“The Treasure in the Forest” is a short story by H. G. Wells (1866–1946), first published in the The Pall Mall BudgetThe Pall Mall Budget was a weekly magazine published in London from 1868 until 1920. in 1894 and subsequently reprinted in The Stolen Bacillus and Other IncidentsA collection of 15 short stories by H. G. Wells, first published in 1895. (1895) and The Country of the Blind and Other StoriesA collection of 33 short stories by H. G. Wells, first published in 1911. (1911). The story, told as a third-person narrative, relates the fate of two men who murder a Chinaman to steal his treasure map.
The story begins with two men, Evans and Hooker, “stranded British wastrels”, heading in a canoe towards a coral island in the heat of the noon sun, after having paddled all night from the mainland. Hooker is studying a map, which the narrator reveals they have stolen from a Chinaman, Chang-hi, whom they murdered during the theft. Chang-hi had by chance discovered the treasure left behind by a shipwrecked Spanish galleon, and had decided to rebury it elsewhere, at a location revealed by his map. One aspect of the map puzzles Evans and Hooker though; part of it is covered by little dashes pointing in every direction.
Evans and Hooker identify the spot indicated on the map, and after beaching their canoe they strike into the interior of the island, through the forest. They soon discover the identifying pile of stones just as the map says, but alongside it lies the purple and swollen body of a Chinaman who had evidently himself been looking for the treasure, as they can see some half-exposed yellow bars of gold in the hole he had been digging. The men assume the Chinaman to have been one of Chang-hi’s associates, who had decided to try and claim the treasure for himself.
Evans starts to pick up the gold ingots to take them back to the canoe, but as he does so feels a thorn prick. The two men load as much of the gold as they can drag back to the boat in Evans’s jacket and set off, but after about a hundred yards Evans’s arms start to ache, he becomes sweaty and he begins to convulse. Hooker, in rearranging the ingots on the jacket after Evans’s collapse, himself feels a thorn prick, and at last realises the meaning of the little dashes on the map; Chang-hi had protected his treasure with thorns “similar to those the Dyaks poison and use in their blowing-tubes”.
The story ends as Hooker lies dying alongside the “still quivering” body of his companion.
- H. G. Wells bibliographyA list of publications written by H. G. Wells during the more than fifty years of his literary career.