Umballa, impatient as he was, had to depend upon patience. By dint of inquiries he learned that wild Mohammedans had cast the spell upon the cave, set a curse upon its threshold. Umballa tottered and destroyed this by reasoning that the curse of a Mohammedan could not affect a Hindu. Finally, he offered each and all of them a fortune—and won.
Torches were lighted and the cave entered. There were many side passages; and within these the astute Umballa saw the true reason for the curse of the Mohammedans: guns and powder, hundreds and hundreds of pounds of black destruction! A lower gallery—the mouth of which lay under a slab of rock—led to the pit wherein rested the filigree basket. . . . For a time Umballa acted like a madman. He sang, chanted, dug his hands into the gold and stones; choked, sobbed. Here was true kingship; the private treasures of a dozen decades, all his for the taking. He forgot his enemies and their nearness as the fortune revealed itself to him.
As his men at length staggered out of the lower gallery with the basket slung upon an improvised litter he espied his enemies marching up the hill! Back into the cave again. Umballa cursed and bit his nails. He was unarmed, as were his men, and he had not time to search among the smuggled arms to find his need.
“Heaven born,” spoke up the man who had known where the cave was, “there is an exit on the other side. We can go through that without yonder people noticing us.”
“A fortune for each of you when you put this on the sloop!”
Back through the cave they rushed, torches flaring. Once a bearer stumbled over a powder can, and the torch holder all but sprawled over him. Umballa’s hair stood on end. Fear impelled the men toward the exit.
“There is powder enough here to blow up all of Hind! Hasten!”
At the mouth of the exit the men with the torches, finding no further need of them, carelessly flung them aside.
“Fools!” roared Umballa; “you have destroyed us!”
He fled. The bearers followed with the burden. Down the side of the promontory they slid. Under a projecting ledge they paused, sweating with terror. Suddenly the whole island rocked. An explosion followed that was heard half a hundred miles away, where the gunboat of the British Raj patrolled the shores. Rocks, trees, sand filled the air, and small fires broke out here and there. The bulk of the damage, however, was done to the far side of the promontory, not where the frightened Umballa stood. A twisted rifle barrel fell at his feet.
“To the sloop!” he yelled. “It is all over!”
On the far side the other treasure seekers stood huddled together, scarce knowing which way to turn. The miracle of it was that none of them was hurt. Perhaps a quarter of an hour passed before their faculties awoke.
“Look!” cried Kathlyn, pointing seaward.