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The Native Born - or, the Rajah's People

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179 pages
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Native Born, by I. A. R. WylieCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloadingor redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do notchange or edit the header without written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of thisfile. Included is important information about your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You can alsofind out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts****eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971*******These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!*****Title: The Native Born or, The Rajah's PeopleAuthor: I. A. R. WylieRelease Date: April, 2005 [EBook #7940] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first postedon June 3, 2003]Edition: 10Language: English*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE NATIVE BORN ***Produced by Elizabeth Trapaga, S. R. Ellison, William A. Pifer-Foote, Suzanne L. Shell, Charles Franks and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team[Illustration: "Miss Cary has consented to become my wife."]THE NATIVE BORNorTHE RAJAH'S PEOPLEbyI. A. R ...
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Native Born, by I. A. R. Wylie Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook. This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do not change or edit the header without written permission. Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of this file. Included is important information about your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You can also find out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved. **Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts** **eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971** *****These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!***** Title: The Native Born or, The Rajah's People Author: I. A. R. Wylie Release Date: April, 2005 [EBook #7940] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on June 3, 2003] Edition: 10 Language: English *** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE NATIVE BORN *** Produced by Elizabeth Trapaga, S. R. Ellison, William A. Pifer-Foote, Suzanne L. Shell, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team [Illustration: "Miss Cary has consented to become my wife."] THE NATIVE BORN or THE RAJAH'S PEOPLE by I. A. R. WYLIE 1910 with Illustrations by JOHN NEWTON HOWITT PREFACE In earlier days a preface to a novel with no direct historical source always seemed to me somewhat out of place, since I believed that the author could be indebted solely to his own imagination. I have learned, however, that even in a novel pur sang it is possible to owe much to others, and I now take the opportunity which the despised preface offers to pay my debt—inadequately it is true—to Mr. Hughes Massie, whose enthusiastic help in the launching of this, my first serious literary effort, I shall always hold in grateful remembrance. I. A. R. W. May 9th, 1910 CONTENTS BOOK I CHAPTER I WHICH IS A PROLOGUE II THE DANCING IS RESUMED III NEHAL SINGH IV CIRCE V ARCHIBALD TRAVERS PLAYS BRIDGE VI BREAKING THE BARRIER VII THE SECOND GENERATION VIII THE IDEAL IX CHECKED X AT THE GATES OF A GREAT PEOPLE XI WITHIN THE GATES XII THE WHITE HAND XIII THE ROAD CLEAR XIV IN WHICH MANY THINGS ARE BROKEN XV THE GREAT HEALER XVI FATE XVII FALSE LIGHT BOOK II I BUILDING THE CATHEDRAL II CATASTROPHE III A FAREWELL IV STAFFORD INTERVENES V MURDER VI CLEARING AWAY THE RUBBISH VII IN THE TEMPLE OF VISHNU VIII FACE TO FACE IX HALF-LIGHT X TRAVERS XI IN THE HOUR OF NEED XII HIS OWN PEOPLE XIII ENVOI THE NATIVE BORN BOOK I CHAPTER I WHICH IS A PROLOGUE The woman lying huddled on the couch turned her face to the wall and covered it with her hands in a burst of uncontrollable horror. "Oh, that dreadful light!" she moaned. "If it would only go out! It will send me mad. Oh, if it would only go out—only go out!" Her companion made no immediate answer. She stood by the wall, her shoulders slightly hunched, her hands clasped before her in an attitude of fixed, sullen defiance. What her features expressed it was impossible to tell, since they were hidden by the deep shadow in which she had taken up her position. The rest of the apartment was lit with a grey, ghostly light, the reflection from the courtyard, in part visible through the open doorway, and which lay bathed in all the brilliancy of a full Indian moon. "When the light goes out, it will mean that the end has come," she said at last. "Do you know that, Christine?" "Yes, I know it," the other answered piteously; "but that's what I want—the end. I am not afraid to die. I know Harry will be there. He will not let it be too hard for me. It's the suspense I can not bear. The suspense is worse than death. I have died a dozen times tonight, and suffered as I am sure God will not let us suffer." Margaret Caruthers bent over the cowering figure with the sympathy which education provides when the heart fails to perform its office. There was, indeed, little tenderness in the hand which passed lightly over Christine Stafford's feverish forehead. "You give God credit for a good deal," she said indifferently. "If the light troubles you, shall I shut the door?" Christine sprang half upright. "No!" she cried sharply. "No! I should still see it. Even when I cover my face—so—I can still see it flickering. And then there is the darkness, and in the darkness, faces—little John's face. Oh, my little fellow, what will become of you!" She began to cry softly, but no longer with fear. Love and pity had struggled up out of the chaos of her despair, rising above even the mighty instinct of self-preservation. Margaret's hand ceased from its mechanical act of consolation. "Be thankful that he is not here," she said. "I am thankful—but the thought of him makes death harder. It will hurt him so." "No one is indispensable in this world." Christine turned her haggard, tear-stained face to the moonlight. "How hard you are!" she said wonderingly. "You, too, have your little girl to think of, but even with the end so close—even knowing that we shall never see our loved ones again—you are still hard." "I have no loved ones, and life has taught me to be hard. Why should death soften me?" was the cold answer. Both women relapsed into silence. Always strangers to each other, a common danger had not served to break down the barrier between them. Christine now lay quiet and calm, her hands clasped, her lips moving slightly, as though in prayer. Her companion had resumed her former position against the wall, her eyes fixed on the open doorway, beyond which the grey lake of moonlight spread itself into the shadow of the walls. In the distance a single point of fire flickered uneasily, winking like an evil, threatening eye. So long as it winked at them, so long their lives were safe. With its extermination they knew must come their own. Hitherto, save for the murmur of the two voices, a profound hush had weighed ominously in the heavy air. Now suddenly a cry went up, pitched on a high note and descending by semitones, like a dying wind, into a moan. It was caught up instantly and repeated so close that it seemed to the two women to have sprung from the very ground beneath their feet. Christine started up. "Oh, my God!" she muttered. "Oh, my God!" She was trembling from head to foot, but the other gave no sign of either fear or interest. There followed a brief pause, in which the imagination might have conjured up unseen forces gathering themselves together for a final onslaught. It came at last, like a cry, suddenly, amidst a wild outburst of yells, screams, and the intermittent crack of revolvers fired at close quarters. Pandemonium had been let loose on the other side of the silver lake, but the silver lake itself remained placid and untroubled. Only the red eye winked more vigorously, as though its warning had become more imperative. Christine Stafford clung to a pair of unresponsive hands, which yielded with an almost speaking reluctance to her embrace. "You think there is no hope?" she pleaded. "None? You know what Harry said. If the regiment got back in time—" "The regiment will not get back in time," Margaret Caruthers interrupted. "There are ten men guarding the gate against Heaven knows how many thousand. Do you expect a miracle? No, no. We are a people who dance best at the edge of a crater, and if a few, like ourselves, get swallowed up now and again, it can not be helped. It is the penalty." "If only Harry would come!" Christine moaned, heedless of this cold philosophy. "But he will keep his promise, won't he? He won't let us fall into those cruel hands? You remember what happened at Calcutta—" "Hush! Don't frighten yourself and me!" exclaimed Margaret impatiently. "Does it comfort you to hold my hand? Well, hold it, then. How strange you are! I thought you weren't afraid." "I shan't be when the time comes—but it's so very lonely. Don't you feel it? Are you made of stone?" Margaret Caruthers set her teeth hard. "I would to God I were!" she said. All at once she wrenched her hand free and pointed with it. Her arm, stretched out into the light, had a curious, ghostly effect. "Look!" she cried. The red eye winked rapidly in succession, once, twice, three times, and then closed—this time for ever. An instant later two dark spots darted out into the brightly lighted space and came at headlong pace toward them. Christine sprang to her feet, and the two women clung to each other, obeying for that one moment the instinct which can bind devil to saint. But it was an English voice which greeted them from the now darkened doorway. "It's all over!" Steven Caruthers said, entering with his companion and slamming the door sharply to. "We have five minutes more. Mackay has promised to keep them off just so long. Stafford, see to your wife!" He spoke brutally, in a voice choked with dust and pain. The room was now in pitch darkness. Harry Stafford felt his way across, his arms outstretched. "Christine!" he called. She came to him at once, with a step as firm and steady as a man's. "Harry!" she cried, her voice ringing with an almost incredulous joy. "Oh, my darling!" He caught her to him and felt how calm her pulse had become. "Are you afraid, my wife?" "Not now. I am so happy!" He knew, strange though it seemed, that this was true and natural, because her love was stronger than life or the fear of death. "Do you trust me absolutely, Christine?" "Absolutely!" "Give me both your hands—in my one hand—so. Kiss me, sweetheart." In the same instant that his lips touched hers he lifted his right disengaged hand, and something icy-cold brushed past her temple. She clung to him. "Not yet, Harry! Not yet! Oh, don't think I don't understand. I do, and I am glad. If things had gone differently the time must have come when one of us would have been left lonely. Now, we are going together. What does it matter if it is a little sooner than we hoped? Only, not yet—just one minute! We have time. Do not let us waste it. Let us kneel down and say 'Our Father,' and then—for little John—" Her voice broke. "Afterward—when you think fit, husband, I shall be ready." He put his arm about her, and they knelt down side by side at the little couch. Christine prayed aloud, and he followed her, his deeper voice hushed to a whisper. The two other occupants of the room did not heed them. They, too, had found each other. At her husband's entrance Margaret Caruthers had crept back to the wall and had remained there motionless, not answering to his sharp, imperative call. He groped around the room, and when at length his hands touched her face, both drew back as one total stranger from another. "Why did you not answer?" he asked hoarsely. "Are you not aware that any moment may be our last?" "Yes," she said. "I have something I wish to say to you, Margaret, before the time comes." "I am listening." "I wish to say if at any period in our unfortunate married life I have done you wrong, I am sorry." She made no answer.
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