Page:The Lost Jewels.djvu/6

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anxiety and restlessness, his power of sight and hearing should become overwhelmed He made a supreme effort to control himself, and sat still

The sound of the ornaments gradually advanced from the ghat and entered the open door. Then it came winding up the spiral staircase which led to the inner apartments It became difficult for Bhutan to control himself, his heart began to thump wildly and his throat was choking with suppressed excitement. Having Reached the head of the spiral stairs the sound came slowly along the verandah towards the door of the room, where it stopped outside with a clinking sound It was now only just on the other side of the threshold

Bhusan could contain himself no longer, and his pent up excitement burst forth in one wild cry of, 'Mani' and he spring up from his chair with lightning rapidity Thus startled out of bis sleep he found that the very window panes were rattling with the vibration of his cry And outside he could hear the croaking of the frogs and patter of rain

Bbusan struck his forehead in despair

Next day the fair broke up, and the stallkeepers and the players' party went away Bhusan gave orders that no one should sleep in the house that night except himself

In the evening he took his seat at the window of the empt> house. That night there were breaks in the clouds, showing the stars twinkling through the rain washed air. The moon was late in rising, and as the fair was over there was not a single boat on the flooded river. The villagers, tired out by two nights' dissipation, were sound asleep

Bhusan, sitting with his head resting on the back of his chair, was gazing up at the stars

As he watched them thev one by one disappeared. From the sky above and from the earth beneath screens of darkness met like tired eyelids upon weary eyes. To-night Bhusan's mind was full of peace. He felt certain that the moment had come when his heart's desire would be fulfilled, and that Death would reveal his mysteries unto his devotee.

The sound came from the river ghat just as on the previous nights and advanced up the steps. Bhusan closed his eyes and sat in deep meditation. The sound reached the empty hall. It came winding up the spiral stairs Then it crossed the long verandah, and paused for a long while at the bedroom door.

Bhusan's heart beat fast, his whole body trembled But this time he did not open his eyes The sound crossed the threshold. It entered the room Then it went down round the room stopping before the rack where the clothes were hanging, the niche with its little lamp, the table where the dried betel-leaves were lying the almirah with its various nicknacks, and last of all it came and stood close to Bhusan himself

Bhusan opened his eyes He saw by the faint light of the crescent moon that there was a skeleton standing right in front of hie chair. It had rings on all its fingers, bracelets on its wrists and armlets on its arms, necklaces on its neck, and a golden tiara on its head—its whole body glittered and sparkled with gold and diamonds. The ornaments hung loosely on the limbs but did not fall off. Most dreadful of all was the fact that the two eyes, which shone out from the bony face, were living,—two dark moist eyeballs looking out with a fixed and steady stare from between the long thick eyelashes. As he looked, his blood froze in his viens. He tried hard to close his eyes but could not, they remained open staring like those of a dead man.

Then the skeleton, fixing its gaze upon the face of the motionless Bhusan, silentlybeckoned with its outstretched hand, the diamond rings on its bony fingers glittering in the pale moonlight

Bhusan stood up as one who had lost his senses, and followed the skeleton which left the room, its bones and ornaments rattling with a hollow sound. The verandah was crossed Winding down the pitch dark spiral staircase, the bottom of the stairs was reached. Crossing the lower verandah, they entered the empty lampless hall. Passing through it, they came out on to the brick paved path of the garden. The bricks crunched under the tread of the bony feet. The faint moonlight struggled through the thick network of branches and the path was difficult to discern. Making their way through the flitting fireflies, which haunted the dark shadowy path, they reached the river(illegible text)

By those very steps, up wihich the (illegible text) had come, the jewelled Sketon went (illegible text)