by Captain W. E. Johns



XVIII.             BIGGLES STRIKES  (Pages 229 – 240)


Biggles had previously noted the open area between the palms and the foot of the necropolis hill as a possible landing area.  “It becomes second nature to most airmen to mark down a possible landing-ground when one is noticed”.  “The petrol-supply was near the pool and since he could not hope to carry the petrol to the machine, the machine would have to be taken to the petrol, whatever the risk”.  Biggles had not expected anyone to be there and on seeing the column of tribesmen, he dives the Tourer at them in order to frighten them off.  The air-speed indicator reaches almost four hundred miles an hour before he eases off and the tribesmen are scattered “like chips from a log under a wood-cutter’s axe”.  He fires a flare at them and at such a low height he is able to see Algy’s white face staring up.  Biggles carries on “and he treated the savages, did they but know it, to as fine an exhibition of crazy-flying as has ever been seen at a flying-display”.  Again he fires a flare but he then runs out of petrol and is forced to land.  Snatching up a sword, Biggles cuts Algy free and tells him to run for the petrol.  Ginger and Kadar are also freed and sent after Algy.  Racing to join them, Biggles snatches the first two cans uncovered and empties them into the gravity tank.  He is then able to taxi to trees.  “Perhaps never before in the history of aviation has an aeroplane been refuelled with such frantic haste”.  Biggles thinks they have enough fuel to get to either Siwah or Dakhel, but without knowing where they are it is impossible to be sure.  Biggles goes to the pool to fill two water-bottles and sees the dead, scorched body of the crocodile.  At the foot of the rocks near the bottom of the hill they find the body of the old hag.  She must have fallen and broken her neck or died of fright speculates Algy.  There is a jagged wound to her head.  Around her are precious stones that have fallen out of a small goat-skin bag attached to her girdle.  Biggles looks at one and believes it is a ruby.  Biggles takes the bag and Algy picks up the loose stones.  (Algy scooped up the loose stones - is the illustration on page 237).  Getting in the aircraft, Biggles asks Kadar if he wants to stay.  Kadar smiles wanly.  “I think I’ve seen enough of it to last me for a little while” he said.  “And I’ve seen enough of it to last me for the rest of my life”, Biggles told him definitely.  They take off.