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Aces Up by Covington Clarke

McGee smiled and followed him over


Instead

of following, Larkin decided to nose down and offer more tantalizing bait.

McGee, seeing the dive, found it more than he could resist. Besides, a merry little chase would serve to wash the brooding thoughts from his mind. This was a morning for sport, for jest, for youth--for hazard!

Forward went the stick and he plunged down the backwash of Larkin's diving plane, his motor roaring its cadenced challenge. This was something like! Sky and ground were rushing toward each other. The braces were screaming like banshees; the speed indicator hand was mounting with a steady march that made one want to dive on and on and on until--

Larkin, in the plane ahead, brought his stick backward as he made ready to go over in a tight loop. McGee smiled and followed him over. When they came out of the loop they were in the same relative position--Larkin the hare, McGee the tenacious hound.

For the next few minutes the open-mouthed countrymen in the fields below were treated to a series of aerial gymnastics which must have sent their own pulses racing and which might well serve them for fireside narration for years to come.

The two darting hawks Immelmanned, looped, barrel-rolled, side-slipped, and then plunged into a dizzy circle in which they flew round and round an imaginary axis, the radius of the circle growing ever shorter

and shorter. Every action of the leading plane was immediately matched by the pursuer.

Larkin, realizing that his skill in manoeuvering was something less than McGee's, decided to bring the contest to a close with a few thrills in hedge hopping.

Of all sports that offer high hazard to thrill satiated war pilots, that of hedge hopping, or contour chasing, occupies first place. This is particularly true when the pilot is flying a Sopwith Camel powered by the temperamental Clerget motor with its malfunctioning wind driven gasoline pump. The sport had been repeatedly forbidden by all the allied air commands, but these commands had to deal with irrepressible youth, which has slight regard for doddering old mossbacks who think that a plane should be handled as a wheel chair.

Larkin dived at the ground like a hawk that has sighted some napping rodent, and so near did he come that by the time he had leveled off, his wheels were almost touching the ground--and wheels must not touch when one is screaming through space at the rate of a hundred and forty miles per hour.

He glanced back. Sure enough, McGee was still on his tail. No hedge hopping, eh? Huh! Trust The Shrimp to keep young, he thought. Fat chance they had of getting old. Who ever heard of an old war pilot? Ha! That's a good one! And here's a double row of tall poplars fringing the road directly ahead. Hold her close to the ground and then zoom her at the last minute ... landing gears just clearing the topmost branches ... make it, and that's hedge hopping. Fail to make it--and that's bad news!

Larkin made it, a beautiful zoom that carried him over the trees by a skillful margin. Then he swooped down again, skimming along the level field on the other side of the road.

McGee's zoom was just as spectacular and as nicely timed, but as his nose climbed above the first row of trees his motor died as suddenly as though throttled by the strangling hands of some unseen genii. Sudden though it was, McGee had sensed that he was crowding the motor too much and had tried to ease her off and still clear the trees. It was too late to relieve the choked motor but he did clear the first row of trees. He was about to close his eyes against the inevitable crash into the poplars on the other side of the road when he saw that two of the trees had been felled, and that so recently that the woodsmen had not yet worked them up. There was one clear chance left. If only he could slip her over just far enough to clear the outstretched limbs of the tree to the right.


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