BIGGLES – AIR COMMODORE
by Captain W. E. Johns
VII. A TERRIBLE NIGHT (Pages 99 – 111)
Algy had not covered a third of the distance to dry land when he realised the tide was coming in. He is soon blocked by water and his retreat is cut off. “He experienced a pang of real fear, for he needed no one to tell him that a mangrove swamp is no place in which to be benighted. The heat is intense and foreign smells taint the stagnant air. Sometimes the stench of corruption and sometimes the perfume of foliage. Algy calls for Ginger but to no avail. Algy sees a ripple in the water and jerks his legs clear, just missing the jaws of a crocodile. (A long black object broke the surface and rose clear - is the illustration on page 101). He climbs a tree. The water continues to rise and Algy sees a water snake. He knows swimming it out of the question. Suddenly it feels as if hundreds of tiny pins are being stuck into his hands. This is a result of “the dreaded Semut apis, the fire-ants of the Malay Peninsula”. Backing down a branch, it breaks and Algy finds himself in the water. “With his toes curling with horror he struck out madly for the nearest tree”. He pulls himself up and hangs from a branch. “By this time he had reached that degree of misery that knows neither pain nor fear, a lamentable condition in which death appears as a welcome release”. A crocodile appears and Algy takes out his automatic and fires three times at it. It disappears. “Here, be careful what you’re doing with that gun” called a voice near at hand. It’s Biggles in a boat! Biggles asks where Ginger is and Algy explains he is fixing the petrol tanks. Biggles is surprised. “But I thought I heard it crash”. Algy explains that was the other fellow; Ginger got him. Biggles says he got “the collapsible rubber canoe out of poor Tom’s crash”. A revolver shot splits the silence and they guess it is Ginger. Algy signals back with his gun. Moving towards further gun reports the three friends are reunited. “Open up some of the emergency rations, Ginger, and let’s have a bite of food. After that I think a spot of shut-eye is indicated” says Biggles.