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Aces Up   By: (1892-)

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Covington Clarke






"By the shore of life and the gate of breath, There are more things waiting for men than death."



The New Instructor


Tex Yancey, called "The Flying Fool" by his comrades in the th Pursuit Squadron of the American Expeditionary Force, entered the mess hall with lips pressed into a thin, mirthless grin that seemed entirely inappropriate in one who was thirty minutes late to mess and must therefore make out with what was left. The other members of the squadron had finished their meal and were now engaged in the usual after dinner practice of spinning some tall yarns.

Yancey stalked slowly to his place at the long table, but instead of seating himself stood with hands thrust deep into his pockets and with his long, thin legs spread wide apart. For a full minute he stood there, seeming to be mildly interested in the tale that Hank Porter was telling. But those who knew Tex, as did the members of this squadron, knew that the cynical smile on his thin lips was but the forerunner of some mirthless thing from which only "The Flying Fool" would be able to wring a laugh. His was such a grotesque sense of humor; a highly impractical practical joke was his idea of a riotous time. Someone in the squadron, who had once felt the sting of one of his pranks, had called him a fool, and another member had responded, "Yeah, he's a fool, all right but a flyin' fool!" The tribute had become a nickname, and Yancey rather reveled in it.

Just now his smile was masking some grim joke and his eyes held the mild light of pity.

"Well, Hank," he drawled at last, when Porter had wound up his story, "that yarn, as much as I get of it, would lead the average hombre to pick you out as a sho' 'nuff flyer. I would myself. Me, I'm easy fooled that way. I reckon all you buckaroos think you know somethin' about flyin', eh?"

Standing a full six feet two, he looked down upon them, the look of pity still in his eyes in strange conflict with the mirthless smile still on his lips.

"What's eatin' you?" Porter growled. "We can't help it because you're late for mess. Where've you been?"

Siddons and Hampden, not greatly interested in what they felt was some new strained humor on Yancey's part, pushed back from the table and started for the door, their objective being the French town of Is Sur Tille.

Yancey waited until they were near the door before he answered Porter.

"Oh, I've just been over to Is Sur Tille havin' a look see at this new instructor that's comin' down here to teach us how to fly."

Siddons, with his hand upon the door, wheeled abruptly and studied Yancey's face, trying to discover the jest hidden behind that baffling, masking smile.

"Are you joking us?" he demanded from the doorway, but sufficiently convinced to turn back.

The "Flying Fool" smiled sweetly. "Why, Siddons, I wouldn't kid you all about that sort o' thing," he drawled. "I saw him myself, in town, ridin' in a car with the C.O.[A] Like as not the Major will bring him in here this evenin' for a little chin chin."

A suppressed growl arose from the other pilots.

"What is he coming here for?" young Edouard Fouche demanded, knowing the answer but anxious to have it brought out in the open where it could be attacked and vilified by all.

Yancey seated himself, tilted his chair back from the table and bestowed another sweet smile upon a room filled with scowling faces. It was a delicious moment for Tex.

"Why, he's comin' here to teach you poor worms how to fly. It seems that someone back in the States made a mistake in thinkin' we were pilots. We're here by accident. Ha! Ha! That's what we are just accidents. Did you boys think we were sent over here to get all messed up in this little old war? Tut, tut! We're here just to add grandeur to the colorless scenery... Continue reading book >>

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