The Fighting Scouts - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Fighting Scouts ebook

Edgar Wallace



The second of Edgar Wallace’s two short story collections about Scottish airman Tam during World War I. In this book Tam is joined by a new young American protégé Billy Best. The stories of Tam the pilot are not mysteries. They are the entertaining stories of the exploits of a cockney aviator who supposedly was Charles Lindbergh’s childhood inspiration to fly. Tam is a real person, and all the adventures set forth have actually happened, though names and places are necessarily fictitious. In these stories Mr. Wallace describes a rare character, a Glasgow mechanic who becomes a Royal Flying Corps pilot. Wonderful entertainment and highly entertaining.

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Liczba stron: 172

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1. The Gentleman from Indiana

2. The Duke's Museum

3. The Kindergarten

4. Billy Best

5. The Wager of Rittmeister Von Haarden

6. The Début of William Best

7. The Cloud Fishers

8. The Woman in the Story

9. The Infant Samuel


LIEUTENANT BAXTER was writing letters home and, at the moment Cornish came into the mess-hut, was gazing through the window with that fixed stare which might indicate either the memory of some one loved and absent or a mental struggle after the correct spelling of the village billets he had bombed the night before.

Cornish, who looked sixteen, but was in reality quite an old gentleman of twenty, thrust his hands into his breeches pockets and gazed disconsolately round before he slouched across to where Baxter sat at his literary exercises.

“I say,” said Cornish in a complaining voice, “what the devil are you doing?”

“Cleaning my boots,” said Baxter without looking up; “didn’t you notice it?”

Second-Lieutenant Cornish sniggered. “Quit fooling. I say, what are you writing letters for? Good Heavens, you are always writing letters!”

Baxter withdrew his gaze from the window and went on writing with marked industry.

“I say,” said Cornish again, “there was a fellow of the American squadron in here to-day.”

Baxter sighed and put down his pen. “I am told that America is in the war,” he said politely. “This fact would probably account for the phenomenal happening.”

“He asked for rye whisky,” said Cornish, nodding significantly.

“Poor fellow.”

“When I told him that we hadn’t any rye whisky,” Cornish went on, “he asked, whether we weren’t fighting for civilization and the free something or other of peoples.”

Baxter swung round on his chair, his hands folded on his lap. “All this is very fascinating,” he said; “why don’t you write a book about it? And what are you doing here, may I ask? I thought you were going into Amiens?”

“I wish I’d gone,” said the gloomy young man; “it is blowing eighty miles an hour up-stairs. Depledge went up and was buffeted about all over the shop and nearly crashed. Saw a Hun and couldn’t get near him.”

“What was the Hun doing?” asked Baxter, interested in spite of himself.

“That’s the very question Depledge asked me.”

“But you didn’t tell him?” said Baxter. “You’re a reticent devil, Cornish! And now, if you don’t mind my communicating with my fond parents, perhaps you will go out into the garden and eat worms.”

“Oh, that reminds me,” said Cornish: “This American chap, a most excellent fellow, by the way, wanted to know what has happened to Tam.”

“Did you tell him?”

“No,” confessed Cornish.

“Do you know?” asked the patient Baxter.

“No,” admitted Cornish.

Baxter groaned. “Good-by,” he said.

“I say,” said Cornish.

“Good-by,” said Baxter loudly.

“This fellow,” Cornish drawled on in his even, monotonous voice, “this American fellow. I mean, the American fellow I saw this morning–”

“I thought you were speaking about the Spanish fellow you saw yesterday,” said Baxter wearily.

“No, this American fellow said that he had heard that Tam was coming back. Some brass-hat told him.”

“He was pulling your leg, my dear Cornish,” said Baxter; “these Americans stuff people, especially the young and the innocent. Now go to bed or go out and buy me some stamps or take my motor-bike and joy-ride into Amiens or go down to the workshop or–or go to the dickens.”

“You are very unsociable,” said Cornish, and wandered out.

He strolled across to the workshop and stood for a few minutes in that noisy hive watching the mechanics fitting a new tractor screw to his “camel,” then walked back to his quarters through the drizzle.

THE wind was blowing gustily. It slammed doors and sent gray clouds of smoke bellowing from the stove, it rattled the windows and whined and sobbed about the corners of the hut.

Then suddenly above the sigh and moan of it rose a shrill “whee-e-e!”

Cornish was in the act of sitting down as the sound came to him. He checked the action and, half-doubled as he was, leapt for the door and flung it open.


The force of the explosion flung him back, the windows crashed outward, the ground beneath his feet rocked again.

Even as he fell he heard the shattering of wood where the bomb fragments ripped through the casings of the hut. He was on his feet in an instant and through the door.

High above the aerodrome, appearing and disappearing through the hurrying cloud-ruck, was a machine that swayed and jumped most visibly.

Cornish started at a run as the antiaircraft guns began their belated chorus.

He met Baxter struggling into his padded jacket before his hangar.

“We’ll take a chance,” said Baxter rapidly; “who’d ever imagine the swine would come over on a day like this?”

“Think he’ll come back?” asked Cornish.

The other shouted something unintelligible as he turned to climb into his tiny one-seater and Cornish guessed rather than heard the answer.

Three minutes later he was zooming up behind his superior, his machine dancing like a scrap of paper caught in the wind. The little scout climbed steeply, heading eastward, and Cornish, strapped to his seat, saw nothing but the gray race of cloud above him, until the altimeter registered eight thousand feet. Then he began to take notice.

A little below him and a mile away was Baxter’s machine, while a mile ahead of him and running across his bows was a Hun plane of respectable size and unusual lines. He observed with joy that the enemy was making bad weather of it, and banked round to run on a parallel course.

A rapid glimpse of the country told him that the adventurous enemy was making for home, and the proximity of the machine was probably due to the fact that the bomber had attempted to return against the wind to repeat his good work when he had sighted the chasers.

Baxter’s scout swung round behind the enemy. Cornish closed to his flank. The astonished but interested infantry in the trenches eight thousand feet below, heard above the purr of the engines the “ral-tat-tat-tat-tat!” of machine guns and saw the Boche side-slip. It was a scientific side-slip, wholly designed as an advertisement of the slipper’s distress, but it was not the weather for artful maneuvers. Suddenly the big machine began to spin, not a well-controlled spin, but rather following the motion of a corkscrew driven by a drunken hand.

The two scouts dived for him, their guns chattering excitedly, and the big Hun flip-flopped earthward, nose up, tail up, wing up–till he made a pancake crash midway between the line and the aerodrome of the Umpty-fourth.

Baxter followed and made a bad landing, but the Providence which protects the child was kinder to Cornish, who lit “like a blinking angel,” to quote a muddy and unprejudiced representative of the P.B.I.*

[* The infantry is invariably referred to by all other arms as the “Poor Blooming Infantry.” or words to that effect.–E.W.]

Luck was not wholly against the enemy (for the two German airmen were alive when their machine reached bottom) except that the friendly hands which had strapped them to their seats had done their work a little too effectively. By the time they had freed themselves from restraint, but before they had fired the incendiary bomb which was intended to destroy the machine, Baxter was out of his chaser and was standing on the under-carriage.

“Don’t fire the machine unless you’re awfully keen on a military funeral,” he said, and four gloved hands arose over two leather-helmeted heads.

“Don’t shoot. Colonel,” said the cheerful pilot, “I’ll come down.”

Baxter watched his prisoners descend before he restored his Colt automatic to its holster.

“Sorry and all that sort of thing,” he said to the pilot, “but you’ve got some nerve.”

“Give the barbarian credit for something,” replied the blue- eyed pilot, lighting a black cigar. “I’m afraid my friend here will want a doctor.” He indicated the very young and very pale officer, whose thumb had apparently been shot away. “He doesn’t speak English. My name is Prince Karl of Stettiz-Waldenstein, the last of the ancient race that carries the blood of Charlemagne.”

“Cheerioh,” said Baxter, “come along to our mess and have some lunch before the wolves get you and put you in a little cage. We’ll drop your friend at the hospital–my name, by the way, is Baxter, and I come from a long line of hardware merchants.”

The prince smiled. “Trade follows the flag,” he said. “My little friend’s father makes typewriters–and pretty bad ones. You ought to be friends.”

An R.F.C. picked them up and after depositing the wounded youth at the general hospital, the two foemen were whirled back to the aerodrome, their arrival coinciding with the return of the majority of the squadron from Amiens. The prisoner was talkative and lively. He had been educated at Harvard and Oxford, thought the war was pretty good sport, told a joyous tale of a grand-ducal aunt who had sent him a set of silken underwear embarrassingly embroidered with the legend: “Gott strafe England und America,” but would not offer any information about the machine he was flying.

“You can see what is left of it and discover for yourself,” he said to Major Blackie at parting; “she’s a fairly useful bus, but nothing as useful as she’s supposed to be. Oh, by the way, I nearly forgot to ask–where’s Tam?”

“Tam is in England,” smiled Blackie. “I thought you fellows knew. He got married and went away to be an instructor or something.”

“But surely he’s back,” persisted the other. “One of our circus commanders (you call them circuses, don’t you?) told me he was due back to-day–that was one of the reasons I came over. If the weather had been good we should have come in force!”

“A sort of ‘welcome home,’ eh?”

The prince grinned.

“Well, he isn’t here,” Blackie went on, “and so far as I know–excuse me.”

An orderly stood in the door with a scrap of paper in his hand which Blackie took and read.

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