BIGGLES FLIES WEST
By Captain W. E. Johns
VII. THE HURRICANE (Pages 110 - 124)
“The new aircraft was a pure flying-boat; that is to say, it was not fitted with a land undercarriage. It was larger than their own machine, having accommodation for eight passengers, but being designed for commercial work, the pilot’s compartment was separated from the cabin by a bulk-head, although communication could be established by means of a small doorway, the door itself having a glass panel in it through which passengers could, if they wished, see into the cockpit”. The plan is to put the aircraft down at the first decent anchorage they see and have a council of war. If they see their aircraft on the water near an island, they can assume it’s the one they are looking for. Algy asks Biggles if they are going to tackle them. Biggles says without weapons they are in no case to tackle anybody. If their Pan-American flying boat is seen, there is no reason for the villains to assume it is them. Biggles is hoping there is food on board “because if I don’t soon have something to eat I shall pass out”. In the cabin, there is food. Biggles goes to give the cursed doubloon back to Dick and as he does so the aircraft encounters a colossal up-current and then drops like a stone for two hundred feet. Biggles asks Algy, who is flying the plane, what caused that but Algy has no explanation. Biggles says “It just struck me that Dick’s doubloon seems to be a hoodoo”. “Every time the confounded thing comes to light something seems to happen”. Biggles then lists all the unfortunate things that have happened to people who have had contact with the doubloon. “No less than four men, to our certain knowledge, who have touched the coin have all died sudden deaths. I’m not superstitious, but there is no denying that there have been cases where a sort of evil luck, of fate, has clung to certain object, and this confounded coin seems to be one of them. Frankly, I don’t mind telling you that I shouldn’t shed any tears if we lost it. For two pins I’d make Dick throw the thing overboard”. Biggles returns to the others and sends Ginger to relieve Algy, so he too can have some food. Ginger returns almost immediately to call “Land-ho!” but also adds that there appears to be a storm approaching. Biggles takes over the flying while Algy eats and he sees some twenty miles away a large crescent-shaped island. But there is also a dark, indigo ridge that is rising with incredible speed above the horizon. Biggles knows they are in the hurricane belt. Biggles decides to race to the island in the hope of finding a sheltered anchorage to ride out the storm as they will use up all their petrol if they try to get away from it or round it. The ominous mass of the hurricane sweeps towards them. Algy says “I never saw anything quite like that in my life. Looks terrifying, doesn’t it?” Biggles guesses it is travelling at a hundred miles an hour. “We shall go up in the air like a feather if it hits us. Tell the boys to stow everything and lie on the floor”. Algy screams a warning “Look out!” but they are hit by a great white albatross that takes out their port side propeller. Biggles wipes a splatter of blood from his face. “A nasty red mess of blood and feathers jammed against the splintered windscreen told its own story”. By now, the sun had disappeared and the black curtain was almost overhead. The island is now not more than two miles away. The jungle with which it was covered was writhing until the whole island seemed to shake like a jelly. The hurricane strikes and "the flying-boat rocketed like a wounded pheasant, and half turned over". (Biggles fought it back to even keel, and then put the nose down in a dive that was not far short of vertical - is the frontispiece illustration taken from a line on page 120). The plane starts to go down and they lose their remaining engine. "Get ready to swim!” yells Biggles. “I’m going to try to reach those rocks over there, but I don’t think we shall quite manage it. It will have to be every one for himself when she strikes. Tell the boys to get their clothes off and jump for it if we get close enough". “But what about the machine?” shouted Algy aghast. “Let it go hang. If we can save our lives we shall be lucky,” answered Biggles desperately. As the machine is about to hit the water, Biggles tells Dick to slide down the wing as the port wing is overhanging rocks but when he tries to do so, Dick find himself disappearing into the water where he struggles for his life as he tries to reach the beach. Swamped in the water and dragged this way and that, “Dick knew he was drowning” but by chance he is cast upon the beach and desperately tries to grab hold before being dragged away by a huge wave. “Down – down – down he plunged, toward a world of silence, leaving the thunder far behind. The earth leapt upwards. As he struck it, it seemed to explode in a great blaze of crimson flame”.