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Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved.

. No part of this publication may be reproduced, ored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopyin recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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S U I TA B L E M AT C H

ow wrong they are to say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Victoria Khoo gazed at her face in the dressing table mirror and sighed with discontent. She placed an index finger under each eyebrow and raised them to effect round eyes. Nothing she could do to hers could disguise the fact they were Chinese and yet they offered no view to what lay inside her. She may have been one of Singapores Kings Chinese, but he was the King of England, not of China, and so was she. Victoria of England, not of China. And not Vicky, either. She could not abide anyone calling her Vicky. Sebastian sometimes did, but of course Sebastian wasnt just anyone. Sebastian was Sebastian, and not only that, he was Sebastian Boustead and it really should be understood that if a Boustead wanted to be familiar with one, one should graciously accept that as a mark of respect. Victoria Khoo respected words like abide and gracious and referring to oneself as one, and she respected people who used such words. People like Sebastian Boustead. Sebastian Edward James Tanglin Boustead. She liked to say that aloud in the privacy of her room at Albion, the eleven syllables echoing off the broad walls and the high ceiling and returning to her in a most satisfactory way, each one reaching her ear just as the next was leaving her lips. Eleven syllables! Imagine having a name like that! Which is precisely what she did. Her own name had merely seven syllables, and more than half of those were in Victoria alone, one of the reasons she
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Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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could not abide it being shortened to just two, robbing it of the significance she deserved. Victoria Khoo Guat Neo was only a partly significant name. Victoria, to be sure, carried the consequence of an English queen, and Khoo was the name of one of the oldest and most respected families in Singapore, but Guat Neo was so short, so harsh, so vulgar, like all Chinese names. Chinese names didnt roll off the tongue like Sebastian did, and even though it might mean something as mysterious and romantic as Moon Lady, it was not a name she herself employed. Besides, what was the point of having a Chinese name when one did not even speak the language? It was only natural, she thought, that if one spoke only English, one should have an English name. She was pleased her parents had given her Victoria and knew that it would one day sit especially well alongside Boustead. Victoria Boustead, she said aloud. And then, Mrs Sebastian Edward James Tanglin Boustead. Mr and Mrs Sebastian Edward James Tanglin Boustead request the pleasure of Sir Shenton and Lady Thomass company to dinner at Albion. Albion? Good heavens, not Albion. When she married Sebastian she would leave her fathers home and live with the Bousteads at Angsana Lodge, just as she had always imagined. Mr and Mrs Sebastian Boustead, At Home, Angsana Lodge, 4 till 7, R.S.V.P. Mrs Humphry was most particular about the etiquette for At Homes, had devoted an entire chapter to it in her Manners for Women, and that was a volume one should certainly take into account if one expected to be a modern English girl. Victoria, for one, always took Mrs Humphry into account. Indeed, she was her second-favourite author after Jane Austen and before any of the Brontes. Although she was not so much an author as an adviser, an authority on correctness in matters of etiquette, protocol and good manners, so important in any day and age. One day and age, about 1960 if she had to put a date to it, she would be the mistress of Angsana Lodge. Yes, Mistress of Angsana Lodge, that was what was written in her stars. She would still be in her thirties then and she had Sebastians father to thank for the opportunity to be mistress at such a young age, as Sebastians father had left it so late to have children that

Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

BOYD ANDERSON

he would surely have passed on by 1960. Mrs Humphry had a chapter, too, on the Etiquette of Mourning. He was already referred to as Old Mr Boustead around the town, Sebastian being the Young Mr Boustead. Yes, Victoria Boustead of Angsana Lodge, she said to the mirror and the walls and the ceiling and listened as all eleven syllables came back to remind her that this was her destiny. Only seventeen years old and already she knew where she was going. Although now just a few weeks short of fading into history, 1941 was going to be her year. Where she was going that Saturday afternoon was to Angsana Lodge for the garden party, and that would be a most important step along the way. Sebastian had come down from Cambridge, as the invitation said; it was precisely the kind of invitation she would one day issue herself Mr and Mrs Sebastian Boustead request the pleasure of the company of Lieutenant-General and Mrs A.E. Percival at a Garden Party to celebrate the return of their son . . . she hadnt yet reached a decision on a name for their first son, but was inclined towards Sebastian, in the American way. It was strictly forbidden in Chinese custom to do such a thing as it drained the fathers power or his fortune or some such thing, both of which Sebastian surely had in abundance, but by then she would be living in Angsana Lodge and free of Chinese superstitions once and for all. Yes, Sebastian would be their first sons name. Sebastian Edward James Albert Boustead. No more of this silliness of claiming local heritage Tanglin would be consigned to history, Albert in its place, the name of her own dear father . . . a good English name, the name of the King himself. So . . . to celebrate the return of their son, Sebastian, recently come down from Cambridge. She lay on the bed and rolled her vowels, as the Bousteads did. They came back to her with a satisfying growl. Just like his father, she would like to add, but was quite aware that sort of comment was not done. And unnecessary anyway, as everyone knew her Sebastian was a Cambridge man, and a Charterhouse man, and a Boustead. Come down from Cambridge was a peculiar way of putting the circumstances, but although she could find no reference to such an expression

Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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in Mrs Humphrys book, that was what the invitation to the Khoo family said, and if the Bousteads used such an expression, then no doubt it was the correct expression. Come down, all the way down the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Malacca Strait; eight thousand miles down to Singapore. After Cambridge, Singapore was a comedown, she thought. But perhaps after four years in Cambridge everywhere was a comedown. Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Surrey, Kent all the places she had dreamed of and never seen; Sebastian had seen them all and would one day show her, too. In fact, that is precisely what he would do for their honeymoon. He would show her tea parties on a Surrey lawn, punting on the Cam, the cricket at Lords, Covent Garden, the galleries, the museums, the palaces, the heritage that would be hers. Mrs Humphry herself advised that occupations for the modern English girl should include riding her bicycle, playing tennis or golf and making sunshine in her home. Angsana Lodge would be a bright and sunny home for Sebastian; she would see to that. Sebastian . . . he was Mr Darcy to her Miss Elizabeth Bennet, although surely not even they could truly reflect the complexion of the bond she shared with Sebastian. Why, just to begin with he was neither cold nor aloof, displayed neither pride nor prejudice. What a brilliant day today would be! Nya Besar, Ah Poh called through the door. Must ready soon. Papa say. Victoria jumped up from the bed. Ah Pohs sudden raucous calls always made her jump, an instinctive reaction from seventeen years of such calls from her old nanny. She was about to answer, and then thought better. She was seventeen now and it was about time Ah Poh stopped making her jump. It was about time Ah Poh stopped calling her Nya Besar, too. She didnt care what the Chinese custom was; it was about time Ah Poh accepted that she wished to be called Miss Victoria, in the English way. Ah Poh should learn to get her mind around the idea and her tongue around the name, even if the best she could probably do was Missy Vic, or some such ghastly slang. That would even rob it of its precious syllables, she sighed. Nya Besar. Must ready soon. Papa say.

Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

BOYD ANDERSON

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Whenever Ah Poh raised her voice it seemed to come through her nose. For gracious sake, Ah Poh, Victoria called back, clipping her vowels correctly. I am dressing. She listened as her nanny her governess, as was surely more proper shuffled off to Lavinias room. Ngah. Must ready soon. Papa say. There was a muffled response from her sister followed by more shuffling feet to the third sisters room. Bongsu. Must ready soon. Papa say. Victoria stood at her door to hear if Ah Poh would be admonished by the Duchess maid from the room at the end of the corridor. The Duchess herself was too deaf to hear, but Ah Ling, who spent most of her day in the old dowagers room, still had her hearing and a keen sense of her own territory. She did not like the other servants strutting around and shouting at her quiet end of the house. Victoria heard nothing except Ah Poh mumbling in Hokkien all the way down the stairs. No doubt Ah Ling was feeding the Duchess brass water pipe with Burmese tobacco and had no time for a fight this morning. I must stop thinking of her as the Duchess, Victoria thought to herself. Outside the Khoo household, everyone referred to her grandmother as the Duchess, whispered to be because she reminded someone once of the Alice in Wonderland character. But she was the grand old lady of the Khoo family, her fathers mother, and if Victoria ever got caught calling her anything other than Mak, which was grandmother, there would be hell to pay. Even now, even when she was a grown woman of seventeen years, her mother would see to it that hell was to pay. Victoria went to her wardrobe and flung open all the doors. The regular Saturday morning air raid practice had long finished, the wails of the sirens silent for another week. She supposed she had better get on with it. She flicked through the dresses and considered what colour was suitable for todays special occasion. She stopped at a red one. There might be a hundred people at Angsana Lodge today, even two hundred. That meant perhaps a hundred women, and probably twenty or more young women. Red would certainly be noticed. In red on that green lawn that would be noticed. No, so obvious. So brazen. So . . . Jezebel. A red dress at a social function had caused all manner of problems for Bette Davis in that film.

Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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If there was a lesson to be learned from that film it was not to wear a red dress to a social function. There was her new white silk one. Was silk too slinky for a garden party? White against green was certainly good. It was even innocent. Why, Sebastian, she thought, I couldnt possibly go out onto the sea pavilion with you without a chaperone. Why, Sebastian, she said aloud, how ever could one think of such a thing? No, white was so plain. Besides, Mama would no doubt say it was a mourning colour. Its a party, not a funeral, she could already hear her mother saying. Mama has too many old Chinese ideas, Victoria thought. It was so hard to pursue Manners for Women in a house too often distracted by Chinese ideas. She flicked through blues, greens, yellows . . . What would the others be wearing, she wondered. She should make sure she didnt wear the same colour as her sisters. She simply could not abide people saying how alike they were three sparkling diamonds in a Nonya brooch, no doubt Old Mr Boustead would say yet again. That would be no good at all, being attached like that to her younger sisters, neither of whom was at a marrying age. Why, they were still schoolgirls, and that would be no good at all! Mama will probably have them wearing cheongsams anyway, she thought. And if they do, it wont matter what colour they wear, because she will be wearing an English dress. Come what may, she will be wearing an English dress. A cheongsam! Really! Why dont they just wear sarong kebaya and be done with it? So colonial, her sisters. So provincial. So, so provincial, she said. Victoria opened the louvre door to the verandah to see what sort of a day it was. Already it was stiflingly hot, the monsoon ready to break. Thank goodness there was an onshore breeze. Too often on steamy days like this, when the wind blew the other way, the stench of the nearby kampong was the morning greeting. The sun was high over the sea, so bright she had to squint. She lowered the bamboo chicks to shade her eyes. A brilliant sunny Saturday. The Bousteads were lucky to have such a day. A special sunny Saturday, she said, stretching her arms and smiling at the thought of it. So special that Papa has given up the races, George said. Victoria jumped and turned to see her brother casually leaning

Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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over the railing, smoking one of their fathers fat Egyptian cigarettes. Its the big handicap at the Turf Club today, and with this Boustead do hes not even attending. Well, there are more important things than horses, Victoria said. Her brother may be nearly four years older than her, but there were some things he obviously just did not understand. Ship coming in, George said. Victoria followed his gaze to the horizon. There was a white liner with a big M on each of its two funnels. Monterey or Mariposa. Cant tell which from here. Wheres that one from? Victoria said. It did no harm to humour him. All the way from San Francisco via Honolulu. Oh, George, I know youre joking. Nowhere has a name like Honolulu. Her brother slowly shook his head but didnt take his eyes from the liner steaming into the roads. Its in Hawaii, he said. And Frisco is in California. Frisco. Thatd be some place, wouldnt it? I dont know about that. But I do know that if that boat is what you say it is, then Papas Ellery Queens Mystery Magazine will be ready for him in High Street tomorrow. Probably the Mariposa, George said, flicking his cigarette way out towards the sea. Victoria went back into her room and closed the door behind her. George . . . always dreaming about somewhere else. Her own dreams went only so far as down the road. She thought again about the colour to suit such a fine day. Yellow, she said. Today is a good day for yellow. Like a honey pot. She smiled again as she thought about the Sniffies, the name her brother had given to the string of young admirers she had recently acquired. No doubt about it, they will be buzzing around the honey pot this afternoon, she thought. She would just have to make them buzz off. This honey is only for Sebastian, she said, and then she blushed. Saying it aloud made her realise how common it sounded, how American. How Ellery Queen. She would have to choose her words more carefully this afternoon when she saw Sebastian. He hadnt seen her for over a year now, since he was last home on a long holiday.

Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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She was only sixteen then, now she was seventeen and it was a completely different situation. Now Sebastian was home for good and, as her father said, every girl is beautiful at seventeen. In fact he had been saying that to her all year. The Chinese say every maiden is beautiful at seventeen. It was quaint the way he said it maiden. Not like her father at all. Girl, that would be quite sufficient. After all, didnt Mrs Humphry herself say right there on the first page of her valuable book, Can anything in the world be nicer than a really nice girl? She held a yellow cotton print dress against her body and considered herself in the mirror. It was simple, tight at the waist, hip-hugging, just a little dcolletage. She smiled, but not really to acknowledge that she knew words like dcolletage, French words with French pronunciation and four syllables. Indeed, her own grandfather had been fluent in French, which she knew was the recognised language of polite society all over Europe. No, it was because she thought that what she saw in the mirror would be a fitting reward for Sebastian after all his hard work. There was a knock on the door and it was then flung open, which meant it could only be Lavinia. No one but Lavinia was that rude and presumptuous. Are you wearing that? she said. Perhaps, Victoria said. Jaundice, said Lavinia. But if youre wearing it then Im wearing my new blue dress from Robinsons. I wonder what shell be wearing. Who? said Victoria, now having second thoughts about yellow. If Lavinia wasnt wearing a cheongsam after all, she would have to re-think the whole situation. Sebastians fiance. Was pink too prissy? Blue, of course, was now out of the question. Green would disappear on that . . . His what? Well, shes not his fiance yet, Lavinia said. Shes only just arrived. With Sebastian. There was a shiver coursing through her body, making her skin tingle and her face flush. But when it reached her brain it dissolved in the realisation that this was just one more of her sisters provocations. With Sebastian . . . simply impossible. What can you possibly mean, with Sebastian?

Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

BOYD ANDERSON

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She came with him from England. I suppose shes English. Came with him? On the same boat? So I hear. Dont be ridiculous! Victoria said. Someones playing a joke on you. Sebastian would never . . . I mean, theres nothing so scandalous as an unchaperoned lady. Lavinia shrugged. Well, thats what I hear. What do you care, anyway? Oh, I . . . Lavinia cocked her head and squinted at her sister. Have I let a cat out of a bag? she said sarcastically. Not at all, Victoria said, thrusting out a defiant chin. Why should I care if Sebastian Boustead gets caught up in a scandal? If thats what they teach you at Cambridge, if thats what four years at Cambridge teaches one . . . He probably had lots of scandals at Cambridge, Lavinia said. Who knows what these boys get up to so far away from home? There were just the beginnings of a grin on Lavinias lips as she turned to leave. Who knows what scandals they get up to? Victoria closed the door and rushed to the bookshelf to consult Mrs Humphry. Quickly she flicked through the familiar pages to the chapter dealing with Travelling Abroad. Just three pages, not an important chapter at all, really. She scanned them for content: tolerance of foreign tongues, correct dress, the form of cosmopolitan friendliness. She could find no reference to such a scandalous turn of events as unchaperoned company on a sea voyage. No doubt such a prospect had never even occurred to Mrs Humphry. Of course it was ridiculous. The whole story was simply so, so ridiculous. She threw on her dressing gown and hurried downstairs and heard Lavinias door open and her footsteps in her wake. She found her father in his study, sitting at his desk and signing papers as Mr Rawlinson passed them in front of him. Papa, may I speak? she said. Her father nodded at his secretary, who left the room quietly, gliding across the room in his white drill suit like a ghost and closing the door behind him. Papa, Victoria said, what is this about Sebastian having a fiance? Its ridiculous, isnt it? Tell Lavinia its ridiculous.

Copyright Boyd Anderson 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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Its not ridiculous, is it, Papa? Lavinia said. Is that all you wanted to speak about? her father said, lighting a cigarette. The way you came in here, half-dressed like that, I thought it must be something important. He turned back to his desk and shuffled through the papers. No, not important, Victoria said, wrapping her dressing gown tightly across her chest. But, well, its just ridiculous . . . isnt it? No, her father said without looking up. Its true. See, Lavinia said smugly. But youre not supposed to know. Neither of you. So please dont tell anyone else. Its supposed to be a surprise. Its what todays party is all about. Victoria could not believe what she was hearing. Coming from Lavinia it could just be a trick, was certainly a trick. It was just the sort of catty and mischievous thing Lavinia would say on a day like this. It was ridiculous . . . right up until the moment her father said it was true. If her father said it was true, then no amount of refusing to believe it could change the fact that it was true. But . . . what about the scandal? she said. What scandal? her father said, still studying his papers. They say she came on the same boat, all the way from England. Heaven knows what scandals these boys get up to, Lavinia said theatrically over her shoulder as she paraded from the room. Albert Khoo finally looked up. Victoria . . . Si-Manis. Who are you? He reached for her hand. Si-Manis, Papa. Yes . . . my sweet girl. Things are different now. There is a war on. Some say it may even come here, too, soon. Theres not a lot of time for social niceties these days. Papa was right again, Victoria thought. So, so right. There wasnt a lot of time for social niceties. She wouldnt wait now for Sebastian. No doubt it was good manners to let a man make the first move in a situation like this, but there wasnt time for that any more.

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