Immediately the high priest announced that the successful candidate would be conducted to the palace zenana and confined there till the final ceremonies were over.
Umballa dreamed of what he had seen.
To Ramabai was given the exalted honor of conducting the king and his betrothed to their respective quarters. Once in the private passageway to the harem, or zenana, Ramabai threw caution to the winds.
“We must go a roundabout way to the garden of brides, which will be deserted. Outside the gate Bruce Sahib and Ahmed and Lal Singh await with elephants. Once we can join them we are safe. And in a month’s time I shall return.”
Meantime one of the leopard keepers rushed frantically into the throne room, exclaiming that the seven guardian leopards were at large. Even as he spoke one of the leopards appeared in the musicians’ balcony. The panic which followed was not to be described. A wild scramble ensued toward all exits.
The fugitives entered the royal zenana. Kathlyn proceeded at once to the exit which led to the garden of brides. There she waited for her father and Ramabai, who had paused by the door of one of the zenana chambers. Between them and Kathlyn lay the plunge.
Ramabai addressed the lady of the zenana, telling her that if guards should come to state that Kathlyn was concealed in her own chamber. To this the young woman readily agreed.
Suddenly a leopard appeared behind the colonel and Ramabai. Kathlyn, being first to discover the presence of the animal, cried out a warning.
“Fly, Kit! Save yourself! I am accursed!” called the colonel.
Ramabai and the young woman at the chamber door hurriedly drew the colonel into the chamber and shut the door. The colonel struggled, but Ramabai held him tightly.
“We are unarmed, Sahib,” he said; “and the Mem-sahib never loses her head.”
“Ramabai, I tell you I shall die here. It is useless to attempt to aid me. I am accursed, accursed! Kit, Kit!”
The leopard stood undecided before the door which had closed in his face. Then he discovered Kathlyn, fumbling at the wicker door at the far side of the swimming pool. There was something upon which to wreak his temper; for all this unusual commotion and freedom had disturbed him greatly. Kathlyn opened the wicker door, closing it behind her. Clear headed, as Ramabai had said, she recollected the palanquin which had been last to enter the garden of brides. She ran into the garden, flew to the palanquin just as she heard the leopard crash through the flimsy wicker door. She reached and entered the palanquin not a moment too soon. She huddled down close to the door. The leopard trotted round and round, snarling and sniffing. Presently he was joined by another. From afar she could hear shouting. She readily understood. Through some carelessness the leopards of the treasury were at liberty, and that of her own and her father was in jeopardy. Just without the garden of brides was Bruce and help, and she dared not move!