On landing, his first word was to ask about Guynemer.
“Not back yet!”
Bozon-Verduraz knew it. He knew that Guynemer had been taken away from him.
The telephone and the wireless sent their appeals around, airplanes started on anxious cruises. Hour followed hour, and evening came, one of those late summer evenings during which the horizon wears the tints of flowers; the shadows deepened, and no news came of Guynemer. From neighboring camps French, British, or Belgian comrades arrived, anxious for news. Everywhere the latest birds had come home, and one hardly dared ask the airmen any question.
But the daily routine had to be dispatched, as if there were no mourning in the camp. All the young men there were used to death, and to sporting with it; they did not like to show their sorrow; but it was deep in them, sullen and fierce.
At dinner a heavy melancholy weighed upon them. Guynemer’s seat was empty, and no one dreamed of taking it. One officer tried to dispel the cloud by suggesting hypotheses. Guynemer was lucky, had always been; probably he was alive, a prisoner.
Guynemer a prisoner!... He had said one day with a laugh, “The Boches will never get me alive,” but his laugh was terrible. No, Guynemer could not have been taken prisoner. Where was he, then?
On the squadron log, sous-lieutenant Bozon-Verduraz wrote that evening as follows:
11, 1917. Patrolled. Captain Guynemer started
at 8.25 with sous-lieutenant Bozon-Verduraz. Found missing after
an engagement with a biplane above Poelkapelle (Belgium).
That was all.
IV. THE VIGIL
Before Guynemer, other knights of the air, other aces, had been reported missing or had perished—some like Captain Le Cour Grandmaison or Captain Auger in our lines, others like Sergeant Sauvage and sous-lieutenant Dorme in the enemy’s. In fact, he would be the thirteenth on the list if the title of ace is reserved for aviators to whom the controlling board has given its vise for five undoubted victories. These were the names:
Captain Le Cour Grandmaison 5 victories Sergeant Hauss 5 " sous-lieutenant Delorme 5 " sous-lieutenant Pegoud 6 " sous-lieutenant Languedoc 7 " Captain Auger 7 " Captain Doumer 7 " sous-lieutenant Rochefort 7 " Sergeant Sauvage 8 " Captain Matton 9 " Adjutant Lenoir 11 " sous-lieutenant Dorme 23 "
Would Guynemer’s friends now have to add: Captain Guynemer, 53? Nobody dared to do so, yet nobody now dared hope.