The mission house : a novel / Carys Davies.
- 1 of 1 copy available at Town of Hanover Libraries.
0 current holds with 1 total copy.
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- ISBN: 9781982144838 : HRD
- ISBN: 1982144831 : HRD
- Physical Description: 259 pages ; 22 cm
- Publisher: New York, NY : Scribner, 
Taking refuge in a mission house in a remote hill town in India, an Englishman fleeing the dark undercurrents of contemporary life bonds with a Padre's daughter against a backdrop of escalating religious tensions.
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|Subject:||British > India, South > Fiction.
Missionaries > India, South > Fiction.
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The Mission House
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The Mission House
Chapter 1 1 As they climbed, the air cooled; by the time they were halfway up, it was chilly and fresh. "Thank God!" said Byrd, gulping the breeze from the open window, and when the Padre asked him, what brought him here, up into the hills? Byrd said--and it felt like the truth--"The weather." At Modern Stores he bought milk and NescafÃ© and a packet of Highfield Premium Tea, a very expensive jar of Hartley's raspberry jam, two eggs in a paper bag, and what looked and smelled like a banana muffin, which he planned to eat in the morning for his breakfast. The Padre had told him about a shortcut that would bring him up out of the hectic town to the presbytery on the hill above the church, and from the high pavement outside Modern Stores he could see the church's white spire, pointing like a compass needle into the misty sky above the messy pattern of tiled and corrugated roofs and the floaty, lightly moving tops of the trees. "There it is," he said aloud, because it was reassuring to be able to see exactly where he was going. Carrying his shopping and his straw hat and pulling his suitcase over the broken surface of the road, he moved towards it until he came to the broad concrete steps the Padre had described. Up he went. On his left a group of women in bright clothes hacked at the ground with small sharp tools that flashed in the weak sunlight. Then, just as the Padre had told him they would, the steps delivered him out onto a steep road above the town at a gateless opening surrounded by thick vegetation; a crooked sign on the right-hand side said dog is on duty. Byrd walked in under a canopy of dripping trees along a red earth driveway puddled with water. There was no sign of any dog, or the Padre. The bungalow was there, though, in the garden next to the presbytery, as the Padre had promised, the door open invitingly. How tired he was! How exhausted after his weeks wandering about down on the plains: the temples and the dusty museums, the endless hotel rooms, the uncomfortable nights spent on buses and trains, the awful clamor of the auto rickshaw drivers, the intolerable heat. At the beginning of his travels, it had all gone well enough. At his hotel next to the Danish fort in Tranquebar, a pleasant breeze had blown in off the Bay of Bengal. In the middle of the night he'd looked out of his window to see the lights of fishing boats strung out across the water, like fallen stars. In the morning, waiters had arrived at his table in crisp white jackets and scarlet headdresses and his tea had come in a silver pot. His bedroom had overflowed with sequined bolsters and gorgeous rugs, and when he'd strolled along the shore past the fishermen mending their fine white nets, they'd seemed to be sitting cross-legged in a bank of cloud. But the hotel was more expensive than he could afford (more expensive than he thought a hotel in this country should reasonably be) and he'd moved up the coast to Pondicherry, but the Pondicherry hotels had been expensive too, and he'd been obliged to move on. For a month he'd shuttled between the cities of the interior, and everywhere he went, he found them alive with unbearable numbers of people and cars and scooters, bright lights and noise, horns and clatter and an endless beeping, the roar of engines, steam and smoke and diesel, with street vendors thronging the pavements in front of phone shops and newspaper kiosks, calling out to him about their vegetables and their fruit; he'd fought his way past men in flowing robes and men in white-collared shirts and dark trousers carrying briefcases, women in blue jeans and women in glittering saris, children in polished shoes and no shoes at all. It was overwhelming. The crippled beggars repulsed and terrified him, and he'd hurried past them with his suitcase, praying they would not reach out and catch hold of his ankle or the hem of his shorts. On top of everything, there'd been the heat. But he was here now, and though there'd been clamor and hustle as he'd made his way through the town, it seemed to him like a gentler version of everything he'd encountered down on the plains, and best of all, he was no longer sweating. In the cool of the evening he walked through the small, square rooms of the little bungalow: a sitting room with a fireplace and an etching of a Scottish loch and a neat, round table, in the corner a green fridge; a veranda-like room closed in with windows, containing a desk and a huge extraordinary chair like a dentist's; a bedroom with a three-quarter bed, an embroidered placard on the wall above it that said I will be your Shield, your High Tower, the Horn of your Salvation ; a bathroom with a toilet and a sink and a big pink plastic bucket like a dustbin; a kitchen with a blue propane bottle and a two-burner stove, another sink, and shelves lined with clean newspaper. Ideal Pigeon , it said in black script on the front of the stove's white enamel. "Well, isn't this nice?" he said aloud. He boiled the eggs and made himself a cup of tea. He unpacked his things and stowed his suitcase under the bed. He walked through all the rooms again, closing the open windows and drawing all the curtains. It was hard to imagine anything more cozy and snug. In the kitchen he put a pan of water on to boil, then two more, until there was enough hot water in the pink bucket in his bathroom for him to stand in it and wash himself. There was still a crust of salt around his middle from the sweat that had collected there, in the heat of the morning, and dried when the train reached the cool air of the mountains. It gave him such pleasure to see it dissolve and disappear beneath his wet sponge. And then there was the novelty of putting on his pajamas, which he hadn't worn since leaving home. It was late when he noticed the other man's clothes, hanging limply from a forked hook on the back of the bedroom door. The door was open against the wall, and when he closed it, there they were: a red-and-blue plaid shirt and a pair of dark, many-pocketed trousers; a hat with earflaps and a pom-pom. It amazed him, what he felt when he saw them--how much he would have preferred it if they weren't there; how much, in the few short hours since he'd arrived, he'd come to think of the place as his own. He pushed the door back against the wall so that the clothes of the absent missionary were, as they'd been before, out of sight. On his pillow, a hot water bottle lay in a woolen cover, and he thought about boiling another pan to fill it, but he was so very tired now, and instead he climbed into the three-quarter bed and let his head sink into the cool pillow. For a little while, he read, but soon his eyes began to close, and his last thought before he slept was how lucky it was, that he and the Padre had boarded the same carriage at Mettupalayam; how lucky that they'd fallen into conversation after his joyous Thank God! when, halfway up, the air had cooled; what a stroke of good fortune it was, that this little bungalow was lying here in this pretty, if slightly neglected and overgrown garden, empty and available. Excerpted from The Mission House by Carys Davies All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.