It was good to Kathlyn’s ears to hear her father talk like this.
At a depth of three feet the basket was lowered, covered and the boulder rolled into place. After that the colonel stooped and combed the turf where the boulder had temporarily rested. He showed his woodcraft there. It would take a keener eye than Umballa possessed to note any disturbance. The safety of the treasure ultimately, however, depended upon the loyalty of the keepers under Ahmed. They had been with the colonel for years; yet . . . The colonel shrugged. He had to trust them; that was all there was to the matter.
A sentinel came rushing up—one of the keepers.
“Something is stampeding the elephants!” he cried.
Ahmed and the men with him rushed off. In Ahmed’s opinion, considering what lay before them, elephants were more important than colored stones and yellow metal. Without the elephants they would indeed find themselves in sore straits.
“Let us move away from here,” advised Bruce, picking up the implements and shouldering them. He walked several yards away, tossed shovel and pick into the bushes, tore at the turf and stamped on it, giving it every appearance of having been disturbed. The colonel nodded approvingly. It was a good point and he had overlooked it.
They returned hastily to camp, which was about two hundred yards beyond the boulder. Kathlyn entered her tent to change her clothes, ragged, soiled and burned. The odor of wet burned cloth is never agreeable. And she needed dry shoes, even if there was but an hour or two before bedtime.
Only one elephant had succeeded in bolting. In some manner he had loosed his peg; but what had started him on the run they never learned. The other elephants were swaying uneasily; but their pegs were deep and their chains stout. Ahmed and the keepers went after the truant on foot.
The noise of the chase died away. Bruce was lighting his pipe. The colonel was examining by the firelight a few emeralds which he had taken from the basket. Ramabai was pleasantly gazing at his wife. Kathlyn and Winnie were emerging from the tent, when a yell greeted their astonished ears. The camp was surrounded. From one side came Umballa, from the other came the mutineers. Kathlyn and Winnie flew to their father’s side. In between came Umballa, with Bruce and Ramabai and Pundita effectually separated. Umballa and his men closed in upon the colonel and his daughters. Treasure and revenge!
Bruce made a furious effort to join Kathlyn, but the numbers against him were too many. It was all done so suddenly and effectually, and all due to their own carelessness.
“Kit,” said her father, “our only chance is to refuse to discover to Umballa where we have hidden the basket. Winnie, if you open your lips it will be death—yours, Kit’s, mine. To have been careless like this! Oh, Kit, on my honor, if Umballa would undertake to convoy us to the seaport I’d gladly give him all the treasure and all the money I have of my own. But we know him too well. He will torture us all.”