BIGGLES TAKES A HOLIDAY

 

by Captain W. E. Johns

 

 

XI.                   BIGGLES SPEAKS HIS MIND  (Pages 118 - 132)

 

Biggles hasn't even left the Doctor's establishment.  Biggles had held Liebgarten and von Stalhein at gunpoint to give Ginger and Angus a chance to get clear.  At 9.00 pm when the steward announced supper, Biggles said they would go in when they were ready and the steward could go to bed.  More time passes.  Von Stalhein asks Biggles if he wants money.  Biggles says everyone wants money.  "I can't do without it any more than anyone else".  Von Stalhein rephrases the question and asks Biggles what he wants out of life.  "Biggles smiled faintly.  "I've often wondered that myself.  Believe it or not, I don't know.  Excitement, maybe ................ excitement is like a drug.  The more you have the more you want.  Eventually you can't do without it".  "Yes, there's something in that," admitted von Stalhein, with a sigh.  "War starts it.  It provides a fellow with an overdose of thrill at the time when he should be learning a business.  I know, because I've been through it myself.  But I got over it". (Is this Johns talking about himself?).  Silence falls and lasts another three hours.  The end came when a white man comes into the room asking if Liebgarten is all right as he has seen his light on.  He senses something wrong and dashes out of the door shouting.  Biggles gets up to leave and locks the door behind him.  As he runs towards the garden gate, Elizabeth the panther comes for him and Biggles shoots her twice.  Shouts from the gate make Biggles realise that people are coming in so he can't go out that way.  "By this time a number of people were moving about, running and calling to each other.  The Doctor and von Stalhein were among them".  Biggles remembers the gap in the cactus hedge and sets off for that.  He passes the bungalow and notices the door wide open.  Realising this is an opportunity to look inside and find out what is going on and he may not get the chance again, Biggles goes inside.  He finds living quarters, an armoury, a laboratory or surgery and a drawing-office with a draughtsman's bench with drawing boards.  Biggles rips the plans from the board and goes to leave but it is too late; people are returning.  Biggles quickly climbs a step ladder and hides in the loft.  From here he can hear the conversation in the hall below.  The chief speaker is a voice he doesn't know and he berates von Stalhein and Liebgarten for letting Biggles get away.  The stranger, who is referred to by Liebgarten as "Oberhaupt", says "this is interrupting my experiments".  The Oberhaupt asks if Biggles struck von Stalhein unconscious, or something?  "Bigglesworth doesn't strike anybody - at least, not with his fists," muttered von Stalhein.  "He isn't one of these super-men who go about hitting people on the jaw.  That isn't his way.  I doubt if he could do it, anyhow.  He has no weight behind him and his hands are more like a woman's than a man's" .......... "What he lacks in brawn he more than makes up for with brain".  Von Stalhein then goes on to refer to Doctor Liebgarten as "Rodnitz".  He also refers to the "Oberhaupt" as "Stitzen" and he is rebuked with "I've told you not to use my name here".  Stitzen talks to another man and addresses him as "Colonel" and tells him to get his men after Biggles and warn the Indians.  Stitzen then wonders if Biggles came to their location, the bungalow.  "Johann was working in the drawing-office and he rushed off with the rest".  A check reveals that the papers are missing.  "Four years work gone in a moment".  Stitzen offers a $5000.00 reward to the man who catches Bigglesworth.  When the coast is clear, Biggles goes to leave the loft, but he can't open the hatch.  The catch is on the other side and he has locked himself in!  (Johns actually writes "Like the celebrated lady in the Mistletoe Bough he had locked himself in", referring to a 19th Century ballard).