CHAPTER I THE WORLD-WIDE HUNT FOR VANISHED RICHES
The language has no more boldly romantic words than pirate and galleon and the dullest imagination is apt to be kindled by any plausible dream of finding their lost treasures hidden on lonely beach or tropic key, or sunk fathoms deep in salt water. In the preface of that rare and exceedingly diverting volume, "The Pirates' Own Book," the unnamed author sums up the matter with so much gusto and with so gorgeously appetizing a flavor that he is worth quoting to this extent:
"With the name of pirate is also associated ideas of rich plunder, caskets of buried jewels, chests of gold ingots, bags of outlandish coins, secreted in lonely, out of the way places, or buried about the wild shores of rivers and unexplored sea coasts, near rocks and trees bearing mysterious marks indicating where the treasure was hid. And as it is his invariable practice to secrete and bury his booty, and from the perilous life he leads, being often killed or captured, he can never revisit the spot again, therefore immense sums remain buried in those places and are irrevocably lost. Search is often made by persons who labor in anticipation of throwing up with their spade and pickaxe, gold bars, diamond crosses sparkling amongst the dirt, bags of golden doubloons and chests wedged close with moidores, ducats and pearls; but although great treasures lie hid in this way, it seldom happens that any is recovered."
In this tamed, prosaic age of ours, treasure-seeking might seem to be the peculiar province of fiction, but the fact is that expeditions are fitting out every little while, and mysterious schooners flitting from many ports, lured by grimy, tattered charts presumed to show where the hoards were hidden, or steering their courses by nothing more tangible than legend and surmise. As the Kidd tradition survives along the Atlantic coast, so on divers shores of other seas persist the same kind of wild tales, the more convincing of which are strikingly alike in that the lone survivor of the red-handed crew, having somehow escaped the hanging, shooting, or drowning that he handsomely merited, preserved a chart showing where the treasure had been hid. Unable to return to the place, he gave the parchment to some friend or shipmate, this dramatic transfer usually happening as a death-bed ceremony. The recipient, after digging in vain and heartily damning the departed pirate for his misleading landmarks and bearings, handed the chart down to the next generation.
It will be readily perceived that this is the stock motive of almost all buried treasure fiction, the trademark of a certain brand of adventure story, but it is really more entertaining to know that such charts and records exist and are made use of by the expeditions of the present day. Opportunity knocks at the door. He who would gamble in shares of such a speculation may find sun-burned, tarry gentlemen, from Seattle to Singapore, and from Capetown to New Zealand, eager to whisper curious information of charts and sailing directions, and to make sail and away....