by Captain W. E. Johns



XII.                 MARCEL TAKES CHARGE  (Pages 137 – 151)


“They found Algy waiting impatiently at the bay, where the dinghy had been pulled up.  The aircraft was riding comfortably a short distance out.  “What the deuce has been going on up there?” he demanded with some asperity.  “Hold your hat while I tell you,” answered Ginger.  “You’d never guess.”  He went on to tell of his discovery on the hill and what had happened subsequently.  Algy wants to leave as soon as possible but he is prevented from doing so by the ice and he is worried about Biggles arriving tomorrow.  Algy believes he can take off missing any mines by taking the same line out he came in on.  “It’s hardly likely there would be two mines in the same place.  Had there been a second mine anywhere near I feel that the one I set off would have exploded it”.  They go aboard the flying boat for something to eat and darkness falls.  Ginger is on guard in the forward turret when he sees lights on the horizon:  Winking dots and dashes.  He reports to Algy and they guess it is the submarine trying to signal to the island as they would have received no reply to their radio.  The message is either in code or Russian so can’t be read.  The commander of the submarine will soon “know something has happened here, to account for his caretaker-fellow not being on duty”.  They suspect it is only the ice that is stopping the submarine from coming back to investigate.  Algy, suspecting that Biggles is either on his way or will be shortly, knows he can’t leave.  “What a mess he’d be in when he got here – ice on the water, mines under it, a submarine in the offing and no sign of us.  He’d try to do something, of course, and probably lose his life doing it.  No.  I daren’t risk that”.  None of them get much sleep that night; someone has to be on guard at all times and the cold is intense.  The next day breaks crystal-clear.  Algy proposes to take off and then move to a safer anchorage until they hear Biggles arrive.  Assuming Biggles takes off at first light, they could work out his estimated time of arrival.  If he didn’t arrive, they would head for home, watching out for him and trying to contact him by radio.  A huge mass of ice drifts into their intended flight path, much to everyone’s chagrin and they all bemoan their luck.  Algy says “Whoever named this place Deliverance Bay must have had a warped sense of humour.  Frustration Bay would be more like it”.  Ginger offers to try and spot the submarine from higher ground, in case it is in the area, and Bertie offers to go with him.  On higher ground, Ginger is able to see the stern of the submarine disappearing behind the right hand promontory of rock.  They return to report this information to Algy.  Ginger says he thinks the submarine is going to land a party of men as near to the hut as possible to find out what is happening.  Ginger suddenly has a good idea.  They could use the guns they have found to repel a landing.  Bertie adds “Hoist the blighters with their own beastly petard, as old Willie Shakespeare used to say”.  Algy is reluctant.  “I don’t want my name to go down in history as the man who started the Third World War”.  Marcel stepped in.  “No.  it is up to me,” he contended vehemently.  “This is France.  It is my duty to prevent invasion on French soil.  These communists land everywhere, but here only over my dead body.  I will raise the flag.  If they shoot on that, they make the war, not us.  Do you fight with me, or do I fight alone?  From his notebook, he took a tiny French flag and held it aloft.  “Voila, Le Drapeau.  Vive la France!” (There you are.  The Flag.  Long Live France!”).  He saluted”.  Bertie says “This is as much a part of France as France itself.  We’re foreigners.  We’ve no say in the matter”.  “Okay, have it your own way,” agreed Algy.  “I suppose we might as well be shot here for trying to stop a war as go home and be shot for starting one.  We get the dirty end of the stick either way”.  They set off for the gun gallery at a run.  Ginger stops at the first machine-gun and pushes out the protective dry-stone wall in front of it, exposing the target in plain view.  Marcel knows how to use the gun from the war and loads it, then opens fire.  Most of the bullets hit the water well in front of the submarine.  “The effect on those on deck was instantaneous.  There was a rush for the conning tower”.  (“There was a rush for the conning tower” is the illustration opposite page 156).  Marcel fires again, hitting the metal of the submarine this time.  The submarine turns away, gathering speed.  Ginger says they won’t return fire because they don’t want to blow their own guns to bits.  Having prevented the landing, and seeing that there will soon be room to take off past the iceberg, they hurry back down the hill.  They then hear a noise.  “Ginger pointed.  “There he is!  It’s a Sunderland.  It’s Biggles!”  With one accord they pelted on down the hill”.