She reached out and touched a delicate and beautiful wine jar which had been painstakingly put together piece-by-piece to judge by tias network of fine lineg that covered it.
‘Where was this discovered?.
‘A burial mound south of the city near the river. There are many such sites. You must visit some of them wMle you are here. There is a most interesting ruin of a Buddhist temple not far from the mission. Breathtaking by moonlight I can recommend it.’
He smiled charmingly and Jaaet, hesitating, was saved by Hamid who entered at that moment ‘There you are.’
‘I thought you were playing billiards?’ she said.
‘A variation of our own, a sort of kaodc-oet GOSJ- petition. Jack and Sher Dfl were too good for me..
‘Mr. Cheung was showing me the Khan’s collection. I had no idea the Chinese had so much influence in this area in ancient times.’
‘God knows why,’ he said. The damned place must have beea an economic liability even in those days..
Cheung glanced at his watch. ‘It’s getting late. I really think I must be going. I leave Miss Tate in your capable hands, Major.’
He went out quickly and she turned to Hamid with a sigh. ‘I feel rather sorry for him. We’ve been standing here talking about the splendours of China past and he isn’t even permitted to be a part of China present It must be a terrible thing to be an exile from one’s own country.’
The tragedy of the twentieth century,’ Hamid said. ‘Did you like him?’
‘It’s difficult to say. He puts himself out to be pleasant, but I feel that he’s looking at me from behind his eyes if you know what I mean.’
‘An excellent description. What about Sher Dil?’
‘A wonderful man. He’s so beautifully correct, so….
She hesitated and Hamid chuckled. ‘So positively British? The Imperial taint still lies heavy upon us. Sher Dil was a Sword of Honour man at Sandhurst in his day. He was also a colonel in the Indian Army as long ago as 1945..
‘What went wrong?’
‘For many years we tried to follow the way of peace in India. Nehru was sure that such a neutrality would be respected by all. Many men like Sher Dil, high ranking regular army officers, were not so sure and said so. When the army was reduced, they were the first to go..
‘And so Sher Dil came here?’
To command an army of seventy-five men for the Khan, most of them recruited in India. The locals don’t take kindly to uniforms.’ He laughed. ‘But a night like this.is made for love and laughter and nothing else. I will show you the delights of the garden..
‘Which Mr. Cheung has already done.’
‘Not with my superb efficiency.’
They left the display room and moved out to the terrace, pausing at the top of a flight of shallow steps for Harold to light a cigar.
The moon was caught in the dark meshes of the cypress trees, the night air heavy with the scent of flowers and a fountain splashed into a fish pool amongst the trees as they went down the steps, her hand on his arm.
The Hour of the Dove they call it.. He waved a hand theatrically. The time for lovers to unburden their hearts to each other..
They came to the fountain in the centre of the garden and she sat on the low wall that ringed the pool, dabbling her hand in the water, and somewhere a bird called sweetly through the night.
This place is like rinding the Garden of Eden In the wilderness. How does he do it?’
‘An army of gardeners and careful cultivation and the walls keep out the winds, remember.’ Hamid breathed in deeply and sighed. ‘And the strange thing is that it can all die in a single night. When winter comes here, it strikes suddenly, like a sword biting into warm flesh.’
She gazed down into the moonlit water, watching the fish nibbling gently at her trailing fingers, ‘Jack told me about what happened in Korea.’
Hamid raised her chin with one hand and looked into her eyes. ‘You like him, don’t you?’