The Coward can be found in

DAMN you!" Captain Grady roared, his beefy face flushing carrot red under his straw hair, "haven't you got the guts to carry out orders?" The veteran Yank ace who had joined the British in 1914 and stayed in the Service to see the advent of the Second World War was fit to be tied.

Lieutenant Redd tried to force his eyes to cling to the captain's face, tried to ward off the sting of Grady's words that were shaming him before the whole fighter squadron. His big hands were clenched so hard that the nails cut through the skin but he didn't feel them.

He groped desperately for words. "I—I couldn't get through, I tell you. The Nazis had us blocked. . . ."

Grady broke him off angrily, "Crowther got through—at least he didn't come running back here with his tail between his legs. I've seen you fight before, Redd—I've watched you dodge the tough spots and make your pitiful attempts to cover up the action. I saw men of your stripe in the last war. You ran out like a cur, let Crowther go on alone and I'll bet he never comes back."

Redd hardly heard the last words. Why must he breathe so hard? Why couldn't he stick his chest out, curse the captain for a fool, and strutting loudmouth? Why must the dull edge of fear frighten him into doing things he was ashamed of?

The odds were greater than Grady mentioned. In fact there were no odds on a sure thing. Crowther would never be back. All of the love and respect No. 10 Fighter Squadron held for Crowther couldn't bring him back. There would be no more of his humorous stories to relieve the tension before the takeoff—no more of his funny tricks at mess, nor any of his fatherly advice to the fledglings scarcely younger than himself. Crowther would never be back.

Redd's mind flashed back to that spot of hell he had just run away from. He and Crowther had been assigned to locate a hidden battery of the Siegfried Line just north of Rochonvillers and had met with four Henschel reconnaissance ships over the Maginot line.

The fight didn't last long. Crowther bored in without fear, smashed his Gloster "Gladiator" into the Nazis and crippled one of those ships. Then the other three jumped him and sent a wall of Madsen slugs ripping him to shreds. There was a moment when Redd could have torn in and ripped the trap apart—one moment when he could have dared that hail of lead and cut Crowther loose.

He let the chance go by—flew wide of the death-spot while he saw Crowther's face smashed into a pulp of skin and blood. Why must he be damned with that subconscious caution which eternally made him out a coward! Thank God these fellow officers of his didn't know the truth—thank God they didn't know that he had committed the unpardonable sin of a pilot. He was safe now, and they would never know.

Captain Grady's flushed face bleared before his eyes. He had to say something—had to carry it off with some show of resentment. After all, he had pride.

"I resent your remarks, Grady. You talk as though I—I had killed. . . ."

"Resent and be damned!"

Grady lunged toward him, his big fist driving out from the shoulder. Redd had a horrible desire to run, but he braced himself. He wasn't in the air now where nobody could see his shame. He had to stand and take it. For a fleeting instant he saw an opening through which he might land a blow, but that damning caution in his mind made him hesitate until the chance was gone.

If he did land one blow, the captain would land ten—would beat him into a blubbering pulp. Redd threw up his arms wildly, but he was too late. The captain's ?st lashed through his futile guard, struck with explosive force in his face.

Redd went staggering back—back—back right into the path of the field truck that was roaring along the line to the supply shed. There was a scream from the men—they stood paralyzed with the sudden horror of what was about to happen.

Then, out of the group of fledglings clustered near the scene, a slim form darted like a sword. The form struck Redd in a flying tackle and knocked him out of the path of the truck. But the slim form didn't roll clear. There was a cry of pain, the shouts of men.

REDD was half dazed, hardly able to recognize what had happened. He staggered to his feet, tore his way through the pack of men to the side of the youngster'wh0 had saved him from certain death. Redd was on his knees, gripping the kid's hand.

"You were a fool to do that for me I'm not worth it," he sputtered.

The youngster grinned. There was no cowardice in those brown eyes. There was a strength there that was above the slight physical body that contained it.

"It was nothing, lieutenant," the kid, whose name was Vance said eagerly.

"Hurt much?"

"My—my foot, that's all."

Captain Grady plowed through. "Get back, you blighters. Two of you carry him to the infirmary!"

It didn't take two of them. Redd, his face cut and bleeding where Grady's fist had bruised it, picked the kid up in his t...

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