About the Book
About the Author
Also by Vita Sackville-West
Title Page
Seducers in Ecuador
Seducers in Ecuador
The Heir: A Love Story


Seducers in Ecuador is the story of Arthur Lomax, every bit the English gentleman in his white ducks and solar topee, enjoying the pleasures of an Egyptian cruise. But with the addition of a pair of blue spectacles to the outfit, Lomax's entire world changes – to alarming, deadly effect.

Peregrine Chase in The Heir is the manager of a Wolverhampton insurance company. But when he inherits a moated Tudor house called Blackboys his resistance to change dissolves in the face of its beauty. Under the spell of house and garden, Peregrine's life – and heart – are transformed.


Victoria Mary Sackville-West, known as Vita, was born in 1892 at Knole in Kent, the only child of aristocratic parents. In 1913 she married diplomat Harold Nicolson, with whom she had two sons and travelled extensively before settling at Sissinghurst Castle in 1930, where she devoted much of her time to creating its now world-famous garden. Throughout her life Sackville-West had a number of other relationships with both men and women, and her unconventional marriage would later become the subject of a biography written by her son Nigel Nicolson. Though she produced a substantial body of work, amongst which are writings on travel and gardening, Sackville-West is best known for her novels The Edwardians (1930) and All Passion Spent (1931), and for the pastoral poem The Land (1926) which was awarded the prestigious Hawthornden Prize. She died in 1962 at Sissinghurst.




Family History


The Dragon in Shallow Waters


The Edwardians

All Passion Spent

Grand Canyon


Passenger to Teheran

Saint Joan of Arc

English Country Houses


The Eagle and The Dove

Sissinghurst: The Creation of a Garden


Title page for Seducers in Ecuador & The Heir



It was in Egypt that Arthur Lomax contracted the habit which, after a pleasantly varied career, brought him finally to the scaffold.

In Egypt most tourists wear blue spectacles. Arthur Lomax followed this prudent if unbecoming fashion. In the company of three people he scarcely knew, but into whose intimacy he had been forced by the exigencies of yachting; straddling his long legs across a donkey; attired in a suit of white ducks, a solar topee on his head, his blue spectacles on his nose, he contemplated the Sphinx. But Lomax was less interested in the Sphinx than in the phenomenon produced by the wearing of those coloured glasses. In fact, he had already dismissed the Sphinx as a most overrated object, which, deprived of the snobbishness of legend to help it out, would have little chance of luring the traveller over fifteen hundred miles of land and sea to Egypt. But, as so often happens, although disappointed in one quarter he had been richly and unexpectedly rewarded in another. The world was changed for him, and, had he but known it, the whole of his future altered, by those two circles of blue glass. Unfortunately one does not recognise the turning-point of one’s future until one’s future has become one’s past.

Whether he pushed the glasses up on to his forehead, and looked out from underneath them, or slid them down to the tip of his nose, and looked out above them, he confronted unaided the too realistic glare of the Egyptian sun. When, however, he readjusted them to the place where they were intended to be worn, he immediately re-entered the curious world so recently become his own. It was more than curious; it was magical. A thick green light shrouded everything, the sort of light that might be the forerunner of some undreamed-of storm, or hang between a dying sun and a dead world. He wondered at the poverty of the common imagination, which degraded blue glasses into a prosaic, even a comic, thing. He resolved, however, not to initiate a soul into his discovery. To those blessed with perception, let perception remain sacred, but let the obtuse dwell for ever in their darkness.

But for Bellamy, Lomax would not have been in Egypt at all. Bellamy owned the yacht. A tall, cadaverous man, with a dark skin, white hair, and pale blue eyes, he belonged to Lomax’s club. They had never taken any notice of one another beyond a nod. Then one evening Bellamy, sitting next to Lomax at dinner, mentioned that he was sailing next day for Egypt. He was greatly put out because his third guest, a man, had failed him. “Family ties,” he grumbled; and then, to Lomax, “somehow you don’t look as though you had any.” “I haven’t,” said Lomax. “Lucky man,” grumbled Bellamy. “No,” said Lomax, “not so much lucky as wise. A man isn’t born with wife and children, and if he acquires them he has only himself to blame.” This appeared to amuse Bellamy, especially coming from Lomax, who was habitually taciturn, and he said, “That being so, you’d better come along to Egypt to-morrow.” “Thanks,” said Lomax, “I will.”

This trip would serve to pass the time. A yachting trip was a pleasant, civilised thing to undertake, and Lomax appreciated pleasant, civilised things. He had very little use for the conspicuous or the arresting. Such inclinations as he had towards the finer gestures—and it is not to be denied that such inclinations were latent in him—had been judiciously repressed, until Lomax could congratulate himself on having achieved the comfortable ideal of all true Englishmen. From this trip, then, he anticipated nothing but six or seven agreeable weeks of sight-seeing in company as civilised as his own. It is, however, the purpose of this story to demonstrate the danger of becoming involved in the lives of others without having previously tested the harmlessness of those others, and the danger above all of contracting in middle-age a new habit liable to release those lions of folly which prowl about our depths, and which it is the duty of every citizen to keep securely caged.

Of course one cannot blame Lomax. He knew nothing of Bellamy, and for Miss Whitaker his original feeling was one of purely chivalrous compassion. Besides, it must be remembered that under the new influence of his spectacles he was living in a condition of ecstasy—a breathless condition, in which he was hurried along by his instincts, and precipitated into compromising himself before he had had time to remove his spectacles and consult his reason. Indeed, with a rapidity that he was never well able to understand, he found himself in such a position that he no longer dared to remove his spectacles at all; he could not face a return to the daylight mood; realism was no longer for him. And the spectacles, having once made him their slave, served him well. They altered the world in the most extraordinary way. The general light was green instead of yellow, the sky and the desert both turned green, reds became purple, greens were almost black. It produced an effect of stillness, everything seemed muffled. The noises of the world lost their significance. Everything became at once intensified and remote. Lomax found it decidedly more interesting than the sights of Egypt. The sights of Egypt were a fact, having a material reality, but here was a phenomenon that presented life under a new aspect. Lomax knew well enough that to present life under a new aspect is the beginning and probably also the end of genius; it is therefore no wonder that his discovery produced in him so profound and sensational an excitement. His companions thought him silent; they thought him even a little dull. But they were by that time accustomed to his silence; they no longer regarded him as a possible stimulant; they regarded him merely as a fixture—uncommunicative, but emanating an agreeable if undefined sense of security. Although they could not expect to be amused by him, in each one of them dwelt an unphrased conviction that Lomax was a man to be depended upon in the event of trouble. The extent to which he could be depended upon they had yet to learn.

It is now time to be a little more explicit on the question of the companions of Lomax.

Perhaps Miss Whitaker deserves precedence, since it was she, after all, who married Lomax.

And perhaps Bellamy should come next, since it was he, after all, for whose murder Lomax was hanged.

And perhaps Artivale should come third, since it was to him, after all, that Lomax bequeathed his, that is to say Bellamy’s, fortune.

The practised reader will have observed by now that the element of surprise is not to be looked for in this story.

“Lord Carnarvon would be alive to-day if he had not interfered with the Tomb,” said Miss Whitaker to Lomax.

Lomax, lying in a deck-chair in the verandah of their hotel, expressed dissent.

I know it,” said Miss Whitaker with extreme simplicity.

“Now how do you know it?” said Lomax, bored.

But Miss Whitaker never condescended to the direct explanation. She preferred to suggest reserves of information too recondite to be imparted. She had, too, that peculiarly irritating habit of a constant and oblique reference to absent friends, which makes present company feel excluded, insignificant, unadventurous and contemptible. “You and I would never agree on those questions,” she replied on this occasion.

Lomax asked her once where she lived in London. She looked at him mistrustfully, like a little brown animal that fears to be enticed into a trap, and replied that she was to be found at a variety of addresses. “Not that you’d find me there,” she added, with a laugh. Lomax knew that she did not mean to be rude, but only interesting. He was not interested; not interested enough even to ask Bellamy. Bellamy, now, interested him a great deal, though he would always have waited for Bellamy to take the first step towards a closer intimacy. Bellamy, however, showed no disposition to take it. He was civil and hospitable to his guests, but as aloof as a peak. Lomax knew him to be very rich and very delicate, and that was about the sum of his knowledge. Bellamy’s reticence made his confidences, when they did finally come, all the more surprising.

Artivale, the fourth member of the party, was on the contrary as expansive as he well could be. He was a dark, slim, poor, untidy young scientist, consumed by a burning zest for life and his profession. His youth, his zeal, and his ability were his outstanding characteristics. Bellamy in his discreet way would smile at his exuberance, but everybody liked Artivale except Miss Whitaker, who said he was a bounder. Miss Whitaker admired only one type of man, and dismissed as perverts or bounders all those who did not belong to it; which was unfortunate for Lomax, Bellamy, and Artivale, none of whom conformed. Her friends, she let it be understood, were men of a very different stamp. Artivale did not appear to suffer under her disapprobation, and his manner towards her remained as candid and as engaging as towards everybody else, no less sure of his welcome than a puppy or a child. With him alone Lomax might have shared the delight of the coloured spectacles, had he felt any desire so to share. Artivale had skirted the subject; he had settled his spectacles, peered about him, and laughed. “By Jove, what a queer world! Every value altered.” He dashed off to other trains of thought—he couldn’t stay long poised on any one thing,—giving Lomax just a second in which to appreciate the exactness of his observation.

Artivale was like that—swift and exact; and always uninsistent.

Lomax went to the chemist in Cairo, and bought all the coloured spectacles he could find. He had already his blue pair, bought in London; in Cairo he bought an amber pair, and a green, and a black. He amused himself by wearing them turn and turn about; but soon it ceased to be an amusement and became an obsession—a vice. Bellamy with his reserve, and Heaven knows what tragedy at the back of it; a finished life, Bellamy’s, one felt, without knowing why. Miss Whitaker with her elaborate mystery; an empty life, one felt, at the back of it; empty as a sail inflated by wind—and how the sails bellied white, across the blue Mediterranean! Artivale with his energy; a bursting life, one felt, thank God, beside the other two. Lomax with his spectacles. All self-sufficient, and thereby severed from one another. Lomax thought himself the least apart, because, through his glasses, he surveyed.

He was wearing the black ones when he came on Miss Whitaker sobbing in the verandah.

Miss Whitaker had not taken much notice of him on the journey out. She had not, in fact, taken much notice of anybody, but had spent her time writing letters, which were afterwards left about in subtle places, addressed to Ecuador. Arrived in Egypt, she had emerged from her epistolary seclusion. Perhaps it had not aroused the comment she hoped for. She had then taken up Lomax, and dealt out to him the fragments of her soul. She would not give him her address in London, but she would give him snippets of her spiritual experience. Allusive they were, rather than explicit; chucked at him, with a sort of contempt, as though he were not worthy to receive them, but as though an inner pressure compelled their expectoration. Lomax, drunk behind his wall of coloured glass, played up to the impression he was expected to glean. He knew already—and his glasses deepened the knowledge—that life was a business that had to be got through; nor did he see any reason, in his disheartened way, why Bellamy’s queer yachting party shouldn’t enrich his ennui as far as possible.

He was, then, wearing his black spectacles when he came on Miss Whitaker sobbing in the verandah.

The black ones were, at the moment, his favourites. You know the lull that comes over the world at the hour of solar eclipse? How the birds themselves cease to sing, and go to roost? How the very leaves on the trees become still and metallic? How the heaven turns to copper? How the stars come out, terrible in the day-time, with the clock at mid-day instead of at midnight? How all is hushed before the superstition of impending disaster? So, at will, was it with Lomax. But Miss Whitaker, for once, was a natural woman.

“Oh,” she said, looking up at last, “do for goodness’ sake take off those horrid spectacles.”

Lomax realised then the gulf between himself, dwelling in his strange world, and the rest of mankind in a wholesome day. But he knew that if he took them off, Miss Whitaker would immediately become intolerable.

“The glare hurts my eyes,” he said. So do we lie. Miss Whitaker little knew what she gained. Looking at Lomax, she saw a man made absurd. Looking at Miss Whitaker, Lomax saw a woman in distress. All womanhood in distress; all womanhood pressed by catastrophe. His common sense was divinely in abeyance; and he kept it there. What else, indeed, was worth while?

To Miss Whitaker, too, was communicated a certain imminence. Her own stories were marvellously coming true. Indeed, to her, they were always true; what else was worth while? But that the truth of fact should corroborate the truth of imagination! Her heart beat. She kept her eyes averted from Lomax; it was her only chance. He kept his eyes bent upon her; it was his. At all costs she must not see the glasses, and at all costs he must see through them, and through them alone. He gazed. The chair she sat in was a smoky cloud; her fragility was duskily tinged. Her tears were Ethiopian jewels; black pearls; grief in mourning. Yet Lomax had been, once, an ordinary man, getting through life; not more cynical than most. An ordinary man, with nothing in the world to keep him busy. Perhaps that had been his trouble. Anyway, that was, now, extravagantly remedied.

It took a long time to get a confession out of Miss Whitaker. She could write Ecuador on an envelope, and without comment allow it to be observed, but she could not bring herself to utter so precise a geographical statement. There were moments when it seemed to Lomax, even behind the black glasses, perfectly ridiculous that he should suggest marriage to Miss Whitaker. He did not even know her; but then, certainly, the idea of marriage with a woman one did not know had always appeared to him a degree less grotesque than the reverse. The only woman in his life being inaccessible, one reason for marriage with anybody else was as good as another. And what better reason than that one had found a lonely woman in tears, and had looked on her through coloured glasses?

Miss Whitaker knew only that she must keep her head. She had not thought that the loose strands cast by her about Lomax could have hardened so suddenly into a knot. She had never known them so harden before. But what an extraordinary man! Having spent her life in the hopes of coming across somebody who would play up, she was astonished now that she had found him. He was too good to be believed in. Very rapidly—for he was pressing her—she must make up her mind. The situation could not be allowed to fritter out into the commonplace. It did not occur to her that the truth was as likely to increase his attention as any fiction. She was not alone in this; for who stands back to perceive the pattern made by their own lives? They plaster on every sort of colour, which in due time flakes off and discovers the design beneath. Miss Whitaker only plastered her colour a little thicker than most. She was finding, however, that Lomax had got hold of her paint-brush and was putting in every kind of chiaroscuro while she, helplessly, looked on. Now it was the grey of disillusion, now the high light of faith. The picture shaped itself under her eyes. She tried to direct him, but he had bolted with her. “Ten days ago”, she tried to say, “you didn’t know me.” And, to make matters more disconcerting, Lomax himself was evidently in some great distress. He seemed to be impelled by some inner fire to pronounce the words he was pronouncing; to be abandoning all egoism under the exaltation of self-sacrifice. The absurd creature believed in his mission. And Miss Whitaker was not slow to kindle at his flame. They were both caught up, now, in their own drama. Intent, he urged details from her, and with now a sigh escaping her, and now a little flare of pride, she hinted confirmation. It was really admirable, the background which between them they contrived to build up; personalities emerged, three-dimensional; Ecuador fell into its place with a click. Even the expedition to Egypt fitted in—Miss Whitaker had accepted Bellamy’s invitation in order to escape the vigilance of a brother. He had a hot temper, this brother—Robert; any affront to his sister, and he would be flying off to Ecuador. Robert was immensely wealthy; he owned an oil-field in Persia; he would spare no expense in searching Ecuador from end to end. He had already been known to scour Russia to avenge a woman. By this time Lomax was himself ready to scour Ecuador. Miss Whitaker wavered; she relished the idea of a Lomax with smoking nostrils ransacking Central America, but on second thoughts she dissuaded him; she didn’t want, she said, to send him to his death. Lomax had an idea that the man—still anonymous—would not prove so formidable. Miss Whitaker constructed him as very formidable indeed; one of the world’s bad lots, but in every sense of the word irresistible. Lomax scorned the adjective; he had no use, he said, for bad lots so callous as to lay the sole burden of consequences upon the woman. He used a strong word. Miss Whitaker blinked. The men she admired did not use such words in the presence of women. Still, under the circumstances, she made no comment; she overlooked the irregularity. She merely put up a chiding finger; not a word of blame was to be uttered in her hearing.

“By the way,” said Lomax, as they finally parted to dress for dinner, “perhaps you wouldn’t mind telling me your Christian name?”

The hotel façade was a concrete wall pierced with windows; the rooms were square compartments enclosing single individuals. Sometimes they enclosed couples, linked together by convention or by lust. In either case the persons concerned were really quite separate, whether they wanted to be or whether they didn’t. They had no choice in the matter. Boots and shoes stood outside the doors, in a row down the passage. The riding-boots of soldiers, tanned and spurred. High-heeled, strapped shoes of women. Sometimes two pairs stood side by side, right and proper, masculine and feminine; and this made the single pairs look forlorn. Surely, if they could have walked without feet in them, they would have edged together? The little Anglo-Egyptian wife of the colonel, carefully creaming her nose before powdering it, wished that that Mr. Bellamy, who looked so distinguished, would ask them down to his yacht at Alexandria. The colonel, in his shirt sleeves, wished only that his stud would go into his collar. Artivale, bending over a dead chameleon, slit up its belly neatly with his nail scissors. The little Swiss waiter in his cupboard of a bedroom saw the sweat from his forehead drip upon the floor as he pared away the corn upon his toe. He sat, unconsciously, in the attitude of the Tireur d’Epines. But Lomax and Miss Whitaker, on reaching their bedrooms, paused appalled at their own madness as the blessing of solitude enclosed them with the shutting of the door.

It is not really difficult to get a marriage licence. Besides, once one has committed oneself to a thing, pride forbids that one should draw back. Nevertheless, Lomax was married in his spectacles—the blue ones. Without them, he could not have gone through the ceremony. They walked home, when it was over, via