CHAPTER NINE

Stuart ran and ran and ran! Leaves slapped his face. Rocks turned under his shoes. How far was a quarter mile? He didn't know, but it still seemed like an awful long way to run! Madame X and Thug were just behind them!

“They're still gaining on us!” Felix croaked. “We have to do something!”

Captain Brannigan stopped running. He grabbed Felix's arm. “Felix! Your bird!” he panted.

The toucan perched carefully on Felix's shoulder. Felix patted his bird. He looked at the captain. “What about him?”

“Make him fly that way!” Captain Brannigan pointed across the island. “He might lead Madame X in the wrong direction!”

Felix brightened. “Like a decoy! Captain, what a good idea!”

Stuart beamed. “It's a great idea! That should give us plenty of time to find the treasure.”

“Yes!” said Captain Brannigan.

“You can count on me, Captain!” Felix grabbed the bird in his hands and pulled him off his shoulder. “Come on, bird, we have work to do!”

“Squawk!” the toucan squawked in surprise as Felix ran off into the trees.

Stuart and Captain Brannigan waited to see what would happen. They held their breath. Stuart crossed his fingers for luck.

Suddenly they heard Thug yell, “Madame X! Look up in the sky! It's a bird! It's the bird!

Stuart looked up and saw Felix's toucan fly right over their heads... in the opposite direction from the treasure!

They heard Madame X declare, “That bird is like a rainbow in every blink! There he goes. Follow that bird -- we have to get that treasure!”

It had worked! Madame X and Thug were running the wrong way!

Stuart and Captain Brannigan grinned at each other. “Let's go!” said Stuart.

They found the stream in record time because they ran all the way.

“Whew!” Captain Brannigan exclaimed. He and Stuart leaned over to catch their breath.

“Thank goodness for Felix!” Stuart said when he could breath again. “We never would have made it this far without him and his bird. That was a great idea, Captain!”

The captain smiled. “Yes it was!” he agreed cheerfully. “Well, we found the stream, but it was hard work! I need a drink.” He settled onto his knees and took a drink from the stream. Water dribbled down his chin.

“I'm tired too,” Stuart said. “I think I'll sit down here for a quick rest.” He sank onto a big rock. It felt good to sit down after that run through the trees.

Captain Brannigan wiped the water off his chin with his coat sleeve. “What do we do now?” he asked.

Stuart looked at the map. “The map says there should be a big boulder around here. A boulder with a flat side and Morgenstern's initials carved in it.”

Stuart and the captain looked all around them.

“A boulder?” repeated Captain Brannigan. “I don't see any boulders. There's nothing here but scrub and trees and... ouch!” He had pricked his finger on a thorn. “And sticker bushes!” he accused. He sucked on his finger to make it feel better. “But no boulders,” he said around the finger in his mouth.

“But it has to be here!” Stuart argued. “The map says so! We're just not looking hard enough!”

They looked all around again, but there just weren't any boulders.

Captain Brannigan was beginning to panic. He forgot all about his sore finger as he said, “I don't see it! Maybe the map's wrong.”

Stuart shook his head. “No, I'm sure I'm reading it right. The boulder's just not here anymore!”

Suddenly they heard the squawk of the toucan, and Felix appeared from the trees. “Well, we did it!” Felix yelled. He patted his bird proudly. “Madame X and Thug are walking in circles! They're so lost, they won't even be able to find themselves.” He laughed loudly at the joke he had played on the pirates.

Then Felix noticed the look of panic on Stuart's and the captain's faces. “Hey, what's wrong?” he asked.

“We can't find the boulder!” Stuart told him. He threw up his hands. The map shook in his fist. “It's the last clue on the map. If we don't find that boulder, we won't find the treasure! This isn't fair!” he yelled.

Felix looked at Stuart, then he just looked confused. “A boulder?” he asked.

Stuart nodded angrily.

“Like a big one, with a flat side?”

“Yes!” Stuart said.

“With letters carved in it?” Felix guessed.

Captain Brannigan gazed at Felix in amazement. “Yes! But how did you know?”

Felix pointed. “Stuart's sitting on it. See, right there.”

Stuart jumped up from the rock he was sitting on. Felix was right! It had a flat side and several letters scratched into it. He'd been sitting on the boulder the whole time!

“Felix!” said Stuart. “You're wonderful!”

Felix blushed. “Oh, no, not at all,” he protested. Then he said, “Well, on second thought, I am wonderful, aren't I?”

The captain nodded. “Just look at that!” He read off the boulder, “H.M. loves S.S. H.M... that stands for Henry Morgenstern. What's the S.S. stand for?”

Stuart was in a hurry to start the treasure hunt again. “Who cares,” he said quickly. “We have the last clue now. The map says to count two hundred and fifty paces from the boulder. Let's go!”

Stuart held the map firmly in his hand and started walking. He counted every step he took.

“One,” said Stuart.

“One,” said Felix and the captain.

“Two,” counted Stuart.

“Two,” echoed Captain Brannigan and Felix.

“Three,” said Stuart.

“Three,” said the others.

They all grinned at each other. They were going to find that treasure!

“Four!” said Stuart.

“Squawk!” shrieked the toucan.

Go on to Chapter 10.


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