Upon a knoll outside the city—a hillock of sand three or four hundred feet in height—Kathlyn tried the glasses. From this promontory she had a range of something like fifteen to twenty miles. Back and forth her gaze roved and suddenly paused.
THE PLAN OF RAMABAI
When Kathlyn returned to the compound it was with the news that she had discovered a group of men, some twelve or fifteen miles to the west. They had paused at what appeared to be a well, and with them was the sacred white elephant. Bala Khan was for giving orders at once to set out with his racing camels to catch and crucify every mother’s son of them on the city walls. But Ramabai interposed.
“As I came toward the compound I was given a message. The man who gave it to me was gone before I could get a good look at his face. These men who stole the sacred white elephant are brave and desperate. At the first sign of pursuit they promise to kill the elephant.”
“And by the beard of the prophet,” cried Bala Khan, his face purpling with passion, “these men of the desert keep their promises. And so do I. I promise later to nail each one of them to the walls to die hanging to nails!”
“But just now,” said Ramabai quietly, “the main thing is to rescue the elephant, and I have a plan.”
“Let me hear it.”
“From what you told me last night,” went on Ramabai, “those nomads or brigands are opium fiends.”
Bala Khan nodded.
“Bruce Sahib, here, and I will undertake to carry them doctored opium. I know something about the drug. I believe that we saw the thieves last evening as we came through the streets. My plan is this: we will take five racing camels, go north and turn, making the well from the west. That will not look like pursuit.”
“But five camels?” Bala Khan was curious.
“Yes. In order to allay the suspicions of the brigands, Kathlyn Mem-sahib and my wife must accompany us.”
The colonel objected, but Kathlyn overruled his objections.
“But, Kit, they will recognize us. They will not have forgot me. They will know that we have come from the town, despite the fact that to all appearances we come from the West.”
Bruce also shook his head. “It doesn’t look good, Ramabai. Why not we three men?”
“They would be suspicious at once. They would reason, if they saw Kathlyn Mem-sahib and my wife with us that we were harmless. Will you trust me?”
“Anywhere,” said the colonel. “But they will simply make us prisoners along with the elephant.”
“Ah, but the Colonel Sahib forgets the opium.” Ramabai laid his hand upon the colonel’s arm. “Let them make prisoners of us. The very first thing they will do will be to search the saddle-bags. They will find the opium. In a quarter of an hour they will be as dead and we can return.”