by Captain W. E. Johns



XVI.        CHECKED  (Pages 177 – 189)


Biggles wakes the following morning and wonders whether he has completed his task.  It was without doubt, Biggles thought, that von Stalhein was the super-spy, El Shereef.  The limp he had was feigned.  “Von Stalhein was as active as any normal man.  The way he had behaved when attacked by the Arab in his room revealed that”.  Biggles goes to report to the Count and finds just von Stalhein in the Count’s office.  Von Stalhein shows him the photo of the Mayer’s burning Halberstadt.  It clearly shows the aircraft tracks where Biggles had landed.  Von Stalhein questions Biggles about that, but Biggles says it is the tracks of the home-made trailer he used to save Mayer.  The Count arrives and asks Biggles if he has ever heard of El Shereef.  The Count then tells him, to Biggles’ astonishment, that El Shereef has been captured by the British, by their Major Sterne.  The Count then asks Biggles if he would try to rescue El Shereef.  Biggles is amazed by the turn of events but agrees to do what he can.  He flies the Bristol Fighter to the British Kantara aerodrome some thirty five minutes away, wondering if he has been told the truth.  Are the Germans bluffing or are the British?  Biggles lands and goes to see Major Raymond in his tent.  Raymond confirms that they have captured El Shereef and he has already been sentenced to death.  In fact, Raymond has sent Algy to drop a message for Biggles in the olive grove and he took off shortly before Biggles arrived.  Biggles asks “Just as a matter of curiosity I’d like to have a dekko at this nimble n****r who is called El Shereef”.  (This is the first use of the very offensive “N” word by W. E. Johns in an R.F.C story, but not the first use of the word in the Biggles books.  The word first appeared four times in the second Biggles book “The Cruise of the Condor” (1933).  In the fourth Biggles book, “Biggles Flies Again” (1934) the word is used three times.  Of course, in its day, the word was in regular use and not considered offensive at all, otherwise it would not have appeared in a children’s book, where even mild expletives are watered down.  The word remained in all editions of this book up until, and including, the 1963 paperback.  When Red Fox published their paperback version in 1992, the word was changed to “chap” and remains so in all current editions.  When Norman Wright republished a limited edition hardback version of the story in 2013, he used the phrase “Agile Arab” instead).  The Major agrees and reaches for his telephone.