BIGGLES FLIES WEST
By Captain W. E. Johns
XII. A LUCKY FALL (Pages 173 - 187)
Returning to the fort, Biggles finds his colleagues marvelling at it. “They were agog with enthusiasm and excitement”. Biggles tells them that he found his clothes downstairs and there is a rush for the stairway and Biggles watches the distant lagoon as it is just possible to see it. Biggles realises this is a great advantage. Biggles can see Deutch and ‘Frisco Jack bending over a dark object on the ground. “He thought it was the negro”. A cry from below sends Biggles down to his comrades. They have discovered a stone slab with an iron ring in the centre. Below that is another flight of stairs. It leads to a water tank, that stores the rain water that falls on the roof. Biggles tastes the water using an old perished leather bucket. “Seems to be all right” he said, “but I’d rather not use it unless I was compelled. I prefer fresh coconut milk”. Algy, Ginger and Dick all find old pirate clothes to wear. Algy wears a moth-eaten red shirt and white breeches with a chimney-pot hat. Ginger has a blue and white handed shirt with a stained bullet hole in it and a black three-cornered hat. Dick wears a blue silk shirt and a crimson night-gap with a tassel on the end. Biggles says to Dick “By thunder! Israel Hand himself!” “Israel Hands was one of the pirates in Stevenson’s story Treasure Island, wasn’t he?” asked Ginger. (Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894), was the famous author of not only ‘Treasure Island’ but also ‘Kidnapped’, ‘The Master of Ballantrae’ and ‘The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde’). “Stevenson only borrowed the name for his book,” Biggles informed him. “The original Israel Hands was quartermaster to that shocking ruffian Captain Edward Teach, more often known as Blackbeard, perhaps the most bloodthirsty villain of the whole cut-throat crowd, excepting possibly Louis Dakeyne, sometimes called Louis the Grand, who bestowed upon himself the pleasing nickname The Exterminator. Louis, by the way, claimed to be the originator of “walking the plank” as a handy means of disposing of his victims”. Dick asks what happened to Dakeyne and Biggles says he just disappeared. “Most of the pirates died with their boots on”. They discuss Deutch and Co. Biggles says “Our position is very different from theirs. We should hesitate to shoot them in cold blood, even if we had an opportunity, whereas they’ll try to bump us off at the first chance they get”. "Well, thank goodness the n****r (This is the sixth Biggles book to feature the use of the very offensive “N” word by W. E. Johns. The word appears three times in this book, once in this chapter and once in Chapter VI, “Tragic Events” and once in Chapter XI, “The Rescue”. Of course, in its day, the word was in regular use and not considered offensive at all, otherwise it would not have appeared in a children’s book, where even mild expletives are watered down. The word remained in all Oxford editions of this book and also in the 1974 Knight paperback version. In the 1996 Red Fox edition, this is changed to “one of them”) is out of action", declared Dick fervently. "I'd thought I'd killed him, but apparently I didn't" murmured Biggles. They have a 'Council of War' and eat food whilst they discuss the situation, which Biggles compares to ‘Treasure Island’. “Deutch and his confederates are Long John Silver and the pirates, and we” – Biggles grinned delightedly – “why, dash it, it works out exactly. Dick here is Jim Hawkins, Algy is Squire Trelawny, Ginger is Doctor Livesay and I’m- ” “Captain Smollett,” put in Dick promptly. Arming themselves with loaded pistols and muskets, they go ashore to look for the galleon. Biggles had said that is was likely to be more difficult than the map might lead one to suppose. For nearly two hours they search but their search is fruitless. When 'Frisco and Deutch come their way, Biggles suggests they return to their boat. As they make their way towards a place where the briers and lianas seem less dense, Biggles stumbles over a long moss-covered object across their path and realises it is a fallen mainmast. Algy goes to remove a thorn from his foot and falls, clutching at Biggles for support. Algy and Biggles find themselves falling through the rotten deck into the ship. At last they have found it! 'Frisco and Deutch investigate the noise but find nothing and when they leave, our heroes are free to explore the ship.