by Captain W. E. Johns


4.     CHAPTER 4 – RURAL REFLECTIONS  (Pages 48 – 57) (40 – 46)


“At three o’clock precisely Biggles’ car pulled up at the Star Inn on the main road between Newchapel and East Grinstead in the county of Surrey”.  (There really is a Star Inn in Church Road at Lingfield).  P.C. Murray is waiting for them and he tells them that the location where the bag was found is just over a mile away.  It is very rural, not a house anywhere near.  There is no road, not even a footpath leading there. They walk to the location.  There are no footmarks other than that made by Ramsey, the man who discovered the bag and the police officer when he collected it.  The officer says that the nearest house is Lotton Hall.  Biggles thanks the policeman and sends him on his way and then talks to his team.  “Has anyone an idea?  Don’t all speak at once” asks Biggles.  Nobody answers him.  They search around for any clues.  It is Minnie who says “It looks as if it must have dropped from the sky”.  Biggles thinks that may be the answer but adds “Why, having been to the trouble to pinch the mail and load it on a plane, why chuck it overboard?”  Ginger suggests it might have been an accident.  Minnie says if the bag was dropped and hit the tree it was under, it should have made a mark and that could explain how it got torn.  Biggles suggests Minnie climbs the tree to look.  “Fair enough, chief.  Watch me”.  “Never mind the chief.  You’d better call me Biggles, like the others, to save possible misunderstanding”.  Minnie climbs the tree and returns with a shred of torn fabric found on the top branch.  Biggles asks “What plane?  Where did it go?  Where is it now?”.  In the silence that followed, they hear a bird that has been disturbed.  Minnie says he saw a man coming their way across the fields from the direction of the main road, when he was up the tree.  Biggles is annoyed that he didn’t say and adds he might be looking for the bag.  Biggles hides the empty canvas bag under a nearby holly busy.  In due course, a man pushes aside bushes and stares at them, eyes wide with astonishment.  “He was a smallish, sharp-featured man, well dressed in a dark town suit, making it evident that he was neither a farmer nor a gamekeeper”.  “His tie, in R.A.F. colours, was pulled into too tight a knot and was held thus with what appeared to be a pearl tiepin.  A “Pork pie” hat was set at a jaunty angle on his head and sported a tuft of high-coloured feathers.  In short, he looked entirely out of place for where he was.  However, he was the first to speak”.  “Hello there,” he said with a smile, obviously forced, and possibly intended to be reassuring.  “What are you chaps doing?  Playing some sort of game?”