From The Maharani’s Pearls: A Bess Crawford Story
“We followed the Maharani and her entourage out to where her motorcar waited. I remembered that the first time I’d seen her, I was sadly disappointed that she hadn’t arrived on an elephant. Now, as my father was handing her into the rear of the motorcar, I looked at her guard, always handsomely dressed, plumes in their caps, sitting astride lovely black horses. Behind them was an assortment of grooms, and see her driver set out from the compound gates, I realized that I’d seen of those grooms before. It was in the village not an hour ago, and he’d been standing behind one of the stalls near the fortune-teller’s tend, talking to a man with a long scar on his face. But what could he possibly have been doing there?
I touched my father’s arm. ‘That groom – I’m sure I saw him today in the village. But he wasn’t wearing the Maharani’s livery at the time.’
My father turned quickly. ‘Tell me.’
If I explained what I’d seen, it would mean confession to my own escapade. But I could hear the fortune-teller’s voice again: The life of someone you care for is in grave danger. My child, you must go now. Before it is too late.
Had she been telling my fortune at that point? Or warning me? Had she heart something? Gossip flew about the marketplace like birds on the wing.
Had it been said in an entirely different tone of voice, not the singsong of a pretend trance?
‘The village fortune-teller. I think she knew something. It was after Simon had come into the trend, you see. Perhaps the warning was meant for him or even for both of us. Please? Ask Simon.’
. . . You must go now. Before it is too late.
If I’d lingered at the bazaar, I’d have arrived too late for the Maharani’s visit. Go with this man, she must have meant. Now. Before it’s too late.
Of course it was known that the maharani would be calling on my mother. Her entourage would have been seen arriving at the compound. Everyone talked about whatever the Maharajah or his family did. A new parrot, a new motorcar, a new jewel, a new elephant – it didn’t matter, the news would spread on the wind.
My father said urgently to me. ‘I can’t go to the colonel with only the information I’ve collected from the my daughter, my batman, and a fortune-teller. What else do you know? You must tell me.’
‘I don’t know anything else –‘ I began, beginning to worry in earnest now.
From behind us, Simon clear his throat. I’d forgotten he was there.
‘Because of the heat today, your men haven’t been out on patrol yet.’
My father wheeled. ‘You’re right. Simon, go and tell them to be ready to ride in five minutes. And make certain each man has a rifle and a pistol. With double the usual amount of ammunition for both.’ To me he said, ‘Go inside. Tell your mother what is happening.’
‘But the Maharani,’ I argued. ‘I’m worried about her.’ Something else occurred to me. ‘She didn’t invite me to visit.’
‘Yes, she was worried. She didn’t want you in the middle of whatever might happen in the next ten days. But you’re right about one thing. It’s happening now, not later. Go on, tell your mother. We might not be back for a while.’”
Author: Charles Todd
Genre: Mystery & Detective
TALES is a collection of Bess Crawford and Ian Rutledge short stories published together for the first time from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd. Now published together for the first time: Charles Todd’s beloved short stories-”The Kidnapping,” “The Girl on the Beach,” “Cold Comfort,” and “The Maharani’s Pearls”-about intrepid Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge and dutiful battlefield nurse Bess Crawford. The vibrant tales transport readers from the homefront in Great Britain where the ominous clouds of war were ever-present during World War I to the bomb riddled the frontlines as soldiers desperately sought to gain ground again Germany with Lieutenant Ian Rutledge and finally to the exotic, dangerous India of Bess Crawford’s youth. Together they create an extraordinary glimpse into the treasured worlds of some of mystery’s most cherished characters.
Charles Todd is the New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother-and-son writing team, they live in Delaware and North Carolina.