by Captain W. E. Johns



XV.         ORDEAL BY NIGHT  (Pages 168 – 176)


“The German orderly, although he had good reason for thinking that ‘Brunow’s nerves had gone to bits’, was far from right.  Biggles’s nerves were unimpaired, although it must be admitted that he had been badly shaken by the belief that Algy had been killed, but after the first reaction had spent itself the knowledge that the whole thing had been nothing more than a bad dream was such a relief that he prepared to resume his work with a greater determination than before”.  Biggles longs to return to normal duties and “was prepared to take almost any chance, regardless of risks, in order to expedite the conclusion of the affair”.  During dinner Biggles hears a plane taxing across the aerodrome and waiting.  Von Stalhein leaves and shortly afterwards the plane takes off.  Biggles waits for everyone to settle down for the evening then, taking a torch, he goes to search von Stalhein’s office.  Climbing in through the window, Biggles searches around and he is just looking in a tall wardrobe when he hears someone else at the window.  Biggles hides in the wardrobe and sees a man climbing in.  “Even in the uncertain light a single glance was sufficient to show that it was not a white man, for the dark-bearded face was surmounted by a turban”.  The intruder appears to be an Arab and he disappears from Biggles’ view.  Biggles waits for ages but the man does not reappear.  In due course, Biggles hears a noise.  “He had heard it many times before, and it never failed to fill him with a vague dread, but in his present position it literally paralysed him.  It was the slow dragging gait of a lame man, and it was coming down the corridor”.  Von Stalhein enters his office and is immediately attacked by the Arab who had been waiting for him.  Von Stalhein manages to grab the Arab’s right hand which holds a knife.  (In that position they remained while Biggles could have counted ten – is the illustration opposite page 174).  The knife drops to the floor and the Arab flings himself out of the window.  Von Stalhein fires out of the window after him and then climbs out after him.  Biggles takes the opportunity to escape from the wardrobe and leave.  He then pretends to be running back to see what caused the shot everyone has heard.  He finds von Stalhein and a sentry standing over a recumbent figure on the ground – the Arab.  Biggles asks what has happened.  “Nothing very much,” replied the German coolly.  “Fellow tried to knife me, that’s all.  One of the sheikhs who was on the raid the other night; the poor fools are blaming me because the thing went wrong”.  Von Stalhein asks where Biggles has come from and luckily, Biggles says he was on the tarmac rather than in his room, because von Stalhein says he has just come from Biggles’ room and he wasn’t there.  He wanted to speak to Biggles about a job the Count had for him, but that could wait until morning.  Biggles leaves to return to his room, realising that von Stalhein wasn’t on the plane that he heard take off earlier at all.