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Authors: Julia Gregson

Tags: #Crimean War; 1853-1856, #Ukraine, #Crimea, #England, #Historical Fiction, #Nurses, #British, #General, #Romance, #British - Ukraine - Crimea, #Historical, #Young women - England, #Young women, #Fiction

Band of Angel

BOOK: Band of Angel
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Also by Julia Gregson

East of the Sun

Band of Angels

J
ULIA
G
REGSON

A T
OUCHSTONE
B
OOK
P
UBLISHED BY
S
IMON
& S
CHUSTER
N
EW
Y
ORK
L
ONDON
T
ORONTO
S
YDNEY

Touchstone

A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020
www.SimonandSchuster.com

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2004 by Julia Gregson

Originally published in Great Britain in 2004 by Orion, an Hachette Livre
UK company

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof
in any form whatsoever. For information address Touchstone Subsidiary Rights
Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

First Touchstone trade paperback edition May 2010

TOUCHSTONE and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

For information about special discounts for bulk purchases,
please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or
[email protected].

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event.
For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at
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.

Manufactured in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Gregson Julia.

Band of angels : a novel / Julia Gregson.

p. cm.

1. Young Women—England—Fiction. 2. Nurses—Fiction. 3. British—

Ukraine—Crimea—Fiction. 4. Crimean War, 1853–1856—Fiction. I. Title.

PR6107.R44494B36 2010

823’.92—dc22

2009042198

ISBN 978-1-4391-0113-1 (pbk)

ISBN 978-1-4391-1778-1 (ebook)

For Vicki, Richard, Caroline, and Poppy

Contents

Cover Page

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Part Two

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Part Three

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Part Four

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Band of Angels

A CONVERSATION WITH JULIA GREGSON

Acknowledgments

I’d like to thank Daphne Tilley, for taking me on a long-distance ride across Snowdon to the Lleyn Peninsula, where I discovered the drovers’ roads and the beginnings of my story. Jenny and David Clifford, for lending me their house. Turkish Airlines, for flying me to Istanbul, where I took a boat across the Bosphorus and saw Florence Nightingale’s room at the Barrack Hospital; Alex Attewell, director of the Florence Nightingale Museum at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London for his advice. Special thanks to Delia.

For love and support, thanks to my late mother, Vicki Sutton; to my sister Caroline; to Sarah, Charlotte, Hugo, Natasha, and Poppy; and, of course, Richard, for patiently reading all those drafts. I owe Kate Shaw a big debt of gratitude for her advice and support, and many thanks to my agent, Clare Alexander, for her professionalism and encouragement.

Prologue

Wales 1844

W
hen I say ‘Charge,’” said Deio, “Charge!”

She hesitated for a moment. The sea was high and her pony already excited. She leaned forward.

“Wait! Wait! Wait!” he bellowed against the wind. “Not till I say.”

The flounces on her pantaloons were streaked with mud and the dark stains from her stirrup leathers would not wash out. Mair would be so angry.

“Now,” he said. “Go!”

It was always the same, the split second between the order and its execution, the moment when she saw it all: her pony red-eyed, iron-mouthed, out of control. The shock of falling, the crunch of her bones. Mother and Father, Eliza and Mair, trudging behind her small coffin. Mother’s one red rose hurled into the raw earth.

“I am coming,” she shouted into the snarling wind. “For Wales, for glory.”

Now that they were galloping, the wet sand made a thrumming sound under Plover’s feet and the waves crashed like falling buildings.

“I am flying,” she thought. “I am God and I am flying.” Ahead, in a cloud of sand, was Deio’s pony, and beyond him the waves and the cliff.

They were turning now, jumping the swirling eddies, jumping through air, around the curve of the beach, faster and faster. When he wrestled his pony to a halt near the rock pools his face was wet with wind tears.

“Oh Deio,” she said. “She flew. I could hardly hold her.”

His pony, a mad little black thing scarcely broken, snatched at its bit and showed the whites of its eyes.

“Again,” she said. “Come on.”

“No.”

“Why not, peasant? You are not the boss of everything.”

“Don’t call me that. The charge is over. We won. You don’t keep doing a thing once you’ve done it.”

She watched him pull an old fob watch from his buckskin breeches. Almost everything he did had magic for her. He was twelve years old, with jet black hair and dark green eyes. A cast in his right eye, more pronounced when he was being perverse or was tired, gave him a certain air of the gypsy.

“Oh goddamn and blind it. ’Tis half past one,” he said.

“Please, Deio, don’t tease, don’t. If I’m late, I’ll get a lathering.”

“Caw, caw, caw,” he cried at a group of seagulls flying above his head. He leaned over his pony’s shoulder and flicked her with the length of elder he used as a crop. It hurt a bit, but she wouldn’t tell-tale-tit any more than she would about the other tests.

“I am going with Da to the blacksmiths.” His father was a drover, he always had interesting things to do.

Now they were climbing up the narrow sheep path that led to the bad stretch of cliff that they called Giant’s Mouth, and the wind was tugging at her hair with a ferocity that pleased her. They loved this place, forbidden to all local children ever since Ceris Jones, a fisherman’s daughter from Abersoch, had gone over the edge during a picnic and been carried home stone-cold dead on a sheep hurdle.

Up here the air was pure and earthy, with the boom of the sea below and waves bashing and bubbling like great gobs of spit between the black teeth of the rocks, and you could hardly breathe for fear that your foot would catch a loose stone or a piece of wet grass and you’d go plunging and cartwheeling down through space, down and down and down forever.

They got off their ponies and stared toward the horizon. It was clear enough to see Bardsey Island. Without looking at her and with no change of expression he put his arm around her.

“There’s an apple tree in the Dinas Field,” he said. “We’ll get some tomorrow. I’ll hold you up to the branches.”

They cantered to the top of the track where it joined the main road to Aberdaron. He was always in flight and she was always half glad. At the top he made a comrade’s clenched fist. His house, Pantyporthman, the Drover’s Hollow, was two miles to the left, up a track gouged with cattle hooves.

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