‘I wonder where Harry’s gone this time,’ Stella murmured as the sound of their mother’s piano playing wafted through the morning breeze. Harry had been missing for almost a week and Mrs Moon was beside herself. (As a result, so were most of the garden residents.)
Tom and Stella were sitting on their favourite mound of grass on ‘The Island’. The Island was a cluster of four oak trees in the centre of the garden skirted by rhododendron bushes. Stella twirled her friendship bracelet – a present from Hannah when they had left. ‘Neither time nor distance will break our bond,’ Hannah had said dramatically when she’d given it to her. How much those words meant now!
‘I wonder where Harry goes every time,’ he said with a frown as he picked at the mound of grass with his trowel.
‘Don’t do that!’ snapped Stella. ‘If Charlie Green catches you you’ll be-’
‘‘HEY! What’s this!’ Tom’s eyes locked open as he sat staring between his legs at the ground.
‘What’s what?’ Stella knelt forward as Tom continued scraping grass off the top of the mound beneath him.
‘I think it’s real treasure!’ he shrieked. Sure enough, as Tom continued digging, and his eyes continued to widen, underneath they could see what looked like the rounded lid of a wooden container – a real treasure chest.
Suddenly Stella clutched Tom’s arm.
‘Ouch! Let go, will you!’ he squealed.
‘Shh..!’ hissed Stella, sitting bolt up and staring straight ahead. The bushes opposite rustled. Stella and Tom sat still as statues. If Charlie Green appeared now they were done for.
‘Must have been a bird,’ whispered Tom, finally letting out a breath. The bush was still again. He looked down and carried on digging. ‘It’s a box, and it’s got grooves on the lid!’ he gasped. The rounded lid of the treasure chest seemed to go on for ever as the patch Tom dug grew wider and wider.
And then Stella’s pale blue eyes widened.
‘Tom!’ she whispered in disbelief. ‘It’s not a box! It’s a boat!”
‘A boat!’ said Tom. ‘It can’t be a boat, stupid, there’s no water around here!’
At that moment the bush opposite trembled violently. They really had had it this time; they knew Charlie Green’s breathless snort anywhere. He was probably crawling through the undergrowth to take them by surprise. Then, with a final sharp rustle, the leaves ahead parted and out into the clearing appeared… Harry.
‘Harry!’ they cried.
‘He’s soaking!’ said Stella.
Harry took one look at Tom and Stella, then turned towards home and fled.
‘Wait, Harry!’ Tom began to take chase. But it was too late. Harry streaked like lightening out past the rhododendron bushes and across the sun-drenched lawn. Mrs Moon didn’t know it yet, but she was in for a very pleasant surprise.
‘Tom, come back!’
Tom gave up his chase about half way across the lawn, just as their mother’s voice echoed across the garden. ‘Tom, Stella! We’re leaving in a minute!’
‘Help me with this.’ Stella was dragging a log across the lawn towards the mound. ‘If Charlie Green finds this mess we’ll be grounded indoors for a week!’
Tom looked despondent. He had just unearthed the greatest treasure of his digging career and here he was being told he had to cover it up again.
‘But I want to get the boat out!’ he whined.
‘We haven’t got time! We’re going to grandma’s! Take that end.’ said Stella breathlessly. They shuffled three or four steps sideways and lowered the log down on top of the mound.
Tom stepped back and kicked his pile of stones in frustration.
‘Look,’ said Stella firmly, ‘it’s no use making a fuss now. We’ll come back tomorrow and see if we can find out where Harry came from.’
Tom’s face twisted into a puzzled frown. ‘What do you mean by that?’
‘Well,’ said Stella, tearing at wrapping of her sweet packet, ‘where there’s a boat there must be water.’ She popped an orange polo into her mouth and raised her eyebrows in excitement. ‘I think Harry knows where that water is – and it’s somewhere around here!’