An atmospherically gothic romance/adventure--with a girlhood oath binding throe orphans to mystery, murder, stormy love, and some ghostly appearances in later Egyptian years. Miserable in a dreary turn-of-the-century Bristol orphanage, three friends--Nancy, Nell, Rebecca--pledge lifelong aid and support. Then each girl, free at 15, has a surprisingly fine start. Nancy is taken in by a kindly clergyman, Nell by a long-lost grandfather; and stage-struck Rebecca lives with a jolly pair of actors. But later, when Nancy signs on as governess to adorable five-year-old Jeffrey, ward of archaeologist Lord Nicholas Renshaw, the troubles begin. Nicholas lives in Alexandria with his ill wife Emily, her edgy companion Veronica, their young daughter Fleur, resident Dr. Armstrong, and Miss Tranter--a batty old nanny. In Nicholas' mansion, ""El Tarifa,"" Nancy is attracted to Renshaw, although he is rude, and fiercely hostile to almost everyone. There are increasingly scary incidents, including eerie piano music and a shadowy figure; Jeffrey (who is a sane little boy) insists his dead mother has returned! Then: terror and tragedy--as Jeffrey disappears, his Arabian servant is killed, and Lady Emily commits suicide. Nicholas wants Nancy gone; and soon it's obvious that others want her dead. Meanwhile, Nell's story tells of her terrible marriage to Charles de Grendon--a perverse sadist, gambler, and blackmailer. Rebecca becomes a famous opera singer. And eventually, with Nancy in dire straits, oath-conscious Rebecca travels to Egypt, is attracted to Renshaw, uncovers some unsavory secrets and love affairs, makes a terrible discovery. . . and barely escapes with her life. Middling but competent period suspense--many-tentacled and undulating with sinister ambience.