BIGGLES AND THE PIRATE TREASURE
AND OTHER BIGGLES ADVENTURES
by Captain W. E. Johns
First published July 1954
CONTENTS – Page 3
ILLUSTRATIONS – Page 5 – (six illustrations by Stead, a frontispiece and the illustrations facing pages 12, 61, 76, 156 and 173)
(There are no chapter numbers, merely the titles of the stories, of which there are 11)
I. BIGGLES AND THE PIRATE TREASURE (Pages 7 – 39)
This story was unique to this book and never published elsewhere.
Air Detective-Inspector Bigglesworth and his staff at Special Air Section Operational headquarters were just going out to lunch when a dark, alert, dapper face appeared in the open doorway. “Well, well. Look what the slipstream’s blown in,” said Ginger Hebblethwaite cheerfully. It’s Marcel Brissac, “Biggles’s opposite number in France”. He joins Biggles and his comrades for lunch and Marcel tells them he is going to be looking for a box of gold in Madagascar. Marcel has studied various contemporary accounts, relying chiefly on Captain Charles Johnson’s ‘General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates’, published in 1724. The gist of the story is a man named Misson (who was a pirate mentioned in that real book, but who may well be fictional), with a renegade priest named Caroccioli, became pirates and amassed a fortune through taking various ships in the Indian Ocean. They went to a little bay at the northern tip of Madagascar to bury their loot. They built forts to defend themselves from local “savages” and called the place ‘Libertia’ or ‘Libertata’. Putting to sea again, Misson encountered Captain Thomas Tew and they joined forces, took more prizes and returned with their loot to Libertia. “Now Tew had always been against Misson’s habit of allowing prisoners to go free. He believed in the old pirate motto ‘dead men tell no tales’. And, since we must stick to the truth, he was right. Two men whom Misson released (on a promise not to betray his hiding place on Madagascar) went straight to the Portuguese authorities, with the result that five men-o’-war were soon on their way to Libertia”. Following that attack, there was a cyclone and an attack “by a horde of savages”, Caroccioli was speared to death and Misson and Tew abandoned a treasure estimated at not less than five million pounds. Misson and Tew escaped by boat, but in a storm, Misson’s ship went down with all hands and Tew was eventually killed when he was hit by a cannonball in the stomach. Libertia was soon overgrown by jungle and never found. Madagascar was now a French colony and native rumours have reached French ears of white men digging for treasure. As there is no record on anyone receiving or even applying for permission, investigation was made. A party of white men digging were found and they fled into the jungle. Marcel’s most dramatic point was that a note book had been found belonging to one of the prospective treasure hunters and the name on it was Thomas Tew! Marcel believes the man to be a descendant of Captain Tew and thinks he may have found an old map or note book to tell him where to look. Marcel is now off to investigate and wants Biggles to go with him. An aircraft will make searching so much quicker. Biggles says he will ask the Air-Commodore for time off. (A new paragraph starts after a break). “A fortnight later, shortly after dawn, a French police six-seater helicopter buzzed its way slowly along the northern tip of the great African island. From it five pairs of eyes searched the beaches, the green jungle belt that fringed the foreshore, and the rugged massif behind it that rose to nearly five thousand feet. (“Five pairs of eyes searched the beaches” is the illustration opposite page 12). The eyes belong to Marcel, Biggles, Algy, Bertie and Ginger. Marcel thinks only by air reconnaissance could the treasure-seekers be found, but the noise of their approach allows anyone to hide in the jungle. In due course they see the wake of a ship leading to a little almost landlocked cove with no village or human habitation. “Such a landfall was open to suspicion”. Marcel flies the helicopter over at a low height but they can see no ship and they conclude it must be hidden. Flying to a sandy beach some three or four miles away, they land in order to walk to the place in question and they discuss their possible reception. “In plain English, violence was to be expected” if the treasure seekers were found. Efforts to go direct through the jungle are soon thwarted and so they go round nearer to the sea. In due course they come to an area of fruit trees, mostly of the same age and appearing to be in definite sections. Biggles wonders if these could have been planted by pirates, in which case it might be an indication of their colony of Libertia. They then see a yacht carefully moored by cables flush against a rock where overhanging bread-fruit trees cover it. The yacht is also camouflaged in the familiar war-time brown and green pattern. Five men are in view, leaning on the rails and talking. Biggles thinks the five men are deck hands and the owners are either below decks or ashore. Ginger offers to do a bit of reconnoitring and from the top of the cliff, he goes to eavesdrop on the men on deck. As he sets off, he stumbles over an old flintlock musket half buried in the ground. Ginger returns to report “I’ve got the gen”. He says “They’re our men all right. The owners are away treasure hunting. Those fellows on deck are the crew, and they sound about ripe for mutiny”. Ginger explains that as far as he can make out the crew are Americans. There are three men running the show and they haven’t said a word to the crew about what they are doing, but the crew have found out the men are looking for treasure and they are “browned off” that they won’t be getting a share. The crew are talking about seizing the yacht and keeping the treasure for themselves. Biggles discusses a plan with Marcel and Marcel goes to return to the helicopter alone, so he can bring back French police or soldiers to arrest the men. Biggles and his party stay to allow more room in the helicopter for passengers and just to keep watch on what is happening. Time passes and evening arrives. Marcel does not return when he is expected to. They see three men, presumably the treasure hunters, return to the yacht but they have no treasure with them. Night falls and our heroes pass an uncomfortable night. (A new paragraph starts after a break). The dawn breaks and the treasure-seekers set off to continue their quest. Biggles expresses the view that something has gone wrong otherwise Marcel would be back by now. They hear shouts of triumph from the jungle and Biggles and his party set off in the direction of the sound to see what is going on. They quietly approach an area where the dry herbage has been burnt off and trenches dug. They see three men striped to the waist and working like mad with a pick, crowbar and shovel. “The climax of this feverish labour was reached just as Biggles’s party lay down in the deep shadow of the jungle to watch. What had happened needed no explanation. The men had uncovered the top of a box, or chest”. “The lid of the box flew off to an accompaniment of ringing cheers. The cheers ended abruptly as the men stared into the box. Then they broke out anew, and the fascinated spectators had the unique experience of watching the behaviour of men on the discovery of a treasure”. (“Fascinated, the spectators watched” is the frontispiece illustration of the book). “For a minute they acted like lunatics; then, seizing their implements, they began digging again in a sort of frenzy”. The men then proceed to transfer the treasure from the box to haversacks. Biggles and his party return to their previous vantage point over the yacht while the men take the treasure below. The crew go into a huddle, heads together. “Take a look,” whispered Biggles. “If ever I saw trouble being brewed, it’s on that deck”. The crew then creep down the companion stairs on the yacht. Ginger suggests cutting the mooring cables and allowing the yacht to drift onto the beach. Biggles notes how the yacht is moored to an old rusty iron ring and realises that the pirates must have put it there. “This was the cove that served as a harbour for Libertia”. Noises come from the yacht. “Voices could be heard, rising ever higher in protest, indignation, anger, and finally – so it seemed – threats. Then came a shot, followed by a brisk fusillade. A man appeared on deck, running. He stumbled and fell. He rose, struggled to the rail and threw himself overboard. He managed to make a few strokes and then sank. The big flaxen-haired man, who had followed him, a revolver in his hand, ran to the rail, stared for a moment at the disturbed water and then went back down the stairs”. “This is no longer amusing,” muttered Biggles grimly. “This is murder”. The watchers then see two other bodies thrown overboard. Algy wonders if they should have acted before, but Biggles says it would have been them going overboard if they had. Ginger and Bertie go and cut the forward and aft cables on the yacht. Biggles and Algy, with their automatic pistols drawn, go onboard the yacht. The men below eventually notice the yacht is drifting and as one runs to the deck, Biggles orders him to “Get back and stay back”. When a gun is later pointed out at them, Biggles fires. The yacht runs aground and the men below offer Biggles money to lay off. “We don’t want anything,” answered Biggles. “But there are some men on the bottom who’ll want your heads. The French still use the guillotine”. A helicopter arrives. (This is the scene illustrated on the front cover of the book, Biggles confronting one of the crew and Algy waving at the helicopter. For some bizarre reason, Biggles is illustrated as wearing his flying helmet!). The men below, on hearing the aircraft, throw the gold coins overboard. Marcel lands on the beach and six blue-uniformed gendarmes, pistols in the hands, spring out. The modern pirates surrender. Marcel says his delay was some slight engine trouble. (A new paragraph starts after a break). “Thus ended the story of the Madagascar treasure. It began with bloodshed, and, as so often happens, it ended in bloodshed. Not in any way could it be described as the picnic Marcel has so confidently anticipated”. The French authorities had little difficulty in recovering the treasure from the shallow waters, some twenty thousand gold coins of several reigns and nationalities. When the bodies were recovered from the sea, one had an old document, a sketch map, apparently in Captain Tew’s own handwriting, in his pocket. The French authorities searched the area for more treasure but none was found. The mutinous crew said that Tew fired the first shot and they are handed over to American authorities for trial as both crew and victims had been Americans. The three victims were a wealthy yachtsman and his friend and the descendant of Tew who had found the map. “Of course, there was nothing wrong with the treasure hunt itself. Where Tew and his associates made the mistake was in not going to the French authorities. Had they put their cards on the table no doubt the French government would have given them a fair deal. Naturally, this would have meant apparently giving up part of the treasure, if it was found. For this apparently they were not prepared. They wanted the lot, instead of which they got nothing”.