Page:Air Service Boys over the Rhine.djvu/14

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of heavy French aeroplane carrying two or more persons and tons of explosive bombs.

An air raid on the German lines by a fleet of these machines had been planned. It had been timed for an early hour of the night, but a mist coming up just as the squadron of heavy machines, each with two men and a ton or more of explosives, was ready to set out, the hour had been changed. So it was not until after midnight that the start had been made.

And now the boys were coming back—that is all who were able to return. One machine was missing. At least, that was the assumption of Tom and Jack, for they could count but nine where there should have been ten. And of the nine one was coming back so slowly as to indicate trouble.

One by one the machines, which ordinarily came back before daybreak, landed, and the pilot and the observer of each climbed clumsily down from their cramped seats. They were stiff with cold, in spite of the fur-lined garments they wore—garments that turned them, for the moment, into animated Teddy bears, or the likeness of Eskimos.

Their faces were worn and haggard, for the strain of an airship bombing raid is terrific. But they were quiet and self-possessed as they walked stiffly across the field to make a report.