Saturday, 27 April 2013

A Taste of Eastern Splendour


Caught in a compromising situation with Tom, Rose is whisked away in disgrace and hastily married off. Four years later, widowed but still heartsore that Tom abandoned her without a struggle, she is horrified to encounter him again - and in Constantinople of all places. Worse, she has to work with him on a secret document for the Sultan.  Kerim Pasha, the powerful and handsome minister, is entranced by Rose's English beauty and immediately spirits her off into his home.
Tom has never forgotten Rose but even now, the misunderstandings continue. In addition, Rose is determined to maintain her hard-won independence. But back in London, she soon finds that not only Tom, but Kerim Pasha also, has arrived and neither has given up hope of winning her.

Published by Robert Hale   ISBN 9780709090427


This is from Chapter 2, when Tom and Rose come face to face so unexpectedly, after a long gap, in Constantinople.

Tom gulped and frowned at the empty glass. Just what had Mehmet put in the hoshaf? To his annoyance, a large blot was spreading over his sketch. With a sigh he set his pen down and looked up again reluctantly. Apparently it was not an illusion. The three dark shapes were still there.
Not for the first time he found himself wishing that he knew just what he was looking at. Some ladies wore only the lightest of silken veils and you could more or less look them in the eye. These three were completely hidden. He scowled. How dare they invade his office at such a time.
          Behind them he spotted Sebastian Welland, making frantic gestures to him to stand. With a sigh, Tom rose to his full six foot three. There was a rustle as three heads shifted upwards beneath their wraps. From behind one of the veils came a sudden sharp intake of breath. Then silence. Tom’s thick brows drew down as he glared from one to the other, waiting. Normally women did not appear in public offices, especially Turkish women. Was it some kind of plot to disrupt these delicate negotiations?
          Sebastian now reappeared, together with Mehmet, carrying chairs. As he placed the seats for the visitors the young man stammered: ‘Ladies, this is our special envoy, Mr Hawkesleigh.’ Turning to Tom he quailed at the glare he received but persevered in his explanation. ‘I know you said you were not to be disturbed… but…but the Ambassador’s guest is still here…’ 
          Tom glared again at his unwelcome visitors. ‘I regret I cannot spare any time at present -’
At this, the smallest one put back her veil with an impatient gesture. Tom saw that she was fair skinned and haired. She looked to be in her late forties and had a keen, scholarly air.
          ‘Lady Emily Westacote,’ she said briskly, ‘and these are my two nieces.’
          ‘Westacote?’ echoed Tom. ‘Sir Philip Westacote, the antiquarian…?’
          Lady Westacote nodded. ‘Just so. I am his wife. And we are in need of help.’
          ‘In what way ma’am?’ Tom knew his tone was less than cordial. She probably wanted permits to excavate some godforsaken ruin in a remote and bandit-infested area of the Levant. Surely it could wait half an hour. His frustrated gaze turned to the other two females. They had not removed their veils.
          Lady Westacote followed his gaze. ‘Girls!’ she said reprovingly. At this the figure on her left raised her arms and put back the heavy veil to reveal a lovely face with huge pansy brown eyes and shining dark hair. Tom’s eyebrows lifted a little and Sebastian gaped in frank admiration. Then their heads all turned expectantly towards the last veiled figure. There was a pause then very slowly she raised her arms. Tom could sense the reluctance with which she folded back her veil. Then he drew in his breath sharply. His brows met across his formidable nose in a deep frown.
          The young lady met Tom’s eyes. Her oval face was pale and mask-like. Her hair was the colour of ripe wheat, just as he remembered. Tom felt a kind of pressure on his heart. Of all the impossible coincidences. What could bring Rose Graham here?
          ‘Allow me to present Mrs Rosalind Charteris,’ Lady Westacote indicated the fair haired girl, ‘and her sister, Miss Helena Graham.’
          Charteris! So she was married now. Tom could feel the blood draining from his cheeks. He kept his face impassive as he sketched a bow in the general direction of the young ladies. The surge of emotion and anger swamped him. For a moment he could not speak. Then he recovered enough to snap his fingers at Sebastian, who was still gazing from one beauty to the other. The young man gulped, nodded and disappeared, to return a few minutes later with Mehmet and the tray of glasses and fruit juice.
         While Mehmet poured drinks for the ladies, Tom stole a look at Rose Charteris. She was every bit as lovely as his memory of her. That glorious hair, so silky and thick, her creamy skin and that provocative pink mouth. He clenched his jaw against the memory of their last meeting. In spite of the years abroad, he had not forgotten the feel of her in his arms. He instinctively knew how ill at ease she was. She had not expected to find him here. She was gazing round the room, not looking in his direction. His mouth twisted. So what! She had married another man. And why was he surprised at that? She had never answered a single one of the many letters he had sent her.

(C) Beth Elliott

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

An 18th Century Pharmacy in Saint-Lizier, Ariège-Pyrenées

The town of Saint-Lizier in the Pyrenees dates from the 5th Century and has a rich variety of historical monuments of many periods. It is on the pilgrim route to Compostela and its cathedral is dedicated to St James.

       An 18th century Bishop founded a Hotel Dieu [hospital], which was completed in 1764. The entrance to the hospital and pharmacy is through the blue gate in the photo above. The pharmacy remains exactly as it was originally built. The amber coloured wood used for the shelves and cupboards came from fruit trees and is made in the style of Louis XV.

As well as the straight shelves on all four walls, there are four matching corner cupboards, with glass panelled fronts. All the pots and bowls on the shelves were made specially at a pottery near Toulouse. Every pot has the name of the remedy it contains painted on before the pots were fired, so there was no possibility of mistakes with the contents.



A little more grisly, in one of the corner cupboards there is the set of surgical tools, including knives and saws. There are also two large, marble topped tables for preparing medicines or for operating on sick people. Close by the tables are two enormous marble mortars and pestles for preparing and mixing medicines.

The Vinegar of the Four Thieves

From records kept in the hospital, it has been possible to reconstitute the 'Vinegar of the Four Thieves'. This remedy protected against the plague. During one terrible outbreak of plague in Toulouse in 1630, four thieves were caught stealing from the dead victims. These four did not become ill with plague, and the doctors discovered that the men had concocted a lotion that they spread on themselves, [hands, face, armpits and nether regions] which prevented the fleas from jumping on them. In exchange for the recipe, they escaped execution. The remedy is based on vinegar and many herbs, plus camphor.
                 For more information on Saint-Lizier, see