the grim shadows of night disappeared to make way for a cold

A battalion of Marines, attired in the colorful dress uniforms of the
service, were participating in a short drill on the field just as Panama
left the hospital.

As the men finished up in line, with the great band playing and the
colors flying, an adjutant stepped forward, holding a typewritten list
in his gloved hand.

One by one, he crisply called out the names of each student, waiting in
line, with each proud man coming front and center, halting before the
adjutant and saluting his snappiest.

Panama rested against the stone pillar of the hospital, watching this
familiar procedure, mildly interested until his eyes rested upon Lefty,
lounging on the opposite side of the field and wearing a hang-dog look.

The hard-boiled sergeant shook his head and smiled sympathetically. At
the moment, his heart went right out to the unfortunate boy who just
couldn’t seem to stop from running backward. “Poor kid,” he thought.
“Gee, this must be tough on him!”

As the first man answered to his name, breaking line and coming before
the adjutant, a pompous, heavy-set flying major stepped forward, proudly
dressed in the smart uniform of his rank, conscious of the row of medals
and citations that crossed the left side of his chest.

He mechanically returned the student’s salute, then turned and accepted
a new, shiny silver wing from a kindly, old white-haired man, whose gold
braided epaulets identified him as an admiral in the service of the
United States Navy.

The ostentatious Marine major, with a rehearsed air of distinguished
solemnity plainly visible upon his puffed face, proceeded to pin the
silver wing upon the breast of the student, whose flushed cheeks and
sparkling eyes easily betrayed the boy’s pride.

The student grasped the major’s and the admiral’s extended hands, came
to attention, saluted them both, then executing a snappy about face,
returned to the ranks of anxious, waiting Marines.

After this mechanical performance had been repeated several times,
Panama yawned in a bored fashion, bit off a large chew of tobacco and
wandered down the white steps to the field, crossing to the opposite
side where Lefty, attired in a greasy dungaree khaki jumper, unable to
bring himself to watch the ceremony any longer, was keeping busy by
inflating air into the tire of an airplane landing gear wheel.

A few steps away from where Lefty was bending over a hand pump, Panama
stopped and watched the boy for a moment. His years in the service had
taught him that the worse thing anyone can do for a man who has failed
is to sympathize with him, so assuming a careless, hard-boiled attitude,
the sergeant lifted his foot and let the surprised boy have it.

Lefty regained his bearings and swung around, waiting to confront this
new kind of antagonist only to gaze up into Panama’s laughing and
mischievous eyes.

“Come on, soldier,” Williams chided, “snap out of it! What’s eatin’ you,
anyway?”

The boy turned away, picking up his pump and returning to his task
without venturing to reply.

“This won’t do at all,” Panama thought to himself; then speaking aloud,
“What’s the matter, sorehead, peeved because your buddies got their
wings?”

If any other man in the entire United States Marine Corps, with the Navy
combined, had dared to make such a suggestion to Lefty at that
particular moment, he would have been put to sleep in a swift and
skillful fashion, but Panama, that was something else again. Lefty knew
the sergeant well enough by this time to be aware of the fact that
anything Williams might say should not be taken seriously. Besides,
circumstances had proven that this self-styled, hard-boiled Marine was
the only friend in the entire world that the boy could depend upon.

“No, I’m not peeved because they got their wings and I’m not a sorehead
either,” Lefty announced, curtly. “I wish them all the luck in the
world, only I’d like to be out there standing in line with them.”

“Yeah?” Panama drawled, finding it difficult to continue to suppress the
news any longer from Lefty, “Maybe you will be—soldier—maybe you will
be—some day.”

Lefty looked up at his friend and smiled sickeningly, then allowed his
eyes to wander back to the center of the field just as the pompous major
was pinning the wings upon the breast of Steve Graham.

“Maybe I will—I guess not! I suppose they’ll be sending me back to some
ship any day now.”

Panama bit off another chew of tobacco, still assuming his indifferent
attitude, though he found the part he was playing a difficult one in the
face of the boy’s downheartedness.

“So you think you’ll be shovin’ off to a ship soon?”

Lefty dropped the pump and sighed despairingly; “Shoving off? I’ll be
rushed off!”

“Well, that ain’t so tough,” Panama added. “If you fall off a ship, it
ain’t as far as toppling out of an airplane!”

The boy smiled at his friend’s poor humor, knowing full well that if he
allowed Panama to think for one moment that his chiding was irritating,
there would be no letting up at all.

“That’s true too,” Lefty replied. “But if I fall off a ship, I’ll be all
wet!”

“You’re all wet now, anyway!”

The two men smiled, each possessing a profound respect and admiration
for the other.

“All kidding aside,” Panama continued, now in a supposed serious frame
of mind, “going back to a ship ain’t so bad. I wish I was that lucky.”

Lefty studied the sergeant earnestly to make certain if this latest
announcement was to end in another pun at his expense, but after a
moment, he reached the conclusion that Panama was serious.

“Why, what’s up, skipper?”

“Nothin’, only I’ve been ordered to Nicaragua to-morrow morning. Goin’
down there in that hot box ain’t bad enough, so they had to wish the
worst mechanic at this station on me besides!”

“Who’s the man?” Lefty bit, not the least conscious of the fact that
Panama was referring to him.

“Who?” Panama repeated, assuming an impatient and disappointed air.
“Why, of all the frozen-skulled, lame-brained choice assortment of prize
boobs, they had to wish you on me!”

Lefty looked at Williams with questioning eyes, then seeing that the
other man was in earnest, struggled for words as he ran to grasp the
sergeant’s hands, wringing them furiously and fairly shouting his
gratitude.

“You mean, I’m going to Nicaragua with you? Oh, Gee, Panama—you don’t
know what that means to me! Honest—say, I’m so tickled I just——”

“Aw, apple sauce!” Panama interrupted, “I said you’re going. Ain’t that
enough? What do you want to do—sing a mammy song about it?”

“But I want to thank you for what you’ve done for me!” the boy
persisted.

“Don’t thank me. I ain’t had nothin’ to do with it. If I had my way,
you’d have gone back to a ship!”

A smile of understanding crept across Lefty’s happy face. He knew well
enough that Panama didn’t mean a word of what he had just said.

“Well, why don’t you tell them you don’t want me with you?”

“It’s too late now. I can’t get another man ready in time,” Panama lied
beautifully. “Now stop askin’ silly questions and get that plane ready.
We got to leave in the mornin’!”

“Are we going by plane?” Lefty asked enthusiastically. “You mean, we’re
going to fly all the way?”

Panama shook his head in a hopeless manner, and with an expression of
disgust, muttered, “In the Aviation Corps and fly? Don’t be silly. We’ll
bobsled it all the way!”

Lefty laughed at his friend’s tolerant dry humor and reached down for
the hand pump, turning back to his work on the tire in a happy,
anticipating frame of mind, while the sergeant leaned against the
fuselage of the plane, his mind wandering away to the hospital across
the field and the little nurse inside.

His hand mechanically reached to the breast pocket of his blouse wherein
were hidden the snapshots of Elinor he had just taken from her desk. He
smiled confidently, reached into his pocket, removed the photographs and
gazing down upon the laughing eyes of the lovely girl, his entire manner
softened under the spell cast over him by her likeness.

For the want of someone to confide in, he turned to Lefty and asked,
“Hey, bozo, have you got a girl?”

Phelps dropped his pump and raised himself, casting a hurried glance in
the direction of the hospital and smiling confidently. “Yes—that is, I
think so.”

Panama showed signs of interest and understanding in the romance of his
fellow man. “Is she good-looking?”

“Great!”

Williams had his doubts concerning this. “No woman in the world could
possibly be as pretty as Elinor,” he assured himself, though tactfully
refraining from saying so aloud, adding instead, “Well, if you got a
girl and she knows it, you’d better say good-by to her ’cause I just
said good-by to mine!”

“You don’t mean to tell me you’ve got a sweetheart?” Lefty asked,
tickled silly over this opportunity of gaining a chance to chide Panama.
“Is it possible?”

“Well, I should hope to cough in your mess kit, I have,” Williams
announced with no attempt to shield his indignation. “What do I look
like—somethin’ that would scare away the women and babies?”

“To be honest with you,” Lefty replied, struggling to keep a straight
face, “I should say, yes—also the old folks as well as the women and
babies!”

“I’d like to punch you in the nose,” Panama roared, then holding up the
snapshots, changed his mind and said, “Come here, useless, and lamp
these! Ain’t she a peach!”

Lefty came closer and took the photos in his hands, examining them
closely as he felt his heart heating away furiously. He looked up at
Panama with uncertainty, struggling to hide his apparent concern. “Is
this your girl?”

Panama grinned broadly, throwing out his chest and looking down at Lefty
with self-confidence, believing that he had succeeded in redeeming his
self-respect insofar as being an attraction for the opposite sex was
concerned.

“You see, I ain’t so hard to look at,” he added, boastfully. “There are
some people who say we’ll be gettin’ married some day, if I ever get the
nerve to ask her.”

Lefty forced himself to smile generously as he slapped his friend on the
back in a good-natured fashion.

“Why don’t you ask her—are you afraid!”

“Not exactly, only—well—I don’t know how to put the right kind of words
together. Gee—if I only had your lingo—we’d of probably been married
long ago! You know, somethin’! I didn’t even have the crust to ask her
for these pictures! Yes, sir, I had to wait until she was gone and swipe
’em!”

From the moment that Lefty grasped the fact that Panama was in love with
the same girl whom he idolized, the boy’s heart sunk within him.

He realized that all was fair in love and war—but not in this case when
the other man was his best friend. Besides, he tried to tell himself, he
had no right to even think of Elinor so long as Panama wanted her. He
knew her first, and then again, maybe she really loved the sergeant
and—no, that couldn’t be so, but the one thing vividly certain was the
fact that Panama had befriended him when the rest of the world had
turned their backs. Surely he owed this man something for that alone.

He stood by, silently, fumbling the snapshot carelessly as he allowed
the entire matter to turn over in his mind, reflecting upon what course
to pursue. Panama noticed the way Lefty was handling the snapshot and
pulled it away from him, saying, “Be careful of that—you act as if it
was yours!”

“I’m sorry,” the boy apologized, as Panama carefully put the photograph
away again in his breast pocket.

“That’s Okay. Now get busy on the plane. I gotta pack. See you later!”

Panama walked away toward the barracks, leaving the boy alone, looking
after him just as an orderly approached, bearing a communication from
the Post Commandant.

Lefty tore open the envelope and his eyes fell upon a sheet of official
paper upon which was typed flying orders for the Tenth Squadron.
Hurriedly he read through the difficult routine wording until he reached
the last paragraph where he rested his eyes, reading over the closing
lines again and again.

“You are assigned to Sergeant Williams,” it explained, “as his mechanic
as per his request.”

As he carefully folded up the paper and placed it in his pocket, his
eyes became moist and he felt a lump rising in his throat.

He looked off to his right and saw Panama crossing the field in the
direction of the barracks. A broad smile of grateful appreciation
lighted Lefty’s troubled face, realizing now what Panama had done for
him.

Suddenly he became aware of the terrible breach that might arise between
him and this man because of a woman whom they both loved. He remembered
Panama’s explanation about the snapshots and how he had to take them
when Elinor wasn’t there.

“She must mean everything to him,” he thought. “She’s all he’s got while
I—” Then he suddenly thought of something else as his hand mechanically
reached for his leather wallet. Opening it, he brought out a snapshot of
a girl, a lovely girl with a profusion of dark hair and beautiful wide
eyes that laughed up into his.

The picture was Elinor’s and an exact duplicate of the one Panama had
shown him only a few moments before.

He studied the picture and the face of the girl upon it, reading over
several times the inscription across the bottom written in her own
handwriting: “To Lefty, the Best Patient I Ever Had, Elinor.”

He gazed upon these words that had given him so much to hope for when he
first read them only an hour previous, then he looked pensively upon the
features of the writer, considering the happiness of all concerned.

He lifted his head and looked after Panama, his eyes clear now with
determination as he slowly tore the picture into small bits, letting the
pieces fall from his hand, one by one.

As the grim shadows of night disappeared to make way for a cold, gray
dawn, the silhouettes of nine pursuit planes and the silent figures of
many ground men working busily about the ships could be seen on the
field at Pensacola.

Save for the whirr of airplane motors, some going while others were just
being started, a grim, foreboding silence prevailed as the mechanics and
ground men worked swiftly to service the ships about to start on a long
journey within the next half hour.

Officers and men, attired in regulation flying togs, stood together in
small groups, some smoking, others chewing gum, all of them silently
waiting for the moment to enter their cockpits and take off, perhaps on
the last air voyage any of them would ever make.

Orderlies moved about with grim, determined faces, heavily laden with
the luggage of their superiors, deaf to the usual heckling of the
enlisted men, who never pass up an opportunity to yell, “dog robber,”
when seeing an orderly perform some menial task.

Some of the officers and men who had friends and relatives in Pensacola,
were making the rounds, shaking hands and patiently listening to fond
farewells, don’t-forget-to-write warnings and the usual bon-voyage
ceremonies that are such an important part of all types of
leave-takings.

As the base buglers sounded the preliminary calls at a quarter to six,
the pilots and observers hurried to their planes, and with the
assistance of mechanics and ground men, put on their parachutes and
adjusted their Gasborne helmets, at the same time, supervising the
last-minute loading of personal baggage.

A sharp note was sounded by a bugler and someone crisply yelled,
“Attention.” All the men on the field turned their eyes center, lifting
their bodies and heads and throwing back their shoulders as the senior
Marine officer and the flight commander came upon the scene of activity,
accompanied by their respective aides.

An adjutant called, “As you were” after the two officers had returned
the salutes of the pilots and observers, and the buzz of activity,
laughter and flip talking was again resumed with greater zest.

“The Aerological Officer reports that you will have a good ceiling to
Havana,” the senior Marine officer announced, as he accompanied the
flight commander to his plane, the first one in line, bearing the red
replica of Satan, the insignia of the Tenth Air Squadron, “though you
may run into rain over Yucatan.”

The flight commander smiled as he hurriedly cast his clear, narrow blue
eyes over the line of pilots and observers standing by their planes,
waiting for the word to go.

“It will take more than rain to stop these anxious playmates of Satan!”

Both men joined in hearty laughter over this prophecy, each knowing full
well the courage of Marine flyers, especially members of the Tenth
Squadron, who lived up to every tradition of the service and the
flattering legends spread throughout the land concerning their especial
deeds of glory and bravery.

Panama and Lefty paid little attention to the noisy activity now going
on about them. They had been too occupied since Reveille to even speak
to each other, and now they were frantically working away to load the
last bit of equipment into their plane.

Large beads of perspiration trickled down their faces and their
breathing was deep and quick as they bent over to throw the final piece
of baggage into the ship.

“Well, that’s that!” Panama announced as he straightened himself and
rubbed his back to ease a sharp pain just above the base of his spine,
“another fifteen minutes and we’ll be in the air.”

Lefty smiled broadly with anticipation as he unwrapped a slice of
chewing gum and looked about to see who was among those preparing to
leave.

As he turned to his right, his eyes met those of Steve Graham’s.

The ostentatious Graham, decidedly pleased with himself, purposely
polished off his silver wings with the palm of his hand for no other
reason than to make Lefty conscious once more of his failure to pass the
solo test.

“Wish you had a pair?” he yelled over to Phelps, mockingly. “Though if
you got them, you’d probably put them on backward!”

Lefty made a quick move in the direction toward Steve, determined to
close this obnoxious pilot’s mouth for once and for all, but Panama
intervened by stepping in front of him.

“Keep your shirt on! Do you want to be sent to the brig?” he whispered,
then looking over his shoulder, called aloud to the annoying Marine:
“Better not polish them wings too often, Graham. You’re liable to wear
off the design!”

This final retort was precisely the thing necessary to end the oral
barrage of hostilities. Steve’s face flushed and he scowled menacingly,
attempting to think of something mean to say, but as a clever answer
failed him, he turned his back to the two men, consoling himself in the
philosophy that arguing with a flight sergeant might prove a foolish
thing to attempt under present circumstances.

Lefty made no attempt to refrain from laughing boisterously. He cast a
grateful glance in Panama’s direction, and then busied himself about the
plane, making certain that everything was in tiptop shape, ready for the
long hop without a flaw.

Near the great hangar, just to the rear of where the waiting planes were
lined, the wind was playing havoc with the thick, dark hair of a hatless
girl and the blue regulation nurse’s cape she wore, showing a
spick-and-span white uniform beneath every time a gust of wind lifted
the blue serge.

Elinor’s eyes were searching the field for a glimpse of two familiar
figures as she ran in and out in a zigzag fashion, between men and
planes until she spied Lefty and Panama far down in the line, near the
ship of the flight commander.

She hurried down the field, struggling to brush back her hair and keep
her cape closed with one hand, while in the other, she held two packages
neatly wrapped in white paper.

Reaching the fuselage of a plane a little away from where Panama and
Lefty were standing, she stopped and attempted to catch the boy’s eyes
without Panama becoming cognizant of her presence. Her efforts were
without avail, for just as she waved her hand, Williams turned about and
caught sight of her instantly.

Seeing the girl at that early hour thrilled the sergeant to the tips of
his toes and his face lighted up with a look of joy and surprise over
this unexpected pleasure.

He waved back to her, believing that her salutation was meant for him,
and then turning, slapped Lefty upon the back and yelled, “Look! There’s
Elinor! Jumpin’ cats, she got up in the middle of the night to say
good-by to me!”

Lefty pretended not to hear as he toyed with the hub of one of the
landing gear wheels, though he felt his heart beating faster at even the
very mention of the girl’s name.

Panama gazed at him in bewilderment, not quite comprehending the boy’s
indifference, and then repeated his original announcement of Elinor’s
arrival.

Phelps responded by rising, and without even glancing in the direction
Elinor was approaching, walked around the side of the plane and climbed
up into the rear cockpit to examine the machine gun. A sickening feeling
came over him as cold beads of perspiration moistened his forehead.

He felt a dull, terrible thud in his heart over the prospect of having
to again face Elinor after what Panama had confided to him only the
afternoon previous.

When she gave him her photograph the morning before, he had promised to
see her that night and go into town to a movie, but after what Williams
had told him, it was too great a temptation to even as much as trust
himself now in her company. He loved her as he had never loved any
woman. From the very first moment he had set eyes upon her back in San
Diego the day he passed his medical test, his head had been filled with
dreams of a pleasant future spent with this girl as his life’s partner.
Now that Panama admitted harboring the same hopes, Lefty firmly believed
that it was his duty to step aside and concede his place to the man who
had not alone befriended him, but saved his life at the risk of his own.

As for Elinor, she was unable to understand Lefty’s sudden reversal of
mind and heart, and a pained expression of keen disappointment
overshadowed her lovely countenance as she noted the boy’s puzzling,
indifferent attitude of plainly ignoring her.

Panama rushed forward to greet the girl with a broad smile of welcome,
forgetting himself for the moment and clasping her in his arms, then
blushing furiously as he realized the forward step he had made.

Elinor helped to relieve his embarrassment by ignoring his bold action
and greeting him with a warm, “Hello,” while Lefty, still seated in the
cockpit, experienced a mingled feeling of nervousness and slight
jealousy, as he struggled to pretend that he was still unaware of her
arrival.

“Gosh, Elinor!” Panama bellowed with jubilant enthusiasm, “it was mighty
nice of you to get up so early just to say good-by to me!”

The pretty nurse’s lips parted in a warm and generous smile, at the same
time, casting a hurried and nervous glance in Lefty’s direction, whose
back was still turned toward her.

“I couldn’t see either of you boys go away without saying good-by,” she
replied in a tone unmistakably loud enough so that Lefty could not help
but hear. Then she glanced down and held out one of the neatly wrapped
packages she had been carrying. “Here’s a little something for you so
that you won’t forget me!”

Panama looked with longing and surprised eyes at the package and then at
Elinor. He stumbled from one foot to the other, tried to speak but
somehow couldn’t find the words, and then, with hesitance, lifted his
hand and accepted the box.

“Gee, this is swell! Oh, boy—I didn’t think you’d remember me like
this!” He turned about, grinning from ear to ear, and looked up at
Lefty, shouting, “Hey, kid! Look what Santa Claus just brought me!”

Still making a sincere attempt to avoid any direct meeting with Elinor,
the boy merely looked over his shoulder with his eyes trained just above
the nurse’s head and smiled at Panama, quickly resuming his work again
on the machine gun.

This latest action of Lefty’s left no doubt in Elinor’s mind that
he was intentionally avoiding her, and the consciousness of his
inexplainable attitude hurt her terribly. Her mind became a befuddled
center of unanswerable and annoying questions that she struggled to
fathom out, though finally giving up the task with regret just as
Panama, in an embarrassed fashion, began to stutter incoherently,
“I—well—er—ahem—er—if I could manage to write a couple of letters,
will you—er—do you think you’ll find time to read ’em?”

Elinor was deeply touched by the man’s sincerity. Her heart went out to
him with understanding; for the moment allowing her to forget Lefty and
his puzzling attitude.

“You know I’ll read every word you write,” she replied, encouragingly,
“and I’ll answer your letters too, you big silly!”

With such encouragement, Panama might have asked Elinor then and there
to marry him. At least, for one brief moment, he found courage enough to
pop the question, but as the words came to his lips, he heard a familiar
voice from behind him call his name. Turning, he recognized the flight
commander, and without further hesitance, came to attention, saluted and
joined his superior officer, walking off with him and leaving Elinor
standing alone.

Once more alone, the puzzled nurse again turned her attention to Lefty,
seated in the plane, adamant as ever in his determination to ignore her.

She hesitated for a moment and then walked over to the side of the
plane, gazing up at him with a bewitching smile that completely took the
boy off his guard.

As he looked down at this girl, a sweet and appealing figure whose hair,
skirt and cape fluttered in the wash of the plane’s propeller, a feeling
of uneasiness gripped him, impressing indelibly upon his mind and heart
that he loved her—more than all the world.

She lifted her hand that still held the other package, mutely signifying
to the boy to accept the gift. The result was perfect. Conscious of her
thoughtfulness, the barrier he had raised so high between them,
instantly melted away as he reached over the side of the fuselage and
took the box, his hand touching hers for one brief moment, electrifying
the hearts of both.

“My, but you’re a busy person,” she said, assuming an air of
self-injury.

Lefty’s face shaded with a frown, then mimicking the girl’s injured
tone, looked off in the direction of where Panama and the flight
commander stood talking, replying curtly, “Well, I notice that you’ve
been kind of busy yourself!”

At loss to understand the boy’s sudden change of attitude again, Elinor
held out her hand in a manner of farewell and said, “Well, I hope you
have a safe voyage and—good-by!”

He gazed down at her for a moment and then took her slim hand in his,
pressing it gently and making no attempt to hide the thrill even this
slight contact gave him.

She responded with an inviting and tender look that made him forget
every promise he had made to himself. For one brief moment, he and this
girl were the only two people in the entire world and it was inevitable
that the first thought that came to his mind was to hop out of the
plane, hold her tightly in his arms and shower her lovely, tempting lips
with kisses.

All at once, he boldly awoke with the annoying realization that he was
selfishly enacting a love scene with his dearest friend’s girl, and
Panama only a stone’s throw away from them. Much to Elinor’s
bewilderment, Lefty quickly assumed a belligerent attitude, saying, “Why
did you have to come down here this morning?”

For the moment, his thoughtless words cut straight through to her heart,
bringing a faint sign of tears to her eyes; then all at once, something
within her instinctively lifted the shroud of mystery that enveloped
Lefty and she saw right through him, completely understanding his
purpose of assumed indifference.

As they both stood silently gazing at each other, Elinor was turning
over the problem in her mind whether or not it might be best to inform
Lefty exactly how she felt toward Panama, when the sergeant came
bursting in upon them in a mad hurry to get away.

Without even glancing up at the boy again, Elinor shook hands with
Panama, called out a cheery farewell and ran off to join a group of
nurses who stood near by, watching the spectacular take-off.

The large siren atop of the central hangar blew shrilly and with it came
the mingled shouts of men and a renewed bustling activity through the
line of planes, the motors of which were all purring with a deafening
roar now.

Panama climbed up into the cockpit, smiling triumphantly and waving with
enthusiasm to Elinor. He turned and slapped Lefty on the back in a
jubilant mood, pointing to where the girl was standing. “See that, boy,”
he announced boastfully. “Don’t you wish you had a girl like her?”

Lefty threw off Panama’s hand disgustedly without making comment and
dropped down in his seat, strapping on his helmet and pulling the large
Visionaire goggles over his eyes just as the sound of the bugle to take
off came to the ears of all.

A wild shout arose from the men seated in the line of planes as each
pilot exultantly gave his ship “the gun,” taxiing down the great field
into formation, waiting a moment for the final sign from the commander.

The flight commander, in the first plane, rose and looked down the line
of ships, making certain that formation had been made and all were
accounted for.

He lifted his arm, which was a signal for every other pilot to do the
same. Making certain that the way was clear, he dropped his hand, giving
his plane the gun, and the great, crusading air fleet began to taxi down
the field with a deafening roar of the motors and swiftly moving
propellers.

As the planes gained altitude, Panama, still wearing a jubilant
expression of victory, looked out over the fuselage and waved down to
Elinor who was still standing, with upturned head, watching the progress
of the ships.

The sergeant turned and motioned to Lefty to look down but the boy,
understanding his object in requesting him to do so, merely scowled
sullenly and kept his eyes straight ahead.

Flying south, the planes fell into battle formation, creating a
beautiful spectacle to view from the earth far below just as the sun
rose, spreading its majestic glory and warmth over a bright and gorgeous
Florida morning.

After reaching his flying altitude, Panama held the stick with his knees
as he nervously unwrapped the package Elinor had given to him before he
left, his eyes eagerly resting upon some candy, a few packages of
cigarettes and a large plug of chewing tobacco on top of which he found
a note that read, “Good luck—Elinor.”

In the rear cockpit, Lefty followed suit by opening his package and
discovering a small sewing kit with some buttons and a copy of
Lindbergh’s book, “We.”

A small white card protruded from the corner of the book and with some
hesitance, Lefty pulled it out and read the words that completely upset
his emotions, causing him to wish that he had left Elinor in a different
frame of mind, and yet, troubling him over the fact that this romance,
if it didn’t end for once and for all, might break Panama’s heart.

The sergeant looked back at Lefty, still wearing a broad, happy grin as
he held up Elinor’s gift, he allowed the boy to read the note.

Phelps nodded his head, attempting to smile unbegrudgingly. Panama then
placed the box out of sight, folding the note and carefully putting it
away in the pocket of his windjammer.

The boy shook his head despairingly, sighed deeply and once more
unfolded the small piece of white paper upon which the girl had
scribbled: “I’ll miss you—Elinor.”

Once again he read those few lines and the world of happiness they
promised if he only dared so much as say the word.

He watched Panama, now skillfully manipulating the plane. A sudden
feeling of security and warmth came upon him and he gazed at the man
before him with honest gratitude and an undying vow of devotion and
friendship upon his lips.

Slowly he folded Elinor’s note and tore it in two, dropping the pieces
overboard to be separated and lost forever.

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