Through the dust they hurried. Whenever a curious native got in the way the butt of a rifle bestirred him out of it.
Umballa had lashed Kathlyn to a sapling which was laid across the path of the car. The man was mad, stark mad, this night. Even the soldiers and the devotees surrounding the car were terrified. One did not force sacrifices to Juggernaut. One soldier had protested, and he lay at the bottom of the hill, his skull crushed. The others, pulled one way by greed of money and love of life, stirred no hand.
But Kathlyn Mem-sahib did not die under the broad wheels of the car of Juggernaut. So interested in Umballa were his men that they forgot the vigilance required to conduct such a ceremony free of interruption. A crackling of shots, a warning cry to drop their arms, the plunging of an elephant in the path of the car, which was already thundering down the hill, spoiled Umballa’s classic.
While Bruce and two of his men carried Kathlyn out of harm’s way to the shelter of the underbrush, where he liberated her, Ahmed drove Umballa and his panic-stricken soldiers over the brow of the hill. Umballa could be distinguished by his robes and turban, but in the moonlight Ahmed and his followers were all of a color, like cats in the dark. With mad joy in his heart Ahmed could not resist propelling the furious regent down-hill, using the butt of his rifle and pretending he did not know who it was he was treating with these indignities. And Umballa could not tell who his assailant was because he was given no opportunity to turn.
“Soor!” Ahmed shouted. “Swine! Take that, and that, and that!”
Stumbling on, Umballa cried out in pain; but he did not ask for mercy.
“Soor! Tell your master, Durga Ram, how bites this gun butt as I shall tell mine the pleasure it gives me to administer it. Swine! Ha, you stumble! Up with you!”
Batter and bang! Doubtless Ahmed would have prolonged this delightful entertainment to the very steps of the palace, but a full troop of soldiers appeared at the foot of the hill, and Ahmed saw that it was now his turn to take to his heels.
“Swine!” with a parting blow which sent Umballa to his knees, “tell your master that if he harms the little Mem-sahib in the palace he shall die! Let him remember the warnings that he has received, and let him not forget what a certain dungeon holds!”
Umballa staggered to his feet, his sight blinded with tears of pain. He was sober enough now, and Ahmed’s final words rang in his ears like a cluster of bells. “What a certain dungeon holds!” Stumbling down the hill, urged by Ahmed’s blows, only one thought occupied his mind: to wreak his vengeance for these indignities upon an innocent girl. But now a new fear entered his craven soul, craven as all cruel souls are. Some one knew!