That night in the bazaars they said that Umballa was warring in the face of the gods. The erstwhile white queen of the yellow hair was truly a great magician. For did she not cause the earth to open up and swallow her sister and herself?
Through the tunnel, into the street, into the care of Ahmed and Lal Singh, then hurriedly to the house of Ramabai. The fact that they had to proceed to Ramabai’s was a severe blow to Bruce and the colonel. They had expected all to be mounted the instant they came from the tunnel, a swift unobstructed flight to the gate and freedom. But Ahmed could not find his elephants. Too late he learned that the mahouts he had secretly engaged had misunderstood his instructions and had stationed themselves near the main entrance to the arena!
The cursing and railing against fate is a futile thing, never bearing fruit: so Ramabai suggested his house till transportation could be secured. They perfectly understood that they could not remain in the house more than a few hours; for Umballa would surely send his men everywhere, and quite possibly first of all to Ramabai’s.
Still, Ramabai did not appear very much alarmed. There were secret stairways in his house that not even Pundita knew; and at a pinch he had a plan by which he could turn away investigation. Only in the direst need, though, did he intend to execute this plan. He wanted his friends out of Allaha without the shedding of any blood.
“Well,” said Ahmed, angrily casting aside his disguise; “well, Ramabai, this is the crisis. Will you strike?”
Lal Singh’s wrinkled face lighted up with eagerness.
“We are ready, Ramabai,” he said.
“We?” Ramabai paused in his pacing to gaze keenly into the eyes of this old conspirator.
“Yes, we. For I, Lal Singh, propose to take my stand at your right hand. I have not been idle. Everywhere your friends are evincing impatience. Ah, I know. You wish for a bloodless rebellion; but that can not be, not among our people. You have said that in their zeal your followers, if they knew, would sweep the poor old king out of your path. Listen. Shall we put him back on the throne, to perform some other mad thing like this gift of his throne to the Colonel Sahib?”
Ramabai, watched intently by the two conspirators for the British Raj and his white friends, paced back and forth, his hands behind his back, his head bent. He was a Christian; he was not only a Christian, he was a Hindu, and the shedding of blood was doubly abhorrent to his mind.
“I am being pulled by two horses,” he said.
“Act quickly,” advised Ahmed; “one way or the other. Umballa will throw his men round the whole city and there will not be a space large enough for a rat to crawl through. And he will fight like a rat this time; mark me.”