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E-Books (english-e-reader), A Nose for a Story (2)

A Nose for a Story (2)

'You were saying about Nyree Singh...' Desiree reminded him.

'Ah yes, Nyree... She was a remarkable woman - a woman who could have told the world a lot about the famous people she knew. I knew her well.'

Desiree's eyes opened wider. Nyree Singh's secrecy and hatred of publicity had been well known. 'Really? And did she tell you about... her secrets?'

'Not at all.'

Desiree almost got very angry but decided that silence was the best approach. She was right.

'But,' he continued, leaning over towards Desiree, 'she once told me, as her friend, that she kept a diary. "If the world only knew the secrets that I have written in this diary" she said to me, "they would be shocked."'

'Shocked?' said Desiree.

Patel looked at her with a concerned expression. 'If that diary were shown to the world, I tell you, there would be scandal. Scandal! Some people would be in serious trouble, I tell you! It's a good job her brother keeps it safe, or there would be a lot of respectable public figures who would be...'

'She has a brother?'

'Oh, yes. Her older brother, Gopal - her only relation.

He was like a father to her. Yes, he has all her things, including that diary. It's safe in his hands. He's just a lonely old man who lives for his memories of his sister. He'll probably get rid of it sooner or later.'

'Get rid of it?' thought Desiree. 'Not if I can help it!'

While Desiree was deep in conversation with Patel, Professor Cyril Whitelaw was enjoying a cool glass of iced lemon tea in his small but comfortable room at the Excelsior. He was celebrating his first day in India by reading Indian Summer, the last novel by Nyree Singh, for the sixth time. He would have to know her works in detail if he was to write a great book about this secretive author's life. His publishers were paying for everything and expected results.

He hoped to see the house where she had spent so many years of her life very soon. Who knows what he might find there? Perhaps - and this was his secret hope - he might find some unpublished writings! The thought made him shake with excitement.

Whitelaw put down Indian Summer and his lemon tea and got up from his chair. He then played one of his favourite games - looking in the mirror and imagining his face on the back cover of his important future book: Nyree Singh - Secretive Star, the book that would finally make his name as an expert on serious modern literature. The thin face that looked back at him was that of a man of late middle age, with pale red hair and glasses. Its skin was pink from the heat and was already showing the first signs of sunburn. It needed a shave.

He decided to clean himself up and dress for dinner. After that he would have a drink in the hotel lounge. 'You never know,' he thought, 'there might be someone out there who knew her!'

Twenty minutes later he walked into the lounge of the Excelsior, where nobody knew Professor Cyril Whitelaw.

At least, not yet.

'My dear Miss Malpen...' began Patel.

'Call me Desiree, please.'

'Of course... Desiree. May I please introduce my brightest star, my finest actor and leading man, Ravi Narayan. He's going to star in my new film - Indian Summer. I've always wanted to make a film of my favourite book by my dear friend Nyree Singh - and now I am.'

'You naughty man, Raj!' said Desiree, giving Patel a playful tap on the wrist. 'You didn't tell me we had another good-looking man in the hotel! Why, he's almost as handsome as you!'

Patel laughed. They all did. It was a game Desiree was good at playing with older men. But this other man was not a day over forty and yes, he was handsome. But where had she seen him before?

Ravi Narayan smiled with white film-star teeth and said how pleased he was to meet her. The voice was familiar, too. That was when Desiree remembered him. His handsome face had been the only thing that had kept her awake through viewings of Patel's boring films. Her editor had insisted she watch them as preparation for this interview. She was glad she had decided to put on her best perfume after all. Perhaps it had been worth it. Now there was another link with Nyree Singh - perhaps he had been her film star boyfriend!

'I thought that Hollywood was interested in filming that book, Raj. I don't mean to be rude but why are you making it and not them?' It was a fair question and Desiree was curious to know the answer.

'It's all thanks to Nyree's brother. He is responsible for all her books now. And he likes my films. He wants the film made in India by Indians. By this Indian!' Patel pointed to himself and laughed loudly. They all laughed.

Their conversation was being listened to by a very interested figure with pale red hair and glasses who was sitting by the bar not far away, unnoticed by them, busily writing in a notebook. It was Professor Whitelaw.

'Yes indeed. I've known him for years,' continued Patel. 'He's spent his life looking after his sister. He still lives in their old house in the village. Goodness knows, Nyree had enough money to buy a palace but she insisted on staying there. She said it kept her feet on the ground. But it was Gopal who did that, if you ask me. He is getting old now, though, and his health is getting worse but he won't move from the place,' said Patel.

'So he decides what happens to her books?' asked Desiree.

'Yes. There must be lots of unpublished stuff there. Including that diary I mentioned. I'd love to have a look but Gopal won't let anyone near - he's no fool,' said Patel as he gave her a knowing look.

'Neither am I,' thought Desiree, who was already making plans to visit Gopal the next day. She was determined to get that diary one way or another.

'But there I go talking about an old man,' went on Patel, 'when you have handsome Ravi to entertain you. Did I mention he was to star in my next film?'

Handsome Ravi talked about himself for the next hour or two, long after Whitelaw was gone. It soon became clear that Ravi had never even met Nyree Singh. And he didn't seem to notice Desiree's necklace at all.

The next morning, Gopal Singh was looking at the rising sun from his bedroom window. He was glad he had agreed to let his old friend Raj film Indian Summer. Nyree had always said that foreigners should film her books because only they could see India with a fresh eye. He had always told her that was nonsense. They had argued about it but what, in the end, could he say? They were not his books and that was that. But now he was responsible. He would do what was best. At last.

The previous night, Raj had told him on the phone that a silly journalist from that awful National Diary magazine wanted to see him. Raj, as Gopal well knew, had always liked attractive women - his marriage never changed that - but even he knew trouble when he saw it. And Desiree Malpen was trouble. No doubt about that. She was not interested in Indian films. That was for sure. So Raj had, with Gopal's permission, made up a story about a diary full of scandals about important people. Raj had been a good actor in his youth so, while he was talking to Desiree, he had pretended to be drunk and to be talking too much - he was good at that kind of thing. And she had believed every word, just as he had expected her to!

Of course, Raj and Gopal both knew that Nyree had never kept a diary in her life. He remembered Gopal once telling him about Nyree's little box of secrets, so he had quickly thought of the plan. They had realised that the filming of Indian Summer would attract interest outside India and not all of it welcome. Desiree Malpen was a good example. Raj told Gopal he could either send her away or he could carry out the joke. If she was more interested in scandal than his films she should not get any pity. Gopal laughed and told him to go ahead.

Good old Raj!

Desiree had also got up early that morning. Ravi Narayan had proved to be as good a talker as she was a listener. Perhaps better. Old Patel had smiled as he allowed his star to talk and talk and talk. Her cassette had soon finished and she hadn't got another. She had hoped to catch more details about Nyree Singh and her diary. Oh yes, there had been a lot mentioned - famous names, important names from all over the place - when Ravi took a breath and allowed Patel to talk for a while. This had not been often enough to please her, but by then her interest had been awakened. She was sure there was a story - and a big one, too. And as for Nyree's death in that so-called car accident! Had it really been an accident? There was the smell of scandal there, she just knew it!

She had phoned Nyree's brother and told him she wanted to get out quickly to see him. She was sure that old Gopal, or whatever his name was, would be as helpful as Patel had been, especially if he was a lonely old man. How could he refuse an attractive woman like her?

The diary would be hers. She was sure of it. Even if she had to steal it.

She decided she would wear a yellow trouser suit that would allow her to move freely around the place - she wanted to have a good look around when she got there. She looked great in the trouser suit and her appearance usually helped her get what she wanted. That and lots of nice perfume, of course. One had to smell nice.

Five minutes later she was on her way in a taxi. She had all the windows closed.

Later that morning Gopal Singh went out to change the flowers for fresh ones from the garden. The house needed the sweet smell. It had not been joined to the sewage system - it was an old house and still had no modern pipes. Waste was collected every month from a cesspit some distance away in the large garden. The cesspit was about two meters wide and over one meter deep and by the end of the month - as it was now - it smelled awful. But he was used to it.

As he walked down the garden he saw a man approaching, a middle-aged European man with glasses and pale red hair.

'Mr Singh?' said the man. 'May I have a word with you? It's about your sister.'

Gopal was always polite to visitors - if he liked the look of them. This man didn't look as if he meant any harm. He decided to speak with him.

Professor Whitelaw introduced himself and they were soon sitting in the house, drinking tea next to the new flowers. Whitelaw explained about his plans for a book about Nyree.

'It will be mostly about her work, you understand,' he said, rather nervously.

'Not about my sister's private life, I hope? Nyree was a very private person and I want that to be respected, even now,' Gopal said firmly.

'I would never mention anything without your permission, sir,' the professor said. 'This will be the kind of book students of serious literature will read, I assure you.'

Gopal felt happier when he heard this. Nyree had always attracted both students and teachers of literature. And there had to be a book sooner or later - it was bound to happen. When he heard Whitelaw tell him about his plans to write a book that would celebrate her work rather than the details of her private life, he knew that it would probably be the first of many.


A Nose for a Story (2)

'You were saying about Nyree Singh...' Desiree reminded him.

'Ah yes, Nyree... She was a remarkable woman - a woman who could have told the world a lot about the famous people she knew. I knew her well.'

Desiree's eyes opened wider. Nyree Singh's secrecy and hatred of publicity had been well known. 'Really? And did she tell you about... her secrets?'

'Not at all.'

Desiree almost got very angry but decided that silence was the best approach. She was right.

'But,' he continued, leaning over towards Desiree, 'she once told me, as her friend, that she kept a diary. "If the world only knew the secrets that I have written in this diary" she said to me, "they would be shocked."'

'Shocked?' said Desiree.

Patel looked at her with a concerned expression. 'If that diary were shown to the world, I tell you, there would be scandal. Scandal! Some people would be in serious trouble, I tell you! It's a good job her brother keeps it safe, or there would be a lot of respectable public figures who would be...'

'She has a brother?'

'Oh, yes. Her older brother, Gopal - her only relation.

He was like a father to her. Yes, he has all her things, including that diary. It's safe in his hands. He's just a lonely old man who lives for his memories of his sister. He'll probably get rid of it sooner or later.'

'Get rid of it?' thought Desiree. 'Not if I can help it!'

While Desiree was deep in conversation with Patel, Professor Cyril Whitelaw was enjoying a cool glass of iced lemon tea in his small but comfortable room at the Excelsior. He was celebrating his first day in India by reading Indian Summer, the last novel by Nyree Singh, for the sixth time. He would have to know her works in detail if he was to write a great book about this secretive author's life. His publishers were paying for everything and expected results.

He hoped to see the house where she had spent so many years of her life very soon. Who knows what he might find there? Perhaps - and this was his secret hope - he might find some unpublished writings! The thought made him shake with excitement.

Whitelaw put down Indian Summer and his lemon tea and got up from his chair. He then played one of his favourite games - looking in the mirror and imagining his face on the back cover of his important future book: Nyree Singh - Secretive Star, the book that would finally make his name as an expert on serious modern literature. The thin face that looked back at him was that of a man of late middle age, with pale red hair and glasses. Its skin was pink from the heat and was already showing the first signs of sunburn. It needed a shave.

He decided to clean himself up and dress for dinner. After that he would have a drink in the hotel lounge. 'You never know,' he thought, 'there might be someone out there who knew her!'

Twenty minutes later he walked into the lounge of the Excelsior, where nobody knew Professor Cyril Whitelaw.

At least, not yet.

'My dear Miss Malpen...' began Patel.

'Call me Desiree, please.'

'Of course... Desiree. May I please introduce my brightest star, my finest actor and leading man, Ravi Narayan. He's going to star in my new film - Indian Summer. I've always wanted to make a film of my favourite book by my dear friend Nyree Singh - and now I am.'

'You naughty man, Raj!' said Desiree, giving Patel a playful tap on the wrist. 'You didn't tell me we had another good-looking man in the hotel! Why, he's almost as handsome as you!'

Patel laughed. They all did. It was a game Desiree was good at playing with older men. But this other man was not a day over forty and yes, he was handsome. But where had she seen him before?

Ravi Narayan smiled with white film-star teeth and said how pleased he was to meet her. The voice was familiar, too. That was when Desiree remembered him. His handsome face had been the only thing that had kept her awake through viewings of Patel's boring films. Her editor had insisted she watch them as preparation for this interview. She was glad she had decided to put on her best perfume after all. Perhaps it had been worth it. Now there was another link with Nyree Singh - perhaps he had been her film star boyfriend!

'I thought that Hollywood was interested in filming that book, Raj. I don't mean to be rude but why are you making it and not them?' It was a fair question and Desiree was curious to know the answer.

'It's all thanks to Nyree's brother. He is responsible for all her books now. And he likes my films. He wants the film made in India by Indians. By this Indian!' Patel pointed to himself and laughed loudly. They all laughed.

Their conversation was being listened to by a very interested figure with pale red hair and glasses who was sitting by the bar not far away, unnoticed by them, busily writing in a notebook. It was Professor Whitelaw.

'Yes indeed. I've known him for years,' continued Patel. 'He's spent his life looking after his sister. He still lives in their old house in the village. Goodness knows, Nyree had enough money to buy a palace but she insisted on staying there. She said it kept her feet on the ground. But it was Gopal who did that, if you ask me. He is getting old now, though, and his health is getting worse but he won't move from the place,' said Patel.

'So he decides what happens to her books?' asked Desiree.

'Yes. There must be lots of unpublished stuff there. Including that diary I mentioned. I'd love to have a look but Gopal won't let anyone near - he's no fool,' said Patel as he gave her a knowing look.

'Neither am I,' thought Desiree, who was already making plans to visit Gopal the next day. She was determined to get that diary one way or another.

'But there I go talking about an old man,' went on Patel, 'when you have handsome Ravi to entertain you. Did I mention he was to star in my next film?'

Handsome Ravi talked about himself for the next hour or two, long after Whitelaw was gone. It soon became clear that Ravi had never even met Nyree Singh. And he didn't seem to notice Desiree's necklace at all.

The next morning, Gopal Singh was looking at the rising sun from his bedroom window. He was glad he had agreed to let his old friend Raj film Indian Summer. Nyree had always said that foreigners should film her books because only they could see India with a fresh eye. He had always told her that was nonsense. They had argued about it but what, in the end, could he say? They were not his books and that was that. But now he was responsible. He would do what was best. At last.

The previous night, Raj had told him on the phone that a silly journalist from that awful National Diary magazine wanted to see him. Raj, as Gopal well knew, had always liked attractive women - his marriage never changed that - but even he knew trouble when he saw it. And Desiree Malpen was trouble. No doubt about that. She was not interested in Indian films. That was for sure. So Raj had, with Gopal's permission, made up a story about a diary full of scandals about important people. Raj had been a good actor in his youth so, while he was talking to Desiree, he had pretended to be drunk and to be talking too much - he was good at that kind of thing. And she had believed every word, just as he had expected her to!

Of course, Raj and Gopal both knew that Nyree had never kept a diary in her life. He remembered Gopal once telling him about Nyree's little box of secrets, so he had quickly thought of the plan. They had realised that the filming of Indian Summer would attract interest outside India and not all of it welcome. Desiree Malpen was a good example. Raj told Gopal he could either send her away or he could carry out the joke. If she was more interested in scandal than his films she should not get any pity. Gopal laughed and told him to go ahead.

Good old Raj!

Desiree had also got up early that morning. Ravi Narayan had proved to be as good a talker as she was a listener. Perhaps better. Old Patel had smiled as he allowed his star to talk and talk and talk. Her cassette had soon finished and she hadn't got another. She had hoped to catch more details about Nyree Singh and her diary. Oh yes, there had been a lot mentioned - famous names, important names from all over the place - when Ravi took a breath and allowed Patel to talk for a while. This had not been often enough to please her, but by then her interest had been awakened. She was sure there was a story - and a big one, too. And as for Nyree's death in that so-called car accident! Had it really been an accident? There was the smell of scandal there, she just knew it!

She had phoned Nyree's brother and told him she wanted to get out quickly to see him. She was sure that old Gopal, or whatever his name was, would be as helpful as Patel had been, especially if he was a lonely old man. How could he refuse an attractive woman like her?

The diary would be hers. She was sure of it. Even if she had to steal it.

She decided she would wear a yellow trouser suit that would allow her to move freely around the place - she wanted to have a good look around when she got there. She looked great in the trouser suit and her appearance usually helped her get what she wanted. That and lots of nice perfume, of course. One had to smell nice.

Five minutes later she was on her way in a taxi. She had all the windows closed.

Later that morning Gopal Singh went out to change the flowers for fresh ones from the garden. The house needed the sweet smell. It had not been joined to the sewage system - it was an old house and still had no modern pipes. Waste was collected every month from a cesspit some distance away in the large garden. The cesspit was about two meters wide and over one meter deep and by the end of the month - as it was now - it smelled awful. But he was used to it.

As he walked down the garden he saw a man approaching, a middle-aged European man with glasses and pale red hair.

'Mr Singh?' said the man. 'May I have a word with you? It's about your sister.'

Gopal was always polite to visitors - if he liked the look of them. This man didn't look as if he meant any harm. He decided to speak with him.

Professor Whitelaw introduced himself and they were soon sitting in the house, drinking tea next to the new flowers. Whitelaw explained about his plans for a book about Nyree.

'It will be mostly about her work, you understand,' he said, rather nervously.

'Not about my sister's private life, I hope? Nyree was a very private person and I want that to be respected, even now,' Gopal said firmly.

'I would never mention anything without your permission, sir,' the professor said. 'This will be the kind of book students of serious literature will read, I assure you.'

Gopal felt happier when he heard this. Nyree had always attracted both students and teachers of literature. And there had to be a book sooner or later - it was bound to happen. When he heard Whitelaw tell him about his plans to write a book that would celebrate her work rather than the details of her private life, he knew that it would probably be the first of many.