by Captain W. E. Johns



XV.         CONDEMNED TO THE CROCODILE  (Pages 195 – 206)


Dawn comes and Biggles explains his thoughts about any escape.  Without sufficient petrol how would they get away?  Algy asks Biggles what he will do if “they try to repeat this crocodile stunt with us”.  “Just fight as hard as we can in the hope that they will club us over the head,” returned Biggles briefly.  The day passes and when the moon is up another procession starts and guards arrive to take Biggles away.  There is nothing the others can do.  Biggles still has his gun hidden under his arm and complies as meekly as a lamb and he wants to avoid being tied up.  The procession moves off, led by the old hag.  He is taken to the pool where the crocodile awaits, “doubtless, it knew all about the procession and its purpose, having been fed in this way for generations”.  Biggles starts singing “Rule, Britannia” and “as he sang he edged slowly along, with the mincing steps of a ballet dancer, towards the right”.  Having reached the spot for which he was making, Biggles drops to his knees and begins scraping at the sand while the crowd around him presses nearer to see what he is doing.  The crowd gasps when he produces a can of petrol, no doubt believing it was magic, having never seen such a thing before.  He unearths six cans and takes the lids off three of them.  Biggles empties two cans around him and before he can empty the third, the crocodile rushes at him.  Biggles throws the third can into it’s mouth and it bites through it, bellowing as petrol gushes out.  Biggles then pulls out his automatic and fires into the crocodile’s open jaws.  (Biggles took his automatic from under his arm, and fired into the open jaws - is the illustration on page 205).  “A sheet of flame shot out of its mouth so far that is actually scorched Biggles’s legs”.  The crocodile then charges madly at the crowd.  “Instantly all the loose petrol that Biggles had splashed about went up in a great sheet of flame and the most appalling pandemonium ensued that it was possible to imagine”.  “Flames were everywhere.  The very air seemed to be on fire – as indeed it was, for it was saturated with petrol vapour”.  Biggles has the reek of singeing hair in his nostrils.  “His own eyebrows had gone, as had the front of his hair, but he did not realise it then”. The crowd has now dispersed and snatching up the three remaining cans, Biggles runs down the path that leads to the tombs of the dead.