Dermot’s first idea was to open fire suddenly on the raiders and continue firing while moving about in cover from place to place on the edge of the glade, so as to give the impression of a numerous force. But he feared that harm might come to the girl in the fight if any of the Bhuttias carried fire-arms, for they would probably fire wildly, and a stray bullet might hit the girl. So he resolved on a bolder policy. While the raiders, who had put out no sentries, lay about in groups unconscious of the proximity of an enemy, Dermot touched Badshah with his hand, and the elephant broke noiselessly out of the undergrowth and suddenly appeared in their midst.
THE RESCUE OF NOREEN
There was a moment’s consternation among the Bhuttias. Then they sprang to their feet and began to draw their dahs. But suddenly one cried:
“The demon elephant! The devil man!”
Another and another took up the cry. Then all at once in terror they turned and plunged panic-stricken into the undergrowth. All but two—the wearer of shoes and a man with a scarred face beside him. While the rest fled they stood their ground and called vainly to their companions to come back. When they found themselves deserted the wearer of shoes pulled out a revolver and fired at Dermot, while his scarred comrade drew his sword and ran towards Noreen.
The soldier, ignoring his own danger but fearing for the girl’s life, threw his rifle to his shoulder and sent a bullet crashing through her assailant’s skull, then with his second barrel he shot the man with the pistol through the heart. The first raider collapsed instantly and fell in a heap, while the other, dropping his weapon, swayed for a moment, staggered forward a few feet, and fell dead.
Only then could Dermot look at Noreen. In the dramatic moment of his appearance the girl had uttered no sound, but sat rigid with her eyes fixed on him. When the swordsman rushed at her she seemed scarcely conscious of her peril but she started in terror and grew deadly pale when his companion fired at her rescuer. When both fell her tension relaxed. She sank back half-fainting in her chair and closed her eyes.
When she opened them again Badshah was kneeling a few yards away and Dermot stood beside her cutting the cords that bound her.
She looked up at him and said simply:
“I knew you would come.”
With an affectation of light-heartedness that he was far from feeling he replied laughing:
“Of course you did. I am bound to turn up like the clown in the pantomime, saying, ‘Here we are again.’ Oh, I forgot. I am a bit late. I should have appeared on the scene when those beggars got to your bungalow.”
He pretended to treat the whole affair lightly and made no further allusion to her adventure, asking no questions about it. He was afraid lest she should break down in the sudden relief from the strain and anxiety. But there was no cause to fear it. The girl was quietly brave and imitated his air of unconcern, behaving after the first moment as if they were meeting under the most ordinary circumstances. She smiled, though somewhat feebly, as she said: