“I am not answered,” said Umballa.
A click resounded from the four sides, and a bar disappeared from each of the cages.
“That will be all for the present,” said Umballa. “Food and water you will not require. To-morrow morning another bar will be removed.”
And he left them.
Early the next morning the town began to seethe in
the squares. Bala
Khan’s army lay encamped outside the city!
When Bruce, Ramabai, Pundita and Ahmed halted their elephants before the temple they were greeted by the now terrified priests who begged to be informed what Bala Khan proposed to do.
“Deliver to us the Mem-sahib.”
The priests swore by all their gods that they knew nothing of her.
“Let us enter the temple,” said Ramabai. “Ahmed, bring the treasure and leave it in the care of the priests.” A few moments later Ramabai addressed the assemblage. “Bala Khan is hostile, but only for the sake of his friends. He lays down this law, however—obey it or disobey it. The Colonel Sahib and his daughters are to go free, to do what they please with the treasure. Pundita, according to the will of the late king, shall be crowned.”
The high priest held up his hand for silence. “We obey, on one condition—that the new queen shall in no manner interfere with her old religion nor attempt to force her new religion into the temple.”
To this Pundita agreed.
“Ramabai, soldiers! To the house of Umballa! We shall find him there,” cried Ahmed.
Umballa squatted upon his cushions on the terrace. The second bar had been removed. The beasts were pressing their wet nozzles to the openings and growling deep challenges.
“Once more, and for the last time, will you reveal the hiding-place of the treasure?”
Not a word from the prisoners.
“The third bar!”
But it did not stir.
“The third bar; remove it!”
The slave who had charge of the mechanism which operated the bars refused to act.
The events which followed were of breathless rapidity. Ramabai and Umballa met upon the parapet in a struggle which promised death or the treadmill to the weaker. At the same time Bruce opened the door to the Court of Death as the final bar dropped in the cage. At the sight of him the colonel and his daughters rushed to the door. Roughly he hurled them outside, slamming the iron door, upon which the infuriated tigers flung themselves.
* * * * * *
The young newspaper man to whom Winnie was engaged and the grizzled Ahmed sat on the steps of the bungalow in California one pleasant afternoon. The pipe was cold in the hand of the reporter and Ahmed’s cigar was dead, which always happens when one recounts an exciting tale and another listens. Among the flower beds beyond two young women wandered, followed by a young man in pongee, a Panama set carelessly upon his handsome head, his face brown, his build slender but round and muscular.