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Air Service Boys in the Big Battle by Charles Amory Beach

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"It's going to be a real fight!" cried Tom, as he headed his machine
toward one of the red craft. Whether the green man Tom was taking
up relished this or not, knowing, as he must, the reputation of
these red aviators, Tom did not stop to consider.

Then, as the two hostile air fleets approached, there began a battle
of the clouds--a conflict destined to end fatally for more than one
aviator.

CHAPTER IX

THE FALLING GLOVE

Numerically the Hun planes, were superior to the American fleet of
airships that quickly rose to oppose them. That probably accounted
for fact that the Germans did not turn tail and scurry back beyond
the protection of their own anti-aircraft guns and batteries. For
it was seldom, if ever, they went into a fight when the odds were
against them.

On came the Fokkers and Gothas, the black iron crosses painted on
the wings of the machines standing out in bold relief in the clear
air. The sun glinted on the red craft which were in the lead, and
besides Tom, who headed for one of these, a French ace darted down
from a height to engage the red planes.

"See if you can plug him when I put you near enough!" cried Tom to
his observer, who had the reputation of being a good shot with the
Lewis gun. Practice with the machine weapons in aeroplanes had been
going on, for some time among the new American aviators. "Let him
have a good dose!" cried Tom. "If you miss him, then I'll try!"

Of course Tom had to shut off the engine when he said this, as no
voice could have been heard above the roaring of the powerful motor.
But when he had given his companion these instructions and had
ascertained, by a glance over his shoulder, that the lad understood
for he nodded his head, Tom again turned on the gasoline, and the
propeller, that had been revolving by momentum and because of the
pressure of air against it, took up its speed again.

Straight for the red machine rushed Tom, and a quick glance told him
that his companion was ready with the gun. The weapon to be worked
by the latter was mounted so that it could be aimed independently of
the aeroplane. Tom also had a gun in front of him, but it was fixed
and could be aimed only by pointing the whole craft. Once this was
done Tom could operate the weapon with one hand, steering with the
other, and, at times, with his feet and knees.

There came several sharp pops near Tom's head, and he knew these
were machine bullets from the Hun aviator's gun, breaking through
the tightly stretched linen fabric of the wings of his own plane.

"Let him have it before he plugs us!" cried Tom to his companion,
though of course the latter could not hear a word. An instant later
Tom heard the Lewis gun behind him firing, and he saw several tracer
bullets strike the Hun machine. But they were not near the aviator
himself, and did no material damage.

"Guess he's too nervous to shoot straight," reasoned Tom. "I'll have
to try my own gun," he decided.

Tom noticed that the Hun was climbing up, trying to get into a
position above the American plane, which is always an advantage.
And the air service boy knew he must not let this happen. Quickly
he shifted the rudder and began to climb himself. But he was at a
disadvantage as his machine carried double, while the red plane had
only one man in it, an ace beyond a doubt.

"I've got to get him now or never!" thought Tom. Once more he
shifted his direction, and then, as he had his gun aimed just where
he wanted it, he pressed the lever and a burst of bullets shot out
and fairly riddled the red plane. It seemed to stop for an instant
in the air, and then, quivering, turned and went down in a nose
dive, spinning around.

"No fake about that!" mused Tom, as he leaned over and looked down
from the height. "He's done for I"

And so, the Hun was, for he crashed to the ground behind the
American lines. The incident did not affect Tom Raymond greatly.
It was not his first killing. But when he, glanced back toward his
companion, he saw that the other was shrinking back as if in horror.

"He'll get over that soon enough. All he has to do is to think of
what the Huns have done--crucifying men and babies--to make his
heart hard," thought Tom.

Whether his companion did this or not, did not disclose itself, but
the fact remains that when Tom flew off to engage another Hun
machine the lad back of him rose to the occasion and shot so well
that Fritz veered off and flew back over his own lines, wounded and
with his craft barely able to fly.

Not all the American machines fared as well as this, however. Jack
was in poor luck. The first burst of bullets from the German he
engaged punctured his gasoline tank, and he was obliged to coast
back to his own aerodrome to get another machine, if possible. He
was also hit once in the leg, the wound being painful though not
dangerous. He received first aid treatment and wanted to get back
into the fight, but this was not allowed, and he had to watch the
battle from the ground.

The fight was fast and stubborn, and in the end the American forces
won, for at a signal from the remaining red plane, which seemed to
bear a charmed existence, as it did not appear to be hit, the others
remaining of the Hun forces, turned tail and scooted back to safety.

But they had left a toll of five machines sent crashing to earth,
four of them each containing two men. The leading French ace was
killed, a severe loss to the Allied forces, and three of the
American machines were damaged and their operators severely wounded,
though with a chance of recovery. By American machines is meant
those assigned for use to Pershing's forces, though the craft used
up to that time were of French or English make. The real American
machines came into use a little later.

"Well, I think we can call it one to our credit," said Tom, as he
rejoined Jack after the battle.

"Yes. But you had all the luck!" complained his chum. "It went
against me, and the lad I took up. It--"

"Never mind; it'll be your turn next," replied Tom, consolingly.

And so the new American aviators received their baptism of fire,
and, to their credit, longed for more.

More credit was really due the American forces than would be
indicated by the mere citation of the losses inflicted on the German
side in this first air battle. For many of the American fighters
were "green," while not one of the Huns, as was learned later, but
what had several Allied machines to his score. And so there was
rejoicing in General Pershing's camp, even though it was mingled
with sorrow at the losses inflicted.

Busy days followed, Tom and Jack were in the air much of the time.
And when they were not flying they were delivering talks to new
students, who were constantly arriving. They found time once to run
into Paris on their day of leave, to see Bessie and Nellie, and they
went on a little picnic together, which was as jolly as such an
affair could be in the midst of the terrible war. Nellie had
received no word of her missing brother, and Jack and Tom had no
encouragement for her.

Then came more hard work at camp, and another battle of the air in
which the American forces more than equaled matters, for they fairly
demolished a German plane squadron, sending ten of the machines
crashing to earth and the others back over the Hun lines, more or
less damaged. That was a great day. And, as a sort of reward for
their work, Tom and Jack were given three days' leave. At first
they thought to spend them in Paris, but, learning that neither
Bessie nor her mother nor Nellie could leave their Red Cross work to
join them, the two lads made other arrangements.

"Let's go back and see the fellows in the Lafayette Escadrille,"
suggested Tom.

"All right," agreed Jack.

And thither they went.

That they were welcomed need not be said. It was comparatively
quiet on this sector just then, though there had, a few days before,
been a great battle with victory perching on the Allied banners.
The air conflicts, too, had been desperate, and many a brave man of
the French, English or American fliers had met his death. But toll
had been taken of the Boches--ample toll, too.

The first inquiry Tom and Jack had made on their arrival at their
former aerodrome had been for news of Harry Leroy, but none had been
received.

It was when Tom and Jack were about to conclude their visit to their
former comrades of the air that an incident occurred which made a
great change in their lives. One sunny afternoon there suddenly
appeared, a mere speck in the blue, a single aeroplane.

"Some one of your men must have gone a long way over Heinie's
lines," remarked Jack to one of the French officers.

"He is not one of our men. Either they were all back long ago or
they will not come back until after the war--if ever. That is a Hun
machine."

"What is he doing--challenging to single combat?" asked Tom, as the
lone plane came on steadily.

"No," answered the officer, after a look through his glasses. "I
think he brings some messages. We sent some to the Germans
yesterday, and I think this is a return courtesy. We will wait and
see."

Nearer and nearer came the German plane. Soon it was circling
around the French camp. Hundreds came out to watch, for now the
object of the lone aviator was apparent. He contemplated no raid.
It was to drop news of captured, or dead, Allied airmen.

Then, as Tom, and the others watched, a little package was seen to
fall from the hovering aeroplane. It landed on the roof of one of
the hangars, bounced off and was picked up by an orderly, who
presented it to the commanding officer.

Quickly and eagerly it was opened. It contained some personal
belongings of Allied airmen who had been missing for the past week.
Some of them, the message from the German lines said, had been
killed by their falls after being shot down, and it was stated that
they had been decently buried. Others were wounded and in
hospitals.

"No word from Harry," said Tom, sadly, as the last of the relics
from the dead and the living were gone over.

"Well, I guess we may as well give him up," added Jack. "But we can
avenge him. That's all we have left, now."

"Yes," agreed Tom. "If we only--?"

A cry from some of those watching the German plane interrupted him.
The two air service boys looked up. Another small object was
falling. It landed with a thud, almost at the feet of Tom and Jack,
and the latter picked it up.

It was an aviator's glove; and as Jack held it up a note dropped
out. Quickly it was read, and the import of it was given to all in
a simultaneous shout of joy from Tom and Jack.

"It's word from Harry Leroy! Word from Harry at last!"

CHAPTER X

STUNTS

Truly enough, word had come from the missing aviator, or, if not
directly from him, at least from his captors. The German airmen,
falling in with the chivalry which had been initiated by the French
and English, and later followed by the Americans, had seen fit to
inform the comrades of the captured man of his whereabouts.

"Where is he? What happened to him?" asked several, as all crowded
around Tom and Jack to hear the news.

Jack, reading the note, told them. The missive was written in very
good English, though in a German hand. It stated that Harry Leroy
had been shot down in his plane while over the German lines, and had
fallen in a lonely spot, wounded.

The wound was not serious, it was stated, and the prisoner was doing
as well as could be expected, but he would remain in the hands of
his captors until the end of the war. The reason his whereabouts
was not mentioned before was that the Germans did not know they had
one of the Allied aviators in their midst.

Leroy had not only fallen in a lonely spot, but he was made
unconscious by his fall and injuries, and when he recovered he was
lying near his almost demolished plane.

He managed to get out his log book and other confidential papers,
and set fire to them and the plane with the gasoline that still
remained in the tank. He destroyed them so they might not fall into
the hands of the Germans, a fate he knew would be his own shortly.

But Harry Leroy was not doomed to instant capture. The blaze caused
by his burning aeroplane attracted the attention of a peasant, who
had not been deported when the enemy overran his country, for the
young aviator had fallen in a spot well back of the front lines.
This French peasant took Harry to his little farm and hid him in the
barn. There the man, his wife, and his granddaughters, looked after
the injured aviator, feeding him and binding up his hurts. It was a
great risk they took, and Harry Leroy knew it as well as they. But
for nearly two weeks he remained hidden, and this probably saved his
life, for he got better treatment at the farmhouse than he would, as
an enemy, have received in a German hospital.

But such good luck could not last. Suspicion that Americans were
hidden in the Frenchman's barn began to spread through the country,
and rather than bring discovery on his friends, Leroy left the barn
one night.

He had a desperate hope that he might reach his own lines, as he was
now pretty well recovered from his 'Injuries, but it was not to be.
He was captured by a German patrol. But by his quick action Harry
Leroy had removed suspicion from the farmer, which was exactly what
he wished to do.

The Germans, rejoicing over their capture, took the young aviator to
the nearest prison camp, and there he was put in custody, together
with some unfortunate French and English. The tide of war had
turned against Harry Leroy.

So it came about that, some time after he had been posted as missing
and when it was surely thought that he was dead, Harry Leroy was
found to be among the living, though a prisoner.

"This will be great news for his sister!" exclaimed Jack, as the
note dropped by the German airman was read over and over again.

"Yes, she'll be delighted," agreed Tom. "We must hurry back and
tell her."

"And that isn't all," went on Jack. "We must try to figure out a
way to rescue Harry."

"You can't do that," declared a French ace, one with whom the air
service boys had often flown.

"Why not?" asked Tom.

"It's out of the question," was the answer. "There has never been a
rescue yet from behind the German lines. Or, if there has been,
it's like a blue moon."

"Well, we can try," declared Jack, and Tom nodded his head in
agreement.

"Don't count too much on it," added another of their friends.
"Harry may not even be where this note says he is."

"Do you mean that the Germans would say what isn't so?" asked Tom.

"Of course! Naturally!" was the answer. "But even if they did not
in this case, even if they have truly said where Leroy is, he may be
moved at any time--sent to some other prison, or made to work in the
mines or at perhaps something far worse."

Tom and Jack realized that this might be so, and they felt that
there was no easy task ahead of them in trying to rescue their chum
from the hands of the Germans. But they were not youths who gave up
easily.

"May we keep this note?" asked Tom, as he and Jack got ready to
depart. Having fallen on the camp of the escadrille with which they
were formerly quartered, it was, strictly speaking, the property of
the airmen there. But having been told how much the sister of the
prisoner would appreciate it, the commanding officer gave permission
for Tom and Jack to take the glove and note with them.

"Let us know if you rescue him, Comrades!" called the Frenchmen to
the two lads, as they started back for their own camp.

"We will," was the answer.

Nellie Leroy's joy in the news that her brother was alive was
tempered by the fact that he was a German prisoner.

"But we're going to get him!" declared Tom even though he realized,
as he said it, that it with almost a forlorn hope.

"You are so good," murmured the girl.

Jack and Tom spent a few happy hours in Paris, with Nellie and
Bessie--the last of their leave--and then, bidding the girls and
Mrs. Gleason farewell, they reported back to the American aerodrome,
where the young airmen were cordially welcomed.

There they found much to do, and events followed one another so
rapidly at this stage of the World War that Tom and Jack, after
their return, had little time for anything but flying and teaching
others what they knew of air work. They had no opportunity to do
anything toward the rescue of Harry Leroy; and, indeed, they were at
a loss how to proceed. They were just hoping that something would
transpire to give them a starting point.

"We'll have to leave it to luck for a while," said Torn.

"Or fate," added Jack.

"Well, fate plays no small part in an airman's life," returned Tom.
"While we are no more superstitions than any other soldiers, yet
there are few airmen who do not carry some sort of mascot or
good-luck piece. You know that, Jack."

And even the casual reader of the exploits of the aviators must have
been impressed with the fact that often the merest incident--or
accident is responsible for life or death.

Death often passes within hair's breadth of the intrepid fliers, and
some of them do not know it until after they have made a landing and
have seen the bullet holes in their machine--holes that indicate how
close the missiles have passed to them.

So, in a way, both Tom and Jack believed in luck, and they both
believed that this same luck might point out to them a way of
rescuing Harry Leroy.

Meanwhile they were kept busy. After the big battle in the air
matters were quiet for a time on their sector of the front. The
arrival of new fliers from America made it necessary to instruct
them, and to this Tom, Jack and other veterans were detailed.

Then began a series of what Jack called "stunts." In order to
inspire the new pupils with confidence, the older flying men--not
always older in years--would go aloft in their single planes and do
all sorts of trick flying. Some of the pupils--the more daring, of
course--wished to imitate these, but of course they were not
allowed.

The pupils were first allowed merely to go with an experienced man.
This, of course, they had done at the flying schools in the United
States, and had flown alone. But they had to start all over again
when on French soil, for here they were exposed, any time, to an
attack from a Hun plane.

After they had, it was thought, got sufficient experience to
undertake these trick features by themselves, they were allowed to
make trial flights, but not over the enemy lines.

Tom and Jack gave the best that was in them to these enthusiastic
pupils, and there was much good material.

"What are you going to do to-day, Jack?" asked Tom one morning, as
they went out after breakfast to get into their "busses," as they
dubbed their machines.

"Oh, got orders to do some spiral and somersault stunts for the
benefit of some huns." ("Hun," used in this connection, not
referring to the Germans. "Hun" is the slang term for student
aviators, tacked on them by more experienced fliers.)

"Same here. Good little bunch of huns in camp now."

Tom nodded in agreement, and the two were soon preparing to climb
aloft.

With a watching group of eager young men on the ground below, in
company with an instructor who would point out the way certain feats
were done, Torn and Jack began climbing. Presently they were fairly
tumbling about like pigeons, seeming to fall, but quickly
straightening out on a level keel and coming to the ground almost as
lightly as feathers.

"A good landing is essential if one would become a good airman,"
stated the instructor. "In fact I may say it is the hardest half
of the game. For it is comparatively easy to leave the earth. It
is the coining back that is difficult, like the Irishman who said it
wasn't the fall that hurts, it was the stopping."

"Give 'em a bit of zooming now," the instructor said to Tom and
Jack. "The boys may have to use that any time they're up and a
Boche comes at them."

"Zooming," he went on to the pupils, "is rising and falling in a
series of abrupt curves like those in a roller-coaster railway. It
is a very useful stunt to be master of, for it enables one to rise
quickly when confronting a field barrier, or to get out of range of
a Hun machine gun."

Tom undertook this feature of the instruction, as Jack signaled that
his aeroplane was out of gasoline, and soon the former was rolling
across the aviation field, seemingly straight toward a row of tall
trees.

"He'll hit 'em sure!" cried one student.

"Watch him," ordered the instructor.

With a quick pull on the lever that controlled the rudder, Tom sent
himself aloft, but not before a curious thing happened.

On the ground where it had been dropped was a tunic, or airman's
fur-lined jacket. As Tom's machine "zoomed," the tail skid caught
this jacket and took it aloft.

Tom did not seem to be aware of this, though he must have felt that
his machine was a bit sluggish in the climbs. However, he went
through with his performance, doing some beautiful "zooming," and
then, as he was flying high and getting ready to do a spiral nose
dive, the tunic detached itself from his skid and fell.

Just at this moment Jack came out from the hangar and, looking aloft
and noting Tom's machine, saw the falling jacket. His heart turned
sick and faint, for, unaware of what had happened, he thought his
chum had tumbled out while at a great height. For the tunic,
turning over and over as it sailed earthward, did resemble a falling
body.

"Oh, Tom! Tom! How did it happen?" murmured Jack.

The others, laughing, told him that it was nothing serious, but Jack
looked a bit worried until the empty jacket fell on the grass and, a
little later, Tom himself came down smiling from aloft, all unaware
of the excitement he had caused.

CHAPTER XI

OVER THE LINES

"Well, I guess we stay downstairs, to-day," remarked Tom to Jack,
the day following their exhibition flights for the benefit of the
air students.

"Yes, it doesn't look very promising," returned his chum.

Jack looked aloft where the sky--or what took its place--was
represented by a gray mist that seemed ready to drip water at any
moment. It was a day of "low visibility," and one when air work was
almost totally suspended. This applied to the enemy as well as to
the Yankees. For even though it is feasible to go up in an
aeroplane in fog, or even rain or snow, it is not always safe to
come down again in like conditions.

There is nothing worse than rain, snow or fog for clouding an
aviator's goggles, making it impossible for him to see more than a
plane's length ahead, if, indeed, he can see that far. Then, too,
little, if anything, can be accomplished by going aloft in a storm
or fog. No observations of any account can be made, and the
aviator, once he gets aloft, is as likely to come down behind the
German lines as he is to descend safely within his own.

That being the case, Tom and Jack, in common with their comrades of
the air, had a vacation period. Some of them obtained leave and
went to the nearest town, while some put in their time going over
their guns and glasses and equipment and machines.

Jack and Tom elected to do the latter. There was one very fast and
powerful Spad which they often used together, taking turns at
piloting it and acting as observer. They thought they might have a
chance soon to go over the German lines in this, their favorite
craft, so they decided to put in their spare time seeing that it was
in perfect shape, and that the two machine guns were ready for
action when needed.

"'Would you rather do this than fly, Jack?" asked Tom, as they went
over, in detail, each part of the powerful Spad.

"I should say not! But, after all, one is just as important as the
other. I hope we get a good day to-morrow. I'd like to do
something toward seeing if we can't get Harry out of the Boche's
clutches," and he nodded in the direction of the German lines.

"'Tisn't going to be easy doing that," remarked Tom. "I'd ask
nothing better than to have a hand in getting him away, but I
haven't yet been able to figure out a shadow of a plan. Have you?"

"The only thing, I can think of is to organize a big raid on the
section where he's held--I mean somewhere near the German prison--and
if we bombed the place enough, and created enough excitement, some of us
might land and get Harry and any others that might be with him."

Tom shook his head.

"That'd be a pretty risky way of doing it," he said.

"Can you think of a better?" Jack demanded quickly.

"Not off hand," came the reply. "We've got to stew over it a bit.
One thing's sure--we've got to get Harry out, or his sister never
will feel like going back home and facing the folks."

"That's right!" agreed Jack. "We've got a double motive for this.
But I'm afraid it's going to be too hard."

"That's what we thought when we rescued Mrs. Gleason from the old
castle where Potzfeldt had her caged," retorted Tom. "But you made
out all right."

"Yes; thanks to your help."

"Well, we'll both work together again," declared Tom. "And now
let's try this Lewis gun. The last time we were up it jammed on me,
and yet it worked all right on the ground." So they tested the
guns, looked to the motor, and in general made ready for a flight
when the weather should clear.

This happened two days later, when the fog and mist were blown away
and the blue sky could be seen. In the interim the artillery and
infantry on both sides had not been idle, and there had been some
desperate engagements, with the brigaded American troops making a
new name for themselves.

"I guess there'll be something doing to-day," remarked Tom, as he
and Jack tumbled out of bed at the usual early hour. "Clear as a
bell," he announced, after a glance from the window. "Shouldn't
wonder but what we went over their lines to-day."

"And I suppose, by the same token, they'll be coining over ours,"
and Jack nodded to indicate the Germans.

"Let 'em come!" exclaimed Tom. "It takes two sides to make a fight,
and that's what we're here for."

Hardly had the two air service boys finished their breakfast, than
an orderly came to tell them the commanding officer wanted them to
report to him. They hurried across the aviation ground, toward the
headquarters building, noting on the way that there were signs of
unusual activity among the newer members of the American air forces,
as well as among the French and British veterans.

"Must be going to make a raid," observed Jack.

"Something like that--yes," assented Tom.

"Hope we're in on it, and the commanding officer doesn't have us
take some huns up to show 'em what makes the wheels go around," went
on Jack. "Of course that's part of the game, but we've done our
share."

However, they need have felt no fear, for when they stood before the
commanding officer, saluting, they quickly learned that they were to
go on a special mission that day--in fact as soon as they could get
ready.

"I want you two to see if you can discover a battery of small guns
that have been playing havoc with our men," he said, as he looked up
from a table covered with maps. "They're located somewhere along
this front, but they're so well camouflaged that no one has yet been
able to discover them.

"I want you boys to see if you can turn the trick. The guns have
killed a lot of our men, as well as the French and English. We've
tried to rush the emplacement, but we can't get a line on where it
is for it's well hidden. I asked permission of the British
commanding general to send up two American scouts, and he mentioned
you boys. Get your orders from the major, and good luck to you."

"Do you want us to go together or separately?" asked Tom.

"Together--in a double plane. I might say that we are going to try
a raid on a big scale over the enemy's lines, and you two will thus
have a better chance to carry out your observations unmolested. The
Hun planes will have their hands full attending to our fighters, and
they may not attack a single plane off by itself. We'll try to draw
them away from you.

"At the same time I might point out that there is nothing sure in
this, and that you may have to fight also," concluded the commanding
officer, as he waved a dismissal.

"Oh, were ready for anything," announced Tom. And as he and Jack
got outside he clapped his chum on the back, crying: "That's the
stuff! Good old C.O. to send us! That's what we've been looking
for! Maybe we'll have time to drop down and shoot some of the Huns
that are guarding Harry."

"No chance of that--forget it now," urged Jack. "We'll clean up
this location trick first, and then think of a plan to get Harry
away. It sounds hard to say it, but it's all we can do. Orders are
orders."

They were glad they had made ready the speedy Spad plane, for it was
in this that they would try to locate the hidden battery, and,
having received detailed instructions from the major in command, the
two lads climbed into their air plane and started off.

The day was clear and bright, just the sort for aeroplane activity;
and it was evident there would be plenty of it, since, even as they
began climbing, Tom and Jack saw planes from their own aerodrome
skirting ahead of and behind them, while, in the distance and over
German-held territory, were Fokkers and Gothas with the iron cross
conspicuously painted on each.

Tom and Jack had been given a map of the front, their own and the
German lines being shown, and the probable location of the hidden
Hun battery marked. This they now studied as they started over the
front, Jack being in front, while Tom sat behind him, to work the
swivel Lewis gun.

Their Spad machine was one that could be controlled from either
seat, so that if one rider was disabled the other could take charge.
There were two guns, one fixed and the other movable, and a good
supply of ammunition.

"Well, I guess there'll be some fighting to-day," observed Tom, as
Jack shut off the motor for a moment, to see if it would respond
readily when the throttle was opened again. "They're closing in
from both sides."

And indeed the Allied planes were sailing forth to meet a squadron
of the enemy. But none of the Hun craft seemed to pay any attention
to Tom and Jack. Steadily they flew on until an exclamation from
Jack caused Tom to look down. He noted that they were over the
German lines, and headed for the probable location of the battery
that had been such a thorn in the side of the Allies.

CHAPTER XII

A PERFECT SHOT

The plane in which Tom and Jack had gone aloft to make observations
which, it was hoped, would result in the discovery of the hidden
battery, was a special machine. While very powerful and swift and
equipped for air-fighting, it was also one that had been used by one
of the French photographers and his pilot. The photographer, was a
daring man, and had, not long before, gone to his death in fighting
three Hun planes. But he had peculiar ideas regarding his car, and
under his orders it had been fitted with a glass floor in the two
cockpits, or what corresponded to them.

Thus he and his pilot could look down and observe the nature of the
enemy country over which they were traveling without having to lean
over, not always a safe act where anti-aircraft guns below are
shooting up shrapnel.

So as Torn and Jack flew on and on, over the enemy's first and
succeeding line trenches, they looked down through the glass windows
in the plane to make their observations. There was a camera
attached to the plane, and though they could each make use of it,
but they were not skilled in this work.

It was impossible for them to talk to one another now, as Jack had
the motor going almost full speed, and the noise it made was
deafening, or it would have been except for the warm, fur hoods that
covered the ears of the fliers. They were warmly dressed for they
did not know how high they might ascend, and it is always cold up
above, no matter how hot it is on the earth.

Up and up they climbed, and then they flew on and over the enemy
lines, keeping close lookout for anything unusual below that would
indicate the presence of the battery. Behind them, and off to one
side, a fierce aerial battle was going on.

Tom and Jack were eager to get into this and do their share. But
they had orders to make their observations, and they dared not
'refuse. They could tell by looking back every now and then that
the affair was going well for the Allies, including some of the
American airmen, even if the Huns outnumbered them.

Back and forth over the German lines swept the glass-bottomed Spad,
and at a certain point Tom, who was looking down, uttered an
exclamation. Of course Jack could not hear, but he could feel the
punch in the back his chum administered a moment later.

Jack turned his head, and saw his chum eagerly pointing downward. A
moment later he motioned over his left shoulder, pointing backward,
as though they had just passed over something which would warrant a
second inspection.

Jack swung the machine about in a big circle, banking sharply, and
then, as he passed over the ground covered a little while before,
he, too, looked down, and with sharper glance than he had used at
first.

What he saw was the ruins of a small French chateau. It had been
under heavy fire from the Allied guns, for it had sheltered a German
machine gun nest, and some accurate shooting on the part of the
American gunners had demolished it a day or so before.

But what attracted the attention of Tom and Jack was that whereas
the chateau before the bombardment had stood on a little hill
without a tree near it, now there was a miniature forest surrounding
it. It was as though trees and bushes had sprung up in the night.
As soon as he had seen this, Jack turned to Tom, nodded
comprehendingly, and at once started back over the American lines.
They had no easy time reaching them, for by this time the fleet of
Hun planes had been defeated by the Allies, and had turned tail to
run for safety--that is what were left of them, several having been
shot down, and at no small cost to the French, English and American
forces.

But the defeat of their airmen seemed to anger the Germans, and they
opened up with their antiaircraft batteries on the machine in which
Tom and Jack were flying homeward. "Woolly bears" and "flaming
onions," as well as shrapnel, was used against them, and they were
in considerable danger. Jack had to "zoom" several times to get out
of reach of the shells.

They finally reached their aerodrome, however, and as soon as they
had landed and their plane was taken in charge by the mechanics the
two lads hurried to the commanding officer.

"Well?" he asked sharply, as they saluted. "Did you discover
anything?"

"I think so, sir," returned Tom, for Jack had told his chum to do
the talking, since the discovery was his. "You remember, sir, the
old chateau we put out of business the other day?"

"Yes, I recall it. What about it?"

"This: It seems suddenly to have grown a wooded park around it, and
the trees and bushes don't seem to be as fresh as natural ones ought
to look."

"You mean they camouflaged the ruins, and have put another battery
in the old, chateau?"

"I think so, sir. It wouldn't do any harm to drop a few shells
there. If it's still a ruin the worst will be that we've wasted a
little ammunition and may start the German guns up. And if it is
what we think it is, we may blow up the battery."

The commander thought for a moment.

"I'll try it!" he suddenly said. "It's worth all it will cost."

He called an orderly and issued his instructions. Tom and Jack had
not yet been dismissed, and now the commanding officer turned to
them and said:

"Since you boys were sharp enough to discover this, I'll let you
have a front seat at the show which will start soon. Go up and do
contact work. Let the gunners know when they make a hit."

The air service boys could not have wished for anything better.

"Once more for our bus!" exclaimed Jack delightedly, when they were
outside.

Their Spad had been refilled with gasoline, or "petrol," as it is
called on the other side, and oil had been put in, while the machine
guns had been looked to.

"You seem to have spotted it all right, Tom," went on Jack, just as
they were about to start, for word came that the American batteries
were ready.

"Yes, I was looking down through the glass, and when I saw the old
chateau it struck me that it had suddenly grown a beard. I
remembered it before, as being on a bare hill. I thought it was
funny, and that I might be mistaken. But when you agreed with me I
knew I was right."

"Oh, the Huns have brought up trees and bushes to disguise the place
all right," declared, Jack. "The only question is whether or not
the battery is hidden there."

But there was not long a question about that. Their machine was
equipped with wireless to signal back the result of the shots, and
Jack and Tom were soon in position. From the maps used when they
had previously shelled the place to drive out the German gunners,
the American artillery forces knew just about where to plant the
shells.

There was a burst of fire from the designated battery. Up aloft
Jack and Tom watched the shell fall. It was a trifle over, and a
correction was signaled back.

A moment later the second shell--a big one sailed over the German
first lines, and fell directly on the chateau partly hidden in the
woods.

There was a burst of smoke, and with it mingled clouds of dust and
flying particles. Faintly to Tom and Jack, above the noise of their
motor, came the sound of a terrific explosion.

There had been a direct hit on the old ruins, as was proved by the
fact that not only was the German battery put out of commission, but
a great quantity of ammunition hidden in the trees and bushes was
blown up, and with it a considerable number of Germans.

And that it was a place well garrisoned was evident to the air
service boys as they saw a few Huns, who were not killed by the
shell and resultant explosion of the ammunition dump, running away
from the place of destruction.

"That was it all right," said Jack, as he and Tom landed back of
their own lines.

"Yes, and it couldn't have been hit better. I hope that was the
battery they wanted put out of business."

And it was, for no more shells came from that vicinity of the Hun
positions for a long time. The aeroplane observations had given the
very information needed, and Tom and Jack were congratulated, not
only by their comrades, but by the commanding officer himself, which
counted for a great deal.

CHAPTER XIII

A DARING SCHEME

Tom sat up on his bunk and looked across at Jack, who was just
showing signs of returning consciousness--that is, he was getting
awake. It was the morning after the successful discovery of the
hidden German battery, and since this exploit the two lads had not
been required to go on duty.

"What's the matter?" asked Jack, opening his eyes and looking at his
chum. "Has the mail come in? Any letters?"

"No. I was just thinking," remarked Tom, and though his eyes were
fixed on Jack it was clear that his thoughts were somewhere else.

"Thinking, Tom? That's bad business. Have you seen the doctor?"

"Oh, shut off your gas!" ordered Tom. "You're side slipping. First
you know you'll come down in a tail spin and I'll have to be looking
for a new partner."

"It's as serious as all that, is it?" asked Jack, as he began to
dress. "Well, in that case I withdraw my observation. Go ahead.
How's the visibility?"

"Low. We won't have to go up to-day, unless it clears."

"Um. And I was counting on getting a few Huns right after
breakfast. Well, what's your think about, if you really were
indulging in that expensive pastime?"

"I was," said Tom, and he got up and also proceeded to put on his
clothes. "I was thinking about Harry."

"Oh!" and Jack's voice was decidedly different. It had lost all its
flippant tone. "Say, he certainly is in tough luck. I wish we
could do something for him--and his sister. Doubtless you were
thinking of her, too," and a little smile curled his lips.

"Yes, I was thinking of Nellie," conceded Tom, and he was so bold
and frank about it that Jack choked back the joke that he was about
to make. "I was thinking that we haven't done very much to redeem
our promise."

"But how can we?" asked Jack. "We haven't had a chance to do
anything to rescue Harry. Of course I want to do that as much as
you do, but how is it to be done? Can you answer me that?"

"We can't do it by just talking," said Tom. "That's what I've been
thinking about. A scheme came to me in the night, and I've been
waiting to tell you about it."

"Shoot then, my pickled blunderbuss," returned Jack. "I'm with you
to the last drop of petrol."

"Well, I don't know that it's so much," said Tom. "It's only that
we ought to get word to Harry, somehow, that we're thinking of him
and trying to plan some way of rescuing him. We ought to tell him
his sister is here, too, and, at the same time we might drop him
something to smoke and a cake or two of chocolate."

Jack looked at his chum in amazement. Then he burst out with:

"Say, while you're at it why don't you send him a piano, and an
automobile, too, so he can ride home when he wants to? What do you
mean--getting word to him? Don't you know that the beastly Huns
will hold up the mail as they please, and anything else we might
send. They don't even let the Red Cross packages go through until
they get good and ready. Talk about your barbarians!"

"Oh, I wasn't thinking of the mail," replied Tom.

"No? What then?"

"Why, we know where he is held a prisoner--at least we have the name
of the prison camp, and he may be there unless he's been
transferred. Of course that's possible, but it's worth taking a
chance on."

"A chance on what?" asked Jack, "You haven't explained yet. What do
you plan to do?"

"Fly over the place where Harry is held a prisoner and drop down a
package and some letters to him," said Tom. "Now wait until you
hear it all before you say it can't be done!" he went on quickly,
for Jack seemed about to interrupt.

"If Harry is held where he was first made a prisoner, it's a big
place, and there are thousands of our captives there, as well as
French and British. Well, where there are so many they have to have
a big stockade to pen 'em in, worse luck. And dropping a bomb on a
big place is easier than dropping one on a small object."

"Say! Suffering snuffle-boxes!" cried Jack. "You don't mean to
drop a bomb in Harry's prison, camp, do you? Do you think he might
possibly escape in the confusion?"

"Nothing like that," said Tom. "I mean drop a package containing
some smokes, some chocolate and a letter telling him we haven't
forgotten him and that we're going to try to rescue him, and for him
to be on the lookout. That could be done."

"How?"

"By us flying over the place in our speedy Spad. We needn't make a
very big package, though the more of something to eat we can give
him the better, for those Boches starve our men. Let's get a week
off--the commanding officer will let us go. We can go to our old
escadrille and make arrangements to start from there. The boys will
help us all they can."

"Oh, there's no doubt about that," assented Jack. "They all liked
Harry as much as we did. But I can't see that your scheme will
succeed. It's a risky one."

"All the more reason why it ought to succeed," declared Tom. "It's
the fellows who take chances who get by. Now let's see if we can
get a few hours off to go to Paris."

"Go to Paris? What for?"

"To see Nellie Leroy and have her write her brother a letter. It
will be better to have one come direct from her than for us merely
to give him news of her in one of our notes."

"Yes," agreed Jack, "I guess it would. And I begin to see which way
the wind blows. You wish to see Nellie."

"Oh, you make me tired!" exclaimed Tom. "All you can think of is
girls! I tell you I'm doing this for Harry!"

"And I believe you, old top, and what's more, I'm with you from the
word go. It's a crazy scheme and a desperate one, but for that very
reason it may succeed. The only thing is that we may not get
permission to carry it out."

"Oh, I don't intend that anyone shall know what our game is,"
returned Tom. "Of course the authorities would squash it in a
minute. No, we'll have to keep dark about that. All we need is
permission to do a little flying 'on our own,' for a while."

"Suppose they won't let us do that?"

"Oh, I think they will, after what we did yesterday," said Tom.
"Come on, let's get ready to go to Paris."

CHAPTER XIV

WILL THEY SUCCEED?

The scheme evolved, or, perhaps, dreamed of by Tom Raymond in his
anxiety to get some word to the captive Harry Leroy worked well at
the start. When he and Jack asked permission to have half a day off
to make the trip to Paris it was readily granted. Perhaps it was
because of their exploit of the day before, when their sharp eyes
had discovered the camouflaged German battery and brought about its
destruction, or maybe it was because the day was a misty one,+ when
no flying could be done.

At any rate, soon after breakfast saw the two boys on their way to
the wonderful city--wonderful in spite of war and the German
"super cannon," which had itself been destroyed.

Tom and Jack knew that unless their plans were changed, the two
girls and Mrs. Gleason would be at home in Paris, for they had a
holiday once in every seven, and it was their custom to come to
their lodging for a rest from the merciful, though none the less
exceedingly trying, Red Cross work.

Nor had the boys guessed in vain, for when they presented themselves
at the Gleason lodging, where Nellie Leroy was also staying, they
were greeted with exclamations of delight.

"We were just thinking of you," said Bessie, as she shook hands with
Jack.

"And so we were of you," Jack replied, gallantly.

"I thought of it first," said Tom. "He'll have to give me credit for
that."

"Yes," agreed Jack, "I will. He's got a great scheme," he added, as
Mrs. Gleason came in to greet the boys. "Tell 'em, Tom."

"Is it anything about--oh, have you any news for me about Harry?"
asked Nellie eagerly.

"Not exactly news from him, but we're going to send some news to
him!" exclaimed Tom. "I want you to write him a letter-a real,
nice, sisterly letter."

"What good will that do?" asked Nellie. "I've sent him a lot, but I
can't be sure that he gets them. I don't even know that he is
alive."

"Oh, I think he is," said Tom, hopefully. "If the German airmen
were decent enough to let us know he was a prisoner of theirs, they
would tell us if--if--well, if anything had happened to him."

"I think," he went on, "that you, can count on his being alive,
though he isn't having the best time in the world--none of the Hun
prisoners do. That's why I thought it would cheer him up to let him
know we are thinking of him, and if we can send him some smokes, and
some chocolate."

"Oh, he is so fond of chocolate!" exclaimed Nellie. "He used to
love the fudge I made. I wonder if I could send him any of that?"

Tom shook his head.

"It would be better," he said, "to send only hard chocolate--the
kind that can stand hard knocks. Fudge is too soft. It would get
all mussed up with what Jack and I have planned to do to it."

"What is that?" asked Bessie Gleason. "You haven't told us yet.
How are you going to get anything to Harry through those horrid
German lines?"

"We're not going through the German lines we're going above 'em; in
an aeroplane. And when we get over the prison camp where Harry is
held, we're going to drop down a package to him, with the, letters,
the chocolate and other things inside."

"Oh, that's perfectly wonderful!" exclaimed Bessie. "But will the
Germans let you do it?"

"Well," remarked Jack, "they'll probably try to stop us, but we
don't mind a little thing like that. We're used to it. Of course,
as I tell Torn, it's a long chance, but it's worth taking. Of
course it isn't easy to drop any object from a moving aeroplane and
have it land at a certain spot. We may miss the mark."

"For that reason I'm going to take several packages," put in Tom.
"If one doesn't land another may."

"But if you do succeed in dropping a package for Harry in the midst
of the German stockade, won't the guards see it and confiscate it?"
asked Mrs. Gleason. "You know they'll be as brutal as they dare to
the prisoners--though of course,"' she added quickly, as she saw a
look of pain on Nellie's face, "Harry may be in a half-way decent
camp. But, even then, won't the Germans keep the package
themselves?"

"I've thought of that," replied Tom. "We've got to take that chance
also. But I figure that, in the confusion, Harry, or some of his
fellow prisoners, may pick up the package, or packages, unobserved.
Of course there's only a slim chance that Harry himself will pick up
the bundle. But it will be addressed to him, and if any of the
French, British, or American prisoners get it, they'll see that it
goes to Harry all right."

"Oh, of course," murmured Mrs. Gleason. "But what was that you said
about the 'confusion?'"

"That's something different," said Tom. "I'm counting on dropping a
few bombs on the German works outside the camp, to--er--well, to
sort of take their attention off the packages we'll try to drop
inside the stockade. Of course while we're doing this we may be and
probably shall be, under fire ourselves. But we've got to take that
chance. It's a mad scheme, Jack says, and I realize that it is. But
we've got to do something."

"Yes," said Nellie in a low voice, "we must do something. This
suspense is terrible. Oh, if I only could get word to Harry!"

"You write the letter and I'll take it!" declared Tom.

"And I'll help!" exclaimed Jack.

And then the letters--several of them, for each one wrote a few
lines and made triplicates of it, since three packages were to be
dropped. The letters, to begin again, were written and the bundles
were made up. They contained cigarettes, cakes of hard chocolate,
soap and a few other little comforts and luxuries that it was
certain Harry would be glad to get.

The rest of the plan would have to be left to Tom and Jack to work
out, and, having talked it over with their friends, they found it
was time for them to start to their station, since their leave was
up at eleven o'clock that night.

Getting permission for a week's absence was not as easy as securing
permission to go to Paris. But Tom and Jack waited until after a
sharp engagement, during which they distinguished themselves by
bravery in. the air, assisting in bringing down some Hun planes, and
then their petition was favorably acted on.

Behold them next, as a Frenchman might say, on their way to their
former squadron, where they were welcomed with open arms. They had
to take the commanding officer into their confidence, but he offered
no objection to their scheme. They must go alone, however, and
without his official knowledge or sanction, since it was not
strictly a military matter.

And so Tom and Jack were furnished with the best and speediest
machine in their former camp, and one bright day, following a hard
air battle in which the Huns were worsted, they set out to drop the
letters and packages over the prison camp where Harry Leroy was
held.

"Well, how do you feel about it?" asked Jack, as he and his chum
stepped into their trim machine.

"Not at all afraid, if that's what you mean."

"No. And you know I didn't. I mean do you think we'll pull it
off?"

"I have a sneaking suspicion that we shall."

"And so have I. It's a desperate chance, but it may succeed. Only
if it does, and we get Harry's hopes raised for a rescue, how are we
going to pull that off?"

"That's another story," remarked Tom. "Another story."

They mounted into the clear, bright air, and proceeded toward the
German lines. Would they reach their objective, or would they be
shot down, to be either killed or made prisoners themselves? Those
were questions they could not answer. But they hoped for the best.

CHAPTER XV

BADLY HIT

Before undertaking their kindly though dangerous mission, Tom and
Jack had carefully studied it from all angles. At first Jack had
been frankly skeptical, and he said as much to his chum.

"You'll never get over the place where Harry is held a prisoner,"
declared Jack. "And, if you do, and start to dropping packages,
they'll never land within a mile of the place you intend, and
Harry'll have the joy of seeing some fat German eat his chocolate
cake."

"Well, maybe," Tom had agreed, "But I'm going to try."

To this end they had secured the best map possible of the ground in
and around the prison camp. Its location they knew from the dropped
glove of the aviator, which contained a note telling about Leroy.

It was not uncommon for Germany to disclose to her enemies the names
of prisons where certain of the Allies were confined, and this was
also done by England and France. The prison camps were located far
enough behind the defense lines to make it impossible for them to,
be reached in the course of ordinary fighting.

Then, too, the airmen of Germany seemed a step above her other
fighters in that they were more chivalrous. So Tom and Jack felt
reasonably certain as to Leroy's whereabouts. Of course it was
possible that he had been moved since the note was written, but on
this point they would have to take a chance.

To this end they had provided themselves not only with the best maps
obtainable showing the character of the ground and the nature of the
defenses around the prison, where Harry and other Allied men were
held, but inquiries had also been made by those in authority, at the
request of Tom and Jack, of German prisoners, and from them had come
information of value about the place.

Of course the two air service boys had no hope of inflicting much
damage on batteries or works outside the prison. By the dropping of
some bombs they carried they hoped to distract attention from
themselves long enough to drop the packages to Leroy. The bombs
were a sort of feint.

And now they were on their way, winging a path over their own lines,
and soon they would be above those of the Hun.

Some of the former comrades of Tom and Jack, having been apprised of
what the lads were to attempt, had, without waiting for official
orders, decided to do what they could to help. This took the form
of a daring challenge to the German airmen to come out and give
battle.

After their thorough drubbing of the day before, however, the Boche
aviators did not seem much inclined to venture forth for another
cloud fight. But the French and some English fliers who were acting
with them, laid a sort of trap, which, in a way, aided the two
Americans.

A half dozen swift Spads took the air soon after Tom and Jack
ascended, but instead of flying over the German lines they went in
the opposite direction, making their way to the west. They got out
of sight, and then mounted to a great height.

Shortly after this some heavy, double-seated planes set out for the
German territory as though to make observations or take photographs.
It was the belief of the French airmen that the Huns would swarm out
to attack these planes, or else to give battle to the machine in
which Tom and Jack rode. And, in such an event, the swift Spads
would swoop down out of a great height and engage in the conflict.

And that is exactly what occurred. Torn and Jack had flown only a
little way over the trenches of the enemy when they saw some Hun
planes coming up to meet them. It was in the minds of both lads
that they were in for a fight, but before they had a chance to sight
their guns, some French planes of the slow type appeared in their
rear.

To these the Huns at once turned their attention, and then the Spads
swooped down, and there was a sharp engagement in the air, which
ultimately resulted in victory for the Allied forces, though two of
the French fliers were wounded.

But the feint had its effect, and attention was drawn away from Tom
and Jack, who flew on toward the prison camp.

Had their mission been solely to carry words of cheer with some
material comforts to Harry Leroy, it is doubtful if Tom and Jack
would have received permission to make the trip. But it was known
they were both daring aviators and good observers, and it was this
latter ability on their part which counted in their favor. For it
was thought they might bring back information concerning matters
well back of the German front lines, information which would be of
service to the Allies.

And in furtherance of this scheme Jack and Tom made maps of the
country over which they were flying. They had been provided with
materials for this before leaving.

On and on they flew, changing their height occasionally, and, when
they were fired at, which was the case not infrequently, they
"zoomed" to escape the flying shrapnel.

But on the whole, they fared very well, and in a comparatively short
time they found themselves over the country where, on the maps, was
marked the location of Harry Leroy's prison camp.

"There it is!" suddenly exclaimed Tom, but of course Jack could not
hear him. However, a punch in Jack's back served the same purpose,
and he took his eyes from his instruments long enough to look down.
Then a confirmatory glance at the map made him agree with Tom. The
air service boys were directly over the prison camp.

This, like so many other dreary places set up by the Germans,
consisted of a number of shacks, in barrack fashion, with a central
parade, or exercise ground. About it all was a barbed wire stockade
and, though the character of these wires did not show, there were
also some carrying a deadly electric current.

This was to discourage escapes on the part of prisoners, and it
succeeded only too well.

But the camp was in plain sight, and in the central space could be
seen a number of ant-like figures which the boys knew were
prisoners.

Whether one of them was Leroy or not, they were unable to say.

But they had reached their objective, and now it was time to act.
High time, indeed, for below them batteries began sending up shells
which burst uncomfortably close to them. They were of all
varieties, from plain shrapnel to "flaming onions" and "woolly
bears," the latter a most unpleasant object to meet in mid-air.

For the Germans were taking no chances. They knew the vulnerable
points of their prison camp lay above, and they had provided a ring
of anti-aircraft guns to take care of any Allied, machines that
might fly over the place. Whether any such daring scheme had been
tried before or not, Tom and Jack could not say.

Of course it was out of the question that any great damage could be
done in the vicinity of the camp without endangering the inmates, so
it was not thought, in all likelihood, that any very heavy air raids
would have to be repelled. But in any case, the Huns were ready for
whatever might happen.

"Better drop the bombs, hadn't we?" cried Jack to Tom, as he slowed
down the motor a moment to enable his voice to be heard.

"I guess so--yes. Drop 'em and then shoot over the camp again and
let the packages fall. It's getting pretty hot here."

And indeed it was. Guns were shooting at the two daring air service
boys from all sides of the camp.

In the camp itself great excitement prevailed, for the prisoners
knew, now, that it was some of their friends flying above them.

There was another danger, too. Not many miles away from the prison
camp was a German aerodrome, and scenes of activity could now be
noticed there. The Huns were getting ready to send up a
machine--perhaps more than one--to attack Tom and Jack.

It was, then, high time they acted, and as Jack again started the
engine, he guided the machine over a spot where the anti-aircraft
guns were most active.

"There's a battery there I may put out of business," he argued.

Flying fast, Jack was soon over the spot, or, rather, not so much
over it, as in range of it. For when an aeroplane drops a bomb on a
given objective, it does not do so when directly above, but just
before it reaches it. The momentum of the plane, going at great
speed, carries any object dropped from it forward. It is as when a
mail pouch is thrown from a swiftly moving express train or a bundle
of newspapers is tossed off. In both instances the man in the train
tosses the pouch or his bundle before his car gets to the station
platform, and the momentum does the rest.

It was that way with the bomb Jack released by a touch of his foot
on the lever in the cockpit of the machine. Down it darted, and,
wheeling sharply after he had let it go, the lad saw a great puff of
smoke hovering directly over the spot where, but a moment before,
Hun gums had been belching at him.

"Good! A sure hit!" cried Tom, but he alone heard his own words.
Jack's ears were filled with the throb of the motor. He had two
more bombs, and these were quickly dropped at different points on
German territory outside the camp.

At the time, aside from the evidences they saw, Jack and Tom were
not aware of the damage they inflicted, but later they learned it
was considerable and effective. However, they guessed that they had
created enough of a diversion to try now to deliver the packages
containing the letters and other comforts.

Jack swung the machine at a sharp angle over the prison camp, and as
he cleared the barbed wire fence Tom, who had been given charge of
the packets, let one go. It fell just outside the barrier, caused
by some freak of the wind perhaps, and the lad could not keep back a
sigh of dismay. One of the three precious packages had fallen short
of the mark, and would doubtless be picked up by some German guard.

But Tom had the satisfaction of seeing the two other bundles fall
fairly within the prison fence, and there was a rush on the part of
the unfortunate men to pick them up.

"I only hope Harry's there," mused Tom. "That's tough luck to wish
a man, I know," he reflected, "but I mean I hope he gets the letters
and things."

However, he and Jack had done all that lay in their power to make
this possible, and it was now time to get back to their own lines if
they could. The place was getting too dangerous for them.

Swinging about in a big circle, and noting that groups of prisoners
were now gathered about the place where the packets had fallen, Jack
sent the machine toward that part of France where they had spent so
many strenuous days.

"They're going to make it lively for us!" cried Jack, as he noted
two swift German planes mounting into the air. "It's going to be a
fight."

But he and Tom were ready for this. Their Lewis and Vickers guns
were in position, and they only awaited the approach of the nearest
Hun plane to unlimber them. They mounted steadily upward to get
beyond the range of the anti-aircraft batteries and were soon in
comparative safety, since the Huns, at this particular sector at
least, were notoriously bad marksmen.

With the German planes, that would be a different story, and Tom and
Jack soon found this out to their cost.

For one of the Boche machines came on speedily, and much more
quickly than the boys had believed possible was within range. The
German machine guns--for it was a double plane--began spitting fire
and bullets at them. They replied, but did not seem to inflict much
damage.

Suddenly Tom saw Jack give a jump, as though in an agony of pain,
and then the young pilot crumpled up in his seat.

"Badly hit!" exclaimed Tom with a pang at his own heart. "Poor Jack
is out of it!"

The machine, out of control for a moment, started to go into a nose
dive, but Tom let go the lever of his machine gun, and took charge
of the craft, since it was one capable of dual manipulation. Tom
now had to become the pilot and gunner, too, and he had yet a long
way to go to reach his own lines, while Jack was huddled, before
him, either dead or badly wounded.

CHAPTER XVI

JUST IN TIME

It was with mingled feelings of alarm and sorrow that Tom Raymond
sent the speedy Spad aeroplane on its homeward way toward the French
lines. He was worried, not chiefly about his own safety, but on
account of Jack; and his sorrow was in the thought that perhaps he
had taken his last flight with his beloved chum and comrade in arms.
He could not see where Jack had been hit, but this was because the
other lad lay in such a huddled position in the cockpit. Jack had
slumped from his seat, the safety straps alone holding him in
position, though he would not have fallen out when the machine was
upright as it was at present.

"One of those machine gun bullets must have got him," mused Tom, as
he started the craft on an upward climb, for it had darted downward
when Jack's nerveless hands and feet ceased their control. For part
of the steering in an aeroplane is done by the feet of the pilot,
leaving his hands free, at times, to fire the machine gun or draw
maps.

Tom had a double object in starting to rise. One was to get into a
better position to make the homeward flight, and another was to have
a better chance not only to ward off the attack of the Hun planes,
of which there were now three in the air, but also to return their
fire. It is the machine that is higher up that stands the best
chance in an aerial duel, for not only can one maneuver to better
advantage, but the machine can be aimed more easily with reference
to the fixed gun.

In Tom's case he did not have access to this weapon, which was fixed
on the rim of the cockpit where Jack could, and where he had been
controlling, it. With Jack out of the fight, through one or more
German bullets, it was up to Tom to return the fire of the Huns from
his swivel mounted Lewis gun. He was going to have difficulty in
doing this and also guiding the craft, but he had had harder
problems than this to meet since becoming an aviator in the great
war, and now he quickly conquered his worrying over Jack, and began
to look to himself.

He gave one more fleeting glance at the crumpled-up figure of his
chum, seeking for a sign of life, but he saw none. Then he swung
about, turning in toward the nearest Hun airman, and not away from
him, and opened up with the machine gun, using both hands on that
for a moment, while he steered with his knees.

It was not easy work, and Tom hardly expected to make a direct hit,
but he must have come uncomfortably close to the Boche, for the
latter swerved off, and for an instant his plane seemed beyond
control. Whether this was due to a wound received by the aviator,
or to a trick on his part was not disclosed to Tom. But the machine
darted downward and seemed to be content to veer off for a while.

The third plane Tom soon saw was not going to trouble him, as it had
not speed equal to his own, so that he really had left only one
antagonist with whom to deal. And this plane, containing two men,
with whom he had not yet come to close quarters, was racing toward
him at great speed.

"I guess there's only one thing to do," mused Tom, "and that's to
run for it. I won't stand any show at all with two of them shooting
at me, while I have to manage the machine and the gun too. If I can
beat 'em to our lines I'd better do it and run the chance of some of
our boys coming out to take care of 'em. I'd better get Jack to a
doctor as soon as I can."

And abandoning the gun to give all his attention to the motor, Tom
opened it full and sped on his way. The other machine's occupants
saw his plan and tried to stop it with a burst of bullets, but the
range was a little too far for effective work.

"Now for a race!" thought Tom, and that is what it turned out to be.
Seeing that he was going to try to get away, the Hun plane, which
was almost as speedy as the one Tom and Jack had started out in,
took after them. The other German craft was left far in the rear,
and the one Tom had shot at appeared to be in such difficulties that
it was practically out of the fight.

Thus the odds, once so greatly against our heroes, were now greatly
reduced, though not yet equal, since Jack was completely out of the
game--for how long Tom could only guess, and he seemed to feel cold
fingers clutching at his heart when he thought of this.

But Tom soon discovered, by a backward glance over his shoulder now
and then, that his machine, barring accidents, would distance the
other, and this was what his aim now was. So on and on he sped,
watching the German occupied French territory unrolling itself below
him, coming nearer and nearer each minute to his own lines and
safety.

Behind them, he and Jack--for the latter had done his share before
being wounded--had left consternation in the German ranks. The
bombs had done considerable damage--as was learned later--and the
dropping of packages within the prison camp was fraught with
potential danger to an extent at which the Boches could only guess.

On and on sped Tom, sparing time, now and then, to look back at his
pursuers, who were, it could not be doubted, doing their best to get
within effective range. And, every now and again, Tom would glance
at the motionless form of his churn.

But poor Jack never stirred, and Tom was fearing more and more that
his chum had made his last flight. As for the Hun aviators, after
using up a drum or so of bullets uselessly, they ceased firing and
urged their machine on to the uttermost.

But Tom had the start of them, and he was also on a higher level, so
that the Germans must climb at an oblique angle to reach him.

And, thanks to this, Tom saw that, if nothing else happened, he
would soon be in comparative safety with the unconscious form of
Jack. The anti-aircraft batteries were firing in vain, as he was
beyond their range, and, far away, he could see the lines of the
French armies, behind which he soon hoped to be.

And then the unexpected happened, or, rather, it had taken place
some time since, but it was only then brought to Tom's attention.
His engine began missing, and when he sought for a cause he speedily
found it. Nearly all the gasoline had leaked out of the main tank.
As he knew that there had been plenty for the return flight, there
was but one explanation of this. A Hun bullet had pierced the
petrol reservoir, letting the precious fluid leak away.

"Now if the auxiliary tank has any in it, I'm fairly all right,"
thought Tom. "If it hasn't, I'm all in."

His worst fears were confirmed, for the auxiliary tank had suffered
a like fate with the main one. Both were pierced. There were only
a few drops left, besides those even then being vaporized in the
carburetor.

With despair in his heart, Tom looked back. If the Hun plane chose
to rush him now all would be over with him and Jack. He had only
enough fuel for another thousand meters or so, and then he must
volplane.

He saw a burst of flame and smoke from the enemy plane, and realized
that he was being shot at again. But the distance was still too far
for effective aim.

And then, to his joy, Tom saw the pursuer turn and start back toward
the German territory. The firing had been a last, desperate attempt
to end his career, and it had failed. Either the Huns were almost
out of petrol themselves, or they did not relish getting too close
to the French lines.

"And now, if I can volplane down the rest of the way, I'll be in a
fair position to save myself," mused Tom, as he made a calculation
of the distance he had yet to go. It was far, but he was at a good
height and believed he could do it.

Suddenly his engine stopped, as though with a sigh of regret that it
could no longer serve him, and Tom knew that volplaning alone would
save him now. He was still over the enemy country, and had his
plight been guessed at by the Germans, undoubtedly they would have
sent a machine up to attack him. But they were in ignorance.

There was nothing to do but drift along. Gravity alone urged the
craft on. As he swept over the German trenches Tom was greeted with
a burst of shrapnel, and he was now low enough to be vulnerable to
this. But luck was with him, and though the plane was hit several
times he thought he was unharmed. But in this he was wrong. He
received a glancing wound in one leg, but in the excitement he did
not notice it, and it was not until he had landed that he saw the
blood, and knew what had happened.

On and on, and down and down he volplaned until he was so near his
own lines, and so low down, that he could hear the burst of cheers
from his former comrades.

Then he aimed his craft for a level, grassy place to make a landing,
and as he came to a gradual stop, and was surrounded by a score of
eager aviators, he cried out, as soon as he could speak, "I'm all
right! But look after Jack! He's hurt!"

A surgeon bent hastily over the huddled form, and with the aid of
some men lifted it from the cockpit. Jack's legs were covered with
blood, and when the medical man saw whence it came, then and there
he set hastily to work to stop the bleeding from a large artery.

"You got back only just in time, my friend," he said to Tom, as Jack
was carried to a hospital. "Two minutes more and he would have been
bled to death."

CHAPTER XVII

A CRASH

Not until a day or so later, when Jack was able to sit up in bed and
greet Tom with rather a pale face, did the latter learn all that had
happened. And it was a very close call that Jack had had.

As Tom had guessed, it was some of the bullets from the Hun machine
gun that had stricken down his chum. One had struck him a glancing
blow on the head, rendering Jack unconscious and sending him down, a
crumpled-up heap in the cockpit of his machine. Another bullet,
coming through the machine later, had found lodgment in Jack's leg,
cutting part way through the wall of one of the larger arteries.

It was certain that this bullet, the one in the leg, came after Jack
was hit on the head, for that first wound was the only one he
remembered receiving.

"It was just as though I saw not only stars' but moons, suns,
comets, rainbows and northern lights all at once," he explained to
his chum.

The bullet in the leg had cut only part way through the wall of an
artery. At first the tissues held the blood back from spurting out
in a stream that would soon have carried life with it. But either
some unconscious motion on Jack's part, or a jarring of the plane,
broke the half-severed wall, and, just before Tom landed, his chum
began to bleed dangerously. Then it was the surgeon had made his
remark, and acted in time to save Jack's life.

"Well, I guess we made good all right," remarked Jack, as his chum
visited him in the hospital.

"I reckon so," was the answer, "though the Huns haven't sent us any
love letters to say so. But we surely did drop the packages in the
prison camp, though whether Harry got them or not is another story.
But we did our part."

"That's right," agreed Jack. "Now the next thing is to get busy and
bring Harry out of there if we can."

"The next thing for you to do is to keep quiet until that wound in
your leg heals," said the doctor, with a smile. "If you don't, you
won't do any more flying, to say nothing of making any rescues. Be
content with what you did. The whole camp is talking of your
exploit. It was noble!"

"Shucks!" exclaimed Tom, in English, for they had been speaking
French for the benefit of the surgeon, who was of that nationality.

"Ah, and what may that mean?" he asked.

"I mean it wasn't anything," translated Tom. "Anybody could have
done what we did."

But of this the surgeon had his doubts.

In spite of the dangerous character of his wound, Jack made a quick
recovery. He was in excellent condition, and the wound was a clean
one, so, as soon as the walls of the artery had healed, he was able
to be about, though he was weak from loss of blood. However, that
was soon made good, and he and Tom, bidding farewell to their late
comrades, returned to the American lines. They had been obliged to
get an extension of leave--at least Jack had--though Tom could
report back on time, and he spent the interim between that and
Jack's return to duty, serving as instructor to the "huns" of his
own camp. They were eager to learn, and anxious to do things for
themselves.

Before long Jack returned, though he was not assigned to duty, and
he and Tom visited Paris and told Nellie, Bessie and Mrs. Gleason
the result of their mission.

"You didn't see Harry, of course?" asked Nellie, negatively, though
really hoping that the answer would be in the affirmative.

"Oh, no, we couldn't make out any individual prisoner," said Tom.
"There was a bunch of 'em--I mean a whole lot--there."

"Poor fellows!" said Mrs. Gleason kindly, "Let us hope that they
will soon be released."

"Tom and I have been trying to hit on some plan to rescue Harry,"
put in Jack. "And we'd help any others to get away that we could.
But is isn't going to be easy."

"Oh, I don't see how you can do it!" exclaimed Nellie. "Of course I
would give anything in the world to have Harry back with me, but I
must not ask you to run into needless danger on his account. That
would be too much. Your lives are needed here to beat back the
Huns. Harry may live to see the day of victory, and then all will
be well."

"I don't believe in waiting, if anything can be done before that."
Tom spoke grimly. "But, as Jack says, it isn't going to be easy,"
he went on. "However, we haven't given up. The only thing is to
hit on some plan that's feasible."

They talked of this, but could arrive at nothing. They were not
even sure--which made it all the harder to bear--that Harry had
received the packages dropped in the prison camp at such risk. The
only thing that could be done was to wait and see if he wrote to his
sister or his former chums. Letters occasionally did come from
German prisoners, but they were rare, and could be depended on
neither as to time of delivery nor as to authenticity of contents.

So it was a case of waiting and hoping.

Jack was not yet permitted to fly, so Tom had to go alone. But he
served as an instructor, leaving the more dangerous work of patrol,
fighting, and reconnaissance to others until he was fit to stand the
strain of flying and of fighting once more.

"Sergeant Raymond, you will take up Martin to-day," said the flight
lieutenant to Tom one morning. "Let him manage the plane himself
unless you see that he is going to get into trouble. And give him a
good flight."

"Yes, sir," answered Tom, as he turned away, after saluting.

He found his pupil, a young American from the Middle West, who was
not as old as he and Jack, awaiting him impatiently.

"I'm to get my second wing soon, and I want to show that I can
manage a plane all by myself, even if you're in it," said the lad,
whose name was Dick Martin. "They say I can make a solo flight
to-morrow if I do well to-day."

"Well, go to it!" exclaimed Tom with a laugh. "I'm willing."

Soon they were in a double-seater of fairly safe construction--that
is, it was not freakish nor speedy, and was what was usually used in
this instructive work.

"I'm going to fly over the town," declared Martin, naming the French
city nearest the camp. "Well, mind you keep the required distance
up," cautioned Tom, for there was, a regulation making it necessary
for the aviators to fly at a certain minimum height above a town in
flying across it, so that if they developed engine trouble, they
could coast safely down and land outside the town itself.

"I'll do that," promised Martin.

But either he forgot this, or he was unable to keep at the required
height, for he began scaling down when about over the center of the
place. Tom saw what was happening, and reached over to take the
controls. But something happened. There was a jam of one of the
levers, and to his consternation Tom saw the machine going down and
heading straight for a large greenhouse on the outskirts of the
town.

"There's going to be one beautiful crash!" Tom thought, as he worked
in vain to send the craft up. But it was beyond control.

CHAPTER XVIII

GETTING A ZEPPELIN

Dick Martin became frantic when he saw what was about to happen. He
fairly tore at the various levers and controls, and even increased
the speed of the motor, but this last only had the effect of sending
the machine at a faster rate toward the big expanse of glass, which
was the greenhouse roof.

"Shut it off! Shut off the motor!" cried Tom, but his words could
not be heard, so he punched Martin in the back, and when that
frightened lad looked around his teacher made him understand by
signs, what was wanted.

With the motor off there was a chance to speak, and Torn cried:

"Head her up! Try to make her rise and we may clear. I can't do a
thing with the levers back here!"

Martin tried, but his efforts had little effect. For one instant
the machine rose as though to clear the fragile glass. Then it
dived down again, straight for the greenhouse roof.

"Guess it's all up with this machine!" thought Tom quickly. He was
not afraid of being killed. The distance to fall was not enough for
that, and though he and his fellow aviator might be cut by broken
glass, still the body of the aeroplane would protect them pretty
well from even this contingency. But there was sure to be
considerable damage to the property of a French civilian, and the
machine, which was one of the best, was pretty certain to be badly
broken.

And then there came a terrific crash. The aeroplane settled down by
the stern, and rose by the bow, so to speak. Then the process was
reversed, and Tom felt himself being catapulted out of his seat.
Only his safety strap held him in place. The same thing happened to
Dick Martin.

Then there was an ominous calm, and the aeroplane slowly settled
down to an even keel, held up on the glass-stripped frames of the
greenhouse, one of the very few in that vicinity, which was
considerably in the rear of the battle line.

Slowly Tom unbuckled his safety strap and climbed out, making his
way to the ground by means of stepping on an elevated bed of flowers
inside the now almost roofless house.

Martin followed him, and as they stood looking at the wreckage they
had made, or, rather, that had been made through no direct fault of
their own, the proprietor of the place came out, wearing a long
dirt-smudged apron.

He raised his hands in horror at the sight that met his gaze, and
then broke into such a torrent of French that Tom, with all the
experience he had had of excitable Frenchmen, was unable to
comprehend half of it.

The gist was, however, to the effect that a most monstrous and
unlooked-for calamity had befallen, and the inhabitants of all the
earth, outside of Germany and her allies, were called on to witness
that never hid there been such a smash of good glass. In which Torn
was rather inclined to agree.

"Well, you did something this time all right, Buddie," Tom remarked
to Dick Martin.

"Did I--did I do that?" he asked, as though he had been walking in
his sleep, and was just now awake.

"Well, you and the old bus together," said Tom. "And we got off
lucky at that. Didn't I tell you to keep high, if you were going to
fly over one of the towns?"

"Yes, you did, but I forgot. Anyhow I'd have cleared the place if
the controls hadn't gone back on us."

"I suppose so, but that excuse won't go with the C.O. It's a bad
smash."

By this time quite a crowd had gathered, and Tom was trying to
pacify the excitable greenhouse owner by promising full reparation
in the shape of money damages.

How to get the machine down off the roof, where it rested in a mass
of broken glass and frames, was a problem. Tom tried to organize a
wrecking party, but the French populace which gathered, much as it
admired the Americans, was afraid of being cut with the broken
glass, or else they imagined that the machine might suddenly soar
aloft, taking some of them with it.

In the end Tom had to leave the plane where it was and hire a motor
to take him and Martin back to the aerodrome. They were only
slightly cut by flying glass, nothing to speak of considering the
danger in which they had been.

The result of the disobedience of orders was that the army officials
had rather a large bill for damages to settle with the French
greenhouse proprietor, and Tom and Dick Martin were deprived of
their leave privileges for a week for disobeying the order to keep
at a certain height in flying over a town or city.

Had they done that, when the controls jammed, they would have been
able to glide down into a vacant field, it was demonstrated. The
machine was badly damaged, though it was not beyond repair.

"And that's the last time I'm ever going to be soft with a Hun, you
can make up your mind to that," declared Tom to Jack. "If I'd sat
on him hard when I saw he was getting too low over the village, it
wouldn't have happened. But I didn't want him to think I knew it
all, and I thought I'd take a chance and let him pull his own
chestnuts out of the fire. But never again!"

"'Tisn't safe," agreed Jack. He was rapidly improving, so much so
that he was able to fly the next week, and he and Tom went up
together, and did some valuable scouting work for the American army.

At times they found opportunity to take short trips to Paris, where
they saw Nellie and Bessie, and were entertained by Mrs. Gleason.
Nellie was eager for some word from her brother, but none came.
Whether the packages dropped by Tom and Jack reached the prisoner
was known only to the Germans, and they did not tell.

But the daring plan undertaken by the two air service boys was soon
known a long way up and down the Allied battle line, and more than
one aviator tried to duplicate it, so that friends or comrades who
were held by the Huns might receive some comforts, and know they
were not forgotten. Some of the Allied birdmen paid the penalty of
death for their daring, but others reported that they had dropped
packages within the prison camps, though whether those for whom they
were intended received them or not, was not certain.

"But we aren't going to let it stop there, are we?" asked Tom of
Jack one day, when they were discussing the feat which had been so
successful.

"Let it stop where? What do you mean?"

"I mean are we going to do something to get Harry away from the
Boche nest?"

"I'm with you in anything like that!" exclaimed Jack. "But what can
we do? How are we going to rescue him?"

"That's what we've got to think out," declared Tom. "Something has
to be done."

But there was no immediate chance to proceed to that desired end
because of something vital that happened just about then. This was
nothing more nor less than secret news that filtered into the Allied
lines, to the effect that a big Zeppelin raid over Paris was
planned.

It was not the first of these raids, nor, in all likelihood, would
it be the last. But this one was novel in that it was said the
great German airships would sail toward the capital over the
American lines, or, rather, the lines where the Americans were
brigaded with the French and English. Doubtless it was to "teach
the Americans a lesson," as the German High Command might have put
it.

At any rate all leaves of absence for the airmen were canceled, and
they were ordered to hold themselves in readiness to repel the
"Zeps," as they were called, preventing them from getting across the
lines to Paris.

"And we'll bring down one or two for samples, if we can!" boasted
Jack.

"What makes it so sure that they are coming?" asked Tom.

It developed there was nothing sure about it. But the information
had come from the Allied air secret service, and doubtless had its
inception when some French or British airman saw scenes of activity
near one of the Zeppelin headquarters in the German-occupied
territory. There were certain fairly positive signs.

And, surely enough, a few nights later, the agreed-upon alarm was
sounded.

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