Certainly, as seen spread out on the almost level stretch of hard sand the monster bombing plane did have a powerful appearance that must favorably impress any experienced pilot. Tom and Jack had noted several things about it calculated to inspire confidence. They were taking tremendous risks, of course, but then that was nothing novel in their lives as aviators.
“Is there anything to delay us further?” asked Jack naively, feeling that even minutes might count when the issue was so plainly outlined.
“I do not know of the slightest reason,” admitted Lieutenant Beverly, moving toward the bombing plane and followed by his two comrades. “And that being the case, let’s get aboard. Anything like a written message you would like to leave behind, to be sent in case we are never heard from again, boys? You can give it to my cousin, the major here, who will attend to it.”
Both Tom and Jack had thought of this long before, and each had prepared a simple statement which would explain their fate in case they met with disaster on the flight. These sealed and directed envelopes they now handed to Major Denning.
“Depend on me to hold them until all doubt is past,” he told them, as he warmly pressed a hand of each.
Then Lieutenant Beverly gave the word to his men, and immediately the hum of the giant motors announced that they were off on their amazing trip to span the Atlantic, as it had never been done before, by way of the air!
THE FIRST NIGHT OUT
It was with a strange feeling of exhilaration that Tom and Jack realized the fact that at last they were embarked on a flight that would either bring about their death or, if successful, make a record in long distance non-stop travel in a heavier-than-air machine.
The cheers of the men on the beach had been drowned in the roar of the powerful motors and twin propellers when they left the land and commenced to sweep upward in a graceful curve.
Both boys looked down to catch the last glimpse of France, the land so closely associated with liberty in the minds of all true Americans. It was in her cause two million young Yankees were at that very hour facing the Boche in a determined effort to chase him back over the Rhine and force a stern settlement for all the devastation his armies had wrought.
Quickly did the darkness blot out all trace of land. Back some little distance, it was true, they could still glimpse feeble lights, marking the location of Dunkirk. The French no longer feared to illuminate to a limited extent since bombing planes no longer came raiding at night, nor did that unseen monster Krupp cannon deliver its regular messages of bursting shells.
Below them lay the English Channel, and Lieutenant Beverly had so shaped the course that as they rose higher and higher they were heading directly across, with the eastern shore of England close enough to have afforded them a view of the land had it not been night-time.