BIGGLES IN AFRICA
by Captain W. E. Johns
XI. CRASHED BY A RHINO (Pages 156 – 170)
Biggles suspects the white man they have just seen is either Stampoulos or his head man. “He looks Green enough, anyway”. Now would be the right time to go to Karuli if he and his “dusky cut-throats” are at Insula. Algy explains what happened on his hunting trip. Biggles says “And then you decided it was about time to go home”. Algy replies “I did, and without stopping to pick flowers on the way. That bunch of n****rs ” (This is the fourth Biggles book to feature the use of the very offensive “N” word by W. E. Johns. The word appears four times in this book, once in Chapter VIII, “Savages” and once in Chapter IX, “Biggles Sums Up” and then twice in this chapter, “Crashed by a Rhino”. 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 Oxford editions of this book, however, as early as 1962, in the Armada paperback version, the word in this chapter here was changed to “warriors”. In the last edition published in 1985, where the book is one of five books featured in THE BEST OF BIGGLES, a Chancellor Press Omnibus, the word was replaced with the word “savages”) with flattened-out bill-hooks settled all doubt in my mind about that”. Algy suggests they land at the emergency landing-ground that Ginger discovered and hide the supplies there as well. Biggles agrees. Biggles says “We’re all tired and it’s getting a bit close to sundown for operations. We don’t want to get benighted on the open veld”. “No, by James, that we don’t,” agreed Ginger warmly. “I’ve already had one go at it and that was one too many. If I’ve got to look at lions I prefer to see them through nice thick cast-iron bars; or better still, behind a sheet of plate-glass in a museum. I –” “Don’t talk so much,” interrupted Biggles. “Just keep your eyes open for this repair establishment; remember, I haven’t seen it yet”. In due course, Ginger points it out and they land the Puss Moth. Biggles, Ginger and Algy walk towards the hut. Biggles is saying how the Puss Moth is cramped after the Dragon when “he broke off and spun round as a terrifying noise rose on the still air; it sounded like a cavalry charge and a pig being slaughtered at the same time”. A rhinoceros charges them and the three airmen scatter. The rhino charges their aeroplane. Biggles fires a couple of shots at the rhino without any effect. “With a fearful crash it struck the Puss Moth full amidships, and the machine crumpled up like a match-box that has been trodden on. The noise of the impact seemed to drive the brute to even greater fury, for it snorted, bucked, kicked, and stamped on the wreckage in a rage that was as insensate as it was destructive”. (With a fearful crash it struck the Puss Moth full amidships - is the illustration on page 163). The rhino leaves with an elevator firmly impaled on its horn. “Who was it suggested landing here?” inquired Biggles at last, coldly. “I did,” confessed Algy hesitatingly. “Then perhaps you wouldn’t mind starting to stick the bits of this aeroplane together again,” Biggles told him. Algy’s reply was a roar of laughter, in which presently the others joined”. Biggles pulls the kit bags out of the wreckage and smells it. “Queer smell … reminds me of something … something I’ve … smelt before. Can’t think what the dickens it is, though”. They go to the hut and find it locked. Breaking in, they find the hut completely empty. Biggles says their rifle is useless as well. “It’s empty, and we’ve no more ammunition. I fired the last two shots at the rhino. Ginger only took one clip of six rounds when he loaded it in the hangar. You fired one at the leopard, one at the n****r who was chasing you, two at the others, and I’ve fired two just now”. (This is the final use of the very offensive “N” word in this book. The word remained in all Oxford editions of this book, however, as early as 1962, in the Armada paperback version, the word in this chapter here was changed to “fellow”. In the last edition published in 1985, where the book is one of five books featured in THE BEST OF BIGGLES, a Chancellor Press Omnibus, the word was also replaced with the word “fellow”). Biggles thinks the best plan is to spend the night where they are and then start the long walk to Karuli in the morning. They could stay and hope that the Dragon lands there in due course but they would have to keep an eye out for “Stampoulos and his bodkin-pushers, who might also decide to look in here on the way home” and without food or means of obtaining it, staying any length of time would be impossible. “Darkness fell, and completely worn out by the day’s events, they lay down on the floor to get as much rest as the unyielding surface would permit”.