Cheerful was the word.
The crust of civilization was thin; the true savage was cracking out through it. In the days of the Mutiny Umballa would have been the Nana Sahib’s right hand. He would have given the tragedy at Cawnpur an extra touch.
Ten thousand rupees did not go far among soldiers whose arrears called for ten times that sum. So he placed it where it promised to do the most good. It was a capital idea, this of cutting Ramabai’s throat with his own money. The lawless element among the troops was his, Umballa’s; at least his long enough for the purpose he had in mind.
When the multitude round the platform dissolved and Winnie was led to her chamber in the zenana, Umballa treated himself to a beverage known as the king’s peg—a trifle composed of brandy and champagne. That he drank to stupefaction was God’s method of protecting that night an innocent child—for Winnie was not much more than that.
Alone, dazed and terrified, she dropped down upon the cushions and cried herself to sleep—exactly as Kathlyn had done. In the morning she awoke to find tea and food. She had heard no one enter or leave. Glancing curiously round her prison of marble and jasper and porphyry, she discovered a slip of white paper protruding through a square in the latticed window which opened out toward the garden of brides.
Hope roused her into activity. She ran to the window and snatched the paper eagerly. It was from Kathlyn, darling Kit. The risk with which it had been placed in the latticed window never occurred to Winnie.
The note informed her that the woman doctor of the zenana had been sufficiently bribed to permit Kathlyn to make up like her and gain admittance to the zenana. Winnie must complain of illness and ask for the doctor, but not before the morning of the following day. So far as she, Kathlyn, could learn, Winnie would be left in peace till the festival of the car of Juggernaut. Ill, she would not be forced to attend the ceremonies, the palace would be practically deserted, and then Kathlyn would appear.
This news plucked up Winnie’s spirits considerably. Surely her father and Kit were brave and cunning enough to circumvent Umballa. What a frightful country! What a dreadful people! She was miserable over the tortures her father had suffered, but nevertheless she held him culpable for not telling both her and Kit all and not half a truth. A basket of gems! She and Kit did not wish to be rich, only free and happy. And now her own folly in coming would but add to the miseries of her loved ones.
Ahmed had told her of the two ordeals, the black dungeon, the whipping; he had done so to convince her that she must be eternally on her guard, search carefully into any proposition laid before her, and play for time, time, for every minute she won meant a minute nearer her ultimate freedom. She must promise to marry Umballa, but to set her own date.