The air service boy lived ages in that brief period of time. Never could he forget the agony that gripped his soul. There flashed before his memory the faces of those he loved at home, those whom he might never see again.
Then it was over. The engine had suddenly yielded to his frantic efforts, and once more commenced to throb with renewed life. Tom, with tremendous exertion, managed to right his tottering plane and steady it on an even keel.
His observer lay in a huddled heap in his seat. But for the safety belt he must have slid into space. Tom could not tell whether he was dead or had simply swooned.
That was a matter for the future. Just now he must concern himself with the task of extricating himself from his fresh perilous position. So rapidly had he fallen that amidst the swirling smoke clouds he could plainly see the Germans just below; and that he must be visible to his enemies he quickly had reason to understand.
Even as he started to spin away, shrapnel burst close beside his plane. Machine-guns also began to chatter underneath, and he saw that the wings of his plane were being cut by the hail of missiles that came up in swarms, like buzzing bees, each armed with a sting.
Dodging this way and that in eccentric lines, Tom brought into play all his acquired knowl-