Friday, 24 January 2014
Dorothy Imelda Verrill, born 7/25/1893 in
Haven, Conn., died 7/1966, and
buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Wrote two books: “The Sky Girl” and “Aircraft Book for Boys.” She
married Thomas Edmund Yates. She was the
eldest daughter of A. Hyatt Verrill. New
An interest in her fiction work made for an opportunity to research this fairly rare work. It is aimed at young ladies with an interest in flying dated 1930.
By Dorothy Verrill
Illustrated by B. B. Alexander
1930, BY THE CENTURY CO.
Dedicated to My Real Little Patty and Susan, who love to fly
A WAR ACE’S DAUGHTER
THE hum of a powerful motor, far off in the sky, could be heard for a moment, above the sound of the teacher’s voice.
Susan stole a glance at the windows, risking a rebuke from Miss Pierce, who was jealous of any distraction when she was explaining French verbs. A ripple of interest went over the class-room, but it passed as quickly as the sound of the airplane.
A few minutes later, Susan was going down the corridor of
with her chum, Patricia. Midford High School
"Didn’t it give you a thrill to hear that airplane?” asked Patty eagerly. “Do you suppose it could have been your father?”
"I don’t think so,” said Susan, answering the last question. “That sounded to me like an army ship, but it did sound nice! This is a perfect day for flying—and wasn’t that class-room stuffy!”
They had reached the dressing-room now and found themselves among a dozen other girls, all trying to look into the same mirror at the same time.
Susan Thompson was a tall girl for her fifteen years. With her smooth golden hair shingled close to her head, dancing blue eyes, and clear pink and white skin, she looked the picture of health. She had played golf and tennis and basketball since her grammar-school days, rode horseback admirably, and at this very minute was a member of the
as well as its debating club and dramatic society. Midford
As for her chum, Patty Carlisle, who was a few months older, her dark brown hair was a mass of short curls and she had eyes like black pansies, while her olive cheeks showed color only in very cold weather, or when she was out of breath from exercise. Patty was shorter than Susan, and had a softer, rounder look about her, but she was not so energetic and strong. The two girls had been neighbors and chums since childhood, and it was evidence of their friendship that, in sisterly fashion, they dressed alike.
The bond between them was further strengthened by the fact that neither had a sister, while each had a brother. William Thompson, jr., was six years younger than Susan, and Patty’s brother Phil was several years older.
On this crisp fall afternoon Susan was wearing a dark-blue leather coat and a blue beret with her jersey frock, and Patty had on a similar outfit in scarlet. A laughing, chattering group of girls surrounded them as they left the dressing-room and went out onto the street, for they were popular with their classmates.
It was Friday afternoon, and conversation centered on the football game scheduled for next day, when Midford was to meet its traditional rival, Newtown High, at the latter’s field, thirty miles away. The girls of the junior class, of which Susan was a member, were to sit with the rest of the school body in the cheering section, flaunting the Midford colors of blue and gold, and singing the songs especially composed for this occasion.
The annual gridiron encounter between the rival schools always brought out thousands of spectators besides the students and alumni of the schools, and as
Newtown had won the year
before, Midford’s students had their hearts set on victory.
“We’ve simply got to win this year,” Mary Aiken was declaring. Mary’s brother Tom was captain and quarterback of the team, and she was as excited about every game as if she herself had been playing.
“Yes,” said Polly Smith, who was Mary’s best friend, “when I met Bud Wheelock in the gym this morning, he told me that he hoped the school would turn out one hundred per cent, to show the team we’re with them.”
The girls were impressed. To think that Polly Smith had actually talked to “Bud” Wheelock, who was noted for his taciturn ways and avoidance of all students except those on the football squad. In spite of this aloofness, he was the idol of the entire school when he came to Midford High each autumn as alumni football coach.
Once a Midford gridiron star himself, he had afterward become a famous Harvard player and was now said to be a wealthy business man in
York. But he returned each fall to coach his Alma
Mater’s eleven. Each year the girls of Midford, as well as the boys, looked
forward to his arrival as opening the autumn athletic season, and he was the
object of much unspoken adoration by the entire school body. He was so handsome
and “so sort of mysterious,’’ as Betty Noble, another of Susan’s group,
expressed it, that any allusion to him produced something like awe. He had
become a tradition of Midford and the students were as loyal to him as to all
the traditions of the fine old school.
Nobody seemed to know just what Bud Wheelock did when he was not coaching football players. Nobody seemed to know even his first name, since his old school nickname still prevailed. His family had left the town many years before and his fame, even at college, had preceded the World War.
Every student of Midford admired him, and his word was law where football was concerned. With his bare head, his alert, sunburned face, his old white sweater with the crimson H—worn on the inside but indicated by red stitching—his shabby white flannel trousers, and his rubber-soled shoes, Bud Wheelock made a picturesque figure as he spent hours at the school field, coaching the teams that carried on the traditions of his own day. He told the players much that they remembered when playing the game of life in after years, and he showed them that clean sportsmanship and a gallant fighting spirit would them victory, even if it was only the moral Victory of smiling in defeat.
There was special significance attached to the big game with
Newtown this year, for it was rumored about
the school that this was to be Bud Wheelock’s last year as coach. He was going
out to the West coast, or to South America,
“or somewhere,” it was said, and he would not be with Midford another season.
Obviously, it was up to his team to achieve a victory this time. Susan and her
friends discussed this for some minutes.
“And don’t forget what you’ve got to do tomorrow, Sue,” said Mary Aiken suddenly. “I called up Fisher's yesterday and they said the flags have to be made up specially for us and they won’t be ready before to-morrow morning. And you are going to bring them over to the game, aren’t you, Susan?”
Mary was the type of girl who enjoyed worrying about details.
“Of course I’ll bring them,” said Susan, a little impatiently. “Didn’t I promise, when the committee decided to do it for the game?”
What the joint committee of boys and girls had decided to do was to stage a special and spectacular demonstration at this game in honor of Bud Wheelock, as well as for the glory of the school. Little blue and gold flags were to be provided for the girls of the junior class, who were to be seated in the cheering section so that they could form letters by waving the flags at certain moments in the game, the gold flags showing against a background of the blue.
Of course, there would be a letter M, to be shown when the school song was sung, but the big surprise was to come between the halves, when a song especially composed in honor of the coach was to be sung and the letter W would appear, with everybody standing and cheering Bud Wheelock. At that moment, according to the plans, members of the committee were to bring him out on the gridiron while the band serenaded him, and there they were to present to him a beautiful watch, for which the students had contributed.
“And if that doesn’t knock the
crowd right over, I guess nothing will!” Tom Aiken had said in describing the
“Of course, if Susan brings the flags, that means Patty, too,” explained Mary, who was in charge of the girls on the committee. “That’s why we didn’t give Patty anything special to do.”
“There’ll be enough for both of them to look after,” said Betty Noble, loyally. The group was now standing outside the school entrance.
“You’ll bring the boxes right to
field in your car, won’t you?” Mary continued. “We’re all going in the special
train, but we’ll meet you at the center portal on our side and pass out the flags
“Won’t it be just perfect!” sighed Betty. “And won't Bud Wheelock be surprised!”
Betty was a red-haired, slender girl, who spoke in italics. She and Mary were always busy and always enthusiastic, but while Mary fretted and worried, Betty merely enjoyed the excitement and was unconcerned as to possible failure.
“Won’t he be furious, you mean!” said Patty. “You all know how he just loves being noticed! Why, he has never spoken to any one in the school except the football team. I suppose he speaks to Dr. Jenkins, if the doctor insists—and now of course he’s spoken to Polly!”
There was a ripple of giggles among the girls, since Dr. Jenkins was the principal of the school and it was amusing to think he might have to beg a word from the football coach. But Polly spoke up, very earnestly, in defence of her new acquaintance.
“Maybe he doesn’t talk to us,” she protested, “but I don't think he’s high-hat about it. He’s bashful, if you ask me. He was awfully nice this morning.”
Just then another airplane was heard overhead and the entire group of girls looked up.
Far above in the clear, crisp autumn air, its wings glinting like gold in the brilliant sunshine, was a cabin monoplane that suggested a strange and lovely bird. Susan was not surprised to hear a chorus of girlish voices exclaiming,
“Maybe it’s your father, Sue!”
Sue laughed and shook her head.
“Of course you wouldn’t know it,” she said, “but that’s the mail-ship coming in from the West, and Dad doesn’t fly the mail. It’s not on schedule, either, so maybe there’s an extra load. My father’s ship is not like that—it’s bigger.”
In spite of herself, Susan’s voice showed a little pride as she said this.
To Susan Thompson it seemed the most natural thing in the world that her father should be a flier, and yet she was tremendously proud of his work. As the only student in the school who had an aviator in the family, she attracted, by virtue of the fact, as much interest there as she had at grammar school, or even at kindergarten.
So far as Susan was concerned, her father had always been a flier. Her memory went back only to the days of the war and almost as a baby she had known that he was fighting and flying in that vague and distant place called “overseas.”
As she stood now among her friends at
and looked up
at the ship in the sky, she tried to remember about that far-off time when she
had first realized that her father was an aviator. Midford
She had a clear recollection of the glorious day when he had come back from the war to stay; and there had been a few memorable weeks, now a blur in her mind, when he had been home on leave from the British army, to help the United States forces in recruiting and training after this country had entered the war.
Susan’s father had been interested in flying long before the war, and he had built and flown an airplane even when he was a student in college, learning to be a mechanical engineer. When the World War began in 1914 he was a capable pilot as well as a prosperous business man, a partner in an engineering firm, married, and the father of small Susan.
But he had been born in
and when his mother country went to war he was so eager to go that Susan’s
mother did not even try to hold him back. He had left their home in Detroit to join the British Air Force in Canada, and Susan had gone with her mother to
stay with her grandparents in New
By the time the
had entered the war “Bill” Thompson, as he was known to his associates, was a
flight-commander and ace who had served with the Allied armies in five
different countries and had won many decorations. By the time the war was over,
he was an international hero of the great conflict. Susan had been all of five
years old when he came home to stay, and she could remember vividly the tears
and laughter and excitement of that happy day.
How glorious it had been to see her daddy back from the war, his uniform very smart even though faded, his service-stripes very bright, his wound-stripes a little sad, the insignia on his shoulders gleaming bravely! How well she could remember the bright bits of ribbon and bronze and silver on his chest that were his decorations, how people had cheered, how thrilling it had all been!
Although she was looking up at the sky, Susan's eyes grew moist as she remembered it—her mother trying bravely to smile as she had smiled all the long years of the war, even though Sue sometimes found her secretly weeping when the news from the front was bad. Her father’s jolly blue eyes had been wet in spite of his boyish grin and the cocky tilt of his cap. And he had picked her up and hugged her tight and kissed her as he said:
“How is Sergeant Susie? And has she taken good care of Mother?”
There had been bands and flags and crowds and cheers; and remembering all this, Susan felt a little sorry for the boys and girls who had no such vivid memories of the war, just as she felt sorry for them, secretly, because their fathers only walked, or rode, to tiresome business on the earth, while her father soared through the sky.
Hard times had come for Susan and her parents after the war, because the market for fliers was low, as her father said. But he had kept on flying and believing in flying, and now he was an executive and part owner of a great flying-organization that had fields and schools and factories scattered all over the United States. His work took him to many cities, but his headquarters were at the Midford airport. Susan spent much time with him there, so that she could tell one ship from another at a glance, and knew the air-mail when she saw it.
When her friends, boys and girls and grown-ups too, asked her, as they often did, “Aren’t you scared to have your father flying?” Susan could only laugh at the idea. Scared? Her dear, brave, clever, wonderful, flying father giving her and her mother and little brother anything to be scared about? It was absurd!
They had not even been scared in war days when he had been flying old-fashioned ships under shellfire, and fighting all over the sky with enemy airmen. Even in those days she and her mother had been brave and confident. That was the way for American women to feel in war-time, her mother had said, and they had smiled at each other, even when no letters had come from the front for weeks.
Sometimes, however, in that dreary and far-away time, Susan had climbed out of her little bed in the night and gone over to pat her mother’s cheek, because she heard her sobbing in the dark. But in the morning they would smile again, for though Susan was so tiny, she understood when her mother explained that the people at home must be brave to “back up” the men who were far away fighting for them. And there was much talk of “doing your bit,” so she used to hold the skeins of yarn on her fat little fingers when her mother was knitting sweaters to go overseas with the Red Cross.
Then, when there had been letters from the front, or news about Bill Thompson in the papers, telling of his citations and victories, Susan and her mother had been glad and proud together. But they had always felt sorry for the enemy fliers that he had to fight against. Even when they had heard of his greatest achievement, that of bringing down a Zeppelin, Susan and her mother had been a little sad, in spite of being proud.
“It is terrible to think that there are little girls and boys and their mothers waiting for those German fliers somewhere, too,” said Susan’s mother to her, very solemnly. “War is a dreadful and foolish thing, my darling—a tragic waste—but Daddy is doing what he feels to be his duty and so he is doing it well.”
So when tiny Susan had mentioned her daddy in her prayers, she always mentioned the children of the enemy lands, too, and felt sorry for everybody overseas.
It all seemed very far away as she stood outside
on this fall
afternoon. Her mental picture of the strange place called “overseas” during the
war and for years afterward had been rather amusing, as she looked back on it
now. It had seemed to her to be a region of gray skies, streaked with fire like
a great Fourth of July display, and crowded with many sorts of airplanes,
dirigibles, and balloons. She had seen pictures of this sort in English
magazines, depicting famous air-battles, and it never occurred to her that
there was any other kind of fighting. When she grew old enough to know better,
the air still seemed to her the greatest battle-field of the war. Midford
But after that impression and the knowledge that her father had come through it all safely, how could any one think she would he scared to have him flying through peaceful skies in modern ships? How could any one think she would be frightened to fly with him?
Nowadays he often called up her mother, whose name was Ann, and told her to bring the children and a hand-bag and meet him at the airport. Then they would all go through the door of a silvery cabin ship, or hop into the front cockpit of a scarlet biplane, and with her father at the controls go soaring off into the air, the motor roaring. They would pass over miles and miles of country,
after State, until her father saw his destination on the ground below and came
down to earth with a wonderful swoop. maybe State
They had a motor-car and Susan’s mother loved to drive it, but they seldom made long journeys on the road.
“We take the skyways instead of the highways,” thought Susan to herself, looking up at the ship in the autumn sky and wishing she were in it. And once more she felt the longing to fly a ship herself that she had felt so often before.
The pilots and mechanics at the airport had often “kidded” her about her ambition and asked when she was going to start flying, but Susan had always told them to ask her daddy—and her dad had always smiled and said, “We’ll see!”
“So I really have never got very far with it,” she thought to herself, a little bitterly. “It’s lovely to fly with Daddy, of course—but I wish I could fly alone!"
Then she became conscious that the girls were speaking to her.
“For goodness’ sake!” Mary Aiken was saying, “Do stop sky-gazing and listen for a minute. Betty has asked you twice already!”
“Asked me what?” said Susan.
“Asked whether you knew that Bud Wheelock was a flier, too, just like your father?” said Mary.
In Susan’s opinion there was no other flier in the world like her father, but she didn’t want to argue about it, so she simply asked:
“How do you know?”
“Why, Tom found out by accident,” explained Mary, “when they were talking in the gym last night after practice. Somebody told Bud Wheelock how sorry they were that he was going away and he said he was, too, but the only place to fly the Pacific was from the Pacific coast. Tom said he seemed sorry he had said it, at first, but when the boys asked questions, he explained he was going to be one of a crew flying to
Asia, or somewhere, for a new
Asia or somewhere,’ ” repeated Susan disgustedly. “Any
one would think flying was as simple as walking, to hear you!”
“Well, you’re always telling us that flying is safe and easy and everything,” Mary retorted. “But anyhow, as I was trying to tell you when you interrupted, Tom said he told Bud Wheelock about your father, and Bud said he had always admired him and that it was hearing him talk during the war that got him into the army and made him a flier, too.”
“That’s rather involved,” said Patty, breaking in, “but we gather that Bud Wheelock heard Susan’s dad and consequently joined the army and learned to fly.”
“Exactly,” agreed Mary. “He had been thinking of going into the navy when this country went into the war, but he told Tom that Bill Thompson’s record and personality won him over to the army flying- forces and he had never regretted it.”
“I’ll tell Dad about it when I get home,” said Susan. “He often meets fliers who say something like that. I wonder why Bud Wheelock hasn’t met him?”
“Well, I understand that Wheelock gave up flying for a while because he was a banker, or broker, or something,” said Mary, “and he’s just going back into it because of this trip. So I don’t suppose he has paid much attention to other flying people lately and he probably had no idea your father lives here.”
“After this we can look up and wonder if it’s Bud Wheelock,” remarked Betty. “That will give Susan a change from having us ask if it’s her dad every time we see an airplane.”
“Yes, and I imagine Sue will cheer louder tomorrow than ever before,” laughed Mary.
“Why should I?” asked Susan innocently.
“Because the football coach is an aviator, of course,” said Betty.
“What nonsense!" said Susan. “I’m going to cheer for Midford, anyway.”
“Well, don’t forget our flags, or the cheering won’t amount to much,” warned Mary as the group began to disperse.
“I’ll be there,” said Susan.
“And that means she will, too,” added Patty. “You all know that Susan never breaks a promise!”
SUSAN AND PATTY SAVE THE DAY FOR MIDFORD
CROWDS of pretty girls wearing yellow chrysanthemums tied with blue ribbons, and throngs of boys wearing heavy ulsters—all talking gaily—filled the sidewalks leading to the Midford railroad station soon after noon on the Saturday of the big game. The special train was quickly filled and chugged away, while on every road that went toward
automobiles flaunting the colors of the opposing schools were speeding toward
the field where the annual gridiron battle was to take place.
In many small American cities there is a yearly football classic between high-school teams that awakens wide interest, but this battle of the pigskin between Midford and
Newtown represented a
tradition and a rivalry going back for generations. Graduates of other years
returned from college, or from distant cities, to watch the autumn encounter,
and the students of both schools were always tremendously excited about it.
But on this clear and rather cold November day there were two students of Midford High who were too busy and too worried to think much about the traditions behind the game that they were in duty bound to attend, and these two were Susan Thompson and Patty Carlisle of the junior class. They had met early that Saturday morning, according to the plan they had made the night before. In fact, Sue was still at breakfast when she heard Patty’s whistle and ran to the door to greet her.
“Come on in and have some strawberry jam,” she said. “Oh, Patty, what a gorgeous bouquet!"
It was indeed a gorgeous bouquet that Patty was wearing—yellow roses with a shower of bright blue ribbons.
“Isn’t it, just?” said Patty, grinning. “And where do you suppose it came from?”
“I can’t guess,” said Susan, for neither she nor Patty had any particular friends among the boys of the school.
“Phil sent them to me by telegram—all the way from
Haven!" said Patty, proudly.
Patty’s big brother had taken a prominent part in athletics at Yale as a member of the baseball team, and had been a leader of his class all through his course. He was now in his senior year.
“Phil can’t come back for the game this year,” continued Patty, “so he sent me this, he said, to represent him on the Midford side.”
“Well, you’ll be the most gorgeous girl in the whole crowd,” said Susan, “and they look marvelous with your new coat. I’ll run up and put on my own coat and then we can get started, if you really don’t want any breakfast.”
“Oh, well, I might join you in a muffin,” said Patty, who was famous for a healthy appetite. “The family left early for
in the car—and we can come back with them, if you like. Mother wanted to go early
to do some shopping over there this morning, so I’m all alone at home and
Maggie didn’t bother much about my breakfast.” They were in the dining-room
now, and she reached for the jam.
“Shame on your mother, shopping in our rival town!” said Susan. “And where do you suppose my family has gone?”
“Somewhere in a hurry and an airplane, I suppose,” hazarded Patty, her mouth full.
“Good guess!” said Susan. “They’ve all gone to
hundred-mile hop, and they went in the new big ship. Dad got a long-distance
call this morning and they simply dashed off. They’ll be back to-night, but I
was just furious that I couldn’t go there without missing the game.”
She buttered some fresh toast almost savagely, but Patty remained calm and deftly inserted two more slices of bread into the electric toaster.
“Oh, well,” she said, “cheer up! You can ride in an airplane any day, but you can only see this game once a year. And don’t forget that you have a great duty to perform and I’m here to see that you do it —and help you, too, of course,” she added hastily, as Susan scowled at her.
“Yes,” said Susan, bitterly. “Midford expects every girl to do her duty and all that, but I’ve never flown to
and they have a slick new airport there. Furthermore, it’s the first good
flight Father’s had in the new ship—and that big tri- motored cabin job is a
peach. If it had only been some other day!”
“Darling,” said Patty, “forget the grand trimotors and the airports and come down to earth, just for to-day. We have to go all the way down to Fisher’s to get those flags and it’s after ten now. Besides, I want at least two more slices of toast with this jam on it. I didn’t realize how hungry I was and those great luscious fat whole strawberries muuumh!”
“It’s real English jam,” said Susan, without much interest. “Dad got the breakfast-jam habit when he was in
and he always insists on that kind.
“Your dad has good taste,” answered Patty. "One look at your mother proves that.”
“Yes, Mother is lovely to look at,” said Susan, displaying enthusiasm again. “And she’s a dear, too, and a good sport. Imagine her going off on that trip at seven o’clock this morning with about half an hour’s notice. She said she was sorry she couldn’t be at the game, though.”
With somewhat revived interest she helped herself to more jam and poured out another glass of milk. “I’ll tell you a secret,” said Patty, watching her.
“I had a cup of coffee this morning for breakfast, since I was the lady of the house.”
“You ought to be ashamed!” said Susan. “Mother says I can have coffee and tea when I’m eighteen, if I want them, but personally I don’t see where you get such a big kick out of a cup of coffee. I’m allowed to have tea if I’m on hand at a tea-party, or if I want it when Mother has it here in the afternoon, but I’d honestly rather have milk. I suppose I’m used to it.”
“It was such a cold morning,” said Patty, apologetically. “And I asked Mother and she said all right.”
“Well, if you keep it up, you’ll ruin your wind and your good looks,” said Susan, who always took the motherly part with her chum.
“My wind isn’t so good right now,” admitted Patty. “You know I’ll never swim or run the way you do.”
“Getting too fat, that’s all,” said Susan, again her cheery self. “Come on upstairs if you can tear yourself away from the jam, and see how insignificant I’ll look beside you.”
“How about clearing off the table?” asked Patty.
“Oh, Mrs. Clancey will be back later,” said Susan. “She’s gone marketing because Mother left too suddenly to order—left too early, too, for that matter.”
“Well, for goodness’ sake come upstairs and get on your new coat before you get all sad over that air-trip again,” begged Patty. “Isn’t that coat a cheerful thought? You couldn’t have worn it flying.”
“Oh, yes, I could,” said Susan. “That big ship is like a lovely yacht. No, it’s like a drawing-room, with wicker chairs and refreshments and everything. Why there’s even a steward on board to serve food, and it has silk curtains and inlaid paneling. I tell you, Patty, it’s a dream! And you can wear anything in it that you’d wear in a limousine, only you can move around more in the ship than you can in any car. And guess what we’re going to name it?”
“Gosh, I don’t know,” said Patty. “ ‘The Eagle,’ I suppose, or maybe ‘The Canary’?”
Susan did not deign to reply to this thrust, and sniffed as she plunged into her room. But she could never be annoyed at Patty for any length of time, not even when her friend was purposely being as teasing as she could. However, she was very dignified as she said:
“Just for that you can wait until we have the christening and find out the name, when a certain person smashes the bottle on the ship’s nose.”
“Yes, and I bet I know who that certain person is,” said Patty. “It’s going to be my own dear darling Susan, who isn’t cross any more, is she?” And Patty hugged her friend.
“Of course I’m not cross,” said Sue, dimpling. “Help me on with the coat, that’s a good girl!” They stood arm in arm and regarded themselves in the long mirror between the windows.
Susan’s father’s hobby was painting, and he had enjoyed himself greatly decorating his daughter’s room himself. He had planned the built-in pieces and had chosen the color scheme of yellow and green that suggested daffodils and spring, and he had achieved some interesting effects in ornamenting the jade-green furniture with orange and black motifs. The room had pale yellow walls and deeper yellow woodwork, and book-shelves and cupboards were lined with green. There were green rugs on the black floor and curtains of chintz flaunted gay tropical birds and palm-leaves, which carried out the color scheme.
As reminders of Susan’s not-very-far-away childhood there was a cupboard in one corner filled with all the dolls she had ever owned, while in another was a secretary holding some of the silver prizes she had won in riding and swimming competitions. There were books scattered about, and evidences of Susan’s collecting fads—theatrical programs, albums of pressed flowers, stamps, and boxes of buttons, which she had gathered when very young. There were also pictures of favorite screen and stage actresses, as well as her Girl Scout paraphernalia.
Susan’s present hobby was indicated by several books on aviation and aircraft, not very prominently displayed. Her dressing-table held a photograph of her father in his war uniform, as well as several of her mother and a very pretty one of Patty, while autographed pictures of other schoolmates hung on the wall. On her desk stood a mariner’s compass in miniature size, as well as the more usual fixtures of a girl’s writing-table.
The room formed an excellent background for the new autumn costumes of the girls, who were wearing coats of heavy tweed in a russet shade with big collars of beaver fur, and close little felt hats of golden brown. Both of them had tan calf brogues with tan wool stockings and tan wool frocks, because the chill of the grand stands at
“We look fine!” said Patty with emphasis, after they had studied their reflection. “Gather up the odds and ends and come along.”
“Wish I had some flowers!" Sue rummaged for gloves and purse in a bureau drawer.
“Never mind, Santa Claus may come yet!” said Patty, pulling her toward the door.
They ran downstairs and out of the front door, where Susan almost fell over a white box.
“Why, it’s addressed to me!” she cried.
“Santa Claus has arrived!” said Patty. “Well, why not open it, just to be original?”
She was smiling mysteriously, but Susan did not notice it, as she returned to the hall and unfastened the wrappings. There was a lot of tissue-paper and then a mass of yellow blossoms and a little white envelope.
“For goodness’ sake!” squealed Susan. “Why, it’s a bouquet like yours!”
“Well, well,” mocked Patty, “I can’t be original no matter how hard I try, can I? Now you’ve just ruined my day!”
Susan took the card from the envelope.
“It’s from Phil, too,” she said. “Isn’t he a darling to remember me like this!”
“Yes, he’s pretty good as brothers go,” said Patty. “Now that he’s grown up and tired of pulling my hair, he’s beginning to be almost human.”
“I think he’s a darling,” Susan rejoined warmly. “Look at what the card says—‘To the other one of the nicest pair of girls I know!’ Why, I didn’t think he knew I was through playing with dolls!"
“Don’t be silly,” said Patty. “He knows perfectly well that I’m pretty near grown up, so you must be through wearing rompers yourself. Put the flowers on and come along. My stars! It’s eleven o’clock!”
“Goodness!” exclaimed Susan. “We’ll have to rush. That train goes at one o’clock and it will take us almost as long in the car.”
“This is what we get for lingering over jam and talking about the air-trip you missed,” scolded Patty, as they dashed down the driveway. “And where is the car, by the way?”
“Dad had to leave ours at the airport,” said Susan, breathlessly, “but one of the mechanics from the field is going to bring it to meet us at Fisher’s, and we’ll go right from there.”
“Oh, well,” said Patty with an air of relief, as they paused for the trolley-car, “if Fisher’s have the flags ready, we’ll have plenty of time. It only takes a half-hour to get there; and if the car is waiting, that will give us two hours.”
They felt calmer when they had boarded the trolley and chatted gaily as it made its leisurely progress down-town.
At Fisher’s store they found a double disappointment. The flags were not packed, not even completed. And there was no sign of the big blue car that belonged to Susan’s father.
The owner of the store was apologetic, but he could not deny that it would be after twelve before the flags were ready, and then they had to be sorted according to color, and packed. Using many gestures, he expressed his sympathy, but declared he could do nothing about it—in fact, the employees might drop the whole job at noon, if they insisted on keeping their regular hours. And then what could be done? Susan and Patty looked at each other in despair. “What will the girls say?” asked Patty.
Susan had set her lips in the firm line that her opponents on the basketball floor, in the swimming- pool, or on the tan-bark, knew so well. That look meant that Susan and her side were going to do their very best to win, and they usually succeeded.
“I promised to get the flags there, didn’t I?” she said. “Very well, the flags will be there, and they’ll be there on time.”
“But where is the car?” wailed Patty. “Even if the flags should be ready sooner than Mr. Fisher expects, we couldn’t get started without the car.”
“That’s true,” admitted Susan. “But Dave is a very dependable mechanic and he’ll be right along. I told him we would leave after twelve, but to be here by noon to allow time for packing the boxes in.”
The two girls sat down in Mr. Fisher’s office and alternately discussed school affairs and studied the catalogues of flags, bunting, awnings, and other articles sold by the firm. They became mildly interested in the flags of various colleges, some of which had been unknown to them previously, and it was with a shock that Susan again noticed the time.
“Quarter-past twelve!” she said. “And no sign of Dave! I think I’d better call up the airport.”
She went to the telephone and got her father’s office on the wire. The pilot who answered told her that Dave had left with the car a short time before, delayed by some necessary work on one of the ships.
“He couldn’t possibly get here for ten or fifteen minutes,” said Patty when she heard this. “And the flags won’t be ready, either. Let’s get something to eat.”
“All right,” agreed Susan, “I suppose we might as well have a sandwich, at least.”
So, explaining to Mr. Fisher that they would be back in a few minutes, and that Dave was to wait if he arrived in their absence, the two girls crossed the street to a tea-room and had lunch. Patty ate heartily and ordered two portions of dessert, but Susan was so perturbed by the fact that the car had not appeared, that she had little appetite. It was a quarter to one when they got back to the Fisher store. The flags were almost ready, but there was no sign of the Thompson car and no word from Dave.
Again Susan called up the field, but there was no news of the mechanic, beyond what she had already learned. He had not returned, nor sent word to the field. And at that moment Mr. Fisher entered the office, beaming.
“Everything is ready, Miss Thompson,” he said. “Two big cartons, see! One has the gold flags, one has the blue, five hundred of each as ordered.” Susan was so troubled that she could not enjoy hearing herself addressed as “Miss Thompson,” as she would ordinarily have done, and she said nothing, but Patty rose and inspected the boxes with a businesslike air.
“You are sure everything is correct?” she asked Mr. Fisher. “It would be terrible if we got there and found they were all blue, or all gold, or there weren’t enough, or something.”
“In that case, we charge you nothing!” declared Mr. Fisher, rubbing his hands together and smiling as if he enjoyed the thought.
“In that case you’d get nothing,” answered Patty. “These are charged as the committee arranged, aren’t they?”
“Oh, yes indeed!” said Mr. Fisher. “They are so heavy I will have my men take them out to the car. Is it ready?”
Patty looked at Susan and Susan looked at Patty, and Mr. Fisher looked from one to the other. The old-fashioned clock over the desk struck one at this moment.
“There is only one thing to do,” said Susan suddenly. “If Dave arrived this minute we could not get to
on time in the Saturday traffic. We will simply have to go by airplane!"
“Oh, Susan, how perfectly thrilling!" Patty exclaimed. “But how will we manage it?”
“We’ll have to get a taxi to take us down to the field.”
Susan was suddenly cool and decided.
“Then I’ll have to get one of the pilots to fly us over with the boxes. Only I hope there’s a plane ready that can carry the load. There’s only one that I know of and it will be awful if it’s in the air somewhere right now.”
She caught up the telephone and called for a taxi, then put in a call for the airport. Mr. Fisher and Patty both regarded her with admiration and some amazement, as she made the arrangements.
“Hello,” they heard her say, “is this Mr. Thompson’s office? Is the chief pilot there? Is that you, Harry? This is Sue Thompson. Oh, Harry, can you help me get over to
Newtown before two-thirty?
You’ll have to take another girl, too, and a couple of big cardboard boxes.
Yes, we’ll have to use the five-place New Standard—no other ship there big
enough, is there? Father is away, you know—and I counted on Dave’s getting here
with the car, but he didn’t show up. Yes, we’ll be right down. Thank you so
much, Harry. Good-bye.”
When she turned to Patty, she was radiant.
“Everything will be all right now,” she said. “But it will be cold in the air, because that’s an open ship.”
“You’ll get your ride after all, then, won’t you?” reminded Patty.
“Oh, this isn’t much of a ride,” said Sue. “But what is most important, we’ll be there in about half an hour after we leave here.”
“The taxi is waiting,” announced one of the clerks, appearing at the door of the office.
“Put the boxes in,” directed Mr. Fisher, “and be quick about it, too. Got no time to lose now.”
Patty looked at him scathingly, as she attributed most of their troubles to his delay in delivering the flags, but just then the telephone rang. It was Harry Copley, the chief pilot, calling from the airport. Susan listened to him, spoke a few words and turned to Patty.
“I’m so sorry we were cross about Dave,” she said. “They’ve just heard at the field—some big car forced him into a ditch before he got half-way to town and he’s hurt—broke his collar-bone.”
Patty and Mr. Fisher were making sympathetic remarks when the clerk appeared again.
“Taxi—” he began to say, but the girls sprang to their feet.
“We must go anyway,” said Susan. “We can’t help Dave now—he’s at the hospital—and he’d want us to get there on time, because he was trying to do his part. Let’s go!”
They ran out to the taxi and asked the driver to hurry to the field, which was several miles from town. Patty and Susan compared their watches often on the way out, and were only briefly distracted from their worry by the sight of Susan’s father’s car, lying on its side in a ditch, but apparently not badly injured. A garage towing-car was near by and there was a little group of spectators.
“That’s what some feller got for being in a hurry,” remarked the taxi-driver, slowing down, but the girls did not bother to tell him how much more it concerned them than it did him. Although it had seemed hours, it was only about twenty minutes from the time they had left Fisher’s when they drew up beside the office of Bill Thompson’s firm.
As soon as they had come within sight of the airport Susan had grown visibly more cheerful, and when they alighted from the taxi and she saw the graceful orange and green New Standard waiting on the dead-line, while mechanics held its wings and a pilot sat in the cockpit, she seemed actually happy.
“They’re revving up the engine,” she explained to Patty, as she paid the taxi-driver. “It takes some time in cold weather to warm up the oil and everything and that’s why it’s lucky I ’phoned.”
The chief pilot had been watching for them and came out, with a couple of other fliers, to help carry the boxes of flags to the dead-line. He was wearing a winter flying-suit, very heavy and clumsy in appearance, and had on his helmet and great leather mittens. Susan explained all the circumstances, as they walked with him toward the hangar.
“Are you going to take us?” she asked. “Oh, that is good luck. You know,” she said to Patty, “Mr. Copley is the best pilot at the field, next to my daddy,” and they all laughed.
“Of course I’m going to fly you over,” said the pilot, “but you’ll have to take me to the game, too —will you?”
“Why, of course, you’ll sit right in the center of the cheering section, won’t he?” said Susan, turning to Patty.
Patty had been at the airport with Susan before, and she had always noticed how gay and happy her friend seemed to be as soon as she got within sight and hearing of airplanes, but she was surprised to see how Susan seemed to forget all her troubles now.
The pilot was speaking again.
“You’ll have to wear winter suits,” he said. “This trip won’t take long, but it will be a lot colder going a hundred miles an hour up two thousand feet than it is down here—and it’s pretty snappy here. There’s a couple of outfits ready for you.”
“Can you land near the football field at
asked Susan as they reached the hangar.
“Yes, plenty of good level ground right around the stadium,” said the pilot. “They’ve got the land for a baseball field and track and all that sort of thing, so there’s plenty of room if we can keep away from the crowds. But if necessary we’ll land right on the gridiron—the stands aren’t solid around it.”
“Oh, Harry, you are wonderful to help us like this!” exclaimed Susan. “You know Father wouldn’t mind, don’t you?”
The pilot grinned.
“Shucks!” he said. “Run along and get into your flying-clothes, both of you. I talked to your dad by long-distance, after I heard from you, and he said you were the boss of the place for the afternoon— and all I had to do was follow your orders and get you there and back safely. He felt pretty bad about Dave—that was what I called to tell him. But he said it was lucky we could get the stuff over. The sky’s the limit, Susan—but we’ve got to get started. It’s getting on toward two o’clock.”
“All right!” cried Susan and Patty in chorus. And they went into the locker-room, where the great canvas flying-suits were waiting for them.
Both of the girls had been up in airplanes often before, but it was Patty’s first experience in getting on a heavy flying-outfit, since her previous trips had been with Susan’s father in a cabin ship. She needed considerable help from Susan and from the office staff before the cumbersome costume, suggesting that worn by a deep-sea diver, was donned and fastened up. The suits were of brown canvas, lined with wool; they had sheepskin collars, and each bulky garment was made in one piece from throat to trouser-hems, and fastened with zipper fasteners and many buckles.
Then they donned leather helmets and goggles and were given pilot’s mittens, much too big for them but warm. They thought they were ready to go, but when they arrived beside the plane, Harry Copley, standing there waiting, frowned a little.
“Your feet will be cold, and you ought to have something extra around your necks,” he said. There seemed to be nothing available for their feet, but an obliging mechanic fetched some parachute silk from the office, and with this about their throats, they climbed into the front cockpit of the ship, where the cartons of flags were already in place.
The New Standard, being designed to hold four passengers in the front cockpit, as well as the pilot in the rear, carried the girls comfortably. Susan remarked to Patty, as they took their seats, that it was a sesqui-plane, one designed by the man who made training-ships for the army during the war.
“What’s a, sesqui-plane—something like the
exposition?” asked Patty, shouting above the roar of the motor.
“No, it means that funny little lower wing,” explained Susan, also shouting.
Harry Copley was in his seat behind them now, and the roar of the motor was deafening. Susan pulled down her goggles and looked at him over her shoulder.
“All set?” he shouted over the cockpit between them.
Susan looked at Patty, who was crouched down as if she did not greatly relish the trip, and signaled to her to fasten her safety-belt, then she nodded to the pilot.
He waved his hand to the mechanics, who jumped away from the front of the plane, carrying the blocks that had been under the wheels. Susan beamed as she heard the rise in volume of the sound of the motor, which indicated that they were taxiing to the starting-point. The ship seemed to lumber across the field until it was headed into the wind.
Patty took a peek at her wrist-watch, which showed a quarter of two. Susan saw her and shook her head. At that moment the motor was quieter and they could talk.
“Shall we ever get there in time?” asked Patty. “The game starts at two-thirty.”
“Of course we shall. Now don’t worry, and let’s enjoy the trip,” said Susan.
As she spoke the motor roared again and the ship plunged forward, seeming to skim gradually higher and higher until the field was far below. It was a smooth take-off and Patty, never especially fond of flying, was surprised at how easily they had reached the air.
Circling once above the field, to make sure of his motor, Pilot Copley headed toward
Newtown. Below, the city
of Midford was
soon passed. Its houses and buildings seemed a gray and brown checker-board,
its parks little patches of green grass and russet trees, its streets narrow stripes
of black. In pantomime Patty called Susan’s attention to the high school as
they flew above it. Susan nodded, and then shouted:
“We’re over two thousand feet up!”
This was the rule in flying over the city. There was no effect of dizziness and no way to gage height, although Susan knew that experienced pilots, merely by looking down, could tell accurately how high they were above the ground.
In the distance the blue hills and sparkling lakes and golden gleaming river of the country around Midford made a brilliant and lovely picture in the bright autumn sun. Below, on the highways, they could see many automobiles, seeming puny and slow from their lofty height—like ants scuttling to cover, Susan thought to herself amusedly. There were suburbs, scattered farms, a town or two, and off to one side, the black and silver ladder-like line of the railroad tracks, and a train with its puffing locomotive rushing in the opposite direction to their plane in what seemed an absurdly futile way.
Again Susan leaned over to Patty and shouted, close to her helmet:
“We’re going at least a hundred miles an hour— maybe more. Watch for the football field!”
Newtown was soon in sight, its buildings and streets much
like those of Midford, but distinguished by tall factory chimneys, for Newtown was a prosperous
center of industry, as well as the principal town in a rich farming-district.
The farms showed only shocks of corn in the fields now, and there was no smoke
rising from the factory chimneys, but plenty of animation was revealed as the
great oval football stadium came into view. It was a field really owned by the State University,
which was situated close to Newtown, but it was
given to the high school for this classic battle in the year when it was Newtown’s turn to have the
game. The stands were already filled with black and colored dots, representing
human beings, and long lines of people and cars converged toward it.
Harry Copley throttled down the motor, putting the nose of the ship into a gliding angle, and shouted to Susan, who could hear him plainly, now that the engine’s racket was stilled as the propeller idled over.
“The place is packed with people,” he said. “I’ll have to set her down in the field—make a crosswind landing and side-slip in. All right?”
Susan nodded, relying on his judgment, although she knew he was attempting some tricky flying. Twice they circled the field, lower each time, gliding down with a delicious sensation that nothing else in the world can give. Susan watched, fascinated, as they came nearer to the field. The motor roared as the pilot “gave it the gun” to make sure he had reserve power. He tipped to one side and then the other, using the controls to slide the plane first to right and then to left, a motion calculated to reduce momentum and get a ship down safely in a short field.
“I think this is fun,” Patty called to Susan, as they leaned out over their respective sides of the cockpit and watched the crowds on the grand stands getting closer and closer.
“I hope nobody runs out on the field,” Susan called back.
It was evident that their approach was causing great excitement, but they had arrived so suddenly —and so quietly, since they had glided—that nobody seemed inclined to get in their way. In a jiffy they had come down into the field almost directly, and the New Standard made a perfect landing in its center.
Then a crowd did gather, and suddenly realizing that it was the field of their rival school, Susan felt a little scared. But she was relieved to find that in the front rank of the advancing throng were Bud Wheelock and the manager of the Midford team; and not far behind them were Mary Aiken and a group of girls from her committee. There were many questions, exclamations, and general excitement, but even so, Susan looked at her watch, and she was delighted to note that it was only a few minutes after two.
“Awfully sorry,” Harry Copley was explaining to the manager of the
team, “but we
just had to land, and this was the only place. I’ll taxi out as soon as the
young ladies get their stuff unloaded. But I didn’t dare try to set her down
outside with folks moving around.” Newtown
“Young ladies?” said the manager, in surprise. Springing to the ground, the pilot helped the girls out, and there was a murmur in the crowd. Then Mary Aiken recognized Susan.
“We thought you must be somewhere around when we saw an airplane!” she cried. “But we’ve all been up in the air, wondering where you were!”
“Here she is, true to her promise,” said Patty. “And here’s your silly old stuff. Where can we shed these things and get into our own clothes?”
“Oh, keep them on for the game,” said Betty Noble. “You’ll be warm and distinctive.”
“Nothing of the sort,” retorted Patty. “We have our coats and decorations in the baggage compartment, haven’t we, Mr. Copley?”
“Sure enough,” answered the pilot, and unlocking a door in the fuselage, he produced their coats, their hats, and, to Susan’s amazement, their bouquets. She had forgotten all about the flowers, and had not even seen the mechanic gather up their own outer garments and bring them out to the ship.
So right there, beside the plane, the girls climbed out of their canvas suits and put on their coats and hats. Then, as Mary gave orders for the disposal of the flags, Susan went up to the pilot. He was deep in conversation with Bud Wheelock, but turned as she approached.
“I was afraid we might have hurt the field,” he said, “but Mr. Wheelock tells me that they’ll just put the roller on it after I get out.”
“Yes, and you’ll find a place to take off afterward outside the field,” added Wheelock, “because I’ll see that the space is cleared for you.”
“Good enough,” answered the flier, “but I’m going to see some of the game first, if Miss Thompson will let me.”
“Oh, is this Miss Thompson?” asked the coach, in surprise. “I am hoping to have a chance to meet your father.”
“Dad will he glad to see you,” said Susan. “I have heard you’re a flier, too.”
“One of the gang, are you?” asked Copley. “Well, I wouldn’t miss the game for anything, now. It’ll be the first football team I ever saw taking orders from a pilot.”
“I’m not much of a pilot,” Wheelock answered, looking uncomfortable, “and I may prove to be a pretty poor coach—we’ll know in an hour or two. But I can wind the inertia starter for you, anyhow, and that will help.”
So with Copley in the cockpit to tend the switches and pull the trip-clutch, the coach wound the inertia starter, the motor started again, and the ship taxied slowly from the field, looking like a strange big dragon-fly, as it crawled across the turf to the opening where the horseshoe-shaped grand stands ended.
Susan joined Patty and her friends in the cheering section, where she knew the pilot would find them, unless he chose to watch the game from the side-lines with Wheelock, as she had heard the coach suggest.
Her classmates were jubilant at her spectacular arrival and thrilled with the prospect of a close game.
“The teams can’t put on any show to compare with what’s already happened,” said Mary gleefully, hugging Susan.
“Yes, and she got here in time when nobody else could have done it,” added Betty, “even if she did have to drop down out of the sky.”
“Of course she would—Susan, the sky girl,” said Patty. “And let me tell you, flying over here to-day has made me crazy about flying, too.”
“I'm awfully glad,” said Susan.
And then, with a fanfare of bugles, the school bands marched onto the field and the big game was about to start.
“MAYBE YOU’RE A BORN FLIER”
THAT football game between Midford and
which marked the conclusion of Bud Wheelock’s career as coach, was destined to
go down in school history as the greatest battle the rival teams had ever
fought. Back and forth surged the tide of victory. Opposing players bucked the
line, made brilliant passes, performed wonderful runs, and fought gallantly for
every point. Over and over again Midford or Newtown seemed on the verge of gaining the
advantage, but the other side would forge ahead and once more even the score.
Between the halves, the demonstration by the Midford supporters went through as they had planned. The blue and gold flags waved bravely in the autumn breeze, while the band played the school song and Bud Wheelock blushed and looked vastly uncomfortable. To add to the success of the occasion, the coach of the
Newtown team asked the
privilege of making the presentation of the watch to Midford’s coach.
Although Midford had thought this was to be a big surprise to their ancient enemy, Newtown, the latter school produced a surprise of its own, by leading onto the field a huge tame bear whose coat displayed the school colors of brown and white; and this mascot was made the center of a fantastic parade, in which clowns pranced and a kiltie band played, while a miniature circus-wagon holding a strange imitation animal, pawing at the bars, and labeled “Midford Goat,” brought up the rear.
This display won applause from both sides of the field, and just as the between-halves exhibitions were of equal interest, so the battle between the twenty-two youths on the gridiron showed each team to be of equal courage, strength, and skill, and the score stood even at fourteen to fourteen with two touchdowns for each side, when the game reached the last five minutes of play.
The contest had not been without casualties and several substitutes had gone in for each side. Mary Aiken’s brother, captain and quarterback of the Midford team, had been knocked out in the third quarter and had been taken to the side-lines on reviving. But when there were only a few minutes left to go, Mary, Patty, and Susan, sitting together in the cheering section, clutched at each other with excitement as they saw Tom Aiken throw off his enveloping blanket after a few words from Wheelock, trot out to where the players were lined up, give his name to the referee, and take his old place behind the line of crouching football fighters.
If this were like most football stories, Tom would make a brilliant play and win the game. He didn’t do exactly that, but he did cheer up the players, who were rapidly tiring and losing courage in the stiff uphill fight that had lasted so long. And he was a clever general so, backed up by the counsel of Bud Wheelock, he managed a trick play that took the enemy by surprise on its own twenty-yard line, and before either Newtown or Midford realized what was happening, the ball was over the line in the hands of one Phil Mooney, whose name was marked for immortality in the annals of the school from that moment. Midford had won, twenty to fourteen, and Bud Wheelock’s last game crowned his career as coach with the laurel wreath of victory. He, as well as the players, received plaudits when the referee’s whistle blew just after the touchdown, and the teams left the field.
Before the cheers had died away, Susan and Patty had dashed for the exit nearest the place where the airplane had been parked. But, quick as they were, Bud Wheelock and Harry Copley were there before them, Bud again twirling the inertia starter, while Harry sat in the cockpit and managed the spark.
A corps of students assisted the police on duty at the field in keeping a large space clear about the New Standard, which had a fine take-off in the broad avenue leading up to the stadium. This too was guarded from the crowd, and as the motor roared and the pilot watched the needles of the temperature-dials climbing up to the required point, Susan and Patty donned their flying-suits and once more stored their regular clothes in the ship. Bud Wheelock had placed large stones under the wheels to act as chocks and keep the ship from taking off inadvertently, and he helped them with their flying-suits and helmets.
Dusk was rapidly approaching, and Patty remarked :
“Won’t it be dangerous flying home in the dark?”
“No,” answered Susan, who had often flown at night with her father. “This ship has lights, and the airport at Midford is fixed for the air-mail and other night flying. It has boundary-lights and floods and a beacon ’n everything. And it is glorious to fly just after sunset—wait and see.”
The sun, in fact, was just disappearing behind a bank of clouds in the west, when Copley signaled to them to jump in, and with a grand roar of the powerful Wright Whirlwind motor, and a rush down the wide road, the ship took the air, while the assembled crowd cheered.
Susan, having seen the beauties of an autumn sunset from an airplane before, knew what to look for, but Patty was astonished and delighted at the breathtaking glory of the sky, as they reached higher altitude and headed home, after circling the field they had just left.
The tumbled gray clouds on the western horizon had golden linings, as the fliers could plainly see, and the sun, flaming scarlet, was slipping down behind them, only its top edge visible, while violet shadows on the hills seemed to be moving forward over the earth below, and lights began to appear in distant windows. The sky was suffused with rose and golden tints that melted into mauve, turquoise, and clear blue above, while the sunset glow was reflected on the clouds to the eastward and mirrored in lake and river. One single perfect star shone at the zenith.
The girls in the airplane were engulfed in a magic world. It seemed almost too beautiful to be real, and the strange, disembodied sensation of the flight through this peaceful and colorful atmosphere made it all the more lovely. On they rushed through the cold, smooth air, toward Midford and home, the winding lines of highway below beginning to show the speeding golden lights of automobiles, the scattered farms and villages revealed by glowing windows. Finally, athwart the sky, shone the silvery moving finger of the beacon-light at Midford, pointing the way to a safe haven for all fliers.
Susan saw it first, because she knew where to look for it, and grasped Patty’s arm to draw her attention. Patty nodded, her eyes shining through her goggles. Susan knew that her chum was enjoying the trip, just as she had predicted. She was glad, for they agreed on most subjects, and she had often regretted that Patty did not share her enthusiasm for the air. Now she felt she had a friend who would understand her own ideas about flying and be interested in it, too.
There was still a rosy glow in the sky, although stars were beginning to show, when the great irregular circle of tiny yellow and red lights that marked the boundary of the Midford airport came into view, and Copley shut off the motor to glide to lower altitude before preparing to land. In wide spirals, the ship coasted down through the calm twilight, the beacon-light winking at them cheerfully. Suddenly they heard the pilot’s voice, clear because the motor was still.
“Look, Sue!” he was calling. “There comes your dad from the north!”
Sure enough, in the direction he indicated, they could see the bird-like shape of the gleaming silvery giant Ford monoplane, its red and green navigating-lights barely visible, the afterglow reflected in its cabin windows, which gleamed with golden light.
“He’ll wait for us to land,” said Susan to Patty, “but we’ll have to signal the airport first.”
The open plane with the girls in it was now less than a thousand feet above the field, and their pilot opened the throttle, circling low twice above the field, which turned on its flood-lights at the sound of the motor. Then, shutting off the power again, he swooped and landed gently, immediately taxiing over to the dead-line, to leave plenty of space for the other ship.
Susan leaped out, almost before the New Standard had stopped, and stood beside it, watching with a rapt expression as her father brought his craft down to earth. Patty joined her, both of them completely disregarding Harry Copley, who had summoned the additional mechanics needed to take care of the big ship. Ecstatically Susan squeezed Patty’s hand, as the huge and graceful shape of the plane holding her family came nearer and nearer to the field, spiraling down as silently and lightly as a sea-gull. Then, with a tiny bounce, the great wheels and clumsy-looking tires hit the earth, the big ship came to rest, and with a new roar of the motors, turned in a circle and taxied toward the dead-line and the hangar where the girls were waiting.
“Isn’t it the loveliest thing you ever saw?” said Susan. “Oh, I can hardly wait to ride in it!”
“Haven’t you been in one like it?” queried Patty. “Oh, of course!" said Susan. “But this is Daddy’s own and it is marvelous! Although I must say I like open ships best in some ways.”
“Yes, I certainly felt close to the clouds and sunset and everything, up where we were,” agreed Patty.
They were silent as the great silvery-white bulk of the monoplane, silhouetted against the dusk by the flood-lights, came toward them.
In a minute it had stopped, as mechanics rushed forward. The door opened, and Sue’s mother and brother stepped out. From the funny little window of the pilot’s cockpit, Susan’s father waved to her cheerily, as she rushed to hug her mother. Patty paused to chat with the ten-year-old brother of her chum.
Mrs. Thompson was not dressed in clumsy flying clothes, like the girls, but in a smart fall suit, and she stepped out of the cabin of the plane as spick-and-span and unruffled as if it had been a limousine. She was a pretty woman, not a bit taller than her daughter, but much lighter and daintier in build than the robust girl who swallowed her up in a hug, the big flying-suit making her look like a young bear. Mrs. Thompson laughed and straightened her hat and hair as her daughter released her. Her hair was darker than Susan’s and her eyes gray. She looked more like the sister than the mother of the girl.
“Oh, Mummy, did you have a good trip? I wish I could have gone—but what a day we had—did you hear about Dave?—isn’t it a shame?” asked Susan, all in one breath.
“We are dreadfully sorry about the poor boy,” said her mother, answering the last question first. “And what an adventure that was for you—flying to a football game!”
“Yes, and imagine us landing in the midst of the gridiron!” said Patty.
“Pretty tough luck for the players, I'd say,” remarked young Junior Thompson judicially.
“And of course, after that Midford wouldn’t dare lose, I suppose,” said Susan’s father, approaching the group, Harry Copley beside him.
“I should say not! Won twenty to fourteen in one of the best games I ever saw,” responded the pilot.
So, to the accompaniment of an excited and rather unintelligible story of the afternoon, with Susan and Patty taking turns in the account and constantly interrupting each other, the party proceeded to the hangar, where the girls changed their clothes in the flying-students’ locker-room. Then, when a taxi arrived, they returned to town, dropping Copley and Patty at their homes on the way.
The faithful Mrs. Clancey had dinner ready for the Thompson family and they lost little time in gathering around the big mahogany table in the dining-room.
It was the custom of the household to change for dinner, even at a time like this, so Susan slipped into a yellow silk frock left from summer, planning, as she did so, how to start an unpopular subject that she intended to discuss with her father after dinner—for it was understood in the Thompson home that nothing likely to lead to argument and no unpleasant topics were to be introduced at meal-time. So Susan put the subject temporarily out of her mind, when she went to the dining-room to give a final look at the table, which was her special responsibility.
Although she had been trained from childhood to take care of her own room, and to keep it and her wardrobe in order, Susan had a weakness for other branches of housekeeping, as well. Though it was considered smart by many of her schoolmates to profess to know nothing, and to care less, about cooking and kindred arts, she could prepare a meal if necessary and enjoyed baking almost as much as she did sports.
But the setting and decoration of the table was her particular hobby, and she looked now to be sure that the rose and violet asters in the pewter bowl formed the central decoration she had planned, and that the rose-colored glassware and the pale-lavender damask cloth gave the effect she had hoped for.
Sue always enjoyed arranging these matters, but she particularly liked to give her mother a pleasant surprise when she had been away for the day, and she would have been keenly disappointed if Mrs. Clancey had failed to carry out her directions for the dinner-table. To-night she had a special reason for wanting every one to be in good humor. She had the rose-colored candles in their pewter holders lighted by the time her mother came down-stairs, and was rewarded by the kiss she received on the back of her neck, and the little squeeze her mother gave her as she said:
“The table is perfect, darling—as it always is when you arrange it.”
Over the soup and roast beef and vegetables and salad, there was no lack of animated conversation, with the journey in the big monoplane and the football game to afford interesting material, and there was still lots to be said when dessert had been served. But no sooner had the family adjourned to the living-room than Susan sprang her surprise.
Her mother had picked up a book and her father was poking the logs in the fireplace to a brighter blaze, while her small brother was experimenting with the radio, when Susan, who had perched on the arm of the davenport close to her dad, said suddenly :
“Please, may I learn how to fly? I want to, awfully!”
Her simple question brought sudden and intense interest on the part of her hearers. Her mother paused in the act of turning a page; her father dropped the fire-tongs and stood up; while Junior left a dial just as some lively jazz was tuning in.
Susan had spoken to her father about flying before, so she was hardly prepared for the astonishment she had caused, but she realized that she was so serious about it that her hearers had been impressed as well as surprised, for the earnest way in which she had put the query was in marked contrast to the lightness of their dinner conversation.
“You knew I wanted to learn, Dad,” she went on. “And to-day I knew that I couldn’t wait any longer. Please let me go into your school and take time right away!”
To “take time” meant to take instruction from one of the pilots in the flying-school, and to fly in a ship with dual controls, so that instead of being a mere passenger, one could learn to fly the ship oneself. Susan had flown in ships of this type, with her father and other pilots, and had even had her hands and feet on the duplicate controls, but she had never taken charge of the ship as a student would—not even for a minute—because to be a student she must have a Federal permit. Her father was very strict about complying with all the regulations, and required like adherence to the rules from the pilot-instructors on his staff. So Susan had never “taken time,” although she had wistfully watched scores of young men, and even a couple of young women, going through the school routine.
As a matter of fact, neither of those young women students completed the course and became qualified pilots. One had been told by her instructor that she would never be a flier and had been advised to give it up, which she promptly did with an air of relief. The other had been taken ill—and with such serious results that the flight-surgeon had forbidden her to keep on with the course. So Major Thompson had not had favorable experience with women students, and Susan suspected that he had gained an impression of women as fliers that had now become a sort of prejudice—and that this was one of the reasons why he had always laughed away her hints about learning to fly.
She knew, as she looked at her family, that she was not going to win her point easily, but she was surprised to hear her mother say:
“Yes, Bill, why not let Susan learn to fly, if she can qualify?”
Susan flashed her mother a grateful look and exclaimed:
“Oh, Mother, I’m so glad you’ll let me do it!” But here her father spoke:
“I’d rather you didn’t, Sue, my dear. Not now, anyhow.”
He was very serious, and Susan’s heart sank. She felt tears gathering back of her eyes and fought to keep from crying.
“Oh, but Daddy dear, I want to so much!” she said. “You know I love flying and I’m sure I could learn. Please, Dad, let me try, anyway!”
“Why not let her train?” asked her mother again. “You know, Bill, I think you are a little prejudiced against women as fliers—and I must say I wish I could fly myself!”
“That’s right, Mother,” said Susan. “Why haven’t you learned, all this time?” And she went over and sat down beside her pretty mother, whose hair was shining in the firelight and whose eyes were tender, as they always were when she looked at her children.
“My dear little daughter,” said Ann Thompson, “I’ll tell you a secret. Right after the war I resolved to learn to fly. Schools weren’t so well organized in those days—there was not so much Federal and State regulation, either. So your father started to give me instruction, and he really had hopes of making me a flier, but I couldn’t pass the physical tests—something about my eyes was wrong. So your mother will never be your rival, Susan—but I’ll enjoy having you fly as I once hoped to do.”
“Mother!” exclaimed Susan, astonished and delighted. “You really did intend to fly! Oh, how I wish you would do it yet! Are you sure you’re hopeless? Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Well, my dear, I didn’t want you to be ashamed of your old mother,” said Mrs. Thompson, laughing. “But you can uphold the honor of the women of the Thompson family in the air, if your father will just say ‘Yes’.”
“Yes, Dad, why not let Sue have a shot at it?” spoke up Junior.
All of them looked at Bill Thompson, pioneer flier, war ace, flight-commander, major in the army air-corps reserve, and saw that he was looking into the fire and his thoughts seemed far away. He was silent and for a moment nobody spoke. Only the sound of the dance orchestra, partially tuned in on the radio, came muffled and indistinct.
Suddenly another station broke in, with a military march played by some band, and Susan realized what her father was thinking about—the long years of flying he had seen, the friends and enemies he had watched die, the pilots he had known who had lost their lives in crashes, the annual toll of death among students and instructors, the hazards of that great pathless world of the air, still an unknown country to the average man.
When he spoke, his words came slowly and he still looked at the flames. Susan had never seen her usually merry father look so grave or heard him sound so serious.
“Come here, Daughter,” he said, “and let me look at you.”
Susan rose from her place beside her mother and went to him. He was leaning on the mantel, but when she reached him he straightened up and put his hands on her shoulders, holding her before him.
For a moment he regarded her silently. The two who faced each other there were singularly alike, as Ann Thompson thought, watching them. Susan had the same tall, strong, robust build, the same firm features, the same merry blue eyes, the same blond hair, that distinguished Bill Thompson. He was over six feet, but she was only a foot shorter. His face had lines about the eyes and mouth, brought by years of war and years of flying, but it was scarcely more firm in its contours than his daughter’s face. And they looked into each other’s eyes with the same direct, proud, level glance.
Solemnly Bill Thompson regarded his girl, and then he smiled and shook his head, ever so gently.
“You would do it and do it well,” he said, quietly and seriously. “Flying or anything else, dear—I know that. You’ve got the right spirit, too. Maybe you’re a born flier—for they do happen. But my dear little girl, you’re so young—much too young to fly. Even though you’re ’most as big as your daddy, you’re just a kid still. And you’re my only daughter, bless you!”
He drew her up to him and kissed her forehead, gently. But gentle as he was, the tears, so close to Susan’s eyes all this time, spilled over. She could say nothing and went back to her place beside her mother, so that her father would not see her cry and think she was really a baby still.
But her mother understood and spoke again.
“If it’s just that Sue is young, Bill,” she said, “why not promise her she can fly when a certain time comes, or when she reaches some age you think suitable for flying?”
There was gentle sarcasm in her mother’s remark, Susan knew, because her father had flown when he was younger than she was now. He had boasted of students hardly older than Sue, and often told of a war flier he had known in France who enlisted at sixteen, had brought down three enemy ships before he was seventeen, and had died valiantly a year later.
Junior, apparently losing interest in the matter, returned to the radio and began experimenting with dials again. Bill Thompson looked at his wife and daughter with a quizzical smile.
“You don’t believe in my alibi, do you?” he said. “But what I did at fifteen should not determine what my daughter does, should it?”
“Do you mean that you would let Junior learn to fly, at Susan’s age, just because he is a boy and she is a girl?” asked Mrs. Thompson.
“To be perfectly honest, my dear, I don’t know,” answered her husband, slowly and gravely. “Perhaps it is because she is so young—perhaps it is because the women students we have had turned out so badly. Perhaps I’m just plain scared, but I can’t see it for Susan—not now, anyhow.”
“But that’s so unfair,” protested Mrs. Thompson. “You can’t say women are not good fliers. Think of Lady Heath and Amelia Earhart and Elinor Smith and Amy Johnson and all the others we don’t hear so much about. And you know how strong Susan is—and how she has always loved to fly. How can you refuse to let her try, at least?”
“Ann, my dear,” answered her husband, “it is hard to resist both of you. Between your reasoning and your charm I find it difficult not to throw up my hands and surrender. I can’t argue about it, I may be plumb foolish, but I won’t let Susan learn to fly. Not just now, at any rate. And don’t be cross about it, my darlings. Let’s call in Patty and have a hand of bridge.”
“If you call Patty, you’ll have another argument,” said Susan. “Because I think she wants to learn to fly, too.”
Bill Thompson threw back his head and laughed his hearty ringing laugh.
“That would be a majority I couldn’t overcome,” he said. “Well then, let’s go to a good movie.”
“But we haven’t the car,” his wife reminded him.
“By Jove!” said Bill Thompson, “I’m glad you reminded me. Ashamed I forgot. I must call the hospital right now and see how Dave is getting on. Going down to see him, if they’ll let me in.”
He rushed out of the room to his study. Susan exchanged a look with her mother, and they both smiled.
Junior had at last found a satisfactory station and a blare of sounds filled the air—it was a broadcast of a prize-fight. Over the din of the loudspeaker, the two who had wanted to become fliers, in spite of being feminine, spoke to one another.
“I think Father was glad of an excuse to get away,” said Susan, a little bitterly but smiling.
“Don’t be discouraged, dear,” her mother answered. “I’m not convinced that he won’t let you fly. He’s just a little afraid of the air when somebody he loves is concerned. He may agree to it yet.”
“But how did you ever persuade him to let you try it?” asked Sue.
“Ah!” said her mother mysteriously. “I went through all this with him, then, but he’s forgotten it. He couldn’t say I was too young, so he argued that I was a mother, so I shouldn’t be flying—just as if he wasn’t a father, and we all dependent on him for our living! But I won him over, in time, and when I had to give it up, he was just as disappointed as I was.”
“So you think there is still some hope for me?” Susan was her usual cheerful self again at the thought.
“Yes, of course,” laughed her mother. “Just wait and see. But don’t speak about it again to your father for a while. I have a plan I want to think out first—then you and I together will start our campaign.”
“Oh, Mother, you’re a darling!” said Susan, hugging her.
Because she wanted so intensely to fly herself, Susan realized what a keen disappointment her mother had known, although she joked about it so gaily. Suddenly she loved and admired her little mother more than she ever had before, brave and dear as she had always thought her, ever since childhood with its vague memories of war-time.
“No wonder you are always ready to go with Dad on his trips,” she said. “I’ve always known you were crazy about the air!”
“Let me tell you, Sue,” said her mother, solemnly, “I enjoyed flying as a passenger more before I flew myself than I ever have since.”
“Why, Mother!” said Susan. “How is that?”
“Once you’ve held the controls yourself, there’s not much fun in flying with any other pilot in charge,” explained Mrs. Thompson. “Not for me, at any rate. But of course I enjoy flying with your father, just as I enjoy going anywhere with him, in anything. I go because he is going and wants me along—not because it’s in the air, especially.”
“And if I ever learn to fly well enough, will you come with me?” asked Susan, her eyes shining.
“Gladly,” said her mother. “You won’t have to ask me twice. But I’ll be so jealous the day you get your license—just wait and see!”
“Oh, Mother, I wish you were going to get one, too!” said Susan. “How far did you get in your training?” '
“I had a full course—hours and hours,” replied her mother blithely. “Everything but tail-spins—we didn’t know so much about them in those days. And the next flying-candidate will be Junior, I suppose. What do you say, Son?”
“Gee, I think I’ve got
on here,” was Junior’s only answer, as a faint wail came from the radio.
A GALA DAY AT THE AIRPORT
SUSAN did not feel altogether discouraged in her desire to learn flying, in spite of her father’s refusal. Her mother’s support of her ambition helped, and she was sure that somehow she would yet realize her dream and win her wings.
On the Sunday morning after her adventurous day at the football game with
Newtown, Susan awoke early and felt cheerful,
much to her own surprise. She even sang in her bath, and her mother came in and
said she was glad to hear it, adding that she and Susan’s father were going to
the hospital to see how Dave was progressing. She asked if Sue wanted to go
“I’d like to see Dave,” Susan agreed, “but I want to go to the airport celebration to-day, and take Patty along, too.”
“I’m glad you still love the field,” said her mother, “and that you don’t seem cast down over what your father said last night. But we’ll arrange about the hospital and the airport at breakfast.”
It was a glorious autumn morning, and Susan felt glad to be alive when she arrived in the sun-room, where breakfast was served.
She found her father absorbed in the front page of the Sunday paper, which was propped up before him while he consumed eggs and bacon and toast and coffee. Opposite sat her mother, disposing of scrambled eggs and muffins and tea while she scanned the book-reviews. There was no sign of Junior, but Sue knew from experience that he had probably snatched a hasty breakfast and dashed out to exchange the latest news of radio or football with some friend; or to carry on one of his interminable mechanical experiments that were conducted in a room over the garage.
After a cheery exchange of greetings with her parents Susan peered into sundry dishes and under various covers and finally helped herself to grapefruit and creamed beef and a glass of milk and then they discussed the plans for the day.
Susan and her mother and brother were to go to the hospital directly from church, it was decided, where they would meet Bill Thompson, who was going over to see Dave right after breakfast. They would return together for dinner, bringing Patty along, and then go to the airport for the afternoon. Patty and Susan felt that they could not miss this particular Sunday at the field, because the airport was celebrating its fifth anniversary, and a special exhibition was to be staged by the fliers for the occasion. Sue’s father, as head of one of the largest concerns at the airport, was naturally interested, and the entire Thompson family would be on hand. As it was an ideal autumn day, clear and crisp but not cold, with the air calm, thousands of spectators were expected for the celebration.
Everything went as planned for the day—up to a certain point—but little did Susan and Patty imagine, when they reached the Midford airport early in the afternoon, what surprising experiences they were to undergo before darkness fell. Where Susan’s plans went awry, however, her adventures always began, as she had discovered before.
Cheered by having found at the hospital that the mechanic, Dave, was rapidly improving, Mr. and Mrs. Thompson went directly to the hangar and offices of the International Aviation Corporation, which was Bill Thompson’s concern. Junior sought the work-shops and mechanical headquarters of the organization, and Susan and Patty went straight to the dead-line and mingled with the crowds of spectators who were gazing at the ships on the line, or in the sky.
“Oh, Patty,” said Susan breathlessly, “did you ever see anything so beautiful! If there is anything lovelier than an airplane, what can it be?”
Certainly the sight was one to make any aviation enthusiast happy. The crowd that pressed against the ropes about the field was close to the dead-line where the ships were lined up before taking off— and how gorgeous the ships were! There were gay little orange and yellow Curtiss Robin cabin monoplanes that, with their compact build and bright coloring, suggested taxi-cabs. There were bigger Challenger biplanes—bright red, or green, or gray. There was a sleek Stearman with a Wright Whirlwind motor, a black biplane trimmed with scarlet and bearing the monogram of a private owner. There were two New Standards, of vivid green combined with orange, designed to hold five persons in the open cockpits, and with the odd arrangement of wings from which they are termed “sesqui-planes.” One of these was the very ship in which Susan and Patty had gone to the football game the day before.
Further along the dead-line were a couple of Travelairs—one a biplane in the characteristic Yale blue and silver, the other a monoplane cabin ship, radiant in white and gold. One little Waco biplane in gray was a contrast to the vivid ships about it, and not far from it was a Fairchild cabin monoplane, silvery in color, with odd single wings that could be folded back. In spite of its ample carrying capacity, it was dwarfed by the big tri-motored ships, the giant Ford and a Fokker of the transport passenger carrying service, which were on the line for the celebration. At the other extreme were Avian and Moth biplanes, tiny and sporty. As a special feature there was a Keystone-Loening amphibian on display, with its clumsy wheels almost hidden by the pontoons, and several army and national-guard ships had gathered for the occasion, also a Pitcairn Super-Mailwing—very businesslike in its black and yellow coloring and single-place cockpit—to show how the mail is carried over some sections of the national air-routes.
Each plane had its pilot and mechanics at hand, and various ships were taking off, to carry passengers, or give aerial displays, as fast as the traffic-manager of the field gave the word. It was an animated scene.
There was a hum of excitement from the crowd, but it was lost in the roar of the motors that were being tuned up on the ground, or carrying ships through the air, while the noise of the constantly arriving motor-cars, augmenting the hundreds already parked about the field, added to the din. The cries of salespeople, offering tickets for rides in the air, provided an overtone of sound.
But neither Susan nor Patty minded this. Susan had grown accustomed to the racket, bustle, and confusion of the airport on other Saturday and Sunday afternoons, when there was always an interested crowd on hand at the field. It was a less familiar scene to Patty, and she was getting a tremendous thrill out of the excitement of the airport this Sunday afternoon.
Not only were the pilots of commercial ships carrying passengers on flights above the city and the surrounding country, almost as fast as they could take them up, but other pilots were performing breath-taking stunts over the field. Thousands of faces were turned up to the sky to watch the graceful and mysterious evolutions of the planes above them.
“Look!” said Susan to Patty. “That ship is doing a ‘falling-leaf’—isn’t it fascinating!”
Far above, against the blue of the sky, a scarlet biplane was dropping through the air, turning as it fell, apparently lazily and inevitably, toward the ground. It seemed destined to crash on the field, when suddenly came the roar of the motor. It dived, straightened out, mounted again, and flew away.
A group of three pursuit ships took its place. These were army planes with yellow wings, and olive-drab fuselage that looked bronze in the sunshine. The hum of their motors grew in volume and diminished again as they made loop after loop in formation.
“Look, look!” cried Patty suddenly, clutching Susan’s arm. “They’re falling—oh!”
Certainly the ships did seem to be falling, as they came spinning nose down in a vertical line and at dizzy speed, but suddenly these too straightened out and sped away.
Then the audience at the field heard a voice announcing through the megaphone that there was to be a dead-stick landing next, by Jack Wright, chief instructor of Bill Thompson’s concern and among the most popular commercial pilots at the airport. At the conclusion of the announcement one of the Challengers on the dead-line sped off and into the air, climbing rapidly in wide spirals above the field.
“This is going to be great,” said Susan to Patty. “Jack Wright is one of the best fliers down here and a good friend of mine and Dad’s. Just watch what he does.”
“What is he going to do?” asked Patty. “What is a dead-stick landing, anyway?”
“Why, it means he lands without any motor,” explained Susan, surprised at the query.
“But they all seem to stop the motor before they land anyway,” commented Patty. “I remember Mr. Copley did it yesterday, when he was flying with us.”
Susan laughed indulgently.
“Of course, they throttle the motor before they land,” she explained, “because the slower your flying speed is when you are coming down, the easier it is to land properly. But although the motor is throttled down for any landing, the power is still there, and you can turn it on again if you like, or if anything is going to happen. But when it is a dead-stick landing, the motor is cut entirely—the switch is turned off—and the pilot couldn’t start it again if he wanted to. He has to know flying well enough to come down just right without any power at all. Now watch—he has altitude enough—I mean he is up high enough—and he will shut off the motor. Listen!”
Sure enough, the megaphoned announcement came:
“Jack Wright has now shut off his motor at an altitude of two thousand feet. Please observe that his propeller is still. He is making this landing without power.”
Patty and Susan watched breathlessly as the ship seemed to pause in the sky, and then came toward the earth, gliding down in great swoops and curves, banking here, turning there, circling at a glide, and finally, with a beautiful sweep, coming to rest on the field, while the audience cheered.
There were no more stunts scheduled for a time and the commercial fliers’ representatives circulated in the audience, selling tickets to the crowd, which was eager to fly.
“I'm glad I don’t have to pay two or three or five dollars for a trip,” said Patty, “thanks to you, Sue, and your dad. But I would pay it after that flight yesterday, if I couldn’t go up any other way.”
“It’s lucky for the commercial fliers that most people have to pay and are willing to,” said Susan. “And I’m glad they’re doing such a good business to-day. When you realize that they make their living this way, and help aviation a lot by showing people what flying really is, then you can see that they deserve all they make.”
“I should think they’d make a lot of money, too,” said Patty. “Why, look at that flier they call Frenchie Girard—he has been just turning people away.”
The flier she indicated was a jovial young man, whose maroon ship seemed particularly popular with the public. His assistants were selling tickets to passengers almost as fast as they could pass them out.
“Yes, he is popular,” conceded Susan. “But when you consider that he paid hundreds of dollars to get his flying-training and thousands for his ship, and remember that he can only fly in good weather and carries passengers only on week-ends and holidays and in fairly warm weather, and add the fact that he has to buy gas and oil and hire mechanics and hangar-space—well, you can see that he has a lot of overhead.”
“What is this I hear about overhead?” said a voice behind them. “Everything ought to be overhead at a time like this.”
The girls turned around and saw Bud Wheelock, arm in arm with Harry Copley. Both were in flying-clothes and carried helmets and goggles.
“My goodness!” said Susan. “I would never have known you if you hadn’t spoken, Mr. Wheelock! Are you flying?”
“Surest thing you know,” he said, cheerily. “I’m going to fly for Frenchie Girard. He has more than he can handle and we’ve chartered a ship from your dad’s outfit.”
“But how did you happen to get the job?” asked Patty.
“Funny coincidence,” said Wheelock. “I came down to see Copley do his stuff this afternoon and found my old friend Frenchie of the Lafayette Escadrille was on the line too. Hadn’t seen him since I left
France, but here he is, with a wife
and family and ship and everything.”
“Oh!” said Patty, looking pointedly at Susan. “So he was in
France! I guess his
flying-education didn’t cost him so much after all, Susan!”
“It cost him plenty,” put in Copley. “Frenchie had ten wounds, any one of them bad enough to kill most men, but he has more lives than a cat, I guess.”
“Yes, and he has a little bit of purple ribbon and some odds and ends of hardware to show for his work in the war, too,” said Wheelock. “He was one of the best fliers the French army had.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Patty with sincerity. “I was just spoofing Susan a little. I suppose it did cost him a lot to get started.”
“Yes, he worked like a dog to earn the money for that ship,” agreed Copley. “But he has a fine personality and the public likes him, so he has been popular ever since he began carrying passengers. Popular with everybody on the field, too.”
“Well, I couldn’t let an old buddy lose money on a day like this,” said Wheelock, “so I’m glad to help him out. Is the ship ready, do you think?”
“Sure thing,” said Copley. “They’ll taxi her down to a place beside Frenchie and the boys can ballyhoo for you, too.”
“Right!” said Wheelock. “Glad I brought along my license. So long, Miss Susan! I’ll take you and Miss Patty for a ride, if business gets dull and you want to go.”
The girls agreed and the two pilots went off toward the ships, people turning to look at them with interest as they passed, for both were tall, good-looking men and their flying-clothes gave them an air of romance. Patty and Susan watched them disappear in the crowd, but in a minute Copley came running back.
“Susan!” he called, as he approached her. “Will you do something to help Frenchie and Wheelock—and somebody else, too?”
“What is it?” asked Susan, cautiously.
“Why, you know Frenchie’s wife always sells tickets and supervises the other ticket-sellers,” explained Copley, “and she has just collapsed. Seems she has been having appendicitis, but thought she could stick it out to-day. They’ve taken her to the field hospital and she’ll have to have an operation as soon as they can get her into town. It’s hard on Frenchie, because they counted a lot on the money they’d take in to-day. And we can’t find anybody to take Marie’s place in a hurry—unless you want to do it. It’s a darned shame. Now that Wheelock is going to pinch-hit for Frenchie, he’s lost his star ticket-seller. Will you take her place?”
“Of course I will,” said Susan without hesitation.
“I know Dad and Mother won’t mind, if it’s helping out Frenchie and his wife and baby.”
“Can’t I do it, too?” begged Patty. “Please let me, Susan!”
“We’ll see,” said Copley, as he led them toward the place where the commercial ships and their waiting passengers were assembled.
Just as they arrived, Bud Wheelock took off with four passengers in one of the New Standards, waving his hand as he saw the girls approach. Frenchie was still waiting on the ground, the passengers’ seats in the cockpit holding a young couple, evidently highly excited at the prospect of their first air-trip. Copley led the girls over to him and he greeted Susan, whom he knew well through her frequent visits to the field. He quickly explained to her the system used for selling and checking tickets, gave a book of them to her and another to Patty, and then, taxiing to the starting-point, he took the air and was soon hundreds of feet overhead. Concerned as he plainly was about his wife, he was carrying on like a good soldier.
The girls joined the corps of ticket-sellers between the boundary ropes and the dead-line. All up and down the field, a brisk business in selling air-trips was in progress. The salespeople included young women, as well as young men, many of them regular attachés of the commercial firms at the field, wearing uniforms bearing the names of the concerns they represented. The two youths who were selling tickets for Frenchie were apprentice mechanics, whom Susan knew. They wore white overalls with the legend “Fly with Frenchie” inscribed on them, but Sue and Patty found they needed no special costume, since they were kept busy tearing off tickets and accepting bills handed to them in exchange. Flights were three and five dollars according to duration, with the latter the more popular.
While the afternoon sun was warm, the flights of ships carrying passengers were the chief activity at the field, but there was an interval devoted to a parachute-jump that was a spectacular sight. The ship, a blue Travelair, was more than two thousand feet above the field, according to the megaphoned announcement, when the little spot that was the parachute-jumper separated itself from the plane. After it had fallen like a stone for a little distance, the circle of snowy silk that was the parachute opened out like a huge and lovely flower, bringing its burden gently to earth.
During this diversion, the girls were actively engaged selling the flying-tickets, but they were not too busy to watch the jump.
“A perfect jump, and delayed at that,” one of the mechanics remarked to Susan.
“Who was it?” asked Susan. “One of the boys at the field here?”
“Naw,” he answered. “That’s Pete Hawkins, a fellow from
New York. And the lad that flew him is
Lester Burnett, the kid pilot—they came in yesterday. Making a cross-country
“What do you mean when you say the jump was delayed?” asked Patty, as she accepted the money for two five-dollar rides from a prosperous elderly farmer, who was resolved to take his wife up in the air. “It looked to me as if he came down pretty fast.”
“Why, the reg’lar jump means you pull your ripcord about three seconds after you leave the ship,” explained her informant, “but in a delayed jump, you wait longer, so it’s more dangerous, see?”
Here Susan, who had gone down the line to sell tickets to a bashful youth who was coaxing his sweetheart to go up in Frenchie’s airplane, came back to where Patty was stationed. Sue, too, had a query for the mechanic.
“Why do you call Burnett a ‘kid pilot’?” she asked.
“Because he’s only eighteen,” was the answer. “Got a full transport license, too. And say, he certainly can fly pretty. He’s going to do some stunts later on. Wait and see.”
And later in the afternoon, Susan and Patty did see notable exploits by the young flier from
New York, who
rolled his ship over and over across the sky, and made a series of wing-overs
before swooping down to earth.
This was the final display, before darkness made further flying unsafe. It followed another demonstration of formation flight by the army ships, which flew like a group of homing birds, at precise distances and in a beautiful wedge of wings across the sky.
The crowd gradually dispersed, with much honking of motor-horns and confusion of traffic, and Susan and Patty, exchanging smiles, counted up the ticket-stubs they had remaining, as Frenchie and Wheelock made their final flights with passengers who would not be denied the experience, even as dusk approached.
When the pilots brought down their last loads, the girls watched them taxi to the dead-line and then, carefully avoiding the danger of the whirling propellers, Susan went up to make her report. She had sold more than three hundred dollars’ worth of tickets, and Patty had sold half as many.
“You certainly did a fine job,” said Frenchie, with enthusiasm. “And you don’t know how much it means to Marie and me. You can see what we would have lost without you, and I wish you would take the regular commission of twenty per cent, that we pay people who sell for us.”
“Oh, I couldn’t! Thank you just the same,” said Susan, and Patty echoed her remark.
“Well, I don’t suppose you want to take it out in flying-time the way some of the boys do,” said Frenchie laughing, “but I can’t tell you how grateful I am. And Marie will be, too. Want to take a twilight trip right now?”
“Oh, I’d love to,” said Susan, “but Dad and Mother may be wondering where we are—although I suppose Harry Copley told them.”
Just then a whistle drew her attention to the edge of the field and there was Jack Wright and beside him was a slim young man in flying-clothes and helmet.
“I think Dad has sent for me right now,” said Susan, and she and Patty said good-night.
“Well, how’s the young ticket-seller?” asked Wright, as the girls approached. “Your dad thinks you ought to be pretty tired, so he has some refreshments up there, if you’re hungry.”
“I'm starved, now you mention it!” exclaimed Patty.
“Fancy Patty having to be reminded she is hungry!” laughed Susan. “But I am, too.”
“And here’s a young man you ought to be acquainted with,” continued Wright. “Let me present Lester Burnett, the pilot who flew the parachute-jumper. Burnett, Miss Thompson and Miss Carlisle.”
Susan found herself shaking hands with a slim, blond lad, no taller than herself and scarcely heavier, who had a frank face and steady gray eyes.
Together the four walked to Mr. Thompson’s headquarters, and Susan found the boy quiet and modest, almost shy. She did not ask him about his flying-training, but complimented him on the stunts he had performed that afternoon.
After young Burnett left them to go to the hangar where his ship was “parked” for the night, as he expressed it, Susan learned something about him from Wright. He told her how the Burnett boy had flown well enough to solo after three hours of instruction, how he had steadily made each grade of license, working as a mechanic to earn his tuition. He had achieved a wide reputation around his home field for his coolness in two great emergencies, once making a forced landing under unfavorable conditions without injury to ship or passengers, another time bringing his ship down to a dead-stick landing when some accident had set it afire. He had suffered serious burns, himself, but had kept his head, cut his switch, landed his ship, and plied the fire extinguisher before help reached him.
“Thought he’d never live through that,” said her informant, “but he did and went right back into the air, the way all good pilots do.”
“But he doesn’t show any burns,” remarked Patty.
“Not in winter flying-clothes,” said Wright, “but you ought to see his arms. I guess his hands are pretty well scarred, too, and he has a nasty mark on his cheek, but it doesn’t show in this light.”
“Well, I’m certainly proud to have met him,” said Susan as they reached her father’s office. “Oh, Patty, see those sandwiches! Don’t they look good?”
With a sigh of bliss, Patty sat down beside Susan’s mother, who laughed as they came in.
“Poor little hard-working girls!” she said. “But it was sweet of you both to help out Frenchie and his wife that way.”
“Yes,” said Patty, “we took in almost five hundred dollars between us—and we could have had a hundred dollars commission, if we had wanted it.”
“Or I could have had all that in flying-tuition,” added Susan mischievously, “but I just couldn’t bear to take the business away from Dad, so I said I’d wait until I can learn to fly right here.”
Her father looked up from his desk and smiled, but made no comment. Susan’s mother passed her the sandwiches.
“That’s right, Daughter,” she said. “Patronize home industries and accept no substitutes. You’ll learn to fly yet, I’m sure.”
“I should think she could,” said Patty, with her mouth full. “We met a boy to-day—just a kid, too—who’s an expert pilot. Even Mr. Wright said so. Makes me furious to think boys get away with that and girls can’t—”
But here Susan kicked her so vigorously that she ended suddenly with something that sounded like “Ouch.”
Soon afterward, Harry Copley brought Bud Wheelock in to introduce him to Susan’s father, and there was talk of war flying and other reminiscences until it was time to leave the field.
Patty and Susan noticed—and commented on it afterward—that Bud Wheelock avoided mentioning his future flying-plans and evaded any direct question about what he was doing. But he had a transport license, the highest grade issued by the United States Government, and his work during the afternoon had proved him a capable pilot.
THE ARIEL IS CHRISTENED
IN later years, Susan often looked back on the week that followed the Midford-Newtown football game as one of the most important of her entire life, for it seemed as if the events which had started with that game had moved swiftly and inevitably toward her cherished goal.
To begin with, Patty, who had paid little attention to aviation and made good-natured fun of Susan’s love of it, now became suddenly enthusiastic about everything concerning flying. This outspoken enthusiasm became evident to her classmates the day after the airport celebration, when Patty declared openly that she was going to learn to fly. Susan smiled indulgently while this was going on; and when some of the girls affected to consider this only a fad, she staunchly upheld her friend.
At recess the chums were, as usual, in the group that constituted their own special “gang,” when the subject came up—brought into conversation, as it often was, by the sight of an airplane flying overhead.
“Oh, isn’t it gorgeous!” sighed Patty, as the ship flashed by overhead, scarlet and gold. “Susan, it’s just like the one that the Burnett boy was flying, isn't it? Only a different color!”
Susan squinted up at the airplane, and shook her head, as she squeezed Patty’s arm affectionately.
“No, my dear,” she said. “It isn’t the least bit like Burnett’s ship, except that it flies, of course. He had a Travelair, which has an odd sort of appearance in the air, different from any other—I’ll show you sometime. But anyhow, his had double wings, being a biplane, while this is a monoplane a Cessna, I think—and so has only single wings.”
“The lecture on airplanes will now begin,” remarked Mary Aiken, laughing. “Why the sudden interest, Patty?”
“That flight over to the football game must have gone to her head,” said Polly Smith. “But it was worth while, anyhow. And you found that Bud Wheelock was a pilot just as I said, didn't you?”
“I should say we did,” interposed Susan. "We were selling tickets for his passengers all yesterday afternoon.”
This, of course, caused a small sensation, and Patty and Susan were besieged with questions, until it was time to go back to class. Several of the girls, and many of the boys of the school had been at the airport the day before, but none of them had seen Susan and Patty selling tickets, or had realized that Bud Wheelock was flying—a fact bitterly mourned by the girls, who seemed to consider that seeing their hero of the football field in flying-togs would have been a memorable experience. And when they heard Patty declare that she intended to learn to fly, most of them looked as if they would like to realize the same ambition.
During the next few days, Patty and Susan often discussed their resolution to be fliers, although Susan said nothing about it at school because of her father’s opposition. Patty respected her confidence, and did not reveal her friend’s desire, even while seeming to glory in proclaiming her own.
When Susan went over to Patty’s home, she found that Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle listened indulgently and did not discourage their daughter. She felt a little discouraged herself because her own father had not mentioned the matter again.
But in the middle of the week Patty came dashing over to the Thompson’s house one morning, waving a letter in her hand. She bounded into the diningroom, where the Thompson family had just started breakfast.
“Oh, Susan!” she shouted. “What do you suppose? Here’s a letter from Phil, and he thinks it’s great for us to learn flying, and he’s learning how himself, and he’s a member of the Yale Flying Club, and he wants us to come down to the big game at the Bowl in New Haven this week, and he has tickets for us and everything!”
“And Patty said it all without stopping once for a breath!” laughed Mrs. Thompson.
“Evidently the flying plans rate higher than the football game as news,” said Mr. Thompson.
“Gee, the Yale Bowl!” ejaculated Susan’s small brother.
But as for Susan herself, she could say nothing. In fact, if she had not had her breath taken away by the exciting news Patty had revealed, she would have had difficulty in speaking in any case, because her friend rushed around to the back of her chair and hugged her ecstatically.
“Look at the letter!” continued Patty when she had been offered a chair and invited to have some breakfast. “Just look! Oh, Mrs. Thompson, you’re going to let Susan come to the game, aren’t you? Mother is going with us, and there’s a special message in the postscript for you, Susan!”
So Susan took Phil Carlisle’s letter and read it carefully, and there, after he had endorsed his sister’s ideas and described his own interest and progress in flying and asked her to bring Susan to the game, was the postscript:
“P.S. I’ll take you and Susan over to the Yale Flying Club headquarters and show you around, Sunday after the game. Tell Susan not to be discouraged if her family opposes her flying, for some of the boys in our club have had to fly under assumed names because of the attitude of their relatives. But they have old-fashioned folks. What’s the matter with Susan’s people, when her father is a pilot himself? She’s always been a game kid and I think she’d make a swell flier.”
Susan smiled a little at this. Phil, she reflected, had good reason to consider her “game,” because when she and Patty had been little girls and he had been in high school, it was always Susan who would not let a dare pass by, who climbed as many trees, swam as many yards, jumped as many fences, and even cleaned as many fish, as Phil challenged her to.
Phil had taught both girls to dive by the simple expedient of taking them out on a float at the lake and explaining to them patiently how to do it—but adding that if they didn’t try it voluntarily, he would have to throw them in! Both the girls had followed his command—Patty because she adored him, and Susan because she would not let any one say she was afraid—and he had rewarded their efforts by making them expert swimmers and divers. But that had been six or eight years before, and Susan had seen him infrequently during the intervening period, while he had been away at school and college.
Sue looked up from the letter to find her mother regarding her with a smile. Patty handed the letter over to Mrs. Thompson, whose eyes twinkled as she read the postscript. Then she handed it to Mr. Thompson. Much to everybody’s surprise, he laughed aloud, and then handed the letter back to Patty.
“If Susan’s mother will let her go to the game,” he said, “and of course she will, I’ll send you down in the big ship, with one of my best pilots. How’s that?”
“Oh, Mr. Thompson, aren’t you wonderful!” cried Patty. “But couldn’t you go yourself? Phil would feel proud to have you come, I know.”
“Sure of that?” asked Mr. Thompson, smiling at her. “I sort of gathered from the postscript that he didn’t think much of me, after all!”
“Oh, you know what he meant by that,” said Patty, blushing. “He just thought you ought to understand how Susan feels. You know Phil has always adored you—ever since you showed him how to make gliders and things when he was just the kid next door.”
“Phil’s all right,” said Susan’s father, tolerantly. “I’m glad he’s learning to fly, too. The future of aviation in this country will depend on lads like that.”
“But can’t you take us down?” urged Susan. She was proud of her daddy, and loved him none the less because he had not endorsed her flying project.
“Lots to do here this week-end, dear,” he said. “But the big ship will get you there safely, with Copley or Wright at the stick, and one of the mechanics will go along, too. They have no field at
Haven yet, but there are some near by, and if Phil
will wire where he does his flying, we’ll park the old bus right there and it
will be handy for everybody.”
“I may go, then, Mother?” said Susan.
“Of course you may, bless your heart!” said her mother. “There will be plenty of room for Patty and her mother and you in the new ship, and it is a fine way to avoid the football crowds. I’ve been to
Haven for the big games and the congestion on the
trains and the highways is incredible. Flying is the ideal way to travel to the
“When shall we have to start?” queried Susan.
Everybody looked at her father, who said he thought they could leave Midford early Saturday morning and be at their destination by Saturday noon, if the weather was good. But it was decided to wait for the telegram from Phil, specifying the airport where he flew, and to talk it over with Patty’s mother, before definite plans were made.
Naturally Susan and Patty were the envy of their classmates at
for the remainder of the week, and little was discussed in the corridors and on
the recreation ground, except their coming trip by air to the Yale-Harvard
game. Midford High School
Before the end of the week it was decided to leave as soon after dawn as possible on Saturday, which would bring them to the field at
, the nearest to the
Yale Bowl, by noon. Although Phil had wired that the Yale Flying Club made its
base at Bethany,
Connecticut Bridgeport, Susan’s father decided it
would be better, under conditions at the time of the game, to have the big ship
fly to Bethany, which would save motoring to the
Bowl through the traffic congestion between Bridgeport
and New Haven.
Then, according to the plans of Bill Thompson, the ship would fly to Bridgeport from Bethany the
next day, and take off from Bridgeport
for the return trip.
Both Susan and Patty were so excited Friday night that they thought they would never get to sleep. Each of them had a neat overnight case packed in readiness for the journey. They knew there might be some parties, in addition to the football game, and meant to be prepared for anything, although Phil had not invited them to any dance. Patty was of the opinion that he would have what she termed “some grown-up girl” to go to the game with him and to any affairs afterward. But even if he did, they did not mind, and looked forward to the game as being worth several hundred miles of travel in itself.
There was a light frost on the grass of the airfield, and a gray haze was just gilded with a newly risen sun, when Mrs. Carlisle, Patty, Susan, and Susan’s father and mother arrived at the field very early Saturday morning. Grinning widely, Sam Connell, chief mechanic of Bill Thompson’s staff, greeted them with a salute and showed them the beautiful ship standing at the dead-line, its engines roaring, its propeller idling over. A group of mechanics was gathered about it, while Jack Wright, sitting in the high pilot’s cockpit forward, was watching the tachometer.
Susan was pleased that Wright was to be the pilot. Although she liked and appreciated all the fliers on her father’s staff and at the airport, she always felt that Jack Wright particularly sympathized with her desire to become a flier. She knew that she might learn much of value from him on this trip, which was to be her first experience in the huge cabin monoplane that had taken her parents on their air-journey the week before.
Because it was a giant cabin plane, holding twelve people, and the last word in flying luxury, its passengers did not need to don special apparel. They stepped through the little door in the side of the cabin and found themselves in something like the lounge of a fine yacht.
The outside of the ship was of the peculiar silvery metal in corrugated effect that is characteristic of Ford ships, but inside there were wall panels of delicate woodwork in golden-brown tones, windows hung with silk of gold and blue, comfortable chairs upholstered in blue brocade, a couch in blue-and-gold-striped fabric, with gold-covered cushions bearing the international company’s monogram and emblem in blue; and even blue-and-gold rugs and a few fine pictures. Stationery, designed for the ship, was to be found in a clever little writing-table that folded against the wall when not in use, and the pantry arrangement in the rear of the cabin provided the means of serving refreshments on fine china, likewise monogrammed, and decorated with the firm’s emblem, a golden eagle.
Every member of the party was admiring these features, while the motors roared up forward, when Susan’s father drew her outside.
“Do you remember that we were going to have a formal christening of this ship?” he asked her, his arm about her shoulders.
“Yes, Dad,” she said.
“In view of the important trip you are about to make in the new bus, Connell thinks we ought to get her labeled before you hop off,” explained her father, “so instead of waiting for a big occasion, we’ll have a little ceremony now. Wait here!"
He called the rest of the party together, and the mechanics crowded around, while at a signal Wright stopped the motor. The field staff and executives began to gather. From somewhere the tall figure of Harry Copley appeared with his characteristic leisurely gait. He carried a bottle of ginger-ale.
One of the mechanics produced a ladder, another held it, and Susan mounted until she could reach the prow of the ship, where the propeller was attached.
“Oh, dear!” she exclaimed, as she got to the top of the ladder. “I hate to get the ship all messy and wet, and I might hurt something by smashing the bottle.”
Copley said, “Don’t worry. This ship can stand more than that.”
So Susan shut her eyes, hit the bottle decisively on the metal, and said solemnly, “I christen thee Ariel.” As she spoke Sam Connell pulled a tarpaulin from the fuselage and disclosed the name, painted in blue on the side of the ship. The last touch was complete. Then everybody shook hands and acted as if something important had been accomplished.
“Isn’t it perfect?” said Patty, when they were back in the cabin, the motors roaring and everything ready for the start.
“Yes,” said Susan, “I know we’re going to have a gorgeous time, but I wish Dad and Mother were coming, too.”
“I wish they could,” said Mrs. Carlisle. “This is my first air-trip and I must confess I dread it a little, although I do believe in aviation.”
“You won’t be a bit airsick, or anything else,” said Mrs. Thompson. “This is a marvelous way to travel. Susan thinks a big cabin ship is a little effete, compared to the sporty open planes, but it has advantages. And you’ll be in
New Haven in time for lunch.”
“Where will you be, Mother?” asked Susan. “Oh, I’ll be right at home for a change,” said her mother, “but we’ll all be at the field here at Midford to meet you when you get back. Isn’t it wonderful to think you’ll travel almost a thousand miles, and yet have all that time at
Haven between now and to-morrow night?”
“You’ll average more than a hundred miles an hour, easily,” said Bill Thompson.
Then farewells were exchanged, Susan feeling a little weepy, because it was the first time she had ever left her dad and mother on the ground while she sailed away on a long sky-journey. But she soon realized how foolish she was and smiled gallantly. Then the people on the field stepped back to avoid the powerful wind from the propeller, when it was speeded up for the start. The little cabin door was closed by the chief mechanic, Sam Connell, who was to go along with them, and he went up front, to sit beside Wright in the cockpit, while the youth named Hank Smith, who acted as steward on the ship, took a seat at the rear. Susan and Patty and Mrs. Carlisle found comfortable seats aplenty to choose from, and with a roar of the motor, and a sudden movement forward, the air-journey of almost five hundred miles from Midford to
Haven was under way.
BY SKYWAYS, NOT HIGHWAYS
EVEN Susan, with all her experience, was surprised to see how smoothly the great cabin plane left the ground and how quickly the airport with its hangars, its administration buildings, its wind-cone and tee and flag, fell away below them.
When Jack Wright tipped the ship over to make a right bank for the turn toward his distant goal, the windows on that side seemed to be looking directly down on the field. Mrs. Carlisle appeared apprehensive, but she smiled when Susan looked at her, while Patty showed sheer delight.
Susan rose and walked forward to the door leading to the cockpit, which had been closed, a measure reducing the sound of the motors in the cabin. She opened the door and looked at the instrument-board before Jack Wright, and at the controls, which were entirely unlike those of the smaller ships she had traveled in. Instead of the straight “joy-stick” of the usual plane, this had two big wheels, poised vertically on steel shafts, while the rudder-controls were also different. As for the instruments, they were almost overwhelming in number, including bank and turn indicators, a compass, radio signal dials and several different gages to determine gas and oil supply, motor-temperature, and other matters.
As she stood in the doorway, Sam Connell turned and asked if she would like to ride with the pilot, so he and Susan exchanged places, after she had explained to her guests that she would ride in the cockpit for a while, and Patty could sit there later.
Sue found that Jack Wright had the air-route map spread out on his knee on the board provided for that purpose, and he explained to her, shouting over the racket of the motors, how the course would not be direct from Midford to New Haven, but would go off at an angle to allow for the influence of winds, and thus they would still be going on a direct line, although apparently following a triangular course.
The noise of the motor made it impossible for him to explain this in detail, so Susan looked with interest at the map to see what towns and airports would be passed on the journey. She watched while Wright steadily climbed the ship to an altitude of two thousand feet, and looking back, saw the Midford airport just a spot of open ground with the city beyond it.
The early morning haze of autumn covered the distances on the horizon, but there were violet and blue shadowed mountains, turquoise lakes, a golden thread of river, and stretches of green forest, spattered with the red and gold and bronze of autumn-tinted foliage. The brown fields of the farm-lands were dotted with yellow corn-shocks, or simply looked like henna-colored squares, between the green meadows and the creamy roads.
Susan thought it was wonderful to be alive and soaring above this beautiful world. Smoke curling upward in the calm air proved that breakfasts were being prepared in most of the homes below, while the roads and streets showed little traffic.
“You’ll be hungry before we get there!” shouted Wright.
“Your mother had a lunch put on board.” Susan nodded, appreciating how thoughtful her mother had been. She was watching for the next big town, although they were flying over a succession of small villages. Soon they passed above a large lake, and a great stretch of wild forest country, and here the air grew rough.
Rough air is something that must be felt to be understood, as Susan well knew, and when the monoplane hit the first bump and suddenly fell, only to rise again abruptly a few seconds later, she looked into the cabin to see how her friends were standing it. Mrs. Carlisle looked rather pale, but Patty seemed to be enjoying the ups and downs, and came to the door between cabin and cockpit to tell Susan about it.
“It felt like an elevator dropping,” she commented. “What happened?”
“The air was rough over the lake,” explained Susan. “When it’s a cold streak we fall, and when it’s warm, we rise. Maybe that’s not the right way to explain it, but it’s what the pilots tell me—and if you tell your mother, she may not be so frightened.”
“Mother isn’t frightened,” stated Patty. “She’s just plain seasick.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Susan, and promptly returned to the cabin because she felt that she was hostess on the ship and owed a duty to her guests.
But the air continued rough and the Ariel bounced up and down like a boat on the waves. Susan pointed out the shadow of the plane that was chasing along on the ground beneath, but Mrs. Carlisle leaned back and closed her eyes, decidedly not interested in anything.
Susan and Patty were disconcerted, but Sam Connell came to their rescue and assured Mrs. Carlisle that the roughness would not last long. The girls did not realize that the ship was climbing again until suddenly shreds of white passed the windows and obscured their view of the earth. Then there was more of this white, like fog, and they realized that they were in the clouds. This information aroused even Mrs. Carlisle’s interest and Patty was obviously thrilled.
“Your pilot is climbing to get into smoother air,” explained Connell. “We’ll be out over the clouds in a minute. Look!”
The three passengers did look and saw a beautiful and unforgettable sight. Susan had flown above the clouds before, but her companions never had—and even to Susan the experience was always new and lovely.
Above them was the radiant morning sky, brilliantly blue. Below them was a mass of white, fleecy billows like a sea of snow—but really not like anything else in the world but cloudland. It was tinted with gold and rose hues as the sun struck through, and the air up here above the clouds was again “as smooth as cheese,” as Connell put it.
“Look there,” said Susan, as she pointed below and a little bit behind the ship. Mrs. Carlisle and Patty exclaimed with delight, for there was a miniature monoplane in silhouette, chasing along beside them with a rainbow-tinted circle surrounding it.
“Isn’t it like a little airplane ghost!" remarked Patty.
“No, I think it looks like a little angel ship,” returned Susan.
“It is the most beautiful sight I have ever laid my eyes on, this whole scene,” said Mrs. Carlisle warmly. It was evident that she had forgotten her airsickness and the girls smiled at each other.
“It’s like a magic world—a real fairyland,” cried Susan.
“But of course we’re not seeing many cities,” said Patty.
When they had flown above the clouds for an hour, the girls looked at the map of the air-routes, which was fastened up over the writing-desk in the cabin, and told each other which places they had missed while they were in cloudland.
“We are up six thousand feet right now,” said Patty, glancing at the altimeter in the cockpit.
“Yes, and your pilot is still on his course, too,” said Connell. “You can trust Wright for that. He’s flown the mail and can fly blind.”
As Susan and Patty stood looking through the glass of the cabin door into the cockpit, they saw the altimeter register decreasing height. Susan opened one of the cabin windows wide and the roar of the motors came in, as well as a breeze of clear cold air. Then, as they went lower, the air grew damp, and moisture formed on the window-ledge. Susan reached out and snatched at the shreds of fleecy whiteness through which they flew gradually down, until they saw the country-side again. It showed only in patches through the whiteness, to be sure, but it was indisputably the solid earth, an earth of road and flat farm-lands.
“Where do you suppose we are now?” asked Mrs. Carlisle.
Susan promptly went up to the cockpit and inquired, finding that they were close to a great city and almost one third of the distance toward their destination. The pilot had thought it best to come close to land when he approached the site of a busy airport, and they could see the spires and chimneys and roofs of the city in the distance, all reduced to a single level by their own height, which was still in the thousands. The airport with its wind-tee and huge flat buildings was soon passed, and Susan looked down with interest at the tiny little ships on its dead-line and the scarcely larger ones that were circling the field, a thousand feet below them.
The country was now changing in appearance and there was a constant succession of towns and villages for a long period. Then came a long stretch of wild country, wooded hills, mysterious lakes, and narrow rivers. Patty was in the cockpit now, and Susan sat with Mrs. Carlisle, while Connell talked to them of the country below.
“This is the most dangerous stretch of the whole trip,” he said cheerfully. “Many a mail-pilot has cracked up in these hills and been lost in those ravines.”
Mrs. Carlisle and Susan looked down with horror at the sinister dark green of the pine-clad hills below. The ship had gained altitude again and was four thousand feet up, with half their journey over.
“Let’s have something to eat,” suggested Susan, to change the subject. And to her pleased surprise, Mrs. Carlisle acceded readily. So Hank Smith, the steward, was aroused from his perusal of a magazine of lurid fiction, and asked to bring out the lunch stored in the little refrigerator in the pantry. He was not a particularly cheerful youth, Susan thought, and he performed his duties in a rather surly way, but the lunch was excellent. Susan herself carried sandwiches up to the pilot and Patty in the cockpit, and took to them the hot chocolate and coffee provided in thermos containers by her thoughtful mother. There, thousands of feet above the ground, they had an excellent luncheon, while traveling a hundred miles an hour.
Afterwards Mrs. Carlisle, quite accustomed to air-travel by this time, produced a new book from her traveling-bag and settled down to read, with only an occasional glance out of the windows at the changing world below.
Although the passengers were not conscious of the constant noise of the triple motors after a time, it was nevertheless an obstacle to conversation, and Susan was content to sit beside Connell and exchange only occasional comments. After a while Patty rejoined her and Connell returned to the cockpit, where he might be needed to relieve Wright at the controls. The cabin of the ship was warm but the cockpit had been decidedly cold, and Patty rubbed her hands together and stamped her feet as she joined her chum.
“That’s one of the things that seem strange,” she shouted in Susan’s ear. “To think this ship is so solid and yet it can stay up in the air!”
Susan nodded, understanding just what Patty meant, for it did seem incredible that the ship and the weight of its contents could be sustained in flight by such simple and yet important factors as the vacuum caused on the backs of the wings by their curvature, the power of its motors, the thrust of the propeller. Although she had studied books on aerodynamics and understood more about what made it possible to fly than Patty had ever heard, Susan still felt it was almost miraculous that any ship heavier than air should achieve what aviation had made possible. She had heard her father say something to this same effect, in commenting on how much more logical it had seemed to him that the flimsy craft, like a box-kite, in which he first left the ground as a boy should actually fly, than that the solid, heavy ships of to-day should be able to do so.
Looking out of the cabin window beside her chair, Susan remembered the pictures she had seen of those crude old airplanes of pre-war days, and she wondered if the pioneers of flight, such as the Wright brothers, were not amazed at what had been developed from their original discovery.
“I dare say they feel like the man in the Arabian Nights who let the genie out of the bottle,” thought Susan, smiling to herself. Then she drew Patty’s attention to the large wheel and tire of the landing-gear below their window—a wheel and tire that seemed big enough to make several for an ordinary ship. The great wheel oscillated very gently on its carriage, as the ship sped on over hill and valley, meadow and lake, city and village.
The girls called off the names of the larger towns as they approached them, sped over them, and left them behind. Now they were following a railroad for a time, and derived great glee from seeing a puffing train left behind them, with no effort at all. Suddenly, in the distance, there was a glint of blue and silver against the horizon.
“Look, look, it’s the ocean!” cried Patty.
“No, I think it’s Long Island Sound,” said Susan. “We must be in
Soon her guess was confirmed by Connell, who left the cockpit and came back to talk to them.
“Almost there,” he said. “Over yonder is
the state capital, and headquarters for aviation. I wish we were going to land
there, but it’s a long way from New
Haven. It’s the place where the governor of the State
learned to fly.”
“But why do you want to land there?” asked Patty.
“Got lots of friends there, that’s all,” said Connell. “Matter of fact, we’ll have to stop there some day, because the motors on this ship were made there, and we’ll have them checked over. That’s the place where Wasp and Hornet motors come from—and the place where fliers have to watch their step.”
Susan and Patty wanted to know about this, so Connell explained.
Connecticut has strict
flying-laws,” he said, “and it has the organization to back them up. No crashes
allowed in this State. And anybody who gets into trouble flying, or runs any
risks, or takes the wrong sort of ship into the air, or flies without the right
kind of a license—well, he gets what’s coming to him, I’ll tell you.”
Susan and Patty looked awed by this and Mrs. Carlisle, who had ceased reading to listen, seemed duly impressed, as she peered down at the landscape below. It was a beautiful landscape, with villages nestling on hills, or scattered along the roads, showing white Colonial houses embowered in trees, red barns, and thrifty farms. Each little town seemed to have several busy factories, and there were wide rivers, many lakes, low rolling hills, and some forests. Golf-courses and great estates were frequent, and the sight of the salt water of the Sound, sparkling in the distance, fascinated the girls. All of a sudden they realized what a tremendous amount of automobile traffic was visible below them on the highways.
“Susan,” Patty squealed, “do you suppose all those cars are going to the game? Why, it looks like a procession of black ants !”
“Of course! Wasn’t that what Mother said?” retorted Susan. “Isn’t it great to be up here, away from it all?”
“Yes, but there’s traffic here, too,” remarked Connell, and pointing out the other side of the ship, showed them another big cabin plane in the distance ahead of them.
“That probably took off from
to carry people to the game, too,” he said. “I know that one of the executives
of Pratt and Whitney, who make these motors, has a ship something like this
one, and I suppose they go to the games in it. People who don’t own ships charter
them, too, for a time like this. I guess we’ll find some other people who have
gone to the game by air.”
Now they were following the
Naugatuck Valley and the
toward the Bethany Field high in the Woodbridge Hills. Connell showed them where
Housatonic River Bridgeport, the point for their start home, was
set beside the Sound, its many factories grim and dark against the landscape,
and indicated Waterbury,
the site of many brass-mills. New Haven, the
seat of and a busy industrial town as
well, with its homes and buildings covering three sides of a great harbor, was
plainly in sight, when at last they were above Bethany Field. It was noon, and
about five hours from the time they had left Midford. Yale University
They re planning a big field for
somewhere near the harbor,” explained Connell, “but this little field is the
nearest to the Yale Bowl now, so you’ll avoid some of the traffic. The airport
at Hartford, called Brainard Field, is probably the best in the State, but the
Curtiss Field at Bridgeport, where we’re going to-morrow, is a good field, too.
Avian airplanes are made at Bridgeport
and also Sikorsky amphibian ships, so there’s lots of flying there.”
The ship circled above Bethany Field, while Jack Wright observed the wind-direction cone, and made sure the landing-space was clear. Then he brought the Ariel down in great, gradual spirals, until finally, almost imperceptibly, they felt it touch the ground.
The pilot turned the plane about and taxied to the dead-line, where several other ships were parked, and where Phil Carlisle was waiting. The other cabin monoplane was not in sight, so they judged it had gone on to another airport. Their own big ship attracted attention from the attachés at the field, who seldom had a visitor from such a distance as Susan and her party had covered that morning.
Phil Carlisle rushed up as Hank Smith opened the door of the ship and assisted the passengers to alight. Hank still looked sullen, but Susan had decided he was shy, or perhaps not well, and she smiled and thanked him pleasantly for what he had done to help them enjoy their journey.
The first thing Mrs. Carlisle said to her tall son was:
“I have never enjoyed anything so much in my life!”
“You’ll be wanting to be a pilot, too, first thing we know,” said Patty laughing.
Then there was a general exchange of news and greetings; farewells were said to Jack Wright and Connell, who had planned reunions with some of their
Connecticut flying friends; and the party
from Midford hurried away in the big, sporty car Phil had provided to take them
to the game.
Although they had not been cold on their long trip through the air, the girls were promptly impressed by the autumn chill in
and were glad they had brought along extra sweaters, while the steamer-blankets
and fur rugs Phil had provided promised to be very welcome before the afternoon
In the haste necessary to reach the Bowl before the game began, Susan had no opportunity to form an opinion of the young man who had pronounced her a good sport. She was a little shy—which was unusual for Susan, who had considerable poise—for she had begun to feel self-conscious about anything concerning her desire to fly.
But she did feel surprised to see how Phil had grown up—suddenly, as it seemed to her. It was hard to reconcile her memory of the lad who had taught her to dive, and challenged her to races, with this tall, quiet, broad-shouldered young man who was a senior at Yale. Only his laughing black eyes, smooth, dark hair, and fine, even features seemed the same, although he had grasped her hand and said, “Hello, Susan!” as if they had parted only yesterday.
Phil Carlisle had worked during his holidays for the past three years in college and that, as Patty confided to her, was how he had been able to learn to fly without any extra expense to his parents. And he had been able to surprise them with the news that he was on the verge of getting a pilot’s license.
During the ride to town through the suburbs of
Haven, where traffic was bad but not impassable, Phil
told them he was to sit in the Yale cheering section, but had provided them
with seats next to those of some friends and relatives of his classmates. After
the game, the Midford guests were to go to dinner with him, but he was booked
to go stag to a fraternity dance later.
“I knew you wouldn’t let Patty go to any dance,” he said to his mother. “She’s such a kid, and Susan, too. But I’ll try to give you girls a good time, anyway, and to-morrow I’ll show you the town.” Patty and Susan looked at each other, registering indignation at these remarks.
“Honestly,” whispered Patty, “if you hadn’t already made up your mind to fly, wouldn’t you do it now, just for that? Calling us ‘kids!’ ”
But her brother, deftly maneuvering the car into parking-space before a restaurant in Westville, close to the Bowl, was cheerfully unconscious of the comments of his passengers. He had not partaken of any flying luncheon and his guests found the motor-trip from
had given them appetites, too.
In Westville the girls got their first glimpse of what a big game at the Yale Bowl means. As far as they could see, on every road, a double or triple line of automobiles was moving slowly toward the scene of the game. There were huge cars and humble cars; foreign cars worth thousands and domestic cars worth mere hundreds; cars with license-plates from every State in the Union, and every car laden with gay and well-dressed people, taking the delays and congestion as part of the fun.
Many automobiles bore streamers and pennants in Yale blue, or Harvard crimson, and some had banners with class numerals draped across the back of the cars. Large bouquets of violets, or of red roses, were worn by some of the women to denote their loyalty to one side or to the other, while other girls, and many of the men, had gay quills of college colors thrust into their hats.
It was a brilliant and thrilling scene, and Susan and Patty could hardly eat anything, they were so eager to get to the Bowl.
THE YALE-HARVARD GAME
THE Yale-Harvard football game that Susan and Patty saw that afternoon at the Yale Bowl was one of those experiences which are never quite forgotten. It was all thrilling to the girls who had journeyed almost five hundred miles by air to be present, and they went through the afternoon in a sort of happy daze.
After their hurried second luncheon near the Bowl, Phil drove them to the official Yale parking-space, almost opposite the great oval of cement that reared its high gray walls far above the surging throngs. A large Yale flag floated over the side nearest to the girls, and in the distance was the Harvard banner, each denoting the side where adherents were to sit. Even the parking-space itself intrigued the visitors, who saw the long close line of cars spread out fanwise as each advanced to its allotted place under the direction of undergraduates.
Late arrivals were eating picnic lunches in, or near, their cars and a distant hum of voices, motors, and hawkers’ cries added to the excitement that pervaded the entire city.
Hurrying toward the Bowl the girls, with Mrs. Carlisle and Phil, found themselves part of a huge procession of cheerful, prosperous-seeming people, bearing banners, fur coats, programs, and other adjuncts to the enjoyment of the game. Venders of miniature footballs, flags, and the Yale bulldog emblem shouted their wares; uniformed boys offered the official programs; and hundreds of people squeezed through a narrow gate as cries of “Hold your own ticket” met their ears.
Then they were within the iron gates and mingling with the throng on the promenade around the Bowl. As the seats Phil had secured for them were at Portal Three, close by, they would have to go only a short distance to find them, but Mrs. Carlisle was so interested in the spectacle afforded by these hundreds of sports-lovers from far and near, that she insisted on walking around the promenade.
"Really, Susan,” said Patty, “I never imagined there were so many people and so many fur coats in the world!”
"Yes, and lots more would come if they could,” said her brother. “This is the hardest game to see, so far as tickets go. I was lucky to be able to get enough for you all—I just had a good break.”
There were hundreds of pretty women and handsome men, beautiful costumes galore, and over all an atmosphere of gay, luxurious, and care-free enjoyment.
When it was time to go inside and find their seats, the two girls gasped at the sight presented as they emerged from the passage to which their portal led. Here they looked out on the field from the wide terrace-like walk, which was on a level with the ground outside but just half-way down the inside of the bowl. Somehow Susan was reminded of ancient Aztec or Greek festivals, or pagan sacrificial ceremonies of prehistoric times, as she looked on the huge oval of seats, some of them still empty, the others crowded so closely with spectators that it seemed incredible that the solid dark mass, marked with pale-pink dots that were faces, represented human beings.
This strange effect of the crowd persisted for Susan after the game began, and when one side of the great gathering stood, at certain moments in the game, it seemed to her as if flowers suddenly rose on a multitude of stems—while the rim of dark dots that were the heads of people in the top seats of the Bowl suggested a row of glass-headed pins.
“Just think, Patty,” said Susan, after they had met the friends Phil Carlisle had mentioned and were safely in their seats, “do you realize that there are eighty thousand people here—almost as many as there are in the whole city of
Then the Yale band and the Harvard band appeared on the field. There were stirring cheers from both sides, where undergraduates numbered by hundreds were led in singing and cheering by lithe and active young men in white flannels; and then, after brief preliminary practice by an astonishing number of men in football uniforms, the game was on. Vast as the place was, each player showed up clearly.
That game was all a blurred and happy memory later to the girls, who watched the opposing teams clash with strange lack of partiality. Susan did not quite know why she felt just as enthusiastic over a gain by Harvard as she did over a score by Yale, until Patty said:
“Susan, do you suppose Bud Wheelock is here?”
But although they scanned the officials and everybody else lined up beside the players’ benches on the opposite side of the great Bowl, they could not identify the Harvard man and aviator who had been the
coach, and to whom they still felt loyalty. Midford High School
Between the halves Phil Carlisle joined them and commented with enthusiasm on how evenly the teams were matched, for at that time the score was tied, seven to seven. Then the girls stood up and stamped their feet to keep them warm, and listened to the college bands playing their respective songs.
Susan could not help feeling moved as she saw the Yale graduates, young and old, who were seated around them, reverently removing their hats and joining in the singing of “Bright College Years.” Echoing back across the field came the sweet lilt of “Fair Harvard,” sung as earnestly by thousands of men.
The Yale side, where the girls were seated, was soon in shadow, but the sun shone on the visitors’ cheering section and made their living flag of crimson and white with its traditional waving “H” seem beautifully vivid.
Then came the second half, with its downs and fumbles, its trick plays and spectacular runs, its stubborn bucking of the line by both teams; and when the final whistle blew Harvard had not equaled the touchdown Yale scored in the third quarter and the Eli team was victorious.
Phil Carlisle was in high spirits, as he joined them and watched the undergraduates pouring down on the field for the snake-dance under the goal-posts, but the girls and his mother were so chilled that not even this celebration could hold them long. They were soon among the thousands driving out of the parking-space at a snail-like pace toward
Arrived at the hotel, Phil’s guests changed from the clothes they had worn since dawn, and dined with him in the grill, which was packed with a happy mob of attractive young women and the Yale men who were their escorts.
“It doesn’t seem possible that we have come so far, and seen so much, since we got up this morning, does it?” said Susan, as they watched the brilliant scene.
It was during dinner that Phil first showed his recognition of the fact that the girls were growing up, for he danced with each of them between courses, crowded as the tiny dancing-space was. Susan and Patty were wearing simple but charming chiffon frocks, the former in white and her friend in rose, and Phil told his mother that he was proud to be seen with two such pretty girls.
“Not to mention my handsome mother,” he added gallantly and Mrs. Carlisle laughed, much pleased.
After dinner Phil dashed off to his frat dance and the girls sat for a time with Mrs. Carlisle, watching the animated groups in the ‘hotel. But they were tired and it had been a long day, so they were quite willing to go to bed early.
Susan and Patty had a room together and Mrs. Carlisle had an adjacent bedroom. From their windows the girls could look out on some of the buildings of the famous old university, and the musical chimes of the Harkness Memorial came to their ears from the delicate, tall tower that looked as if it were built of carved ivory. The city of
dozing under its elms, seemed suddenly a long way from Midford, and both the
girls felt a little homesick as they looked out on the narrow streets.
“Midford may not be so old, but it’s prettier,” said Patty, as she surveyed the scene.
“Midford is nice,” responded Susan. “But somehow I like this place. Maybe because Mother’s people were from
My grandfather went to college here, and Mother hopes Junior will too. And I’ve
always just adored Yale, anyway.”
“Well, let’s see how we like the Yale Flying Club, or whatever it is,” said Patty, making no attempt to conceal a yawn. “What sort of arrangement did Phil make about it?”
“He’s coming here to meet us in the morning," answered Susan. “And we’re to have a look at Yale itself and then go to
Bethany, and then
fly over to Bridgeport
and see the field there. Phil thinks he will fly back in the Yale ship from Bridgeport to Bethany,
and let one of the other fellows in the club take it back from there.”
“Sounds involved to me,” said Patty, sleepily, her head almost out of sight beneath the covers. “But if it’s all right with you . . .”
“Well, it gives us more flying than we’d get in any other way around here,” pointed out Susan. She was in bed, too, by this time, but sat up to put out the light on the bedside table.
“Righto,” said Patty drowsily. “Anything that means flying suits me, old dear! Nighty-night!” “Good-night,” answered Susan and dropped off to sleep.
They were still at breakfast when Phil arrived the next morning. He looked amazingly fresh and wide awake, although he admitted having danced through most of the night.
Their journey to the Yale campus was a mere matter of crossing Chapel Street from the hotel to the old art-school building; and from there they had a rapid, but interesting, tour of the university, seeing its new art museum and the university theater, looking at the picturesque Harkness quadrangle and the older dormitories, in one of which Phil had his rooms, which his relatives duly admired.
They saw the few remaining landmarks of old Yale, the college which dates back to the days before the Revolution, and the place where Nathan Hale and many other great men studied in their time. They visited the campus and the
, looking with
interest at the strange-shaped building that was Woolsey Hall, a place of music
and commencement exercises on one side, and on the other the Commons, a place
of inexpensive meals for students. Sheffield Scientific
Susan was thrilled with the vista of buildings belonging to the university, which stretched away into the distance up Sachem Hill beyond the residential section of the town; and Patty affected to be terrified at the sinister-appearing fraternity houses called “Tombs,” which were headquarters for Greek-letter societies. Susan enjoyed thinking of her grandfather as a student there; Patty talked about the proms.
But their trip lasted only an hour or so, and then Phil led them to the car he had secured for the morning. Having none of his own he had “wangled” one, as he put it, from one of his classmates, who was presumably still in bed, and they set off for Bethany over a fine level road through a charming landscape.
The party was still fortunate as to weather and this Sunday was clear, although much colder than the day before had been, and the drive out to the field in an open car made the girls anticipate the warm comfort of the ship, something about which Phil seemed skeptical.
“But you’ve always flown in an open-cockpit plane,” Susan told him, “with heavy clothes and helmets and everything. You can’t imagine how different the closed job is until you try it, especially the Ford tri-motor. It even has heaters.”
Phil looked at her in amazement.
“My word, the child can talk flying, all right,” he said.
Susan flushed and was silent, but Patty came indignantly to her rescue.
“I’ll bet Susan has forgotten more about flying, right now, than you’ll ever learn,” she stormed. “Why, Phil Carlisle, you’ve been away from home so long, that you don’t even know that we have an airport, I suppose. But Susan fairly lives down there in vacation time and her father is an expert pilot— and she is going to be an expert pilot, too. And so am I, so please don’t make fun of us. And we’re not children any more, either, so don’t try to boss us, as you used to.”
Phil pretended to be warding off blows, but he apologized handsomely to Susan.
“Awfully sorry, honestly,” he said, “but it doesn’t seem a minute since you were both little kids, scared of mice and with your hair in pigtails, so I keep forgetting you’re grown up and entitled to respect, and so on. But no kidding, Susan, I bet you do know a lot about flying. I’m afraid our work will seem pretty tame to you.”
Susan assured him they were going to be thrilled by the Yale club; and Patty remarked that she did not remember that either of them had ever worn pigtails and that they were still afraid of mice; and Mrs. Carlisle told them they were all children still. Then they were at
How glorious the great silver ship looked to Susan! How pleased Jack Wright and Sam Connell were to see them again! How happy Mrs. Carlisle and Patty were, to be getting into the cabin for another journey, and how impressed Phil was with the great size and power of the plane and the luxury of its fittings!
On their arrival the previous day, there had been such haste to get to the Bowl that he had not even looked into the cabin, but now he was eager to inspect it all, and begged to sit with the pilot on the trip to
“I can see right now that we won’t get much attention on the rest of this trip,” remarked Mrs. Carlisle, as her son disappeared into the cockpit, but the girls only laughed.
Connell and the mechanics at the field started the motors and meanwhile Susan and Patty looked out at the other planes and the buildings of Bethany Field. They learned that two chartered ships, both Fairchild cabin monoplanes, had brought in parties from
for the game and that a privately owned Lockheed-Vega had also flown in. All
three ships had left directly after the game for the return journey.
“Which is only natural,” as one of the
pilots remarked. “If people really fly down to save time, the quicker they can
get back, the better.”
“Yes,” agreed Connell. “If their side won, they can celebrate in
New York just as well and if it lost, they
can go home and weep.”
Then Jack Wright signaled that all was ready for the Ariel’s departure and the girls hurried on board, where Mrs. Carlisle had already started to read a Sunday newspaper, showing herself a seasoned air-traveler.
The air was a never-ceasing source of delight to the girls, however, so they watched from the windows as the great ship took off, circled the pretty little field of
Bethany, then rose rapidly to gain altitude enough for flying
over the hills to the city of New
Haven. This was not directly on their course, but
Wright and Phil had planned it as a surprise for the girls, and Mrs. Carlisle
joined them in admiring the neat appearance of the city seen from a height of
two thousand feet. Phil joined them in the cabin to point out the college
buildings, spreading from the dark red and dull gray of the original Yale about
the central campus in the heart of the city to the huge laboratories and the
round-domed observatory out toward the suburbs of Whitneyville.
“No pilot can mistake
for any other town,” remarked Connell. “The big open space of the Green in the
city center, with its three churches, is a landmark; and the town is laid out
around it, in an exact checker-board, all the streets at right angles.”
The girls and Phil speculated as to whether a forced landing could be made on the Green if necessary, and Connell showed them how the country clubs and golf-links about the town provided ideal places to “set down” a ship in case of emergency, with the harbor waters convenient for seaplanes.
“When the town gets its airport finished, it will be a grand place for flying,” said Phil, “but now the boys at Yale have to use
as a base, and before that, we even went to Hartford.”
He continued, telling the girls about the Yale Aeronautical Society, which dated back to years before the World War, when in 1911 Lincoln Beachey and other pioneer fliers held an air-meet at Yale Field, the old baseball ground of the university. The club had lapsed after the war, he told them, but in 1926 it had been reorganized by a group of students who were interested in flying, and who had become private student-pilots after studying at the
Hartford airport under Lieutenant Harry Depew
Copland, a noted pilot and instructor. Some of the Yale men had bought their
own planes, but for the benefit of those unable to afford individual ships, the
club had purchased a Waco
biplane which all its members could use for solo flying. And the Yale club had
held an intercollegiate air-conference, with government officials and famous
fliers as speakers.
Phil explained to Susan how flying in Connecticut was safeguarded, confirming what Connell had told her, and described how carefully every prospective student was examined by flight-surgeon and officials, and how no student could fly alone, or “solo,” as they called it, even after his instructor thought him ready for it, until the State deputy commissioner had taken him up, examined his ability, and issued him a license.
By this time they had passed
and were following the line of the shore, with green meadows and railroad
tracks and seaside resorts on the right side of the ship, and Long Island Sound
on the left.
Susan and Patty as well as Mrs. Carlisle were charmed with the appearance of the water from their lofty height, but to Phil, who flew there almost daily, it was an old story.
“Look!” exclaimed Patty. “It’s all streaked with brown and dark green. And it looks so smooth, too!”
“Those streaks are rocks on the bottom,” explained her brother. “And it isn’t smooth at all. Takes a dead calm day to have this water perfectly smooth.”
The Sound, far below them, whether smooth or not, was beautiful in its coloring of blue, violet, vivid green, and golden brown, the tones varying according to its depth and the character of the bottom. Many boats were to be seen, and the distant shores of
Long Island showed sapphire blue on
Then they were in sight of the tall chimneys and crowded houses of
and without having to fly over the city, they reached the Curtiss airport in
the suburb of Stratford.
From the air it showed considerable activity, and Susan suggested that Phil sit
in the cockpit for the landing, since he had been so polite about keeping them
company on the journey.
The girls and Mrs. Carlisle craned their necks shamelessly, letting in cold November air through open windows, as they came down to the field, for Patty’s mother had already caught the vivid interest the girls showed in every airport.
“Funny how an air-field appeals to me,” said Susan.
“But I suppose it’s because they do look awfully good when you’re having trouble in the air.” Mrs. Carlisle asked her if that had ever happened to her.
“Gracious, yes!” answered Susan. “I’ve been with Dad lots of times when we had to get down on the ground and make it snappy. Once we were out of gas, once a pipe broke. Oh, it’s happened lots of times. Just a forced landing—it can happen to any one, if something goes hay-wire!”
Patty and her mother regarded their young hostess with new interest and Mrs. Carlisle remarked that their present journey made it seem impossible that trouble could ever occur in the air.
But now, with an orange Fledgling plane flying beside them, its pilot waving a greeting, they were over the field, and Jack Wright shut off the motor and made his usual perfect landing. Then he taxied the Ariel to the field-manager’s building and the passengers alighted while the pilot went in to pay his respects.
Phil promptly found some of his fellow fliers of the Yale contingent and introduced them to his mother, his sister, and Susan. The Yale Club students hastened to comment on the beauty of the Ariel, and when they had looked inside the cabin, at Susan’s invitation, they were frankly envious of Phil for having been among its passengers.
Much to the secret amusement of the girls, Phil did not act at all patronizing now, or as if they were mere “kids,” but treated them with actual deference. Quite seriously he informed his friends that the young ladies from Midford were to become fliers, too.
The Yale men, who seemed very young to the girls and were, in fact, from eighteen to twenty-two years old, were so in earnest about their flying, their club, and aviation in general, that Susan liked them immediately. The girls and Mrs. Carlisle were taken to the hangar where the club plane was housed and admired it sincerely, although Susan and Patty had seen many like it.
“It’s the first ship I’ve ever seen that was going to college,” said Susan.
Then they heard of the historic occasion when the Yale Club ship was on its first journey in
Connecticut with Yale men as pilots on the
way to be registered at Hartford,
when a forced landing became necessary. The boys had been taken to court to
explain about it, and had been “on the carpet” before the State commissioner,
“You can’t kill yourself in an airplane in this State and get away with it,” remarked Phil, explaining how in Connecticut ships and fliers were regularly inspected, how every accident involving an airplane or pilot was investigated, and how every man or woman in an airplane had to carry a license, just as if he or she were driving a car. If an accident showed a pilot to be careless, or in error, or if a ship was flown without the proper permits, official action followed.
“Why, even parachute-jumpers have to be licensed to jump in this State,” said one of the Yale men, “and have to pass examinations before they get a license. They can go somewhere else and practise, but no jumping here without the right kind of ticket and a twenty-eight foot ’chute. Don’t step off your airplane in this State unless you have to, Miss Thompson.”
Susan said she had no desire to make a parachute- jump unless she had to, anyway.
“But there’s one thing certain,” said Phil seriously, “the aviation laws in
Connecticut are strict,
but it gives student-pilots like ourselves—and passengers and everybody
else—the finest kind of protection. Connecticut
is a safe place to learn to fly, I think.”
“Oh, other States have good laws, too,” spoke up a Western boy. “But I must say this State has a fine record—no student, or passenger, in a commercial plane ever killed, up to now, at least.”
“Yes, but that didn’t help you when you wanted to fly,” said another student, and the Westerner flushed. Susan guessed that he was the boy who had studied flying under an assumed name, because of his family’s objections.
“Just the same, the flying-laws in some States just aren’t,” added Phil. “In New York, for instance, any student flies alone, when the instructor says so. Try and do it in
“Yes, and the examination the deputy commissioner gives you here, before he checks you out, is as hard as the Federal examination at the end of ten hours’ solo flying,” said the Western boy. “They give you a student-pilot’s license in this State and you have to earn it—and keep flying afterward, too.” He and Phil here proudly showed their licenses.
“Maybe your father would let you learn to fly in
whispered Patty to Susan. But Susan’s face had the determined look her friend
knew so well.
“I’m going to learn to fly—and in my own State, too,” she said. “As a matter of fact, our laws are just as good as
according to what Phil tells me, and Federal laws protect everybody. I’m going
to learn to fly at home—and with my dad’s permission—wait and see!”
As they were talking a gleaming, sleek-looking, golden-hued plane circled overhead and descended on the field from the east, in a perfect landing. The pilot alighted at the dead-line and came toward the field-manager’s office, near which Susan and her friends were talking.
“I wonder what that ship is,” said Phil. “I've never seen one like it.”
“Oh, yes, you have,” remarked one of the
pilots, who was watching the new-comer. “That’s a Vought-Corsair with a Wasp
motor, a fast ship, too, and it’s very much like the
ship that will chase you, if you don’t behave in the air.” Connecticut State
“It’s certainly a slick ship,” said the Yale man from out West.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen an airplane that Susan didn’t recognize,” remarked Patty.
But Susan was looking intently at the new-comer. “Patty!” she exclaimed. “Do you know who that is? It’s Bud Wheelock! Here, of all places!”
“Well, why not here?” asked Patty. “After all, we weren’t the only people at the Bowl yesterday, and he’s a Harvard man.”
“Who did you say it was?” said Phil. “Bud Wheelock? Well, I’m darned glad to see him again! Gosh, he taught me all I know about football when I was at Midford. Not his fault I didn’t make the team at Yale.” And he rushed out on the field to meet the pilot.
There was much slapping of backs and shaking of hands, between the long-time coach of Midford High and his former pupil. Then they both joined the group where Susan and Patty waited, Mrs. Carlisle having gone into the waiting-room to see about luncheon arrangements.
The Yale boys were visibly impressed when introduced to the famous star of a champion Harvard team and expressed their admiration of his ship. Again Susan noticed how reticent he was about his flying, but he did admit he had flown up from
New York for the game, stopping over at Hartford to have his motor checked.
“And you girls came all the way from Midford!” he said. “I wish I were going back with you.”
“Don’t you want to see the ship?” inquired Susan.
She took him out to the Ariel and he looked it over carefully, talking earnestly as they walked back to the others. He spoke with so much animation, pausing so often and walking so slowly, that Patty was consumed with curiosity to know what it was all about, but she had no opportunity to ask Susan until Bud Wheelock had taken off for
after having inquired at the field about the weather report. He said his ship
was “a peach to fly,” but cold on a long trip, with its open cockpit.
The group watched him make a beautiful take-off, chandeling up in an almost vertical line and waving gaily to his friends. Then Patty put her question, as the Corsair disappeared over the Sound toward its home field on
“What were we talking about?” repeated Susan.
“Why, flying, of course!”
And Patty had to be content with that answer.
A HAPPY BIRTHDAY
BEFORE dark, that Sunday night, the girls and Mrs. Carlisle were back at Midford, after an early lunch at
Bridgeport, where they had
watched Phil and one of his friends take off for Bethany before they made their own departure.
Patty and Susan took turns riding beside Jack Wright, and the return journey
was even quicker than the trip to New
Haven because of a tail wind.
Susan gave her parents a complete, although rather incoherent, account of the journey, but there was one phase of her experience that she wanted to discuss in detail. The Thanksgiving holiday and its attendant festivities, however, kept her so busy during the following week that she did little more than think about it, although she made one or two trips to the airport for some tactful inquiries about certain matters.
Once the holiday was over, Mr. Thompson left on a business trip that took him to
Chicago and lasted two
weeks. Mrs. Thompson stayed at home, but saw little of her daughter, who seemed
to be very busy, spending every afternoon at the Midford airport, and
neglecting even Patty.
One night, after her father’s return, when the family was assembled in the living-room, Susan, who had been reading before the fire, suddenly spoke:
“Father,” she said, “do you realize that I shall be sixteen years old next week?”
“Bless my soul, it doesn’t seem possible!” he answered, looking up from his own book in surprise.
Susan’s mother, who had been writing a letter, simply smiled. She had a suspicion of what was coming. Susan’s brother, absorbed in a mail-order catalogue, ignored her completely.
“Yes, it is possible,” Susan continued. She looked solemn and seemed quite grown-up. In fact, it occurred to her father that she had grown up a good deal in a short time, when he remembered how few years had passed since she was a tiny girl riding on his shoulders.
“What do you want for your birthday, dear?” asked Bill Thompson. “If you had reminded me, I could have brought you back something special from
“You don’t have to go to
to get what I want most,” said his daughter, suddenly laughing. She ran over to
his chair and sat on his knee, while he smiled at her affectionately.
“Daddy dearest,” she continued, “don’t give it to me, if you think I shouldn’t have it—but what I want most of all is a student-permit and a course in your flying-school. I know it’s a gift that is worth a lot of money, but look!” she took a folded paper from her book, and handed it to him.
The famous pilot opened it slowly, read it through, and looked up.
“Susan, my dear little girl!” he exclaimed. And turning to his wife he asked, “Ann, do you know what this is?”
“I’m not sure,” said Susan’s mother, “but I suspect it is something about flying. Your daughter has been busy at the airport while you were away, but I promised not to be curious, so I can enjoy the surprise, too. What is it?”
“It’s a certificate that she has finished the ground-school course at my own place,” he answered. “And she has passed the written examination with a mark of over ninety and done it all in the time I’ve been away!”
“Susan, you are a smart child!” said her mother. “Now I know why I haven’t had you around making cookies all this time.”
“Yes, I missed some good times with the girls, too,” said Susan. “And I suppose I’ve lost my place on the swimming team, but I wanted to show Dad I was in earnest about learning to fly. As soon as I’m sixteen, I’ll be eligible for my student-permit, if I pass the physical examination. I asked Dr. Morris, the flight-surgeon, and he said he knew I could pass that all right, from what I’ve done in athletics at school.”
Her father threw up his hands in a gesture of surrender.
“I can see that when you make up your mind, the whole thing is settled,” he said, “and you deserve to have your wish. My dear little girl, you shall have the birthday present you want, and something else, too. And when you get your pilot’s license, I’ll give you a prize.”
“You are the dearest daddy in the world and the finest pilot that ever flew,” said Susan, and gave him a resounding kiss and a hug. Then she ran over and kissed her mother and danced a few steps in the center of the floor, before dashing to the telephone to tell Patty the good news.
Her father and mother looked at each other and smiled, but the former shook his head ruefully.
“She’s just a kid and she’s a girl,” he said, “but she has worked hard on this ground-school course and she deserves a chance to win her wings. I believe in flying and I love it—she ought to have her chance at it. And I think she’ll be a sensible pilot and not do any fool stunts that might mean a crash.”
“I knew she was resolved to learn to fly somehow,” said her mother, “but I knew she would never do it without your permission. I’m glad she has it now—I was with her from the first, please remember!”
“Yes, my dear,” answered Bill Thompson. “Yes, my dear, she is your own daughter, and she gets what she wants. Between you both, a poor helpless man has no chance at all.”
His wife laughed.
“Just as if you ever failed to get anything you wanted,” she said. “And don’t forget my heart was set on being a pilot once. I never realized that ambition, so I’m doubly glad about Susan.”
“Well, she has all the men at the field on her side, I’ve already discovered,” said Sue’s father. “Copley and Wright had a hand in this ground-school business—and kept it a secret, too. But they’re good judges of flying material, and if they think Susan will do, I guess she’ll make the grade.”
Ann Thompson laughed and rumpled her husband’s hair.
“Don’t try to deceive me!” she warned him. “I can plainly see that you are already as proud of Susan as if she had flown the
I can imagine how conceited you’ll be when she gets her license. Why, you’ll
pretend it was all your idea from the first!”
“And that reminds me,” said Mr. Thompson, laughing. “As long as you didn’t know about this ground-school course, I wonder whose idea it was? If Susan had thought of it all alone, she would have done it a year ago, I think.”
When Susan came into the room again, her father put the question to her. She smiled as she answered: “Why, it was Bud Wheelock’s suggestion, when I met him at
Bridgeport that day after
the Yale game. He asked if I was going to learn to fly and I told him all about
it. We talked about studying in different States and he said perhaps you would
like the idea better if I accomplished something like a ground-school course;
and that even if I never became a pilot, it would help me appreciate flying.”
“Then you owe some thanks to Wheelock for getting the birthday present you wanted,” said her father, “but you really earned it yourself.”
“Yes,” added his wife, “and as long as Bud Wheelock said you made him a flier, I suppose he thought he was reciprocating by helping make Susan one also. Where is he now?”
“Getting ready for some big flight,” said Susan. “But do you know what Patty just told me on the ’phone? She has her parents’ permission and she is already sixteen, so—if we’ll go down with her, Mother—she wants to take her physical examination to-morrow, even though I must wait. She says that’s the way she’ll catch up with me, because she doesn’t want to start studying ground-school, if there’s anything wrong with her.”
“I know Patty isn’t as strong as you are,” said Mrs. Thompson, “but I think she’ll pass all right, and of course we’ll go with her, gladly.”
“It wouldn’t seem natural to have Susan flying,” remarked Susan’s father, “without Patty along with her, somewhere.”
“Well, I’ve had to do other things without her,” Susan pointed out. “She can’t play basketball, you know, or swim very far, but she’s my very best friend, just the same.”
“You’ll get further away from her, if she’s on the ground and you’re in the air, than you ever could on a basketball floor,” answered her father, “and I know you’ll enjoy flying more if she can fly too.”
But there was sad news in store for Patty, and for Susan as well, for when the dark-haired, merry little chum of Bill Thompson’s daughter had gone only a little way in her examination by the flight-surgeon, Dr. Morris shook his head and told her she could not get a student-permit then—and possibly never.
“Nothing organically wrong,” he told Mrs. Thompson, “but the heart reactions are not what they ought to be. In case of emergency or excitement in the air, it would mean danger for her. She may outgrow this tendency, but I couldn’t pass her as a flying-student.”
Patty’s brown eyes filled with tears and she hid her face against Mrs. Thompson’s shoulder. Susan began to weep a little herself, and Dr. Morris had to comfort all of them, for Mrs. Thompson also felt sad.
“Poor little Patty,” she said. “Now you know how I felt when I couldn’t finish flying. And it was worse for me, because I had learned it and loved it, before I found I couldn’t pass this examination.”
Susan realized more keenly than before what a disappointment her mother had sustained, while Patty, who had never heard of Mrs. Thompson’s ambition, was so interested that she sat up and wiped her eyes, and asked about the details. But she was crushed by the knowledge that she would not be able to become a pilot and for days her chum had alternately to comfort her and to distract her attention from aviation. Susan did not dare take her to the airport for a time, but Patty was not one to be unhappy long, and soon she was enjoying flights as a passenger, even if not as a pilot. In spite of her disappointment, she took pleasure in Susan’s plans, and made herself invaluable to Mrs. Thompson in preparing for her chum’s birthday.
The mysterious doings that were in progress before her sixteenth anniversary were entirely unknown to Susan, who was trying to make up for lost time in her school athletics, as well as studying flying in text-books, but when the birthday morning dawned, she discovered that somebody had been very busy planning for the nicest birthday she had ever celebrated.
She was awakened by a knock on her door and sat up, wondering why she felt so happy, before she remembered that this was the day which made her eligible for her flying-studies. It was a cold morning in early December and her windows were all wide open, so before getting up she reached for the warm blue dressing-gown beside her bed. She opened the door, excited and expectant, and found a large package addressed to her. Otherwise the hall was empty.
Back to bed she went, and unwrapped the bundle, finding one box inside another, down to a little one, which, when opened, revealed a tiny toy airplane, and a card saying, “To Susan from Ariel, happy birthday.”
Susan threw her head back and laughed and as she did so, another knock came, and a long white envelope appeared under the door. Leaping out of bed, she ran and pulled the door open, but again the hall was empty. Knowing that she was in for a merry time, and entering into the spirit of the game, Susan picked up the envelope and opened it. On a plain slip of paper were the words, “Don’t spend too much time prinking.”
She decided to begin dressing, and started her bath. Pinned to the shower curtain was another envelope, and this, opened, revealed the application-card that must be filled out by every candidate for a student-pilot’s permit. It was ready to be handed to the flight-surgeon, with fifteen dollars for fees clipped to it, and only Susan’s own signature missing. The card said, “To Susan from a sincere admirer,” but she knew it came from her father.
This delighted the girl, and she splashed happily through her morning tubbing, and sang as she sat at her dressing-table afterward. Her song stopped abruptly when she pulled out the drawer where her handkerchiefs were, and found an oblong box, addressed to her.
Opened, it revealed a card saying, “Many happy returns! To Susan from Jack Wright and Harry Copley,” and there, wrapped in tissue-paper, was a pair of goggles, the same kind that those pilots used.
Susan could hardly wait to get downstairs after this unexpected and delightful surprise. As she dashed out into the hall, carrying her gifts, she almost fell over a book. Picking it up, she found it was a famous and bulky volume on aviation by a recognized authority; and on the title-page in childish handwriting was an inscription and good wishes from her small brother.
Loving greetings and good wishes met her at the breakfast-table, and from the twinkle in her father’s eyes and her mother’s smile, Susan knew that more surprises were coming.
She was not kept waiting long, for when Mrs. Clancey deposited a covered dish, ostensibly of bacon and eggs, before her, the removal of the cover revealed a small box which, in turn, revealed a wrist-watch of the large and simplified type preferred by fliers. This gift was accompanied by an affectionate note from Patty.
Before breakfast was over, Susan was called to the telephone, where a feminine voice that she couldn’t identify said, “Look up the
number.” Obediently, Susan opened the telephone directory at that place, and
discovered another long envelope, this bearing the name of her father’s firm in
the corner. Inside was the regular contract-form used by the school of flying,
naming Susan as the student and the International Aviation Corporation as
instructors. A little slip said, “To my coming rival, from her father.” This
gift was worth literally hundreds of dollars, as Susan knew. Midford Airport
Just as she was finishing breakfast, the door-bell rang and a special-delivery package was announced for Miss Thompson, who went out to sign for it and found that it held a pair of warm leather flying-mittens, from her grandmother in
All this had made her morning exciting. At school there were numerous other little gifts, not related to flying, from friends and classmates, and after her last class Susan went to the airport and arranged to have her physical examination the next day, after she had turned in the formal application required by the Department of Commerce aeronautics branch at
Then, with Patty, she went to a photographic studio downtown and had some rather unflattering pictures taken, similar to those used for passports. Two of these had to be submitted with her application to the flight-surgeon the next day. These preliminaries completed, she returned home with her chum.
“I know Mother planned this exciting sort of birthday for me,” said Susan to Patty, as they walked briskly along the broad avenue toward the Thompson home in the crisp winter dusk. “But I'm sure you had something to do with it, too.”
“Your birthday isn’t over yet,” was Patty’s mysterious reply, and Susan wondered what else was in store.
When the girls reached the Thompson home, they went directly upstairs and there on Sue’s bed was laid a lovely new evening frock of pale yellow taffeta and tulle, the most grown-up dress she had ever owned, as she told Patty ecstatically. There was a note with it from her mother that said:
“Try this on and wear it to-night, if you like it, dear. It isn’t for flying, but your sky-clothes will come later, when you’re ready for them. There is no other birthday so lovely as the sixteenth, and I hope my big little girl will have many happy returns of a happy day.”
Hardly had Susan finished reading this, when her mother appeared and the girl rushed to embrace her.
“It is simply perfect!” she cried. “Oh, Mother, you do the darlingest things!”
“I don’t want you to think you must spend the rest of your life in canvas and leather flying-clothes, her mother answered. “And now look in your closet.” There Susan found satin slippers, not too high- heeled, but matching her frock exactly, and silk stockings and the underwear to go with her new gown. She was exclaiming with delight over the discovery when Patty said:
“My goodness, Susan, I must dash home—I just remembered something!”
With that exclamation, she hastily departed. Susan’s mother went out at the same time, telling her daughter to be sure to put on her new frock.
After Susan had done that, and admired it, she sat down and looked over her other gifts. The slip of paper that represented her flying-course did not look very impressive, she thought to herself, but it was worth about $600, since that was what it would cost any student to qualify for a Federal private license, aside from the fees necessary for the license itself, and the preliminary examinations. Then she started reading the new text-book.
So absorbed was she in the prospect of the interesting work ahead of her—for she was resolved to begin her lessons at once, in spite of cold weather—that she was surprised when her mother summoned her to dinner.
“Is it going to be a party?” Susan asked, for she had noticed that her mother was wearing her favorite black-lace frock.
“Oh, a sort of party, of course,” said Mrs. Thompson. “Come right along in the yellow dress and we’ll celebrate, because you only have one sixteenth birthday in your whole life, and it ought to have due honor.”
Nevertheless, Susan was surprised to find all her best friends at the table, and other guests, too. There was Patty, also in a new frock, and Mr. and Mrs.
Carlisle, and Mary Aiken, and Polly Smith and Betty
Noble, and Harry Copley and his wife, and Jack Wright with Caroline Potter, the
girl to whom he was engaged, as well as Tom Aiken of the Midford football team
and three other players.
In the center of the table was a silvery monoplane with lights gleaming from its cabin, and suspended by invisible wires, so that it hovered over a mass of autumn flowers. There was a tiny airplane to hold the place-card before each chair, and the candlesticks were disguised as miniature propellers.
There was a merry tumult of greetings from the party, as the guest of honor arrived. Susan was both surprised and delighted, and she received double congratulations on her birthday and the start of her flying-training.
It was a jolly dinner, and before it was over two telegrams arrived for Susan. They were from opposite sides of the continent. One, from Phil Carlisle at
New Haven, said, “Congratulations and best
wishes from one student to another.”
The other, from
bewildered the girl for a moment. Who could be wiring from the Pacific coast,
she wondered? The name at the end of the message was not entirely familiar, for
it was Montgomery Wheelock, but she soon realized that this was the man they
knew as “Bud.” His message was, “Am sure to-day means start of successful
flying career. Congratulations.”
As the birthday dinner came to its conclusion with a great cake holding sixteen lighted candles as the climax, Mrs. Clancey slipped a package into Susan’s hands.
“Sure, ’tis something your father recommended,” she whispered.
“Thank you, ever and ever so much,” said the girl, who had known the kindly housekeeper for years. “I know I’ll love it, like all the birthday gifts you’ve given me.”
Mrs. Clancey smiled and nodded and Susan did not have to pretend to be pleased, when she saw that the gift was a leather-bound pilot’s log-book, where she could register her flying-experiences and make notes that would be valuable afterward for reference.
After dinner the boys and girls danced to the music of the radio, and their elders played bridge. When the party broke up, Susan was sure it was the end of the happiest birthday she had ever known, and she told her father and mother so as she thanked them for it, when their guests had gone.
Then Mr. and Mrs. Thompson and their daughter planned how she could fit her flying-training into the free hours after classes each afternoon, and devote all day to it on Saturday and during the Christmas holidays.
“Your course probably won’t take you more than twenty hours of flying-time altogether,” warned Susan’s father, “but at this time of the year, you can’t get instruction every day, and it may be months before you get your Federal license. Plan to fly Sunday afternoons, too.”
“That reminds me,” said her mother. “Here’s a little extra gift that I want you to have and use.”
She went to her desk and took from it a large, leather-bound diary. Bill Thompson regarded it with approval.
“Your log-book will cover your real flying, when you go solo,” he told his daughter, “but the things you learn and see and hear when you’re a flying-student ought to be written down too. It will be a wonderful record for you to look back at, some day—and by the time your own daughters are flying, it may seem like an antique to them.”
So Susan took the diary, promised to keep a faithful record of her training, kissed her parents good-night, and went upstairs to bed, eager for the next day to come.
“At last, at last—it is really true and I am going to fly!” was her joyous thought, as she drifted off to sleep.
EXTRACTS from the diary of Susan Thompson, student at the
School, . Midford Airport
"December 15. I could not think what had happened when I woke up this morning, because I had a feeling as if I had inherited a million dollars the night before. Then I realized to-day was the start of my flight-training. It was terrible to have to go to school this morning, but I did.
"This afternoon Mother and Patty went with me to the flight-surgeon's office at the airport. Dr. Morris was very nice and the test was not so bad as I thought it might be. He took my name and age and all that, but he knew all about me anyhow, because of my father. He listened to my heart and lungs and took my blood-pressure; and listened again after I had hopped around on one foot. He made me balance on one foot and do motions with my hand toward my face. This was to show reactions, or balance, or something. Then he hit my knees with hammers, just as they always do.
"The most interesting part was the eye-examination. I had to read the chart and watch lights separate and come together when the doctor put things over each eye, and tell him when it happened.
“Then he gave me an exciting test. I was sitting in a dark little room and there were two sticks set up in a little box arrangement, way down at the other end, with ropes going from them to my hands—little ropes like clothes-line. It was up to me to pull the ropes and bring the two sticks parallel. I did it three times, and Dr. Morris didn’t tell me whether I had succeeded or not.
“I had to look at pictures made of colored spots, which he turned over fast, and tell him what they showed, mostly different numbers. And I had to look at a little white-topped stick which he put—from way off—right up to my nose. Made me cross my eyes and I hated it.
“Somewhere in all this I had my field of vision mapped and my perception of depth tested, according to what the doctor told Mother. He looked up my nose and down my throat, and asked if 1 did much dreaming, and that was about all. To-morrow I will know whether I passed the test, but the doctor seemed to think I was O.K. He said most of the candidates who fail have poor eyesight, or nervous trouble, and I’m all right on those points anyhow.
“December 16. To-day was Saturday and I went to the airport right after breakfast. Dr. Morris said he had found me all right, and he would give me a temporary permit, to let me begin my work without waiting for the Federal students’ permit from
Washington, which might
take weeks to arrive. I went over to the school with it and told Jack Wright,
and he said we would start right in.
“I was thrilled to death when they brought out the training-ship we were going to use. It was a Travelair biplane, the first dual-control ship I have ever been in. Sam Connell got in it to rev up the engine and I went into the office to get into flying-clothes. Jack said revving up took some time on a cold day in December, but he had to get the motor warm, anyhow.
“Father was in the office and glad to see me. He said, ‘Jack, I want you and Copley and the fellows on the staff to treat Susan like any other student. She is the first girl we have had who will stick to it, and I want to see just how our system works.’ That ‘system’ word scared me a little, but the flying-clothes were worse.
“The school isn’t so busy at this time of year, although the air is good in the winter, Jack said. He said my folks were sensible just to give me the goggles and gloves, because it may be spring before I need my own flying-suit and I am still growing out of my clothes. I have to wear a student helmet, anyhow. We had a hard job getting me into the winter flying-suit. It was the biggiest, ugliest, heaviest one I have ever seen. It took two men to hold it out while I got into it, but it was one of the suits students use, and we were obeying Dad’s orders. The legs were too long and the collar was too loose and the sleeves fell way over my hands, but it was certainly warm. I had on woolen stockings and they gave me some parachute silk to go around my neck. Otherwise the breezes certainly would have gone down inside the suit. It was brown canvas outside, wool inside, and had air for insulation somehow in between so it looked all balloonish. I fastened the belt and pulled up the zippers. Then they brought out my parachute.
“I know Dad thinks it a good thing that a State law makes it necessary for students and instructors to wear parachutes, but I think they are horrible. The straps around my chest and legs were uncomfortable and the darned thing bumped against my knees when I walked. It was awfully heavy, too. It was quite a problem to find a helmet to fit me, and some of the boys who are students loaned me handkerchiefs to stuff in around the edges, but even so it was not very tight.
“Then I had to get into the ship. It was all I could do to step on the lower wing from the ground, and it seemed impossible to get over the edge of the cockpit with all the heavy clothes I was wearing, and the parachute besides. Finally Jack Wright bent down and let me step on his back, and one of the mechanics loaned me his shoulder, so they made a sort of ladder and I got up the edge of the cockpit.
“The rear cockpit is where I sit for training, just as I would flying alone, and my instructor sits in front. The front cockpit has a door, but there is nothing to do but go over the top to my place. However, I finally got in and sort of squeezed around and scrunched down, so as not to break off the windshield, which is very brittle. I sat on my parachute.
“Then Jack Wright, who was also in his flying-clothes and parachute, climbed up on the wing and fixed the speaking-tubes that screw into my helmet and go to his mouth, so he can talk to me in the air.
“He showed me the stick and rudder, pedals, the throttle, and the instruments on the dash in the rear cockpit, although we both knew I had seen them often before. But I have found out there is a lot of difference between seeing them when somebody else is flying the ship, and seeing them when you are doing it all yourself. He made me fasten the safety-belt and showed me how to pull my parachute rip-cord, if I ever had to jump. Then he got in and the mechanics let us go and we taxied across the field to head into the wind for the take-off.
“Jack was still treating me like any other student, so he reminded me about never leaving until we were sure there was no other ship landing, or taking off, that would be in our way. He showed me how the wind-tee and the wind-cone on the field gave us the wind direction, as if I didn’t know it already, and told me a flag flying or smoke from a chimney would do to watch, also. He told me I would understand his signals in the air all right.
“The ground-school taught me that the greater the opposition of the air, the more support it offered the ship, which is why a propeller actually pulls a ship along, and why we always take off and land into the wind. Thus, if the wind is coming from the east, we fly toward the east to take off, or land.
“Jack wiggled the ship around so we could see the blind spot in front of us where the engine cowling hid the horizon. Then he said to me through the speaking-tube, ‘Are you all set?’ and I said ‘Yes’ as loud as I could. He asked if I could hear him all right, and I told him I could. He said, ‘Now watch what happens to the controls, and keep your hands and feet on them, so you can feel what I am doing in the front seat. I will explain to you whether you need it or not, and we will pretend you have never been in the air before, to make sure we are not overlooking anything.’
“Then he ‘gave it the gun,’ pushing the throttle way forward, and we skimmed ahead, with the tail coming up as he put the stick forward. The controls in front and back are together, so we can each see the other work. I could feel the stick move ahead under my hand, and then gradually come back as we gained flying-speed and left the ground. I got a big thrill when I realized that this was my first lesson in the air and that I was now on the way to becoming a real flier.
“We were headed right over the hangar and I saw Jack wave, so I looked down and there was Dad, standing out in front of his office and looking up at us. Lots of the people on the field were watching us, too, and I thought they were nice to be so interested in me. But I could not think about them very long, because I had to notice what was going on under my hands and feet. The rudder-bar had stayed straight up to now, but I felt the left side go forward and the stick go over to the left side, as we banked and turned to come back around the field.
“It is funny—for I have been in a banking ship hundreds of times—but it felt entirely different this morning. I felt the throttle-handle under my left hand move back a little and then I noticed that the tachometer, which had been revving fifteen to sixteen on the ground, was down to fourteen. Jack Wright spoke about it through the tube, and said the ship would still climb and had excess power at this figure. He told me to look at the altimeter and I did and saw we were five hundred feet up, but he kept climbing, circling the field, and warning me always to fly close to the field after the take-off.
“ ‘If you have engine trouble, it will develop soon after you take off, as a rule,’ he said to me through the tube, ‘so stay within gliding distance of the field until you’re sure.’
“Father and all his staff believe in safe-and-sane flying, and Mother made me promise never to do anything foolish in the air, but of course I know better, anyway.
“When the altimeter read one thousand five hundred feet, Jack shut off the motor and put the stick a little forward.
“ ‘This is a normal gliding angle,’ he told me.
‘See how it feels.’ My right hand was on the stick, holding it lightly, so I could judge pretty well, but he added, ‘Watch the nose of the ship in relation to the horizon. That’s the cardinal rule of flying for a beginner.’
“The wind was northwest, so the horizon was nice and clear, and I saw that it came about half-way down the ship’s nose when we were level, and a little above when we were gliding.
“Jack said that he was going to make some banks and turns and for me to watch what happened and ‘follow through.’ It was fascinating to feel with my hand and feet how the stick and rudder moved to the left when we banked and turned that way, and how, when it moved to the right, we moved too.
“Jack Wright said to me through the speaking-tube, ‘Now I’m going to show you how the stick works. I put it forward and the nose of the ship goes down—too far down and we dive—a little way down and we are at the gliding angle. I put it in the center and we fly level. I pull it back and the nose of the ship goes up, see? If I pull it too far back, the ship will lose flying speed and stall—feel it?’
“He pulled the stick back until I could feel the ship stand almost motionless in the air. Then he put the stick forward and we were level again.
“ ‘If your ship stalls, you’ll go into a tail-spin, but I’ll teach you all about that later,’ he continued. ‘Now I’ll show you how the ailerons control the lateral stability of the ship. You learned in ground- school what the ailerons are, and that the stick moving from side to side controls them, just as moving it from front to back controls the elevators at the rear.’
“He told me to look to the rear and see the elevators work when he put the stick forward and back. When he put the stick forward, the elevator went down and we went down. Back, the process reversed.
“Then he said to watch the ailerons, so I looked out and saw the odd little pieces that are hinged on the rear or trailing edges of the wings. He put the stick to the right and we tipped to the right, while the right aileron went down, the left up, and then reversed the process. So I was really seeing flying- surfaces and angles of incidence and dihedrals and other things in aerodynamics actually at work.
“It was awfully exciting to see and feel the controls working in the air and it seems so simple and easy to remember—a little like managing a horse. Pulling back brings the front up; pushing forward puts it down. If you lean to one side and bend the stick that way, that side goes down. It is almost as if your own balance influenced the ship, the way it does when you ride a bicycle.
“After that Jack showed me how the rudder worked. I felt him push the right rudder and we sort of slipped to the right. He explained that that was because we did not bank. He said one must always bank when using the rudder.
“All this time we were between fifteen hundred and two thousand feet in the air and within sight of the airport. It had taken about twenty minutes to tell me all this and he asked if I was cold. My hands and feet were pretty cold, but I was so excited about the lesson that I didn’t mind. I said I was all right.
“Then he said, all of a sudden, ‘All right, you take control now. Try to fly the ship straight and I will help you out, if you need any help.’
“I was surprised and a teeny bit scared for a moment, but I grabbed the stick tighter and tried to hold it in the middle and straight. He lifted up his right hand a couple of times and said, ‘Your right wing is dropping, move your stick to the left,’ and then he did the same with his left hand, so I moved the stick a little to the right.
“Then he beckoned backward and said, ‘Pull up the nose, you’re letting it fall,’ and again ‘Not too far back, you’re climbing her.’
“It did not take any effort to move the stick. In fact it moved only too easily, but I knew Jack could grab the duplicate controls in front, if anything went wrong, and pull me out of it. He had his feet on the rudder, I knew, but he held both hands up, to show me I was managing the stick all alone. We galloped all over the sky.
“I suppose I didn’t keep very straight, but pretty soon he said, ‘Very good, Susan. Now I’ll take control and we’ll land.’
“I didn’t know how hard I had been working at it until I felt him taking the stick from me, when he grabbed the one in front. Then I let go of mine, rubbed my hands together, and sat back relaxed.
“He shut off the motor, put it into a gliding angle, and landed with some gorgeous banks and turns. We had been up a half-hour, which is the regular time for the first air-lesson. I’m crazy about it.
“Jack told Dad I was ‘getting along fine’ and I hope he meant it. We are lucky because there is no snow, although it is December. The ground is hard and brown, and you feel the bump even on a perfect landing. I told Mother she would have to do my Christmas shopping for me.
“December 17. This is Sunday and I went to the field early. It was warmer than yesterday and not so clear. I forgot to put my goggles on and the wind almost blew my eyelashes through the back of my head on the take-off. Now I know what flying-speed means. I had the same thrill at leaving the ground to-day that I did yesterday.
“As soon as we got up high enough, Jack told me to take charge of the stick and the rudder and try to fly straight. I watched for the horizon, but there was a gray mist in the distance. I thought I was all right, but he grabbed the stick away from me, all of a sudden, and dove straight down. I let go and felt scared to death. Then the ship straightened out again and I yelled at Jack and asked what had happened. He said I had pulled the nose up too high and was going into a stall, when he took it away and dove to recover. He said that was because there was no horizon and I must head down a little lower than I thought the horizon was. I tried it and he said I was O.K.
“Then I tried some turns, very gentle. It was awfully exciting, tipping the stick and the rudder over and trying to get them coordinated just right. I wonder how long it will be before I can do the swoops and turns and banks way over on one side, that Jack can do.
“I had two lessons to-day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon—both about the same, only I made more mistakes in the morning.
“December 18. It rained to-day in the morning, a cold rain that turned to sleet to-night. No flying. Did some Christmas shopping.
“December 19. Snowed hard to-day, no flying. More Christmas shopping.
“December 20. Clear and cold. I went down to the field right after school—got there at two o’clock. Jack Wright had everything ready. I did more banks and turns, but I banked too steeply for the amount of rudder I was giving it, and side-slipped to the left. It was terrible. Somehow I got the ship level and Jack did not seem to know how scared I was, because he let me keep on flying. My hands and knees felt rather wobbly, but I kept on. It seems queer that I should be scared, when I have been up in the air so much, but it is different when you are doing it yourself.
“The field and the rest of the landscape looked lovely, covered with snow and with the sun shining. Rather dazzling for your eyes, though. Jack told me to be sure to observe the way the horizon moved as we came down for a landing, even if I was not landing myself yet.
“I did watch, and it seems that the edge of the world is above the nose of the ship gliding down, then level when we level out; and then quite suddenly when the stick is pulled back, the nose climbs high and the horizon is low. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do it. But then I am surprised that I can even fly straight. It is not very straight, even so.
“December 21, more of the same. No sunshine to-day, very cold. I was trying to fly straight and using the town for a guide, keeping the Metropolitan building at my right elbow, when I found the world blotted out. I thought it was fog, but it was snow— only a snow-flurry, in fact. Jack turned and smiled at me, so I kept on and we were through it in a minute. But I had cold feet for awhile—literally and figuratively.
“Had cocoa at the canteen after the lesson. They made it especially for me, as coffee is the only hot drink most fliers seem to want, they say.
“December 22. No more school after to-day—hooray! Christmas vacation means lots of work for me. Father went on a trip in the Ariel, but Mother stayed home to do Christmas preparations, and I stayed home to fly. Patty came to the field with me, the first time since I began air-work. She felt pretty blue, but said she was thrilled to see me sitting in the rear cockpit. She laughed at the way I looked climbing in. Jack showed off a little for her, and did some stunts with me. A wing-over is like shimmying your shoulder. A loop is fun. He is going to teach me how to do them sometime and we will practise spins, as soon as I do landings. I just kept on with my flying to-day. I feel quite important and superior when I am up two thousand feet in the air looking down on the city and the farms.
“December 23. I am sorry I said I felt important yesterday. To-day Jack let me try taking off and landing and he had to scold me. I was not so hot,’ it seems, according to the mechanics and pilots who watched us. On the take-off I pulled the stick back too fast and nearly went into a flat spin, or pancake. On the landing I tried to level out thirty feet above the ground, which would mean another pancake.
“Anyhow, I did the gliding all right. I like it better than anything else in flying. I managed the throttle, too. Took two lessons and did a little shopping.
“December 24. A dark day. Looks like more snow for Christmas. Father drove over to
Newtown in the car on
business. I took a taxi and went to the field early.
“Kind of sad news. They had to fire Hank Smith, the cabin-boy on the Ariel, because they found he had been stealing tools from the machine-shop and selling them downtown. Sam Connell said he ought to be arrested, but Harry Copley would not prosecute, as the value was small. He just gave Hank a real army lecture and warned him and discharged him. I met him leaving, when I was getting to the field. He looked rather awful, but I didn’t know about the trouble, so I spoke to him just as usual. I even said ‘Merry Christmas!’ It must have sounded queer to him. He didn’t say anything, but he has always been like that.
“Anyhow, I had my lesson, and as soon as we started I forgot Hank Smith and every one else. It certainly takes your mind off other matters when you fly. I kept on with take-off and landings and did a little air-work, too. My banks and turns were better than my going-up or coming-down stuff, but Jack says maybe Santa Claus will bring me a little flying-sense. He tells me things like that, but he tells Dad I am getting on O.K. Harry Copley told me to-day not to worry, because I am a perfectly average student.
“I finished my shopping to-day. Told Mother I didn’t think I ought to hang up a stocking, after the way I’ve neglected Christmas, but I helped to trim the tree to-night and made some popcorn balls—and I will spend all day to-morrow at home. I might as well, since there will be nobody at the field.
“Have had almost five hours of flying time so far, which means I ought to be half through my training.
“December 25. Snowed hard all day, so didn’t mind missing my lesson. Had a beautiful Christmas.
Never expect much when my birthday is so near, but got oodles of things—books, hankies, stockings, gloves, writing-paper, and so on from relatives and friends. We had all the funny toys and things we always find in our stockings. Mother gave me a perfectly slick leather flying-suit and helmet, both brown and businesslike. The suit has a raccoon collar. Father gave me my own personal parachute. Not pretty, but at least it is my size. He said he wanted me to wear one always and it was better to have my own instead of using those of the company.
“Junior said girls had all the luck, but he got some nice things, too, including a wire-haired fox-terrier. I can’t tell which gave me the biggest thrill—finding the flying-suit on my bed or finding the parachute under the Christmas tree. They both cheered me up, because they make me feel I am going to learn to fly, even if my landings are pretty rotten so far. Patty gave me a lucky bracelet with an ivory owl on it. If I ever get a ship of my own I will have an owl on it somewhere. Father said James Gordon Bennett had a yacht named Lysistrata with owls everywhere, so I will remember that.
“We had a wonderful dinner with all the folks here, and went over to Patty’s in the evening. Phil was home and I told him what a job I have flying. A very merry Christmas.
“I hope it will be a good day for flying to-morrow and all through vacation. Had a Christmas card by air-mail from Bud Wheelock in
“December 26. Pretty exciting to-day. The Travelair was out of order, because one of the other students made a ground-loop and broke an aileron off. Harry Copley was going on a little hop, so his Fleet ship was on the line, and they put the dual controls in that for me. I was just going to get in, and Jack Wright was all ready to go, when Hank Smith came running up from somewhere and shouted, “Don’t go! Don’t go! Miss, don’t go!” He was so excited he couldn’t talk straight, but finally the boys found out he was sore at Copley for firing him, and somehow got into the hangar yesterday, when every one was home, and sawed the control-wires of Harry Copley’s ship almost through. He said he did not care what happened to Harry, but he did not want me to get killed, so he had to give himself away, when we started to get in the ship.
“Everybody was furious at him and wanted him put in jail at once, but I talked to him a little and found out he was supporting a crippled mother and she had to have an operation, so that was why he stole the tools and looked so cross always. He should have told Dad his troubles instead of acting so, but he thought everybody was against him, because some of the mechanics have made fun of him. He is so small and shabby and shy; and yesterday was Christmas and he thought his mother was dying for lack of care and they had no food, or fire, or anything. He has no job, or any chance of one, and I guess he went a little crazy and came down here to have revenge on Copley. He thinks it is Copley’s fault if his mother dies.
“I felt terribly sorry for him. Father did, too. So Father and Copley took him into the office and talked to him, and I hope it is all straightened out. Father said he would have to take Hank up and put him through some stunts himself, so he would get an idea of what it is like to be in a falling plane.
“They are getting him a job somewhere else, since he would be treated roughly on this field if the story got around. And Dad gave him some money and telephoned Mother and they went to his house and arranged about his sick mother and everything.
“So Jack and I had to find another plane to use and took a Challenger with dual controls. It seemed to have more power than the Travelair but needed more care in banking. But it was easy to take off and land. So now we will use both ships in turn and maybe others, too, when I get smarter.
“December 27. Cold, dark day, but very calm in the air. We spent an hour, in two sections, practising taking-off and landing in the Challenger.
“I have decided that I like gliding best of all there is in flying, but it is hard. I hold my breath from the moment I shut off the motor to come down until I am landed. It ought to help me on the swimming team.
“Taking-off is exciting, too. First I taxi to the starting-place. This is hard, but Jack helps me. The ship seems to try to get away from me when I taxi it. I head it around into the wind and ask if Jack is ready. Then I push the throttle way ahead with my left hand (that is what they call ‘pouring the coal,’ or ‘giving it the gun’,) and gradually put the stick way forward with my right, until the nose is down and the tail up. Then I bring the stick gradually back—and we are off!
“Jack has me climb pretty high before banking and turning back down the field, and he doesn’t like a steep bank there, because we have the wind behind us, and need altitude anyway, he says. So we climb to about a thousand feet or so, and I do air-work. I make figure eights, doing a right bank and turn, and then a left one, according to how he points with his hand before me. Then he signals by pointing down and I have to shut off the motor and find the field and make a landing. Sometimes he lets me decide when to start coming down, and we do it from different heights. But when I shut off the motor and put the stick forward so the ship glides, I get the biggest kick out of flying.
“I like gliding down away from the field and turning to come into the wind; and I like turning under power and gliding in straight from a long way off; and I like coming down in big easy spirals, keeping on banking and turning until I get into position to land. But when I have come into the field and have to decide when to level out, and when to bring the nose up, it is bad. Sometimes I bounce high—and Jack has taught me to give it the gun again and make another circle and landing—but sometimes I get down pretty well, though I have not made a perfect landing yet, after almost eight hours in the air. I am furious! I wonder if maybe I shall never be a flier after all! I am terribly discouraged to-day, but I am going to keep on just the same.”
SUSAN kept on, true to her pledge in her diary. She flew every day when weather permitted, all through the Christmas holidays, and after school had been resumed, she devoted every afternoon to the airport and her studies. She flew in sunshine and in sleet, in snow and under clouds, landed on snow or on a field frozen hard, or soggy from thaws.
During the vacation period, she often took two lessons a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, having lunch at the field canteen and amusing herself between her trips into the air by puttering around the ships in the hangar, and the motors in the machine-shop.
It is not considered good policy to keep a student up for too long a time, and the weather was often so bitterly cold that she could not spend more than a half-hour in the air without becoming numb and chilled, but those whole days at the airport taught her a great deal besides her actual lessons. She heard the pilots assembled for lunch at the field canteen discussing their own adventures in the air, and the exploits of others. She heard the mechanics talking about their discoveries, and the expedients used to avoid disaster when crashes seemed imminent. She heard pilots who took needless risks condemned, and fliers who stunted at low altitude called fools.
One of the most interesting pilots at the field, in Susan’s opinion, was Slim Sanford, the mail-pilot who flew over Midford each day about noon, carrying the west-bound mail, and returned each evening flying toward the east.
Sanford was one of the veterans of the
air-mail, a middle-aged man, silent and modest. She saw him only when he came
into the canteen occasionally for a cup of coffee. He was always greeted with
enthusiasm by the fliers there and responded pleasantly, but usually had little
to say, except some comment on the weather, or the air.
“That fellow could tell you stories more exciting than any fiction, if he wanted to,” Jack Wright remarked to her one day, as they were eating lunch together when
“Yes,” said her father, who was with them. “Slim
has been through everything there is, in the way of flying. Began about the
same time I did, and started in on air-mail work as soon as there was any
air-mail. He belongs to the Caterpillar Club, too.”
Susan knew that the Caterpillar Club was composed of fliers who had escaped disaster by using their parachutes, and she regarded
with increased interest. He was talking to the field-manager at the other end
of the canteen and she thought nobody would have recognized him for a pilot. As
his mail-ship was a cabin plane, he was wearing an ordinary suit of clothes, a
rather shabby overcoat, and a soft felt hat, and his mild blue eyes, graying
hair, and gentle expression did not suggest the adventurous character his
exploits proved him to possess.
Other pilots at the table told how Slim Sanford had flown in a South American revolution; how he had carried the mail through thunder-storms and blizzards; how he had been shot down twice in the World War, but had escaped from a German prison-camp, and had blazed the trail of the air-mail over some of the worst routes in the country.
Susan was thrilled at all this, and she was quite overcome with delight when Slim Sanford himself brought his coffee and sandwich, and asked if he might sit beside her father. Introductions followed, and the mail-pilot showed keen interest when he heard Susan was a flying-student.
“It’s the greatest game there is,” he told her. “Keep at it. You’re lucky to be starting now and starting young.”
“Tell me,” said Susan, emboldened by his kindliness, “what was the most exciting experience you ever had in the air?”
The pilot thought a minute, stirring his coffee and looking out of the wide windows of the canteen toward the snow-covered field and the blue sky. When his answer came, it surprised Susan.
“I guess it was when I was flying in fog, one night,” he said. “I was spinning for almost a thousand feet. Couldn’t tell when I had her level, and so I’d go into another spin. Open ship, too. Nine hundred feet above the ground, I came out of the fog and got my bearings, so I could straighten out. But I thought I was gone for a while, all right.”
“Why didn’t you use your parachute?” asked Susan, wide-eyed.
“Centrifugal force would hold me in, anyhow,” he said. “And you don’t leave the mail unless you have to. Have you had any spins, Miss Thompson?”
Susan said she hadn’t, yet, and Jack Wright hastened to say that he was going to teach her to get into, and out of, a tail-spin that very afternoon. Her father agreed that it was something every flying-student ought to know about.
So after her usual lesson in taking-off and the figure eights and steep banks that were now part of her routine air-work, Susan felt the control of the ship taken over by Wright, who said to her through the speaking-tube:
“Now I’ll take you for a ride and then we’ll try something new.”
Swiftly he climbed the ship, while Susan sat back and looked out on the wintry scene below. It was now early January and she had had nine hours of air-training. Wright had told her she needed only to perfect her landings and she would be ready to “go solo,” and try for the State student-pilot license. After that would come ten hours of flying alone, and then she would be eligible for her Federal private license.
Although approved schools, such as the one under her father’s supervision, made only eight hours of solo flying necessary, Jack Wright wanted Susan to have plenty of training before she went to the Federal inspector from the Department of Commerce at
to display her flying-ability and take her examination.
Both of these first licenses, the State and Federal, would give her the privilege of flying alone, or carrying friends as guests. The next grade of license would be commercial, requiring fifty hours of flying, and permitting her to carry passengers for hire, to test and demonstrate planes, and otherwise earn money by her flying-ability. The highest grade of license, that of a transport-pilot, would require two hundred hours of flying. This would allow her to fly any type of licensed aircraft, for any purpose and in any State. Susan thought she would be lucky if she achieved this grade of rating within two years, or even before she got to college, but she was resolved to keep on flying and make every grade in turn.
“It’s just as logical as going to college after finishing high school,” she thought to herself, looking down on the beautiful world spread out so far below.
Her train of thought was interrupted by the voice of Jack Wright, who shut off the engine and said to her:
“Just watch carefully the first time and see what happens. Don’t be scared! You can always get out of a spin, or anything else, if you’re up high enough, provided your ship holds together. This one will!”
The altimeter showed that they were three thousand feet up and Susan realized that they were above the open country preferred for stunting. The girl took hold of the front edge of the cockpit with both hands and removed her feet from the rudder. She knew that in stunts like this, student-fliers often “froze” to the controls, holding them so tightly in nervous terror that the instructor, trying to fly with the duplicate controls, was helpless. Many crashes and deaths have been caused in this way, and Susan was too air-wise to take any chance.
So, leaving the controls absolutely free, she watched while Wright turned the motor on again with a roar, and pulled the ship’s nose up, up, up—to the stalling angle, when the plane seemed to be standing on its tail, like a trained seal on the stage.
For just an instant the ship seemed to hang there. Then the nose dropped—straight down toward the earth three thousand feet below—and there was a terrific whirl. Susan felt as if her head were going to fly off, as if her face were crimson and she had lost her breath. Strapped in her seat, with her hands braced before her, she was in the position of one fastened against a wall, with her body from the waist up extending horizontally outward. Only it wasn’t a wall, but a madly revolving thing like a gigantic top.
The world below was directly in front of her eyes, above the cowling of the motor; and little white houses, red barns, and snow-covered fields were circling in a crazy sort of picture. Then there was a movement of stick and rudder, the ship slowed up, miraculously, and straightened out, flying level again.
Susan caught her breath and rubbed her cheeks, as Wright turned to her and said:
“How did you like it? That’s a tail-spin!”
“I didn’t like it at all!” Susan told him. “I’m sure I could never do it myself!” She had never felt so dizzy in her life, and she meant she could never get out of a tail-spin, for she knew that every flier was apt to get into one, whether he liked it or not. Jack Wright laughed consolingly.
“We made two spins that time, under power,” he told her. “Now I’ll stall into a spin without the motor and just go round once. Be sure to watch the controls. Look into the cockpit and you won’t get dizzy.”
This time he shut off the motor, while Susan, again carefully avoiding the controls, watched them move. Instead of putting the stick forward, so that the ship would take a gliding angle when he stopped the motor, he held it level, and in an instant it began to “fall off” and stall.
Susan knew the sensation of a stall so well that she could tell it was coming, a valuable thing for any student-flyer to know. She thought to herself that it felt very much as a sail-boat does when it comes up into the wind too far and “jibes” before coming about on the opposite tack. But there cannot be any other sensation in the world exactly like that which one feels when one is poised in the air, with no power, about to drop off into space. The ship dropped and the spin began.
The spin this time didn’t seem so bad, somehow. Perhaps it was because she had experienced the other, perhaps because she did not look at the landscape, perhaps because a spin without power is never so terrific as one with it. Through the speaking-tube Wright’s voice came to her:
“Now watch the controls—rudder and stick to the right—see?”
Susan saw this, and felt less dizzy than she had before, because she concentrated her attention on the contents of the cockpit. Wright spoke again:
“Hold them there as long as you want to spin—then neutralize with everything center—ease your stick forward—give it the gun—you’re out!”
It looked quite simple thus explained, but Susan doubted whether she could do it herself. However, after they had flown level a little while Jack Wright turned and looked at her over the wind-shield between their cockpits, speaking to her at the same time.
“Want to try it again?” he asked. “Keep your hands and feet on the controls and follow me through, then maybe you can try it yourself.”
Again he shut off the motor and Susan felt the stick and rudder being put through the motions. She did not mind it nearly so much now, and thought she might even rather like it after a while. But when it came time to do it herself, she was glad to know that Jack Wright with his firm hand, his fine judgment, and his long experience was ready to take over the control at any minute.
When the first time came to try her first stunt, she was more excited than she had been since her very first lesson, and had any of her friends been there they would have recognized her expression of determination. "Susan's fighting face," as Patty called it.
She pulled back the throttle, held the ship level, felt it fall, put the stick and rudder a little to the right, recognized the tremendous whirl of the spin, and was terrified for a minute. But she felt the reassuring touch of Wright's hand on the stick in the other cockpit, and with that moral support and actual help she neutralized her controls, put the stick forward for a dive, pushed the throttle on, and was out of the spin, flying level again and feeling a great sense of relief.
Wright turned around and shook hands with himself in the front cockpit in token of congratulation. "That was great!" he told her. "Getting cold now, though. Take her down."
Susan looked around frantically for the field, and finally located it almost directly behind them. They were more than two thousand feet up in the clear, frosty air. Her nose and cheeks, the only unprotected part of her face, were cold and her feet felt numb even in woolen stockings and overshoes, while she had to wriggle her fingers inside the great mittens to keep them from going to sleep. But she felt happy as she shut off the motor, and banking, turning, gliding down, brought her ship to rest on the field. It was a perfect landing, too. She knew it by the reassuring way in which the two wheels of the landing-gear and the slanting tail-skid met the field all at the same time with a gentle thump, in what is called a three-point landing.
“Hold that stick back,” called Wright, and the ship came to a stop after a brief run. Then they taxied to the hangar and there, after helping Susan, who was so stiff she could scarcely move, out of the cockpit, Wright told her that she would soon be ready to “cut loose.”
“A few more landings like that one,” he said, “and you’ll go solo. You did well on the spins, too. You’ll be a flier like your daddy pretty soon now.”
“Oh, but I’m so cold,” was Susan’s only answer. She was shivering and her teeth chattered as they hurried to the canteen for something hot to drink.
“Yes,” agreed Wright. “It’s not very comfortable flying in mid-winter, but the air is smoother than it is in summer, or even in spring and fall. Gosh, the air to-day was as smooth as cheese! But you don’t want to be a fair-weather flier. I’ll have to see that you get some bumps.”
There were some days of heavy snowfall after that, so that Susan’s instructor could not take her up, but on the first day after the snow ceased, they “took the air” again. It was a gray day, with low-lying clouds scudding across a sullen sky and a haze veiling the distances on the land. Susan’s father, who had been testing a new ship, remarked that the air was rough.
“Going to take your daughter up, just the same,” said Wright cheerfully, holding out her parachute for Susan to slip her arms into.
“That’s right,” said Bill Thompson, pinching her cheek as he passed. “Got to take it as it comes, in this game! Go up and ride the bumps.”
“O.K.,” said Jack Wright. “We’ll go up and do figure eights first.”
Susan had flown enough as passenger and student to know something about rough air, and she felt the ship wobble more than usual as she took off on their start. Wright motioned up with his right hand, to show her that that wing was low, and as she straightened it out, a giant invisible hand seemed to strike the ship from beneath and push it higher. Susan was prepared for this and did not waver, but she was a little apprehensive when the time came to bank over, for her turn above the field. The ship seemed unsteady and yet it took the bank and held it well, and then she leveled out again and was climbing.
Over a patch of trees beyond the field boundaries the ship suddenly dropped, and it was strange to see how powerless Susan seemed—all she could do was to keep level and go straight ahead. Still climbing, they passed above the river, and it was as if a giant hand seized and shook them as a terrier shakes a rat. Susan was beginning to feel a little frightened, but her instructor looked so unconcerned, peering down with apparent interest at the scenery below, that she did not dare admit that she would like to have him fly the ship.
Then he pointed to the left and she knew it was his signal for a turn in that direction. The ship was still wobbling about and up and down, like a boat in a rough sea, and Susan felt decidedly shaky in her knees, but she pushed firmly on the left rudder with that foot, and brought the stick firmly over to the left.
Early in her training, her instructor had told her that one great fault of students, especially women, was a tendency to “over-control,” keeping the stick and rudder too stiff instead of handling them lightly. To-day Susan felt a desire to hold more firmly to the controls than ever before in order to counteract the influences of the air, but she resisted, though she was careful not to let a gust of wind, or a bump of air, take the controls away from her. When she found she was making her turn well, holding the bank firmly while the horizon seemed to swim past the nose of the ship, she felt better, and she was able to reverse and make the right turn without so much trepidation. She even began to whistle a little, “to keep my courage up,” she thought to herself, scornfully.
After she had done her air-work, and Wright signaled to go down, she found she had lost all fear of the rough air, and made her landing quite calmly, although she noticed that the ship seemed to be going down-stairs, as it glided in an odd series of drops downward.
After that landing, which Wright told her was pretty poor, they made a series of short hops around the field, and landings from different altitudes. On the first of these, her instructor told Susan she had leveled out too soon. On the second he told her she had let the right wing fall. On the third he said:
“I guess the air is too bumpy for landings—let’s go in.”
Just because he had not told her that she was improving, Susan felt sure she was hopeless, and as he took the controls and taxied the ship to the hangar, she wiped away a tear that almost froze on her eyelashes. When they came into the office, her father asked her how she liked the air.
“F-f-fine,” Susan answered in a broken voice, which he attributed to the fact that the temperature was not far above zero, instead of noticing that his daughter was trying not to cry.
Harry Copley was more observant. As Susan was hanging up her equipment in her locker, he came past her and patted her shoulder.
“Cheer up, Sue,” he said. “I was watching your work and you’re coming along all right. This was a rotten day for flying, too. We wouldn’t take every student up in this air!”
Susan was grateful to the operations-manager and managed to smile. She had already found out that it was easier to become discouraged in flying than it had been in anything else she had ever tried. Although she was so determined to fly, she would have given up her idea if any one had told her at that moment that it was hopeless to try.
When she went back to the office, to join her father for the trip back to town, she had an amazing surprise. Jack Wright was there in conference with Bill Thompson, and as Susan entered, he turned to her.
“I was just telling your father that you’re about ready to go solo,” he said. “You flew well in rough air and your landings were good. I think we’ll turn you loose, as soon as the State inspector can take you up.”
Susan could hardly believe her ears. She had thought Wright was disgusted with her work, and now he said she was almost ready to graduate from his teaching!
“But, Jack,” she said, “you told me yourself that my landings were poor. I didn’t make a single good landing to-day.”
“Any landing is a good landing if you can walk away from it,” said Wright. “We’ll check you up with Copley and then you go solo. And after you get your license, you can take your dad for a ride.”
“Oh, Harry, are you really going to fly with me?” said Susan.
“Just because I fly with every student before we turn them loose,” said Copley. “I guess I’m not taking any more risk with you than I am with the rest of them.” He winked at Wright.
“Yes, and Copley will surprise you, too,” said Susan’s own instructor. “Look out for him—he’ll give you some pretty stiff work to do.”
“But I won’t fly with you until you check out,” said her father.
Susan knew that Copley gave instruction in advanced air-work and air-acrobatics, as well as checking over the students of other pilots. Her father did not ordinarily give instruction.
There were three pilot-instructors in addition to Wright, but she had flown only with Wright up to this time, for it was the policy of the school for each student to fly with one instructor only, until time to finish the course. Susan thought she had been lucky to have Jack Wright, for he was chief of all the instructors, capable and good-natured and really interested in the progress of his students. She was sorry she had been discouraged this afternoon, just because he had not told her she was doing well.
She said so, and he laughed.
"You silly kid," he told her, "I was so busy wondering how soon we could have you examined for the State student-pilot's license and let you go solo, that I forgot to tell you how much I liked your work.
Cheer up now and get plenty of sleep. You want to pass your examination with flying colors!"
“THE SKY GIRL”
IT was a cardinal rule of the flying-school that no student could expect to do good work without plenty of sleep and unless he was in good health, so Susan obediently went into special training in preparation for the tests that were to prove her able to fly a ship alone.
The rules of
Connecticut, held up by
Phil Carlisle as a shining example, were almost identical with the rules of the
State where Susan lived; and instead of being turned loose to fly alone when
their instructors thought it advisable, the students were required to pass an
examination by a State Inspector, representing the aviation department of the State
government. They were then granted a student-pilot’s license to use while
flying the ten hours additional that are required for a Federal private
But several rainy and snowy days followed Susan’s flight in the bumpy air and she was unable to take another lesson. During those days, while she followed her regular high-school routine, and even went through examinations, she said nothing, except to Patty, about the fact that she was soon to be a real pilot, if only a beginner. And Patty, admiring Susan as always, unselfishly forgot her own disappointment and was duly excited over her chum’s prospect of realizing the ambition she had cherished for so long.
During the days when her check flights and examination were delayed by weather conditions, for it was now late January and there were alternate thaws and storms, Susan found little to write in her diary, but she went to bed early every night, called the airport every morning to see whether there was any chance of a lesson, and watched the weather reports carefully.
She looked over the newspapers always for flying-news, and one dark morning, while sleet drove against the windows of the Thompson home and the roads were nearly impassable, she found an interesting surprise in the headlines.
AMERICAN FLIER ATTEMPTS
Montgomery Wheelock, Millionaire Sportsman and War Aviator, Takes Off To-day on Attempt to Fly Around South America—Non-stop Flight with Ten Refueling-Points.
Her exclamation drew her father’s attention, and with her he read the details of how the flier planned to leave
Los Angeles, fly
down the Pacific coast of South America around
the Horn, and return by the Atlantic coast. There were details about the
project, the co-pilot, and the navigator, but the story emphasized the fact
that Wheelock had himself planned and financed the expedition, which was to
establish a new record if it was successfully completed. In reading the
newspaper account, Susan learned much that nobody in Midford High School had
suspected of the football coach; and her father was also surprised to find that
the man he had known as an unassuming pilot, was not only an expert flier who
had owned his own amphibian and land planes for years, but was a well-known
Wall Street operator as well.
Susan lost no time in telling Patty the news and it spread like wild-fire through the school. Polly Smith reminded every one of the fact that she had known about the trip before any of the girls had heard of it. Never before had so many copies of the Midford newspapers been bought and so eagerly read by boys and girls, and the interest was so intense that the school bulletins recorded the progress of the flight every day.
Susan was vividly interested in the Wheelock expedition, but she did not neglect her own flying, and the first good day found her at the airport again. It was a Saturday and she arrived early in the morning. The weather was clear but cold and Susan had put two sweaters under her winter flying-suit, and a wool muffler around her neck, as well as extra skating-socks under the shoes and arctics.
“And putting on skating-socks reminds me,” she said to her mother, “that I haven’t done any skating this year, except on two evenings. I certainly have devoted this winter to flying.”
“Well, skating doesn’t compare with flying as something to do, does it?” pointed out Mrs. Thompson. And Susan hastened to say that she did not grudge one minute she had spent at the airport.
When she reached the field, this Saturday morning, she was a little cast down by what she learned there. First, Jack Wright had gone by train to a neighboring State to take delivery on a new plane ordered by one of the students. He was expected back during the morning, but she met another disappointment when Harry Copley told her she would have to “take more time,” because she had not flown for several days. “Taking time” meant going through instruction again, and although Susan hated this, because it would add at least a half-hour to the ten and a half she had already spent in the air and would be put on her record, she knew it was for her own good and was a rule made for the safety of students, who always lost a little knack if they went long without practising flying.
So she took off the warm flying-clothes that she did not need in the hangar, and substituted one of the “monkey suits” that mechanics wore, picked up a spark-plug wrench, and went out to watch Sam Connell make adjustments on a motor that was being taken down to the machine-shop.
Suddenly there came to her ears the hum of an airplane motor, and she ran out to the field, her wrench still in her hand. She had hoped to see Jack Wright arriving, but a little white biplane came down on the snowy field, as lightly as a feather, and taxied up to a point close to her. A woman’s voice called from the plane:
“Can you sell me some gas and show me a place where I can eat?”
It was a sweet voice with a charming English accent, and as the pilot raised her goggles, Susan recognized a face she had often seen in the newspapers. It was Lady Mary Heath, transport-pilot and licensed mechanic, famous heroine of a long-distance flight from
England to Africa, and winner of many records—and this was the
English Moth plane she had always favored. As Susan came closer the pilot
realized that she was speaking to a girl. She laughed and apologized.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought you were a mechanic. But I would like some gas for my ship and a cup of coffee for myself.”
By this time some of the staff of the field had arrived, and while mechanics were taking care of the ship, Susan escorted Lady Heath to the canteen. The flier was wearing a leopard-skin coat and helmet with very high laced boots, and Susan made a mental note of the fact that fur was attractive for winter flying-costumes.
She had a pleasant conversation with the aviatrix.
Lady Heath showed deep interest in the young student, wishing her luck, and encouraging her with stories of her own training.
“I have an awful time making a good landing,” Susan confessed, and Lady Heath said that she had known the same difficulty once upon a time. Before she took off, to resume her trip across the country, the famous woman flier visited the headquarters of Bill Thompson’s concern and met Susan’s father, with whom she found topics of mutual interest to discuss. She spoke of flying in
“It must have changed a lot since war-time,” said the former officer of the Royal Flying Corps. “I hope to go over before very long and see how things are managed in
and on the Continent. If Susan is a good girl, she may go with me.”
Lady Heath said she was sure Susan would be a good girl, as well as a good flier. Then, with a pleasant farewell, the attractive woman who had flown thousands of miles alone in a tiny plane, hopped into the cockpit of her little ship, taxied to the starting-point, and was soon a speck in the western sky.
This was an experience Susan enjoyed, but she was glad when at noon another whirring motor announced the arrival of Jack Wright. He came in, cold and tired, and had lunch at the canteen, saying he had some business to attend to in the office before Susan could have her lesson. Then he had to take up the student who owned the new ship. Sue was disappointed at the delay, and as she watched the other students of the school coming in for lessons and going off into the sky with their pilot-instructors, she felt perilously close to tears.
The other students were all young men—some clerks, others mechanics, one a policeman. The student who owned the new ship was a wealthy young banker. None of them was as near the completion of his course as herself and all of them, she knew, had less free time for flying than she did, so that even if she had wanted to take another instructor, she would not have felt justified in using the time booked for the other students. Some of them had to take instruction at lunch hours, or early in the morning, to enable them to carry on with their wage-earning; and none of them, except the banker, was well off. To each of these men, with that exception, aviation was a goal for which they had saved money, often at the cost of even the necessities of life. To the banker, it was a great sport.
So Susan greeted each of them cheerfully, as they donned their equipment and left the field. Finally, when the early winter twilight seemed sadly close, Jack Wright, with many apologies, told her to be ready. That was superfluous. Susan had been ready for hours, it seemed to her, but she put on her parachute, her muffler, her arctics, her helmet, picked up her gloves and goggles, and followed her instructor to their training-ship.
This, she knew, would be her last real lesson in ordinary flying with Jack Wright, and she felt suddenly sorry that her instruction was so near its end. When she was seated in the rear cockpit, he stood on the wing beside her and watched while she turned the switch off and on, calling “Switch off,” “Clear,” and “Contact” in response to the queries of the mechanic out in front who was twisting the propeller to start the motor.
Susan had done this often before, just as she had learned to “twirl the booster” and start the magneto on other ships, but she had never felt it so significantly as she did to-day. And when at last the motor started to roar, and she caught it with a push of the throttle-handle forward, immediately retarding to avoid letting the ship run away, she felt both proud and sad.
She was too busy flying after that to feel anything but absorption in her work. She took the ship off, flew to a thousand feet, did two figure eights, and landed. As the ship came down, she realized she was going too fast and would overshoot the field, or be unable to stop at a safe distance from the hangars, so she “gave it the gun” again and climbed to make another circle of the field and a better landing.
“You beat me to the gun when you overshot,” said Wright. “Good!”
Susan was excited by the difficulty she had in keeping the ship from ground-looping, or turning sharp circles, as she taxied it back to the starting-point. A ground-loop may be serious or it may be trivial, she knew, but she did not care to have any at all. Jack Wright recognized her symptoms, and on the third attempt at landing, he coached her, just as he had done when they first began to practise this.
“Shall I never learn to land properly?” Susan thought to herself in exasperation as she rose above the hangars on her third take-off. “What good would it be to fly the
Atlantic, if you couldn’t put your ship down safely on
the other side?"
On the third try, she nearly went to the other extreme and undershot, but Jack Wright went on coaching her in his calm, quiet, patient way. He allowed her to choose her own moment for shutting off the motor, and then, as she put the ship into the gliding angle, she heard his voice.
“Bank a little here—now straighten out—straight into the field—keep coming—don’t dive her—that’s right—give her the gun, you won’t make it—good—blip the motor again—don’t let it die on you—a right—keep coming—down—down—level off—bring back that stick slowly—all right—hold it back!”
By the sigh she gave when they were landed, Susan knew she had been holding her breath again. But Wright did not seem concerned. The sun was still above the horizon, although it was brilliant scarlet, and a cold brazen tint was covering the sky. The instructor scanned the horizon, while they waited for another ship to land. Then he said:
“Guess I’ll let you fly with Copley now. Are you too cold?”
Susan was too excited to be cold. They taxied to the hangar and Wright sent a mechanic for Copley, who came out, evidently expecting this, because he was wearing his flying-clothes and parachute.
“Hello, Susan,” he said. “Going to take me for a ride?” Then when Wright had hopped out, he climbed into the front cockpit in a leisurely way. “All right, let’s go,” he added, and sat back, apparently ready to let the girl take full charge.
She felt a little awed at first, knowing this was her check flight, but forgot it as soon as she had taken off, and repeated the figure eights she had done before. She was flying straight when, to her astonishment, Copley rose in his place, turned, and faced her over the wind-shield.
“There’s nothing like it!” he said. “Gosh, what did the world do before there was flying!”
Susan didn’t know what to say to this, so she simply smiled and nodded.
“Let’s see you stall her,” commanded the operations-manager. “Pull her up—up—easy now, no spins,” and Susan brought her ship down, just before it had gone too far.
“Do you think you could make a forced landing?” he asked, his elbows resting on the space between the two cockpits. Susan shrugged her shoulders and said:
“I hope so!”
"Well, try it!" said Copley, and without an instant's warning, shut off the motor.
Immediately and instinctively Susan put the ship into the gliding angle, looked around for the field, and made a gliding turn and bank down to it.
There was no advice from the front cockpit this time, and the girl was pleased to find herself coming into the field very well, and to feel the delicious little settling motion that a ship has when it is being "set down" just right.
"Very good, Susan!" said Copley. "Do another like that and you're O.K."
They were not very far into the field, so the girl pushed the throttle way ahead, pushed her stick forward, brought it back, and was off quickly. The sun had gone now, and the sky was rose and violet, while the border-lights made a gold and red circle about the field like a wreath of little jewels. The beacon flashed just as Susan banked for her first turn, and the light seemed to wink at her cheerfully. She felt quite gay as she shut off the motor, and in the light of the sunset afterglow, made a landing that had a few little bumps, but still seemed to pass Copley's approval.
"I'll bring her in for you," he said, and taking the stick in the front cockpit, he flew across the field in a fascinating way that Susan knew she would not be able to manage for many years, if ever.
At the hangar, she found Jack Wright and her father waiting. Bill Thompson helped his daughter unfasten her safety-belt and parachute, and jump down from the edge of the cockpit. Susan rubbed her hands and stamped her feet.
“How did she do?” asked Mr. Thompson, and Jack Wright echoed the inquiry.
“Ready to cut loose any time,” said Copley cheerfully. “She’s ‘Susan, the Sky Girl’ from now on.” Susan’s heart gave a leap at these words and then seemed to miss a beat.
“I thought so,” said Jack Wright. “We’ll have Inspector Driscoll take her up to-morrow and then she’ll check out.”
As she heard the words, standing beside her ship among the older pilots in the winter dusk, the whole thing seemed to Susan like a dream.
PILOT SUSAN THOMPSON
"OH, Mother!” shouted Susan, the minute she reached the house, “to-morrow I check out and go solo—if I’m good enough!”
There was great rejoicing in the Thompson household. Then Susan rushed to the telephone to tell Patty, who said she was coming right over, because she too had some news. It proved to be a letter from New Haven, saying that Phil had not only secured his Federal private license, but had been appointed to Kelly Field, the army training-base for aviators, which every year accepts a certain number of civilian candidates.
“I’m a member of the Yale R.O.T.C. unit of the Artillery Reserve anyway,” wrote Phil, “which helped a little; and if I make good at Kelly Field, I may go into the army Aviation Corps myself and make it my career. Tell Susan Thompson and ask her what her father thinks of the idea. He knows about the army. It’s a stiff course and lots of fellows get washed out because they can’t make the grade, but I won’t go until I get through here next June, and I intend to make good at it. If I fail, that s my hard luck.”
This was interesting enough in itself, but there was more to come, for hardly had Susan, her parents, and Patty adjourned to the living-room after dinner, when Junior, as always busy at the radio, tuned in on a station that was giving Associated Press news. And the news proved to be the report that Montgomery Wheelock, known as “Bud” to
Midford High School, had successfully completed his long
flight and was reported as having arrived safely in Panama, the end of his journey.
So many telephone calls had to be exchanged between Susan and her schoolmates as a result of all these exciting developments in one evening, that it was much later than usual when she got to bed. And after she had finished making her daily entry in her diary, she was still too excited to go to sleep. But it was her entry the next night that was most interesting and here it is:
“First thing this morning I remembered that today I was going to meet my test and see if I had really learned to fly. It was a gray day, the air misty, and it felt as if it might snow before night. But I went down to the field early, as we had agreed.
“Mother and Patty said they would not go down, because it might make me self-conscious; and Junior didn’t show any more interest than usual, but Father said of course he would be there. Why not? He thought they were foolish, because he said any flier who paid attention to those who were looking on would crack up anyway, sooner or later—and it might as well be sooner! But maybe he was only joking.
“Anyway, I went down with him, as usual, and felt pretty calm. I did not have much sleep last night because there was so much excitement all evening, but I did not feel a bit sleepy, because to-day was the biggest day of my life in some ways.
“When we got to the field Harry Copley had gone somewhere to get delivery on a new ship and I was sorry he was not there, but I found Jack Wright waiting for me.
“He looked at me very seriously and said, ‘You wouldn’t be afraid to fly by yourself right now, if I told you to go solo, would you? I told him, No, of course not,’ and I really meant it. I was not a bit scared.
“He took me for one hop around the field, to be sure the ship was all right, he said. The air was a little rough, but I made one landing and then he taxied the ship up to the Inspector’s headquarters and went in.
“He told me to hold the throttle down and keep the stick back while he was gone, and for just a minute I almost hoped Inspector Driscoll would not be there, but he was. Then he and Wright came up to the ship and I said to Jack, ‘Will it feel any different when there is nobody in the front seat?’ And he said, ‘I am glad you are so sure you are going to fly alone, but you won’t mind the difference and the stabilizer can stay where it is.’
“So then the Inspector got in and told me I was to taxi to the starting-point and go up, just as I do with Wright for figure eights. He said, ‘I shall want you to show me banks from fifteen to sixty-five degrees, but I shall not require vertical banks.’ Then he said he would tell me when to land, and if I made three good landings when he was in the ship, he would turn me loose and let me see if I could make three landings solo.
“The dual controls were still in the ship, of course, and I started out, just as I have always done with Jack Wright in front of me. As soon as I gave it the gun and started off, I forgot I was flying the ship myself. The Inspector, who is an expert, of course, and would be looking for all my faults, seemed just as if he were Jack Wright.
“I went up to fifteen hundred feet and made figure eights with different degrees of banks, and then he pointed down and I made my landing—the best I have ever done. When we were on the ground, he told me to make two more landings, from lower heights, and I did. The first one bumped a little, but the third was pretty good. I made these both with a three-hundred-sixty-degree turn, shutting off power when I was headed away from the field and gliding in.
“Still he didn’t say anything, and I was afraid I had made some mistake, but I taxied back to the take-off point, and then he got out and climbed out of the front cockpit and stood beside me. He said, ‘Do you feel all right to go solo?’ and I said, ‘Yes, indeed I do.’ So he said, ‘Very well, take off as usual and fly about half-way to Wethersfield Cove down there on the river; then turn under power and throttle her down when you are headed for the field, and come in on a long straight glide. I will be standing here, but don’t be afraid you will hit me. After you make your landing, I will tell you what to do next.’
“Then he moved away and I was all alone in the ship! It was sort of incredible and yet wonderful, but I did not feel the least bit afraid. I looked over at the hangar and there was a group watching me, but I did not look at them long. I had her headed into the wind, anyhow, so I just gave her the gun and started off. It did not feel the least bit different on the take-off and I went up over the hangar roofs perfectly. I was glad the wind was that way, for I would rather go up over the hangars and field buildings, and come in over the river and woods, than do it any other way.
“The air was still bumpy, naturally, but I did not mind and I revved it back after I had made my first turn, but the ship kept climbing, even with the tachometer down to twelve and a half. I was flying the Challenger, which we have been using for several weeks now. I looked at the altimeter and it said almost a thousand feet and still climbing, so I headed the nose down because I didn’t want to break an altitude record without meaning to. It seemed wonderful.
“I looked around and felt as if I owned the whole world. It was perfectly marvelous to be up there, flying alone and getting away with it. I thought how lucky Dad was to have been flying all these years, and decided I would never, never, never give it up, even when I get to be an old lady. I thought beforehand I might miss seeing my pilot’s head in front of me, but instead it seemed awfully nice just to see the nose of the ship and the horizon.
“Then I was about half-way between the field and the cove, so I banked and turned and headed back, then shut off the motor. I could see the Inspector standing there, looking so tiny. I had never made a landing like this before and I wondered if I was high enough so I could glide all the way, or did I need more power, or what? I peeped over the edge and the trees down below looked tall, but men working on the road looked small. Anyhow, I kept on with the glide and blipped the motor a couple of times, to make sure I had power enough. I was so busy thinking about landing that I forgot I was alone, or rather I forgot to be worried about what would happen if I made a mistake, with nobody there to take care of everything. Anyhow, I made the field all right, and there I was.
“Inspector Driscoll came up and said, ‘Make two more, any way you want to,’ so I took off, feeling just slick. I tried to wave to Father and Jack Wright and the men at the hangar, but the wind nearly blew my hand off my arm, so I gave up the idea.
“I made both the other landings with gliding banks and turns. They were both so good that I was surprised, and after the last one, the Inspector came over to me. He didn’t say anything, but got into the front cockpit and taxied the ship to the hangar.
“I was afraid I had made some error, but he got out over there while I waited. All the people from Dad’s place came up around the plane—and there were Mother and Patty and Junior, right in the midst of the crowd!
“I still sat in the ship, because I thought the Inspector might be going to say I needed some more lessons, but instead he reached over and shook hands with me, saying, ‘Let me be the first to congratulate you, Miss Thompson. You did very well!’
“I had soloed and passed inspection in twelve hours of flying-time.
“Then Father lifted me out and kissed me; and I hugged Jack Wright and Mother and everybody, and I was so sorry Harry Copley wasn’t there.
“We went over to the Inspector’s office—Jack Wright and Dad and I—and I had my first license made out and paid for in about fifteen minutes. I certainly will always treasure it, no matter how many other licenses I may win.
“Then Father said to Jack, ‘It is just about the time we thought she would be through. This must be Copley now.’ Sure enough, I heard a plane coming and looked out, and there was a perfectly lovely little Avian coming in, white and gold and blue. It flew right up to our hangar. Harry Copley jumped out and when I got there, with Father and Jack Wright and Inspector Driscoll, Mother and Patty were there too, and all the men from the school and the shop, and a lot of people I didn’t know.
“I ran up to Harry, who was puttering around the cockpit.
“ ‘Oh, Harry, I got my license!’ I said. ‘Just this minute! Isn’t it wonderful? I’m so happy!’
“And he said, ‘I should say it is, but I knew you would come through. How do you like this ship?’
“I said, ‘It’s a peach.’ And Dad said, ‘Jump in and see how it feels to be sitting in your own ship.’
“I could not believe my ears at first, but he picked up a flap of white canvas that was hanging over the side of the cockpit, hiding that part of the fuselage, and there it was painted in blue and gold:
“ ‘SKY GIRL. Pilot Susan Thompson.’
“And inside the cockpit was the license card and everything, all made out to me; and mounted on the engine cowling was a little gold owl.
“It seemed too wonderful to be real. The whole thing was like a dream, and I looked around at everybody and burst into tears, like a big baby. Mother cried a little, too, and Dad hugged me. Jack Wright patted my back and Harry Copley gave me a huge handkerchief. And Patty said, ‘Susan, I’m ashamed of you,’ but she looked kind of sniffly, too.
“I said, ‘But my license says I can fly light-weight commercial biplanes, eighteen hundred pounds. Is this all right?’ And Dad said, ‘Oh, I guess between us we can teach you how to manage it.’ Then everybody laughed, and I laughed, too, and got into my own dear little ship and felt happier than I ever have before in my life.
“I am sorry for the girls who lived in the years before flying was possible.
“Mother says I have just sprouted my wings, and I know that I have many happy adventures ahead of me in the skies.”
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.