In some manner they must lure Umballa from his retreat. It was finally agreed upon that they all return to the camp and steal back at once in a roundabout way. They would come sufficiently armed. Later, the chief could pretend to be walking with his child.
So while Umballa stole forth from his hiding-place, reasonably certain that his enemies had gone, got together his mutineers and made arrangements with them to help him carry away the treasure that night, the rightful owners were directed to the broken stick in the damp sand.
That night, when Umballa and his men arrived, a hole in the sand greeted them. It was shaped like a mouth, opened in laughter.
THE THIRD BAR
It was Ahmed’s suggestion that they in turn should bury the filigree basket. He reasoned that if they attempted to proceed with it they would be followed and sooner or later set upon by Umballa and the men he had won away from the village chief. The poor fishermen were gold mad and at present not accountable for what they did or planned to do. He advanced that Umballa would have no difficulty in rousing them to the pitch of murder. Umballa would have at his beck and call no less than twenty men, armed and ruthless. Some seventy miles beyond was British territory and wherever there was British territory there were British soldiers. With them they would return, leaving the women in safety behind.
“The commissioner there will object,” said the colonel.
“No, Sahib,” replied Ahmed. “The Mem-sahib has every right in the world to this treasure. You possess the documents to prove it, and nothing more would be necessary to the commissioner.”
“But, Ahmed,” interposed Bruce, “we are none of us British subjects.”
“What difference will that make, Sahib?”
“Quite enough. England is not in the habit of protecting anybody but her own subjects. We should probably be held up till everything was verified at Allaha; and the priests there would not hesitate to charge us with forgery and heaven knows what else. Let us bury the basket, by all means, return for it and carry it away piecemeal. To carry it away as it is, in bulk, would be courting suicide.”
Ahmed scratched his chin. Trust a white man for logic.
“And, besides,” went on Bruce, “the news would go all over the Orient and the thugs would come like flies scenting honey. No; this must be kept secret if we care to get away with it. It can not be worth less than a million. And I’ve known white men who would cut our throats for a handful of rupees.”
For the first time since the expedition started out the colonel became normal, a man of action, cool in the head, and foresighted.
“Ahmed, spread out the men around the camp,” he ordered briskly. “Instruct them to shoot over the head of any one who approaches; this the first time. The second time, to kill. Bruce has the right idea; so let us get busy. Over there, where that boulder is. The ground will be damp and soft under it, and when we roll it back there will be no sign of its having been disturbed. I used to cache ammunition that way. Give me that spade.”