“Kit,” said her father, “Ahmed warned you not to stop.”
“I am sorry.”
It was on the tip of her tongue to retort that his own carelessness was the basic cause of the pursuit; but she remembered in time what her father had been through.
“There is a village not far,” reminded Ahmed. “They are a friendly people. It is quite possible, with the money we have, to buy some horses, small but sturdy. But there is one thing I do not understand, Sahib.”
“And what is that?” asked the colonel.
“The readiness with which Umballa gave up the pursuit. It’s a long walk; let us be getting forward.”
Late that afternoon they were all mounted once more, on strong tractable ponies, with water and provisions. And the spirits of all rose accordingly. Even Ahmed became cheerful.
“We’ll make it, please God!” said the colonel. “Give me a telegraph office. That’s all I need just now.”
“Two days, Sahib,” said Ahmed, “we will reach the sea.”
They rode all through the night, stopping only at dawn for breakfast and a cat nap after. Then forward again till they came upon a hunter’s rest house, deserted. Here they agreed to spend the night. Beyond the rest house were half a dozen scattered mud huts, occupied by natives who pretended friendliness, lulling even the keen Ahmed into a sense of security. But at dawn, when they awoke cheerfully to pick up the trail, they found their horses and provisions gone.
The colonel, Bruce and Ahmed, still armed, never having permitted the rifles out of their keeping, set out grimly in pursuit of the thieves, while Kathlyn proceeded to forage on her own initiative.
She came presently upon a magnificent ravine, half a mile in depth. There was a broad ledge some fifteen feet below. It was evidently used as a goat path, for near at hand stood a shepherd’s hut. Stirred by the spirit of investigation, she made preparations for descent by attaching the rope she had brought along to a stout boulder.
They were coming up the pathway behind her. It would be simple enough to descend; but how to get back to the rest house? There was no time to plan; she must act at once. She must drop down to the ledge and trust to her star.
She called out loudly as she swung downward. The shepherd came running out of his hut, dumfounded at what he saw.
THE RED WOLF
With the assistance of the shepherd Kathlyn went down the rope agilely and safely. Once firmly on her feet, she turned to thank the wild-eyed hillman. But her best Hindustani (and she was able to speak and understand quite a little by now) fell on ears which heard but did not sense what she said. The man, mild and harmless enough, for all his wild eyes, shrank back, for no woman of his kind had ever looked like this. Kathlyn, with a deal of foreboding, repeated the phrase, and asked the way back to the hunter’s rest house. He shook his head; he understood nothing.