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north as the Revuma river, where it was said that the whole German Army was now concentrating. The force occupying Mwembe had been instructed to clear a space in the centre of the camp as soon as possible, to mark it with a huge white calico T, and to light big smoke-fires on our approach.

establish an aerodrome at this place, and two days after our long flight I sailed on the 8.8. Pioneer for Langwena Bay, whence a good safari path winds through a deep valley in the Livingstone Mountains to the interior. I had little difficulty in finding a suitable site for an aerodrome, although it took 700 strapping Yao women nearly a week to remove the rank grass and bush and smooth down several enormous termite heaps. Hodge, with Corporal Walker as passenger, left Fort Johnston as soon as I wired that all was ready, and the Old Bee landed at her new home in grand style. Our immediate task now was to prepare a detailed map of the country lying between Mtonia and Mwembe, and as soon as this was ready the British force, under the command of Colonel Shorthose (of the K.A.R.), moved of. Information came in that after our flight over Mwembe, Mataka had reconsidered his plans for a general invasion of Portuguese East, and that most of his braves had returned to their farms, to live the peaceful life once more. Shorthose met with little opposition, and the Huns retired swiftly northwards, leaving Old Mwembe in our hands, Once more the enemy was out of the Old Bee's range, and Hodge decided that he would risk a landing at Mwembe, fill up our tanks from a supply of petrol that had been sent out with the British column for that purpose, and carry out a reconnaissance as far morning.

We left Mtonia one morning during a heavy rainstorm, and, after a very rough journey, reached our destination. The "aerodrome" measured only 150 yards by 20 yards; a strong wind was blowing exactly across it, yet Hodge made a perfect landing, and brought the Old Bee to a standstill one yard away from the trunk of a fat mango - tree. The whole force greeted us with deafening cheers, and our popularity increased as we off-loaded a huge bag of mail and a case of whisky. A few minutes later we left the ground once more, and, taking a north-easterly course, followed for nearly two hours the read along which the Hun had retired. During the whole of this time we had to fight our way through dense clouds and heavy rainstorms, and on several occasions we nearly collided with the great solitary mountain peaks that abound in the Rovuma valley. Not the slightest sign of the enemy did we see, and at last we turned disconsolately homewards. Hodge made another excellent landing at Old Mwembe, and we decided to remain there all night, and return to Mtonia in the

XXII. THE CURSE OF THE CROW.

This had been the most disappointing reconnaissance that Hodge and I had yet carried out together. Never until now had we returned minus information of some description. Could it be that our wonderful luck was at last changing? I began to wonder if there was something in the orow business after all. No matter where one camps in East Africa, there will always appear, sooner or later, a number of very dilapidatedlooking black and white crows, which hop about the ground near the kitchen, looking for stray bits of food, and which soon become remarkably tame. There is a superstition among the natives, and shared by many white men, that to kill one of these orows will inevitably bring bad luck. A day or two before we left Mtonia, I went out one morning after a lion that had been reported in the vicinity, and in addition to my rifle I took with me a revolver, carried in a holster strapped to my thigh. For many miles we tramped over the veldt, but we saw no sign of his Royal Highness. Suddenly, however, one of these dear old crews appeared overhead. A nigger who was with me pointed to it and said—

"Shoot it, master!" Without thinking what I was doing, I cried "Right-o!" and drawing the revolver, aimed it haphazardly into the sky and fired. To my amazement the crow fluttered down

I felt

dead to the ground. horribly ashamed of myself. To kill wantonly any living thing that is not harmful, or useful as food, is considered the essence of bad sportsmanship, and I cursed the evil moment of my silliness.

Hodge was really angry when I told him about it, although he realised as well as I did myself that it had all been perfectly accidental.

"That's the end of our good luck, my lad!" he said pessimistically; and although I still flatly refuse to have any belief in the supernatural, the events that followed are not without a certain amount of dramatic significance.

We left for Mtonia at daybreak, and after a terribly bumpy journey landed safely. The machine had actually stopped, just outside the hangar, when suddenly a terrifio gust of wind swept down the aerodrome, seized hold of the planes, and lifted the Old Bee bodily over. Apart from a nasty shaking neither of us was hurt, but the under carriage and the propeller were smashed to smithereens.

"Let's shoot another orow! murmured Hodge sarcastically as we walked to the mess.

While the Old Bee was undergoing repairs, orders came

from Northey that Hodge was to fly to Ssongea at the first opportunity; and as all our gear at Fort Johnston was to be shipped back

to German East, it was arranged that Corporal Walker should fly with Hodge as passenger, while I proceeded to Nyassaland, and thence by boat to Weidhaven, the port for Ssongea. It took me three days to march to the lake side, when I embarked on the Queen Victoria for Fort Johnston. Here all our remaining stores were loaded on to the Gwendoline, and we sailed as soon as possible, arriving at Weidhaven two days later.

Bad news was awaiting me. Hodge and Corporal Walker had left Mtonia, and nothing had been heard of them for seventy-two hours. It was highly probable that a terrible fate had overtaken them both. With the vivid imagination that has ever been my eurse, I pictured the Old Bee orashing into one of those terrible mountain cliffs, or spinning down into the giant forest. Even if they were not killed in the actual crash, death in a hundred ghastly shapes would dog their footsteps on the way back to the camp.

On my arrival at Songea, I reported to General Northey. There was no news of the missing airmen, but patrols had been sent out towards the Rovuma in search of them, At the aerodrome I found a wire from the Squadron ordering Hodge to send a pilot familiar with the country to Iringa to fly up a new machine that would arrive there shortly. With Hodge missing and Murray on leave, there was no such pilot in the

Flight; and although a number of reserve pilots were now on their way by road to Seongea, not one of them had ever flown in East Africa. Therefore I suggested to the Staff that I should proceed to Iringa myself, and act as navigator to Blackburn, a pilot who had been in charge of the Iringa depot for some time, but who was not exactly on the personnel of the Flight.

I left early on the following day by car. On the way to Njombe I was bowled over with another attack of fever, and for two days I lost all interest in life. Maganga, however, pulled me through, and we were able to push on to Njombe on the third day. At Iringa I found Blackburn also suffering from malaria, and it may be imagined that we made a very jovial party. The machine arrived in due course, but Blackburn was too ill to set out immediately. At the end of the week we were overjoyed to hear that Hodge and Walker were safe. They had reached Old Mwembe, the first stage of their long journey, without mishap, but in taking off from this place the Old Bee had played her last little joke. The engine failed a few feet from the ground, and the machine had crashed into a mango - tree with terrific force. Walker had been slightly erushed, but Hodge, with his usual luck, had come off unscathed. They had both to walk the whole way back to the lake, however, and Hodge's state of mind and temper may be

judged from the wire he sent

me:

"Both safe. Please state if you have any further supplies of dead crows to hand."

Blackburn at last announced that he felt fit enough for the journey, although, judging from his looks, a trip back to the Base in an ambulance car would have been a much saner proposition. However, the machine was urgently wanted at the front, and, albeit with some misgivings, we climbed in early one morning and prepared ourselves for the journey. Personally, I had no in. terest in anything except my throbbing head and aching spleen. We left the ground just as the sun was rising, and at first sailed swiftly along over the dense belt of forest that fringes the little Ruaha river. We had been in the air about five minutes when it began to dawn on me that something was wrong. Although the engine was running sweetly enough, the machine had not climbed an inch since reaching 150 feet. Loosening my belt I turned to Blackburn. "Everything O.K.?" I

bawled.

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height to reach it? The altimeter was reading 100 feet, and the little hand was flickering backwards ... 90 feet 80 feet... 70 feet. . . . A big tree suddenly loomed above us. Blackburn banked steeply and avoided it, only to find another behind. . . . I saw the great fat trunk of a baobaab 100 feet away... we dived steeply

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there came a terrific crash

. . the starboard plane whizzed over my head like the sail of a windmill... and then came a great darkness. . . .

When I regained consciousness my first sensation was that of being very wet and cold. I discovered that the tank, on which the observer's seat is fixed, had burst, and that the lower part of my body was drenched in petrol. I was pinned down by the wreckage of the plane, and a broken strut was sticking into my "tummy."

"Are you all right?" Blackburn shouted. I could hear him struggling to get loose, and at last was delighted to feel his strong grasp on my shoulder.

"Come on, old man, try and wriggle out!" as he commenced to tug at the wires that wrapped me round. "We want to get back as quickly as possible.'

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There was a look in his face that puzzled me. He seemed hysterically anxious to get me free.

"Is there anything specially wrong?" I asked, and then suddenly the blood seemed to freeze in my veins, for, borne on

the warm forest breeze came a sound that is dreadfully familiar to one who has lived in the wilds of Africa-a harsh erackling and spluttering, accompanied by the pungent smell of burning. My God! a bush fire and to windward of the petrol-drenched wreckage of the aeroplane.

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half an hour later when I came round once more. I saw that I was lying on the grass, in the shade of a spreading acacia, a hundred yards from the crash. The wind had dropped, and the fire had burned itself out. The pain in my body was very bad, but it did not compare with the agonising ache of my mind. A deep and uncanny stillness brooded over the

of death; even the bushcuckoos and the toucans were silent; not the ohirp of a cricket nor the buzz of mosquito disturbed the air's tranquillity.

"It's all right!" he reright!" he reassured me; "only a small fire,... other side of the forest-the stillness almost river!" But by the way he fought with those devilish wires I knew that he was deceiving me so that I should not lose my head. The crackling was coming nearer, I could hear the splutter and roar of the wicked yellow flames eating swiftly through the parched grass and undergrowth 8 hundred yards away. Like madmen we struggled to break free. . . . Our hands began to drip with blood from wounds made by the frayed wire cables. ... Beads of ice-cold sweat trickled down my face. . . . In two minutes the flames would reach the petrol. . . . In two minutes. . . . With a superhuman effort Blackburn suddenly levered up the battered plane that was still imprisoning me. I became aware of a delightful sense of freedom. Slowly I struggled out of my twisted seat, staggered drunkenly on to the ground, and promptly dropped in a dead faint.

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Blackburn, before setting out for help, had carried me to the acacia, and he had now returned with a doctor and an ambulance from Iringa. A hasty examination showed that I was suffering from malaria, dysentery, appendicitis, and general shock, and after ask ing the doctor if he did not see any signs of galloping consumption and cancer well, I climbed up stiffly into the car. At the hospital I made a remarkably quick recovery from the first three named complaints; but as that wretched crow would come and perch on the foot of my bed all day and night long, it was decided that I should be sent down to South Africa for a rest. rest. Thus ended, so far as flying is concerned, my experiences as an airman in East Afrios.

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