THE END OF THE MUNGANA
The moonlight above vanished. Alan was alone in the depths with this devil, or whatever it might be. He could feel hands and feet gripping and treading on him, but they did not seem to be human, for there were too many of them. Also they were very cold. He gave himself up for dead and thought of Barbara.
Then something flashed into his mind. In his hand he still held the revolver. He pressed it upwards against the thing that was smothering him, and pulled the trigger. Again he pulled it, and again, for it was a self-cocking weapon, and even there deep down in the water he heard the thud of the explosion of the damp-proof copper cartridges. His lungs were bursting, his senses reeled, only enough of them remained to tell him that he was free of that strangling grip and floating upwards. His head rose above the surface, and through the mouth of his mask he drew in the sweet air with quick gasps. Down below him in the clear water he saw the yellow head of Big Bonsa rocking and quivering like a great reflected mon, saw too that it was beginning to rise. Yet he could not swim away from it, the fetish seemed to have hypnotized him. He heard Jeekie calling to him from the shallow water near the further bank, but still he floated there like a log and stared down at Big Bonsa wallowing beneath.
Jeekie plunged back into the canal and with a few strong strokes reached him, gripped him by the arm and began to tow him to the shore. Before they came there Big Bonsa rose like a huge fish and tried to follow them, but could not, or so it seemed. At any rate it only whirled round and round upon the surface, while from it poured a white fluid that turned the black water to the hue of milk. Then it began to scream, making a thin and dreadful sound more like that of an infant in pain than anything they had ever heard, a very sickening sound that Alan never could forget. He staggered to the bank and stood staring at it where it bled, rolled and shrieked, but because of the milky foam could make nothing out in that light.
“What is it, Jeekie?” he said with an idiotic laugh. “What is it?”
“Oh! don’t know. Devil and all, perhaps. Come on, Major, before it catch us.”
“I don’t think it will catch anyone just at present. Devil or not hollow-nosed bullets don’t agree with it. Shall I give it another, Jeekie?” and he lifted the pistol.
“No, no, Major, don’t play tomfool,” and Jeekie grabbed him by the arm and dragged him away.
A few paces further on stood the Mungana like a man transfixed, and even then Alan noticed that he regarded him with something akin to awe.
“Stronger than the god,” he muttered, “stronger than the god,” and bounded forward.
Following the path that ran beside the canal, they plunged into a tunnel, holding each other as before. In a few minutes they were through it and in a place full of cedar trees outside the wall of the Gold House, under which evidently the tunnel passed, for there it rose behind them. Beneath these cedar trees they flitted like ghosts, now in the moonlight and now in the shadow.