Cover image for Shalimar : a novel
Title:
Shalimar : a novel
Author:
Ryman, Rebecca.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
456 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780312203610
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Julia Boyer Reinstein Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

A British woman's search for love and truth in the late 19th century lies at the heart of this epic love story set in the midst of the "Great Game" between England and Russia over control of the Silk Road.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Considered a spinster at age 23, Emma Wyncliffe could care less. In fact, her life in late-nineteenth-century British India is better without a husband because she is free to pore over her late father's archaeological papers and work as a tutor. Yet, when her younger brother gambles away the family home where Emma and her invalid mother live, Emma has no choice but to marry the dreaded Damien Granville, a suspicious man rumored to be involved with Russian espionage. Forced to leave Delhi, her mother, and her friends, Emma travels to her strange new estate many exquisitely described miles away in the lush mountain region of Kashmir. Meanwhile, a parallel story line revolves around the plotting of British and Russian intelligence intent on solving the mystery of the legendary Yasmina Pass. Although the military discussions detract from the best part of the story--Emma and Damien's heated relationship--these sequences imbue the tale with plenty of intrigue, leading to an exhilarating climax. --Kristin Kloberdanz


Publisher's Weekly Review

With the expertise she demonstrated in Olivia and Jai and The Veil of Illusion, Ryman lyrically depicts the exotic atmosphere of late 19th-century India and Central Asia, the setting of her third historical novel. The stormy romance between indomitable Emma Wyncliffe and mysterious Damien Granville competes for center stage with the famous Great Game, the colonial intrigues played out between England and Russia for control of the valuable Silk Road, the trade route between the West and China. The pseudonymous Ryman, who grew up in India and still lives there, depicts her homeland with loving care, from the sophisticated conurbation of Delhi to the ancient city of Srinagar and the beautiful landscapes of Kashmir and the Himalayas. She packs a wealth of historical information into a suspenseful story that ties Emma's recently deceased father, an explorer, to an intricate plot involving a secret pass through the Himalayas. Forced to marry Damien to settle her brothers' gambling debts and save her family home, Emma finds herself drawn to her enigmatic husband, whose frequent disappearances allow her to delve clandestinely into his past and unearth the truth about his Russian-born mother. Meanwhile, Colonel Mikhail Borokov of the Russian Imperial Army searches obsessively for the mysterious Yasmina Pass. British military intelligence concocts an outrageous plot to get information on the Yasmina, while Damien pursues a private agenda involving Emma, the Yasmina and his own family secrets. Both her novel's sweep and the tone of her prose are pleasantly Victorian, as Ryman skillfully assembles the disparate elements of her plot and of the subcontinent's landscape. In addition to the well-made story, readers will enjoy spectacularly vivid depictions of India and of such locations in Central Asia as Tibet, present-day Afghanistan and Xinjiang/Sinkiang, during the pivotal late-colonial era. (Aug.) FYI: Rights to Shalimar have been sold in Germany, where Ryman's novels are bestsellers. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

In the late 19th century, Russia, Britain, and China fought for control of routes through the Himalayas. Ryman (Olivia & Jai) bases her story on the military and political intrigue surrounding the search for the fabled Yasmina Pass. Plain and scholarly Emma Wyncliffe devotes herself to editing the papers of her explorer father, who died on a Himalayan expedition. Scorning the flirtations that preoccupy Delhi's British residents, she unwillingly accepts Damien Grenville's offer of marriage in order to avert a scandal threatening her brother's military career. At Shalimar, Damien's estate in Kashmir, she uncovers secrets from his past that link him to Russia and suggest that he married her solely to gain access to her father's papers. Subplots involving personal and national quests for information, wealth, and power require readers to remain alert, but firmly at the center is Emma and Damien's complex and evolving relationship. Fans of historical romance will delight in this well-written evocation of a fascinating locale in a tumultuous time.ÄKathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Delhi February 1890 Something was amiss, Emma saw, as soon as she turned the corner into Civil Lines.     Even though it was well past ten, reluctant remnants of winter mist still feathered the trees and the morning air was yet to lose its cutting edge. At the main gates of Khyber Kothi a hive of servants buzzed in aggressive debate, a most unusual occurrence in a residential enclave as fiercely possessive of its hush-toned privacy as Civil Lines. It being easy enough to procure neighbourhood news discreetly from friends without resorting to vulgar gossip, communal curiosity in servants was discouraged--except, of course, by the incorrigibly nosey Bankshall sisters, not averse to using whatever conduit offered the least resistance.     Riding past the animated group, Emma nudged Anarkali into a trot and turned into the driveway. Halfway down, adjacent to the rose garden, the sweeper and the gardener argued hotly, brandishing their straw brooms like weapons of war. Under the leafless gulmohar the gardener's youngest wife was locked in verbal battle with her sworn enemy, the bearer's eldest daughter, and in the portico Saadat Ali, the baburchi, sat slumped on the steps with a palm clamped to his head.     Emma surveyed the various vignettes in dismay. The last thing she had either the energy or the inclination for now was tedious domestic arbitration that would eat away hours of her working day. She had already had one unsavoury experience this morning; she could certainly do without another. It was as she was about to accost Saadat Ali and demand explanations that she noticed the constables. They stood concealed partially by the dreadfully overgrown bougainvillaea--which was why she had missed seeing them in the first place--and her irritation turned into alarm. Mama ...?     Dismounting hurriedly, she handed Anarkali's reins to Mundu, the sweeper's lad, and ran into the downstairs parlour converted temporarily into a bedroom. Her mother sat in her usual chair by the window sipping her cup of mid-morning milk. By the bed Mahima, the old ayah, stood patting the quilt and fluffing out the pillows. Undernourished and on the point of expiry, the usual apology for a fire flickered in the grate. The familiar signs of domestic normalcy brought a rush of relief; but then before she could speak, her mother did, and Emma saw that her relief was premature.     "Where have you been, dear?" Margaret Wyncliffe asked in a faint, quivering voice. "It's way past your usual time and I was worried stiff!"     Hurrying to her mother's side, Emma laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, darling, but I was held up on my way back near Qudsia Gardens by a most unholy ..." She cut short the remembrance and dismissed it. "Anyway, what's happened? What are these police constables doing outside? Have the servants had another set-to--or has Bernice Bankshall finally made good her threat to strangle our rooster because it woke her up at dawn once more?"     "No, no, nothing like that," Margaret Wyncliffe gasped, obviously about to have another of her dreadful turns. "It's ... it's ..."     "There, there, take your time, darling," Emma comforted, with a quick signal to the ayah as she stroked the heaving back to ease the breathing. "Whatever it is, it can wait."     As soon as her mother had gulped down the pills and the water the ayah presented, Emma walked to the fireplace and jabbed the dying embers with the poker. If the sturdy stone walls were ideal insulation in the searing heat of summer, in winter they turned Khyber Kothi into an igloo. The cost of fuel being what it was, the modest little fires they made do with were scarcely enough in a room of high ceilings, tall windows, threadbare curtains and a cold marble floor inadequately covered with rugs. Crisscrossing the few remaining logs over the wavering flames, she reached for the bellows.     Margaret Wyncliffe finally found her voice. "Someone broke into the house last night!"     Emma frowned. "Again?"     "Apparently. They came in the same way as before, through the drawing-room window overlooking the verandah. It was the sweeper who discovered the damage when he arrived this morning. You had already left so he woke up David."     "Well, that settles it," Emma said, more annoyed than alarmed. "I suppose we'll just have to install grilles on the downstairs windows whatever the cost. Was anything taken?"     "I don't know, dear, you'll have to see for yourself. David refused to let me look, although he did lodge a complaint at the police chowki and Ben Carter was kind enough to send an Inspector Stowe to interrogate the servants, which is why they are in such a frightful state. He is in the drawing-room with David, waiting to talk to you."     Emma sighed. The man would probably be here for hours and she did so want to get her papers done in case Dr. Anderson relented and sent for her. Giving a final stab to the fire, she asked for the remaining logs to be fetched from the stables, walked to her mother and draped a second shawl about her shoulders.     "Whatever you do you must not catch another cold or Dr. Ogbourne will be very cross. Don't worry, I'll take care of Mr. Stowe."     Mrs. Wyncliffe laid her head back and dosed her eyes. "I'm glad you're home, dear. No one quite knew what to do while you were away and I could feel the palpitations coming on."     Personal feuds forgotten, outside the drawing-room at the furthest end of the back verandah the servants stood in a huddle exchanging apprehensive whispers. Inside the study, David was engrossed in brisk conversation with a solidly built, pink-faced young man in white police ducks. Pausing to speak a few words of reassurance to the servants, Emma stepped into the room.     "Ah, Miss Wyncliffe, we were waiting for you to return," the Inspector said as soon as David had made the introductions. "Perhaps you will be able to tell us now if anything is missing."     "Sorry not to have been more helpful," David apologised, "but I have no idea where anything is. My sister is more familiar with household stuff than I am."     Emma stared despondently at the shattered window; it would cost a packet to repair! Her eyes swept over the rest of the room. Apart from a few scattered cushions across the rug, shards of a china wall plate on the floor and an overturned glass paraffin lamp, nothing much appeared to have been disturbed. Her gaze swivelled towards the mantelpiece and her heart skipped a beat. She looked at her brother, but he evaded her eyes.     "I'm afraid I will have to leave you now, Inspector," David said quickly. "I have an appointment at the Red Fort barracks at eleven and I simply dare not keep my commanding officer waiting." He tossed a glance at his sister. "I'll see you at dinner, Em ..."     Before she could make a response he had left the room.     Poking around in the debris on the floor, the Inspector turned to Emma and asked again if she noticed anything missing.     "The Dresden shepherdess." Emma indicated a side table. "She stood right there, between the paraffin lamp and the crystal ashtray, and I don't see her now."     "Just that one item?"     "Well, at first glance, anyway. I'll have a more thorough look later when I have the time." Walking over to a small rolltop writing desk, she ripped some sheets off the blotter and pressed them down on the table surface to soak up the spreading paraffin.     Inspector Stowe pointed to the mantelpiece. "Your bearer mentioned that a silver clock usually stands there in between the two vases."     "Yes, it does, but I sent it to the clockmaker yesterday to be oiled and cleaned."     "I see. So, nothing was stolen except this china figurine?"     "It would appear not." Emma smiled. "It was not a particularly attractive piece, Inspector. I doubt if anyone will miss it. I certainly won't."     An earnest young man with butter-coloured hair and large, serious eyes, he made no response as he set about perambulating the room. Peering under this and that and making jottings in his notebook, he threw Emma a sidelong glance. Having recently been transferred to Delhi, Howard Stowe had not yet had occasion to meet Emma Wyncliffe, although, of course, he knew her by reputation--who in Delhi did not? According to his sister, Grace, who made it her business to know everything about everyone, Emma Wyncliffe was a brazen "progressive" with a tongue like a wasp sting and a disposition to match. It was hardly surprising, Grace considered, that Emma Wyncliffe was still a spinster and destined to remain so. After all, Grace wondered, which man in his right senses would want to marry a woman with so few social graces and risk being stung to death in the bargain?     Howard Stowe cleared his throat. "Do you think they might have laid their hands on something not immediately visible, Miss Wyncliffe? Jewellery? A concealed cash box, perhaps?"     "We possess nothing of any great value, Mr. Stowe," Emma replied with a trace of impatience as she supervised the disposal of the remains of the wall plate. Struck by a sudden thought, she hurried into the adjoining room through a connecting door to return a moment later, her relief evident. "My father's American typewriting machine is still safe in the study, thank goodness. It would have certainly been a calamity if they had walked away with that ."     "I understand from your brother that you had another burglary not so long ago?"     "Hardly a burglary, Inspector, since nothing was stolen."     "That is immaterial, Miss Wyncliffe. The point is--not to have iron grilles on ground-floor windows in Civil Lines these days is an open invitation to trouble."     "Whether they entered from here or elsewhere," Emma said wearily, wondering if he had any idea how much iron grilles cost, even secondhand ones, "there's little worth stealing anywhere in the house."     "What seems of no great value to a European, Miss Wyncliffe," he insisted in mild reproof, "could mean a month's subsistence to a poor native--a crystal ashtray, a pair of English scissors, that magnifying glass on the desk, indeed, even an unattractive china figurine--everyday articles that we take for granted. Sold for an anna or two in the thieves' market, any of these could fetch the price of several square meals."     "Well, I daresay you are right," Emma conceded reluctantly, hoping that he would leave soon, "but since only that wretched shepherdess was taken, a wall plate and window pane smashed, no great harm was done-as you can see for yourself."     Howard Stowe nodded absently and stroked his chin. An extraordinary report had arrived at the police station just as he was about to set out. If Emma Wyncliffe was, indeed, the woman involved in the incident near Qudsia Gardens earlier this morning--as he was beginning to suspect--then there was certainly something to be said for his sister's assessment.     "Your brother's room adjoins the study," he remarked merely to gain time, "yet Mr. Wyncliffe--or rather, Lieutenant Wyncliffe--maintains that he heard nothing, not even the sound of shattering glass."     "David is the English counterpart of Kumbhkuran," Emma informed him drily. "He once slept through an earthquake in Quetta."     "Er, Coomb ... who?" The Inspector looked blank.     "A Hindu god notorious for the soundness of his sleep."     "Oh." He coughed politely. "Yes, well, to return to the matter in hand ... your servants are all trustworthy, are they?"     "We don't have many servants, Mr. Stowe," Emma reacted sharply to the inference, "but those we do have are entirely trustworthy--if occasionally hot-headed with each other. Most of them have been with us since my father built this house and we've never missed anything." She added severely, "You can see for yourself how agitated they are even to be suspected."     Letting that pass, the Inspector walked over to the communicating door, pushed it open and peered within.     "That was my father's study," Emma said. "It's still in rather a mess, I'm afraid. Since my father's"--she tried to say the word but could not--"over the past months I have been trying to put his books and papers in some sort of order." She smiled sadly. "However renowned he might have been for his work, my father was not the most organised man in the world."     "Few scholars are," Stowe said, closing the door and abandoning what he could see was a painful subject. "I understand from the servants that you dismissed your Gujar chowkidar last month?"     "I did not dismiss Barak! He wished to return to his village across the Jamuna, where his wife is very sick and will rejoin duty when she is better. I see no reason to malign him merely because he happens to be a Gujar."     "No, of course not," Stowe answered quickly, "but Gujars do have a bad reputation in Civil Lines, Miss Wyncliffe, as you must know. In any case I would strongly advise that you hire a substitute watchman while this fellow is on leave."     "We are perfectly secure with the staff we have, Mr. Stowe. I really don't see the need for panic. Since only a silly little china ornament was stolen, can we not simply forget the whole tiresome business?"     Howard Stowe could not have disagreed more but realised the futility of further argument. Tucking his notebook and pencil back into his breast pocket, he prepared to leave. "You may have been fortunate this time, Miss Wyncliffe, but I would advise strongly against taking future risks. If you subsequently find that something else is missing after all, I trust that you will contact me at the chowki. Please remember that I am always at your service."     "Yes, of course I will. And thank you."     She extended a firm hand. Howard Stowe shook it, picked up his solar topee and tucked his baton under an arm. He paused an instant in the doorway--should he question her about the Qudsia Gardens incident? he debated silently. But then, seeing how anxious she was to be rid of him, he found his courage lacking.     Yes, he had to admit, Emma Wyncliffe was certainly intimidating. At the same time he could not help a sneaking admiration for her. She was by no means a beauty--quite plain, in fact, almost dowdy in that limp beige shantung and the schoolmarmish topknot--but there was something about her that was undeniably compelling. She was intelligent, forthright and self-possessed. Faced with a burglary, every other young lady of his acquaintance (including his sister) would have either fainted on the spot or retired to her room to have hysterics. Emma Wyncliffe, on the other hand, showed not the slightest inclination to faint and there were certainly no symptoms of impending hysteria.     Noticing the look of diffidence on the Inspector's face, Emma was suddenly ashamed of her ungraciousness. After all, it wasn't the poor man's fault that he was here; he had come only to perform a duty--and she hadn't even offered him a cup of tea!     "Thank you for your concern, Mr. Stowe," she said with a sudden, spontaneous smile. "It was most kind of Mr. Carter to take personal interest in such a trivial matter considering his other pressing duties. My mother is not very well or she would have certainly thanked you in person."     The smile she bestowed on him was not only unexpected; it was unexpectedly radiant. In fact, it seemed to transform her personality altogether. Emanating from deep within her large, blue-green eyes, it dissolved the severity of her expression to soften her face quite considerably. Taken by surprise, Howard Stowe blushed. "Er ... do have those grilles installed as soon as possible, Miss Wyncliffe," he said hurriedly. "In the interim I will instruct my constables to keep a special eye on your house after dark."     "Thank you. My mother will be relieved to hear that. Like most invalids, she tends to be unnecessarily nervous."     In the front portico where his escort waited, a constable crouched down beside the Inspector's horse to fashion a cat's-cradle with his fingers for a mounting block. For a split second Howard Stowe again pondered, then, encouraged by the lingering brilliance of her smile, he took the plunge.     "By the way, Miss Wyncliffe, you will be pleased to know that we are looking into that unfortunate incident near Qudsia Gardens this morning. In fact, some arrests are being contemplated. I would advise you for your own safety not to venture near the village for a few days. The men are still in a pretty belligerent mood."     Emma blinked. "How on earth did you know that it was I who was involved in the incident?"     "I did not know until I came here this morning. I do now. No other Englishwoman would have dared--or, for that matter, cared. Good day, Miss Wyncliffe."     Smiling faintly, Emma hurried back into the house. As soon as she reentered the drawing-room, however, her smile faded. Walking up to the mantelpiece, she ran her fingers lovingly across the space occupied until yesterday by her father's cherished silver clock. She felt a rush of anger.     If David had been up to his old tricks again, she knew she would not find it quite so easy to forgive him this time. Carrie Purcell held up a white muslin shirt and examined it with a critical eye. "Two buttons missing and a seam undone, otherwise perfect for summer. I should think some poor old man at our soup kitchen will be delighted to have it--unless you want to give this too to the cook?"     "What is Saadat Ali down for so far?" Margaret Wyncliffe asked.     "Two pairs of pyjamas, the checked shirt that was one of Graham's favourites and a pair of slippers. Whereas"--she consulted her notes--"poor old Majid only has that rather bedraggled coat and one pair of pyjamas."     "Well, we can let Majid have the checked shirt and half the number of lungis. He's got twice as many children as Saadat Ali and is consequently twice as poor. We can keep the remaining lungis for Barak when he returns."     "Right. One checked shirt and four lungis for Majid and the other four for the watchman." Folding the shirt and placing it in a half-full box, Mrs. Purcell picked up a pencil and made another entry in her book. "That's the lot where the coolies are concerned--except for the bow-ties, socks, hankies and cravats, all of which David will surely want. Now, while we're about it, let us also dispense with the woollies before the moths do."     Reclining under a light coverlet on the chaise-longue in the sun-dappled verandah, Mrs. Wyncliffe attempted a wan smile at her friend's little jest. The task in which her dear Carrie helped with such diligence was one that should have been done with months ago, but neither she nor Emma had had the stomach for it.     Helped by the ayah, Carrie dragged another trunk into position. "Now, let us see what we have in here."     As they went through the woollies she kept up a lighthearted patter, pausing every now and then to consult her best friend and her notebook. Finally she held up a deep maroon cardigan, the last of the woollen garments in the trunk. "It's far too good to give away--wouldn't David like to have it since it matches well with his new jacket?"     "We'll have to ask Emma about that," Mrs. Wyncliffe said. "She knitted the cardigan for Graham for his last expedition and you know how possessive she is about her father's things."     "Well, let's put it aside for the moment. Emma can go through the list whenever she can spare the time."     "Spare the time?" Margaret Wyncliffe gave a sad little laugh. "With the additional expense of the grilles and the broken window--to say nothing of the leaking roof--the poor girl will have even less time to spare than she does now."     Making another note, Mrs. Purcell nodded absently.     The day was drawing to an early winter close and with lengthening shadows on the back lawn the light was beginning to fade. Majid, the bearer, shuffled onto the verandah bearing a tea tray, placed it on a low table and set about lighting the sconces. Raising her bulk off the stool with an effort, Carrie Purcell stood up and stretched her creaking limbs. She was a large woman with an eternally cheerful disposition, a no-nonsense manner and an excess of avoirdupois that kept her in a state of permanent hostility with her weighing scales.     "Where is Emma?" she asked, surveying the plate of crumpets and well-filled butter-dish with hearty approval. "At the College?"     "No, at the Sackvilles'."     "On a Monday? Surely her day with the Sackville boy is Thursday?"     "It is, but Alexander starts his clerkship in Tom Tiverton's bank shortly and his Urdu is still not up to the mark. They've asked Emma to give him conversational practice twice a week until he achieves reasonable fluency. She should be back soon." Struggling up into a sitting position, Mrs. Wyncliffe lifted the teapot.     Carrie Purcell eyed the crumpets thoughtfully. Considering how uncooperative her scales had been lately, should she dare? No, she decided, she definitely should not, but by Jove she would! Quickly, before the exquisite anticipation of sin could vanish, she helped herself to a crumpet, buttered it lavishly, and bit deep into its heart. Heaven!     "Emma does take the sweeper's lad with her, doesn't she?"     "For whatever that is worth." Margaret Wyncliffe handed her a cup and took one herself. "Winter days are so short and she has such distances to traverse, I insist that she hires a tikka gharry back from the Nawab's house. She carries her father's Colt in her purse, of course, although, thank God, she has never had cause to use it yet."     "Oh, believe me, she will if she has to, considering Graham's tutelage in those rough-and-tumble camps of his. I do wish you would stop worrying about her, Margaret!"     Mrs. Wyncliffe dosed her tired, worn-out eyes. Stop worrying? Good heavens, how could she ... how could any mother with a headstrong spinster daughter on her hands?     "What is all this about Papa's camps?" Emma asked, catching the remark as she stepped onto the verandah. Pulling up a cane stool, she sat down, her freshly scrubbed face more honey-brown than ever and her hair brushed back and up in the usual topknot.     Her mother's face brightened. "Carrie was just reminding me of the liberties your father allowed you in his camps. How you endured all that uncivilised living I still cannot understand."     "I endured it very well, thank you," Emma retorted. "It was David who could not, spoiled rotten as he was by your pampering."     "I never pampered him more than I did you, never!"     Emma smiled. "Of course you did, Mama. You still do." Bending over, she lovingly fingered one of the woollens ranged on the sheet. "I'm glad this is behind us now. We've been putting it off for weeks and Papa did so hate procrastination." She gave a small shiver. "Why is Jenny not with you today?"     "Because Jenny is where she always is these days," Carrie Purcell crimped her lips, "with the most important man in her life."     "John Bryson?"     "Oh no, her tailor. They're locked in another battle, this time over the mess she says he's made of the gold tarkashi embroidery on the bodice of her wedding dress. Apparently, he's also stitched the wrong sequins on the gown she plans to wear to Georgina Price's supper, to say nothing of one frill too many--or is it too few?--on her going-away blouse. I don't know who's right and who's wrong and, frankly, I'm past caring. All I know is that by the time Jenny's trousseau is done, one of us will be in the asylum, in all probability me--or poor Archie who's footing her unbelievable bills. I hope you are coming with us to the Prices, Emma dear?"     Emma shook her head. "I have a tuition on Saturday evening. Besides," she made a face, "considering what happened at her last dinner party, I doubt if Mrs. Price would welcome me."     "Oh, fiddlesticks! Georgina can hardly remember what happened at breakfast, let alone at a party two months ago. And you were right, of course," a chuckle rumbled in her cavernous throat, "why don't we try to learn the language of the land? I agreed with everything you said to that insufferable female."     "Well, a great many people didn't," Mrs. Wyncliffe said crossly, "and the poor woman--what was her name, Duckworth?--was most offended. Georgina was very put out, she told me so."     "Well, what about my poor Em? Why should she have taken what the silly old bat said without retaliation?"     "It doesn't matter one way or the other," Emma intervened quickly, "since I've decided not to go anyway."     "Of course you must go!" her mother insisted. "Alec has already been round twice to ask if he may escort you. Can't you take the Granger lad on Tuesday?"     "I've only just started at the Grangers', Mama," Emma protested, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, "and I've already had disapproving looks for being late the other morning." Then, seeing that her mother was spoiling for another of their frequent arguments, she heaved a sigh and surrendered. "Oh, all right. If it pleases you, I will go. I'll hate it, of course, but I shall try to tolerate the evening--and Alec Waterford--somehow."     "It may not be as intolerable as you think," Mrs. Purcell said. "Georgina says Geoffrey Charlton will be there."     "Geoffrey Charlton?" Interest sparked in Emma's eyes. "I didn't know the Prices were acquainted with him?"     "Reggie is. Apparently they met in London at the Geographic Society. Considering the stampede to lionise Mr. Charlton, I should imagine even a casual brush translates into usable social currency. Jenny says John is escorting you both to his lantern slide lecture at the Town Hall this weekend?"     "Yes." Emma drained her cup. "Anyway, I'd better get back to work if I want to have that study in reasonably good order by the end of the week." She jumped up and with a cheerful wave vanished through the doorway.     Margaret Wyncliffe's sallow cheeks quivered as she pressed a handkerchief to her forehead and opened her mouth.     "Don't start your usual nonsense again, Margaret dear," Carrie Purcell warned pre-empting the remark, "or I promise I shall be very, very angry."     "It's not nonsense!" Mrs. Wyncliffe sniffled tearfully into her hanky. "If I were well enough, would Emma need to lower herself with these humiliating tuitions? And would my darling David have to leave home?"     "Emma is only doing what any sensible, practical girl would. By feeling sorry for her--and yourself--you simply humiliate her more. As for David, a posting away from home will do your darling son a world of good. He's very lucky--far more than he deserves, I might say--to have secured a commission through Colonel Adams's good offices."     "Oh, I know, I only meant ..."     "I know what you meant, dear, and I'm all for occasional self-pity, but let's not overdose ourselves, shall we?" Carrie reached out and gave her friend's hand a sympathetic squeeze. "At least you're not faced with eviction like the poor Handleys, entirely at the mercy of that pernicious bania landlord of theirs. At least you do have a roof over your head--leaky but nevertheless your own."     Mrs. Wyncliffe blinked and dabbed her eyes. "You're right, Carrie, dear, you always are. I shouldn't really be whining and wailing but sometimes I do feel so ... frustrated , especially for Emma. She, poor dear, never complains, never, either by word or deed." She stopped and blew noisily into the hanky. "Anyway, talking about leaky roofs, we will simply have to have ours re-tarred before David is posted away. Emma will not have the time to manage on her own and I certainly am no help."     "Any decisions yet?"     "On the posting? No. David has his own ideas about what he wants. I only hope they don't send him too far from Delhi."     "Army discipline will be good for him, Margaret. It will keep him out of mischief and he does need to toughen up. I told you what Colonel Adams said to Archie the other night at the Club, didn't I? Your David is very clever with languages and easily outclimbs everyone else at their mountaineering camps."     "He gets that from his father, of course. Graham was as nimble as a mountain goat and he spoke dialects like a native."     Noticing a renewed tremble in her friend's lips, Carrie Purcell decided it was time to change the subject. "Tell me, my dear, who did Ben Carter send this morning from the chowki? Not that silly little man with pigeon toes and chronic garrulitis, I hope?"     "No, someone called Stowe who has just been posted to Delhi."     "Howard Stowe?" Mrs. Purcell's eyes gleamed. "Hmmm. Very eligible, you know."     "Oh?"     "Twenty-seven and a competition-wallah. Winchester and Oxford, both with flying colours. Comes from Warwickshire, Indian Civil Service family. Did a stint in Simla last year at Viceregal Lodge with Lord Lansdowne's entourage, Eunice Bankshall was saying. Quite the rage with the lassies during the Season, his sister Grace tells Jenny. Bit dull and an occasional stuffed shirt, I think, but then nobody's perfect. Considering the quality of merchandise in the marriage market here, who can afford to be picky?"     "Surely Jenny was never interested in Howard Stowe, was she?"     "As it happens, no." Carrie Purcell whisked up a pair of long johns and held them aloft. "He came to mind because of Emma."     "Emma?" Mrs. Wyncliffe sat up quickly. "I didn't know Emma had even met him before this morning!"     "Well, she hadn't, at least not that I know of. I merely mention him as a possibility."     "Oh, a possibility." Margaret Wyncliffe sank back again into the pillow. "Knowing Emma, I've long stopped counting possibilities ."     "My dear Margaret," Carrie frowned at the note of disapproval, "your daughter is better educated than most, with a good brain between her ears which, what is more, she knows how to use. There can't be many young girls--if, indeed, any--who read, write and speak two languages with such facility." Helping herself to another crumpet, she added a rather daring pat of butter.     "Education and intelligence are all very well, Carrie," Mrs. Wyncliffe replied with sudden animation, "but they don't help girls find husbands! If it's not money or political influence, it's looks and a certain ... well, feminine manner that count. As it is, all the nice young men are starting to look elsewhere."     "What you should be worrying about is whether Emma will ever find a man interesting enough for her. I should imagine she'd be bored to distraction with someone merely nice."     "Well, what's wrong with Alec Waterford?"     "Nothing--if you're willing to put up with a son-in-law as dull as last week's leftovers who still dangles by the apron strings of an insufferable mother. I simply can't imagine your Emma and Daphne Waterford cohabiting under the same roof--any more than I can Emma as a curate's wife. But then, as Jane Granger was saying the other day, compared with Calcutta, the male crop Delhi reaps is decidedly bleak and," she stabbed the air with a finger, "that goes even for my Jenny's John Bryson. Mind you, I love John like a son and I would rather die than have Jenny know what I think--but he does tend to be so terribly ... what is the word I want? ... passive. Yes, that's it, passive. No spirit at all."     "Spirit is all very well, Carrie," Mrs. Wyncliffe said despondently, "but that's hardly what men look for these days. Quite the contrary. And then people do talk, you know ..."     Despite her staunch sense of loyalty to her goddaughter, that was something not even Carrie Purcell could deny. People did talk about Emma Wyncliffe, and that too not kindly. Maintaining a discreet silence, she consoled herself with a final crumpet, vaguely surprised at how little remained of the butter. The Daryaganj man refuses to come down even a pice," Emma told her mother that evening as they waited to start dinner. "Prices of building materials being what they are, he says roof repairs for less barely make up his costs."     "And the Sudder Bazaar man Norah Tiverton recommended?"     "Considering the construction boom, Mama, it will be six of one and half a dozen of the other. Everyone seems to be building annexes in the Chandni Chowk area. Anyway, David said he'd have a word with the Sudder Bazaar man on his way back from the barracks."     The wall clock chimed once and Margaret Wyncliffe looked up. "David didn't say he would be late this evening, did he? He's usually back by seven."     "It's only half past, Mama. He may have been detained by Colonel Adams or decided to stay back at the barracks with his friends. He's twenty-three, you know--old enough to lead his own life."     "Oh, I know, I know--it's just that I can't help wondering if he's ... well, you know where."     "Of course he isn't! He gave his word, remember?" Nagged by the thought of the missing silver clock, Emma spoke sharply, but more to convince herself than her mother.     As it happened, it was not until an hour and a half later that David strode noisily into the dining room just as his mother and sister were about to sit down to a belated meal.     "Couldn't wait for the prodigal to return to tuck into the fatted calf, eh?" he remarked sternly. "Well, just for that I have a good mind to forfeit these humble offerings." He waved two elegantly wrapped packets in the air, then whisked them behind his back.     "I'm sorry, dear, but it is after nine, you know," his mother pointed out, despite her relief.     "Ah, eaten away by remorse, are you?"     "What we are eaten away by is hunger," Emma informed him acidly. "Humble offerings notwithstanding, the Bible says nothing about prodigals not being punctual."     "Alas, true, too true." He broke into a grin. "Being of an uncommonly forgiving nature, I therefore overlook the discourtesy provided it is not repeated." Bringing both hands forward with a flourish, he placed a parcel before each of them and sat down with his arms crossed. He was in marvellously high spirits.     "My goodness." Mrs. Wyncliffe looked very pleased indeed. "How nice to be given presents outside Christmas and birthdays! Is today a special occasion?"     "I suppose you could call it that." He paused, enjoying the suspense as he helped himself to the mutton stew Majid offered. "After all," he added airily, "a first posting does call for some sort of celebration, wouldn't you say?"     "You've received your orders!" Emma exclaimed.     "Indeed."     "Where to?"     "Leh."     "Oh David, that's exactly what you wanted!"     "You can be sure it is! I am to report to Maurice Crankshaw, British Joint Commissioner." He sat back and beamed. "What do you think of that?"     "Leh? That's in China , isn't it?"     "Only in Chinese maps." David laughed. "Oh Mama, when will you come to terms with geography? No, it's in Ladakh, not China. Anyway, I am to be a courier and an interpreter and I am to have--wait for this--half a bungalow and half a bearer all to myself." Vastly chuffed, he laughed again. "The other halves are for the office."     "On a first posting?" Emma inquired. "Isn't that unusual?"     "No more unusual than the talents of your brother."     "Or, indeed, his modesty!"     "But it's still so ... so far from Delhi!" Mrs. Wyncliffe wailed. "When will we ever see you again?"     "Come, come, Mama, no tears. You promised, remember?" He jumped out of his chair to give her a reassuring hug. "If all goes well, we can be together in Leh next summer--now, isn't that something to look forward to?"     "When do you leave?" Emma asked.     "I have a few weeks of instruction in Dehra Doon at the Survey of India. After that, hopefully, they'll give me a week or two off before I leave for Leh." He glanced at the gifts. "Well, aren't you going to open them to see what the generous prodigal brings?"     Brushing aside her tears and trying hard to smile, his mother unwrapped her packet and her hand flew to her throat. In an elegant leather box lined with purple velvet reposed a pair of silver-backed hairbrushes with matching mirror and comb. "Oh my goodness, they're ... they're lovely! They must have cost an absolute fortune!"     "They did," he agreed, "but a fortune well spent."     Emma examined her own gift in silence: a scarlet Chinese silk kimono with brilliantly coloured motifs embroidered all along the hem and down the front. Biting back her astonishment--and alarm--she took care not to let her smile slip. "It's very pretty, David. Thank you. As it happens, I do need another kimono. The one I have is falling to pieces."     Glowing with pride, Mrs. Wyncliffe examined her gift from all angles, then set the box aside. "While I think of it, dear, did you remember to talk to the Sudder Bazaar man about the repairs?"     "Blast! I knew there was something I should have done and didn't. Tomorrow, 'pon my word of honour." Giving himself a second helping of the stew, he doused it liberally with hot lemon pickle.     "We can't put the repairs off much longer," Mrs. Wyncliffe said.     "Nor the grillework," Emma added.     "The roof simply must be resurfaced before we have another downpour," Mrs. Wyncliffe said. "The last one all but ruined the piano and the carpets. It should have been re-tarred much earlier, but your father never seemed to have either the spare time or the spare money. Perhaps we should sell the piano? It's hardly of any use now anyway."     "Oh no, we can't , Mama!" Emma protested. "Papa bought that piano out of his very first salary from the Archaeological Survey."     "Well, then, have you thought about the Nawab's offer?"     "Yes." Emma paused, then said, "I've decided to turn it down. Once the book is compiled, I intend to submit it to the Royal Geographic Society."     "My dear, are you sure that is the right decision?"     "Yes, Mama. I know that the Nawab means well, but I doubt if the cognoscenti of the Delhi Literary Society would have the slightest interest in Buddhist esoterica from Himalayan monasteries."     "But dear, the Society does enjoy very high repute among intellectuals," her mother persisted, "and the Nawab himself is considered quite a scholar."     "Whatever meagre notes Dr. Bingham brought back are still in a mess. Even if worthy of being included in a compilation, they will first have to be edited."     "Has Theo Anderson agreed to help you?"     "No. He was very upset about what happened to Papa, of course, but he's off to Tibet again and frightfully busy. He said he simply did not have time for `extra work."     "Perhaps just as well." Taking note of his sister's disappointment, David joined the conversation. "Anderson is an old fuddy-duddy and notoriously absent-minded. Once he's off, those notes would probably sit on his shelves for months collecting dust."     "True, but without professional guidance I'll never be able to compile Papa's papers into a book up to the standard of the RGS."     "In that case, dear," Margaret Wyncliffe interposed, "would it not be better ...?"     "No!" Emma cut her off and laid down her spoon. "Papa's work cannot be assessed in terms of money, Mama. He put his life into it, took terrible risks for it, died for it...." She broke off and cleared her throat. "I refuse to let everything Papa achieved be sacrificed for financial expediency."     "Well, I agree with Em," David said, mopping up the last of his stew with a hunk of bread. "The RGS funded Papa's expeditions, gave him their gold medal for his discoveries in the Tian Shan. As such, they do have prior right to the manuscript. Em knows how Papa's mind worked, Mama, and the book is her project. She should be allowed to tackle it the way she wants."     With a resigned nod, Margaret Wyncliffe deferred to her children. "In that case, we will just have to sell the Georgian tea service to pay for the roof and the grilles."     "Nobody will have to sell anything!" David sat back and tucked his thumbs into the armholes of his waistcoat. "It just so happens I already have funds for the repairs."     There was a moment of surprised silence. "No more loans, David dear," his mother warned. "It's difficult enough to clear what we already owe."     "I haven't taken another loan, Mama. In fact, I've already repaid what we borrowed."     Mrs. Wyncliffe stared. "Where is all this money coming from, dear?" she asked nervously.     "Bit of a windfall, really." He dabbed his mouth with a napkin and pushed away his plate. "We arranged a lottery clown at the barracks to mark the end of training and the start of postings. As luck would have it, I drew the winning ticket."     "Oh." His mother's face cleared. "In that case I suppose it's all right. I must say, it couldn't have come at a better time, could it, Emma? It is such a relief to have those wretched moneylenders off our backs!"     Emma remained silent.     Dinner over, David opened the atlas and pointed out Leh to his mother. "Not much of a town, just a village at the base of the hill, but the air is pure and the summers are as cool as in Simla. Old Cranks is a bit of a curmudgeon, Nigel Worth says, quite a slave driver, in fact, but he's a very good political officer and speaks the lingos fluently. Having served a couple of years in Leh, Nigel should know."     "But are you confident you'll be able to translate as well as they expect you to, dear?" his mother asked anxiously.     "Of course I am! Do you think Adams would have given me the posting, or Old Cranks would have accepted me, if they'd had any doubts? Border problems being what they are, they do need men they can trust." He stretched his legs and yawned, his arms held high above his head. "Later, if my stars continue to shine, I might even be permitted to take the two-year course in Dehra Doon to train as a cartographer."     Devastated by the prospect of his imminent departure, Mrs. Wyncliffe did not notice her daughter's silence. If David did, he took good care not to remark on it. Emma knew that she would not be able to talk to her brother privately, as she must, until their mother had retired. Forbidden by Dr. Ogbourne to climb stairs until her heart had mended, their mother was housed for the time being in the downstairs parlour, with David installed in the adjoining small spare room.     It was only after her mother was comfortably settled in bed with all the necessary medicines ingested and the mosquito-net securely tucked under the mattress, that Emma could make her way to her brother's room. She found him sprawled on the bed, book in hand, gazing blankly at the ceiling. He started as she entered.     "Em? I thought you'd gone to sleep."     "I'm glad you haven't," she replied. "I want to talk to you."     He groaned. "Again?"     "Yes, again." She positioned herself on the edge of the bed and took the book away from him. " You staged that absurd burglary last night, didn't you?"     "I?" He struggled up on an elbow. "No, I certainly did not !"     "And you took Papa's clock off the mantelpiece," she went on angrily. "You know that it's sterling silver and would fetch a pretty penny once the Archaeological Survey citation is removed. It's just as well I concocted that tale about the Dresden shepherdess the ayah broke last month, otherwise the Inspector would have been here all morning. How could you, David?"     "You think I took that clock?"     "Yes. You're in trouble again, aren't you?"     "I didn't and I'm not!"     "Well, I wish I could believe you, but I don't." She stared hard into his defiant face. "Where were you last night?"     "Here. Asleep."     "No, you were not. You didn't get back until past two. I know because I heard your horse stumble just past the front steps."     "That's not true ..." he began, then stopped. "All right, so I did come home late. So what?"     "So where were you--and don't say it's none of my business because it is! If not from the sale of that clock where did you acquire all this sudden largesse? It wasn't from a winning lottery ticket, was it?"     "What difference does it make so long as I have the money--and I bloody well do! I didn't need to pinch that clock." He flung himself off the bed, dug into the top drawer of the table, withdrew from it a cloth pouch and strewed its contents on the bed. "See?"     Emma scanned the display of currency, and her brother's flushed face, with dismay. David lied so often she was never sure when he spoke the truth.     "You went to Urdu Bazaar," she said flatly.     He did not deny it. "Yes, and as you can see, it was damn well worth it." Sitting down next to her, he ran his fingers through the scattered coins, delighting in the sounds and feel of the metal, his pale, thin face alive with triumph. "My luck has finally turned, Em," he said dreamily, "finally!"     "Because you had one win against a hundred losses?"     "Oh come, come, Em, don't be such a wet blanket. It was just a casual flutter to celebrate a posting after my own heart."     "How many times have you been to Urdu Bazaar since you promised Mama you wouldn't?"     "Oh, for goodness' sake, Em," he snapped without answering her question, "it was just a spur-of-the-moment visit, so don't go making a mountain out of a molehill. What was the harm anyway so long as I won?"     "The harm? You should know the answer to that better than I, David. Besides, a promise is a promise. Mama would be heartbroken if she heard you had been gambling again."     The familiar pout returned to his mouth. "I told you I'd pay you back for the ring," he muttered sullenly. "Once the repairs are taken care of ..."     "I don't want to be paid back, you know that, but neither do I have any more rings to sell. With Mama's medical bills pending ..."     "Dammit, Em," he cut her off with an oath, "can't you understand that even in the army there is such a thing as keeping up with the crowd? That if chaps treat me, they expect to be treated in return? That I too have social obligations? I can't just accept hospitality without ever returning it, can I?" He clenched his fists. "My God, how I hate never having enough money! You don't know what it's like to count every penny, to buy the cheapest cheroots and pretend the man made a mistake, to manipulate it so that you're out of the room when a collection is made ..." Trembling, he turned away.     Emma's anger melted. Once again she filled with a familiar ache. "You're wrong, David," she said tiredly. "I do know what it's like, but running after easy money is not the answer."     "Then what is?" he tossed back bitterly. "Tutoring cossetted brats? Teaching fat, rich Indians English and fat, rich Europeans Urdu? Is that a solution? And is that how you want to spend the rest of your life?"     Emma's face fell, suddenly dispirited. "No, David. Since you ask, no, that is not the way I want to spend the rest of my life. That, however, is the way circumstances force me to spend it at the moment. Until we can somehow improve those circumstances, until Mama is back on her feet, until your position in your regiment is secure ..." She gave a shrug and left it at that. "Anyway, the fact is that at the moment neither of us can afford financial irresponsibility."     "Look at this house, Em, just look at it!" He waved his arms about, not listening. "It's too big to live in and too damn expensive to maintain. If, as rumoured, a house-tax is introduced, we're done for. Why then don't we sell the blasted property? Why do we continue to pour money down a drain we know to be endless?"     "We can't sell Khyber Kothi," she said. "Mama would never agree to live anywhere else. I'm not sure that I would. Papa built this house when they married. This is where their happiest memories-- our happiest memories--are. It would be heartbreaking to have to move." Going up to him, she put an arm around his shoulders. "I know how you feel, my dear, believe me, I do. Don't you think there are times when I too feel frustrated? If only you knew how much I hate this ... this pointless, joyless, hand-to-mouth existence. But what are our options? At the moment, none. We simply have to try to rise above our feelings and make the best of what there is. "     "As easy as that, eh?" he asked sarcastically.     "No, it isn't easy, but it has to be done." Gently she stroked his hair, sensing his yearnings, his deprivations, his raring hopes and ambitions and bitterness. "Now that you're posted, your allowances and salary will increase.     "Ha! Ever heard of a second lieutenant becoming a millionaire on his allowances and salary?     "You don't have to be a millionaire to ..."     "No more pious lectures, please!" He shook off her arm. "I'm sick and tired of hearing how little filthy lucre matters, how unimportant money is in the grand scheme of things." He flung himself on his bed and trickled the coins lovingly through his fingers. "Let's take one day at a time, Em. And today, let's just be grateful that I have been able to raise the money for the repairs. How, when and from where are immaterial." He attempted a smile and thrust out his hand. "And now, if you don't mind, I'd like to have my book back."     Silently, Emma studied her brother's thin, discontented face, the sullen droop of his mouth as it struggled to lift in a smile and the shining, unconcealed wildness in his eyes. He was only a year younger than she, filled with an abundant, nervous energy that showed in the constant restlessness of his hands. She loved him dearly, of course, as she knew he did her, and had always protected him fiercely. At the same time she recognised that in spite of his strapping, well-muscled body, David was weak of will, easily influenced by glib patter and still too immature to be able to assess and evaluate on his own.     "Do you swear that you did not take that clock, David?" she asked quietly.     "Of course I swear!" He sat up and, perhaps in relief that the argument was over, finally smiled. "Let's be happy in our good fortune, Em, however brief. Let's not think of anything beyond that. Agreed?"     Forcing herself not to say more, she sighed and handed him back his book. She still did not believe him but she did not tell him that. "Agreed, but please keep away from the gaming-house, David!"     He did not reply as he evaded her eyes and a certain look flashed across his face. Emma knew that look, she had seen it many times before, but she also knew from experience that the more she said, the less likely he was to listen.     "The trouble with you, Em," he said, reaching out to give her ear a playful tweak as good humour was restored, "is that you take your pleasures too heavily."     "And you too lightly!"     "Perhaps." He laughed. "Anyway, who else have you been fighting today--apart from your angelic little brother, eh?"     "Who said I had been fighting?"     "Mundu. Apparently, you had angry words this morning near Qudsia Gardens and one of the men was a firanghi. Anyone I know?"     "I hope not. Anyway, it wasn't a fight, just a silly argument over something inconsequential."     "But nonetheless you read the fellow his fortune!"     "Had he merited more of my time I might have, but he didn't."     He grinned, leapt off the bed, gave her a gentle pat on the rump and pushed her through the door. Emma smiled. For all his weaknesses there was something very lovable about David. Devastated as she was by the loss of that treasured family clock, once again she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. The familiar disquiet, however, persisted. The incident to which David referred was unsavoury and had left an ugly taste in Emma's mouth. Preoccupied with other matters, however, she had had little time to dwell upon it; now, with the day's work done, her brother's reminder returned the scene to her mind in all its sordid detail.     On her way back from her tuition that morning she had been thinking about Nawab Murtaza Khan. Much against the wishes of his conservative family, the Nawab had decided that his only daughter must have some education. Hard-pressed for time and reluctant to fit in an extra assignment so far from Civil Lines, Emma had eventually succumbed to his persuasions. Much to the Nawab's delight, the child responded remarkably well to her coaching.     A typical example of Delhi's fast-eroding Muslim aristocracy, like many others the Nawab had fallen on hard times after the disbandment of the Moghul court. Despite his reduced circumstances, however, he continued to pursue his varied literary interests with great dedication. Refined and well educated, he was a founding member of the prestigious Delhi Literary Society, an acknowledged authority on the Koran and an Urdu poet of some celebrity.     Aware of the family's modest means and appreciative of the strong stand Murtaza Khan had taken regarding his daughter's education, Emma had asked for a modest fee for her services. Being a man of fierce pride, he now sought to make recompense by offering to purchase and publish her father's papers under the aegis of the Literary Society. Emma was genuinely touched by the offer; but knowing that to raise the money he would have to sell yet another family heirloom, she had decided not to accept it. The problem was, how to decline without injuring the Nawab's all too fragile pride?     As she rode through Qudsia Gardens that morning cogitating over various possible solutions, she suddenly became aware of a commotion on the river bank ahead. Spurring her horse in the direction of the clamour, she arrived presently on the outskirts of a village--to find herself confronted by a most horrific sight.     At the head of a procession of about fifty villagers were two men beating enormous drums. The centrepiece of the parade was a donkey on which sat a young woman clad in rags that barely covered her nakedness. Her long hair was spread across her breasts and her face was blackened with charcoal powder; pale streaks on her cheeks marked the passage of her silent tears and in the biting cold of the winter morning she shivered convulsively. Alongside the donkey walked a man holding a stick with which he rained lashes on the woman's bare back. From the expressions and gestures of the men, it was evident that they not only endorsed but, indeed, encouraged the proceedings.     Without a second thought Emma dismounted, purse in hand, and pushed her way through the crowd to position herself directly in the path of the procession. Startled, the men came to an untidy halt. Removing her own shawl, she draped it about the shoulders of the woman, then turned to the chief perpetrator. Without raising her voice or displaying her anger, she commanded him to stop beating the defenceless woman. Confused by the unwarranted intrusion, that too by a white mem who spoke fluent Urdu, the man gaped for an instant, then started to bristle.     "This is not a matter that concerns you, memsahib," he said huffily. "Considering her crime, she warrants no sympathy."     "Whatever her crime," Emma insisted, still without anger, "to parade her in this barbaric fashion brings shame not only to her but to your entire community."     Seeing that if he backed down before this interfering woman he would lose face in his community, the man placed his hands on his hips and assumed a posture of defiance. "How she is to be punished is our business, memsahib, not that of an outsider!"     Emma's own temper stirred. "Do you consider that the ends of justice are better served when you punish one crime by perpetrating another?"     "This woman is my wife. I have a right to punish her as I wish so long as the panchayat approves!"     Amidst some incoherent mumbles, one or two voices rang out in instant agreement. Frightened and uncomprehending, her arms crossed tightly over the shawl that covered her naked breasts, the woman continued to stare in silence.     "If she is your wife," Emma pointed out, taking a step forward, "all the more reason for you to defend her honour and dignity. Lay down that stick and let her go."     "For what she has done she must be punished," the man snapped. "It may not be your way, memsahib, but it is ours." There were louder cries of support this time. Reassured, the man triumphantly urged the donkey forward and again raised his stick. Before he could bring it down, however, Emma had opened her purse, extracted her Colt and aimed it at him.     "If you touch her again, I promise I will shoot."     The man's eyes dilated and his supporters hastily stepped back. Was this firanghi woman mad? someone whispered. Naturally, someone else whispered back, were they not all?     "Since I am mad," Emma said, picking up the exchange and raising the barrel so that it was aimed at the centre of the man's forehead, "I advise you not to put me to the test--or you will have at least one man less in your community."     The man's arm dropped and the stick fell to the ground. Throwing her a venomous look and cursing under his breath, he retreated. Turning her attention to the silent victim, Emma nodded, and the woman sprang back to life. Gathering the shawl close about her, she slipped off the donkey, darted off into the trees and vanished from sight.     No one made a move to follow her.     Emma replaced the Colt in her purse. "I am aware that you fear the police and that you have good reason to, for they are not always fair with you. However, if you repeat this savage act I will report you to Carter sahib personally and ensure that you have even better reason to fear them than you do now."     She started to walk away and, silently, the crowd parted to clear a path for her. In a nearby thicket, quaking with fright, Mundu stood clutching Anarkali's reins to his chest. As Emma turned to mount her mare, she stopped. Concealed partially by a tree trunk with the reins of his own horse held lightly in one hand was a firanghi. He wore a riding-habit, high black boots and a navy blue silk cravat adorned with paisleys. His head was uncovered. As Emma paused uncertainly, he started to clap.     "Who are you?" she asked, taken aback.     "As of now, an admirer." Pulling himself up to his full height, he gave a courtly bow. "It is not every day that one comes across so impressive a performance, a display of such commendable courage. Those men could have attacked you."     "An admirer from a safe distance, I see!" Emma scoffed, gathering from his speech that he was English. "If you were so concerned for my safety, why did you not step forward and intervene?"     "Considering the adequacy of your own formidable resources, I saw no need to. I doubt if I could have done a better job myself. Besides," he tilted his head and smiled, "it is possible that the woman deserved what she was getting."     "You approve of what those men were doing?" Emma asked, outraged.     "Well, if she has been unfaithful to her husband--which I think is the case--then certainly."     "You do not consider corporal punishment abhorrent, especially when perpetrated on a woman with no means of defence?"     "Not if it proves to be an effective deterrent. I doubt if she will dare to stray again." The appraising smile lingered on his lips but made no effort to reach his eyes.     Emma surveyed him with distaste. "Since you speak with such authority," she said, "is one to presume that your extraordinary conclusions derive from personal experience?"     She had the satisfaction of seeing him flush. "I note that your reputation does not belie you, Miss Wyncliffe. You do have a decidedly wicked tongue."     Emma frowned, again taken by surprise. "How do you know my name?"     "How?" He laughed. "If it is supposed to be a secret then it is not a particularly well-kept one. You are, believe me, a lady of quite remarkable renown."     She gave him a cold look. "Well, I do not know who you are, nor have any particular wish to, but I do feel obliged to say that I find your attitudes quite repellent."     Without waiting for his response she climbed into the saddle and galloped away, followed on foot at breakneck speed by a highly relieved Mundu. What an insufferable man, she thought, as she headed back towards Civil Lines. Who on earth was he, anyway?     She was soon to find out.

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