THE TREASURE HUNT

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It was a fine September afternoon with a clear blue sky and the leaves of trees glowing with a slight golden tinge. There was not a cloud in sight. A light breeze occasionally blew throwing a heap of leaves about. Henry sat on the bench with a sigh. "This is impossible," was the only thing which was going on in his head. "No one understands me," he muttered. A month had passed since college had started, but he hadn't been able to make any friends. The reason: He was too good looking. With his 6 ft. 1 height, muscular frame and fine features, he was known as one of the most good- looking guys in college.

Now in college there are two groups- the people who are good looking but have no brains and the people who have brains but were not really good looking. Due to his looks none of the brainy people wanted to talk to him. They assumed that he would be like all other good looking guys i. e. The people who only liked to irritate and make fun of them. He did not want to be with the brainless group as he could not simply bear idle chatter. Thus he was always left alone. He saw two children playing nearby. A name silently left his lips, "Tom."

"I'm gonna find it," said Tom. "No, I am!" shouted Henry. Both boys were sitting on the school steps arguing. Today was a big day for all fourth graders at Evergreen High School. It was treasure hunt day! Every year the school held a treasure hunt for the fourth graders. It was held in the school premises along with the nearby parks.

"All right kids, in a line," said the teacher as she handed each child a different coloured ribbon and a card which held the first clue of the hunt. Soon all the kids were running about looking for the clues which would lead them to the treasure. Even Henry and Tom were among them. There were a total of ten clues in all. Both kids worked hard to get ahead of the other. There had begun a sort of competition among the two. When one found a clue he gave a yell of joy. When the other found a clue, it would cause a frown. This continued on till both were equal i.e. both were on their eight clue.

In the park, while Henry was searching for his ninth clue, he suddenly slipped and fell into the pond. Not knowing how to swim he cried out in terror. Tom who was nearby rushed to help him. He too did not know how to swim. He quickly looked around and saw a long stick lying on the ground. He picked it up. "Come on Henry, catch this," he yelled. He held one end of the stick securely and extended the other towards where Henry was. Henry hearing him desperately made an attempt to grab the other end of the stick. He managed to catch it on the second attempt and Tom, with a great heave pulled him out. The two then walked to school, muddy and completely drenched to the skin. When they reached they came to know that someone else had won the treasure hunt. After Hearing their escapade Henry's mother decided to comfort them by taking them out to eat cookies. Even though neither of them had won the treasure hunt, they had won something more important. They had won each other's friendship.

Henry found out that Tom had come from Africa with his parents. He used to tell him fascinating stories of life in Africa. He was a very good story teller. For most of the time the two were inseparable. Later Tom suddenly disappeared. Some said he went back to Africa with his family, others said he....

"A penny for your thoughts. Or should I say a cookie?" said someone breaking him out of his reverie. He looked up at the speaker and a big smile slowly crossed his face. "Tom!" he exclaimed, rising up to embrace his friend. "Where were you all these years?" "Well that's a pretty looooong story" replied Tom, dragging out the long. He continued, "I got a scholarship here and came last night. I decided not to tell you so that I could surprise you. So, what's all changed since I've been here?" "A lot, how about we discuss this over lunch" said Henry. He picked up his bag and started to go to the nearby cafeteria.

After they gave their orders, Henry leaned back and looked inquisitively at Tom. "Well, so how about telling me what you were up to all these years. You've no idea how I felt when you left so suddenly without even saying goodbye." "I'm sorry" said Tom apologetically, "But the situation was such that we had no choice. We had to leave overnight." "What situation? And why leave overnight?" asked Henry. "For treasure..." answered Tom almost in a whisper. Hearing this Henry burst out laughing, "Come on Tom! Stop joking. Treasure? What do you think you are, Robinson Crusoe? I'm sure you didn't leave for some stupid treasure hunt. Now be serious and tell me." "As a matter of fact I did and it wasn't a stupid hunt. If only you were there" said Tom dreamily, "My dad had lost most of his money in shares. We didn't have much money to live on. Our only hope was a treasure map which was a family heirloom. Remember I had told you once that my great- great grandfather was a pirate and he had an immense amount of wealth? Well, we went to search for it. My dad did not want to risk this entering in the newspapers. You see he had a step- brother who also had a copy of the map and dad did not want to risk having him going after the treasure himself so we decided to disappear overnight. No one would be any wiser to it."

"So did you guys find it? What was the treasure?" asked Henry now getting interested in what Tom had to say. Tom replied, "Not so fast my dear friend. Let me keep that for the last. Let me tell you of our trip there." At that moment the waitress came with their lunch. As they were eating Tom started, "We went to KwaZulu- Natal in South Africa. From there my father, his friend, two servants and I went on the treasure hunt. My mother decided to stay back in the city as she didnot feel up to a trek through some forest. We crossed the Weza Forest where there were trees growing so high, they almost blocked out the sun! Uncle Sam, my father's friend told me that most of these trees were more than 200 years old. We continued on till we reached a stream which divided the forest into two and then what do you think we saw? My father's half- brother! It seemed that he was on the same quest as we were." Henry interrupted, "So why didn't your father invite him to join your group." "Oh no no, my father knew that he was a very selfish man. He was capable of disappearing with all the treasure and leaving nothing for us. Hence we decided to continue in a hurry.

We reached the foot of a reddish mountain range. According to the map the treasure existed in a cave high up in one of these mountains. We started climbing. We were all out of breath by the time we had struck a path going upwards. After that the going was easier. We were now about half way through when guess what happened?" He paused long enough to take a sip of water before continuing, "My father's half-brother and a few people from his party attacked us. I was terribly frightened and don't mind telling you that I ran and hid behind a few rocks. I could see my father and his step- brother wrestling on the ground, each trying to injure the other while trying to save himself. Suddenly" he hesitated before drinking another sip of water. He leaned forward and whispered. "Don't tell anyone this, while the two of them were fighting, my father suddenly gave his half- brother a hard push and he lost his balance and fell down into the valley. When we returned to the city, we reported that he had been walking near the edge of the cliff, lost his footing and had fallen down, thus making it seem like an accident." He leaned back and his voice returned to normal as he said, "Seeing their leader gone the rest of his men fled. We continued on our way stopping only at dusk to rest. We reached the cave just before noon and lo and behold, you could not imagine what we saw. Gold, silver, jewels, cups, and swords with intricate carvings, life like statues made of some precious metal. Why, there was even a sword which was almost the same height as me! If only you could have seen it." He said with a sigh.

"So what did you do with all that? Surely you couldn't just cart it away?" asked Henry curiously, his eyes wide. "Well yes, of course we had to give half of the treasure to the Government since it was supposed to be 'state property' but we managed to keep the rest. I still have a jewelled dagger at home which I had picked up as a souvenir. I'll show it to you the next time you come over." "That'll be great!" exclaimed Henry. "I only wish I could have been there to uncover that treasure. I've always wanted to discover some real treasure." "Hmmm maybe I could make your wish come true" said Tom with a half thoughtful and half secretive smile on his face. "How!" asked Henry perking up a bit. "Well you see in the cave where we found the treasure there was another map which we still have. We could probably go treasure hunting sometime." "Yes lets!" said Henry rising from his seat. "Wait wait my friend. What's the hurry? We have some more things to do." Said Tom signaling him to sit down. "Like what?" asked Henry looking a bit crestfallen. "Well let's starts with paying our lunch bill" said Tom with a grin as he picked up the bill moving towards the cashier.



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