by Captain W. E. Johns



VIII.                        BROWNED OFF  (Pages 88 – 99)


“On Hog Island, Ginger and Marcel kept watch until total darkness put an end to a miserable task and a miserable day”.  They retire to the dug-out.  “For what seemed an eternity they huddled against each other, hands in their pockets, in the greatest possible discomfort, seldom speaking”.  After a while Ginger says “I can’t stand any more of this.  I’m going to see if the submarine is still there.  If it is, it’ll be on the surface and there should be lights showing”.  “Are you an imbecile?” came back Marcel’s voice from the darkness.  (The term ‘imbecile’ was once used to denote a person with an IQ between 26 and 50.  The term ‘idiot’ was used to denote a person with an IQ between 0 and 25 and the term moron was used to denote a person with an IQ between 51 and 70.  Such terms are now considered offensive).  “If you do not walk into the sea you will fall on the rocks and break your bones”.  Ginger says he is going to go anyway, even though only Marcel has a pistol.  “The trouble with you Englishmen is, you cannot sit still,” stated Marcel.  “So always you are getting cracking as you say.  Go and crack.  All you will crack tonight is your skull, my friend”.  Ginger goes out and sees an eerie blue light flickering on the southern horizon, which he took to be the Aurora Australis, the Antarctic equivalent of the Northern Lights.  Moving forward cautiously, until he tops the last ridge, he can see a steady yellow glow from an open conning tower, so the submarine is still in the bay.  Retracing his steps, he gets lost and sees a row of three small square lights that are obviously windows.  “This, obviously, was where the man – or possibly men – lived”.  Ginger then tries to make his way back to the dug-out and is only able to do so when he hears Marcel whistling the Marseillaise (the French national anthem).  He whistles back the same tune.  Marcel lights matches so Ginger can find his way back.  “Are you mad?” Marcel demands belligerently.  “Is this a place to wander by night, losing yourself and leaving me alone to find your body in the morning pecked to pieces by birds?”  “Sorry, Marcel,” answered Ginger contritely.  “Yes, I did lose my way, but I’ve discovered something”.  Ginger explains that not only is the submarine still there but he has discovered a house or building.  They spend the rest of the night dozing fitfully.  “In such discomfort anything like real sleep was impossible”.  Dawn comes with a blanket of bone-chilling mist.  They are both hungry and Ginger wants to look for food.  They decide first to see if the submarine is still there.  They have not gone far when they see a file of six men in dark uniforms carrying heavy burdens.  Ginger thinks they are bringing stores for the man or men that are there or going to be there.  Going to view the submarine, they see it is still there but not in its original position.  It is now moving slowly across the mouth of the bay.  “What the dickens are they doing?” muttered Ginger gazing at the submarine.  “They seem to be chucking something overboard”.  (“What the dickens are they doing?” is the illustration opposite page 96).  Marcel wonders if they are dumping rubbish.  They retire some distance and wait for the sailors they saw earlier to pass, this time no longer burdened.  “Instead of six men there were now seven.  The seventh man, a big, bearded figure in a blue jersey and sea-boots, marched beside the leader, Ginger recognised him for the man they had seen earlier”.  “That fellow must live here,” he whispered to Marcel.  Moving forward, they now have a chance to look at his quarters.  They find a long low hutment of the Nissen type at the bottom of a small hollow.  (A Nissen hut is a prefabricated steel structure for military use, especially as barracks, made from a half-cylindrical skin of corrugated iron).  “Inset were three small windows, or skylights, and at one end a chimney from which a little smoke was issuing.  Supported between two poles was a wireless aerial”.  Ginger tells Marcel this was the place he saw last night and that they must have food or starve, so he is going to get some.  He tells Marcel to keep watch.  Marcel replies “Entendu” (understood) and draws his pistol.  Ginger looks in the windows and finds a kitchen/living-room.  Going in, he finds boxes with food in cans and, using an empty box as a receptacle, he fills it with a wide variety of tins, bags and jars.  He returns to Marcel and tells him to grab some firewood from a pile of driftwood nearby.  Marcel laughs.  “Name of a dog!” he chuckled.  “I am paid to stop people from doing this”.  They return to their dug-out and then see the man in the blue jersey return to his hut.  They then see the submarine leaving, as it disappears into the mist.  Ginger says the submarine was dropping off stores for the caretaker.  He then has a horrible thought that the submarine was laying mines across the bay!  Leaving the food, they run to the bay, worried that Algy may come back and try to land there.  As the tide is coming in, they can see nothing.  All they can do is warn Algy by waving should he arrive.  They decide to go and get their food and eat it at the bay.  As for the man on the island, Ginger says “If he comes looking for trouble, I’m in the mood to let him have it”.