by Captain W. E. Johns



VIII.    FORCED DOWN  (Pages 86 – 97)


Biggles goes to the olive grove and searches for Algy’s message.  He finds a streamer caught up in a tree, that just looks like wind-blown litter.  The message says IMPORTANT NEWS.  SPEAK AT RENDEZVOUS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  Biggles destroys it.  Biggles asks the Count for permission to do a reconnaissance flight and takes off in a German Halberstadt aircraft as he is wearing his German uniform.  Biggles sees another Halberstadt in the distance flying into the desert and is intrigued as to where it is going.  He follows, keeping in the sun, which has now taken on an unusual reddish hue.  In due course, Biggles flies into a sand storm and is forced to land in the desert.  He chooses a place where there is a long narrow belt of palms in the hope of finding some cover for the aircraft, which he weighs down with sandbags.  After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, with his jacket over his head, for the storm to pass, Biggles explores what is, in fact, an oasis, when the storm has passed.  Crawling cautiously over a rise, Biggles is astonished to see von Stalhein addressing a group of Arabs.  Some Arabs leave on horseback whilst some other Arabs go with von Stalhein into a primitive hut, constructed of sun-dried bricks and thatched with dead palm fronds.  Later, the Arabs leave and Biggles waits for hours for von Stalhein to come out.  Forced by thirst to go to the well at the oasis, Biggles looks in the hut and is astonished to find it empty.  So you’ve changed the colour of your skin again, have you, Mr. Von Stalhein?” thought Biggles, as the only possible solution of the problem flashed into his mind.  “Good; now we know where we are.  I fancy I’m beginning to rumble your little game – El Shereef”.  Knowing that he still has to go and meet Algy, Biggles returns to his own aircraft only to be set upon by about fifteen Bedouins of the desert and captured.  His hands are tied behind his back and he is put on a horse and taken across the desert.