“Then I shall appeal to the British Raj.”
“How?” asked Umballa urbanely.
Swiftly she stepped to the front of the platform and extended her arms. It was an appeal. She pointed to Umballa and shook her head. Her arms went out again. A low murmur rippled over the pressing crowd; it grew in volume; and a frown of doubt flitted over Umballa’s brow. The soldiers were swaying restlessly. Kathlyn saw this sign and was quick to seize upon its possibilities. She renewed her gesture toward them. It seemed that she must burst forth in their maddening tongue: “I appeal to the chivalry of Allaha! . . . Soldiers, you now wear my uniform! Liberate me!” But her tongue was mute; yet her eyes, her face, her arms spoke eloquently enough to the turbulent soldiers. Besides, they welcomed the opportunity to show the populace how strong they were and how little they feared Umballa. At a nod from their leader they came romping up the steps to this dais and surrounded Kathlyn. A roar came from the populace; an elephant trumpeted; the pariah dogs barked.
Umballa stepped back, his hand on his jeweled sword. He was quite unprepared for any such flagrant mutiny—mutiny from his angle of vision, though in law the troopers had only responded to the desire of their queen. He turned questioningly to the council and the priests. He himself could move no further. His confreres appreciated the danger in which their power stood. They announced that it was decreed to give the queen a respite of seven days in which to yield. It would at least hold the bold troopers on the leash till they could be brought to see the affair in its true light by the way of largess in rupees. Umballa consented because he was at the bottom of the sack. A priest read from a scroll the law, explaining that no woman might rule unmarried. Because the young queen was not conversant with the laws of the state she would be given seven days. Thus the durbar ended.
With a diplomacy which would have graced a better man Umballa directed the troopers to escort Kathlyn to her chamber in the zenana. He had in mind seven days. Many things could be accomplished in that space of time.
“For the present,” he said, smiling at Kathlyn, “the God of your fathers has proven strongest. But to-morrow! . . . Ah, to-morrow! There will be seven days. Think, then, deeply and wisely. Your khidmutgar Rao is a prisoner. It will be weeks ere your presence is known here. You are helpless as a bird in the net. Struggle if you will; you will only bruise your wings. The British Raj? The British Raj does not want a great border war, and I can bring down ten thousand wild hillmen outlaws between whom and the British Raj there is a blood feud; ten thousand from a land where there is never peace, only truce. In seven days. Salaam, heaven born!”
She returned his ironical gaze calmly over the shoulder of a trooper.