by Captain W. E. Johns



XII.         ALGY TO THE RESCUE  (Pages 159 – 171)


It is broad daylight when Algy awakens from dozing.  A dreadful feeling crept over him that he was the only creature alive in the world.  Algy knows that madness lies that way as it is “the fatal mental state which the French desert troops, the Foreign Legion, and the Bataillon d’Afrique call le cafard”.  (Literally ‘avoir le cafard’ translates as having the cockroach – it means to feel low, blue down in the dumps or depressed).  Algy decides to return to following the caravan.  They might lead him to an oasis and he might be able to recover some petrol.  With petrol, he could fly the plan and “ten minutes in the air would be more likely to reveal the others, dead or alive, than a month of searching on foot”.  The heat become torture as the sun climbs to its zenith.  The sand is so hot it burns his feet through his shoes.  Algy reaches the lance and pulls it out.  He finds the sun-bleached bones of Mazeus in his ancient armour.  Algy carries on, using the lance as a staff.  It is twilight by the time he reaches the Arab camp.  Two empty petrol cans remain but they have moved on.  Algy spends the night there and awakens at dawn.  He then follows the tracks of the caravan “little dreaming that Biggles and the others were, at that precise moment, turning their backs on the Tourer and starting off down the wadi”.  The dreaded heat soon comes up and Algy has a tortuous journey.  He is nearly at the end of his endurance when he rounds a rock and sees the oasis in the distance.  Approaching stealthily, he sees there are two Arabs sleeping by the pool.  Algy goes to the other side to fill his water bottle but there is then a huge disturbance when the crocodile comes out and grabs one of the sleeping Arabs.  This results in such a commotion that Algy flees, with his lance and water bottle in one hand and his rifle in the other.  Algy then finds some paper with English writing on and recognises it as wrapping from their stores.  Biggles and the others must have been there!  Suspecting they may have gone up to the village, Algy does the same.  He finds a place where the rampart has crumbled and gets into the village.  Here, Algy finds his three companions staked out and guarded by three Arab Tuareg.  The rest have gone down to the oasis in response to the commotion caused by the crocodile.  Algy stands the lance against the wall and takes aim at an Arab with his rifle “for he knew that the only arguments the desert nomads understood were bullet and cold steel, and any other method of approach would be mere foolishness”.  However, the lance falls over and the noise alerts the Arabs just as Algy fires; he misses.  The Arabs charge him and Algy shoots two of them but the third one sets upon him with a knife.  Algy stabs him in the throat with the lance “and impaled him as cleanly as a butterfly is impaled upon a pin”.  One of the Arabs previously shot, is only wounded and shoots at Algy.  Algy “took out his automatic and deliberately shot the savage dead”.  Algy cuts Biggles, Ginger and Kadar free and gives them water.  They are fairly badly sun burnt and suffering from ant bites but at least the main body of ants hadn’t reached them.  Algy goes to see if the other Arabs are returning from the oasis and notes their attention has been drawn by the shots.  Biggles takes the rifle to hold off the Arabs whilst Algy helps the others across to the gateway.