Air service boys in the.., p.7
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       Air Service Boys in the Big Battle; Or, Silencing the Big Guns, p.7

           E. J. Craine
 
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  CHAPTER VII. THE AMERICAN FRONT

  Tom and Jack bowed. In fact, so great was their surprise at first thatthis was all they could do. Then they stared first at Bessie and then atthe other girl--the sister of Harry, their chum, who was somewhere, deador alive, behind the German lines.

  "Well, aren't you glad to see her?" demanded Bessie. "I thought I'dsurprise you."

  "You have," said Jack. "Very much!"

  "Glad to see her--why--of course. But--but--how--"

  Tom found himself stuttering and stammering, so he stopped, and staredso hard at Nellie Leroy that she smiled, though rather sadly, for itwas plain to be seen her grief over the possible death of her brotherweighed down on her. And then she went on:

  "Well, I'm real--I'm not a dream, Mr. Raymond."

  "So I see--I mean I'm glad to see it--I mean--oh, I don't know what I domean!" he finished desperately. "Did you know she was going to be here?Was that the reason you asked me to come?" he inquired of Jack.

  "Hadn't the least notion in the world," answered Jack. "I'm as muchsurprised as you are."

  "Well, we'll take pity on you and tell you all about it," said Bessie."Mother, here are the boys," she called; and Mrs. Gleason, who hadsuffered so much since having been saved from the Lusitania andafterward rescued by air craft from the lonely castle, came out of herroom to greet the boys.

  They were as glad to see her as she was to meet them again, and for atime there was an interchange of talk. Then Mrs. Gleason withdrew toleave the young people to themselves.

  "Well, go on, tell us all about it!" begged Tom, who could not take hiseyes off Nellie Leroy. "How did she get here?" and he indicated Harry'ssister.

  "He talks of me as though I were some specimen!" laughed the girl. "Butgo on--tell him, Bessie."

  "Well, it isn't much of a story," said Bessie Gleason. "Nellie startedto do Red Cross work, as mother and I are doing, and she was assigned tothe hospital where we were."

  "This was after I heard the terrible news about poor Harry at yourescadrille," Nellie broke in, to say to Tom and Jack. "I--I suppose youhaven't had any--word?" she faltered.

  "Not yet," Jack answered. "But we may get it any day now--or they may,back there," and he nodded to indicate the air headquarters he and Tomhad left. "You know we're going to be under Pershing soon," he added.

  "So you wrote me," said Bessie. "I'm glad, though it's all in the samegood cause. Well, as I was saying, Nellie came to our hospital-I call itours though I have such a small part in it," she interjected. "She wasintroduced to us as an American, and of course we made friends at once."

  "No one could help making friends with Bessie and her mother!" exclaimedNellie.

  "Don't flatter us too much," warned Bessie. "Now please don't interruptany more. As I say, Nellie came to us to do her share in helping carefor the wounded, and, as mother and I found she had settled on noregular place in Paris, we asked her to share our rooms. Then we got totalking, and of course I found she had met you two boys in her searchfor her brother. After that we were better friends than ever."

  "Glad to know it," said Tom. "There's nothing like having friends.I hadn't any notion that I'd meet any when I started out with himtonight," and he motioned to Jack.

  "Well, I like that!" cried Bessie in feigned indignation. "I like toknow how you class my mother and me?" and she looked at Tom.

  "Oh,--er--well, of course--you and your mother, and Jack. But he andyou--"

  "Better swim out before you get into deep water," advised Jack quickly,and he nudged Tom with his foot.

  Then the boys had to tell about their final experiences before leavingthe Lafayette Escadrille with which many trying, as well as many happy,hours were associated, and the girls told of their adventures, whichwere not altogether tame.

  Since Mrs. Gleason had been freed from the plotting of the spy,Potzfeldt, she had lived a happy life--that is as happy as one couldamid the scenes of war and its attendant horrors. She and Bessie werethrowing themselves heart and soul into the immortal work of the RedCross, and now Nellie bad joined them.

  "It's the only way I can stop thinking about poor Harry," she said witha sigh. "Oh, if I could only hear some good news about him, that I mightsend it to the folks at home. Do you think it will ever come--the goodnews, I mean?" she asked wistfully of Tom.

  "All we can do is to hope," he said. He knew better than to buoy upfalse hopes, for he had seen too much of the terrible side of war. Inhis heart he knew that there was but little chance for Harry Leroy,after the latter's aeroplane had been shot down behind the German lines.Yet there was that one, slender hope to which all of us cling when itseems that everything else is lost.

  "He may be a prisoner, and, in that case, there is a chance," said Tom,while Jack and Bessie were conversing on the other side of the room.

  "You mean a chance to escape?"

  "Hardly that, though it has been done. A few aviators have got away fromGerman prison camps. But it's only one chance in many thousand. No, whatI meant was that--well, it's too small and slim a chance to talk about,I'm afraid."

  "Oh, no!" she hastened to assure him. "Do tell me! No chance is toosmall. What do you mean?"

  "Well, sometimes rescues have been made," went on Tom. "They are evenmore rare than escapes, but they have been done. I was thinking thatperhaps after Jack and I get in with Pershing's boys we might be in somebig raid on the Hun lines, and then, if we could get any information asto your brother's whereabouts, we might plan to rescue him."

  "Oh, do you think you could?"

  "I certainly can and will try!" exclaimed Tom, earnestly.

  "Oh, will you? Oh, I can't thank you enough!" and she clasped his handin both hers and Tom blushed deeply.

  "Please don't count too much on it," Tom warned Nellie. "It's adesperate chance at best, but it's the only one I can see that we cantake. First of all, though, we've got to get some word as to where Harryis."

  "How can you do that?"

  "Some of the Hun airmen are almost human, that is compared to theother Boche fighters. They may drop a cap of Harry's or a glove, orsomething," and Tom told of the practice in such cases.

  "Oh, if they only will!" sighed Nellie. "But it is almost too much tohope."

  And so they talked until late in the evening, when the time came forNellie, Bessie and her mother to report back for their Red Cross work.The boys returned to their hotel, promising to write often and to seetheir friends at the next opportunity.

  "I won't forget!" said Tom, on parting from Nellie.

  "Forget what?" asked Jack, as they were going down the street together.

  "I'm going to do my best to rescue her brother," said Tom, in a lowvoice.

  "Good! I'm with you!" declared Jack.

  The stay of the two boys in Paris was all too short, but they wereanxious to get back to their work. They wanted to be fighting undertheir own flag. Not that they had not been doing all they could forliberty, but it was different, being with their own countrymen. And so,when their leaves of absence were up, they took the train that was todrop them at the place assigned, where the newly arrived Americans werebeginning their training.

  "The American front!" cried Tom, as he and Jack reached the headquartersof General Pershing and his associate officers. "The American front atlast!"

  "And it's the happiest day of my life that I can fight on it!" criedJack.

 
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