by Captain W. E. Johns


First published April 1936





List of illustrations – Page 7 (Frontispiece by Howard Leigh and six illustrations by Alfred Sindall on pages 43, 73, 93, 161, 227 and 243)


I.      THE PROPOSITION  (Pages 9 – 29)


I   -   Biggles is introduced as Major James Bigglesworth, D.S.O., D.F.C. and he is testing an aeroplane at Brooklands Aerodrome.  He comes in to land and speaks to his two trusty comrades, Algy and Ginger and is told by Algy that there is a fellow waiting to speak to him.  The man says he has been sent by Colonel Raymond and tells Biggles that Raymond “is now Assistant Commissioner of Police.  Didn’t you know?”  “Biggles opened his eyes wide.  ‘No,’ he confessed, ‘I’m dashed if I did.  I’m glad to hear it, anyway, for he is a great scout”.  The man gives Biggles his card by way of introduction, on which it says ‘Paul Cronfelt.  Bullion Brokers.  Dealers in Precious Stones.  Cronfelt & Carstairs, Lombard Street, E.C.”  Cronfelt asks Biggles if he could run an airline.  He tells Biggles a tale of woe whereby gold shipments sent abroad have been lost, two planes have crashed and all onboard killed.  Biggles knew Geoffrey Lyle, one of the lost pilots.  In addition, a diamond shipment to Amsterdam, taken by a courier, resulted in the machine arriving but the courier ending up naked in the sea – dead.  There have been problems with insurance as a result.  Cronfelt wants Biggles to ship gold for him – and other companies – having been recommended by Colonel Raymond.  When Biggles says “At a rough guess it will take fifty thousand pounds to start this concern in a business-like way.  Running expenses are high, apart from the initial cost of machine”, Cronfelt is not put off.  Biggles says he wants to think it over, but he would have three demands.  He engages his own staff, liberty to choose his own equipment and to run the thing his own way without interference.  When Cronfelt tries to raise objections.  “I’m not prepared even to discuss the matter, Mr. Cronfelt,” put in Biggles brusquely.  “As I see it, you stand to lose some money, but I stand to lose my life.  I set some value on it, so I shall expect to be paid in proportion to the risk; but more important is the fact that I must run things exactly as I like, without consulting even you. A secret shared by two or three people is no longer a secret”.  Biggles gives Cronfelt his card and Cronfelt agrees to ring him at ten o’clock that night.


II   -   At 9.00 pm in his rooms, Biggles is discussing the matter with Algy and Ginger.  He can’t do the job alone, so either they do it together or not at all.  Ginger is all for it, but Biggles leaves the final decision to Algy who says “I’m getting old, and maybe I’m getting nervous”.  Biggles doesn’t think the job is worth it and says if it was for him to decide the answer would be “No”.  Algy agrees.  Mrs. Symes, the housekeeper comes in and says there is a lady to see Biggles.  “But I don’t know any ladies.  She must have come to the wrong house” says Biggles.  In comes “a remarkably pretty girl” who introduces herself as Stella Carstairs.  She acts as private secretary to her father who is Cronfelt’s partner.  She has come to implore Biggles not to accept Cronfelt’s offer as she wants her father out of the bullion business before he loses everything they possess.  The telephone goes and Biggles takes a long distance call.  A strangely familiar voice asks if that is Major Bigglesworth.  The voice tells Biggles not to accept the proposal that has been made to him.  “Go on with it, and you may pay for your temerity with the life you have been so fortunate to keep for so long.  Good-bye”.   Biggles tells Algy and says “I thought I’d heard that voice before – a long, long time ago”.  The telephone rings again.  It is exactly ten o’clock.  It is Cronfelt.  Biggles says “Yes, I’ve thought the matter over and reached a decision.  My answer is – yes!  Good-night”.