by Captain W. E. Johns



XIX.                MIRAGE!  (Pages 241 – 251)


For three long hours Biggles flies, filled with dread at the though of coming down in the endless sand.  Biggles thinks they only have forty minutes worth of fuel left.  Ginger sees a faint blur smudge on the horizon, but Kadar tells him it is a mirage.  They then fly over a line of camels but Kadar says it is also a mirage.  “As the machine roared on the camels seemed to grow enormous, until they towered up far into the sky, an unbelievable spectacle.  Then they began to fade into the haze”.  “See!  They have gone” said Kadar seriously and he talks about people seeing visions of water and palms.  “All right, don’t make a song about it,” interrupted Biggles irritably.  He keeps flying towards the smudge on the horizon.  Algy says he can see palms.  Kadar says it is pure hallucination.  The palms can then be seen, but they are upside down.  They grow large and disappear.  “Now perhaps you will believe me” says Kadar.  “Heavens, what a country to live in,” groaned Biggles.  With fuel running out they see the real camel train which had been reflected as a mirage.  Then then see the unmistakable oasis.  “Siwah!” cried Kadar delightedly.  “I recognise it.  Look, there are the ruins of Jupiter Ammon, the place Cambyses’ army was trying to reach when it was overwhelmed”.  The fuel runs out and Biggles glides the plane in to reach the nearest palm trees with a hundred feet to spare.  Our heroes are approached by horsemen and Kadar recognises Sarapion, one of his servants.  Sarapion tells Kadar that his father is there, having organised a rescue party after being alerted by a survivor from the caravan massacre.  They will arrange for petrol to be sent to them.  Here at the oasis there is plenty of water.  “Tell me when we get to it,” murmurs Biggles, “because I may have forgotten what a lot of water in one piece looks like”.