The elephants would be forced to ford the rapids below the bridge.
Kathlyn, who had by this time regained much of her old confidence and buoyancy, declared that she must be first to cross the bridge. She gained the middle, when she felt a sickening sag. She turned and shouted to the others to go back. She made a desperate effort to reach the far end, but the bridge gave way, and she was hurled into the swirling rapids. She was stunned for a moment; but the instinct to live was strong. As she swung to and fro, whirled here, flung there, she managed to catch hold of a rock which projected above the flying foam.
A mahout, seeing her danger, urged his elephant toward her and reached her just as she was about to let go.
THE INVINCIBLE WILL
“Those ropes were cut,” declared Ahmed.
“But who in the world could have cut them?” demanded the colonel.
Ahmed shrugged. “We may have been followed by thieves. They could have got here before us, as we were forced to use the elephant trails. Let us keep our eyes about us, Sahib. When one speaks of gold, the wind carries the word far. And then . . .” He paused, scowling.
“And then what?”
“I do not want the Mem-sahib to hear,” Ahmed whispered. “But who shall say that this is not the work of the gurus, who never forget, who never forgive, Sahib.”
“But they would not follow!”
“Nay, but their servant would, on the fear of death. I will watch at night hereafter.”
Ahmed searched thoroughly about the ledge from which the east side of the bridge had swung, but the barren rocks told him nothing. Armed with his rifle, he plunged boldly back along the elephant trail, but returned without success. Whoever was following them was an adept, as secret as a Thuggee. All this worried Ahmed not a little. He readily understood that the murderous attempt had not been directed against Kathlyn alone, but against all of them. But for her eagerness and subsequent warning some of them would have been dead at this moment.
“Sahib, it would be better to make camp on the other side of the ford. The Mem-sahib is weak from the shock and might collapse if we proceeded.”
“I leave everything to you, Ahmed. But is there not some place farther below where the water does not run so fast?”
“Ramabai will know.”
But Ramabai knew only the bridge. They would have to investigate and explore the bank. Half an hour’s journey—rather a difficult one—brought them to still and shallow water. Here they crossed and made camp beyond in a natural clearing. They erected the small tent for Kathlyn, inside of which she changed her clothes, drank her tea and lay down to sleep.
“What does Ahmed think?” asked Bruce anxiously.
“That we are being followed by some assassins hired by our friends, the priests.”