3

One day, Raicharan abruptly gave up the employment. He handed some money to Felna and said, "I am going to my native village for a few days." Raicharan arrived at the home of Anukulbabu who was now a magistrate.

Anukulbabu did not have a second child, and his wife was still finding it difficult to come to terms following the loss of her only son.

One evening Anukulbabu was resting at home after returning from court. His wife was consulting a mendicant and obtaining some expensive herbs from him that was assured to bless her with a child. Just then a voice of greeting was heard from the courtyard, "I bow to you, mother."

"Who is there?" Anukulbabu called out.

Raicharan came forward and touched Anukulbabu's feet. "I am Raicharan," he said.

Anukulbabu was moved upon seeing old and bent Raicharan. After inquiring into his circumstances, Anukulbabu suggested that Raicharan should once again come and work for him.

Raicharan smiled faintly, and said he wished to pay his respects to Anukulbabu's wife.

Anukulbabu took him inside the house. Anukulbau's wife could not welcome Raicharan as sincerely as her husband had done. But Raicharan did not seem to notice. "Mother, it is I who stole your child. It was neither the Padma nor anybody else ... It was me," he said.

"What are you saying! Where is he?" Anukulbabu exclaimed.

"He is with me, and I will bring him here the day after tomorrow."

It was Sunday, and Anukulbabu did not have to attend court. His wife and he remained at home waiting impatiently for Raicharan's arrival. Raicharan came with Felna around 10 am. Without asking any questions, Anukulbabu's wife drew Felna to herself, caressed him fondly, and gazed at his face with insatiable eys. She laughed and sobbed at the same time. The boy was good-looking, and did not appear as if poverty had ever touched him. His face had a gentle glow. Upon seeing the boy, Anukulbabu was also filled with affection for him.

However he wanted to know, "Is there any proof he is my son?"

"How can there be any proof of such a thing?" Raicharan said. "It is only God who knows that I stole your child; nobody else in the world knows anything about it."

Anukulbabu decided that the manner in which his wife had accepted the boy as her son, it would be unwise to seek proofs. It would be better to believe Raicharan. Besides, from where could Raicharan have found such a cultured boy, and why should his old servant be playing mean games on him? Anukulbabu thought.

Anukulbabu spoke to the boy who told him he had been living with Raicharan since his childhood. The boy said he had looked upon Raicharan as a father, but Raicharan had always behaved more like a servant.

Anukulbabu was now convinced. But turning to his former servant he said, "Raicharan you will have to leave us, and never come here again."

"Where will I go in my old age master?" Raicharan asked.

"Oh, don't be so stern. I have forgiven him," Anukulbabu's wife said.

But Anukulbabu, an upholder of justice, said, "One who has done wrong should be punished."

Raicharan clutched at Anukulbabu's feet and said, "I did not do it on my own accord; God made me do it."

Anukulbabu was even more disgusted at Raicharan's efforts to shift the blame on God for his own evil doings. "One who has committed such a great betrayal cannot be trusted ever again."

Raicharan said, "I am not the betrayer, master."

"Who is responsible for this act, then?"

"My fate."

A highly educated person like Anukulbabu could not accept such arguments.

"I have nobody else in the world," Raicharan told him.

When Felna saw he was a magistrate's son, and that Raicharan had stolen him and disgraced him by claiming to be his father, he felt a little angry. Yet, he said with a touch of generosity while addressing Anukulbabu, "Father, forgive him. If you cannot employ him and keep him here, at least arrange for a monthly allowance for him."

At this, Raicharan did not utter a single word. He scrutinized his son's face for a while, and after seeking the blessings of Anukulbabu and his wife, stepped out of the house and was lost among the vast multitude outside. At the end of the month when Anukulbabu sent some money at Raicharan's address in his village, the money was returned. There was no person by the name of Raicharan residing at that address.

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