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Aces Up by Covington Clarke

Failed utterly to impress McGee

"Come on, Wart," Hampden called to Siddons from the doorway. "Tex has just been listening to old General Rumor. I'd like right much to see this instructor before I get excited about it. Come on, let's go into town. The night's young--and so am I."

"You'll get excited when you see him," Tex responded, sagely.

"Who is he?" Nathan Rodd asked, which was about as long a sentence as Rodd ever spoke. He saved words as though they were so much gold.

"He's an English lieutenant," Tex answered. "Red-headed, freckle-faced, and so runty that he'd have to set on a stepladder to see out of a cockpit."

"A Limey!" chorused half a dozen incredulous, angry voices. "Whatdya know about that!"

Tex nodded solemnly. He was enjoying the situation. Inwardly, he was as furious as any of the others, but he had the happy faculty of being able to enjoy mob distress. "Yeah, a Limey! Some gink in town told me he was a famous ace. I forget his name. Never could remember names. But you boys'll love him. Like as not he'll let some of us solo after a month or so. Ain't the air service wonderful?"

More growls, and a half dozen muttered threats.

"Now boys, you-all be good, or Uncle Samuel'll send you back home and let you work in the shipyards at twenty per day. I'm surprised and hurt that you take this good news in this fashion. I should think you'd be delighted to have a Limey show you how he shot down a few of--"

"Attention!" Hampden called from the doorway, a warning quality in his voice.

The men looked up. There in the doorway stood Major Cowan, and by his side was a neatly uniformed, diminutive member of the Royal Flying Corps. The men scrambled hastily to their feet. Yancey upset his chair with a clatter as he unwound his long, thin legs from around the rungs.

Major Cowan, always maddeningly correct in military courtesies, turned upon Hampden with a withering look.

"Lieutenant," his voice had the edge of a razor but its cut was not so smooth, "do you not know that attention is not called when at mess?"

"Yes, sir."

"You do, or you do not?"

"Double negatives bother me right much," Hampden replied, his eyes on the English pilot and caring not a whit for court-martial now that he saw in the flesh the proof of Yancey's report, "but I do know the rule."

"Then observe it," Major Cowan responded, testily. "Gentlemen, this is Lieutenant McGee, of the British Royal Flying Corps, who has been assigned to us as flying instructor."

Lieutenant McGee felt that the room was surcharged with hostility, and he found himself in the position of one who is ashamed of the acts of another. Major Cowan, altogether too brusque, failed utterly to impress McGee, whose service in the Royal Flying Corps had been with a class of men who thought more of deeds than of rank and who could enjoy a care-free camaraderie without becoming careless of discipline. Discipline, after all, is never deeper than love and respect, and McGee felt somehow that Cowan was not a man to command either. McGee felt his face coloring, and tried to dispel it with a smile.

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