It was a long time before the two lovers were sufficiently composed to explain to each other fully the almost fabulous events that had lately occurred.
Heideck, of course, wanted to know, first of all, how Edith had contrived to escape without making a disturbance and calling for the aid of those about her. What she told him was the most touching proof of her affection for him. The Maharajah’s creatures must have heard, somehow or other, of Heideck’s imprisonment and condemnation, and they had reckoned correctly on Edith’s attachment to the man who had saved her life.
She had been told that a single word from the Maharajah would be sufficient to destroy the foolhardy German, and that her only hope of saving him from death lay in a personal appeal to His Highness’s clemency. Although she knew perfectly well the shameful purpose this suggestion concealed, she had not hesitated, in her anxiety for her dear one’s safety, to follow the men who promised to conduct her to the Maharajah, full of hypocritical assurances that she would come to no harm. She had had so many proofs of the revengeful cruelty of this Indian despot that she feared the worst for Heideck, and resolved, in the last extremity, to sacrifice her life—if she could not preserve her honour—to save him.
The Maharajah had received her with great courtesy and promised to use his influence in favour of the German who had been seized as a spy and traitor by the Russians. But he had at the same time thrown out fairly broad hints what his price would be, and, from the moment she had delivered herself into his hands, he had treated her as a prisoner, although with great respect. All communication, except with persons of the Maharajah’s household, was completely cut off; and she was under no delusion as to the lot which awaited her, as soon as the Prince again felt himself completely secure in some mountain fastness unaffected by the events of the war.
Feeling certain of this, she had continually contemplated the idea of flight; but the fear of sealing the fate of her unhappy friend, even more than the ever-watchful suspicion of her guards, had prevented her from making the attempt.
Her joy had been all the greater when, the same evening, Morar Gopal appeared in the women’s tent with the Circassian, to relieve her from the almost unendurable tortures of uncertainty as to Heideck’s fate.
The cunning Hindu had managed to gain access to the carefully guarded prisoners for himself and his companion by pretending that the Maharajah had chosen the Circassian girl to be the English lady’s servant. He had whispered a few words to Edith, telling her what was necessary for her to know for the moment.