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Aces Up by Covington Clarke

The question snapped McGee back to earth


question snapped McGee back to earth.

"I was complimenting myself upon some very narrow escapes, Martins, but I'll repeat--for your benefit. You are a very lucky boy."

Martins blinked. He held opposite views. "You think so, sir? I've gotta different idea. I wanted to be a pilot, like you, sir, and here I am toolin' this old bus around France with never a chance to get off the ground unless I run off an embankment. And this old wreck is no bird."

"So you really wanted to be a pilot, Martins?"

"I sure did, sir."

"Um-m. That's why I said you were a very lucky young man. I know the names of a lot of young fellows who wanted to become pilots--and did. But they've gone West now and their names are on wooden crosses. Hoe your own row, Martins, and thank the Lord for small favors."

"Yes, sir," aloud, and under his breath, "It's easy enough for them that has wings."

"How's that, Martins?" McGee asked, rather enjoying himself.

Martins fidgeted with the gear shift. "I said I had always wanted a pair of wings, sir."

"Well, be a good boy and maybe you'll get them--in the next world. Good night, Martins."

"'Night--sir." Gurrr! went the clashing gears

as the car got under way with a lurch that spoke volumes for the driver. It was tough to be held to the ground by a wingless motor.

McGee caught a gleam of light through the shutters of the upstairs windows. So Larkin was back already? He took the front steps in a jump and raced up the stairs in a manner most unbecoming to a First Lieutenant with a score of victories to his credit.

"What kind of an outfit did you draw, Buzz?" he demanded as he burst into the room.

Larkin was buried behind a Paris edition of the _Tribune_, his legs sprawled out into the middle of the floor where the heel of one boot balanced precariously on the toe of the other.

"Oh, so-so," never bothering to look from behind his paper. Phlegmatic old Buzz, McGee thought, what was the use of getting excited over an instructor's job?

"Are they good?" McGee asked.

"Um. Dunno." Still reading.

"Mine are great!" McGee enthused. "Stiff, crusty young C.O., who needs a couple of crashes--one fatal, maybe--but the rest of them are fine. Great bunch of pilots."

"Yeah?" Still reading, but doubtful. "See any of 'em fly?"

"No-o," slowly, "of course not."

"Um-m. Well, wait until they begin sticking the noses of those new Spads in the ground, and then tell me about 'em. They've been trained on settin' hens. Wait until they mount a hawk."

McGee jerked a pillow from the bed and sent it crashing through the concealing paper. "Old killjoy! If a man gave you a diamond you'd try it on glass to see if it was real."

Larkin began rearranging his crumpled paper. "Well, why not? If it wasn't real I wouldn't want it. And I wish you'd keep your pillows out of my theatrical news. I was just reading about a play at the _Folies Bergeres_, called 'Zig Zag'. They say it's a scream. By the way, Shrimp, how'd you like to fly to Paris to-morrow morning and give it the once over?"

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