something happened to his engine just then. After all, even a Liberty motor could play a trick on its pilot master, just as that fine French engine on his former Spad machine had done a few times.
The airplane started to shoot downward at frightful speed, leaving the Hun far behind. Tom kept his head, and bent every energy to trying to get the motor started again, meanwhile working also to keep on a fairly level keel. He had passed through a similar experience on other occasions, but never when hovering over the German lines with a battle in progress under him.
A sickening sensation gripped his heart, for it flashed before his mind that this might be the end. Like every other aviator, he had defied Fate every time he went up, and at last the dreadful moment had come for him to pay the price!
Not for a single second, even while feeling that queer sensation grip him, did Tom cease working frantically to start his engine. He knew he had one last forlorn chance left. A few seconds would tell the story, and either he must be lucky enough to have his balky engine suddenly start again in response to his frantic efforts, or else—well, he dared not allow himself to dwell on what would happen to him when he struck the ground with all the frightful momentum of his falling machine.