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The Girl Aviators and the Phantom Aeroship.

by Margaret Burnham

Only seven years had passed since the Wright brothers' illustrious maiden flight, and the early aviation frenzy has begun.

Teenagers Peggy Prescott and her brother Roy share a love of aviation that they inherited from their late father. Mr. Prescott had always dreamed of building an aeroplane that would be free of the defects of planes already invented. Peggy and Roy manage to build a plane starting with the framework their father had begun. Peggy christens it ‘The Golden Butterfly’ and she and Roy are determined to enter it in a young aviator’s contest for a prize of $5000. The Prescotts need the money desperately to save the home they share with their aunt which is about to be taken from them by the rather nasty banker, Mr. Harding. Peggy and Roy along with their best friends, Jess and Jimsy Bancroft – also sister and brother, experience many adventures – many of them while flying the Golden Butterfly. A kidnapping, missing jewels and contact with some desperate characters are just some of what the Prescotts encounter in their Long Island village of Sandy Bay. There’s never a dull moment for these two as they pursue their dream of flying.

Peggy Prescott and her BFF Jess Bancroft are "new" girls - they drive cars, fly planes, even fight for the same opportunities and prize money as men and boys in the air races.

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“Roy! Roy! where are you?”

Peggy Prescott came flying down the red-brick path, a rustling newspaper clutched in her hand. “Here I am, sis,—what’s up?”

The door of a long, low shed at the farther end of the old-fashioned garden opened as a clattering sound of hammering abruptly ceased. Roy Prescott, a wavy-haired, blue-eyed lad of seventeen, or thereabouts, stood in the portal. He looked very business-like in his khaki trousers, blue shirt and rolled up sleeves. In his hand was a shiny hammer. Peggy, quite regardless of a big, black smudge on her brother’s face, threw her arms around his neck in one of her “bear hugs,” while Roy, boy-like, wriggled in her clasp as best he could.

“Now, just look here,” cried Peggy, quite out of breath with her own vehemence. She flourished the paper under his nose and, imitating the traditional voice of a town crier, announced:

“Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! Roy Prescott or any of the ambitious aviators—now is your chance! Great news from the front! Third and last call!”

“You’ve got auctioneering, the Supreme Court and war times, mixed up a bit, haven’t you?” asked Roy with masculine condescension, but gazing fondly at his vivacious sister nevertheless.

Peggy made a little face and then thrust forth the paper for his examination.

“Read that, you unenthusiastic person,” she demanded, “and then tell me if you don’t think that Miss Margaret Prescott has good reason to feel somewhat more enthusiastic than comports with her usual dignity and well-known icy reserve—ahem!”

“Good gracious, sis!” exclaimed the boy, as he scanned the news-sheet, “why this is just what we were wishing for, isn’t it? It’s our chance if we can only grasp it and make good.”

“We can! We will!” exclaimed Peggy, striking an attitude and holding one hand above her glossy head. “Read it out, Roy, so that Monsieur Bleriot can hear it.”

M. Bleriot, a French bull-dog, who had dignifiedly followed Peggy’s mad career down the path, gazed up appreciatively, as Roy read out:

“Big Chance for Sky Boys!

“Ironmaster Higgins of Acatonick Offers Ten
Thousand Dollars In Prizes for Flights and Planes.”

“Ten thousand dollars, just think!” cried Peggy, clasping her hands one minute and the next stooping to caress M. Bleriot. “Oh, Roy! Do you think we could?”

“Could what? you indefinite person?” parried Roy, although his eyes were dancing and he knew well enough what his vivacious sister was driving at.

“Could win that ten thousand dollars, of course, you goose.”

Roy laughed.

“It’s not all offered in a lump sum,” he rejoined. “Listen; there is a first prize of five thousand dollars for the boy under eighteen who makes the longest sustained flight in a plane of his own construction—with the exception of the engine, that is; and here’s another of two thousand five hundred dollars to the glider making the best and longest sustained flight, and another of one thousand five hundred to the boy flying the most carefully constructed machine and the one bearing the most ingenious devices for perfecting the art of flying and—and—oh listen, Peggy!”

“I am—oh, I am!” breathed Peggy with half assumed breathlessness.

“There’s a prize offered for girls!”


“Yes. Now don’t say any more that girls are downtrodden and neglected by the bright minds of the day. Here it is, all in black and white, a prize of a whole thousand to the young lady who makes a successful flight. There, what do you think of that?”

“That Mr. Higgins is a mean old thing,” pouted Peggy, “five thousand dollars to the successful boy and only one thousand to the successful girl. It’s discrimination, that’s what it is. Don’t you read every day in the papers about girls and women making almost as good flights as the men? Didn’t a—a Mademoiselle somebody-or-other make a flight round the bell tower at Bruges the other day, and hasn’t Col. Roosevelt’s daughter been up in one, and isn’t there a regular school for women fliers at Washington, and—and––?”

“Didn’t the suffragettes promise to drop ‘Votes for Women’ placards from the air upon the devoted heads of the British Parliament, you up to date young person?” finished Roy, teasingly. Peggy made a dash for him but the boy dodged into the shed, closely followed by his sister. But as she crossed the threshold Peggy’s wild swoop became a decorous stroll, so to speak. She paused, all out of breath, beneath a spreading expanse of yellow balloon silk, braced and strengthened with brightly gleaming wires and stays,—one wing of the big monoplane upon which her brother had spent all his spare time for the past year. The flying thing was almost completed now. It stood in its shed, with its scarab-like wings outspread like a newly alighted yellow butterfly, which, by a stroke of ill luck, had found itself installed in a gloomy cage instead of the bright, open spaces of its native element.

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Hearing the sound of voices from the open door of the shed in which The Golden Butterfly, as Peggy had christened it, was nearing completion, they, without ceremony, at once made their way toward it. Peggy, glancing up from her sad reverie at the sound of footsteps, gave a glad little cry as she beheld the visitors standing framed in the sunlight of the open door. While she and the tall, dark-haired girl mingled their contrasting tresses in an exuberant school-girl caress, the lad and Roy Prescott, were, boy fashion, slapping one another on the back and shaking hands with just as much enthusiasm.

“Why, if this isn’t simply delightful, Jess, you dear old thing,” cried the delighted Peggy, as, with both hands on her chum’s shoulders, she held Jess Bancroft off at arm’s length, the better to scrutinize her handsome face, “and Jimsy, too,” as she turned to the lad with a bright smile of welcome; “wherever did you two come from?”

“From the clouds?” demanded Roy.

“No, hardly, although I don’t wonder at your asking such a question,” laughed Jess, merrily, exchanging greetings with Roy. “Roy Prescott, positively I can see your wings sprouting.”

They all laughed heartily at this, while Jess ran on to explain that she and her brother were stopping for the summer at Seaview Towers, a summer estate which their father, a Wall Street power, had leased for the season. Of course, explained the merry girl, who had been Peggy’s closest chum at school, her first thought had been to take a spin over in her new motor car and look up her friends, for Roy and James—or Jimmy—Bancroft had been almost as close chums as the girls.

“And so this is the wonderful Golden Butterfly that you wrote to me about?” exclaimed Jess enthusiastically after the first buzz of conversation subsided.

“Yes, this is it,” said Roy with great satisfaction in his tones, “and I’m proud of it, I can tell you. I think I’ve made a success of it.”

Jess and Jimsy exchanged glances. And then Jess stole a look at Peggy, but no cloud had crossed the face of Roy’s sister.

“Oh, you darling,” thought Jess, “you’re too sweet for anything. I just know how much you contributed to the Golden Butterfly’s existence, and yet you won’t detract a bit from Roy’s self-satisfaction.”

As for Jimsy Bancroft, he said nothing. He glanced rather oddly at Roy for an instant. Then his eyes turned to Peggy’s face. Perhaps they dwelt there for rather a long period of time. At any rate, they were still fixed on her brave beauty when a sudden shadow fell across the stream of sunlight that poured into the open portal of the workshop.


Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.

Daniel Burnham