Major Molony said that he had received orders to assist in escorting the ranee to Allahapoor; and it was agreed that, as soon as they received intelligence that a force was marching out of that city to assist them, they should proceed, the major feeling confident that his sepoys would be able to keep in check any number of the rebel forces. The traitor Balkishen had not been idle.
He hesitated a minute; but recollecting that Balkishen would by this time have set fire to the slow match, he boldly stepped out from behind the wall which concealed him, closely followed by Bikoo. As he did so, he found himself face to face with a powerful-looking black slave conducting an elephant across the yard.
Unless they could make their escape, all their plans would be defeated; for if Balkishen could not make his appearance in the city at the right moment, a rival might gain the power, from which it would be difficult to displace him. They were neither of them very conscientious persons. A bright idea struck Balkishen.
Afraid of creeping out by daylight, they were unable to ascertain what was taking place in the fort above them; but they calculated that the most propitious time for putting their nefarious project into execution would be just before daybreak. At length the time arrived. Balkishen had prepared a long slow match.
"He is a cunning fellow, and may have wormed it out of some of the natives, though I doubt whether many would trust him," observed the rajah. "But you tell me that a slave of that traitor Balkishen has been captured; let him be brought to me. He knows more about his master's affairs than any one else, and for the sake of saving his life will willingly give all the information he possesses."
Hearing of the rajah's restoration to power, he was on his way back to Allahapoor with a cunningly-devised tale, by means of which he hoped to be restored to power. The astounding information, however, that he received from Balkishen made him change his plans, and he resolved, at all events, to defer his visit till a more convenient opportunity.
It has been prophesied that when the Feringhees rule the land the ancient institutions of the country will be destroyed and caste abolished. What will then become of us Brahmins? We must put off that evil day, if it is ever to arrive, as long as possible." Thus the Brahmin Balkishen continued muttering.
Soon after she had retired, the slave Bikoo, for whom Reginald had sent, was brought, heavily chained, into the presence of the rajah, who at once promised him his life on condition that he would afford all the information he possessed regarding the proceedings of his late master Balkishen.
Balkishen undertook to follow Reginald's party, accompanied by Bikoo, and to prevent them by every means in his power from reaching the place of Nuna's concealment, should they by any wonderful chance discover it; while Khan Cochut came to the final resolution of returning to Allahapoor, and carrying out his original plan.
The match went on burning, approaching the fatal barrel with fearful rapidity. In vain Balkishen endeavoured to rise. He had dislocated his ankle, or otherwise injured it. Again and again he shrieked out. Though unable to stand, he crawled up the steps. To save his life, he must have run faster than he had ever before done. In his imagination he pictured the match not an inch from the barrel.