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Chapter VII

AFTER GORDON LEFT HER, Yasmeena made fast the door and returned to her divan. She idly studied the big pistol he had left with her, fascinated by the blue gleam of the light on its dully polished steel.
Then she tossed it aside and lay back with her eyes closed. There was a certain sophistication or innate mysticism in her which refused to let her put much faith in material weapons. Hers was that overrefinement of civilization which instinctively belittles physical action. With all her admiration for Gordon, he was, after all, to her, a barbarian who put his trust in lead and steel.
She undervalued the weapon he had left with her, and so it was out of her reach when the noise of a swishing tapestry roused her. She turned and stared at the rear wall with eyes suddenly dilated. Behind the hanging she knew--or thought she knew--was solid stone wall, built hard against the sheer mountainside.
But now that hanging lifted, grasped in a yellow clawlike hand. The hand was followed by a face--an evil, leering, grayish face, with slanted eyes and lank hair falling over a narrow forehead. A thin gash of a mouth gaped, revealing pointed teeth.
She was so astounded that she sat frozen, unable to supply the simple explanation of the phenomenon, until the man entered the room with a slithering silence repulsively suggestive of a snake. Then she saw that a black opening gaped in the wall behind the lifted arras, and two faces were framed in it--white men's faces, hard and inexorable as stone.
She sprang up then and snatched for the revolver, but it was at the other end of the divan. She ran around for it, but the slant-eyed man, with a motion incredibly quick, was before her and crushed her cruelly in his lean arms, clapping a hand over her mouth. He heeded the twisting and writhing of her supple body no more than the struggles of a child.
"Swift!" he ordered in harsh gutturals. "Bind her!"
The white men had followed him into the chamber, but it was a monk who obeyed, adding a velvet gag. One of the white men picked up the pistol.
"See to the mute who slumbers on the stairs," her captor ordered. "He is not our man, but a creature set by the people to guard her. Even a mute can speak by gestures sometimes."
The evil-faced monk bowed deeply and, unbolting the door, went out, thumbing a long knife. Another monk stood in the secret entrance.
"You did not know of the hidden door," jeered the slant-eyed man. "You fool! The mountain below this temple is honeycombed with tunnels. You have been spied on constantly. The girl whom you thought drunk on bhang watched tonight while you talked with El Borak. That will not alter my plans any, though, except that I have set my monks to slay El Borak.
"Then we will show the people his body and tell them that you have returned to your father in the Seventh Hell because Yolgan has been polluted by the presence of a Feringhi. In the meantime these sahibs will be well on their way to Kashmir with you, my lovely goddess! Daughter of Erlik! Bah!"
"We're wasting time, Yogok," broke in Ormond roughly. "Once in the hills, you say, we won't meet any of the Kirghiz, but I want to be far from Yolgan by daylight."
The priest nodded and motioned to the monk who came forward and lifted Yasmeena onto a litter he carried. Pembroke took the other end. At that moment the other monk glided back into the chamber, wiping blood from his curved blade.
Yogok directed him to hide behind the hangings. "El Borak might return before the others find him."


Then they passed through the hidden door into darkness lighted by a butter lamp in Yogok's hand. The priest slid to the heavy section of stone that formed part of the wall and made it fast with a bronze bar. Yasmeena saw by the small light of the lamp that they were in a narrow corridor which slanted downward at a pitch which grew steeper until it ended in a long narrow stair cut out of solid rock.
At the bottom of this stair they struck a level tunnel which they followed for some time, the Englishmen and the monk alternating with the litter. It ended at last in a wall of rock, in the center of which was a stone block which worked on a pivot. This turned, they emerged into a cave, at the mouth of which stars were visible through a tangle of branches.
When Yogok pushed the block back in place its rough exterior looked like part of a solid wall. He extinguished the lamp and a moment later was pushing aside the massed willows which masked the cave mouth. As they emerged into the starlight, Yasmeena saw that these willows stood on the bank of a stream.
When her captors had pushed through the trees, waded the shallow channel, and ascended the farther bank, she saw a cluster of lights off to her right. Those lights were Yolgan. They had followed tunnels out into the solid rock of the mountain and had come out at its foot less than half a mile from the city. Directly ahead of her the forest lifted in rows of black ramparts, and off to the left the hills climbed in marching lines.
Her captors set off through the starlight, their apparent objective a jutting shoulder less than half a mile to the east. The distance was covered in silence. The nervousness of the white men was no more evident than that of Yogok. Each man was thinking what his fate would be if the common people of Yolgan discovered them kidnapping their goddess.
Yogok's fear was greater than that of the Englishmen. He had covered his tracks with corpses--the shepherd who had brought him Ormond's message, the mute guardian of the stairs; his teeth chattered as he conjured up possibilities. El Borak must die without speaking, also; that, he had drilled into the monks.
"Faster! Faster!" he urged, a note of panic in his voice as he glared at the black forest walls about him. In the moan of the night wind he seemed to hear the stealthy tread of pursuers.
"Here's the cave," grunted Ormond. "Set her down; no use lugging her up that slope. I'll go get the servants and the horses. We'll mount her on one of the pack animals. Have to leave some of our stuff behind, anyhow. Ohai, Akbar!" he called softly.
There was no answer. The fire had gone out in the cave and the mouth gaped black and silent.
"Have they gone to sleep?" Ormond swore irritably. "I'll jolly well wake 'em. Wait!"
He ran lightly up the rough camp and vanished in the cave. A moment later his voice reached them, echoing hollowly between the rocky walls. The echoes did not disguise the sudden fear in his voice.