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.Urmila discovered to her surprise that she knew his name: it was Romen Haldar.She'd heard him talked about at home: he lived in a huge house just down the road from their flat.She knew he was a wealthy builder and contractor, and that he had a lot of influence in a major club.Her younger brother, who dreamt of playing in the First Division, often talked of him.Now, recalling the incident, Urmila was able to laugh.'It was years ago,' she told Sonali.'I knocked a pot of flowers out of your hand: chrysanthemums.''I don't remember,' said Sonali.'Of course not,' said Urmila.'But you were very nice about it.So was Mrs Aratounian.She became a real friend after that.''So you know Mrs Aratounian well?' Sonali asked.'I visit her occasionally,' Urmila said, 'at her flat on Robinson Street.She's always been very kind to me.She's very interesting in her own crusty way.Besides, her flat is so peaceful – with all those plants and comfortable chairs and sofas.It's nice to escape from the magazine every once in a while.I drop in whenever I can.''I heard Mrs Aratounian retired and sold Dutton's,' Sonali said.'Must have made a fortune, with that location.''I don't know,' Urmila said.'I never asked.But actually I think she's having trouble making ends meet;'now that she's retired.She's always thinking up little schemes for making extra money."I've been in business all my life," she says – you know how she talks – "and as sure as an egg's an egg, I'm not going to stop now.'''Sonali laughed.'What are her schemes?' she said.'Her latest is that she's going to take in paying guests and turn her flat into a businessman's guest house.''No!' Sonali exclaimed in disbelief.'Yes,' Urmila continued.'She's even stuck a board on her door.The trouble is, no one ever sees it unless they're going up the stairs, so she hasn't had any guests yet.''What made her think of it?' Sonali asked.'I asked her that,' said Urmila.'And she said she got the idea because an old house on the other side of Robinson Street is being turned into a hotel, by a developer.She said: "The blackguard actually has the cheek to hang a sign on the lawn.Plain as a wart on the nose.'Site for the Robinson Hotel.' If he can do it, why can't I?'" And then suddenly Urmila froze in an attitude of dismay with her hands clapped over her open mouth.Sonali smiled, and took a cigarette out of her handbag.'She meant Romen, I suppose?' she said drily, flicking open her lighter.'Romen showed me that house on Robinson Street the other day.He's very proud of it; he's actually going to rebuild the place.' She puffed at the flame and allowed the smoke to curl slowly out of her pursed lips.Urmila began to mumble hurried apologies.Sonali laughed: 'Don't worry.I really don't mind what people say about Romen.You should hear how the wags go on about him at his club.Of course the Calcutta Wicket Club is the last place in the world where wags still survive and live to say waggish things.You should hear them when they start on Romen.'She gave Urmila a reassuring pat on the arm.'Have you ever met Romen?' she said.'No.' Urmila shook her head.'I just saw him that one time, at Dutton's, with you.''I think you'd like him,' Sonali said.'He's had an extraordinary life, you know.''Really?' Urmila said in a noncommittal voice.She remembered hearing that Romen Haldar had started with nothing; that he'd arrived at Calcutta's Sealdah Station without a coin in his pocket.Sonali nodded.'You'll see,' she said.'He's not at all the person people make him out to be.You'll meet him tonight: it's him I'm waiting for.He said he'd come over this evening.'The taxi stopped at a pair of heavy steel gates.Sonali began to fumble in her handbag, looking for money to pay the driver.A uniformed chowkidar stepped out of a booth.He took a careful look before allowing the taxi to enter the exclusive residential complex.There were four blocks of flats in the estate, set well apart, each at an angle to the others, so that every veranda looked out on its fair share of Alipore's greenery.As the taxi swung around the complex, Sonali glanced at one of the estate's parking areas.Urmila followed her eyes to a discreet little sign hanging over an empty spot.It said: Reserved, R.Haldar.Sonali sighed.'Romen isn't here yet,' she said.'We can talk until he comes.' Chapter 11SCRIBBLING A DATE on the restaurant's brightly coloured paper napkin, Murugan placed it before Antar.'Here's the deal,' he said.'It's May 1895 [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]