The launches came after me and detached a sampan to approach me. The man with the umbrella had lived in the United States for twenty years, and spoke an English which I could understand most of the time. His name was Suzuki, and he was most efficient.
He invited me to stay with him, and I gratefully accepted. Suzuki’s wife cooked us a meal on a little brazier, and after dinner he dressed me in a kimono and a pair of wooden sandals – I attracted too much attention in European clothes, he said – and I clogged down the street with him to be shown the town. Suzuki wanted me to fly him to Tokyo next day but I refused; I told him that if there was a crash the person in the front cockpit was almost sure to be killed, though the man behind often escaped, and that I would not take the responsibility of putting him in front.
China Map With Cities Photo Gallery
In the morning, the launch picked up my anchor and towed the seaplane through the gap to the inlet adjoining the harbour.
‘Will you make circles round the town?’ shouted Suzuki, ‘the peoples would like to see your aeroplane.’
The seaplane smacked the swell tops, and was soon off. I headed through the gap between the inlet and the harbour, still low over the water gathering speed. I decided to circle the village, as Suzuki had asked, but I could not do so without more height, so I reckoned to fly on through the north gap in the harbour rim to gain the necessary height outside, and then to return and circle: all the way across the harbour the seaplane was gathering speed; I preferred to gain speed rather than height until I was flying fast enough to make manoeuvring easy. When I was between the highest point of the rock peak on the outer rim of the harbour and the hill behind the township, I pulled back the control-stick, and the seaplane began to climb sharply. I was looking at the township below me on my left, thinking what a pretty sight it was with the cluster of roofs at the base of the hill and the sunshine strong on the green harbour water beneath me, when there was a dreadful shock, and I felt a terrific impact.
My sight was a blank. Slowly, a small aperture cleared, a hole for sight, and through it, far away, I saw a patch of bright green scrub on a hillside. But it was a long way off, like a tiny glimpse seen through a red telescope. Now it was a round sight, half of sparkling water and half of rooftops, straight before me. I was diving at it vertically, already doing 90mph. I remember thinking, ‘Well, this is the end,’ and feeling intense loneliness, a vague sense of loss – of life, of friends. Then, ‘I’d better try for the water,’ I was vaguely aware of lifeless controls, but suddenly all fear was gone.
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