He dared not think of Kathlyn. He forced his mind to dwell upon his surroundings, his own state of misery. Bruce was there, and Bruce was a man of action and resource. He would give a good account of himself before those bronze devils in the desert made away with him. He feared not for Kathlyn’s death, only her future. For they doubtless had lied to Umballa. They would not kill Kathlyn so long as they believed she was worth a single rupee.
Umballa came in, followed by four troopers, who stationed themselves on each side of the door.
“Wait!” thundered the colonel. Suddenly he turned to the troopers. “Am I your king?”
The four men salaamed.
“Then I order you to arrest this man Durga Ram for treason against the person of your king!”
The troopers stared, dumfounded, first at the colonel, then at Umballa.
“I command it!”
Umballa laughed. The troopers did not stir.
“Ah,” said the colonel. “That is all I desire to know. I am not a king. I am merely a prisoner. Therefore those papers which you bring me can not lawfully be signed by me.” The colonel turned his back to Umballa, sought the latticed window and peered forth.
“There are ways,” blazed forth Umballa.
“Bah! You black fool!” replied the colonel, wheeling. “Have I not yet convinced you that all you can do is to kill me? Don’t waste your time in torturing me. It will neither open my lips nor compel me to take a character brush in my hand. If my daughter is dead, so be it. At any rate, she is at present beyond your clutches. You overreached yourself. Had you brought her back it is quite possible I might have surrendered. But I am alone now.”
“You refuse to tell where the filigree basket is hidden?”
“You refuse to exercise your prerogative to open the doors of the treasury?”
Umballa opened the door, motioning to the troopers to pass out. He framed the threshold and curiously eyed this unbendable man. Presently he would bend. Umballa smiled.
“Colonel Sahib, I am not yet at the end of my resources,” and with this he went out, closing the door.
That smile troubled the colonel. What deviltry was the scoundrel up to now? What could he possibly do?
Later, as he paced wearily to and fro, he saw something white slip under the door. He stooped and picked up a note, folded European fashion. His heart thrilled as he read the stilted script:
“Ahmed and I shall watch over you. Be patient. This time I am pretending to be your enemy, and you must act accordingly. A messenger has arrived from Bala Khan. Your daughter and Bruce Sahib are alive, and, more, on the way to Allaha in native guise. Be of good cheer, Ramabai."’
And Umballa, as he lifted his fruit dish at supper, espied another of those sinister warnings. “Beware!” This time he summoned his entire household and threatened death to each and all of them if they did not immediately disclose to him the person who had placed this note under the fruit dish. They cringed and wept and wailed, but nothing could be got out of them. He had several flogged on general principles.