If her father hadn’t made Jones promise to leave straight after his funeral, she wouldn’t have gone at all.
“You promise?” he’d asked, again and again as his strength waned in the flicker of the butter-lamps. “You promise you’ll go, Jones? You need to get away. Take the green book and go.”
“Yes, Pater,” she had reiterated again and again. “I promise. I’ll go. I’ll go straight down to Bombay, to John and Richard at the East India Company factory. They’re good friends, you know they’ll see me safe. I’ll take ship as soon as I can. I’ve already written to Aunt Caroline, and I sent the letter off myself. I’m ready.”
She had been snivelling silently into Argo’s ruff as she spoke, arms around the dog for comfort, hoping her father wouldn’t notice her distress in the dim light. She didn’t want to be having this conversation at all. He was yellow-faced and sunken-cheeked even in the daylight and at night, in the flickering light of the dim lamps, he was cadaverous. He was already corpse-like.
He moved a thin, clawed hand to cover hers and she fumbled in her breeches pocket for a handkerchief to wipe her eyes. “My dear, I love you so much. I have perhaps done you a disservice by not sending you home to Caro before now, when you were younger.”
“I didn’t want to go,” she said, roughly. “It’s all right, Pater. I’m all right. I’ll go, as soon as is possible.”
“I should never have kept you out here, once I realised that the book has some truth behind it,” he said. He had been rambling a little about his books in the last week or so, as he had become weaker. “You must take it back with you. Put it in the library at Penel Orlieu. That’s where it came from. Put it in the library, up high, on one of the top shelves to the left of the north roundel. Use the ladders. Then it will be safely hidden.” He drew a rattling breath. “Promise me, Jones.”
She turned her hand over beneath the fragile skin of his own on the counterpane and clasped it carefully, tears running freely. “I promise, Pater.” Argo stood to his full, imposing height and licked her face comfortingly.
“Don’t do what I did,” her father added in a harsh whisper. “Don’t search for the source. All these years,” he said, “All these years I have been following the trail, looking for the source and looking for riches and power. Now, here we are. It’s not a source for good, my child. It’s not a source for good at all.” He was lapsing in to rambling again. “I want you away, my dear. I want you and the book safe. It’s too important to destroy. You must take it back to where I found it.” Finally, he slipped into the restless sleep that was consuming more and more of his time. She bent her head over his hand as she clutched it. He was the only blood relation she had known in the last two decades and she was terrified to lose him.
“It won’t be long now.” The soft voice of one of the older monastery healers came from behind her in the quick Bhoti they used with her. “But you know that.”
She turned slowly on her stool, not letting go of her father’s hand, and nodded. “Yes. I know. Thank you, Jamyang. I do appreciate everything you are doing for us.” His apprentice and shadow, Kalsang, was behind him. “Thank you for helping him wash earlier, Kalsang.”
“You are most welcome, Jones.” Kalsang nodded with all the formality a teenager could muster.
“He wants me to go home. To England. To my aunt.” She swallowed and looked up. “It’s all arranged. I’ve written. Sonam and the others will escort me down to Bombay.” She heard Kalsang’s indrawn breath of shock. Bombay was months of travel away. She had only been once herself, about fifteen years ago, when her father had made the trip to take some artefacts down to send home.
“Will you come back?” Jamyang’s voice was unchanged, still calm and unshocked.
She met his gaze. “Yes. Yes. He wants me to stay in England a year. So I can learn where I come from.” She disengaged her hand gently, not waking her father, and stood, the dog at her side. “He’s right, in a way. I should know. I wouldn’t know what to do settled in one place…I want to come back. I want to keep recording the different peoples as I have been doing, keep exploring.”
Jamyang stepped forward and put his arms around her in one of his rare embraces. “You are a good person, Jones,” he said. “Franklin has been my friend for decades now, since you first came here when you were tiny, after your mother died.” He stepped back but kept hold of her hand. “We will welcome you back to the monastery if you come home. You will always have a place here. Do as your father wishes, now. Go to England and find out about your own people. You are between two worlds, here and there, and that is a hard thing. You must find your own way to balance them. Take the book that is worrying him so much back to England and spend some time with your own people, like the dutiful child you are.”
* * * *
After her father’s words of caution, of course, Jones could do nothing but look at the book.