Pundita flung her arms around Ramabai, and he consoled her. She was then led away to the colonel’s camp.
“Remember,” Ramabai said at parting, “she saved both our lives. We owe a debt.”
“Go, my Lord; and may all the gods—no, the Christian God—watch over you!”
“Forward!” growled Ahmed. First, though, he saw to it that the pulling chains were well wrapped in cotton blankets. There must be no sound to warn others of their approach.
“Ahmed,” began Bruce.
“Leave all things to me, Sahib,” interrupted Ahmed, who assumed a strange authority at times that confused and puzzled Bruce. “It is my Mem-sahib, and I am one of the fingers of the long arm of the British Raj. And there are books in Calcutta in which my name is written high. No more!”
Through the moon-frosted jungle the two elephants moved silently. A drove of wild pigs scampered across the path, and the wild peacock hissed from the underbrush sleepily. All silence again. Several times Ahmed halted, straining his ears. It seemed incredible to Bruce that the enormous beasts could move so soundlessly. It was a part of their business; they were hunters of their kind.
At length they came out into the open at the rear of the prison walls. Here Ramabai got down, and went In search of any sentries. He returned almost at once with the good news that there was none.
The marble walls shimmered like clusters of dull opals. What misery had been known behind their crumbling beauty!
Ahmed marked the tree and raised his hand as a sign.
“Bruce Sahib!” he called.
“Yes, Ahmed. I’ll risk it first.”
Bruce moved the elephant to the barred window. His heart beat wildly. He leaned down from his howdah and strove to peer within.
“Kathlyn Hare?” he whispered.
“Who is it?”
“Father, father!” Bruce heard her cry; “they have found us!”
Ahmed heard the call; and he sighed as one who had Allah to thank. God was great and Mahomet was His prophet.
“Listen,” said Bruce. “We shall hook chains to the bars and pull them out, without noise if possible. The moment they give . . . have you anything to stand on?”
“Yes, a tabouret.”
“That will serve. You stand on it, and I’ll pull you up and through. Then your father.”
“Father is in chains.”
“Ahmed, he is in chains. What in God’s name shall we do?”
“Return for me later,” said Hare. “Don’t bother about me. Get Kit away, and quickly. Umballa may return at any moment. To work, to work, Bruce, and God bless you!”
They flew to the task. Round the hooks Ahmed had wrapped cloths to ward against the clink of metal against metal. The hooks were deftly engaged. The chains grew taut. So far there was but little noise. The elephants leaned against the chains; the bars bent and sprang suddenly from their ancient sockets.