THE LOST JEWELS
By Sir Rabindranth Tagore
My boat was moored beside an old bathing ghat of the river, almost in ruins The sun had set
On the roof of the boat the boatmen were at their evening prayer Against the bright background of the Western sky their silent worship stood out like a picture The waning light was reflected on the still surface of the river in every delicate shade of colour from gold to steel blue
A huge house with broken windows, tumbledown verandahs and all the appearance of old age was in front of me 1 sat alone on the steps of the ghat which were cracked by the far reaching roots of a banyan tree A feeling of sadness began to come o^er me, when suddenly I was startled to hear a voice asking
Sir, where have you come from?
I looked up and saw a man who seemed half starved and out of fortune His face had a dilapidated look such as is common among my countrymen who take up service away from home His dirty coat of Assam silk was greasy and open at the front He appeared to be just returning from his day's work and to be taking a walk by the side of the river at a time when he should have been taking his evening meal
The new comer took his seat beside me on the steps I said in answer to his question
"I come from Ranchi"
"I am a merchant"
"A dealer in cocoons and timber"
After a moment's hesitation I gave a name but it was not my own
Still the strangers curiosity was not satisfied Again he questioned me
What have you come here for?'
"For a change of air"
My cross-examiner seemed a little astonished He said
"Well sir I have be enjoying the air of this place for nearly six years and with it I have taken a daily average of fifty grains of quinine, but I have not noticed that I have benefited much"
"Still you must acknowledge that, after Ranchi, 1 shall find the air of this place sufficient of a change"
"Yes indeed " said he "More than you bargain for But where will you stay here?'
Pointing to the tumbledown house* above the ghat, I said
I think my friend had a suspicion that I had come in search of hidden treasure However he did not pursue the subject.