Perhaps prescience brought to her mind’s eye a picture; she saw her father, and Bruce, and Winnie, and her sweetheart, and they seemed to be toasting her from the end of a long table, under the blue California sky. This vision renewed her strength. She proceeded onward.
She must have followed the river at least a mile when she espied a raft moored to a clump of trees. Here she saw a way of saving her weary limbs many a rugged mile. She forded the stream, freed the raft, and poled out into the middle of the stream.
It happened that the Mohammedan hunters who owned the raft were at this moment swinging along toward the temple. On the shoulders of two rested a pole from which dangled the lifeless body of a newly killed leopard. They were bringing it in as a gift to the head man of the village, who was a thoroughgoing Mohammedan, and who held in contempt Hinduism and all its amazing ramifications.
The white priestess was indeed a puzzle; for, while the handful of Mohammedans in the village were fanatical in their belief in the true prophet and his Koran, and put little faith in miracles and still less in holy men who performed them, the advent of the white priestess deeply mystified them. There was no getting around this: she was there; with their own eyes they saw her. There might be something in Hinduism after all.
When the hunters arrived at the portico of the temple they found two greatly terrified holy men, shrilling their “Ai! Ai!” in lamentation and beating their foreheads against the earth.
“Holy men, what is wrong?” asked one of the hunters, respectfully.
“The lion has killed our priestess; the sacred fires must die again! Ai! Ai!”
“Where is the lion?”
“They fled toward the river, and there he has doubtless destroyed her, for in evil, Siva, represented by the lion, is more powerful than Vishnu, reincarnated in our priestess. Ai! Ai! She is dead and we are undone!”
“Come!” said the chief huntsman. “Let us run to the river and see what these queer gods are doing. We’ll present the skin of Siva to our master!” He laughed.
The leopard carriers deposited their burden and all started off at a dog-trot. They had always been eager regarding this lion. In the temple he was inviolable; but at large, that was a different matter.
Arriving at the river brink, they saw the foot-prints of the lion on the wet sand which ran down to the water. To leap from this spot to the water was not possible for any beast of the jungle. Yet the lion had vanished completely, as though he had been given wings. They stood about in awe till one of the older hunters knelt, reached out, and dug his hand into the innocent looking sand. Instantly he leaped to his feet and jumped back.
“The sucking sand!” he cried. “To the raft!”
They skirted the dangerous quicksands and dashed along the banks to discover that their raft was gone. Vishnu, then, as reincarnated, required solid transportation, after the manner of human beings? They became angry. A raft was a raft, substantial, necessary; and there was no reason why a god who had ten thousand temples for his own should stoop to rob a poor man of his wherewithal to travel in safety.