Kathlyn saw their approach in time to reach her platform. They snarled about the tree, and the male climbed up as far as the platform. Kathlyn reached over with a stout club and clouted the brute on his tender nose.
A shot broke the silence and a bullet spat angrily against the tree trunk. Two cats fled. Immediately there came a squealing and trumpeting from the stockade.
This is what had happened: The chief mahout had discovered the cubs and had taken them into the stockade just as another hunter had espied the parent leopards. The rifle shot had frightened one of the wild elephants. With a mighty plunge he had broken the chain which held him prisoner to the decoy elephant and pushed through the rotten stockade, heading straight for the river.
Kathlyn saw his bulk as it crashed straight through the brush. He shuffled directly toward her tree. The ground about was of clay, merging into sand as it sloped toward the river. The frantic runaway slipped, crushed against the tree trunk, recovered himself, and went splashing into the water.
Kathlyn was flung headlong and only the water saved her from severe bodily harm. When she recovered her senses she was surrounded by a group of very much astonished Mohammedans.
They jabbered and gesticulated to one another and she was conducted to the stockade. She understood but two words—“Allaha” and “slave.”
THE SLAVE MART
Having decided upon the fate of Kathlyn, the natives set about recapturing the wild elephant. It took the best part of the morning. When this was accomplished the journey to Allaha was begun. But for the days of peace and quiet of the wilderness and the consequent hardness of her flesh, Kathlyn would have suffered greatly. Half the time she was compelled to walk. There was no howdah, and it was a difficult feat to sit back of the mahout. The rough skin of the elephant had the same effect upon the calves of her legs that sandpaper would have had. Sometimes she stumbled and fell, and was rudely jerked to her feet. Only the day before they arrived was she relieved in any way: she was given a litter, and in this manner she entered the hateful city.
In giving her the litter the chief mahout had been inspired by no expressions of pity; simply they desired her to appear fresh and attractive when they carried her into the slave mart.
In fitful dreams all that had happened came back to her—the story her father had told about saving the old king’s life, and the grim, ironical gratitude in making Colonel Hare his heir—as if such things could be! And then her own journey to Allaha; the nightmarish durbar, during which she had been crowned; the escape from the ordeals with John Bruce; the terrors of the temple of the sun; the flight from there . . . John Bruce! She could still see the fire in his eyes; she could still feel the touch of his gentle yet tireless hand. Would she ever see him again?