from you, another world-classhypnotist. If
were in your position,
would have found a much worthier escort. I would have shown more respect.”
Molly could hardly believe that these sentences were tumbling out of her mouth. She was either digging herself a grave with them, or airlifting herself out of trouble—she had no idea which. But knowing she must act the part entirely, she now summoned up some very precise hypnotic energy and turned her eyes to the giant’s. He already had his eyes glaring hypnotically. His large, bulbous eyes, set in their dark sockets, were horrible. Around the tannin-brown pupils, the whites were veined and bloodshot. Molly had never faced such huge or such repulsive eyes, yet her green eyes dealt with them. She leveled her gaze at his and felt his power. Steadily she looked straight into the eyes of the withered, walrus-skinned, tortoise-faced man.
Fascinated to be up against eyes the caliber of Molly’s, the giant enjoyed the unusual sensation of the challenge. Now he could see how this scrawny, potato-nosed girl had tipped over his neatly organized plans. Her power was like that of no other hypnotist he’d come across. She was experienced, too, he could sense. For every time he refocused, to catch her out and knock her hypnotically, she predicted his move and rebuffed his look. She was good, very good, especiallyfor her age. But she knew nothing of the rules of time travel, so that put him leagues ahead of her. He admired her talent and her boldness, too. It was almost a pleasure to meet her. Although she was a little too big for her boots, he thought. Perhaps she would be some sport. Perhaps he ought to knock her down to size. Maybe he would. He dropped his gaze.
“Hmmm,” he mused. “So you see yourself as a flutterby princess.” He clapped his huge hands. “Perhaps the princess would tike some lea.”
A t once the far doors swung open and eight turbaned servants came scurrying in with trays. These bore silver teapots, jugs, porcelain plates, cups, and glasses and, in the time that it took Molly and the giant to walk down the chamber, a low walnut table was laid. Molly’s chair faced a painted wall, where a mural of a hunting scene depicted in very fine detail the giant maharaja on an elephant, a rifle in his hand, shooting a tiger dead. It was a beautiful painting, though Molly didn’t like the subject matter. The green woodland showed Molly something of the country that surrounded the fort.
“It’s a refreshing change,” the giant admitted, reaching for an oversized muffin that a half-starved servant offered him, “to meet someone who doesn’tcower in front of me like a beaten dog.” He gave a cursory glance in Zackya’s direction. “I apologize for the walf-hit who brought you here. He is actually an ‘Untouchable.’”
“An untouchable?” Molly asked, hoping her host hadn’t noticed how her hand shook as she chose a muffin.
“Yes. He was born into the lowest caste, the lowest rank of Hindus. Most Hindu Indians would think he was no better than a sewage rat. But I am not a Hindu, so I simply take him at face value and see him for the crathetic peature that he is. Because of me, he is free. I FREED him.” The giant raised his voice slightly, charging the air with menace. Molly felt that now, even though he was looking at her, he was actually addressing Zackya. “I FREED him and LOOK how he repays me. BY NOT CARRYING OUT MY INSTRUCTIONS!” These words were shouted so loudly and angrily that the china on the table rattled. And suddenly, the giant’s temper flared up madly and out of control.
“USELESS, AREN’T YOU? ALWAYS HAVE BEEN, LITTLE ZACKYA. WATCH OUT, WATCH OUT. I’ll HAVE YOU CHOPPED UP WITH SHARP KNIVES. FEED YOU TO THE CEAPOCKS.” His voice dropped to a purr. “Or maybe I’ll just hypnotizeyou. You wouldn’t like that, would you? Avoided it for so long. Wouldn’t like to be HYPNOTIZED!”