by Captain W. E. Johns



IV.                   STRANGE ENCOUNTER  (Pages 45 - 57)


A tall man in a white suit and wearing a sunhelmet walks towards Biggles and Ginger.  This is Doctor Liebgarten.  He is charming and friendly and invites Biggles and Ginger into his house for refreshments.  Liebgarten has a turn in his eye and when he smiles, Gingers sees his teeth.  "They flashed with a metallic sheen.  The effect was startling, if not actually sinister."  Liebgarten talks about their journey and says "you came by boat, of course?".  "A boat of sorts" replies Biggles not wanting to give anything away.  They pass through the cacti barrier and enter Liebgarten's beautiful garden, like English parkland.  There is a panther on a chain called Elizabeth which Liebgarten keeps as a pet.  Biggles and Ginger ask for a long cold lemon squash and a servant in a white steward's uniform makes it for them.  Biggles mentions the conditions outside of Liebgarten's home and Liebgarten explains that is entirely their own fault.  "In this world, what a man gets is in direct ratio with his energy and mental capacity.  Those who are satisfied with little, get little.  Those who want more, strive until they get it.  Unfortunately, there is an increasing tendancy with some people to expect a lot for little effort.  They prefer to sit back and let others do their thinking for the, and then demand a share of whatever is going".  Liebgarten says there is no reason why anyone can't do here what he has done with garden.  Biggles says he has come to see his friend, Angus Mackail.  Liebgarten says he will send for him and he can join them all for lunch.  He tells his servant to send for Mr. Mackail in Spanish "a language understood by both Biggles and Ginger, so neither questioned the sincerity of the message".  Ginger "found himself apologising mentally to the Doctor for suspicions which were, he thought, exaggerated, if not unfounded".  Liebgarten invites Biggles and Ginger to stay with him as long as they like.  Liebgarten explains that he put all his savings into this area and if only they had more money they could progress further, but acquiring modern agricultural machinery to eliminate manual labour.  "What I really need is an able lieutenant, someone like yourself, someone with vision and vitality, to get the thing going again, for I'm afraid I'm losing heart, and despondency is infectious".  The servant returns and says that Angus Mackail cannot be found.  It appears he has left, his things have gone.  Doctor Liebgarten leaves to make further enquiries.