by Captain W. E. Johns



XI.                   SATURDAY MORNING  (Pages 121 – 136)


“Ginger’s first thought when he awoke the following morning was, it’s Saturday.  Biggles may come tomorrow.  Thank goodness.  How Biggles would handle the situation he couldn’t imagine, but they would at least have a means of getting away should it become vitally necessary.  The big snag of Biggles’ arrival was the certainty of him landing in the bay and possibly setting off another mine before he could be warned of the danger”.  “Going outside – for they had of course been sleeping in the cabin - to relieve Bertie, who was on guard, he found the fog as thick as ever, cold and almost choking in its clammy density”.  Ginger thinks the man in the blue jersey won’t come as he won’t find it easy to move in the conditions.  After breakfast, all hands turned to resume work on the slipway.  A wind increases the swell in the bay and waves begin to roll up the slipway, hindering work as no one wanted to get wet in the cold.  However, the stronger waves start to reach the stranded flying-boat and the difficulty is then in trying to prevent the aircraft from being carried further ashore by the inwash.  “The best they could do was hold on like grim death as the water poured in and then push like mad to take full advantage of the receding flood.  Using the rollers, they make up more ground than they lose and eventually an extra large wave lifts the aircraft and surges back, taking it with it.  Algy takes a flying leap into the cabin and works with the anchors to turn the machine head to wind on the sea.  It is still foggy, but Ginger gets a glimpse of an iceberg at the entrance of the bay.  He says he will run up to the top of a nearby hill where hopefully, he can see over the low fog and maybe see the top of the iceberg to be sure.  Ginger runs towards a towering buttress shaped something like a dog’s head.  Panting, Ginger realises the going is hard and it is going to take him much longer than he thought.  Ginger then notices something odd.  It is an arrangement of rocks of different shapes and sizes that fitted together so snugly that it cannot be by mere chance.  It is six feet by four and gives the impression of a window being filled in.  Ginger notices chisel marks on it and realises it must be artificial.  He starts to remove stones and create a cavity and eventually he is able to upset a tall upright stone which reveals what lies beyond.  “It would not be enough to say that Ginger was surprised.  He was staggered, startled and shocked, to the point where his muscles seemed to seize up, depriving him of the power of movement”.  “It was, in fact, the very thing they had come to the island to look for”.  Ginger has found a gun, and no ordinary gun, but a weird futuristic-looking weapon, “the like of which he had only seen in scientific fiction books.”  (This book was published in March 1954.  In May 1954, “Kings of Space” would be published, the first of Johns own ten “scientific” fiction books).  The gun is brand new, thick with oil and behind it in a wooden rack are the long slim missiles it fires – rockets.  The gun is in a gallery that curves round the part of rock that resembles the head of a dog.  Using matches, Ginger goes in and sees “enough to make it clear that this long underground chamber within the natural rock was, as he had suspected, a fortification commanding the sea around it, in the manner of a miniature Gibraltar.  There were several types of guns apart from the rocket, which, without knowing much about such weapons, he thought might be long-range guided missiles”.  Ginger hurries to the entrance knowing that he has stumbled on a military secret, the importance of which could hardly be estimated.  The thought that he alone knew, terrified him as he knew what would happen to him if he was caught there.  Ginger decides to leave the entrance broken down; he has already been away too long.  A stone rattles and Ginger is alarmed.  He shrinks back against the inner wall of the gallery.  He sees a vague shape and recognises the man in the blue jersey.  The man stares at the broken down entrance.  Ginger thinks he is puzzled because he does not know if the rocks have just fallen of their own accord.  The man stands listening.  Ginger could easily have shot him “but such an act was unthinkable.  It would be too much like murder and he never seriously considered it”.  The man vanishes.  Ginger then hears Marcel calling him.  Ginger knows this will alert the man in the blue jersey to the fact that he, Ginger, must be around.  Ginger looks out and a movement draws his attention.  The man is crouching behind a massive boulder and raising a heavy revolver.  Ginger raised his automatic and covered the crouching figure.  Then in a shrill voice he shouted: “Keep back, Marcel!  There’s a man here with a gun”.  (“Keep back, Marcel!  There’s a man here with a gun” is the illustration opposite page 133).  The man whirls round and fires at Ginger but it is a wild shot and it misses.  Ginger returns the shot as the man disappears into the fog.  Ginger doesn’t know if he has hit him or not.  The heavy revolver fires again and Ginger hears the whip-like crack of Marcel’s little police automatic and there is a great crashing of rolling stones and rocks.  Ginger goes and finds Marcel, who is alright.  Marcel tells Ginger “After he shoots at me, I shoot back and he jumps and falls into the fog.  What happens after that I do not know.  All I hear is the stones falling down the hill”.  Ginger shows Marcel the gun emplacement.  “And this is France!” expostulated Marcel with high indignation.  “Who dares to make a fortress on the soil of France?  We shall show them they cannot do this,” he concluded furiously.  Bertie then arrives to ask what is going on.  He is shown the guns.  “By Jove!” he exclaimed.  Bertie asks if the man in the blue jersey is dead.  Ginger says “I don’t know, and I’m certainly not going to break my neck climbing down to find out”.  “Quite right, old boy,” agreed Bertie.  “Too jolly dangerous”.  Bertie says that Algy was “browned off” with Ginger being away so long.  Bertie told Algy that Marcel had gone to find Ginger.  When shots were heard, Algy then sent Bertie to see what was happening.  “He’ll get a surprise when we tell him,” stated Ginger.  They strode off down the hill.