Chicago Sunday Tribune, May 31, 1914
The photo-dramas 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, the party endeavors to reach the coast, but are overpowered by brigand and the encounter results in the colonel being delivered to Umballah. Kathlyn and Bruce escape from their captors and return to Allaha, where Kathlyn learns that her father, while nominally king, is in reality a prisoner. Kathlyn’s resourcefulness and bravery are the means of rescuing him, and once more they steal away from Allaha, but return broken hearted when they learn that Winnie, Kathlyn’s young sister, has come to India. Umballah makes her a prisoner. She is forced to enter the palace and in turn is crowned queen of Allaha. One attempt to get Winnie out of the closely guarded palace almost costs Kathlyn her life, but the second plan succeeds.
The people of Allaha at last, weary of Unballah’s misrule, rise against him, with Ramabai whiose wife, Pundita, is the lawful queen, at their head and the Colonel and Bruce fighting with him. The revolutionists are being overpowered by Unballah’s soldiers when Kathlyn assumes command of the scattered forces. She saves the day for them and Pundita is placed on the throne. Umballah flees for his life. Through his thirst for vengeance Kathlyn is made to face death by poison threatens, but a loyal servant sacrifices himself and saves her from the latter danger.
Ramabai has long suspected that the real king of Allaha did not die, as was announced to the people, but in being held in some vile dungeon. When he discovers that his surmise is correct he, the Colonel and Bruce hasten to the hut in which the king has been imprisoned, and the feeble old man is escorted to his palace.
CHAPTER XXII BEHIND THE CURTAINS
In the rear of the temple Umballa sought was a small chamber that was used by the priests, when they desired to rest or converse privately, which was often. The burning temple lamps of brass emphasized the darkness of the room rather than dispelled it. A shadow occasionally flickered through the amber haze—an exploring bat. A dozen or more priests stood in one of the dim corners, from which their own especial idol winked at them with eyes like coals blown upon. The Krishna of the Ruby Eyes, an idol known far and wide but seen by few.
In the temple itself there was a handful of tardy worshipers. The heat of the candles, the smell of the eternal lotus flower and smoking incense sticks made even the huge vault stifling. Many of the idols were bejeweled or patched with beaten gold leaf, and many had been coveted by wandering white men, who, when their endeavor became known, disappeared mysteriously and were never more known in the haunts of men.
A man in tatters appeared suddenly in the great arched doorway. His turban came down almost to his eyes and a neckcloth covered his mouth. All that could be seen of him in the matter of countenance was a pair of brilliant eyes and a predatory nose. He threw a quick piercing glance about, assured himself that such devotees as he saw were harmless, then strode boldly, if hurriedly, toward the rear chamber, which he entered without ado. Instantly the indignant priests rushed toward him to expel him and give him a tongue-lashing for his impudence, when a hand was thrust out, and they beheld upon a finger a great green stone. They stopped as suddenly as though they had met an invisible electric current.
The curtain fell behind the man in tatters, and he remained motionless for a space. A low murmuring among the priests ensued, and presently one of their number—the youngest—passed out and stationed himself before the curtain. Not even a privileged dancing girl might enter now.
The man in tatters stepped forward. He became the center of the group; his gestures were quick, tense, authoritative. At length priest turned to priest, and the wrinkled faces became more wrinkled still: smiles.
“Highness,” said the eldest, “we had thought of this, but you did not make us your confidant.”
“Till an hour gone it had not occurred to me. Shall Ramabai, then, become your master, to set forth the propaganda of the infidel?”
“No!” The word was not spoken loudly, but sibilantly, with something resembling a hiss. “No!”
“And shall a king who has no mind, no will, no strength, resume his authority? Perhaps to bring more white people into Allaha, perhaps to give Allaha eventually to the British Raj?”
Again the negative.
“But the method?”
Umballa smiled. “What brings the worshiper here with candles and flowers and incense? Is it love or reverence or superstition?”
The bald yellow heads nodded like porcelain mandarins.
“Superstition,” went on Umballa, “the sword which bends the knees of the layman, has and always will through the ages!”
In the vault outside a bell tinkled, a gong boomed melodiously.
“When I give the sign,” continued the schemer, “declare the curse upon all those who do not bend. A word from your lips, and Ramabai’s troops vanish, reform and become yours and mine!”
“While the king lives?” asked the chief priest curiously.
“Ah!” And Umballa smiled again.
“But you, Durga Ram?”
“There is Ramabai, a senile king, and I. Which for your purposes will you choose?”
There was a conference. The priests drifted away from Umballa. He did not stir. His mien was proud and haughty, but for all that his knees shook and his heart thundered. He understood that it was to be all or nothing, no middle course, no half methods. He waited, wetting his cracked and swollen lips. When the priests returned to him, their heads bent before him a little. It represented a salaam, as much as they had ever given to the king himself. A glow ran over Umballa.
“Highness, we agree. There will be terms.”
“I will agree to them without question.”
Life and power again; real power! These doddering fools should serve him, thinking the while that they served themselves.
“Half the treasury must be paid to the temple.”
“Agreed!” Half for the temple and half for himself; and the abolishment of the seven leopards. “With this stipulation: Ramabai is yours, but the white people are to be mine.”
The priests signified assent.
And Umballa smiled in secret. Ramabai would be dead on the morrow.
“There remains the king,” said the chief priest.
The chief priest stared soberly at the lamp above his head. The king would be, then, Umballa’s affair.
“He is ill?”
“He is moribund … Silence!” warned Umballa.
The curtains became violently agitated. They heard the voice of the young priest outside raised in protest, to be answered by the shrill tones of a woman.
“You are mad!”
“And thou art a stupid fool!”
Umballa’s hand fell away from his dagger.
“It is a woman,” he said. “Admit her.”
The curtains were thrust aside, and the painted dancing girl, who had saved Umballa from death or capture in the fire of his own contriving, rushed in. Her black hair was studded with turquoise, a necklace of amber gleamed like gold around her neck, and on her arms and ankles a plentitude of silver bracelets and anklets. With her back to the curtains, the young priest staring curiously over her shoulder, she presented a picturesque tableau.
“Well!” said Umballa, who understood that she was here from no idle whim.
“Highness, you must hide with me this night.”
“Or die,” coolly.
Umballa sprang forward and seized her roughly.
“What has happened?”
“I was in the zenana, Highness, visiting my sister, whom you had transferred from the palace. All at once we heard shouting and trampling of feet, and a moment later your house was overrun with men. They had found the king in the hut and had taken him to the palace. That they did not find you is because you came here.”
“Tell me all.”
“It seems that the majordomo gave the poison to Ramabai, but the white goddess …”
“The white goddess!” cried Umballa, as if stung by a cobra’s fang.
“Ay, Highness. She did not die on that roof. Nothing can harm her. It is written.”
“And I was never told!”
She lived, lived, and all the terrors he had evoked for her were as naught! Umballa was not above superstition himself for all his European training. Surely this girl of the white people was imbued with something more than mortal. She lived!
“Go on!” he said, his voice subdued as was his soul.
“The white goddess by mistake took Ramabai’s goblet and was about to drink when the majordomo seized the goblet and drained the poison himself. He confessed everything, where the king was, where you were. They are again hunting through the city for you. For the present you must hide with me.”
“The white woman must die,” said Umballa in a voice like one being strangled.
To this the priests agreed without hesitation. This white woman whom the people were calling a goddess was a deadly menace to that scepter of theirs, superstition.
“What has gone is a pact?”
“A pact, Durga Ram,” said the chief priest. With Ramabai spreading Christianity, the abhorred creed which gave people liberty of person and thought, the future of his own religion stood in imminent danger. “A pact,” he reflected. “To you, Durga Ram, the throne; to us half the treasury and all the ancient rites of our creed restored.”
“I have said it.”
Umballa followed the dancing girl into the square before the temple. He turned and smiled ironically. The bald fools!
“Lead on, thou flower of the jasmine!” lightly.
And the two of them disappeared into the night.
But the priests smiled, too, for Durga Ram should always be more in their power than they in his.
There was tremendous excitement in the city the next morning. It seemed that the city would never be permitted to resume its old careless indolence. Swift as the wind the news flew that the old king was alive, that he had been held prisoner all these months by Durga Ram and the now deposed council of three. No more the old rut of dulness. Never had they known such fetes. Since the arrival of the white goddess not a day had passed without some thrilling excitement, which had cost them nothing but shouts.
So they deserted the bazaars and markets that morning to witness the most surprising spectacle of all: the king who was dead was not dead, but alive!
He appeared before them in his rags. For Ramabai, no mean politician, wished to impress upon the volatile populace the villainy of Umballa and the council, to gain wholly, without reservation, the sympathy of the people, the strongest staff a politician may lean upon. Like a brave and honest man he had cast from his thoughts all hope of power. The king might be old, senile, decrepit, but he was none the less the king. If he had moments of blankness of thought, there were other moments when the old man was keen enough; and keen enough he was to realize in these lucid intervals that Ramabai, among all his people, was loyalest.
So, in the throne room, later, he gave the power to Ramabai to act in his stead till he had fully recovered from his terrible hardships. More than this, he declared that Pundita, the wife of Ramabai, should ultimately rule; for of a truth the principality was lawfully hers. He would make his will at once, but in order that this should be legal he would have to destroy the previous will he had given to Colonel Hare, his friend.
“Forgive me, my friend,” he said. “I acted unwisely in your case. But I was angry with my people for their cowardice.”
“Your Majesty,” replied the colonel, “the fault lay primarily with me. I should not have accepted it or returned. I will tell you the truth. It was the filigree basket of gold and precious stones that brought me back.”
“So? And all for nothing, since the hiding-place I gave you is not the true one. But of that, more anon. I want this wretch Durga Ram spread out on an ant hill …”
And then, without apparent reason, he began to call for Lakshmi, the beautiful Lakshmi, the wife of his youth. He ordered preparations for an elephant fight; rambled, talked as though he were but twenty; his eyes dim, his lips loose and pendulent. And in this condition he might live ten or twenty years. Ramabai was sore at heart.
They had to wait two days till his mind cleared again. His first question upon his return to his mental balance was directed to Kathlyn. Where was the document he had given to his friend Hare? Kathlyn explained that Umballa had taken it from her.
“But, Your Majesty,” exclaimed the colonel rather impatiently, “what difference does it make? Your return has nullified that document.”
“Not in case of my death. And in Allaha the elder document is always the legal document, unless it is legally destroyed. It is not well to antagonize the priests, who hold us firmly to this law. I might make a will in favor of Pundita, but it would not legally hold in justice if all previous wills were not legally destroyed. You must find this document.”
“Did you ever hear of a law to equal that?” asked Bruce of the colonel.
“No, my boy, I never did. It would mean a good deal of red tape for a man who changed his mind frequently. He could not fool his relations; they would know. The laws of the dark peoples have always amazed me, because if you dig deep enough into them you are likely to find common sense at the bottom. We must search Umballa’s house thoroughly. I wish to see Ramabai and Pundita in the shadow of their rights. Can’t destroy a document offhand and make a new one without legally destroying the first. Well, let us be getting back to the bungalow. We’ll talk it over there.”
At the bungalow everything was systematically being prepared for the homeward journey. The laughter and chatter of the two girls was music to their father’s ears. And sometimes he intercepted secret glances between Bruce and Kathlyn. Youth, youth; youth and love! Well, so it was. He himself had been a youth, had loved and been beloved. But he grew very lonely at the thought of Kathlyn eventually going into another home; and some young chap would soon come and claim Winnie, and he would have no one but Ahmed. If only he had had a boy, to bring his bride to his father’s roof!
Pictures were taken down from the walls, the various wild animal heads, and were packed away in strong boxes. And Ahmed went thither and yon, a hundred cares upon his shoulders. He was busy because then he had no time to mourn Lal Singh.
Bruce’s camp was, of course, in utter ruin. Not even the cooking utensils remained: and of his men there was left but Ali, whose leg still caused him to limp a little. So Bruce was commanded by no less person than Kathlyn to be her father’s guest till they departed for America. Daily Winnie rode Rajah. He was such a funny old pachyderm, a kind of clown among his brethren, but as gentle as a kitten. Running away had not paid. He was like the country boy who had gone to the big city; he never more could be satisfied with the farm.
The baboon hung about the colonel’s heels as a dog might have done; while Kathlyn had found a tiger cub for a plaything. So for a while peace reigned at the camp.
They found the much sought document in the secret chamber in Umballa’s house (just as he intended they should); and the king had it legally destroyed and wrote a new will, wherein Pundita should have back that which the king’s ancestors had taken from her—a throne.
After that there was nothing for Colonel Hare to do but proceed to ship his animals to the railroad, thence to the ports where he could dispose of them. Never should he enter this part of India again. Life was too short.
High and low they hunted Umballa, but without success. He was hidden well. They were, however, assured that he lingered in the city and was sinisterly alive.
Day after day the king grew stronger mentally and physically. Many of the reforms suggested by Ramabai were put into force. Quiet at length really settled down upon the city. They began to believe that Umballa had fled the city, and vigilance correspondingly relaxed.
The king had a private chamber, the window of which overlooked the garden of brides. There, with his sherbets and water pipe he resumed his old habit of inditing verse in pure Persian, for he was a scholar. He never entered the zenana or harem; but occasionally he sent for some of the women to play and dance before him. And the woman who loved Umballa was among these. One day she asked to take a journey into the bazaars to visit her sister. Ordinarily such a request would have been denied. But the king no longer cared what the women did, and the chief eunuch slept afternoons and nights, being only partly alive in the mornings.
An hour later a palanquin was lowered directly beneath the king’s window. To his eye it looked exactly like the one which had departed. He went on writing, absorbed. Had he looked closely, had he been the least suspicious … !
This palanquin was the gift of Durga Ram, so-called Umballa. It had been built especially for this long waited for occasion. It was nothing more nor less than a cunning cage in which a tiger was huddled, in a vile temper. The palanquin bearers, friends of the dancing girl, had overpowered the royal bearers and donned their costumes. At this moment one of the bearers (Umballa himself, trusting no one!) crawled stealthily under the palanquin and touched the spring which liberated the tiger and opened the blind. The furious beast sprang to the window. The king was too astonished to move, to appreciate his danger. From yon harmless palanquin this striped fury!
The tiger in his leap struck the lacquered desk, broke it and scattered the papers about the floor.
Ramabai and his officers were just entering the corridor which led to the chamber when the tragedy occurred. They heard the noise, the king’s cries. When they reached the door silence greeted them.
The room was wrecked. There was evidence of a short but terrific struggle. The king lay dead upon the floor, the side of his head crushed in. His turban and garments were in tatters. But he had died like a king; for in the corner by the window lay the striped one, a jeweled dagger in his throat.
Ramabai was first to discover the deserted palanquin, and proceeded to investigate. It did not take him more than a minute to understand what had happened. It was not an accident; it was cold-blooded murder, and back of it stood the infernal ingenuity of one man.
Thus fate took Allaha by the hair again and shook her out of the pastoral quiet. What would happen now?
On the morning after the tragic death of the old king, those who went early to worship, to propitiate the gods to deal kindly with them during the day, were astounded to find the doors and gates of all the temples closed! Nor was any priest visible in his usual haunts. The people were stunned. For there could be but one interpretation to this act on the part of the gurus: the gods had denied the people. Why? Wherefore? Twenty-four hours passed without their learning the cause; the priests desired to fill them with terror before they struck.
Then came the distribution of pamphlets wherein it was decreed that the populace, the soldiery, all Allaha in fact, must bow to the will of the gods or go henceforth accursed. The gods demanded the reinstatement as regent of Durga Ram; the deposing of Ramabai, the infidel; the fealty of the troops to Durga Ram. Twenty-four hours were given the people to make their choice.
Before the doors of all the temples the people gathered, wailing and pouring dust upon their heads, from Brahmin to pariah, from high caste matrons to light dancing girls. And when the troops, company by company, began to kneel at the outer rim of these gatherings, Ramabai despatched a note to Colonel Hare, warning him to fly at once. But the messenger tore up the note and flew to his favorite temple. Superstition thus won what honor, truth and generosity could not hold.
Strange, how we Occidentals have stolen out from under the shadow of anathema. Curse us, and we smile and shrug our shoulders; for a curse is but the mouthing of an angry man. But to these brown and yellow and black people, from the steps of Lhassa to the tangled jungles of mid-Africa, the curse of fake gods is effective. They are really a kindly people, generous, and often loyal unto death, simple and patient and hard-working; but let a priest raise his hand in anathema and at once they become mad, cruel and remorseless as the tiger.
Allaha surrendered; and Umballa came forth. All this happened so quickly that not even a rumor of it reached the colonel’s bungalow till it was too late. They were to have left on the morrow. The king dead, only a few minor technicalities stood an the way of Ramabai and Pundita.
Bruce and Kathlyn were fencing one with the other, after the manner of lovers, when Winnie, her eyes wide with fright, burst in upon them with the news that Umballa, at the head of many soldiers, was approaching. The lovers rushed to the front of the bungalow in time to witness the colonel trying to prevent the intrusion of a priest.
“Patience, Sahib!” warned the priest.
The colonel, upon seeing Umballa, made an attempt to draw his revolver, but the soldiers prevented him from carrying into execution his wild impulse.
The priest explained what had happened. The Colonel Sahib, his friend Bruce Sahib, and his youngest daughter would be permitted to depart in peace; but Kathlyn Mem-sahib must wed Durga Ram.
When the dazed colonel produced the document which had been legally canceled, Umballa laughed and declared that he himself had forged that particular document, that the true one, which he held, was not legally destroyed.
Burning with the thought of revenge, of reprisal, how could Durga Ram know that he thus dug his own pit? Had he let them go he would have eventually been crowned, as surely as now his path led straight to the treadmill.
Ahmed alone escaped, because Umballa had in his triumph forgot him!
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.