Continued from Part VII.
Jakob returned to the tree stump a few days later, armed with a pickaxe, a spade and a wheelbarrow. Hexa gambolled excitedly as they left the road and walked amongst the trees that Jakob had been so careful to memorise.
When he found the large tree lying on its side, he stood in shock. A blue ribbon had been tied around the stump, and where previously there had been a mound of soil, now there was a hole. Jakob knelt and ran his fingers through the loose soil, bringing up only small flecks of purple lemfasite into his palm.
He stood and walked around the area, peering at the ground, looking for signs of further treasure, but after an hour had passed and he had seen nothing, he gave up and sat down on a piece of felled trunk. Hexa trotted up to him and put her head on his knee. He tickled behind her ears, churning the situation over in his mind.
“Somebody beat us to it,” he said. “Somebody found it and dug it up. Were we followed? Did I leave some sign last time?” Hexa merely whimpered in response, reflecting the decline in his spirits.
“It was mine,” said Jakob. “It was mine. I was rich.”
He sat there until the sun began to drop below the brow of the distant hills. Nobody else came, he saw nothing. At last he admitted defeat, picked up the wheelbarrow and walked dejectedly back to the nearest camp. Hexa followed him, tail between her legs.
To be continued…