Amaru liked to take a walk each day, and he always followed the same route: down the dusty road that ran through the village, so that he could observe the children, the women at their work, and the old people nodding in the shade; then he turned onto a path that led through a little wood down into a dark, quiet, green place, where he would sit and just listen.
One day, as he was approaching this path, he noticed a box lying in the weeds near the road. It was made of wood, and there were floral designs carved on the lid. Amaru looked about him, but could see no one nearby. He wondered who might have lost such an elaborate box; but was soon on his way again.
The next day, the box was still there. Amaru stooped to look at it more closely, and he could see that it had a hinged lid locked with a tiny brass padlock. Amaru was intrigued, but he reflected that it surely must belong to someone in the village--perhaps Mr. Mehta, the richest man for miles around. So he resumed his walk. But he did wonder what might be inside the box.
Each day, Amaru walked past, and each day the Box beckoned to him. Finally, Amaru began to ask people about it. No one had lost a box, and indeed no one had even noticed this one lying near the road. More and more, Amaru thought about what might be inside it, if anything.
He began to imagine, as he sat on his veranda in the sweet twilight, the Box filled with wonderful jewels. Or with something magic, meant only for him, such as an amulet or a peacock feather. Then he would shake his head and try to think of something else. But he kept coming back to it. And why had no one picked up the box by now?
Then one day, the rains started. Amaru hurried out during a short lull in the downpour and went to get the Box, which would surely be ruined by the rain. But when he arrived at the spot, it was gone. Amaru looked frantically all around, even running down his path to the place below where he had spent so many placid hours. But he could not find the Box.
It began to rain again, and Amaru went home.
That night, Amaru had a dream. He was led inside a king’s palace by someone that he could not see, and found himself in a huge room covered with gorgeous carpets and furnished with a single, low table. On this table was the carved wooden Box.
Amaru looked closely at the box, his dream heart beating wildly. At last he would see what was inside! The padlock had disappeared, and Amaru reached out to open the lid--and snatched his hand back again as the lid opened and a large brown snake sat up on his coils and regarded Amaru intently.
“O Amaru,” hissed the snake, “you are always looking for that which you have not, and seeing not the treasures that you have!”
And the snake slowly began to sway, and as it swayed back and forth it became shorter and shorter in length until finally it was lying straight and still in the box. Amaru cautiously moved closer, and saw that the snake had turned into a flute--a very familiar looking flute.
Amaru awoke suddenly, even though the dawn was still to come. He went straight to the small pile of possessions his grandfather had left behind when he died. And there was the flute, just as it had appeared in the dream!
After that, Amaru was never lonely, and he was never seen without his flute, which he learned to play most beautifully.