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Authors: Jennifer Donnelly

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Historical Romance

The Wild Rose

BOOK: The Wild Rose
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FOR
SIMON LIPSKAR
AND
MAJA NIKOLIC

 

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.

SIR
EDMUND
HILLARY

Contents

PROLOGUE

 

P
ART
O
NE

    CHAPTER ONE

    CHAPTER TWO

    CHAPTER THREE

    CHAPTER FOUR

    CHAPTER FIVE

    CHAPTER SIX

    CHAPTER SEVEN

    CHAPTER EIGHT

    CHAPTER NINE

    CHAPTER TEN

    CHAPTER ELEVEN

    CHAPTER TWELVE

    CHAPTER THIRTEEN

    CHAPTER FOURTEEN

    CHAPTER FIFTEEN

    CHAPTER SIXTEEN

    CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

    CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

    CHAPTER NINETEEN

    CHAPTER TWENTY

    CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

    CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

    CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

    CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

    CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

    CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

    CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

    CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

    CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

    CHAPTER THIRTY

    CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

    CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

    CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

    CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

    CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

    CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

    CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

    CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

    CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

    CHAPTER FORTY

    CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

    CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

    CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

    CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

    CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

    CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

    CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

 

P
ART
T
WO

    CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT

    CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

    CHAPTER FIFTY

    CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

    CHAPTER FIFTY-TWO

    CHAPTER FIFTY-THREE

    CHAPTER FIFTY-FOUR

    CHAPTER FIFTY-FIVE

    CHAPTER FIFTY-SIX

    CHAPTER FIFTY-SEVEN

    CHAPTER FIFTY-EIGHT

    CHAPTER FIFTY-NINE

    CHAPTER SIXTY

    CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE

    CHAPTER SIXTY-TWO

    CHAPTER SIXTY-THREE

    CHAPTER SIXTY-FOUR

    CHAPTER SIXTY-FIVE

    CHAPTER SIXTY-SIX

    CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN

    CHAPTER SIXTY-EIGHT

    CHAPTER SIXTY-NINE

    CHAPTER SEVENTY

    CHAPTER SEVENTY-ONE

    CHAPTER SEVENTY-TWO

    CHAPTER SEVENTY-THREE

    CHAPTER SEVENTY-FOUR

    CHAPTER SEVENTY-FIVE

    CHAPTER SEVENTY-SIX

    CHAPTER SEVENTY-SEVEN

    CHAPTER SEVENTY-EIGHT

    CHAPTER SEVENTY-NINE

    CHAPTER EIGHTY

    CHAPTER EIGHTY-ONE

    CHAPTER EIGHTY-TWO

    CHAPTER EIGHTY-THREE

    CHAPTER EIGHTY-FOUR

    CHAPTER EIGHTY-FIVE

    CHAPTER EIGHTY-SIX

    CHAPTER EIGHTY-SEVEN

    CHAPTER EIGHTY-EIGHT

    CHAPTER EIGHTY-NINE

    CHAPTER NINETY

    CHAPTER NINETY-ONE

    CHAPTER NINETY-TWO

    CHAPTER NINETY-THREE

    CHAPTER NINETY-FOUR

    CHAPTER NINETY-FIVE

    CHAPTER NINETY-SIX

 

P
ART
T
HREE

    CHAPTER NINETY-SEVEN

    CHAPTER NINETY-EIGHT

    CHAPTER NINETY-NINE

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED ONE

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWO

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED THREE

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FOUR

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FIVE

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED SIX

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED SEVEN

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED EIGHT

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED NINE

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TEN

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED ELEVEN

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWELVE

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED THIRTEEN

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FOURTEEN

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED SIXTEEN

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED SEVENTEEN

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED EIGHTEEN

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED NINETEEN

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE

    CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-TWO

 

EPILOGUE

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

About the Author

Reading Group Guide

A Conversation with Jennifer Donnelly

ALSO BY JENNIFER DONNELLY

Copyright

PROLOGUE
August 1913—Tibet

Did all English girls make love like a man? Or was it only this one?

Max von Brandt, a German mountaineer, wondered this as he stroked the hair out of the face of the young woman lying next to him in the dark. He’d been with many women. Soft, pliant women, who clung to him afterward, extorting promises and endearments. This woman wasn’t soft, and neither was her lovemaking. It was hard and quick and without preliminaries. And when it was over, as it was now, she would turn away, curl into herself, and sleep.

“I don’t suppose there is anything I can say. To make you stay with me,” he said.

“No, Max, there isn’t.”

He lay on his back in the dark, listening as her breath slowed and deepened, as she drifted off to sleep. He couldn’t sleep. He didn’t want to. He wanted to make this night last. To remember it always. He wanted to remember the feel of her, the smell of her. The sound of the wind. The piercing cold.

He had told her he loved her. Weeks ago. And he’d meant it. For the first time in his life, he’d meant it. She’d laughed. And then, seeing that she’d hurt him, she’d kissed him and shaken her head no.

The night passed quickly. Before the sun rose, the woman did. As Max stared ahead of himself, into the darkness, she dressed, then quietly left their tent.

He never found her beside him when he woke. She always left the tent or cave or whatever shelter they’d found while it was still dark. He’d searched for her in the beginning, and always he’d found her perched somewhere high, somewhere solitary and still, her face lifted to the dawn sky and its fading stars.

“What are you looking for?” he would ask, following her gaze.

“Orion,” she would answer.

In only a few hours, he would say good-bye to her. In the time he had left, he would think of their first days together, for it was those memories he would hold on to.

They’d met about four months ago. He’d been traveling in Asia for five months prior. A renowned Alpine climber, he’d decided he wanted to see the Himalayas. To see if it was possible to conquer Everest; to take the world’s highest mountain for Germany, for the fatherland. The kaiser wanted conquests, and better to satisfy him with a beautiful mountain in Asia than a wretched war in Europe. He’d left Berlin for India, traveled north through that country, then quietly entered Nepal, a country closed to Westerners.

He’d made it all the way to Kathmandu before he was apprehended by Nepalese authorities and told to leave. He promised he would, but he needed help, he told them; a guide. He needed someone to take him through the high valleys of the Solu Khumbu and into Tibet over the Nangpa La pass. From there he wanted to trek east, exploring the northern base of Everest on his way to Lhasa, the City of God, where he hoped to ask permission of the Dalai Lama to climb. He had heard about a place called Rongbuk, and hoped he might find an approach there. He’d heard of one who might be able to help him—a woman, another Westerner. Did they know anything about her?

The authorities said that they did know her, though they had not seen her in several months. He gave them presents: rubies and sapphires he’d bought in Jaipur, pearls, a large emerald. In return, they gave him permission to wait for her. For a month.

Max had first heard of the woman when he’d arrived in Bombay. Western climbers he’d met there told him of her—an English girl who lived in the shadow of the Himalayas. She’d climbed Kilimanjaro—the Mawenzi peak—and had lost a leg on Kili in a horrible accident. She’d almost died there. Now, they said, she was photographing and mapping the Himalayas. She was trekking as high as she could, but the difficult climbs were beyond her. She lived among the mountain people now. She was strong like them, and had earned their respect and their liking. She did what almost no European could—moved over borders with goodwill, receiving hospitality from Nepalese and Tibetans alike.

But how to find her? Rumors abounded. She had been in China and India, but was in Tibet now, some said. No, Burma. No, Afghanistan. She was surveying for the British. Spying for the French. She’d died in an avalanche. She’d gone native. She’d taken a Nepalese husband. She traded horses. Yaks. Gold. He heard more talk as he made his way northeast across India. In Agra. Kanpur. And then, finally, he’d found her. In Kathmandu. Or at least he’d found a hut she used.

“She’s in the mountains,” a villager told him. “She’ll come.”

“When?”

“Soon. Soon.”

Days passed. Then weeks. A month. The Nepalese were growing impatient. They wanted him gone. He asked the villagers again and again when she was coming, and always he was told soon. He thought it must be a ruse by the wily farmer with whom he was staying to get a few more coins out of him.

And then she’d arrived. He’d thought her a Nepalese at first. She was dressed in indigo trousers and a long sheepskin jacket. Her shrewd green eyes were large in her angular face. They assessed him from beneath the furry fringe of her cap. Turquoise beads hung from her neck and dangled from her ears. She wore her hair in a long braid ornamented with bits of silver and glass as the native women did. Her face was bronzed by the Himalayan sun. Her body was wiry and strong. She walked with a limp. He found out, later, that she wore a false leg made of yak bone, carved and hollowed for her by a villager.


Namaste,
” she’d said to him, bowing her head slightly, after the farmer had told her what he wanted.

Namaste
. It was a Nepalese greeting. It meant: The light within me bows to the light within you.

He’d told her he wished to hire her to take him into Tibet. She told him she’d just returned from Shigatse and was tired. She would sleep first, then eat, and then they would discuss it.

The next day she prepared him a meal of rice and curried mutton, with strong black tea. He’d sat with her on the rug-covered floor of her hut and they’d talked, sharing a pipeful of opium. It killed the pain, she said. He’d thought then that she was referring to her damaged leg, but later he realized that the pain she spoke of went much deeper, and the opium she smoked did little to dull it. Sadness enfolded her like a long black cape.

He was astonished by the depth and breadth of her knowledge of the Himalayas. She had surveyed, mapped, and photographed more of the range than any Westerner had ever done. She kept herself by guiding and by publishing papers on the topography of the mountains for Britain’s Royal Geographical Society. The RGS would soon publish a book of her Himalayan photographs, too. Max had seen some of them. They were astonishingly good. They captured the fierce magnificence of the mountains, their beauty and cold indifference, like no other images ever had. She never went to the RGS in person, for she would not leave her beloved mountains. Instead she sent her work to be presented there by Sir Clements Markham, the RGS’s president.

Max had exclaimed over her photographs and the precision of her maps, amazed by both. She was younger than he—only twenty-nine—and yet she’d accomplished so much. She had shrugged his praise off, saying there was so much more to do, but she couldn’t do it—couldn’t get high enough to do it—because of her leg.

“But you’ve had to climb in order to do this much,” he said.

“Not so high, really. And not on anything tricky. No ice fields. No cliffs or crevasses,” she replied.

“But, it’s all tricky,” he said. “How do you climb at all? Without . . . without both legs, I mean.”

“I climb with my heart,” she replied. “Can you?”

When he had proved to her that he could do that, that he could climb with love and awe and respect for the mountains, she agreed to take him to Lhasa. They’d left Kathmandu with two yaks to carry a tent and supplies, and had trekked through mountain villages and valleys and passes that only she and a handful of sherpas knew. It was hard and exhausting and unspeakably beautiful. It was brutally cold, too. They slept close to each other in a tent, under skins for warmth. On the third night of the trek he told her he loved her. She laughed and he’d turned away, upset. He’d meant it, and his pride had been deeply wounded by her rejection.

“I’m sorry,” she said, placing a hand on his back. “I’m sorry, I can’t . . .”

He asked if there was someone else and she said yes, and then she took him in her arms. For comfort and warmth, for pleasure, but not for love. It was the first time in his life his heart had been broken.

They’d arrived three weeks ago at a bleak Tibetan village at the base of Everest—Rongbuk, where she lived. They waited there while the woman, who was known and well connected, used her influence to get him papers from Tibetan officials which would allow him to enter Lhasa. He stayed with her in her house—a small whitewashed stone structure, with a smaller building tacked on that she used to house her animals.

She’d taken photographs during those days. Once he’d seen her try to climb. She attempted an ice field when she thought he wasn’t watching, with her camera strapped to her back. She was not bad even with only one leg. But then she suddenly stopped dead and did not move for a solid ten minutes. He saw her struggling with herself. “Damn you!” she suddenly screamed. “Damn you! Damn you!” until he feared she would start an avalanche. At whom was she yelling? he wondered. At the mountain? Herself? At someone else?

His papers had finally come through. The day after he received them, he and the woman left Rongbuk with a tent and five yaks. Yesterday, they’d reached the outskirts of Lhasa. It had been their last day together. Last night, their last night. In a few hours, he would begin the trek to the holy city alone. He planned to stay for some months, studying and photographing Lhasa and its inhabitants, while he tried to obtain an audience with the Dalai Lama. He knew his chances were slim. The Dalai Lama tolerated one Westerner—the woman. It was said that on occasion he would drink with her, sing Tibetan songs with her, and swap bawdy stories. She was not going into Lhasa this time, however. She wanted to get back to Rongbuk.

Max wondered now, as he rose in the cold gray dawn, if he would ever see her again. He quickly dressed, packed a few things into his rucksack, buttoned his jacket, and walked out of the tent. Four yaks, presents for the governor of Lhasa, were stamping and snorting, their breath white in the morning air, but the woman was nowhere to be seen.

He looked around and finally spotted her sitting on a large, jutting rock, silhouetted against the sky. She sat still and alone, one knee hugged to her chest, her face lifted to the fading stars. He would leave now. With morning breaking. With this image of her forever in his mind.


Namaste,
Willa Alden,” he whispered, touching his steepled hands to his forehead. “
Namaste
.”

BOOK: The Wild Rose
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