It is an unwritten law of all flying
services that when an enemy machine bursts into flames
in the course of an aerial combat the aggressor who
has brought the catastrophe should leave well enough
alone and allow his stricken enemy to fall unmolested.
Lieutenant Callendar, returning from
a great and enjoyable strafe, was met by three fast
scouts of the Imperial German Flying Service.
He shot down one, when his gun was jammed. He
banked over and dived to avoid the attentions of the
foremost of his adversaries, but was hit by a chance
bullet, his petrol tank was pierced and he suddenly
found himself in the midst of noisy flames which said
As he fell, to his amazement and wrath,
one of his adversaries dropped after him, his machine-gun
going like a rattle. High above the combatants
a fourth and fifth machine, the one British and the
other a unit of the American squadron, were tearing
down-skies. The pursuing plane saw his danger,
banked round and sped for home, his companion being
already on the way.
“Ye’re no gentleman,”
said Tam grimly, “an’ A’m goin’
to strafe ye!”
Fortunately for the flying breaker
of air-laws, von Bissing’s circus was performing
stately measures in the heavens and as von Bissing’s
circus consisted of ten very fast flying-machines,
Tam decided that this was not the moment for vengeance
and came round on a hairpin turn just as von Bissing
Tam got back to the aerodrome to discover
that Callendar, somewhat burnt but immensely cheerful,
was holding an indignation meeting, the subject under
discussion being “The Game and How It Should
“The brute knew jolly well I
was crashing. It’s a monstrous thing!”
“One was bound to meet fellows
like that sooner or later,” said Captain Blackie,
the squadron commander, philosophically. “I
suppose the supply of gentlemen does not go round,
and they are getting some rubbish into the corps.
One of you fellows drop a note over their aerodrome
and ask them what the dickens they mean by it.
Did you see him, Tam?”
“A’ did that,” said
Tam; “that wee Hoon was saved from destruction
owing to circumstances ower which A’ had no
control. A’ was on his tail; ma bricht-blue
eyes were glancin’ along the sichts of ma seelver-plated
Lewis gun, when A’ speered the grand circus of
Mr. MacBissing waiting to perform.”
Tam shook his head.
“A’m hoping,” said
he, “that it was an act of mental aberration,
that ’twas his first crash; and, carried away
by the excitement and enthusiasm of the moment, the
little feller fell into sin. A’m hoping
that retribution is awaiting him.
“‘Ma wee Hindenburg,’
says Mr. MacBissing, stern and ruthless, ’did
I no see ye behavin’ in a manner likely to bring
discredit upon the Imperial and All-Highest Air Sairvice
of our Exalted and Talkative Kaiser? Hoch!
“Little Willie Hindenburg hangs his heid.
“‘Baron,’ or ‘ma
lord,’ as the case may be, says he, ‘I’ll
no be tellin’ ye a lie. I was not mesel’!
That last wee dram of sauerkraut got me all lit up
like a picture palace!’ says he; ’I didn’t
know whether it was on ma heid or somebody else’s,’
says he; ’I’ll admit the allegation and
I throw mesel’ on the maircy o’ the court.’
“‘Hand me ma strop,’
says MacBissing, pale but determined, and a few minutes
later a passer-by micht have been arrested and even
condemned to death by hearin’ the sad and witchlike
moans that came frae headquarters.”
That “Little Willie Hindenburg”
had not acted inadvertently, but that it was part
of his gentle plan to strafe the strafed an
operation equivalent to kicking a man when he is down was
demonstrated the next morning, for when Thornton fell
out of control, blazing from engine to tail, a German
flying-man, unmistakably the same as had disgraced
himself on the previous day, came down on his tail,
keeping a hail of bullets directed at the fuselage,
though he might have saved himself the trouble, for
both Thornton and Freeman, his observer, had long since
fought their last fight.
Again Tam was a witness and again,
like a raging tempest, he swept down upon the law-breaker
and again was foiled by the vigilant German scouts
from executing his vengeance.
Tam had recently received from home
a goodly batch of that literature which was his peculiar
joy. He sat in his bunk on the night of his second
adventure with the bad-mannered airman, turned the
lurid cover of “The Seven Warnings: The
Story of a Cowboy’s Vengeance,” and settled
himself down to that “good, long read”
which was his chiefest and, indeed, his only recreation.
He began reading at the little pine table. He
continued curled up in the big armchair retrieved
from the attic of the shell-battered Chateau d’Enghien.
He concluded the great work sitting cross-legged on
his bed, and the very restlessness which the story
provoked was a sure sign of its gripping interest.
And when he had finished the little
work of thirty-two pages, he turned back and read
parts all over again, a terrific compliment to the
shy and retiring author. He closed the book with
a long sigh, sat upon his bed for half an hour and
then went back to the pine table, took out from the
debris of one of the drawers a bottle of ink, a pen
and some notepaper and wrote laboriously and carefully,
ending the seven or eight lines of writing with a
very respectable representation of a skull and cross-bones.
When he had finished, he drew an envelope
toward him and sat looking at it for five minutes.
He scratched his head and he scratched his chin and
laid down his pen.
It was eleven o’clock, and the
mess would still be sitting engaged in discussion.
He put out the light and made his way across the darkened
Blackie saw him in the anteroom, for
Tam enjoyed the privilege of entree at all times.
“His name? It’s very
curious you should ask that question, Tam,” smiled
Blackie; “we’ve just had a message through
from Intelligence. One of his squadron has been
brought down by the Creepers, and they are so sick
about him that this fellow who was caught by the Creepers
gave him away. His name is von Mahl, the son
of a very rich pal of the Kaiser, and a real bad egg.”
“Von Mahl,” repeated Tam
slowly, “and he will be belongin’ to the
Roulers lot, A’m thinkin’?”
“They complain bitterly that
he is not a gentleman,” he said, “and they
would kick him out but for the fact that he has this
influence. Why did you want to know?”
“Sir-r,” said Tam solemnly, “I ha’e
a grand stunt.”
He went back to his room and addressed the envelope:
“Mr. von Mahl.”
The next morning when the well-born
members of the Ninety-fifth Squadron of the Imperial
German Air Service were making their final preparations
to ascend, a black speck appeared in the sky.
Captain Karl von Zeiglemann fixed
the speck with his Zeiss glasses and swore.
“That is an English machine,”
he said; “those Bavarian swine have let him
through. Take cover!”
The group in the aerodrome scattered.
The Archie fire grew more and more
furious and the sky was flecked with the smoke of
bursting shell, but the little visitor came slowly
and inexorably onward. Then came three resounding
crashes as the bombs dropped. One got the corner
of a hangar and demolished it. Another burst
into the open and did no damage, but the third fell
plumb between two machines waiting to go up and left
them tangled and burning.
The German squadron-leader saw the
machine bank over and saw, too, something that was
fluttering down slowly to the earth. He called
“There’s a parachute falling
outside Fritz. Go and get it.”
He turned to his second in command.
“We shall find, Mueller, that
this visitor is not wholly unconnected with our dear
friend von Mahl.”
“I wish von Mahl had been under
that bomb,” grumbled his subordinate. “Can’t
we do something to get rid of him, Herr Captain?”
Zeiglemann shook his head.
“I have suggested it and had
a rap over the knuckles for my pains. The fellow
is getting us a very bad name.”
Five minutes later his orderly came
to the group of which Zeiglemann was the center and
handed him a small linen parachute and a weighted bag.
The squadron-leader was cutting the string which bound
the mouth of the bag when a shrill voice said:
“Herr Captain, do be careful; there might be
There was a little chuckle of laughter
from the group, and Zeiglemann glowered at the speaker,
a tall, unprepossessing youth whose face was red with
“Herr von Mahl,” he snapped
with true Prussian ferocity, “the air-services
do not descend to such tricks nor do they shoot at
“Herr Captain,” spluttered
the youth, “I do what I think is my duty to
my Kaiser and my Fatherland.”
He saluted religiously.
To this there was no reply, as he
well knew, and Captain Zeiglemann finished his work
in silence. The bag was opened. He put in
his hand and took out a letter.
“I thought so,” he said,
looking at the address; “this is for you, von
Mahl.” He handed it to the youth, who tore
open the envelope.
They crowded about him and read it over his shoulder:
IS THE FIRST WARNING
OF THE AVENGER.
IN YEER SHOES.
with guards and walls
And hide behind the
And dig ye’sel’
into the earth.
Ye’ll yet regret
yeer day of birth.
For Tam the Scoot is
on yeer track
And soon yeer dome will
start to crack!”
It was signed with a skull and cross-bones.
The young man looked bewildered from
one to the other. Every face was straight.
“What what is this?”
he stammered; “is it not absurd? Is it not
frivolous, Herr Captain?”
He laughed his high, shrill little
laugh, but nobody uttered a sound.
“This is serious, of course,
von Mahl,” said Zeiglemann soberly. “Although
this is your private quarrel, the squadron will do
its best to save you.”
“But, but this is stupid foolishness,”
said von Mahl as he savagely tore the note into little
pieces and flung them down. “I will go after
this fellow and kill him. I will deal with this
“You will do as you wish, Herr
von Mahl, but first you shall pick up those pieces
of paper, for it is my order that the aerodrome shall
be kept clean.”
Tam swooped back to his headquarters
in time for breakfast and made his report.
“The next time you do tricks
over Roulers they’ll be waiting for you, Tam,”
said Blackie with a shake of his head. “I
shouldn’t strain that warning stunt of yours.”
“Sir-r,” said Tam, “A’ve
no intention of riskin’ government property.”
“I’m not thinking of the machine, but
“A’ was thinkin’
the same way,” said Tam coolly. “’Twould
be a national calamity. A’ doot but even
the Scotsman would be thrown into mournin’ ’Intelligence
reaches us,’ says our great contempor’y,
’from the Western Front which will bring sorrow
to nearly every Scottish home reached by our widely
sairculated journal, an’ even to others.
Tam the Scoot, the intreepid airman, has gone west.
The wee hero tackled single-handed thairty-five enemy
’busses, to wit, Mr. MacBissing’s saircus,
an’ fell, a victim to his own indomitable fury
an’ hot temper, after destroyin’ thairty-one
of the enemy. Glascae papers (if there are any)
That Blackie’s fears were well
founded was proved later in the morning. Tam
found the way to Roulers barred by an Archie barrage
which it would have been folly to challenge.
He turned south, avoiding certain cloud masses, and
had the gratification of seeing “the circus”
swoop down from the fleece in a well-designed encircling
Tam swung round and made for Ypres,
but again found a barring formation.
He turned again, this time straight
for home, dropping his post-bag (he had correctly
addressed his letter and he knew it would be delivered),
shot down out of control a diving enemy machine that
showed fight, chased a slow “spotter”
to earth, and flashed over the British trenches less
than two hundred feet from the ground with his wings
shot to ribbons for the circus had got
to within machine-gun range.
A week later Lieutenant von Mahl crossed
the British lines at a height of fifteen hundred feet,
bombed a billet and a casualty clearing station and
dropped an insolent note addressed to “The Englishman
Tamm.” He did not wait for an answer, which
came at one o’clock on the following morning a
noisy and a terrifying answer.
“This has ceased to be amusing,”
said Captain von Zeiglemann, emerging from his bomb-proof
shelter, and wired a requisition for three machines
to replace those “destroyed by enemy action,”
and approval for certain measures of reprisal.
“As for that pig-dog von Mahl....”
“He has received his fifth warning,”
said his unsmiling junior, “and he is not happy.”
Von Mahl was decidedly not happy.
His commandant found him rather pale and shaking,
sitting in his room. He leaped up as von Zeiglemann
entered, clicked his heels and saluted. Without
a word the commandant took the letter from his hand
If ye go to Germany
A’ll follow ye. If ye gae hame to yeer mither
A’ll find the
house and bomb ye. A’ll never leave ye,
“So!” was von Zeiglemann’s comment.
“It is rascality! It is
monstrous!” squeaked the lieutenant. “It
is against the rules of war! What shall I do,
“Go up and find Tam and shoot
him,” said Zeiglemann dryly. “It is
a simple matter.”
“But but do you think do
you believe ?”
“I think he will keep his word.
Do not forget, Herr Lieutenant, that Tam brought down
von Mueller, the greatest airman that the Fatherland
The young man’s face went a
shade paler. The story of von Mueller and his
feud with an “English” airman and of the
disastrous sequel to that feud, was common knowledge
Walking back to Command Headquarters,
von Zeiglemann expressed his private views to his
“If Tam can scare this money-bag
back to Frankfurt, he will render us a service.”
“He asked me where I thought
he would be safe he is thinking of asking
for a transfer to the eastern front,” said Zeiglemann’s
“And you said ”
“I told him that the only safe place was a British
“Please the good God he reaches
there,” said Zeiglemann piously, “but he
will be a fortunate man if he ever lands alive from
a fight with Tam. Do not, I command you, allow
him to go up alone. We must guard the swine keep
him in the formation.”
Von Zeiglemann went up in his roaring
little single-seater and ranged the air behind the
German lines, seeking Tam. By sheer luck he was
brought down by a chance Archie shell and fell with
a sprained ankle in the German support-trenches, facing
“A warning to me to leave Mahl
to fight his own quarrels,” he said as he limped
from the car which had been sent to bring him in.
There comes to every man to whom has
been interpreted the meaning of fear a moment of exquisite
doubt in his own courage, a bewildering collapse of
faith that begins in uneasy fears and ends in blind
Von Mahl had courage an
airman can not be denied that quality whatever his
nationality may be but it was a mechanical
valor based upon an honest belief in the superiority
of the average German over all friends
He had come to the flying service
from the Corps of the Guard; to the Corps of the Guard
from the atmosphere of High Finance, wherein men reduce
all values to the denomination of the mark and appraise
all virtues by the currency of the country in which
that virtue is found.
His supreme confidence in the mark
evaporated under the iron rule of a colonel who owned
three lakes and a range of mountains and an adjutant
who had four surnames and used them all at once.
His confidence in the superiority
of German arms, somewhat shaken at Verdun, revived
after his introduction to the flying service, attained
to its zenith at the moment when he incurred the prejudices
of Tam, and from that moment steadily declined.
The deterioration of morale in a soldier
is a difficult process to reduce to description.
It may be said that it has its beginnings in respect
for your enemy and reaches its culminating point in
contempt for your comrades. Before you reach
that point you have passed well beyond the stage when
you had any belief in yourself.
Von Mahl had arrived at the level
of descent when he detached himself from his comrades
and sat brooding, his knuckles to his teeth, reviewing
his abilities and counting over all the acts of injustice
to which he had been subjected.
Von Zeiglemann, watching him, ordered
him fourteen days’ leave, and the young officer
accepted the privilege somewhat reluctantly.
There was a dear fascination in the
danger, he imagined. He had twice crossed fire
with Tam and now knew him, his machine, and his tactics
Von Mahl left for Brussels en route
for Frankfurt and two days later occurred one of those
odd accidents of war which have so often been witnessed.
Tam was detailed to make one of a
strong raiding party which had as its objective a
town just over the Belgian-German frontier. It
was carried out successfully and the party was on
its way home when Tam, who was one of the fighting
escort, was violently engaged by two machines, both
of which he forced down. In the course of a combat
he was compelled to come to within a thousand feet
of the ground and was on the point of climbing when,
immediately beneath him, a long military railway train
emerged from a tunnel. Tam carried no bombs,
but he had two excellent machine guns, and he swooped
joyously to the fray.
A few feet from the ground he flattened
and, running in the opposite direction to that which
the train was taking, he loosed a torrent of fire
into the side of the carriages.
Von Mahl, looking from the window
of a first-class carriage, saw in a flash the machine
and its pilot then the windows splintered
to a thousand pieces and he dropped white and palpitating
to the floor.
He came to Frankfurt to find his relations
had gone to Karlsruhe, and followed them. The
night he arrived Karlsruhe was bombed by a French
squadron.... von Mahl saw only a score of flying and
vengeful Tams. He came back to the front broken
in spirit and courage. “The only place you
can be safe is an English internment camp.”
He chewed his knuckles with fierce
intentness and thought the matter over.
“A’m delayin’ ma
seventh warnin’,” said Tam, “for
A’m no’ so sure that McMahl is aboot.
A’ve no’ seen the wee chiel for a gay lang
“Honestly, Tam,” said
young Craig (the last of the Craigs, his two brothers
having been shot down over Lille), “do you really
think you scare Fritz?”
Tam pulled at his cigar with a pained
expression, removed the Corona from his mouth, eyeing
it with a disappointed sneer, and sniffed disparagingly
before he replied.
“Sir-r,” he said, “the
habits of the Hoon, or Gairman, ha’e been ma
life study. Often in the nicht when ye gentlemen
at the mess are smokin’ bad seegairs an’
playin’ the gamblin’ game o’ bridge-whist,
Tam o’ the Scoots is workin’ oot problems
in Gairman psych I forget the bonnie waird.
There he sits, the wee man wi’oot so much as
a seegair to keep him company thank ye,
sir-r, A’ll not smoke it the noo, but ’twill
be welcomed by one of the sufferin’ mechanics there
sits Tam, gettin’ into the mind, or substitute,
of the Hoon.”
“But do you seriously believe that you have
Tam’s eyes twinkled.
“Mr. Craig, sir-r, what do ye fear wairst in
Craig thought a moment.
“Snakes,” he said.
“An’ if ye wanted to strafe
a feller as bad as ye could, would ye put him amongst
“I can’t imagine anything more horrible,”
“’Tis the same with the
Hoon. He goes in for frichtfulness because he’s
afraid of frichtfulness. He bombs little toons
because he’s scairt of his ain little toons
bein’ bombed. He believes we get the wind
up because he’d be silly wi’ terror if
we did the same thing to him. Ye can always scare
a Hoon that’s ma theery, sir-r.”
Craig had no further opportunity for
discussing the matter, for the next morning he was
“concussed” in midair and retained sufficient
sense to bring his machine to the ground. Unfortunately
the ground was in the temporary occupation of the
So Craig went philosophically into bondage.
He was taken to German Headquarters
and handed over to von Zeiglemann’s wing “for
“This is Mr. von Mahl,”
introduced Zeiglemann gravely (they were going in
to lunch); “you have heard of him.”
Craig raised his eyebrows, for the
spirit of mischief was on him.
“Von Mahl,” he said with
well-assumed incredulity; “why, I thought oh,
by the way, is to-day the sixteenth?”
“To-morrow is the sixteenth,”
snarled von Mahl. “What happens to-morrow,
“I beg your pardon,” said
Craig politely; “I’m afraid I can not tell
you it would not be fair to Tam.”
And von Mahl went out in a sweat of fear.
From somewhere overhead came a sound
like a snarl of a buzz-saw as it bites into hard wood.
Tam, who was walking along a deserted by-road, his
hands in his breeches pockets, his forage cap at the
back of his head, looked up and shaded his eyes.
Something as big as a house-fly, and black as that,
was moving with painful slowness across the skies.
Now, there is only one machine that
makes a noise like a buzz-saw going about its lawful
business, and that is a British battle-plane, and that
this was such a machine, Tam knew.
Why it should be flying at that height
and in a direction opposite to that in which the battle-line
lay, was a mystery.
Usually a machine begins to drop as
it reaches our lines, even though its destination
may be far beyond the aérodromes immediately behind
the line even, as in this case, when it
was heading straight for the sea and the English coast.
Nor was it customary for an aeroplane bound for “Blighty”
to begin its voyage from some point behind the German
lines. Tam stood for fully five minutes watching
the leisurely speck winging westward; then he retraced
his steps to the aerodrome.
He found at the entrance a little
group of officers who were equally interested.
“What do you make of that bus, Tam?” asked
“She’s British,” said Tam cautiously.
He reached out his hands for the glasses
that Blackie was offering, and focused them on the
disappearing machine. Long and silently he watched
her. The sun had been behind a cloud, but now
one ray caught the aeroplane for a moment and turned
her into a sparkling star of light. Tam put down
“Yon’s Mr. Craig’s,” he said
“Craig’s machine? What makes you
“Sir-r,” said Tam, “I
wad know her anywheer. Yon’s Mr. Craig’s
’bus, right enough.”
Blackie turned quickly and ran to
his office. He spun the handle of the telephone
and gave a number.
“That you, Calais? There’s
a Boche flying one of our machines gone in your direction yes,
one that came down in his lines last week. A
Fairlight battle-plane. She’s flying at
sixteen thousand feet. Warn Dover.”
He hung up the telephone and turned back.
Holiday-makers at a certain British
coast town were treated to the spectacle of an alarm.
They gathered on the sands and on
the front and watched a dozen English machines trekking
upward in wide circles until they also were hovering
specks in the sky. They saw them wheel suddenly
and pass out to sea and then those who possessed strong
glasses noted a new speck coming from the east and
presently thirteen machines were mixed up and confused,
like the spots that come before the eyes of some one
afflicted with a liver.
From this pickle of dots one slowly
descended and the trained observers standing at a
point of vantage whooped for joy, for that which seemed
a slow descent was, in reality, moving twice as fast
as the swiftest express train and, moreover, they
knew by certain signs that it was falling in flames.
A gray destroyer, its three stacks
belching black smoke, cut through the sea and circled
about the debris of the burning machine. A little
boat danced through the waves and a young man was
hauled from the wreckage uttering strange and bitter
words of hate.
They took him down to the ward-room
of the destroyer and propped him in the commander’s
armchair. A businesslike doctor dabbed two ugly
cuts in his head with iodine and deftly encircled
his brow with a bandage. A navigating lieutenant
passed him a whisky-and-soda.
“If you speak English, my gentle
lad,” said the commander, “honor us with
your rank, title, and official number.”
“Von Mahl,” snapped the
young man, “Royal Prussian Lieutenant of the
“You take our breath away,”
said the commander. “Will you explain why
you were flying a British machine carrying the Allied
“I shall explain nothing,” boomed the
He was not pleasant to look upon,
for his head was closely shaven and his forehead receded.
Not to be outdone in modesty, his chin was also of
a retiring character.
“Before I hand you over to the
wild men of the Royal Naval Air Service, who, I understand,
eat little things like you on toast, would you like
to make any statement which will save you from the
ignominious end which awaits all enterprising young
heroes who come camouflaging as enterprising young
Von Mahl hesitated.
“I came because I
saw the machine it had fallen in our lines it
was an impulse.”
He slipped his hand into his closely
buttoned tunic and withdrew a thick wad of canvas-backed
paper which, unfolded, revealed itself as a staff
map of England.
This he spread on the ward-room table
and the commander observed that at certain places
little red circles had been drawn.
“Uppingleigh, Colnburn, Exchester,”
said the destroyer captain; “but these aren’t
places of military importance they are German
“Exactly!” said von Mahl; “that
is where I go.”
In this he spoke the truth, for to one of these he