by Captain W. E. Johns



II.                    THE FIRST ROUND  (Pages 30 – 59)


I   -   Exactly a fortnight later, Biggles is in the Lombard Street office of Cronfelt & Carstairs Ltd and chatting with Miss Carstairs.  Again, she asks him not to do it.  “Cry off, there is still time.  My father won’t mind, I know”.  “If you refuse to go on, my father will leave this firm.  He is only staying now because you are associated with us”.  Biggles refuses.  “No, Miss Carstairs, what I start I finish”.  Biggles goes in to see Carstairs and Cronfelt and tells them everything is ready.  “We’re registered as a private company with a hangar of our own at Hardwick Airport.  The machine we shall use for shipments is a Cormorant twin-engined biplane of the ordinary communication class”.  Biggles says he has four staff, himself, (Algy) Lacey, (Ginger) Hebblethwaite and “my old flight sergeant, Smyth is the only other member.  He’s an expert fitter and rigger”.  When asked the company name, Biggles gives them a card saying “Biggles & Co”.  “We had to find a name, and for reasons of my own – call it conceit if you like – I wanted to be associated with it.  But Bigglesworth is a bit long-winded.  Moreover, people might wonder who it was.  Those who really matter know me as Biggles”.  Biggles is told they want him to take a consignment of gold to a French bank in Paris that day.  Biggles asks if anyone outside the room, except the bank official, know about this shipment and he is told “No one.  That is, not as far as we know”.


II   -   Biggles Algy and Ginger are waiting for the gold to arrive at the aerodrome.  Biggles has acquired an old R.A.F. Bulldog and has been to see Raymond who has “wangled” them a couple of machine-guns.  The machine will be flown by Algy and used for escort duties; It is currently hidden in the hangar.  The gold arrives and is loaded into the Cormorant.  Biggles flies it, with Ginger as his co-pilot.  They land at Le Bourget without incident.  Biggles is greeted by a man from the Bank of France with two gendarmes.  (“Major Bigglesworth?” He inquired in perfect English - is the illustration on page 43).  The gold is loaded into their van.  Biggles goes with the gold in the back of the van but is soon suspicious about the direction it is taking.  It doesn’t appear to be going to Paris.  The two gendarmes soon pull guns on him and the van stops and Biggles is put out of the van.  Biggles has to send a French paper-boy on a bicycle to go to a garage to get him a taxi.  Biggles then goes to the Bank of France at the Place de l’Opera and meets Algy and Ginger.  It is clear that the Bank knows there has been a robbery as gendarmes are present.  Biggles speaks to the manager of the Bank of France and is introduced to Detective Boulanger of the Paris Surete.  Biggles surprises them both by saying there has been no robbery and delivering the gold.  Algy and Ginger have it in their taxi.


III   -   At ten minutes past five Biggles opened the door of Stella Carstair’s office”.  She too has heard of the robbery.  “The story is all over the City.  Haven’t you seen the newspapers?” she says.  Someone has rung up and told her father.  The shares in Cronfelt & Carstairs have fallen from ten pounds each to five pounds each.  Biggles tells Stella to buy five thousand shares at the lowest price.  Biggles then goes to see Cronfelt and Carstairs and explains the gold was delivered safely.  He explains there is a false bottom in his aeroplane where the gold boxes were hidden.  In their place were identical boxes filled with lead.  It was the lead in the boxes that was stolen.  On the strength of Stella buying the shares and news that no robbery has taken place, the share price recovers to eight pounds a share.  Cronfelt explains that the manager of the Bank of France rang and told him about the robbery.  Biggles says, to the horror of Cronfelt, that “there is an ounce of ammonal fixed inside the lid of each of the stolen boxes.  The lad who pulls the first one open is likely to take a short flight through the roof”.  Stella thanks Biggles.  “I’m glad you’re working with us, after all, and I shall have more confidence in you in the future”.  Biggles reminds her “This is only the first round, remember”.