Perhaps twenty minutes later slight sounds came from the front of the compound wall. A rifle barrel clattered upon the cobbles. Then, over the wall, near the elephant, a head appeared, then a body. This was repeated four times, and four light-footed nomads of the desert lowered themselves into the compound. They ran quickly to the gate and noiselessly unbarred it. Outside were five more desert nomads, gathered about the insensible bodies of the sentries.
These nine men were the dancers who had entered the town in advance of Kathlyn. For weeks they had lain in wait for this moment. They had spied upon the three low caste keepers and upon learning of their nocturnal junkets into the opium den had cast the die this night.
With the utmost caution they approached the sacred elephant, took off his chains and led him from the compound. Immediately six of the marauders trotted far ahead toward the gate they knew to be the least guarded. The sacred elephant, passing through the streets, attended by three men, aroused no suspicions in any straggler who saw. So remote was the walled city, so seemingly impregnable, and so little interfered with that it was only human that its guardians should eventually grow careless.
When the keepers, straggling under the fumes of the drug, returned near daybreak, first to find the gate open, second to find their sacred charge gone, they fled in terror; for it would be death, lingering and painful, for them to stay and explain how and why they had left their post.
The wild and lawless brigands knew exactly what they were about. There were several agents of European and American circuses after this white elephant, and as it could not be purchased there was no reason why it could not be stolen.
When the Brahmin arrived at sunrise to find his vocation gone he set up a wailing which awakened the household. The Khan was furious and ordered a general search. He vowed death to the foul hands which had done this sacrilege!
Kathlyn and the others were genuinely sorry when they heard the news. They were in the armory when the Khan announced what had taken place.
Said he: “Come, you are all skilled hunters. Find me my elephant and these guns and newer and surer ones shall protect you from Durga Ram, should he take it into his head to come this way.”
The colonel, Bruce and Ramabai set off at once. After they had gone a camel rider entered the compound and sought audience with Bala Khan. Kathlyn and Pundita were in the compound at the time and the former was greatly interested in the saddlebags, attached to one of which was a binocular case. Kathlyn could not resist the inclination to open this case. It contained an exceptionally fine pair of glasses, such as were used in that day in the British army. No doubt they were a part of some loot.
Suddenly an idea came to her. She asked permission (through Pundita) to ride the camel outside the town. After some argument the servant in charge consented.