by Captain W. E. Johns



VIII.                        DEATH INTERVENES  (Pages 108 – 119)


“For the next few days patrols were maintained over the zone north of where Cetezulu and his followers had disappeared”.  Nothing is seen; The Black Elephant has disappeared.  Ginger flies up to Latonga to see if Mishu has any news, but Mishu is not there and has left no word of his whereabouts.  Simmonds appears to have departed as well.  One day, Bertie and Algy return from a dawn patrol in their Mosquito and whilst standing on the airfield, a Puss Moth aircraft arrives.  The pilot introduces himself as Bruce Allan of Edinburgh.  He was a member of the University Air Squadron.  He has come out to Africa to look for his father, Dr. Allan, of the Horticultural College, a well-known botanist.  About six months ago his father had gone to Mount Ruwenzori, sometimes known as the Mountains of the Moon, to look for some rare plants and he had promised to be back for Bruce’s twenty first birthday, some seven weeks ago.  Bruce has bought a Puss Moth to cover the sixty-five miles by thirty of the area where his father has gone missing.  Biggles says they have flown over part of the area but seen no sign of any white man.  “I made a crash at six thousand feet and had to walk down,” put in Ginger with a wan smile.  (Johns appears to have forgotten that Ginger had said earlier to Biggles it was at seven thousand feet).  Biggles warns Bruce to watch the weather and invites him over at four that afternoon for a cup of tea with them.  They are surprised to hear Bruce take off after lunch as they thought he would have rested after his journey from England.  Biggles said that if he had known he was going to “do a show today” he would have warned him to keep plenty of altitude as he, Biggles, has already had a bullet through the wing.  “Not much chance of anyone doing any damage with a single shot,” put in Ginger casually.  “That odd chance sometimes comes off” says Biggles and he recalls that Sir Alan Cobham was flying down the Tigris when a single bullet from an Arab killed Elliot his navigator.  (Arthur Elliot was shot and killed after Cobham left Baghdad on 5th July 1926 on a flight to Australia).  Biggles also says that “speaking from memory, Micky Mannock, the top ace of the first war, was also killed by a single bullet from the ground.  So it can happen”.  (On 26th July 1918, Mannock’s engine caught fire following flying low and being hit by groundfire.  He went down in flames and crashed.  Mannock’s body, found 250 yards from the wreck, perhaps thrown, perhaps jumped, had no gunshot wounds).  When at four thirty, the Push Moth has not returned, Biggles concludes “that lad’s on the carpet somewhere”.  Biggles and Ginger in the Proctor and Algy and Bertie in the Mosquito fly out to Ruwenzori and Ginger eventually spots the Push Moth aircraft on an even keel, well out on the open plain some distance to the north of their line of flight on the outward journey.  Biggles lands the Proctor and with Ginger, they find the pilot dead in the cockpit.  On investigation, Biggles finds that a bullet has come through the bottom of the fuselage.  “The Elephant!” says Ginger.  “Wouldn’t be anybody else” says Biggles.  “Queer how a fellow, mortally wounded, will so often last long enough to get his wheels on the ground – and make a good landing, at that.  I’ve seen it done more than once”.  Ginger flies the Proctor and Biggles flies the Push Moth back to their base.  Bruce Allen is buried the next day.  “The Puss Moth was put in a hangar to await instructions about its disposal”.  “It may be said that the mystery of Dr. Allan, F.R.H.S. was never solved.  He never returned to civilisation, and a search party sent out later failed to discover a single clue.  So Africa added two more to its long line of tragedies”.