Train of tales Children

A treasure of sorts

Illustration: Sonal Goyal  

The story so far: Neel and Mohit are terrified to find bricks flying out of the fireplace on their own. When they explore, along with Susan, they find a hidden space.

Neel stared into the fireplace. “I’m not touching it!” he said. “Suppose it’s an animal trap or something and it snaps shut on me?”

He and Mohit sat back on their heels to think about what they should do but Susan didn’t wait. She just leaned in and pulled out what was in the hidden space.

It was a tin.

“Treasure!” said Mohit and Neel together, brave once again and anxious to get their hands on the tin.

“Does it look like the kind of thing in which treasure would be hidden?” she asked, putting the old and rusty tin on the floor. The boys didn’t reply.

They kept staring at the tin but didn’t want to touch it, so Susan pried it open. There was a book wrapped in an oil cloth inside.

Priced pages

“Maybe it has a treasure map in it!” said Mohit.

“Really? A full book’s worth of treasure maps?” scoffed Neel.

Susan intervened. “Stop it! Let’s see what’s in it. We have found it for a reason.” She opened the book and turned the yellowed pages carefully. They were covered with squiggles and numbers and more squiggles. “I can’t read it!” she wailed. ‘It’s in another language!’

“It must be someone’s diary with directions to a treasure!” said Mohit.

“With numbers?” said Susan.

“Uh – uh – you know, a paint-with-numbers kind of thing…” improvised Mohit.

“Oh, it could be someone’s accounts…” said Neel.

“…of the amount of treasure they have hidden…” said Mohit, refusing to let go of his treasure idea.

Neel and Susan burst out laughing.

Susan murmured, “Maybe it’s a diary of meetings between two people. You know, dates and things…”

*****

It was a full week later when Susan came panting up the hill to the two boys when they were eating lunch under the trees.

“You won’t believe what’s in that book!’ said Susan. “I got someone to translate for me; and you were right. It is a treasure book of sorts.”

The boys sat up straight. “What do you mean?’

“You know how our great-great-something-grandfathers were taken away from India and made to work in Fiji? That book had a record of all the financial dealings of the owner of that big house and it showed that he had secretly sold people to be shipped off to foreign countries…”

Neel was thunderstruck. “So the fireplace was really trying to tell us something, wasn’t it?”

Susan nodded. “And we were meant to find the book. The facts, figures, names are all here. It is like a historical document.”

Mohit said, “Do you know? I have a feeling that now, if we brick up that fireplace, it will stay bricked up!”

Neel made a face at him. “So, just go and do it!” he said. “I think you’re beginning to enjoy working!”

Mohit laughed and put his arm on his shoulders. “So are you, my friend, so are you. So, let’s do it together!”

The end

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 3:00:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/a-treasure-of-sorts/article34344935.ece

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