“The man is mad,” declared the colonel. “Kit would not have lost her way this far. He is lying. He wants money.”
Ahmed spoke. The bearer fell upon his knees.
Three shots, at intervals!
The colonel and Bruce stared into each other’s eyes.
“God in Heaven!” gasped the colonel; “those are revolver shots!”
“Bring the net!” shouted Ahmed. To the trembling bearer he said: “Lead us; we follow. And if you have spoken the truth you shall not only have your freedom, but rupees for your old age.”
A lion’s net is a heavy affair, but with the aid of the keepers the men ran as quickly and lightly as if burdenless. Smoke. There was a fire. The hearts of the white men beat painfully. And the same thought occurred to both of them; they should have gone to Ramabai’s house first, then turned their attention to the lions. And Umballa was hiding in a house near by!
Well for them that they entered the doomed quarter as they did. Kathlyn saw them, and the muzzle of the revolver which she was pressing to her heart lowered, the weapon itself slipping from her hand to the roof. God was not going to let her die like this.
“Spread out the net!” commanded Bruce. “Kathlyn, can you hear me?” he shouted, cupping his hands before his mouth. Faintly he heard her reply. “When I give the word, jump. Do not be afraid.”
Kathlyn stepped upon the parapet. A great volume of smoke obscured her for a moment. Out of the windows the vivid tongues of flame darted, flashing upward. She summoned all her courage and waited for the call of the man she loved. Inside a floor gave way with a crash and the collateral walls of the building swayed ominously. A despairing roar accompanied the thunder of falling beams. The lions had gone to their death.
Without hesitation Kathlyn flung herself into space. A murmur ran through the crowd which had, for the moment, forgot its own danger in the wonder of this spectacle. The men holding the net threw themselves backward as Kathlyn struck the mesh. Even then her body touched the street cobbles and she was bruised and shaken severely, but, oh, alive, alive! There rose the great shouting which Umballa and the dancing girl had heard.
Shortly after the house collapsed. The fire spread to the houses on each side.
Bruce seized the bearer by the arm. “Now, the house which Umballa entered?”
Eagerly enough the slave directed him. For all the abuse and beatings the slave was to have his hour. But they found the house empty, except for a chattering monkey and a screaming parrakeet, both attached to pedestal perches. Bruce liberated them and returned to the colonel.
“Gone! Well, let him hide in the jungle, a prey to fear and hunger. At least we are rid of him. But I shall die unhappy if in this life we two fail to meet again. Kit!”