150 DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND
ficent. In attendance was a grave-looking personage whom the merchant recognised as one of the friends who visited Kooshy Earn; and behind him came a servant with a box covered with a cloth upon his head.
The palanquin was borne along at a smart pace and was set down at Beeka Mull's shop. The fat shop-keeper was on his feet at once, and bowed deeply as the gentleman in attendance advanced.
' May I inquire,' he said, ' who this is in the palanquin that deigns to favour my humble shop with a visit ? And what may I do for her ? '
The gentleman, after whispering at the curtain of the palanquin, explained that this was a relative of his who was travelling, but as her husband could go no further with her, she desired to leave with Beeka Mull a box of jewels for safe custody. Lala bowed again to the ground. ' It was not,' he said,' quite in his way of business ; but of course, if he could please the lady, he would be most happy, and would guard the box with his life.' Then the servant carrying the box was called up ; the box was unlocked, and a mass of jewellery laid open to the gaze of the enraptured Lala, whose mouth watered as he turned over the rich gems.
All this the merchant had watched from the distance, and now he saw—could he be mistaken ?—no, he distinctly saw a hand beckoning through the curtain on that side of the palanquin away from the shop. ' The signal! Was this the signal?' thought he. The hand beckoned again, impatiently it seemed to him. So forward he went, very quietly, and saluting Beeka Mull, who was sitting turning over the contents of this amazing box of jewels which fortune and some fools were putting into his care, he said:
' Oh, Lala-ji, will you kindly let me have back that box of mine which you have on trust ?'
The Lala looked up as though he had been stung; but quickly the thought flashed through his mind that