“But there will be many of my friends there,” said the bewildered Ramabai. Who was this strange man who seemed to know everything?
“Put the mines in the center of the arena. What we want is merely terror and confusion. Pouf! Bang! There’s your miracle. And a little one under the royal pavilion. And Umballa and the council sleep in Shaitan’s arms. Welcome, my lambs!” And Ahmed laughed noiselessly.
“By the lord!” gasped Bruce. “But the fuses? No, no, Ahmed; it can not be done.”
“In the house of my friend Lal Singh there is a cellar full of strange magic—magic with copper wires that spit blue fires. Eh, Sahib? You and I know; we have traveled.”
“Batteries, here, in this wilderness?”
“Even so. To you, Ramabai, the powder; to me, the spitting wires; to you, Bruce Sahib, patience. Umballa shall yet wear raw the soles of his feet in the treadmill. He shall grind the poor man’s corn. I know what I know. Now I must be off. I shall return to-morrow night and you, Ramabai, shall gather together your fellow conspirators (who would blow up the palace!) and bring the mines to the arena.”
And while Kathlyn gazed through the marble lattice at the bright stars another gazed at the sunny heavens in a far country, a sprite of a girl with dark tearful eyes. Father gone, sister gone; silence.
But a few yards away from Kathlyn a man plucked at his chains, praying to God that he might not lose his reason. With the finished cruelty of the East, Umballa had not visited Colonel Hare again. There is nothing like suspense to squeeze hope and courage from the heart of man.
* * * * * *
On the night before the ordeal men moved cautiously about the elephant arena. It was only after much persuasion and argument could Bruce hold the men. At the testing of Lal Singh’s wires and batteries they had started to fly. This was devil’s fire.
At the end of the arena, in a box which Bruce was to occupy, by order of the council (where they proposed to keep an eye upon Umballa and to wring his heart), the key to the wires was laid. This box was directly over a wooden canopy where the mahouts loafed between fights. Back of this canopy was a door which led outside. Through this Bruce proposed to lead Kathlyn during the confusion created by the explosion. They had carried off the keeper (who was also guardian of the arena), and the key to this door reposed in Bruce’s pocket.
On the day of the ordeal only the bedridden remained at home. The temples, the palaces, the bazaars, all were deserted as thoroughly as if the black wings of the plague had swept through the city. Even the crows and the kites were there, the one chattering; the other soaring high above.
Ramabai was forced to sit with the council, much to his terror. After much pleading the council was prevailed upon to permit him to sit with Bruce. A cordon of soldiers was accordingly detailed to surround Bruce’s box at the rear.