As he looked, the eyes opened in his wife’s swollen face, eyes aglow with triumph. “You’ll swing for it, Mart!” she whispered faintly. “And the money’s on the table! Tobey’s saved!”
Rough hands were on the door. A flutter of breath like a sigh of relief crossed her lips and her lids dropped as the door burst open to a tide of men.
The big yellow butterfly swung low on his golden wings and came to rest on her narrow, sunken breast.
BY GORDON ARTHUR SMITH
From Harper’s Monthly Magazine
Steve Dempsey was a conspicuously ingenious chief machinist’s mate—one of the most ingenious in the Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service, and he was ingenious not only with his hands, but with his tongue. That is why I cannot guarantee the veracity of what follows; I can but guarantee that he guaranteed it.
Steve had had a varied and highly coloured career, and I think that the war, or so much of it as he was permitted to see, seemed to him a comparatively tame affair—something all in the year’s work. When he was fifteen years old he was conducting his father’s public garage in a town not far from Denver; at that age he knew as much about motors as the men who built them, and he had, moreover, the invaluable knack of putting his finger immediately on a piece of erring mechanism and, with the aid of a bit of wire and a pair of pliers, setting it to rights. Given enough wire and a pair of pliers, I believe that he could have built the Eiffel Tower.
Becoming restless in the garage, he determined to make his fortune quickly, and accordingly went out prospecting in the vicinity of the Little Annie mine. He bought himself a small patch of promising ground and he and another fellow shovelled away until they had no money left. So then he took up aviation.
He was one of the pioneers of the flying-men in this country. He used to fly at country fairs in an old ramshackle bus of the Wright model—a thing of sticks and canvas and wires precariously hung together. But he flew it. And he rehabilitated his finances.
When war was declared he enlisted as a gob and was sent on sea duty. He knew, of course, nothing of sea duty, but lack of knowledge of a subject had never daunted him, for he had the faculty of learning things quickly by himself and for himself. His mechanical ability asserting itself, he was made a machinist’s mate, second class, and transferred over to the Aviation. When I knew him he had proved so valuable at the various air stations that he had been advanced to chief machinist’s mate and was an assistant in the Technical Division at Paris headquarters.
He was a very friendly soul, always respectful enough, even when outspoken, and no more in fear of an admiral than of—well, he would have said than of a marine. During his year of service, you see, he had absorbed most of the navy traditions. He spoke the navy speech like an old-timer, and undoubtedly amplified the regular navy vocabulary with picturesque expressions of his own. Of course he was very profane....