FAMOUS FELUDA - DANGER IN DARJEELING- Satyajit Ray in English Detective stories by Utopian Mirror books and stories PDF | FAMOUS FELUDA - DANGER IN DARJEELING- Satyajit Ray

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I saw Rajen Babu come to the Mall every day. He struck me as an amiable old man. All his hair had turned grey, and his face always wore a cheerful expression. He generally spent a few minutes in the corner shop that sold old Nepali and Tibetan things; then he came and sat on a bench in the Mall for about half-an-hour, until it started to get dark. After that he went straight home. One day, I followed him quietly to see where he lived. He turned around just as we reached his front gate and asked, ‘Who are you? Why have you been following me?’

‘My name is Tapesh Ranjan,’ I replied quickly.

‘Well then, here is a lozenge for you,’ he said, offering me a lemon drop. ‘Come to my house one day. I’ll show you my collection of masks,’ he added.
Who knew that this friendly old soul would get into such trouble? Why, he seemed totally incapable of getting involved with anything even remotely sinister!

Feluda snapped at me when I mentioned this. ‘How can you tell just by looking at someone what he might get mixed up with?’ he demanded.
This annoyed me. ‘What do you know of Rajen Babu?’ I said. ‘He’s a good man. A very kind man. He has done a lot for the poor Nepali people who live in slums. There’s no reason why he should be in trouble. I know. I see him every day. You haven’t seen him even once. In fact, I’ve hardly seen you go out at all since we came to Darjeeling.’

‘All right, all right. Let’s have all the details then. What would a little boy like you know of danger, anyway?’

Now, this wasn’t fair. I was not a little boy any more. I was thirteen and a half. Feluda was twenty seven.

To tell you the truth, I came to know about the trouble Rajen Babu was in purely by accident. I was sitting on a bench in the Mall today, waiting for the band to start playing. On my left was Tinkori Babu, reading a newspaper. He had recently arrived from Calcutta to spend the summer in Darjeeling, and had taken a room on rent in Rajen Babu’s house. I was trying to lean over his shoulder and look at the sports page, when Rajen Babu arrived panting and collapsed on the empty portion of our bench, next to Tinkori Babu. He looked visibly shaken.

‘What’s the matter?’ asked Tinkori Babu, folding his newspaper. ‘Did you just run up a hill?’

‘No, no,’ Rajen Babu replied cautiously, wiping his face with one corner of his scarf. ‘Something incredible has happened.’
I knew what ‘incredible’ meant. Feluda was quite partial to the word.
‘What do you mean?’ Tinkori Babu asked.

‘Look, here it is,’ Rajen Babu passed a piece of folded blue paper to Tinkori Babu. I could tell it was a letter, but made no attempt to read it when Tinkori Babu unfolded it. I looked away instead, humming under my breath to indicate a complete lack of interest in what the two old men were discussing. But I heard Tinkori Babu remark, ‘You’re right, it is incredible! Who could possibly write such a threatening letter to you?’

‘I don’t know. That’s what’s so puzzling. I don’t remember having deliberately caused anyone any harm. As far as I know, I have no enemies.’

Tinkori Babu leant towards his neighbour. ‘We’d better not talk about this in public,’ he whispered. ‘Let’s go home.’

The two gentlemen left.

Feluda remained silent for a while after I had finished my story. Then he frowned and said, ‘You mean you think we need to investigate?’

‘Why, didn’t you tell me you were looking for a mystery? And you said you had read so many detective novels that you could work as a sleuth yourself!’

‘Yes, that’s true. I could prove it, too. I didn’t go to the Mall today, did I? But I could tell you which side you sat on.’

‘All right, which side was it?’

‘You chose a bench on the right side of the Radha restaurant, didn’t you?’

‘That’s terrific. How did you guess?’

‘The sun came out this evening. Your left cheek looks sunburnt but the right one is all right. This could happen only if you sat on that side of the Mall. That’s the bit that catches the evening sunshine.’


‘Yes. Anyway, I think we should go and visit Mr Rajen Majumdar.’

‘Another seventy-seven steps.’

‘And what if it’s not?’

‘It has to be, Feluda. I counted the last time.’

‘Remember you’ll get knocked on the head if you’re wrong.’

‘OK, but not too hard. A sharp knock may damage my brain.’ To my amazement, seventy-seven steps later, we were still at some distance from Rajen Babu’s gate. Another twenty-three brought us right up to it. Feluda hit my head lightly, and asked, ‘Did you count the steps on your way back?’


‘That explains it. You went down the hill on your way back, you idiot. You must have taken very big steps.’

‘Well . . . yes, maybe.’

‘I’m sure you did. You see, young people always tend to take big, long steps when going downhill. Older people have to be more cautious, so they take smaller, measured steps.’

We went in through the gate. Feluda pressed the calling bell. Someone in the distance was listening to a radio.

‘Have you decided what you’re going to say to him?’ I asked. ‘That’s my business. You, my dear, will keep your mouth shut.’

‘Even if they ask me something.? You mean I shouldn’t even make a reply?’

‘Shut up.’

A Nepali servant opened the door. ‘Andar aaiye,’ he said.

We stepped into the living room. Made of wood, the house had a lovely old charm. All the furniture in the room was made of cane. The walls were covered with strange masks, most showing large teeth and wearing rather unpleasant expressions. Some of them frightened me. Apart from these, the room was full of old weapons—shields and swords and daggers. Beside these hung pictures of the Buddha, painted on cloth. Heaven knew how old they were, but the golden colour that had been used had not faded at all.

We took two cane chairs. Feluda rose briefly to inspect the walls. Then he came back and said, ‘All the nails are new. So Rajen Babu’s passion for antiques must have developed only recently.’

Rajen Babu came into the room. Feluda sprang to his feet and said, ‘Do you remember me? I am Joykrishna Mitter’s son, Felu.’

Rajen Babu looked a little taken aback at first. Then his face broke into a smile. ‘Felu? Of course I remember you. My word, you have become a young man! How is everyone at home? Is your father here?’

As Feluda answered these questions, I sat trying to hide my astonishment. How unfair the whole thing was—why hadn’t Feluda told me that he knew Rajen Babu?
It turned out that Rajen Babu had worked in Calcutta for many years as a lawyer. He had once helped Feluda’s father fight a case. He had come to Darjeeling and settled here ten years ago, soon after his retirement.

Feluda introduced me to him. He showed no sign of recognition. Perhaps the matter of offering me a lozenge a week ago had slipped his mind completely.

‘You’re fond of antiques, I see,’ said Feluda conversationally. ‘Yes. It’s turned almost into an obsession.’

‘How long—?’

‘Over the last six months. But I’ve managed to collect quite a lot of things.’

Feluda cleared his throat. Then he told Rajen Babu what he had heard from me, and ended by saying, ‘I still remember how you had helped my father. If I could do anything in return . . .’

Rajen Babu looked both pleased and relieved. But before he could say anything, Tinkori Babu walked into the room. From the way he was breathing, it appeared that he had just come back after his evening walk. Rajen Babu made the introductions. ‘Tinkori Babu happens to be a neighbour of Gyanesh, a friend of mine. When this friend heard that I was going to let one of my rooms, he suggested that I give it to Tinkori Babu. He would have gone to a hotel otherwise.’

Tinkori Babu laughed. ‘I did hesitate to take up his offer, I must admit; chiefly because of my special weakness for cheroots. You see, Rajen Babu might well have objected to the smell. So I wrote to him first to let him know. He said he didn’t mind, so here I am.’

‘Are you here simply for a change of air?’

‘Yes, but the air, I’ve noticed, isn’t as cool and fresh as one might have expected.’

‘Are you fond of music?’ asked Feluda unexpectedly.

‘Yes, but how did you guess?’ Tinkori Babu gave a startled smile. ‘Well, I noticed your finger,’ Feluda explained. ‘You were beating it on top of your walking-stick, in keeping with the rhythm of that song from the radio.’

‘You’re quite right,’ Rajen Babu laughed, ‘he sings Shyamasangeet.’

Feluda changed the subject. ‘Do you have the letter here?’ he asked.

‘Oh yes. Right next to my heart,’ said Rajen Babu and took it out of the inside pocket of his jacket. Feluda spread it out.

It was not handwritten. A few printed words had been cut out of books or newspapers and pasted on a sheet of paper. ‘Be prepared to pay for your sins,’ it read.

‘Did this come by post?’

‘Yes. It was posted in Darjeeling, but I’m afraid I threw the envelope away.’

‘Have you reason to suspect anyone?’

‘No. For the life of me, I cannot recall ever having harmed anyone.’

‘Do certain people visit you regularly?’

‘Well, I don’t get too many visitors. Dr Phoni Mitra comes occasionally if I happen to be ill.’

‘Is he a good doctor?’

‘About average, I should say. But then, my complaints have always been quite ordinary—I mean, no more than the usual coughs and colds. So I haven’t had to look for a really good doctor.’

‘Does he charge a fee?’

‘Of course. But that’s hardly a problem. I’ve got plenty of money, thank God.’

‘Who else visits you?’

‘A Mr Ghoshal has recently started coming to my house . . . look, here he is!’ A man of medium height wearing a dark suit was shown into the room.

‘Did I hear my name?’ he asked with a smile.
‘Yes, I was just about to tell these people that you share my interest in antiques. Allow me to introduce them.’

After exchanging greetings, Mr Ghoshal—whose full name was Abanimohan Ghoshal—said to Rajen Babu, ‘I thought I’d drop by since you didn’t come to the shop today.’

‘N-no, I wasn’t feeling very well, so I decided to stay in.’

It was clear that Rajen Babu did not want to tell Mr Ghoshal about the letter. Feluda had hidden it the minute Mr Ghoshal had walked in.

‘All right, if you’re busy today, I’ll come back another time . . . actually, I wanted to take a look at that Tibetan bell,’ said Mr Ghoshal.

‘Oh, that’s not a problem at all. I’ll get it for you.’ Rajen Babu disappeared into the house to fetch the bell.

‘Do you live here in Darjeeling?’ Feluda asked Mr Ghoshal, who had picked up a dagger and was looking at it closely. ‘No,’ he replied, turning the dagger in his hand. ‘I don’t stay in any one place for very long. I have to travel a lot. But I like collecting curios.’ Feluda told me afterwards that a curio was a rare and ancient object of art.

Rajen Babu returned with the bell. It was really striking to look at. Its base was made of silver, the handle was a mixture of brass and copper, which was studded with colourful stones. Mr Ghoshal took a long time to examine it carefully. Then he put it down on a table and said, ‘You got yourself a very good deal there. It’s absolutely genuine.’

‘Ah, that’s a relief. You’re the expert, of course. The man at the shop told me it came straight out of the household of the Dalai Lama.’

‘That may well be true. But I don’t suppose you’d want to part with it? I mean . . . suppose you got a handsome offer?’

Rajen Babu shook his head, smiling sweetly.

‘No. You see, I bought that bell simply because I liked it, I have no wish to sell it only to make money.’

‘Very well,’ Mr Ghoshal rose. ‘I hope you’ll be out and about tomorrow.’

‘Thank you. I hope so, too.’

When Mr Ghoshal had gone, Feluda said to Rajen Babu, ‘Don’t you think it might be wise not to go out of the house for the next few days?’

‘Yes, you’re probably right. But this business of an anonymous letter is so incredible that I cannot really bring myself to take it seriously. It just seems like a foolish practical joke!’

‘Well, why don’t you stay in until we can be definite about that? How long have you had that Nepali servant?’

‘Right from the start. He is completely reliable.’

Feluda now turned to Tinkori Babu. ‘Do you stay at home most of the time?’

‘Yes, but I go for morning and evening walks, so I’m out of the house for a couple of hours every day. In any case, should there be any real danger, I doubt if I could do anything to help. I am sixty four, younger than Rajen Babu by only a year.’

‘Don’t involve poor Tinkori Babu in this, please,’ Rajen Babu said. ‘After all, he’s come here to relax, so let him enjoy himself. I’ll stay in if you insist, together with my servant. You two can come and visit me every day, if you so wish.’

‘All right.’

Feluda stood up. So did I. It was time to go.

There was a fireplace in front of us. Over it, on a mantelshelf, were three framed photographs. Feluda moved closer to the fireplace to look at these. ‘My wife,’ said Rajen Babu, pointing at the first photograph. ‘She died barely five years after our marriage.’

The second photo was of a young boy, who must have been about my own age when the photo was taken. A handsome boy indeed. ‘Who is this?’ Feluda asked.

Rajen Babu began laughing. ‘That photo is there simply to show how time can change everything. Would you believe that that is my own photograph, taken when I was a child? I used to go to a missionary school in Bankura in those days. My father was the magistrate there. But don’t let those angelic looks deceive you. I might have been a good-looking child, but I was extremely naughty. My teachers were all fed up with me. In fact, I didn’t spare the students, either. I remember having kicked the best runner in our school in a hundred-yards race to stop him from winning.’

The third photo was of a young man in his late twenties. It turned out to be Rajen Babu’s only child, Prabeer Majumdar.

‘Where is he now?’ Feluda asked.

Rajen Babu cleared his throat. ‘I don’t know,’ he said after a pause. ‘He left home sixteen years ago. There is virtually no contact between us.’

Feluda started walking towards the front door. ‘A very interesting case,’ he muttered. Now he was talking like the detectives one read about.

We came out of the house. It was already dark outside. Lights had been switched on in every house nestling in the hills. A mist was rising from the Rangeet valley down below. Rajen Babu and Tinkori Babu both walked up to the gate to see us off. Rajen Babu lowered his voice and said to Feluda, ‘Actually, I have to confess that despite everything, I do feel faintly nervous. After all, something like this in this peaceful atmosphere was so totally unexpected . . .’

‘Don’t worry,’ said Feluda firmly. ‘I’ll definitely get to the bottom of this case.’

‘Thank you. Goodbye!’ said Rajen Babu and went back into the house. Tinkori Babu lingered. ‘I am truly impressed by your power of observation,’ he said. ‘I, too, have read a large number of detective novels. Maybe I can help you with this case.’

‘Really? How?’

‘Look at the letter in your hand. Take the various printed words. Do they tell you anything?’

Feluda thought for a few seconds. ‘The words were cut out with a blade, not scissors,’ he said.

‘Very good.’

‘Second, each word has come from a different source—the typeface and the quality of paper vary from each other.’

‘Yes. Can you guess what those different sources might be?’

‘These two words—“prepared” and “pay”—appear to be a newspaper.’

‘Right. Ananda Bazar.’

‘How can you tell?’
‘Only Ananda Bazar uses that typeface. And the other words were taken out of books, I think. Not very old books, mind you, for those different typefaces have been in use over the last twenty years, and no more. Apart from this, does the smell of the glue tell you anything?’

‘I think the sender used Grippex glue.’

‘I might say the same for you.’

Tinkori Babu smiled. ‘I try, but at your age, my dear fellow, I doubt if I knew what the word “detective” meant.’

We said namaskar after this and went on our way. ‘I don’t yet know whether I can solve this mystery,’ said Feluda on the way back to our hotel, ‘but getting to know Tinkori Babu would be an added bonus.’

‘If he is so good at crime detection, why don’t you let him do all the hard work? Why waste your own time making enquiries?’

‘Ah well, Tinkori Babu might know a lot about printing and typefaces, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’d know everything!’

Feluda’s answer pleased me. I bet Tinkori Babu isn’t as clever as Feluda, I thought. Aloud, I said, ‘Who do you suppose is the culprit?’

‘The culp—’ Feluda broke off. I saw him turn around and glance at a man who had come from the opposite direction and had just passed us.

‘Did you see him?’

‘No, I didn’t see his face.’

‘The light from that street lamp fell on his face for only a second, and I thought—’


‘No, never mind. Let’s go, I feel quite hungry.

Feluda is my cousin. He and I were in Darjeeling with my father for a holiday. Father had got to know some of the other guests in our hotel fairly well, and was spending most of his time with them. He didn’t stop us from going wherever we wished, nor did he ask too many questions.

I woke a little later than usual the next day. Father was in the room, but there was no sign of Feluda.

‘Felu left early this morning,’ Father explained. ‘He said he’d try to catch a glimpse of Kanchenjunga.’

I knew this couldn’t be true. Feluda must have gone out to investigate, which was most annoying because he wasn’t supposed to go out without me. Anyway, I had a quick cup of tea, and then I went out myself.

I spotted Feluda near a taxi stand. ‘This is not fair!’ I complained. ‘Why did you go out alone?’

‘I was feeling a bit feverish, so I went to see a doctor.’

‘Dr Phoni Mitra?’

‘Aha, you’re beginning to use your brain, too!’

‘What did he say?’

‘He charged me four rupees and wrote out a prescription.’

‘Is he a good doctor?’

‘Do you think a good doctor would write a prescription for someone in perfect health? Besides, his house looked old and decrepit. I don’t think he has a good practice.’

‘Then he couldn’t have sent that letter.’

‘Why not?’

‘A poor man wouldn’t dare.’

‘Yes, he would, if he was desperate for money.’

‘But that letter said nothing about money.’

‘There was no need to ask openly.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘How did Rajen Babu strike you yesterday?’

‘He seemed a little frightened.’

‘Fear can make anyone ill.’


‘Yes, seriously ill. And if that happened, he’d naturally turn to his doctor. What might happen then is something even a fathead like you can figure out, I’m sure.’

How clever Feluda was! But if Dr Mitra had really planned the whole thing the way Feluda described, he must be extraordinarily crafty, too.

By this time, we had reached the Mall. As we came near the fountain, Feluda suddenly said, ‘I feel a bit curious about curios.’ We were, in fact, standing quite close to the Nepal Curio Shop. Rajen Babu and Mr Ghoshal visited this shop every day. Feluda and I walked into the shop. Its owner came forward to greet us. He had a light grey jacket on, a muffler round his neck, and wore a black cap with golden embroidery. He beamed at us genially.

The shop was cluttered with old and ancient objects. A strange musty smell came from them. It was quiet inside. Feluda looked around for a while, then said, sounding important, ‘Do you have good tankhas?’

‘Come into the next room, sir. We’ve sold what was really good. But we’re expecting some fresh stock soon.’

‘What is a tankha?’ I whispered.

‘You’ll know when you see one,’ Feluda whispered back.

The next room was even smaller and darker. The owner of the shop brought out a painting of the Buddha, done on a piece of silk. ‘This is the last piece left, but it’s a little damaged,’ he said. So this was a tankha! Rajen Babu had heaps of these in his house. Feluda examined the tankha like an expert, peering at it closely, and then looking at it from various angles. Three minutes later, he said, ‘This doesn’t appear to be more than seventy years old. I am looking for something much older than that, at least three hundred years, you see.’

‘We’re getting some new things this evening, sir. You might find what you’re looking for if you came back later today.’

‘This evening, did you say?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Oh, I must inform Rajen Babu.’

‘Mr Majumdar? He knows about it already. All my regular customers are coming in the evening to look at the fresh arrivals.’

‘Does Mr Ghoshal know?’

‘Of course.’

‘Who else is a regular buyer?’

‘There’s Mr Gilmour, the manager of a tea estate. He visits my shop twice a week. Then there’s Mr Naulakha. But he’s away in Sikkim at present.’

‘All right, I’ll try to drop in in the evening . . . Topshe, would you like a mask?’ I couldn’t resist the offer. Feluda selected one himself and paid for it. ‘This was the most horrendous of them all,’ he remarked, passing it to me. He had once told me there was no such word as ‘horrendous’. It was really a mixture of ‘tremendous’ and ‘horrible’. But I must say it was rather an appropriate word for the mask.

Feluda started to say something as we came out of the shop, but stopped abruptly. I found him staring at a man once again. Was it the same man he had seen last night? He was a man in his early forties, expensively dressed in a well-cut suit. He had stopped in the middle of the Mall to light his pipe. His eyes were hidden behind dark glasses. Somehow he looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t recall ever having met him before.

Feluda stepped forward and approached him. ‘Excuse me,’ he said, ‘are you Mr Chatterjee?’

‘No,’ replied the man, biting the end of his pipe, ‘I am not.’ Feluda appeared to be completely taken aback. ‘Strange! Aren’t you staying at the Central Hotel?’

The man smiled a little contemptuously. ‘No, I am at the Mount Everest; and I don’t have a twin,’ he said and strode off in the direction of Observatory Hill.

I noticed he was carrying a brown parcel, on which were printed the words ‘Nepal Curio Shop’.

‘Feluda!’ I said softly. ‘Do you think he bought a mask like mine?’

‘Yes, he may well have done that. After all, those masks weren’t all meant for your own exclusive use, were they? Anyway, let’s go and have a cup of coffee.’ We turned towards a coffee shop. ‘Did you recognize that man?’ asked Feluda.

‘How could I,’ I replied, ‘when you yourself failed to recognize him?’

‘Who said I had failed?’

‘Of course you did! You got his name wrong, didn’t you?’

‘Why are you so stupid? I did that deliberately, just to get him to tell me where he was staying. Do you know what his real name is?’

‘No. What is it?’

‘Prabeer Majumdar.’

‘Yes, yes, you’re right! Rajen Babu’s son, isn’t he? We saw his photograph yesterday. No wonder he seemed familiar. But of course now he’s a lot older.’

‘Even so, there are a lot of similarities between father and son. But did you notice his clothes? His suit must have been from London, his tie from Paris and shoes from Italy. In short, there’s no doubt that he’s recently returned from abroad.’

‘But does that mean Rajen Babu doesn’t know his own son is in town?’

‘Perhaps his son doesn’t even know that his father lives here. We should try to find out more.’

The plot thickens, I told myself, going up on the open terrace of the coffee shop. I loved sitting here. One could get such a superb view of the town and the market from here.

Tinkori Babu was sitting at a corner table, drinking coffee. He waved at us, inviting us to join him.

‘As a reward for your powerful observation and expertise in detection, I would like to treat you to two cups of hot chocolate. You wouldn’t mind, I hope?’ he said with a twinkle in his eye. My mouth began to water at the prospect of a cup of hot chocolate. Tinkori Babu called a waiter and placed his order. Then he took out a book from his jacket pocket and offered it to Feluda. ‘This is for you. I had just one copy left. It’s my latest book.’

Feluda stared at the cover. ‘Your book? You mean . . . you write under the pseudonym Secret Agent?’ Tinkori Babu’s eyes drooped. He smiled slightly and nodded. Feluda grew more excited. ‘But you’re my favourite writer! I’ve read all your books. No other writer can write mystery stories the way you do.’

‘Thank you, thank you. To tell you the truth, I had come to Darjeeling to chalk out a plot for my next novel. But I’ve now spent most of my time trying to sort out a real life mystery.’

‘I do consider myself very fortunate. I had no idea I’d get to meet you like this!’

‘The only sad thing is that I have to go back to Calcutta. I’m returning tomorrow. But I think I may be of some help to you before I leave.’

‘I’m very pleased to hear that. By the way, we saw Rajen Babu’s son today.’


‘Only ten minutes ago.’

‘Are you sure? Did you see him properly?’

‘Yes, I am almost a hundred per cent sure. All we need to do is check with the Mount Everest Hotel, and then there won’t be any doubt left.’

Suddenly, Tinkori Babu sighed. ‘Did Rajen Babu talk to you about his son?’ he asked.

‘No, not much.’

‘I have heard quite a lot. Apparently, his son had fallen into bad company. He was caught stealing money from his father’s cupboard. Rajen Babu told him to get out of his house. Prabeer did leave his home after that and disappeared without a trace. He was twenty-four at the time. A few years later, Rajen Babu began to regret what he’d done and tried to track his son down. But there was no sign of Prabeer anywhere. About ten years ago, a friend of Rajen Babu came and told him he’d spotted Prabeer somewhere in England. But that was all.’

‘That means Rajen Babu doesn’t know his son is here in Darjeeling.’

‘I’m sure he doesn’t. And I don’t think he should be told. After all, he’s already had one shock. Another one might . . .’ Tinkori Babu stopped. Then he looked straight at Feluda and shook his head. ‘I think I am going mad. Really, I should give up writing mystery stories.’

Feluda laughed. ‘You mean it’s only just occurred to you that the letter might have been sent by Prabeer Majumdar himself?’

‘Exactly. But . . . I don’t know . . .’ Tinkori Babu broke off absent-mindedly.

The waiter came back and placed our hot chocolate before us. This seemed to cheer him up. ‘How did you find Dr Phoni Mitra?’ he asked.

‘Good heavens, how do you know I went there?’

‘I paid him a visit shortly after you left.’

‘Did you see me coming out of his house?’

‘No. I found a cigarette stub on his floor. I knew he didn’t smoke, so I asked him if he’d already had a patient. He said yes, and from his description I could guess that it was you. However, I didn’t know then that you smoked. Now, looking at your slightly yellowish fingertips, I can be totally sure.’

‘You really are a most clever man. But tell me, did you suspect Dr Mitra as well?’

‘Yes. He doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does he?’

‘You’re right. I’m surprised Rajen Babu consults him rather than anyone else.’

‘There’s a reason for it. Soon after he arrived in Darjeeling, Rajen Babu had suddenly turned religious. It was Dr Mitra who had found him a guru at that time. As followers of the same guru, they are now like brothers.’

‘I see. But did Dr Mitra say anything useful? What did you talk about?’

‘Oh, just this and that. I went there really to take a look at the books on his shelves. There weren’t many. Those that I saw were all old.’

‘Yes, I noticed it, too.’

‘Mind you, he might well have got hold of different books from elsewhere, just to get the right printed words. But I’m pretty certain that is not the case. That man seemed far too lazy to go to such trouble.’

‘Well, that takes care of Dr Mitra. What do you think of Mr Ghoshal?’

‘I don’t trust him either. He’s a crook. He pretends to be interested in art and antiques, but I think what he really wants to do is sell to foreign buyers at a much higher price what he can buy relatively cheaply here.’

‘But do you think he might have a motive in sending a threatening letter to Rajen Babu?’

‘I haven’t really thought about it.’

‘I think I might have stumbled onto something.’

I looked at Feluda in surprise. His eyes were shining with excitement.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I learnt today,’ Feluda said, lowering his voice, ‘that the shop they both go to is going to get some fresh supplies this evening.’

Tinkori Babu perked up immediately. ‘I see, I see!’ he exclaimed. ‘A letter like that would naturally frighten Rajen Babu into staying at home for a few days. In the meantime, Abani Ghoshal would go in and make a clean sweep.’


Tinkori Babu paid for the chocolate and rose. We went out together. My heart was beating fast. Abani Ghoshal, Prabeer Majumdar and Dr Phoni Mitra. As many as three suspects. Who was the real culprit?

Tinkori Babu went home. Feluda and I walked over to the Mount Everest Hotel. They confirmed that a man called Prabeer Majumdar had checked in five days ago.

We were supposed to visit Rajen Babu in the evening. But it began to rain so heavily at around 4 p.m. that we were forced to stay in. Feluda spent that whole evening scribbling in a notebook. I was dying to find out what he was writing, but didn’t dare ask. In the end, I picked up the book Tinkori Babu had given Feluda and began reading it. It was so thrilling that in a matter of minutes, all thoughts of Rajen Babu went out of my mind.

The rain stopped at 8 p.m. But by then it was very cold outside. Father, for once, stood firm and refused to allow us to go out.

Feluda shook me awake the next morning. ‘Get up, Topshe. Quick!’ ‘What—what is it?’ I sat up. Feluda whispered into my ear, speaking through clenched teeth. ‘Rajen Babu’s Nepali servant was here a few moments ago. He said Rajen Babu wants to see us, and it’s urgent. Do you want to come with me?’

‘Of course!’

We got ready and were in Rajen Babu’s house in less than twenty minutes. We found him lying in his bed, looking pale and haggard. Dr Mitra was by his side, feeling his pulse; and Tinkori Babu was standing before him, fanning him with a hand-held fan, despite the cold.

Dr Mitra released his hand as we came in. Rajen Babu spoke with some difficulty. ‘Last night . . . after midnight . . . I woke suddenly and there it was . . . in this room . . . I saw a masked face!’ Rajen Babu continued, ‘I can’t tell you . . . how I spent the night!’

‘Has anything been stolen?’

‘No. But I’m sure he bent over me . . . only to take the keys from under my pillow. Oh, it was horrible . . . horrible!’

‘Take it easy,’ said the doctor. ‘I’m going to give you something to help you sleep. You need complete rest.’ He stood up.

‘Dr Mitra,’ said Feluda suddenly, ‘did you go to see a patient last night? Your jacket’s got a streak of mud on it.’

‘Oh yes,’ Dr Mitra replied readily enough. ‘I did have to go out last night. Since I have chosen to dedicate my life to my patients, I can hardly refuse to go out when I’m needed, come rain or shine.’

He collected his fee and left. Rajen Babu sat up in his bed. ‘I feel a lot better now that you’re here,’ he admitted. ‘I did feel considerably shaken, I must say. But now I think I might be able to go and sit in the living room.’ Feluda and Tinkori Babu helped him to his feet. We made our way to the living room.

‘I rang the railway station to change my ticket,’ said Tinkori Babu. ‘I don’t want to leave today. But they said if I cancelled my ticket now, they couldn’t give me a booking for another ten days. So I fear I’ve got to go.’ This pleased me. I wanted Feluda to solve the mystery single-handedly.

‘My servant was supposed to stay in yesterday,’ Rajen Babu explained, ‘but I myself told him to take some time off. His father is very ill, you see. He went home last night.’

‘What did the mask look like?’ Feluda asked.

‘It was a perfectly ordinary mask, the kind you can get anywhere in Darjeeling. There are at least five of those in this room. There’s one, look!’ The mask he pointed out was almost an exact replica of the one Feluda had bought me yesterday.

Tinkori Babu spoke again. ‘I think we ought to inform the police. We can no longer call this a joke. Rajen Babu may need protection. Felu Babu, you can continue with your investigation, nobody will object to that. But having thought things over, I do feel the police should know what’s happened. I’ll go myself to the police station right away. I don’t think your life’s in any danger, Rajen Babu, but please keep an eye on that Tibetan bell.’

We decided to take our leave. But before we left, Feluda said, ‘Since Tinkori Babu is leaving today, you’re going to be left with a vacant room, aren’t you? Would you mind if we came and spent the night in it?’

‘No, no, why should I mind? You’re like a son to me. I’d be delighted. To tell you the truth, I’m beginning to lose my nerve. Those who are reckless in their youth generally tend to grow rather feeble in their old age. At least, that’s what has happened to me.’

‘I’ll come and see you off at the station,’ Feluda said to Tinkori Babu.

We passed the curio shop on our way back. Neither of us could help look inside. We saw two men looking around and talking. From the easy familiarity with which they were talking, it seemed as if they had known each other for a long time. One of them was Abani Ghoshal. The other was Prabeer Majumdar. I glanced at Feluda. He didn’t seem surprised at all.

We went to the station at half-past ten to say goodbye to Tinkori Babu. He arrived in five minutes. ‘My feet ache from having walked uphill,’ he said. I noticed he was walking with a slight limp. ‘Besides,’ he added, ‘it took me a while to buy this. I know Rajen Babu couldn’t go to the curio shop but they really did get a lot of good stuff yesterday. So I chose something for him this morning. Will you please give it to him with my good wishes?’

‘Certainly,’ said Feluda, taking a brown packet from Tinkori Babu. ‘There’s one thing I meant to ask you. If I solve this mystery, I’d like to tell you about it. Will you give me your address, please?’

‘You’ll find the address of my publisher in my book. He’ll forward all letters addressed to me. Goodbye . . . good luck!’

He climbed into a blue first-class carriage. The train left.

‘That man would have made a lot of money and quite a name for himself if he had lived abroad. He has a real talent for writing crime stories,’ Feluda remarked.

We returned to our hotel from the station. But Feluda went out again and, this time, refused to take me with him. When he finally came back, it was time to go to Rajen Babu’s house to stay the night. As we set off, I said to him, ‘You might at least tell me where you were during the day.’

‘I went to various places. Twice to the Mount Everest Hotel, once to Dr Mitra’s house, then to the curio shop, the library and one or two other places.’

‘I see.’

‘Is there anything else you’d like to know?’

‘Have you been able to figure out who is the real cul—?’

‘The time hasn’t come to disclose that. No, not yet.’

‘But who do you suspect the most?’

‘I suspect everybody, including you.’


‘Yes. Anyone who has a mask is a suspect.’

‘Really? In that case, why don’t you include yourself in your list?’

‘Don’t talk rubbish.’

‘I’m not! You didn’t tell me that you knew Rajen Babu, which means you were not totally honest with me. Besides, you could have easily used that mask. I did not hide it anywhere, did I?’

‘Shut up, shut up!’

Rajen Babu seemed a lot better when we arrived at his house, although he still looked faintly uneasy. ‘I felt fine during the day,’ he told us, ‘but I must say I’m beginning to feel nervous again now it’s getting dark.’

Feluda gave him the packet from Tinkori Babu. Rajen Babu opened it quickly and took out a beautiful statue of the Buddha, the sight of which actually moved him to tears.

‘Did the police come to make enquiries?’ asked Feluda.

‘Oh yes. They asked a thousand questions. God knows if they’ll get anywhere, but at least they’ve agreed to post someone outside the house during the night. That’s a relief, anyway. In fact, if you wish to go back to your hotel, it will be quite all right.’

‘No, we’d rather stay here, if you don’t mind. It’s too noisy in our hotel. I need peace and quiet to think about this case.’

Rajen Babu smiled. ‘Of course you can stay. You’ll get your peace and quiet here, and I can promise you an excellent meal. That Nepali boy is a very good cook. I’ve asked him to make his special chicken curry. The food in your hotel could never be half as tasty, I’m sure.’

We were shown to our room. Feluda stretched out on his bed and lit a cigarette. I saw him blow out five smoke rings in a row. His eyes were half-closed. After a few seconds of silence, he said, ‘Dr Mitra did go out to see a patient last night. I found that out this morning. A rich businessman who lives in Cart Road. He was with his patient from eleven-thirty to half-past twelve.’

‘Does that rule him out completely?’

Feluda did not answer my question. Instead, he said, ‘Prabeer Majumdar has lived abroad for so long and has such a lot of money that I can’t see why he should suddenly arrive here and start threatening his father. He stands to gain very little, actually. Why, I learnt that he recently made a packet at the local races!’

I sat holding my breath. It was obvious that Feluda hadn’t finished. I was right. Feluda stubbed out his cigarette and continued, ‘Mr Gilmour has come to Darjeeling from his tea estate. I met him at the Planters’ Club. He told me there was only one Tibetan bell that had come out of the palace of the Dalai Lama, and it is with him. The one Rajen Babu has is a fake. Abani Ghoshal is aware of it.’

‘You mean the bell that we saw here isn’t all that valuable?’

‘No. Besides, both Abani Ghoshal and Prabeer Majumdar were at a party last night, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. They got totally drunk, I believe.’

‘That man wearing a mask came here soon after midnight, didn’t he?’


I began to feel rather strange. ‘Well then, who does that leave us with?’

Feluda did not reply. He sighed and rose to his feet. ‘I’m going to sit in the living room for a minute,’ he said. ‘Do not disturb me.’

I took his place on the bed when he left. It was getting dark, but I felt too lazy to get up and switch on the lights. Through the open window I could see lights in the distance, on Observatory Hill. The noise from the Mall had died down. I heard the sound of hooves after a while. They got louder and louder, then slowly faded away.

It soon grew almost totally dark. The hill and the houses on it were now practically invisible. Perhaps a mist was rising again. I began to feel sleepy. Just as my eyes started to close, I suddenly sensed the presence of someone else in the room. My blood froze. Too terrified to look in the direction of the door, I kept my eyes fixed on the window. But I could feel the man move closer to the bed. There, he was now standing right next to me, and was leaning over my face. Transfixed, I watched his face come closer . . . oh, how horrible it was . . . a mask! He was wearing a mask!

I opened my mouth to scream, but an unseen hand pulled the mask away, and my scream became a nervous gasp. ‘Feluda! Oh my God, it’s you!’

‘Had you dozed off? Of course it’s me. Who did you think . . .?’ Feluda started to laugh, but suddenly grew grave. Then he sat down next to me, and said, ‘I was simply trying on all those masks in the living room. Why don’t you wear this one for a second?’ He passed me his mask. I put it on.

‘Can you sense something unusual?’

‘Why, no! It’s a size too large for me, that’s all.’

‘Think carefully. Isn’t there anything else that might strike you as odd?’

‘Well . . . there’s a faint smell, I think.’

‘Of what?’



Feluda took the mask off. My heart started to beat faster again. ‘T-t-t-inkori Babu?’ I stammered.

Feluda sighed. ‘Yes, I’m afraid so. It must have been extremely easy for him. He had access to all kinds of printed material; and you must have noticed he was limping this morning. That might have been the result of jumping out of a window last night. But what I totally fail to understand is his motive. He appeared to respect Rajen Babu a lot. Why then did he do something like this? What for? Perhaps we shall never know.’

The night passed peacefully and without any further excitement. In the morning, just as we sat down to have breakfast with our host, his Nepali servant came in with a letter for him. It was once again a blue envelope with a Darjeeling post-mark.

Rajen Babu went white. He took out the letter with a trembling hand and passed it to Feluda. ‘You read it,’ he said in a low voice.

Feluda read it aloud. This is what it said:

Dear Raju,

When I first wrote to you from Calcutta after Gyanesh told me you had a house in Darjeeling, I had no idea who you really were. But that photograph of yours on your mantelshelf told me instantly that you were none other than the boy who had once been my classmate in the missionary school in Bankura fifty years ago. I did not know that the desire for revenge would raise its head even after so many years. You see, I was the boy you kicked at that hundred-yards race on our sports day. Not only did I miss out on winning a medal and setting a new record, but you also managed to injure me pretty seriously. Unfortunately, my father got transferred to a different town only a few days after this incident, which was why I never got the chance to have a showdown with you then; nor did you ever learn just how badly you had hurt me, both mentally and physically. I had to spend three months in a hospital with my leg in a cast. When I saw you here in Darjeeling, leading such a comfortable and peaceful life, I suddenly thought of doing something that would cause you a great deal of anxiety and ruin your peace of mind, at least for a short time. This was my way of settling scores, and punishing you for your past sins.

With good wishes,

Yours sincerely,

(Tinkori Mukhopadhyay)