbott and Porter. At luncheon we both came in for our share of
ragging.

"You should have seen them following us down!" said Porter; "like two
old rheumatics going into the subway. We saw them both when we were
taking height again. The scrap was all over hours before, and they
were still a thousand metres away."

"You want to dive vertically. Needn't worry about your old 'bus.
She'll stand it."

"Well, the Lord has certainly protected the innocent to-day!"

"One of them was wandering off into Germany. Bill had to waggle Miller
to page him."

"And there was Drew, going down on that biplane we were chasing. I've
been trying to think of one wrong thing he might have done which he
didn't do. First he dove with the sun in his face, when he might have
had it at his back. Then he came all the way in full view, instead of
getting under his tail. Good thing the mitrailleur was firing at us.
After that, when he had the chance of a lifetime, he fell into a
vrille and scared the life out of the rest of us. I thought the
gunner had turned on him. And while we were following him down to see
where he was going to splash, the Boche got away."

       *       *       *       *       *

All this happened months ago, but every trifling incident connected
with our first patrol is still fresh in mind. And twenty years from
now, if I chance to hear the "Chansons sans Paroles," or if I hum to
myself a few bars of a ballad, then sure to be long forgotten by the
world at large, "Oh, movin' man, don't take ma baby grand!" I shall
have only to close my eyes, and wait passively. First Tiffin will come
with the lighted candle: "Beau temps, monsieur." I shall hear Talbott
shouting, "Rendezvous two thousand over field. If--get lost--better--home."
J. B. will rush up smoking the cork end of a cigarette. "I've just had
the adventure of my life!" And Miller, sitting on an essence-case,
will have lost none of his old conviction. "Oh, man! you were fruit
salad! Fruit salad, I tell you! I could have speared you with my eyes
shut!"

And in those days, happily still far off, there will be many another
old gray-beard with such memories; unless they are all to wear out
their days uselessly regretting that they are no longer young, there
must be clubs where they may exchange reminiscences. These need not be
pretentious affairs. Let there be a strong odor of burnt castor oil
and gasoline as you enter the door; a wide view from the verandas of
earth and sky; maps on the walls; and on the roof a canvas
"pantaloon-leg" to catch the wind. Nothing else matters very much.
There they will be as happy as any old airman can expect to be,
arguing about the winds and disputing one another's judgment about the
height of the clouds.

If you say to one of them, "Tell us something about the Great War," as
likely as not he will tell you a pleasant story enough. And the pity
of it will be that, hearing the tale, a young man will long for
another war. Then you must say to him, "But what about the shell fire?
Tell us something of machines falling in flames." Then, if he is an
honest old airman whose memory is still unimpaired, the young one who
has been listening will have sober second thoughts.



                             VI

                      A BALLOON ATTACK


"I'm looking for two balloonatics," said Talbott, as he came into the
messroom; "and I think I've found them."

Percy, Talbott's orderly, Tiffin the steward, Drew, and I were the
only occupants of the room. Percy is an old _légionnaire_, crippled
with rheumatism. His active service days are over. Tiffin's working
hours are filled with numberless duties. He makes the beds, and serves
food from three to five times daily to members of the Escadrille
Lafayette. These two being eliminated, the identity of the
balloonatics was plain.

"The orders have just come," Talbott added, "and I decided that the
first men I met after leaving the bureau would be balloonatics. Virtue
has gone into both of you. Now, if you can make fire come out of a
Boche sausage, you will have done all that is required. Listen. This
is interesting. The orders are in French, but I will translate as I
read:--

     On the umteenth day of June, the escadrilles of Groupe de
     Combat Blank [that's ours] will cooperate in an attack on
     the German observation balloons along the sector extending
     from X to Y. The patrols to be furnished are: (1) two
     patrols of protection, of five _avions_ each, by the
     escadrilles Spa. 87 and Spa. 12; (2) four patrols of attack,
     of three _avions_ each, by the escadrilles Spa. 124 [that's
     us], Spa. 93, Spa. 10, and Spa. 12.

     The attack will be organized as follows: on the day set,
     weather permitting, the two patrols of protection will leave
     the field at 10.30 A.M. The patrol of Spa. 87 will
     rendezvous over the village of N----. The patrol of
     protection of Spa. 12 will rendezvous over the village of
     C----. At 10.45, precisely, they will start for the lines,
     crossing at an altitude of thirty-five hundred metres. The
     patrol furnished by Spa. 87 will guard the sector from X to
     T, between the town of O----and the two enemy balloons on
     that sector. The patrol furnished by Spa. 12 will guard the
     sector from T to Y, between the railway line and the two
     enemy balloons on that sector. Immediately after the attack
     has been made, these formations will return to the
     aerodrome.

     At 10.40 A.M. the four patrols of attack will leave the
     field, and will rendezvous as follows. [Here followed the
     directions.] At 10.55, precisely, they will start for the
     lines, crossing at an approximate altitude of sixteen
     hundred metres, each patrol making in a direct line for the
     balloon assigned to it. Numbers 1 and 2 of each of these
     patrols will carry rockets. Number 3 will fly immediately
     above them, offering further protection in case of attack by
     enemy aircraft. Number 1 of each patrol will first attack
     the balloon. If he fails, number 2 will attack. If number 1
     is successful, number 2 will then attack the observers in
     their parachutes. If number 1 fails, and number 2 is
     successful, number 3 will attack the observers. The patrol
     will then proceed to the aerodrome by the shortest route.

     Squadron commanders will make a return before noon to-day,
     of the names of pilots designated by them for their
     respective patrols.

     In case of unfavorable weather, squadron commanders will be
     informed of the date to which the attack has been postponed.

     Pilots designated as numbers 1 and 2 of the patrols of
     attack will be relieved from the usual patrol duty from this
     date. They will employ their time at rocket shooting. A
     target will be in place on the east side of the field from
     1.30 P.M. to-day.

"Are there any remarks?" said Talbott, as if he had been reading the
minutes at a debating-club meeting.

"Yes," said J. B. "When is the umteenth of June?"

"Ah, mon vieux! that's the question. The commandant knows, and he
isn't telling. Any other little thing?"

I suggested that we would like to know which of us was to be number 1.

"That's right. Drew, how would you like to be the first rocketeer?"

"I've no objection," said J. B., grinning as if the frenzy of
balloonaticking had already got into his blood.

"Right! that's settled. I'll see your mechanicians about fitting your
machines for rockets. You can begin practice this afternoon."

Percy had been listening with interest to the conversation.

"You got some nice job, you boys. But if you bring him down, there
will be a lot of chuckling in the trenches. You won't hear it, but
they will all be saying, 'Bravo! Épatant!' I've been there. I've seen
it and I know. Does 'em all good to see a sausage brought down.
'There's another one of their eyes knocked out,' they say."

"Percy is right," said J. B. as we were walking down the road.
"Destroying a balloon is not a great achievement in itself. Of
course, it's so much equipment gone, so much expense added to the
German war-budget. That is something. But the effect on the
infantrymen is the important thing. Boche soldiers, thousands of them,
will see one of their balloons coming down in flame. They will be
saying, 'Where are our airmen?' like those old poilus we met at the
station when we first came out. It's bound to influence morale. Now
let's see. The balloon, we will say, is at sixteen hundred metres. At
that height it can be seen by men on the ground within a radius of--"
and so forth and so on.

We figured it out approximately, estimating the numbers of soldiers,
of all branches of service, who would witness the sight. Multiplying
this number by four, our conclusion was that, as a result of the
expedition, the length of the war and its outcome might very possibly
be affected. At any rate, there would be such an ebbing of German
morale, and such a flooding of French, that the way would be opened to
a decisive victory on that front.

But supposing we should miss our sausage? J. B. grew thoughtful.

"Have another look at the orders. I don't remember what the
instructions were in case we both fail."

I read, "If number 1 fails and number 2 is successful, number 3 will
attack the observers. The patrol will then proceed to the aerodrome by
the shortest route."

This was plain enough. Allowance could be made for one failure, but
two--the possibility had not even been considered.

"By the shortest route." There was a piece of sly humor for you. It
may have been unconscious, but we preferred to believe that the
commandant had chuckled as he dictated it. A sort of afterthought, as
much as to say to his pilots, "Well, you young bucks, you would-be
airmen: thought it would be all sport, eh? You might have known. It's
your own fault. Now go out and attack those balloons. It's possible
that you may have a scrap or two on your hands while you are at it.
Oh, yes, by the way, coming home, you'll be down pretty low. Every
Boche machine in the air will have you at a disadvantage. Better
return by the shortest route."

One feature of the programme did not appeal to us greatly, and this
was the attack to be made on the observers when they had jumped with
their parachutes. It seemed as near the border line between legitimate
warfare and cold-blooded murder as anything could well be.

"You are armed with a machine-gun. He may have an automatic pistol. It
will require from five to ten minutes for him to reach the ground
after he has jumped. You can come down on him like a stone. Well, it's
your job, thank the Lord! not mine," said Drew.

It was my job, but I insisted that he would be an accomplice. In
destroying the balloon, he would force me to attack the observers. When
I asked Talbott if this feature of the attack could be eliminated he
said:--

"Certainly. I have instructions from the commandant touching on this
point. In case any pilot objects to attacking the observers with
machine-gun fire, he is to strew their parachutes with autumn leaves
and such field-flowers as the season affords. Now, listen! What
difference, ethically, is there, between attacking one observation
officer in a parachute, and dropping a ton of bombs on a train-load
of soldiers? And to kill the observers is really more important than
to destroy the balloon. If you are going to be a military pilot, for
the love of Pete and Alf be one!"

He was right, of course, but that didn't make the prospect any the
more pleasant.

The large map at the bureau now had greater interest for us than ever.
The German balloons along the sector were marked in pictorially, with
an ink line, representing the cable, running from the basket of each
one down to the exact spot on the map from which they were launched.
Under one of these, "Spa. 124" was printed, neatly, in red ink. It was
the farthest distant from our lines of the four to be attacked, and
about ten kilometres within German-held territory. The cable ran to
the outskirts of a village situated on a railroad and a small stream.
The location of enemy aviation fields was also shown pictorially, each
one represented by a minute sketch, very carefully made, of an
Albatross biplane. We noticed that there were several aerodromes not
far distant from our balloon.

After a survey of the map, the commandant's afterthought, "by the
shortest route," was not so needless as it appeared at first. The
German positions were in a salient, a large corner, the line turning
almost at right angles. We could cross them from the south, attack our
balloon, and then, if we wished, return to French territory on the
west side of the salient.

"We may miss some heavy shelling. If we double on our tracks going
home, they will be expecting us, of course; whereas, if we go out on
the west side, we will pass over batteries which didn't see us come
in. If there should happen to be an east wind, there will be another
reason in favor of the plan. The commandant is a shrewd soldier. It
may have been his way of saying that the longest way round is the
shortest way home."

Our Spads were ready after luncheon. A large square of tin had been
fastened over the fabric of each lower wing, under the rocket
fittings, to prevent danger of fire from sparks. Racks for six
rockets, three on a side, had been fastened to the struts. The rockets
were tipped with sharp steel points to insure their pricking the silk
balloon envelope. The batteries for igniting them were connected with
a button inside the car, within easy reach of the pilot. Lieutenant
Verdane, our French second-in-command, was to supervise our practice
on the field. We were glad of this. If we failed to "spear our
sausage," it would not be through lack of efficient instruction. He
explained to Drew how the thing was to be done. He was to come on the
balloon into the wind, and preferably not more than four hundred
metres above it. He was to let it pass from view under the wing; then,
when he judged that he was directly over it, to reduce his motor and
dive vertically, placing the bag within the line of his two circular
sights, holding it there until the bag just filled the circle. At that
second he would be about 250 metres distant from it, and it was then
that the rockets should be fired.

The instructions were simple enough, but in practicing on the target
we found that they were not so easy to carry out. It was hard to judge
accurately the moment for diving. Sometimes we overshot the target,
but more often we were short of it. Owing to the angle at which the
rockets were mounted on the struts, it was very important that the
dive should be vertical.

One morning, the attack could have been made with every chance of
success. Drew and I left the aerodrome a few minutes before sunrise
for a trial flight, that we might give our motors a thorough testing.
We climbed through a heavy mist which lay along the ground like water,
filling every fold and hollow, flowing up the hillsides, submerging
everything but the crests of the highest hills. The tops of the twin
spires of S---- cathedral were all that could be seen of the town.
Beyond, the long chain of heights where the first-line trenches were
rose just clear of the mist, which glowed blood-red as the sun came
up.

The balloons were already up, hanging above the dense cloud of vapor,
elongated planets drifting in space. The observers were directing the
fire of their batteries to those positions which stood revealed.
Shells were also exploding on lower ground, for we saw the mist billow
upward time after time with the force of mighty concussions, and
slowly settle again. It was an awe-inspiring sight. We might have
been watching the last battle of the last war that could ever be, with
the world still fighting on, bitterly, blindly, gradually sinking from
sight in a sea of blood. I have never seen anything to equal that
spectacle of an artillery battle in the mists.

Conditions were ideal for the attack. We could have gone to the
objective, fired our rockets, and made our return, without once having
been seen from the ground. It was an opportunity made in heaven, an
Allied heaven. "But the infantry would not have seen it," said J. B.;
which was true. Not that we cared to do the thing in a spectacular
fashion. We were thinking of that decisive effect upon morale.

Two hours later we were pitching pennies in one of the hangars, when
Talbott came across the field, followed solemnly by Whiskey and Soda,
the lion mascots of the Escadrille Lafayette.

"What's the date, anybody know?" he asked, very casually.

J. B. is an agile-minded youth.

"It isn't the umteenth by any chance?"

"Right the first time." He looked at his watch. "It is now ten past
ten. You have half an hour. Better get your rockets attached. How are
your motors--all right?"

This was one way of breaking the news, and the best one, I think. If
we had been told the night before, we should have slept badly.

The two patrols of protection left the field exactly on schedule time.
At 10.35, Irving, Drew, and I were strapped in our machines, waiting,
with our motors turning _ralenti_, for Talbott's signal to start.

He was romping with Whiskey. "Atta boy, Whiskey! Eat 'em up! Atta ole
lion!"

As a squadron leader Talbott has many virtues, but the most important
of them all is his casualness. And he is so sincere and natural in it.
He has no conception of the dramatic possibilities of a
situation--something to be profoundly thankful for in the commander of
an _escadrille de chasse_. Situations are dramatic enough, tense
enough, without one's taking thought of the fact. He might have stood
there, watch in hand, counting off the seconds. He might have said,
"Remember, we're all counting on you. Don't let us down. You've got to
get that balloon!" Instead of that, he glanced at his watch as if he
had just remembered us.

"All right; run along, you sausage-spearers. We're having lunch at
twelve. That will give you time to wash up after you get back."

Miller, of course, had to have a parting shot. He had been in hiding
somewhere until the last moment. Then he came rushing up with a
toothbrush and a safety-razor case. He stood waving them as I taxied
around into the wind. His purpose was to remind me of the possibility
of landing with a _panne de moteur_ in Germany, and the need I would
then have of my toilet articles.

At 10.54, J. B. came slanting down over me, then pulled up in _ligne
de vol_, and went straight for the lines. I fell in behind him at
about one hundred metres distance. Irving was two hundred metres
higher. Before we left the field he said: "You are not to think about
Germans. That's my job. I'll warn you if I see that we are going to be
attacked. Go straight for the balloon. If you don't see me come down
and signal, you will know that there is no danger."

The French artillery were giving splendid coöperation. I saw clusters
of shell-explosions on the ground. The gunners were carrying out their
part of the programme, which was to register on enemy anti-aircraft
batteries as we passed over them. They must have made good practice.
Anti-aircraft fire was feeble, and, such of it as there was, very
wild.

We came within view of the railway line which runs from the German
lines to a large town, their most important distributing center on the
sector. Following it along with my eyes to the halfway point, I saw
the red roofs of the village which we had so often looked at from a
distance. Our balloon was in its usual place. It looked like a yellow
plum, and no larger than one; but ripe, ready to be plucked.

A burst of flame far to the left attracted my attention, and almost at
the same moment, one to the right. Ribbons of fire flapped upward in
clouds of black oily smoke. Drew signaled with his joy-stick, and I
knew what he meant: "Hooray! two down! It's our turn next!" But we
were still three or four minutes away. That was unfortunate, for a
balloon can be drawn down with amazing speed.

A rocket sailed into the air and burst in a point of greenish white
light, dazzling in its brilliancy, even in the full light of day.
Immediately after this two white objects, so small as to be hardly
visible, floated earthward: the parachutes of the observers. They had
jumped. The balloon disappeared from view behind Drew's machine. It
was being drawn down, of course, as fast as the motor could wind up
the cable. It was an exciting moment for us. We were coming on at two
hundred kilometres an hour, racing against time and very little time
at that. "Sheridan, only five miles away," could not have been more
eager for his journey's end. Our throttles were wide open, the engines
developing their highest capacity for power.

I swerved out to one side for another glimpse of the target: it was
almost on the ground, and directly under us. Drew made a steep virage
and dived. I started after him in a tight spiral, to look for the
observers; but they had both disappeared. The balloon was swaying
from side to side under the tension of the cable. It was hard to keep
it in view. I lost it under my wing. Tipping up on the other side, I
saw Drew release his rockets. They spurted out in long wavering lines
of smoke. He missed. The balloon lay close to the ground, looking
larger, riper than ever. The sight of its smooth, sleek surface was
the most tantalizing of invitations. Letting it pass under me again, I
waited for a second or two, then shut down the motor, and pushed
forward on the control-stick until I was falling vertically. Standing
upright on the rudder-bar, I felt the tugging of the shoulder-straps.
Getting the bag well within the sights, I held it there until it just
filled the circle. Then I pushed the button.

       *       *       *       *       *

Although it was only eight o'clock, both Drew and I were in bed; for
we were both very tired, it was a chilly evening, and we had no fire.
An oil lamp was on the table between the two cots. Drew was sitting
propped up, his fur coat rolled into a bundle for a back-rest. He had
a sweater, tied by the sleeves, around his shoulders. His hands were
clasped around his blanketed knees, and his breath, rising in a cloud
of luminous steam,--

    "Like pious incense from a censer old,
    Seemed taking flight for heaven without a death."

And yet, "pious" is hardly the word. J. B. was swearing, drawing from
a choice reserve of picturesque epithets which I did not know that he
possessed. I regret the necessity of omitting some of them.

"I don't see how I could have missed it! Why, I didn't turn to look
for at least thirty seconds. I was that sure that I had brought it
down. Then I banked and nearly fell out of my seat when I saw it
there. I redressed at four hundred metres. I couldn't have been more
than one hundred metres away when I fired the rockets."

"What did you do then?"

"Circled around, waiting for you. I had the balloon in sight all the
while you were diving. It was a great sight to watch from below,
particularly when you let go your rockets. I'll never forget it,
never. But, Lord! Without the climax! Artistically, it was an awful
fizzle."

There was no denying this. A balloon bonfire was the only possible
conclusion to the adventure, and we both failed at lighting it. I,
too, redressed when very close to the bag, and made a steep bank in
order to escape the burst of flame from the ignited gas. The rockets
leaped out, with a fine, blood-stirring roar. The mere sound ought to
have been enough to make any balloon collapse. But when I turned,
there it was, intact, a super-Brobdingnagian pumpkin, seen at close
view, and still ripe, still ready for plucking. If I live to one
hundred years, I shall never have a greater surprise or a more bitter
disappointment.

There was no leisure for brooding over it then. My altimeter
registered only two hundred and fifty metres, and the French lines
were far distant. If the motor failed I should have to land in German
territory. Any fate but that. Nevertheless, I felt in the pocket of my
combination, to be sure that my box of matches was safely in place. We
were cautioned always to carry them where they could be quickly got
at in case of a forced landing in enemy country. An airman must
destroy his machine in such an event. But my Spad did not mean to end
its career so ingloriously. The motor ran beautifully, hitting on
every cylinder. We climbed from two hundred and fifty metres to three
hundred and fifty, four hundred and fifty, and on steadily upward. In
the vicinity of the balloon, machine-gun fire from the ground had been
fairly heavy; but I was soon out of range, and saw the tracer bullets,
like swarms of blue bubbles, curving downward again at the end of
their trajectory.

No machines, either French or German, were in sight. Irving had
disappeared some time before we reached the balloon. I had not seen
Drew from the moment when he fired his rockets. He waited until he
made sure that I was following, then started for the west side of the
salient. I did not see him, because of my interest in those clouds of
blue bubbles which were rising with anything but bubble-like
tranquillity. When I was clear of them, I set my course westward and
parallel with the enemy lines to the south.

I had never flown so low, so far in German territory. The temptation
to forget precaution and to make a leisurely survey of the ground
beneath was hard to resist. It was not wholly resisted, in fact.
Anti-aircraft fire was again feeble and badly ranged. The shells burst
far behind and above, for I was much too low to offer an easy target.
This gave me a dangerous sense of safety, and so I tipped up on one
side, then on the other, examining the roads, searching the ruins of
villages, the trenches, the shell-marked ground. I saw no living
thing; brute or human; nothing but endless, inconceivable desolation.

The foolishness of that close scrutiny alone, without the protection
of other _avions_, I realize now much better than I did then. Unless
flying at six thousand metres or above,--when he is comparatively safe
from attack,--a pilot may never relax his vigilance for thirty seconds
together. He must look behind him, below, above, constantly. All
aviators learn this eventually, but in the case of many new pilots the
knowledge comes too late to be of service. I thought this was to be my
experience, when, looking up, I saw five combat machines bearing down
upon me. Had they been enemy planes my chances would have been very
small, for they were close at hand before I saw them. The old French
aviator, worn out by his five hundred hours of flight over the
trenches, said, "Save your nervous energy." I exhausted a three-months
reserve in as many seconds. The suspense, luckily, was hardly longer
than that. It passed when the patrol leader, followed by the others,
pulled up in _ligne de vol_, about one hundred metres above me,
showing their French _cocardes_. It was the group of protection of
Spa. 87. At the time I saw Drew, a quarter of a mile away. As he
turned, the sunlight glinted along his rocket-tubes.

A crowded hour of glorious life it seems now, although I was not of
this opinion at the time. In reality, we were absent barely forty
minutes. Climbing out of my machine at the aerodrome, I looked at my
watch. A quarter to twelve. Laignier, the sergeant mechanician, was
sitting in a sunny corner of the hangar, reading the "Matin," just as
I had left him.

Lieutenant Talbott's only comment was: "Don't let it worry you.
Better luck next time. The group bagged two out of four, and Irving
knocked down a Boche who was trying to get at you. That isn't bad for
half an hour's work."

But the decisive effect on morale which was to result from our
wholesale destruction of balloons was diminished by half. We had
forced ours down, but it bobbed up again very soon afterward. The
one-o'clock patrol saw it, higher, Miller said, than it had ever been.
It was Miller, by the way, who looked in on us at nine o'clock the
same evening. The lamp was out.

"Asleep?"

Neither of us was, but we didn't answer. He closed the door, then
reopened it.

"It's laziness, that's what it is. They ought to put you on school
régime again."

He had one more afterthought. Looking in a third time, he said,--

"How about it, you little old human dynamos; are you getting rusty?"



                             VII

                        BROUGHT DOWN


The preceding chapters of this journal have been written to little
purpose if it has not been made clear that Drew and I, like most
pilots during the first weeks of service at the front, were worth
little to the Allied cause. We were warned often enough that the road
to efficiency in military aviation is a long and dangerous one. We
were given much excellent advice by aviators who knew what they were
talking about. Much of this we solicited, in fact, and then proceeded
to disregard it item by item. Eager to get results, we plunged into
our work with the valor of ignorance, the result being that Drew was
shot down in one of his first encounters, escaping with his life by
one of those more than miracles for which there is no explanation.
That I did not fare as badly or worse is due solely to the indulgence
of that godfather of ours, already mentioned, who watched over my
first flights while in a mood beneficently pro-Ally.

Drew's adventure followed soon after our first patrol, when he had the
near combat with the two-seater. Luckily, on that occasion, both the
German pilot and his machine-gunner were taken completely off their
guard. Not only did he attack with the sun squarely in his face, but
he went down in a long, gradual dive, in full view of the gunner, who
could not have asked for a better target. But the man was asleep, and
this gave J. B. a dangerous contempt for all gunners of enemy
nationality.

Lieutenant Talbott cautioned him. "You have been lucky, but don't get
it into your head that this sort of thing happens often. Now, I'm
going to give you a standing order. You are not to attack again,
neither of you are to think of attacking, during your first month
here. As likely as not it would be your luck the next time to meet an
old pilot. If you did, I wouldn't give much for your chances. He would
outmaneuver you in a minute. You will go out on patrol with the
others, of course; it's the only way to learn to fight. But if you get
lost, go back to our balloons and stay there until it is time to go
home."

Neither of us obeyed this order, and, as it happened, Drew was the one
to suffer. A group of American officers visited the squadron one
afternoon. In courtesy to our guests, it was decided to send out all
the pilots for an additional patrol, to show them how the thing was
done. Twelve machines were in readiness for the sortie, which was set
for seven o'clock, the last one of the day. We were to meet at three
thousand metres, and then to divide forces, one patrol to cover the
east half of the sector and one the west.

We got away beautifully, with the exception of Drew, who had
motor-trouble and was five minutes late in starting. With his
permission I insert here his own account of the adventure--a letter
written while he was in hospital.

     No doubt you are wondering what happened, listening,
     meanwhile, to many I-told-you-so explanations from the
     others. This will be hard on you, but bear up, son. It might
     not be a bad plan to listen, with the understanding as well
     as with the ear, to some expert advice on how to bag the
     Hun. To quote the prophetic Miller, "I'm telling you this
     for your own good."

     I gave my name and the number of the escadrille to the
     medical officer at the _poste de secours_. He said he would
     'phone the captain at once, so that you must know before
     this, that I have been amazingly lucky. I fell the greater
     part of two miles--count 'em, two!--before I actually
     regained control, only to lose it again. I fainted while
     still several hundred feet from the ground; but more of this
     later. Couldn't sleep last night. Had a fever and my brain
     went on a spree, taking advantage of my helplessness. I just
     lay in bed and watched it function. Besides, there was a
     great artillery racket all night long. It appeared to be
     coming from our sector, so you must have heard it as well.
     This hospital is not very far back and we get the full
     orchestral effect of heavy firing. The result is that I am
     dead tired to-day. I believe I can sleep for a week.

     They have given me a bed in the officers' ward--me, a
     corporal. It is because I am an American, of course. Wish
     there was some way of showing one's appreciation for so much
     kindness. My neighbor on the left is a _chasseur_ captain. A
     hand-grenade exploded in his face. He will go through life
     horribly disfigured. An old padre, with two machine-gun
     bullets in his hip, is on the other side. He is very
     patient, but sometimes the pain is a little too much for
     him. To a Frenchman, "Oh, là, là!" is an expression for
     every conceivable kind of emotion. In the future it will
     mean unbearable physical pain to me. Our orderlies are two
     _poilus_, long past military age. They are as gentle and
     thoughtful as the nurses themselves. One of them brought me
     lemonade all night long. Worth while getting wounded just to
     have something taste so good.

            *       *       *       *       *

     I meant to finish this letter a week ago, but haven't felt
     up to it. Quite perky this morning, so I'll go on with the
     tale of my "heroic combat." Only, first, tell me how that
     absurd account of it got into the "Herald"? I hope Talbott
     knows that I was not foolish enough to attack six Germans
     single-handed. If he doesn't, please enlighten him. His
     opinion of my common sense must be low enough, as it is.

     We were to meet over S---- at three thousand metres, you
     remember, and to cover the sector at five thousand until
     dusk. I was late in getting away, and by the time I reached
     the rendezvous you had all gone. There wasn't a chasse
     machine in sight. I ought to have gone back to the balloons
     as Talbott advised, but thought it would be easy to pick you
     up later, so went on alone after I had got some height.
     Crossed the lines at thirty-five hundred metres, and finally
     got up to four thousand, which was the best I could do with
     my rebuilt engine. The Huns started shelling, but there were
     only a few of them that barked. I went down the lines for a
     quarter of an hour, meeting two Sopwiths and a Letord, but
     no Spads. You were almost certain to be higher than I, but
     my old packet was doing its best at four thousand, and
     getting overheated with the exertion. Had to throttle down
     and _pique_ several times to cool off.

     Then I saw you--at least I thought it was you--about four
     kilometres inside the German lines. I counted six machines,
     well grouped, one a good deal higher than the others and one
     several hundred metres below them. The pilot on top was
     doing beautiful _renversements_ and an occasional
     barrel-turn, in Barry's manner. I was so certain it was our
     patrol that I started over at once, to join you. It was
     getting dusk and I lost sight of the machine lowest down for
     a few seconds. Without my knowing it, he was approaching at
     exactly my altitude. You know how difficult it is to see a
     machine in that position. Suddenly he loomed up in front of
     me like an express train, as you have seen them approach
     from the depths of a moving-picture screen, only ten times
     faster; and he was firing as he came. I realized my awful
     mistake, of course. His tracer bullets were going by on the
     left side, but he corrected his aim, and my motor seemed to
     be eating them up. I banked to the right, and was about to
     cut my motor and dive, when I felt a smashing blow in the
     left shoulder. A sickening sensation and a very peculiar
     one, not at all what I thought it might feel like to be hit
     with a bullet. I believed that it came from the German in
     front of me. But it couldn't have, for he was still
     approaching when I was hit, and I have learned here that the
     bullet entered from behind.

     This is the history of less than a minute I'm giving you. It
     seemed much longer than that, but I don't suppose it was. I
     tried to shut down the motor, but couldn't manage it because
     my left arm was gone. I really believed that it had been
     blown off into space until I glanced down and saw that it
     was still there. But for any service it was to me, I might
     just as well have lost it. There was a vacant period of ten
     or fifteen seconds which I can't fill in. After that I knew
     that I was falling, with my motor going full speed. It was a
     helpless realization. My brain refused to act. I could do
     nothing. Finally, I did have one clear thought, "Am I on
     fire?" This cut right through the fog, brought me up broad
     awake. I was falling almost vertically, in a sort of half
     _vrille_. No machine but a Spad could have stood the strain.
     The Huns were following me and were not far away, judging by
     the sound of their guns. I fully expected to feel another
     bullet or two boring its way through. One did cut the skin
     of my right leg, although I didn't know this until I reached
     the hospital. Perhaps it was well that I did fall out of
     control, for the firing soon stopped, the Germans thinking,
     and with reason, that they had bagged me. Some proud Boche
     airman is wearing an iron cross on my account. Perhaps the
     whole crew of dare-devils has been decorated. However, no
     unseemly sarcasm. We would pounce on a lonely Hun just as
     quickly. There is no chivalry in war in these modern days.

     I pulled out of the spin, got the broom-stick between my
     knees, reached over, and shut down the motor with my right
     hand. The propeller stopped dead. I didn't much care, being
     very drowsy and tired. The worst of it was that I couldn't
     get my breath. I was gasping as though I had been hit in the
     pit of the stomach. Then I lost control again and started
     falling. It was awful! I was almost ready to give up. I
     believe that I said, out loud, "I'm going to be killed. This
     is my last sortie." At any rate, I thought it. Made one last
     effort and came out in _ligne de vol_, as nearly as I could
     judge, about one hundred and fifty metres from the ground.
     It was an ugly-looking place for landing, trenches and
     shell-holes everywhere. I was wondering in a vague way
     whether they were French or German, when I fell into the
     most restful sleep I've ever had in my life.

     I have no recollection of the crash, not the slightest. I
     might have fallen as gently as a leaf. That is one thing to
     be thankful for among a good many others. When I came to, it
     was at once, completely. I knew that I was on a stretcher
     and remembered immediately exactly what had happened. My
     heart was going pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, and I could hardly
     breathe, but I had no sensation of pain except in my chest.
     This made me think that I had broken every bone in my body.
     I tried moving first one leg, then the other, then my arms,
     my head, my body. No trouble at all, except with my left arm
     and side.

     I accepted the miracle without attempting to explain it, for
     I had something more important to wonder about: who had the
     handles of my stretcher? The first thing I did was to open
     my eyes, but I was bleeding from a scratch on the forehead
     and saw only a red blur. I wiped them dry with my sleeve and
     looked again. The broad back in front of me was covered with
     mud. Impossible to distinguish the color of the tunic. But
     the shrapnel helmet above it was--French! I was in French
     hands. If ever I live long enough in one place, so that I
     may gather a few possessions and make a home for myself, on
     one wall of my living-room I will have a bust-length
     portrait, rear view, of a French _brancardier_, mud-covered
     back and battered tin hat.

     Do you remember our walk with Ménault in the rain, and the
     _déjeuner_ at the restaurant where they made such wonderful
     omelettes? I am sure that you will recall the occasion,
     although you may have forgotten the conversation. I have not
     forgotten one remark of Ménault's apropos of talk about
     risks. If a man were willing, he said, to stake everything
     for it, he would accumulate an experience of fifteen or
     twenty minutes which would compensate him, a thousand times
     over, for all the hazard. "And if you live to be old," he
     said quaintly, "you can never be bored with life. You will
     have something, always, very pleasant to think about." I
     mention this in connection with my discovery that I was not
     in German hands. I have had five minutes of perfect
     happiness without any background--no thought of yesterday or
     to-morrow--to spoil it.

     I said, "Bonjour, messieurs," in a gurgling voice. The man
     in front turned his head sidewise and said,--

     "Tiens! Ça va, monsieur l'aviateur?"

     The other one said, "Ah, mon vieux!" You know the inflection
     they give this expression, particularly when it means, "This
     is something wonderful!" He added that they had seen the
     combat and my fall, and little expected to find the pilot
     living, to say nothing of speaking. I hoped that they would
     go on talking, but I was being carried along a trench; they
     had to lift me shoulder-high at every turn, and needed all
     their energy. The Germans were shelling the lines. Several
     fell fairly close, and they brought me down a long flight of
     wooden steps into a dugout to wait until the worst of it
     should be over. While waiting, they told me that I had
     fallen just within the first-line trenches, at a spot where
     a slight rise in ground hid me from sight of the enemy.
     Otherwise, they might have had a bad time rescuing me. My
     Spad was completely wrecked. It fell squarely into a trench,
     the wings breaking the force of the fall. Before reaching
     the ground, I turned, they said, and was making straight for
     Germany. Fifty metres higher, and I would have come down in
     No Man's Land.

     For a long time we listened in silence to the subdued
     _crr-ump_, _crr-ump_, of the shells. Sometimes showers of
     earth pattered down the stairway, and we would hear the
     high-pitched, droning _V-z-z-z_ of pieces of shell-casing as
     they whizzed over the opening. One of them would say, "Not
     far, that one"; or, "He's looking for some one, that
     fellow," in a voice without a hint of emotion. Then, long
     silences and other deep, earth-shaking rumbles.

     They asked me, several times, if I was suffering, and
     offered to go on to the _poste de secours_ if I wanted them
     to. It was not heavy bombardment, but it would be safer to
     wait for a little while. I told them that I was ready to go
     on at any time, but not to hurry on my account; I was quite
     comfortable.

     The light glimmering down the stairway faded out and we were
     in complete darkness. My brain was amazingly clear. It
     registered every trifling impression. I wish it might always
     be so intensely awake and active. There seemed to be four of
     us in the dugout; the two _brancardiers_, and this second
     self of mine, as curious as an eavesdropper at a keyhole,
     listening intently to everything, and then turning to
     whisper to me. The _brancardiers_ repeated the same comments
     after every explosion. I thought: "They have been saying
     this to each other for over three years. It has become
     automatic. They will never be able to stop." I was feverish,
     perhaps. If it was fever, it burned away any illusions I may
     have had of modern warfare from the infantryman's
     viewpoint. I know that there is no glamour in it for them;
     that it has long since become a deadly monotony, an endless
     repetition of the same kinds of horror and suffering, a
     boredom more terrible than death itself, which is repeating
     itself in the same ways, day after day and month after
     month. It isn't often that an aviator has the chance I've
     had. It would be a good thing if they were to send us into
     the trenches for twenty-four hours, every few months. It
     would make us keener fighters, more eager to do our utmost
     to bring the war to an end for the sake of those _poilus_.

     The dressing-station was in a very deep dugout, lighted by
     candles. At a table in the center of the room the medical
     officer was working over a man with a terribly crushed leg.
     Several others were sitting or lying along the wall,
     awaiting their turn. They watched every movement he made in
     an apprehensive, animal way, and so did I. They put me on
     the table next, although it was not my turn. I protested,
     but the doctor paid no attention. "Aviateur américain,"
     again. It's a pity that Frenchmen can't treat us Americans
     as though we belong here.

     As soon as the doctor had finished with me, my stretcher was
     fastened to a two-wheeled carrier and we started down a
     cobbled road to the ambulance station. I was light-headed
     and don't remember much of that part of the journey. Had to
     take refuge in another dugout when the Huns dropped a shell
     on an ammunition-dump in a village through which we were to
     pass. There was a deafening banging and booming for a long
     time, and when we did go through the town it was on the run.
     The whole place was in flames and small-arms ammunition
     still exploding. I remember seeing a long column of soldiers
     going at the double in the opposite direction, and they were
     in full marching order.

     Well, this is the end of the tale; all of it, at any rate,
     in which you would be interested. It was one o'clock in the
     morning before I got between cool, clean sheets, and I was
     wounded about a quarter past eight. I have been tired ever
     since.

     There is another aviator here, a Frenchman, who broke his
     jaw and both legs in a fall while returning from a night
     bombardment. His bed is across the aisle from mine; he has a
     formidable-looking apparatus fastened on his head and under
     his chin, to hold his jaw firm until the bones knit. He is
     forbidden to talk, but breaks the rule whenever the nurse
     leaves the ward. He speaks a little English and has told me
     a delightful story about the origin of aerial combat. A
     French pilot, a friend of his, he says, attached to a
     certain army group during August and September, 1914, often
     met a German aviator during his reconnaissance patrols. In
     those Arcadian days, fighting in the air was a development
     for the future, and these two pilots exchanged greetings,
     not cordially, perhaps, but courteously: a wave of the hand,
     as much as to say, "We are enemies, but we need not forget
     the civilities." Then they both went about their work of
     spotting batteries, watching for movements of troops, etc.
     One morning the German failed to return the salute. The
     Frenchman thought little of this, and greeted him in the
     customary manner at their next meeting. To his surprise, the
     Boche shook his fist at him in the most blustering and
     caddish way. There was no mistaking the insult. They had
     passed not fifty metres from each other, and the Frenchman
     distinctly saw the closed fist. He was saddened by the
     incident, for he had hoped that some of the ancient
     courtesies of war would survive in the aerial branch of the
     service, at least. It angered him too; therefore, on his
     next reconnaissance, he ignored the German. Evidently the
     Boche air-squadrons were being Prussianized. The enemy pilot
     approached very closely and threw a missile at him. He could
     not be sure what it was, as the object went wide of the
     mark; but he was so incensed that he made a _virage_, and
     drawing a small flask from his pocket, hurled it at his
     boorish antagonist. The flask contained some excellent port,
     he said, but he was repaid for the loss in seeing it crash
     on the exhaust-pipe of the enemy machine.

     This marked the end of courtesy and the beginning of active
     hostilities in the air. They were soon shooting at each
     other with rifles, automatic pistols, and at last with
     machine guns. Later developments we know about. The night
     bombarder has been telling me this yarn in serial form. When
     the nurse is present, he illustrates the last chapter by
     means of gestures. I am ready to believe everything but the
     incident about the port. That doesn't sound plausible. A
     Frenchman would have thrown his watch before making such a
     sacrifice!



                            VIII

                      ONE HUNDRED HOURS


A little more than a year after our first meeting in the Paris
restaurant which has so many pleasant memories for us, Drew completed
his first one hundred hours of flight over the lines, an event in the
life of an airman which calls for a celebration of some sort.
Therefore, having been granted leave for the afternoon, the two of us
came into the old French town of Bar-le-Duc, by the toy train which
wanders down from the Verdun sector. We had dinner in one of those
homelike little places where the food is served by the proprietor
himself. On this occasion it was served hurriedly, and the bill
presented promptly at eight o'clock. Our host was very sorry, but "les
sales Boches, vous savez, messieurs?" They had come the night before:
a dozen houses destroyed, women and children killed and maimed. With a
full moon to guide them, they would be sure to return to-night. "Ah,
cette guerre! Quand sera-t-elle finie?" He offered us a refuge until
our train should leave. Usually, he said, he played solitaire while
waiting for the Germans, but with houses tumbling about one's ears, he
much preferred company. "And my wife and I are old people. She is very
deaf, heureusement. She hears nothing."

J. B. declined the invitation. "A brave way that would be to finish
our evening!" he said as we walked down the silent street. "I wanted
to say, 'Monsieur, I have just finished my first one hundred hours of
flight at the front.' But he wouldn't have known what that means."

I said, "No, he wouldn't have known." Then we had no further talk for
about two hours. A few soldiers, late arrivals, were prowling about in
the shadow of the houses, searching for food and a warm kitchen where
they might eat it. Some insistent ones pounded on the door of a
restaurant far in the distance.

"Dites donc, patron! Nous avons faim, nom de Dieu! Est-ce-que tout le
monde est mort ici?"

        "Only a host of phantom listeners,
    That dwelt in the lone house then,
    Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
    To that voice from the world of men."

It was that kind of silence, profound, tense, ghostlike. We walked
through street after street, from one end of the town to the other,
and saw only one light, a faint glimmer which came from a slit of a
cellar window almost on the level of the pavement. We were curious, no
doubt. At any rate, we looked in. A woman was sitting on a cot bed
with her arms around two little children. They were snuggled up
against her and both fast asleep; but she was sitting very erect, in a
strained, listening attitude, staring straight before her. Since that
night we have believed, both of us, that if wars can be won only by
haphazard night bombardments of towns where there are women and
children, then they had far better be lost.

But I am writing a journal of high adventure of a cleaner kind, in
which all the resources in skill and cleverness of one set of men are
pitted against those of another set. We have no bomb-dropping to do,
and there are but few women and children living in the territory over
which we fly. One hundred hours is not a great while as time is
measured on the ground, but in terms of combat patrols, the one
hundredth part of it has held more of an adventure in the true
meaning of the word than we have had during the whole of our lives
previously.

At first we were far too busy learning the rudiments of combat to keep
an accurate record of flying time. We thought our aeroplane clocks
convenient pieces of equipment rather than necessary ones. I remember
coming down from my first air battle and the breathless account I gave
of it at the bureau, breathless and vague. Lieutenant Talbott listened
quietly, making out the _compte rendu_ as I talked. When I had
finished, he emphasized the haziness of my answers to his questions by
quoting them: "Region: 'You know, that big wood!' Time: 'This morning,
of course!' Rounds fired: 'Oh, a lot!'" etc.

Not until we had been flying for a month or more did we learn how to
make the right use of our clocks and of our eyes while in the air. We
listened with amazement to after-patrol talk at the mess. We learned
more of what actually happened on our sorties, after they were over
than while they were in progress. All of the older pilots missed
seeing nothing which there was to see. They reported the numbers of
the enemy planes encountered, the types, where seen and when. They
spotted batteries, trains in stations back of the enemy lines, gave
the hour precisely, reported any activity on the roads. In moments of
exasperation Drew would say, "I think they are stringing us! This is
all a put-up job!" Certainly this did appear to be the case at first.
For we were air-blind. We saw little of the activity all around us,
and details on the ground had no significance. How were we to take
thought of time and place and altitude, note the peculiarities of
enemy machines, count their numbers, and store all this information
away in memory at the moment of combat? This was a great problem.

"What I need," J. B. used to say, "is a traveling private secretary.
I'll do the fighting and he can keep the diary."

I needed one, too, a man air-wise and battle-wise, who could calmly
take note of my clock, altimeter, temperature and pressure dials,
identify exactly the locality on my map, count the numbers of the
enemy, estimate their approximate altitude,--all this when the air
was criss-crossed with streamers of smoke from machine-gun tracer
bullets, and opposing aircraft were maneuvering for position, diving
and firing at each other, spiraling, nose-spinning, wing-slipping,
climbing, in a confusing intermingling of tricolor cocards and black
crosses.

We made gradual progress, the result being that our patrols became a
hundred-fold more fascinating, sometimes, in fact, too much so. It was
important that we should be able to read the ground, but more
important still to remember that what was happening there was only of
secondary concern to us. Often we became absorbed in watching what was
taking place below us, to the exclusion of any thought of aerial
activity, our chances for attack or of being attacked. The view, from
the air, of a heavy bombardment, or of an infantry attack under cover
of barrage fires, is a truly terrible spectacle, and in the air one
has a feeling of detachment which is not easily overcome.

Yet it must be overcome, as I have said, and cannot say too many times
for the benefit of any young airman who may read this journal. During
an offensive the air swarms with planes. They are at all altitudes,
from the lowest artillery _réglage_ machines at a few hundreds of
metres, to the highest _avions de chasse_ at six thousand meters and
above. _Réglage_, photographic, and reconnaissance planes have their
particular work to do. They defend themselves as best they can, but
almost never attack. Combat _avions_, on the other hand; are always
looking for victims. They are the ones chiefly dangerous to the unwary
pursuit pilot.

Drew's first official victory came as the result of a one-sided battle
with an Albatross single-seater, whose pilot evidently did not know
there was an enemy within miles of him. No more did J. B. for that
matter. "It was pure accident," he told me afterward. He had gone from
Rheims to the Argonne forest without meeting a single German. "And I
didn't want to meet one; for it was Thanksgiving Day. It has
associations for me, you know. I'm a New Englander." It is not
possible to convince him that it has any real significance for men who
were not born on the North Atlantic seaboard. Well, all the way he
had been humming

    "Over the river and through the wood
    To grandfather's house we go,"

to himself. It is easy to understand why he didn't want to meet a
German. He must have been in a curiously mixed frame of mind. He
covered the sector again and passed over Rheims, going northeast. Then
he saw the Albatross; "and if you had been standing on one of the
towers of the cathedral you would have seen a very unequal battle."
The German was about two kilometres inside his own lines, and at least
a thousand metres below. Drew had every advantage.

"He didn't see me until I opened fire, and then, as it happened, it
was too late. My gun didn't jam!"

The German started falling out of control, Drew following him down
until he lost sight of him in making a _virage_.

I leaned against the canvas wall of a hangar, registering incredulity.
Three times out of seven, to make a conservative estimate, we fight
inconclusive battles because of faulty machine guns or defective
ammunition. The ammunition, most of it that is bad, comes from
America.

While Drew was giving me the details, an orderly from the bureau
brought word that an enemy machine had just been reported shot down on
our sector. It was Drew's Albatross, but he nearly lost official
credit for having destroyed it, because he did not know exactly the
hour when the combat occurred. His watch was broken and he had
neglected asking for another before starting. He judged the time of
the attack, approximately, as two-thirty, and the infantry observers,
reporting the result, gave it as twenty minutes to three. The region
in both cases coincided exactly, however, and, fortunately, Drew's was
the only combat which had taken place in that vicinity during the
afternoon.

For an hour after his return he was very happy. He had won his first
victory, always the hardest to gain, and had been complimented by the
commandant, by Lieutenant Nungesser, the _Roi des Aces_, and by other
French and American pilots. There is no petty jealousy among airmen,
and in our group the _esprit de corps_ is unusually fine. Rivalry is
keen, but each squadron takes almost as much pride in the work of the
other squadrons as it does in its own.

The details of the result were horrible. The Albatross broke up two
thousand metres from the ground, one wing falling within the French
lines. Drew knew what it meant to be wounded and falling out of
control. But his Spad held together. He had a chance for his life.
Supposing the German to have been merely wounded--An airman's joy in
victory is a short-lived one.

Nevertheless, a curious change takes place in his attitude toward his
work, as the months pass. I can best describe it in terms of Drew's
experience and my own. We came to the front feeling deeply sorry for
ourselves, and for all airmen of whatever nationality, whose lives
were to be snuffed out in their promising beginnings. I used to play
"The Minstrel Boy to the War Has Gone" on a tin flute, and Drew wrote
poetry. While we were waiting for our first machine, he composed "The
Airman's Rendezvous," written in the manner of Alan Seeger's poem.

    "And I in the wide fields of air
    Must keep with him my rendezvous.
    It may be I shall meet him there
    When clouds, like sheep, move slowly through
    The pathless meadows of the sky
    And their cool shadows go beneath,--
    I have a rendezvous with Death
    Some summer noon of white and blue."

There is more of it, in the same manner, all of which he read me in a
husky voice. I, too, was ready to weep at our untimely fate. The
strange thing is that his prophecy came so very near being true. He
had the first draft of the poem in his breast-pocket when wounded, and
has kept the gory relic to remind him--not that he needs reminding--of
the airy manner in which he canceled what ought to have been a
_bona-fide_ appointment.

I do not mean to reflect in any way upon Alan Seeger's beautiful poem.
Who can doubt that it is a sincere, as well as a perfect, expression
of a mood common to all young soldiers? Drew was just as sincere in
writing his verses, and I put all the feeling I could into my
tin-whistle interpretation of "The Minstrel Boy." What I want to make
clear is, that a soldier's moods of self-pity are fleeting ones, and
if he lives, he outgrows them.

Imagination is an especial curse to an airman, particularly if it
takes a gloomy or morbid turn. We used to write "To whom it may
concern" letters before going out on patrol, in which we left
directions for the notification of our relatives and the disposal of
our personal effects in case of death. Then we would climb into our
machines thinking, "This may be our last sortie. We may be dead in an
hour, in half an hour, in twenty minutes." We planned splendidly
spectacular ways in which we were to be brought down, always omitting
one, however, the most horrible as well as the most common,--in
flames. Thank Fortune, we have outgrown this second and belated period
of adolescence and can now take a healthy interest in our work.

Now, an inevitable part of the daily routine is to be shelled,
persistently, methodically, and often accurately shelled. Our interest
in this may, I suppose, be called healthy, inasmuch as it would be
decidedly unhealthy to become indifferent to the activities of the
German anti-aircraft gunners. It would be far-fetched to say that any
airman ever looks forward zestfully to the business of being shot at
with one hundred and fives; and seventy-fives, if they are well
placed, are unpleasant enough. After one hundred hours of it, we have
learned to assume that attitude of contemptuous toleration which is
the manner common to all _pilotes de chasse_. We know that the chances
of a direct hit are almost negligible, and that we have all the blue
dome of the heavens in which to maneuver.

Furthermore, we have learned many little tricks by means of which we
can keep the gunners guessing. By way of illustration, we are
patrolling, let us say, at thirty-five hundred metres, crossing and
recrossing the lines, following the patrol leader, who has his motor
throttled down so that we may keep well in formation. The guns may be
silent for the moment, but we know well enough what the gunners are
doing. We know exactly where some of the batteries are, and the
approximate location of all of them along the sector; and we know,
from earlier experience, when we come within range of each individual
battery. Presently one of them begins firing in bursts of four shells.
If their first estimate of our range has been an accurate one, if they
place them uncomfortably close, so that we can hear, all too well,
above the roar of our motors, the rending _Gr-r-rOW_, _Gr-r-rOW_, of
the shells as they explode, we sail calmly--to all outward
appearances--on, maneuvering very little. The gunners, seeing that we
are not disturbed, will alter their ranges, four times out of five,
which is exactly what we want them to do.

The next bursts will be hundreds of metres below or above us,
whereupon we show signs of great uneasiness, and the gunners, thinking
they have our altitude, begin to fire like demons. We employ our
well-earned immunity in preparing for the next series of batteries, or
in thinking of the cost to Germany, at one hundred francs a shot, of
all this futile shelling. Drew, in particular, loves this
cost-accounting business, and I must admit that much pleasure may be
had in it, after patrol. They rarely fire less than fifty shells at
us during a two-hour patrol. Making a low general average, the number
is nearer one hundred and fifty. On our present front, where aerial
activity is fairly brisk and the sector is a large one, three or four
hundred shells are wasted upon us often before we have been out an
hour.

We have memories of all the good batteries from Flanders to the Vosges
Mountains. Battery after battery, we make their acquaintance along the
entire sector, wherever we go. Many of them, of course, are mobile, so
that we never lose the sport of searching for them. Only a few days
ago we located one of this kind which came into action in the open by
the side of a road. First we saw the flashes and then the shell-bursts
in the same cadence. We tipped up and fired at him in bursts of twenty
to thirty rounds, which is the only way airmen have of passing the
time of day with their friends, the enemy anti-aircraft gunners, who
ignore the art of _camouflage_.

But we can converse with them, after a fashion, even though we do not
know their exact position. It will be long before this chapter of my
journal is in print. Having given no indication of the date of
writing, I may say, without indiscretion, that we are again on the
Champagne front. We have a wholesome respect for one battery here, a
respect it has justly earned by shooting which is really remarkable.
We talk of this battery, which is east of Rheims and not far distant
from Nogent l'Abbesse, and take professional pride in keeping its
gunners in ignorance of their fine marksmanship. We signal them their
bad shots--which are better than the good ones of most of the
batteries on the sector--by doing stunts, a barrel turn, a loop, two
or three turns of a _vrille_.

As for their good shots, they are often so very good that we are
forced into acrobacy of a wholly individual kind. Our _avions_ have
received many scars from their shells. Between forty-five hundred and
five thousand metres, their bursts have been so close under us that we
have been lifted by the concussions and set down violently again at
the bottom of the vacuum; and this on a clear day when a _chasse_
machine is almost invisible at that height, and despite its speed of
two hundred kilometres an hour. On a gray day, when we are flying
between twenty-five hundred and three thousand metres beneath a film
of cloud, they repay the honor we do them by our acrobatic turns. They
bracket us, put barrages between us and our own lines, give us more
trouble than all the other batteries on the sector combined.

For this reason it is all the more humiliating to be forced to land
with motor trouble, just at the moment when they are paying off some
old scores. This happened to Drew while I have been writing up my
journal. Coming out of a tonneau in answer to three _coups_ from the
battery, his propeller stopped dead. By planing flatly (the wind was
dead ahead, and the area back of the first lines there is a wide one,
crossed by many intersecting lines of trenches) he got well over them
and chose a field as level as a billiard table for landing-ground. In
the very center of it, however, there was one post, a small worm-eaten
thing, of the color of the dead grass around it. He hit it, just as he
was setting his Spad on the ground, the only post in a field acres
wide, and it tore a piece of fabric from one of his lower wings. No
doubt the crack battery has been given credit for disabling an enemy
plane. The honor, such as it is, belongs to our aerial godfather,
among whose lesser vices may be included that of practical joking.

The remnants of the post were immediately confiscated for firewood by
some _poilus_ who were living in a dugout near by.



                             IX

                     "LONELY AS A CLOUD"


The French attack which has been in preparation for the past month is
to begin at dawn to-morrow. It has been hard, waiting, but it must
have been a great deal worse for the infantrymen who are billeted in
all of the surrounding villages. They are moving up to-night to the
first lines, for these are the shock troops who are to lead the
attack. They are chiefly regiments of Chasseurs--small men in stature,
but clean, hard, well-knit--splendid types. They talk of the attack
confidently. It is an inspiration to listen to them. Hundreds of them
have visited our aerodrome during the past week, mainly, I think, for
a glimpse of Whiskey and Soda, our lions, who are known to French
soldiers from one end of the line to the other. Whiskey is almost
full-grown, and Soda about the size of a wild cat. They have the
freedom of the camp and run about everywhere.

The guns are thundering at a terrific rate, the concussions shaking
our barracks and rattling the dishes on the table. In the messroom the
gramophone is playing, "I'm going 'way back home and have a wonderful
time." Music at the front is sometimes a doubtful blessing.

We are keyed up, some of us, rather nervous in anticipation of
to-morrow. Porter is trying to give Irving a light from his own
cigarette. Irving, who doesn't know the meaning of nerves, asks him
who in hell he is waving at. Poor old Porter! His usefulness as a
combat pilot has long past, but he hangs on, doing the best he can. He
should have been sent to the rear months ago.

The first phase of the battle is over. The French have taken eleven
thousand prisoners, and have driven the enemy from all the hills down
to the low ground along the canal. For the most part, we have been too
high above them to see the infantry actions; but knowing the plans and
the objectives beforehand, we have been able to follow, quite closely,
the progress of the battle.

It opened on a wet morning with the clouds very low. We were to have
gone on patrol immediately the attack commenced, but this was
impossible. About nine o'clock the rain stopped, and Rodman and Davis
were sent out to learn weather conditions over the lines. They came
back with the report that flying was possible at two hundred metres.
This was too low an altitude to serve any useful purpose, and the
commandant gave us orders to stand by.

About noon the clouds began to break up, and both high and low patrols
prepared to leave the ground. Drew, Dunham, and I were on high patrol,
with Lieutenant Barry leading. Our orders were to go up through the
clouds, using them as cover for making surprise attacks upon enemy
_réglage_ machines. We were also to attack any enemy formations
sighted within three kilometres of their old first lines. The clouds
soon disappeared and so we climbed to forty-five hundred metres and
lay in wait for combat patrols.

Barry sighted one and signaled. Before I had placed it, he dived,
almost full motor, I believe, for he dropped like a stone. We went
down on his tail and saw him attack the topmost of three Albatross
single-seaters. The other two dived at once, far into their own lines.
Dunham, Drew, and I took long shots at them, but they were far outside
effective range. The topmost German made a feeble effort to maneuver
for position. Barry made a _renversement_ with the utmost nicety of
judgment and came out of it about thirty metres behind and above the
Albatross. He fired about twenty shots, when the German began falling
out of control, spinning round and round, then diving straight, then
past the vertical, so that we could see the silver under-surface of
his wings and tail, spinning again until we lost sight of him.[1]

    [Footnote 1: This combat was seen from the ground, and
    Barry's victory was confirmed before we returned to the
    field.]

Lieutenant Talbott joined us as we were taking our height again. He
took command of the patrol and Barry went off hunting by himself, as
he likes best to do. There were planes everywhere, of both
nationalities. Mounting to four thousand metres within our own lines,
we crossed over again, and at that moment I saw a Letord, a
three-passenger _réglage_ machine, burst into flames and fall. There
was no time either to watch or to think of this horrible sight. We
encountered a patrol of five Albatross planes almost on our level.
Talbott dived at once. I was behind him and picked a German who was
spiraling either upward or downward, for a few seconds I was not sure
which. It was upward. He was climbing to offer combat. This was
disconcerting. It always is to a green pilot. If your foe is running,
you may be sure he is at least as badly rattled as you are. If he is a
single-seater and climbing, you may be equally certain that he is not
a novice, and that he has plenty of sand. Otherwise he would not
accept battle at a disadvantage in the hope of having his inning next.

I was foolish enough to begin firing while still about three hundred
metres distant. My opponent ungraciously offered the poorest kind of a
target, getting out of the range of my sights by some very skillful
maneuvering. I didn't want him to think that he had an inexperienced
pilot to deal with. Therefore, judging my distance very carefully, I
did a _renversement_ in the Lieutenant Barry fashion. But it was not
so well done. Instead of coming out of it above and behind the
German, when I pulled up in _ligne de vol_ I was under him!

I don't know exactly what happened then, but the next moment I was
falling in a _vrille_ (spinning nose dive) and heard the well-known
crackling sound of machine-gun fire. I kept on falling in a _vrille_,
thinking this would give the German the poorest possible target.[2]

    [Footnote 2: A mistake which many new pilots make. In a
    _vrille_, the machine spins pretty nearly on its own axis,
    and although it is turning, a skillful pilot above it can
    keep it fairly well within the line of his sights.]

Pulling up in _ligne de vol_ I looked over my shoulder again. The
German had lost sight of me for a moment in the swiftness of his dive,
but evidently he saw me just before I pulled out of the _vrille_. He
was turning up for another shot, in exactly the same position in which
I had last seen him. And he was very close, not more than fifty metres
distant.

I believed, of course, that I was lost; and why that German didn't bag
me remains a mystery. Heaven knows I gave him opportunity enough! In
the end, by the merciful intervention of Chance, our godfather, I
escaped. I have said that the sky had cleared. But there was one
strand of cloud left, not very broad, not very long; but a
refuge,--oh! what a welcome refuge! It was right in my path and I
tumbled into it, literally, head over heels. I came skidding out, but
pulled up, put on my motor, and climbed back at once; and I kept
turning round and round in it for several minutes. If the German had
waited, he must have seen me raveling it out like a cat tangled in a
ball of cotton. I thought that he was waiting. I even expected him to
come nosing into it, in search of me. In that case there would have
been a glorious smash, for there wasn't room for two of us. I almost
hoped that he would try this. If I couldn't bag a German with my gun,
the next best thing was to run into him and so be gathered to my
fathers while he was being gathered to his. There was no crash, and
taking sudden resolution, I dived vertically out of the cloud, head
over shoulder, expecting to see my relentless foe. He was nowhere in
sight.

In that wild tumble, and while chasing my tail in the cloud, I lost my
bearings. The compass, which was mounted on a swinging holder, had
been tilted upside down. It stuck in that position. I could not get
it loose. I had fallen to six hundred metres, so that I could not get
a large view of the landscape. Under the continuous bombardment the
air was filled with smoke, and through it nothing looked familiar. I
knew the direction of our lines by the position of the sun, but I was
in a suspicious mood. My motor, which I had praised to the heavens to
the other pilots, had let me down at a critical moment. The sun might
be ready to play some fantastic trick. I had to steer by it, although
I was uneasy until I came within sight of our observation balloons. I
identified them as French by sailing close to one of them so that I
could see the tricolor pennant floating out from a cord on the bag.

Then, being safe, I put my old Spad through every antic we two had
ever done together. The observers in the balloons must have thought me
crazy, a pilot running amuck from aerial shell shock. I had discovered
a new meaning for that "grand and glorious feeling" which is so often
the subject of Briggs's cartoons.

Looking at my watch I received the same old start of surprise upon
learning how much of wisdom one may accumulate in a half-hour of
aerial adventure. I had still an hour and a half to get through with
before I could go home with a clear conscience. Therefore, taking
height again, I went cautiously, gingerly, watchfully, toward the
lines.



                              X

                   "MAIS OUI, MON VIEUX!"


The "grand and glorious feeling" is one of the finest compensations
for this uncertain life in the air. One has it every time he turns
from the lines toward--home! It comes in richer glow, if hazardous
work has been done, after moments of strain, uncertainty, when the
result of a combat sways back and forth; and it gushes up like a
fountain, when, after making a forced landing in what appears to be
enemy territory, you find yourself among friends.

Late this afternoon we started, four of us, with Davis as leader, to
make the usual two-hour sortie over the lines. No Germans were
sighted, and after an uneventful half-hour, Davis, who is always
springing these surprises, decided to stalk them in their lairs. The
clouds were at the right altitude for this, and there were gaps in
them over which we could hover, examining roads, railroads, villages,
cantonments. The danger of attack was negligible. We could easily
escape any large hostile patrol by dodging into the clouds. But the
wind was unfavorable for such a reconnaissance. It was blowing into
Germany. We would have it dead against us on the journey home.

We played about for a half-hour, blown by a strong wind farther into
Germany than we knew. We walked down the main street of a village
where we saw a large crowd of German soldiers, spraying bullets among
them, then climbed into the clouds before a shot could be fired at us.
Later we nearly attacked a hospital, mistaking it for an aviation
field. It was housed in _bessonneau_ hangars, and had none of the
marks of a hospital excepting a large red cross in the middle of the
field. Fortunately we saw this before any of us had fired, and passed
on over it at a low altitude to attack a train. There is a good deal
of excitement in an expedition of this kind, and soldiers themselves
say that surprise sorties from the air have a demoralizing effect upon
troops. But as a form of sport, there is little to be said for it. It
is too unfair. For this reason, among others, I was glad when Davis
turned homeward.

While coming back I climbed to five thousand metres, far above the
others, and lagged a long way behind them. This was a direct violation
of patrol discipline, and the result was, that while cruising
leisurely along, with motor throttled down, watching the swift changes
of light over a wide expanse of cloud, I lost sight of the group. Then
came the inevitable feeling of loneliness, and the swift realization
that it was growing late and that I was still far within enemy
country.

I held a southerly course, estimating, as I flew, the velocity of the
wind which had carried us into Germany, and judging from this estimate
the length of time I should need to reach our lines. When satisfied
that I had gone far enough, I started down. Below the clouds it was
almost night, so dark that I could not be sure of my location. In the
distance I saw a large building, brilliantly lighted. This was
evidence enough that I was a good way from the lines. Unshielded
windows were never to be seen near the front. I spiraled slowly down
over this building, examining, as well as I could, the ground behind
it, and decided to risk a landing. A blind chance and blind luck
attended it. In broad day, Drew hit the only post in a field five
hundred metres wide. At night, a very dark night, I missed colliding
with an enormous factory chimney (a matter of inches), glided over a
line of telegraph wires, passed at a few metres' height over a field
littered with huge piles of sugar beets, and settled, _comme une
fleur_, in a little cleared space which I could never have judged
accurately had I known what I was doing.

Shadowy figures came running toward me. Forgetting, in the joy of so
fortunate a landing, my anxiety of a moment before, I shouted out,
"Bonsoir, messieurs!" Then I heard some one say, "Ich glaube--" losing
the rest of it in the sound of tramping feet and an undercurrent of
low, guttural murmurs. In a moment my Spad was surrounded by a
widening circle of round hats, German infantrymen's hats.

Here was the ignoble end to my career as an airman. I was a prisoner,
a prisoner because of my own folly, because I had dallied along like a
silly girl, to "look at the pretty clouds." I saw in front of me a
long captivity embittered by this thought. Not only this: my Spad was
intact. The German authorities would examine it, use it. Some German
pilot might fly with it over the lines, attack other French machines
with my gun, my ammunition!

Not if I could help it! They stood there, those soldiers, gaping,
muttering among themselves, waiting, I thought, for an officer to tell
them what to do. I took off my leather gloves, then my silk ones under
them, and these I washed about in the oil under my feet. Then, as
quietly as possible, I reached for my box of matches.

"Qu'est-ce-que vous faites là? Allez! Vite!"

A tramping of feet again, and a sea of round hats bobbing up and down
and vanishing in the gloom. Then I heard a cheery "Ça va, monsieur?
Pas de mal?" By way of answer I lighted a match and held it out, torch
fashion. The light glistened on a round, red face and a long French
bayonet. Finally I said, "Vous êtes Français, monsieur?" in a weak,
watery voice.

"Mais oui, mon vieux! Mais oui!" this rather testily. He didn't
understand at first that I thought myself in Germany. "Do I look like
a Boche?"

Then I explained, and I have never heard a Frenchman laugh more
heartily. Then he explained and I laughed, not so heartily, a great
deal more foolishly.

I may not give my location precisely. But I shall be disclosing no
military secrets in saying that I am not in Germany. I am not even in
the French war-zone. I am closer to Paris than I am to the enemy
first-line trenches. In a little while the sergeant with the round red
face and the long French bayonet, whose guest I am for the night, will
join me here. If he were an American, to the manner born and bred, and
if he knew the cartoons of that man Briggs, he might greet me in this
fashion:--

"When you have been on patrol a long way behind the enemy lines,
shooting up towns and camps and railway trains like a pack of aerial
cowboys; when, on your way home, you have deliberately disobeyed
orders and loafed a long way behind the other members of your group in
order to watch the pretty sunset, and, as a punishment for this
æsthetic indulgence, have been overtaken by darkness and compelled to
land in strange country, only to have your machine immediately
surrounded by German soldiers; then, having taken the desperate
resolve that they shall not have possession of your old battle-scarred
_avion_ as well as of your person, when you are about to touch a match
to it, if the light glistens on a long French bayonet and you learn
that the German soldiers have been prisoners since the battle of the
Somme, and have just finished their day's work at harvesting beets to
be used in making sugar for French _poilus_--Oh, BOY! Ain't it a GRAND
AND GLORYUS FEELING?"

To which I would reply in his own memorable words,--

"Mais oui, mon vieux! Mais OUI!"



                             XI

                    THE CAMOUFLAGED COWS


Nancy, a moonlight night, and "les sales Boches encore." I have been
out on the balcony of this old hotel, a famous tourist resort before
the war, watching the bombardment and listening to the deep throb of
the motors of German Gothas. They have dropped their bombs without
doing any serious damage. Therefore, I may return in peace to my huge
bare room, to write, while it is still fresh in mind, "The Adventure
of the Camouflaged Cows."

For the past ten days I have been attached--it is only a temporary
transfer--to a French _escadrille_ of which Manning, an American, is a
member. The _escadrille_ had just been sent to a quiet part of the
front for two weeks' _repos_, but the day after my arrival orders came
to fly to Belfort, for special duty.

Belfort! On the other side of the Vosges Mountains, with the Rhine
Valley, the Alps, within view, within easy flying distance! And for
special duty. It is a vague order which may mean anything. We
discussed its probable meaning for us, while we were pricking out our
course on our maps.

"Protection of bombardment _avions_" was André's guess. "Night combat"
was Raynaud's. Every one laughed at this last hazard. "You see?" he
said, appealing to me, the newcomer. "They think I am big fool. But
wait." Then, breaking into French, in order to express himself more
fluently: "It is coming soon, _chasse de nuit_. It is not at all
impossible. One can see at night, a moonlight night, very clearly from
the air. They are black shadows, the other _avions_ which you pass,
but often, when the moonlight strikes their wings, they flash like
silver. We must have searchlights, of course; then, when one sees
those shadows, those great black Gothas, _vite! la lumière!_
Pop-pop-pop-pop-pop! C'est fini!"

The discussion of the possibility or impossibility of night combat
continued warmly. The majority of opinion was unfavorable to it: a
useless waste of gasoline; the results would not pay for the wear and
tear upon valuable fighting planes. Raynaud was not to be persuaded.
"Wait and see," he said. There was a reminiscent thrill in his voice,
for he is an old night bombarding pilot. He remembered with longing, I
think, his romantic night voyages, the moonlight falling softly on the
roofs of towns, the rivers like ribbons of silver, the forests patches
of black shadow. "Really, it is an adventure, a night bombardment."

"But how about your objectives?" I asked. "At night you can never be
sure of hitting them, and, well, you know what happens in French
towns."

"It is why I asked for my transfer to _chasse_," he told me afterward.
"But the Germans, the blond beasts! Do they care? Nancy, Belfort,
Châlons, Epernay, Rheims, Soissons, Paris,--all our beautiful towns! I
am a fool! We must pay them back, the Huns! Let the innocent suffer
with the guilty!"

He became a combat pilot because he had not the courage of his
conviction.

We started in flights of five machines, following the Marne and the
Marne Canal to Bar-le-Duc, then across country to Toul, where we
landed to fill our fuel tanks. Having bestowed many favors upon me for
a remarkably long period, our aerial godfather decided that I had been
taking my good fortune too much for granted. Therefore, he broke my
tail skid for me as I was making what I thought a beautiful
_atterrissage_. It was late in the afternoon, so the others went on
without me, the captain giving orders that I should join them, weather
permitting, the next day.

"Follow the Moselle until you lose it in the mountains. Then pick up
the road which leads over the Ballon d'Alsace. You can't miss it."

I did, nevertheless, and as always, when lost, through my own fault. I
followed the Moselle easily enough until it disappeared in small
branching streams in the heart of the mountains. Then, being certain
of my direction, I followed an irregular course, looking down from a
great height upon scores of little mountain villages, untouched by
war. After weeks of flying over the desolation of more northerly
sectors of the front, this little indulgence seemed to me quite a
legitimate one.

But my Spad (I was always flying tired old _avions_ in those days, the
discards of older pilots) began to show signs of fatigue. The pressure
went down. Neither motor nor hand pump would function, the engine
began to gasp, and, although I instantly switched on to my reserve
tank, it expired with shuddering coughs. The propeller, after making a
few spins in the reverse direction, stopped dead.

I had been in a most comfortable frame of mind all the way, for a long
cross-country aerial journey, well behind the zone of fire, is a
welcome relaxation after combat patrols. It is odd how quickly one's
attitude toward rugged, beautiful country changes, when one is faced
with the necessity of finding landing-ground there. The steep ravines
yawn like mouths. The peaks of the mountains are teeth--ragged,
sinister-looking teeth. Being at five thousand metres I had ample time
in which to make a choice--ample time, too, for wondering if, by a
miscalculation, I had crossed the trench lines, which in that region
are hardly visible from the air.

I searched anxiously for a wide valley where it would be possible to
land in safety. While still three thousand metres from the ground I
found one. Not only a field. There were _bessonneau_ hangars on it. An
aerodrome! A moment of joy,--"but German, perhaps!"--followed by
another of anxiety. It was quickly relieved by the sight of a French
reconnaissance plane spiraling down for a landing. I landed, too, and
found that I was only a ten-minutes' flight from my destination.

       *       *       *       *       *

With other work to do, I did not finish the story of my adventure with
the camouflaged cows, and I am wondering now why I thought it such a
corking one. The cows had something to do with it. We were returning
from Belfort to Verdun when I met them. Our special duty had been to
furnish aerial protection to the King of Italy, who was visiting the
French lines in the Vosges. This done we started northward again. Over
the highest of the mountains my motor pump failed as before. I got
well past the mountains before the essence in my reserve tank gave
out. Then I planed as flatly as possible, searching for another
aviation field. There were none to be found in this region, rough,
hilly country, much of it covered with forests. I chose a miniature
sugar-loaf mountain for landing-ground. It appeared to be free from
obstacles, and the summit, which was pasture and ploughed land, seemed
wide enough to settle on.

I got the direction of the wind from the smoke blowing from the
chimneys of a near-by village, and turned into it. As I approached,
the hill loomed more and more steeply in front of me. I had to pull up
at a climbing angle to keep from nosing into the side of it. About
this time I saw the cows, dozens of them, grazing over the whole
place. Their natural _camouflage_ of browns and whites and reds
prevented my seeing them earlier. Making spectacular _virages_, I
missed collisions by the length of a match-stick. At the summit of the
hill, my wheels touched ground for the first time, and I bounded on,
going through a three-strand wire fence and taking off a post without
any appreciable decrease in speed. Passing between two large apple
trees, I took limbs from each of them, losing my wings in doing so. My
landing chassis was intact and my Spad went on down the reverse
slope--

    "Like an embodied joy, whose race is just begun."

After crashing through a thicket of brush and small trees, I came to
rest, both in body and in mind, against a stone wall. There was
nothing left of my machine but the seat. Unscathed, I looked back
along the wreckage-strewn path, like a man who has been riding a
whirlwind in a wicker chair.

Now, I have never yet made a forced landing in strange country without
having the mayor of the nearest village appear on the scene very soon
afterward. I am beginning to believe that the mayors of all French
towns sit on the roofs of their houses, field-glasses in hand,
searching the sky for wayward aviators, and when they see one landing,
they rush to the spot on foot, on horseback, in old-fashioned family
phaetons, by means of whatever conveyance most likely to increase
expedition their municipality affords.

The mayor of V.-sur-I. came on foot, for he had not far to go. Indeed,
had there been one more cow browsing between the apple trees, I
should have made a last _virage_ to the left, in which case I should
have piled up against a summer pavilion in the mayor's garden. Like
all French mayors of my experience, he was a courteous, big-hearted
gentleman.

After getting his breath,--he was a fleshy man, and had run all the
way from his house,--he said, "Now, my boy, what can I do for you?"

First he placed a guard around the wreckage of my machine; then we had
tea in the summer pavilion, where I explained the reason for my sudden
visit. While I was telling him the story, I noticed that every window
of the house, which stood at one end of the garden, was crowded with
children's heads. War orphans, I guessed. Either that or the children
of a large family of sons at the front. He was the kind of man who
would take them all into his own home.

Having frightened his cows,--they must have given cottage cheese for a
week afterward,--destroyed his fences, broken his apple trees,
accepted his hospitality, I had the amazing nerve to borrow money from
him. I had no choice in the matter, for I was a long way from Verdun,
with only eighty centimes in my pocket. Had there been time I would
have walked rather than ask him for the loan. He granted it gladly,
and insisted upon giving me double the amount which I required.

I promised to go back some day for a visit. First I will do acrobacy
over the church steeple, and then, if the cows are not in the pasture,
I am going to land, _comme une fleur_, as we airmen say, on that
hill.



                             XII

                           CAFARD


It is mid-January, snowing, blowing, the thermometer below zero. We
have done no flying for five days. We have read our most recent
magazines from cover to cover, including the advertisements, many of
which we find more interesting, better written, than the stories. We
have played our latest phonograph record for the five hundred and
ninety-eighth time. Now we are hugging our one stove, which is no
larger than a length of good American stove-pipe, in the absurd hope
of getting a fleeting promise of heat.

Boredom, insufferable boredom. There is no American expression--there
will be soon, no doubt--for this disease which claims so many victims
from the Channel coast to the borders of Switzerland. The British have
it without giving it a name. They say "Fed up and far from home." The
more inventive French call it "Cafard."

Our outlook upon life is warped, or, to use a more seasonable
expression, frozen. We are not ourselves. We make sarcastic remarks
about one another. We hold up for ridicule individual peculiarities of
individuality. Some one, tiring of this form of indoor sports, starts
the phonograph again.

    Wind, wind, wind (the crank)
    Kr-r-r-r-r-r-r (the needle on the disk)
    La-dee-dum, dee-doodle, di-dee-day (the orchestral introduction)

        Sometimes when I feel sad
        And things look blue,
        I wish the boy I had
        Was one like you--

"For the love of Pete! Shut off that damn silly thing!"

"I admire your taste, Irving!"

"Can it!"

"Well, what will you have, then?"

"Play that Russian thing, the 'Danse des Buffons.'"

"Don't play anything."

"Lord! I wish some one would send us some new records."

"Yes, instead of knitted wristers--what?"

"And mufflers."

"Talking about wristers, how many pair do you think I've received?
Eight!"

"You try to head 'em off. Doesn't do any good. They keep coming just
the same."

"It's because they are easy to make. Working wristers and mufflers is
a method of dodging the knitting draft."

"Well, now, I call that gratitude! You don't deserve to have any
friends."

"Isn't it the truth? Have you ever known of a soldier or an aviator
who wore wristers?"

"I give mine to my mechanician. He sends them home, and his wife
unravels the yarn and makes sweaters for the youngsters."

"Think of the waste energy. Harness up the wrist-power and you could
keep three aircraft factories going day and night."

"Oh, well, if it amuses the women, what's the difference?"

"That's not the way to look at it. They ought to be doing something
useful."

"Plenty of them are; don't forget that, old son."

"Anybody got anything to read?"

"Now, if they would send us more books--"

"And magazines--"

"Two weeks ago, Blake, you were wishing they wouldn't send so many."

"What of it? We were having fine weather then."

"There ought to be some system about sending parcels to the front."

"The Germans have it, they say. Soldier wants a book, on engineering,
for example, or a history, or an anthology of recent poetry. Gets it
at once through Government channels."

"Say what you like about the Boches, they don't know the meaning of
waste energy."

"But you can't have method and efficiency in a democracy."

"There you go! Same old fallacy!"

"No fallacy about it! Efficiency and personal freedom don't go
together. They never have and they never will."

"And what does our personal freedom amount to? When you get down to
brass tacks, personal freedom is a mighty poor name for it, speaking
for four fifths of the population."

"Germany doesn't want it, our brand, and we can't force it on her."

"And without it, she has a mighty good chance of winning this war--"

When the talk begins with the uselessness of wristers, shifts from
that to democratic inefficiency, and from that to the probability of
_Deutschland über Alles_, you may be certain of the diagnosis. The
disease is _cafard_.

The sound of a motor-car approaching. Dunham rushes to the window and
then swears, remembering our greased-cloth window panes.

"Go and see who it is, Tiffin, will you? Hope it's the mail orderly."

Tiffin goes on outpost and reports three civilians approaching.

"Now, who can they be, I wonder?"

"Newspaper men probably."

"Good Lord! I hope not."

"Another American mission."

"That's my guess, too."

Rodman is right. It is another American mission coming to "study
conditions" at the front.

"But unofficially, gentlemen, quite unofficially," says Mr. A., its
head, a tall, melancholy-looking man, with a deep, bell-like voice.
Mr. B., the second member of the mission, is in direct contrast, a
birdlike little man, who twitters about the room, from group to group.

"Oh! If you boys only knew how _splendid_ you are! How much we in
America--You are our _first_ representatives at the front, you know.
You are the vanguard of the _millions_ who--" etc.

Miller looks at me solemnly. His eyes are saying, "How long, O Lord,
how long!"

Mr. C., the third member, is a silent man. He has keen, deep-set eyes.
"There," we say, "is the brain of the mission."

Tea is served very informally. Mr. A. is restless. He has something on
his mind. Presently he turns to Lieutenant Talbott.

"May I say a few words to your squadron?"

"Certainly," says Talbott, glancing at us uneasily.

Mr. A. rises, steps behind his chair, clears his throat, and looks
down the table where ten pilots,--the others are taking a
constitutional in the country,--caught in négligée attire by the
unexpected visitors, are sitting in attitudes of polite attention.

"My friends--" the deep, bell-like voice. In fancy, I hear a great
shifting of chairs, and following the melancholy eyes with my own,
over the heads of my ten fellow pilots, beyond the limits of our poor
little messroom, I see a long vista of polished shirt fronts, a
diminishing track of snowy linen, shimmering wineglasses, shining
silver.

"My friends, believe me when I say that this occasion is one of the
proudest and happiest of my life. I am standing within sound of the
guns which for three--long--years have been battering at the bulwarks
of civilization. I hear them, as I utter these words, and I look into
the faces of a little group of Americans who, day after day, and week
after week" (increasing emphasis) "have been facing those guns for the
honor and glory of democratic institutions" (rising inflection).

"We in America have heard them, faintly, perhaps, yet unmistakably,
and now I come to tell you, in the words of that glorious old war
song, 'We are coming, Father Woodrow, ONE HUN-DRED MIL-LION strong!'"

We listen through to the end, and Lieutenant Talbott, in his official
capacity, begins to applaud. The rest of us join in timidly,
self-consciously. I am surprised to find how awkwardly we do it. We
have almost forgotten how to clap our hands! My sense of the spirit of
place changes suddenly. I am in America. I am my old self there, with
different thoughts, different emotions. I see everything from my old
point of view. I am like a man who has forgotten his identity. I do
not recover my old, or, better, my new one, until our guests have
gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

      FROM A LETTER RECEIVED IN BOSTON, OCTOBER 1, 1918

                               OFFIZIERS-KRIEGSGEFANGENEN LAGER,
                                 KARLSRUHE, BADEN, DEUTSCHLAND
                                       _July 27, 1918_

I've been wondering about the ultimate fate of my poor old "High
Adventure" story, whether it was published without those long promised
concluding chapters which I really should have sent on had I not had
the misfortune to be taken prisoner. I hope the book has been
published, incomplete as it is. Not that I am particularly proud of
it as a piece of literature!

I told you briefly, on my card, how I happened to be taken prisoner.
We were a patrol of three and attacked a German formation at some
distance behind their lines. I was diving vertically on an Albatross
when my upper right plane gave way under the strain. Fortunately, the
structure of the wing did not break. It was only the fabric covering
it, which ripped off in great strips. I immediately turned toward our
lines and should have reached them, I believe, even in my crippled
condition; but by that time I was very low and under a heavy fire from
the ground. A German anti-air craft battery made a direct hit on my
motor. It was a terrific smash and almost knocked the motor out of the
frame. My machine went down in a spin and I had another of those
moments of intense fear common to the experience of aviators. Well, by
Jove! I hardly know how I managed it, but I kept from crashing nose
down. I struck the ground at an angle of about 30 degrees, the motor,
which was just hanging on, spilled out, and I went skidding along,
with the fuselage of the machine, the landing chassis having been
snapped off as though the braces were so many toothpicks. One of my
ankles was broken and the other one sprained, and my poor old nose
received and withstood a severe contact with my wind-shield. I've been
in hospital ever since until a week ago, when I was sent to this
temporary camp to await assignment to a permanent one. I now hobble
about fairly well with the help of a stick, although I am to be a lame
duck for several months to come, I believe.

Needless to say, the lot of a prisoner of war is not a happy one. The
hardest part of it is, of course, the loss of personal liberty. Oh! I
shall know how to appreciate that when I have it again. But we are
well treated here. Our quarters are comfortable and pleasant, and the
food as good as we have any right to expect. My own experience as a
prisoner of war and that of all the Frenchmen and Englishmen here with
whom I have talked, leads me to believe that some of those tales of
escaped or exchanged prisoners must have been highly imaginative. Not
that we are enjoying all the comforts of home. On the contrary, a
fifteen-cent lunch at a Child's restaurant would seem a feast to me,
and a piece of milk chocolate--are there such luxuries as chocolate in
the world? But for prisoners, I for one, up to this point, have no
complaint to make with respect to our treatment. We have a splendid
little library here which British and French officers who have
preceded us have collected. I didn't realize, until I saw it, how
book-hungry I was. Now I'm cramming history, biography, essays,
novels. I know that I'm not reading with any judgment but I'll soon
settle down to a more profitable enjoyment of my leisure. Yesterday
and to-day I've been reading "The Spoils of Poynton," by Henry James.
It is absurd to try cramming these. I've been longing for this
opportunity to read Henry James, knowing that he was Joseph Conrad's
master. "The Spoils of Poynton" has given me a foretaste of the
pleasure I'm to have. A prisoner of war has his compensations. Here
I've come out of the turmoil of a life of the most intense nervous
excitement, a life lived day to day with no thought of to-morrow,
into this other life of unlimited bookish leisure.

We are like monks in a convent. We're almost entirely out of touch
with the outside world. We hear rumors of what is taking place at the
front, and now and then get a budget of stale news from newly arrived
prisoners. But for all this we are so completely out of it all that it
seems as though the war must have come to an end. Until now this
cloistered life has been very pleasant. I've had time to think and to
make plans for a future which, comparatively speaking, seems assured.
One has periods of restlessness, of course. When these come I console
myself as best I may. Even for prisoners of war there are
possibilities for quite interesting adventure, adventure in
companionship. Thrown into such intimate relationships as we are here,
and under these peculiar circumstances, we make rather surprising
discoveries about ourselves and about each other. There are obvious
superficial effects which I can trace back to causes quite easily. But
there are others which have me guessing. By Jove! this is an
interesting place! Conrad would find material here which would set
him to work at once. I can imagine how he would revel in it.

Well, I'm getting to be a very wise man. I'm deeply learned in many
kinds, or, better, phases, of human psychology and I'm increasing my
fund of knowledge every day. Therefore, I've decided that, when the
war is over, I'll be no more a wanderer. I'll settle down in Boston
for nine months out of the year and create deathless literature. And
for vacations, I've already planned the first one, which is to be a
three months' jaunt by aeroplane up and down the United States east
and west, north and south. You will see the possibilities of adventure
in a trip of this sort. By limiting myself somewhat as to itinerary I
can do the thing. I've found just the man here to share the journey
with, an American in the British Air Force. He is enthusiastic about
the plan. If only I can keep him from getting married for a year or so
after getting home!

I had a very interesting experience, immediately after being taken
prisoner on May 7th. I was taken by some German aviators to their
aerodrome and had lunch with them before I was sent on to the
hospital. Some of them spoke English and some of them French, so that
there was no difficulty in conversing. I was suffering a good deal
from my twisted ankles and had to be guarded in my remarks because of
the danger of disclosing military information; but they were a fine
lot of fellows. They respected my reticence, and did all they could to
make me comfortable. It was with pilots from this squadron that we had
been fighting only an hour or so before. One of their number had been
killed in the combat by one of the boys who was flying with me. I sat
beside the fellow whom I was attacking when my wing broke. I was right
"on his tail," as we airmen say, when the accident occurred, and had
just opened fire. Talking over the combat with him in their pleasant
quarters, I was heartily glad that my affair ended as it did. I asked
them to tell me frankly if they did not feel rather bitterly toward me
as one of an enemy patrol which had shot down a comrade of theirs.
They seemed to be surprised that I had any suspicions on this score.
We had "a fair fight in an open field." Why should there be any
bitterness about the result. One of them said to me, "Hauptmann,
you'll find that we Germans are enemies of a country in war, but never
of the individual." My experience thus far leads me to believe that
this is true. There have been a few exceptions, but they were
uneducated common soldiers. Bitterness toward America there certainly
is everywhere, and an intense hatred of President Wilson quite equal
in degree and kind to the hatred in America of the emperor....

                                                  NORMAN HALL.





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