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By Kathlyn Rhodes

Author of "The Desert Dreamers," "The Will of Allah," "The Lure of the Desert," etc.





"Dr. Anstice" the girl spoke slowly, and her voice was curiously flat "how much longer have we before dawn?"

Without replying, the man glanced at his watch; and when he spoke his voice, too, was oddly devoid of tone.

"I think only an hour now."

"Only an hour." In the gloom of the hut the girl's face grew very pale. "And then " She broke off, shuddering.

"Miss Ryder, don't think of it. After all, we need not give up hope yet. An hour why, heaps of things may happen in an hour."

A wan little smile touched the girl's lips, and she came a step nearer her companion.

"Don't let us buoy ourselves up with false hopes," she said quietly. "In your heart you know quite well that nothing on earth can save us now. When the sun rises" in spite of herself she shivered "we shall die."

The man said nothing for a moment. In his heart he knew she spoke the truth; yet being a man he tried once more to reassure her.

"Miss Ryder, I won't allow that." Taking her hand he led her once more to the rude bench on which she had spent the night. "There is a chance a faint one, I admit, but still an undeniable chance."

"You mean ?" Although she tried to speak calmly he heard the tiny thrill of hope in her voice, and in his soul he wondered whether, after all, he were not acting cruelly in speaking thus.

"I mean our absence must have been noticed long ago. When we did not return in time for the picnic lunch or tea, someone must have wondered where we were; and it is quite possible we were seen to enter the Temple earlier in the day."

"That awful Temple!" The horror in her eyes made his heart beat pitifully over her. "If only I had not been so foolish as to insist on entering! You didn't know how dangerous it was to go in, but I did at least, I knew something of the danger and I would go ... and then the uncanny silence, the sudden knowledge that we were not alone ... that something, someone malignant, hateful, was watching us and then those awful men who seized us ... oh!" The agony of remembrance was too much for her, and she sank back, half fainting, against the wall.

"Miss Ryder, don't go over it all again!" Although it seemed certain that they had only an hour to live, Anstice could not bear to see her suffer now. "Don't let us think of what has happened let us try to imagine that we are saved as indeed we may be yet!" But he stole a glance out of the empty window space as he spoke, and his heart sank to note the lightening of the Indian night's soft dusk.

"I think not." Her tone was calm, almost indifferent, but her apprehensive eyes belied her voice. "Dr. Anstice, you have not forgotten your promise? If ... if it comes to the worst, you you won't let me fall into their hands?"

And then he knew that in spite of her endeavours to be brave, to face the impending fate heroically, she too had had her doubts throughout the long hours of their imprisonment doubts as to whether death would indeed come to her with the merciful swiftness of a fanatic's bullet....

And because he shared her doubt, because he, too, had wondered whether he alone would be shot at dawn, while she, his companion in this horrible nightmare, were reserved for some far more ghastly fate, because of his wonder and his doubt Anstice rejoiced in the fact that he had it in his power to save her from the worst that could happen.

He had not given his promise lightly; yet having given it he would fulfil it, if the God who seemed to have deserted them in their need should see fit to nerve him to the deed... Continue reading book >>

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