By Captain W. E. Johns



XVI.    WARM WORK (Pages 232 - 247)


Dawn arrives and Algy is on guard duty.  He calls all hands to repel boarders.  The coaster approaches but Algy can only see the man at the wheel.  Biggles says “Don’t be deceived by that.  I imagine they are all below, out of reach of our shot – or so they think.  They know all about the swivel-gun now, but they know nothing about our heavy metal.  If only we can aim straight we can still give them a jolt”.  Biggles opens fire with the cannon at the coaster.  (Holding the Fort - is the illustration on page 241).  The boat is peppered with fire but continues its approach.  The mainmast is taken down by the cannon fire and members of the crew slash at the tangled cordage to clear it.  Musket fire and the swivel gun soon stop them.  The damaged coaster, with engine still running gets below the walls.  Biggles uses a cannon to blast a hole in the wall so that the masonry falls on the boat.  Then they push the cannon onto the boat as well.  “It went straight through the top deck as if the planking had been tissue paper, and disappeared from sight.  The boat shuddered under the weight of the impact”.  Deutch and half a dozen men have now landed and make for the steps and get into the fort.  Biggles shoots a musket at Deutch but it misfires.  Throwing the musket at Deutch, it knocks his weapon out of his hand, so Deutch pulls out a knife.  Biggles turns to grab a cutlass but his foot gets caught in the broken masonry of the wall and he falls headlong.  As Deutch goes for Biggles with his knife, Dick shoots him dead.  “Good work, Dick,” gasped Biggles, breathlessly, for it had been a narrow escape.  “But during the second that he had been on the ground the whole position had changed.  The sole survivor of the boarders, seeing Deutch fall and finding himself alone, waited for no more.  He saw Biggles and Algy bearing down on his from either side, cutlasses in their hands.  Flinging aside his rifle, he jumped clear off the rock into the sea.  The few men left on the deck of the boat were working furiously to push it off”.  “All right!  Cease fire!” ordered Biggles, and looked about him.  The battle over, Biggles looks around and sees Ginger’s cheek bleeding.  A bullet has knocked off a piece of rock, which hit him in the face.  Biggles notes they have lost their boat, it was crushed flat by the coaster.  He wonders what has happened to Harvey as he is the only one who can get away in their machine.  Suddenly, they see, racing towards the island a British Destroyer.  “Trust the Navy to pop up when anything’s going on” murmurs Biggles.  “What about giving them three cheers?” suggested Ginger.  “That should let them know we’re British anyway”.  “Good idea,” agreed Biggles.  “Let ‘em rip.  Hip hip - ”  There is no answering cheer from the destroyer.  “Miserable blighters,” grumbled Algy.  The destroyer sends a boat over to collect Biggles, Algy, Ginger and Dick.  When the officer in charge of the boat sees them and the way they are dressed, he says “Just what do you think you’re playing at?”  Biggles exchanges some banter about Treasure Island.  The officer goes to pick up a doubloon that lays just under Deutch's pocket but Biggles stops him.  “Touch that, and you’ll never make another landfall”.  Biggles throws Bawn’s doubloon into the sea.  “There’s a story hanging to it” Biggles explains quietly.  “I think you’d better come and tell it to Captain Crocker” says the officer.  They follow him down the steps to the boat.