Fullofit, so Toby has at last met something other than an Eindecker, and it had to be a Roland. Poor fellow, sometimes being a combat pilot in the service of the King just stinks.

Carrick, tough luck on the loss of Blackwell. Seems a harsh trade, a pilot and plane for a gasbag.

Raine, wonderful wrap-up. And nearly another Zep, so close. But I am very nervous now for Jim, flying those B.E.12s over in Albatros country is going to be extremely dicey. Be careful.

Here is my wrap-up of the Alex, Jim, Swany episode.


4 October 1916
Salisbury, England

When approaching the unknown it's generally best to proceed carefully and expect the unexpected. Captain Swanson had learned this early on the farm in northern Minnesota when, at the tender age of five, he took it upon himself to ride a horse without the aid of adults. While his father had hoisted him up to ride with him from time to time, even setting the boy on the back of one of the animals on occasion and walking him around the yard, Swany had never been allowed to actually ride one on his own. How hard could it be he thought, after all, he'd seen the men do it many times. What he'd fail to notice however was precisely which of the horses the men had ridden; at the time his father and uncle owned six between them. They were work horses used for pulling plows or wagons or felled logs, generally speaking anything that needed pulling, and while most of them were OK for riding, a few were - well - not. It was a member of the lesser group that young Swanson had singled out to be his mount, a large dark bay easily seventeen hands high. The beast was in the yard when Swany approached it with the gift of an apple, climbing to the top rail of the fence as he did so. The old mare plodded over for the treat and no sooner had she sunk her teeth into the fruit than the young boy stood up on the rail and launched himself onto her back, landing at the base of her thick neck. Swany grabbed handfuls of mane as the horse stood motionless for a moment. The boy was just about to dig his heels in and give the "t'chck t'chck" sound he'd heard his father and uncle use in similar situations when the bay took off across the yard all on her own, quickly reaching her full speed. Swany realized, too late of course, that he had no control whatsoever and despite his best five-year-old efforts to slow his mount by leaning back and pulling on her mane, she continued on towards the far fence. For a moment the boy thought they were going up and over the approaching barrier, and he was partly right. At the last instant the old mare dug her hooves in and came to a full stop while simultaneously lowering her head and neck. The unwanted rider went sailing off her back and over the fence, over the scrub brush along said fence, and down into the mucky pond beyond that served as the collection point for all the yard run-off. Apart from being covered in filth and stinking to high heaven young Swanson was unharmed. Amazingly he had not been so much frightened by the experience as he had been surprised by it. As Swany climbed from the muck, wiping his face and shaking off the larger clods, he was greeted first by the bay mare as she gave him a traditional horse laugh from the other side of the fence, and next by his father who had witnessed the entire event from the house but had been unable to intervene, having realized too late what his son was up to. After a cursory scolding, followed by a thorough dousing with numerous buckets of water from the trough, Swany was led to the barn. The young boy assumed it was for the customary switching but instead his father took him to one of the other, more agreeable horses and, after tossing a blanket on the animal's back and a lead around its neck, he lifted his son up onto his new mount.

"Der", the boy's father stated matter-of-factly, "you ride dis vun."

Captain Swanson had recalled this early life lesson as he was packing up his kit at the Old George. His good friend James Collins had been ordered to cut his visit short on the evening of the 30th and proceed immediately to Woodford Green. His travelling companion Alex Anderson had chosen to stay behind, stating that she wanted to gather further information regarding Swany for the story she would be submitting to her paper the following day. Jim was none-too-pleased at the sudden turn of events and had a few choice words regarding it, though he kept most of those words primarily to himself. He and his friend had both been vying for the affections of Miss Anderson and it appeared he was ahead in the competition, but now Swanson would have an open field. As it turned out Jim needn't have worried. While Captain Swanson and Miss Anderson did dine together later that evening, just the two of them, the bulk of the meal was spent with the journalist asking her remaining wrap-up questions. Swany noticed that the woman's demeanor had changed after James had departed. While she was still quite attentive she was far less flirty, much more business-like. It became obvious to the young Captain in farily short order that the object of both his and Jim's attentions had been playing them, one against the other, for her own amusement. She'd been in command all the way along and when it pleased her she tossed off her would-be suitors just as quickly and casually as that old horse had thrown its unwanted rider. The following morning as Swanson was returning to the hotel from his daily run, he saw Alex standing at the curb while her bag was being loaded into a waiting taxi. She'd been caught slipping away without even so much as a good-bye.

"Oh Swany, I umm, I went looking for you but you were out", the young woman stated uneasily as Swany approached. "I must get to London right away and wire in my story. We're hoping to have it in today's paper back home."

The Captain stood there in his greyback flannel shirt, uniform trousers and boots, the sweat glistening on his brow. In a less-than-warm tone he replied, "Surprised you didn't mention you were leaving when we were having dinner last night. Must have been a last minute ting, eh?"

"Oh yes, very last minute, sorry about that. It's been lovely though and I hope we can get together again soon. You'll be in England now for a while, I imagine." Alex hurriedly stepped into the back of the car.

"Yes, I imagine I will be. You be sure and send me a copy of dat paper just as soon as you can. I'd love to read the story you've come up with, I'm sure it will be a whopper." Swany flashed a smile edged with just the faintest sarcasm.

"Oh I'll have a copy sent to you just as soon as possible", Alex called out as the taxi began to pull away. "Good-bye."

Swany chuckled to himself, mulling over the whole affair as he cinched up his kit. After first Jim's and then Miss Anderson's sudden departures he'd spent two more days tramping around Salisbury on his own before finally getting bored. He decided it was time to move along to his new assignment at Stow Maries, even though he wasn't required to be there until the 7th. A stint of Home Defence work was sounding pretty good to the war-weary pilot. The Captain headed to the lobby of the Old George where he settled up his bill and requested a cab to take him to the station. As he waited it occurred to him that females such as Miss Anderson would likely be the more dangerous of the opponents he'd be facing during his tour back in Blighty. That suited him just fine.