‘Oh that’s the tree,’ gaunt Prabhu cried out in ecstasy. Fat Prabhu nodded to indicate that he too had seen it and they climbed down the slope of the embankment and made for the tree. The path was strewn with thorny thickets, titillating bushes and furthermore snakes could be lurking in the thick bushes. They battered down the bushes and thickets with the long bamboo clubs they had brought along and advanced slowly toward the tree and reaching at the bottom of the tall old saal tree they started to examine the trunk of the tree closely and were elated to find the red vermillion mark at a height of five feet. It was an asterisk drawn neatly by vermillion dissolved in oil so as to save the marking from being washed off by rain water. They removed the creepers from beneath the red marking and were reassured to find the markings edged out deeply in the trunk. Both of them smiled jubilantly.

‘Now we are to move straight to the twentieth tree and then take a right urn,’ gaunt Prabhu said.

‘Wait a bit and let us examine the map and guidelines once again,’ Fat Prabhu said calmly. Fat Prabhu reached into his shirt pocket and took out the role of paper, worn yellow by time and carefully unfurled it so that the crisp sheet does not tear. They examined the paper carefully and thereafter moved forward, beating down the bushes and counting the trees they had passed.


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