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The Scarlet Sword


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The entire action of The Scarlet Sword takes place in rather less than ten days at a Catholic Mission in Kashmir. There, at the moment when Kashmir forces break under the ferocious tribal rush of Pathans and Afridis coming down to take part in the riot and massacre that was part of India’s price for partition in 1947, about sixty people of many nationalities are trapped.

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The entire action of The Scarlet Sword takes place in rather less than ten days at a Catholic Mission in Kashmir. There, at the moment when Kashmir forces break under the ferocious tribal rush of Pathans and Afridis coming down to take part in the riot and massacre that was part of India’s price for partition in 1947, about sixty people of many nationalities are trapped. They include not only the nuns, two priests, and many Sikh and Hindu women and children, but a war correspondent named Crane, a young English Colonel and his wife, a nurse from Glasgow, an English girl and her mother, and a dancer from the brothels of Bombay.

In the first murderous descent of Pathans several of these are killed. The rest, fortified and led by the two priests, succoured and nursed by the nuns, remain to resist by immense courage, fortitude, and humour ten days of nightmare.

Born in 1905, H.E. Bates published hs first book, The Two Sisters (to which Edward Garnett contributed a preface), when he was twenty-one. In the next fifteen years he won a distinguished reputation as novelist, essayist, and short-story writer, particularly for his stories about English country life.

In 1941, he was commissioned as a writer by the R.A.F. and, under the pseudonym of ‘Flying Officer X’, wrote his two famous books of short stories — The Greatest People in the World and  How Sleep the Brave, which were followed in 1945, when Mr. Bates discarded his war-time pseudonym, by Fair Stood the Wind for France. The Purple Plain, The Jacaranda Tree, and The Scarlet Sword won him a new reputation and gained success in Britain and America.

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