Ruthe Wheeler.

Jane, Stewardess of the Air Lines

Well, Im putting Mattie down as a thorough trouble maker and the less I see and know about her the better Ill like it, said Jane firmly.

Ill paddle right along with you, added Grace. Mattie isnt headed in the direction I like.

The girls had been too tired at night to even think of attending a show before but that evening they walked down town and enjoyed a movie. On the way home they stopped for sodas and it was late when they reached Mrs. Murphys. Jane was surprised to see their landlady waiting for them.

Its about time you were getting in, she exclaimed. The field has been calling every fifteen minutes. Miss Comstock wants you to telephone her right away. Next time you go to a show, let me know where youre going.

Oh, Im sorry it was so much trouble, said Jane.

Twas no trouble, smiled Mrs. Murphy, but the field has been very anxious to locate you.

Jane hastened to the telephone and put in a call for the airport. A summons at that time of night was puzzling for class work was over hours before and none of the girls had been assigned to regular duty. That was to come day after tomorrow, when the final minor alterations on their uniforms had been completed and the last test passed.

The other girls crowded near the telephone, all of them anxious for the news from the field.

The operations office answered promptly and Jane gave them her name. The night manager poured his message into her ear in a staccato too fast for the other girls to hear. Jane tingled all over as she listened and her reply was mechanical.

Ill be there right away, she promised.

Where are you going right away? demanded Sue.

Chicago, smiled Jane, turning from the telephone and dashing upstairs two steps at a time.

The other girls raced after to find Jane in her room already pulling off her dress.

Sue, get my uniform out, begged Jane as she struggled with her dress, and Grace, see if you can find those new smoked-grey hose in the top drawer of the dresser. Alice, run some water in the tub. Ive got to be at the field in twenty minutes.

But whats it all about? Sue insisted as the girls rushed to help Jane.

Theres a special plane from the west coast going through to New York with Mrs. Van Verity Vanness, who is worth a billion or so, aboard. Its on a fast schedule for she is rushing to New York to the bedside of a son who is seriously ill. Salt Lake radioed that Mrs. Van Verity Vanness was anything but comfortable and the general manager has ordered a stewardess aboard to see what can be done to make her happier the rest of the way to Chicago.

How lucky! exclaimed Sue. Why, youre getting the first assignment and youll be flying nearly two days ahead of any of the rest of us.

Im not so sure Im lucky, replied Jane as she splashed vigorously in the tub. Any woman who has as many millions as Mrs. Van Verity Vanness is bound to be mighty particular.

It would be just my luck to have her sick all of the way in and have a complaint lodged against me.

But if she likes you and the service, shell probably give you a real compliment, said Sue.

And maybe a present, added Alice.

Now youre all getting too far ahead, protested Jane. Ive got to get to the field first of all.

When Jane returned to her room, the girls had her uniform all ready for her to step into. The smoke-green serge fitted Jane snugly and the beret perched at a pert angle on her brown hair. She adjusted the seams of the new hose and slipped into dark grey pumps which were a part of the uniform. With deft fingers she centered the green tie of her shirt-waist and stuck a fresh handkerchief in her left coat pocket. Quick touches with the powder puff removed the shine from her nose and she gave her hair a final pat just as the horn on one of the fields cars blared outside.

Stand still a minute, begged Sue. I want to get a good look at you.

Theres no time for a dress rehearsal, smiled Jane, but she turned around slowly so the others could see her in the complete outfit.

You look grand, whispered Grace. Every pilot on the line will be in love with you before morning.

I wont see every pilot, retorted Jane.

Maybe not, but theyll hear about you, Grace insisted.

In the smoke-green uniform Jane was indeed an attractive figure. The coat was cut smartly and there were fashionable box pleats in the skirt. The beret, set at a jaunty angle, had only one ornament, a pair of silver wings. Shoes and hose to match the suit completed the ensemble.

Jane took a final glance in the mirror. What she saw there was pleasing and she ran downstairs, the others following her closely.

Im off on my first trip, she called to Mrs. Murphy, who was reading in the front room. Ill be in Chicago tomorrow morning.

A safe trip, bless you, called Mrs. Murphy, who had taken an exceedingly motherly interest in the girls.

Will you bring us back if we go to the field? Alice asked the driver of the airport car.

Sorry, Miss, but Im through in fifteen minutes. This is my last trip to town.

Just our luck, grumbled Alice. Youll have to start off on your first trip without an audience, she told Jane.

Id like to have you there, but maybe I wont be quite as nervous if I am alone, admitted Jane. She entered the cab and the driver closed the door.

Sue stuck her head through the lower window.

When will you be back? she asked.

I havent the slightest idea. Not until day after tomorrow at the earliest.

The cab lurched ahead and with the goodbyes of her friends ringing in her ears Jane started for the field and her first assignment.

Chapter Eleven
An Unexpected Delay

The airport was ablaze with light when the car pulled up at the administration building, which meant that Mrs. Van Verity Vanness special plane was about to land.

Jane thanked the driver and hastened into the operations office on the first floor. A teletype was clicking out the latest weather reports and the radio operator was busy giving the pilot of the special plane final information on the wind and visibility at Cheyenne.

Miss Comstock, who had been talking to the night chief of operations, turned to Jane.

I was afraid we werent going to locate you, the chief stewardess said, visibly relieved at Janes arrival. This is an important trip and I knew I could count on you to make a good impression.

The night operations chief joined them.

This special is going through ahead of everything, he told Jane, and we cant have it delayed if Mrs. Van Verity Vanness gets air sick and they have to slow the schedule or set the ship down at some field to wait until she feels better. In other words, its up to you to see that she is so comfortable from now on and so busy she wont have time to think about complaining.

Is she ill now?

Salt Lake said she looked like a ghost and Rock Springs just cussed when I asked him how she looked. One thing, were going to get that special off this field and from then on its up to you to see that Mrs. Van Verity Vanness holds together until we land in Chicago.

Charlie Fischer strolled in and glanced at the weather report coming in on the teletype.

Plenty of visibility and a good tail wind. Im going to take that three-engined demon up where theres plenty of room and ride it for all its worth. You can put me down for about 160 miles an hour from here to Omaha, he told the night operations chief.

If you can do that, youll whittle better than half an hour off the schedule weve worked out, said the night chief.

Charlie turned to Jane.

You going along? he asked.

Its my first regular trip.

Means extra ballast, grumbled Charlie.

Extra ballast nothing, retorted the night chief. Our billion-dollar passenger is air sick and unless we put a stewardess aboard and get Mrs. Van Verity Vanness feeling better pronto, this flight will be a washout and about $10,000 will fly out of this airways sock and you can imagine how the general manager would like that.

You mean were getting $10,000 for this trip across the country? asked Charlie incredulously.

She paid before she started the trip in Frisco, but if we dont land her in New York on time shell stop payment on the check. So when youre in the air tonight just bend an ear to whatever this little lady has to say, for if you do some rough flying and the G. M. hears about it, one Charlie Fischer will have a lot of explaining to do.

The specials coming in right now, called the radio operator. They turned to the full-length windows which looked out on the field. The wing lights of the plane were swooping down and a moment later the big ship rolled down the runway and nosed toward the hangar.

Ive got a complete kit ready, Miss Comstock told Jane. Theres plenty of salad and hot coffee, fresh fruit, and I put in an extra thermos bottle of bouillon. I imagine your passenger is nervous and scared as much as anything. Make her comfortable and talk to her. Remember that the reputation of the stewardess service may depend on your work tonight.

Almost before the tri-motor had stopped rolling the ground crew, enlarged to speed the refueling of the special, was swarming over the plane. Only five minutes had been allowed for the Cheyenne stop and it meant fast work on the part of every man.

Jane and Miss Comstock hastened toward the cabin. As they reached it the co-pilot threw open the door.

For heavens sake, hurry, he begged. Im afraid this woman is going to faint.

Jane got a glimpse of the white, drawn face of Mrs. Van Verity Vanness and she knew that she was going to be in for some busy minutes. The landing stage was wheeled up to the plane and Jane hurried into the cabin. The one passenger aboard the special was clinging to the co-pilot and Jane gently disengaged her arms and placed them about her own shoulders.

Mrs. Van Verity Vanness was sobbing softly. Ill never be able to go on. Im too ill.

Jane didnt argue with her, but with the aid of Miss Comstock, helped the passenger out of the plane and into the cool, sweet night air. It was then that she got her first good look at the woman she was to care for on the trip to Chicago.

Mrs. Van Verity Vanness was between sixty-five and seventy. The cheeks were still full and bore few wrinkles, but the hands gave away the fact that Mrs. Van Verity Vanness was well past middle age.

I cant walk. Dont make me, she begged.

Well only take a few steps, said Jane, her own strong arms supporting the older woman. Breath deeply and enjoy the air. Dont think about flying.

But Ive got to get to New York. There was a sob in the older womans voice, and she shuddered as she looked at the hulking tri-motor. Even a thought of returning to the plane struck terror into her heart.

Jane turned to Miss Comstock and whispered a suggestion.

Dont let them start the motors until I give the signal, she said. It may take quite a while to get her calm, but once shes back in the plane I think Ill be able to manage.

Miss Comstock nodded and hurried away while Jane guided her elderly passenger toward the stewardess quarters. There, well away from the rush and confusion of the hangar, she made her comfortable while she put a pot of tea on the electric grill in the commissary. Within five minutes Jane had tea and wafers ready on a silver tray. She talked gaily about everything except flying and Mrs. Van Verity Vanness began to show a new interest in living. The tea was delicious and the wafers were appetizing. The wealthy passenger of the special drank two cups of tea and ate five of the wafers.

Jane heard a tap on the window and looked up to see Charlie Fischer making horrible faces at her and pointing toward his watch. The tri-motor was at least seven minutes late now. Jane must do something at once.

She picked up the tea tray and started for the commissary.

If you could go with me, I might attempt to continue the journey, said Mrs. Van Verity Vanness. I cant bear the thought of going on alone.

But I am going with you, replied Jane. Didnt they tell you?

No. Those pilots only flew faster and faster and I got sicker and sicker.

Well let them fly as fast as they want to, smiled Jane, just as long as they have smooth weather. Theres a delicious lunch, late papers and some magazines aboard the plane now. Well return to the hangar, make ourselves comfortable in the plane, and tell them to go ahead. Well be almost ten minutes late leaving here.

Ill go on, agreed the woman of millions, but only because you are going with me.

Without showing too much haste, Jane shepherded her passenger into the tri-motor. Charlie Fischer, still looking at his watch, gave her a black look as he climbed into the cockpit.

Jane made Mrs. Van Verity Vanness comfortable in chair No. 6, and then stepped back to the door where Miss Comstock was peering in. Everything all right? asked the chief stewardess.

Shes perfectly calm now, replied Jane. Im sure well make Chicago all right.

The general manager is fairly burning up the radio trying to find out about the delay here.

You can tell him that it took us the extra time to persuade Mrs. Van Verity Vanness to continue the trip, said Jane.

Good-bye and good luck, said Miss Comstock as she closed the door. Jane made sure that the door was latched securely, stowed the hamper of food away in the pantry, and then hastened up to take a seat beside her passenger.

The motors roared and the plane quivered to the pulse of their power. Mrs. Van Verity Vanness paled as the plane rolled forward, but Jane took the hands of the elderly woman and held them in her own. Almost before they knew it the plane was in the air, streaking away into the east in the race to make up the lost time.

Chapter Twelve
Alarming News

The lights of Cheyenne faded rapidly as Charlie Fischer gunned the big transport hard. Jane, watching the air speed indicator, saw it climb from 110 to 130. It hovered there for several minutes and then started climbing again. In less than fifteen minutes they were up 7,000 feet and with a good tail wind boomed along at better than 150 miles an hour.

Jane looked at her elderly companion. Mrs. Van Verity Vanness had her eyes closed tightly and Jane spoke to her reassuringly.

Its a long ride to Chicago, she said. Suppose we look through some magazines. Then well have a cup of bouillon and sandwiches just before midnight and after that Ill tuck you in for the night.

Tuck me in for the night? asked Mrs. Van Verity Vanness. Why, Ill never be able to sleep.

I think you will. You can unfasten your safety belt now and Ill see what I can find in the way of magazines.

Jane returned a minute later with half a dozen copies of the latest magazines. She adjusted the reading light for her companion and Mrs. Van Verity Vanness, seeing Jane so calm and casual, forced herself to overcome the fear of flying which had sickened her. She selected a magazine from the armful Jane offered and settled herself comfortably in her seat.

Im really commencing to enjoy it, she smiled, but theres a bit of a draft around my feet.

Jane hurried back to the compartment where a supply of warm, woolly blankets were kept. Selecting a pretty grey and pink one she wrapped it around the elderly womans legs. With Mrs. Van Verity Vanness comfortable and apparently satisfied for some time, Jane opened the Cheyenne paper.

She halfway expected to find a front page story on the dash across country of Mrs. Van Verity Vanness in a special plane for almost any activity of this multi-millionaire widow was worth a half column of space. Instead, Jane read the alarming news that a mail plane had been robbed early that morning by aerial bandits. The ship, a Bertold single engined plane, had been shot down in southeastern Iowa on the Kansas City to Chicago run and more than a hundred thousand in currency taken from the registered mail pouch which it carried. The pilot had been seriously wounded by the two bandits, who had used a machine gun to force the mail ship down.

Jane resolved right then and there to keep all of the papers away from Mrs. Van Verity Vanness. If aerial bandits were operating, it was entirely within the realm of possibility for them to attack a special chartered by a woman as wealthy as her companion.

The tri-motor hurled through the night, the speed increasing as Charlie Fischer pushed it up another thousand feet to benefit by an even stronger tail wind at that altitude. They roared along at between 165 and 170 miles an hour, nearly 50 miles above the usual cruising speed of a plane of that type.

Below them winked the revolving beacons which lighted the transcontinental airway at night. Occasionally they sighted the dim gleams from some prairie town.

Mrs. Van Verity Vanness let the magazine drop into her lap as she closed her eyes, now thoroughly relaxed and without fear of anything happening to the plane. It was 11:30 and Jane leaned over and spoke to her companion.

Ill bring the bouillon and sandwiches right away. Then you can go to sleep.

Mrs. Van Verity Vanness nodded contentedly and Jane went back to her pantry.

The bouillon, golden brown, smelled delicious as it gurgled out of the thermos jug and the sandwiches were almost paper thin with a tasty filling of olives and salad dressing.

Jane put the lunch on a silver tray and carried it into the cabin where she placed it on a small portable table which she had put between the seats.

Several hours ago I thought Id never be able to eat again, smiled the woman of millions, but this actually appeals to me.

Jane agreed, for Miss Comstock had personally prepared the lunch and it should be delicious. The bouillon was expertly flavored and the sandwiches were the kind that made even the daintiest eaters hunger for more.

When the last sandwich had disappeared and the second cup of bouillon was only a memory, Mrs. Van Verity Vanness leaned back in her chair and smiled happily.

Youre a wonder, she told Jane. I think Ill ask the company to send you clear through to New York with me.

Our division only goes to Chicago, replied Jane, but Id be delighted to go on if the general manager approves.

I think hell approve if I ask it. After all, Im paying almost enough for this trip to buy one of their planes.

Jane removed the luncheon dishes, brought another blanket, adjusted the seat at a reclining angle and tucked Mrs. Van Verity Vanness away for the night.

Well land at North Platte, Omaha, and Iowa City, she said, but therell be no need for you to disturb yourself. Ill inquire for messages at each stop and waken you if there is any news.

In less than five minutes Mrs. Van Verity Vanness was sleeping soundly and Jane went back to her pantry to stow away the dishes she had used for their midnight lunch.

The flasher which signaled that the chief pilot wanted to talk to her came on and Jane walked ahead, careful not to disturb her passenger. The stewardess made her way past the baggage compartment and stuck her head in the pilots cockpit.

Charlie Fischer looked down at her.

Hows our famous passenger? he asked.

Sound asleep, replied Jane, and shell stay that way until morning if youll use a little care in landing and taking off.

Ill drop this crate down like we were carrying eggs, promised Charlie, but dont you let her out of the plane. Next time we may never be able to get her back on board.

Jane returned to the cabin where the only light was the one over her seat at the rear. Her passenger was sleeping soundly and Jane sat down and relaxed.

The last two hours, from the time she had received the call to rush to the field, had been filled with a nervous tension. Handling Mrs. Van Verity Vanness had required real tact and patience and Jane had been so busy she hadnt had time to remember that this was her first trip as stewardess. Up until now she had rather looked upon herself as a trained nurse called in to care for a nervous, irritable woman.

At better than 8,000 feet the air was chilly even in the summer and Jane got a blanket and wrapped it around her shoulders. She didnt dare sleep for fear Mrs. Van Verity Vanness would waken and call her.

Jane had hardly settled down to rest when the lights of North Platte appeared far ahead and the throbbing of the motors eased off. Charlie Fischer set the plane down without a bounce and they rolled into the hangar.

Mrs. Van Verity Vanness roused slightly and Jane told her they were in North Platte. The stop there took just a little better than four minutes and Jane learned that there were no messages for her passenger. Then they were booming east again with the next stop at Omaha.

Jane settled down in her chair, wondering if her passenger had been serious when she mentioned taking her on to New York. What a lark that would be and how the other girls would talk. Jane could just imagine Mattie Clark turning almost green with envy.

The pilot found the favoring wind again and they sped from North Platte to Omaha in record time for the big tri-motor. At the Omaha field reporters were waiting for the plane and Jane was forced to go to the waiting room and answer their questions, for Mrs. Van Verity Vanness refused to see them,

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