But the longer she hesitated the less time she would have. Bravely, then, she tried her hand upon the door handle and slowly but firmly turned it. There was no sound that she could hear. She pressed it outward with a slow steady movement. Fortunately the dress of the Hindu was short, somewhat above the ankles, and within her strong young body was free of those modern contrivances known as corsets and stays.
She sprang out, dashed for the vines and drew herself up rapidly. In unison the seven leopards whirled and flew at her. But the half a dozen yards which they had first to cover to reach the wall saved her. Up, up, desperately, wildly, with a nervous energy which did far more for her than her natural strength. The cats leaped and snarled at her heels. She went on. Beneath her the leopards tore at the vines and tried to follow, one succeeding in tearing her skirt with a desperate slash of his paw. He lost his hold and tumbled back among his mates.
But every minute the vines, sturdy as they were, threatened to come tumbling to the ground.
Her long and lonely experiences in the jungle had taught her the need of climbing quickly yet lightly. She flung herself across the top of the wall, exhausted. For the time being, at least, she was safe. She hung there for a few minutes till she had fully recovered her breath. Below the leopards were still leaping and striking futilely! and even in her terror she could not but admire their grace and beauty. And, oddly, she recalled the pet at home. Doubtless by this time he had fallen back into his savage state.
When she dared risk it she gained a securer position on the wall and sat up, flinging her legs over the side of it. She saw things in a bit of blur at first, her heart had been called upon so strenuously; but after a little objects resumed their real shapes, and she espied the two elephants. She called, waving her hands.
“It is Kathlyn!” cried Bruce.
“Kit!” shouted the colonel, who shared the howdah with Bruce. “Kit, hang on for a moment longer! Ahmed, to the wall!”
The colonel and Ramabai had left the zenana by one of the windows overlooking the passage which ran past the garden of brides. They had had no trouble whatever in reaching the elephants. But the subsequent waiting for Kathlyn had keyed them all up to the breaking point. The pity of it was, they dared not stir, dared not start in search of her. Had it been leopards only, Bruce would have made short work of it; but it would have been rank folly to have gone in search of the girl. If she had been made captive, she needed their freedom to gain her own. Besides, the council of both Ahmed and Lal Singh was for patience.
Ahmed had the greatest faith in the world in Kathlyn’s ability to take care of herself. Think of what she had already gone through unscathed! Kathlyn Mem-sahib bore a charmed life, and all the wild beasts of the jungles of Hind could not harm her. It was written.