The moon set, but for a while the sky was clear of cloud, and Harald could see stars. He was grateful for them, as they were the only way he could tell up from down. The engine gave a reassuringly constant roar. He flew at five thousand feet and eighty knots. There was less turbulence than he remembered from his first flight, and he wondered whether that was because he was over the sea, or because it was night - or both. He kept checking his heading by the compass, but he did not know how much the Hornet Moth might be blown off course by wind.
He took his hand off the control stick and touched Karen's face. Her cheek was burning. He trimmed the aircraft to fly straight and level, then took a bottle of water from the locker under the dashboard. He poured some on his hand then dabbed her forehead to cool her. She was breathing normally, though her breath was hot on his hand. She seemed to be in a feverish sleep.
When he returned his attention to the outside world, he saw that dawn was breaking. He checked his watch: it was just after three o'clock in the morning. He must be halfway to England.
By the faint light, he saw cloud ahead. There seemed to be no top or bottom to it, so he flew into it. There was also rain, and the water stayed on the windshield. Unlike a car, the Hornet Moth had no windshield wipers.
He remembered what Karen had said about disorientation, and resolved not to make any sudden moves. However, staring constantly into swirling nothingness was strangely hypnotic. He wished he could talk to Karen, but he felt she needed sleep after what she had been through. He lost track of the passage of time. He started to imagine shapes in the cloud. He saw a horse's head, the hood of a Lincoln Continental, and the moustached face of Neptune. Ahead of him, at eleven o'clock and a few feet below, he saw a fishing boat, with sailors on deck gazing up at him in wonderment.
That was no illusion, he realized, snapping back to full consciousness. The mist had cleared and he was seeing a real boat. He looked at the altimeter. Both hands pointed up. He was at sea level. He had lost altitude without noticing.
Instinctively, he pulled the stick back, lifting the nose, but as he did so he heard Karen's voice in his head saying, But never raise the nose too sharply, or you will stall. That means you lose lift, and the aircraft falls out of the sky. He realized what he had done, and remembered how to correct it, but he was not sure he had time. The aircraft was already losing altitude. He put the nose down and pushed the throttle all the way forward. He was level with the fishing boat as he passed it. He risked pulling the nose up a fraction. He waited for the wheels to hit the waves. The aircraft flew on. He pulled the nose up a little more. He risked a glance at the altimeter. He was climbing. He let out a long breath.
"Pay attention, you fool," he said aloud. "Stay awake."
He continued climbing. The cloud dissipated, and he emerged into a clear morning. He checked his watch. It was four o'clock. The sun was about to rise. Looking up through the transparent roof of the cabin, he could see the North Star to his right. That meant his compass was accurate, and he was still heading west.
Frightened of getting too close to the sea, he climbed for half an hour. The temperature dropped, and cold air came in through the window he had smashed out for his improvised fuel line. He wrapped the blanket around himself for warmth. At ten thousand feet, he was about to level off when the engine coughed.
At first he could not figure out what the noise was. The engine sound had been steady for so many hours that he had ceased to hear it.
Then it came again, and he realized the engine had misfired.
He felt as if his heart had stopped. He was about two hundred miles from land in any direction. If the engine failed now, he would come down in the sea.
It coughed again.
"Karen!" he shouted. "Wake up!"
She slept on. He took his hand off the stick and shook her shoulder. "Karen!"
Her eyes opened. She appeared better for her sleep, calmer and less flushed, but a look of fear came over her face as soon as she heard the engine. "What's happening?"
"I don't know!"
"Where are we?"
"Miles from anywhere."
The engine continued to cough and splutter.
"We may have to land in the sea," Karen said. "What's our altitude?"
"Ten thousand feet."
"Is the throttle fully open?"
"Yes, I was climbing."
"That's the problem. Bring it back halfway."
He pulled the throttle back.
Karen said, "When the throttle is on full, the engine draws air from outside, rather than from within the engine compartment, so it's colder - at this altitude, cold enough to form ice in the carburetor."
"What can we do?"
"Descend." She took the stick and pushed it forward. "As we go down, the air temperature should rise, and the ice will melt - eventually."
"If it doesn't . . ."
"Look for a ship. If we can splash down near one, we may be rescued."
Harald scanned the sea from horizon to horizon, but he could see no ships.
With the engine misfiring they had little thrust and lost altitude rapidly. Harald took the axe from the locker, ready to carry out his plan of hacking off a wing to use as a float. He put the bottles of water in his jacket pockets. He did not know if they would survive in the sea long enough to die of thirst.
He watched the altimeter. They came down to a thousand feet, then five hundred. The sea looked black and cold. There were still no ships in sight.
A weird calm settled over Harald. "I think we're going to die," he said. "I'm sorry I got you into this."
"We're not finished yet," she said. "See if you can give me a few more revs, so that we don't splash down too hard."
Harald pushed the throttle forward. The engine note rose. It missed, fired, and missed again.
Harald said, "I don't think - "
Then the engine seemed to catch.
It roared steadily for several seconds, and Harald held his breath; then it misfired again. Finally it burst into a steady roar. The aircraft began to climb.
Harald realized they were both cheering.
The revs rose to nineteen hundred without missing a beat. "The ice melted!" Karen said.
Harald kissed her. It was quite difficult. Although they were shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh in the cramped cabin, it was awkward to turn in the seat, especially with a seat belt on. But he managed it.
"That was nice," she said.
"If we survive this, I'm going to kiss you every day for the rest of my life," he said happily.
"Really?" she said. "The rest of your life could be a long time."
"I hope so."
She looked pleased. Then she said, "We should check the fuel."
Harald twisted in his seat to look at the gauge between the seat backs. It was difficult to read, having two scales, one for use in the air and the other for on the ground when the aircraft was tilted.
But they both read near to "Empty."
"Hell, the tank is almost dry," Harald said.
"There's no land in sight." She looked at her watch. "We've been in the air five and a half hours, so we're probably still half an hour from land."
"That's all right, I can top up the tank." He unbuckled his seat belt and turned awkwardly to kneel on his seat. The petrol can stood on the luggage shelf behind the seats. Beside it was a funnel and one end of a length of garden hose. Before takeoff, Harald had broken the window and passed the hose through the hole, lashing the other end to the petrol inlet in the side of the fuselage.
But now he could see the outside end of the hose flapping in the slipstream. He cursed.
Karen said, "What's the matter?"
"The hose has worked loose in flight. I didn't tie it tight enough."
"What are we going to do? We have to refuel!"
Harald looked at the petrol can, the funnel, the hose, and the window. "I've got to put the hose into the filler neck. And it can't be done from in here."
"You can't go outside!"
"What will it do to the aircraft if I open the door?"
"My God, it's like a giant air brake. It will slow us down and turn us left."
"Can you cope with that?"
"I can maintain airspeed by putting the nose down. I suppose I could press down on the right rudder pedal with my left foot."
"Let's try it."
Karen put the aircraft into a gentle dive, then put her left foot on the right rudder pedal. "Okay."
Harald opened the door. The aircraft immediately veered sharply to the left. Karen pushed down on the right rudder pedal, but they continued to turn. She eased the stick over to the right and banked, but the aircraft still went left. "It's no good, I can't hold it!" she cried.
Harald closed the door. "If I smash these windows out, that will almost halve the area of wind resistance," he said. He took the wrench from his pocket. The windows were made of some kind of celluloid that was tougher than glass, but he knew it was not unbreakable, for he had knocked out the rear window two days ago. He drew back his right arm as far as he could and hit the window hard, and the celluloid shattered. He tapped the remaining material out of the frame.
"Ready to try again?"
"Just a minute - we need more airspeed." She leaned across and pushed the throttle open, then eased the trim lever forward an inch. "Okay."
Harald opened the door.
Once again the aircraft veered left, but this time less sharply, and Karen seemed to be able to correct with the rudder.
Kneeling on the seat, Harald put his head out of the door. He could see the end of the hose flapping around the petrol access cover. Holding the door open with his right shoulder, he stretched out his right arm and grasped the hose. Now he had to feed it into the tank. He could see the open access panel but not the filler neck. He got the end of the hose positioned roughly over the panel, but the length of rubber in his hand constantly flopped around with the movement of the aircraft, and he could not get the end into the pipe. It was like trying to thread a needle in a hurricane. He tried for several minutes, but it became more hopeless as his hand got colder.
Karen tapped his shoulder.
He drew his hand back into the cabin and closed the door.
"We're losing altitude," she said. "We need to climb." She pulled the stick back.
Harald blew on his hand to warm it. "I can't do it this way," he told her. "I can't get the hose into the pipe. I need to be able to hold the other end of the tube."
He thought for a minute. "Maybe I can put one foot out of the door."
"Let me know when we've gained enough altitude."
After a couple of minutes she said, "Okay, but be ready to close the door as soon as I tap your shoulder."
Facing backward with his left knee on the seat, Harald put his right foot out through the door and onto the reinforced strip on the wing. Holding his seat belt with his left hand for security, he leaned out and grasped the hose. He ran his hand along its length until he was holding the tip. Then he leaned out farther to put the end into the pipe.
The Hornet Moth hit an air pocket. The aircraft bucked in the air. Harald lost his balance and thought he was going to fall off the wing. He jerked hard on the hose and his seat belt at the same time, trying to stay upright. The other end of the hose, inside the cabin, broke free of the string holding it. As it came loose, Harald involuntarily let go of it. The slipstream whisked it away.
Shaking with fear, he eased back into the cabin and closed the door.
"What happened?" she said. "I couldn't see!"
For a moment he was unable to reply. When he had recovered, he said, "I dropped the hose."
He checked the fuel gauge. "We're running on empty."
"I don't know what we can do!"
"I'll have to stand on the wing and pour the petrol in directly from the can. It will take two hands - I can't hold a four-gallon can with one hand, it's too heavy."
"But you won't be able to hold on."
"You'll have to hold my belt with your left hand." Karen was strong, but he was not sure she could take his weight if he slipped. However, there was no alternative.
"Then I won't be able to move the control stick."
"We'll just have to hope you don't need to."
"All right, but let's gain more altitude."
He looked around. There was no land in sight.
Karen said, "Warm your hands. Put them under my coat."
He turned, still kneeling on the seat, and pressed his hands to her waist. Under the fur coat she was wearing a light summer sweater.
"Put them under my sweater. Go on, feel my skin, I don't mind."
She was hot to his touch.
He kept his hands there as they climbed. Then the engine missed. "We're out of fuel," Karen said.
The engine caught again, but he knew she was right. "Let's do it," he said.
She trimmed the aircraft. Harald unscrewed the cap of the four-gallon can, and the tiny cabin filled with the unpleasant smell of petrol, despite the wind blowing in at the broken windows.
The engine missed again and began to falter.
Harald lifted the can. Karen took hold of his belt. "I've got you tight," she said. "Don't worry."
He opened the door and put his right foot out. He moved the can to the seat. He put his left foot out, so that he was standing on the wing and leaning inside the cabin. He was absolutely terrified.
He lifted the can and stood upright on the wing. He made the mistake of looking beyond the trailing edge of the wing to the sea below. His stomach lurched with nausea. He almost dropped the can. He closed his eyes, swallowed, and got himself under control.
He opened his eyes, resolving not to look down. He leaned over the petrol inlet. His belt tightened over his stomach as Karen took the strain. He tilted the can.
The constant movement of the aircraft made it impossible to pour straight, but after a few moments he got the knack of compensating. He leaned forward and back, relying on Karen to keep him safe.
The engine continued to misfire for a few seconds, then returned to normal.
He wanted desperately to get back inside, but they needed fuel to reach land. The petrol seemed to flow as slowly as honey. Some blew away in the airflow, and more spilled around the access plate and was wasted, but most of it seemed to go into the pipe.
At last the can was empty. He dropped it into the air and gratefully grabbed the door frame with his left hand. He eased himself back into the cabin and closed the door.
"Look," said Karen, pointing ahead.
In the far distance, right on the horizon, was a dark shape. It was land.
"Hallelujah," he said softly.
"Just pray that it's England," Karen said. "I don't know how far we might have been blown off course."
It seemed to take a long time, but eventually the dark shape turned green and became a landscape. Then it resolved into a beach, a town with a harbor, an expanse of fields, and a range of hills.
"Let's take a closer look," Karen said.
They descended to two thousand feet to examine the town.
"I can't tell whether it's France or England," Harald said. "I've never been to either place."
"I've been to Paris and London, but neither of them looks like this."
Harald checked the fuel gauge. "We're going to have to land soon anyway."
"But we need to know whether we're in enemy territory."
Harald glanced up through the roof and saw two aircraft. "We're about to find out," he said. "Look up."
They both stared at the two small aircraft that were rapidly approaching from the south. As they came closer, Harald stared at their wings, waiting for the markings to become distinct. Would they turn out to be German crosses? Had all this been for nothing?
The aircraft came closer, and Harald saw that they were Spitfires with RAF roundels. This was England.
He let out a whoop of triumph. "We made it!"
The aircraft came closer and flew on either side of the Hornet Moth. Harald could see the pilots, staring at them. Karen said, "I hope they don't think we're enemy spies and shoot us down."
It was dreadfully possible. Harald tried to think of some way of telling the RAF they were friendly. "Flag of truce," he said. He pulled off his shirt and pushed it out of the broken window. The white cotton fluttered in the wind.
It seemed to do the trick. One of the Spitfires moved in front of the Hornet Moth and waggled its wings. Karen said, "That means 'Follow me,' I think. But I haven't got enough fuel." She looked at the landscape below. "Sea breeze from the east, to judge by the smoke from that farmhouse. I'll come down in that field." She put the nose down and turned.
Harald looked anxiously at the Spitfires. After a moment they turned and began to circle, but maintained their altitude, as if watching to see what would happen next. Perhaps they had decided that a Hornet Moth could not be much of a threat to the British Empire.
Karen came down to a thousand feet and flew downwind past the field she had chosen. There were no obstructions visible. She turned into the wind for landing. Harald operated the rudder, helping keep the aircraft in a straight line.
When they were twenty feet above the grass, Karen said, "Throttle all the way back, please." Harald pulled the lever back. She lifted the nose of the aircraft gently with the stick. When it seemed to Harald that they were almost touching the ground, they continued to fly for fifty yards or more. Then there was a bump as the wheels made contact with the earth.
The aircraft slowed down in a few seconds. As it came to a halt, Harald looked through the broken window and saw, just a few yards away, a young man on a bicycle, watching from a pathway alongside the field, staring at them openmouthed.
"I wonder where we are," Karen said.
Harald called out to the bicyclist. "Hello there!" he said in English. "What is this place?"
The young man looked at him as if he had come from outer space. "Well," he said at last, "it's not the bloody airport."