“Excuse me if I act a little looney, fellows!” he begged. “Fact is, I’m just keyed up to topnotch and something will give way unless I let off steam a bit.”
With that he yelled and laughed and cheered until his breath gave out. Neither of the others felt any inclination to try to stop his antics. Truth to tell, they were tempted to egg Jack on, because he was really expressing in his own fashion something of the same exultation that all of them felt.
The great flight had been carried through, and here they were landed on the soil of America, three young aviators who but a few days before had been serving their country on the fighting-front in Northern France. Yes, the Atlantic had been successfully bridged by a heavier-than-air plane, and from the time of leaving France until this minute their feet had not once pressed any soil; for that ice-pack in mid-Atlantic could not be counted against them, since it too was nothing but congealed water.
“But the poor old bomber! It’s ruined, Colin, I’m afraid,” Jack finally managed to say, when he sank down from his exertions.
“That’s a small matter,” Beverly assured him. “The main thing is that we did what we set out to do, and proved that the dream of all real airmen could be made to come true. We may live to see a procession of monster boats of the air setting out for over-seas daily, carrying passengers, as well as mail and express matter.”
“Yes,” said Tom gravely, and yet with a pardonable trace of pride in voice and manner, “the Atlantic has been conquered, and saddled, and bridled, like any wild broncho of the plains. But hadn’t we better be thinking of getting out of this soft marshy tract?”
“As quickly as we possibly can,” Jack told him. “We’ll try to run across some Virginia farmer, black or white, who will have a horse and agree to take us to the nearest railroad station. Once we hit civilization, the rest will be easy.”
“What about the plane, Colin?” asked Tom.
“It can stay here for the time being,” the other answered him. “Later on I’ll hire some one to have it hauled out and stored against my coming back—after we’ve been a while in Berlin and got Heine to behaving himself.”
They secured such things as it was desirable they should keep. Acting on Tom’s advice everything that might testify to their identity was also removed, lest the bogged plane be accidentally discovered and betray them. Afterwards they set out to find a way beyond the borders of the marsh and scrub oaks, to some place where possibly they might get assistance.
“Here’s the end of the marshy tract,” Tom said, after they had been floundering around for some little time.
“How fine it feels to be on solid ground again,” Jack observed, stamping his feet as though he really enjoyed the sensation.