The mutineers could offer no reasonable objections to this and signified that it was all one to them so long as the white people departed. They had caused enough damage by their appearance and it might be that it was through their agency that the promontory was all but destroyed. The fish would be driven away for weeks. And what would the fierce gun-runners say when they found out that their stores had gone up in flame and smoke? Ai, ai! What would they do but beat them and torture them for permitting any one to enter the cave?
“When these men come,” answered the chief, with a dry smile, “I will deal with them. None of us has entered the cave. They know me for a man of truth. Perhaps you are right,” he added to the mutineer. “There could not have been a treasure there and escape the sharp eyes of those Arabs. Go back to your homes. These white people shall be my guests till they have rested and are ready to depart.”
Reluctantly the men dispersed, and from his hiding-place Umballa saw another of his schemes fall into pieces. There would be no fight, at least for the present. The men, indeed, had hoped to come to actual warfare, but they could not force war on their chief without some good cause. After all, the sooner the white people were out of the way the better for all concerned.
Did the leader of this open mutiny have ulterior designs upon the treasure, upon the life of Umballa? Perhaps. At any rate, events so shaped themselves as to nullify whatever plans he had formed in his gold-dazzled brain.
The colonel was tractable and fell in with Kathlyn’s idea. It would have been nothing short of foolhardiness openly to have antagonized the rebellious men.
“You have a plan, Kit, but what is it?”
“I dare not tell you here. You are too excited. But I believe I can lead you to where Umballa has buried the basket. I feel that Umballa is watching every move we make. And I dare say he hoped—and even instigated—this mutiny to end in disaster for us. He is alone. So much we can rely upon. But if we try to meet him openly we shall lose. Patience for a little while. There, they are leaving us. They are grumbling, but I do not believe that means anything serious.”
“Now, then, white people,” said the chief, “come to my house. You are welcome there, now and always. You have this day saved my life and that of my child. I am grateful.”
Inside the hut Kathlyn drew the child toward her and gently pressed open the tightly clutched fingers. She plucked the sovereign from the little pink palm and held it up. The child’s father seized it, wonderingly.
“Gold! They lied to me! I knew it.”
“Yes,” said Bruce. “They did find the treasure. They brought it here and buried it quickly. And we believe your little girl knows where. Question her.”
It was not an easy matter. The child was naturally shy, and the presence of all these white skinned people struck her usually babbling tongue with a species of paralysis. But her father was patient, and word by word the secret was dragged out of her. She told of the stolen bullock cart, of the digging in the sand, of the holy one.