“Colonel, let us make straight for the seaport and let this damnable bushel of trinkets stay where it is,” urged Bruce, the lover.
“That is not possible now,” replied Ramabai. “We can now reach there only by the seacoast itself, or return to the desert and journey over the old trail. We must go on.”
The colonel smoked his pipe moodily. He was pulled between necessity and desire. He had come to Asia for this filigree basket, and he wanted it, with a passion which was almost miserly. At one moment he silently vowed to cast the whole thing into the sea, and at the next his fingers would twitch and he would sigh.
Sometimes it seemed to him that there was some invisible force working in him, drawing and drawing him against the dictates of his heart. He had experienced this feeling back in California, and had fought against it for weeks, without avail. And frequently now, when alone and undisturbed, he could see the old guru, shaking with the venom of his wrath, the blood dripping from his lacerated fingers, which he shook in the colonel’s face flecking it with blood. A curse. It was so. He must obey that invincible will; he must go on and on.
His pipe slipped from his fingers and his head fell upon his knees; and thus Kathlyn found him.
“Let him sleep, Mem-sahib,” warned Ahmed from across the fire. “He has been fighting the old guru.”
“What?” Kathlyn whispered back. “Where?”
Ahmed smiled grimly and pointed toward his forehead.
“Is there really such evil, Ahmed?”
“Evil begets evil, heaven born, just as good begets good. The Colonel Sahib did wrong. And who shall deny some of these gurus a supernatural power? I have seen; I know.”
“But once you said that we should eventually escape, all of us.”
“And I still say it, Mem-sahib. What is written is written,” phlegmatically.
Wearily she turned toward her tent, but paused to touch the head of her sleeping father as she passed. Her occidental mind would not and could not accept as possibilities these mysterious attributes of the oriental mind. That a will could reach out and prearrange a man’s misfortunes was to her mind incredible, for there were no precedents. She never had witnessed a genuine case of hypnotism; those examples she had seen were miserable buffooneries, travesties, hoodwinking not even the newsboys in the upper gallery. True, she had sometimes read of such things, but from the same angle with which she had read the Arabian Nights—fairy stories.
Yet, here was her father, thoroughly convinced of the efficacy of the guru’s curse; and here was Ahmed, complacently watching the effects, and not doubting in the least that his guru would in the end prove the stronger of the two.
One of the elephants clanked his chains restlessly. He may have heard the prowling of a cat. Far beyond the fire, beyond the sentinel, she thought she saw a naked form flash out and back of a tree. She stared intently at the tree for a time; but as she saw nothing more, she was convinced that her eyes had deceived her. Besides her body seemed dead and her mind too heavy for thought.