Therefore the roof was the wiser, safer plan; he must make for the stairs, trusting to escape notice when the sentry’s back was turned. Till then—silence!
But even as he settled this in his mind Fate was against him. As he crouched in the darkness something cold suddenly touched his face, and the next moment a clamour of excited yappings and joyful barks arose, as something warm and furry and cold and slobbery flung itself all over him.
Tumbu! It could be nothing but blundering, bumbling Tumbu! He made one useless effort to still the dog, then rose to his feet feeling himself discovered, prepared to run for it. But it was too late. A sentry, lantern in hand, roused by the commotion, barred the way. All seemed lost, but a ray of hope shone when the familiar voice of the Afghan sentry, the unrepentant turncoat, was heard as the lantern waved in Roy’s very face.
“By my word, one of the Kings! How come you hither at this time o’ night, friend?”
The voice was a little thick, as if the owner, finding the quiet of the Delhi Gate wearisome, had sought amusement in a skin of wine.
Roy gave a gasp—he was too confused for thought. “The dog—” he began.
“Aye! The dog that was yours and is mine,” jeered the sentry. “So he nosed you out, did he? Knows his duty—good dog, Tumbu! Knows his master now! Knows who saved him from starvation when he was lurking about in the gutter. Eh! you brute!”
He lunged a kick at Tumbu, who retreated a step, looking from the new to the old master, feeling, in truth, a trifle confused. For the Afghan sentry had certainly found him homeless, friendless, and the dog had stuck by him, feeling that here at least was something vaguely connected with the past life. But now he stood doubtful, expectant, his little ears pricked, his small eyes watchful.
“Well,” continued the sentry with a half-drunken laugh, “dog or no dog, you’ve no business here, so come along with me, my King.”
He reached out a heavy hand, and Roy shrunk from it. As he did so there came a sound which sent the blood to Roy’s heart with a spasm of instant hope, of possible escape. It was Tumbu’s low growl as he realised that some one wanted to touch his old master and that his old master did not want to be touched.
“At him, Tumbu! At him, good dog!” The words came to Roy in a flash, and like a flash the great, powerful dog leaped forward, his fur a-bristle, his white teeth gleaming, and the next instant, taken by the suddenness of the attack, the sentry lay on his back half stunned by the fall, while Tumbu, on the top of him, checked even a cry by a clutch at his throat. A soft clutch so far; but one that would tear through flesh if needful.
Roy was on his knees beside the fallen man.
“Hist! not a sound or the dog shall kill you. He can. Give me the keys. I want to get out of the gate! The keys, do you hear?”