The great fall to the back of the town was on their left, and in front of them lay one of the arms of the river, at this spot a raging torrent not much more than a hundred feet in width, spanned by a narrow suspension bridge which seemed to be supported by two fibre ropes. On the hither side of this bridge stood a guard hut, and to their dismay out of this hut ran three men armed with spears, evidently to cut them off. One of these men sped across the bridge and took his stand at the further end, while the other two posted themselves in their path at the entrance to it.
The Mungana slacked his speed and said one word—“Finished!” and Jeekie also hesitated, then turned and pointed behind them.
Alan looked back and flitting in and out between the cedar trees, saw the white robes of the priests of Bonsa. Then despair seized them all, and they rushed at the bridge. Jeekie reached it first and dodging beneath the spears of the two guards, plunged his knife into the breast of one of them, and butted the other with his great head, so that he fell over the side of the bridge on to the rocks below.
“Cut, Major, cut!” he said to Alan, who pushed past him. “All right now.”
They were on the narrow swaying bridge—it was but a single plank—Alan first, then the Mungana, then Jeekie. When they were half way across Alan looked before him and saw a sight he could never forget.
The third guard at the further side was sawing through one of the fibre ropes with his spear. There they were on the middle of the bridge with the torrent raving fifty feet beneath them, and the man had nearly severed the rope! To get over before it parted was impossible; behind were the priests; beneath the roaring river. All three of them stopped as though paralyzed, for all three had seen. Something struck against Alan’s leg, it was his pistol that still remained fastened to his wrist by its leather thong. He cocked and lifted it, took aim and fired. The shot missed, which was not wonderful considering the light and the platform on which the shooter stood. It missed, but the man, astonished, for he had never seen or heard such a thing before, stopped his sawing for a moment, and stared at them. Then as he began again Alan fired once more, and this time by good fortune the bullet struck the man somewhere in the body. He fell, and as he fell grasped the nearly separated rope and hung to it.
“Get hold of the other rope and come on,” yelled Alan, and once more they bounded forward.
“My God! it’s going,” he yelled again. “Hold fast, Jeekie, hold fast!”
Next instant the rope parted and the man vanished. The bridge tipped over, and supported by the remaining rope, hung edgeways up. To this rope the three of them clung desperately, resting their feet upon the edge of the swaying plank. For a few seconds they remained thus, afraid to stir, then Jeekie called out:
“Climb on, Major, climb on like one monkey. Look bad, but quite safe really.”