“My lord’s word is known. I myself will take charge of the affairs at the palace; and Umballa shall go to the burning ghats. I will announce to him that I found you not.”
The captain and his men departed, while Ramabai and his friends reentered the house, to find the imperturbable Lal Singh decked out in his lawful finery.
“All is ready,” he announced.
“Dawn,” replied Ramabai.
“The servant goes forth for the chupatties.”
* * * * * *
Dawn. The garden was filling with silent armed men. With Ramabai, in the secret gallery, were the chiefs. Ramabai indicated the blazing swords.
“My friends, choose among these weapons. The gems are nothing, but the steel is tried and true.”
Lal Singh selected the simplest, salaamed and slid the scabbard through his cummerbund.
As for Kathlyn, she could not keep her eyes off the beautiful chain cuirass which had once upon a time been worn by one of Pundita’s forebears, a warrior queen.
“Beautiful, beautiful!” she exclaimed. “Pundita, may I put it on? And tell me the story of the warrior queen. To be brave like that, to fight side by side with the man she loved!” She put the cuirass on.
The sky was yellow when the little army started off upon its desperate enterprise. A guard was left behind for the women.
Pundita solemnly gave each of the girls a dagger. War! Rebellion! Great clamor and shouting before the palace stairs!
“Give us Umballa and the council!”
Umballa heard the shouting, and at first did not understand; but soon the truth came to him. The city was in revolt. He summoned what servants he could trust and armed them. And when the captain of the guard entered to seize Umballa he was himself overpowered. The despatch with which this was accomplished stunned the soldiers, who knew not what to do without their leader.
* * * * * *
When Lal Singh staggered into the house of Ramabai holding his side in mortal agony, dying, Kathlyn felt the recurrence of that strange duality which she had first known in the Temple of the Lion.
“We have failed,” whispered Lal Singh. “The palace soldiers betrayed us! All are prisoners, shortly to be shot. . . . The secret gallery . . . Food and water there! . . . Fly!” And thus Lal Singh gave up his cobbler’s booth.
As in a dream Kathlyn ran from the house into the street.
With the sun breaking in lances of light against the ancient chain armor, her golden hair flying behind her like a cloud, on, on, Kathlyn ran, never stumbling, never faltering, till she came out into the square before the palace. Like an Amazon of old, she called to the scattering revolutionists, called, harangued, smothered them under her scorn and contempt, and finally roused them to frenzy.