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Rung Ho!   By: (1879-1940)

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RUNG HO!

A Novel

By Talbot Mundy

RUNG HO!

CHAPTER I

Howrah City bows the knee More or less to masters three, King, and Prince, and Siva. Howrah City pays in pain Taxes which the royal twain Give to priests, to give again (More or less) to Siva.

THAT was no time or place for any girl of twenty to be wandering unprotected. Rosemary McClean knew it; the old woman, of the sweeper caste, that is no caste at all, the hag with the flat breasts and wrinkled skin, who followed her dogwise, and was no more protection than a toothless dog, knew it well, and growled about it in incessant undertones that met with neither comment nor response.

"Leave a pearl of price to glisten on the street, yes!" she grumbled. "Perhaps none might notice it perhaps! But her here at this time " She would continue in a rumbling growl of half prophetic catalogues of evil some that she had seen to happen, some that she imagined, and not any part of which was in the least improbable.

As the girl passed through the stenching, many hued bazaar, the roar would cease for a second and then rise again. Turbaned and pugreed Mohammedan and Hindoo men of all grades of color, language, and belief, but with only one theory on women, would stare first at the pony that she rode, then at her, and then at the ancient grandmother who trotted in her wake. Low jests would greet the grandmother, and then the trading and the gambling would resume, together with the under thread of restlessness that was so evidently there and yet so hard to lay a finger on.

The sun beat down pitilessly brass like the din of cymbals. Beneath the sun helmet that sat so squarely and straightforwardly on the tidy chestnut curls, her face was pale. She smiled as she guided her pony in and out amid the roaring throng, and carefully refused to see the scowls, her brave little shoulders seconded a pair of quiet, brave gray eyes in showing an unconquerable courage to the world, and her clean, neat cotton riding habit gave the lie and the laugh in one to poverty; but, as the crowd had its atmosphere of secret murmuring, she had another of secret anxiety.

Neither had fear. She did not believe in it. She was there to help her father fight inhuman wrong, and die, if need be, in the last ditch. T a two hundred million crowd, held down and compelled by less than a hundred thousand aliens. And, least of all, had the man who followed her at a little distance the slightest sense of fear. He was far more conversant with it than she, but unlike her, and far more than the seething crowd he knew the trend of events, and just what likelihood there was of insult or injury to Rosemary McClean being avenged in a generation.

He caused more comment than she, and of a different kind. His rose pink pugree, with the egret and the diamond brooch to hold the egret in its place his jeweled sabre his swaggering, almost ruffianly air were no more meant to escape attention than his charger that clattered and kicked among the crowd, or his following, who cleared a way for him with the butt ends of their lances. He rode ahead, but every other minute a mounted sepoy would reach out past him and drive his lance end into the ribs of some one in the way.

There would follow much deep salaaming; more than one head would bow very low indeed; and in many languages, by the names of many gods, he would be cursed in undertones. Aloud, they would bless him and call him "Heaven born!"

But he took no interest whatever in the crowd. His dark brown eyes were fixed incessantly on Rosemary McClean's back. Whenever she turned a corner in the crowded maze of streets, he would spur on in a hurry until she was in sight again, and then his handsome, swarthy face would light with pleasure wicked pleasure self assertive, certain, cruel. He would rein in again to let her draw once more ahead.

Rosemary McClean knew quite well who was following her, and knew, too, that she could do nothing to prevent him... Continue reading book >>




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