by Captain W. E. Johns



XIX.                        MAROONED ON THE ROCK  (Pages 238 – 253)


“For some time nobody spoke”.  Then Ginger taps Biggles on the shoulder and says they need to get back to the cave.  They go to the edge of the cliff and note that the ledge is still there.  Biggles is lowered down and the others follow.  Ginger loops the rope round a projecting piece of rock at the top of the cliff as he is the last one down.  Where the water had been now yawns a wide black crater, but the passage across it offered no great difficulty.  The rock that dammed the water had been shattered by the explosion and beyond it the fissure was almost choked with debris.  They find a hole in the side of the cliff where the water has burst through, leaving an enormous cavity into which the snow now drifted.  Biggles thinks the snow is thinning.  They can’t see anything and decide to wait for the snow to clear.  As visibility improves, they see one of the destroyers and the drifter locked together against the spit.  The destroyer has sunk by the stern.  Biggles can’t understand where the crews have gone, unless the second destroyer has picked them all up.  Briny says he thought he heard a motor-boat when Algy went down. Suddenly, they see Algy’s machine drift into sight.  The Platypus seems to be undamaged.  They hear a cry “Ahoy there!”.  But it is not Algy’s voice.  Around a shoulder of rock comes a British submarine.  On the deck is a gun and behind it stand a crew of British bluejackets. Standing talking to two British officers is Algy!  Biggles shouts “Where have you sprung from?”  The submarine commander shouts they have come for the code-book.  Biggles remembers he had had a signal sent to Colonel Raymond about the capture of the German code book and he understands.  Biggles warns them of the “Boche” destroyer but the naval officer indicates it has been sunk.  That must have been the explosion they heard.  Not Algy’s plane exploding, but a torpedo hitting the destroyer.  The submarine commander asks them to come down as he can’t hang about.  Biggles exams the cave but the passage is completely blocked.  He asks the submarine commander if he can get a line up to them, but they can’t and they don’t have a line long enough anyway.  In the distance they see the smoke of a German cruiser.  Algy has an idea and tells Biggles and his comrades to get to the top of the rock.  Algy then speaks to the naval officer and points towards the German flying-boat which has drifted out to sea about half a mile away, pushed out by the flood of water from the cave.  Returning to the top of the island, Ginger realises that Algy is going to get the German flying-boat.  “But he can’t land a boat up here” protested Biggles.  They notice that the Platypus is now a smouldering wreck and guess that Algy has set fire to it, to prevent it falling into enemy hands.  The flying-boat takes off and by repeatedly flying past, drops initially three, then another two parachutes, onto the top of the rock.  Algy lands on the far side of the rock from the approaching cruiser and tells them all to jump and he will pick them up.  The submarine has already left with the code-books.  They all put on the parachutes.  Briny and Roy have never made a parachute jump before.  Biggles looks down and judges the distance to be a little over four hundred feet.  He says they will have to pull the ring as they jump and they need to jump out as far as possible to get clear of the rocks.  Briny is reluctant.  “I daren’t do it, sir, s’welp me, I daren’t”.  “Be a man, Briny.  Think what a tale you’ll have to tell when you get home”.  Biggles also says that he will let Briny tell a yarn right through without interrupting him.  Throughout their adventures together, if Briny had started a yarn with “I remember when” Biggles had just cut him off.  Briny jumps.  (‘Don’t forget to pull the ring!’ he screamed as Briny tottered into space - is the illustration on page 249).  Roy, then the Flight-Sergeant and then Ginger all jump as well.  A shell screams over the island and Biggles ignores it and jumps.  Landing safely in the water, he is hauled into the flying-boat to join the others.  He tells Algy to take off and keep low as the island will provide them with cover from the cruiser.  Biggles says it is lucky that these flying-boats carry “brollies”.  “Lucky thing I remembered seeing them, too,” snorted Algy.  “You might give me credit for something once in a while”.  “Good work, old lad,” agreed Biggles.  Briny is upset as he has lost his hat in the parachute jump.  He starts a story with “I remember once …” then stops through force of habit.  Biggles invites him to continue.  But Briny has forgotten what he was going to say and everyone laughs.  Biggles reminds Algy they are flying in an aircraft carrying swastikas and black crosses.  Algy has arranged for the submarine to send out signals not to shoot at a four-engined Dornier flying-boat flying at a thousand feet.  The engines burst into life and they “streaked away from the secret base that was a secret no longer”.