< --Previous Up Next–>
Chicago Sunday Tribune, April 5, 1914
The photo-drama corresponding to the installments The Adventures of Kathlyn may now be seen at a number of the leading motion picture theaters. By this unique arrangement with the Selig Polyscope Company it is, therefore, possible not only to read The Adventures of Kathlyn in The Sunday Tribune, but also to keep pace with each additional installment at the moving picture theater.1
SYNOPSIS OF PREVIOUS CHAPTERS
Kathlyn Hare, believing her father, Col. Hare, in peril has summoned her, leaves her home in California, to go to him in Allaha,India. Umballah2, pretender to the throne of that principality, has imprisoned the colonel, named by the late king as his heir, because he fears the American may insist on his his royal rights.
Upon her arrival in Allaha she is informed by Unballah that her father is dead, she is to be queen and must marry him forthwith. Because of her refusal, she is sentenced to undergo two ordeals with wild beasts.
John Bruce, an American and fellow passenger on the boat which brought Kathlyn to Allaha, saves her life. The elephant which carries her from the scene of her trials becomes frightened and runs away, separating her from Bruce and the rest of the party.
After a ride filled with peril she takes refuge in a ruined temple. The holy men and villagers, believing her to be an ancient princess risen from the tomb, allow her to remain as the guardian of the sacred fire. But Kathlyn’s haven is also the abode of a lion, and she is forced to flee from it with the savage beast in pursuit. She escapes and finds a retreat in the jungle, only to fall into the hands of a band of slave traders, who bring her to Allaha to the public mart. She is sold to Unballah, who, finding her still unsubmissive, throws her into the dungeon with her father.
Bruce and his friends effect the release of Kathlyn and the colonel. Umballah’s attempt to recapture them is unsuccessful, and the fugitives are given shelter in the palace of Bala Khan.
Supplied with camels and servants by that hospitable prince, they start on their journey to the coast. The party is overpowered and taken in custody by brigands. The leader, recognizing the colonel, dispatches Ramabai and Pundita to Allaha for ransom for the white king, his daughter, and Bruce. Unballah journeys to the lair of the bandits. The colonel is delivered to him and he orders that Kathlyn and Bruce be killed. But the bandits quarrel over the division of the money which Umballah has paid to obtain possession of the colonel, and during the confusion the prisoners escape and return to Allah. Kathlyn, Bruce, and Ramabai concoct a plan to get the colonel out of Umballah’s clutches.
CHAPTER XIV THE VEILED CANDIDATES
From the four ends of the principality they came, the veiled candidates; from the north, the east, the south and west. They came in marvelous palanquins, in curtained howdahs, on camels, in splendid bullock carts. Many a rupee resolved itself into new-bought finery, upon the vague chance of getting it back with compound interest.
What was most unusual, they came without pedigree or dowry, this being Ramabai’s idea; though, in truth, Umballa objected at first to the lack of dowry. He had expected to inherit this dowry. He gave way to Ramabai because he did not care to have Ramabai suspect what his inner thoughts were. Let the fool Ramabai pick out his chestnuts for him. Umballa laughed in his voluminous sleeve.
Some one of these matrimonially inclined houris the colonel would have to select; if he refused, then should Ramabai do the selecting. More, he would marry the fortunate woman by proxy. There was no possible loophole for the colonel.
The populace was charmed, enchanted, as it always is over a new excitement. Much as they individually despised Umballa, collectively they admired his ingenuity in devising fresh amusements. Extra feast days came one after another. The Oriental dislikes work; and any one who could invent means of avoiding it was worthy of gratitude. So, then, the populace fell in with Umballa’s scheme agreeably. The bhang and betel and toddy sellers did a fine business during the festival of Rama.
There was merrymaking in the streets, day and night. The temples and mosques were filled to overflowing. Musicians with reeds and tom-toms paraded the bazaars. In nearly every square the Nautch girl danced, or the juggler plied his trade, or there was a mongoose-cobra fight (the cobra, of course, bereft of its fangs), and fakirs grew mango trees out of nothing. There was a flurry in the slave mart, too.
The troops swaggered about, overbearing. They were soon to get their pay. The gold and silver were rotting in the treasury. Why leave it there, since gold and silver were minted to be spent?
There were elephant fights in the reconstructed arena; tigers attacked wild boars, who fought with enormous razor-like tusks, as swift and deadly as any Malay kris. The half forgotten ceremony of feeding the wild pig before sundown each day was given life again. And drove after drove came in from the jungles for the grain, which was distributed from a platform. And wild peacocks followed the pigs. A wonderful sight it was to see several thousand pigs come trotting in, each drove headed by its fighting boar. When the old fellows met there was carnage; squealing and grunting, they fought. The peacocks shrilled and hopped from back to back for such grain as fell upon the bristly backs of the pigs. Here and there a white peacock would be snared, or a boar whose tusks promised a battle royal with some leopard or tiger.
And through all this turmoil and clamor Ahmed and Lal Singh moved, sounding the true sentiments of the people. They did not want white kings or white queens; they desired to be ruled by their kind, who would not start innovations but would let affairs drift on as they had done for centuries.
Nor was Bruce inactive. Many a time Umballa had stood within an arm’s length of death; but always Bruce had resisted the impulse. It would be rank folly to upset Ramabai’s plans, which were to culminate in Umballa’s overthrow.
But upon a certain hour Ramabai came to Bruce, much alarmed. During his absence with Pundita at some palace affair his home had been entered, ransacked, and ten thousand rupees had been stolen. His real fortune, however, was hidden securely. The real trouble was that these ten thousand rupees would practically undo much of what had been accomplished. He was certain that Umballa had instigated this theft, and that the money would be doled out to the soldiers. For upon their dissatisfaction rested his future.
“Take Bala Khan at his word,” suggested Bruce, “and ask him for his five thousand hillmen.”
Ramabai smiled. “And have Bala Khan constitute himself the king of Allaha! No, Sahib; he is a good friend, but he is also a dangerous one. We must have patience.”
“Patience!” exploded Bruce.
“I have waited several years. Do you not see that when I strike I must succeed?”
“But these warnings to Umballa?”
“He is not molesting me, is he?” returned Ramabai calmly.
“Well, it is more than I could stand.”
“Ah, you white people waste so much life and money by acting upon your impulses! Trust me; my way is best; and that is, for the present we must wait.”
“God knows,” sighed Bruce, “but I am beginning to believe in the colonel’s guru.”
“Who can say? There are some in this land who possess mighty wills, who can make man sleep by looking into his eyes, who can override and destroy weaker minds. I know; I have seen. You have heard of suspended animation? Well, I have seen examples of it; and so have my people. Can you wonder at their easiness in being swayed this way and that? But these men I refer to do not sit about in the bazaars with wooden bowls for coppers. It is said, however, that all curses die with their makers. It depends upon how old the Colonel Sahib’s guru is. I know priests who are more than a hundred years old, and wrinkled like the bride of Hathi, the god of elephants.”
“But a child could see through all this rigmarole.”
“Can Bruce Sahib?” Again Ramabai smiled. “My people are sometimes children in that they need constant amusement. Have patience, my friend; for I understand. Do I not love Pundita even as you love the Mem-sahib?”
“What do you mean?” demanded Bruce roughly,
“I have eyes.”
“Well, yes; it is true. Behind you are your people; behind us, nothing. That is why I am frantic. Umballa, whenever he finds himself checkmated, digs up what he purports to be an unused law. There is none to contest it. I tell you, Ramabai, we must escape soon, or we never will. You suggested this impossible marriage. It is horrible.”
“But it lulls Umballa; and lulled, he becomes careless. Beyond the north gate there are ever ready men and elephants. And when the moment arrives, thither we shall fly, all of us. But,” mysteriously, “we may not have to fly. When Umballa learns that the Colonel Sahib will refuse to sign the necessary treasury release the soldiers will understand that once again they have been trifled with.”
“We must wait. But it’s mighty hard.”
The garden of brides has already been described. But on this day when the ten veiled candidates sat in waiting there was spring in the air; and there were roses climbing trellises, climbing over the marble walls, and the pomegranate blossoms set fire to it all. At the gate stood Ramabai, dressed according to his station, and representing by proxy the king. Presently a splendid palanquin arrived, and within it a tardy candidate. She was laden with jewels, armlets, anklets and head ornaments; pearls and uncut sapphires and rubies. Upon lifting her veil she revealed a beautiful high caste face. Ramabai bade her pass on. No sooner had she taken her place than still another palanquin was announced, and this last was drawn by fat sleek bullocks, all of a color.
Ramabai held up his hand. The bullock drivers stopped their charges, and from the palanquin emerged a veiled woman. This was Kathlyn.
The selected candidates were now all present. As master of ceremonies, Ramabai conducted them into the palace, thence into the throne room gaily decorated for the occasion. In a balcony directly above the canopy of the throne were musicians, playing the mournful harmonies so dear to the oriental heart.
Upon the throne sat Colonel Hare, gorgeously attired, but cold and stern of visage, prepared to play his part in this unutterable buffoonery. Near by stood Durga Ram, so-called Umballa, smiling. It was going to be very simple; once yonder stubborn white fool was wedded, he should be made to disappear; and there should be another wedding in which he, Durga Ram, should take the part of the bridegroom. Then for the treasury, flight, and, later, ease abroad. Let the filigree basket of gems stay where it was; there were millions in the treasury, the accumulated hoardings of many decades.
The council and high priests also wore their state robes, and behind them were officers and other dignitaries.
There was a stir as Ramabai entered with the veiled candidates. The colonel in vain tried to hide his interest and anxiety. Kathlyn was there, somewhere among these kotowing women; but there was nothing by which he could recognize her. As the women spread about the throne, Ramabai signified to the musicians to cease.
Then Ramabai brought candidate after candidate close to the colonel, so that he alone might see the face behind the veil. At each uplifting of the veil the colonel shook his head. A dark frown began to settle over Umballa’s face. If the colonel refused the last candidate for nuptial honors, he should die. But as Ramabai lifted the veil of this last woman the colonel nodded sharply; and Kathlyn, for a brief space, gazed into her father’s eyes. The same thought occurred to both; what a horrible mockery it all was, and where would it lead finally?
“Take care!” whispered Kathlyn as she saw her father’s fingers move nervously with suppressed longing to reach out and touch her.
The spectators of this little drama which was hidden from them evinced their approval by a murmuring which had something like applause in it. A queen was chosen! A real queen at last had been chosen. Ramabai had accomplished by diplomacy what yonder Durga Ram had failed to do by force. But Umballa secretly smiled as he sensed this undercurrent. Presently they should see.
The colonel extended his hand and drew Kathlyn up beside him; and now for a moment the whole affair trembled in the balance: Kathlyn felt herself possessed with a wild desire to laugh.
The chain of gold, representing the betrothal, was now ordered brought from the treasury.
The populace, outside the palace, having been acquainted with what was taking place, burst out into cheers.
The treasure room, guarded by leopards in charge of incorruptible keepers, was now approached by Umballa and his captain of the guard. Umballa presented his order on the treasury. The leopards were driven into their cages, and the magic door swung open. The two gasped for breath; for Umballa had never before looked within. Everywhere gold and gems; fabulous riches, enough to make a man ten times a king.
“Highness,” whispered the captain, “there is enough riches here to purchase the whole of Hind!”
As he stared Umballa surrendered to a passing dream. Presently he shook himself, sought the chain for which he had come, and reluctantly stepped out into the corridor again. He would return soon to this door. But for that fool of a white man who had saved the king from the leopard, he would have opened this door long since. As he walked to the outer door he thought briefly of the beauty of Kathlyn. She was dead, and dead likewise was his passion for her.
Beyond the gate to the garden of brides Ahmed and Lal Singh waited with elephants. From here they would make the north gate, transfer to new elephants, and leave Allaha and its evil schemes behind. They created no suspicion. There were many elephants about the palace this day. In one of the howdahs sat Bruce, armed; in the other, Pundita, trembling with dread. So many arms had Siva, that evil spawn, that Pundita would not believe all was well till they had crossed the frontier.
“They will be coming soon, Sahib,” said Ahmed. Bruce wiped the sweat from “his palms and nodded.
Now, when Umballa and his captain of the guard departed with the betrothal chain they did not firmly close the outer door, which shut off the leopards from the main palace. The leopards were immediately freed and began their prowling through the corridors, snarling and growling as they scented the air through which the two men had just passed. One paused by the door, impatiently thrusting out a paw.
The door gave.
In the throne room the mockery of the betrothal was gone through, and then the calm Ramabai secretly signified that the hour for escape was at hand; for everywhere, now that the ceremony was done, vigilance would be lax.
Immediately the high priest announced that the successful candidate would be conducted to the palace zenana and confined there till the final ceremonies were over.
Umballa dreamed of what he had seen.
To Ramabai was given the exalted honor of conducting the king and his betrothed to their respective quarters. Once in the private passageway to the harem, or zenana, Ramabai threw caution to the winds.
“We must go a roundabout way to the garden of brides, which will be deserted. Outside the gate Bruce Sahib and Ahmed and Lal Singh await with elephants. Once we can join them we are safe. And in a month’s time I shall return.”
Meantime one of the leopard keepers rushed frantically into the throne room, exclaiming that the seven guardian leopards were at large. Even as he spoke one of the leopards appeared in the musicians’ balcony. The panic which followed was not to be described. A wild scramble ensued toward all exits.
The fugitives entered the royal zenana. Kathlyn proceeded at once to the exit which led to the garden of brides. There she waited for her father and Ramabai, who had paused by the door of one of the zenana chambers. Between them and Kathlyn lay the plunge.
Ramabai addressed the lady of the zenana, telling her that if guards should come to state that Kathlyn was concealed in her own chamber. To this the young woman readily agreed.
Suddenly a leopard appeared behind the colonel and Ramabai. Kathlyn, being first to discover the presence of the animal, cried out a warning.
“Fly, Kit! Save yourself! I am accursed!” called the colonel.
Ramabai and the young woman at the chamber door hurriedly drew the colonel into the chamber and shut the door. The colonel struggled, but Ramabai held him tightly.
“We are unarmed, Sahib,” he said; “and the Mem-sahib,” he said; “and the Mem-sahib never loses her head.”
“Ramabai, I tell you I shall die here. It is useless to attempt to aid me. I am accursed, accursed! Kit, Kit!”
The leopard stood undecided before the door which had closed in his face. Then he discovered Kathlyn, fumbling at the wicker door at the far side of the swimming pool. There was something upon which to wreak his temper; for all this unusual commotion and freedom had disturbed him greatly. Kathlyn opened the wicker door, closing it behind her. Clear headed, as Ramabai had said, she recollected the palanquin which had been last to enter the garden of brides. She ran into the garden, flew to the palanquin just as she heard the leopard crash through the flimsy wicker door. She reached and entered the palanquin not a moment too soon. She huddled down close to the door. The leopard trotted round and round, snarling and sniffing. Presently he was joined by another. From afar she could hear shouting. She readily understood. Through some carelessness the leopards of the treasury were at liberty, and that of her own and her father was in jeopardy. Just without the garden of brides was Bruce and help, and she dared not move!
Bruce, from his howdah, heard the noise in the palace; female shrieks, commands, a shot from a musket. What in heaven’s name had happened? Where was Kathlyn? Why did she not appear? He fingered his revolvers. But Ahmed signaled to him not to stir. The knowledge of whatever had happened must be brought to them; on their lives they dared not go in search of it.
“This comes from your damnable oriental way of doing things. If I had had my way, Umballa would be dead and buried.”
“All in good time, Sahib.”
The elephants stirred restlessly, for they scented the cat whom they hated.
Within the palanquin Kathlyn dared scarcely to breathe; for outside seven leopards prowled and sniffed and snarled!
1 The movie serial was 13 chapters, with each chapter released every two weeks. The novelization is much more detailed, and therefore in twenty-six chapters.
2 “Umballa” is spelled as “Umballah” in the Chicago Tribune story, when it is spelled without the “h” in Mr. MacGrath’s novel. This may be an indicator for copyright purposes as to where copy was picked up from.
In the novelization, which was published after the release of the final motion picture chapter, The Tribune ceased to provide titles to each chapter starting with the Seventh Chapter.