A collie leaped upon the platform and began pawing Kathlyn, and shortly after the younger sister followed. Neither of the girls noted the stiffening mustaches of the leopard. The animal rose, and his nostrils palpitated. He hated the dog with a hatred not unmixed with fear. Treachery is in the marrow of all cats. To breed them in captivity does not matter. Sooner or later they will strike. Never before had the leopard been so close to his enemy, free of the leash.
“Kit, it is just wonderful. However can you do it? Some day we’ll make dad take us to Paris, where you can exhibit them.”
A snarl from the leopard, answered by a growl from the collie, brought Kathlyn’s head about. The cat leaped, but toward Winnie, not the collie. With a cry of terror Winnie turned and ran in the direction of the bungalow. Kathlyn, seizing the leash, followed like the wind, hampered though she was by the apron. The cat loped after the fleeing girl, gaining at each bound. The yelping of the collie brought forth from various points low rumbling sounds, which presently developed into roars.
Winnie turned sharply around the corner of the bungalow toward the empty animal cages, to attract her father and at the same time rouse some of the keepers. Seeing the door of an empty cage open, and that it was approached by a broad runway, she flew to it, entered and slammed the door and held it. The cat, now hot with the lust to kill, threw himself against the bars, snarling and spitting.
Kathlyn called out to him sharply, and fearlessly approached him. She began talking in a monotone. His ears went flat against his head, but he submitted to her touch because invariably it soothed him, and because he sensed some undefinable power whenever his gaze met hers. She snapped the leash on his collar just as her father came running up, pale and disturbed. He ran to the door and opened it.
“Winnie, you poor little kitten,” he said, taking her in his arms, “how many times have I told you never to take that dog about when Kit’s leopard is off the leash?”
“I didn’t think,” she sobbed.
“No. Kit here and I must always do your thinking for you. Ahmed!”
“Yes, Sahib,” answered the head keeper.
“See if you can stop that racket over there. Sadie may lose her litter if it keeps up.”
The lean brown Mohammedan trotted away in obedience to his orders. He knew how to stop captive lions from roaring. He knew how to send terror to their hearts. As he ran he began to hiss softly.
Colonel Hare, with his arm about Winnie, walked toward the bungalow.
“Lock your pet up, Kit,” he called over his shoulder, “and come in to tea.”
Kathlyn spoke soothingly to the leopard, scratched his head behind the ears, and shortly a low satisfied rumble stirred his throat, and his tail no longer slashed about. She led him to his own cage, never ceasing to talk, locked the door, then turned and walked thoughtfully toward the bungalow.