She stood staring after him, feeling more lost and frightened than she had ever felt in her life. 'Toby, come back. Please. I need you!'
Her hand dropped to her side, then slowly she turned and walked back towards the house.
As she climbed the steps she could already hear the distant call of chanting across the sand, smell the kyphi, feel the heat of the sun god, Ra, as he lifted over the horizon.
At the traffic lights in Notting Hill Gate Toby frowned. He drummed his fingers on the wheel. His head was strangely full of odd sounds, sounds he had never heard before: the plaintive chanting of distant voices, echoed by a harp and what sounded like the low haunting notes of an oboe, floating over vast distances.
He shook his head, puzzled.
The call came from far away.
Toby, come back! Please!
That was Anna's voice.
He jumped as the car behind him hooted angrily. The lights had changed and he had not seen them. He stared into the mirror, dazed, then suddenly he made up his mind. He spun the steering wheel full circle and swung the car round with an angry squeal of tyres. Seconds later he was speeding back towards her house. 'Anna! Anna?' He left the car in the middle of the road, the door open, the engine running.
'Anna! Open the door!' Running up the path he hammered on it with his fists. There was a slight click and the door swung open. She had not closed it properly when she walked back into the house.
'Anna?' Toby stared inside. 'Where are you?'
The hall was deserted, the door into the living room ajar. Pushing it back, he threw himself into the room.
'Anna!' He skidded to a halt.
The room smelt of Egypt. Of heat and sand and of exotic incenses.
The shadow was all around her.
'Anna, fight it, sweetheart! I'm not going to let him have you. Anna, look at me! I love you!'
He grabbed her hands and spun her to face him. 'Anna!'
She blinked, frowning. 'Toby?'
'I'm here, sweetheart. It's all right.'
She was coming back to him. The shadow was fading.
Gathering her into his arms he kissed the top of her head.
'It came back, Toby,' she stammered. 'The bottle. Louisa couldn't get rid of it and neither can I. I threw it in the Nile but Andy caught it. He had it in his hand, Toby. Andy brought it back!' Sobbing, she glanced at the table where the little bottle stood amidst its wrappings on the polished mahogany surface. 'I'll never be free.'
He stared at it thoughtfully. 'There are a lot of things we can do, Anna. We can give it to the British Museum. We can send it back to Egypt. We can throw it in the Thames. But whatever happens, we're going to face this together.
She looked up at him. 'You mean it?'
'I mean it. You are not alone. You'll never be alone again unless you want to be and you are going to be free of Anhotep and Hatsek. I guarantee it.'
As he kissed the top of her head he glanced up. On the shining wood of the table, scattered amongst the wrapping paper he could see the fragments of dried resin, smell its cloying scent. As he watched more appeared on the carpet at their feet. Anna looked up at him. 'Serena is on her way,' she murmured. 'She'll help us, I know she will.'
Toby tightened his arms around her. 'Of course she will. And don't forget, I have the blood of Roger Carstairs and of my reverend great-grandfather in my veins. That must give me some start in the spiritual stakes.'
As she looked up at him he smiled. 'Courage, my darling, their combined shades have given me an idea. If I stand over that little bottle with a large hammer in my hand, I think the priests of Ancient Egypt are going to start listening to what we have to say to them for a change, don't you?'
The goddess Isis is with thee and she never leaveth thee; thou art not overthrown by thy enemies. . Let the servants of the gods sleep in peace. .
In common with many people, I suspect, my expectations of Egypt were so enormous that I was, in a way, almost reluctant to go there. Supposing it was not as wonderful as I hoped? Supposing the visit was a disaster and all my dreams and fantasies were shattered? I have Carole Blake to thank, both for the suggestion as a possibility rather than a dream that we embark on the adventure, a first for both of us, and for being a wonderful companion on the trip which ensued; we had such a good time!
The boat in which we sailed from Luxor to Aswan was very like the White Egret, although, I'm pleased to say, nothing sinister happened while we were on her - although I did see a ghost in the passenger's lounge! Perhaps that gave me the idea that ghosts too could go on cruises!
Within ten minutes of setting off from the airport towards the centre of Luxor I knew that there was going to be an Egyptian novel. I was entranced and from that moment on, Egypt was everything I expected of her and more. The atmosphere, the history and the memories were all there to be found if one looked, in spite of the crowds.
I already had a great many books on Egypt and I bought more, but those which helped me most with the Victorian sections of this story were the accounts of two of the intrepid ladies in whose mould Louisa was set. I do recommend Letters from Egypt by Lucie Duff Gordon and A Thousand Miles up the Nile by Amelia Edwards to anyone interested in Egypt's nineteenth-century past and of course no one should go through life without looking at the wonderful magical lithographs of David Roberts.
Rachel Hore and Lucy Ferguson helped bring me back down to earth in the editing of my manuscript - to both of them as usual my grateful thanks. My visit was short and so packed with experiences that I may have remembered some things wrongly. if so it is my fault alone.401.I made my own offering to Isis at Philae. Maybe, like a coin in the Trevi Fountain, that will ensure that one day I return to Egypt.I hope so.