Sandra Wagner-Wright

Literature & Fiction

Author Profile

Sandra  Wagner-Wright

Sandra writes historical fiction. Her latest book, "Ambition, Arrogance & Pride" focuses on 18th century Salem MA. Sandra also blogs about history, travel, and other topics that catch her attention. For more information about Sandra, visit her website


Ambition, Arrogance & Pride

Literature & Fiction

Three Weddings – Two Rival Families

In 1735 Richard Derby, a ship’s master in colonial Salem, Massachusetts, married Mary Hodges, a merchant’s daughter. The alliance was good business, and Mary Hodges was a willing bride. Richard prospered, retired from the sea, and founded his own merchant house. With one exception, Richard’s sons went to sea. Hasket Derby stayed ashore, learning to manage the trading network his father built.

George Crowninshield was the youngest of four brothers. Three sailed for Salem merchants. Richard Derby enticed George to sail for him by matching George with his daughter Mary. George knew a good opportunity when he saw it. Mary wanted more than a house and children, but marriage was her only option. “Marry me,” George said. “Be my partner.”

Eliza Crowninshield set her cap for a husband who would bring her wealth and status. She craved a brick house superior to any other dwelling in Salem. She wanted to dress at the height of fashion and entertain lavishly. Hasket Derby needed a wife as ambitious as he was. He expected to lead the Salem business community and required a wife to complement his achievements. Together, they became the “First Family” of Salem.

Against the backdrop of tensions between Great Britain and her American colonies, George and Hasket built their trading empires. After Americans gained independence in 1783, their sons sailed everywhere trade took place from the West Indies to the Baltic Sea, from Isle de France to Batavia, India, and China.

Inspired by true events, this is the story of two rival families who made their fortunes in the new United States of America.



Book Bubbles from Ambition, Arrogance & Pride

Ghost in a Petticoat

George and Mary pass through the first blush of marriage to a routine of separations, the birth of two daughters, and the loss of their first child. Both parents grieve deeply, and Mary sinks into depression. Their situation is both common and intensely personal. Slowly, healing begins. George makes plans for his next voyage. Mary finds herself trapped in her petticoat. And together they move forward.

Family Events

Mary's brother Hasket is about to marry her husband George's sister. Mary isn't happy about the marriage, nor is she pleased that her father sent her husband on such a lengthy voyage. But what is a family event compared to business opportunities? And now the families will be doubly joined. Mary is irritated by both the wedding and the fact her husband won't attend. Clearly she doesn't find her brother's wedding to be a joyous occasion.

A New Flirtation

Mary's brother Richard is getting married. Her other brother, Hasket, flirts with Eliza, Mary's sister-in-law. Hasket and Eliza find each other interesting, but neither will admit it. What each will acknowledge is is ambition to lead Salem in business and society. Whether they will find their way with each other remains unknown.


Mary's long wedding day is over. The vows were spoken; the refreshments served; the dancing complete. At her new home, Mary removes her new posey ring. Posey rings had animals or plants on the outside and a poem or saying inside. Naturally Mary is curious. But according to superstition removing a wedding ring was the sign of a troubled marriage. Hence Mrs Dunne's objection. Did George have the same concern? Who can say?

Spinning Stories

George Crowninshield and Mary Derby married on July 18, 1757. This fact stands out amid the storytelling of historical fiction. Birth dates, death dates, references to children, business records, and occasional letters comprise the tangible evidence that George and Mary ever lived. Likewise, a hundred years from now people living today will be known in the same way, with the addition of visual records. And perhaps a future story teller will find their lives intriguing enough to spin a tale of historical fiction about life in the early 21st century. Something to ponder.

Uncomfortable Truths

At long last Mary Derby and George Crowninshield are engaged. Eliza Crowninshield and Hasket Derby attend the celebratory party where Hasket continues his flirtation with Eliza. Hasket and Eliza are both ambitious. But can they fulfill each other's ambitions? Will they make a match?

A Perfect Silhouette

After weeks of indecision, Mary accepted George's proposal. Her parents more than approve and she is swept into preparations for the wedding and furnishing her new home. Tonight is Mary's engagement party. Again, she is reluctant. While one young woman might be thrilled with the attention, Mary is not. It appears tight stays are the final straw, but Rebecca pays no attention. Tonight is Mary's society debut, and Rebecca is determined Mary shall play her part.

"Do You Believe Me?"

It's time for Mary to decide if she's going to fish or cut bait. George won't pursue his courtship any longer while she makes up her mind. Will she marry him or not. If not, he's got a ship to take to the West Indies. It's decision time for Mary and she knows it. Decisions come to all of us whether we want them to or not.

I Have Something To Tell You

Mary's brother tricks her onto a sailboat where George is waiting. Mary stubbornly resists George's effort to talk to her - until he tells her he no longer wishes to court her and has accepted command of a coastal vessel. Did she expect him to wait indefinitely? Did she hope he'll continue to woo her? Mary is rapidly running out of options. She needs to decide what she wants.

Hard Questions

Mary Derby is confused. She doesn't want to marry George, except secretly she does. When George takes her to the house they might live in, she's caught up in the moment, until she isn't. Abruptly, she told him not to call again. For two weeks, Mary has wallowed in misery. And her brother takes matters into his own hands and calls her out. Does she want George or not? If not, does she want to be an unpaid servant in her brother's house? The questions might be slightly different today, but not the context. Do we want a relationship with one special person, or not? Do we want to sail our own ship in complete solitude, or not? Hard questions. Harder answers.

"I Have The Key"

After tea in the drawing room, George invites Mary for a stroll - and takes her to a house she could live in, if they marry. "Would you like to live here?" And, perhaps for a moment, she did. But that would require marriage, and Mary doesn't want to be pushed into a marriage. Perhaps at this point, she protests too much. Perhaps she is being stubborn for its own sake and not from personal animosity towards George. Mary is tempted, so George steps further into the fantasy. "Would you like to look inside?" he invites. "I have the key." George knows what he wants. Mary seems perpetually undecided. Or is she just being coy?

Tea With George

George manages to get himself invited for tea with Mary. Her sister Sarah, acts as chaperone, sits sewing by the window. George makes what may be his last attempt to propose to Mary. Mary waffles. Shall she? Shan't she? Just as Mary starts to speak, Sarah calls for immediate assistance. It's a ploy to prevent Mary from refusing George outright. Here the scene freezes. One wonders if Mary will overcome her misgivings, and whether her doubts are about marriage in general, or specifically about marriage to George. In a way, every major life decision is like jumping off a cliff. The jumper knows where the cliff ends, but not where the jump will land.

He's Nice

What a mess. Mary doesn't want George to Call, but her mother pressures her to accept. Mary could have worn a plain dress and simple hairstyle, but she dresses carefully. Her expression, however, shows her distaste. Sister Sarah isn't entirely joking when she says, "If you don't want him, I do." Women have to marry, and George is both pleasant and attractive. But May ants no part of arranged marriages or unequal partnerships. She wants . . . what?


Young George thought he should be completely honest with Mary. He told her Captain Derby approved their match so long as he worked for their family and not his own. His honesty not only backfired; it blew up in his face. Now Mary confronts her mother. Did she know about the business deal made at Mary's expense? Mother denied any knowledge of her husband's intent. In the 18th century marriage was a contract, not a union of young people in love, or even in like. Perhaps George should have kept his mouth shut. Now Mary feels she's been tricked and she won't stand for it.


Attraction can be so confusing. George has nothing to offer Mary but he wants her to know the truth. Mary doesn't want to marry, but she likes George's company. If she spends much time with him, it will look like they're courting. Hearts pounding, insecurities blossoming. Mary tells George she is attracted to his zest. Tension breaks. "Would you allow me to officially court you?" George asks. Perhaps he should explain her father's proposal first. If she accepts George's suit, will he accept her father's suggestion? Will attraction and zest be enough to breech the uncertainties of life?


Fathers don't ask their daughters' suitors about their intentions any more, but in the 18th century the rules of courtship were different. The suitability of a match was judged by a young woman's father. And young men weren't to spend time with their daughters unless their intention was marriage. So, when Captain Richard Derby asked a young George Crowninshield about his intentions for Mary, it was a fraught question. George had no right to have intentions towards Mary, because he literally had nothing to offer her, and he was pretty sure Capt. Derby was aware of his situation. George thought the summons was about a job; he was unprepared for Capt Derby's question.

Large Feet

George got off on the wrong foot with Mary. Instead of partnering with her to lead a dancing set, he disappeared. In fact, he never danced with Mary at all. She told her family she didn't care, but she did. So now he's trying to apologize. Fortunately Mary seems to have a forgiving nature.

Just a Carriage Ride

From Mary's perspective the dancing had been a disaster. Not only had George failed to dance with her, he was in the backroom playing dice. Although pleased her father's proposed suitor had failed, the way he ignored her rankled. Yet the next morning, George invites Mary on a carriage ride. What's up with that? Mary doesn't want to go but her mother urges her not only to accept but to wear a flattering dress. Mary must have felt boxed in. Last night, everyone was upset with the Crowninshields. This morning, the same people want her to accept George's invitation. Does Mary have any real choice in the matter?


Hasket Derby has a curious way of wooing. Instead of flattering Eliza with comments about her beauty, he lays out a proposal based on both their ambitions. Hasket plans on success and sees Eliza as the perfect complement to his plans. He guesses that Eliza has aspirations for social leadership, and knows he can give her what she desires. How will Eliza respond?

First Impressions

The guests have arrived and for the first time Mary sees the young man her father picked out for her. It's a formal dinner party. Mary has on a new gown, but this George wears an ordinary suit. Good quality, but still inappropriate. He doesn't seem to notice. Is he ignorant or uncaring. So far, Mary doesn't know what to conclude about her would-be suitor. She doesn't dismiss him because of his fashion choices, but can she see the young man as more than his clothing choices?

Porcelain Plates & Crystal Goblets

Mary waves her sisters into the dining parlor, not realizing all was already in readiness. This dreaded dinner party was about to happen, but it wasn't until she stood before her family's exquisitely decorated dining table that she fully realized its importance to her father. Perhaps her heart beat faster or a sense of dread fell to the pit of her stomach. Everything was ready, but for what exactly, Mary didn't know. Sister Sarah simply saw a party she wasn't invited to attend. No doubt Mary wished she was still in the same state of innocence.

Anticipation vs. Despair

Mary Derby doesn't know exactly what's afoot, but she has a pretty good idea. Her parents invited Capt. and Mrs. Crowninshield along with one of their sons and a daughter to a formal dinner with a dance to follow. Capt. Derby asked his wife how long it would take to plan a wedding. Clearly, he's planning to marry her off to someone. The upcoming supper party that has Eliza Crowninshield hopping with excitement is a cause of despair for Mary. Eliza wants a husband; Mary doesn't. And the party will be a catalyst for them both.

A Most Exciting Event

The Derbys are hosting a formal dinner followed by dancing. Invitations go out to their extended social circle, including the Crowninshields, and Eliza is beyond excited. Compared to the Derbys, the Crowninshields are less important and invitations are few. Yet Eliza is sure the letter is a social invitation. Such excitement! Imagine a small town where an invitation on quality paper with a wax seal can have such an impact.

A Wedding?!

The more Richard Derby thought about a match between his daughter and young George Crowninshield, the more it held his interest. His wife, however, was displeased. Richard would have to introduce the topic without his wife's approval. After the evening meal, he bided his time while his sons played whist before asking his wife how long it would take to plan a wedding. The metaphorical cat was out of the bag. His wife would not be able to avoid the topic.

"I believe you have a daughter"

Timothy Orne, a prominent Salem merchant, has a business proposition. Richard Derby, his one-time ship's captain, launched his own smaller merchant house, and Orne does not want his shipping dependent on Crowninshield sailors. He needs to keep Salem's business under his control and proposes marital politics to bind the old families together, while leaving upstart Crowninshields out of competition. To begin, Orne suggests Richard Derby marry his older daughter Mary to young George Crowninshield. This would pull the lad out of his family's interest into the Derby-Orne orbit. Salem society was one of familial connections. Individual desires were irrelevant.

Salt From The Source

Returning to Salem from a successful voyage to the West Indies, Richard's father-in-law offers him the opportunity to sail directly to Spain. Here was the opportunity Richard hoped for. Aside from successfully delivering his father-in-law's cargo, Richard could carry his own and begin to acquire funds to start his own business. But what Richard saw as an opportunity, his wife viewed as dangerous. There was a big difference between coastal trading and voyages to the West Indies. By comparison, the Atlantic was a vast ocean subject to more storms and danger. What if Richard didn't return? Then again, the West Indies could also be a dangerous route.

Wine and Cake

Mary Hodges was pregnant at the time of her wedding - not unusual in the 18th century. The wedding didn't change her social status entirely; she was still her father's daughter. But marriage transformed Richard Derby's prospects from almost nothing to association with a prominent merchant family. With hard work he could build his own fortune. Perhaps Capt. Hodges recognized Richard's ambition would support his daughter's choice. And if not, she would still be his daughter.

Silver Hairpins

Mary Hodges is dressing for her wedding. In an hour or so, she will leave her mother's household to establish her own. The moment seems fraught with the omens of a rainy afternoon, hair pulled to perfect a braid secured with silver hairpins. How will Mary's future turn out. A story's opening is the moment writer and reader meet. I hope you enjoy the upcoming book bubbles.

Saxon Heroines

Literature & Fiction

Seventh century England is a hodgepodge of warring Anglo-Saxon states filled with shifting alliances and treacherous grabs for royal power. Kings rise and fall, depending on Woden's Luck. Northumbria, the damp kingdom north of the River Humber, is a state riven with rivalries and kings determined to expand at any cost. Women have no obvious role in a warrior society, but by using their wits, four women—two queens and two abbesses—make monumental changes. One woman marries a pagan king and successfully converts him to Christianity before he dies in battle. One becomes the most powerful abbess in Northumbria and holds the Great Synod at Whitby Abbey, which brings the kingdom back to the Roman Church. Another becomes queen and keeps political alliances strong despite different religious denominations. The fourth woman ushers in a new age by negotiating with kings and churchmen to establish one united church in the Northumbrian kingdom. Based on true events and people, this is the story of Northumbria through the eyes of the most important women of their time.

Book Bubbles from Saxon Heroines


When Abbess Elfleda was 6 years old, she confided to then Abbess Hildeburg that she would like to share the Gospel in the people's language like Cadmon did. Hildeburg said that was not her purpose. That God would send her to comfort a king. In hindsight Elfleda concluded it must when she promised to fulfill King Aldfrid's deathbed request. She spoke for Wilfrid in the synod, and he was reinstated. In turn, he supported Aldfrid's heir thus preventing civil war. Abbess Hildeburg could not tell Elfleda's future, only that she have the courage to face it. The women in "Saxon Heroines" were women of courage who influenced a warrior society. May you, dear readers, always have courage.

A Wise King

Abbess Elfleda watches King Aldfrid's chest rise and fall as he sleeps. She cannot fathom why he decided to forgive Wilfrid–why he told her she must do the same. He opens his eyes. She asks who will be his heir–his son Osred is too young to hold the throne. But Wilfrid with his land and wealth isn't. Wilfrid can hold the throne until Osred is of age. Wilfrid can keep Northumbria from falling into chaos. The irony of the situation isn't lost on Elfleda. Her bitterest enemy is now the means to hold her father's legacy together.


King Aldfrid lies on his deathbed and asks his niece Abbess Elfleda asks her to forgive Bishop Wilfrid and help restore his position. The same Wilfrid who colluded with King Oswy to bring Northumbria to the Roman church. The churchman who was her aunt, Abbess Hildegard's bitter enemy. The man she held responsible for the enmity between her brother and his first wife. The last thing Elfleda wants to do is forgive Wilfrid. But she must. Her faith teaches forgiveness. Her brother the king commands Elflreda to forgive. How many lifetimes should enmity be allowed to exist?

A Dying King's Request

After Egfrith died, his half-brother Aldfrid came from Iona to accept the crown. Now in A.D. 705, he lies on his deathbed and sends for Abbess Elfleda. The earthly struggle of this royal Northumbrian family is ending, but there is one more thing to accomplish. King Aldfrid wants the rift with Bishop Wilfrid to heal. And he wants Abbess Elfleda to help him. Will she find love for the man who persuaded King Oswy to give Northumbria's Christians into the Roman church? Can she forgive her enemy? Does she want to? Sitting in a smoky room and holding the king's hand, Elfleda will have to choose.


Abbess Elfleda wants to know how her brother the king died. Bishop Trumwine tells her about the Picts who painted themselves blue and led Egfrid into an indefensible position. By the time Egfrid called a retreat, all was lost. The Picts destroyed their attackers. Abbess Elfleda regrets asking how the king came to Lindisfarne. Knowing details of the battle did not bring the king back to life, nor could they explain his choice to lie at Lindisfarne. Elfleda realizes that learning the details could not relieve her grief. Egfrid had reached too far, and failed. Would there be a new king from his line? Time would tell.


Abbess Elfleda sits with Bishops Cuthbert and Trumwine trying to understand what happened to her brother King Egfrid. How did he die? She knew he died in battle -- but what happened. Trumwine begins his description of Egfrid's attack on the Picts who instead of meeting Egfrid on open ground, led his army into an ambush. If Egfrid hadn't been so determined to crush them, he might have realized the danger. But his blood was up. He was determined to destroy his enemies and sure they could not stand against him. Egfrid died in battle, but it was his pride that led him to his death.

A King's Funeral

Elfleda, Abbess of Streoneshalh, goes to Lindisfarne for the funeral of her brother, King Egfrid. Why did he choose to lie here and not at the Streoneshalh? Even though Egfrid's death wasn't entirely unexpected, it's still a shock that changes life for everyone in Northumbria. Who will be the new king? Will they be taken over by Mercia? And, on a more personal level, why did Egfrid turn his back on his family to lie at Lindisfarne? Since Abbess Hildeburg died, everything seems in flux. Before she returns to Streoneshalh, Elfleda will demand answers from Cuthbert. Will he have any?

King Egfrid is Dead

King Egfrid, against all advice, left to fight the Picts. Queen Ermenberg is at her sister's monastery when Bishop Cuthbert arrives. The good news is the war is over. The bad news is King Egfrid is dead. The political crisis Abbess Elfleda feared has now arrived. King Egfrid left no heir. Bishop Cuthberg said there was an heir, but who is he? And perhaps more importantly, where is he now?

Who Will Be King?

Taking up her responsibilities, Abbess Elfleda goes to meet Abbot Cuthbert on Coquet Island. Her mission is to persuade him to accept the bishop's mitre, but other matters prey on her mind. Her brother King Egfrid has no heir and may not live much longer. What will happen to Northumbria? Will there be civil war? Will they be taken over by their Mercian enemies? The future seems bleak. Abbot Cuthbert predicts the next king will be a brother she doesn't know, a son of her father King Oswy and a woman called Fin. The comfort Cuthbert extended doesn't ease Elfleda's mind. People don't always embrace the future laid before them.

The Vigil

From the moment of birth, people in the Middle Ages were never alone, because there could be no life outside of community. Abbess Hildeburg lies on her deathbed. She's been failing for some time. Surrounded by her nuns, Hildeburg gives her final blessings and advice. Her niece Elfleda suffers from the enormity of change, first because of her love for Hildeburg who raised her. But also because she is now abbess. She's been doing the job on behalf of the abbess, but now the job is hers. Monks, nuns, and laypeople will look to her for sustenance and guidance. The king will expect her counsel. Vigils are not just for the dying. They are also the time when an individual takes on the mantle of a new beginning.

Alliances and Battles

To cement an alliance, King Egfrid arranges for this sister to marry King Ethelred of Mercia. Perhaps the offer and acceptance was sincere, but it didn't stop Ethelred from attacking his new brother-in-law. Allies are summoned, including Egfrid's brother Elfwin. The Queen Mother of Northumbria is distraught. She prays constantly that her children on both sides will be spared. When the battle was joined King Egfrid won. His brother Elfwin died. And what, one wonders, became of their sister who was married to the defeated king? The record doesn't say.

A Vow Fulfilled

Queen Etheldreda escaped to Ely with her two companions and established her monastery. King Egfrid dissolved the marriage, and Etheldreda fulfilled her vow to God without further difficulty. In A.D. 679 Abbess Etheldreda died from plague and was buried with her religious sisters. Etheldreda's sister became the new abbess. After her death, Etheldreda became what she never sought to be, a saint whose grave was visited by pilgrims from near and far.

The Tide That Didn't Recede

Queen Ethelberga doesn't feel safe at Coldingham Abbey. She's afraid her husband will kidnap her and force her to his bed. Ethelberga decides to take two sisters with her and escape by climbing down to the shore and persuading a fisherman to take them south. But she may be too late. The refugees descend to the headland, only to discover the king's army camp. When the tide recedes, they will be discovered. But, according to the Venerable Bede, the tide doesn't recede and the queen escapes to her lands in the south.

The Queen as Apprentice

Queen Etheldreda holds to her vow. She vowed her chastity to God and will not equivocate. Exasperated, King Egfrid sends her to his aunt's monastery at Coldingham. Perhaps he thought she wouldn't like the life, or that the Abbess could persuade her to change her mind. It was an unrealistic hope. Etheldreda loves life in the monastery. But her conviction to the religious life is unbending. She thinks the nuns should be more prayerful and austere. And she think the abbess should immediately give her a high office. Instead the queen's tasks are things she's unfamiliar with. Eventually, she learns new things and becomes less rigid. But always she fears the king will take her back to the castle and consummate their marriage by force. Can she ever feel safe from his wrath?

A Queen's Duty

As King Egfrid's wife, Etheldreda is Queen of Northumbria. Another woman might be thrilled. Etheldreda longs only to join a monastery. Her vow of chastity doesn't please her husband. Now, more than ever, he needs a son and sends Bishop Wilfrid to persuade his wife to do her duty to her king. Etheldreda refuses to relinquish her vow. Is her refusal a pure act of faith? It could be. Or, is it a desperate attempt to exercise autonomy from her husband's rule over her? Could it be both? And what will be the cost?

St Peter's Gate

Watching King Oswy's coffin being loaded onto a cart, Abbess Hildeburg sees an era pass before her eyes. The man who made bargains with God and built his family's crypt at her abbey would now lie within it. The king who ruled like a force of nature stood at St Peter's gate. No doubt Hildeburg wondered if Peter agreed to let him into heaven because the king chose the Roman church over the Columban. Indeed, how could he refuse?

Oswy's Smile

Abbess Hildeburg admits to herself that Wilfrid is a clever and witty debater, while Abbot Colman comes across as pedantic and bewildered. Hildeburg fists her hands underneath her gown's folds. Colman can't grasp that truth and tradition won't catch the king's ear. Only political favor can do that. The decision was made before the meeting started and Wilfrid simply provides the excuse by pointing out that Jesus appointed the Apostle Peter to found his church, and that church was in Rome. Before Colman can respond, King Oswy declares the debate over. Northumbria will join the Roman church. Hildeburg's emotions roil. Anger, disappointment, despair and sorrow flood her soul.

Why is Wilfrid Present?

The churchmen gather for the synod. Supporting the Columbian church are Abbot Colman of Lindesfarne, Bishop Oswald, & Abbess Hildegard who is present but, as a woman, is not allowed to speak. Bishop Agilbert leads the Roman party. With him is Wilfrid, a man Hildeburg doesn't trust. He came to the queen to get a position at Lindesfarne. Then he said he needed more knowledge, so the queen sponsored his journey to Rome. When he returned, he told Hildegard the Roman rites were more correct, and he would prove it. Now he is at the synod, a friend of Oswy's son Alhfrith. Hildeburg worries Wilfrid's argument will be far too clever for Abbot Colman to counter. Why has he come, she wonders. What does he want?

Cosmic Struggles

It seems so archaic now -- this conflict between the Columban and Roman church. But in the 7th century it was crucial. The Colmban church was decentralized, and accepting of women but was little known outside the British Isles. The Roman church dominated Europe. Its patriarchal structure offered political and trade ties. Coupled with "signs and wonders", Abbess Hildegard sees spiritual struggles through natural events. Would the old gods return to defeat both churches? If they did, would they exact vengeance?

The King's Message

Abbess Hildeburg is about to host the Synod that made her famous among Christian saints, though fame is the furthest thing from her mind. King Oswy can no longer tolerate 2 Christian churches with 2 different dates to celebrate Easter, or so he says. Hildeburg knows Oswy has something else up his sleeve, a matter more about earthly power than heavenly peace. I imagine she sighed. Whatever his purpose, it would play out in her abbey at Streaoneshalh on the Whitby Coast. Does she sense the import of this meeting, or put it down as simply another king's power play?

Hidden Vows

Egfrid and Ethedreda married for political reasons. Nevertheless, Egfrid expected marital relations and a son. Etheldreda hoped to remain celibate. She made a vow before God, a vow her father knew of when he arranged the marriage. A vow he had disregarded once before. Ethedreda's first husband respected the vow. Will Egfrid? Imagine his shock and her fear. Will Egfrid break the vow his wife made with God? Does he dare?

Princess Etheldreda's Vow

Etheldreda is a princess from East Anglia. She & Prince Egfrid are being married. Not only is Etheldreda reluctant, she will refuse to consummate the marriage. Egfrid doesn't know yet, but Etheldreda has pledged herself to God and will not break her vow. The marriage is good for East Anglia and Northumbria, but not for the individuals most directly involved. King Oswy gave his daughter to God without her consent. Is it any wonder he and his new ally are not concerned with Etheldreda's vow, though to be fair, King Oswy is also unaware of the situation.

Abbess Hildeburg Ascends

Abbess Hildeburg is ready to embark on what would become her life's work. As a princess of Northumbria, her experience in worldly matters is vast. Hildeburg understands the political connection between king and church. She cannot control it, but she knows how to negotiate between kings and prelates. Also, Hildeburg is not without spiritual training. Running an abbey is not conducive to the contemplative life, but Hildeburg is not unaware of the ways God intervenes in the world. And now Hildeburg is ready to build the monastery that will define her legacy. No doubt she'll have many topics to pray about.

1400 Years

In this short excerpt, Hildeburg, Abbess of Heretu and Princess of Northumbria eagerly awaits her new charge, an infant called Elfleda. A woman, once childless, now has a daughter to care for. The child's mother, a queen, rejoices that the infant's fate is secure.The daughter will become an abbess, never subject to royal whims. That's the hope anyway. But in a warrior society, can any female be free? I can't help but wonder if much has changed in the past 1400 years.

The Ravens Flew Away

When the battle was joined, victory belonged to King Oswy. Was it because he pledged both his daughter and land grants for 12 monasteries to God? Was it because God favored Oswy's side? Or did Woden just give up the fight and call his ravens home? Who can say for sure? Historians emphasize rain, mud and floods. They might even note that the mere belief of God's favor can cause warriors to press harder for victory. No matter. Penda is dead. Oswy is bretwalda of England. And any remaining pagans quickly convert.

The Deal

The battles between Oswy of Northumbria and Penda of Mercia continue, as does life at the Northumbrian court. Queen Enfleda gives birth to a daughter called Elfleda whom Oswy acknowledges as his before turning his attention back to warfare. Despite being a Christian king facing Woden's king, Oswy can't secure a victory. Maybe he needs to sweeten the deal he has with God. "I'll dedicate my newborn daughter to you, plus I'll dedicate more monasteries to you, but only if I win the war. Another female moves across the chess board. Queen Enfleda, however, is pleased. Her daughter will never be forced to marry anyone -- and if she lives, she will have her own monastery.

Divine Rescue

Queen Enfleda watched Penda's forces pile flammable material around her fortress at Bamburg. The king left her in charge of a few defenders, essentially helpless from the flames. She must flee but how can she? The enemy awaits her exit. Enfleda determines she will take the risk. Just as she's about to signal, the wind shifts and the flames blow towards the enemy. It is a miracle. A divine rescue orchestrated by Aiden, the monk who brought Hildeburg back to Northumbria. Enfleda agrees. She must have been saved by a miracle. It certainly wasn't by her husband the king.


While Hildeburg mulls her choices before taking vows as a nun, her niece Enfleda experiences life at a warlord's court. Oswy and Panda, rivals for control in Northumbria regularly participate in skirmishes that are every more costly in men and treasure. But this time the stakes are higher. Penda's forces ravage the Northumbrian province of Bernicia and Enfleda is left to defend the fortress at Bamburg. She hopes her husband will arrive to rout their enemies, but more realistically fears Penda's men will breach the fortress. An unnerving situation, to say the least.


Princess Hildeburg accepts Abbot Aidan's challenge. She and her ladies go Wear where they train with Abbess Hieu. When it's time for a final decision, Hildeburg decides to stay in Northumbria and become a nun. She is happy in her new life away from the world and its challenges. But that is not her fate. Hildeburg is called to be an abbess, not at Lyminge as her aunt desired, but at Heretu on the River Tees.

Talking to God

Hildeburg is packed and ready to depart for Frankland on her way to the monastery at Chelles when a monk named Aiden comes to her door. What must she think as she watches him eat the oatcake. I imagine him a scruffy, wiry, and exuding a confidence Hildeburg can't imagine. Who is this man out of nowhere to tell her she must change her plans? Finally in charge of her own fate, Aiden shows up and tells her she isn't. That God wants her in Bernicia. A monk she could ignore, but God? What if this strange man is telling the truth? What if he isn't?

An Unexpected Visitor

Hildeburg thinks she's going to meet her sister in Frankland. The bags are packed. The last farewells are being written. And then an obstacle shows up. Abbot Aiden received the letter from Abbess Enfleda and traveled from Lindisfarne in the north to East Anglia in the south. It isn't a short journey. Imagine Hildeburg's surprise when she sees this stranger. He must have seemed like a ghost from her past. How could he be standing in her chamber? Why was he here? Trying to control her scattered thoughts, Hildeburg sends for refreshments.

Should a princess become an abbess?

When Hildeburg stops at Lyminge Abbey to visit her aunt, Ethelberga urges Hildeburg to follow in her footsteps as abbess at Lyminge. Hildeburg wants to go to the convent at Chelles with her sister. Ethelberga argues "a princess should be an abbess" and Hildeburg won't have that role at Chelles. Hildeburg spends the summer at Lyminge before leaving to meet her sister. But Ethelberga won't accept Hildeburg's decision. Hildeburg is free from husbands and kings, yet the former queen, forced to join the abbey she now leads, is determined to control Hildeburg's choices.

Hildeburg Faces a Decision

Princess Hildeburg visits Abbess Ethelberga at her abbey at Lyminge. She's come to say farewell. Hildeburg's husband died, and she's on her way to Anglia to join her sister. Hildeburg plans to go with her sister to the convent at Chelles in France. Ethelberga opens another pathway. The abbess expects to die soon, and wants Hildeburg to become the next abbess. But, for once, Hildeburg can chart her own path. She can go to Chelles and live out her days with her sister. After all this time, Hildeburg wants to be with her birth family. But, Ethelberga reminds her, Hildeburg is still a princess and a princess should be an abbess.

Shriveled & Ugly

Superstition is a powerful force. For example, for hundreds of years people thought that if an infant or child was too perfect, the fairies would steal him or her. Sometimes they replaced the child with an imposter; sometimes they didn't. Enfleda thinks her child is beautiful, but doesn't share the thought. The king declares his son to be shriveled and ugly before giving him a warrior's name. Egfrid lived to inherit the throne, so the fairies must have believed the subterfuge.

Enfleda Becomes A Bride

In some ways, Enfleda's life mirrors that of her mother before her. Without her voluntary consent, she is sent to Northumbria to marry the king. But in Enfleda's eyes, King Oswy is not the man her father was. He is handsome, strong, and powerful, a visage Enfleda cannot resist. Will Oswy's appeal last? Who can say?

It Is Done

Ethelberga, once a queen - now an abbess, tells her daughter she must marry the king of Northumbria. Enfleda fights her fate, but no one will let her avoid it. Enfleda's mother wants her daughter to be a queen. Inner eyes, royal status is the only position worth having. The position comes with sufficient food and shelter. It comes with status. It is the best occupation available to Enfleda, but it isn't the one she wants. Don't worry, the old dowager queen advises. Your husband will die in battle and then . . .


Princess Hildeburg's thoughts reflect how little control anyone has over her or his destiny. Kingdoms rise and fall without any real pattern, and a woman's fate is of little concern in the broader frame of cosmic struggles. Nevertheless, Hildeburg finds gratitude for her new situation. Her husband is kind and her life stable. The situation could have been considerably worse.

Ethelberga's Fate

Like all kings, Ethelberga's brother keeps his position by using his wits, and he won't allow his sister, or anyone acting in her name, to set up a rival court in Frankland. He sends the princes across for safekeeping, but he will keep their mother shut away where he can monitor her movements. Ethelberga will found a women's monastery at Lyminge - a site now excavated by archeologists. As an abbess, Ethelberga will exercise a new type of influence, but she doesn't know that yet. When Ethelberga hears her brother's decision, she is deeply disappointed by her fate and powerless to change it.


King Eadbald holds Queen Ethelberga's fate in his hands. She sits helplessly while he teases her. "Do you like it here?" He asks. "Would you like to stay?" He plays a long political game; she, a game of survival. A game in which she has no resources. Yet Ethelberga sits calmly, as if she has no concerns.

Wine & Small Talk

Dowager Queen Ethelberga approaches her brother King Eadbald with caution. First the pleasantries take place. The wine. The small talk. Ethelberga masks her fear and maintains her dignity. What fate will King Eadbald decree? Will he allow her to go to France with the princes? Will he keep them under house arrest, or barter them to her enemies. Family ties mean little in the greater political gain. Queen Ethelberga continues to hold her beaker filled with warm wine. I'm surprised she doesn't spill it.


Queen Ethelberga and her household spend the 12 days of Christmas with her brother's court at Kent. Ethelberga projects her royal status as Queen of Northumbria through her clothing and memories. Yet Ethelberga knows she no longer has a throne. All too soon, Ethelberga's brother, the King of Kent, will rule on her future. Will she stay with the court in Kent? Will she go to a monastery in Frankland? Ethelberga's uncertain future casts a dark shadow over her celebration of the holiday festivities.

A Royal Invitation

Miraculously, Queen Ethelberga and her companions reached her brother's domain in Kent. The refugees have food and clothing, but what will happen to them? Will the king shelter them? Help Ethelberga and the princes reach Frankland? When will he send a letter of welcome to her? When the letter arrives, the queen asks Hildeburg to read it. Perhaps she wants to distance herself from possible rejection.It's an invitation to join the court for Christmas. Hildeburg is excited. The queen is apprehensive and grabs the letter. Did the king write in his own hand? No. Did he at least sign the letter? No. The signs are not auspicious.

An Uncertain Future

Queen Ethelberga is in her brother's domain at last. She is alive. She has clothing, food, and fresh clothing. At the moment, she has more than she ever thought she'd have again. But, she doesn't know what the future holds and she's completely dependent of the good will of a brother she hasn't seen in over then years. Will she be able to go with her princes to Chelles in Frankland? Will she be a dowager queen at her brother's court? Will she be sent to a monastery?

"Have Courage"

On the one hand, Princess Hildeburg must be relieved. The boats are moving south. The people have enough food to subsist. There's is an unhappy routine to the day. But it's such a struggle. No wonder Hildeburg thinks it would be easier if the boats just sank. In such a situation, the admonition to 'have courage' offers hope. And if Hildburg has hope, she can bail for one more day.

"I be Hud"

By default, Princess Hildeburg took charge of the escape from Northumbria. She browbeat Bassus until he looked for men who could sail the boats to Kent. Now he returns with Hud. Does he know the way to Kent? As well as anyone else might, which isn't a comforting thought. But Hud is Hildeburg's only option. At least he knows how to sail the boats, even if he didn't volunteer for the job.


Princess Hildeburg who has followed directions all her life, suddenly finds she must give them. If the situation wasn't so desperate, she would never have found the courage. The archbishop, the queen, and the senior thane have no idea what the situation is. Hildeburg, an untried girl, asserts herself and goes head-to-head with a senior thane who refuses to do what needs to be done. Finally, she threatens the thane's reputation. When Bassus realizes Hildeburg means what she says, he finally does what needs to be done. I think this moment was a turning point for Hildegard. For the first time, she realizes she can be a leader.

Jesus Isn't Here

King Edwin's death means his family must flee Northumbria and go to Queen Ethelberga's family in Kent. Driven by panic and fear, the household presses on. Princess Hildeburg also despairs but keeps her focus on solutions. Bishop Paulinus points out Jesus's miracles. Bassus points out he's gotten them to the shore. Hildeburg is unimpressed. Her goal is to board the fishing boats and sail south towards Kent. Can she make it happen, or with they be held back by mundane concerns like lice?

Bassus Sobs

The warrior returns from battle to tell Queen Ethelberga her husband is dead with his head on a stake. On the day of this battle, Woden's army won. Did God turn away from King Edwin? At a time like this, it doesn't matter. The king's family must flee or be killed. The struggle with Woden isn't over yet, but there's no time to contemplate the future. Queen Ethelberga and her household must run away as fast as possible. Hildeburg wonders how they can escape, but knows they must try.

The Cycle of War

Queen Ethelberga knows King Edwin is reaching too far. The annual sequence of raids has become a war between both men and gods in what seems to be an endless and ever more ruthless struggle. Without war, there is no plunder. Without plunder, there is nothing to distribute among the warriors. Without warriors, the king will topple so another can take his place and renew the cycle. More than 200 years later, the basic cycle continues.

Thank you, Freya

Queen Ethelberga's first son died soon after baptism, but a year later she has another prince. Who will protect him? Hildeburg thanks Goddess Freya for breathing life into the prince. King Edwin says the infant will be baptized immediately. He names his son Wuscfrea, so the boy will have a wolf's cunning. But Hildeburg wonders if that's the only reason. Woden has wolves for his companions. Is the king asking Woden to protect his son. In all likelihood, King Edwin probably wants to enlist all supernatural powers on behalf of himself and his family. The cosmic struggle continues.

Faulty Rituals

King Edwin visits the Queen's Chamber to meet his son. He calls the babe "ugly" so the fairies won't take him. He schedules the infant's Christian baptism the next day to protect the babe from Woden's revenge. A week later the baby dies. Pagan and Christian mixed together. In 7th century Northumbria the struggle is real. The king accepts baptism, but Woden still lurks. He tries to protect his son from Woden & random fairies, but the child dies. Does this mean the Christian ritual is weak? Or that Woden is strong? No doubt everyone wonders, even Paulinus

It's A Prince

Hildeburg is older now - old enough to attend Queen Ethelberga's confinement. This time, the queen has a son. It's as if Ethelberga has completed her assignments. The king is baptized, and she produced a prince. But life is uncertain. Infants don't always survive. The queen deserves to savor her triumph as long as it lasts.


Queen Ethelberga exerted her influence to persuade King Edwin to accept baptism. But now it's Bishop Paulinus who takes center stage. He's the king's man now, important with his head full of spiritual subjects. But it's a tricky position. Paulinus advises the king to build a stone church to symbolize permanence. But Edwin builds it on the site in York where he was baptized - the site that still has stone blocks placed by the Romans. Ethelberga is wise enough to know her husband places more emphasis on this world than the next. And if the child she carries is male and survives, that her own influence will return.

King Edwin's Baptism

King Edwin, his household, and his supporters were baptized on Easter AD 627. The king built a church at York for the occasion, because York was where Roman soldiers elected Constantine their emperor, and Constantine was the first emperor to convert. No doubt Edwin liked the connection. He also liked the fact that every leader in Briton will see King Edwin's wealth and prestige, from the golden vessels on the altar to his own dazzling robes. Princess Hildeburg rejoices that she will be publicly recognized as part of King Edwin's household. In the recognition of all these connections. the baptism itself seems less important.

Queen Ethelberga's Purpose

It seemed as if the thanes in the King's Hall were involved in a cosmic battle. Perhaps they were. Both Bishop Paulinus and the Woden's priest Coifi addressed the Witan. In the end, Coifi declared the God of Paulinus to be the better choice. But even cosmic battles have lesser participants. Queen Ethelberga knows that Paulinus' success is also hers. She has done the job Pope Boniface gave her. She is more than a woman who bears princes. Her faith converted a king.


The moment has come. King Edwin will present the prospect of Christian conversion to the Witan. Bishop Paulinus dresses carefully for the occasion. Coifi, the high priest of Wodan, is also dressed for maximum effect. King Edwin's attire is more interesting. Bishop Paulinus told Edwin that the reason he survived the assassin's knife was because he wore Pope Boniface's cloak. Does the king expect to need similar protection from his own warriors?

King Edwin Accepts Baptism

Bishop Paulinus waited a long time for King Edwin to accept the Christian god. Now the king agrees, and Paulinus is ready to start the ceremony, but no. The king tells him to wait. Paulinus must have fallen from exultation to despair in the space of five minutes or less. The king wants to discuss the change with his followers. What if they object? Can they object? Paulinus doesn't know the answer. Does King Edwin?

Paulinus Seizes the Moment

Bishop Paulinus realizes King Edwin faces a life-changing dilemma. Will he stick with Woden, the god of his fathers? Or, will he trust this new god - the one who gave him victory in battle. And there's the king's vow that if he won he would convert. So, what are the consequences if he doesn't convert. Paulinus isn't overly sensitive, but even he realizes the enormity of the king's inner struggle and realizes this is the time to force Edwin's choice.

The King's Vow

I think Queen Ethelberga was both patient and cunning. After hr husband's victory she knows Bishop Paulinus expects him to keep his vow and be baptized. The knows he probably won't. Bishop Paulinus, however, is already planning the baptism. It's not that Ethelberga thinks the king will never accept baptism, but she's pretty sure that in the flush of victory he's in no hurry to do so. Paulinus seems so unaware of the forces surrounding him that the queen loses patience.

Tales of Battle

When the warriors return from battle against Wessex, Princess Hildegard listens with rapt attention as tales are told about the battle near the River Derwent. Two armies, both sure of Woden's support, meet to destroy each other. Only King Edwin knows about the deal he made with the Christian god - victory in exchange for conversion. It's seems an odd test. If Edwin loses, his conversion won't matter.

Kind Edwin's Proposition

King Edwin has always served Woden. In exchange, the god has granted him success. But Bishop Paulinus' insistence that it was the Christian god who saved Edwin from death creates doubt in the king's mind. Edwin declares that if he is successful in the next battle, he will turn away from Woden. The king has every reason to expect success. So this becomes an excuse to shift his religion. Likewise, Edwin frames his decision as a way to please his wife. Of course, there is nothing to bind the king to his word after he wins the battle. There are no witnesses to his declaration.

Will I Be Stronger

King Edwin decides to talk to his Christian queen about whether converting to Christianity will help him in the battle he is about to launch. Queen Ethelberga must have felt a certain satisfaction that he asked her opinion, but she is careful not to interfere in men's matters. Surely he should be speaking to Woden's priest or the Christian priest. But Edwin wants the Queen's opinion. Her interests rise and fall with the king's success or failure. The priests have other loyalties.


Anglo-Saxons explained infant death by saying the child was so desirable "the fairies" took the babe. So, when Queen Ethelberga said the fairies could take her newborn daughter, her entire household quickly denounced the child as too ugly for the fairies to take. It seems harsh for a mother to reject her child, but when the newborn turned out to be female, Queen Ethelberga's hopes for a secure future were immediately quashed.

Goddess Eostre

Felled by an assassin's dagger, King Edwin is carried to a chamber while his hall erupts in chaos. Paulinus, charged with making Edwin a Christian, watches Woden's priest Coifi treat Edwin's wound. If Coifi hadn't been there, Edwin may have died from blood loss. Paulinus has no idea how to treat wounds. But though gravely wounded, Edwin puts on a brave show of strength. He must rally the warriors before they consider his weakness. The king is conscious with his healer and his men. Everyone, except Paulinus, praises Goddess Eostre for the king's miraculous recovery.


In the King's Hall, all is convivial boasting until the stranger stands. Ten-year-old Hildeburg watches in horror as Eumer raises his dagger to strike the king. Spurting Blood - Unexpected Battle - A Wounded, Perhaps Dying, King. All is chaos and uncertainty.

The Odd Stranger

King Edwin welcomes strangers to his hall. This night the feast is a celebration of Goddess Eostre, a feast hat coincides with the Christian Easter. The evening begins with the usual boasts and feasting on venison and other meats. There is one stranger in the hall, a man who keeps to himself and still wears travel stained garments. Something is odd about him, but who can say what? All seems normal, but will it remain so?


Bishop Paulinus urged King Edwin to convert to Christianity, but the king isn't ready to turn his back on the gods of his people. Princess Hildeburg joins with other girls and young women in the king's court to celebrate Somonath and prepare for Goddess Eostre's festival. Life has its rhythms after all.

Paulinus' Error

Paulinus believes that after he reads the pope's letter to the king, Edwin will convert. He isn't expecting questions. To Paulinus, the need of salvation is obvious, except Edwin doesn't see it that way. I imagine Edwin felt insulted. How could the king have something he'd never heard of before. Paulinus answers before he thinks. "Everyone sins," he says. Edwin turns the tables. "What sin do you have, priest?" Paulinus has no answer. He never thought about whether or not he had sins. Paulinus assumes unbelievers sin, but he never thinks about believers ... or himself. And when Edwin points out Paulinus' error, the bishop gives a glib response and changes the subject.

Do you agree, wife?

Princess Hildeburg watches her King Edwin touch the pope's letter. Bishop Paulinus hovers on the side, trying to retrieve the it before it tears or falls to the ground. Paulinus already gave Edwin the pope's gifts. Now he's frantic to read the letter that came with the gifts. Edwin's response demonstrates his world view. The king has no interest in allies too far away to assist him. Paulinus has to persuade Edwin that the pope can bring Edwin useful allies. Unexpectedly, Edwin asks what his wife thinks. Is it a ploy, or does he respect her opinion?

Glittering Gifts

In the King's Hall, Paulinus presents King Edwin with gifts sent by the pope - a tunic shot with gold threads and a gold medallion. The gifts glitter in the firelight. Warriors cheer, lifting the king's stature among them. Paulinus entices King Edwin to turn toward the treasures of heaven. Edwin focuses on the wealth before him. Imagine Paulinus standing with hope in his eyes. Will these gifts convince Edwin to convert?

How Far Is Frankland From Here?

Queen Ethelberga is not impressed by the pope's letter to the king, nor does she thinks the pope's gifts will sway the king to convert. Bishop Paulinus argues that if the king accepts the gifts, he is bound to the pope. Queen Ethelberga presses the bishop to demonstrate that papal gifts won't bind the king. She wants Paulinus to realize the only way to persuade the king to convert is through her good offices. Ethelberga is not a mere woman to be pushed aside.

Court Intrigue

Queen Ethelberga wants to see the pope's letter to the king. Its contents may be to her benefit ... or not. They may give Bishop Paulinus more power at court than she has. Besides, knowledge is power. The queen plays on her bishop's insecurities. She is his only friend at court. Does he dare offend her? Paulinus waffles. What if the pope's letter offends the king? His Majesty should be thrilled to have a letter from the pope, but what if it's too harsh? Paulinus needs the queen's continued support. Will he give her the letter?

Papal Letters

Bishop Paulinus follows Queen Ethelberga. He has a letter for her from the pope. She feigns nonchalance, and opens the letter. The queen expects praise for marrying a pagan king and moving to the northern wilderness. Instead the pope berates her. Why is King Edwin still a pagan? What has she been doing since she arrived in Northumbria? Ethelberga inwardly seethes while keeping a calm expression in front of her bishop. She thinks, "I've been busy trying to get pregnant." Or, "Why does the pope think a successful king would put aside the god he credits with his victories?" Ethelberga puts aside her churning thoughts. She has other issues to discuss.

Ethelberga needs a prince.

Queen Ethelberga's husband visits her every night with one purpose in mind. He wants a prince. Ethelberga has the same goal. A prince will give her standing in the court. A prince may bring her the king's affection. The queen's entire future rests on her ability to produce a prince, an event she cannot control. There's no pressure on her husband. He has two sons from the first queen. Ethelberga, however, has no status until she produces a prince, or the promise of one.

Opening Doors

Queen Ethelberga invites 10-year-old Hildeburg to approach her seat, and lets the child hold the book. The object is the most magnificent item Hildeburg has ever seen. As if that isn't enough, the queen says she will show Hildeburg how she reads. The queen knows Hildeburg doesn't understand Latin, but she introduces Hildeburg to the concept. The door to Hildeburg's future is about to open.

Pleasing the King

Ethelberga enters the King's Hall for the first time, unsure of what to expect. Nervously, she serves her new husband, and then his men. To her relief, the warriors seem pleased with her, and this pleases the king. Ethelberga wants King Edwin to see her as a person who can elevate his reputation by making his court one that is well-regarded, and the first step is to gain respect from his warriors.

Spinning Tales

Ethelberga is now married to a man she just met. She is also Queen of Northumbria, a woman who doesn't have to obey anyone but her husband the king. Her entire life has been ruled by the ambitions of others, but not any more. Ethelberga asserts her independence from Paulinus. More than that, she asserts her position is now superior to his. One can only cheer her on.


As Hildeburg watches the new queen come ashore, her emotions range from excitement to curiosity. Why didn't the new queen wait for her husband the king to help her out of the boat? Who is this man dressed in black? Why did the queen bring so many of her own people with her from Kent? Will she change the status of the Northumbrian ladies? Ethelberga, the new queen, also experiences excitement as she takes her elevated social position and meets her husband for the first time. Is Ethelberga nervous? Resentful?

Averting Disaster

The new queen sails from Kent to meet her Northumbrian groom. Everyone from the king's court is going to greet the queen's arrival from the sea, and ten-year-old Hildegard is understandably excited. Has the new queen arrived? When will she come? Hildegard dances with anticipation, and doesn't think about potential danger from the drought men who don't know who she is. Fortunately disaster is averted. This time.

Accepting Reality

When ten-year-old Hildegard contemplates her future, and concludes she doesn't have one, her mother laughs, as if to ask "What did you expect?" Hildegard can't believe that when the previous queen died, she was quickly forgotten. A new queen is coming, and Hildegard must adjust. There is, her mother seems to say, only the present moment.

The Birthing Draught

Early Christian writers often included stories about what made a saint different from other people. Venerable Bede told this story about a vision Breguswid had before her daughter Hildeburg was born. Breguswid dreamed about a special necklace - a vision that told her Hildeburg would be different from other girls, though no one knew what that meant. It was only years later, perhaps after Hildeburg died, that the story took on its prophetic meaning. In this excerpt, it's a moment shared between a mother and a daughter about to transition into womanhood.

Great Honor

Hildeburg is old enough to know better. She knows she shouldn't be lying in a meadow when there's work to be done. She knows she should at least hide the evidence of her dalliance. But it's too late. Grass is all over Hildeburg's sleeves. But Hildeburg's sister Hereswid has more important concerns. The girls are King Edwin's poor relations, but, Hereswid bears important news. The king has given Hereswid and Hildeburg a great honor, an honor that will probably require clean clothing. For Hereswid, this is the opportunity of a lifetime.


Allow me to introduce the Saxon heroine who inspired my latest book, St Hilda of Whitby. In the story she goes by the Anglo-Saxon name Hildeburg. Like many women in history, Hildeburg is present but not known. She presided over an important church synod in 664. Presided isn't really at the correct word. Hildeburg was abbess of the monastery at Streoneshalh (now known as Whitby) where the synod was held. But who was she? Who were other important women at the time, and how did they navigate a warrior society at a time of social change? These are some of the questions I wanted to answer.

Two Coins: A Biographical Novel (Women of Determination and Courage)

Literature & Fiction

Kirkus Reviews named Two Coins as a Best Indie, 2019. CIBA Semi-Finalist 2019 Fiction Book Awards Are two coins all a lady's reputation is worth? In 1883 Calcutta, it's more than unusual for a woman to sue a man in open court. When both parties are missionaries, and the man accuses his female opponent of sexual misconduct with a native Christian and another missionary, newspapers fly off the shelves in Calcutta, Edinburgh, and even London. But what really happened?

Book Bubbles from Two Coins: A Biographical Novel (Women of Determination and Courage)

A Whitewash

Rev Hastie submits to the Calcutta court decree and returns to Edinburgh in time to hear the General Assembly's final conclusion regarding the Great Calcutta Scandal. Mary Pigot is exonerated. Rev Hastie never accepts that conclusion or that he could be at fault in any way. He files a lawsuit, and accepts compensation and an apology in lieu of continuing the case. Eventually he becomes a professor at Glasgow University which is what he wanted when he accepted the post to Calcutta. Whether his pride ever recovered from Miss Pigot's exoneration is unknown.

Glory and Humiliation

Rev Hastie finds himself in an impossible situation. How can a man of his standing be arrested and thrown in jail for failing to pay damages to lowly Miss Pigot? (How did she even win such a judgement?) How can he swallow his pride and agree to the judgement? on the other hand, how can a man such as himself remain in jail, despite the comforts he is granted, indefinitely? Clenching his jaw and gritting his teeth, Rev. Hastie does what he must to obtain his release from prison. "India," he muses, "has been my glory and my humiliation." Chastened, if not broken, Rev. Hastie goes back to Scotland.

The Warrant

Rev Hastie is on a campaign to restore his reputation and position. When the General Assembly rules against him, he bides his time. When the Assembly decides to send an investigative committee to look into the Calcutta Scandal, Hastie offers to testify. The committee ignores him. When they sail for a site visit in Calcutta, Hastie decides to meet them there, despite the fact there's a warrant out for his arrest because he skipped town without paying the settlement to Miss Pigot. Publicity stunt - perhaps. Arrogance - definitely. Hastie thinks the authorities wouldn't dare put him in jail. Is he right?

Public Relations

While Mary Pigot enjoys her vindication by the Appeals Court, Rev Hastie strikes back. He leaves Calcutta without paying the judgement decreed by the court. In Edinburgh, he presents his case to the church's General Assembly, demanding they pay his expenses and restore his position. They decline, and begin an effort to dampen the public relations scandal they blame on Hastie. Like many governing bodies, they appoint a committee. Will the committee resurrect Hastie's reputation, or decide against him?


After Justice Norris's verdict, Mary takes a position as a zenana teacher and pulls her life back together. Her barrister filed an appeal, but she gives it little thought until the envelope arrives. Should she open it, or not. Will whatever news the letter contains make any difference to her life? Can her reputation sink any lower? Can her previous position be restored? Does any of it matter any more? Mary takes a breath and opens the envelope. The appeals court reversed the original decision and declared Rev Hastie guilty of libel and malice. It also granted Mary a judgement of 3,000 rupees. Will Rev. Hastie pay? Does it matter?

Mary Rebuilds Her Life

The trial is over. At the time, Mary was devastated, her reputation seemingly ruined. Six months later she rebuilds her life. No longer superintendent of the Female Orphanage, Mary works as a zenana teacher and finds contentment. Her advisory does not. He has lost far more than she - his position, reputation and whatever contentment he may have once had.

Falling Cards

Justice Norris, with one exception, ruled in Rev. Hastie's favor. Mary Pigot lost her case. Hastie expected to be praised for his ability to win under extreme pressure. Instead, the Mission Committee removed Rev. Hastie from his position. And now ... Hastie can scarcely believe it ... Miss Pigot filed an appeal. Now, Rev Hastie thinks, he will once again prove the justness of his behavior and be reinstated to his position. His enemy's 'house of cards' will fall, he thinks, and the sooner the better. Meanwhile, Mary Pigot moves on with her life and buys a pair of birds at the bazar. She likes to watch them dance in their bamboo cage.

A Win Can Also Be Loss

Rev Hastie gave Miss Pigot 2 half-anne coins and left the courtroom a vindicated man. Or was he? The Foreign Mission Committee in Edinburgh opens an investigation of the matter. The very public trial in Calcutta is a great embarrassment. After considering the facts, the committee holds Rev Hastie responsible. How can that be, when he has been nothing but exemplary, more or perhaps less? Now who is squirming?

Copper Coins

Overall, Justice Norris ruled against Mary Pigot. He ruled one allegation unproven and ordered the defendant to pay 1 anna in damages. Mary picks up 2 small copper coins, the apparent sum of her life. Imagine her despair. She leaves with a slandered past to begin an uncertain future. "We'll appeal," her barrister says. She wonders what difference an appeal could make, but consents to the process. Mary turns her back on the courtroom. This part of her life is over.

The Verdict

We've been on this journey for a long time: the animosity between Miss Pigot and Rev. Hastie, the charges of mismanagement he brought against her, the libelous letters he forwarded, Miss Pigot's efforts to redeem her reputation before the Foreign Mission Board in Scotland, and in the civil suit she brought against Rev Hastie for libel. During the course of the trial what was left of Miss Pigot's reputation shattered. Now Justice Norris delivers his verdict in favor of . . . who? Technically, the judge found Rev Hastie guilty of libel, but when the sentence is a mere one anna, it's hardly an affirmation of Miss Pigot's innocence. Rev Hastie places two one-half anna coins on the table. Is that all Miss Pigot's reputation is worth?

"But . . ."

Sept. 24, 1883. The trial is almost over. Mary listens closely as Justice Norris begins to deliver his ruling by going back to the beginning of the case - Mrs.Walker's libelous letters which Rev Hastie endorsed before he forwarded them to the Foreign Mission Committee. The letters accused Mary of cruelty, mismanagement, and flirtatious behavior. Rev Hastie had heard rumors but took no action until he received the letters. For a moment, Mary thinks she may be vindicated. Yet, Justice Norris, after noting the accusations, uses the word "but." A small, yet meaningful, word.

"He didn't deny anything"

Rev Hastie's barrister, Mr. Gasper, is making his closing statement to Judge Norris. He goes through all the witnesses as well as Miss Pigot's demeanor during her own testimony, before turning to Mr. Fish's testimony of blatant immoral behavior between Miss Pigot and Mr.Wilson. Mr. Gasper seeks to prove Mr. Fish told the truth, but even if he didn't, the judge is reminded that it could be true. Miss Pigot accused Rev Hastie of libel against her, but she is the one on trial. Not much has changed since 1883.

Closing Arguments

It's been so long since the trial began, few attendees remember it was a case of libel. Miss Pigot charged Rev Hastie endorsed letters alleging she was not a good superintendent of the Female Orphanage, and that her behavior was lax. But the evidence presented by Rev Hastie's barrister changed the scope of the trial to one of Miss Pigot's immorality with not one but two different men, and with poor behavior in public. Day after day the defense team pounded their case. Now Miss Pigot's barrister makes his closing arguments while Rev Hastie listens. Her case is weak. Her own testimony is weak. Mr Tevelyan tried to say that as a woman, the trial intimidated her, but it's a poor defense and even he must doubt it will sway the judge.

Cruel Imputations

Mary Pigot is the last witness in her own defense, and her testimony isn't going well. She has difficulty understanding the questions. She prevaricates. Her barrister Mr Trevelyan is patient as he leads her down paths so she can refute her accusers' testimony. Now he turns to the charge that Mary engaged in inappropriate behavior with Babu Kali Churn Banerjee. Mary denies she was ever in a room alone with Kali Churn when the doors were closed. But then, she would, wouldn't she.

My Courage Seeps Away

It's Sept. 12, 1883. After listening to testimony from both her friends and enemies, today Mary Pigot must testify in her own behalf. What can she possibly say after Mr. Fish accused she and Mr.Wilson of having an affair? After Kali Churn could not testify strongly in his own and her behalf? Mary brought suit to defend herself from libels of mismanagement and inappropriate behavior, but now that is nothing in comparison with charges of blatant immorality. Will Mary collapse under the pressure?

"It's Possible"

Rev Hastie observes Babu Banerjee in the witness box as Miss Pigot's barrister questions him. The issue is whether immoral behavior occurred between Miss Pigot and Babu Banerjee. The case has moved a long way from the initial issue of libel. It's important that Babu Banerjee firmly refute allegations of sexual misconduct. But, not unlike Mr. Wilson, Babu Banerjee finds the entire situation he is barely able to speak. His denials lack full credibility. When Babu Banerjee says something is possible, the listeners hear that same something is probable. Such suppositions do not help Miss Pigot's defense. Truth is sometimes lost during even the most accurate testimony.

Collateral Damage

Mr Wilson stands in the witness box. He's an important witness in Miss Pigot's case. Other than Miss Pigot, only Mr. Wilson can counter Mr. Fish's allegations of her immoral behavior. Mr. Wilson finds the entire process humiliating. His entire career is about to fall into shambles, because Rev. Hastie accused Miss Pigot of immorality and Mr. Fish supported the allegation with even more shocking allegations. It's all a case of his word against theirs. All he has is his reputation. He can only tell the truth and hope the judge believes him. I think in his heart Mr Wilson thought people prefer to believe the worst of others -- it's so much more entertaining.

Mr. Wilson Testifies

Mr. Wilson's situation, I think, falls into the category of collateral damage. He was Miss Pigot's friend until she filed her suit against Rev. Hastie. He isn't exactly a hostile witness, but there's no way he will come through questioning without mud sticking to him. Mr. Trevelyan takes Mr. Wilson back to Rev. Hastie's sickroom when he fell ill with malaria. Miss Pigot was pressed into duty sitting up with the patient at night. The nurse claimed she saw inappropriate behavior between Mr.Wilson and Miss Pigot. No doubt Mr. Wilson felt a sense of righteous indignation. He was a married man and would never behave that way. Nevertheless, the accusation will taint his integrity.

He Lied!

Mary Pigot's barrister opens her case by pointing out that Rev Hastie knew his defense against her charges was weak, so he brought in irrelevant events and accusations, of which the most vile was Mr. Fish's testimony. But Mr. Trevelyan doesn't say Mr. Fish's testimony was false. He merely points out that it deflects the Court's [meaning Judge Norris's] attention away from the libelous statements that are the heart of the case. Mr. Trevelyan's sound so civilized and lacking in emotion, as if the testimony is a mathematical equation. Perhaps his approach was the more appropriate, but for Mary it was inadequate. Why, she wonders, didn't he say Mr. Fish lied.


It's hard to imagine Mary Pigot's depths of betrayal and despair. She opened a lawsuit based on what now seem banal allegations against her. But once opened lawsuits have a life of their own. The defense, led by Mr. Gasper, elicited testimony alleging adultery with another missionary and an affair with a local barrister. Each time things were either false or not what they appeared, but who will believe her? She must have done something to result in the damning testimony that destroyed her respectability. For the rest of her life, people will remember reports of the testimony. They will whisper behind their hands and laugh behind her back.

"Was He Alone?"

Not satisfied with Mr. Fish's evidence against Miss Pigot & Mr.Wilson, Mr. Gasper calls the Rev. Chuckerbutty to the witness stand. Rev. Chuckerbutty indicates he saw Miss Pigot in more than one compromising situation with Babu Banerjee, a local attorney. A libel trial that began over Rev Hastie endorsing letters that questioned the way Miss Pigot ran the Female Orphanage is now completely out of control. The most innocent gesture or expression becomes an act of indecency. It's difficult to see how Miss Pigot can overcome these allegations.

"I thought it was wrong"

Rev Hastie watches helplessly as his barrister Mr Gasper finishes questioning Mr Fish. Now the defense barrister Mr Trevelyan begins to cross-examine the witness and asks directly if Mr.Wilson and Miss Pigot had sexual intercourse. Merely saying those two words publicly was a scandal in itself. To say them regarding two missionaries created an even greater scandal, and Rev Hastie, as head of the Scottish mission, has to accept responsibility for their behavior. Even worse, from Hastie's perspective, when asked why he didn't report the alleged behavior, Mr Fish said he didn't want to cause a public scandal. One wonders what he thought he was doing with his testimony.

The Second Knock

Mr. Fish is giving testimony in defense of Rev Hastie, but the reverend would do anything to stop him. Except he can't. His own barrister has taken control, determined to win the case. Imagine: a missionary sponsored orphanage has strict rules regarding men and women. Yet, there is Miss Pigot laying on a sofa with Mr. Wilson sitting near her. A man and a woman, unchaperoned - sitting in a compromising position. And the durwan had to knock twice to get their attention. The scandal will reach the missionary authorities in Scotland. "Stop," Rev Hastie silently pleads, but Mr. Fish continues.

Mr Gasper Doesn't Lose

Rev Hastie has a new defense witness, one he doesn't want - a person he forbids his defense team to use. But it's too late. The case has taken on a life of its own. Once it was about Miss Pigot and Rev Hastie. Now it's about Rev Hastie's barrister doing whatever is necessary to win, including ignoring his client's wishes. What disturbs Rev Hastie more? The fact that this testimony could destroy Miss Pigot's entire reputation and life, or the reality that he can't control his attorneys? Either way, it's a hard pill for him to swallow.

A Note From Mr. Fish

Rev Hastie is in his solicitor's office. Many witnesses have testified about Miss Pigot's inappropriate behavior, but the testimony is inconclusive. Mr. Hastie needs a witness who can turn the judge against Miss Pigot. A man whose testimony will be so shocking the judge can't dismiss it. The defense team thinks Mr. Fish can turn the tide in their favor. Rev Hastie can't imagine what the man might say. He'll find out soon enough, and it will reveal more about Rev Hastie's character than Miss Pigot's.

The Trial Continues

It's been a long day in Judge Norris' courtroom. Inside, Rev Hastie's defense team brings in more and more witnesses. The defense asks the judge to adjourn for the day. Judge Norris replies the court will sit until half past seven. Outside, monsoon rains darken the sky. Both attorneys agree to the earlier adjournment. But Judge Norris refuses. He wants the case wrapped up before his vacation. Mr. Gasper calls the next witness.

Tell Us

Mr Gasper continues his defense of Rev Hastie. While Mary Pigot watches the proceedings, he calls witness after witness to testify to her mismanagement of the Female Mission. He presses the envelope further when he asks Mrs Oliver whether she saw anything inappropriate between Miss Pigot and Babu Banerjee. Then, as now, scandal draws everyone's attention.

Delicate Distain

Mr. Gasper calls Monomohini Wheeler to testify for the defense. She is as secure in her personal and professional position -- the exact opposite to Mary Pigot's current position. The two women know each other but the relationship is not cordial. The first question reflects on Miss Pigot's management style and infers she doesn't have one. This is not a good sign.

I Never Loll

Miss Pigot sits in court while the defense presents witnesses to "prove" Rev Hastie's accusations weren't libelous. The witness is the private nurse who took care of Rev Hastie when he had cholera. Miss Pigot sat with Rev Hastie at night. The defense lawyer is interested in Mr Wilson, inferring he and Miss Pigot had an inappropriate relationship. When the witness said she saw Miss Pigot "Loll" on Mr. Wilson, Miss Pigot is mentally outraged. "Loll" is defined as to sit, lie, or stand in a relaxed way, but I don't think that's what either woman was thinking about.

Unintended consequences

Rev Hastie testified in his own defense. But more witnesses will be called to corroborate his testimony. Miss Pigot has mixed feelings on the transition. Her primary enemy is out of the witness box, but his supporters will soon enter it. Miss Pigot's lawsuit is out of her control.

Throwing Dirt

The layout at the Female Orphanage can be confusing. Off the drawing room was a small room through which one could reach Miss Pigot's bedroom, beyond which was a bathroom. So, if Babu Banerjee was in Miss Pigot's bathroom, one could imply he had been in her bedroom. This is only scandalous if Miss Pigot was also there. So Rev. Hastie didn't ask if Miss Pigot was also present. Rev. Hastie wants to prove Miss Pigot was immoral. Mr. Fish is a new teacher at Rev. Hastie's college. He wants to curry favor with Rev. Hastie and will eventually go to astonishing ends to do so.


Miss Pigot's barrister continues on his "fishing" expedition. Mr. Hastie didn't get along with Miss Pigot. He forwarded letters that made her look unprofessional. So, Mr. Trevelyan asks if Hastie hoped the letters would get Miss Pigot dismissed. Then Trevelyan changes the subject to suggest Mr Hastie asked potential witnesses inappropriate questions. A seed here. A seed there. No doubt one of the seeds will grow in the judge's head.

A Racing Pulse

Of necessity a good barrister is completely aware of all aspects of a case. He knows the facts and the possibilities. He also modulates his questions as needed to keep an opposing witness off guard. Prior to this exchange, Mr Trevelyan asked Rev Hastie about the note he wrote the Mission Committee about Miss Pigot. Unexpectedly he shifts to a friendship under strain. Mr Steele was a leader in the Scottish community, an important friend to have. Mr. Trevelyan pushes, and Hastie loses his composure completely. Trevelyan pulls back, then pushes again. Rev Hastie lost control of his temper once. Will he do so again?

Egos in the Courtroom

For the first time in his life, Rev Hastie isn't in control. He stands in the witness box, probably with his knees locked, sweating, swatting at the occasional mosquito, and trying to avoid Mr. Tevelyan's questions. Why, he wonders, doesn't his barrister object? Why doesn't he stop this travesty? Does Mr Gasper even have a strategy? Turns out, Gasper's strategy has little to do with Rev Hastie and more to do with his record as a winning barrister.How many egos can fit into a courtroom?

The Flirtation

Miss Pigot's barrister, Mr Trevelyan, asks Rev Hastie probing questions while the witness stands in the sweltering heat with sweat dripping down his face. Trevelyan asks about Miss Pigot's trip to Scotland. Did Rev Hastie know what she went? He answers "no." And then Trevelyan moves to Miss Smail's letter. Hastie doesn't want to answer the question. Mr. Wilson is part of the Scottish mission, a respected member of the community. And if he admits he knew Miss Smail accused Miss Pigot and Mr Wilson of an inappropriate flirtation, the mission will look bad. But Rev Hastie can't deny what he heard, what he later wrote he believed to be true.

A new line of questions

Back in the witness box, Rev Hastie watches Miss Pigot's barrister approach him. Hastie is a nervous wreck, apprehensively awaiting Trevelyan's next question. The barrister introduces a new line of questioning. Will Rev Hastie have satisfactory answers?

It's Time to Leave For Court

I don't think Rev Hastie is panicking yet, but he's clearly under stress. Miss Pigot's barrister put him through his paces yesterday, and there will be more questions today. Rev Hastie is used to being in charge of every situation, a man who states his opinion and watches it become the result. But that's not what's happening here. Miss Pigot's barrister makes Rev Hastie look petty. And the humidity ... it's so very hot.


Mary's barrister ask her accuser about her alleged improper visits to see Mr Wilson at the men's college. It appears impropriety is in the eye of the beholder, specifically Rev. Hastie's eye. Does he object to any woman's visit to the college, or only Miss Pigot's? Even the judge breaks in to ask what made the visits improper. When pressed, Hastie replies the visit were improper, because, in his opinion, they were unnecessary.

Were There Tigers?

Mary Pigot's barrister continues to cross-examine Rev Hastie. The reverend indicated Mary's behavior with Mr Wilson was improper. He said she spent too much time with Mr Wilson and not enough with the teachers and orphans. The judge intervenes to ask why the children couldn't just run around. Were there loose tigers in the park? Mary's barrister says there was a tiger once. The episode makes Rev Hastie look petty, but will it win Mary any sympathy?

Our Turn At Last

Rev Hastie accused Mary Pigot of inappropriate behavior & poor management of the Female Orphanage. As an example, he remembers she threw her legs upon a sofa after a dinner party. Judge Norris asks if he has any more examples of Mary's unwomanly behavior. Hastie says his charge is nothing to do with Mary Pigot as a woman, but everything to do with the position she held. The judge isn't impressed. Gasper has no more questions for his client. Mary's legal team can now cross examine Hastie's testimony. Mary mentally exults "our turn at last." But can be done to undermine Hastie's accusations?

Beyond Embarrassment

Day 3 in Judge Norris's courtroom. Rev Hastie stands in the witness box. Mary Pigot tries to hold the shreds of her dignity together. Rev Hastie remembers a dinner party. When the assembly retired to the drawing room, Mary sat on the sofa and threw her legs up. He doesn't say if she stuck them straight into the air, or merely placed her legs and feet on the furniture. Either behavior shocked Victorian sensibilities. Either position might be described as wanton. No doubt Mary wished she could dissolve into the floorboards. In fact, she had placed her feet on the sofa after at Mr Steele's dinner party ... but, she remembers, it wasn't like the way Rev Hastie describes it.

I want Mr. Trevelyan

Mary Pigot thought she was humiliated before she entered the courtroom. She had no idea how much worse her situation would become. Rev Hastie, a community leader, accuses her of every impropriety while her barrister never rises to object. I imagine her clenching her fists while sweat rolls down her back, drenching her dress. Inwardly frantic, Mary presents a blank face to the courtroom while newspaper reporters take down every word. Finally, the judge adjourns. 'Now,' she thinks, 'I'll order my barrister to defend me, as he promised.' But will her 'orders' be obeyed?

Miss Pigot Wilts

Mr Gasper continues drawing out his client's testimony. Rev Hastie has a way of suggesting illicit behavior without any evidence at all. He didn't like it when Miss Pigot called on Mr Wilson at the College. And he's suspicious when he sees Mr Wilson visiting the Female Orphanage. While Mr Hastie waited in the drawing room, he saw Mr Wilson emerge from what he thought was Miss Pigot's bedroom. It wasn't, but it doesn't matter. The damage is done. The judge and newspaper reporters have the image that Mr Wilson wasn't where he should have been. And Miss Pigot wilts from embarassment.

Without a Chaperone

Mr Gasper continues to lead Rev Hastie to prove that the allegations against Miss Pigot are true. Miss Pigot visited Mr Wilson several times. Hastie was aware of her visits because he and Wilson both lived at the men's college. Miss Pigot's friendship with Mr Wilson accidentally becomes part of the evidence in her lawsuit. Words once spoken and recorded can't be taken back. But is it really an issue? Pigot and Wilson aren't two adolescents. The judge sees no impropriety, but Hastie does. No woman of any age should visit of man without a chaperone. And so the original issues about inappropriate employees and mismanagement of the female mission become much more.

Miss Pigot was responsible

Standing in the witness box, sweating in the oppressive heat, Rev Hastie describes the "objective evidence" he discovered about Mary Pigot's inappropriate conduct. Filled with righteous indignation, Hastie says Mary employed women rumored to have loose morals. Hastie doesn't claim to have first-hand knowledge, but Gasper builds his case on perception. How could Rev Hastie libel someone if Gasper can prove his client only wrote what other people said was true?

Objective Evidence

Rev Hastie may wonders whose side his barrister is on as Mr Gasper questions why in May Hastie said he would cooperate with the woman he now accuses of impropriety and immorality. Hastie vacillates. He always suspected Miss Pigot's poor behavior but he didn't have proof until he received the letters from Mrs Walker and listened to what may have been gossip but Hastie calls 'objective evidence.' Judge Norris interrupts: 'Describe this objective evidence.' Will the evidence be compelling and where will the it take the case?

Miss Pigot's Courage

Rev Hastie stands in the witness box while his barrister drags out Hastie's answers to show Rev Hastie didn't frivolously send the libelous letters to Scotland. Hastie said he consulted with every relevant colleague. Barrister Gasper presses, but why did Hastie send the letters? Why didn't he just return them? At this point, Hastie wishes he had, but it's too late. How was he to know Miss Pigot would have the courage to act against him in such a public matter? Why would she risk her reputation?


When Judge Norris suggested the Women's Association could remove itself from being controlled by the male Missionary Committee, defense attorney Gasper smiled at what he thought was the judge's joke. Gasper asserts women need men to assist them. Judge Norris counters that in business capacity women are equal to men. Is Judge Norris making a joke? Is he serious? And how might this exchange affect his decision in Mary's lawsuit? In the short term, it makes Mr Gasper look a bit foolish.

Justin Norris Interrupts

Mr Gasper, Rev Hastie's barrister, is in the middle of explaining why his client is innocent of Mary Pigot's allegations. Mary nervously sits at the plaintiff's table. Gasper starts his point about the Scottish Ladies' Association that employs Miss Pigot to run their mission in Calcutta. Suddenly, Judge Norris interrupts to make what seems like a joke. Scottish ladies pay 5 shillings to join the association. The judge observes the association would probably allow any woman to join if she paid the 5 shillings. But then the judge goes on to suggest the Ladies' Association might separate from the male Missionary Committee. Is the judge serious? What might this mean for Mary's case?

Humidity Rising

At last Mary has her day in court. Actually, she will hav 2-1/2 weeks. On day 1, the judge ruled there was sufficient evidence of malice on Rev Hastie's part of the trial to proceed. Now it's day 2, and the players take their places. Mary, the plaintiff and her barrister Mr Trevelyan. Rev Hastie, the defendant with his barrister Mr Gasper. Judge Norris presides. Yesterday, the judge ruled there was evidence of malice. Today, he says he didn't say Hastie acted out of malice. It appears no one has any idea what is at stake, least of all the judge. Meanwhile, the humidity continues to rise.

The Trial Begins

It's been a long time since the first hint of Miss Smail's accusatory letters over a year ago until this day, Aug 28 1883 when Mary Pigot has her day in court -- the first day for two and a half weeks to be more precise. What does Mary think as she approaches the court house modeled after a medieval guild in Belgium? The monsoons have begun, drenching everyone out in the rain. The air is humid. Mary sees her solicitor and a man she has never met. What happened to her barrister? Should she be worried? Too late to worry about details now.

Mr Hastie's is Confident

After Mary Pigot's hesitations, Rev Hastie's confidence is almost refreshing. Here is someone who is sure of himself, even when he doesn't know what he's doing. Is he, perhaps, too confident? And if so, will his self-assurance help him?

Can Mary Win Her Case?

Mary sits in front of the man who may argue her case in court. Mr Trevelyan scrutinizers Mary, reviews the facts, and warns her Mr Hastie is gathering witnesses. Does she want the case to go forward? "I can do whatever is required," Mary says. Is the statement for her lawyers or herself? Hard to say. Trevelyan asks if a judge has been assigned. Yes, Judge Norris has the case. Mary's solicitor asks the key question. Is the case winnable? It seems so. Mary has one last chance to back out, but doesn't. It's out of her hands now. Justice will take its course. But at what cost to everyone involved?

Mary Meets Her Barrister

Mary rushes to her first appointment with her barrister. It's raining heavily. Her boots sink into the mud. Mary stamps her feet at the doorway and drops her skirts. So much for making a good first impression. Mary feels like her entire future rests on this meeting. Perhaps it does. She knows her solicitor finds her case less than appealing. What will this barrister think? Will he believe in her? Will he take her case?

Is Mary Absolutely Sure?

Mary finds herself unable to withdraw her lawsuit against Mr Hastie, because she wants to regain her professional position. It seems unlikely, but she decides to try. Her solicitor, Mr Carruthers, is not delighted. Did she have an inappropriate relationship with Babu Banerjee? How about with her colleague Mr Wilson? Mr Carruthers doesn't know for sure. And no one will agree to testify on Mary's behalf. He can force them, but that's not a good option. I wonder how hard Mr Carruthers encouraged Mary to withdraw the suit - he knows Mary's presence in public court won't help her reputation even if she wins. But Mary is adamant. She wants her day in court.

"I did try to warn you"

James Wilson was Mary Pigot's friend. Maybe he still is, but, in his view, she betrayed him with her lawsuit against Rev Hastie. He forgives Mary, but severs the friendship. Mary is devastated. She never meant to hurt her friends, and Hastie's actions will ruin what's left of her reputation. Mary decides the solution is to stop her lawsuit. Mr Carruthers is unimpressed with Mary's hysteria. He told her what could happen before he filed the suit. Mr Carruther's considers the alternatives. There might be a way out. Without asking what his solution is, Mary is ready to agree. Anything to resolve the crisis. Mr Carruthers suggests amending the suit, and file it against a Mrs Walker instead. Will his idea work?

Mary Didn't Know

Mary's delight at seeing her dear friend Mr Wilson wilts as she listens to his news. Rev Hastie is conducting an investigation into Mary's life, one he expects to prove that his endorsement of the libelous letters was appropriate. Any mis-step, mistake or moment of inappropriate behavior will be grist for his mill. No wonder Mary can't breathe. She thought clearing her name would be simple. Now everything seems worse than before. One can never predict what a cornered adversary might do.

Collateral Damage

Mary Pigot loses her position due to Rev Hastie's support of libelous accusations. She threatens Hastie with a law suit, but he doesn't back down. Now she lives in a boarding house outside Calcutta.Then, in the midst of her despair, she has a visitor, her dear friend Mr Wilson. Surely he has good news! Now the collateral damage of her lawsuit begins. Mary reaches out to greet her friend, but he doesn't respond. She asks if her problems are gone. But they have only increased. Mary took a chance, but now she must live with its consequences. We never know where our threats will take us.


Speaking on behalf of Mary Pigot, Mr Carruthers charges Rev Hastie with the systematic persecution of Miss Pigot. Rev Hastie disagrees. There was no persecution, only his informed opinion regarding the facts laid out in the libelous letters. Carruthers tells Hastie to either withdraw his endorsement of the charges of expect a lawsuit. Hastie. Was Hastie surprised by the allegation? Did his heart feel like it dropped into his stomach? Is this a case of two men trying to bluff each other?And if so, have they each gone too far to turn back?


Mr. Carruthers informs Rev Hastie that Mary Pigot, the mousy woman Hastie considers his inferior, is filing a civil suit against him. Hastie is amused and surprised. Amused a woman disgraced by his allegations would attempt to attack him, and surprised for the same reasons. The woman is like a fly to be swatted off his sleeve. What possible grounds does the woman have to launch a public suit? Meanwhile, Mr Carruthers assesses his potential foe. I like to think this encounter increases Mr Carruthers' sympathy for his client's suit.

Rev Hastie Meets Mary's Solicitor

Mary decides to follow her solicitor's advice. She authorizes Mr Carruthers to develop a lawsuit, but hopes he won't file it. Mr Carruthers arrives at Rev Hastie's office to discuss the matter. Hastie, of course, has no idea what's in store. "What," he wonders, "does Miss Pigot want now?" Whatever it is, Hastie plans to refuse. But first, the pleasantries and introductions. The shaking of hands and refreshments. Such ordinary social activities. I imagine each man "eyeing-up" his adversary. Mr Carruthers gets to the point: "I've come on a matter of some delicacy." Does Hastie have a premonition? Does he swallow in anticipation of an unpleasant conversation?

Mary considers filing a lawsuit

Mary is at her wit's end. She needs to persuade William Hastie to withdraw his endorsement of the libelous letters, but the man won't even answer her notes. Mary suggests her solicitor approach Hastie, but Mr. Carruthers thinks she needs to exert more pressure if she wants Hastie to recant. Mr. Carruthers says she should threaten Hastie with a public lawsuit. Of course, such action would harm Mary as much as her enemy. In 1883 the very idea of a woman bringing a public lawsuit is scandalous, plus the letters would be public. Preparing the lawsuit could bring the needed leverage against Hastie, but it could also make Mary's position worse than it is.

Truth is of little consequence

Mary Pigot sits in her solicitor's office. She and Mr Carruthers drink tea while he reads the libelous letters. He suggests she approach Mr Hastie & ask him to retract his endorsement. An informal settlement would be best. "Mr Hastie doesn't answer my notes," she says. And now the harsh truth. If she engages Mr Carruthers to do anything formal, the letters will be public. He suggests she drop the matter. Miss Pigot demurs. The letters are lies, she says in her innocent belief in justice. That's not the point, Mr Carruthers says. Is there another way to approach the matter? Is the truth really a matter of little consequence?

What Outcome Do You Want?

Whenever we face a dilemma, the most difficult question to answer is: "What Outcome Do You Want?" It's no good concluding you want answer A as long as it won't hurt B, because there's only one answer to the question. Until you know what you want, you can't begin to recognize an acceptable resolution to the problem. Miss Pigot's solicitor concludes the libelous letters damage her reputation and cost her the position at the Female Orphanage. Miss Pigot thinks if Rev Hastie retracts his endorsement of the letters, her problems will go away. But Hastie isn't the entire source. Mrs Walker could forward the letters elsewhere. So, what does Miss Pigot want?

I Need Advice

Mary Pigot visits a solicitor and takes the next step towards litigation. At the moment, she has no intention of going to court. She wants Rev Hastie to withdraw his endorsement of the libelous letters, but he won't meet with her to discuss the matter. Mary hopes that if a solicitor calls on Rev Hastie, her dilemma will be solved. It's worth a try.

Mary contacts a solicitor

Mary Pigot returns to Calcutta, but moves 13 miles away to Serampore. Dr. Scott told Mary to persuade Rev Hastie to withdraw his endorsement of the libelous letters. Mary tries. She sends notes to Rev Hastie. He doesn't reply. Mary's former colleagues stay away from her. Mary's desperation to clear her name increases every day. She decides to contact a solicitor. Perhaps he can solve Mary's problems. This is how Mary's legal battle begins.


Courage comes in many forms. Miss Pigot successfully defended herself against two sets of charges. Now she again faces false allegations.This time dismissal seems unavoidable. Unless ... "Persuade Mr Hastie to withdraw his validation," Dr Scott says. I think if Mrs Wilson wasn't present, Mary Pigot might have given up. It takes courage to "meet the devil head-on." Sometimes knowing a person you respect believes in you releases a final burst of courage.

I'm Speechless

Rev Hastie sends the libelous letters to the Foreign Mission Committee in Edinburgh. Miss Pigot is staying with Mrs Wilson in Crieff, still recovering from the last round of false accusations. Summer is over, and Miss Pigot expects to return to Calcutta soon. Now there's another letter from Dr Scott. He wants to see her. What's happened now?

What Did You Think?

Rev Hastie hasn't quite decided whether to forward the accusations against Miss Pigot to Edinburgh. He decides to speak to one more person, Rev Chuckerbutty who leads the Indian congregation. Hastie asks if Chuckerbutty has ever seen any inappropriate behavior between Miss Pigot and Babu Banerjee. Rev Chuckerbutty responds that he often sees Banerjee go into Pigot's room without knocking. At this point, Rev Hastie is beyond shocked. Everyone he consulted told him to forward the letters. If Rev Chuckerbutty said Miss Pigot was a virtuous woman, Hastie might have hesitated. Now he tells his servant to put the letters in the post. And so the road to court begins.

"You're Too Upright"

For the first time in his life, Rev Hastie doesn't know what to do. He has letters charging Mary Pigot with actions that he thinks will destroy her. He doesn't like her, but it seems wrong to pass on unsubstantiated allegations. So he visits people on his Corresponding Board. Col Walker says Hastie must send the letters to Edinburgh. Rev Gillan says the same. Now Hastie confers with Mr. Gregory, chair of the Board, who seizes on alleged inappropriate behavior between Mary Pigot and Babu Banerjee. He orders Hastie to send the letters to the Foreign Mission Committee. Yet Hastie remains conflicted. What if the charges are false? More directly, what if Hastie conceals the letters? Could he lose his position?

The Proof We Need

Rev Hastie is at Col Walker's trying to find out why he was sent the slanderous letters, and if he has to forward them. He doesn't want to send them ahead. The contents are too scurrilous. Even worse someone might hold him responsible for Miss Pigot's behavior. Meanwhile, Miss Pigot thinks everything is settled and makes plans for her return to Calcutta. I'm taking time with the letters, because they are the crux of the later court case. Inevitably, personal animosity morphs into political expediency. Rev Hastie hesitates. Col Walker demands Rev Hastie to forward them to Dr Scott, or he'll send them himself. And then how will Rev Hastie look? Hastie still hesitates, but he doesn't refuse.

"It must be a serious matter."

After reading through the letters Mrs Walker sent him, Rev Hastie is speechless, which is unusual for him. More than speechless, he's stunned. In the 21st century we are accustomed to scandal, but in late 19th century Calcutta, for such charges to be openly made is as scandalous as the charges themselves. If he forwards the letters, will he be implicated in the alleged deeds? Rev Hastie paces, picks up his Bible, reads, prays on his knees, and comes to a decision. He will consult with others on the truthfulness of the charges. Rev Hastie first visits Col Walker who forwarded the letters on behalf of his wife. The letters that turn Rev Hastie's life upside-down are of little consequence to Col Walker. I imagine Rev Hastie moistening his lips and swallowing, before he asks the fateful question. "Do you think the accusations are true?"

What Am I To Do?

Mrs Walker forwarded 3 letters to Rev William Hastie. Each describes conditions at the Female Orphanage. Each places Mary Pigot in a bad position. After reading the first two, Hastie is almost in a state of collapse. He sees himself as head of the Scottish Mission. Will he be held accountable? Reluctantly, he reads the letter Miss Gordon wrote. The implication is that if a man is seen leaving a house while putting on his coat, he hasn't been there for a moral purpose. And if the man is Indian, and Miss Pigot is Scottish, the indecency is all the greater in 1883 Calcutta. At this point, Rev Hastie is shock. He dislikes Mary Pigot, but he never thought of her in terms of the charges he just read. And what should he do with this information? He wants to ignor it, but can he?

Incomprehensible Behavior

While Mary Pigot awaits her fate in Edinburgh, Rev Hastie, unaware of the anonymous leaflet, accepts Mary Pigot's new employment conditions, and gets on with his job. He looks through his mail and finds a letter from his ally Col. Walker. It turns out the colonel forwarded some letters for his wife. She requests Hastie to read and forward them to a Dr Jardine. Not knowing what to expect, Hastie reads the letters. Hastie is an arrogant, some might say egotistical man, but his quarrel with Mary Pigot is structural. The letter writers accuse her of acts he can hardly comprehend. And what should he do with the letters?

The Letter

An unopened letter is a mystery. There might be a return address, but to know the contents, someone must open the letter. Sometimes we tear into the envelope, anxious to review its contents. Sometimes we just don't care, because too many events have happened. There are times when news that once might have been good comes too late to help us. Mary Pigot has reached that point. She's hit bottom. Mary isn't sure anything has meaning any more. What will happen if Mrs Wilson opens the letter? Will it matter?

Finally, I am dismissed

For over an hour, Mary Pigot sits before the all-male Foreign Mission Committee refuting charges made in an anonymous pamphlet. Finally, the members dismiss her, and return to the problem of damage control. The pamphlet could stop contributions for foreign missions. I don't think the committee members particularly care about Mary's situation. They need to look after their own reputations. They don't notice Mary is on the point of collapse. Situations vary, but individuals are of little importance compared to the life of an institution. I've never understood why.

Are you up to it?

How many times has someone asked if you are up to a task? How many times did you ask yourself? Sometimes the stakes are high; others, not so much. Mary Pigot is back in the hot seat. The first time, she didn't know what she was being charged with. This time Mary has to refute allegations made in an anonymous pamphlet. Is she up to it? Who knows? Mary doesn't, but if she wants to keep her position as Lady Superintendent of the Female Orphanage in Calcutta, she has to try.

Every Word is a Lie

Still in Edinburgh, Mary thinks he position is secure. She accepted the new conditions, and, to her great relief, Mr. Hastie isn't a member of the Consulting Committee. While Mary prepares for her return to Calcutta, an anonymous leaflet filled with scurrilous charges appears. The first charges were made in private, but these require a public investigation. Now there will be more questions, more people interviewed about Mary's behavior in Calcutta. And even if the Investigating Committee rules in her favor, will people accept her innocence? Some situations seem impossible to overcome.

Great Scott!

When the Foreign Mission Committee presented new terms so Mary Pigot could continue as Lady Superintendent of the Female Mission in Calcutta, the Ladies' Association and Mary Pigot reluctantly accepted the new terms. Now the new agreement has reached Calcutta, and William Hastie is furious. He wanted Mary dismissed. Instead, she'll keep her job. He calls a meeting of the local Corresponding Board. Another piece of what will become a legal puzzle is about to be played. Will Rev Hastie get his way?

Everyone's Coffee is Cold

Mary Pigot returned from Crieff to Edinburgh to find out if the Ladies' Association will retain her as Lady Superintendent of the Female Mission in Calcutta. Mrs. Stevenson tells Mary the Ladies ruled in her favor, but agreed to a stipulation from the Foreign Mission Committee. There will be a Consulting Committee in Calcutta; Mary won't be independent any more. Both women experience feelings of unhappiness and relief with the result. Relief that Mary can retain her position. But, Mary is unhappy that she'll have to deal with a committee not disposed to favor her work. And Mrs. Stevenson is unhappy to realize that the Ladies' Association doesn't really operate independently. Sometimes you lose even if you win.

The Entire Situation is a Muddle

Mary Pigot nervously awaits the verdict. Will the Ladies' Association keep her as Lady Superintendent in Calcutta or give her the sack? Mrs. Stevenson indicates Mary can keep her job, if she accepts new rules. Mr. Hastie has made suggestions. Mrs. Stevenson is upset by the situation. The Ladies' Association has to comply with the male Foreign Mission Committee's terms. The ladies ran their own affairs, until now. The Foreign Mission Committee has pulled them back, as if to say, you ladies can raise the funds, but we'll make the decisions. Now Mary must decide if she'll comply with the new terms. Will they put Mr. Hastie in charge?

Like a bird flapping its wings

Mary Pigot is back in Edinburgh for a meeting with the Ladies' Association. She's nervous. This meeting will decide her future. It's all she can think about until social niceties and random thoughts intrude. "How nice to see you," she says automatically. Coffee is poured, and Mary realizes she's too nervous to hold the cup. Everyone watches her use both hands. So much for acting nonchalant. Strange how often we navigate uncomfortable situations on a sort of social autopilot. Routine helps us prepare for the unknown, but it doesn't make us feel better.

Unanswered Questions

Mary receives a letter from the Ladies' Association. "The verdict is in," she thinks. "They probably ruled against me. At least I'll have an answer." Mrs. Wilson opens the letter. Mary is summoned back to Edinburgh. No verdict. No closure. Nothing. I think Mary would have been happier if they just fired her. Then her ordeal would be over. Now, she's back where she started. Facing unknown outcomes is one of the hardest things we do. Will I be accepted? Will I reach my goal? Does the person I love feel the same way about me? Life is full of uncertainty and unanswered questions.

Tell Me

Tell Me. Two words that can mean so much. Words of comfort. Words of desperation. Words of accusation. Mary Pigot stays with her friend Kate Wilson, a woman she's known many years. Kate knows Mary is in a state of crisis. How much she knows about the cause is unclear. "Tell me," Kate says, not as an accusation, but as comfort. Not in a judgmental spirit, but in compassion. Tell me ... the grievances of your heart ... the wounds on your spirit. Tell me, and I will not judge.


Chapter 8 covers May and June in 1882. During those two months, Mary Pigot traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland and defended herself in front of two committees. Now, while she awaits their verdict on her position, Mary is in Crieff with her old friend, Katherine Wilson. Katherine was Lady Superintendent in Calcutta before Mary took the position. Her husband James is Mary's closest confident. There's something special and comfortable about an "old friend," a person who knows who we are and loves us anyway. That's the type of friendship Mary and Katherine share. Even so, in the Victorian age even the closest friends weren't always on a first name basis.

Now what?

Everyone has moments when intense stress over several months make us almost unable to function. A kind word at that point can make all the difference. A sincere "How are you holding up?" under these circumstances can bring me to tears. In the story Mrs. Williamson gives her time to take Mary to the train station. Mrs. Wilson invites Mary to her home while Mary waits for the Mission Committee's decision. The knowledge that friends really do care about you is what gets you through the darkest times. A simple random act of kindness can change the recipient's outlook.

"I came to state my case"

Mary Pigot is angry. She's spent the entire morning justifying her work in Calcutta to the Foreign Missionary Board. Men who can't possibly understand her work hammer her with questions. Are her teachers good Presbyterians or Catholic? Did she go to school in a convent? Why hasn't she baptized more of her students? Because, Mary says, "I think the desire for public conversion is detrimental to the mission enterprise." Her comment doesn't go over well. Mary is about to give up, but then she remembers why she came to Edinburgh in the first place. She came to tell the truth.

Small Talk

From time to time, small talk is important even though it has nothing to do with anything under discussion. And yet, it's an opportunity for people who don't know each other gauge the situation they're about to enter. Mary Pigot isn't good at small talk. She's too impatient. I imagine her thinking, "Let's get this over with, and solve my problem." Sometimes impatience comes across as arrogance. "Ask your questions," she says, and misses an opportunity to generate sympathy among the committee members.

The Bum's Rush

Miss Pigot sits in an Edinburgh drawing room trying to justify her actions at the Calcutta orphanage. But how can she? Miss Pigot doesn't know what accusations Miss Smail made. Members of the Ladies Association quiz her about her church attendance. Why did she go to the native church instead of the Scottish one? Why hasn't she converted more students? But the ladies aren't her judges. The charges are so serious, they refer them to the Foreign Mission Committee and invite Mary to visit the Princes Street Gardens. Talk about the bum's rush.

India isn't like Scotland

Mary Pigot came to Scotland to refute charges she thinks were made against her. The Ladies' Association members know Miss Smail left their Calcutta orphanage, but they can't understand why. What was the problem? Mary tries to avoid confronting the issue, but it's no good. Mary admits Miss Smail left, because Mary told her to leave. But why? It's a puzzling matter. A layer in a larger misunderstanding.

The Ladies Speak Softly

Mary Pigot doesn't sleep much first night in Edinburgh. The next morning Mary's trials begin. The drawing room is different from the night before with its furniture arranged for the Ladies' Association meeting. Coming from Calcutta's bright sun and colorful clothing, Edinburgh's gloom was overpowering on its own. Add to it these proper, respectable women in black. Quite simply, Mary isn't supposed to be there. In fact, she didn't want to be there. But now she'll have to cope. She needs to make these women sympathetic to her situation.

An Empty Room

Mary arrives at the Edinburgh Ladies' Association headquarters. Now she doesn't know what to do. I think that's the moment when Mary realizes her enemy is essentially invisible. She doesn't know if she's accused of anything or even how she should act. At that moment, while Mary burns her mouth on the scalding tea, she must have felt very alone.

I Must Be There

Mary Pigot is on her way to Bombay, the first stop on her journey to Edinburgh. She has no idea what she'll do when she gets there, only that she has to defend herself. From what? She doesn't know. Mr. Wilson advised her not to go. He told her she's blowing everything out of proportion. Maybe he's right. But Mary is going anyway, because she can't think of anything else to do. It's an impulsive decision.

Now is the moment

Miss Pigot is on her way to Scotland, as is her enemy Rev. Gillan. Rev. Hastie contemplates his expected victory in his quest to join the Female Mission to Scottish College. Always certain the Mission Board would eventually condemn Miss Pigot's mismanagement, he's ready to put forward his plan for a joint organization. Will his efforts get the result he wants? Time will tell.

You shouldn't be here.

There are three voices in Two Coins: William Hastie, Mary Pigot, and James Wilson. Wilson doesn't control the narrative very often, but this segment is from his point of view. Mary Pigot decides that since Mr. Gillan is going to Scotland, she will go too. But now she's appeared in Mr. Wilson's room. She says she wants to have a picture of his room so she can share it with his wife when she visits Scotland. But a single woman alone with a married man for any reason isn't appropriate behavior in a Victorian missionary culture. A fact Miss Pigot should know but apparently doesn't. Why shouldn't friends visit? she asks. One can't help but wonder why she put Mr. Wilson and herself in such a questionable situation. Does she truly believe no one will find out, or care if they do? Is she really so careless?

Mary's Insecurity Grows

James Wilson is at a dinner party held at the Female Orphanage when he mentions that Mr. Gillan, one of Miss Pigot's enemies, is about to leave for Edinburgh. To his surprise, Mary has a strong reaction. He doesn't understand why she should be upset. But Mary reads the situation differently. Her enemy Miss Smail sent letters and reports to the Mission Board. Mr. Gillan never approved of her appointment as Lady Superintendent. Mary doesn't know what Miss Smail wrote, and she has no idea what accusations Mr. Gillan might bring. I think Mary feels cornered. She doesn't know if she's in trouble. And if she is, she doesn't know how to defend herself. What will she do?

Inciting Gossip

James Wilson is drinking an iced tea when it happens. As if watching a scene in slow motion, he sees Mr. Gillan escort Miss Smail to the Prize Distribution. There's no reason she shouldn't be there, except Miss Pigot threw her out of the mission and hasn't forgiven the Scotswoman for writing reports to the home missionary society. Mr. Wilson tries to head off Miss Smail before Miss Pigot sees her, but it's too late. A public scene is never a good thing, but this scene will be used to support charges against Miss Pigot. Mr. Wilson doesn't know this, of course. He just knows public displays of anger incite gossip and seldom work out well.

Two Women on a Collision Course

Mr. Wilson and several others are at a student Prize Distribution waiting in the sun to have their photo taken. The photographer fiddles with his equipment and Miss Pigot is nowhere to be found. Finally the photo is done and Mr. Wilson goes to the refreshment table. I imagine him in a slightly annoyed but relaxed state of mind. He gazes into the crowd and sees a crisis about to happen. He knows about the feud between Miss Pigot and Miss Smail. He knows Miss Pigot evicted Miss Smail from the mission complex. A scene is about to take place, and there's nothing Mr. Wilson can do to stop it. Have you ever seen two people on a collision course?


Between Miss Pigot and Rev. Hastie, Mr. Wilson can hardly get a word in, but when he does, it's useful. It's 1882. Miss Pigot threw Miss Smail out of the mission. Miss Smail sent her letter accusing Mr. Wilson and Miss Pigot of a flirtation. Tension between Scottish College and the Female Mission rises. Mr. Wilson is suspicious of his colleagues but doesn't know anything definite. Such a small community to have so much innuendo. So easy for things to blow out of proportion and take on a life of their own.

Miss Smail's Letter

When Georgiana Smail shows Rev. Hastie a letter about Mary Pigot that she intends to send to the mission board in Edinburgh, he's shocked. He doesn't like Miss Pigot and prefers not to work with her, but Miss Smail's charges are beyond his comprehension. He needs a stiff whiskey just to keep reading. Above all, Rev. Hastie doesn't want one of his colleagues to fall under suspicion. How will it look if his faculty member is charged with immorality. It's too much for Rev. Hastie to grasp. His first thoughts are how to deflect Miss Smail's charges.

"You'll regret this."

Relations between Mary Pigot and Georgiana Smail have been strained since Georgiana arrived. Clashing personalities. Different goals. Misunderstandings. Georgiana prefers the company of Mary's opponents. And now the final straw. Georgiana tells Mary she writes reports to the mission sponsors in Scotland, and doesn't tell Mary what she wrote. No wonder Mary's angry. In retrospect I don't think evicting Georgiana from the mission premises is a wise decision, but Mary is too angry to think about ramifications.

"Nothing Satisfies Her"

As 1882 begins, Mary thought her workload at the Female Mission would be lighter. She hoped to have more time to visit zenanas while her new assistant, Georgiana Smail, looked after daily affairs. But the two don't look at things the same way. The cultural gap is too great. Mary becomes more tense instead of less. Georgiana's level of frustration increases daily. The women are mutually disappointed with no skills to bridge the gap between them. But Mary tries. "What," she asks Georgiana, "do you suggest?" Can two headstrong individuals come to terms?

This is Wonderful

William Hastie and Rev. Gillan are at Col. Walker's house for the New Year celebration of Hogmanay. The table is set with ivy greens running down the center. The modified Cock-a-Leekie soup Rev. Hastie of being home in Scotland. But there's more - a piper and something that looks like haggis. Hastie tells Miss Smail she's given him taste of home. Holiday times remind people of childhood magic and the closeness of family and friends. Nothing could be farther from Rev. Hastie's home than Calcutta, yet his hosts prepare a meal that brings back nostalgic joy. The turning of the year is a magical time.

A Day of Delights

Hogmanay is the Scottish celebration for the new year. Col. and Mrs. Walker host a celebration and invite Revs. Hastie and Gillan. Mrs. Walker's sister is also there. Though not a large gathering, it represents the respectable Scottish community in Calcutta. An army officer, and two reverends. Other Scots will be at different celebrations, but these individuals are of interest because they hold Miss Pigot's fate in their hands. An officer's bungalow. A glass of whiskey. It all seems so civilized.

Miss Pigot Won't Listen

New Year's Day 1882. William Hastie and Mr. Gillan are on their way to from Calcutta to Dum Dum to celebrate the new year. Mr. Hastie is not a man who admits failure, yet he expresses his inability to persuade Miss Pigot to bring her orphanage under his control. Mr. Gillan, Miss Pigot's long time opponent, dismisses Miss Pigot, and turns his attention to Miss Smail, the woman Miss Pigot finds difficult. The seeds of conflict and prejudice are here. Will they grow?

Coal in my Stocking

When the Ladies Association sent Mary Pigot an assistant, Mary thought her life would be easier. I think she thought Georgiana Smail would take over daily supervision of the Female Mission, leaving Mary free to teach and visit zenanas. But Miss Smail isn't fitting in. The two women can't get along. And Miss Smail's relatives don't approve of how Mary runs the mission. Mary begins to think Georgiana is more of a threat than a blessing. Is she correct?

Creating Memories

When I thought about Mary Pigot's childhood, there wasn't much to go on. Her father was a Scot, who wasn't mentioned in the Calcutta Scottish community. He didn't move in prominent circles. But he probably practiced some European customs. Mary's mother came from a part of India controlled by the French and was widowed at least three times before moving with a new husband to Dacca. At Christmas time the European shops had lots of toys and Christmas goodies, but I don't think Mary's family could afford them. They could, however, post garlands on their gates. And so I gave Mary this memory.

The Wrong Foot

Mary Pigot doesn't realize it yet, but her new assistant, Georgiana Smail, will be more of a detriment than a help. Georgiana's sister is married to a British officer who is also prominent in the Scottish community that employs Mary. They don't approve of Mary, and Georgiana's arrival and observations won't change their minds. Mary herself is ambivalent. She makes a special dinner to welcome her new assistant, and the newcomer is late. The two women get off on the wrong foot, and there doesn't seem to be any way back.

Mr. Wilson's Dilemma

Mr. Fish and Mr. Wilson are going to the Female Mission to assist in student examinations. Mr. Fish starts the conversation. Mr. Hastie is the third speaker. His irritation is clear. Mr. Hastie thinks he should manage the Female Mission. Miss Pigot claims she doesn't need any help. From Mr. Hastie's perspective, she does need help, because she frequently asks for assistance. But what she sees as collegiality, Mr. Hastie views as proof she can't cope. And Mr. Wilson will be caught in the middle. Mr. Hastie is his boss; Miss Pigot is his friend. What a muddle.

The Rain Comes In

I like to think of Mary Pigot taking this moment to watch a gecko crawl over a ledge. There's nothing unusual to see, which makes it a moment of relaxation before she resumes her responsibilities. Mary doesn't have much time for herself, and she seldom sits still. But in this brief moment she pauses to listen to the rain, feel the humidity, and watch a common gecko.

Mrs. Oliver Brings Joboni

Bidu didn't admit to taking the bracelets, but Miss Pigot thinks the child is responsible for other thefts and punishes her as example to the other children. The thefts stop, but discipline issues remain. Miss Pigot felt she had to be constantly vigilant to instill proper discipline. The children complain about the foo, and Miss Pigot decides to make another example. Miss Pigot's methods seem harsh today, but in the late 19th century physical punishments were common. I wonder though, if Miss Pigot worried she might lose control over the orphanage.

Have I ever been unfair?

When Mrs. Mullick's bangles didn't turn up, suspicious turned to Bidu Grace, a girl who practically grew up at the orphanage. Miss Pigot believes Bidu Grace took the bracelets, but the girl is reluctant to confess. Miss Pigot has a problem. There's a problem of theft at the orphanage. She needs to make an example in order to stop the cycle. And Bidu has been implicated in other missing items. Miss Pigot needs to maintain discipline, but also to be just. It's not a situation she's comfortable with.

What happened to the bangles?

Besides the schools, orphanage, and zenana visits, Mary Pigot runs a program for 'parlor boarders.' These are local women who married European men. Their husbands want them to learn English manners and how to run a house. The parlor boarders live at the school while they train. The program brings funding for the mission, but presents its own problems. Mrs. Mullick is afraid. What will her husband say? He'll think she lost the jewelry. Mary must find either the jewelry or the thief.

"I need your help"

Mr. Hastie and Babu Banerjee dislike each other. Babu Banerjee publishes anonymous articles that Mr. Hastie interprets as an insult. Mary Pigot counts Babu Banerjee a close friend and Mr. Hastie a probable enemy. She wants to calm the situation, and seeks help from Mr. Fish, a recent arrival at Scottish College. He seems to have Mr. Hastie's ear. Mary invites him to visit and tries to enlist his aid. He says he'll do what he can but she shouldn't expect anything. I don't think Miss Pigot selected the best advocate. How can a new arrival persuade Mr. Hastie to modify his behavior? Mr. Fish would have little to gain and much to lose.

The Rumor

Babu Banerjee, a lawyer, has children in Miss Pigot's school. He and Miss Pigot are friends. But he isn't a member of the Church of Scotland, so why would he send his children there? These thoughts run through William Hastie's head. He hears a rumor and he's predisposed to believe it because he doesn't like Miss Pigot or Babu Banerjee. A seed begins to sprout, a willingness to believe anything negative about either party. What sort of plant will this be?

I can go to him

Mary Pigot and her companion visit ladies living in seclusion. Mary visits a widow who likes Bible stories and tells her about Jesus' temptation in the desert. The widow is frustrated. How could the devil be so arrogant? How could he tempt god? Mary's reply shows the source of her inner strength and her belief that god will support her work. Mary will need that conviction in the months ahead.

The First Move

Rev. Gillan dislikes Miss Pigot. He thinks she doesn't show him proper respect. Now he has an ally. Mr. Hastie doesn't get along with her. Rev. Gillan summons Miss Pigot to his office to inform her he now controls her budget. Rev. Gillan tells Miss Pigot to restore relations with her nemesis. But Mr. Hastie refuses her efforts. I don't think Miss Pigot cares. She did what was required. Perhaps she should have paid more attention.

Mr. Hastie Tastes Chai

Mr. Hastie and Miss Pigot are on her veranda. Mr. Hastie has matters to discuss, but Miss Pigot calls for tea. Actually, she calls the beverage chai.When Mr. Hastie tries it, it's not a bit like tea in Scotland, or even at Scottish college. It's like nothing he ever tasted before, and he doesn't like it. I'm surprised he even tried it. The beverage has a distinct aroma. I wonder why Miss Pigot offered it. Was she simply being a good hostess, or was she testing Mr. Hastie's manners? Mr. Hastie never actually says what he thinks of chai, but I'm sure Miss Pigot is aware of his response.

"Now She Has Creases"

From the moment William Hastie arrives at the Female Mission, he's displeased. The drawing room is messy. The workers ignoramus's him to continue their task. The piano keys are dusty. And Miss Pigot's appearance doesn't please him. "She might have been a pretty woman once." So patronizing. I think Mr. Hastie is predisposed to disapprove of Miss Pigot and her orphanage. If he expects Scottish standards in an Indian city, he can't avoid being disappointed.

Four People, Four Cultures

Interesting how four people can represent four different cultures. Mary Pigot, the only female, is aware of Victorian social niceties, but puts her own comfort ahead of ladylike behavior. William Hastie, a new arrival from Scotland and head of the mission, is a man of utmost propriety. Mary's behavior shocks him and won't be forgotten. Octavius Steele, host of the evening and leading member of the Scottish community in Calcutta, indulges Mary's behavior. He's more interested in his whiskey. And James Wilson tries to get along with everyone. No one on this occasion imagines the trouble Mary's posture will cause.

My Dimples Show

Mary had a long day in Kidderpore visiting a school and two zenanas. She might have preferred to spend the evening on her own veranda, but there's a dinner party at Mr. Steele's home. Mary can't beg off, and she doesn't really want to. The dinner will be good. The conversation could be pleasant. And Mr. Steele is an important person in the Scottish community. A bachelor, he's fond of Mary, and she needs his support for her orphanage and school. Mary arrives, pastes on a smile, and engages in small talk. The evening seems off to a good start.

Behind the Lattice Screen

Mary and her protege Miss Bartlett arrive at a zenana, the area of the house where women are secluded. Offering lessons in zenanas is an important part of the Female Mission. Mary needs permission from the male head of household and the senior wife. She also needs to encourage the women and girls to learn. Mary brings prizes for those who complete their lessons. Scottish women who support missions send the dolls. I wonder what the girls think about the exotic toys that look so different from themselves. I wonder if Mary would prefer it if the dolls at least had dark hair? But the blonde haired doll achieves Mary's goal; she's admitted to the zenana.

I Always Spoke English at Home

Back at work, Mary Pigot is on her way to visit schools. With her is a new hire, a young woman who grew up in Calcutta but can't speak Bengali. This frustrates Mary. How can Miss Bartlett teach local women if she can't speak their language? How could she grow up in Calcutta without learning Bengali? I think of Miss Bartlett as an Anglo-Indian, a woman with a European father and Indian mother. We only know her father kept his family apart from local culture. Now, Miss Bartlett has to earn her own way and has no skills. Mary has compassion for her situation, but can't keep her employed if she can't do her job. The dilemma is one Mary frequently faces.

I've never sat back-to-back

As later events unfold, the innocent act of sitting back-to-back at a picnic sowed seeds of scandal. In the present moment, Miss Pigot reflects the arrangement might lack decorum, but they've known each other for years. And they're missionaries. How untoward could sitting this way be? Mr. Hastie isn't present when the others decide to sit on the ground. When he sees the arrangement, he can't help but focus on the unmarried Miss Pigot sharing her back with the married Mr. Wilson. Mischief is often in the eye of the beholder.

Today is a Holiday

Mary is excited. Today is a holiday, and her good friend James Wilson and his cousin are hosting a picnic for the girls and teachers at the orphanage. They invited Mr. Hastie, and he agreed to attend even though he disapproves of the picnic and the holiday itself.He's in the same car on the train. Nevertheless, Mary's spirits are irrepressible. She will have a good time in spite of Mr. Hastie's gloomy presence.

Our Present Dilemma

Mr. Hastie attends his first meeting of the Corresponding Board. We're in his point of view. The topic is Mr. Robson who left his post without notice, yet still lives at Scottish College. Mr. Hastie can't understand why Miss Pigot is present. First, she's a woman. Second, she speaks up. Third, the Female Orphanage isn't part of the college. Finally, she infuriates the others with her opinions on Christian charity. On the one hand, Mr. Hastie and Mr. Steele are sticklers for rules. On the other, Miss Pigot who has no standing on the committee reminds them of Christian duty.

Get Rid of Them

William Hastie returns to duty, all thoughts of cholera behind him. It's not that he lives in the present moment. He just overlooks irrelevant events. He was sick. Now he's well. More important, he's on his way to meet his new colleagues and tell them what to do. James Wilson rides with him. Wilson's thoughts are unclear. He has to get along with this man and has an affection for life in Calcutta. An affection Hastie doesn't share. Hastie complains about the sun, and the peddlers offering their wares. He didn't like the Mohurrum procession. Already Hastie seems unsuited to his new post.

She Touches Him

Rev. Hastie lies in his sickbed watching Dr. Charles check his vital signs. Nurse Briggs interrupts the examination to tell the doctor she can't stay. This displeases Dr. Charles. Hastie is an important man and the doctor wants him to recover. I think of him giving the nurse a disdainful look as she puts her case forward. The nurse disapproves of Mary Pigot, because Mr. Wilson came into the sick room. The nurse doesn't want to associate with them. She wants to quit, but has to give the doctor a good reason or she won't have references. Is she making something out of nothing? Did Miss Pigot exceed the bounds or propriety? And what does the patient think?

A Foolish Man

James Wilson visits the sick room. He says it's to see how Mr. Hastie is. Miss Pigot is glad to see him. Sit down, she says. They sit with their heads together and recite a prayer while the nurse looks on. Do they know how that looks? A married man and a single woman with their heads together? Suddenly, Mr. Wilson realizes the situation and rushes out of the room. Clearly, Miss Pigot doesn't understand social conventions, but he knows better. Outside, he berates himself. But it's too late. The nurse knows what she thinks she saw.

Cholera Pills

Mary doesn't know it, but this first visit to William Hastie's sickroom sets in motion everything that follows. The nurse, the cane lounge, even the flickering of the kerosene lamp. All set the stage for what is to come. So many times the mundane later changes the course of our lives. Mary came to take up her duty as night nurse. The patient is restless as Nurse Brigg's measures out cholera pills. The concoction of opium, black pepper, the herb asafetida, calomel, and quinine originated in India. It didn't cure cholera but the opium probably made the patient sleep.

A Tired Nurse is of Little Use

William Hastie is sick, and Mary's summoned. She expects to be Mr. Hastie's sole caregiver, and is put out to find she'll only be the night nurse. She be up all night with a patient she doesn't really know. Mary makes a mental shrug. There's nothing Mary can do. She tells herself she'll be friendly face in a strange place. But Mary doesn't believe her own thought. The situation contributes to later strained relations between Mary and Mr. Hastie.

His Flux Smells Like Fish

When she receives Mr. Steele's note about Mr. Hastie's illness, Mary Pigot goes immediately to the Steele house. Mr. Steele is a wealthy Scottish merchant, and Mary likes to visit his substantial home. It's a window into a different world transplanted to India. The drawing room is decorated to Scottish standards. Someone brings in a silver tea service. It's as if this is a social call. But the servants are worried. Will the disease spread? Mr. Steele isn't even home. Mary indulges in a cup of tea served in a delicate cup, she and wonders why Mr. Steele summoned her. Is she here to nurse the patient?

Mr. Hastie Has Cholera

Mary Pigot supervises the Female Orphanage which includes oversight of high schools, day schools, and zenana schools for women who live in seclusion. She has a lot on her mind. Her friend James has been demoted. Her initial meeting with the Mr. Hastie was awkward. The calm of routine paperwork feels good, if cumbersome, until Sajiva, her chief of the household, delivers a note. Mr. Hastie has cholera - a disease so common, nursing the patient becomes yet another task to complete. Mary is sorry Mr. Hastie is ill so soon after arrival, but not surprised. Mary calls for her carriage, wondering what change this new event will cause.

Disappointed James

There are three primary characters in Two Coins: William Hastie, the incoming principal of Scottish College; Mary Pigot, superintendent of the Female Orphanage, and James Wilson, outgoing Acting Principal of Scottish College. Each tells part of the story. James is by far the most reticent, the most deferential to hierarchy. James knows he doesn't have the credentials to be selected as principal. He also knows he's the most qualified man for the job. He swallows his disappointment and prepares to do his duty. James is a man who always tries to make the best of any situation.

I Hate Him Already

About the same time William Hastie stands at the ship's rail and adjusts his sun hat, James Wilson and Mary Pigot grapple with his arrival. Mr. Wilson hoped to be appointed Principal of Scottish College; now he must make the best of the situation. And he wants Miss Pigot to do the same. But it's hard for her. Mr. Wilson is her friend, and she has few friends. He's her advisor and colleague as she does her duties at the Female Mission. It isn't just that Miss Pigot relies on Mr. Wilson's friendship; she needs his advice to function. And now, everything will change.

Hastie's Hat

This is the first paragraph from Two Coins. The voice belongs to William Hastie, incoming principal of Scottish College in Calcutta. The year in 1879. Hastie, has no particular desire to take up the post of principal, except that the position fulfills a pre-requisite for a university appointment. I didn't originally plan to open the story with Hastie, but often an outsider puts events into greater clarity.

Rama's Labyrinth: A Biographical Novel (Women of Determination and Courage)

Literature & Fiction

Biographical historical fiction that takes the reader across India during the last decades of the British Raj. From a girlhood among Hindu shrines to widowhood and Christian conversion, Rama seeks her destiny. Is it only to educate Hindu widows? Or does God have a larger plan in mind? Rama’s Labyrinth traces the life of Pandita Ramabai, a social reformer who rose above personal adversity to rescue and educate famine victims.

Book Bubbles from Rama's Labyrinth: A Biographical Novel (Women of Determination and Courage)

Everything is Done

Rama died in 1922, a year after her beloved daughter. Rama's final work, the colloquial Marathi translation of the complete Bible was published in 1924. Born in the western Ghat mountains, Rama spent her life traveling spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Her legacy is Mukti Ashram, still caring for widows and orphans. This is the last book bubble for Rama's Labyrinth. I hope you enjoyed the journey. As I writer, I found Rama an inspiring individual. Namaste.


Rama is richly blessed. Her ashram at Mukti serves the pour. She finished translating the New Testament into vernacular Marathi. After a lifetime of struggle, she's at peace with God and the world around her. Except, Mano left Mukti to found her own school. And now, she's gone. Rama's life is shattered once again. Later Rama says to Lissa, "When you told me Mano was gone, I thought I couldn't bear it. I thought I was alone. But I'm not. God's still with me." In the end, only faith is left.

One More Task

Jamuna was the first girl at Mukti to manifest the Holy Spirit, but she wasn't the last. The entire ashram filled with the spirit of revival. Rama began sending the girls on preaching missions to the surrounding villages. God granted Rama's prayer request for Indian Christian missionaries with students from her own ashram. But Rama isn't finished yet. She starts translating the Bible from the original languages into a simple Marathi the common people can understand. The girls working in the print shop will set the type.

It Begins

The year is 1905. Since her return from America, Rama's Christian faith, prayers, and leadership have focused on making Mukti a faith-based mission. Now Rama's prayers, and the prayers of her students begin to bear fruit. The winds of revival begin stirring at Mukti. What will happen?

A Father's Love

Manorama had a lonely childhood. Her father was dead. Her mother was away more than she was present. Her parents were from different castes, making it unlikely she'd find a husband if she wanted one. She's just returned home, and her mother prepares to leave Pune for Mukti and expects Mano to take care of things in Mukti. And now Rama hands her daughter a piece of paper that changes everything and nothing. Mano's father loved her. He played with her. Why would her mother withhold such vital proof of her father's love? From Rama's perspective she didn't withhold anything. It simply wasn't important. Except that it was.

Separate Compartments

Rama's daughter Manorama finished her education in America. Now she's home, and Rama is at wharf in Bombay to greet her. I think Rama loves her daughter intensely, but Rama also puts Mano in a sealed compartment of her heart. When they are separated and sometimes when they are together, Rama carries on with her work. But now she can relax. Mano is home. Mano will help Rama with the work. Rama spares a thought for her husband who died long ago. But Mano doesn't have a separate compartment in her heart. She wants her mother. Now, perhaps, they'll be together.

The Spring Burst Forth

Minnie is Rama's right hand worker, but even she is surprised when Rama decides not only to build a church, but to use only the stones left from when they dug wells for water. Thirteen wells continue to fill despite an on-going drought. Each well has a name. The first well was Patience. Rama expected to strike water, and she did. Now Rama reaches for a greater miracle. She will build a church and fill it with believers. Minnie looks at Rama's plans, and thinks the church is too small. "Then we'll build another," Rama says. Who would have thought the 8-year-old girl beginning her lessons 33 years before would grow up to found an ashram and build a church?

"God told me to come."

After attending the Keswick Convention, Rama changed her approach. Educating child widows wasn't enough. Feeding and sheltering famine victims wasn't enough. Rama held daily religious services. Listeners believed and were baptized in the Brim River. But there's more work to be done. Among the famine victims were girls and women too naughty to be with the general population. They don't listen. They don't want to change. Rama isolates them and wants to help them but doesn't know how. Once again, Rama trusts God to send her funds for housing and a teacher for the incorrigible girls. Once again, God answers her prayer. Rama floats on God's promises.

Rama Laughs for Joy

At the Keswick Convention Rama has a religious breakthrough, possibly the one she'd searched for her entire life. She believes the Holy Spirit is with her, and prays for revival in India. When she returns to India, Rama's only thought is prayer, preaching, and Christian conversion for her charges. After 10 days of preaching at Mukti and Sharada Sadan 183 girls and women request baptism. Rama takes them to the Bhima River for full immersion in the water. When Rama was a child, her father insisted the family wash in that same river for purification. But Rama has more she wants to do.

Rama Transfixed

I chose Rama's Labyrinth for the book title, because it seems no matter which direction Rama selects, she doesn't find her destination. Now she's secured support from her American backers. She's had a nervous breakdown. She should go on a speaking tour to her supporters. Instead, Rama decides to go home. But not straight home. She visits Mano at school in New York State and sails for England. Before returning to India, Rama goes to a religious revival in Keswick, England. Rev. Donald worried about whether Rama influenced students to convert. Rev. Hopkins worries about sin. Hopkins says Christ's death sets people free. Rama realizes that though God has always taken care of he, she still doesn't trust him completely. Rama is about to take a different path through her labyrinth. Will she reach the center?


If such a thing existed in 1898, Rama would have been a member of #womenwhodotoomuch, which probably explains her physical collapse. She runs Sharada Sadan for Hindu widows. She founds Mukti for female famine victims and their children. She's the fundraiser. She's the publicist. She tries to be a mother. And she's determined to earn God's blessing. Rama doesn't stop until she drops, and then she starts again. Rev. Donald agreed to serve on a board. Rama needs his support so she can raise funds, but he won't be joining her in the mission field. We may have different labels today, but I don't think the situation has changed much.

Muffled Gulps

Remember the Rama's shrieks? She had a complete collapse. Judith sent for Rama's daughter Mano. When Rama came back to America she brought Mano and put her into school. Now Mano sits by her mother's bed, terrified Rama would die and leave her alone in a strange place. Mano wants to be with and take care of her mother, but Rama always goes away. It's a sad situation. Not only for Mano, but for Rama as well. Rama loves her daughter as best she can. She has no other family. But other matters seem more pressing. Fundraising. The farm. Famine victims. All crowd out the daughter Rama loves. Rama feels the cracks in Mano's heart, but she can't close them.

Unending Shrieks

Rama's struggles seem different from ours, but in many ways they're the same. She follows her passionate commitments. She looks for love and acceptance. She makes a few wrong turns, and retraces her steps. Rama never waivers in her goals or supporting her cause, but others do. Teacher, fundraiser, mentor - where does it end? Now she's in America to raise funds. She addressed a meeting to convince supporters to pledge more donations. Judith, her friend and sponsor, urges her to go on a speaking tour to rally the rank and file. And Rama is just so tired and discouraged. She can't be two places at once. She can't do everything. But she must. Do you ever feel like that?

How can you turn away?

Rama's American sponsors support a school for child widows in India. It isn't a missionary school, and Rama isn't supposed to share her faith. But students have converted, and her sponsors are upset. Imagine how Rama must have felt. She needs financial funding. How can she reach her American sponsors? Rama made a lifetime commitment. Can they do any less? I don't think Rama is nervous when she addresses the assembly, or even desperate. But she is very determined, and she believes God supports her work.

We Had a Higher Goal

Rama is in Boston to raise funds for her school. The 10-year Ramabai Association subscriptions are about to expire. She needs people to re-commit and is ready to speak to an assembly, but Rev. Donald needs to speak to her first. Rama can't believe what she hears. Rev. Donald says Rama is too bold. That the school is to educate Hindu widows, not convert them. Rama is shocked. Will he withdraw his support of the school? And if he does, will she be able to raise funds? Is this an opportunity or a disaster?

But I'm Not Sick

Mano needs to wear glasses. She had them once, but as Rama became more reliant on God, she took Mano's glasses away and told her to pray for better sight. The prayer, thus far, hasn't been granted. Mano suffers severe headaches, but her mother refuses to allow her to wear glasses, as if Mano's bad eye sight is due to her lack of prayer. I'm sure Rama loves her daughter, but she doesn't know her very well. Rama spends her time and energy caring for the poor. There isn't much left for Mano. It's a sad situation.

Mano shrugged.

Rama sent Mano to school in England, but the situation changed again. Rama needs to visit her American supporters, and decides to stop in England so she can take Mano with her. As a young child, Mano stayed with a nun she called Ajibai while her mother was in America. Perhaps that's why Mano calls the convent home, but Rama can't understand Mano's choice of words. Inadvertently, Rama gave her daughter the same sense of rootlessness she grew up with.

"You said we'd stay in India"

Remember Mano? Rama's daughter is old enough for college. She's ready for her entrance exams to Bombay University. But Rama says, 'no.' Rama wants her daughter to go to school in England. Mano seldom sees her mother. She feels rejected. Imagine. Rama spends her time saving others, but not with her daughter. But at least she came for a visit. I don't think Rama ever understood how much her daughter missed her.

A Pan of Water

For weeks Rama has done nothing but rescue famine victims and take them to her new farm. She hasn't thought about the school in Pune, or her daughter. I don't think Rama spent much time thinking about Mano. The girl was in Pune. She was sheltered and fed. That was enough to know. Now Rama is ready to resume her former life. To got to her school in Pune. To see her daughter. I think Mano spent most of her young life missing her mother. She can't wait to tell Rama about her exams and show her love by washing her mother's feet. I wonder what Rama feels when she sees her daughter kneeling at her feet with a pan of water.

Challenging Obstacles

The woman who is deaf and dumb refuses to be left behind. Rama gives includes her with the other famine refugees. Thakubai thinks its a waste of money to take the woman, so Rama tells her the Bible story about the judge who finally granted a poor widow's request, if only because he didn't want her to keeping coming to court. Thakubai protests. The widow in the story went away; this woman is coming with them. Rama laughs and realizes God makes the choice, not her.

Rama's Lesson

Rama decides to take as many women and girls as she can to the school: Sharada Sadan. Famine victims all, they follow her to the train station. Rama thinks she will nourish the refugees and teach them a skill so they can take care of themselves. Rama thinks she can only rescue those who can learn a new life. She doesn't want to take the woman who was deaf and mute. But the woman doesn't accept Rama's rejection, and Rama is too tired to eject the woman from the train. Rama is about to learn a lesson.

We Can't Just Leave Them

It might have been this event that changed Rama's direction. Before, she committed to educating child widows. But now? Now she's in Sohagpur among famine victims. She's been all over the world, established herself and her school, but now she's faced with the trauma of her childhood. Famine. Poverty. Relentless despair. Rama can't turn away.

"I still hear God's call"

Famines were frequent in British India. At first Rama acknowledges the famine in the Central Provinces. Yet the reality of famine fills her consciousness. Only she and her brother Srinivas survived the famine that killed the rest of her family. Rama probably pushed out her memories. But she couldn't reject God's call to rescue widows suffering from this famine. She has to help them however she can.

Twelve are Baptized

While Rama was away at the Christian camp meeting, twelve of her students decided to be baptized. Rama's example of simple faith pulled the girls. Rama didn't know if this was a triumph or a disaster. The school was funded as a secular school. Hindus allowed child widows to attend, but wouldn't accept students being baptized. And Rama was still engrossed in her own crisis of faith. This wasn't like praying for a farm. This was Rama's cherished school. But Rama had no time for sponsorship politics. A greater crisis loomed.

"I feel a fraud."

Rama was a mercurial person. One minute convinced of her decisions; the next in despair. One moment filled with joy that her prayers for a farm were answered; the next, filled with spiritual emptiness. As I wrote Rama's Labyrinth I continually asked myself what Rama truly wanted. A home? A family? Enough to eat? To rehabilitate child widows? Rama worked for all these goals and achieved them. But she still doesn't have what she seeks. Now she's at the annual Christian Lonauli Camp Meeting asking the same questions. She approaches Rev. Gregson. Can he answer her questions? Can she answer his?

Laughter. Tears. Songs.

A letter from America changes Rama's outlook from despair to elation. Sharada Sadan needed a farm to support its mission, but Rama had no where to turn for funding. Reluctantly, Rama throws herself and life's mission into the vortex of prayer. I don't think she knew what to expect. Would God support her? Was she good enough? Now she has her answer. Rama has what she wanted. But the void inside herself remains empty. Hers isn't a unique dilemma. Will it resolve?

God wants me to have it

After Rama told Judith about her idea for a farm, the two women returned to Pune. Judith left for America. Rama continues to think about the farm.She believes God wants her to have it. "How can I raise the money?" she asks her friend Sundrabai. Rama tells Sundrabai she's decided to rely on God to provide it, like he funded the China Inland Mission. But despite what Rama tells her friend, she isn't ready to relinquish her role. God will give her the farm, but she will earn it. She must.

A Farm?

Rama and Judith enjoy their last breakfast in Agra. Judith's tour of India is almost over. Rama returns to her most important topic, Sharada Sadan - her school for widows. Rama knows her funding may run out and has an alternative suggestion. Judith is more than a little surprised. Rama rushes on so she doesn't have to admit she doesn't know anything about farming.

Everyone at Lucie's speaks English

Judith and Rama arrive at Lucie's Hotel in Agra, and go to the dining room for breakfast. Rama chose the English-styled hotel out of consideration for Judith's sensibilities. Rama felt a little uncomfortable. Strange to have the waiter asking her what she wants. But embarrassing to realize Judith wanted coffee. Rama felt she'd failed her American guest. Why didn't Judith tell her she wanted coffee. Rama would have acquired it. But Judith didn't come to India to drink coffee. She came to visit Rama.

How can I explain?

Rama takes her friend Judith, representative of her school's American Christian sponsors, to Varanasi. I think it's harder than she expected, because Rama has confront the faith and customs of the people she loved. People who weren't Christian. She wants Judith to see the funeral customs aren't without merit. But she can't explain it to herself. Rama loves her family, but they are lost to her. Rama thinks of a way to explain what Judith is looking at, more comfortable with a mental focus. Rama is a person of heart who hides in her mind.

Names Are Important

The last time Rama was in Varanasi, she was a child traveling with her itinerant HIndu family. She had no home. Now, she's taking Judith on a personal tour. Judith wants to see India. Rama's desire is unclear. To please her friend? To revisit her childhood? To escape the daily struggle of keeping her school open? To once again straddle two worlds — Euro-American and Indian? I don't think Rama analyses her motives and memories. At this moment, she's more interested in teaching Judith the correct name for this most holy, Indian city.

Take me to India

Rama's Christian faith lost her many supporters in India and America. The Indian Advisory Board resigned. The Unitarians stopped sponsoring the school. And Judith Andrews came to India to visit the school and encourage Rama. I think Judith wants to bring Rama back to herself, and to do so she needs to take Rama away from daily routine and back to the beginning of Rama's long journey when she was the impoverished daughter of an itinerant Shastri. And Rama herself is ready to leave her troubles to guide Judith into India.

A Friend in Need

Rama's school is in trouble -- her Indian backers withdrew their support, because students became interested in Christianity. Now Judith Andrews is at the school. Rama is glad to see her, but she knows it isn't purely a social visit. If Judith doesn't like what she sees, Rama could lose American financial support. But this first morning is about friendship. Judith doesn't just want to inspect the school, she wants to understand it, and she wants to befriend Rama as she had in Boston. Rama, more than anything, needs a friend who can grasp more than accounts and student count. She wants a friend who can understand.

Widows Have No Rights

Step by step Rama has been more open about her Christian faith. She invites students to morning devotions. She knows there will be a consequence. Rama isn't allowed to spread her faith in a school for Hindu widows. Now Judge Ranade, prominent social reformer, a founding member of the Indian National Congress, and a member of the school's Advisory Board urges Rama to keep her faith to herself. Rama knows she could lose her life's work. But . . .

You can come any time

Sundrabai, Rama's Christian colleague, quietly pushes Rama deeper into Christian activity. "Trust Christ," Sundrabai says. "Meet Rev. Pentecost. Go to his lectures." Now the students have an outing near the Bhima River. Sundrabai suggest they stay home and pray. I think Rama was reluctant to take that step, but couldn't refuse it. More students were attending morning prayer. Now Sundrabai urges an active step. A Christian retreat for those who wanted to learn more. Slowly, irrevocably, Rama moves towards a public Christian life. Her decision could destroy the school.

He's Quite Short

While Rama considers her religious doubt, life at Sharada Sadan goes on. Godubai comes to see her. Rama has a soft spot for her first pupil who now is a key support at the school. When Rama opened a school for child widows, she probably didn't consider the young women might want to remarry. And yet, what can she say against the marriage? As Godubai points out, the fact that her intended groom is short isn't really an objection.

Come To My Lectures

"Come to my lectures," Rev. Pentecost said as if Rama had nothing better to do. She's annoyed with this man's assumptions that he knows better than she. Rama is also irritated with Sundrabai for persuading her to meet this man, and with herself for consenting to do so. Rama is already a Christian. What can this man tell her she doesn't know already? And why should she listen? But within herself, Rama knows she wants a greater spiritual life than she has. What if this man can show her the way forward?

Does This Preacher Have An Answer?

Sundrabai, the woman who advised Rama to accept Christ, rushes to tell Rama the news. An evangelist is in Pune. Sundrabai begs Rama to come hear him. Maybe she'll receive the Holy Ghost. Rama is skeptical and perhaps unsettled. One day Sundrabai tells her to receive Christ; the next, it's the Holy Ghost. But Rama agrees to go to the Methodist mission. Her initial impression isn't positive, but she waits with the others. Does this preacher have an answer to Rama's spiritual dilemma, or is it time wasted? When she meets him, Rev. Pentecost tells her to stop trusting Unitarians and attend his lectures. What kind of advice is that?

Am I a Christian?

When Rama was baptized, she was content. She saw herself as part of the nuns' community at Wantage, as a person who wouldn't be alone again. Rama practiced her faith, but didn't preach it. Then detractors accused her of trying to convert her students. Rama began feeling ill at ease. She reads a book by Rev. William Haslam, a minister who wrote about being converted as he preached. Rama can't understand how this can be. She asks a Christian friend how a Christian can convert to being a Christian. Rama stands at yet another crossroads.

A Kiss Goodnight

The issue of Christian teaching isn't resolved, but other matters take place. For reasons of economy, Rama moves her school from Bombay to Pune. Just as Rama says her prayers in the morning, she kisses her students good night in the evening, because she believes they all need love. Just as she does. It's hard to say who benefits the most from the nightly ritual, Rama or her students.

Why should I close my door?

Rama's meeting with Sarah Hamlin moved from expenses to religion. Sarah doesn't know Godubai requested baptism. She just knows Rama keeps her door open during morning prayers. Rama is equally surprised. Rama doesn't see herself as a missionary. Sarah thinks otherwise. Rama doesn't take Sarah's concerns seriously, despite the fact that Sarah can advise the Ramabai Association to cut off funding. Many American churches support Christian missions, but not the Unitarians who fund Rama's school. Rama isn't one to follow precise directions, but Sarah is.

You Must Itemize

After discussing baptism with Godubai, I wonder if Rama is relieved to discuss something as mundane as accounting with Sarah. In many ways Rama saw American accounting methods as irrelevant. If you buy a bed, of course you buy a mosquito net. Why should that be a separate entry? Sarah takes her job seriously. The American board sent her to India to keep track of how their money is spent. She's shocked that Rama takes what Sarah sees as an irresponsible approach. Both women begin feeling annoyed.

I Want To Be Like You

After Godubai expressed her desire for baptism, Rama had to teach an ethics class. It must have been hard for her to concentrate on the lesson. On the one hand, Rama wants to honor Godubai's request. On the other, a baptism would violate Rama's agreement with her sponsors. Now the two meet after class in Rama's office, and Rama begins to back pedal, finally offering to find a missionary to instruct Godubai before the final decision is made. In her heart, Rama knows the matter isn't settled. But for now, she pushes it aside.

It's Against the Rules

After morning prayers, Godubai, Rama's first pupil, tells Rama she wants to be baptized, and Rama doesn't know what to do. Both her Indian and American supporters say the school is for Hindu widows only. No exceptions. Rama bends the rule, by allowing everyone to attend morning prayers. She doesn't expect to convert anyone. Now Godubai wants to convert. If Rama arranges the baptism, Godubai must leave and Rama's sponsors will think she deceived them. But who is Rama to thwart God's plan? Rama never anticipated the crisis unfolding before her. What should she do?

Perhaps Mano Forgot

Ever notice something out of order, but can't put your finger on what it is? Sarah Hamlin is a new arrival from America. She's never been to India before, and this is her first morning at Sharada Sadan, Rama's school for Hindu widows. Rama wants things to go smoothly. How disconcerting to notice Sarah's expression of disdain when Rama's daughter enters the room. Rama runs her motherly checklist. Mano has a clean sari and bare feet. What could be out of place? Mano's hair? As Mano leaves to comb her hair, one of the teachers wonders if Mano was testing her mother. Or perhaps Mano simply forgot.

"Everything was written down."

Sharada Sadan, Rama's school for child widows, is growing. She has students. She has teachers, And the American sponsors sent Sarah Hamlin to take care of the accounts. Everything should be fine, but Rama isn't sure. She knows Sarah will take a stricter view of accounts, but surely Sarah will accept Rama's way of doing things. Mano seems to be adjusting well. She's with her mother. What could be better than that? I wonder if Rama thinks everything is settled now.

Was Ajibai There?

Rama doesn't seem sentimental, yet she kept the lace handkerchief from Mano's baptism. I wonder if Rama had her own memento, or if she just kept the scrap of lace for her daughter. It's been five years since Rama and Mano's baptism. Rama achieved what she set out to do. Her school for widows is open. She has time to remember the moment she turned away from Hinduism. Mano doesn't remember much. She was only two years old. But she remembers Ajibai, her precious grandmother. I wonder how Rama felt about her daughter's memories.

I'll Be On Time

Godubai is 24 years old. Her brother Naharpant promised that if she came to Bombay to take care of his house, she could have an education. The young woman is emaciated and determined. What does Rama feel when she meets Godubai? Elation to have her first pupil? Compassion for the widow? Curiosity about Godubai's home situation? And what does Godubai think when she meets Rama? Is Godubai anxious that Rama might not accept her? Does she worry that bringing a small child will nix the opportunity? All these emotions while Naharpant watches and waits for the outcome. I wonder what he wanted to happen.

Will Rama Have Any Students?

Rama's school for child widows is open. Word is beginning to spread. As she sits on the veranda I'm sure Rama is worried she won't have any students. Even with support from Reformers, it will be hard to convince families to send their widowed child brides to her. I think Rama must have wondered if her efforts would bear any fruit. On this day, a young man brings his widowed sister to Rama. Everyone must have felt nervous. No one knew what would happen. Rama watches closely as she decides what to do.

Rama's School is Ready

Rama's dream has come true. The opening ceremonies for Sharada Sadan, Rama's school for widows, are about to take place. Rama reflects on two women who have influenced her life, as if to decide who she is. Is Rama like Emma Willard, founder of the WCTU, who forged ahead no matter what the obstacles? Or is she like Ajibai, the forceful nun whose approval she craves? Perhaps she is both. Does Rama remember her own first lessons, dedicated to the Goddess Sarasvati? I think she does.

Rama Leaves Mano Again

Rama's relationship with her daughter is difficult for me to understand. Rama loves Mano, but she always seems for focussed on her work. When she was in England, she left Mano with the nuns while she went to school. She took Mano to America, but then sent her back to England. Now reunited with her daughter in India, Rama leaves Pune two days later to establish her school in Mumbai. Mano must have wondered why her mother was always leaving. Perhaps Mano enjoyed having a mother when she could, and missed her when she left.

"I Thought Your Forgot Me

It's hard to say what Rama was most excited about: arriving back in India, preparing to open her school for widows, or being reunited with her daughter. The nuns bring Mano to the Pune train station. Rama hasn't seen Mano since she put her on the ship to England three years before. Rama is suddenly filled with emotion. Her baby has become a child. And her child barely knows who she is. Rama sees a glimpse of Mano's pain. Will it make a difference in Rama's plans?

What if I fail?

Departing from San Francisco on the RMS Oceania, Rama stands by the rail as the stars appear. With fundraising finally complete, Rama is ready to return to India to found her school and be reunited with her daughter. But doubts assail her. What her dream doesn't succeed? Awash in uncertainty, Rama "hears" a voice. Her resolve returns, only to flee again. "Srinivas, what if I fail?"

"It's my destiny to help you"

In a receiving line in San Francisco, Rama meets a new benefactor. Irving Scott, a prominent businessman, will sponsor a Pacific Coast Branch of her fundraising Ramabai Association. Rama asks why he would sponsor her school, and is delighted by his reply. Philanthropy, Rama learns, has many forms -- religious, social, and entrepreneurial.

New Allies

Still grieving for Rachel Bodley, Rama arrives at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Rama will speak at the National Educational Association Conference, and Sarah Cooper, a leader in kindergarten education, will introduce her. Rama hopes the delegates will establish Ramabai Circles to raise funds for her school. I'm struck by Rama's tenacity. Missing her daughter and grieving for her friend, Rama pushes forward with her work.

"He's seen my feet"

When she finds out about Dr. Bodley's death, Rama rushes to Philadelphia. There are things that need to be done. Mrs. Brentwood gives Rama a place to stay. She and her husband are very formal people, but when no one seems to be home, Rama thinks she can sneak downstairs in her bare feet to get a drink of water. Rama is mortified to run into her host. Later, Mrs. Brentwood admonishes Rama and blames Dr. Bodley for not teaching Rama better manners. In the 21st century it's hard to comprehend the strictness of 19th century dress codes.

She Fell Down Dead

When we're apart from people we love, we expect them to continue their lives and duties. Rama's been on speaking tours, and working in Boston with Judith Andrews, while in Philadelphia Rachel Bodley continued her own duties. Already unhappy due to her daughter's illness, and her new speaking tour, Rama's schedule stops. Rachel Bodley is dead. Once again, Rama's world is upside down. She's back in Philadelphia in a stranger's home wondering what she should do next.

My Baby's Sick

Since Rama's first spoke at the Tremont Church in Boston, she's been busy with a speaking tour on the East Coast, completion of a book, and establishing Ramabai Circles as fund raising units. And in addition to Dr. Bodley in Philadelphia, Rama has a new mentor in Judith Andrews in Boston. Everything is going perfectly ... except ... all Rama wants to do is rejoin her now seven-year-old daughter. And when Rama receives news Mano is sick, she wants to leave America immediately, but she can't. "Surely you want to complete your work in America," Judith says. Does Rama have any choice but to stay?

Rama Steps on Stage

Rama is nervous as she faces her largest audience to talk about child widows and raise funds for her school. Joseph Cook told Rama to touch her listeners' hearts. Rama imagines what the two men who knew her best would say. Bipin her husband. Srinivas her brother. Both taken from her by Death. Rama visualizes their support, and faith in her ability to touch her audience. The vision gives Rama courage to step onto the stage. Rama takes time to regain her mental focus and begins the speech of her life.

More Stories

When Joseph Cook, a well-known speaker, starts telling Rama what her speaking topic should be, Rama is more than a little annoyed. Rama wants to raise money so she can start her school for Hindu child widows. Her mind is on the school, not the plight of child widows before they arrive. Rama's topic is the school's curriculum. Cook advises a different approach. He tells Rama to talk about the children. Rama doesn't want to take that approach. She thinks she's already talked the topic to death. Reluctantly, Rama agrees to tell the stories again. It turned out to be a good choice.

"I'm sure you can."

Rama is about to speak to reform community of Boston. But she can't concentrate. All Rama can think of is her daughter, now on a ship back to England. Rama wonders if she did the right thing, but how could she do anything else? Rama needs to deflect her companion's curiosity and says the church is too big. She can't speak to such a large crowd. The woman reacts badly. Everyone important speaks at the Tremont Street Baptist Church.

"Mama Always Writing"

Rama's first public speech was a triumph. Speaking invitations are pouring in. Professionally, Rama is a success, but as a mother? Rama herself doesn't know. How can she take care of Mano and attend public engagements? How can she write when the child demands so much attention? The situation isn't unusual. But Rama doesn't know how she can do her work and take care of her child in this new country where Rama herself depends on others.

Rama Speaks to her First American Audience

Rama came to Philadelphia to raise funds so she can found a school for child widows in India. Rama will use the themes she develops in her first major speech at all her fundraising events. Rama informs he audience what life is like for women in India, especially the little girls who marry much older men and become unwanted child widows. These are the children Rama wants to educate. But it's a long road from a first speech to an actual school.

Rama's First American Speech

Rama is about to make her American speaking debut. She's nervous and isn't sure what to tell the listeners drawn to what they expect to be a memorable speech. Rama calms herself with memories of how her mother taught her to recite Sacred Legends. So much has happened since then, and yet perhaps only Rama's purpose is different. So much depends on how Rama's first words engage the audience's attention. Rama twists her fingers in nervousness, but she knows what she needs to do.

A Great Day for Hindu Women

It must have been a bittersweet moment. Rama went to England to become a lady doctor, only to be told she could not hear well enough to attend the courses. Now Rama witnesses her cousin receive a medical degree in Philadelphia. Anandibai would be the first Hindu lady doctor. Rama was proud, but also, I think, a little envious. Rama must have wondered if her goal to educate child widows could be as important.

They Eat By Turns

Rama's first day in Philadelphia includes a reception for Dr. Bodley's students and faculty. Anandibai, about to receive her medical degree, introduces Rama to her colleagues and leads her to the dining room to view forbidden foods. How frustrating it was to maintain vegetarian diet restrictions, when so much delight beckoned.

Rama Remembers

When Rama went to England, she knew Ajibai and the nuns at Wantage would welcome her. But in America? Everything is so strange. Rama's name is in the newspapers as an educator and reformer. Can she live up to this reputation? Rama has no one to confide in. No one to support her as she looks at the stars and remembers her brother.

Uncomfortable Introductions

On the journey from the wharf to the residential area Rama notices relations between Anandibai and her husband are strained. Rama's hostess stands to greet them with a warm welcome. I think Rama responds to Dr. Bodley's warmth with relief. She and her daughter are welcome. Perhaps she wonders if her first impression of her cousin's marriage is correct.

"Read the Second Line"

To Rama's surprise, Anandibai's husband Gopalrao is also present for their first meeting. He's stiff and taciturn. Rama, Mano, and their new relatives board a streetcar. Rama notices the advertisements above the car windows and is drawn to one that refers to God, before recommending Soapolio, a type of soap. In essence, this advertisement is Rama's introduction to American life. What more will she learn in the months ahead? And what does Rama make of Anandibai's relationship with her husband?

I Couldn't Miss Your Graduation

Arriving at the wharf in Philadelphia, Rama doesn't know what to expect. Will her cousin Anandibai be there to meet her? And if she is, will Rama recognize her? Rama sees a woman in a sari, and knows it's her cousin. The women have never met, yet they recognize each other. Rama's American career is about to begin.

Mano Frets

The voyage to America is perhaps the first time Rama has had to parent Mano alone. There have always been other people to share childcare. On board the ship Rama is alone with Mano and unable to distract her, until the sight of flying fish makes Mano laugh. On board the ship Rama has time to spend with her child, but how will she cope after she arrives in America?

We're Free

Rama informs the Sisters at Wantage that she and Mano are going to America. They sail in February and almost immediately experience a storm at sea. Rama decides not to stay below but take her risks on deck. The journey takes Rama into a new phase of her life. Once again Rama remakes herself.

Rama Opens the Door

After confronting Ajibai in the chapel, Rama returns to her room. Rama concludes that if she returns to Cheltenham and leaves her daughter with Ajibai, Mano won't learn the things Rama thinks most important. Rama makes her decision. The next day Rama visits Mother Superior. Sister Geraldine, the nun Rama calls Ajibai, is also present. Rama eases her way into a conversation that will change her life again.

It's Her Fault

Rama kisses her daughter good night and walks to Chapel. The nuns take their places. But instead of listening to the liturgy, Rama fights her anger. "Mano listens to Ajibai more than me," Rama fumes. "This isn't my fault. Ajibai should've followed my instructions. It's her fault."

"Pray the way I taught you""

Ajibai taught Mano to pray according to Church of England customs. Rama had herself and Mano baptized into the Church of England. But Rama has her own view on the best way to pray. The situation is a new crisis for Rama. Who has the right to teach her child? Who is more important in the Mano's life? And what should Rama do to reassert herself as a parent?

"I'll Wait for Ajibai."

Ajibai. Grandmother. After all this time apart. After Rama's joyful reunion with Mano, her daughter refuses to say bedtime prayers with her. For the first time Rama realizes the extent of Mano's attachment to Ajibai. Rama immediately asserts her position. "I'm your mother," she says. Is she handling the situation well? Would any of us?

"Don't Leave Again"

As the train approaches Wantage, Rama is anxious. She's been away at Cheltenham while her daughter Mano stayed with the nuns. It's their first separation, and Rama felt it deeply. Like many mothers separated from their children, Rama wonders if Mano will recognize her. And they they're together in a magical moment of reunion. "Don't leave home again," Rama's daughter orders. Neither knew how often they would be apart.

Why Her and Not Me?

Classes are over. Rama is on her way back to Wantage and Mano. But everything is a mess. The nuns want her to be a missionary. Miss Beale wants her to teach only women. Dr. Bodley wants Rama to come to America in support of a cousin she's never met. A cousin who will be a Lady Doctor. That's what Rama wanted to do until they said she couldn't hear well enough. Rama feels conflicted and frustrated. Maybe she should go to America, but right now Rama just wants to go home to her daughter.

I've Received An Invitation

At Cheltenham, Rama offers classes in Sanskrit. Her mentor Miss Beale advertised for male students to join the class. Her sponsors in the Church of England forbade a mixed class. They want her to return to India as a missionary. Miss Beale withdraws the course. Rama is outraged. Who are these people to tell her how to live her life? She has other options.

I Wear Saris

Rama has a meeting with Miss Beale, the headmistress. Rama has an unusual situation because she's both a student and professor of Sanskrit. 'What is the appropriate attire?' Miss Beale wonders. Rama points out she wears saris. Always. She came to Cheltenham to teach and to learn. Nothing more. Nothing less. She didn't come to become English. Rama wins the debate. If only everything was that easy.

It's A Lot To Take In

Though sad to leave her daughter behind with the nuns, Rama is excited to begin her education at Cheltenham Ladies' College. Yesterday Rama met Dorothea Beale, headmistress of the college. This morning, Rama meets other young women staying in the same house. She'll meet her teachers, and she'll introduce herself to her own students. Rama is both student and professor of Sanskrit. It's a lot to take in. Just like the day she joined Goddess Sarasvati's community of knowledge.

Will You Be a Good Girl?

Baptized one day, on the train the next. It wasn't really that quick, but it must have seemed like it. Rama will go to college at Cheltenham, but she can't take Mano. It's their first long separation. Rama's heart must be breaking. I'm guessing a tear rolled down Rama's cheek as she blew her daughter a kiss.

This Is My Destiny

Ajibai worried about Rama's decision to be baptized. Mother Superior has no hesitation. Now Rama and Mano stand at the baptismal font. This public rejection of Hindu religion will change Rama's life. Rama remembers her brother Srinivas. He told her to follow her destiny. This is it, she thinks. I'm a Christian now.

Ajibai Isn't Smiling

Consulting her mind and her heart, Rama concludes she wants to be baptized into the Church of England. She expects her dear Ajibai to be thrilled. She looks forward to the comfortable life she has with the sisters. And Mano will never wonder if she's good enough. Her salvation will be assured. But Ajibai isn't smiling. She doesn't rush forward with happy hugs and good wishes. Rama is confused.

What Does My Heart Want?

Of all Rama's many struggles the decision of whether or not to convert to Christianity is perhaps the most momentous. It means cutting herself off from her early life. Separation from friends and colleagues. But life in the convent at Wantage is so comforting. And Jesus offered salvation for women as well as men. Mano would never know spiritual inequality. Rama's mind can't come up with an answer, so she consults her heart.

"What do you think?"

After Rama's companion tries to kill her, the nuns send Rama to Oxford to stay with Professor Max Muller, a Sanskrit scholar. Rama can converse in her first language. They discuss her future. What will she do now that she can't be a lady doctor? What will she decide when Sister Geraldine encourages her to convert to Christianity. Prof. Muller asks Rama what she thinks about her situation. Rama thinks she should know the answer, but she doesn't. It takes all Rama's courage to sleep without someone in the room to protect her.

Rest, Rama

Rama wakes to a demon's face. The reality is equally frightening. Anandibai, Rama's traveling companion, holds a pillow to Rama's face. Rama escapes to the hall with her daughter. Sister Geraldine, Rama's "Ajibai," takes her to safety. Rama's life careens into another crisis, but this time she has protection. "Rest," Sister Geraldine says. Incredibly Rama is able to do so.

Is it a demon?

When Rama went to bed she must have wondered what more could go wrong. She can't train as a lady doctor. She has to leave Mano while she attends school. She has no clear path. Rama dreams of her past when the family lived at Dwarka. She thinks of the sea, and then she can't tell if she's dreaming or in danger. is there a demon? Is it real? Can she escape with her child?

What a Day

When Rama woke up that morning she expected to be a lady doctor. By evening everything had changed except her love for Mano. That and Rama's desire to reconnect with her brother. "I want the curtain open," she says. "My brother and I used to watch stars." If she can recall that earlier time, perhaps Rama can cope with her new destiny, whatever that turns out to be.

What Will Become of Her?

Rama is devastated. She failed the hearing test. She can't be a doctor. She needs a new profession. She's supposed to leave her daughter for weeks while she attends Cheltenham Ladies' College to become a . . . what? No wonder she thinks of past times when Srinivas was alive, when she was pregnant with Mano, when . . . Rama remembers. She dedicated Mano to God. Is this how he will take her? And will he take Bipin's memory too? More than ever before, Rama wonders what will become of her.

You'll Be Able to Visit

In the same interview Rama finds out she won't be training as a lady doctor, and that Mother Superior arranged for her to attend Cheltenham Ladies College. Even worse, Rama has to leave her daughter at the Wantage Convent during the term. It seems to be a pattern in Rama's life. Just when she thinks everything is settled, life turns back into chaos. Will she accept the nun's direction and go to Cheltenham? If she doesn't, what can she do?

"But it's my destiny. . ."

Rama thinks she has everything in place to meet her destiny. She's just waiting for her exam results. Disaster! Rama is deaf in one ear. She can't attend medical school. She can't be a doctor. The shock and disappointment are terrible. Rama believes it's her destiny to be a lady doctor, and Mother Superior tells her she can't attend medical school. It's the first time Rama's been thwarted by anything except Death. What will she do?


For the first time in her life Rama is at peace in a place that can't be taken from her. Rama misses her lost family members, but she has her daughter. And for the first time she experiences stability in a women's community.

Rama Forges Ahead

Whenever Rama faces an obstacle, she pushes through it. Reunited with Sister Geraldine, Rama decides to call her Ajibai, "Grandmother." The name pulls Geraldine into Rama's sphere, smoothing the strangeness of Rama's new home. Encouraging Rama to begin paying her way. "Whom shall I teach Marathi?" Rama asks, and stakes her claim to be more than a Christian charity case.

The Blocks Looked Solid

The Mother House at Wantage, England. A solid, English sort of building -- nothing like the bungalows of India. Rama wants to like it. But she's nervous. Especially after the scene at the pier. Then she sees Sister Geraldine, the older nun she first met in India. The woman Rama trusts. Imagine Rama's relief. Somehow things will work out.

"I Demand You Stop"

Anandibai traveled to England with Rama and Mano. The adults need each other for respectability. As the voyage continues, Rama becomes concerned. Anandibai is afraid of nuns - awkward if you're going to a convent. Her focus is on joining her brother. At the pier Anandibai's brother rejects her. The woman collapses, shrieking her despair. Rama's first instinct is to control the scene and protect her own reputation. She can't afford a bad first impression.

"It's Just the Three of You"

Leaving India for England was a courageous act. Rama 'crossed the water,' potentially losing caste. She's a woman traveling alone with only a stranger to help her. Rama expects to come back a doctor, but who can say? And when she goes to her cabin Rama learns other passengers won't travel with Indians. "Just as well," she says. The new sense of "otherness" is the first of many disappointments and frustrations.

I Still Don't Know

It took incredible courage for Rama to 'cross the water' to England. It meant complete loss of caste, a hard decision for a Brahmin. I'm struck by Rama's determination to meet her destiny when she had no idea what that meant. A lone single parent with a small child traveling to a land where she has no friends. The decision makes me wonder which was more important to Rama, leaving where she was or arriving at her destination.

I Can Do Both

Rama didn't leave Mano with the nuns after all, but soon returns to the convent. She's decided to become a lady doctor which means she'll need to go to England. Rama thinks, "the nuns are English, I'll let them sponsor me." A new adventure begins.

Don't Worry, I'll Come Back

Rama's decision to leave her daughter Mano with the nuns seems inexplicable. She's just met them. She didn't plan to leave Mano with them. But, Rama wants to work with child widows. She wants to lecture. She doesn't have much money. And the Sisters are so nice. Mano would have what she needs. Rama can work without worry. It seems like a perfect solution for everyone. But is it?

"What Kind of Parent Does That?"

Miss Hurford invites Rama to visit English nuns working in Pune. Rama accepts and takes Mano with her. The nuns are curious. How can a single mother lecture and care for her child? It's a perfect opportunity for Rama to tell Thakubai's story. The child becomes part of Rama's lectures on child widows. Miss Hurford is the first of many shocked listeners.

A Good Arrangement

Thakubai, once the thief with bony fingers, is now part of Rama's life. She's the first child widow Rama helps, but not the last. Blessings come in many forms.

Rama's First Child Widow

The bony fingers reaching for Rama's basket belonged to a child-widow named Thakubai. Rama says she wants to educate child widows, but Thakubai, with her tattered clothes and unwashed body, is the first widow she meets. Rama has few resources. How can she add another mouth to feed? How can she not?

Purple Eggplants

Rama's career is off to a good start. But she has a modern problem. Rama is a single parent who does her own marketing and sometimes forgets how heavy the shopping basket gets. She struggles to keep her child out of the mud, and puts down the basket for an instant. A hand reaches for it? What will Rama do now?

Rama Begins Again

Rama goes to Pune to start a new career as a lecturer on women's reform. Mrs. Ranade, wife of Reformer Judge Ranade, introduces Rama to her new audience. The first lecture went well. Rama's new career is launched. Mrs. Ranade wants Rama to join her for English lessons taught by a female missionary, which brings up the question: Who is a missionary?

Birds With No Nest

Shortly after Bipin dies, his clerk visits Rama and tells her Bipin has unpaid debts. Some creditors want payment. Rama doesn’t hesitate. "I wish to sell this house and its contents," she says. When the clerk hesitates, Rama responds by waving her hand. Whether though courage or foolishness, Rama makes the decision to sell everything and start again. Is it the right choice?

Shall We Play With Blocks?

When I wrote this section, I realized the depth of Rama's loneliness. She's more alone than she's ever been. Her husband is dead. Her way of life is gone. Only Rama's young daughter is still with her. How will Rama cope? How will she live and support Mano? What can Rama do?

Death Comes Again

One day Bipin came home complaining he didn't feel well. Three days later, he died. Cholera was and is a swift disease. Rama did everything she could. She sent for the doctor. She nursed her husband tirelessly. She appealed to the Hindu gods who failed her before. Nothing cured Rama's husband. Rama's great love is gone. There is only his cousin Krishnapriya saying they must prepare the body.


Rama finished explaining how Savitri rescued her husband from death when she felt a premonition. Is she being silly? It happens a second time when she sees a shadow. Is it Yama, the god of death, coming for her husband?

Savitri Defeats Death

Rama tells the story of how Savitri defeats death (Yama) to save her husband. The myth put incredible pressure on Indian wives who must be like Savitri, protecting their husbands from all harm. Savitri spent her life preparing for this moment. What does Rama think as she selects this story? Will she be able to protect Bipin?

What Could She Say?

Rama, with her husband and child, visits her husband's cousin Krishnapriya, who invites everyone in the village to hear Rama speak. They've never seen a woman before, and certainly not a pandita. Rama ponders what she can share with such a mixed audience, and decides on the story of Savitri. A Hindu woman is responsible for her husband's health. Rama knows this universal theme will touch her audience and open them to a broader message.

"Heart's Delight"

As things turn out, Bipin delivers Rama's baby and names her Manorama or "Heart's Delight. Both parents fall in love with their new daughter, relishing their new family roles. For the moment, Rama's interest in Christianity and her own career as a lecturer and writer dims.

A Modern Birth

At the moment religion is the least of Rama's thoughts. The child is coming. The servant wants to send for the midwife, but Rama refuses. This is a modern birth with a doctor. And clean clothing. Rama's only thoughts are for the moment and the child.

It's No More Illogical Than Hinduism

Rama's thinking about religion. She finds no place in Hinduism or Brahmo Samaj. Christianity seems different. There's a place for women, a place for her. Or so Rama thinks. Bipin isn't sympathetic.

this is a test

we're testing the bubbles

That must have been expensive

The missionary is back. Rama listens to the crucifixion story. Bipin walks in just as Jesus' followers place his body in the tomb. Bipin asks a question - partly to needle the missionary and partly due to curiosity. Does the missionary provide a useful answer? Does Rama grasp her husband's question?

It's All From Lord Brahma

Rama wants to know more about Luke's Gospel, so Bipin introduces her to a missionary. She wants information. He's an evangelist. And now he's called at an inconvenient time. What will Rama make of his story?

Does Your God Have a Name?

Rama wants to know more about the book she found with Bipin's things - it was Luke's Gospel. Bipin introduced her to a missionary he knew. Rama invited him to visit and explain Luke's book. Rama hopes to learn something new, but not to take it too seriously. Bipin warned her to be careful. Reverend Allen could be persuasive.

Rama's Life Takes a New Turn

As a married woman, Rama knew children would likely appear in due course. Was she ready for her first child. So much about her life is different from what childhood led her to expect. Birth family - gone. Marriage - unexpectedly delightful. A child - what should she expect?

"I think you misspoke."

Rama was putting books away when she found a pamphlet, the Book of Luke. The story called to her. She asked Bipin about it, and he brought home a missionary to answer her questions. The missionary said she believed in Jesus she would have eternal life. This excerpt is Rama's reaction. Rama is about to enter a new stage in her life. One that would last longer than her marriage.

Joy in the Morning

To Rama's surprise, married life is good. She and Bipin move to Silchar. He's a barrister. She has a new home. The first days of a new life can be blissful. I found myself really happy for the newly married couple as I recorded their joy.

The Decision is Made

It's difficult to know what Rama feels when she agreed to marry Bipin. She holds him in high regard - perhaps even loves him. She doesn't want to lose his affection. I wonder: would Rama have married if her brother lived. Or, would she have married Bipin if she hadn't made the promise to her brother. But she's alone. Bipin wants to marry her. She cares for him. She agrees.

But . . .

Rama thinks herself alone. Srinivas, the last member of her family, is dead. What can she do? A lone woman. No family. Bipin wants to marry her, but . . . She loves him, but . . . And now the moment of truth is at hand.

Yet another loss

Each time Rama loses someone in her family, I feel a sense of sadness. Life in Rama's India is often inexplicably short. Disease strikes and kills without warning. Now death stalks Rama's brother, the last member of her family. Her devastation is complete. And on the heels of her greatest loss, Rama finds herself utterly alone. Who will she turn to for help?

"Bipin wishes to marry me."

If you follow these Book Bubbles, you can guess what happened. Rama doesn't want to marry, but she promised Bipin to speak to speak to Srinivas. She blurts out the words "Bipin wishes to marry me." Srinivas is delighted - urges her to hurry before Bipin is deterred. But . . .? Rama remains confused. The unknown remains a mystery.

"I do have something on my mind."

Rama promised Bipin she would speak to her brother about Bipin's marriage proposal. Srinivas wants her to marry. Bipin is his close friend. What could be more perfect? Yet Rama hesitates. She doesn't want a husband. She doesn't want her life to change. And yet . . .

A Simple Barrister

Rama's life turns upside down again. Srinivas decides they will move from Sylhet to Dhaka. Bipin gives Rama a poem by Tagore. Rama is deeply touched. But do they have a future? Is it one of friendship? Or something more? And how can the matter be discussed without actually discussing it? Such matters are often difficult.

How should Rama answer?

When I researched this part of Rama's life I had compassion for her predicament. She likes her precarious life as it is. After watching her mother trailing on her father's pilgrimages, Rama doesn't want to be under male control. The problem? How can Rama retain Bipin's friendship without letting her aversion to marriage push him away. Rama wants Bipin's friendship, not a proposal. But how is that possible?

Hidden Attractions

Although Rama doesn't want a husband, she's drawn to Bipin. Srinivas also enjoys Bipin's company. There's a major obstacle to spending time with Bipin. Srinivas removed the barrier. He invited Bipin to join their meal. Rama's thrilled without entirely knowning why.

Rama's Suitors

Srinivas wants to do his duty, and since Rama refuses to discuss marriage, he contacts suitable suitors. He doesn't know she's found someone - neither does she. Srinivas tricks Rama. He doesn't tell her a suitor is calling until he's about to call. Srinivas has tried to think of everything Rama needs in a husband. Rama still rejects the concept. It is a challenge.

Does Rama need a husband?

Rama is a lovely young woman, a scholar, and a lecturer. Brother Srinivas accompanies her. Now they are in Sylhet. Rama hasn't told Srinivas she finds a man there attractive. And she isn't really looking for a husband. But this is India in the late 19th century. Srinivas knows that if anything happens to him, Rama has no future. In this excerpt Srinivas is trying to broach the subject with Rama.

Will he notice Rama?

Rama never worried about how she looked. But as she dresses for a reception in Sylhet, she studies her appearance carefully. Bapu Medhavi will be there. Rama doesn't know why that should make any difference, but it does.

What does Rama want?

Rama accomplished more than she could have dreamed. She's a respected lecturer on female education. She has enough to eat and doesn't sleep by the roadside anymore. But it isn't enough. Rama wonders what she wants, or if she'll recognize it.

No Place for Women

Rama reads the Vedas, and discovers there's no place for women. They don't have rights. They don't have choices. They have nothing without a man's permission. Naturally, Rama becomes disillusioned with Hinduism. How can she encourage women's education when it won't change their lives? What should she do?

The Next Frontier

Despite her education, Rama has never read the Vedas. Father forbade it. Yet here they are, a gift from Keshub Chandra Sen who urged her to read them. Still, Rama assumes the books are for her brother. Will she have the courage to read the Vedas for herself. I wonder if in some ways life was easier as a pilgrim. Putting one foot in front of the other doesn't require a decision.

What does "committed" mean?

Rama passed the university Sanskrit exams and received the title "pandita." Rama addressed her first audience about the need for women's education. But she wondered if her own commitment was real. Just because she was an educated woman didn't mean Rama had committed her life to women's education. How would she decide?

University Exams

Poor Rama. Nothing's ever enough. She's literate in Sanskrit, daughter of a well-respected religious teacher. But in Calcutta Rama has to prove herself before University examiners. She needs credentials.

"A Shining Star"

Srinivas told social reformers in Calcutta about Rama. The reformers envision education for women. They know that once women were held in high esteem. Rama knew sacred literature. She was literate in Sanskrit. Rama could demonstrate women's capabilities. Rama is a shining star. Rama is about to become the center of attention with Srinivas as her escort.

Turning Point

After Rama began reciting, she and Srinivas enjoyed a more comfortable life. Srinivas thought they could do even better. He decided it was time to leave the pilgrim path and migrate to Calcutta. He believed Rama proved the women's worth. She had a role to fulfill. Rama isn't so sure.

"They take everyone away"

Srinivas finally allows Rama to recite. She's a success. Life seems to be getting better...until Rama's sister Krishna falls ill

Rama's Quest Begins

Srinivas tells religious stories in exchange for donations. It's an insecure existence, and he hasn't been bringing enough money home. Rama wants to tell the stories too. Women aren't supposed to take a public role. Every time Rama asks, Srinivas refuses. How can she convince him that reciting is part of her purpose?

Can't you be satisfied

So there they are. Srinivas is head of the family. Mother lays dying. Krishna falls into despair. Rama knows people will come to hear a woman recite; they will give alms to her family. Srinivas refuses. Poor young man with everything on his shoulders. Why can't Rama say thank you? Why can't she be satisfied?

The Gods are Far Away

Rama's family didn't commit suicide, but their situation remained desperate. Rama knew her parents were at death's door, but when her father died, Rama couldn't help but think the gods Anant Shastri served all his life failed him. And if that was true, what hope could there by for anyone?

Love Matters

Rama revered and loved her father, but she never knew if he loved her. Now her father has decided that rather than starve in the famine, he would commit suicide. Now he tells Rama he loves her. Already in despair, Rama wishes she'd known her father loved her. And who was "our god" anyway?

Is This The End?

Famine ravages the Deccan Plateau. Rama and her family have nothing to eat. Father leads them into the forest, How was that going to help? People ate bark stripped bark from the trees. Finally Rama's father, Anant Shastri, made a decision. He would drown himself in a sacred tank. What can Rama do now? Should she end her life? Should she push on hoping to find food? Rama bangs her head on the wall of the labyrinth. Is there a way out?

Srinivas at a Point of Decision

Srinivas is losing his faith in the gods, but decides to try one more time. He would visit Seven Sages on the Floating Hills. But he has no money for the boat to cross the lake. Rama wants to support her brother's quest, but thinks it's a lost cause. Srinivas has reached a decision. What will he do? Will Rama go with him?

Rustic Rama sees exotic foreigners.

Rama is about to ride a train for the first time. She's never been in a train station before, never seen such a vast variety of people. In particular, she's never seen European or English women. I wondered what it would be like for she and her sister to see how English women dressed with their corsets at the waist and skirts flared out by hoops. They must have seemed like beings from another world. And so, I wrote this section -- and also noted that the chasm between Rama and these fascinating creatures was too wide for her to cross.

Rama Enters the Ganges

Rama immersed herself in holy rivers and tanks all over India. Now at last, she will immerse herself in the holiest of rivers - The Ganges. She prayed to Goddess Ganga, and sank down under the surface. It didn't turn out to be the uplifting experience she expected.

No More Emotions

When Rama lost consciousness at Lord Krishna's temple at Jaipur, she embarrassed her family. They told her not to be overcome by emotion again.So, Rama changed, and in changing she separated herself from active participation in the family's rituals. From now on, Rama told herself, she would avoid anything that touched her emotions. It was a lonely choice.

Rama the Advocate

Though she's the youngest member of the family and a girl, Rama speaks on behalf of the Driver. She thinks the work is too hard for one person. Srinivas thinks Rama is foolish, but her father Anant listens, and decrees the Driver can have a boy to help him. It's Rama's first success as an advocate.

Unauthorized Women

Rama's brother Srinivas is about to tell a sacred legend for the first time. Like his father, he began by addressing the bell, so if there were women in the crowd it would be clear he wasn't speaking to them. Rama is beginning to realize the many restrictions faced by women, including the restriction of hearing the sacred legends.

Sarasvati's Festival

Festivals provide welcome relief from life's dreariness - a chance to put on a yellow sari. And today Rama gets to go to a festival for her favorite goddess. Sarasvati was the goddess of scholars

It's hard being a grown-up

Rama is eight years old, but quickly being treated as an adult. Rama's mother engaged an old woman to act her agent at the market. Now the woman has returned, but Mama is busy. Rama takes it upon herself to complete the transaction. As only an eight year old can, Rama assumes what she thinks is an adult persona.

Skipping Lessons

Laxmibai tries to teach her 8-year-old daughter the day's lesson. It's hard for her to focus. The family is moving. She has to dismantle the house, sell possessions,

Communication Gaps

When you're a child, so many events are beyond understanding. Rama's family was downsizing to an astonishing degree. Mama ordered Rama to stop the next shepherd coming down the road. How was she supposed to do that? Rama, always resourceful, stopped a shepherd, inadvertently divided his goat herd, and brought the herd back together, while her mother waved her arms in an attempt to persuade the shepherd to buy the family's goats. Once again Rama observed that communication would be easier if her family spoke local dialects as well as Sanskrit.

Srinivas doubts himself

Rama idolized her older brother, and constantly peppered him with questions. Often he didn't want to answer. Rama's need to know often conflicted with Srinivas' desire to avoid looking at things too closely. Rama and Srinivas are gazing at stars in a dark night. She doesn't like the dark and wonders why her brother prefers it. I think this scene reveals quite a bit about Srinivas' character - his desire to do what is expected, to succeed as his father's son.

Krishna's Marriage Ends

Krishna is Rama's older sister. Her marriage was unusual, because instead of going to her husband's family, Krishna's husband Rohit joined her family. In exchange Rama's father Anant Shastri educated Rohit, but the young man didn't like the situation, and planned to leave. This family drama was the most intense Rama had ever experienced. She didn't especially like her brother-in-law, but neither did she want to lose her sister.

Rama's Constant Questions

From the time she was a child Rama questioned everything about her spiritual life. Here she's eight years old, walking with her brother Srinivas. Rama usually asked Srinivas her questions. He found them troubling and often didn't answer. Rama didn't want ask her sister Krishna who was having problems with her husband Rohit. She was afraid to ask her parents. In one sense "Rama's Labyrinth" is about Rama's search for answers.

Goat Girl

No sooner does Rama learn her destiny than she has to tend the goats. From the enticing sublime to daily life with a thump. Rama didn't like the shift - especially when Goddess Saraswati didn't help her. This is the first instance of Rama having to deal with life's challenges. And she responded as she always would. She went after the goats and got the job done.

Rama enters her Labyrinth

Pandita Ramabai had such a full life, it was impossible to include everything. How much I could include related to where I began the story. I concluded Rama's story began when her father, against all custom, decided to educate her as a scholar. Everything flowed out of that first decision.

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