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Title: The Land of Hidden Men
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs
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eBook No.: 0300981.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: July 2003
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Title: The Land of Hidden Men
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs




First published under the title JUNGLE GIRL




1 The Jungle


"My Lord, I may go no farther," said the Cambodian.

The young white man turned in astonishment upon his native guide. Behind
them lay the partially cleared trail along which they had come. It was
overgrown with tall grass that concealed the tree-stumps that had been
left behind the axes of the road-builders. Before them lay a ravine, at
the near edge of which the trail ended. Beyond the ravine was the
primitive jungle untouched by man.

"Why, we haven't even started yet!" exclaimed the white man. "You cannot
turn back now. What do you suppose I hired you for?"

"I promised to take my lord to the jungle," replied the Cambodian.
"There it is. I did not promise to enter it."

Gordon King lighted a cigarette. "Let's talk this thing over, my
friend," he said. "It is yet early morning. We can get into the jungle
as far as I care to go and out again before sundown."

The Cambodian shook his head. "I will wait for you here, my lord," he
said; "but I may not enter the jungle, and if you are wise you will
not."

"Why?" demanded King.

"There are wild elephants, my lord, and tigers," replied the Cambodian,
"and panthers which hunt by day as well as by night."

"Why do you suppose we brought two rifles?" demanded the white. "At
Kompong-Thom they told me you were a good shot and a brave man. You knew
that we should have no need for rifles up to this point. No, sir, you
have lost your nerve at the last minute, and I do not believe that it is
because of tigers or wild elephants."

"There are other things deep in the jungle, my lord, that no man may
look upon and live."

"What, for example?" demanded King.

"The ghosts of my ancestors," answered the Cambodian, "the Khmers who
dwelt here in great cities ages ago. Within the dark shadows of the
jungle the ruins of their cities still stand, and down the dark aisles
of the forest pass the ancient kings and warriors and little sad-faced
queens on ghostly elephants. Fleeing always from the horrible fate that
overtook them in life, they pass for ever down the corridors of the
jungle, and with them are the millions of the ghostly dead that once
were their subjects. We might escape My Lord the Tiger and the wild
elephants, but no man may look upon the ghosts of the dead Khmers and
live."

"We shall be out before dark," insisted King.

"They are abroad both by day and by night," said the Cambodian. "It is
the curse of Siva, the Destroyer."

King shrugged his shoulders, stamped out his cigarette and picked up his
rifle. "Wait for me here, then," he said. "I shall be out before dark."

"You will never come out," said the Cambodian.

Beyond the ravine, savage, mysterious, rose the jungle, its depth
screened from view by the spectral trunks of fromagers and a tangle of
bamboo. At first the man could find no opening in that solid wall of
vegetation. In its sheath, at his side, hung a heavy knife, but already
the young day was so oppressively hot that the man did not relish the
idea of exhausting himself at the very outset of his adventure if he
could find some easier way. That it would be still hotter he knew, for
Cambodia lies but twelve degrees above the equator in the same latitude
as Nicaragua, the Sudan, and other places infamous for their heat.

Along the edge of the ravine he searched, until at last he was rewarded
by what appeared to be not by any means a trail but a far less
formidable growth of bamboo through which he saw that he might easily
force his way. Glancing back, he saw his Cambodian guide squatted upon
his heels in mournful meditation. For an instant the young man
hesitated, as though he was of a mind to try again to persuade the
Cambodian to accompany him; but, as though immediately conscious of the
futility of any such appeal, he turned again and pushed his way into the
jungle.

He had advanced but a short distance when the heavy undergrowth gave way
to a much more open forest. The spreading branches of the lofty trees
cast upon the ground a perpetual shade, which had discouraged a heavy
growth of underbrush.

How different looked the jungle from any picture that his imagination
had conjured! How mysterious, but above all, how gloomy and how
sinister! A fitting haunt, indeed, for the ghosts of weeping queens and
murdered kings. Beneath his breath King cursed his Cambodian guide. He
felt no fear, but he did feel an unutterable loneliness.

Only for a moment did he permit the gloom of the jungle to oppress him.
He glanced at his watch, opened his pocket compass, and set a course as
nearly due north as the winding avenues of the jungle permitted. He may
have realised that he was something of a fool to have entered upon such
an adventure alone; but it was doubtful that he would have admitted it
even to himself, for, indeed, what danger was there? He had, he thought,
sufficient water for the day; he was well armed and carried a compass
and a heavy knife for trail-cutting. Perhaps he was a little short on
food, but one cannot carry too heavy a load through the midday heat of a
Cambodian jungle.

Gordon King was a young American who had recently graduated in medicine.
Having an independent income, he had no need to practice his profession;
and well realising, as he did, that there are already too many poor
doctors in the world, he had decided to devote himself for a number of
years to the study of strange maladies. For the moment he had permitted
himself to be lured from his hobby by the intriguing mysteries of the
Khmer ruins of Angkor--ruins that had worked so mightily upon his
imagination that it had been impossible for him to withstand the
temptation of some independent exploration on his own account. What he
expected to discover he did not know; perhaps the ruins of a city more
mighty than Angkor Thom; perhaps a temple of greater magnificence and
grandeur than Angkor Vat; perhaps nothing more than a day's adventure.
Youth is like that.

The jungle that had at first appeared so silent seemed to awaken at the
footfall of the trespasser; scolding birds fluttered above him, and
there were monkeys now that seemed to have come from nowhere. They, too,
scolded as they hurtled through the lower terraces of the forest.

He found the going more difficult than he had imagined, for the floor of
the jungle was far from level. There were gulleys and ravines to be
crossed and fallen trees across the way, and always he must be careful
to move as nearly north as was physically possible, else he might come
out far from his Cambodian guide when he sought to return. His rifle
grew hotter and heavier; his canteen of water insisted with the
perversity of inanimate objects in sliding around in front and bumping
him on the belly. He reeked with sweat, and yet he knew that he could
not have come more than a few miles from the point where he had left his
guide. The tall grasses bothered him most, for he could not see what
they hid; and when a cobra slid from beneath his feet and glided away,
he realised more fully the menace of the grasses, which in places grew
so high that they brushed his face.

At the end of two hours King was perfectly well assured that he was a
fool to go on, but there was a certain proportion of bulldog
stubbornness in his make-up that would not permit him to turn back so
soon. He paused and drank from his canteen. The water was warm and had
an unpleasant taste. The best that might be said of it was that it was
wet. To his right and a little ahead sounded a sudden crash in the
jungle. Startled, he cocked his rifle and stood listening. Perhaps a
dead tree had fallen, he thought, or the noise might have been caused by
a wild elephant. It was not a ghostly noise at all, and yet it had a
strange effect upon his nerves, which, to his disgust, he suddenly
realised were on edge. Had he permitted the silly folk tale of the
Cambodian to so work upon his imagination that he translated into a
suggestion of impending danger every unexpected interruption of the vast
silence of the jungle?

Wiping the sweat from his face, he continued on his way, keeping as
nearly a northerly direction as was possible. The air was filled with
strange odours, among which was one more insistent than the others--a
pungent, disagreeable odour that he found strangely familiar and yet
could not immediately identify: Lazy air currents, moving sluggishly
through the jungle, occasionally brought this odour to his nostrils,
sometimes bearing but a vague suggestion of it and again with a strength
that was almost sickening; and then suddenly the odour stimulated a
memory cell that identified it. He saw himself standing on the concrete
floor of a large building, the sides of which were lined with heavily
barred cages in which lions and tigers paced nervously to and fro or
sprawled in melancholy meditation of their lost freedom; and in his
nostrils was the same odour that impinged upon them now. However, it is
one thing to contemplate tigers from the safe side of iron bars, and it
is quite another thing suddenly to realise their near presence
unrestrained by bars of any sort. It occurred to him now that he had not
previously considered tigers as anything more serious than a noun; they
had not represented a concrete reality. But that mental conception had
passed now, routed by the odour that clung in his nostrils. He was not
afraid; but realising for the first time, that he was in actual danger,
he advanced more warily, always on the alert.

Some marshy ground and several deep ravines had necessitated various
detours. It was already almost noon, the time upon which he was
determined he must turn back in order that he might reach the point
where he had left his guide before darkness fell upon the jungle.
Constantly for some tune there had lurked within his consciousness a
question as to his ability to back-track upon his trail. He had had no
experience in woodcraft, and he had already found it far more difficult
than he had imagined it would be to maintain a true course by compass;
nor had he taken the precautions to blaze his trail in any way, as he
might have done by marking the trees with the heavy trail cutter that he
carried.

Gordon King was disgusted with himself; he had found no ruins; he was
hot, tired and hungry. He realised that he had lost all interest in
ruins of any and all descriptions, and after a brief rest he turned back
towards the south. It was then, almost immediately, that he realised the
proportions of the task that lay ahead of him. For six hours he had been
plodding deep into the jungle. If he had averaged two miles an hour, he
had covered a distance of twelve miles. He did not know how fast he had
walked, but he realised that twelve miles was bad enough when he
considered that he had started out fresh and well fortified by a hearty
breakfast and that he was returning empty, tired, and footsore.

However, he still believed that he could make the distance easily before
dark if he could keep to the trail. He was well prepared physically by
years of athletic training, having been a field and track man at
college. He was glad now that he had gone in for long distance running;
he had won a marathon or two and was never appalled at the thought of
long distances to be covered on foot. That he could throw the javelin
and hurl the discus to almost championship distances seemed less helpful
to him in an emergency of the present nature than his running
experience. His only regret on this score was that during the year that
he had been out of college he had permitted himself to become soft--a
condition that had become increasingly noticeable with every mile that
he put behind him.

Within the first minute that Gordon King had been upon the back-trail
toward his guide he had discovered that it was absolutely impossible for
his untrained eyes to find any sign of the trail that he supposed he had
made coming in. The way that he thought he had come, his compass told
him, let towards the south-west; but he could find no directing spoor.

With a shake of his head, he resorted again to his compass; but due
south pointed into a dense section of jungle through which he was
positive he had not come. He wondered whether he should attempt to skirt
every obstacle, thereby making long and wide detours or continue
straight toward the south, deviating from his direct line only when
confronted by insurmountable obstacles. The latter, he felt, would be
the shortest way out of the jungle in point of distance, and he was
confident that it would bring him as close to his Cambodian guide as any
other route that he might elect to follow.

As he approached the patch of jungle that had seemed at first to bar his
way completely, he found that it was much more open than he had
suspected and that, while the trees were large and grew rather close
together, there was little or no underbrush. Glancing often at his
compass, he entered the gloomy forest. The heat, which had grown
intense, possibly aggravated the fatigue which he now realised was
rapidly attaining the proportions of a real menace. He had not
appreciated when he stepped out upon this foolish adventure how soft his
muscles had become, and as he contemplated the miles and hours of
torture that lay ahead of him, he suddenly felt very helpless and alone.

The weight of his rifle, revolver, ammunition, and water represented a
definite handicap that he knew might easily defeat his hope of escaping
from the jungle before dark. The smell of the great cats was heavy in
the air. Against this ever-present premonition of danger, however, was
the fact that he had already spent over six hours in the jungle without
having caught a glimpse of any of the dread Carnivore. He was convinced,
therefore, that he was in little danger of attack by day and that he
might have a better chance of getting out of the jungle before dark if
he discarded his weapons, which would unquestionably be useless to him
after dark.

And then again, he argued, perhaps, after all, there were no man-eaters
in the jungle, for he had heard that not all tigers were man-eaters. For
the lesser cats, the panthers and leopards, he did not entertain so
great a fear, notwithstanding the fact that he had been assured that
they were quite as dangerous as their larger cousins. The size, the
reputation and the fearful mien of My Lord the Tiger dwarfed his
estimate of the formidable nature of the others.

A large, flat stone, backed by denser foliage, suggested that he rest
for a moment while deliberating upon the wisdom of abandoning his
weapons. The canteen of water, with its depleted store of warm and
unpleasant-tasting liquid, he knew he must cling to until it had been
emptied. Before he sat down upon the stone he leaned his rifle against a
tree, and unbuckling the belt which supported his revolver and also held
his ammunition, he tossed it upon the ground at his feet. What a relief!
Instantly there left him the fear that he might not be able to get out
of the jungle before dark. Relieved of what had become a constantly
increasing burden, he felt like a new man and equal to any efforts that
the return march might demand of him. He seated himself upon the flat
rock and took a very small swallow from the contents of his canteen. He
had been sparing of his water and he was glad that he had been, for now
he was convinced that it would last him through the remainder of the
day, giving him strength and refreshment when he would most need them.

As he replaced the screw cap upon his canteen, he chanced to glance at
the rock upon which he was sitting and for the first time was struck by
the fact that it seemed incongruously out of place in the midst of this
jungle of great trees and foliage. Idly he brushed an accumulation of
leaf mould from its surface, and what he saw revealed beneath increased
his curiosity sufficiently to cause him to expose the entire surface of
the rock, disclosing in bold bas-relief the head and shoulders of a
warrior.

Here, then, was the reward for which he had struggled; but he found that
it left him a little cold. His interest in Khmer ruins seemed to have
evaporated beneath the torrid heat of the jungle. However, he still
maintained sufficient curiosity to speculate upon the presence of this
single relic of the past. His examination of the ruins of Angkor Thom
suggested that this must have been a part of some ancient edifice and if
this were true the rest must be close at hand--perhaps just behind the
screen of jungle that formed the background of this solitary fragment.

Rising, he turned and tried to peer through the foliage, separating the
leaves and branches with his hand. A few hours before his heart would
have leaped at what he glimpsed vaguely now through the leafy screen--a
vast pile of masonry through whose crumbling arches he saw stately
columns still defying the ruthless inroads of the jungle in the lonely,
hopeless battle they had been waging through the silent centuries.

And then it was that, as he stood gazing, half-fascinated by the tragic
magnificence that still clung to this crumbling monument to the
transient glories and the vanities of man, his eye was attracted by a
movement within the ruins; just a glimpse he got where a little sunlight
filtered through a fallen roof--a little patch of fawn with dark brown
stripes. In the instant that he saw it, it was gone. There had been no
sound, just a passing of something among the ruins. But Gordon King felt
the cold sweat upon his brow as hastily he gathered up his belt and
buckled it about his waist and seized his rifle. Blessed weight! He
thanked God that he had not gone on without it.

Forgotten were the ruins of the Khmers as he strode cautiously on
through the forest, constantly alert now, looking to the right and to
the left, and turning often a hasty glance behind him. Soft are the pads
of the carnivores. They give forth no sound. When the end came, if it
did come, he knew that there would be a sudden rush and then the
terrible fangs and talons. He experienced the uncanny sensation of
unseen eyes upon him. He was sure that the beast was stalking him. It
was maddening not to be able to see it again.

He found it necessary to consult his compass frequently in order to keep
to his course. His instrument was a small one, constructed like a
hunting-case watch. When the catch was released the cover flew open,
releasing the needle, which, when the cover was closed, was locked in
position, that its bearings might not be injured by sudden changes of
position.

King was on the point of checking his direction; but as he held the
compass open in his hand, he thought that he heard a slight noise behind
him. As he glanced back the toe of his boot struck a rock; and trying to
regain his equilibrium, he stumbled into a patch of tumbled sandstone
rocks, among which he sprawled heavily upon his face. Spurred by
thoughts of the sound that he had heard behind him, he scrambled quickly
to his feet; but though he searched the jungle as far as his eyes could
reach in every direction, he could discern no sign of any menacing
beast.

When he had fallen he had dropped his compass, and now that he was
satisfied that no danger lurked in his immediate vicinity, he set about
to recover the instrument. He found it quickly enough, but one glance at
it sent his heart into his boots--his compass was broken beyond
possibility of repair. It was several seconds before the full measure of
this calamity unfolded itself to his stunned consciousness.

For a moment Gordon King was appalled by the accident that had befallen
him, for he knew that it was a real catastrophe. Practically unversed in
woodcraft, he found himself in a jungle overhung by foliage so dense
that it was impossible to get his bearings from the sun, menaced by the
ever-present danger of the great cats and faced with what he felt now
was definite assurance that he would have to spend the night in these
surroundings with only a remote likelihood that he ever would be able to
find his way out in the event that he did not fall prey to the
carnivores or to thirst.

But only momentarily did he permit himself to be crushed by
contemplation of his predicament. He was well armed, and he knew that he
was resourceful and intelligent. Suddenly there came to him a
realisation of something that gave him renewed strength and hope.

Few men know until they are actually confronted by lethal danger whether
at heart they are courageous or cowardly. Never before had Gordon King
been called upon to make such an appraisal of himself. Alone in this
mysterious forest, uninfluenced by the possibilities of the acclaim or
reproaches of another, there was borne in upon his consciousness a
definite realisation of self-sufficiency. He fully realised the dangers
that confronted him; he did not relish them, but he felt no sensation of
fear.

A new feeling of confidence pervaded him as he set out again in the
direction that he had been going before he had fallen and broken his
compass. He was still alert and watchful, but he did not glance behind
him as much as he had previously. He felt that he was making good
headway, and he was sure that he was keeping a true course toward the
south. Perhaps, after all, he would get out before dark, he thought. The
condition that irritated him most was his increasing thirst, against
which he was compelled to pit every ounce of his will power that he
might conserve the small amount of water that remained in his canteen.

The route he was following was much more open than that along which he
had entered the jungle, so that he was buoyantly hopeful that he would
come out of his predicament and the jungle before night had enveloped
the gloomy haunt of the great cats; yet he realised that at best he
would win by but a small margin.

He was very tired now, a fact that was borne in upon him by the
frequency with which he stumbled, and when he fell he found that each
time it was only with increased effort that he rose again to his feet.
He was rather angry with himself for this seeming weakness. He knew that
there was only one thing that he could do to overcome it, and that thing
he could not afford to do, for the fleeting minutes of precious daylight
would not pause in their flight while he rested.

As the miles fell slowly and painfully behind him and the minutes raced
as though attempting to escape him and leave him to the mercy of the
darkness and the tigers, the hope that had been newborn in him for a
while commenced to desert him; yet he stumbled wearily on, wondering if
the jungle had no end and hoping against hope that beyond the next wall
of verdure he would break through into the clearing that would mean life
and food and water for him.

"It can't be far now," he thought, "and there must be an hour of full
daylight ahead." He was almost exhausted; a little rest would renew his
strength, he knew, and there, just ahead of him, was a large, flat rock.
He would rest for a moment upon it and renew his strength.

As he seated himself upon this hard resting-place, something upon its
surface caught his horrified gaze. It was the head and shoulders of a
warrior, cut in bold bas-relief.



2  The Delirium

There are circumstances in which even the bravest of men experience a
hopelessness of utter despair. Such was King's state of mind when he
realised that he had wandered in an aimless circle since noon and was
back again at his starting-point. Weakened by physical exhaustion and
hunger, he contemplated the future with nothing but pessimism. He had
had his chance to escape from the jungle, and he had failed. There was
no reason to believe that another day might bring greater opportunity.
Rest might recoup his strength slightly, but what he needed was food,
and on the morrow he would set forth not with a canteen full of water,
but with only a few drops with which to moisten his parched throat. He
had stumbled through plenty of mud-holes during the day, but he knew
that it would doubtless prove fatal to drink from such wells of
pollution.

As he stood there with bowed head, searching his mind for some solution
of his problem, his eyes gradually returned to focus, and as they did so
he saw on the surface of the soft ground beneath his gaze something
that, for the moment, drove thoughts of hunger and thirst and fatigue
from his mind--it was the pug of a tiger, fresh made in the soft earth.

"Why worry about to-morrow?" murmured King. "If half what that Cambodian
told me about this place at night is true, I'll be in luck if I see
another to-morrow."

He had read somewhere that tigers started to hunt late in the afternoon,
and he knew that they seldom climbed trees; but he was also aware of the
fact that leopards and panthers do and that the latter, especially, on
account of their size and inherent viciousness, were fully as much to be
dreaded as My Lord the Tiger himself. Realising that he must find some
sort of shelter as quickly as possible and recalling the ruins that he
had seen through the screen of foliage behind the rock before which he
stood, he parted the leafy screen ahead of him and forced his way
through.

Here the vegetation was less dense, as though the lesser growth of the
jungle had halted in fearful reverence before this awe-inspiring work of
man. Majestic even in its ruin was the great rectangular pile that
loomed clearly now before the eyes of the American. But not all of the
jungle had feared to encroach upon its sanctity. Great trees had taken
root upon its terraced walls, among its columns and its arches, and by
the slow and resistless pressure of their growth had forced aside the
supporting foundation and brought much of the edifice into complete
ruin.

Just before him rose a tower that seemed better to have withstood the
ravages of time than other portions of the building. It rose some sixty
feet above the ground, and near the summit was carved in heroic size the
face of a god that King suspected was Siva, the Destroyer. A few feet
above the rectangular doorway was a crumbling ledge and just above that
a smaller opening that might have been a window. Behind it all was dark,
but it carried to King's mind the suggestion of a hiding-place--a
sanctuary in the very bosom of Siva.

The face of the weather-worn tower offered sufficient foothold for an
agile climber, and the way was made easier by the corbelled construction
that supported a series of bas-reliefs rising one above another from the
ground level to the edge above the doorway. It was not, however, without
considerable difficulty that King, already almost exhausted, finally
reached the ledge, where he sat down for a moment's rest. Just above him
was the opening which he wished to investigate. As he let his thoughts
precede him in that investigation of this possible refuge, they
discovered, as thoughts are prone to do, enough unpleasant possibilities
to cast a pall of gloom over him. Doubtless it was the den of a panther.

What more secluded spot could this horrid beast discover in which to lie
up after feeding or in which to bear and rear its young?

The suggestion forced him to immediate action. He did not believe that
there was any panther there, but he could not endure the suspense of
doubt. Cocking his rifle, he arose and approached the opening, the lower
sill of which was just about level with his breast as he stood upon the
ledge above the doorway. Within all was black and silent. He listened
intently. If there were anything hiding there, he should hear it
breathe; but no sound broke the utter silence of the tomb-like vault.
Pushing his rifle ahead of him, King climbed to the sill, where he
remained in silence for a moment until his eyes became accustomed to the
gloom of the interior, which was slightly relieved by light filtering in
through a crack at one side. A few feet below him was a stone floor, and
he could see dimly now that the chamber extended the full breadth and
width of the tower. In the centre of the apartment rose something, the
nature of which he could not distinguish; but he was sure that it was
inanimate.

Stepping down to the floor and advancing cautiously, his rifle ready,
King made a complete circuit of the walls. There was no panther there,
nor any signs that one ever had been there. Apparently the place had
never been entered by any creature since that day of mystery, centuries
gone, when the priests and temple girls had departed never to return.
Turning toward the object in the centre of the room, King quickly
identified it as the symbol of Siva and realised that he was doubtless
in the Holy of Holies.

Walking back to the window, he seated himself upon the sill, took a
small swallow from his scant store of water and lighted a cigarette; and
as the sudden night fell upon the jungle, he heard the crisp fall of
padded feet upon dry leaves in the courtyard of the temple beneath him.

His position, well above the floor of the jungle, imparted a feeling of
security; and the quiet enjoyment of a cigarette soothed his nerves and,
temporarily at least, allayed the gnawing pangs of hunger. He derived a
form of mild enjoyment by speculating upon the surprise and
consternation of his friends could they visualise his present situation.
Perhaps uttermost in his thoughts was Susan Anne Prentice, and he knew
that he would be in for a good scolding could she be aware of the
predicament into which his silly and ill-advised adventure had placed
him.

He recalled their parting and the motherly advice she had given him.
What a peach of a girl Susan Anne was! It seemed strange to him that she
had never married, for there were certainly enough eligible fellows
always hanging around her. He was rather glad that she had not, for he
realised that he should feel lost without the promise of her
companionship when he returned home. He had known Susan Anne as far back
as he could remember, and they had always been pals. In the city of
their birth their fathers' grounds adjoined and there was no fence
between; at the little lake where they spent their summers they were
next-door neighbours. Susan Anne had been as much a part of Gordon
King's life as had his father or his mother, for each was an only child
and they had been as close to one another as brother and sister.

He remembered telling her, the night before he had left home for this
trip, that she would doubtless be married by the time he returned. "No
chance," she had said with an odd little smile.

"I do not see why not," he had argued. "I know at least half a dozen men
who are wild about you."

"Not the right one," she had replied.

"So there is someone?"

"Perhaps."

He wondered who the fellow could be and decided that he must be an awful
chump not to appreciate the wonderful qualities of Susan Anne. In so far
as looks were concerned, she had it on all the girls of his
acquaintance, in addition whereto she had a good head on her shoulders
and was a regular fellow in every other respect. Together they had often
bemoaned the fact that she was not a man, that they might have palled
around on his wanderings together.

His reveries were blasted by a series of low, coughing roars down there
somewhere in the darkness at a little distance from the ruins. They were
followed by a crashing sound, as of a large body dashing through
underbrush. Then there was a scream and a thud, followed by low growls
and silence. King felt his scalp tingle. What tragedy of the jungle
night had been enacted in that black, mysterious void?

The sudden and rather terrifying noise and its equally abrupt cessation
but tended to impress upon the man and to accentuate the normal,
mysterious silence of the jungle. He knew that the jungle teemed with
life; yet, for the most part, it moved as silently as might the ghosts
of the priests and the temple girls with which imagination might easily
people this crumbling ruin of the temple of the Destroyer. Often from
below him and from the surrounding jungle came the suggestion of
noises--furtive, stealthy sounds that might have been the ghosts of
long-dead noises. Sometimes he could interpret these sounds as the
cracking of a twig or the rustling of leaves beneath a padded paw, but
more often there was just the sense of things below him--grim and
terrible creatures that lived by death alone.

And thus the night wore on, until at last day came. He had dozed
intermittently, sitting upon the window ledge with his back against its
ancient stone frame, his rifle across his lap. He did not feel much
refreshed, but when the full light of the day had enveloped the jungle
he clambered swiftly down the ruins to the ground and set out once again
toward the south, filled with a determination to push on regardless of
hunger and fatigue until he had escaped the hideous clutches of this
dismal forest, which now seemed to him to have assumed a malignant
personality that was endeavouring to foil his efforts and retain him for
ever for some sinister purpose of its own. He had come to hate the
jungle; he wanted to shout aloud against it the curses that were in his
heart. He was impelled to discharge his rifle against it as though it
were some creature barring his way to liberty. But he held himself in
leash, submerging everything to the desire for escape.

He found that he moved more slowly than he had upon the preceding day.
Obstacles were more difficult to surmount, and he was forced to stop
more often to rest. These delays galled him; but when he tried to push
on more rapidly he often stumbled and fell, and each time he found it
more difficult to arise. Then there dawned upon him the realisation that
he might not have sufficient strength to reach the edge of the jungle,
and for the first time unquestioned fear assailed him.

He sat down upon the ground and, leaning his back against a tree, argued
the matter out thoroughly in his own mind. At last his strength of will
overcame his fears, so that realisation of the fact that he might not
get out that day no longer induced an emotional panic.

"If not to-day, to-morrow," he thought; "if not tomorrow, then the day
after. Am I a weakling that I cannot carry on for a few days? Am I to
die of starvation in a country abounding in game?"

Physical stamina being so considerably influenced as it is by the
condition of the mind, it was with a sense of renewed power that King
arose and continued on his way, but imbued now not solely with the
desire to escape immediately from the jungle but to wrest from it
sustenance and strength that it might be forced to aid him in his escape
even though the consummation of his hope might be deferred indefinitely.
The psychological effect of this new mental attitude wrought a sudden
metamorphosis. He was no longer a hunted fugitive fleeing for his life;
he had become in fact a jungle dweller hunting for food and for water.
The increasing heat of the advancing day had necessitated inroads upon
his scant supply of the latter, yet he still had a few drops left; and
these he was determined not to use until he could no longer withstand
the tortures of thirst.

He had by now worked out a new and definite plan of procedure; he would
work constantly downhill, keeping a sharp look out for game, knowing
that eventually he must come to some of the numerous small streams that
would ultimately lead him to the Mekong, the large central river that
bisects Cambodia on its way to the China Sea; or per-chance he might hit
upon one of those streams that ran south and emptied into the Tonle-Sap.

He found it much easier going downhill, and he was glad on this account
that he had adopted his present plan. The nature of the country changed
a little, too; open spaces were more numerous. Sometimes these flats
were marshy, requiring wide detours, and usually they were covered with
elephant grass that resembled the cat tails with which he had been
familiar as a boy during his summer vacations in the country. He did not
like these spaces because they appeared too much the natural habitat of
snakes, and he recalled having read somewhere that in a single year
there had been sixteen thousand recorded deaths from snake bites in
British India alone. This recollection came to him while he was in the
centre of a large patch of elephant grass, and consequently he moved
very slowly, examining the ground ahead of him carefully at each step.
This, of course, necessitated pushing the reeds apart, a slow and
laborious procedure; but it also resulted in his moving more quietly; so
that when he emerged from the reeds a sight met his eyes that doubtless
he would not have seen had he crashed through noisily.

Directly in front of him and maybe fifty paces distant under a great
spreading banyan tree lay several wild pigs, all of them comfortably
asleep except one old boar, which seemed to be on guard. That King's
approach had not been entirely noiseless was evidenced by the fact that
the great beast was standing head-on and alert, his ears up-pricked,
looking straight at the point at which the man emerged from the elephant
grass.

For an instant man and beast stood silently eyeing one another. King saw
lying near the boar a half-grown pig, that would make better eating than
the tough old tusker. He brought his rifle to his shoulder and fired at
the sleeping pig, expecting the remainder of the herd to turn and flee
into the jungle; but he had not taken into consideration the violent
disposition of the boar. The rest of the herd, awakened with startling
suddenness by the unaccustomed report of the rifle, leaped to their
feet, stood for an instant in bewilderment, and then turned and
disappeared among the undergrowth. Not so the boar. At the crack of the
rifle he charged.

There is something rather awe-inspiring in the charge of a wild boar,
especially if one happens to be in the path of it, as King was. Perhaps
because of his unfamiliarity with the habits of wild boars, the charge
was entirely unexpected; and in the brief instant that he had in which
to defend himself, he realised that he did not know what was the most
vulnerable spot in a boar's anatomy. All that he sensed in that all too
short interval were a pair of great flashing tusks, huge jowls, two
red-rimmed wicked little eyes, and a stiffly upright tail bearing down
upon him with all the velocity and apparently quite the weight of a
steam locomotive.

There seemed to be nothing to shoot at but a face. His first shot struck
the boar squarely between the eyes and dropped him, but only for an
instant. Then he was up again and coming. Giving thanks for a magazine
rifle, King pumped three more bullets straight into that terrifying
countenance, and to the last one the great beast rolled over against
King's feet. None too sure that he had more than stunned him, the man
quickly put a bullet through the savage heart.

It had been a close call, and he trembled a little to think what his
fate might have been had he been seriously wounded and left there dying
in the jungle. Assured that the boar was dead, he went quickly to the
pig that had been killed instantly by his first shot. As his knife sank
into the flesh, he became suddenly conscious of a change within him. He
was moved by urgings that he had never sensed before. He was impelled to
bury his teeth in the raw flesh and gorge himself. He realised that this
was partially the result of gnawing hunger; but yet it seemed deeper,
something primitive and bestial that always had been a part of him but
that never before had had occasion to come to the surface. He knew in
that brief instant the feeling of the wild beast for its kill. He looked
quickly and furtively about to see if there might be any creature bold
enough to contest his possession of the fruit of his prowess. He felt
the snarling muscles of his upper lip tense and he sensed within him the
rumblings of a growl, though no sound passed his lips.

It required a determined effort of will power to refrain from eating the
flesh raw, so hungry was he; but he managed to conquer the urge and set
about building a fire, though the meal that he finally produced was
scarcely more than a compromise, the meat being charred upon the outside
and raw within. After he had eaten he felt renewed strength, but now the
tortures of thirst assailed him more poignantly than before. His canteen
was empty; and though he had passed by stagnant pools of water during
the day, he had been able to resist the temptation to drink, realising,
as he did, the germs of terrible fever that lurked in these slimy pools.

The next few days constituted a long nightmare of suffering and
disappointment. He found his path toward the Mekong barred by impassable
swamps that forced him northward over a broken terrain of ravines and
ridges that taxed his rapidly waning strength. For some time after
leaving the marshes he had seen no water, but upon the third day he came
to a pool in the bottom of a ravine. That it was the drinking-hole of
wild beasts was evidenced by the multitude of tracks in the muddy bank.
The liquid was green and thick, but not for an instant did the man
hesitate. Throwing himself upon his belly, he plunged his hands and face
into the foul mess and drank. Neither fever nor death could be worse
than the pangs of thirst.

Later that day he shot a monkey and, cooking some of the flesh, appeased
his hunger; and thus for several days he wandered, shooting an
occasional monkey for food and drinking water wherever he found it. He
was always conscious of the presence of the great cats, though only upon
one or two occasions did he catch fleeting glimpses of them; but at
night he heard them moving softly beneath some tree in which he had
found precarious sanctuary, where he crouched nursing the hope that no
leopard or panther would discover him. Occasionally he saw small herds
of wild elephants, and these he always gave a wide berth. He had long
given up all hope of escaping from the jungle, and he could not but
wonder at man's tenacity in clinging to life in the face of suffering
and hardship when he knew that at best he was but prolonging his agony
and only temporarily delaying the inevitable.

Seven days and seven nights he had spent in the jungle, and the last
night had been the worst of all. He had dozed intermittently. The jungle
had been full of noises, and he had seen strange, dim figures passing
beneath him. When the eighth morning broke, he was shivering with cold.
His chattering teeth reminded him of castanets. He looked about him for
dancers and was surprised that he saw none. Something moved through the
foliage of the jungle beneath him. It was yellowish-brown with dark
stripes. He called to it and it disappeared. Quite remarkably he ceased
to be cold, and instead his body burned as though consumed by internal
fires. The tree in which he sat swayed dizzily, and then with an effort
he pulled himself together and slipped to the ground. He found that he
was very tired and that he was forced to stop to rest every few minutes,
and sometimes he shook with cold and again he burned with heat.

It was about noon; the sun was high and the heat terrific. King lay
shivering where he had fallen at the foot of a silk-cotton tree, against
the bole of which he leaned for support. Far down a jungle aisle he saw
an elephant. It was not alone; there were other things preceding
it--things that could not be in this deserted primeval jungle. He closed
his eyes and shook his head. It was only an hallucination brought on by
a touch of fever, of that he was certain. But when he opened his eyes
again the elephant was still there, and he recognised the creatures that
preceded it as warriors clothed in brass. They were coming closer. King
crawled back into the concealing verdure of the underbrush. His head
ached terribly. There was a buzzing hum in his ears that drowned all
other sounds. The caravan passed within fifty feet of him, but he heard
no sound. There were archers and spear men--brown men with cuirasses of
burnished brass--and then came the elephant trapped in regal splendour,
and in a gorgeous howdah upon its back rode a girl. He saw her profile
first, and then as something attracted her attention she turned her face
full toward him. It was a face of exquisite and exotic beauty, but a sad
face with frightened eyes. Her trappings were more gorgeous than the
trappings of the elephant. Behind her marched other warriors, but
presently all were gone down the aisles of the jungle in spectral
silence.

"Weeping queens on misty elephants!" He had read the phrase somewhere in
a book. "Gad!" he exclaimed. "What weird tricks fever plays upon one's
brain. I could have sworn that what I saw was real."

Slowly he staggered to his feet and pushed on, whither or in what
direction he had no idea. It was a blind urge of self-preservation that
goaded him forward; to what goal, he did not know; all that he knew was
that if he remained where he was he must inevitably perish. Perhaps he
would perish anyway, but if he went on, there was a chance. Figures,
strange and familiar, passed in jumbled and fantastic procession along
the corridors of his mind. Susan Anne Prentice clothed in brass rode
upon the back of an elephant. A weeping queen with painted cheeks and
rouged lips came and knelt beside him offering him a draft of cold,
crystal-clear water from a golden goblet, but when he lifted it to his
lips the goblet became a battered canteen from which oozed a slimy green
liquid that burned his mouth and nauseated him. Then he saw soldiers in
brass who held platters containing steaming sirloin steaks and
French-fried potatoes, which changed magically to sherbert, iced tea,
and waffles with maple syrup.

"This will never do," thought King. "I am going absolutely daffy. I
wonder how long the fever lasts, or how long it takes to finish a
fellow."

He was lying upon the ground at the edge of a little clearing partially
hid by the tall grass into which he had sunk. Suddenly everything seemed
to whirl around in circles, and then the world went black and he lost
consciousness. It was very late in the afternoon when he came to; but
the fever seemed to have left him, temporarily at least, and his mind
was clear.

"This can't go on much longer," he soliloquised. "If I don't find some
place pretty soon where I can lie in safety until after the fever has
passed entirely, it will be just too bad. I wonder what it feels like to
be mauled by a tiger."

But when he attempted to rise he discovered to his horror that he had
not sufficient strength to get to his feet. He still clung to his rifle.
He had long since made up his mind that in it lay his principal hope of
salvation. Without it, he must go hungry and fall prey to the first
beast that attacked him. He knew that if he discarded it and his heavy
belt of ammunition he might stagger on a short distance and then, when
he fell again, he would be helpless.

As he lay there looking out into the little clearing, speculating upon
his fate and trying to estimate the number of hours of life that might
remain to him, he saw a strange figure enter the clearing. It was an old
man with a straggly white beard growing sparsely upon his chin and upper
lip. He wore a long, yellow cloak and a fantastic headdress, above which
he carried a red umbrella. He moved slowly, his eyes bent upon the
ground.

"Damned fever," muttered King, and shut his eyes.

He kept them closed for a minute or two, but when he opened them the old
man was still in sight, though by this time he had almost crossed the
clearing, and now there was another figure in the picture. From out of
the foliage beyond the clearing appeared a savage, snarling face--a
great, vicious, yellow-fanged face; yellowish-white and tan with broken
markings of dark brown stripes that looked almost black--a hideous head,
and yet, at the same time, a gorgeously majestic head. Slowly, silently
the great tiger emerged into the clearing, its gaunt, flat-sided body
moving sinuously, its yellow-green eyes blazing terribly at the back of
the unconscious old man.

"God, how real!" breathed King. "I could swear that I really saw them
both. Only the impossible figure of that old man with the red parasol
could convince me that they are both made of the same material as the
spectral elephant, the weeping queen, and the brass-bound soldiers."

The tiger was creeping rapidly toward the old man. His speed gradually
accelerated.

"I can't stand it," cried King, raising his rifle to his shoulder. "They
may be only an hallucination--"

There was a short coughing roar as the tiger charged, and at the same
instant King squeezed the trigger of his rifle and fainted.



3  The Hunter


Vay Thon, high priest of the temple of Siva in the city of Lodidhapura,
was the source of much anxiety on the part of the lesser priests, who
felt responsible to Siva and the King for the well-being of Vay Thon.
But how might one cope with the vagaries of a weakness so holy and, at
the same time, so erratic as that which occasionally claimed the amnesic
Vay Thon? They tried to watch over him at all times, but it is difficult
to maintain constant espionage over one so holy, whose offices or whose
meditations may not lightly be broken in upon by lesser mortals, even
though they be priests of the great god, Siva.

All was well when Vay Thon confined himself in his meditations to the
innermost sanctum of the Holy of Holies; here, in the safe-keeping of
his god, he was isolated from mankind and safe from danger. But the
meditations of Vay Thon were not always thus securely cloistered. Often
he strolled along the broad terrace beside the mighty temple, where
wrapped in utter forgetfulness of himself and of the world he walked in
silent communion with his god.

With his long, yellow cloak and his red parasol he was also a familiar
figure upon the streets of Lodidhapura. Here he was often accompanied by
lesser priests, who walked in cuirasses of polished brass, who marched
ahead and in the rear. Of all these symbols of worldly pomp and power,
Vay Thon was entirely unconscious. During those periods that he was
wrapped in the oblivion of meditation and upon the numerous occasions
when he had managed to leave the temple ground unperceived, he had
walked through the streets of the city equally unaware of all that
surrounded him. Upon three separate and distinct occasions he had been
found wandering in the jungle, and Lodivarman, the King, had threatened
to wreak dire punishment upon the lesser priests should harm ever befall
Vay Thon during one of these excursions.

It so happened that upon this very day Vay Thon had walked out of the
city and into the jungle alone. That he had been able to leave a walled
city, the gates of which were heavily guarded by veteran warriors, might
have seemed a surprising thing to the citizens of Lodidhapura; but not
so to the one familiar with the secret galleries that lay beneath the
temple and the palace, through which the ancient builders of Lodidhapura
might well have expected to flee the wrath of the downtrodden slaves who
comprised 75 per cent of the population. Though times have changed with
the passing centuries, the almost forgotten passageways remain. It was
through one of these that Vay Thon reached the jungle. He did not know
that he was in the jungle. He was as totally oblivious of his
surroundings as is one who is wrapped in deep and dreamless sleep.

The last that the lesser priests had seen of Vay Thon was when he had
entered the Holy of Holies, which houses the symbol of Siva. As they had
noticed a glassy expression in his eyes, they had known that he was
entering upon a period of meditation. Therefore, they maintained a watch
at the entrance to the chamber, but felt no concern during the passing
hours since they knew that Vay Thon was safe. What they did not know of
was the loose stone in the flooring of the chamber directly behind the
symbol of Siva, or the passageway beneath, which led to a ravine in the
jungle beyond the city wall. And so during those hours Vay Thon wandered
far into the jungle, and with him, perhaps, walked Siva, the Destroyer.

His rapt meditation, which amounted to almost total unconsciousness of
his mundane surroundings, was shattered by a noise of terrific violence
such as had never before impinged upon the ears of Vay Thon or any other
inhabitant of Lodidhapura, Awakened suddenly as from a deep sleep, the
startled priest wheeled about amazed at his surroundings, but more
amazed by the sight which greeted his eyes. Wallowing in its own gore
scarce three paces behind him lay a great tiger in its death throes; and
a little to his right, a wisp of blue smoke rose from some grasses at
the edge of the clearing.

When King regained consciousness he was vaguely aware of voices that
seemed to be floating in the air about him. The sounds were meaningless,
but they conveyed to his fevered brain an assurance of human origin. He
opened his eyes. Above him was a brown face. Supporting his head and
shoulders he felt the naked flesh of a human arm. His eyes wandered.
Standing close was a woman, naked but for a sampot drawn diaperwise
between her legs and knotted at the belt. Hiding fearfully behind her
was a naked child. The man who supported him spoke to him, but in a
language that he could not understand.

From whence had these people come, or were they but figments of his
fevered imagination like the old man with the yellow cloak and the red
parasol? Were they no more real than the spectral tiger that he had shot
at in his delirium? He closed his eyes in an effort to gain control of
his senses, but when he opened them again the man and the woman and the
child were still there. With a sigh of resignation he gave it up. His
throbbing temples were unequal to the demands of sustained thought. He
closed his eyes, and his chin dropped upon his breast.

"He is dying," said Che, looking up at the woman.

"Let us take him to our dwelling," replied Kangrey, the woman. "I will
watch over him while you lead the holy priest back to Lodidhapura."

As the man lifted King in his arms and turned to carry him away, the
American caught a glimpse of an old man in a long, yellow cloak and a
strange headdress, who carried above his head a red parasol. The
American closed his eyes against the persistent hallucination of his
fever. His head swam, and once again he lost consciousness.

King never knew how long he remained unconscious, but when he next
opened his eyes he found himself lying upon a bed of grasses in the
interior of a dark retreat which he thought, at first, was a cave.
Gradually he discerned the presence of a man, a woman, and a child. He
did not remember ever having seen them before. The child was naked, and
the man and woman were clothed only in sampots. The woman was
ministering to him, forcing a liquid between his lips.

Slowly and sluggishly his mind commenced to function, and at last he
recalled them--the creatures of the hallucination that had conjured the
image of the old man in the yellow cloak with the red parasol, and the
charging tiger that he had dreamed of shooting. Would the fever never
leave him? Was he to die thus alone in the sombre jungle tortured by
hallucinations that might terminate only with his discovery by a tiger?

But yet how real was the feeling and taste of the liquid that the woman
was forcing between his lips. He could even feel the animal warmth of
the bare arm that was supporting his head and shoulders. Could any
figment of a fever-tortured brain be as realistic as these? Repeatedly
he closed his eyes and opened them again, but always the same picture
was there before him. He raised one hand weakly and touched the woman's
shoulder and face. They seemed real. He was almost convinced that they
were when he sank again into unconsciousness.

For days Gordon King hovered between life and death. Kangrey, the woman,
ministered to him, utilising the lore of the primitive jungle dweller in
the brewing of medicinal potions from the herbs of the forest. Of equal
or perhaps greater value were certain incantations which she droned
monotonously above him.

Little Uda, the child, was much impressed with all these unusual and
remarkable occurrences. The stranger with the pale skin was the first
momentous event of his little life. The strange clothing that his
parents had removed from their helpless charge thrilled him with awe, as
did the rifle, the knife, and the revolver, which he rightfully guessed
to be weapons, though he had no more conception of the medianism of the
firearms than did his parents. Uda was indefatigable in his search for
the herbs and roots that Kangrey, his mother, required; and when Che
returned from the hunt it was always Uda who met him first with a full
and complete history of their patient's case brought down to the last
minute with infinite attention to details.

At last the fever broke. Though it left King weak and helpless in body,
his mind was clear, and he knew at last that the man and the woman and
the child were no figments of his imagination. Of course, the old man
with the yellow cloak and the red parasol had been but an hallucination
of a kind with the charging tiger; but this kindly brown woman, who was
nursing him back to health, was real; and his eyes filled as the thanks
which he could not voice welled up within his breast.

A day and a night without any return of the fever or hallucination
convinced King that the ministration of the kindly natives had rid him
of the illness that had nearly killed him, yet he was so weak that he
still had little or no hope of ultimate recovery. He had not the
strength to raise a hand to his face. It required a real physical effort
to turn his head from side to side upon the rough pallet of grasses upon
which he lay. He noticed that they never left him alone for long. Either
the woman or the child was with him during the day, and all three slept
near him upon the floor of their little den at night. In the daytime the
woman or the child brushed the flies and other insects from him with a
leafy branch and gave him food at frequent intervals. What the food was
he did not know except that it was semi-liquid, but now that his fever
had passed he was so ravenous that whatever it was they gave him he
relished it.

One day when he had been left alone with the little boy longer than
usual, the child, possibly tiring of the monotony of brushing insects
from the body of the pale one, deserted his post, leaving King alone.
King did not care, for much of his time, anyway, was spent in sleep and
he had become so accustomed to the insects that they no longer irritated
him as they formerly had. He was awakened from a sleep by the feel of a
rough hand upon his face. Opening his eyes, he saw a monkey squatting
beside him. When King opened his eyes the animal leaped nimbly away, and
then the American saw that there were several monkeys in the chamber.
They were quite the largest that he had seen in the jungle, and in his
helpless condition he knew that they might constitute a real menace to
his life. But they did not attack him, nor did they come close to him
again; and it soon became evident that their visit was prompted solely
by curiosity.

A little later he heard a scraping sound behind him in one corner of the
chamber. Having regained his strength during the past few days
sufficiently to be able to move his head and hands with comparative
ease, he turned his head to see what was going on. The sight that met
his eyes would have been highly amusing had it not been fraught with the
possibility of such unhappy results.

The monkeys had discovered his weapons and his clothing. All had
congregated at the point of interest. They were dragging the things
about and chattering excitedly. They seemed to be quarrelling about
something; and their chattering and scolding rose in volume until
finally one old fellow, who was apparently contesting possession of the
rifle with two others, leaped angrily upon them, growling and biting.
Instantly the other two relinquished their holds upon the firearm and
scurried to a far corner of the chamber; whereupon the victor seized the
weapon again and dragged it toward the doorway.

"Hey!" shouted King in the loudest voice he could muster. "Drop that;
and get out of here!"

The sound of the human voice seemed to startle the monkeys, but not
sufficiently to cause them to relinquish the purpose they had in mind.
It is true that they scampered from the chamber, but they gathered up
all of King's belongings and took them with them, even to his socks.

King shouted to the boy whom he had heard the parents address as Uda;
but when at last the little chap came, breathless and frightened, it was
too late to avert or remedy the catastrophe, even if King had been able
to explain to Uda what had happened.

The night when she returned, Kangrey found her patient very weak, but
she did not guess the cause of it since she could not know that in the
mind of the pale one was implanted the conviction that his only hope for
eventual escape from the jungle had lain in the protection that the
stolen weapons would have afforded him.

The days and nights wore slowly on as gradual convalescence brought
returning strength to the sick man. To while away the tedious hours he
sought to learn the language of his benefactors; and when, finally, they
understood his wish they entered with such spirit into its consummation
that he found himself deluged with such a variety of new words that his
mind became fogged with information. But eventually some order and
understanding came out of the chaos, so that presently he was able to
converse with Che and Kangrey and Uda. Thereafter his existence was far
less monotonous; but his slow recovery irked and worried him, for it
seemed impossible that his strength ever would return. He was so
emaciated that it was well for his peace of mind that he had no access
to any mirrors.

Yet surely though slowly, his strength was returning. From sitting up
with his back against the wall he came at length to standing upon his
feet once more; and though he was weak and tottering, it was a
beginning; and each day now he found his strength returning more
rapidly.

From talking with Che and Kangrey, King had learned the details of the
simple life they led. Che was a hunter. Some days he brought back
nothing, but as a rule he did not return without adding to the simple
larder. The flesh was usually that of a monkey or bird or one of the
small rodents that lived in the jungle. Fish he brought, too, and fruit
and vegetables and sometimes wild honey.

Che and Kangrey and Uda were equally proficient in making fires with a
primitive fire stick, which they twirled between the palms of their
hands. Kangrey possessed a single pot in which all food was cooked. It
was a brass pot, the inside of which she kept scrupulously polished,
using earth and leaves for this purpose.

Che was, indeed, a primitive hunter, armed with a spear, bow and arrows,
and a knife. When King explained to him the merits of the firearms that
had been stolen by the monkeys, Che sympathised with his guest in their
loss; but he promised to equip King with new weapons such as he himself
carried; and King expressed his gratitude to the native, though he could
not arouse within himself much enthusiasm at the prospect of facing a
long trip through this tiger-infested forest armed only with the crude
weapons of primitive man, even were he skilled in their use.

As King's strength had returned, he had tried to keep together in his
mind the happenings that had immediately preceded his illness, but he
always felt that the old man with the yellow cloak and the red parasol
and the charging tiger that had fallen to a single shot were figments of
a fever-tortured brain. He had never spoken to Che and Kangrey about the
hallucination because it seemed silly to do so; yet he found its memory
persisting in his mind as a reality rather than an hallucination, so
that at last, one evening, he determined to broach the subject,
approaching it in a roundabout way.

"Che," he said, "you have lived in the jungle a long while, have you
not?"

"Yes," replied the native. "For five years I was a slave in Lodidhapura,
but then I escaped, and all the rest of my life I have spent in the
jungle."

"Did you ever see an old man wandering in the jungle," continued King,
"an old man who wore a long yellow cloak and carried a red parasol?"

"Of course," replied Che, "and you saw him, too. It was Vay Thon, whom
you saved from the charge of My Lord the Tiger."

King looked at the native in open-mouthed astonishment. "Have you had a
touch of fever too, Che?" he asked "No," replied the native. "Che is a
strong man; he is never ill."

"No," Kangrey said proudly. "Che is a very strong man. In all the years
that I have known him, he has never been ill."

"Did you see this old man with the yellow cloak and the red parasol,
Kangrey?" asked King, sceptically.

"Of course I did. Why do you ask?" inquired the woman.

"And you saw me kill the tiger?" demanded the American.

"I did not see you kill him; but I heard a great noise, and I saw him
after he had died. There was a little round hole just behind his left
ear; and when Che cut him open to see why he died, he found a piece of
metal in his brain, the same metal that the walls of the palace of
Lodivarman are covered with."

"That is lead," said Che with an air of superiority.

"Then you mean to tell me that this old man and the tiger were real?"
demanded King.

"What do you think they were?" asked Che.

"I thought they were of the same stuff as were the other dreams that the
fever brought into my brain," replied King.

"No," said Che, "they were not dreams. They were real. And it was good
for you and for me and for Vay Thon that you killed the tiger, though
how you did it neither Vay Thon nor I can understand."

"It was certainly good for Vay Thon," said King.

"And good for you and for me," insisted Che.

"Why was it so good for us?" asked the American.

"Vay Thon is the high priest of Siva in the city of Lodidhapura. He is
very powerful. Only Lodivarman, the King, is more powerful. Vay Thon had
wandered far from the city immersed in deep thought. He did not know
where he was. He did not know how to return to Lodidhapura. Kangrey and
I are runaway slaves of Lodidhapura. Had we been discovered before this
happened, we should have been killed; but Vay Thon promised us our
freedom if I would lead him back to the city. In gratitude to you for
having saved his life he charged Kangrey and me to nurse you back to
health and to take care of you. So you see it was good for all of us
that you killed the tiger that would have killed Vay Thon."

"And you would not have nursed me back to health, Che, had Vay Thon not
exacted the promise from you?" inquired King.

"We are runaway slaves," said the native. "We fear all men, or until Vay
Thon promised us our freedom, we did fear all men; and it would have
been safer for us to let you die, since you were unknown to us and might
have carried word to the soldiers of Lodidhapura and led them to our
hiding-place."

For a time King remained in silent thought, wondering, in view of what
he had just heard, where the dividing line had lain between reality and
hallucination. "Perhaps, then," he said with a smile, "the weeping queen
on the misty elephant and the many soldiers in cuirasses of polished
brass were real too."

"You saw those?" asked Che.

"Yes," eplied King.

"When and where?" demanded the native excitedly.

"It could not have been very long before I saw the high priest and the
tiger."

"They are getting close," said Che nervously to Kangrey. "We must search
for another hiding-place."

"You forget the promise of Vay Thon," Kangrey reminded him. "We are free
now; we are no longer slaves."

"I had forgotten," said Che. "I am not yet accustomed to freedom, and
perhaps I think, too, that possibly Vay Thon may forget."

"I do not think so," said the woman. "Lodivarman might forget, but not
Vay Thon, for Vay Thon is a good man. Every one in Lodidhapura said so."

"You really believe that I saw an elephant, a queen, and soldiers?"
demanded King.

"Why not?" asked Che.

"There are such things in the jungle?" inquired the young man.

"Of course," said Kangrey.

"And this city of Lodidhapura?" demanded King. "I have never heard of
it before. Is that close beside the jungle?"

"It is in the jungle," said Che.

King shook his head. "It is strange," he said. "I wandered through the
jungle for days and never saw signs of a human being or a human
habitation."

"There are many things in the jungle which men do not always see,"
replied Che. "There are the Nagas and the Yeacks. You may be glad that
you did not see them."

"What are the Nagas and the Yeacks?" asked King.

"The Nagas are the Cobra people," replied Che. "They live in a great
palace upon a mountain and are very powerful. They have seven heads and
can change themselves into any form of creature that they desire. They
are workers of magic. It is said that Lodivarman's principal wife is the
queen of the Nagas and that she changed herself into the form of a
beautiful woman that she might rule directly over the mortals as well as
the gods. But I do not believe that, because no one, not even a Naga,
would choose to be the queen of a leper. But the Yeacks are most to be
feared because they do not live far away upon a mountain-top, but are
everywhere in the jungle."

"What are they like?" asked King.

"They are horrible Ogres who live upon human flesh," replied Che.

"Have you ever seen them?" asked King.

"Of course not," replied the native. "Only he who is about to be
devoured sees them."

Gordon King listened with polite attention to the folk tales of Che and
Kangrey, but he knew that they were only legends of a kind with the
fabulous city of Lodidhapura and its Leper King, Lodivarman. He was
somewhat at a loss to account for Vay Thon, the high priest, but he
decided finally that the old man was an eccentric hermit who had come
into the jungle to live and that to him might be attributed many of the
fabulous tales that Che and Kangrey narrated so glibly. That his two
friends were runaway slaves from the fabulous city of Lodidhapura, King
doubted, attributing their story to the desire of primitive minds to
inject a strain of romance into their otherwise monotonous lives.

As King's strength returned rapidly, he insisted more and more upon
getting out into the open. He was anxious to accompany Che upon his
hunting trips, but the native insisted that he was not yet sufficiently
strong. So the American had to content himself with remaining with
Kangrey and Uda at home, where he practised using the weapons that Che
had made for him, which consisted of a bow and arrow and a short, heavy
javelin-like spear. Thanks to the training of his college days, King was
proficient in the use of the latter; and he practised assiduously with
his bow and arrows until his marksmanship aroused the admiring applause
of even Kangrey, who considered Che the best bowman in the world, to
whose expert proficiency no other mortal might hope to attain.

The dwelling of Che and Kangrey and Uda was in an ancient Khmer ruin and
consisted of a small room which had withstood the march of the
centuries--a room that was peculiarly suited to the requirements of the
little jungle family since it had but a single entrance, a small
aperture that could be effectually blocked at night with a flat slab of
stone against the depredations of marauding cats.

Their existence was as simple and primitive as might have been that of
the first man; yet there was inherent in it an undeniable charm that
King felt in spite of the monotony and his anxiety to escape from the
jungle.

Che knew nothing but the jungle and the fabulous city of Lodidhapura. It
is difficult for us to conceive of an endless infinity of space, but Che
could imagine an endless jungle. The question of limitation did not
enter his mind and, therefore, did not confuse him. To him, the world
was a jungle. When King realised this, he knew, too, that it was
hopeless to expect Che to attempt to lead him out of a jungle that he
believed had no end.

For some time King had been making short excursions into the jungle in
search of game while he repeatedly sought to impress upon Che that he
was strong enough to accompany the native upon his hunts; but he was met
with so many excuses that he at last awoke to the fact that Che did not
want him along; and so the American determined to set out by himself
upon a prolonged and determined effort to prove his efficiency. He left
one morning after Che had departed, turning his steps in a different
direction from that taken by the native. He was determined to bring back
something to demonstrate his prowess to Che, but though he moved
silently through the jungle, keeping the sharpest look out, he saw no
sign of game of any description; and having had past experience of the
ease with which one might become lost in the jungle, he turned back at
last empty-handed.

During his long convalescence King had had an opportunity to consider
many things, and one of them had been his humiliating lack of jungle
craft. He knew, therefore, that he must mark the trail in some way if he
were to hope to return to the dwelling of Che and Kangrey. He could not
blaze the trees with his knife on a hunting excursion since the noise
would unquestionably frighten away the game, and so he invented several
other ways of marking the trail--sticking twigs in the rough bark of
trees that he passed, scraping the ground with the sharp point of his
javelin, and placing three twigs in the form of an arrow, pointing
backward along the trail over which he had come. Accordingly, he had
little difficulty to-day in back-tracking along the way to the home of
Che.

Practising jungle craft necessitated moving as noiselessly as possible,
and so it was that he came as silently as might a hunting cat to the
edge of the ruin where lay the dwelling of his friend. As King came
within sight of the familiar entrance, a scene met his eyes that froze
his blood and brought his heart into his throat. In the small clearing
that Che had made, little Uda was at play. He was digging with a sharp
stick in the leafy mould of the ground, while watching him at the edge
of the clearing crouched a great panther.

King saw the beast gradually drawing its hind feet well beneath its body
as it prepared to charge.



4  Fou-tan

Returning early from a successful hunt, Che approached the clearing. He,
too, moved silently, for thus he always moved through the jungle. Along
a forest aisle he could see the clearing before he reached it. He saw
Uda digging among the dry leaves, which made a rustling sound that would
have drowned the noise of the approach of even a less careful jungle
animal than Che. The father smiled as his eyes rested upon his
first-born, but in the same instant the smile froze to an expression of
horror as he saw a panther leap into the clearing.

Kangrey, emerging at that moment from their gloomy dwelling, saw it too,
and screamed as she rushed forward barehanded, impelled by the mother
instinct to protect its young. And then, all in the same brief instant,
Che saw a heavy javelin streak lightning-like from the jungle. He saw
the panther crumple in its charge, and as he ran forward he saw the pale
one leap into the clearing and snatch Uda into his arms.

Che, realising, as had King, the fury of a wounded panther, rushed upon
the scene with ready spear as the pale one tossed Uda to Kangrey and
turned again to face the great cat. But there was no necessity for the
vicious thrust with which Che drove his spear into the carcass of the
beast, for the panther was already dead.

For a moment they stood in silence, looking down upon the kill--four
primitive jungle people, naked but for sampots. It was King's first
experience of a thrill of the primitive hunter. He trembled a little,
but that was reaction to the fear that he had felt for the life of
little Uda.

"It is a large panther," said Che simply.

"Only a strong man could have slain it thus," said Kangrey. "Only Che
could thus have slain with a single cast so great a panther."

"It was not the spear of Che. It was the spear of the pale one that laid
low the prince of darkness," said Che.

Kangrey looked her astonishment and would not be convinced until she had
examined the spear that protruded from beneath the left shoulder of the
great cat. "This, then, is the reward that Vay Thon said would be ours
if we befriended the pale one," she declared.

Uda said nothing, but, squirming from his mother's arms, he ran to the
side of the dead panther and belaboured it with his little stick.

The next day Che invited King to accompany him upon his hunt. When after
a hard day they returned empty-handed, King was convinced that in the
search for small game a lone hunter would have greater chances for
success. In the morning, therefore, he announced that he would hunt
alone in another part of the jungle, and Che agreed with him that this
plan would be better.

Marking his trail as he had before, King hunted an unfamiliar territory.
The forest appeared more open. There was less underbrush; and he had
discovered what appeared to be a broad elephant trail, along which he
moved with far greater speed than he had ever been able to attain before
in his wanderings through this empire of trees and underbrush.

He had no luck in his hunting; and when he had about determined that it
was time to turn back, his ears caught an unfamiliar sound. What it was
he did not know. There was a peculiar metallic ring and other sounds
that might have been human voices at a distance.

"Perhaps," soliloquised King, "I am about to see the Nagas or the
Yeacks."

The sound was steadily approaching; and as he had learned enough from
his intercourse with Che and Kangrey to know that no friendly creatures
might be encountered in the jungle, he drew to one side of the elephant
trail and concealed himself behind some shrubbery.

He had not waited long when he saw the authors of the sounds
approaching. Suddenly he felt his head. It did not seem over-hot. As he
had upon other similar occasions, he closed his eyes tightly and then
opened them again, but still the vision persisted--a vision of
brown-skinned soldiers in burnished brass cuirasses over leather jerkins
that fell midway between their hips and their knees, with heavy sandals
on their feet, strange helmets on their heads, and armed with swords and
spears and bows and arrows.

They came on talking among themselves, and as they passed close to King
he discovered that they spoke the same language that he had learned from
Che and Kangrey. Evidently the men were arguing with their leader, who
wanted to go on, while the majority of his followers seemed in favour of
turning back.

"We shall have to spend the night in the jungle as it is," said one. "If
we go on much farther, we shall have to spend two nights in the jungle.
Only a fool would choose to lair with My Lord the Tiger."

They had stopped now almost opposite King, so that he could clearly
overhear all that passed between them. The man in charge appeared to be
a petty officer with little real authority, for instead of issuing
orders he argued and pleaded.

"It is well enough for you to insist upon turning back," he said, "since
if we return to the city without the apsaras you expect that I alone
shall be punished; but let me tell you that, if you force me to turn
back, the entire truth will be made known and you will share in any
punishment that may be inflicted upon me."

"If we cannot find her, we cannot find her," grumbled one of the men.
"Are we to remain in the jungle the rest of our lives searching for a
runaway apsaras?"

"I would as lief face My Lord the Tiger in the jungle for the rest of my
life," replied the petty officer, "as face Lodivarman if we return
without the girl."

"What Vama says is true," said another. "Lodivarman, the King, will not
be interested in our reason for returning empty-handed. Should we return
to the city to-morrow without the girl and Vama charged that we had
forced him to turn back, Lodivarman, if he were in ill-humour, as he
usually is, would have us all put to death; but if we remain away for
many days and then return with a story of many hardships and dangers he
will know that we did all that might be expected of brave warriors, and
thus the anger of Lodivarman might be assuaged."

"At last," commented Vama, "you are commencing to talk like intelligent
and civilised men. Come, now, and let us resume the search."

As they moved away King heard one of the men suggest that they find a
safe and comfortable camp site where they might remain for a sufficient
length of time to impress upon the King the verity of the story that
they would relate to him. He waited only until they were out of sight
before he arose from his place of concealment, for he was much concerned
with the fact that they were proceeding in the general direction of the
dwelling of Che and Kangrey. King was much mystified by what he had
seen. He knew that these soldiers were no children of a fevered brain.
They were flesh and blood warriors and for that reason a far greater
mystery than any of the creatures he had seen in his delirium, since
they could not be accounted for by any process of intelligent reasoning.
His judgment told him that there were no warriors in this uninhabited
jungle and certainly none with the archaic accoutrements and weapons
that he had seen. It might be reasonable to expect to meet such types in
an extravaganza of the stage or screen; and, doubtless, centuries ago
warriors such as these patrolled this very spot which the jungle and the
tiger and the elephant had long since reclaimed.

He recalled the stories that his guide had told him of the ghosts of the
ancient Khmers, which roamed through the sombre aisles of the forest. He
remembered the other soldiers that he had seen and the girl with the
frightened eyes that rode upon the great elephant, and the final result
was a questioning of his own sanity. Since he knew that a fever, such as
the one through which he had passed, might easily affect one's brain
either temporarily or permanently, he was troubled and not a little
frightened as he made his way in the direction of the dwelling of Che
and Kangrey. But the fact that he took a circuitous route that he might
avoid the warriors indicated that either he was quite crazy or, at
least, that he was temporising with his madness.

"'Weeping queens on misty elephants!'" he soliloquised. "'Warriors in
brass!' 'A mystery of the Orient.' Perhaps after all there are ghosts.
There has been enough evidence accumulated during historic times to
prove that the materialisation of disembodied spirits may have occurred
upon countless occasions. That I never saw a ghost is not necessarily
conclusive evidence that they do not exist. There are many strange
things in the Orient that the western mind cannot grasp. Perhaps, after
all, I have seen ghosts; but if so, they certainly were thoroughly
materialised, even to the dirt on their legs and the sweat on their
faces. I suppose I shall have to admit that they are ghosts, since I
know that no soldiers like them exist in the flesh anywhere in the
world."

As King moved silently through the jungle, he presented an even more
anachronistic figure than had the soldiers in brass; for they, at least,
personified an era of civilisation and advancement, while King, to all
outward appearances, was almost at the dawn of human evolution--a
primitive hunter, naked but for a sampot of leopard skin and rude
sandals fashioned by Kangrey because the soles of his feet, innocent of
the callouses that shod hers and Che's, had rendered him almost helpless
in the jungle without this protection. His skin was brown from exposure
to the sun, and his hair had grown thick and shaggy. That he was
smooth-shaven was the result of chance. He had always made it a habit,
since he had taken up the study of medicine and surgery, to carry a
safety razor blade with him, for what possible emergency he could not
himself have explained. It was merely an idiosyncrasy, and it had so
chanced that among several other things that the monkeys had dropped
from his pockets and scattered in the jungle the razor blade had been
recovered by little Uda along with a silver pencil and a handful of
French francs.

He moved through the jungle with all the assurance of a man who has
known no other life, so quickly does humankind adapt itself to
environment. Already his ears and his nostrils had become inured to
their surroundings to such an extent, at least, as to permit them to
identify and classify easily and quickly the more familiar sounds and
odours of the jungle. Familiarity had induced increasing self-assurance,
which had now reached a point that made him feel he might soon safely
set out in search of civilisation. However, to-day his mind was not on
this thing; it was still engaged in an endeavour to solve the puzzle of
the brass-bound warriors. But presently the baffling contemplation of
this matter was rudely interrupted by a patch of buff coat and black
stripes of which he caught a momentary, fleeting glimpse between the
boles of two trees ahead of him.

A species of unreasoning terror that had formerly seized him each time
that he had glimpsed the terrifying lord of the jungle had gradually
passed away as he had come to recognise the fact that every tiger that
he saw was not bent upon his destruction and that nine times out of ten
it would try to get out of his way. Of course, it is the tenth tiger
that one must always reckon with; but where trees are numerous and a
man's eyes and ears and nose are alert, even the tenth tiger may usually
be circumvented.

So now King did not alter his course, though he had seen the tiger
directly ahead of him. It would be time enough to think of retreat when
he found that the temper and intentions of the tiger warranted it, and,
further, it was better to keep the brute in sight than to feel that
perhaps he had circled and was creeping up behind one. It was,
therefore, because of this that King pushed on a little more rapidly;
and soon he was rewarded by another glimpse of the great carnivore and
of something else, which presented a tableau that froze his blood.

Beyond the tiger and facing it stood a girl. Her wide eyes were glassy
with terror. She stood as one in a trance, frozen to the spot, while
toward her the great cat crept. She was a slender girl, garbed as
fantastically as had been the soldiers that had passed him in the jungle
shortly before; but her gorgeous garments were soiled and torn, and even
at a distance King could see that her face and arms were scratched and
bleeding. In the instant that his eyes alighted upon her he sensed
something strangely familiar about her. It was a sudden, wholly
unaccountable impression that somewhere he had seen this girl before;
but it was only a passing impression, for his whole mind now was
occupied with her terrifying predicament.

To save her from the terrible death creeping slowly upon her seemed
beyond the realms of possibility, and yet King knew that he must make
the attempt. He recognised instantly that his only hope lay in
distracting the attention of the tiger. If he could centre the interest
of the brute upon himself, perhaps the girl might escape.

He shouted, and the tiger wheeled about. "Run!" he cried to the girl.
"Quick! Make for a tree!"

As he spoke, King was running forward. His heavy spear was ready in his
hand, but yet it was a mad chance to take. Perhaps he forgot himself and
his own danger, thinking only of the girl. The tiger glanced back at the
girl, who, obeying King's direction, had run quickly to a nearby tree
into which she was trying to scramble, badly hampered by the long skirt
that enveloped her.

For only an instant did the tiger hesitate. His short and ugly temper
was fully aroused now in the face of this rude interruption of his plan.
With a savage snarl and then the short coughing roars with which King
was all too familiar, he wheeled and sprang toward the man in long, easy
bounds. Twelve to fifteen feet he covered in a single leap. Flight was
futile. There was nothing that King could do but stand his ground and
pit his puny spear against this awful engine of destruction.

In that brief instant there was pictured upon the screen of his memory a
tree-girt athletic field. He saw young men in shirts and shorts throwing
javelins. He saw himself among them. It was his turn now. His arm went
back. He recalled how he had put every ounce of muscle, weight, and
science into that throw. He recalled the friendly congratulations that
followed it, for every one knew without waiting for the official verdict
that he had broken a world's record.

Again his arm flew back. To-day there was more at stake than a world's
record, but the man did not lose his nerve. Timed to the fraction of an
instant, backed by the last ounce of his weight and his skill and his
great strength, the spear met the tiger in mid-leap; full in the chest
it struck him. King leaped to one side and ran for a tree, his single,
frail hope lying in the possibility that the great beast might be even
momentarily disabled.

He did not waste the energy or the time even to glance behind him. If
the tiger were able to overtake him, it must be totally a matter of
indifference to King whether the great brute seized him from behind or
in front--he had led his ace and he did not have another.

No fangs or talons rent his flesh as King scrambled to the safety of the
nearest tree. It was not without a sense of considerable surprise that
he found himself safely ensconced in his leafy sanctuary, for from the
instant that the tiger had turned upon him in its venomous charge he had
counted himself already as good as dead.

Now that he had an opportunity to look about him, he saw the tiger
struggling in its death throes upon the very spot where it had
anticipated wreaking its vengeance upon the rash man-thing that had
dared to question its right to the possession of its intended prey; and
a little to the right of the dying beast the American saw the girl
crouching in the branches of a tree. Together they watched the death
throes of the great cat; and when at last the man was convinced that the
beast was dead, he leaped lightly to the ground and approached the tree
among the branches of which the girl had sought safety.

That she was still filled with terror was apparent in the strained and
frightened expression upon her face. "Go away!" she cried. "The soldiers
of Lodivarman, the King, are here; and if you harm me they will kill
you."

King smiled. "You are inconsistent," he said, "in invoking the
protection of the soldiers from whom you are trying to escape; but you
need not fear me. I shall not harm you."

"Who are you?" she demanded.

"I am a hunter who dwells in the jungle," replied King. "I am the
protector of high priests and weeping queens, or so, at least, I seem to
be."

"High priests? Weeping queens? What do you mean?"

"I have saved Vay Thon, the high priest, from My Lord the Tiger,"
replied King; "and now I have saved you."

"But I am no queen and I am not weeping," replied the girl.

"Do not disillusion me," insisted King. "I contend that you are a queen,
whether you weep or smile. I should not be surprised to learn that you
are the queen of the Nagas. Nothing would surprise me in this jungle of
anachronism, hallucination, and impossibility."

"Help me down from the tree," said the girl. "Perhaps you are mad, but
you seem quite harmless."

"Be assured, your majesty, that I shall not harm you," replied King,
"for presently I am sure there will emerge from nowhere ten thousand
elephants and a hundred thousand warriors in shining brass to succour
and defend you. Nothing seems impossible after what I have witnessed;
but come, let me touch you; let me assure myself that I am not again the
victim of a pernicious fever."

"May Siva, who protected me from My Lord the Tiger a moment ago, protect
me also from this madman!"

"Pardon me," said King. "I did not catch what you said."

"I am afraid," said the girl.

"You need not be afraid of me," King assured her; "and if you want your
soldiers I believe that I can find them for you; but if I am not
mistaken, I believe that you are more afraid of them than you are of
me."

"What do you know of that?" demanded she.

"I overheard their conversation while they halted near me," replied the
American, "and I learned that they are hunting for you to take you back
to someone from whom you escaped. Come, I will help you down. You may
trust me."

He raised his hands toward her, and after a moment's hesitation she
slipped into his arms and he lowered her to the ground.

"I must trust you," she said. "There is no other way, for I could not
remain for ever in the tree; and then, too, even though you seem mad
there is something about you that makes me feel that I am safe with
you."

As he felt her soft, lithe body momentarily in his arms, King knew that
this was no tenuous spirit of a dream. For an instant her small hand
touched his shoulder, her warm breath fanned his cheek, and her firm,
young breasts were pressed against his naked body. Then she stepped back
and surveyed him.

"What manner of man are you?" she demanded. "You are neither Khmer nor
slave. Your colour is not the colour of any man that I have ever seen,
nor are your features those of the people of my race. Perhaps you are a
reincarnation of one of those ancients of whom our legends tell us; or
perhaps you are a Naga who has taken the form of man for some dire
purpose of your own."

"Perhaps I am a Yeack," suggested King.

"No," she said quite seriously, "I am sure you are not a Yeack, for it
is reported that they are most hideous, while you, though not like any
man I have ever seen, are handsome."

"I am neither Yeack nor Naga," replied King.

"Then perhaps you are from Lodidhapura--one of the creatures of
Lodivarman."

"No," replied the man. "I have never been to Lodidhapura. I have never
seen the King, Lodivarman, and, as a matter of fact, I have always
doubted their existence."

The girl's dark eyes regarded him steadily. "I cannot believe that," she
said, "for it is unconceivable that there should be anyone in the world
who has not heard of Lodidhapura and Lodivarman."

"I come from a far country," explained King, "where there are millions
of people who never heard of the Khmers."

"Impossible!" she cried.

"But nevertheless quite true," he insisted.

"From what country do you come?" she asked.

"From America."

"I never heard of such a country."

"Then you should be able to understand that I may never have heard of
Lodidhapura," said the man.

For a moment the girl was silent, evidently pondering the logic of his
statement. "Perhaps you are right," she said finally. "It may be that
there are other cities within the jungle of which we have never heard.
But tell me--you risked your life to save mine--why did you do that?"

"What else might I have done?" he asked.

"You might have run away and saved yourself."

King smiled, but he made no reply. He was wondering if there existed any
man who could have run away and left one so beautiful and so helpless to
the mercies of My Lord the Tiger.

"You are very brave," she continued presently. "What is your name?"

"Gordon King."

"Gordon King," she repeated in a soft, caressing voice. "That is a nice
name, but it is not like any name that I have heard before."

"And what is your name?" asked King.

"I am called Fou-tan," she said, and she eyed him intently, as though
she would note if the name made any impression upon him.

King thought Fou-tan a pretty name, but it seemed banal to say so. He
was appraising her small, delicate features, her beautiful eyes and her
soft brown skin. They recalled to him the weeping queen upon the misty
elephant that he had seen in his delirium, and once again there arose
within him doubts as to his sanity. "Tell me," he said suddenly. "Did
you ever ride through the jungle on a great elephant escorted by
soldiers in brass?"

"Yes," she said.

"And you say that you are from Lodidhapura?" he continued.

"I have just come from there," she replied.

"Did you ever hear of a priest called Vay Thon?"

"He is the high priest of Siva in the city of Lodidhapura," she replied.

King shook his head in perplexity. "It is hard to know," he murmured,
"where dreams end and reality begins."

"I do not understand you," she said, her brows knit in perplexity.

"Perhaps I do not understand myself," he admitted.

"You are a strange man," said Fou-tan. "I do not know whether to fear
you or trust you. You are not like any other man I have ever known. What
do you intend to do with me?"

"Perhaps I had better take you back to the dwelling of Che and Kangrey,"
he said, "and then to-morrow Che can guide you back to Lodidhapura."

"But I do not wish to return to Lodidhapura," said the girl.

"Why not?" demanded King.

"Listen, Gordon King, and I shall tell you," said Fou-tan.



5  The Capture



"Let us sit down upon this fallen tree," said Fou-tan, "and I shall tell
you why I do not wish to return to Lodidhapura."

As they seated themselves, King became acutely conscious of the marked
physical attraction that this girl of a forgotten age exercised over
him. Every movement of her lithe body, every gesture of her graceful
arms and hands, each changing expression of her beautiful face and eyes
were provocative. She radiated magnetism. He sensed it in the reaction
of his skin, his eyes, his nostrils. It was as though ages of careful
selection had produced her for the purpose of arousing in man the desire
of possession, and yet there enveloped her a divine halo of chastity
that aroused within his breast the protective instinct that governs the
attitude of a normal man toward a woman that Fate has thrown into his
keeping. Never in his life had King been similarly attracted to any
woman.

"Why do you look at me so?" she inquired suddenly.

"Forgive me," said King simply. "Go on with your story."

"I am from Pnom Dhek," said Fou-tan, "where Beng Kher is king. Pnom Dhek
is a greater city than Lodidhapura; Beng Kher is a mightier king than
Lodivarman.

"Bharata Rahon desired me. He wished to take me to wife. I pleaded with
my father the--I pleaded with my father not to give me in marriage to
Bharata Rahon; but he told me that I did not know my own mind, that I
only thought that I did not like Bharata Rahon, that he would make me a
good husband, and that after we were married I should be happy.

"I knew that I must do something to convince my father that my mind and
soul sincerely revolted at the thought of mating with Bharata Rahon, and
so I conceived the idea of running away and going out into the jungle
that I might prove that I preferred death to the man my father had
chosen for me.

"I did not want to die. I wanted them to come and find me very quickly,
and when night came I was terrified. I climbed into a tree where I
crouched in terror. I heard My Lord the Tiger pass beneath in the
darkness of the night, and my fear was so great that I thought that I
should faint and fall into his clutches; yet when day came again I was
still convinced that I would rather lie in the arms of My Lord the Tiger
than in those of Bharata Rahon, who is a loathsome man whose very name I
detest.

"Yet I moved back in the direction of Pnom Dhek, or rather I thought
that I did, though now I am certain that I went in the opposite
direction. I hoped that searchers sent out by my father would find me,
for I did not wish to return of my own volition to Pnom Dhek.

"The day dragged on and I met no searchers, and once again I became
terrified, for I knew that I was lost in the jungle. Then I heard the
heavy tread of an elephant and the clank of arms and men's voices, and I
was filled with relief and gratitude, for I thought at last that the
searchers were about to find me.

"But when the warriors came within view, I saw that they wore the armour
of Lodivarman. I was terrified and tried to escape them, but they had
seen me and they pursued me. Easily they overtook me, and great was
their joy when they looked upon me.

"'Lodivarman will reward us handsomely,' they cried, 'when he sees that
which we have brought to him from Pnom Dhek.'

"So they placed me in the howdah upon the elephant's back and took me
through the jungle to Lodidhapura, where I was immediately taken into
the presence of Lodivarman.

"Oh, Gordon King, that was a terrible moment. I was terrified when I
found myself so close to the leper king of Lodidhapura. He is covered
with great sores, where leprosy is devouring him. That day he was ugly
and indifferent. He scarcely looked at me, but ordered that I should be
taken to the quarters of the apsarases, and so I became a dancing girl
at the court of the leper king.

"Not in a thousand years, Gordon King, could I explain to you what I
suffered each time that we came before Lodivarman to dance. Each sore
upon his repulsive body seemed to reach out to seize and contaminate me.
It was with the utmost difficulty that, half fainting, I went through
the ritual of the dance.

"I tried to hide my face from him, for I knew that I was beautiful and I
knew the fate of beautiful women in the court of Lodivarman.

"But at last, one day, I realised that he had noticed me. I saw his dead
eyes following me about. We were dancing in the great hall where he
holds his court. Lodivarman was seated upon his throne. The lead-covered
walls of the great apartment were gorgeous with paintings and with
hangings. Beneath our feet were the polished flagstones of the floor,
but they seemed softer to me than the heart of Lodivarman.

"At last the dance was done, and we were permitted to retire to our
apartments. Presently there came to me a captain of the King's
household, resplendent in his gorgeous trappings.

"'The King has looked upon you,' said he, 'and would honour you as
befits your beauty.'

"'It is sufficient honour,' I replied, 'to dance in the palace of
Lodivarman.'

"'You are about to receive a more signal manifestation of the King's
honour,' he replied.

"'I am satisfied as I am,' I said.

"'It is not for you to choose, Fou-tan,' replied the messenger. 'The
King has chosen you as his newest concubine. Rejoice, therefore, in the
knowledge that some day you may become queen.'

"I could have fainted at the very horror of the suggestion. hat could
I do? I must gain time. I thought of suicide, but I am young, nd I do
not wish to die. 'When must I come?' I asked.

"'You will be given time to prepare yourself,' replied the messenger.
'For three days the women will bathe and anoint your body, and upon the
fourth day you will be conducted to the King.'

"Four days! In four days I must find some way in which to escape the
horrid fate to which my beauty had condemned me. 'Go!' I said. 'Leave me
in peace for the four days that remain to me of even a semblance of
happiness in life.'

"The messenger, grinning, withdrew, and I threw myself upon my pallet
and burst into tears. That night the apsarases were to dance in the
moonlight in the courtyard before the temple of Siva; and though they
would have insisted that my preparation for the honour that was to be
bestowed upon me should commence at once, I begged that I might once
more, and for the last time, join with my companions in honouring Siva,
the Destroyer.

"It was a dark night. The flares that illumined the courtyard cast a
wavering light in which exaggerated shadows of the apsarases danced
grotesquely. In the dance I wore a mask, and my position was at the
extreme left of the last line of apsarases. I was close to the line of
spectators that encircled the courtyard, and in some of the movements of
the dance I came quite close enough to touch them. This was what I had
hoped for.

"All the tune that I was dancing I was perfecting in my mind the details
of a plan that had occurred to me earlier in the day. The intricate
series of postures and steps, with which I had been familiar since
childhood, required of me but little mental concentration. I went
through them mechanically, my thoughts wholly centred upon the mad
scheme that I had conceived. I knew that at one point in the dance the
attention of all the spectators would be focused upon a single apsaras,
whose position was in the centre of the first line, and when this moment
arrived I stepped quickly into the line of spectators.

"Those in my immediate vicinity noticed me, but to these I explained
that I was ill and was making my way back to the temple. A little awed
by my close presence, they let me pass unmolested, for in the estimation
of the people the persons of the apsarases are almost holy.

"Behind the last line of the audience rose a low wall that surrounds the
temple courtyard. Surmounting it at intervals rise the beautifully
carved stone figures of the seven-headed cobra--emblem of the Royal
Nagas. Deep were the shadows between them; and while all eyes were fixed
upon the leading apsaras, I clambered quickly to the top of the low
wall, where for a moment I hid in the shadow of a great Naga. Below me,
black, mysterious, terrifying, lay the dark waters of the moat, beneath
the surface of which lived the crocodiles placed there by the King to
guard the Holy of Holies. Upon the opposite side the level of the water
was but a few inches below the surface of the broad avenue that leads to
the stables where the King's elephants are kept. The avenues were
deserted, for all who dwelt within the walls of the royal enclosure were
watching the dance of the apsarases.

"To Brahma, to Vishnu, and to Siva I breathed a prayer, and then I slid
as quietly as possible down into the terrifying waters of the moat.
Quickly I struck out for the opposite side, every instant expecting to
feel the hideous jaws of a crocodile close upon me; but my prayers had
been heard, and I reached the avenue in safety.

"I was forced to climb two more walls before I could escape from the
royal enclosure and from the city. My wet and bedraggled costume was
torn, and my hands and face were scratched and bleeding before I
succeeded.

"At last I was in the jungle, confronted by danger more deadly, yet far
less horrible, than that from which I had escaped. How I survived that
night and this day I do not know. And now the end would have come but
for you, Gordon King."

As King gazed at the sensitive face and delicately moulded figure of the
girl beside him, he marvelled at the courage and strength of will,
seemingly so out of proportion to the frail temple that housed them,
that had sustained her in the conception and execution of an adventure
that might have taxed the courage and stamina of a warrior. "You are a
brave girl, Fou-tan," he said.

"The daughter of my father could not be less," she replied simply.

"You are a daughter of whom any father might be proud," said King, "but
if we are to save you for him we had better be thinking about getting to
the dwelling of Che and Kangrey before night falls."

"Who are these people?" asked Fou-tan. "Perhaps they will return me to
Lodidhapura for the reward that Lodivarman will pay."

"You need have no fear on that score," replied King. "They are honest
people, runaway slaves from Lodidhapura. They have been kind to me, and
they will be kind to you."

"And if they are not, you will protect me," said Fou-tan with a tone of
finality that evidenced the confidence which she already felt in the
dependability and integrity of her newfound friend.

As they set out in the direction of Che's dwelling, it became apparent
to King immediately that Fou-tan was tired almost to the point of
exhaustion. Will-power and nerve had sustained her so far; but now, with
the discovery of someone to whom she might transfer the responsibility
of her safety, the reaction had come; and he often found it necessary to
assist and support her over the rough places of the trail. She was small
and light, and where the going was exceptionally bad he lifted her in
his arms and carried her as he might have a child.

"You are strong, Gordon King," she said once as he carried her thus. Her
soft arms were around his neck, her lips were very close to his.

"I must need be strong," he said. But if she sensed his meaning she gave
no evidence of it. Her eyes closed wearily and her little head dropped
to his shoulder. He carried her thus for a long way, though the trail
beneath his feet was smooth and hard.

Vama and his warriors had halted in a little glade where there was
water. While two of them hunted in the forest for meat for their supper,
the others lay stretched out upon the ground in that silence which is
induced by hunger and fatigue. Presently Vama sat up alert. His ears had
caught the sound of the approach of something through the jungle.

"Kau and Tchek are returning from the hunt," whispered one of the
warriors who lay near him and who, also, had heard the noise.

"They did not go in that direction," replied Vama in a low tone. Then
signalling his warriors to silence, he ordered them to conceal
themselves from view.

The sound, already close when they had first heard it, approached
steadily; and they did not have long to wait ere a warrior, naked but
for a sampot, stepped into view, and in his arms was the runaway apsaras
whom they sought. Elated, Vama leaped from his place of concealment,
calling to his men to follow him.

At sight of them King turned to escape, but he knew that he could make
no speed while burdened with the girl. She, however, had seen the
soldiers and slipped quickly from his arms. "We are lost!" she cried.

"Run!" cried King as he snatched a handful of arrows from his quiver and
fitted one to his bow. "Stand back!" he cried to the warriors. But they
only moved steadily forward. His bow-string twanged, and one of
Lodivarman's brass-bound warriors sank to earth, an arrow through his
throat. The others hesitated. They did not dare to cast their spears or
loose their bolts for fear of injuring the girl.

Slowly King, with Fou-tan behind him, backed away into the jungle from
which he had appeared. At the last instant he sped another arrow, which
rattled harmlessly from the cuirass of Vama. Then, knowing that he could
not fire upon them from the foliage, the soldiers rushed forward, while
King continued to fall back slowly with Fou-tan, another arrow fitted to
his bow.

Kau and Tchek had made a great circle in their hunting. With their
arrows they had brought down three monkeys, and now they were returning
to camp. They had almost arrived when they heard voices and the twang of
a bow-string, and then they saw, directly ahead of them, a man and a
girl crashing through the foliage of the jungle toward them. Instantly,
by her dishevelled costume, they recognised the apsaras and guessed from
the attitude of the two that they were backing away from Vama and his
fellows.

Kau was a powerful, a courageous, and a resourceful man. Instantly he
grasped the situation and instantly he acted. Leaping forward, he threw
both his sinewy arms around Gordon King, pinning the other's arms to his
body; while Tchek, following the example of his companion, seized
Fou-tan. Almost immediately Vama and the others were upon the scene. An
instant later Gordon King was disarmed, and his wrists were bound behind
him; then the soldiers of Lodivarman dragged the captives back to their
camping place.

Vama was tremendously elated. Now he would not have to make up any lies
to appease the wrath of his king but could return to Lodidhapura in
triumph, bearing not only the apsaras for whom he had been dispatched,
but another prisoner as well.

King thought that they might make quick work of him in revenge for the
soldier he had killed, but they did not appear to hold that against him
at all. They questioned him at some length while they cooked their
supper of monkey meat over a number of tiny fires; but as what he told
them of another country far beyond their jungle was quite beyond their
grasp, they naturally believed that he lied and insisted that he came
from Pnom Dhek and that he was a runaway slave.

They were all quite content with the happy outcome of their assignment;
and so, looking forward to their return to Lodidhapura on the morrow,
they were inclined to be generous in their treatment of their prisoners,
giving them meat to eat and water to drink. Their attitude toward
Fou-tan was one of respectful awe. They knew that she was destined to
become one of the King's favourites, and it might prove ill for them,
indeed, should they offer her any hurt or affront. Since their treatment
of Gordon King, however, was not dictated by any such consideration, it
was fortunate, indeed, for him that they were in a good humour.

Regardless, however, of the respectful attention shown her, Fou-tan was
immersed in melancholy. A few moments before, she had foreseen escape
and counted return to her native city almost an accomplished fact; now,
once again, she was in the clutches of the soldiers of Lodivarman, while
simultaneously she had brought disaster and, doubtless, death to the man
who had befriended her.

"Oh, Gordon King," she said, "my heart is unstrung; my soul is filled
with terror and consumed by horror, for not only must I return to the
hideous fate from which I had escaped, but you must go to Lodidhapura to
slavery or to death."

"We are not in Lodidhapura yet," whispered King. "Perhaps we shall
escape."

The girl shook her head. "There is no hope," she said. "I shall go to
the arms of Lodivarman, and you--"

"And I?" he asked.

"Slaves fight with other slaves and with wild beasts for the
entertainment of Lodivarman and his court," she replied.

"We must escape then," said King. "Perhaps we shall die in the attempt,
but in any event death awaits me and worse than death awaits you."

"What you command I shall do, Gordon King," replied Fou-tan.

But it did not appear that there was to be much opportunity for escape
that night. After King had eaten they bound his wrists behind his back
again and also bound his ankles together securely, while two warriors
remained constantly with the girl; the others, their simple meal
completed, stripped the armour and weapons from their fallen comrade and
laid him upon a thick bed of dry wood that they had gathered. Upon him,
then, they piled a great quantity of limbs and branches, of twigs and
dry grasses; and when night fell they lighted their weird funeral pyre,
which was to answer its other dual purpose as a beast fire to protect
them from the prowling carnivores. To King it was a gruesome sight, but
neither Fou-tan nor the other Khmers seemed to be affected by it. The
men gathered much wood and placed it near at hand that the fire might be
kept burning during the night.

The flames leaped high, lighting the boles of the trees about them and
the foliage arching above. The shadows rose and fell and twisted and
writhed. Beyond the limits of the firelight was utter darkness, silence,
mystery. King felt himself in an inverted cauldron of flame in which a
human body was being consumed. .

The warriors lay about, laughing and talking. Their reminiscences were
brutal and cruel. Their jokes and stories were broad and obscene. But
there was an undercurrent of rough kindness and loyalty to one another
that they appeared to be endeavoring to conceal as though they were
ashamed of such soft emotion. They were soldiers. Transplanted to the
camps of modern Europe, given a modern uniform and a modern language,
their campfire conversation would have been the same. Soldiers do not
change. One played upon a little musical instrument that resembled a
Jew's harp. Two were gambling with what appeared to be very similar to
modern dice, and all that they said was so interlarded with strange and
terrible oaths that the American could scarcely follow the thread of
their thought. Soldiers do not change.

Vama came presently and squatted down near King and Fou-tan. "Do all the
men in this far country of which you tell me go naked?" he demanded.

"No," replied the American. "When I had become lost in the jungle I was
stricken with fever, and while I was sick the monkeys came and stole my
clothing and my weapons."

"You live alone in the jungle?" asked Vama.

King thought quickly; he thought of Che and Kangrey and their fear of
the soldiers in brass. "Yes," he said.

"Are you not afraid of My Lord the Tiger?" inquired Vama.

"I am watchful and I avoid him," replied the American.

"You do well to do so," said Vama, "for even with spear and arrows no
lone man is a match for the great beast."

"But Gordon King is," said Fou-tan proudly.

Vama smiled. "The apsaras has been in the jungle but a night and a day,"
he reminded her. "How can she know so much about this man unless, as I
suspect, he is, indeed, from Pnom Dhek?"

"He is not from Pnom Dhek," retorted Fou-tan. "And I know that he is a
match for My Lord the Tiger because this day I saw him slay the beast
with a single spear-cast."

Vama looked questioningly at King.

"It was only a matter of good fortune," said King.

"But you did it nevertheless," insisted Fou-tan.

"You killed a tiger with a single cast of your spear?" demanded Vama.

"As the beast charged him," said Fou-tan.

"That is, indeed, a marvellous feat," said Vama, with a soldier's
ungrudging admiration for the bravery or prowess of another. "Lodivarman
shall hear of this. A hunter of such spirit shall not go unrecognised in
Lodidhapura. I can also bear witness that you are no mean bowman," added
Vama, nodding toward the blazing funeral pyre. Then he arose and walked
to the spot where King's weapons had been deposited. Picking up the
spear he examined it closely. "By Siva!" he ejaculated. "The blood is
scarcely dry upon it. Such a cast! You drove it a full two feet into the
carcass of My Lord the Tiger."

"Straight through the heart," said Fou-tan.

The other soldiers had been listening to the conversation. It was
noticeable immediately that their attitude toward King changed
instantly, and thereafter they treated him with friendliness tinged by
respect. However, they did not abate their watchfulness over him, but
rather were increasingly careful to see that he was given no opportunity
to escape, nor to have his hands free for any length of time.

Early the next morning, after a meagre breakfast, Vama set out with his
detachment and his prisoners in the direction of Lodidhapura, leaving
the funeral fire still blazing as it eagerly licked at a new supply of
fuel.

The route they selected to Lodidhapura passed by chance, close to the
spot where King had slain the tiger; and here, in the partially devoured
carcass of the great beast, the soldiers of Lodivarman found concrete
substantiation of Fou-tan's story.




6 The Leper King


It was late in the afternoon when the party emerged suddenly from the
jungle at the edge of a great clearing. King voiced an involuntary
exclamation of astonishment as he saw at a distance the walls and towers
of a splendid city.

"Lodidhapura," said Fou-tan; "accursed city!" There was fear in her
voice, and she trembled as she pressed closer to the American.

While King had long since become convinced that Lodidhapura had an
actual existence of greater reality than legend or fever-wrought
hallucination, yet he had been in no way prepared for the reality. A
collection of nippa-thatched huts had comprised the extent of his mental
picture of Lodidhapura, and now, as the reality burst suddenly upon him,
he was dumbfounded.

Temples and palaces of stone reared their solid masses against the sky.
Mighty towers, elaborately carved, rose in stately grandeur high over
all. There were nippa-thatched huts as well, but these clustered close
against the city's walls and were so overshadowed by the majestic mass
of masonry beyond them that they affected the picture as slightly as
might the bushes growing at its foot determine the grandeur of a
mountain.

In the foreground were level fields in which laboured men and women,
naked mostly, but for sampots--the nippa-thatched huts were their
dwellings. They were the labourers, the descendants of slaves--Chams and
Annamese--that the ancient, warlike Khmers had brought back from many a
victory in the days when their power and their civilisation were the
greatest upon earth.

From the edge of the jungle, at the point where the party had emerged, a
broad avenue led toward one of the gates of the city, toward which Vama
was conducting them. To his right, at a distance, King could see what
appeared to be another avenue leading to another gate--an avenue which
seemed to be more heavily travelled than that upon which they had
entered. There were many people on foot, some approaching the city,
others leaving it. At a distance they looked small, but he could
distinguish them and also what appeared to be bullock carts moving
slowly among the pedestrians.

Presently, at the far end of this distant avenue, he saw the great bulks
of elephants; in a long column they entered the highway from the jungle
and approached the city. They seemed to move in an endless procession,
two abreast, hundreds of them, he thought. Never before had King seen so
many elephants.

"Look!" he cried to Fou-tan. "There must be a circus coming to town."

"The King's elephants," explained Fou-tan, unimpressed.

"Why does he have so many?" asked King.

"A king without elephants would be no king," replied the girl. "They
proclaim to all men the king's wealth and power. When he makes war, his
soldiers go into battle upon them and fight from their backs, for those
are the war elephants of Lodivarman."

"There must be hundreds of them," commented the American.

"There are thousands," said Fou-tan.

"And against whom does Lodivarman make war?"

"Against Pnom Dhek."

"Only against Pnom Dhek?" inquired King.

"Yes, only against Pnom Dhek."

"Why does he not make war elsewhere? Has he no other enemies?"

"Against whom else might he make war?" demanded Fou-tan. "There are only
Pnom Dhek and Lodidhapura in all the world."

"Well, that does rather restrict him now, doesn't it?" admitted King.

For a moment they were silent. Then the girl spoke. "Gordon King," she
said in that soft, caressing voice that the man found so agreeable, that
often he had sought for means to lure her into conversation. "Gordon
King, soon we shall see one another no more."

The American frowned. He did not like to think of that. He had tried to
put it out of his mind and to imagine that by some chance they would be
allowed to be together after they reached Lodidhapura, for he had found
Fou-tan a cheery and pleasant companion even when her hour was darkest.
Why, she was the only friend he had! Certainly they would not deny him
the right to see her. From what he had gleaned during his conversation
with Vama and the other warriors, King had become hopeful that
Lodivarman would not treat him entirely as a prisoner or an enemy, but
might give him the opportunity to serve the King as a soldier. Fou-tan
had rather encouraged this hope too, for she knew that it was not at all
improbable of realisation.

"Why do you say that?" demanded King. "Why shall we not see one another
again?"

"Would you be sad, Gordon King, if you did not see Fou-tan any more?"
she asked.

The man hesitated before he replied, as though weighing in his mind a
problem that he had never before been called upon to consider; and as he
hesitated a strange, hurt look came into the eyes of the girl.

"It is unthinkable, Fou-tan," he said at last, and the great brown eyes
of the little apsaras softened and tears rose in them. "We have been
such good friends," he added.

"Yes," she said. "We have known each other but a very short time, and
yet we seem such good friends that it is almost as though we had known
each other always."

"But why should we not see one another again?" he demanded once more.

"Lodivarman may punish me for running away, and there is only one
punishment that would satisfy his pride in such an event and that is
death; but if he forgives me, as he doubtless will, because of my youth
and my great beauty and his desire for me, then I shall be taken into
the King's palace and no more then might you see me than if I were dead.
So you see, either way, the result is the same."

"I shall see you again, Fou-tan," said the man.

She shook her head. "I like to hear you say it, even though I know that
it cannot be."

"You shall see, Fou-tan. If we both live I shall find a way to see you;
and, too, I shall find a way to take you out of the palace of the King
and back to Pnom Dhek."

She looked up at him with earnest eyes, full of confidence and
admiration. "When I hear you say it," she said, "the impossible seems
almost possible."

"Cling to the hope, Fou-tan," he told her; "and when we are separated,
know always that my every thought will be centered upon the means to
reach you and take you away."

"That will help me to cling to life until the last horrible minute,
beyond which there can be no hope and beyond which I will not go."

"What do you mean, Fou-tan?" There had been that in her voice which
frightened him.

"I can live in the palace of the King with hope until again the King
sends for me, and then--"

"And then?"

"And then--death."

"No, Fou-tan, you must not say that. You must not think it."

"What else could there be--after?" she demanded. "He is a leper!" The
utter horror in her voice and expression, as her lips formed the word,
aroused to its fullest the protective instinct of the man. He wanted to
throw an arm about her, to soothe and reassure her; but his wrists were
bound together behind him, and he could only move on dumbly at her side
toward the great, carved gate of Lodidhapura.

The sentry at the gate halted Vama and his party, though his greeting,
following his formal challenge, indicated that he was well aware of the
identity of all but King, a fact which impressed the American as
indicative of the excellent military discipline that obtained in this
remote domain of the leper king.

Summoned by the sentry, the captain of the gate came from his quarters
within the massive towers that flanked the gateway to Lodidhapura. He
was a young man, resplendent in trappings of gold and blue and yellow.
His burnished cuirass and his helmet were of the precious metal, but his
weapons were stern and lethal.

"Who comes?" he demanded.

"Vama of the King's guard, with the apsaras from Pnom Dhek, who ran away
into the jungle, and a warrior from a far country whom we took
prisoner," replied the leader of the detachment.

"You have done well, Vama," said the officer, as his eyes quickly
appraised the two captives. "Enter and go at once to the palace of the
King, for such were his orders in the event that you returned successful
from your quest."

The streets of Lodidhapura, beyond the gate, were filled with citizens
and slaves. Tiny shops with wide awnings lined the street through which
Vama's captives were conducted. Merchants in long robes and ornate
headdresses presided over booths where were displayed a bewildering
variety of merchandise, including pottery, silver and gold ornaments,
rugs, stuffs, incense, weapons, and armour.

Men and women of high rank, beneath gorgeous parasols borne by almost
naked slaves, bartered at the booths for the wares displayed;
high-hatted priests moved slowly through the throng, while burly
soldiers elbowed their way roughly along the avenue. Many turned to note
the escort and its prisoners, and the sight of Fou-tan elicited a wealth
of ejaculation and many queries; but to all such Vama, fully aware of
his importance, turned a deaf ear.

As they approached the centre of Lodidhapura, King was amazed by the
evident wealth of the city, by the goods displayed in the innumerable
shops, and by the grandeur of the architecture. The ornate carvings that
covered the facades of the great buildings, the splendour of the
buildings themselves, filled him with awe; and when at last the party
halted before the palace of Lodivarman, the American was staggered by
the magnificence which confronted him.

They had been conducted through a great park that lay below, and to the
east of the stately temple of Siva, which dominated the entire city of
Lodidhapura. Great trees and gorgeous shrubbery shadowed winding avenues
that were flanked by statues and columns of magnificent, though
sometimes barbaric, design; and then the palace of the King had burst
suddenly upon his astonished gaze--a splendid building embellished from
foundation to loftiest tower with tile of the most brilliant colouring
and fanciful design.

Before the entrance to the palace of Lodivarman stood a guard of fifty
warriors. No brass-bound soldiers these, resplendent in shining
cuirasses of burnished gold, whose haughty demeanour bespoke their
exalted position and the high responsibility that devolved upon them.

Gordon King had difficulty in convincing himself of the reality of the
scene. Again and again his sane Yankee head assured him that no such
things might exist in the jungles of Cambodia and that he still was the
victim of the hallucinations of high fever; but when the officer at the
gate had interrogated Vama and presently commands were received to
conduct the entire party to the presence of Lodivarman, and still the
hallucination persisted in all its conclusiveness, he resigned himself
to the actualities that confronted him and would have accepted as real
whatever grotesque or impossible occurrences or figures might have
impinged themselves upon his perceptive faculties.

Escorted by a detachment of the golden warriors of Lodivarman, the
entire city was conducted through long corridors toward the centre of
the palace and at last, after a wait before massive doors, was ushered
into a great hall, at the far end of which a number of people were
seated upon a raised dais. Upon the floor of the chamber were many men
in gorgeous raiment--priests, courtiers, and soldiers. One of the
latter, resplendent in rich trappings, received them and conducted them
toward the far end of the chamber, where they were halted before the
dais.

King saw seated upon a great throne an emaciated man, upon every exposed
portion of whose body were ugly and repulsive sores. To his right and
below him were sombre men in rich garb, and to his left a score of
sad-eyed girls and women. This, then, was Lodivarman, the Leper King of
Lodidhapura! The American felt an inward revulsion at the mere sight of
this repulsive creature and simultaneously understood the horror that
Fou-tan had evinced at the thought of personal contact with the leper
into whose clutches fate had delivered her.

Before Lodivarman knelt a slave, bearing a great salver of food, into
which the King continually dipped with his long-nailed fingers. He ate
almost constantly during the audience, and as King was brought nearer he
saw that the delicacies intended to tempt the palate of a king were
naught but lowly mushrooms.

"Who are these?" demanded Lodivarman, his dead eyes resting coldly on
the prisoners.

"Vama, the commander of ten," replied the officer addressed, "who has
returned from his mission, to the honour of the King, with the apsaras
for whom he was dispatched and a strange warrior whom he took prisoner."

"Fou-tan of Pnom Dhek," demanded Lodivarman, "why did you seek to escape
the honour for which I had destined you?"

"Great King," replied the girl, "my heart is still in the land of my
sire. I would have returned to Pnom Dhek, for I longed for the father
and the friends whom I love and who love me."

"A pardonable desire," commented Lodivarman, "and this time thy
transgression shall be overlooked, but beware a repetition. You are
destined to the high honour of the favour of Lodivarman. See that
hereafter, until death, thou dost merit it."

Fou-tan, trembling, curtsied low; and Lodivarman turned his cold, fishy
eyes upon Gordon King. "And what manner of man bringeth you before the
King now?" he asked.

"A strange warrior from some far country, Glorious King," replied Vama.

"A runaway slave from Pnom Dhek more likely," commented Lodivarman.

"Even as I thought, Resplendent Son of Heaven," answered Vama; "but his
deeds are such as to leave no belief that he be either a slave or the
son of slaves."

"What deeds?" demanded the King.

"He faced my detachment single-handed, and with a lone shaft he slew one
of the best of the King's bowmen."

"Is that all?" asked Lodivarman. "A mere freak of Fate may account for
that."

"No, Brother of the Gods," replied Vama. "There is more."

"And what is it? Hasten, I cannot spend the whole evening in idle
audience over a slave."

"With a single spear-cast he slew My Lord the Tiger," cried Vama.

"And you saw this?"

"Fou-tan saw it, and all of us saw the carcass of the tiger the
following morning. O King, he drove his spear a full two feet into the
breast of the tiger as the great beast charged. He is a marvellous
warrior, and Vama is proud to have brought such a one to serve in the
ranks of the army of Lodivarman."

For a while Lodivarman was silent, his dead eyes upon King, while he
helped himself from time to time to the tender-cooked mushrooms with
which the slave tempted him.

"With a single cast he slew My Lord the Tiger?" demanded Lodivarman of
Fou-tan.

"It is even so, Great King," replied the girl.

"How came he to do it? Surely no sane man would tempt the great beast
unless in dire predicament."

"He did it to save me, upon whom the tiger was preparing to spring."

"So I am doubly indebted to this stranger," said Lodivarman. "And what
gift would suit your appetite for reward?" demanded the King.

"I desire no reward," replied the American, "only that you will permit
Fou-tan to return to her beloved Pnom Dhek."

"You do not ask much!" cried Lodivarman. "I like your ways. You shall
not be destroyed, but instead you shall serve me in the palace guards;
such a spear-man should prove worth his weight in gold. As for your
request, remember that Fou-tan belongs to Lodivarman, the King, and so
may no longer be the subject of any conversation, upon pain of death.
Take him to the quarters of the guard!" he directed one of his officers,
nodding at King, "and see that he is well cared for, trained and armed."

"Yes, most magnificent of kings," replied the man addressed.

"Take the girl to the quarters of the women and look to it that she does
not again escape," commanded Lodivarman, with a gesture that dismissed
them all.

As he was escorted from the audience chamber through one exit, King saw
Fou-tan led away toward another. Her eyes were turned back toward him,
and in them was a haunting suggestion of grief and hopelessness that cut
him to the heart.

"Good-by, Gordon King!" she called to him.

"Until we meet again, Fou-tan," he replied.

"You will not meet again," said the officer who was escorting him, as he
hustled the American from the chamber.

The barracks to which King was assigned stood a considerable distance in
the rear of the palace, not far from the stables in which were housed
the King's elephants, yet, like the latter, within the grounds of the
royal enclosure. The long, low buildings that housed the soldiers of
Lodivarman's royal guard were plastered inside and out with mud and
thatched with palm fronds. Along either wall upon the hardpacked dirt
floors were pallets of straw, where the common soldiers were bedded down
like horses. A space of some four feet in width by seven in length was
allotted to each man, and into the wall above his pallet pegs had been
driven upon which he might hang his weapons and his clothing, a
cooking-pot, and a vessel for water. Along the centres of the buildings
was a clear space about eight feet wide, forming an aisle in which
soldiers might be formed for inspection. Just beneath the eaves was an
open space running the full length of both walls, giving ample
ventilation but very little light to the ulterior of the barracks. The
doors were at either end of the buildings.

The building to which King was escorted was about two hundred feet long
and housed a hundred men. It was but one of a number of similar
structures, which he later learned were placed at strategic positions
just inside the wall of the royal enclosure, where five thousand
men-at-arms were constantly maintained.

At Varna's request King was assigned to his unit of ten to replace the
soldier that he had slain in the jungle, and thus the American took up
his life in the unit of ten, with Kau and Tchek and Vama and the others
with whom he was already acquainted as his companions.

From a naked jungle hunter to a soldier of a Khmer king, he had crossed
in a single step long ages of evolution, and yet he was still a thousand
years from the era into which he had been born.




7 A Soldier of the Guard


The lives of private soldiers of the royal guard of a Khmer king were
far from thrilling. Their most important assignment was to guard duty,
which fell to the lot of each soldier once in every four days. There
were drills daily, both upon foot and upon elephants, and there were
numerous parades and ceremonies.

Aside from the care of their own weapons they were called upon for no
manual labour, such work being attended to by slaves. Once a week the
straw which formed their pallets was hauled away upon bullock-carts to
the elephants' stables, where it was used to bed down the great
pachyderms, and fresh straw was brought to the barracks.

Their leisure, of which they usually had a little at various times
during the day, the soldiers utilised in gossiping or gambling, or
listening to the story-tellers, certain of whom were freely admitted to
the royal grounds. Many were the stories to which King listened--stories
of ancient power and stories of kings who owned a million slaves and a
hundred thousand elephants; stories of Kambu, the mythical founder of
the Khmer race; of Yacovarman, the king of glory; and of Jayavarman
VIII, the last of the great kings. Interwoven throughout all the fabric
of these hoary tales were the Nagas and the Yeacks, those ever-recurring
mythological figures that he had met in the folk-lore of the people
beyond the jungle, in the dark dwelling of Che and Kangrey, and now in
the shadow of the palace of the great King, Lodivarman.

Or when there were no story-tellers, or he tired of listening to the
idle gossip of his fellows, or became bored by their endless games of
chance, King would sit in silence, meditating upon the past and seeking
an answer to the riddle of the future. Recollection of his distant home
and friends always raised a vision of Susan Anne Prentice--home and
friends and Susan Anne--they were all one; they constituted his past and
beckoned him into the future. It seemed difficult to think of life
without home and friends and Susan Anne when he thought of them, but
always the same little figure rose in front of them, clear and distinct,
as they faded slowly out of the picture: sad eyes in which there yet
dwelt a wealth of inherent happiness and mirth, a piquant face, and
gleaming teeth behind red lips. Always his thoughts, no matter how far
they roamed, returned to this dainty flower of girlhood, and then his
brows would contract and his jaws clench and he speculated upon her fate
and chafed and fretted because of his inability to succour her.

And one day as he sat meditating thus he saw a strange figure
approaching across the barracks yard. "Ye gods!" he exclaimed, almost
audibly; "one by one my dreams are coming true! If it isn't the old bird
with the red umbrella that I saw just before Che and Kangrey rescued me,
I'll eat my shirt."

King had had considerable difficulty in differentiating between the
fantastic figures of his fever-induced hallucinations and the realities
of his weird experiences in the jungle, so that though Che and Kangrey
had insisted that there had been an old man with a long yellow robe and
a red umbrella and although King had believed them, yet it was with
somewhat of a shock that he recognised the reality. As Vay Thon passed
among the soldiers, they arose to their feet and bowed low before him,
evincing the awe and reverence in which they held him. He passed them
with nodding head and mumbled benediction, gazing intently at each face
as though he sought some particular warrior.

Seeing that the others rose and bowed before the high priest, King did
likewise; and when Vay Thon's eyes fell upon him they lighted with
recognition. "It is you, my son," he said. "Do you recall me?"

"You ate Vay Thon, the high priest of Siva," replied the American.

"He whom you saved from My Lord the Tiger," replied the priest.

"An obligation which you fully discharged when you commanded Che and
Kangrey to nurse me back to life."

"An obligation that I may never fully discharge," replied Vay Thon; "and
because of this I came to search for you, that I may offer you proof of
my undying gratitude."

"How did you know that I was here?" asked King.

"I have talked with Fou-tan," replied Vay Thon, "and when she had
described the warrior who had rescued her, I knew at once that it must
be you."

"You have seen Fou-tan and talked with her?" asked King.

The high priest nodded.

"And she is well--and safe?" demanded King.

"Her body is well, but her heart is sick," replied the high priest; "but
she is safe--those who find favour in the eyes of the King are always
safe, while the King's favour lasts."

"Has she--has he--"

"I understand what you would ask, my son," said Vay Thon. "Lodivarman
has not yet sent for her."

"But he will," cried King.

"To-night, I think," said Vay Thon.

The anguish in the young man's eyes would have been apparent to one of
far less intelligence and discernment than Vay Thon. He laid his hand in
compassion upon the shoulder of the American. "If I could help you, my
son, I would," he said; "but in such matters kings may not be crossed
even by gods."

"Where is she?" asked King.

"She is in the King's house," replied Vay Thon, pointing toward a wing
of the palace that was visible from where they stood.

For a long moment the eyes of the American, lighted by determination and
by a complexity of other fires that burned within him, remained riveted
upon the house of the King.

Vay Thon, the high priest of Siva, was old and wise and shrewd. "I read
your heart, my son," he said, "and my heart goes out in sympathy to
yours, but what you plan is impossible of execution; it would but lead
to torture and to death."

"In what room is she in the house of the King?" demanded the American.

Vay Thon shook his head sadly. "Forget this madness," he said. "It can
lead but to the grave. I am your friend and I would help you, but I
would be no friend were I to encourage you in the mad venture that I can
only too well guess is forming in your mind. I owe you my life; and
always shall I stand ready to aid you in any way that lies within my
power, except in this. And now, farewell; and may the gods cause you to
forget your sorrow."

As Vay Thon turned and walked slowly back in the direction of the
temple, Gordon King stood gazing at the house of Lodivarman; forgotten
were Vay Thon; forgotten were his wise words of counsel. King seemed
hypnotised; a single figure filled the retina of his mind's eye--a tiny
figure, yet it crowded out all else--through walls of tile and lead he
saw it crouching in despair in the house of the King.

The afternoon was drawing to a close. The warriors who were to relieve
the palace guard at sundown were already buckling on their brass
cuirasses, straightening their leather tunics, adjusting their helmets,
polishing weapons until they glistened even in the dark interior of the
barracks.

Gordon King was recalled to his surroundings by two tardy warriors who
were hastening to accoutre themselves for guard duty; and in that
instant was born the mad scheme that, without the slightest
consideration, he was to attempt to put into execution.

Turning quickly, he overtook the men just before they entered the
barracks and touched one of them upon the shoulder. "May I have a word
with you?" he asked.

"I have no time. I am already late," replied the warrior.

"I shall be quick, then," replied King. "Let me take your place on the
guard to-night, and I will give you all of my next pay."

Instantly the man was all suspicion. "That is a strange request," he
said. "Most warriors would pay to be relieved of guard duty. What is
your purpose?"

"There is a certain slave girl attached to the house of the King, and
to-night she will be looking for a certain warrior." And the American
nudged the other in the ribs and gave him a sly wink.

The warrior's face relaxed into a grin. "It might go hard with us if we
were caught," he said; "but, by Siva, three months' pay is not to be
considered lightly. Quick! Get into your harness, while I explain the
matter to the others of the ten. But be sure that you do not say
anything about the pay, for if they knew that, each would want his
share."

"You are doing it for friendship," said King with a laugh, as he
hastened into the interior of the barracks. As he hurriedly adjusted his
cuirass and helmet, the warrior whose place he was to take was
explaining the matter to the other members of the ten, who received it
with rough laughter and broad jokes.

At first the petty officer in command of the ten positively forbade the
exchange, and it was necessary for King to promise him a month's pay
before he, at last, reluctantly acceded. "But remember," he admonished
them, "I know nothing of it, for no such thing may be done with my
knowledge."

As the ten marched toward the house of the King, the American's
excitement increased, though outwardly he was calm. Just what he was
going to do and just how he was going to execute it, the man could not
know, because he had no idea as to what obstacles would present
themselves, or, upon the other hand, what good fortune might lie in
store for him. He fully appreciated that his proposed action was unwise,
ill-considered, and almost definitely doomed to defeat; but could he
have turned back he would not have done so.

Presently they were halted at the King's house, a little to one side of
the main entrance and before a low doorway. Other contingents of the
guard were arriving from other barracks, while members of the old guard
emerged from the low doorway and were formed for the brief ceremony that
marked the changes of the guard.

Immediately following the ceremony a number of the new guard were told
off to relieve the sentries upon their posts about the grounds and
within the interior of the palace, and King happened to be among these.
As he was marched away he could not help but wonder what post Fate would
select for him, though wherever it should be he was determined that he
would find the means for gaining access to the interior of the palace.

The detail of the guard was first marched to the far end of the wing,
and here a sentry was relieved who paced back and forth in front of a
tiny doorway, shadowed by trees and shrubbery. King thought that this
would have been an excellent post; but it did not fall to him; and as
they continued on about the wing of the palace, relieving sentry after
sentry, he began to fear that he was not going to be posted at all; and,
indeed, the detail traversed the outside of the entire wing, and still
the American had been assigned no post. And then they came at last
before the ornate entrance to the King's house, where ten men were
detached from the detail to relieve those posted at this important spot.

All the sentries hitherto relieved were then marched away, and King
found himself one of five who had not as yet been posted. These, to the
astonishment and gratification of the American, were marched into the
palace. Three were detailed to posts in the long entrance corridor,
while King and the other remaining warrior were marched to the doorway
of a large and luxuriously furnished apartment. At one end of the
chamber, raised slightly above the floor level, was a dais covered with
gorgeous rugs. Upon it stood a low table laid with a service of solid
gold, with bowls of fruit and sweetmeats, several massive golden jugs,
and ornately carved goblets. Behind the table was a pile of pillows
covered with rich stuff, and over all a canopy of cloth of gold. On the
floor of the chamber, below the dais, was a long table, similarly though
not so richly laid; and this was entirely surrounded by rich cushions.

On either side of the doorway, facing the interior of the room, stood
King and his fellow warrior, two bronze statues cuirassed in burnished
brass. For five minutes they stood there thus facing the empty chamber;
and then a door at the far side opened, and a file of slaves entered,
some twenty-five or thirty in all. Two of these took their places at
opposite ends of the dais back of the table and the pillows, standing
erect with arms folded and eyes staring straight to the front. The other
slaves took similar positions at intervals behind the long table on the
main floor and faced the dais. Between the long table and the dais and
facing the latter stood a richly garbed individual whom King mentally
classified as a sort of major-domo.

Again there was a wait of several minutes, during which no one spoke or
moved. Then, through the doorway which King and his fellow guarded, a
party of men entered the chamber. Some were warriors, cuirassed and
helmeted in gold, while others were garbed in long robes of vivid hues,
richly embroidered. A number of these wore fantastic headdresses,
several of which were over two feet in height.

These banquet guests formed in little groups behind the long table,
engaged in low-toned conversation. There was no laughter now and they
spoke scarcely above a whisper. It was as though a pall of gloom had
enveloped them the instant they entered the gorgeously appointed
chamber. Almost immediately an arras at the rear of the dais was drawn
aside, revealing a warrior of the guard, who sounded a fanfare upon a
golden trumpet. As the last note died away, the slaves in the chamber
prostrated themselves, pressing their foreheads to the floor, while the
guests kneeled with bowed heads; and then Lodivarman, the Leper King of
Lodidhapura, came slowly through the opening at the rear of the dais.
Only the trumpeter and the two guards at the door remained standing as
Lodivarman advanced and seated himself upon the pillows behind his
table. For a moment he looked about the apartment through his dull eyes,
and then, apparently satisfied, he struck his palms together a single
time.

Immediately all in the apartment arose to their feet. The major-domo
bowed low three times before the King. Each of the guests did the same,
and then, in silence, took their places at the banquet table. When all
had been seated, Lodivarman struck his palms together a second time; and
immediately the slaves stepped forward upon noiseless feet and commenced
to serve the viands and pour the wine. A third time Lodivarman gave the
signal, upon which the guests relaxed and entered into low-voiced
conversation.

From his post at the entrance-way, Gordon King noticed the bountiful
array of food upon the long banquet table. Only a few of the articles
did he recognise, but it was evident that fruit and vegetables and meat
were there in abundance. The largest bowl upon the little table of the
King was rilled with mushrooms, aside from which there was little else
upon Lodivarman's table other than fruit, sweetmeats, and wine. From
what he had previously seen of Lodivarman and from the gossip that he
had heard in the barracks he was aware that this monarch was so addicted
to the use of mushrooms that the eating of them had become a fixed habit
with him almost to the exclusion of proper and natural food, and his
taste for them was so inordinate that he had long since ordained them
royal food, forbidden under pain of death to all save the King.

As the tiresome meal progressed, the banqueters carried on their forced
and perfunctory conversation, while Lodivarman sat silent and morose,
his attention divided between his mushrooms and his wine. As King
watched he could not but compare this meal with formal dinners he had
attended in New York and Washington, and he sympathised with the
banqueters in the hall of Lodivarman, because he knew that they were
suffering the same boredom that he had once endured, but with the
advantage that they did not have to appear to be happy and gay.

Presently Lodivarman made a sign to the major-domo, who clapped his
hands twice; and immediately all eyes turned to a doorway at one side of
the chamber, through which there now filed a company of apsarases. About
the hips the girls wore girdles of virgin gold, which supported skirts
that fell to within a few inches of their ankles. From their hips two
stiff-pointed panels of cloth bowed outward, falling almost to the
floor. Above the hips their bodies were naked, except for rich armlets
and necklaces. Their headdresses were fantastic contrivances that
resembled ornate candelabra, heavy ear-rings fell to their shoulders,
and above their bare feet were anklets of precious metal. A few wore
masks of hideous design, but the painted lips and cheeks and darkened
eyes of most of them were pretty; but there was one among them who was
gorgeous in her loveliness. As the eyes of Gordon King fell upon her
face, he felt his heart quicken, for she was Fou-tan. She had not seen
him when she entered; and now she danced with her back toward him, a
dance that consisted of strange postures of the feet and legs, the hips,
the arms and hands and heads of the little dancers. As they went through
the slow steps of the dance, they bent their fingers, their hands, and
their arms into such unnatural positions that Gordon King marvelled, not
only upon the long hours and days of practice that must have been
necessary for them to perfect themselves, but also upon the mentality of
an audience that could find entertainment in such a combination of
beauty and grotesqueness. That the dance was ritualistic and had some
hidden religious significance was the only explanation that he could
place upon it, yet even so he realised that it was fully as artistic and
beautiful and intelligent as much of the so-called aesthetic dancing
that he had been compelled to endure in modern America and Europe.

There were twenty apsarases taking part in the dance, but King saw only
one--a lithe and beautiful figure that moved faultlessly through the
long sequences of intricate and difficult posturing. Mad scheme after
mad scheme passed through his mind as he sought for some plan whereby he
might take advantage of their proximity to effect her release from the
palace of the King, but each one must needs be discarded in the light of
sober reflection. He must wait, but while he waited he planned and
hoped.

As the long dance drew to a close, Gordon King saw Lodivarman beckon to
the major-domo to him and whisper briefly to that functionary; and as
the apsarases were withdrawing from the room, the man hastened after
them and touched Fou-tan upon the shoulder. He spoke to her, and King
could see the girl shrink. Lodivarman clapped his hands three times, and
again the slaves prostrated themselves and the guests kneeled; while
Lodivarman rose to his feet and walked slowly from the chamber through
the same doorway by which he had entered. Immediately after he was gone
the guests arose and left the chamber, apparently only too glad to be
released from the ordeal of a state banquet. The slaves began to gather
up the dishes and bear them away, while the major-domo led Fou-tan
across the chamber, up on to the royal dais and bowed her into the
doorway through which Lodivarman had disappeared.

Gordon King could scarce restrain himself as the full import of what he
had just witnessed revealed itself to his tortured mind. Inclination
prompted him to run across the chamber and follow Lodivarman and Fou-tan
through that doorway of mystery, but again sane judgment interposed.

With the passing of the King and the guests, the American's fellow
guardsman had relaxed. He no longer stood in statuesque immobility, but
lounged carelessly against the wall watching the slaves bearing away the
trays of unfinished food. "We should enjoy that more than the guests
seemed to," he said to King, nodding toward the viands.

"Yes," replied the American, his mind upon other matters.

"I have stood guard here many times in the past," continued the warrior,
"and never have I gone hungry after a banquet."

"I am not hungry now," said King shortly.

"I am," said the warrior. "Just beyond that door they stack up the
dishes. If you will watch here, I can go in there and eat all that I
want."

"Go ahead," said the American.

"If you see an officer approaching, whistle once."

"If I see one I shall whistle. Go ahead," said King, seeing here a
God-given opportunity to carry out the plan that the presence of the
other warrior would have thwarted.

"It will not take me long," said the warrior, and with that he hurried
quickly toward the little door through which the slaves were carrying
the food.

Scarcely had the door closed behind his companion when King crossed the
apartment and leaped to the dais. At the moment the chamber was empty,
not even a single slave remaining within it, and there was no witness as
the American parted the hangings and disappeared through the doorway
that shortly before had swallowed Lodivarman and Fou-tan.



8 In the House of the King


The major-domo led Fou-tan through a dimly lighted corridor to a small
apartment not far from the banquet hall. The interior walls of thin
sheet lead, hand-pounded upon great blocks of stone, were covered with
paintings depicting scenes of war, the chase, the palace, and the
temple. There were spearmen and bowmen and great elephants trapped for
war. A king upon horseback, followed by his courtiers, rode down a tiger
and slew him with a spear. Countless apsarases posed in wooden postures
of the dance. Priests in long robes and fantastic headdresses marched in
interminable procession toward a temple to Siva, and everywhere
throughout the decorations of the chamber was the symbol of the
Destroyer. Upon the floor were costly rugs and the skins of tigers and
leopards. There were low tables with vessels containing fruit or sweets
and statuary of pottery and stone. At one side of the chamber, depending
from the ceiling by three chains, swung an elaborately carved vessel
from which arose the smoke and the heavy fragrance of burning incense,
while upon the floor was an abundance of cushions covered by rich
embroidery of many hues. The whole apartment was a blaze of colour,
softened and subdued in the light of three cressets burning steadily in
the quiet air.

"Why have you brought me here?" demanded Fou-tan.

"It is the will of Lodivarman, the King," replied the major-domo.

"I should be allowed three days to prepare myself," said the girl. "It
is the custom."

The major-domo shook his head. "I know nothing beyond the orders I
received from Lodivarman," he said. "Customs are made by kings--and
unmade."

Fou-tan looked apprehensively about her, taking in the details of the
apartment. She saw that in addition to the door through which they had
entered there was another door at one end of the room and that along one
side there were three windows, entirely covered now by the hangings that
had been drawn across them. She moved uneasily about while the
major-domo remained standing, always facing her. "Will you not be
seated?" he asked.

"I prefer to stand," she replied, and then, "What are your orders?"

"To bring you here," replied the major-domo.

"And that was all?"

"That was all."

"Why was I brought here?" persisted the girl.

"Because the King ordered it," replied the man.

"Why did he order it?"

"It is not for me to know or to seek to know more than the King
divulges. I am but a servant." For a time the silence of the room was
broken only by their breathing and the soft movements of the girl's
skirt as she paced nervously the length of the gorgeous apartment that,
had its walls been of cold granite, could have meant no more a prison to
her.

Her thoughts were confused by the hopelessness of her situation. She had
had no tune to prepare for this, not in the sense of the preparation
that was customary for a new bride for Lodivarman, but in a sterner, a
more personal sense. She had sworn to herself that she would die before
she would submit to the loathsome embraces of the Leper King; but taken
thus unaware she had no means for death, so that now she concentrated
every faculty of her ingenuity to discover some plan whereby she might
postpone the fatal hour or find the means to liberate herself at once
from the hateful crisis which she felt impended.

And then the door at the end of the room opened and Lodivarman entered.
He halted just within the threshold, closing the door behind him, and
stood thus for a moment in silence, his dead eyes upon her where,
reacting unconsciously to a lifetime of training, she had gone on her
knees before the King, as had the major-domo.

"Arise!" commanded Lodivarman, including them both in a gesture, and
then he turned to the man. "You may go," he said. "See that no one
enters this wing of the palace until I summon."

The major-domo, bowing low, backed from the room, closing the door
softly as he departed. Then it was that Lodivarman advanced toward
Fou-tan. He laid a hand upon her naked shoulder as she shrank back
involuntarily.

"You fear me," he said. "To you I am a loathsome leper. They all fear
me; they all hate me, but what can they do? What can you do? I am King.
May the gods help the poor leper who is not a king!"

"Oh, King, I am not a king," cried the girl. "You call upon the gods to
help the poor leper who is not a king, and yet you would make a leper of
me, you who could save me!"

Lodivarman laughed. "Why should I spare you?" he demanded. "It was a
woman who made me a leper. Let her sin be upon all women. The accursed
creature! From that moment I have hated women; even while I have held
them in my arms I have hated them, but some malignant demon has thwarted
me. Never has a woman contracted leprosy from me; yet I always hope, and
the more beautiful and young they are the higher rises my hope, for once
I was young and beautiful until that accursed woman robbed me of
happiness and took away from me all except the life I had grown to hate;
but perhaps in you my revenge shall be consummated as I have always
hoped. With you it seems that it must be fulfilled, for you are very
young and by far the most beautiful woman that has been offered in
atonement for the sin of her sister. I shall tell you the story; I tell
it to each of them that they may know how well they deserve whatever
fate the gods may hold in store for them, because, like the accursed
one, they are women.

"It was many years ago. I was in the prime of my youth and my beauty. I
had ridden out to hunt My Lord the Tiger with a hundred courtiers and a
thousand men-at-arms. The hunt was a success. Upon that wall beside you
the artist has painted Lodivarman slaying the great beast. Never shall I
forget the day of our triumphal return, of Lodidhapura. Ah, Siva, no,
never shall I forget. It was a day of triumph, a day of discovery, and
the day of my cruel undoing by the foul creature whose sin you are to
expiate.

"It was upon that day that I first tasted a mushroom. At a little
village in the jungle a native upon bended knee offered me a platter of
this then strange food. I partook. Never in my life had I tasted a viand
more delicious. Dismounting, I sat beneath a tree before the hut of the
poor peasant, and there I ate all of the mushrooms that he had
prepared--a great platter of them--but I did not seem able to satisfy my
craving for them, nor have I since then. I questioned him as to what
they were and how they grew, and I gave orders that he be brought to
Lodidhapura and given the means to propagate the royal food. He still
lives. He has been showered with honours and riches, and still he raises
mushrooms for Lodivarman; nor may any other in the realm raise them, nor
any but the King partake of them. And thus there occurred a great
happiness and a great satisfaction upon the selfsame day that saw all
else snatched from me.

"As we entered Lodidhapura later in the day, crowds lined the avenue to
see their King. They sang and shouted in welcome and threw blossoms at
us. My charger, frightened by the noise and the bombardment of blossoms,
became unmanageable, and I was hurled heavily to the ground; whereat a
woman of the crowd rushed forward and threw herself upon me and with her
arms about me covered my face and mouth with kisses. When my courtiers
reached my side and dragged her from me and lifted me to my feet, it was
seen that the woman was a leper. A great cry of horror arose, and the
people who had come to applaud me shrank away, and even my courtiers
drew to one side; and alone I mounted my horse and alone I rode into the
city of Lodidhapura.

"Within an hour I was stricken; these hideous sores came upon my body as
by magic, and never since have I been free from them. Now you shall have
them, woman--daughter of a woman. As I have rotted, so shall you rot; as
I am loathed, so shall you be loathed; as my youth and beauty were
blasted, so shall yours be. Come!" and he laid a heavy hand upon the arm
of Fou-tan.

Gordon King, entering the dimly lighted corridor, paused a moment to
listen, to note if he might not hear voices that would guide him to
those he sought. As he stood there thus, he saw a door open farther
along the corridor and a man back out whom he instantly recognised as
the major-domo. King looked for a place to hide, but there was no
hiding-place; the corridor was straight and none too wide, and it was
inevitable that he would be discovered if the major-domo came that way,
as he did immediately after he had closed the door of the apartment he
had just quitted.

King grasped at the only chance that occurred to him for disarming the
suspicions of the major-domo. Snapping to rigid attention, he stood as
though a posted sentry just inside the entrance to the corridor. The
major-domo saw him, and a puzzled frown crossed the man's face as he
approached along the corridor, halting when he came opposite King.

"What do you here, man?" he demanded suspiciously.

"By the command of Lodivarman, the King, I have been posted here with
orders to let no one enter."

The major-domo seemed puzzled and rather at a loss as to what action he
should take in the matter. He thought of returning to Lodivarman for
verification of the warrior's statement, but he knew the short temper of
his King and hesitated to incur his wrath in the event that the warrior
had spoken the truth. "The King said naught to me of this," he said. "He
commanded me to see that no one entered this wing of the palace."

"That is what I am here for," replied King; "and, furthermore, I must
tell you that nothing was said to me about you and, therefore, I must
order you to leave at once."

"But I am the major-domo," said the man haughtily.

"But I am the King's sentry," replied the American, "and if you wish to
question the King's orders, let us go to Lodivarman together and see
what he has to say about it."

"Perhaps he forgot that he had ordered a sentry posted here," temporised
the major-domo. "But how else could you have been posted here other than
by orders from an officer of the King?"

"How else indeed?" inquired the American.

"Very well," snapped the major-domo. "See that you let no one enter,"
and he was about to pass on when King detained him.

"I have never been posted here before," he said; "perhaps you had better
tell me if there is any other doorway in the corridor through which
anyone might enter this section of the palace, that I may watch that
also; and also if there is anyone here beside the King."

"Only the King and an apsaras are here," replied the man. "They are in
that room from which you saw me come. The doorway this side upon the
right leads down a flight of steps to a corridor that terminates at a
door opening into the royal garden at this end of the palace. It is
never used except by Lodivarman, and as the door is heavily barred upon
the inside and a sentry posted upon the outside, there is no likelihood
that anyone will enter there, so that there remains only this doorway to
be guarded."

"My zeal shall merit the attention of the King," said the sentry, as the
major-domo passed on into the banquet hall and disappeared from view.

The moment that the man was out of sight King hastened quickly up the
corridor and paused before the door, behind which the major-domo told
him he had left Lodivarman and Fou-tan. As he paused he heard a woman's
voice raised in a cry of terror; it came from beyond the heavy panels of
the door, and it was scarcely voiced ere Gordon King pushed the portal
aside and stepped into the room.

Before nun Fou-tan was struggling to release herself from the clutches
of Lodivarman. Horror and revulsion were written large upon her
countenance, while rage and lust distorted the hideous face of the Leper
King.

At the sight of the warrior Lodivarman's face went livid with rage even
greater than that which had been dominating him.

"How dare you!" he screamed. "You shall die for this. Who sent you
hither?"

Gordon King closed the door behind him and advanced toward Lodivarman.

"Gordon King!" cried the girl, her astonishment reflected in her tone
and in the expression upon her face. For an instant hope sprang to her
eyes, but quickly it faded to be replaced by the fear that she felt for
him now as well as for herself. "Oh, Gordon King, they will kill you for
this!"

And now Lodivarman recognised him, too. "So you are the warrior who slew
the tiger single-handed!" he cried. "What brought you here?"

"I have come for Fou-tan," said King simply.

Lodivarman's rotting face twitched with rage. He was rendered speechless
by the effrontery of this low knave. Twice he tried to speak, but his
anger choked him; and then he sprang for a cord that depended against
one of the walls, but King guessed his purpose and forestalled him.
Springing forward, he grasped Lodivarman roughly by the shoulder and
hurled him back. "Not a sound out of you," he said, "or Lodidhapura will
be needing a new king."

It was then that Lodivarman found his voice. "You shall be boiled in oil
for this," he said in a low voice.

"Then I might as well kill you," said Gordon King, "for if I have to
die, it is well that I have my vengeance first," and he raised his spear
as though to cast it.

"No, no!" exclaimed Lodivarman. "Do not kill me. I grant you pardon for
your great offence."

King could not but marvel at the workings of the great law of
self-preservation that caused this diseased and rotten thing, burdened
by misery, hatred, and unhappiness, so tenaciously to cling to the hope
of life.

"Come, come!" cried Lodivarman. "Tell me what you want and be gone."

"I told you what I wanted," said King. "I came for Fou-tan."

"You cannot have her," cried Lodivarman. "She is mine. Think you that a
woman would leave a king for you, knave?"

"Ask her," said King; but there was no need to ask her. Fou-tan crossed
quickly to the American's side.

"Oh, Lodivarman," she cried, "let me go away in peace with this
warrior."

"It is that or death, Lodivarman," said King coldly.

"That or death," repeated Lodivarman in a half whisper. "Very well,
then, you have won," he added presently. "Go in peace and take the girl
with you." But even if he had not noted the cunning expression in the
King's eyes, Gordon King would not have been deceived by this sudden
acquiescence to his demand.

"You are wise, Lodivarman," he said--"wise to choose the easiest
solution to your problem. I, too, must be guided by wisdom and by my
knowledge of the ways of tyrants. Lie down upon the floor."

"Why?" demanded Lodivarman. "What would you do to me? Do you forget that
I am a king, that my person is holy?"

"I remember that you are a man and that men may die if, living, they
present an obstacle to another man who is desperate. Lodivarman, you
must know that I am desperate."

"I have told you that you might go in peace," said the monarch. "Why
would you humiliate me?"

"I have no desire to humiliate you, Lodivarman. I only wish to assure
myself that you will not be able to give the alarm before Fou-tan and I
are beyond the walls of Lodidhapura. I would secure you so that you
cannot leave this chamber; and as you have given orders that no one is
to enter this part of the King's house until you summon, it will be
morning, at least, before you can despatch warriors in pursuit of us."

"He speaks the truth," said Fou-tan to the King; "you will not be
harmed."

For a moment Lodivarman stood silent as though in thought, and then
suddenly and quite unexpectedly he leaped straight for King, striking up
the warrior's spear and endeavouring to clutch him by the throat.
Lodivarman was no coward.

So impetuous was the leper's charge that King was borne backward beneath
the man's weight. His heel caught in the fold of a tiger skin upon the
floor, and he fell heavily backward with Lodivarman upon him. The
fingers of the leper were already at his throat; the rotting face was
close to his; the odour of fetid breath was in his nostrils. But only
for an instant did the Khmer King have an advantage. As he raised his
voice to summon help, the hand of the American found his throat, choking
out the sound even as it was born. Youth and strength and endurance all
were upon the side of the younger man. Slowly he wormed his body from
beneath that of the King; and then, kicking one of Lodivarman's braced
feet from beneath him, he rolled the Khmer over upon his back and was
upon him. Lodivarman's grip was wrenched from King's throat, and now the
Khmer was gasping for breath as he fought, violently but futilely, to
disengage himself from the clutches of the man upon him.

"Lie still," said King. "Do not force me to kill you." The repulsive
sores upon the face of the King were directly beneath his eyes. Even in
this tense moment that was so closely approaching tragedy, the habits of
his medical training were still sufficiently strong to cause the
American to give considerably more than cursory attention to these
outward physical symptoms of the dread disease that had given Lodivarman
the name of the Leper King; and what the doctor in him saw induced a
keen regret that he could not investigate this strange case more fully.

At King's last command and threat, Lodivarman had ceased his struggles,
and the American had relaxed his grasp upon the other's throat. "Are
there any cords attached to the hangings in the room, Fou-tan?" he
demanded of the girl.

"Yes, there are cords at the windows," replied she.

"Get them for me," said the American.

Quickly Fou-tan wrenched the cords loose from their fastenings and
brought them to King, and with them the man bound the wrists and ankles
of the Khmer King. So securely did he bind them and so tightly did he
tie the knots that he had no fear that Lodivarman could release himself
without aid; and now to be doubly certain that he could not summon
assistance, King stuffed a gag of soft cloth into the mouth of his royal
prisoner and bound it tightly there with another cord. Then he sprang to
his feet.

"Come, Fou-tan," he said, "we have no time to lose; but wait, you cannot
go abroad in that garb. You are to accompany me as a slave girl, not as
an apsaras."

Fou-tan snatched off her ornate headdress and threw it upon the floor;
then she loosened the golden girdle that held her voluminous skirt in
place, and as it dropped to the floor King saw that she wore a silken
sampot beneath it. Across a taboret was a long drape, the ends of which
were spread upon the floor. This Fou-tan took and wound about her lithe
form as a sarong.

"I am ready, Gordon King," she said.

"The ear-rings," he suggested, "the necklace, and your other wrist
ornaments. They look too royal for a slave."

"You are right," she said, as she removed them.

King quickly extinguished the cressets, leaving the room in darkness.
Then together the two groped their way to the door. Opening it a little,
King looked about. The corridor was empty. He drew Fou-tan into it and
closed the door behind him. To the next door in the corridor he stepped
and tried it; it was not locked. He could just see the top of a flight
of stone steps leading down into utter darkness. He wished that he had
brought one of the cressets, but now it was too late. He drew Fou-tan
within and closed the door, and now they could see nothing.

"Where does this lead?" asked Fou-tan in a whisper.

"It is the King's private passage to the garden," replied the American,
"and if I have made no mistake in my calculations, the other end of it
is guarded by a sentry who will pass us with a wink."

As they groped their way slowly down the steps and along the corridor
King explained to Fou-tan the subterfuge he had adopted to obtain a
place upon the guard that night and that he had particularly noticed the
little door at the end of this wing of the palace and when the
major-domo had told him of the private passage leading to the garden he
had guessed that it ended at this very door. "The sentry there," he had
concluded, "is from my own barracks and knows the story. That is why you
must be a little slave girl to-night, Fou-tan."

"I do not mind being a slave girl--now," she said, and King felt the
little fingers of the hand he held press his own more tightly.

They came at last to the end of the corridor. In the darkness King's
fingers ran over the surface of the door in search of bars and bolts.
The fastening, which he found at last, was massive but simple. It moved
beneath the pressure of his hand with only a slight grating sound. He
pushed the door slowly open; the fresh night air blew in upon them; the
starlit heavens bathed the garden in gentle luminosity. Cautiously King
crossed the threshold. He saw the warrior upon his post without, and
instantly the man saw him.

"Who comes?" demanded the sentry, dropping his spear-point on a level
with King's breast as he wheeled quickly toward him.

"It is I--King--of Varna's ten. I have found the slave girl of whom I
told you, and I would walk in the garden with her for a few moments."

"I do not know you," snapped the warrior. "I never heard of you or your
slave girl," and then it was that King realised that he had never seen
this man before--that the sentries had been changed since he had entered
the palace. His heart sank within him, yet he maintained a bold front.

"It will do no harm to let us pass for a while," he said, "you can see
that I am a member of the guard, as otherwise I could not have gained
access to the King's house."

"That may be true," replied the warrior, "but I have my orders that no
one shall pass either in or out of this doorway without proper
authority. I will summon an officer. If he wishes to let you pass, that
is none of my affair."

Fou-tan had been standing at King's side. Now she moved slowly and
languorously toward the sentry. Every undulating motion of her lithe
body was provocative. She came very close to him and turned her
beautiful face up toward his. Her eyes were dreamy wells of promise.
"For me?" she asked in a soft, caressing voice. "For me, warrior, could
you not be blind for a moment?"

"For you, yes," said the man huskily, "but you are not for me; you
belong to him."

"I have a sister," suggested Fou-tan. "When I return within the King's
house, perhaps she will come to this little door. What do you say,
warrior?"

"Perhaps it can do no harm," he said hesitatingly. "How long will you
remain in the garden?"

"We shall be in the garden only a few minutes," said King.

"I shall turn my back," said the sentry. "I have not seen you. Remember
that, I have not seen you."

"Nor have we seen you," replied King.

"Do not forget your sister, little one," said the sentry, as he turned
away from them and continued along his post, while Gordon King and
Fou-tan merged with the shadows of the trees beyond.

Perhaps, hours later, when he was relieved, the sentry realised that he
had been duped, but there were excellent reasons why he should keep a
still tongue in his head, though he intended at first opportunity to
look up this warrior who said that his name was King and demand an
accounting from him. Perhaps, after all, the slave girl had had no
sister, with which thought he turned on his pallet of straw and fell
asleep.



9 The Flight


True to their promise to the sentry, Fou-tan and King did not remain
long within the garden of Lodivarman, the Leper King. Inasmuch as the
walls had been built to keep people out of the royal enclosure, rather
than to keep them in, it was not difficult to find a spot where they
might be scaled, since in many places trees grew near, their branches
overhanging.

Along the unlighted streets of the city proper the sight of a warrior
and a girl was not so uncommon as to attract attention, and so it was
with comparative ease that they made their way to the city's outer wall.
Here, once more, a like condition prevailed. Low sheds and buildings
abutted against the inner surface of the city's ramparts, and presently
King found a place where they could ascend to the roof of a building and
surmount the wall itself. The drop to the ground upon the outside,
however, was considerable, and here they were confronted with the
greatest danger that had menaced them since they had passed the sentry.
For either one of them to suffer a sprained ankle or a broken leg at
this time would have been fatal to both.

In the darkness King could not determine the nature of the ground at the
foot of the wall; the light of the stars was not sufficient for that.

"We shall have to take a chance here, Fou-tan," he said.

"It is high, Gordon King; but if you tell me to I will jump."

"No," he said, "that is not necessary. I judge that the wall is about
twenty feet high here. My spear is six feet long; your sarong must be at
least eight feet, possibly longer."

"Yes, it is much too long," she said; "it was not intended for a sarong.
But what has that to do with it?"

"I am going to tie one end of the sarong to the end of my spear; I shall
tie a knot in the other end of the sarong. Do you think that you are
strong enough to cling to that knot while I lower you as near the ground
as I can?"

"I am very strong," said Fou-tan, "and desperation lends even greater
strength." As she spoke she commenced to remove her sarong, and a moment
later King was lowering her slowly over the edge of the wall.

"When I have lowered you as far as I can," he whispered in her ear, "I
shall tell you to drop. After you have done so, stand quickly to one
side, and I will drop my spear. Then you must take it away so that I
will not fall upon it; and also if the ground is rough, smooth it a
little for me."

"Yes," she said, and King lowered her away down the outside of the wall
of Lodidhapura.

Presently he was clinging only to the end of the spear and was leaning
far over the edge of the wall. "Drop," he said in a low voice. Instantly
the pull of her weight was gone from the spear handle in his hand. "Are
you all right?" he asked in a low voice.

"Yes," she replied. "Drop the spear," and then an instant later: "the
grass is thick and soft here."

King lowered himself over the edge of the wall and hung an instant by
his fingers. Then he released his hold and dropped. As he rolled over in
the tall grass, considerably jarred but unhurt, Fou-tan was at his side.
"You are all right, Gordon King?" she demanded. "You are not hurt?"

"I am all right," he said.

"I shall sacrifice a bullock in the temple of Siva when we reach Pnom
Dhek," she said.

"For your sake, Fou-tan, I hope that it will not be long before you are
able to sacrifice the bullock, but we are not at Pnom Dhek yet; I do not
even know where it is."

"I do," replied the girl.

"In what direction?" he asked.

She pointed. "There," she said, "but the way is long and difficult."

Near them was a group of native huts, clustered close to the foot of the
wall, and so they moved out straight across the clearing to the edge of
the jungle and then, turning, paralleled the jungle until they had
passed the city.

"When we were brought into Lodidhapura I saw an avenue leading into the
jungle somewhere in this direction," said King.

"Yes," replied Fou-tan, "but that does not lead to Pnom Dhek."

"Which is the reason that I wish to find it," said King. "The pursuit
will be directed straight in the direction of Pnom Dhek, you may be
assured. Men upon elephants and upon horses will travel after us much
more rapidly than we can travel and we shall be overtaken if we take the
road toward Pnom Dhek. We must go in some other direction and hide in
the jungle for days, perhaps, before we may dare to approach Pnom Dhek."

"I do not care," she said, "and I shall not be afraid if you are with
me, Gordon King."

It was not long before they found the road that he sought. In the open
starlit night the transition to the jungle was depressing and, too, as
they both realised, it was highly dangerous. All about them were the
noises of the gloomy nocturnal forest: the mysterious rustling of
underbrush as some beast passed on padded feet, a coughing growl in the
distance, a snarl and a scream, followed by a long silence that was more
terrifying than the noise.

A few months ago King would have considered their position far more
precarious than he did this night, but now long familiarity with the
jungle had so inured him to its dangers that he had unwittingly acquired
that tendency to fatalism that is a noticeable characteristic of
primitive people who live constantly beneath the menace of beasts of
prey. He was, however, no less aware of the dangers that confronted
them, but held them the lesser of two evils. To remain in the
neighbourhood of Lodidhapura would most certainly result in their early
capture and subject them to a fate more merciless and more cruel than
any which might waylay them along the dark aisles of the forest.
Propinquity had considerably altered his estimation of the great cats;
whereas formerly he had thought of them as the fearless exterminators of
mankind; he had since learned that not all of them are mankillers and
that more often did they avoid man than pursue him. The chances, then,
that they might come through the night without attack were greatly in
their favour; but should they meet a tiger or a leopard or a panther
which, because of hunger, old age, or viciousness, should elect to
attack them, their doom might well be sealed; and whether they were
moving away from Lodidhapura upon the ground or hiding in a tree, they
would be almost equally at the mercy of one or another of these fierce
carnivores.

The avenue that they were following, which entered the jungle from
Lodidhapura, ran broad and clear for a considerable distance into the
forest, dwindling at last to little more than an ordinary game-trail. To
elude their pursuers, they must leave it; but that they might not
attempt until daylight, since to strike out blindly into the trackless
jungle, buried in the impenetrable gloom of night, must almost assuredly
have spelled disaster.

"Even if they find Lodivarman before morning," he said, "I doubt that
they will commence their search for us before daylight."

"They will be ordered out in pursuit the instant that Lodivarman can
issue a command," replied Fou-tan; "but there is little likelihood that
anyone will dare to risk his anger by approaching the apartment in which
he lies until his long silence has aroused suspicion. If your bonds hold
and he is unable to remove the gag from his mouth, I doubt very much
that he will be discovered before noon. His people fear his anger, which
is quick and merciless, and there is only one man in all Lodidhapura who
would risk incurring it by entering that apartment before Lodivarman
summoned him."

"And who is that?" asked King.

"Vay Thon, the high priest of Siva," replied the girl.

"If I am missed and the word reaches the ears of Vay Thon," said King,
"it is likely that his suspicion may be aroused."

"Why?" asked Fou-tan.

"Because I talked with him this afternoon, and I could see that he
guessed what was in my heart. It was he who told me that Lodivarman
would send for you to-night. It was Vay Thon who warned me to attempt no
rash deed."

"He does not love Lodivarman," said the girl, "and it may be that if he
guessed the truth he might be silent, for he has been kind to me; and I
know that he liked you."

For hour after hour the two groped their way along the dark trail, aided
now by the dim light of the moon that the canopy of foliage above
blocked and diffused until that which reached the jungle floor could not
be called light at all, but rather a lesser degree of darkness.

With the passing of the hours King realised that Fou-tan's steps were
commencing to lag. He tuned his own then to suit hers and, walking close
beside her, supported her with his arm. She seemed so small and delicate
and unsuited to an ordeal like this that the man marvelled at her
stamina. More of a hot-house plant than a girl of flesh and blood seemed
Fou-tan of Pnom Dhek, and yet she was evincing the courage and endurance
of a man. He recalled that not once during the night had she voiced any
fear of the jungle, not even when great beasts had passed so close to
them that they could almost hear their breathing. If Khmer slaves were
of this stock, to what noble heights of courage must the masters
achieve!

"You are very tired, Fou-tan," he said; "we shall rest presently."

"No," she replied. "Do not stop on my account. If you would not rest
upon your own account, it must be that you do not think it wise to do
so; that I am with you should make no difference. When you feel the need
of rest and believe that it is safe to rest, then I may rest also, but
not until then.

Stealthily the dawn, advance guard of the laggard day, crept slowly
through the jungle, pushing back the impenetrable shadows of the night.
Shadowy trees emerged from the darkness; armies of gaunt grey boles
marched in endless procession slowly by them; the trail that had been
but a blank wall of darkness before projected itself forward to the next
turn; the hideous night lay behind them, and a new hope was born within
their bosoms. It was time now to leave the trail and search for a
hiding-place, and conditions were particularly favourable at this spot,
since the underbrush was comparatively scant.

Turning abruptly to the left, King struck off at right angles to the
trail; and for another hour the two pushed onward into the untracked
mazes of the forest. This last hour was particularly difficult, for
there was no trail and the ground rose rapidly, suggesting to King that
they were approaching mountains. There were numerous outcroppings of
rocks; and at length they came to the edge of a gorge, in the bottom of
which ran a stream of pure water.

"The gods have been good to us," exclaimed King.

"I have been praying to them all night," said Fou-tan.

The little stream had cut deeply into its limestone bed; but at last
they found a way down to the water, where the cool and refreshing liquid
gave them renewed strength and hope.

The evidences of erosion in the limestone about them suggested to King
that a little search might reveal a safe and adequate hiding-place.
Fortunately the water in the stream was low, giving them dry footing
along its side as they followed the gorge upward; nor had they gone far
before they discovered a location that was ideal for their purpose. Here
the stream made a sharp bend that was almost a right angle; and where
the waters had rushed for countless ages against the base of a limestone
cliff, they had eaten their way far into it, hollowing out a sanctuary
where the two fugitives would be safe from observation from above.

Leaving Fou-tan in the little grotto, King crossed the stream and
gathered an armful of dry grasses that grew above the high water-line
upon the opposite side. After several trips he was able to make a
reasonably comfortable bed for each of them.

"Sleep now," he said to Fou-tan; "and when you are rested, I shall
sleep."

The girl would have demurred, wishing him to sleep first; but even as
she voiced her protest, exhaustion overcame her and she sank into a
profound slumber. Seated with his back against the limestone wall of
their retreat, King sought desperately to keep awake; but the monotonous
sound of the running water, which drowned all other sounds, acted as a
soporific, which, combined with outraged Nature's craving for rest, made
the battle he was waging a difficult one. Twice he dozed and then,
disgusted with himself, he arose and paced to and fro the length of
their sanctuary, but the instant that he sat down again he was gone.

It was mid-afternoon when King awoke with a start. He had been the
victim of a harrowing dream, so real that even as he awoke he grasped
his spear and leaped to his feet, but there was no danger menacing. He
listened intently, but the only sound came from the leaping waters of
the stream.

Fou-tan opened her eyes and looked at him. "What is it?" she asked.

He grimaced in self-disgust. "I slept at my post," he said. "I have been
asleep a long time, and I have just awakened."

"I am glad," she said with a smile. "I hope that you have slept for a
long time."

"I have slept almost as long as you have, Fou-tan," he replied; "but
suppose that they had come while I slept."

"They did not come, however," she reminded him.

"Well, right or wrong, we have both slept now," he said, "and my next
business is to obtain food."

"There is plenty in the forest," she said.

"Yes, I noted it as we came this way in the morning."

"Will it be safe to go out and search for food?" asked the girl.

"We shall have to take the chance," he replied. "We must eat and we
cannot find food at night. We shall have to go together, Fou-tan, as I
cannot risk leaving you alone for a moment."

As King and Fou-tan left their hiding-place and started down the gorge
toward a place where they could clamber out of it into the forest in
search of food, a creature at the summit of the cliff upon the opposite
side of the stream crouched behind a low bush and watched them. Out of
small eyes, deep-set beneath a mass of tangled hair, the creature
watched every movement of the two; and when they had passed, it followed
them stealthily, stalking them as a tiger might have stalked. But this
was no tiger; it was a man--a huge, hulking brute of a man, standing
well over six-feet-six on its great flat feet. Its only apparel was a G
string, made from the skin of a wild animal. It wore no ornaments, but
it carried weapons--a short spear, a bow, and arrows.

The jungle lore that the American had learned under the tutorage of Che
stood him in good stead now, for it permitted him quickly to locate
edible fruit and tubers without waste of time and with a minimum of
effort. Fou-tan, city-bred, had but a hazy and most impractical
knowledge of the flora of the jungle. She knew the tall, straight teak
standing leafless now in the dry season and the India-rubber tree; and
with almost childish delight she recognised the leathery laurel-like
leaves of the tree from whose gum resin gamboge is secured; the tall,
flowering stems of the cardamon she knew too; but the sum total of her
knowledge would not have given sustenance to a canary in the jungle. It
was therefore that King's efficiency in this matter filled her with awe
and admiration. Her dark eyes followed his every move; and when he had
collected all of the food that they could conveniently carry and they
had turned their steps back toward their hiding-place, Fou-tan was
bubbling over with pride and confidence and happiness. Perhaps it was as
well that she did not see the uncouth figure hiding in the underbrush as
they passed.

Back in their retreat they partially satisfied their hunger with such of
the food as did not require cooking. "To-night we can have a fire," said
King, "and roast some of these tubers. It would not be safe now, for the
smoke might be seen for a considerable distance; but at night they will
not be searching for us, and the light of a small fire will never escape
from this gorge."

After they had eaten, King took his spear and walked down to the stream
where he had seen fish jumping. He was prompted more by a desire to pass
away the time than by any hope of success in this piscatorial adventure,
but so numerous were the fish and so unafraid that he succeeded in
spearing two with the utmost ease while Fou-tan stood at his elbow
applauding him with excited little exclamations and squeals of delight.

King had never been any less sensitive to the approbation of the
opposite sex than any other normal man, but never, he realised, had
praise sounded more sweetly in his ears than now. There was something so
altogether sincere in Fou-tan's praise that it never even remotely
suggested adulation. He had always found her such an altogether
forthright little person that he could never doubt her sincerity.

"Now we shall have a feast," she exclaimed, as they carried the fishes
back into their grotto. "It is a good thing for me that you are here,
Gordon King, and not another."

"Why, Fou-tan?" he asked.

"Imagine Bharata Rahon or any of the others being faced with the
necessity of finding food for me here in the jungle!" she exclaimed.
"Why, I should either have starved to death or have been poisoned by
their ignorance and stupidity. No, there is no one like Gordon King, as
Fou-tan, his slave, should know."

"Do not call yourself that," he said. "You are not my slave."

"Let us play that I am," she said. "I like it. A slave is great in the
greatness of his master; therefore, it can be no disgrace to be the
slave of Gordon King."

"If I had not found you here in the jungles of Cambodia," he said; "I
could have sworn that you are Irish."

"Irish?" she asked. "What is Irish?"

"The Irish are a people who live upon a little island far, far away.
They have a famous stone there, and when one has kissed this stone he
cannot help thereafter speaking in terms of extravagant praise of all
whom he meets. It is said that all of the Irish have kissed this stone."

"I do not have to kiss a stone to tell the truth to you, Gordon King,"
she said. "I do not always say nice things to people, but I like to say
them to you."

"Why?" he asked.

"I do not know, Gordon King," said Fou-tan, and her eyes dropped from
his level gaze.

They were sitting upon the dry grasses that he had gathered for their
beds. King sat now in silence, looking at the girl. For the thousandth
time he was impressed by her great beauty, and then the face of another
girl arose in a vision between them. It was the face of Susan Anne
Prentice. With a short laugh King turned his gaze down toward the
stream; while once again, upon the opposite cliff-top, the little eyes
of the great man watched them.

"Why do you laugh, Gordon King?" asked Fou-tan, looking up suddenly.

"You would not understand, Fou-tan," he said. He had been thinking of
what Susan Anne would say could she have knowledge of the situation in
which he then was--a situation which he realised was not only improbable
but impossible. Here was he, Gordon King, a graduate physician, a
perfectly normal product of the twentieth century, sitting almost naked
under a big rock with a little slave girl of a race that had disappeared
hundreds of years before. That in itself was preposterous. But there was
another matter that was even less credible; he realised that he enjoyed
the situation, and most of all he enjoyed the company of the little
slave girl.

"You are laughing at me, Gordon King," said Fou-tan, "and I do not like
to be laughed at."

"I was not laughing at you, Fou-tan," he replied. "I could not laugh at
you. I--"

"You what?" she demanded.

"I could not laugh at you," he replied lamely.

"You said that once before, Gordon King," she reminded him. "You started
to say something else. What was it?"

For a moment he was silent. "I have forgotten, Fou-tan," he said then.

His eyes were turned away from her as she looked at him keenly in
silence for some time. Then a slow smile lighted her face and she broke
into a little humming song.

The man upon the opposite cliff withdrew stealthily until he was out of
sight of the two in the gorge below him. Then he arose to an erect
position and crept softly away into the forest. Ready in his hands were
his bow and an arrow. For all his great size and weight he moved without
noise, his little eyes shifting constantly from side to side. Suddenly,
and so quickly that one could scarcely follow the movements of his
hands, an arrow sped from his bow, and an instant later he stepped
forward and picked up a large rat that had been transfixed by his
missile. The creature moved slowly onward, and presently a little monkey
swung through the trees above him. Again the bowstring twanged, and the
little monkey hurtled to the ground at the feet of the primitive hunter.
Squatting on his haunches the man-thing ate the rat raw; then he carried
the monkey back to the edge of the gorge, and after satisfying himself
that the two were still there he fell to upon the principal item of his
dinner; and he was still eating when darkness came.

Fou-tan had not broken King's embarrassed silence, but presently the man
arose. "Where are you going, Gordon King?" she asked.

"There is some driftwood lodged upon the opposite bank, left there by
last season's flood waters. We shall need it for our cooking fire
to-night:"

"I will go with you and help you," said Fou-tan, and together they
crossed the little stream and gathered the dry wood for their fire.

From Che and Kangrey the American had learned to make fire without
matches; and he soon had a little blaze burning, far back beneath the
shelter of their overhanging rock. He had cleaned and washed the fish
and now proceeded to grill them over the fire, while Fou-tan roasted two
large tubers impaled upon the ends of sticks.

"I would not exchange this for the palace of a king, Gordon King," she
said.

"Nor I, Fou-tan," he replied.

"Are you happy, Gordon King?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied. "And you, Fou-tan, are you happy?"

She nodded her head. "It is because you and I are together," she said
simply.

"We come from opposite ends of the earth, Fou-tan," he said, "we are
separated by centuries of time, we have nothing in common, your world
and my world are as remote from one another as the stars; and yet,
Fou-tan, it seems as though I had known you always. It does not seem
possible that I have lived all my life up to now without even knowing
that you existed."

"I have felt that too, Gordon King," said the girl. "I cannot understand
it, but it is so. However, you are wrong in one respect."

"And what is that?" he asked.

"You said that we had nothing in common. We have."

"What is it?" demanded King.

Fou-tan shuddered. "The leprosy," she said. "He touched us both. We
shall both have it."

Gordon King laughed. "We shall never contract leprosy from Lodivarman,"
he said. "I am a doctor. I know."

"Why shall we not?" she demanded.

"Because Lodivarman is not a leper," replied the American.



10 Love and the Brute


From the opposite side of the gorge the brute, gnawing upon a leg bone
of the monkey, watched the two below. He saw the fire kindled and it
troubled him. He was afraid of fire. Muddily, in his undeveloped brain,
it represented the personification of some malign power. The brute knew
no god; but he knew that there were forces that brought pain, disaster,
death, and that oftentimes these forces were invisible. The visible
causes of such effects were the enemies he had met in the jungle in the
form of men or of beasts; therefore, it was natural that he should endow
the invisible causes of similar effects with the physical attributes of
the enemies that he could see. He peopled the jungle accordingly with
invisible men and invisible beasts that wrought pain, disaster, and
death. These enemies he held in far greater fear than those that were
visible to him. Fire, he knew, was the work of one of these dread
creatures, and the very sight of it made him uncomfortable.

The brute was not hungry; he harboured no animosity for the two
creatures he stalked; he was motivated by a more powerful urge than
hunger or hate. He had seen the girl!

The fire annoyed him and kept him at bay; but time meant little to the
brute. He saw that the two had made beds, and he guessed that they would
sleep where they were during the night. On the morrow they would go out
after food, and there would be no fire with them. The brute was content
to wait until the morrow. He found some tall grass and, getting upon his
hands and knees, turned about several times, as bedding dogs are wont to
do, and then lay down. He had flattened the grasses so that they all lay
in one direction, and when he turned upon his bed he always turned in
that direction, so that the sharp ends of the grasses did not stick into
his flesh. Perhaps he had learned this trick from the wild dogs, or
perhaps the wild dogs first learned it from man. Who knows?

In the darkness Fou-tan and King sat upon their beds and talked. Fou-tan
was full of questions. She wanted to know all about the strange country
from which King came. Most of the things he told her she could not
understand; but her questions were quite often directed upon subjects
that were well within her ken--there are some matters that are eternal;
time does not alter them.

"Are the women of your country beautiful?" she asked.

"Some of them," replied the man.

"Have you a wife, Gordon King?" The question was voiced in a whisper.

"No, Fou-tan."

"But you love someone," she insisted, for love is so important to a
woman that she cannot imagine a life devoid of love.

"I have been too busy to fall in love," he replied good-naturedly.

"You are not very busy now," suggested Fou-tan.

"I think I shall be a very busy man for the next few days trying to get
you back to Pnom Dhek," he assured her.

Fou-tan was silent. It was so dark that he could scarcely see her. But
he could feel her presence near him, and it seemed to exert as strong an
influence upon him as might have physical contact. He had recognised the
power of that indefinable thing called personality when he had talked
with people and looked into their eyes; but he never had had it reach
out through the dark and lay hold of him as though with warm fingers of
flesh and blood, and King found the sensation most disquieting.

They lay in silence upon their beds of dry grasses, each occupied with
his own thoughts. The heat of the jungle day was rising slowly from the
narrow gorge, and a damp chill was replacing it. The absolute darkness
which surrounded them was slightly mitigated in their immediate vicinity
by an occasional flame rising from the embers of their dying fire as
some drying twigs of their fuel ignited. King was thinking of the girl
at his side, of the responsibility which her presence entailed, and of
the duty that he owed to her and to himself. He tried not to think about
her, but that he found impossible, and the more that she was in his mind
the stronger became the realisation of the hold that she had obtained
upon him; that the sensation that she animated within him was love
seemed incredibly preposterous. He tried to assure himself that it was
but an infatuation engendered by her beauty and propinquity, and he
girded himself to conquer his infatuation that he might perform the duty
that had devolved upon him in so impersonal a way that there might be no
regret.

In order to fortify this noble decision he cast Fou-tan from his mind
entirely and occupied himself with thoughts of his friends in far-away
America. In retrospect he laughed and danced again with Susan Anne
Prentice; he listened to her pleasant cultured voice and enjoyed once
more the sweet companionship of the girl who was to him all that a
beloved sister might have been; and then a little sigh came from the bed
of grasses at his side, and the vision of Susan Anne Prentice faded into
oblivion.

Again there was a long silence, broken only by the murmur of the
tumbling stream.

"Gordon King!" It was just a whisper.

"What is it, Fou-tan?"

"I am afraid, Gordon King," said the girl. How like a little child in
the dark she sounded. Before he could answer, there came the sound of a
soft thud down the gorge and the rattle of loose earth falling from
above.

"What was that?" asked Fou-tan in a frightened whisper. "Something is
coming, Gordon King. Look!"

Silently the man rose to his feet, grasping his spear in readiness. Down
the gorge he saw two blazing points of flame; and quickly stepping to
their fire, he placed dry twigs upon the embers, blowing upon them
gently until they burst into flame. At a little distance those two
glowing spots burned out of the darkness.

King piled more wood upon the fire until it blazed up bravely,
illuminating their little grotto and revealing Fou-tan sitting up upon
her bed of grasses, gazing with wide horror-filled eyes at those two
silent, ominous harbingers of death fixed so menacingly upon them. "My
Lord the Tiger!" she whispered; and her low, tense tones were vibrant
with all the inherent horror of the great beast that had been passed
down to her by countless progenitors, for whom My Lord the Tiger had
constituted life's greatest menace.

Primitive creatures, constantly surrounded by lethal dangers, sleep
lightly. The descent of the great cat into the gorge, followed by the
sounds of the falling earth and stones it had dislodged, brought to his
feet the sleeping brute upon the opposite summit. Thinking that the
noise might have come from the quarry in the gorge below, the creature
moved quickly to the edge of the cliff and looked down; and as the
mounting blazes of King's fire illuminated the scene, the brute saw the
great tiger standing with upraised head, watching the man and the woman
in their rocky retreat.

Here was an interloper that aroused the ire of the brute; here was a
deadly enemy about to seize that which the brute had already marked as
his own. The creature selected a heavy arrow, the heaviest arrow that he
carried, and, fitting it to his bow, he bent the sturdy weapon until the
point of the arrow touched the fingers of his bow-hand; then he let
drive at a point just behind the shoulders of the tiger.

What happened thereafter happened very quickly. The arrow drove through
to the great cat's lungs; the shock, the surprise and the pain brought
instant reaction. Not having sensed the presence of any other formidable
creature than those before him, My Lord the Tiger must naturally have
assumed that they were the authors of his hurt. This supposition, at
least, seemed likely if judged by that which immediately occurred.

With a hideous roar, with blazing eyes, with wide distended jaws,
revealing gleaming fangs, the great cat charged straight for King. Into
the circle of firelight it bounded like a personification of some
hideous force of destruction.

Little Fou-tan, on her feet beside King, seized a blazing brand from the
fire and hurled it full into the face of the charging beast; but the
tiger was too far gone in pain and rage longer to harbour fear of aught.

King's spear-arm went back. Through his mind flashed the recollection of
the other tiger that he had killed with a single spear cast. He had
known then that he had been for the instant the favoured child of
Fortune. The laws of chance would never countenance a repetition of that
amazing stroke of luck; yet there was naught that he could do but try.

He held his nerves and muscles in absolute control, the servants of his
iron will. Every faculty of mind and body was centred upon the accuracy
and the power of his spear-arm. Had he given thought to what might
follow, his nerves must necessarily have faltered, but he did not. Cool
and collected, he waited until he knew that he could not miss nor wait
another moment. Then the bronze skin of his spear-arm flashed in the
light of the fire, and at the same instant he swept Fou-tan to him with
his left arm and leaped to one side.

Not even My Lord the Tiger could have acted with greater celerity,
calmness, and judgment. A low grunt of surprise and admiration burst
from the lips of the brute watching from the summit of the opposite
cliff.

The charge of the tiger carried it full into the fire, scattering the
burning branches in all directions. The dry grasses of the beds burst
into flame. Blinded and terrified, the tiger looked about futilely for
his prey; but King had leaped quickly across the stream to the opposite
side of the gorge, having learned by experience that a creature near the
fire can see nothing in the outer darkness. The great cat, clawing and
biting at the spear protruding from its chest, rent the air with its
screams of pain and growls of rage. Suddenly it was quiet, standing like
a yellow and black statue carved from gold and ebony; then it took a few
steps forward, sagged, and slumped lifeless to the ground.

Gordon King felt very weak in the knees, so weak that he sat down quite
suddenly. He had rung the bell twice in succession, but he could
scarcely believe the evidence of his own eyes. Fou-tan came and sat down
close beside him and rested her cheek against his arm. "My Gordon King!"
she murmured softly.

Almost without volition he put his arm about her. "My Fou-tan!" he said.
The girl snuggled close in his embrace.

For a time they sat watching the tiger, hesitating to approach lest
there might remain a spark of life within the great form, each knowing
that one little instant of life would be sufficient to destroy them both
were they near the beast; but the great cat never moved again.

The dissipated fire was dying down, and realising more than ever now the
necessity for keeping it up, King and Fou-tan arose and, crossing the
stream, scraped together the remaining embers of their fire and rebuilt
it with fresh wood.

From the cliff above the brute watched them, and once again grunted his
admiration as he saw King withdraw his spear from the body of the fallen
tiger. Placing one foot against the breast of the great beast, the
American was forced to exert every ounce of his weight and strength to
withdraw the weapon, so deeply was it embedded in the bone and sinew of
its victim.

"I am afraid that we shall not get much sleep tonight, Fou-tan," said
King as he returned to the fire.

"I am not sleepy," replied the girl; "I could not sleep, and then, too,
it is commencing to get cold. I would rather sit here by the fire until
morning. I would rather have my eyes open than closed in the night when
My Lord the Tiger walks abroad."

Once more they sat down side by side, their backs against the rocky wall
that had been warmed by the heat of the nearby fire.

The brute, realising that they had settled themselves for the night,
returned to his primitive bed and settled himself once more for sleep.

Fou-tan cuddled close to Gordon King; his arm was about her. He felt her
soft hair against his cheek. He drew her closer to him. "Fou-tan!" he
said.

"Yes, Gordon King, what is it?" she asked. He noted that her voice
trembled.

"I love you," said Gordon King.

A sigh that came in little gasps was his reply. He felt her heart
pounding against his side.

A soft arm crept upward to encircle his neck, drawing him gently down to
the sweet face turned toward his. Eyes, dimmed with unshed tears, gazed
into his eyes. Trembling lips fluttered beneath his lips, and then he
crushed her to him in the first kiss of love.

The flower-like beauty of the girl, her softness, her helplessness,
combined with the exaltation of this, his first love, enveloped Fou-tan
with an aura of sanctity that rendered her almost an object of
veneration in the eyes of the man--a high priestess enshrined in the
Holy of Holies of his heart. He marvelled that he had won the love of so
glorious a creature. The little slave girl became an angel, and he her
paladin. In this thought lay the secret of King's attitude toward
Fou-tan. He was glad that she was small and helpless, for he liked to
think of himself as her champion and protector. He liked to feel that
the safety of the girl he loved lay in his hands and that he was
physically and morally competent to discharge the obligations that Fate
had reposed within him.

Despite the fact that she was soft and small, Fou-tan was not without
self-reliance and courage, as she had amply proved when she had run away
from the palace of Lodivarman and risked the perils of the savage
jungle; yet she was still so wholly feminine that she found her greatest
happiness in the protection of the man she loved.

"I am very happy," whispered Fou-tan.

"And so am I," said King, "happier than I have ever been before in my
life, but now we must make our plans all anew."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"We may not go to Pnom Dhek now. We must find our way out of the jungle
so that I can take you to my own country."

"Why?" she demanded.

"Before I answer you," he replied, "there is one question that I have
not asked but that you must answer before we make our plans for the
future."

"What is that?" she asked.

"Will you be my wife, Fou-tan?"

"Oh, Gordon King, I have answered that already, for I have told you that
I love you. Fou-tan would not tell any man that whom she could not or
would not take as her husband; but what has that to do with our
returning to Pnom Dhek?"

"It was everything to do with it," replied King, "because I will not
take the woman who is to be my wife back into slavery."

She looked up into his face, her eyes alight with a new happiness and
understanding. "Now I may never doubt that you love me, Gordon King,"
she said.

He looked at her questioningly. "I do not understand what you mean," he
said.

"Though you thought that I was born a slave, you asked me to be your
wife," she said.

"You told me from the first that you were a slave girl," he reminded
her.

"I was a slave girl in Lodidhapura," she explained, "but in Pnom Dhek I
am no slave. I must return there to my father's house. It is my duty.
When the King learns what a great warrior you are, he will give you a
place in his guard. Then you will be able to take a wife, and, perhaps,
my father will not object."

"And if he does?" asked King.

"Let us not think of that," replied Fou-tan.

As the night wore on, a slow rain commenced to fall, herald of the
coming rainy season. King kept the fire replenished, and its heat warmed
them as they sat and talked of their future, or spoke in half-awed
whispers of the transcendent happiness that had come into their lives.

Before dawn the rain ceased and the skies cleared, and when the sun rose
he looked upon a steaming jungle, where strange odours, long imprisoned
by drought, filled the air as they wandered through the forest.

King rose and stretched himself. Near him the carcass of the great beast
he had slain aroused within him regret that he must leave such a trophy
to the carrion creatures or to decay.

From the tiger's back protruded the feathered shaft of an arrow. King
was puzzled. He tugged upon the missile and withdrew it. It was a crude
thing--much more primitive than those made by Che. It created a mystery
that appeared little likely of solution. The best that he could do was
guess that the tiger had carried it for some time before he attacked
them. Then, for the time, he forgot the matter, which later was to be
recalled in poignant grief.

Across the gorge the brute bestirred himself. He had lain quietly
throughout the rain, keeping the spot beneath him dry. Physical
discomfort meant little to him; he was accustomed to it. He arose, and,
like King, stretched himself. Then he crept to the edge of the gorge and
looked down at the man and the woman.

Fou-tan, who had been dozing, awoke now and rose to her feet. With the
undulating grace of youth and health and physical perfection she came
and stood beside King. She leaned close against the man, who put an arm
about her and, bending, kissed her upturned mouth. The brute moistened
his thick lips with a red tongue.

"And now," said King, "I am going up into the forest to get some more
fruit. It will be a light breakfast, but better than none; and I do not
dare build up the fire again by daylight."

"While you are gone I shall bathe myself in the stream," said Fou-tan;
"it will refresh me."

"I am afraid to leave you here alone," said King.

"There is no danger," replied Fou-tan. "The beasts are not hunting now,
and there is little likelihood that the soldiers who are searching for
us have broken camp so early. No, I shall remain here. Let me have my
bath, Gordon King, and do not return too quickly."

As King walked down the gorge to the place where he could ascend into
the forest, the brute upon the opposite side watched his every move and
then proceeded quickly up the farther bank of the gorge in the opposite
direction from that taken by King. There was no trail in the jungle that
the brute did not know, so that he was aware of a place where he might
easily descend into the gorge a short distance above the spot where
Fou-tan bathed.

The girl wore only two garments beside her sandals--a silken sampot and
the makeshift sarong--so that scarcely was King out of sight before she
was splashing in the cold waters of the stream. The temperature of the
water that came down from the high hills, coupled with her fear that
King might return too soon, prompted her to haste. Having no towel, she
used one end of the sarong to dry herself, adjusted her sampot and wound
the sarong about her lithe body. Then she stood looking down the gorge
in the direction from which King would return. Her heart was filled with
her new happiness, so that it was with difficulty that she restrained
her lips from song.

From up the gorge, behind her, crept the brute. Even if he had
approached noisily, the rushing waters would have drowned the sound, but
it was not the way of the brute to move noisily. Like the other
carnivores, stealth was habitual to him. The brute was the
personification of the cunning and malignity of the tiger; but there the
parallel ceased, for the tiger was beautiful and the brute was hideous.

It is remarkable that there should be so many more beautiful creatures
in the world than man, which suggests a doubt of man's boast that he is
made in the image of God. There are those who believe that the image of
God must transcend in its beauty the finite conceptions of man. If that
be true and God chose to create any animal in His own likeness, man must
have trailed at the far end of that celestial beauty contest.

The brute crept stealthily down upon the unsuspecting girl. He rounded
the corner of a cliff and saw her standing with her back toward him. He
moved swiftly now, crouched like a charging tiger, yet his naked feet
gave forth no sound; while Fou-tan, with half-closed eyes and smiling
lips, dreamed of the future that love held in store.

The brute sprang close behind her. A filthy, calloused paw was clapped
across her mouth. A rough and powerful arm encircled her waist. She was
whirled from her feet, her cries stifled in her throat, as the brute
wheeled and ran swiftly up the gorge, bearing his prize.

King quickly found the fruit he sought, but he loitered in returning to
give Fou-tan an opportunity to complete her toilet. As he idled slowly
back to the gorge, his mind was occupied with plans for the future. He
was considering the advisability of remaining in hiding where they were
for several days on the chance that the soldiers of Lodivarman might in
the meantime give up the search and return to Lodidhapura. He determined
that they might explore the gorge further in the hope of finding a safer
and more comfortable retreat, where they might be less at the mercy of
night prowlers and even more securely hidden from searchers than they
were at present. He was also moved by the prospect of a few idyllic days
during which there would be no one in the world but himself and Fou-tan.

Filled with enthusiasm for his heaven-sent plan, King descended into the
gorge and approached the now hallowed precincts of his greatest
happiness; but as he rounded the last bend he saw that Fou-tan was not
there. Perhaps she had gone farther up the stream to bathe. He called
her name aloud, but there was no reply. Again he called, raising his
voice, but still there was only silence. Now he became alarmed and,
running quickly forward, searched about for some sign or clue to her
whereabouts; nor had he long to search. In the soft earth, damp from the
recent rain, he saw the imprints of a huge foot--the great bare foot of
a man. He saw where the prints had stopped and turned, and it was easy
to follow them up the gorge. Casting aside the fruit that he had
gathered, he hastened along the well-marked trail, his mind a fiery
furnace of fear and rage, his heart a cold clod in his leaden breast.

Now, quite suddenly, he recalled the arrow he had found embedded behind
the shoulders of the tiger that he had killed. He recalled the beast's
sudden scream of rage and pain as it had charged so unexpectedly toward
him, and quite accurately he reconstructed the whole scene--the man had
been spying upon them from the top of the gorge; he had seen the tiger
and had shot it to save his quarry to himself; then he had waited until
King had left Fou-tan alone; the rest was plainly discernible in the
footprints that he followed. He was confident that this was no soldier
of Lodivarman; the crude arrow refuted that idea, as did the imprints of
the great bare feet. But what sort of man was it and why had he stolen
Fou-tan? The answer to that question goaded King to greater speed.

A short distance up the gorge King discovered where the tracks turned to
the right, up the bed of a dry wash and thus to the level of the forest
above. He gave thanks now for the providential ram that rendered the
spoor easily followed. He knew that the abductor could not be far ahead,
and he was sure that he could overtake him before harm could befall
Fou-tan. However, as he hastened on, he was chilled by the thought that
no matter how plain the spoor, the necessity for keeping it always in
sight could but retard his speed; and his fear was that the slight delay
might permit the man to outdistance him; and then he came to a patch of
rocky ground where the trail, becoming immediately faint, suddenly
disappeared entirely. Sick with apprehension, the American was forced to
stop and search for a continuation of the tracks, and when, at last, he
found them he knew that his quarry had gamed greatly upon him during
this enforced delay.

Again he sped along as rapidly as he could through a forest unusually
devoid of underbrush. As he advanced he presently became aware of a new
sound mingling with the subdued daylight noises of the jungle. It was a
sound that he could not identify, but there was something ominous about
it; and then, quite suddenly, he came upon the authors of it--great
grey bulks looming among the boles of the trees directly in his path.

Under other circumstances he would have halted or, at least, changed his
route; and had he reflected even for an instant, his better judgment now
would have prompted him to do the latter; but uppermost in his mind and
entirely dominating him was the great fear that he felt for Fou-tan's
safety; and when he saw this obstacle looming menacingly before him, his
one thought was to override it by sheer effrontery that it might not
even delay him, much less thwart him in the pursuit of his object.

Had he been vouchsafed from his insanity even a single brief moment of
lucidity, he would have avoided those ominous bulks moving restlessly to
and fro among the boles of the giant trees, for even at the best wild
elephants are nervous and short-tempered; and these, obviously
disconcerted and suspicious by reason of some recent occurrences, were
in a particularly hysterical and ugly mood. There were young calves
among them and, therefore, watchful and irritable mothers; while the
great bulls, aroused and on guard, were in no mood to be further
provoked.

A huge bull, his ears outspread, his tail erect, wheeled toward the
advancing man. The forest trembled to his mad trumpeting, and in that
instant King realised for the first time the deadly peril of his
position and knew that it would serve Fou-tan nothing were he to rush
headlong into that inevitable death.



11 Warriors From Pnom Dhek


As the hideous creature bore her on, Fou-tan struggled to release
herself; but she was utterly helpless in the Herculean grasp of her
gigantic captor. She tried to wrench the creature's hand from her mouth
that she might scream a warning to King, but even in this she was doomed
to failure.

The creature had at first been carrying her under one arm, with her face
down; but after he reached the floor of the forest he swung her lightly
up in front of him, carrying her so that she had a clear view of his
face; and at sight of it her heart sank within her. It was a hideous
face, with thick lips and protruding teeth, great ears that flapped as
the creature ran, and a low, receding forehead hidden by filthy, tangled
hair that almost met the bushy, protruding eyebrows, beneath which
gleamed wicked, bloodshot eyes.

It did not require a second look to convince Fou-tan that she had fallen
into the hands of one of the dread Yeacks. Notwithstanding the fact that
she had never before seen one of these ogre people, nor had known anyone
who had, she was nevertheless as positive in her identification as
though she had come in daily contact with them all her life, so strongly
implanted in the mind of man are the superstitions of childhood. What
else, indeed, could this creature be but a Yeack?

The horror of her situation was augmented by its contrast to the happy
state from which it had snatched her. Had her Gordon King been there she
would have been sure of rescue, so absolute was her conviction of his
prowess. But how was he to know what had become of her? Being city-bred,
it did not immediately occur to her that King might follow the tracks of
her abductor, and so she was borne on more deeply into the sombre forest
without even the slightly alleviating reassurance of faint hope. She was
lost! Of that Fou-tan was convinced; for was it not well known that the
Yeacks fed upon human flesh?

The brute, sensing muddily that he would be pursued, and having
witnessed something of the prowess of King, did not pause in his flight
but hastened steadily on toward a rocky fastness which he knew, where
one might hide for days or, if discovered, find a cave, the mouth of
which might be easily defended.

As he strode steadily through the forest his keen ears were presently
attracted by a familiar sound, a sound which experience told him was a
warning to change his course. A moment later he saw the elephants moving
slowly across his path toward his left. He had no wish to dispute the
right-of-way with them; so he veered to the right with the intention of
passing behind them. They did not see him, but they caught his scent
spoor, and an old bull left the herd and came ponderously down toward
the point where the brute had first sighted them. The rest of the herd
halted and then followed the old bull. The scent spoor of the man grated
upon the nerves of the pachyderms. They became restless and irritable,
more so because they could not locate the authors of this disturbing
scent.

As the brute moved quickly to the right to circle to the rear of the
herd and resume his interrupted course toward the wild sanctuary that
was his objective, he kept his eyes turned to the left upon the members
of the herd, lest, by chance, one of them might discover him and charge.
A remote possibility, perhaps, but it is by guarding against remote
possibilities that the fittest of primitive creatures survive. So,
because of the fact that his attention was riveted in one direction, he
did not see the danger approaching from another.

A score of soldiers, their brass cuirasses dulled and tarnished by the
rain and dirt of jungle marches, halted at the sight of the brute and
the burden he bore. A young officer in charge whispered a few low words
of command. The soldiers crept forward, forming a half-circle as they
went, to intercept the brute and his captive. One of the soldiers
stumbled over a branch that had fallen from the tree above. Instantly
the brute wheeled toward them. He saw twenty well-armed men advancing,
their spears menacingly ready; and responding to the urge of Nature's
first law, the brute cast the girl roughly to the ground and, wheeling,
broke for freedom. A shower of arrows followed him and some of the
soldiers would have pursued, but the officer called them back.

"We have the girl," he said; "let that thing go. We were not sent out
for him. He is not the man who abducted the apsaras from the palace of
Lodivarman."

At the moment that the brute had seen the soldiers, so had Fou-tan; and
now she scrambled quickly to her feet, from where he had hurled her to
the ground, and turned in flight back toward the gorge where she had
last seen King.

"After her!" cried the officer; "but do not harm her."

Fou-tan ran fleetly and perhaps would have gotten away from them had not
she tripped and fallen; as she scrambled to her feet, they were upon
her. Rough hands seized her, but they did not harm her, nor did they
offer her insult; for she who was to have been the favourite of
Lodivarman might yet be, and it is not well to incur the displeasure of
a king's favourite.

"Where is the man?" asked the officer, addressing Fou-tan.

The girl thought very quickly in that instant, and there was apparently
no hesitation as she nodded her head in the direction that the fleeing
brute had taken. "You know as well as I do," she said. "Why did you not
capture him?"

"Not that man," said the officer. "I refer to the soldier of the guard
who abducted you from the palace of Lodivarman."

"It was no soldier of the guard who abducted me," replied the girl.
"This creature stole into the palace and seized me. A soldier of the
guard followed us into the jungle and tried to rescue me, but he failed."

"Lodivarman sent word that it was the strange warrior, Gordon King, who
stole you from the palace," said the officer.

"You saw the creature that stole me," said Fou-tan. "Did it look like a
soldier of Lodivarman?"

"No," admitted the officer, "but where is this Gordon King? He has
disappeared from Lodidhapura."

"I told you that he tried to rescue me," explained Fou-tan. "He followed
us into the jungle. What became of him I do not know. Perhaps the Yeacks
wrought a magic spell that killed him."

"Yeacks!" exclaimed the officer. "What do you mean?"

"Did you not recognise my captor as a Yeack?" asked Fou-tan. "Do you not
know a Yeack when you see one?"

Exclamations arose from the soldiers gathered about them. "By the gods,
it was a Yeack," said one. "Perhaps there are others about," suggested
another. The man looked about them fearfully.

Fou-tan thought that she saw in their superstitious terror, which she
fully shared herself, a possibility of escape. "The Yeacks will be angry
with you for having taken me from one of their number," she said.
"Doubtless he has gone to summon his fellows. You had best escape while
you can. If you do not take me with you, they will not follow you."

"By Siva, she is right!" exclaimed a warrior.

"I am not afraid of the Yeacks," said the officer bravely; "but we have
the apsaras and there is no reason why we should remain here longer.
Come!" He took Fou-tan gently by the arm.

"If you take me they will follow you," she said. "You had better leave
me here."

"Yes, leave her here," grumbled some of the warriors.

"We shall take the girl with us," said the officer. "I may escape the
wrath of the Yeacks, but if I return to Lodidhapura without the apsaras
I shall not escape the wrath of Lodivarman," and he gave the command to
form for the march.

As the party moved away down toward the trail that leads to Lodidhapura,
many were the nervous glances that the warriors cast behind them. There
was much muttering and grumbling, and it was apparent that they did not
relish being the escort of a recaptured prisoner of the Yeacks. Fou-tan
fed their fears and their dissatisfaction by constant reference to the
vengeance that would fall upon them in some form when the Yeacks should
overtake them.

"You are very foolish to risk your life needlessly," she told the young
officer. "If you leave me here you will be safe from the Yeacks, and no
one in Lodidhapura need know that you have found me."

"Why should you wish to remain and become the victim of the Yeacks?"
demanded the officer.

"It makes no difference whether you are with me or not," insisted
Fou-tan. "The Yeacks will get me again. In some form they will come and
take me. If you are with me they will slay you all."

"But there is a chance that we may escape them and get back to
Lodidhapura," insisted the officer.

"I would rather remain with the Yeacks than go back to Lodivarman," said
the girl. But in her breast was the hope that she could find Gordon King
before the Yeacks overtook her; and, notwithstanding her superstitious
fear of them, so great was her faith in the prowess of her man that she
had no doubt but that he could overcome them.

Her arguments, however, were unavailing. She could not swerve the young
officer from his determination to take her back to Lodidhapura. From the
first however, it was apparent that the common soldiers were less
enthusiastic about her company. The warriors of Pnom Dhek they could
face with courage, or the charge of My Lord the Tiger, but contemplation
of the supernatural powers of the mythological Yeacks filled their
superstitious breasts with naught but terror. There were those among
them who even discussed the advisability of murdering the officer,
abandoning the girl, and returning to Lodidhapura with some plausible
explanation, which their encounter with the Yeack readily suggested; but
none of these things were they destined to do.

As King saw the great elephant advancing toward him he became seriously
alive to the danger of his situation. He looked hurriedly about him,
searching for an avenue of escape, but nowhere near was there a single
tree of sufficient size to have withstood the titanic strength of the
great bull should he have elected to fell it. To face the bull or to
attempt to escape by running seemed equally futile; yet it was the
latter alternative which commended itself to him as being the less
suicidal.

But just then something happened. The bull stopped in his advance and
looked suddenly toward his left. His trumpeting ceased, and then most
unexpectedly he wheeled about and bolted directly away from King to be
immediately followed by the entire herd, which went crashing through the
jungle, bowling over trees in their mad progress until finally they
disappeared from view.

With a sigh of relief King took up his interrupted pursuit, following in
the wake of the elephants, which had disappeared in the direction taken
by the abductor of Fou-tan. What had brought about the sudden change in
the attitude of the bull King could not guess, nor did he ever discover.
He attributed it to the mental vagaries of a naturally timid and nervous
animal. He did not know that a changing breeze had brought to the
nostrils of the pachyderm the scent spoor of many men--the soldiers of
Lodivarman--nor was the matter of any particular importance to King,
whose mind was occupied now with something of far greater moment. The
stampeding elephants had entirely obliterated the tracks that King had
been following, and this it was that gave him the greatest concern. It
seemed that everything militated against the success of his pursuit. He
zigzagged to the right and left of the elephant tracks in the hope of
picking up the footprints of the fleeing man. When he had about
abandoned hope, he saw in the soft earth a single familiar spoor--the
imprint of a great flat foot. By what seemed little less than a miracle
this single tell-tale clue had escaped the rushing feet of the herd. It
pointed on in the direction that King had been going; and, with renewed
hope, he hurried forward.

Among fallen trees, bowled over by the terrified elephants, King pursued
his quarry until he was brought to a sudden stop by a tragic tableau of
the jungle that instantly filled him with dire misgiving. A short
distance ahead of him lay a man pinioned to the earth by a small tree
that had fallen across his legs. Facing the man, crouching belly to the
ground, advancing slowly inch by inch, was a great leopard. The man was
helpless. In another instant the cat would be upon him, rending and
tearing. Naturally the first thought that entered King's head was that
this was the man who had abducted Fou-tan, and, if so, where was the
girl? Until that question was answered the man must not die.

With a cry of warning intended to distract the attention of the leopard,
King sprang forward, simultaneously fitting an arrow to his bow. The
leopard leaped to its feet. For an instant it stood glaring menacingly
at the advancing man; and seeing it hesitate, King did not launch his
shaft, for he saw now that he might come within effective spear range of
the beast before it charged; and he guessed that an arrow might only
serve to infuriate it.

Disconcerted by this unexpected interference with its plans and with the
interloper's bold advance, the brute hesitated a moment and then,
wheeling, bounded off into the jungle.

The man lying upon the ground had been a witness to all this. He was
saved from the leopard, but he looked apprehensively at King as the
latter stopped beside him, for he recognised the newcomer as the man
from whom he had stolen the girl. If he had any doubts as to the other's
awareness of his guilt, it was dissipated by King's first words.

"Where is the girl?" demanded the American.

"The soldiers took her from me," replied the brute sullenly.

"What soldiers?"

"They were soldiers from Lodidhapura," replied the other.

"I believe that you are lying," said King, "and I ought to kill you." He
raised his spear.

The brute did not wish to die. He had lost the girl, but he did not wish
to lose his life also; and now, with effort, spurred by the desire to
live, his brain gave birth to a simple idea. "You have saved my life,"
he said. "If you will raise this tree from my legs, I will help you to
find the girl and take her away from the soldiers. That I will do if you
do not kill me."

The man's spear had fallen beside him. As King considered the
proposition he recovered the weapon and then took the bow and arrows
from the man also.

"Why do you do that?" asked the brute.

"So that if I decide to release you, you may not be tempted to kill me,"
replied King.

"Very well," replied the brute, "but I shall not try to kill you." King
stooped and seized the bole of the tree. It was not a very large tree,
but it had fallen in such a way that the man, unassisted, could not have
released himself; and as King raised it, the brute drew his legs from
beneath it.

"Any bones broken?" asked King.

The brute rose slowly to his feet. "No," he said.

"Then let's be on our way," urged King. "We have no time to lose."

As the two men set out King walked a little in the rear of the other. He
had been impressed from the first by the savage bestiality of his
companion's face and now by his tremendous size. His huge, drooped
shoulders and his long arms seemed capable of the most titanic feats of
strength; yet the creature, who seemingly could have slain him as easily
without weapons as with, led docilely on, until at last King was
convinced that the fellow contemplated no treachery, but would carry out
his part of the bargain with simple-minded loyalty.

"Who are you?" demanded King after they had walked in silence for a
considerable distance.

"I am Prang," replied the brute.

"What were you doing out here in the jungle?" asked King.

"I live here," replied the brute.

"Where?"

"Anywhere," replied Prang with a broad gesture.

"Where are your people?" asked King.

"I have none; I live alone."

"Have you always lived in the jungle?"

"Not always, but for a long time."

"Where did you come from?"

"From Pnom Dhek."

"Then you are a runaway slave?" asked King.

The brute nodded his head. "But you need not try to return me. If you
did that I should kill you."

"I do not intend to try to return you to Pnom Dhek. I am not from Pnom
Dhek."

"Yes, I knew that from your armor," said the brute. "You are from
Lodidhapura. You stole the girl and they sent soldiers after you. Is
that not true?"

"Yes," replied King.

"It may be hard to take the girl away from the soldiers of Lodidhapura,"
said Prang. "We cannot do it by day, for they are many and we are few;
but we can find them and follow them; and at night, perhaps, you can
sneak into their camp and steal the girl, if she will come with you
willingly."

"She will," said King; and then: "How long have you lived alone in the
jungle, Prang?"

"I ran away when I was a boy. Many rains have come since then. I do not
know how many, but it has been a long time."

As Prang led on through the jungle they conversed but little; enough,
however, to assure King that the great, hulking brute had the mind of a
little child, and as long as King did nothing to arouse his suspicions
or his fears he would be quite docile and tractable. King noticed that
Prang was not leading him back over the same route that they had come,
and when he asked the man why they were going in a different direction,
Prang explained that he knew the trail that the warriors would take in
returning to Lodidhapura and that this was a short-cut to it.

In places the jungle was quite open and covered with tall, dry elephant
grass, which, growing higher than their heads, obstructed their view in
all directions, while the rustling of its leaves as they pushed their
way through it drowned all other sounds. At such times King always felt
particularly helpless and was relieved each time they emerged from the
stifling embrace of the tall grasses; but Prang seemed not at all
concerned, although he was walking almost naked and unarmed.

They had passed through a particularly long stretch of elephant grass
when they emerged into a clearing entirely destitute of either grass or
trees. Beyond the clearing, in front of them, they could see the forest
at no great distance, but there was still a narrow belt of elephant
grass which they must pass through before they reached the trees.

When they had advanced almost to the centre of this clearing,
simultaneously their attention was attracted to a movement among the
grasses ahead and to the left of them, and almost at the same moment a
cuirassed soldier stepped into view, to be followed immediately by
others. At the first glance King recognised that these men were not
soldiers from Lodidhapura, for though their armour and harness were
similar, they were not identical, and their helmets were of an entirely
different pattern from that which he wore. At sight of them Prang
halted, then he turned and started to run back in the direction from
which they had come. "Run!" he cried, "They are warriors from Pnom
Dhek."

Instantly King realised that these newcomers might prove to be Fou-tan's
salvation if he could guide them to her, but without Prang that might be
impossible, and therefore he turned and pursued the fleeing brute. Into
the tall elephant grasses, close upon his heels, ran King. "Stop!"
commanded the white man.

"Never!" screamed Prang. "They will take me back into slavery. Do not
try to stop me, or I shall kill you." But the capture of Prang meant
more to Gordon King than his life, and so he only redoubled his efforts
to gain upon the fleeing man. Gradually he crept up upon him until at
last he was within reach.

How futile it seemed to attempt to seize that mountain of muscle and
bone, yet if he could detain him even momentarily he was positive that
the soldiers would overtake them, for at the instant that they had
turned to flee he had seen the soldiers from Pnom Dhek start in pursuit.

In King's experience he had learned but one way to stop a fleeing man
without maiming or killing him, which he had no desire to do, although
he held in his hands lethal weapons with which he might easily have
brought down his quarry; and so he threw aside the spear that he carried
and launched himself at the great legs of Prang. It was a noble tackle,
and it brought Prang to earth with a resounding crash that almost
knocked the wind out of him.

"Hurry!" yelled King to the soldiers of Pnom Dhek. "I have him!" He
heard the warriors crashing through the dry grasses behind him.

"Let me go," cried the struggling Prang. "Let me go or they will take me
back into slavery." But King clung to him in desperation, though it was
much like attempting to cling to the business end of a mule, so mighty
and vigorous were the kicks of Prang; and then the soldiers of Pnom Dhek
arrived and fell upon both of them impartially.

"Don't kill him!" cried King as he saw the menacing spears of the
warriors. "Wait until you hear me."

"Who are you?" demanded an officer. "What does this all mean? We saw you
in company with this fellow; and now, though you are a soldier of
Lodivarman, you turn upon your companion and capture him for us. What
does it mean?"

"It is a long story," said King, "and there is no time for explanations
now. Somewhere ahead of us there is a girl from Pnom Dhek whom I helped
to escape from Lodidhapura. She has just been recaptured by some of
Lodivarman's warriors. This man was guiding me to her. Will you help me
to rescue this girl?"

"You are trying to lead me into a trap," said the officer suspiciously.
"I do not believe that there is any girl."

"Yes, there is a girl," said Prang.

"Her name is Fou-tan," said King.

Interest was immediately evident in the eyes of the officer and
excitement in the attitude of his men. "I will go with you," said the
officer. "If you have lied to me and this is indeed a trap, you shall
die at the first indication of treachery."

"I am content," said King; "but there is one more condition. I cannot
lead you to the girl; but this man says that he can, and I know that he
will do it willingly and quickly if you will promise him his freedom in
return for his assistance."

A sudden gleam of hope shone in Prang's eyes as he heard King's words;
and he looked up expectantly at the officer, awaiting his reply.

"Certainly," said the latter. "If he leads us to Fou-tan, he shall have
not only his liberty but any other reward that he may desire. I can
promise him that."

"I wish only my freedom," said Prang.

"Lead on, then," said the officer. And then as the march started he
detailed two warriors to remain constantly at Prang's side and two with
King, and these warriors he instructed to kill their charges at the
first indication of treachery.

Evidently interested in King, the officer walked beside him. It was
apparent that he had noticed the lack of physical resemblance to the
Khmers and his curiosity was aroused. "You do not greatly resemble the
men of Lodidhapura," he said finally.

"I am not of Lodidhapura," said King.

"But you are in the armour of Lodivarman's warriors," insisted the
officer.

"I am from a far country," explained King. "Lost in the jungle, I was
taken prisoner by Lodivarman's warriors. I pleased the King, and he gave
me service in the royal guard."

"But how is it, then, that you are befriending a girl from Pnom Dhek?"

"That, as I told you, is a long story," said King, "but when we have
found her she will corroborate all that I have said. I was forced into
the service of Lodivarman. I owe him no loyalty, and should I fall into
his hands again I can expect no mercy. Therefore, it had been my
intention, when I reached Pnom Dhek with Fou-tan, to seek service in
your army."

"If you have befriended Fou-tan, your petition will not go unheeded,"
said the officer.

"You have heard of her, then?" asked King.

The officer gave the American a long, searching look before he replied.
"Yes," he said.



12 Guest and Prisoner


The captors of Fou-tan were exerting no effort to make haste. For almost
two days they had been marching rapidly through the jungle, searching
for a clue to the whereabouts of Fou-tan and her escort; and now that
they had found her, they were taking it easy, moving slowly toward the
spot where they were to camp for the night. Knowing nothing of the
presence of the soldiers of Beng Kher of Pnom Dhek, they anticipated no
pursuit. Their conversation was often filled with conjecture as to the
identity of Fou-Tan's companion. Some of them insisted that the Yeack
and King were one and the same.

"I always knew that there was something wrong with the fellow," opined a
warrior; "there was a peculiar look about him. He was no Khmer; nor was
he of any race of mortal men."

"Perhaps he was a Naga, who took the form first of a man and then
changed himself into a Yeack," suggested another.

"I think that he was a Yeack all along," said another, "and that he took
the form of man only to deceive us, that he might enter the palace of
Lodivarman and steal the girl."

It was while they were discussing this matter that a warrior marching at
the rear of the column was attracted by a noise behind him. Turning his
head to look, he gave a sudden cry of alarm, for in their rear, creeping
upon them, he saw the brute and a body of soldiers.

"The Yeacks are coming!" he cried.

The others turned quickly at his warning cry. "I told you so," screamed
one. "The Yeack has brought his fellows."

"Those are soldiers of Pnom Dhek," cried the officer. "Form line and
advance upon them. Let it not be said that men of Lodidhapura fled from
the warriors of Beng Kher."

"They are Yeacks who have taken the form of soldiers of Pnom Dhek,"
cried a warrior. "Mortals cannot contend against them," and with that he
threw down his spear and fled.

At the same instant the soldiers of Pnom Dhek leaped forward, shouting
their war-cry.

The defection of the single Lodidhapurian warrior was all that had been
needed to ignite the smouldering embers of discontent and mutiny already
fully fed by their superstitious fears. To a man, the common soldiers
turned and ran, leaving their officer and Fou-tan alone. For an instant
the man stood his ground and then, evidently realising the hopelessness
of his position, he, too, wheeled and followed his retreating men at top
speed.

What Fou-tan's feelings must have been, it was difficult to imagine.
Here, suddenly and entirely without warning, appeared a company of
soldiers from her native city, and with them were the horrid Yeack that
had stolen her away from King and also Gordon King himself. For a moment
she stood in mute and wide-eyed wonderment as the men approached her,
and then she turned to the man she loved. "Gordon King," she said, "I
knew that you would come."

The soldiers of Pnom Dhek gathered around her, the common warriors
keeping at a respectful distance, while the officer approached and,
kneeling, kissed her hand.

King was not a little puzzled for an explanation of the evident respect
in which they held her, but then he realised that he was not familiar
with the customs of the country. He was aware, however, that the
apsarases, or dancing girls of the temples, were held in considerable
veneration because of the ritualistic nature of their dances, which
identified them closely with the religious life of the nation and
rendered them, in a way, the particular wards of the gods.

The officer questioned her briefly and respectfully; and, having thus
assured himself of King's loyalty and integrity, his attitude toward the
American changed from suspicion to cordiality.

To Fou-tan's questions relative to Prang, King explained by telling the
story of the brute as he had had it from his own lips; yet it was
evidently most difficult for Fou-tan to relinquish her conviction that
the creature was a Yeack; nor could any other have assured her of
Prang's prosaic status than Gordon King, in whose lightest words she
beheld both truth and authority.

"Now that I have led you to the girl," said Prang, addressing the
officer, "give me the liberty that you promised me."

"It is yours," said the officer; "but if you wish to return and live in
Pnom Dhek I can promise you that the King will make you a free man."

"Yes," said Fou-tan, "and you shall have food and clothing as long as
you live."

The brute shook his head. "No," he said. "I am afraid of the city. Let
me stay in the jungle, where I am safe. Give me back my weapons and let
me go."

They did as he requested, and a moment later Prang slouched off into the
forest soon to be lost to their view, choosing the freedom of the jungle
to the luxuries of the city.

Once again the march was resumed, this time in the direction of Pnom
Dhek. As Fou-tan and King walked side by side the girl said to him in a
low voice, "Do not let them know yet of our love. First, I must win my
father, and after that the whole world may know."

All during the long march King was again and again impressed by the
marked deference accorded Fou-tan. It was so noticeable that the natural
little familiarities of their own comradeship took on the formidable
aspects of sacrilege by comparison. To King's western mind it seemed
strange that so much respect should be paid to a temple dancing girl;
but he was glad that it was so, for in his heart he knew that whatever
reverence they showed Fou-tan she deserved, because of the graces of her
character and the purity of her soul.

The long march to Pnom Dhek was uneventful, and near the close of the
second day the walls of the city rose before them across a clearing as
they emerged from the forest. In outward appearance Pnom Dhek was
similar to Lodidhapura. Its majestic piles of masonry arose in stately
grandeur above the jungle. Its ornate towers and splendid temples bore
witness to the wealth and culture of its builders, and over all was the
same indefinable suggestion of antiquity. Pnom Dhek was a living city,
yet so softened and mellowed by the passing centuries that even in life
it suggested more the reincarnation of ancient glories than an actuality
of the present.

"Pnom Dhek!" whispered Fou-tan, and in her tone there were love and
reverence.

"You are glad to get back?" asked King.

"That can scarcely express what I feel," replied the girl. "I doubt if
you can realise what Pnom Dhek means to one of her sons or daughters;
and so, too, you cannot guess the gratitude that I feel to you, Gordon
King, who, alone are responsible for my return."

He looked at her for a moment in silence. As she stood devouring Pnom
Dhek with her eyes there was a rapturous exaltation in her gaze that
suggested the fervour of religious passion, and the thought gave him
pause.

"Perhaps, Fou-tan," he suggested, "you have mistaken gratitude for
love."

She looked up at him quickly. "You do not understand, Gordon King," she
said. "For two thousand years love for Pnom Dhek has been bred into the
blood that animates me. It is a part of me that can die only when I die;
yet I could never see Pnom Dhek again and yet be happy; though should I
never see you again, I might never be happy again even in Pnom Dhek. Now
do you understand?"

"That I was jealous of stone and wood shows how much I love you,
Fou-tan," he said.

A soldier, lightened of his cuirass and weapons, had run swiftly ahead
to the city gates, which they were approaching, to announce their
coming; and presently there was a blare of trumpets at the gate, and
this was answered by the sound of other trumpets within the city and the
deep booming of gongs and the ringing of bells until the whole city was
alive with noise. Then once again was King mystified; but there was more
to come.

As they moved slowly now along the avenue toward the city gates, a
company of soldiers emerged and behind them a file of elephants, gaudily
trapped, and surging forward upon either side of these were people--men,
women and children--shouting and singing, until from hundreds their
numbers grew to thousands. So quickly had they gathered that it seemed
as much a miracle to King as did the occasion for their rejoicing, and
now he became convinced that Fou-tan must be a priestess at least, if
all this rejoicing and pandemonium were in honour of her return.

The populace, outstripping the soldiers, were the first to reach them.
Quickly the warriors that composed their escort formed a ring about
Fou-tan and King, but the people held their distance respectfully, and
now out of the babel of voices King caught some of the words of their
greeting--words that filled him with surprise.

"Fou-tan! Fou-tan!" they cried. "Welcome to our beloved Princess that
was lost and is found again!"

King turned to the girl. "Princess!" he exclaimed. "You did not tell me,
Fou-tan."

"Many men have courted me because I am a princess," she said. "You loved
me for myself alone, and I wanted to cling to that as long as I might."

"And Beng Kher is your father?" he asked.

"Yes, I am the daughter of the King," replied Fou-tan.

"I am glad that I did not know," said King simply.

"And so am I," replied the girl, "for now no one can ever make me doubt
your love."

"I wish that you were not a princess," he said in a troubled voice.

"Why?" she demanded.

"None would have objected had the slave girl wished to marry me," he
said, "but I can well imagine that many will object to a nameless
warrior taking the Princess of Pnom Dhek."

"Perhaps," she said sadly, "but let us not think of that now."

In the howdah of the leading elephant sat a large, stern-faced man,
beneath a parasol of cloth of gold and red. When the elephant upon which
he rode was stopped near them, ladder-like steps were brought from the
back of an elephant in the rear and the man descended to the ground,
while the people prostrated themselves and touched their foreheads to
the earth. As the man approached, Fou-tan advanced to meet him, and when
she was directly in front of him, she kneeled and took his hand. There
was moisture in the man's stern eyes as he lifted the girl to her feet
and took her into his arms. It was Beng Kher the King, father of
Fou-tan.

After the first greeting Fou-tan whispered a few words to Beng Kher, and
immediately Beng Kher directed Gordon King to advance. Following
Fou-tan's example, the American knelt and kissed the King's hand.
"Arise!" said Beng Kher. "My daughter, the Princess, tells me that it is
to you she owes her escape from Lodidhapura. You shall be suitably
rewarded. You shall know the gratitude of Beng Kher." He signalled to
one of his retinue that had descended from the elephant in his rear.
"See that this brave warrior lacks for nothing," he said. "Later we
shall summon him to our presence again."

Once more did Fou-tan whisper a few low words to her father, the King.

The King knit his brows as though he were not entirely pleased with
whatever suggestion Fou-tan had made, but presently the lines of his
face softened and again he turned to the official to whom he had just
spoken. "You will conduct the warrior to the palace and accord him all
honour, for he is to be the guest of Beng Kher." Then, with Fou-tan, he
ascended into the howdah of the royal elephant, while the officer, whom
he had designated to escort Gordon King, approached the American.

King's first impression of the man was not a pleasant one.

The fellow's face was coarse and sensual and his manner haughty and
supercilious. He made no attempt to conceal his disgust as his eyes
appraised the soiled and tarnished raiment of the common warrior before
him. "Follow me, my man," he said. "The King has condescended to command
that you be quartered in the palace," and without further words of
greeting he turned and strode toward the elephant upon which he had
ridden from the city.

In the howdah with them were two other gorgeously dressed officials and
a slave who held a great parasol over them all. With no consideration
for his feelings and quite as though he had not been present, King's
companions discussed the impropriety of inviting a common soldier to the
palace. Suddenly his escort turned toward him. "What is your name, my
man?" he demanded, arrogantly.

"My name is Gordon King," replied the American; "but I am not your man."
His voice was low and even and his level gaze was directed straight into
the eyes of the officer.

The man's eyes shifted and then he flushed and scowled. "Perhaps you do
not know," he said, "that I am the prince, Bharata Rahon." His tone was
supercilious, his voice unpleasant.

"Yes?" inquired King politely. So this was Bharata Rahon--this was the
man whom Beng Kher had selected as the husband of Fou-tan. "No wonder
she ran away and hid in the jungle," murmured King.

"What is that?" demanded Bharata Rahon. "What did you say?"

"I am sure," said King, "that the noble prince would not be interested
in anything a common warrior might say."

Bharata Rahon grunted and the conversation ended; nor did either address
the other again as the procession wound its way through the avenues of
Pnom Dhek toward the palace of the King. The way was lined with cheering
people, and strongly apparent to King was the sincerity of their welcome
to Fou-tan and the reality of their happiness that she had been returned
to them.

The palace of Beng Kher was a low rambling building covering a
considerable area. Its central portion had evidently been conceived as a
harmonious unit, to which various kings had added without much attention
to harmony; yet the whole was rather impressive and was much larger than
the palace of Lodivarman. The grounds surrounding it were beautifully
planted and maintained with meticulous care. The gate through which they
passed into the royal enclosure was of great size and had evidently been
designed to permit the easy passage of a column of elephants, two
abreast.

The avenue from the gate led straight between old trees to the main
entrance to the palace, and here the party descended from their howdahs
and followed in the train of Beng Kher and Fou-tan as they entered the
palace amidst such pomp and ceremony as King never before had witnessed.
It occurred to him that if such things must follow the comings and
goings of kings, the glory of sovereignty had decided drawbacks. There
were at least two hundred soldiers, functionaries, courtiers, priests,
and slaves occupied with the ceremony of receiving the King and the
Princess into the palace, and with such mechanical accuracy did they
take their posts and perform their parts that it was readily apparent to
the American that they were observing a formal custom to which they had
become accustomed by long and continued usage.

Down a long corridor, those in the royal party followed Beng Kher and
Fou-tan to a large audience chamber, where the King dismissed them. Then
he passed on through a doorway with Fou-tan; and when the door closed
behind them, most of the party immediately dispersed.

Bharata Rahon beckoned King to follow him and, conducting him to another
part of the palace, led him into a room which was one of a suite of
three.

"Here are your quarters," said Bharata Rahon. "I shall send slaves with
apparel more suitable for the guest of Beng Kher. Food will be served to
you here. Do not leave the apartment until you receive instructions from
the King or from me."

"I thought that I was a guest," said King, "but it appears that I am a
prisoner."

"That is as the King wills," replied the prince. "You should be more
grateful, fellow, for the favours that you already have received."

"Phew!" exclaimed King as Bharata Rahon left the room. "It is certainly
a relief to get rid of you. The more I see of you the easier it is to
understand how Fou-tan preferred My Lord the Tiger to Prince Bharata
Rahon."

As King examined the rooms assigned to him, he saw that they overlooked
the royal garden at a particularly beautiful spot; nor could he wonder
now why Fou-tan loved her home.

His reveries were interrupted by the coming of two slaves; one carried
warm water for a bath, and the other raiment suitable for a king's
guest. They told him that they had been assigned to serve him while he
remained in the palace and that one of them would always be in
attendance, remaining in the corridor outside his door. The water, which
was contained in two earthen vessels and supported at the ends of a pole
that one of the slaves carried across his shoulders, was taken to the
innermost of the three rooms and deposited beside a huge earthen bowl
that was so large that a man might sit down inside it. Towels and
brushes were brought and other necessary requisites of the toilet.

King stripped and entered the bowl, and then one of the slaves poured
water over him while the other scrubbed him vigorously with two brushes.
It was, indeed, a heroic bath, but it left King stimulated and
exhilarated and much refreshed after his tiresome journey.

The scrubbing completed to their satisfaction, they bade him step out of
the bowl on to a soft rug, where they oiled his body from head to foot
and then proceeded to rub his skin vigorously until all of the oil had
disappeared. Following this, they anointed him with some sweet-smelling
lotion; and while the water-carrier emptied the bowl and carried the
bath water away, the other slave assisted King as he donned his new
clothing.

"I am Hamar," whispered the fellow after the other slave had left the
apartment. "I belong to Fou-tan, who trusts me. She sent this to you as
a sign that you may trust me also."

He handed King a tiny ring, a beautiful example of the goldsmith's art.
It was strung upon a golden chain. "Wear it about your neck," said
Hamar. "It will take you in safety many places in Pnom Dhek. Only the
King's authority is greater than this."

"Did she send no message?" asked King.

"She said to tell you that all was not as favourable as she had hoped,
but to be of good heart."

"Convey my thanks to her if you can," said King, "and tell her that her
message and her gift have cheered me."

The other slave returned now, and as King had no further need of them,
he dismissed them both.

The two had scarcely departed when a young man entered, resplendent in
the rich trappings of an officer.

"I am Indra Sen," announced the new-comer. "Bharata Rahon has sent me to
see that you do not lack for entertainment in the palace of Beng Kher."

"Bharata Rahon did not seem to relish the idea of entertaining a common
warrior," said King with a smile.

"No," replied the young man. "Bharata Rahon is like that. Sometimes he
puts on such airs that one might think him the King himself. Indeed, he
has hopes some day of becoming king, for it is said that Beng Kher would
marry Fou-tan to him, and as Beng Kher has no son, Fou-tan and Bharata
Rahon would rule after Beng Kher died, which may the gods forbid."

"Forbid that Beng Kher die?" asked King; "or that Fou-tan and Bharata
Rahon rule?"

"There is none but would serve Fou-tan loyally and gladly," replied
Indra Sen; "but there is none who likes Bharata Rahon, and it is feared
that as Fou-tan's husband he might influence her to do things which she
would not otherwise do."

"It is strange," said King, "that Beng Kher has no son in a land where a
king takes many wives."

"He has many sons," replied Indra Sen, "but the son of a concubine may
not become king. Beng Kher would take but one queen, and when she died
he would have no other."

"If Fou-tan had not been found and Beng Kher had died, would Bharata
Rahon have become king?" asked the American.

"In that event the princes would have chosen a new king, but it would
not have been Bharata Rahon," replied the officer.

"Then his only hope of becoming king is by marrying Fou-tan?"

"That is his only hope."

"And Beng Kher favours his suit?" continued King.

"The man seems to exercise some strange influence over Beng Kher,"
explained Indra Sen. "The King's heart is set upon wedding Fou-tan to
him, and because the King is growing old he would have this matter
settled quickly. It is well known that Fou-tan objects. She does not
want to marry Bharata Rahon, but though the King indulges her in every
other whim, he is adamant in this matter. Once Fou-tan ran away into the
jungle to escape the marriage; and no one knows yet what the outcome
will be, for our little princess, Fou-tan, has a will and a mind of her
own; but the King--well, he is the King."

For three days Indra Sen performed the duties of a host. He conducted
King about the palace grounds; he took him to the temples and out into
the city, to the market place, and the bazaars. Together they watched
the apsarases dance in the temple court; but during all this time King
saw nothing of Fou-tan, nor did Beng Kher send for him. Twice he had
received brief messages from Fou-tan through Hamar, but they were only
such messages as might be transmitted by word of mouth through a slave
and were far from satisfying the man's longing for his sweetheart.

Upon the fourth day Indra Sen did not come, as was his custom, early in
the morning; nor did Hamar appear, but only the other slave--an
ignorant, taciturn man whom King never had been able to engage in
conversation.

King had never left his apartment except in the company of Indra Sen,
and while Bharata Rahon had warned him against any such independent
excursion the American had not taken the suggestion seriously, believing
it to have been animated solely by the choler of the Khmer prince.
Heretofore, Indra Sen had arrived before there might be any occasion for
King to wish to venture forth alone; but there had never been anything
in the attitude of the young officer to indicate that the American was
other than an honoured guest, nor had there been any reason to believe
that he might not come and go as he chose. Having waited, therefore, for
a considerable time upon Indra Sen on this particular morning, King
decided to walk out into the royal garden after leaving word with the
slave, who always attended just outside his door, that the young
officer, when he came, might find him there; but when he opened the door
into the corridor there was no slave, but, instead, two burly warriors,
who instantly turned and barred the exit with their spears.

"You may not leave your quarters," said one of them gruffly and with a
finality that seemed to preclude argument.

"And why not?" demanded the American. "I am the King's guest and I only
wish to walk in the garden."

"We have received our orders," replied the warrior. "You are not
permitted to leave your quarters."

"Then it would appear that I am not the King's guest, but the King's
prisoner."

The warrior shrugged. "We have our orders," he said; "other than this we
know nothing."

The American turned back into the room and closed the door. What did it
all mean? He crossed the apartment to one of the windows and stood
looking out upon the garden. He rehearsed his every act and speech since
he had entered Pnom Dhek, searching for some clue that might explain the
change of attitude toward him; but he found nothing that might warrant
it; and so he concluded that it was the result of something that had
occurred of which he had no knowledge; but the natural inference was
that it was closely allied to his love for Fou-tan and Beng Kher's
determination that she should wed Bharata Rahon.

The day wore on. The taciturn slave came with food, but Hamar did not
appear; nor did Indra Sen. King paced his quarters like a caged tiger.
Always the windows overlooking the garden attracted him, so that often
he paused before them, drawn by the freedom which the garden suggested
in contrast to the narrow confines of his quarters. For the thousandth
time he examined the quarters that had now become his prison. The
paintings and hangings that covered the leaden walls had always aroused
his interest and curiosity; but today, by reason of constant
association, he found them palling upon him. The familiar scenes
depicting the activities of kings and priests and dancing girls, the
stiffly delineated warriors whose spears never cast and whose bolts were
never shot oppressed him now. Their actions for ever inhibited and
imprisoned in the artist's paint suggested his own helpless state of
imprisonment.

The sun was sinking in the west; the long shadows of the parting day
were creeping across the royal garden of Beng Kher; the taciturn slave
had come with food and had lighted lamps in each of the three rooms of
his apartment--crude wick floating in oil they were, but they served to
dispel the darkness of descending night. King, vibrant with the vitality
of youth and health, had eaten heartily. The slave removed the dishes
and returned.

"Have you further commands for the night, master?" he asked.

King shook his head. "No," he said, "you need not return until the
morning."

The slave withdrew, and King fell to playing with an idea that had been
slowly forming in his mind. The sudden change in his status here that
had been suggested by the absence of Hamar and Indra Sen and by the
presence of the warriors in the corridor had aroused within him a
natural apprehension of impending danger, and consequently directed his
mind toward thoughts of escape.

The windows not far above the garden, the darkness of the night, his
knowledge of the city and the jungle--all impressed upon him the belief
that he might win to freedom with no considerable risk; yet he was still
loath to make the attempt because as yet he had nothing definite upon
which to base his suspicion that the anger of Beng Kher had been turned
upon him, and further, and more important still, because he could not
leave Pnom Dhek without first having word with Fou-tan.

As he inwardly debated these matters he paced to and fro the length of
the three rooms of his apartment. He had paused in the innermost of the
three where the flickering light of the cresset projected his shadow
grotesquely upon an ornate hanging that depended from the ceiling to the
floor. He had paused there in deep thought, his eyes, seeing and yet
unseeing, fastened upon this splendid fabric, when suddenly he saw it
move and bulge. There was something or someone behind it.



13 Farewell For Ever!


For the first time since Gordon King had entered the palace of Beng Kher
as a guest he was confronted with the realisation that the ornate
apparel and trappings that had been furnished him had included no
weapons of defence; and now as he saw the hanging bulging mysteriously
before his eyes he stepped quickly toward it, prepared to meet either
friend or foe with his bare hands. He saw the bulging fold move slowly
behind the fabric toward its outer edge, and he followed, ready for any
eventuality. With a quick movement the margin of the fabric was pulled
aside as Hamar, the slave, stepped into the room, and at the same
instant King seized him by the throat.

Recognition was instantaneous and, with a smile, the American released
the slave and stepped back. "I did not know whom to expect, Hamar," he
said.

"You were well to be prepared for an enemy, master," said the slave in
low tones, "for you have powerful ones in Pnom Dhek."

"What brings you here, Hamar, in secrecy and in such mystery?" demanded
King.

"Are you alone?" asked Hamar in a whisper.

"Yes."

"Then my mission is fulfilled," said Hamar. "I do but ensure the safety
and the secrecy of another who follows me."

Again the hanging bulged as someone passed behind it; and an instant
later Fou-tan stood before Gordon King, while the slave, Hamar, bowing
low, withdrew.

"Fou-tan!" exclaimed Gordon King, taking a step toward the girl.

"My Gordon King!" whispered Fou-tan as his arms closed about her.

"What has happened that you come to me in this way?" asked King. "I knew
that there was something wrong because neither Hamar nor Indra Sen came
to-day and there were warriors posted at my door to keep me prisoner.
But why talk of such things when I have you? Nothing else counts now, my
Fou-tan."

"Ah, Gordon King, but there is much else that counts," replied the girl.
"I should have come before, but guards were placed to keep me from you.
The King, my father, is mad with rage. To-morrow you are to be
destroyed."

"But why?" demanded King.

"Because yesterday I went to my father and confessed our love. I
appealed to his gratitude to you for having saved me from Lodivarman and
to his love for me, believing that these might outweigh his
determination to wed me to Bharata Rahon, but I was mistaken. He flew
into an uncontrollable rage of passion. He ordered me to my apartment
and he commanded that you be destroyed upon the morrow; but I found a
way, thanks to Hamar and Indra Sen, and so I have come to bid you
farewell, Gordon King, and to tell you that wherever you may go my heart
goes with you, though my body may be the unwilling slave of another.
Indra Sen and Hamar will guide you to the jungle and point the way
toward the great river that lies in the direction of the rising sun,
upon whose opposite shore you will be safe from the machination of Beng
Kher and Bharata Rahon."

"And you, Fou-tan--you will go with me?"

The girl shook her head. "No, Gordon King, I may not," she replied
sadly.

"And why?" he asked. "You love me and I love you. Come away with me into
a land of freedom and happiness, where no one will question our right to
love and to live as the gods intended that we should; for you, Fou-tan,
and I were made for one another."

"It cannot be, Gordon King," replied the girl. "The thing that you
suggest offers to me the only happiness that can be possible to me in
life, but for such as I there is an obligation that transcends all
thoughts of personal happiness. I was born a princess, and because of
that there have devolved upon me certain obligations which may not be
escaped. Had I brothers or sisters born of a queen it might be
different, but through me alone may the royal dynasty of Pnom Dhek be
perpetuated. No, Gordon King, not even love may intervene between a
princess of Pnom Dhek and her duty to her people. Always shall my love
be yours, and it will be harder for me than for you. If I, who am weak,
am brave because of duty, how can you, a man, be less brave? Kiss me
once more, then, and for the last time, Gordon King; then go with Hamar
and Indra Sen, who will lead you to the jungle and point the way to
safety."

As she ceased speaking she threw her arms about his neck and drew his
lips to hers. He felt her tears upon his cheeks, and his own eyes grew
dim. Perhaps not until this instant of parting had King realised the
hold that this dainty flower of the savage jungle had taken upon his
heart. As fragile and beautiful as the finest of Meissen ceramics, this
little, painted princess of a long dead past held him in a bondage
beyond the power of steel.

"I cannot give you up, Fou-tan," he said. "Let me remain. Perhaps if I
talked with your father--"

"It would be useless," she said, "even if he would grant you an
audience, which he will not."

"Then if you love me as I love you," said King, "you will come away with
me."

"Do not say that, Gordon King. It is cruel," replied the girl. "I am
taught to place duty above all other considerations, even love.
Princesses are not born to happiness. Their exalted birth dedicates them
to duty. They are more than human, and so human happiness often is
denied them. And now you must go. Indra Sen and Hamar are waiting to
guide you to safety. Each moment of delay lessens your chances for
escape."

"I do not wish to escape," said King. "I shall remain and face whatever
consequences are in store for me, for without you, Fou-tan, life means
nothing to me. I would rather remain and die than go away without you."

"No, no," she cried. "Think of me. I must live on, and always, if I
believe you to be alive, I shall be happier than I could be if I knew
that you were dead."

"You mean that if I were alive there still would be hope?" he asked.

She shook her head. "Not in the way you mean," she replied; "but there
would be happiness for me in knowing that perhaps somewhere you were
happy. For my sake, you must go. If you love me you will not deny me
this shred of happiness."

"If I go," he said, "you will know that wherever I am, I am unhappy."

"I am a woman as well as a princess," she replied, "and so perhaps it
will give me a sad happiness to know that you are unhappy because I am
denied you." She smiled ruefully.

"Then I shall go, Fou-tan, if only to make you happy in my unhappiness;
but I think that I shall not go far and that always I shall nurse hope
in my breast, even though you may have put it from you. Think of me,
then, as being always near you, Fou-tan, awaiting the day when I may
claim you."

"That will never be, Gordon King," she replied sadly; "yet it will do no
harm if in our hearts we nurse a hopeless hope. Kiss me again. It is
Fou-tan's last kiss of love."

An eternity of love and passion were encompassed in that brief instant
of their farewell embrace, and then Fou-tan tore herself from his arms
and was gone.

She was gone! King stood for a long time gazing at the hanging that had
moved for a moment to the passage of her lithe figure. It did not seem
possible that she had gone out of his life for ever. "Fou-tan!" he
whispered. "Come back to me. You will come back!" But the dull pain in
his breast was his own best answer to the anguished cry of his stricken
soul.

Again the hanging moved and bulged, and his heart leaped to his throat;
but it was only Hamar, the slave.

"Come, master!" cried the man. "There is no time to be lost."

King nodded. With leaden steps he followed Hamar to an opening in the
wall behind the hanging, and there he found Indra Sen in the mouth of a
corridor, a flickering torch in his hand.

"In the service of the Princess," said the officer.

"May the gods protect her and give her every happiness," replied King.

"Come!" said Indra Sen, and turning he led the way along the corridor
and down a long flight of stone steps that King knew must lead far
beneath the palace. They passed the mouths of branching corridors,
attesting the labyrinthine maze that honeycombed the earth beneath the
palace of Beng Kher, and then the tunnel led straight and level out
beneath the city of Pnom Dhek to the jungle beyond.

"That way lies the great river, Gordon King," said Indra Sen, pointing
toward the east. "I should like to go with you farther, but I dare not;
if Hamar and I are suspected of aiding in your escape, the blame may be
placed upon the Princess, since Hamar is her slave and I an officer of
her guard."

"I would not ask you to go farther, Indra Sen," replied King, "nor can I
find words in which to thank either you or Hamar."

"Here, master," said Hamar, "is the clothing that you wore when you came
to Pnom Dhek. It will be more suitable in the jungle than that you are
wearing," and he handed King a bundle that he had been carrying. "Here,
also, are weapons--a spear, a knife, a bow and arrows. They are gifts
from the Princess, who says that no other knows so well how to use
them."

The two waited until King had changed into his worn trappings, and then,
bidding him good-bye, they entered the mouth of the tunnel, leaving him
alone in the jungle. To the east lay the Mekong, where he might
construct a raft and drift down to civilisation. To the south lay
Lodidhapura, and beyond that the dwelling of Che and Kangrey. King knew
that if he went to the east and the Mekong he would never return. He
thought of Susan Anne Prentice and his other friends of the outer world;
he thought of the life of usefulness that lay ahead of him there. Then
there came to him the vision of a dainty girl upon a great elephant,
reminding him of that moment, now so long ago, that he had first seen
Fou-tan; and he knew that he must choose now, once and for all, between
civilisation and the jungle--between civilisation and the definite
knowledge that he would never see her again or the jungle and hope,
however remote.

"Susan Anne would think me a fool, and I am quite sure that she would be
right," he murmured, as with a shrug he turned his face squarely toward
the south and set off upon his long and lonely journey through the
jungle.

In his mind there was no definite plan beyond a hazy determination to
return to Che and Kangrey and to remain there with them until it would
be safe to assume that Beng Kher had ceased to search for him. After
that, perhaps, he might return to the vicinity of Pnom Dhek. And who
could say what might happen then? Thus strongly is implanted in the
breast of man the eternal seed of hope. Of course, he knew that he was a
fool, but it did not displease him to be a fool if his foolishness kept
him in the same jungle with Fou-tan.

The familiar odours and noises of the jungle assailed his nostrils and
his ears. With spear in readiness he groped his way to the trail which
he knew led toward the south and his destination. When he found it, some
caprice of hope prompted him to blaze a tree at the spot in such a way
that he might easily identify it, should he chance to come upon it
again.

All night he travelled. Once, for a long time, he knew that some beast
was stalking him; but if it had evil intentions toward him it evidently
could not muster the courage to put them into action, for eventually he
heard it no more. Shortly thereafter dawn came and with it a sense of
greater security.

Shortly after sunrise he came upon a herd of wild pigs, and before they
were aware of his presence he had sunk an arrow into the heart of a
young porker. Then an old boar discovered him and charged, its gleaming
tusks flecked with foam, its savage eyes red-rimmed with rage; but King
did not wait to discuss matters with the great beast. Plentiful and
inviting about him grew the great trees of the jungle, and into one of
these he swung himself as the boar tore by.

The rest of the herd had disappeared; but for a long time the boar
remained in the vicinity, trotting angrily back and forth along the
trail beneath King and occasionally stopping to glare up at him
malevolently. It seemed an eternity to the hungry man, but at length the
boar appeared to realise the futility of waiting longer for his prey to
descend and trotted off into the jungle after his herd, the sound of his
passage through the underbrush gradually diminishing until it was lost
in the distance. Then King descended and retrieved his kill. Knowing the
cunning of savage tuskers of the jungle, King was aware that the boar
might return to the spot; and so he did not butcher his kill there, but,
throwing it across his shoulder, continued on for about a mile. Then,
finding a suitable location he stopped and built a fire, over which he
soon was grilling a generous portion of his quarry.

After eating, he left the trail and, going into the jungle a short
distance, found a place where he could lie down to sleep; and as he
dozed he dreamed of snowy linen and soft pillows and heard the voices of
many people arguing and scolding. They annoyed him, so that he
determined to sell his home and move to another neighbourhood; and then
seemingly in the same instant he awoke, though in reality he had slept
for six hours. Uppermost in his mind was his complaint against his
neighbours, and loud in his ears were their voices as he opened his eyes
and looked around in puzzled astonishment at the jungle about him. Then
he smiled as the dream picture of his home faded into the reality of his
surroundings. The smile broadened into a grin as he caught sight of the
monkeys chattering and scolding in the tree above him.

Another night he pushed on through the jungle, and as morning came he
guessed that he must be approaching the vicinity of Lodidhapura. He made
no kill that morning and built no fire, but satisfied himself with
fruits and nuts, which he found in abundance. He had no intention of
risking discovery and capture by attempting to pass Lodidhapura by day,
and so he found a place where he could lie up until night.

This time he dreamed of Fou-tan and it was a pleasant dream, for they
were alone together in the jungle and all obstacles had been removed
from their path, but presently they heard people approaching; they
seemed to be all about them, and their presence and their talk annoyed
Fou-tan and angered King; in fact, he became so angry that he awoke. As
the figure of Fou-tan faded from his side, he kept his eyes tight shut,
trying to conjure her back again; but the voices of the intruders
continued, and that seemed strange to King. He could even hear their
words: "I tell you it is he," said one voice; and another cried, "Hey,
you, wake up!" Then King opened his eyes to look upon twenty brass
cuirasses upon twenty sturdy warriors in the uniform of Lodivarman.

"So you have come back!" exclaimed one of the warriors. "I did not think
you were such a fool."

"Neither did I," said King.

"Where is the girl?" demanded the speaker. "Lodivarman will be glad to
have you, but he would rather have the girl."

"He will never get her," said King. "She is safe in the palace of her
father at Pnom Dhek."

"Then it will go so much the harder for you," said the warrior, "and I
am sorry for you, for you are certainly a courageous man."

King shrugged. He looked about him for some avenue of escape, but he was
entirely surrounded now and the odds were twenty to one against him.
Slowly he arose to his feet. "Here I am," he said. "What are you going
to do with me?"

"We are going to take you to Lodivarman," replied the warrior who had
spoken first. Then they took his weapons from him and tied his wrists
behind his back. They were not cruel nor unduly rough, for in the hearts
of these men, themselves brave, was admiration for the courage of
their prisoner.

"I'd like to know how you did it," said a warrior walking next to King.

"Did what?" demanded the American.

"How you got into the King's apartment unseen and got out again with the
girl. Three men have died for it already, but Lodivarman is no nearer a
solution of the puzzle than he was at first."

"Who died and why?" demanded King.

"The major-domo, for one," said the warrior.

"The major-domo did naught but obey the orders of Lodivarman," said
King.

"You seem to know a lot about it," replied the warrior; "yet that is the
very reason that he died. For once in his life he should have disobeyed
the King, but he failed to do so, and Lodivarman lay bound and gagged
until Vay Thon came to his rescue."

"Who else died?" asked King.

"The sentry who was posted at the banquet door with you. He had to admit
that he had deserted his post, leaving you there alone; and with him was
slain the officer of the guard who posted you, a stranger inside the
King's palace."

"And these were all?" asked King.

"Yes," said the warrior. And when King smiled he asked him why he
smiled.

"Oh, nothing of any importance," replied the American. "I was just
thinking." He was thinking that the guiltiest of all had escaped--the
sentry who had permitted Fou-tan to beguile him into allowing them to
pass out of the palace into the garden. He guessed that this man would
not be glad to see him return.

"So even now Lodivarman does not know how I escaped from the palace?" he
demanded.

"No, but he will," replied the man with a sinister grin.

"What do you mean?" asked the American.

"I mean that before he kills you he will torture the truth from you."

"Evidently my stay in Lodidhapura is to be a pleasant one," he said.

"I do not know how pleasant it will be," replied the warrior; "but it
will be short."

"Perhaps I shall be glad of that," said King.

"It will be short, man, but it will seem an eternity. I have seen men
die before to satisfy Lodivarman's wrath."

From his captors King learned that his discovery had been purely
accidental; the party that had stumbled upon him constituted a patrol,
making its daily rounds through the jungle in the vicinity of
Lodidhapura. And soon the great city itself arose before King's eyes,
magnificent in its ancient glory, but hard as the stone that formed its
temples and its towers, and hard as the savage hearts that beat behind
its walls. Into its building had gone the sweat and the blood and the
lives of a million slaves; behind its frowning walls had been enacted
two thousand years of cruelties and bloody crimes committed in the names
of kings and gods.

"The mills of the gods!" soliloquised King. "It is not so remarkable
that they grind exceedingly fine as it is that their masters can reach
out of the ages across a world and lay hold upon a victim who scarce
ever heard of them."

They were rapidly approaching one of the gates of Lodidhapura, at the
portals of which King knew he must definitely abandon hope; and all that
King found to excite his interest was his own apathy to his impending
fate. He knew that his mind should be dwelling upon thoughts of escape,
and yet he found himself assuming a fatalistic attitude of mind that
could contemplate impending death with utmost composure, for, indeed,
what had life to offer him? The orbit of his existence was determined by
that shining sun about which his love revolved--his little flaming
princess. Denied for ever the warmth and light of her near presence, he
was a lost satellite, wandering aimlessly in the outer darkness and the
cold of interstellar space. What had such an existence to offer against
the peaceful oblivion of death?

Yet whatever his thoughts may have been there was no reflection of them
in his demeanour, as with firm stride and high-held head he entered once
again the city of Lodidhapura, where immediately he and his escort were
surrounded by curious crowds as word travelled quickly from mouth to
mouth that the abductor of the dancing girl of the Leper King had been
captured.

They took him to the dungeons beneath the palace of Lodivarman, and
there they chained him to a wall. As if he had been a wild beast they
chained him with double chains, and the food that they brought was
thrown upon the floor before him--food that one would have hesitated to
cast before a beast. The darkness of his cell was mitigated by a window
near the low-ceiling--an aperture so small that it might scarcely be
dignified by the name of window, since nothing larger than a good-sized
cat could have passed through it; yet it served its purpose in a meagre
way by admitting light and air.

Once again, as it had many times in the past, a conviction sought
foothold in King's mind that he was still the victim of the
hallucinations of fever, for notwithstanding all his experiences since
he had entered the jungle it did not seem possible that in this
twentieth century he, a free-born American, could be the prisoner of a
Khmer king. The idea was fantastic, preposterous, unthinkable. He
resorted to all the time-worn expedients for proving the fallacy of
mental aberration, but in the end he always found himself double-chained
to a stone wall in a dark-foul-stinking dungeon.

Night came and with it those most hideous of nocturnal dungeon
dwellers--the rats. He fought them off, but always they returned; and
all night he battled with them until, when daylight came and they left
him, he sank exhausted to the stone flagging of his cell.

Perhaps he slept then, but he could scarcely know, for it seemed that
almost instantly a hand was laid upon his shoulder and he was shaken to
wakefulness. It was the hand of Vama, the commander of the ten who first
had captured him in the jungle; and so it was neither a rough nor
unfriendly hand, for the brass-bound warrior could find in his heart
only admiration for this courageous stranger who had dared to thwart the
desires of the Leper King, whom he feared more than he respected.

"I am glad to see you again, Gordon King," said Vama, "but I am sorry
that we meet under such circumstances. The rage of Lodivarman is
boundless and from it no man may save you, but it may lessen the anguish
of your last hours to know that you have many friends among the warriors
of Lodidhapura."

"Thank you, Vama," replied King. "I have found more than friendship in
the land of the Khmers, and if I also find death here, it is because of
my own choosing. I am content with whatever fate awaits me, but I want
you to know that your assurances of friendship will ameliorate whatever
pangs of suffering death may hold for me. But why are you here? Has
Lodivarman sent you to execute his sentence upon me?"

"He will not finish you so easily as that," replied Vama. "What he has
in his mind I do not know. I have been sent to conduct you to his
presence, a signal honour for you, attesting the impression that your
act made upon him."

"Perhaps he wants to question me," suggested King.

"Doubtless," replied Vama, "but that he could have delegated to his
torturers, who well know how to elicit whatever they wish from the lips
of their victims."

Vama bent and unlocked the padlock that fettered King to the wall and
led him into the corridor upon which his cell opened, where the rest of
Varna's ten awaited to escort the prisoner into the presence of
Lodivarman. Kau and Tchek were there with the others with whom King had
become familiar while he served as a warrior of the royal guard of
Lodivarman, Leper King of Lodidhapura. Rough were the greetings that
they exchanged, but none the less cordial; and so, guarded by his own
friends, Gordon King was conducted toward the audience chamber of
Lodivarman.




14 My Lord the Tiger


Lodivarman, a malignant scowl upon his face, crouched upon his great
throne. Surrounding him were his warlords and his ministers, his high
priests and the officers of his household; and at his left knelt a slave
bearing a great golden platter piled high with mushrooms. But for the
moment Lodivarman was too intent upon his vengeance to be distracted
even by the cravings of his unnatural appetite, for here at last he had
within his grasp the creature that had centred upon itself all the
unbridled rage of a tyrant.

Trembling with the anger that he could not conceal, Lodivarman glared at
Gordon King as the prisoner was led to the foot of the dais below his
throne.

"Where is the girl?" demanded the King angrily.

"The Princess Fou-tan is safe in the palace of Beng Kher," replied King.

"How did you get her away? Some one must have helped you. If you would
save yourself the anguish of torture, speak the truth," cried
Lodivarman, his voice trembling with rage.

"Lodivarman, the King, knows better than any other how I took Fou-tan
from him," replied the American.

"I do not mean that," screamed Lodivarman, trembling. "Siva will see
that you suffer sufficient agonies for the indignity that you put upon
me, but I can curtail that if you will reveal your accomplices."

"I had no accomplices," replied King. "I took the Princess and walked
out of your palace and no one saw me."

"How did you get out?" demanded Lodivarman.

King smiled. "You are going to torture me, Lodivarman, and you are going
to kill me. Why should I give you even the gratification of satisfying
your curiosity? Wantonly you have already destroyed three men in your
anger. I shall be the fourth. The life of any one of us is worth more
than yours. If I could I would not add further to the debt that you must
pay in the final accounting when you face God beyond the grave."

"What do you know, stranger, of the gods of the Khmers?" demanded
Lodivarman.

"I know little or nothing of Brahma, of Vishnu, or Siva," replied King,
"but I do know that above all there is a God that kings and tyrants must
face; and in His eyes even a good king is not greater than a good slave,
and of all creatures a tyrant is the most despicable."

"You would question the power of Brahma, of Vishnu, and of Siva!" hissed
Lodivarman. "You dare to set your God above them! Before you die then,
by the gods, you shall seek their mercy in your anguish."

"Whatever my suffering may be, you will be its author, Lodivarman,"
replied King. "The gods will have nothing to do with it."

A minor priest came near and whispered in the King's ear. Vay Thon, the
high priest, was there, too. The old man stood with his eyes fixed
compassionately upon King, but he knew he was powerless to aid his
friend, for who should know better than a high priest the power of kings
and the futility of gods.

The priest appeared to be urging something upon his ruler with
considerable enthusiasm.

Lodivarman listened to the whispered words of counsel, and then for some
time he sat in thought. Presently he raised his eyes to King again. "It
pleases us to prove the power of our Gods, revealing their omnipotence
to the eyes of our people. My Lord the Tiger knows no god; you shall
contend with him. If your God be so powerful let him preserve you from
the beast." Lodivarman helped himself to mushrooms and sank back in his
throne. "Take him to the pit of My Lord the Tiger," he said presently;
"but do not liberate the great beast until we come."

The soldiers surrounded King and led him away, but before they had
reached the doorway leading from the audience chamber Lodivarman halted
them. "Wait!" he cried. "It shall not be said the Lodivarman is unfair
even to an enemy. When this man enters the pit with My Lord the Tiger,
see that he has a javelin wherewith to defend himself. I have heard
stories of his prowess; let us see if they were exaggerated."

From the palace, King was led across the royal garden to the great
temple of Siva; and there, upon one of the lower levels, a place where
he had never been before, he was conducted to a small amphitheatre, in
the centre of which was sunk a deep pit that was, perhaps, a hundred
feet square. The entrance to the pit was down a stairway and along a
narrow corridor of stone to massive wooden doors which the soldiers
threw open.

"Enter, Gordon King," said Vama. "Here is my javelin, and may your God
and my gods be with you."

"Thanks!" said King. "I imagine that I shall need them all," and then he
stepped into the sunlit pit as the doors were closed behind him.

The floor and walls of the cubicle were of blocks of stone set without
mortar, but so perfectly fitted that the joints were scarcely
discernible. As King stood with his back against the doorway through
which he had entered the pit, he saw in the wall opposite him another
door of great planks, a low sinister door, behind which he guessed paced
a savage, hungry carnivore.

King hefted the javelin in his hand. It was a sturdy, well-balanced
weapon. Once again he recalled his college days when he had hurled a
similar weapon beneath the admiring eyes of his mates; but then only
distance had counted, only the superficial show that is the keynote of
civilisation had mattered.

What mattered it that other men might cast a javelin more accurately?
Which after all would be the practical test of efficiency. Gordon King
could cast it farther than any of them, which was a feat far more showy
than accuracy; but from the unlettered Che he had learned what college
had failed to teach him and had acquired an accuracy as uncanny as the
great distances that had won him fame.

Twice already had he met My Lord the Tiger and vanquished him with his
javelin. Each time it had seemed to King a miracle. That it could be
repeated again, that for the third time he could overcome the lord of
Asia seemed incredible. And what would it profit him were he to succeed?
From the cruel fangs and talons of the tiger he would be transferred to
the greater cruelties of Lodivarman.

As he stood there upon the stone flagging of the pit beneath the hot sun
that poured its unobstructed rays into the enclosure, he saw the
audience sauntering to the stone benches that encircled the arena. It
was evident that those who were to witness his destruction were members
of the household of the King; princes and nobles and warriors there were
and ministers and priests, and with them were their women. Last of all
came Lodivarman with his bodyguard and slaves. To a canopied throne he
made his way while the audience knelt, the meeker of them touching their
foreheads to the stone flagging of the aisles. Before his throne
Lodivarman halted, while his dead eyes swept quickly over the assembly,
passing from them to the arena and the solitary warrior standing there
below him. For a long moment the gaze of the King was riveted upon the
American; hatred and suppressed rage were in that long, venomous
appraisal of the man who had thwarted and humiliated him--that low
creature that had dared lay profaning hands upon the person of the King.

Slowly Lodivarman sank into his throne. Then he made a brief sign to an
attendant, and an instant later the notes of a trumpet floated out
across the still air of the arena. The kneeling men and women arose and
took their seats. Once again Lodivarman raised his hand, and again the
trumpet sounded, and every eye was turned upon the low doorway upon the
opposite side of the arena from the American.

King saw the heavy barrier rise slowly. In the darkness beyond it
nothing was visible at first, but presently he was aware that something
moved within, and then he saw the familiar yellow and black stripes that
he had expected. Slowly a great tiger stepped into the doorway, pausing
upon the threshold, blinking from the glare of the sunlight. His
attention was attracted first by the people upon the stone benches above
him, and he looked up at them and growled. Then he looked down and saw
King. Instantly his whole attitude changed. He half crouched, and his
tail moved in sinuous undulations; his head was flattened, and his eyes
glared fiercely.

Gordon King did not wait for the attack. He had a theory of his own
based upon his experience with wild beasts. He knew them to be nervous
and oftentimes timid when confronted by emergencies that offered aspects
that were new and unfamiliar.

A gasp of astonishment, not unmingled with admiration, arose from the
people lining the edges of the pit, for the thing that they witnessed
was as surprising to them as King hoped it would be to the
tiger--instead of the beast charging the man, they saw the man charging
the beast. Straight toward the crouching carnivore King ran, his spear
balanced and ready in his hand.

For an instant the tiger hesitated. He had expected nothing like this;
and then he did what King had hoped that he might do, what he had known
there was a fair chance that he would do. Fearful of the new and
unexpected, the beast turned and broke, and as he did so he exposed his
left side fully and at close range to the quick eye of his antagonist.

Swift as lightning moved King's spear-arm. The heavy javelin, cast with
unerring precision and backed to the last ounce by the strength and the
weight of the American, tore into the striped side just behind the left
shoulder of the great beast. At the instant that the weapon left his
hand King turned and raced to the far extremity of the arena. The
running tiger, carried by his own momentum, rolled over and over upon
the stone flagging; his horrid screams and coughing roars shook the
amphitheatre. King was positive that the beast's heart was pierced, but
he knew that these great cats were so tenacious of life that in the
brief instant of their dying they often destroyed their adversaries
also. It was for this reason that he had put as much distance as he
could between himself and the infuriated animal, and it was well that he
had done so, for the instant that the tiger had regained his feet he
discovered King and charged straight for him.

Unarmed and helpless, the man stood waiting. Breathless, the spectators
had arisen from their stone benches and were bending eagerly forward in
tense anticipation of the cruel and bloody end.

Half the length of the arena the tiger crossed in great bounds. A sudden
conviction swept the man that after all he had missed the heart. He was
poised for what he already knew must be a futile leap to one side in an
effort to dodge the first charge of the onrushing beast, when suddenly
the tiger collapsed, seemingly in mid-air; and his great carcase came
rolling across the flagging to stop at King's feet.

For an instant there was utter silence, and then a great shout rose from
the spectators. "He has won his life, Lodivarman! He has won his
freedom!" arose here and there from the braver among them, and the
others cheered in approval.

Lodivarman, crouching in his throne with an ugly sneer upon his lips,
called a functionary to him for a few, brief whispered instructions, and
then the Leper King arose and passed through the kneeling people as he
departed from the amphitheatre.

A moment later the door that had opened to admit King to the pit creaked
again upon its hinges to admit Vama and an escort of warriors.

King greeted his former comrade with a smile. "Have you come to finish
the work that the tiger failed to do," he asked, "or have you come to
escort me to freedom?"

"Neither," replied Vama. "We have come to return you to your cell, for
such are the commands of the King. But if he does not set you free
eventually," added Vama in low tones, "it will be to the lasting
disgrace of Lodivarman, for never was a man more deserving of his life
and liberty than you. You are the first man, Gordon King, who has ever
faced the tiger in this pit and come out alive."

"Which does not at all satisfy Lodivarman's craving for revenge,"
suggested the American.

"I am afraid you are right," said Vama, as they moved along the corridor
toward the dungeon, "but you must know that to-day you have made many
new friends in Lodidhapura, for there are those among us who can
appreciate courage, strength and skill."

"My mistake," said King, "was not in my selection of friends, but in my
selection of an enemy; for the latter, I have found one from whom all
the friends in the world may not save me."

Once again in his gloomy, cheerless cell King was fettered to the cold,
familiar stone; but he was cheered by the kind words of Vama and the
friendly expressions of other members of the guard that had escorted him
hither; and when presently a slave came with food he, too, had words of
praise and friendliness; and the food that he brought was well prepared
and plentiful.

The day passed and the long night followed, and toward the middle of the
next forenoon a visitor came to King's cell; and as he paused in the
doorway, the prisoner recognised the yellow robe and the white beard of
Vay Thon, the high priest of Siva, and his face lighted with pleasure,
as the old man peered into the dim interior of his prison.

"Welcome, Vay Thon!" he exclaimed, "and accept my apologies for the mean
hospitality that I may offer so distinguished and so welcome a guest."

"Give that no thought, my son," replied the old man. "It is enough that
so courageous a warrior should receive a poor old priest with such
pleasure as is evidenced by your tone. I am glad to be with you, but I
wish that it might be under happier circumstances and that I might be
the bearer of more welcome news."

"You have brought news to me, then?" asked King.

"Yes," replied Vay Thon. "Because of what I owe you and for the
friendship that I feel for you I have come to warn you, though any
warning of your impending doom can avail you nothing."

"Lodivarman will not give me my liberty or my life, then?" asked King.

"No," replied Vay Thon. "The affront that you put upon him he considers
beyond forgiveness. You are to be destroyed, but in such a way that the
responsibility shall not rest upon the shoulders of Lodivarman."

"And how is this to be accomplished?" asked the American.

"You are to be summoned to the audience chamber of Lodivarman to receive
your freedom and then you are to be set upon and assassinated by members
of his guard. The story is to be spread that you sought to take the life
of Lodivarman, so that his soldiers were compelled to slay you."

"Vay Thon," said King, "perhaps the warning that you bring me may not
save me from the fate that Lodivarman has ordained; but it has
demonstrated your friendship; and my last hours, therefore, will be
happier because you came. And now go, for if the knowledge that you have
imparted prompts me to take advantage of some opportunity for revenge or
escape, there must be no clue to suggest that you are in any way
responsible."

"I appreciate your thoughtfulness, my friend," replied the old priest,
"and as I can be of no service to you I shall leave you, but know that
constantly I shall supplicate the gods to protect you." He came and
placed his hands upon King's shoulders. "Good-bye, my son, my heart is
heavy," and as the tears welled in his old eyes he turned and left the
cell.

Vay Thon had been gone but a short time when King heard the sound of
footsteps approaching, and with these were mingled the clank of armour
and the rattling of accoutrements. Presently, when the men halted before
the doorway of his cell, he saw that they were all strangers to him. The
officer who commanded them entered the cell, greeting King pleasantly.

"I bring you good news," he said, as he stooped and unlocked the padlock
and cast King's fetters from him.

"Any news would be good news here," replied the American.

"But this is the best of all news," said the officer. "Lodivarman has
commanded that you be conducted to him that he may grant you your
freedom in person."

"Splendid," said King, though he could scarcely repress a smile as he
recalled the message that Vay Thon had brought him.

Back to the now familiar audience chamber of the King they conducted the
prisoner, and once again he stood before the throne of Lodivarman. There
were few in attendance upon the monarch, a fact which suggested that he
had not cared to share the secret of his perfidy with more than was
absolutely necessary. But few though they were, the inevitable slave was
there, kneeling at Lodivarman's side with his platter of mushrooms; and
it was the sight of these lowly fungi that instantly riveted the
attention of the doomed man, for suddenly they had become more important
than brass-bound soldiers, than palace functionaries, than the King
himself, for they had suggested to the American a possible means of
salvation.

He knew that he must think and act quickly, for he had no means of
knowing how soon the signal for his assassination would be given.

Surrounded by his guards, he crossed the audience chamber and halted
before the throne of Lodivarman. He should have prostrated himself then,
but he did not; instead he looked straight into the dead eyes of the
tyrant.

"Lodivarman," he said, "listen to me for a moment before you give the
signal that will put into execution the plan that you have conceived,
for at this instant your own life and happiness hang in the balance."

"What do you mean?" demanded Lodivarman.

"You questioned the power of my God, Lodivarman," continued King, "but
you saw me vanquish My Lord the Tiger in the face of the wrath of Siva,
and now you know that I am aware of just what you planned for me here.
How could I have vanquished the beast, or how could I have known your
plans except through the intervention and the favour of my God?"

Lodivarman seemed ill at ease. His eyes shifted suspiciously from one
man to another. "I have been betrayed," he said angrily.

"On the contrary," replied King, "you have been given such an
opportunity as never could have come to you without me. Will you hear me
before I am slain?"

"I do not know what you are talking about. I sent for you to free you;
but speak on, I am listening."

"You are a leper," said King, and at the hideous word Lodivarman sprang
to his feet, trembling with rage, his face livid, his dead eyes glaring.

"Death to him!" he cried. "No man may speak that accursed word to me and
live."

At Lodivarman's words warriors sprang menacingly toward King. "Wait!"
cried the American. "You have told me that you would listen. Wait until
I have spoken, for what I have to say means more to you than life
itself."

"Speak, then, but be quick," snapped Lodivarman.

"In the great country from which I come," continued King, "there are
many brilliant physicians who have studied all of the diseases to which
mankind is heir. I, too, am a physician, and under many of those men
have I studied and particularly have I studied the disease of leprosy.
Lodivarman, you believe this disease to be incurable; but I, the man
whom you would destroy, can cure you."

King's voice, well modulated but clear and distinct, had carried his
words to every man in the audience chamber, and the silence which
followed this dramatic declaration was so profound that one might have
said that no man even breathed. All felt the tenseness of the moment.

Lodivarman, who had sunk back into his throne after his wild outburst of
anger, seemed almost to have collapsed. He was trembling visibly, his
lower jaw dropped upon his chest. King knew that the man was impressed,
that all within the audience chamber were impressed, and his knowledge
of human nature told him that he had won, for he knew that Lodivarman,
king though he was, was only human and that he would grasp at even the
most impalpable suggestion of hope that might be offered him in the
extremity of his fear and loathing for the disease that claimed him.

Presently the tyrant found his voice. "You can cure me?" he asked,
almost piteously.

"My life shall be the forfeit," replied King, "on condition that you
swear before your gods in the presence of Vay Thon, the high priest,
that in return for your health you will grant me life and liberty--"

"Life, liberty, and every honour that lies within my power shall be
conferred upon you," cried Lodivarman, his voice trembling with emotion.
"If you rid me of this horrid sickness, aught that you ask shall be
granted. Come, let us not delay. Cure me at once."

"The sickness has held you for many years, Lodivarman," replied King,
"and it cannot be cured in a day. I must prepare medicine, and you must
carry out the instructions that I shall give you, for I can cure you
only if you obey me implicitly."

"How do I know that you will not poison me?" demanded Lodivarman.

King thought for a moment. Here was an obstacle that he had not
foreseen, and then suddenly a solution suggested itself. "I can satisfy
you as to that, Lodivarman," he replied, "for when I prepare medicine
for you I shall take some of it myself in your presence."

Lodivarman nodded. "That will safeguard me," he said, "and now what
else?"

"Put me where Vay Thon, the high priest, can watch me always. You trust
him, and he will see that no harm befalls you through me. He will help
me to obtain the medicine that I require, and to-morrow I shall be ready
to commence the treatment. But in the meantime your system must be
prepared to permit the medicine to take effect, and in this I can do
nothing without your co-operation."

"Speak!" said Lodivarman. "Whatever you suggest I shall do."

"Have every mushroom in Lodidhapura destroyed," said King. "Have your
slave burn those that have been prepared, and determine never to taste
another."

Lodivarman scowled angrily. "What have mushrooms to do with the cure?"
he demanded. "They afford me the only pleasure that I have in life. This
is naught but a trick to annoy and discomfort me."

"As you will," said King with a shrug. "I can cure you, but only if you
obey my instructions. My medicines will have no effect if you continue
to eat mushrooms. But it is up to you, Lodivarman. Do as you choose."

For a time the ruler sat tapping nervously upon the arm of his throne,
and then suddenly and almost savagely he turned upon the kneeling slave
at his side. "Throw out the accursed things," he cried. "Throw them out!
Destroy them! Burn them! And never let me set my eyes upon you again."

Trembling, the slave departed, carrying the platter of mushrooms with
him, and then Lodivarman directed his attention upon one of the officers
of his household. "Destroy the royal mushroom bed," he cried, "and see
to it that you do it thoroughly," and then to another, "Summon Vay
Thon." As the officers left the room Lodivarman turned to King again.
"How long will it be before I am cured?" he asked.

"I cannot tell that until I see how you react to my medicine," replied
the American; "but I believe that you will see almost immediate
improvement. It may be very slow, and on the other hand, it may come
very rapidly."

While they waited for Vay Thon, Lodivarman plied King with question
after question; and now that he was convinced that men had been cured of
leprosy and that he himself might be cured, a great change seemed to
come over him. It was as though a new man had been born; his whole
aspect appeared to change, as the hideous burden of fear and
hopelessness that he had carried for so many years was dissipated by the
authoritative manner and confident pronouncement of the American. And
when Vay Thon entered the audience chamber, he saw a smile upon
Lodivarman's face for the first time in so many years that he had almost
forgotten that the man could smile.

Quickly Lodivarman explained the situation to Vay Thon and gave him his
instructions relative to the American, for he wished the latter to
hasten the preparation of his medicine.

"To-morrow," he cried, as the two men were backing from the apartment,
"to-morrow my cure shall commence." And Gordon King did not tell him
that his cure already had started, that it had started the instant that
he had given orders for the destruction of the royal mushroom bed, for
he did not wish Lodivarman to know what he knew--that the man was not a
leper and never had been, that what in his ignorance he had thought was
leprosy was nothing more than an aggravated form of dermatitis,
resulting from food poisoning. At least King prayed that his diagnosis
was correct.



15 War


From the quarters of Vay Thon slaves were despatched into the jungle for
many strange herbs and roots, and from these King compounded three
prescriptions, but the basis of each was a mild laxative. The purpose of
the other ingredients was chiefly to add impressiveness and mystery to
the compounds, for however much King might deplore this charlatanism he
was keenly aware that he must not permit the cure to appear too simple.
He was dealing with a primitive mind, and he was waging a battle of wits
for his life--conditions which seemed to warrant the adoption of means
that are not altogether frowned upon by the most ethical of modern
practitioners.

Three times a day he went in person to a small audience chamber off the
bedroom of Lodivarman, and there, in the presence of Vay Thon and
officers of the royal household, he tasted the medicine himself before
administering it to Lodivarman. Upon the third day it became apparent
that the sores upon the body of the King were drying up. Exsiccation was
so manifest that Lodivarman was jubilant. He laughed and joked with
those about him and renewed his assurances to the American that no
reward within the power of his giving would be denied him when
Lodivarman was again a whole man. Each day thereafter the improvement
was marked and rapid, until, at the end of three weeks, no trace
remained of the hideous sores that had so horribly disfigured the
monarch for so many years.

Gradually King had been diminishing the dosages that he had been
administering and had tapered off the treatment from three to two a day
and finally to one. Upon the twenty-first day King ordered Lodivarman to
his bedroom; and there, in the presence of Vay Thon and three of the
highest officers of the kingdom, he examined the King's entire body and
found the skin clear, healthy, and without blemish.

"Well?" demanded Lodivarman, when the examination had been completed.

"Your Majesty is cured," said King.

The King arose from his bed and threw a robe about him. "Life and
liberty are yours, Gordon King," he said. "A palace, slaves, riches are
at your disposal. You have proven yourself a great warrior and a great
physician. If you will remain here you shall be an officer in the royal
guard and the private physician of Lodivarman, the King."

"There is but one reason why I care to remain in the land of the
Khmers," replied King, "and that reason you must know, Lodivarman,
before I can accept the honours that you would bestow upon me."

"And what is that?" demanded Lodivarman.

"To be as near as possible to the Princess Fou-tan of Pnom Dhek in the
hope that some day I may claim her hand in marriage as already I have
won her love."

"Already have I forgiven you for that act of yours which deprived me of
the girl," said Lodivarman, without an instant's hesitation. "If you can
win her, I shall place no obstacles in your path, but on the contrary I
shall assist you in every way within my power. Let no man say that the
gratitude of Lodivarman is tinged with selfishness or with revenge."

Lodivarman did even more than he had promised, for he created Gordon
King a prince of Khmer, and so it was that the American found himself
elevated from the position of the condemned criminal to that of the
titled master of a palace--a lord over many slaves and the commander of
five hundred Khmer warriors.

Great was the rejoicing in Lodidhapura when the King's cure became
known; and for a week the city was given over to dancing, to pageants,
and to celebration. In the howdah of the royal elephant at Lodivarman's
side, King rode along the avenues of Lodidhapura in the van of a
procession of a thousand elephants trapped in gorgeous silks and gold
and jewels.

And then upon the last day, when the rejoicing was at its height, all
was changed in the brief span of an instant. A sweat-streaked, exhausted
messenger staggered to the gates of Lodidhapura; and ere he swooned from
fatigue he gasped out his brief message to the captain of the gates.

"Beng Kher comes with a great army to avenge the insult to his
Princess," and then he fell unconscious at the feet of the officer.

Quickly was the word carried to Lodivarman and quickly did it spread
through the city of Lodidhapura. The gay trappings of a fete vanished
like magic to be replaced by the grim trappings of war. Well worn and
darkened with age were the housings and harnesses of the elephants as a
thousand strong they filed from the north gates of Lodidhapura, bearing
upon their backs the sturdy archers and spearmen of Lodivarman; and with
them rode Gordon King, the prince, at the head of his new command. Alone
upon a swift elephant he rode with only the mahout seated before him on
the head of the great beast.

Little or nothing did the American know of the tactics of Khmer warfare,
except that which he had derived from fellow warriors while he served
among them and from other officers since his appointment. He had learned
that the battles consisted principally of individual combat between
elephant crews and that the duties of an officer did little more than
constitute him a focal point upon which his men might rally for the
pursuit if the enemy broke and retreated.

With long, rolling strides the elephants of war swung along the avenue
into the jungle. Here and there were bits of colour or a glint of
sunlight on a shining buckle, but for the most part the beasts were
caparisoned with stern simplicity for the business of war. From the
howdahs the burnished cuirasses of the warriors gave back the sunlight,
and from the shaft of many a spear floated a coloured ribbon. The men
themselves were grim and silent, or moved to coarse jokes and oaths as
suited the individuality of each; and the music was from rough-throated
trumpets and booming drums.

Toward a great clearing the army made its way and there awaited the
coming of Beng Kher, for wars between Lodidhapura and Pnom Dhek were
governed by age-old custom. Here for a thousand years their armies had
met whenever Pnom Dhek attacked Lodidhapura. Here the first engagement
must take place; and if the soldiers of Beng Kher could not pass the
forces of Lodivarman, they must turn back in defeat. It was a game of
war governed by strict rules up to the point where one side broke and
fled. If the troops of Lodivarman broke here they would be pursued to
the gates of Lodidhapura; and there, within the walls of the city, they
would make their final stand. But if Beng Kher's troops broke first,
Lodivarman could take credit for a victory and might pursue them or not
as he chose. To elude one another by strategy, to attempt to gain the
rear of an enemy were not to be countenanced, largely so, perhaps, from
the fact that flanking and enveloping movements were impossible with
elephant troops in a dense forest, where the only avenues of advance or
retreat were the well-marked trails that were known to all.

The clearing, along the south side of which the troops of Lodivarman
were drawn up, was some two miles in length by a half or three-quarters
of a mile in width. The ground was slightly rolling and almost entirely
denuded of vegetation, since it was in almost constant use for the
training and drilling of elephant troops.

As the last of the great pachyderms wheeled into place, the drums and
the trumpets were silent; and from out of the north, to the listening
ears of the warriors, came faintly the booming of Pnom Dhek's war drums.
The enemy was approaching. The men looked to arrows and bowstrings. The
mahouts spoke soothingly and encouragingly to their mighty charges. The
officers rode slowly up and down the line in front of their men,
exhorting them to deeds of courage. As the sound of the enemy drums and
trumpets drew nearer, the elephants became noticeably nervous. They
swayed from side to side, raising and lowering their trunks and flapping
their great ears.

In each howdah were many extra spears and great quantities of arrows.
King, alone, had twenty spears in his howdah and fully a hundred arrows.
When he had first seen them loaded upon his elephant it had not seemed
possible that he was to use them against other men, and he had found
himself rather shrinking from contemplation of the thought; but now with
the sound of the war drums in his ears and the smell of leather and the
stink of war elephants in his nostrils and with that long line of grim
faces and burnished cuirasses at his back, he felt a sudden mad blood
lust that thrilled him to the depths of his being. No longer was he the
learned and cultured gentleman of the twentieth century, but as much a
Khmer warrior as ever drew a bow for ancient Yacovarman, The King of
Glory.

The enemy is coming. The blare of his trumpets resounds across the field
of battle, and now the head of the enemy column emerges on to the field.
The trumpets of Lodidhapura blare and her drums boom. An elephant lifts
his trunk and trumpets shrilly. It is with difficulty now that the
mahouts hold their charges in line.

The enemy line is finally formed upon the opposite side of the great
field. For a moment drums and trumpets are stilled, and then a hoarse
fanfare rolls across the clearing from the trumpeters of Beng Kher. "We
are ready," it seems to say, and instantly it is answered from
Lodivarman's side. Simultaneously now the two lines advance upon one
another; and for a moment there is a semblance of order and discipline,
but presently here and there an elephant forges ahead of his fellows.
They break into a trot. King is almost run down by his own men.

"Forward!" he shouts to his mahout.

Pandemonium has broken loose. Trumpets and drums merge with the battle
cries of ten thousand warriors. The elephants, goaded to anger, scream
and trumpet in their rage. As the two lines converge, the bowmen loose a
shower of arrows from either side; and now the curses and cries of
wounded men and the shrill screaming of hurt elephants mingle with the
trumpets and the bugles and the war cries in the mad diapason of war.

King found himself carried forward on the crest of battle straight
toward a lone officer of the enemy forces. He was riding the swaying
howdah now like a sailor on the deck of a storm-tossed ship. The
antagonist approaching him was balancing his javelin, waiting until they
should come within surer range; but King did not wait. He was master of
his weapon, and he had no doubts. Behind him were his men. He did not
know that they were watching him; but they were, for he was a new
officer and this his first engagement. His standing with them would be
determined now forever. All of them had heard of his prowess and many of
them had doubted the truth of the stories they had heard. They saw his
spear-arm come back, they saw the heavy weapon flying through the air
and a hoarse cheer broke from their throats as the point crashed through
the burnished cuirass of the enemy.

An instant later the two lines came together with such terrific force
that a score of elephants were overthrown. King was almost pitched from
his howdah; and an instant later he was fighting hand to hand,
surrounded by the warriors of Beng Kher. The battle now resolved itself
into a slow milling of elephants as the mahouts sought to gain
advantageous positions for the crews in their howdahs. Here and there a
young elephant, or one sorely wounded and driven mad by pain, broke from
the melee and bolted for the jungle. Warriors leaped from their howdahs,
risking injury rather than the almost certain death that would await
them as the frightened beasts stampeded through the forest. Only the
mahouts clung to their posts, facing death rather than the disgrace of
abandoning their charges. The hot sun blazed down upon the stinking,
sweating mass of war. The feet of the milling elephants raised clouds of
dust through which it was sometimes difficult to see more than a few
yards.

In the moment that King was surrounded an arrow grazed his arm, while a
dozen glanced from his helmet and his cuirass. His impressions were
confused. He saw savage, distorted faces before him, at which he lunged
with a long javelin. He was choked with dust and blinded by sweat. He
heard the savage trumpeting of his own elephant and the shouts and
curses of his mahout. It seemed impossible that he could extricate
himself from such a position, or that he could long survive the vicious
attack that was being directed upon him by the men of the officer he had
slain; and then some of his own elephants came charging in, and a moment
later he was surrounded by the warriors of his own command.

Ever forward they pushed. What was happening elsewhere in the line they
did not know, for obscuring dust hid all but those close to them. The
line before them gave; and then it held and pushed them back again, and
so the battle surged to and fro and back and forth. But always it seemed
to King that his side gained a little more at each advance than it lost.
Presently the enemy line gave way entirely. King saw the elephants of
Pnom Dhek turn in the murky dust and race toward the north. Just what
the rest of the line was doing he did not know; and for the moment none
of his own men was visible, so thick and heavy hung the pall of dust
upon the field of battle.

Perhaps King forgot what little of the rules of Khmer warfare he had
ever learned. Perhaps he thought only of following up an advantage
already gained; but be that as it may, he shouted to his men to follow
and ordered his mahout to pursue the fleeing warriors to Pnom Dhek. Amid
the din of battle his men did not hear him, and so it was that, alone,
Gordon King pursued that part of the enemy line that had broken directly
in front of him.

Presently, as they drew away from the centre of the field and the dust
clouds became less impenetrable, King saw the grey bulk of an elephant
moving just ahead of him; and then as the visibility increased he saw
still other enemy elephants farther in advance. Now he could see that
there were two men in the howdah of the elephant just in front of him;
but as he raised his javelin to cast it, he suddenly recognised the man
at whom his weapon was to be directed--it was Beng Kher, King of Pnom
Dhek and father of Fou-tan. King lowered his spear-arm; he could not
slay the father of the girl he loved. But who was his companion? Through
the lessening dust King sensed a vague familiarity in that figure. It
occurred to him that he might take Beng Kher prisoner and thus force him
to sanction his marriage with Fou-tan. Other mad schemes passed through
his head as the two swift elephants raced across the clearing.

Neither Beng Kher nor his companion appeared to be paying any attention
to the warrior pursuing them, which convinced King that they believed
him to be one of their own men. King saw Beng Kher's companion lean
forward over the front of the howdah as though issuing instructions to
the mahout; and almost immediately their course was changed to the
right, while ahead of them King saw the other elephants that had
accompanied Beng Kher disappearing into the forest to the north.

The air about them was comparatively free from dust now, so that King
could see all that transpired about him. He glanced behind; and from the
clouds of dust arising from the centre of the field he knew that the
battle was still raging, but he kept on in pursuit of the King of Pnom
Dhek.

To his dismay he saw that the royal elephant was drawing away from him,
being swifter than his own. He saw something else, too--he saw Beng Kher
remonstrating with his companion, and then for the first time he
recognised the other man in the howdah as Bharata Rahon.

King was exhorting his mahout to urge the elephant to greater speed; and
when he glanced up again at the two men in the howdah ahead of him, he
saw Bharata Rahon suddenly raise a knife and plunge it into the neck of
Beng Kher. The King staggered backward; and before he could regain his
equilibrium Bharata Rahon leaped forward and gave him a tremendous
shove, and King saw Beng Kher, the ruler of Pnom Dhek, topple backward
out of the howdah and plunge to the ground below.

Horrified by the ruthless crime he had witnessed and moved by the
thought of Fou-tan's love for her father, King ordered his mahout to
bring their elephant to a stop; and then sliding quickly from the
howdah, he ran to where Beng Kher lay. The King was half stunned and
blood was gushing from the wound in his neck. As best he could and as
quickly, King stanched the flow; but what was he to do? Beng Kher was
indeed his prisoner, but what would it profit him now?

He signalled his mahout to bring the elephant closer and make it lie
down, and then the two men lifted the wounded Beng Kher into the howdah.

"What do you want with a wounded enemy?" demanded the mahout, and it was
evident to King that the fellow had not recognised Beng Kher as King of
Pnom Dhek. "Why do you not kill him?" continued the man.

"You were detailed to drive my elephant and not to question my acts,"
snapped King shortly, and whatever thoughts concerning the matter the
mahout had thereafter he kept to himself.

"Whither, my lord?" he asked presently.

That was the very question that was bothering King--whither! Were he to
take Beng Kher back to Lodidhapura, he did not know but that Lodivarman
might destroy him. If he tried to take him back to Pnom Dhek, Beng Kher
might die before they reached the city, or if he lived, doubtless he
would see that King died shortly thereafter. The American had no love
for Beng Kher, but if he could protect Fou-tan from grief by saving the
life of her father, he would do so if he could but find the means; and
presently a possible solution of his problem occurred to him.

He turned to his mahout. "I wish to go to the jungle south of
Lodidhapura, avoiding the city and all men upon the way. Do you
understand?"

"Yes, my lord," replied the man.

"Then make haste. I must reach a certain spot before dark. When we have
passed Lodidhapura I will give you further directions."

Little Uda was playing before the dwelling of Che and Kangrey when he
heard a sound that was familiar to him--the approach of an elephant
along the jungle trail that passed not far from where he played. Now and
then elephants passed that way and sometimes little Uda saw them, but
more often he did not. Uda and Che and Kangrey had no fear of these
passing elephants, for the massive stone ruin in which they lived was
off the beaten trail among a jumble of fallen ruins that was little
Likely to tempt the feet of the great pachyderms; so little Uda played
on, giving scant heed to the approaching footsteps, but presently his
keen ears noted what his eyes could not see; and leaping to his feet, he
ran quickly into the dwelling, where Kangrey was preparing food for the
evening meal before the return of Che.

"Mamma," cried Uda, "an elephant is coming. He has left the trail and is
coming here."

Kangrey stepped to the doorway. To her astonishment she saw an elephant
coming straight toward her dwelling. She only saw his feet and legs at
first; and then, as he emerged from behind a tree that had hidden the
upper part of his body, the woman gave a cry of alarm, for she saw that
the elephant was driven by a mahout and that there was a warrior in the
howdah upon its back. Grasping Uda by the hand, she sprang from her
dwelling, bent upon escaping from the feared power of Lodivarman; but a
familiar voice halted her, calling her by name.

"Do not be afraid, Kangrey," came the reassuring voice. "It is I, Gordon
King."

The woman stopped and turned back, a smile of welcome upon her face.
"Thanks be to the gods that it is you, Gordon King, and not another,"
she exclaimed. "But what brings you thus upon a great elephant and in
the livery of Lodivarman to the poor dwelling of Kangrey?"

The mahout had brought the elephant to a stop now before Kangrey's
doorway, and at his command the great beast lowered its huge body to the
ground.

"I have brought a wounded warrior to you, Kangrey," said King, "to be
nursed back to life and health as once you nursed me," and with the help
of the mahout he lifted Beng Kher from the howdah.

"For you, Gordon King, Kangrey would nurse Lodivarman himself," said the
woman.

They carried Beng Kher into the dwelling and laid him upon a pallet of
dry grasses and leaves covered with the pelts of wild animals. Together
King and Kangrey removed the golden cuirass from the fallen monarch.
Taking off the rough bandages with which the American had stanched the
flow of blood and covered the wounds, the woman bathed the gashes with
water brought by Uda. Her deft fingers worked lightly and quickly; and
while she prepared new bandages she sent Uda into the jungle to fetch
certain leaves, which she laid upon the wounds beneath the bandages.

The mahout had returned to his elephant; and as Kangrey and King were
kneeling upon opposite sides of the wounded man, Beng Kher opened his
eyes. For a moment they roved without comprehension about the interior
of the rude dwelling and from the face of the woman leaning above him to
that of the man, upon whom he noted the harness of Lodivarman, and King
saw that Beng Kher did not recognise him.

"Where am I?" asked the wounded man. "What has happened? But I need not
ask. I fell in battle and I am a prisoner in the hands of my enemy."

"No," replied King, "you are in the hands of friends, Beng Kher. This
woman will nurse you back to health; after that we shall decide what is
to be done."

"Who are you?" demanded Beng Kher, scrutinising the features of his
captor.

From beneath his cuirass and his leather tunic the American withdrew a
tiny ring that was suspended about his neck on a golden chain, and when
Beng Kher saw it he voiced an exclamation of surprise.

"It is Fou-tan's," he said. "How came you by it, man?"

"Do you not recognise me?" demanded the American.

"By Siva, you are the strange warrior who dared aspire to the love of
the Princess of Pnom Dhek. The gods have deserted me."

"Why do you say that?" demanded King. "I think they have been damn' good
to you."

"They have delivered me into the hands of one who may profit most by
destroying me," replied Beng Kher.

"On the contrary, they have been kind to you, for they have given you
into the keeping of the man who loves your daughter. That love, Beng
Kher, is your shield and your buckler. It has saved you from death, and
it will see that you are brought back to health."

For a while the King of Pnom Dhek lay silent, lost in meditation, but
presently he spoke again. "How came I to this sorry pass?" he asked. "We
were well out of the battle, Bharata Rahon and I--by Siva, I remember
now!" he exclaimed suddenly.

"I saw what happened, Beng Kher," said King. "I was pursuing you and was
but a short distance behind when I saw Bharata Rahon suddenly stab you
and then throw you from the howdah of your elephant."

Beng Kher nodded. "I remember it all now," he said. "The traitorous
scoundrel! Fou-tan warned me against him, but I would not believe her.
There were others who warned me, but I was stubborn. He thought he had
killed me, eh? but he has not. I shall recover and have my revenge, but
it will be too late to save Fou-tan."

"What do you mean?" demanded Gordon King.

"I can see his plan now as plainly as though he had told me in his own
words," said Beng Kher. "By now he is on his way to Pnom Dhek. He will
tell them that I fell in battle. He will force Fou-tan to marry him, and
thus he will become King of Pnom Dhek. Ah, if I had but one of my own
people here I could thwart him yet."

"I am here," said Gordon King, "and it means more to me to prevent
Bharata Rahon from carrying out his design than it could to any other
man." He rose to his feet.

"Where are you going?" demanded Beng Kher.

"I am going to Pnom Dhek," replied King, "and if I am not too late I
shall save Fou-tan; and if I am, I shall make her a widow."

"Wait," said Beng Kher. He slipped a massive ring from one of his
fingers and held it out to the American. "Take this," he said. "In Phom
Dhek it will confer upon you the authority of Beng Kher, the King. Use
it as you see fit to save Fou-tan and to bring Bharata Rahon to justice.
Farewell, Gordon King, and may the gods protect you and give you
strength."

Gordon King ran from the dwelling and leaped into the howdah of his
elephant. "Back to Lodidhapura," he commanded the mahout, "and by the
shortest route as fast as the beast can travel."




16 In the Palace of Beng Kher


Lodivarman, the King, was resting after the battle that had brought
victory to his arms. Never had he been in a happier mood; never had the
gods been so kind to him. Free from the clutches of the loathsome
disease that had gripped him for so many years and now victorious over
his ancient enemy, Lodivarman had good reason for rejoicing. Yet there
was a shadow upon his happiness, for he had lost many brave soldiers and
officers during the engagement, and not the least of these was the new
prince, Gordon King, whom he looked upon not only as his saviour, but as
his protector from disease in the future. At his orders many men had
searched the battlefield for the body of his erstwhile enemy, whom he
now considered his most cherished captain; but no trace of it had been
found, nor of his elephant nor his mahout; and it was the consensus of
opinion that the beast, frenzied by wounds and terrified by the din of
conflict, had bolted into the forest and that both men had been killed
as the elephant plunged beneath the branches of great trees. A hundred
warriors still were searching through the jungle, but no word had come
from them. There could be but slight hope that the new prince lived.

While Lodivarman lay upon his royal couch, grieving perhaps more for
himself than for Gordon King, a palace functionary was announced. "Admit
him," said Lodivarman.

The courtier entered the apartment and dropped to one knee. "What word
bring you?" demanded the King.

"The prince, Gordon King, seeks audience with Lodivarman," announced the
official.

"What?" demanded Lodivarman, raising himself to a sitting position upon
the edge of his couch. "He lives? He has returned?"

"He is alive and unhurt, Your Majesty," replied the man.

"Fetch him at once," commanded Lodivarman, and a moment later Gordon
King was ushered into his presence.

"The gods have been kind indeed," said Lodivarman. "We thought that you
had fallen in battle."

"No," replied King. "I pursued the enemy too far into the jungle, but in
doing so I discovered something that means more to me than my life,
Lodivarman, and I have come to you to enlist your aid."

"You have but to ask and it shall be granted," replied the King.

"The prince, Bharata Rahon, of Pnom Dhek, assassinated Beng Kher and is
now hastening back to Pnom Dhek to force the Princess, Fou-tan, to wed
him; and I have hastened to you to ask for men and elephants wherewith I
may pursue Bharata Rahon and save Fou-tan from his treachery."

Perhaps this was a bitter pill for Lodivarman to swallow, for no man,
not even a king, may easily forget humiliation--perhaps a king least of
all--and he did not like to be reminded that Fou-tan had spurned him and
that this man had taken her from him. But more powerful than his chagrin
was his sincere gratitude to Gordon King, and so it is only fair to
record that he did not hesitate an instant when he had heard the
American's request.

"You shall have everything that you require--warriors, elephants,
everything. You have heard?" he demanded, turning to an official
standing near him.

The man nodded. "It is the King's command, then," continued Lodivarman,
"that the prince be furnished at once with all he requires."

"A hundred elephants and five hundred men will answer my purpose," said
King, "the swiftest elephants and the bravest warriors."

"You shall have them," said Lodivarman.

"I thank Your Majesty," said King. "And now permit me to depart, for if
I am to be successful there is no time to lose."

"Go," said Lodivarman, "and may the gods accompany you."

Within the hour a hundred elephants and five hundred warriors swung
through the north gate of Lodidhapura along the broad avenue beyond and
into the jungle.

Far to the north, hastening through the forest to Pnom Dhek, moved Beng
Kher's defeated army; and in the van was the Prince, Bharata Rahon,
gloating in anticipation over the fruits of his villainy. Already was he
demanding and receiving the rights and prerogatives of royalty, for he
had spread the word that Beng Kher had been killed in battle and that he
was hastening to Pnom Dhek to wed the Princess Fou-tan.

Early in the forenoon of the second day following the battle, Fou-tan,
from her palace window, saw the column of returning elephants and
warriors emerge from the forest. That the trumpets and the drums were
mute told her that defeat had fallen upon the forces of the King, her
father, and there were tears in her eyes as she turned away from the
window and threw herself upon her couch.

Perhaps an hour later one of her little ladies-in-waiting came to her.
"The Prince, Bharata Rahon, awaits you in the audience chamber, my
Princess," she said.

"Has not my father, the King, sent for me?" demanded Fou-tan.

"The Prince brings word from your father," replied the girl, and there
was that in her tone more than in her words that sent a qualm of
apprehension through the heart of the little Princess.

She arose quickly. "Send word to Bharata Rahon, the Prince, that the
Princess comes," she said. Quickly her slaves attended to her toilet,
removing the traces that the tears had left and replacing the loosened
strands of her hair.

In the corridor outside of her apartment awaited the functionaries that
would accompany her to the audience chamber and Indra Sen in command of
a detachment of the warriors of her guard, for the little Princess
Fou-tan moved only with pomp and ceremony.

Through her own private entrance she came into the audience chamber,
where she saw congregated the high officers of Pnom Dhek, the priests of
the temple, and the captains in their burnished cuirasses and helmets;
and as she came they knelt until she had reached the foot of the empty
throne, where Bharata Rahon stood to receive her.

"Where is the King, my father?" she asked in a frightened voice.

"Beloved Princess," replied Bharata Rahon, "I bring you sad news."

"The King is dead!" cried Fou-tan.

Bharata Rahon inclined his head in assent. "He fell in battle bravely,"
he said, "but before he died he entrusted to me his last command to
you."

"Speak," said the girl.

"It is believed that Lodivarman will follow up his victory and attack
Pnom Dhek, and in addition to this we are threatened by enemies within
our own walls--conditions which require a king upon the throne; and so
it was your father's dying command that you wed at once, that Pnom Dhek
may be ruled and guided by a man through the dangers which confront
her."

"And the man that I am to marry is you, of course," said Fou-tan coldly.

"Who other could it be, my Princess?" asked Bharata Rahon.

"This is a matter which I do not care to discuss in public audience,"
said Fou-tan. "After a suitable period of mourning for my father, the
King, we may perhaps speak of the matter again."

Bharata Rahon quelled the anger that arose in his heart and spoke in
soft tones. "I can well appreciate the feelings of Your Majesty at this
time," he said, "but the matter is urgent. Please dismiss everyone and
listen to me in patience for a moment."

"Send them away then," said Fou-tan wearily, and when the audience
chamber had been cleared, she nodded to Bharata Rahon. "Speak," she
said, "but please be brief."

"Fou-tan," said the Prince, "I would that you would wed me willingly,
but the time now has passed for all childishness. We must be wed
to-night. It is imperative. I can be King without you, for I have the
men and the power. But there are others who would rally around you, and
Pnom Dhek would be so weakened by civil war that it would fall an easy
prey to Lodivarman. To-night in this hall the high priest shall wed us,
if it is necessary to drag you here by force."

"It will be by force then," said Fou-tan, and, rising, she called to her
guard that stood waiting just beyond the doorway.

"By force then," snapped Bharata Rahon, "and you will see how easily it
may be done." As he spoke he pointed to the guardsmen entering the
audience chamber to escort Fou-tan to her quarters.

"These are not my men," she cried. "Where is Indra Sen? Where are the
warriors of my guard?"

"They have been dismissed, Fou-tan," replied Bharata Rahon. "The future
King of Pnom Dhek will guard his Queen with his own men."

The Princess Fou-tan made no reply as, surrounded by the soldiers of
Bharata Rahon, she left the audience chamber and returned to her own
apartment, where a new surprise and indignity awaited her. Her slaves
and even her ladies-in-waiting had been replaced by women from the
palace of Bharata Rahon.

Her case seemed hopeless. Even the high priest, to whom in her extremity
she might have turned for succour, would be deaf to her appeal, for he
was bound by ties of blood to the house of Bharata Rahon and would be
the willing and eager tool of his kinsman.

"There is only one," she murmured to herself, "and he is far away.
Perhaps, even, he is dead. Would that I, too, were dead." And then she
recalled what Bharata Rahon had said of the great danger that menaced
Pnom Dhek, and her breast was torn by conflicting fears, which were
lighted by no faintest ray of hope or happiness.

All during the long hours that followed, Fou-tan sought for some plan of
escape from her predicament; but at every turn she was thwarted, for
when she sought to send a message to Indra Sen, summoning him to her,
and to other officials of the palace and the state whom she knew to be
friendly to her, she found she was virtually a prisoner and that no
message could be delivered by her except through Bharata Rahon, nor
could she leave her apartment without his permission.

She might have melted into tears in her grief and anger, but the
Princess of Pnom Dhek was made of sterner stuff. Through the long hours
she sat in silence while slaves prepared her for the nuptial ceremony;
and when at last the hour arrived, it was no little weeping queen that
was escorted through the corridors of the palace toward the great
audience chamber where the ceremony was to be performed, but a
resentful, angry little queen with steel in her heart and another bit of
shining, sharpened steel hidden in the folds of her wedding gown; and on
her lips was a whispered plea to Siva, the Destroyer, to give her the
strength to plunge the slim blade into the heart of Bharata Rahon or
into her own before morning dawned again.

Through the dark forest from the south moved a hundred elephants, their
howdahs filled with grim, half-savage warriors. At their head rode
Gordon King chafing at the slow pace which the darkness and the dangers
of the jungle imposed upon them.

Riding the howdah with King was an officer who knew well the country
around Pnom Dhek and he it was who directed the mahout through the
night. Presently he caused the elephant to be halted.

"We are nearing Pnom Dhek now," he said, "and are very close to the
point upon the trail which you described to me."

"Bring the torch then and come with me," said King, and together the two
men descended to the ground where the officer lighted the flare and
handed it to King.

Moving slowly along the trail, the American carefully examined the trees
at his left, and within a hundred yards of the point at which they had
left the column he halted.

"Here it is," he said. "Go and fetch the warriors, dismounted. Direct
the mahouts to hold the elephants here until we return or until they
receive further orders from me. Make haste. I shall await you here."

In the great assembly hall of the palace of Beng Kher were gathered the
nobles of Pnom Dhek. The captains and the priests were there in
glittering armour and gorgeous vestments, their women resplendent in
silks and scintillating gems. Upon a raised dais the Prince Bharata
Rahon and the Princess Fou-tan were seated upon thrones. The high priest
of Siva stood between them, while massed in a half-circle behind them
stood the nobles of the house of Bharata Rahon and the glittering
warriors, who were their retainers. Among these was none of Fou-tan's
allies. Neither Indra Sen nor any other officer or man of her personal
guard was in the audience chamber, nor had she seen or heard aught of
these since she had been conducted to the audience chamber in the
morning. She wondered what fate had befallen them, and her heart was
filled with fear for their safety, realising as well she might the
extremes to which Bharata Rahon might go in his ruthless greed for
power.

Before the dais the apsarases were dancing to drum and xylophone, cymbal
and flute. The little dancers, nude above the waist, stepped and
postured through the long ritual of the sacred dance; but Fou-tan,
though her eyes stared down upon them, did not see them. All that she
saw was the figure of a warrior in battered brass--a warrior with
bronzed skin and clear eyes, who had held her in his arms and spoken
words of love into her ear. Where was he? He had told Indra Sen that he
would never leave the jungle, that always he would be near; and Indra
Sen had repeated his words to Fou-tan--words that she had cherished in
her heart above all the jewels of memory. How close he seemed to-night!
Never since he had departed had Fou-tan so felt his presence hovering
near, nor ever had she so needed him. With a quick, short sigh that was
half a gasp she shook herself into a realisation of the futility of her
dreams. Now she saw the apsarases. Their dance was drawing to a close.
When it was over the high priest and his acolytes would initiate the
ceremony that would make Fou-tan the wife of Bharata Rahon and give Pnom
Dhek a new king.

As the girl shuddered at the thought and her fingers closed upon the
hilt of the dagger beneath her gorgeous robe, a man stumbled through the
darkness of the night toward the outer walls of Pnom Dhek; and behind
him, silent as spectres from another world, came five hundred
brass-bound men-at-arms.

No light guided them now, for they were approaching the guarded walls of
the city; but so indelibly fixed in the memory of Gordon King was this
way which he had traversed but once before that he needed no light. Into
the mouth of a shallow ravine he led his warriors; and toward its head,
where the wall of Pnom Dhek crossed it, he found a little doorway, well
hidden by shrubbery and vines. So well hidden was this secret passage,
planned by some long dead king, that no bar secured the door that closed
its entrance--a precaution made necessary, doubtless to satisfy the
requirements of a king who might find it necessary to enter as well as
to leave the city in haste and secrecy. But whatever the reason it was a
godsend this night to Gordon King as he led his spearmen and his archers
beneath the city of Pnom Dhek toward the palace of Beng Kher.

Once safely within the corridor, they lighted their torches; and in the
flickering, smoky flame the column moved noiselessly toward its
destination. They had gone a considerable distance passing the openings
to other corridors and to dark chambers that flanked their line of
march, when Gordon King was confronted by the disheartening realisation
that he had lost his way. He knew that when Indra Sen and Hamar had led
him from the palace they had not passed through any corridor resembling
that in which he now found himself. For the moment his heart sank, and
his high hopes waned.

To be lost in this labyrinthine maze beneath the palace and the city was
not only discouraging but might well prove fatal to his plan and,
perhaps, to the safety and the lives of his command. He felt that he
must keep the truth from his followers as long as possible, lest the
effect upon their morale might prove disastrous; and so he moved boldly
on, trusting that chance would guide him to a stairway leading to the
level of the ground above.

His mind was harassed by unhappy apprehensions concerning Fou-tan. He
was obsessed by the conviction that she was in dire and imminent peril,
and the thought left him frantic because of his helplessness.

Such was his state of mind when, as he was passing along a corridor
flanked on either side by dark and gloomy doorways, he saw that the
passageway he was following ended at a transverse corridor. Which way
should he turn? He knew that he could not hesitate, and at that moment
he heard a voice calling his name from the interior of a dark cell
beyond one of the gloomy doorways.

King halted as did the men near him, startled and apprehensive, their
weapons ready. King stepped toward the doorway from which the voice had
come.

"Who speaks?" he demanded.

"It is I--Indra Sen," replied the voice, and with a sigh of relief that
was almost a gasp King stepped quickly to the low doorway.

The light of his torch illuminated a narrow cell, upon the floor of
which squatted Indra Sen, chained to the wall.

"May the gods be thanked that you have come, Gordon King," cried the
young Khmer officer; "and may they grant that you are not too late to
prevent a tragedy."

"What do you mean?" demanded King.

"Fou-tan is to be forced to wed Bharata Rahon tonight," replied Indra
Sen. "Perhaps the ceremony already has been performed. All those whose
duty it is to defend Fou-tan have been chained in the dungeon here."

"Where is the ceremony to be performed?" demanded King.

"In the great audience chamber," replied Indra Sen.

"Can you lead me there by the shortest route?"

"Take off my fetters and those of my men and I will not only lead you,
but we will strike with you in the service of our Princess."

"Good!" exclaimed Gordon King. "Where are your men?"

"Along both sides of this corridor."

To release them all was the work of but a few moments, for willing hands
and strong struck off the fetters; and then, directed by Indra Sen, the
party moved quickly on to its work. The warriors of Fou-tan's guard had
no weapons other than their bare hands and the hatred that was in their
hearts, but once within the audience chamber they knew that they would
find weapons upon the bodies of their antagonists.

The high priest of Siva stepped forward and, turning, faced Bharata
Rahon and Fou-tan. "Arise," he said, "and kneel."

Bharata Rahon stepped from his throne half-turning to await Fou-tan, but
the girl sat rigid on her carved chair.

"Come," whispered Bharata Rahon.

"I cannot," said Fou-tan, addressing the high priest.

"You must, my Princess," urged the priest.

"I loathe him: I cannot mate with him."

Bharata Rahon stepped quickly toward her. His lips were smiling for the
benefit of those who watched from below the dais; but in his heart was
rage, and cruel was the grip that he laid upon the gentle wrist of
Fou-tan.

"Come," he hissed, "or by the gods you shall be slain, and I shall rule
alone."

"Then slay me," said Fou-tan. But he dragged her to her feet; and those
below saw his smiling face and thought that he was merely assisting the
little Princess, who had been momentarily overcome by the excitement of
the occasion.

And then a great hanging parted at the rear of the dais behind the
throne, and a warrior stepped out behind the semicircle of those that
half-surrounded Bharata Rahon and his unwilling bride. Perhaps some in
the audience saw the tall warrior; perhaps at the instant they were
moved to surprise, but before they could give an alarm, or before they
could realise that an alarm was necessary, he had shouldered his way
roughly through the cordon of warriors standing between him and the
three principals at the front of the dais, and behind him the doorway
through which he had come spewed a torrent of hostile warriors.

Cries of alarm arose simultaneously from the audience and from the
warriors of Bharata Rahon who stood upon the dais, and above all in
sudden fury burst the war-cry of Lodidhapura.

Simultaneously Bharata Rahon and Fou-tan wheeled about and instantly
recognised Gordon King, but with what opposite emotions!

With a curse Bharata Rahon drew his sword. A dozen spearmen leaped
toward the rash intruder only to be hurled back by the warriors of
Lodidhapura and the unarmed soldiers of Fou-tan's guard, led by Indra
Sen.

"Dog of a slave!" cried Bharata Rahon, as the two men stood face to
face, and at the same time he swung a heavy blow at King's helmet--a
blow that King parried and returned so swiftly that the Khmer prince had
no defence ready.

It was a fearful blow that Gordon King struck, for love of a princess
and to avenge a king. Down through the golden helmet of the false prince
his blade clove into the brain of Bharata Rahon; and as the body lunged
forward upon the dais, King swung around to face whatever other
antagonist might menace him. But he found himself entirely surrounded by
his own warriors, and a quick glance about the audience chamber showed
him that his orders had been followed to the letter. So quickly had they
moved that at every entrance now stood a company of his brass-bound
soldiers.

There had been little resistance, for so sudden had been the attack and
so overwhelming the surprise of the men of Pnom Dhek that those in the
audience chamber had been completely surrounded by a superior force
before many of them had realised what was happening.

Indra Sen and his warriors had succeeded in wresting weapons from the
men of Bharata Rahon, and with them King now dominated the situation, at
least in the audience chamber; though in the city without were thousands
of warriors who might easily overcome them. But this King had foreseen
and had no intention of permitting.

Turning toward the surprised men and women in the audience chamber, he
raised his hand. "Silence!" he cried. "Let no man raise a weapon against
us, and none shall be harmed. I came here not to attack Pnom Dhek but to
avenge her King. Beng Kher did not fall in battle; he was stabbed by
Bharata Rahon. He is not dead. Beng Kher is still King of Pnom Dhek."

A cheer arose from Indra Sen and his warriors, in which joined many in
the audience chamber, for with Bharata Rahon dead they no longer feared
him and quickly returned their allegiance to their King.

Fou-tan came close to the tall warrior standing there beside the body of
Bharata Rahon and facing the officers and the dignitaries of the court
of Beng Kher. She touched him gently. "My Gordon King!" she whispered.
"I knew that you were near. I knew that you would come. But tell me
again that my father is not dead and that he is safe."

"He is wounded, Fou-tan; but I have left him with honest people who will
nurse him, the same who nursed me when I was lost and ill in the jungle.
He sent me here to save you from Bharata Rahon, though I would have come
without the sending. Here is the priest, Fou-tan, and you are in your
wedding-gown. Is it in your heart to deny me again?"

"What would my father say?" she murmured, hesitatingly, and then
suddenly she raised her head proudly. "He is not here, and I am Queen!"
she exclaimed. "I care not what any man may say. If you will have me,
Gordon King, I am yours!"

King turned toward the audience. "The scene is set for a wedding," he
said in clear tones. "The priest is here; the bride is ready. Let the
ceremony proceed."

"But the groom is dead!" cried one of Bharata Rahon's lieutenants.

"I am the groom," said King.

"Never!" cried another voice. "You are naught but a Lodidhapurian
slave."

"He is neither slave nor Lodidhapurian," said Fou-tan. "He is the man of
my choice, and to-night I am Queen."

"Never! Never!" shouted many voices.

"Listen!" exclaimed the American. "It is not within your power to
dictate, for to-night the Princess Fou-tan is Queen; and I am your
conqueror."

"You are already surrounded by the soldiers of Beng Kher," said the
partisan of Bharata Rahon who had before spoken. "Several escaped the
audience chamber when your men entered, and already they have taken word
to the warriors in the barracks. Presently they will come and you and
your warriors will be destroyed."

"Perhaps," assented King; "but with us, then, shall die every man in
this room, for I hold you as hostages to ensure our safety. If you are
wise you will send a messenger at once to order your warriors to return
to their barracks." And then to his own warriors he cried: "If a single
warrior of Pnom Dhek enters this apartment without my authority, you
will fall upon those here and slay them to a man, sparing only the
women. And if my word is not sufficient I bring you the authority of
your own King," and with that he displayed the King's ring, where all
might see it.

Beaten at every turn, the followers of Bharata Rahon were forced to
accept the inevitable, while those who had hated him were secretly
delighted now that they were assured that both the Princess and the King
had vouched for this strange warrior. Then in the great audience chamber
of the Khmer King, Beng Kher, Fou-tan the Princess, dancing girl of the
Leper King, was joined to the man she loved.



17 Conclusion


That night, for the first time in a thousand years perhaps, the soldiers
of Lodidhapura and the soldiers of Pnom Dhek sat at the same board and
laughed and joked and swore strange oaths and feasted and drank
together; and the soldiers of Lodidhapura bragged of the prowess of
their Prince, who single-handed and armed only with javelin had slain My
Lord the Tiger; and the soldiers of Pnom Dhek boasted of the beauty of
their Princess until presently those who were not sleeping beneath the
table were weeping upon one another's brass cuirasses, so that when
morning broke it was with aching heads that the soldiers of Lodidhapura
climbed into the howdahs upon their great elephants and started back
upon their homeward journey.

At the same tune a strong force from Pnom Dhek, including many high
officials of the court, together with the Princess Fou-tan and Gordon
King, mounted upon swift elephants, set out through the jungle toward
the dwelling of Che and Kangrey.

Upon the afternoon of the second day they reached their destination. Che
and Kangrey and little Uda were overcome by the magnificence of the
spectacle that burst suddenly upon their simple and astonished gaze; nor
were they entirely free from apprehension until they had made sure that
Gordon King was there to protect them.

"How is the patient, Kangrey?" asked King.

The woman shook her head. "He does not mend," she said.

Together Fou-tan and Gordon King, accompanied by the high priest of Siva
from Pnom Dhek and several of the highest officers of the court, entered
the simple dwelling.

Beng Kher lay stretched upon his mean cot of straw and hides. His eyes
lighted as they rested upon Fou-tan, who ran forward and kneeled beside
him. The old warrior took her in his arms and pressed her to him, and
though he was very weak he insisted that she tell him all that had
transpired since King had left him to return to Pnom Dhek.

When she had finished, he sighed and stroked her hair; and when he
motioned to Gordon King, and the man came and knelt at Fou-tan's side,
Beng Kher took their hands in his.

"Siva has been kind to me in my last hour," he said. "He has saved Pnom
Dhek and Fou-tan from the traitor, and he has given me a new son to rule
when I am dead. All praise be to Siva."

The King, Beng Kher, closed his eyes. A tremor passed through his frame,
which seemed suddenly to shrink and lie very still.

Gordon King lifted the weeping Fou-tan to her feet. The highest officer
of the Khmer court came and knelt before them. He took the hand of
Gordon King in his and pressed it to his lip. "I salute the son of Beng
Kher," he said, "the new King of Pnom Dhek."



About the Author


Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of the world's most popular authors. With no
previous experience as an author, he wrote and sold his first novel--A
Princess of Mars--in 1912. In the ensuing thirty-eight years until his
death in 1950, Burroughs wrote ninety-one books and a host of short
stories and articles. Although best known as the creator of the classic
Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars, his restless imagination
knew few bounds. Burroughs's prolific pen ranged from the American West
to primitive Africa and on to romantic adventure on the moon, the
planets, and even beyond the farthest star.

No one knows how many copies of ERB books have been published throughout
the world. It is conservative to say, however, that with the
translations into thirty-two known languages, including Braille, the
number must ran into the hundreds of millions. When one considers the
additional worldwide following of the Tarzan newspaper feature, radio
programs, comic magazines, motion pictures, and television, Burroughs
must have been known and loved by literally a thousand million or more.


THE END





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