Novel writing



October 1942


THE BEGINNING was simple enough. A veranda, three chairs and several decanters, currently being rearranged by Agatha before her husband returned from his bath in preparation for their guest.

It was warmer than usual and should have felt more romantic, what with the fireflies bursting into light and the smell of incense from a shrine in the garden – the servants had lit it, for what she didn’t know nor could she ask - her Bengali was still rotten and every conversation with them ended in gestures and a poor man’s game of charades.

It should have been more romantic but wasn’t.

She liked the servants however and the incense was always sweetly fragrant and slightly mysterious, even magical if you believed in magic and that sort of thing. She straightened her dress again and rubbed the hard clear glass of the decanter. No genii appeared but the


head bearer came up asking if she wanted something. She didn’t want anything that he could give her but she sent him away for another chair in case other guests showed and because her husband always told her to give them something to do, even if there was nothing. She knew she was liked among the staff and it gave her some thin veil of courage, as if they were all allied by something she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

The fireflies burst valiantly round her again. If nothing else the view down to the flat Indian plains from their hill was magnificent. It was the largest tea garden in the area and gave them a sort of royalty among the planting community. Was that why they were always so popular, though she had never made a great effort to be nice to anyone in particular, and had a reputation (at least she thought) of being cool, aloof, and too clever for these hills – ever the outsider. Appropriate then that top bungalow stood like a castle on this hill, a thousand foot elevation – the first foothill towards the Himalaya like the first link in a chain of clues to their never ending mystery. It was a view for kings all right. Their garden was different, as humorously suburban as she could get away with making it, great pots of gladioli and amaryllis, stone