“Colonel,” said Bruce, taking a chance throw, “we are less than a hundred miles from the seaport. Suppose we let Umballa clear out and we ourselves head straight up the coast? It is not fair to the women to put them to any further hardship.”
“Bruce, I have sworn to God that Umballa shall not have that treasure. Ramabai, do you understand what it will mean to you if he succeeds in reaching Allaha with that treasure, probably millions? He will be able to buy every priest and soldier in Allaha and still have enough left for any extravagance that he may wish to plunge in.”
“Sahib,” suggested Ramabai, “let us send the women to the seaport in care of Ahmed, while we men seek Umballa.”
“Good!” Bruce struck his hands together. “The very thing.”
“I refuse to be separated from father,” declared Kathlyn. “If he is determined to pursue Umballa back to Allaha, I must accompany him.”
“And I!” added Winnie.
“Nothing more to be said,” and Bruce signed to the boatmen to start. “If only this breeze had not come up! We could have caught him before he made shore.”
Umballa paced the deck of the sloop, thinking and planning. He saw his enemies leaving in the rescued boats. Had he delayed them long enough? As matters stood, he could not carry away the treasure. He must have help, an armed force of men he could trust. On the mainland were Ahmed and the loyal keepers; behind were three men who wanted his life as he wanted theirs. The only hope he had lay in the cupidity of the men on the sloop. If they could be made to stand by him, there was a fair chance. Once he was of a mind to heave the basket over the rail and trust to luck in finding it again. But the thought tore at his heart. He simply could not do it.
Perhaps he could start a revolt, or win over the chief of the village. He had known honest men to fall at the sight of much gold, to fight for it, to commit any crime for it—and, if need be, to die for it. But the chief was with his enemies. Finally he came to the conclusion that the only thing to be done was to carry the treasure directly to the chief’s hut and there await him. He would bribe the men with him sufficiently to close their mouths. If Ahmed was on the shore, the game was up. But he swept the mainland with his gaze and discovered no sign of him.
As a matter of fact, Ahmed had arranged his elephants so that they could start at once up the coast to the seaport. He was waiting on the native highway for the return of his master, quite confident that he would bring the bothersome trinkets with him. He knew nothing of Umballa’s exploit. The appalling thunder of the explosions worried him. He would wait for just so long; then he would go and see.
Every village chief has his successor in hope. This individual was one of those who had helped Umballa to carry the treasure from the cave; in fact, the man who had guided him to the cave itself. He spoke to Umballa. He said that he understood the holy one’s plight; for to these yet simple minded village folk Umballa was still the holy one. Their religion was the same.