BIGGLES FLIES WEST
By Captain W. E. Johns
X. WHAT HAPPENED TO BIGGLES (Pages 152 - 160)
As the wreck of the aircraft was swept out to sea and out of sight round the rocks, Biggles position was not quite as desperate as it appeared to be. The tanks were half empty and the air filled wings that still trailed behind the hull, gave a certain degree of buoyancy. As the aircraft passed close to an islet, a rock separate from the island, Biggles jumps into the sea when there is a lull in the waves and he just manages to make it to an out jutting crag, where he hangs on for dear life. He is then able to drag himself above the water line and climb up to the top where to his surprise, he finds the stones hand-hewn in a great blocks and an old pirate fort. “Placed at intervals, some pointing landward and some seaward, were six old-fashioned iron cannon on rotting wooden carriages. Small heaps of cannon-balls lay beside them”. Biggles wants to signal to Algy and Ginger that he is safe, but they are not in sight. “For once he was utterly sick at heart. Dick’s fate, which he did not for one moment doubt, depressed him to the point of complete dejection. He had grown fond of the lad with his ever-ready cockney wit. The other things, bad as they were, did not really matter. The expedition had gone to pieces. They had lost two machines and all their belongings. They were stranded on an unknown island, without food, without clothes, without weapons – in fact, without anything. Never in all their adventures had they been in such a plight”. Biggles explores the fort and goes down some steps into the heart of the islet. It is illuminated by some cunningly cut apertures in the rock, which admitted just enough twilight for him to make out details. Here he finds cannon, musket, grapeshot and gunpowder, as well as old clothes, and two skeletons. Biggles decides to put on some of the clothes as protection against briers and mosquitoes which he suspected would soon appear. “He selected three garments: a shirt woven in a pattern of broad horizontal bands, a pair of reddish coloured breeches, and a spotted handkerchief to tie about his head”. He also found a pair of old boots that fitted him and added a brace of pistols, some bullets and a flask of powder. When the sea has calmed down and the tide ebbed considerably, Biggles is able to swim on his back to the island, holding the items he had taken, wrapped in tarpaulin, clear of the water. On the shore, he puts the clothes on and loads the pistols. Then he sets off, cutlass in hand for where Dick had fallen in the water. Reaching a barrier of rock, Biggles eats coconut and drinks the milk with relish. Then he lays down to rest until morning. He is awoken by a scream and sees “an enormous negro” (‘enormous black man’ in the Red Fox reprint) kneeling and reaching down for something. He sees Dick dragged up and “he saw the negro’s arm go up, and caught the flash of steel. Whipping out a pistol and dashing forward, then taking careful aim, he fired. “The negro twitched convulsively. Dick slumped to the ground. A razor tinkled on the rock. Biggles ran forward again just as the negro pitched headlong”. (All of the last three references to ‘negro’ are changed to ‘man’ in the Red Fox reprint).