DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND 145
sat down also and began to make some purchases. Now, the proprietor of the shop, Beeka Mull by name, was a very shrewd man, and as he and the merchant conversed, he soon felt sure that his customer was richer than he seemed, and was trying to conceal the fact. Certain purchases having been made, he invited the new-comer to refresh himself, and in a short time they were chatting pleasantly together. In the course of the conversation Beeka Mull asked the merchant whither he was travelling, and hearing the name of the village, he observed:
' Ah, you had better be careful on that road—it's a very bad place for thieves.'
The merchant turned pale at these words. It would be such a bitter thing, he thought, just at the end of his journey to be robbed of all the fortune he had heaped up with such care. But this bland and prosperous Beeka Mull must surely know best, so presently he said:
' Lala-ji,1 could you oblige me by locking up for me a small box for a short while ? When once I get to my village I could bring back half-a-dozen sturdy men of my own kinsfolk and claim it again.'
The Lala shook his head. ' I could not do it,' replied he. ' I am sorry; but such things are not my business. I should be afraid to undertake it.'
' But,' pleaded the merchant, ' I know no one in this city, and you must surely have some place where you keep your own precious things. Do this, I pray you, as a great favour.'
Still Beeka Mull politely but firmly refused; but the merchant, feeling that he had now betrayed the fact that he was richer than he seemed, and being loth to make more people aware of it by inquiring elsewhere, continued to press him, until at last he consented. The merchant produced the little box of jewels, and Beeka Mull locked it up for him in a strong chest with other
1 ' Lala ' is a complimentary title : ' ji ' a polite affix ; the expression is somewhat equivalent to ' Dear Sir.'