THE BOY SCOUT AVIATORS
THE BOY SCOUT AVIATORS
"As long as I can't be at home" said Harry Fleming "I'd rather
be here than anywhere in the world I can think of !"
"Rather!" said his companion Dick Mercer. "I say Harry it must
be funny to be an American!"
Harry laughed heartily.
"I'd be angry Dick" he said finally "if that wasn't so English
-- and so funny! Still I suppose that's one reason you
Britishers are as big an empire as you are. You think it's sort
of funny and a bit of a misfortune don't you to be anything but
"Oh I say I didn't quite mean that" said Dick flushing a
little. "And of course you Americans aren't just like foreigners.
You speak the same language we do - though you do say some funny
things now and then old chap. You know I was ever so surprised
when you came to Mr. Grenfel and he let you in our troop right
"Didn't you even know we had Boy Scouts in America?" asked Harry.
"My word as you English would say. That is the limit! Why it's
spread all over the country with us. But of course we all know
that it started here -- that Baden-Powell thought of the idea!"
"Rather!" said Dick enthusiastically. "Good old Bathing-Towel!
That's what they used to call him at school you know before he
ever went into the army at all. And it stuck to him they say
right through. Even after Mafeking he was called that. Now of
course he's a lieutenant general and all sorts of a swell. He
and Kitchener and French are so big they don't get called
nicknames much more."
"Well I'll tell you what I think" said Harry soberly. "I think
he did a bigger thing for England when he started the Boy Scout
movement than when he defended Mafeking against the Boers!"
"Why how can you make that out?" asked Dick puzzled. "The
defence of Mafeking had a whole lot to do with our winning that
"That's all right too" said Harry. "But you know you may be in
a bigger war yet than that Boer War ever thought of being."
"How can a war think you chump?" asked the literal-minded Dick.
Again Harry roared at him.
"That's just one of our funny American ways of saying things
Dick" he explained. "I didn't mean that of course. But what I
do mean is that every-one over here in Europe seems to think that
there will be a big war sometime -- a bigger war than the world's
ever seen yet."
"Oh yes!" Dick nodded his understanding and grew more serious.
"My pater - he's a V. C. you know -- says that too. He says
we'll have to fight Germany sooner or later. And he seems to
think the sooner the better too before they get too big and
strong for us to have an easy time with them."
"They're too big now for any nation to have an easy time with
them" said Harry. "But you see what I mean now don't you Dick?
We Boy Scouts aren't soldiers in any way. But we do learn to do
the things a soldier has to do don't we?"
"Yes that's true" said Dick. "But we aren't supposed to think
"Of course not and it's right too" agreed Harry. "But we learn
to be obedient. We learn discipline. And we get to understand
camp life and the open air and all the things a soldier has to
know about sooner or later. Suppose you were organizing a
regiment. Which would you rather have -- a thousand men who were
brave and willing but had never camped out or a thousand who had
been Boy Scouts and knew about half the things soldiers have to
learn? Which thousand men would be ready to go to the front
"I never thought of that!" said Dick mightily impressed. "But
you're right Harry. The Boy Scouts wouldn't go to war themselves
but the fellows who were grown up and in business and had been Boy
Scouts would be a lot readier than the others wouldn't they? I
suppose that's why so many of our chaps join the Territorials when
they are through school and start in business?"
"Of course it is! You've got the idea I'm driving at Dick. And
you can depend on it that General Baden-Powell had that in his
mind's eye all the time too. He doesn't want us to be military
and aggressive but he does want the Empire to have a lot of
fellows on call who are hard and fit so that they can defend
themselves and the country. You see in America and here in
Enland too we're not like the countries on the Continent. We
don't make soldiers of every man in the country."
"No -- by Jove they do that don't they Harry? I've got a
cousin who's French. And he expects to serve his term in the
army. He's in the class of 1918. You see he knows already when
he will have to go and just where he will report - almost the
regiment he'll join. But he's hoping they'll let him be in the
cavalry instead of the infantry or the artillery."
"There you are! Here and in America we don't have to have such
tremendous armies because we haven't got countries that we may
have to fight across the street - you know what I mean. England
has to have a tremendous navy but that makes it unnecessary for
her to have such a big army."
"I see you've got the idea exactly Fleming" said a new voice
breaking into the conversation. The two scouts looked up to see
the smiling face of their scoutmaster John Grenfel. He was a
big bronzed Englishman sturdy and typical of the fine class
to which he belonged -- public school and university man first-
class cricketer and a football international who had helped to win
many a hard fought game for England from Wales or Scotland or
Ireland. The scouts were returning from a picnic on Wimbledon
Common in the suburbs of London and Grenfel was following his
usual custom of dropping into step now with one group now with
another. He favored the idea of splitting up into groups of two
or three on the homeward way because it was his idea that one of
the great functions of the Scout movement was to foster enduring
friendships among the boys. He liked to know without listening
or trying to overhear what the boys talked about; often he would
give a directing word or two that without his purpose becoming
apparent shaped the ideas of the boys.
"Yes" he repeated. "You understand what we're trying to do in
this country Fleming. We don't want to fight -- we pray to God
that we shall never have to. But if we are attacked or if the
necessity arises we'll be ready as we have been ready before.
We want peace -- we want it so much and so earnestly that we'll
fight for it if we must."
Neither of the boys laughed at what sounded like a paradox. His
voice was too earnest.
"Do you think England is likely to have to go to war soon --
within a year or so sir?" asked Harry.
"I pray not" said Grenfel. "But we don't know Fleming. For the
last few years -- ever since the trouble in the Balkans finally
flamed up -- Europe has been on the brink of a volcano. We don't
know what the next day may bring forth. I've been afraid - " He
stopped suddenly and seemed to consider.
"There is danger now" he said gravely. "Since the Archduke
Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated Austria has been in
an ugly mood. She has tried to blame Servia. I don't think
Russia will let her crush Servia -- not a second time. And if
Russia and Austria fight there is no telling how it may spread."
"You'd want us to win wouldn't you Harry if we fought?" asked
Dick when Mr. Grenfel had passed on to speak to some of the
"Yes I think I would -- I know I would Dick" said Harry
gravely. "But I wouldn't want to see a war just the same. It's
a terrible thing."
"On it wouldn't last long" said Dick confidently. "We'd lick
them in no time at all. Don't you think so?"
"I don't know -- I hope so. But you can't ever be sure."
"I wonder if they'd let us fight?"
"No I don't think they would Dick. There'd be plenty for the
Boy Scouts to do though I believe."
"Would you stay over here if there was a war Harry? Or would you
"I think we'd have to stay over here Dick. You see my father is
here on business not just for pleasure. His company sent him
over here and it was understood he'd stay several years. I don't
think the war could make any difference."
"That's why you're here then is it? I used to wonder why you
went to school over here instead of in America."
"Yes. My father and mother didn't want me to be so far from them.
So they brought me along. I was awfully sorry at first but now
it doesn't seem so bad."
"I should think not!" said Dick indignantly. "I should think
anyone would be mighty glad of a chance to come to school over
here instead of in America! Why you don't even play cricket over
there I've been told!"
"No but we play baseball" said Harry his eyes shining. "I
really think I miss that more than anything else here in England.
Cricket's all right -- if you can't play baseball. It's a good
"You can play" admitted Dick rather grudgingly. "When you bowl
you've got some queer way of making the ball seem to bend --"
"I put a curve on it that's all!" said Harry with a laugh. "If
you'd ever played baseball you'd understand that easily enough.
See? You hold the ball like this -- so that your fingers give it
a spin as it leaves your hand."
And he demonstrated for his English friend's benefit the way the
ball is held to produce an out-curve.
"Your bowlers here don't seem to do that -- though they do make
the ball break after it hits the ground. But the way I manage it
you see is to throw a ball that doesn't hit the ground in front
of the bat at all but curves in. If you don't hit at it it will
hit the stumps and bowl you out; if you do hit you're likely to
send it straight up in the air so that some fielder can catch
"I see" said Dick. "Well I suppose it's all right but it
doesn't seem quite fair."
Harry laughed but didn't try to explain the point further. He
liked Dick immensely; Dick was the first friend he had made in
England and the best so far. It was Dick who had tried to get
him to join the Boy Scouts and who had been immensely surprised
to find that Harry was already a scout. Harry indeed had done
two years of scouting in America; he had been one of the first
members of a troop in his home town and had won a number of merit
badges. He was a first-class scout and had he stayed with his
troop would certainly have become a patrol leader. So he had had
no trouble in getting admission to the patrol to which Dick
It had been hard for Harry when his father's business called him
to England to give up a all the friendships and associations of
his boyhood. Had been hard to leave school; to tear up by the
roots all the things that bound him to his home. But as a scout
he had learned to be loyal and obedient. His parents had talked
things over with him very frankly. They had understood just how
hard it would be for him to go with them. But his father had made
him see how necessary it was.
"I want you to be near your mother and myself just now
especially Harry" he had said. "I want you to grow up where I
can see you. And more-over it won't hurt you a bit to know
something about other countries. You'll have a new idea of
America when you have seen other lands and I believe you'll be a
better American for it. You'll learn that other countries have
their virtues and that we can learn some things from them. But I
believe you'll learn too to love America better than ever. When
we go home you'll be broader and better for your experience."
And Harry was finding out that his father had been right. At
first he had to put up with a good deal. He found that the
English boys he met in school felt themselves a little superior.
They didn't look down on him exactly but they were perhaps
the least bit sorry for him because he was not an Englishman
always a real misfortune in their sight.
He had resented that at first. But his Boy Scout training stood
him in good stead. He kept his temper and it was not long before
he began to make friends. He excelled at games; even the English
games that were new and strange to him presented few difficulties
to him. As he had explained to Dick cricket was easy for any boy
who could play baseball fairly well. And it was the same way with
football. After the far more strenuous American game he shone at
the milder English football the Rugby game which is the direct
ancestor of the sport in America.
All these things helped to make Harry popular. He was now nearly
sixteen tall and strong for his age thanks to the outdoor life
he had always lived. An only son he and his father had always
been good friends. Without being in any way a molly-coddle still
he had been kept safe from a good many of the temptations that
beset some boys by the constant association with his father. It
was no wonder therefore that John Grenfel as soon as he had
talked with Harry and learned of the credentials he bore from his
home troop had welcomed him enthusiastically as a recruit to his
It had been necessary to modify certain rules. Harry of course
could not subscribe to quite the same scout oath that bound his
English fellows. But he had taken his scout oath as a tenderfoot
at home and Grenfel had no doubts about him. He was the sort
of boy the organization wanted whether in England or America and
that was enough for Grenfel.
Though the boys as they walked toward their homes did not quite
realize it they were living in days that were big with fate. Far
away in the chancelleries of Europe and not so far away in the
big government buildings in the West End of London the statesmen
were even then making their best effort to avert war. No one in
England perhaps really believed that war was coming. There had
been war scares before. But the peace of Europe had been
preserved for forty years or more through one crisis after
another. And so it was a stunning surprise even to Grenfel
when as they came into Putney High street just before they
reached Putney Bridge they met a swam of newsboys excitedly
"Germany threatens Russia!" they yelled. "War sure!"
Mr. Grenfel brought a paper and the scouts gathered about him
while he read the news that was contained on the front page still
damp from the press.
"I'm afraid it's true" he said soberly. "The German Emperor has
threatened to go to war with Russia unless the Czar stops
mobilizing his troops at once. We shall know tonight. But I
think it means war! God save England may still keep out of it!"
For that night a meeting at Mr. Grenfel's home in West Kensington
had long been planned. He lived not far from the street in which
both Harry and Dick lived. And as the party broke up on the
other side of Putney Bridge Dick voicing the general feeling
asked a question.
"Are we to come tonight sir?" he said. "With this news -- ?"
"Yes -- yes indeed" said the scoutmaster. "If war is to come
there is all the more reason for us to be together. England may
need all of us yet."
Dick had asked the question because like all the others he felt
something that was in the air. He was sobered by the news
although like the rest he did not yet fully understand it. But
they all felt that there had been a change. As they looked
about at the familiar sight about them they wondered if a year
from then everything would still be the same. War? What did it
mean to them to England?
"I wonder if my father will go to war!" Dick broke out suddenly
as he and Harry walked along.
"I hadn't thought of that!" said Harry startled. "Oh Dick I'm
sorry! Still I suppose he'll go if his country needs him!"
At home Harry had an early dinner with his father and mother who
were going to the theatre. They lived in a comfortable house
which Mr. Fleming had taken on a five-year lease when they came to
England to live. It was one of a row of houses that looked very
much alike which itself was one of four sides of a square. In
the centre of the square was a park-like space a garden really.
In this garden were several tennis courts with plenty of space
also for nurses and children. There are many such squares in
London and they help to make the British capital a delightful
place in which to live.
As he went in Harry saw a lot of the younger men who lived in the
square playing tennis. It was still broad daylight although at
home dusk would have fallen. But this was England at the end of
July and the beginning of August and the light of day would hold
until ten o'clock or thereabout. That was one of the things that
had helped to reconcile Harry to living in England. He loved the
long evenings and the chance they gave to get plenty of sport and
exercise after school hours.
The school that he and Dick attended was not far away; they went
to it each day. A great many of the boys boarded at the school
but there were plenty who like Dick and Harry did not. But
school was over now for the time. The summer holidays had just
At the table there was much talk of the war that was in the air.
But Mr. Fleming did not even yet believe that war was sure.
"They'll patch it up" he said confidently. "They can't be so
mad as to set the whole world ablaze over a little scrap like the
trouble between Austria and Servia."
"Would it affect your business dear?" asked Mrs. Fleming. "If
there really should be war I mean ?"
"I don't think so" said he. "I might have to make a flying trip
home but I'd be back. Come on -- time for us to go. What are
you going to do boy? Going over to Grenfel's aren't you ?"
"Yes father" said Harry.
"All right. Get home early. Good-night!"
A good many of the boys were already there when Dick and Harry
reached Grenfel's house. The troop -- the Forty-second of London
-- was a comparatively small one having only three patrols. But
nearly all of them were present and the scout-master took them
out into his garden.
"I'm going to change the order a bit" he said gravely. "I want
to do some talking and then I expect to answer questions. Boys
Germany has declared war on Russia. There are reports already of
fighting on the border between France and Germany. And there
seems to be an idea that the Germans are certain to strike at
France through Belgium. I may not be here very long -- I may have
to turn over the troop to another scoutmaster. So I want to have
a long talk to-night." There was a dismayed chorus.
"What? You going away sir? Why?"
But Harry did not join. He saw the quiet blaze in John Grenfel's
eyes and he thought he knew.
"I've volunteered for foreign service already" Grenfel explained.
"I saw a little fighting in the Boer war you know. And I may be
useful. So I thought I'd get my application in directly. If I
go I'll probably go quietly and quickly. And there may be no
other chance for me to say good-bye."
'Then you think England will be drawn in sir?" asked Leslie
Franklin leader of the patrol to which Dick and Harry belonged
the Royal Blues.
"I'm afraid so" said Grenfels grimly. "There's just a chance
still but that's all -- the ghost of a chance you might call it.
I think it might be as well if I explained a little of what's back
of all this trouble. Want to listen? If you do I'll try. And
if I'm not making myself clear ask all the questions you like."
There was a chorus of assent. Grenfel sat in the middle the
scouts ranged about him in a circle. "In the first place" he
began "this Servian business is only an excuse. I'm not
defending the Servians -- I'm taking no sides between Servia and
Austria. Here in England we don't care about that because we
know that if that hadn't started the war something else would
have been found.
"England wants peace. And it seems that every so often she has
to fight for it. It was so when the Duke of Marlborough won his
battles at Blenheim and Ramillies and Malplaquet. Then France was
the strongest nation in Europe. And she tried to crush the others
and dominate everything. If she had she would have been strong
enough after her victories to fight us over here -- to invade