The tiger in his leap struck the lacquered desk, broke it and scattered the papers about the floor.
Ramabai and his officers were just entering the corridor which led to the chamber when the tragedy occurred. They heard the noise, the king’s cries. When they reached the door silence greeted them.
The room was wrecked. There was evidence of a short but terrific struggle. The king lay dead upon the floor, the side of his head crushed in. His turban and garments were in tatters. But he had died like a king; for in the corner by the window lay the striped one, a jeweled dagger in his throat.
Ramabai was first to discover the deserted palanquin, and proceeded to investigate. It did not take him more than a minute to understand what had happened. It was not an accident; it was cold-blooded murder, and back of it stood the infernal ingenuity of one man.
Thus fate took Allaha by the hair again and shook her out of the pastoral quiet. What would happen now?
On the morning after the tragic death of the old king, those who went early to worship, to propitiate the gods to deal kindly with them during the day, were astounded to find the doors and gates of all the temples closed! Nor was any priest visible in his usual haunts. The people were stunned. For there could be but one interpretation to this act on the part of the gurus: the gods had denied the people. Why? Wherefore? Twenty-four hours passed without their learning the cause; the priests desired to fill them with terror before they struck.
Then came the distribution of pamphlets wherein it was decreed that the populace, the soldiery, all Allaha in fact, must bow to the will of the gods or go henceforth accursed. The gods demanded the reinstatement as regent of Durga Ram; the deposing of Ramabai, the infidel; the fealty of the troops to Durga Ram. Twenty-four hours were given the people to make their choice.
Before the doors of all the temples the people gathered, wailing and pouring dust upon their heads, from Brahmin to pariah, from high caste matrons to light dancing girls. And when the troops, company by company, began to kneel at the outer rim of these gatherings, Ramabai despatched a note to Colonel Hare, warning him to fly at once. But the messenger tore up the note and flew to his favorite temple. Superstition thus won what honor, truth and generosity could not hold.
Strange, how we Occidentals have stolen out from under the shadow of anathema. Curse us, and we smile and shrug our shoulders; for a curse is but the mouthing of an angry man. But to these brown and yellow and black people, from the steps of Lhassa to the tangled jungles of mid-Africa, the curse of fake gods is effective. They are really a kindly people, generous, and often loyal unto death, simple and patient and hard-working; but let a priest raise his hand in anathema and at once they become mad, cruel and remorseless as the tiger.