by Captain W. E. Johns



X.            TRAPPED  (Pages 130 – 144)


Through the heat of the afternoon, they wait for Algy to return “and experienced for the first time the full force of the desert sun”.  Biggles decides to look for any tracks that Algy has left and leave food and water for him with a map showing how to get to oasis.  Biggles, Ginger and Kadar will return to the oasis as “there’s no sense in sitting here and dying by inches”.  Finding no tracks, they return, setting off just before dawn, to the cave, weary of the scorpions.  They only see a few.  “I should say they scatter to their respective dug-outs as soon as it begins to get light,” opined Biggles.

They proceed through the tombs:  Biggles has bought a good supply of paper, which had been used for wrapping odd articles in the machine, so with a bright torch held aloft they made good progress”.  There are a few anxious moments with bats, but nothing like the previous day.  They make their way out of the cave and down the hill to the pool among the palms and see fresh camel tracks.  “I swear those weren’t here yesterday!” says Biggles.  They make their way to the village on the hill and note that is has been surrounded with a circular belt of cacti, now dead.  The village is a citadel and the entrance is a “dark, forbidding portal, medieval in its conception and Moorish in construction, having the customary high, pointed arch”.  Entering a main square or assembly place, they find the superstructure of a well.  Kadar finds a Persian inscription on it (but we are not told what it says).  They explore a house and find only snakes.  On leaving, they are confronted by a dozen or more swathed Tuareg armed with rifles “only their cold, hostile eyes showing above their indigo-tinted veils”.  From the direction of the well, comes a man in an Arab burnous approaches – it is Zarwan.  Biggles knows that resistance is useless.  Biggles asks for water but is told it would be a waste of water to give it to him for the short time he would need it.  Biggles, Ginger and Kadar are seized and bound.  Zarwan kicks Biggles in the ribs and says “So I am the oily-faced hog?”.  The three men are then pegged out in the centre of the courtyard “in the position known as spread-eagled”.  An Arab then pours wild honey and trails it to an ants’ nest.  (A grinning Arab appeared with a small goat-skin in his hand - is the illustration on page 143).  Biggles feels the first ant bite as his brain reels from the blinding glare of the sun.  “Don’t worry, you fellows,” he said quietly, “it will soon be over”.