BIGGLES FLIES WEST
By Captain W. E. Johns
IV. BIGGLES MAKES A PROPOSITION (Pages 68 - 81)
There was a full minute’s silence after Biggles stopped reading, a silence broken only by the faint rustle as he unfolded a little yellowish slip of paper that had been enclosed in the letter. He gazed at it for some seconds without speaking; then, looking up, he smiled faintly at the intent expressions on the faces of the others. “Well, so now we know”. “You mean – why that sailor was after my letter?” said Dick, quickly. “Of course”. Biggles concludes it was Deutch who called upon Dick that afternoon and it is highly probable that he has killed Dick's father. Biggles notes the letter is dated some three months ago and wonders why it took so long to get here. Dick says the sailor who delivered it told of the awful voyage they had on the way home. Biggles says that Dick won’t be safe in the East End whilst Deutch is around. He wants that letter and will leave no stone unturned to get hold of it. Biggles makes Dick an offer. They will help him find the treasure if he agrees to divide the profits into two, Dick taking one half and Biggles and his friends taking the other half, after deducting the cost of the expedition. They discuss their plans and Algy asks about the piece of paper found lying in front of the skeleton, the one that had been enclosed in Dick’s father’s letter. “I’m afraid that isn’t going to be much use” answers Biggles. “It looks more like a jigsaw puzzle than a map, although it may take on some sort of meaning when we get to the actual spot. What we’ve got to do for a start is to find the island; after that, the chart will give us the approximate position of the galleon”. When Biggles talks about getting an aircraft, Dick is astonished. He thought they would go by ship. Biggles explains that they are all pilots and Dick is excited as he has never flown before. They decide to us the (fictional) capital of Marabina as their base. “It’s the capital of one of those funny little countries in Central America, tucked in between Costa Rica and Honduras. (The country between Costa Rica and Honduras is actually Nicaragua). It’s on the Pan-American air route to South America, so we ought to have no difficulty in getting petrol there. I expect it’s a marine airport; most of them are along that stretch, which means that we shall need a marine aircraft”. Biggles says they will pick up a flying-boat or possibly an amphibian in America. They stop for dinner. Mrs. Symes, Biggles's old housekeeper complains about the mess outside the door on the landing. “How many times have I got to tell you boys to wipe your feet on the front door mat when you come in?” she scolded, half jokingly, half angrily. Puddles of rainwater indicate that someone has been listening to their conversation. Biggles suspects that whoever stood there was wearing oilskins, like a sailor. Biggles says “You’d better keep close to us, Dick, or we may lose you, and London is a mighty big place to start looking for a small boy with a doubloon in his pocket”.