What was this temple? What gods had been worshiped here? And why was it deserted? She had heard her father tell of the ruined city of Chitor. Plague? . . . Kathlyn shuddered. Sometimes villages, to the last soul in them, were brushed from existence and known no more to man. And this might be one of them. Yet indications of a village were nowhere to be seen. It was merely a temple, perhaps miles from the nearest village, deserted save by prowling wild beasts, the winds, the sunshine and the moonshine. She looked far and wide for any signs of human habitation.
She commanded Rajah to kneel. So held by the enchanting picture was Kathlyn that the elephant’s renewed restlessness (and he had reason, as will be seen) passed unobserved by her. He came to his knees, however, and she got out of the howdah. Her legs trembled for a space, for her nerves were in a pitiable condition. Suddenly Rajah’s ears went forward, he rose, and his trunk curled angrily. With a whuff he wheeled and shuffled off toward the jungle out of which he had so recently emerged.
“Halt!” cried Kathlyn. What had he heard? What had he seen? “Halt!” But even as she called the tall grass closed in behind the elephant. What water and food she had disappeared with him.
She paused by the brazier, catching hold of it for support. She laughed hysterically: it was so funny; it was all so out of joint with real things, with every-day life as she had known it. Weird laughter returned to mock her astonished ears, a sinister echo. And then she laughed at the echo, being in the grip of a species of madness. In the purple caverns of the temple she suddenly became conscious of another presence. A flash as of moonlight striking two chrysoberyls took the madness out of her mind. This forsaken temple was the haunt of a leopard or a tiger.
She was lost. That magnetism which ordinarily was hers was at its nadir. She hesitated for a second, then climbed into the empty sarcophagus, crouching low. Strangely enough, as she did so a calm fell upon her; all the terrors of her position dropped away from her as mists from the mountain peaks. She had, however, got into the hiding-place none too soon.
She heard the familiar pad-pad, the whiff-whiff of a big cat. Immediately into the moonlight came an African lion, as out of place here as Kathlyn herself; his tail slashed, there was a long black streak from his mane to his tail where the hair had risen. Kathlyn crouched even lower. The lion trotted round the sarcophagus, sniffing. Presently he lifted his head and roared. The echoes played battledore and shuttlecock with the sound. The lion roared again, this time at the insulting echoes. For a few minutes the noise was deafening. A rumble as of distant thunder, and the storm died away.
By and by she peered out cautiously. She saw the lion crossing the open space between the temple and the jungle. She saw him pause, bend his head, then lope away in the direction taken by Rajah.