The Journey Begins


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For Work in Progress Wednesday, a bit from The Price of Glory, the moment in which the journey along the Nile to Khartoum begins.

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The sight of Anastasie Cloutier climbing onto the boat caused Richard’s heart to stutter. When Bashkim introduced Dr. Navarre, he had referred vaguely to the rest of a medical party. Richard recalled Navarre from dinner with Cloutier Bey, but it never occurred to him the medical party might include Cloutier’s daughter.

A jolt of pleasure cut through him at the surprising turn of events, but the sight of her hakima garb boded ill for frivolity. ‘Medical Party’ sounded like business. For Anastasie Cloutier this would be no pleasure cruise.

We’ll have that in common then, he thought, rubbing his chin. At least the chances of interesting conversation during the journey have improved.

A thrill vibrated through him when the dahabiya finally began to move. He had come to one of those moments that divided a life between the time before and what happened after. Whatever the outcome, this moment marked a beginning.

He pushed away from the railing and headed in the direction of Anastasie Cloutier, eager to share his enthusiasm with someone, only to see a servant usher her and the woman with her behind the veils that marked off an enclosure.

“The women’s area,” Ahmed murmured, coming up the aft stairway to stand by Richard. He looked irritated. “Our gear is well packed, but a gang of boys has taken up residence at the end of the cargo barge. The little hooligans will cause mayhem.”

“Our men are there as well?”

“Of course. They know what to watch.”

He shrugged. “But eight weeks is a long time.” Dreadful thought. It almost upended his elation at being on his way at last. “Will it really take that long?”

“Allah permitting. Two thousand miles,” Ahmed said, raising an eyebrow at his employer. “Upriver. The wind will be with us, the current not.”

“Point taken. You did say you know how to play chess, did you not?” The two men grinned at each other in perfect accord. Khalil’s cousin had proven to be intelligent as well as efficient, educated as well as skilled. He promised to be an excellent tour guide as well.

Note: excerpts from works in progress may have not yet been edited, will likely undergo change, and may not even make it into the final work!

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