by Captain W. E. Johns



VII.                 A BUSY MORNING  (Pages 92 – 107)


“Dawn found Ginger on his feet, still tired after a troubled night but anxious to be moving.  He made a quick breakfast and disposed of the empty cans by sinking them in a nearby brook, where he also had a drink and a rub down with a wet handkerchief”.  In the absence of any sound from the bamboo track, Ginger lights a smoke fire when he hears an approaching aircraft.  It is the Mosquito and Ginger waves.  He is seen and a tobacco tin is dropped with the message “Move three miles south.  Swamp narrows.  Will wait for you on far side.  B”.  Ginger does as instructed, but wonders if Cetezulu’s men would have seen the plane and the smoke and come to investigate.  Ginger moves away from the swamp to thicker cover and it is a good job he does as “Two blacks, carrying spears, suddenly pushed their way out from the bamboos and looked about them in a manner that would have been unnecessary had their purpose been innocent”.  Ginger drops to the ground.  The natives look for tracks and find Ginger’s still smouldering fire.  Ginger hastens into cover and continues on his journey.  “It was a nervous, uncomfortable walk”.  When Ginger thinks he is opposite the place Biggles observed, he climbs a tree to get a better view and finds the bamboo swamp to be only a mere three hundred yards across.  He also sees Bertie on a knoll beyond the elephant-grass waiting for him to appear.  Ginger plunges into the tangle of vegetation.  He hears ahead of him a human voice, “pitched in a sort of husky whisper” and moving forward with infinite care, the bamboo thins and he finds running lengthways down the swamp, the secret road.  “It was animated with black bodies, at least a score of them, a few carrying rifles but the majority armed with spears.  They were moving about quickly and silently under the hand signals of an enormous African who, in ostrich-feather head-dress and leopard-skin kaross, could only be the Elephant himself”.  (“The Black Elephant himself” is the illustration between pages 96 and 97).  He could not see his face.  At that moment, “Ginger could have shot the man quite easily, and he was to wish later that he had done so”.  Ginger believes that the Elephant and his men have seen the plane and are going to attack the unsuspecting crew.  He decides he must sound the alarm.  He turns and retraces his steps and returns to the tree that he had previously climbed.  He uses his rifle to shoot at a spot to Bertie’s right and it kicks up dust much nearer than Ginger intended.  Bertie springs to his feet and snatches up the rifle that was beside him.  Algy comes running and Biggles springs into view.  Ginger can just make out the Mosquito parked in the shade of some trees behind them.  Suddenly, from the other side of the swamp, a line of natives charge at Biggles and his men.  Ginger hears shots and see his friends retire to their aircraft.  “Biggles sprang into the cockpit of the machine.  Bertie and Algy, perhaps fifty yards ahead of the nearest native, ran straight to the tail unit, put their shoulders under it, and lifted”.  Biggles then fires the four Browning machine guns and they sweep the ground in front of them.  “Most of the natives turn and fled back to the swamp – those that were able to”.  A few natives swerve to the flanks but Bertie and Algy slew the machine to vary the field of fire.  (“Bertie and Algy slewed the machine round” is the illustration between pages 128 and 129).  When they lower the machine bullets hit Ginger’s tree making Ginger drop down the tree and hide behind the trunk.  Presently, Ginger hears Biggles take off and fly up and down.  Shortly after he hears him land in the same position.  Ginger waits another half an hour to ensure that Cetezulu’s men have left.  He then re-enters the bamboo and finding no one on the secret road, he crosses it, and eventually emerges through the bamboo and elephant grass on the other side to meet his friends.  “Are you all right? was Biggles’s anxious greeting.  “Right as rain,” answered Ginger.  Biggles asks if he knows what has happened there and Ginger explains that he started it with his shot.  Ginger says he has seen the Elephant.  “At any rate there was a big negro all dolled up with feathers, lions’ tails and leopard-skins.  It must have been the Elephant”.  Ginger says he was up a tree.  “With the place crawling with cannibals, what d’you suppose I was doing – making daisy-chains?”  Ginger asks about the casualties, but Biggles says “The enemy took them with him, to save leaving evidence lying about, I imagine”.  Bertie tells Ginger he stinks.  Over coffee, Ginger tells his story.  Biggles says all they can do is return to Kampala and wait for the Elephant to come out of the bamboo trail.