Chunerbutty, kept at the soldier’s request in utter ignorance of more than the fact that Noreen had been rescued by him from the raiders, had concluded at first that the crime was what it appeared on the surface—a descent of trans-frontier Bhuttias to carry off a white woman for ransom. But when these stories reached the tea-garden villages and eventually came to his ears he was very puzzled. For he knew that, in spite of their extravagance, there was probably a grain of truth somewhere in them. They made him suspect that some other agency had been at work and another reason than hope of money had inspired the outrage.
In the Palace at Lalpuri a tempest raged. The Rajah, mad with fury and disappointed desire, stormed through his apartments, beating his servants and threatening all his satellites with torture and death. For no news had come to him for days as to the success or failure of a project that he had conceived in his diseased brain. Distrusting Chunerbutty, as he did everyone about him, he had sent for Narain Dass, whom he knew as one of the Dewan’s agents, and given him the task of executing his original design of carrying off Miss Daleham. To the Bengali’s subtle mind had occurred the idea of making the outrage seem the work of Bhuttia raiders. But for Dermot’s prompt pursuit his plan would have been crowned with success. The girl, handed over as arranged to a party of the Rajah’s soldiers in disguise, would have been taken to the Palace at Lalpuri, while everyone believed her a captive in Bhutan.
At length a few poor wretches, who had escaped their comrades’ terrible doom under the feet of the wild elephants and, mad with terror, had wandered in the jungle for days, crept back starved and almost mad to the capital of the State. Only one was rash enough to return to the Palace, while the others, fearing to face their lord when they had only failure to report, hid in the slums of the bazaar. This one was summoned to the Rajah’s presence. His tale was heard with unbelief and rage, and he was ordered to be trampled to death by the ruler’s trained elephants. Search was made through the bazaar for the other men who had returned, and when they were caught their punishment was more terrible still. Inconceivable tortures were inflicted on them and they were flung half-dead into a pit full of live scorpions and cobras. Even in these enlightened days there are dark corners in India, and in some Native States strange and terrible things still happen. And the tale of them rarely reaches the ear of the representatives of the Suzerain Power or the columns of the daily press.
THE LURE OF THE HILLS