Tara Montague arrives on the Bristol docks 4 months after her father pushed her onto a cargo ship…the day the Sepoy Mutiny started in India. The first word she receives from home is her father is dead; and the second, the aunt she was supposed to live with has died two years before. Not the best start when living in two worlds. The horrors of Cawnpore and Lucknow are filling the papers and she had an Indian mother. Both sides have reason to want her dead. Why has her father sent her to a country she has never seen? Feeling betrayed yet again after he already arranged a disastrous marriage, on the verge of being a penniless widow, Tara is alone. Her main concern is survival in a strange country where most look at her with suspicion. Tara has questions and suspicions of her own…but who can she trust?
The hot muggy world of India was so very far away as Tara Montague stepped from the windjammer in Bristol, England. Here the dawn air was thick with the stench of machines, sewage, and people. Those same people staring at her like she was a demon as she waited for her trunks. Fleeing on the Trowbridge cargo ship when the sepoys mutinied had not been pleasant, it wasn’t meant for passengers. Four solitary months around the Cape of Good Hope sitting on a load of teak not knowing what happened at home. Meerut was in chaos and it was spreading, Delhi was under siege when her father had put her on the boat. He wouldn’t leave, but she must.
“Is there anywhere to find a newspaper?” She asked a sailor bringing out one of her trunks. All she could think about was India…
“There’s a paperboy, Ma’am.” He pointed over to a boy that was skin and bones. The docks didn’t look much better off than India. For all the talk of Britain being the greatest country in the world, the Charles Dickens she read on the way over seemed apt more than the glowing tales she heard.
“I don’t think he’ll take annas.”
The man nodded in agreement. Not like when she first stepped on board the Eliza Anne. The crew learned fast enough the pistol she carried wasn’t just for show. Rather standoffish once they knew she wouldn’t be taken advantage of, hardly a word spoken to her for 4 long months. “No probably not. The Trowbridge office over there can change it for you. They’ll just send it back with the next boat headed there. They have Lascars crewing fairly regularly.”
A rather broad term that could include her “sort”. Men hiring on ships anywhere east of the Cape of Good Hope, India, China, Japan, Malaya. Topass, the interpreters, working on ships so the captains could talk to their crews. Her father always shocked when he spoke in their own tongue if they were indeed from India. He tried anyway. There were so very many tongues in India after all and many of the Lascars came from Goa on the other side of the country.
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