The boys exercised great caution over the next few days; the thief had taken a break and there were no thieving incidents for eight to ten days. This, however, grieved Jaladhar immensely. "You chaps have spoiled everything by creating a furore. The thief has realised I am after him; can he dare to steal now? Fortunately, I did not disclose the thief's identity." But on the same day we learned the thief had stolen food from the headmaster's cabin. This incident provided us with some ammunition to tease Jaladhar. "Well, Mr Detective! You claimed the thief has abandoned his criminal activities out of fear for you. He seems to have overcome his fright!" we mocked.
The perpetual cynical smile on Jaladhar's lips disappeared, and he remained glum for two days. The thief's temerity baffled him completely; the thought troubled him so much that he could not pay attention in class, and almost came to be caned by the teacher. After two days, he called us for a meeting and said he had devised a plan to catch the thief red-handed. The plan was thus: during the lunch hour he would place a plateful of food on the table, and then no one was to enter the lunch room. The interior of the lunch room could be easily observed by hiding outside. The boys were divided into groups with each group taking up a strategic position from where to observe the lunch room. It was, thus, impossible for anyone to enter the lunch room unobserved!
The plan caught our fancy and none of us could pay attention in class; we waited eagerly for the bell to ring to announce lunch time. We discussed in hushed whispers what we would do with the thief once we caught him. This, of course, irritated the teacher and he asked Paresh and Vishwanath to stand on the bench. The minutes dragged, and it is only after ages that the bell finally rang to announce the lunch break. Jaladhar immediately went to the lunch room and placed the plateful of food on the table. A group of boys, including Jaladhar, then entered a room at the corner of the lawn and glued themselves to the window. Another group took up position in the gym.
Jaladhar instructed us on what we should do once we sighted the thief. "The thief is apparently very cunning and bold. It will not be wise to attack him physically - he is certain to be very strong. I suggest we should throw ink at him and raise an alarm. This will cause the watchmen to rush to our assistance; if the thief tries to escape he will be easily identified because of the ink stains."
Ramapoda was not convinced about the thief's physical prowess. "What makes you think he is strong?" he asked. "He doesn't seem to eat much; whatever food he steals is not much."
Jaladhar made a face at him and replied, "You are indeed smart! Do you think strong people eat a lot? If that is the case then we should say our Shyamadas is very strong; you should have have seen him eat at the feast hosted by the Ghosh family the other day. Don't argue with me. If you think you have the courage to tackle the thief do it, we will not interfere. I know this thief is no ordinary thief; I am sure he is the same thief who had committed theft in our house."
At that moment we saw the left window of the lunch room open slightly; it was as if someone was pushing it from inside. Then we saw a flash of white spring out of the window into the lawns. we watched with bated breath; it was a huge Tom cat and it had Jaladhar's "shor bhaja (a sweet)" in its mouth.
You should have seen Jaladhar's face; he remained staring at the lawn with his jaws wide open. We asked, "Mr Detective, is this hefty thief the one who had committed theft in your house? Let's hand him over to the police then."