“You don’t blame Jack, do you?” asked Tom.
“I should say not!” came the ready answer, accompanied by a keen look, first at Jack and then at the other, as a dazzling idea suddenly flashed into Beverly’s mind. “Business before pleasure, every time with me; and it’s only right you should devote every atom of your mind and body to beating that skunk to the post.”
“We’ve settled on that policy all right,” said Jack. “The only trouble is we haven’t so far found a remedy to overcome his long lead; for he’s got almost two days’ run head of me, you understand.”
Tom saw the lieutenant smile broadly and draw a long breath. Then something seemed to grip his heart as he heard Beverly say:
“Hold on! I’ve got an inspiration, boys. Perhaps there may be a way open to beat him to it yet!”
THE AMAZING PLAN
“Tell us what you mean, please?” begged the excited Jack.
“Take things coolly, to begin with,” warned the other; “because what I’m going to say will almost stun you at first, I suppose. But it’s no new idea with me. Fact is, I’d planned it all out in my mind long ago; had it more than half arranged at the time I ordered that monster Martin bomber built at my own expense and shipped over to France.”
“Yes,” muttered Jack, while he kept his eyes glued hungrily on the flushed face of the other.
Tom said nothing, but looked as though he already half guessed what was coming, if the eager and expectant gleam in his eyes signified anything.
“I explained to you,” the lieutenant continued steadily, “that the big bomber was equipped for a trip to Berlin and back; and went so far as to say the flight could be repeated without making a landing, if there was any need of such a thing. All right, then; in a pinch, properly loaded with plenty of gasoline and stores, that machine would be able to take three fellows like you two and myself all the way across the Atlantic, and land us on American soil! Get that, do you, Jack?”
No one said a word for half a minute. The proposition was so astounding that it might well have appalled the stoutest heart. At that time no one had attempted to cross the Atlantic in a heavier-than-air plane, a feat later on successfully accomplished. Nobody had piloted the way in a Yankee-made seaplane; nor had any one navigated the air passage in a monster dirigible. The three thousand miles of atmosphere lying between Europe and America still stood an uncharted sea of vapor, where every imaginable evil might lie in wait for the modern Columbus of aerial navigation.
Then Jack drew a long breath. The lieutenant was watching the play of emotion across his face, and he knew the seed had been sown in good ground, where it was bound to take root. Jack’s extremity would be his, Lieutenant Beverly’s, opportunity. So he returned to the attack, meaning to “strike while the iron was hot.”