III. THE LAST FLIGHT
On Tuesday, September 11, the weather was once more uncertain. But morning fogs by the seaside do not last, and the sun soon began to shine. Guynemer had had a restless night after his failures, and had brooded, as irritable people do, over the very things that made him fretful. Chasing without his new airplane—the enchanting machine which he had borne in his mind so many months, as a women bears her child, and which at last he had felt soaring under him—was no pleasure. He missed it so much that the feeling became an obsession, until he made up his mind to leave for Buc before the day was over. Indeed, he would have done so sooner had he not been haunted by the idea that he must first bring down his Boche. But since the Boche did not seem to be willing.... Now he is resolved, and more calm; he will go to Paris this very evening. He has only to while away the time till the train is due. The prospect in itself is quieting, and besides Major du Peuty, one of the chiefs of Aviation at Headquarters, and Major Brocard, recently appointed attache to the Minister of Aeronautics, were coming down by the early train. They were sure to arrive at the camp between nine and ten, and a conversation with them could not but be instructive and illuminating; so, better wait for them.
But, in spite of these tranquillizing thoughts, Guynemer was restless, and his face showed the sallow color which always foreboded his physical relapses. His mind was not really made up, and he would come and go, strolling from his tent to the sheds and from the sheds to his tent. He was not cross, only nervous. Suddenly he went back to the shed and examined his Vieux-Charles. Why, the machine was not so bad after all; the motor and guns had been repaired, and yesterday’s accident was not likely to happen again. If so, why not fly? In the absence of Heurtaux, Guynemer was in command, and once more the necessity of setting a good example forced itself upon him. Several flyers had started on scouting work already; the fog was quickly lifting, the day would soon be resplendent, and the notion of duty too quickly dazzled him, like the sun. For duty had always been his motive power; he had always anticipated it, from the day when he was fighting to enlist at Biarritz to this 11th of September, 1917. It was neither the passion for glory nor the craze to be an aviator which had caused him to join, but his longing to be of use; and in the same way his last flights were made in obedience to his will to serve.
All at once he was really resolved. Sous-lieutenant Bozon-Verduraz was requested to accompany him, and the mechanicians wheeled the machines out. One of his comrades asked with assumed negligence: “Aren’t you going to wait till Major du Peuty and Major Brocard arrive?” Guynemer’s only answer was to wave towards the sky then freeing itself from its veils of fog as he himself was shaking off his hesitancy, and his friend felt that he must not be urgent. Everybody of late had noticed his nervousness, and Guynemer knew it and resented it; tact was more necessary than ever with him. Let it be remembered that he was the pet, almost the spoiled child, of his service, and that it had never been easy to approach him.