He fell into the arms of his troopers and they carried him to a litter, thence to the palace. His back was covered with bruises, and but for the thickness of his cummerbund he must have died under the beating, which had been thorough and masterly. “What a certain dungeon holds!” In his chamber Umballa called for his peg of brandy and champagne, which for some reason did not take hold as usual. For the first time in his life Durga Ram, so-called Umballa, knew what agony was. But did it cause him to think with pity of the agonies he had caused them? Not in the least.
When Ahmed rejoined his people Kathlyn was leaning against her father’s shoulder, smiling wanly.
“Where is Umballa?” cried Bruce, seizing Ahmed by the arm.
“On the way to the palace!” Ahmed laughed and told what he had accomplished.
Bruce raised his hands in anger.
“But, Sahib!” began Ahmed, not comprehending.
“And, having him in your hands, you let him go!”
Ahmed stood dumfounded. His jaw sagged, his rifle slipped from his hands and fell with a clank at his feet.
“You are right, Sahib. I am an unthinking fool. May Allah forgive me!”
“We could have held him as hostage, and tomorrow morning we all could have left Allaha free, unhindered! God forgive you, Ahmed, for not thinking!”
“In the heat of battle, Sahib, one does not always think of the morrow.” But Ahmed’s head fell and his chin touched his breast. That he, Ahmed, of the secret service, should let spite overshadow forethought and to be called to account for it! He was disgraced.
“Never mind, Ahmed,” said Kathlyn kindly. “What is done is done. We must find safety. We shall have to hide in the jungle to-night. And there is my sister. You should have thought, Ahmed.”
“Umballa will not harm a hair of her head,” replied Ahmed, lifting his head.
“Your work has filled his heart with venom,” declared Bruce hotly.
“And my words, Sahib, have filled his veins with water,” replied Ahmed, now smiling.
“What do you mean?” demanded the colonel.
“Ask Ramabai. Perhaps he will tell you.”
“That,” returned Ramabai, “is of less importance at this moment than the method to be used in liberating the daughter of Colonel Sahib. Listen. The people are angry because they were not permitted to be present at the sacrifice to Juggernaut. To pacify them Umballa will have to invent some amusement in the arena.”
“But how will that aid us?” interrupted the colonel.
“Let us say, an exhibition of wild animals, with their trainers.”
“Yes. You, Colonel Sahib, and you, Kathlyn Mem-sahib, and you, Bruce Sahib, will without difficulty act the parts.”
“Good!” said Ahmed bitterly. “The three of them will rush into the royal box, seize Winnie Mem-sahib, and carry her off from under the very noses of Umballa, the council and the soldiers!”