by Captain W. E. Johns



III.           AN UNPLEASANT PASSENGER  (Pages 45 – 63)


Biggles is awake early and suggests they work in relays flying out and looking for aircraft wreckage in their search for Harry Marton.  The three of them go to the aircraft hangar and Biggles and Ginger get in the machine.  “Outside for your life!” hisses Biggles and the three of them run back to the rest house being chased by a fast moving snake.  (They reached the rest-house about half a dozen yards ahead of their pursuer - is the illustration on page 49).  Biggles crushes the snake with a twenty pound case of corned beef then shoots three bullets in its head.  The snake was a Black Mamba, one of the deadliest in the world.  Their aircraft had been shut up, so the snake was put there deliberately.  Sarda comes out to speak to them having heard the shooting.  Sarda says the snake is very dangerous and there are many about in these parts.  “Well, that’s how we treat them,” murmured Biggles, looking Sarda straight in the face.  “You may not always be so lucky,” replied Sarda.  Biggles and Ginger go back to the plane and take off.  Biggles flies south and searches for an hour.  Biggles says “it’s all very well to sit at home and look at maps, but when you get out here and see this – one begins to get an idea of what one is faced with.  And I don’t mind telling you that it gives me a sort of hopeless feeling”.  They fly back to Insula and see Algy signalling to them.  They land and taxi up to the hangar.  “Has the sun given you St. Vitus’s dance or something?” inquired Biggles.  (Sydenham's chorea, also known as chorea minor and historically referred to as St Vitus' dance, is a disorder characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements primarily affecting the face, hands and feet).  Algy says there is someone else in Sarda’s bungalow as he has heard Sarda talking to him.  Biggles wants to know who this is, so he goes with Ginger and Algy to Sarda’s bungalow and is surprised to be invited in.  Biggles gets to look around and it is clear that no one else is there.  Returning to their quarters, Biggles tells Algy that Sarda was on the telephone as he saw a wire.  Sarda is invited to their quarters to be given some supplies while Ginger is sent to investigate the telephone and see if he can get onto anybody.  Sarda is given a drink to keep him occupied.  When Ginger returns and Sarda has gone, Ginger has shocking news.  He found the telephone and spoke to someone at the other end.  The voice said “You’re English?  For God’s sake help me”.  Ginger asked “Who are you?” and the answer was “Harry Marton”.