Air service boys in the.., p.14
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       Air Service Boys in the Big Battle; Or, Silencing the Big Guns, p.14

           E. J. Craine
 
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  CHAPTER XIV. WILL THEY SUCCEED?

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

  At any rate, soon after breakfast saw the two boys on their way to thewonderful 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 girlsand Mrs. Gleason would be at home in Paris, for they had a holiday oncein every seven, and it was their custom to come to their lodging fora rest from the merciful, though none the less exceedingly trying, RedCross work.

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

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

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

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

  "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?" askedNellie 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, sisterlyletter."

  "What good will that do?" asked Nellie. "I've sent him a lot, but Ican'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 weredecent enough to let us know he was a prisoner of theirs, they wouldtell us if--if--well, if anything had happened to him."

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

  "Oh, he is so fond of chocolate!" exclaimed Nellie. "He used to love thefudge 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 kindthat can stand hard knocks. Fudge is too soft. It would get all mussedup with what Jack and I have planned to do to it."

  "What is that?" asked Bessie Gleason. "You haven't told us yet. How areyou 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 anaeroplane. 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, thechocolate and other things inside."

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

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

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

  "But if you do succeed in dropping a package for Harry in the midst ofthe 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 theprisoners--though of course,"' she added quickly, as she saw a look ofpain 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 chancealso. But I figure that, in the confusion, Harry, or some of his fellowprisoners, may pick up the package, or packages, unobserved. Of coursethere'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, orAmerican prisoners get it, they'll see that it goes to Harry all right."

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

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

  "Yes," said Nellie in a low voice, "we must do something. This suspenseis 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 linesand made triplicates of it, since three packages were to be dropped. Theletters, to begin again, were written and the bundles were made up.They contained cigarettes, cakes of hard chocolate, soap and a few otherlittle comforts and luxuries that it was certain Harry would be glad toget.

  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 timefor them to start to their station, since their leave was up at eleveno'clock that night.

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

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

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

  "Well, how do you feel about it?" asked Jack, as he and his chum steppedinto 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 itdoes, and we get Harry's hopes raised for a rescue, how are we going topull that off?"

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

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

 
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