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policemen, a dozen sturdy fishermen, and a section of the Rockport
ambulance workers. By the aid of ropes, the still unconscious men
were hauled to the top of the cliffs and carried off on stretchers.
With the help of plenty of strong and willing hands, the waterlogged
whaler, with its ghastly contents, was dragged above high-water
mark - a tell-tale record of the infamous activities of the modern
Hun.

"There's nothing more for us to do," remarked Kaye, as the sad
procession wended its way to the town.

"Isn't there?" rejoined Derek. "I think we'll sprint back to Rockport
and catch the lorry."

"Sure," agreed the still benumbed Biggs. "That's the stunt."




CHAPTER IV

The Night Raider


Biggs was slightly at fault when he expressed his opinion that the
cadets' share in the business was finished. There was a summons to
attend the inquest on the four murdered seamen, a function that Derek
and his companions voted a "dud stunt". However, it proved
interesting, since the two survivors had recovered from their
prolonged exposure, and, in spite of his wounds, one of them was able
to attend the inquest.

It was a plain, unvarnished tale that he told. He described himself
as mate of the s.s. _Falling Star_, a tramp of 250 tons, engaged in
carrying general cargo to the French ports. Within twenty miles of
the English coast the _Falling Star_ was attacked by a German
aeroplane - a huge machine, painted a vivid yellow, and having, in
addition to the usual black crosses, a representation of an eagle
holding a skull in the claws.

The mate was quite emphatic, when cross-examined by a representative
of the Admiralty, that the machine was not a seaplane. It made no
attempt to alight on the water, but circled round the tramp for the
best part of twenty minutes before administering the _coup de
gr√Ґce_. Unarmed, the _Falling Star_ could offer no resistance, and,
as if gloating over its advantage, the Hun machine performed weird
stunts above the tramp. Then, vol-planing down to within two hundred
feet, the Boche dropped a heavy bomb that struck the ship fairly
amidships, killing three and wounding seven members of the crew,
including the whole of the engine-room staff.

The _Falling Star_ sank rapidly, so that there was barely time to
lower away the only boat that had escaped serious damage from the
explosion.

Into her crowded eleven men, who, thinking that they were fortunate
in getting clear of the foundering vessel, began to pull for the
distant shore. Alas for a vain hope! The Hun, flying in a
comparatively small circle, deliberately machine-gunned the hapless
boat until, satisfying himself that the fell work was accomplished,
the German airman flew off, gloating over his gallant victory over
another of the strafed Englander's merchantmen.

"Unless I'm very much mistaken," said Biggs, when the three cadets
were on their way back to the aerodrome, "that low-down Boche is an
old acquaintance. I remember back in '17 that a 'plane marked as
described was causing us a great deal of trouble. The Boche's name
was Count Hertz von Peilfell. Our fellows were particularly anxious
to bring him down. He was a bold flyer, and not at all particular as
to his manners and customs. He was up to all the dirtiest tricks
imaginable, and, when he wasn't night-bombing over our lines, was
wandering across this side of the Channel. He boasted that he had
taken part in three raids on London, and had sunk at least half a
dozen Allied merchantmen by means of bombs. We gave him a warm
reception over Dunkirk, and that was the last time he put in an
appearance as far as we knew. Perhaps he was resting and recuperating
his jangled nerves. However, if this blighter is Von Peilfell, I hope
I'll meet him again, and then let the better man win."

For the next few weeks the work at Averleigh aerodrome proceeded
briskly and strenuously. Somewhat to his surprise and delight, Derek
Daventry was passed out after a comparatively short course, and given
his commission and appointed to a home counties flying-station.

Biggs, too, was able to discard the white band round his cap, and was
promptly sent across to the Somme front; but Kaye was not so
fortunate. Greatly to that worthy's disappointment, he was put back
for another course, for reasons best known to the instructors at
Averleigh T.D.S.

Torringham aerodrome, to which Derek was posted, was a comparatively
new station situated somewhere in Essex. It formed part of the outer
aerial defences of London, and had not yet received its full
establishment. Probably a marked disinclination on the part of the
Boche to tempt fate amid the aerial net defences and improved
anti-aircraft batteries over and around the city was responsible for
the fact that there were few opportunities for the Torringham pilots
to distinguish themselves. Also, the growing superiority of British
and Allied airmen on the Western Front, and the reprisal raids upon
the Rhine towns, kept the Hun airmen pretty much occupied, and
London, in consequence, enjoyed a period of security. Nevertheless
there was always the possibility of a daring Boche attempting to
sneak over the metropolis under cover of darkness, and the British
airmen stationed around London had to be constantly on the alert.

It was on the eighth evening following Derek's arrival at Torringham
that the period of comparative inaction was broken. There happened to
be a dance in progress, to which the officers of the depot had been
invited.

"I don't think I'll take it on, old man," replied Daventry in answer
to a brother officer's suggestion. "I've quite a dozen letters to
write, and I want to turn in early. Hope you'll have a good time."

So Derek sat in solitary state in the practically deserted ante-room
while the revellers proceeded by motor to the scene of the
festivities - a distance of nearly thirty miles.

"That's a good job done!" exclaimed Derek drowsily when the last of
his correspondence was finished. "By Jove, it's nearly midnight! I'll
sleep like a top to-night, unless the returning roysterers rout me
out of my bed."

It seemed to the young officer as if he had not been asleep more than
a couple of minutes when the electric light in his rooms was switched
on and a hand grasped his shoulder.

"Turn out, you blighter!" exclaimed a voice, which Derek failed to
recognize as that of the Officer of the Watch. "They're coming over!"

"Chuck it, old bird!" protested the still sleepy man. "If you want to
rag anyone, try someone else."

"No kid," continued the O.W. "We've just had a telephone message
through to say that a group of Gothas passed over Harwich five
minutes ago making towards London. You're the only pilot left on the
station, so you'll have to go up."

Derek leapt out of bed and hurriedly threw on his clothes. He was not
at all charmed with the prospect, for Torringham lay considerably off
the course usually followed by the Hun raiders. To be literally
hauled out of bed in the small hours of the morning, and to ascend on
a pitch-dark night without any degree of certainty of being within
thirty miles of a Boche airman, seemed "hardly good enough".

By the time Derek arrived at the shed in which his Dromedary biplane
was kept, he felt that much of his drowsiness had passed. It was a
fair night, although slightly overcast. Occasionally the stars shone
through the wide rifts in the vapour. There was little or no wind.

"All ready?" he asked of the Sergeant-Mechanic.

"All ready, sir," was the reply.

By sheer force of habit Daventry tested the controls, and assured
himself that the petrol-tank was filled. Then, donning his
flying-kit, he clambered into his seat.

Along the electrically-lighted ground the biplane ambled, and then
rose magnificently into the night air. A moment later and the
powerful arc-lamps were switched off, and the countryside beneath the
rapidly-climbing 'bus was shrouded in utter darkness.

At six thousand feet Derek found that his sense of lassitude had
completely vanished. The bracing coldness of the rarefied atmosphere
acted more effectually than the best tonic prepared by human agency.
More than once he realized that he was singing at the top of his
voice, as if trying to outrival the terrific roar of the powerful
motors.

He was now well above the stratum of clouds. Overhead the stars shone
brilliantly. He was alone, rushing through space at a speed of ninety
miles an hour.

"Goodness only knows why I'm up here," he reiterated. "Anyway, it's a
jolly picnic. I'll cut out and see if anything's doing."

Accordingly, Daventry shut off the engine and began vol-planing as
gently as possible. He listened intently for the roar of a hostile
propeller above the swish of the air past struts and tension-wires.

"Thought so," he muttered, as he restarted the motor. "Nothin' doin'.
I'm on a dud stunt. However, I'll carry on."

For the best part of an hour Derek continued his flight, describing
huge figures-of-eight in order to keep in touch with the aerodrome.
In vain he maintained a sharp look-out for any lurid bursts of flame
on the distant horizon that would indicate that the Boche was setting
to work, and that the anti-aircraft guns were giving the raiders a
hot tonic.

He was on the point of discharging his signal-pistol in order to
inform the aerodrome that he was about to make a landing when a dark,
indistinct mass shot by a hundred feet below him, and then vanished
in the darkness.

"By Jove! I wonder if that's a Fritz?" ejaculated the young pilot.
"I'll try and find out."

Almost before the Dromedary began to rock in the eddies in the wake
of the mysterious aeroplane Derek swung his 'bus round, banking
steeply ere he steadied her on her course. A glance at the altimeter
showed him that the height was eight thousand five hundred feet,
quite enough manoeuvring space for the work in hand, provided he
could find his quarry.

It was almost like looking for a needle in a bottle of hay. Even
taking into consideration the superior speed of the Dromedary, the
initial start obtained by the Hun (supposing that Derek's surmise
proved to be correct) and a slight divergence of courses would result
in the two aeroplanes being separated by miles of darkness.

Still keenly on the alert, Derek held on, at the same time putting a
tray of ammunition to each of the two Lewis guns, the heels of which
were within a few inches of the pilot's face.

"I've missed the beggar," declared Daventry, after continuing the
phantom pursuit for nearly a quarter of an hour. "Hard lines if the
fellow were a Boche. I'll give myself another five minutes - - By
smoke! now what's that?"

Right ahead, but on a slightly-lower level, was something gaunt,
indistinct, and moving. For a few seconds Derek could hardly credit
his good fortune, thinking that in the stress and strain of the
night-flight he was the victim of a hallucination. Another minute,
however, removed all cause for doubt. It was a 'plane; more, it was a
Boche, for the black crosses of infamy were discernible in the cold
starlight.

The Dromedary was rocking in the tail-stream of the Hun machine.
Gently Derek brought his 'bus up, until it was flying in
comparatively still air. Eighty yards away was the Boche, flying
serenely in blissful ignorance of the fact that a British machine was
literally sitting on its tail.

Deliberately, and without the faintest compunction - for the
night-raider had none when dropping his powerful bombs upon the
civilian population of London and other cities and towns - Derek
brought the sights of the right-hand gun to bear upon the back of the
Hun pilot. A burst of vivid flashes, and the deed was done.

The German machine dipped abruptly, and dropped into a spinning
nose-dive, while a long trail of reddish flames, terminating in a
cloud of fire-tinged smoke, told its own tale. The petrol-tank had
taken fire, and the doom of the raider was sealed. No amount of
trickery would avail. It was impossible for Fritz to attempt his now
well-known spin in the hope of deluding his antagonist, and then, by
flattening out, get clear away. The fire had "put the hat" on that,
even if the pilot had not been killed outright by the hail of
Lewis-gun bullets.

"May as well see what happens," soliloquised Daventry. "So here
goes!"

Diving almost vertically, he followed the visible track of the
crashing Hun. With his feet braced firmly against the rudder-bar, and
his head and shoulders well back, Derek maintained the plunge, ready
at the first inkling of danger to either loop or flatten out. In
spite of the terrific pace, the flaring debris of the vanquished
Gotha was falling even faster, followed by a galaxy of falling
embers.

Suddenly a blinding flash seemed to leap out of the darkness within a
few yards of the diving Dromedary. Another and another followed in
quick succession, and although the noise was drowned by the roar of
the engine, Derek guessed instantly and rightly.

"Shrapnel, by smoke!" he exclaimed. "I'm being strafed by our own
antis."

With a sudden jerk that would have spelt disaster had any of the
struts and tension-wires been of faulty workmanship, the Dromedary
checked her downward plunge in order to avoid the unpleasant
attentions of "Archibald", while for the first time Derek became
aware that he was in the concentrated and direct glare of half a
dozen powerful searchlights.

"Why on earth can't the idiots see my distinguishing marks!"
exclaimed Derek petulantly, forgetting that when a machine is diving
steeply the planes present to an observer on the ground the
appearance of two parallel lines. He groped for his Very's pistol in
order to give the customary signal to show that it was a British
aeroplane that was the object of the anti-aircraft gunners'
attention, but in the steep nose-dive that important article had slid
from its appointed place.

Rocking and pitching in the rudely-disturbed air, the Dromedary
dodged and twisted, vainly attempting to elude the beams of the
searchlights. Then, with a most disconcerting crash, a couple of
struts were shattered like matchwood, and the next instant the 'bus,
badly out of control, began to drop through the intervening thousand
feet that separated her from the ground.

Derek prepared for a crash; sliding as far as possible under the
cambered deck of the fuselage, he waited for the inevitable. The
biplane on crashing would almost certainly land on her nose and turn
completely over. It was possible to survive the impact, but the
greatest danger lay in the possibility of the luckless pilot being
hurled against the knife-like tension-wires, or having his head
battered against the heels of the two machine-guns.

To Derek the biplane appeared to be dropping slowly, although
actually very few seconds elapsed before the crash came. The
anti-aircraft guns had ceased firing, either because the gunners knew
that they had scored a hit, or else the altitude was too small to
admit of the guns being fired without risk of doing great damage to
the adjacent village. The concerted rays of the searchlights,
however, continued to play upon the falling machine, until an
intervening ridge masked them. There was a sudden transition from
dazzling light to utter darkness - Derek realized that he was now but
a few feet from the ground.

Crash!

As he expected, the machine struck nose first. The quivering fabric
of the fuselage was suddenly checked, the change of direction causing
Derek's knees to bend and hit hard against the deck. A blow like that
of a gigantic sledge-hammer seemed to smite him betwixt the
shoulder-blades.

Then, rearing, the fuselage toppled completely over, and the next
instant Derek found himself being dragged down through icy-cold
water.




CHAPTER V

The Next Day


Rendered well-nigh breathless by the shock of the water following the
crash, Derek struggled feverishly to unbuckle the stiff leather belt
that held him to the seat. Swallowing mouthfuls of water, until his
lungs felt on the point of bursting under the asphyxiating strain, he
at length succeeded in unfastening the buckle. Then, scrambling
blindly, he endeavoured to extricate himself from the tangle of
wreckage that, in his heated imagination, was encompassing him on
every side. A severed tension-wire coiled itself round his left
ankle. At the expense of his fleece-lined boot he succeeded in
disengaging the sinuous embrace of the spring-like metal. Then,
almost at his last gasp, the young officer resisted the temptation to
struggle to the surface, but, diving under the upturned fuselage, he
swam half a dozen strokes before attempting to rise.

Then, hardly able to withstand the numbing coldness of the water, he
allowed himself to float to the surface.

Taking in copious draughts of the pure night-air, Derek floated
impassively until the instinct of self-preservation urged him to make
for the bank.

Silhouetted against the glare of the concealed searchlights were the
figures of a score or more of men. Towards them the crashed pilot
struck out feebly, until, to his unbounded relief, he saw two men
plunging into the water to his assistance.

"Sorry, chum!" shouted a voice, as a pair of hands grasped him under
the shoulders. "We thought you were a bloomin' Boche. You'll be all
right in 'arf a mo'."

Derek could not reply. He was temporarily speechless, but he was
heartily glad of the assistance of the men who had swum out to his
aid. Then he was dimly conscious of his feet coming in contact with
the muddy bottom and willing hands helping him up the steeply-rising
bank.

His senses returning, Daventry was able to take a
fairly-comprehensive view of the situation. He was standing on the
edge of a large reservoir. In the centre, looming up in the reflected
glare of the still fiercely-burning Gotha, was the tail of his trusty
Dromedary, resembling an obelisk to commemorate the aerial encounter.
A short distance away was a searchlight, its beams slowly sweeping
the sky, while, standing out against the rays, was the gaunt muzzle
of a heaven-directed anti-aircraft gun, ready for instant action.
Round the weapon were the gunners, seemingly oblivious to the British
pilot's presence, their whole attention centred upon the patch of
luminosity that swung slowly to and fro across the murky sky. Other
searchlights were also trained upwards in the hope of spotting yet
other undesirable aerial visitors from Hunland.

A quarter of a mile away a red glow marked the spot where the Gotha
had crashed, although the actual wreckage was hidden by a
considerable concourse of people, both military and civilian, who
signified their delight at the raider's downfall by prolonged and
lusty cheers.

An anti-aircraft officer, his features partly hidden by the upturned
collar of his "British warm", hurried up to the spot where Derek was
standing.

"Sorry, old man!" he exclaimed apologetically. "I was responsible for
bringing you down, I'm afraid. Didn't know that any of our machines
were up. No telephone message came through to us. I hadn't a chance
to distinguish the markings on your plane. Deuced sorry - very!"

"There's little harm done," replied Derek as well as his chattering
teeth would allow. "My fault entirely. I ought to have - - "

"No fear!" replied the anti-aircraft man. "My mistake absolutely.
Here; it's no use arguing the point about responsibility. You're
coming back to our mess and to get a fresh rig-out."

Up dashed a closed-in motor-car. Into this Derek was assisted, the
battery captain accompanying him, and amid the cheers of the now
dense crowd of sightseers the destroyer of the Gotha was borne away.

A hot bath and a change of clothing provided by willing hands quickly
restored Derek to an almost normal condition - but not quite.
Pardonably he was excited at the thought of having accomplished a
good deed, but in reply to numerous congratulations he frankly stated
that it was a piece of sheer good luck.

News of the destruction of the raider and the victor's crash into the
reservoir had been promptly telephoned to Torringham aerodrome, and
in reply came the curtly-official message: -



"From O.W. to Second-Lieutenant D. Daventry,
R.A.F. - Await arrival of salvage-party. Forward
report forthwith - Ack, ack, ack."


The last three words, be it understood, do not bear any relationship
to the Teutonic "Hoch, hoch, hoch", but are the usual official way of
indicating that a telegraphic or telephonic message is ended.

Generally speaking, the smaller the mess the more hospitably
strangers are treated, and at Sisternbury there was no exception to
the rule. Although the mess was composed of a captain, a lieutenant,
and two subalterns only, the officers did everything they could for
the comfort of the crashed pilot.

In spite of the fact that it was early morning and Derek had had very
little sleep during the last twenty hours, the young officer tossed
restlessly on his bed. The events of the midnight pursuit and its
startling finish were photographed so vividly on his brain that he
could not banish the mental vision of the Gotha streaming earthwards
in flames. Then, just as Daventry was falling into a fitful slumber,
he was awakened by a batman bringing him a large cup of hot,
sugarless tea, with the announcement that it was eight o'clock and
that the salvage-party had arrived.

The salvage-party consisted of a dozen air-mechanics and a couple of
corporals and a sergeant, who had come from Torringham on a large
R.A.F. lorry, but with them came an unofficial party made up of
almost every officer not on duty and as many on duty who could
furnish even the flimsiest pretext for joining the "joy-riders".

Having submitted to the many and varied congratulations and caustic
remarks of his brother officers, Derek was taken to the spot where
the Gotha crashed. Already sentries had been posted and a wire fence
erected around the calcined debris of the huge aeroplane, for it was
imperative that nothing should be disturbed until scientific and
technical examinations had been made by qualified experts.

The motors had fallen with such force that they had made a hole five
feet in depth. Thirty yards away were the battered remains of a
machine-gun, while other debris had been discovered half a mile from
the main wreckage. The Gotha had had a crew of five men, their
corpses, horribly burnt and battered, being found at widely different
distances. These had already been removed to be given a military
funeral, for, notwithstanding the undoubtedly cowardly methods
adopted by Hun raiders, the German airmen were acting under orders,
and had met their fate in much the same way as soldiers on the field
of battle.

As for the poor old Dromedary, it looked a pitiable object when
removed from the reservoir. Never again would the battered object
soar proudly through the air. As a fighting-machine its days were
ended. Its fate, after the more important parts had been removed, was
to be burnt.

"I think I can claim the old prop.," remarked Derek to a brother
officer. "I'll get a clock fitted to it and send it home to my
people. It will look all right in a hall, won't it?"

So the badly-chipped propeller was removed and placed in the lorry
until it could be converted into a novel timepiece. Then, having seen
the valuable portions of the crashed Dromedary safely in the huge
petrol-drawn vehicle, Derek bade farewell to his newly-found friends
of the Sisternbury Anti-aircraft Force and was motored back to
Torringham.

It was a sort of triumphal progress, for the now thoroughly-excited
officers, jubilant at the idea that the raider had fallen a victim to
one of their depot, were "letting themselves go" with no uncertain
voice.

With motor-horns adding to the din, and a tattoo of sticks beating
the covers of the cars, the motor cavalcade swept into the aerodrome,
where Derek, taking to his heels, fled precipitately to his quarters.

It was not long before the C.O. sent for the victorious pilot.

"In case you may be suffering from swelled head, Mr. Daventry," he
remarked, at the conclusion of a congratulatory interview, "I think
we'll have you posted for active service in France. That, I think, is
a fitting reward, and I hope that you'll recognize that it is so.
Meanwhile I must warn you that on no account must your name figure in
the press. It is an unwritten law in the R.A.F. that individuality
should be eliminated as far as possible, and the undoubted honour
shared by the unit to which you belong."

Within a week Derek's orders to proceed across Channel came through.
His field-kit was soon packed, and after a couple of days' leave


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