by H. Rider Haggard



Every one has read the monograph, I believe that is the right word, of
my dear friend, Professor Higgs--Ptolemy Higgs to give him his full
name--descriptive of the tableland of Mur in North Central Africa, of
the ancient underground city in the mountains which surrounded it, and
of the strange tribe of Abyssinian Jews, or rather their mixed
descendants, by whom it is, or was, inhabited. I say every one
advisedly, for although the public which studies such works is usually
select, that which will take an interest in them, if the character of
a learned and pugnacious personage is concerned, is very wide indeed.
Not to mince matters, I may as well explain what I mean at once.

Professor Higgs's rivals and enemies, of whom either the brilliancy of
his achievements or his somewhat abrupt and pointed methods of
controversy seem to have made him a great many, have risen up, or
rather seated themselves, and written him down--well, an individual
who strains the truth. Indeed, only this morning one of these
inquired, in a letter to the press, alluding to some adventurous
traveller who, I am told, lectured to the British Association several
years ago, whether Professor Higgs did not, in fact, ride across the
desert to Mur, not upon a camel, as he alleged, but upon a land
tortoise of extraordinary size.

The innuendo contained in this epistle has made the Professor, who, as
I have already hinted, is not by nature of a meek disposition,
extremely angry. Indeed, notwithstanding all that I could do, he left
his London house under an hour ago with a whip of hippopotamus hide
such as the Egyptians call a /koorbash/, purposing to avenge himself
upon the person of his defamer. In order to prevent a public scandal,
however, I have taken the liberty of telephoning to that gentleman,
who, bold and vicious as he may be in print, is physically small and,
I should say, of a timid character, to get out of the way at once. To
judge from the abrupt fashion in which our conversation came to an
end, I imagine that the hint has been taken. At any rate, I hope for
the best, and, as an extra precaution, have communicated with the
lawyers of my justly indignant friend.

The reader will now probably understand that I am writing this book,
not to bring myself or others before the public, or to make money of
which I have no present need, or for any purpose whatsoever, except to
set down the bare and actual truth. In fact, so many rumours are
flying about as to where we have been and what befell us that this has
become almost necessary. As soon as I laid down that cruel column of
gibes and insinuations to which I have alluded--yes, this very
morning, before breakfast, this conviction took hold of me so strongly
that I cabled to Oliver, Captain Oliver Orme, the hero of my history,
if it has any particular hero, who is at present engaged upon what
must be an extremely agreeable journey round the world--asking his
consent. Ten minutes since the answer arrived from Tokyo. Here it is:

"Do what you like and think necessary, but please alter all names, et
cetera, as propose returning via America, and fear interviewers. Japan
jolly place." Then follows some private matter which I need not
insert. Oliver is always extravagant where cablegrams are concerned.

I suppose that before entering on this narration, for the reader's
benefit I had better give some short description of myself.

My name is Richard Adams, and I am the son of a Cumberland yeoman who
married a Welshwoman. Therefore I have Celtic blood in my veins, which
perhaps accounts for my love of roving and other things. I am now an
old man, near the end of my course, I suppose; at any rate, I was
sixty-five last birthday. This is my appearance as I see it in the
glass before me: tall, spare (I don't weigh more than a hundred and
forty pounds--the desert has any superfluous flesh that I ever owned,
my lot having been, like Falstaff, to lard the lean earth, but in a
hot climate); my eyes are brown, my face is long, and I wear a pointed
white beard, which matches the white hair above.

Truth compels me to add that my general appearance, as seen in that
glass which will not lie, reminds me of that of a rather aged goat;
indeed, to be frank, by the natives among whom I have sojourned, and
especially among the Khalifa's people when I was a prisoner there, I
have often been called the White Goat.

Of my very commonplace outward self let this suffice. As for my
record, I am a doctor of the old school. Think of it! When I was a
student at Bart.'s the antiseptic treatment was quite a new thing, and
administered when at all, by help of a kind of engine on wheels, out
of which disinfectants were dispensed with a pump, much as the
advanced gardener sprays a greenhouse to-day.

I succeeded above the average as a student, and in my early time as a
doctor. But in every man's life there happen things which, whatever
excuses may be found for them, would not look particularly well in
cold print (nobody's record, as understood by convention and the
Pharisee, could really stand cold print); also something in my blood
made me its servant. In short, having no strict ties at home, and
desiring to see the world, I wandered far and wide for many years,
earning my living as I went, never, in my experience, a difficult
thing to do, for I was always a master of my trade.

My fortieth birthday found me practising at Cairo, which I mention
only because it was here that first I met Ptolemy Higgs, who, even
then in his youth, was noted for his extraordinary antiquarian and
linguistic abilities. I remember that in those days the joke about him
was that he could swear in fifteen languages like a native and in
thirty-two with common proficiency, and could read hieroglyphics as
easily as a bishop reads the /Times/.

Well, I doctored him through a bad attack of typhoid, but as he had
spent every farthing he owned on scarabs or something of the sort,
made him no charge. This little kindness I am bound to say he never
forgot, for whatever his failings may be (personally I would not trust
him alone with any object that was more than a thousand years old),
Ptolemy is a good and faithful friend.

In Cairo I married a Copt. She was a lady of high descent, the
tradition in her family being that they were sprung from one of the
Ptolemaic Pharaohs, which is possible and even probable enough. Also,
she was a Christian, and well educated in her way. But, of course, she
remained an Oriental, and for a European to marry an Oriental is, as I
have tried to explain to others, a very dangerous thing, especially if
he continues to live in the East, where it cuts him off from social
recognition and intimacy with his own race. Still, although this step
of mine forced me to leave Cairo and go to Assouan, then a little-
known place, to practise chiefly among the natives, God knows we were
happy enough together till the plague took her, and with it my joy in

I pass over all that business, since there are some things too
dreadful and too sacred to write about. She left me one child, a son,
who, to fill up my cup of sorrow, when he was twelve years of age, was
kidnapped by the Mardi's people.

This brings me to the real story. There is nobody else to write it;
Oliver will not; Higgs cannot (outside of anything learned and
antiquarian, he is hopeless); so I must. At any rate, if it is not
interesting, the fault will be mine, not that of the story, which in
all conscience is strange enough.

We are now in the middle of June, and it was a year ago last December
that, on the evening of the day of my arrival in London after an
absence of half a lifetime, I found myself knocking at the door of
Professor Higgs's rooms in Guildford Street, W.C. It was opened by his
housekeeper, Mrs. Reid, a thin and saturnine old woman, who reminded
and still reminds me of a reanimated mummy. She told me that the
Professor was in, but had a gentleman to dinner, and suggested sourly
that I should call again the next morning. With difficulty I persuaded
her at last to inform her master that an old Egyptian friend had
brought him something which he certainly would like to see.

Five minutes later I groped my way into Higgs's sitting-room, which
Mrs. Reid had contented herself with indicating from a lower floor. It
is a large room, running the whole width of the house, divided into
two by an arch, where once, in the Georgian days, there had been
folding doors. The place was in shadow, except for the firelight,
which shone upon a table laid ready for dinner, and upon an
extraordinary collection of antiquities, including a couple of mummies
with gold faces arranged in their coffins against the wall. At the far
end of the room, however, an electric lamp was alight in the bow-
window hanging over another table covered with books, and by it I saw
my host, whom I had not met for twenty years, although until I
vanished into the desert we frequently corresponded, and with him the
friend who had come to dinner.

First, I will describe Higgs, who, I may state, is admitted, even by
his enemies, to be one of the most learned antiquarians and greatest
masters of dead languages in Europe, though this no one would guess
from his appearance at the age of about forty-five. In build short and
stout, face round and high-coloured, hair and beard of a fiery red,
eyes, when they can be seen--for generally he wears a pair of large
blue spectacles--small and of an indefinite hue, but sharp as needles.
Dress so untidy, peculiar, and worn that it is said the police
invariably request him to move on, should he loiter in the streets at
night. Such was, and is, the outward seeming of my dearest friend,
Professor Ptolemy Higgs, and I only hope that he won't be offended
when he sees it set down in black and white.

That of his companion who was seated at the table, his chin resting on
his hand, listening to some erudite discourse with a rather distracted
air, was extraordinarily different, especially by contrast. A tall
well-made young man, rather thin, but broad-shouldered, and apparently
five or six and twenty years of age. Face clean-cut--so much so,
indeed, that the dark eyes alone relieved it from a suspicion of
hardness; hair short and straight, like the eyes, brown; expression
that of a man of thought and ability, and, when he smiled, singularly
pleasant. Such was, and is, Captain Oliver Orme, who, by the way, I
should explain, is only a captain of some volunteer engineers,
although, in fact, a very able soldier, as was proved in the South
African War, whence he had then but lately returned.

I ought to add also that he gave me the impression of a man not in
love with fortune, or rather of one with whom fortune was not in love;
indeed, his young face seemed distinctly sad. Perhaps it was this that
attracted me to him so much from the first moment that my eyes fell on
him--me with whom fortune had also been out of love for many years.

While I stood contemplating this pair, Higgs, looking up from the
papyrus or whatever it might be that he was reading (I gathered later
that he had spent the afternoon in unrolling a mummy, and was studying
its spoils), caught sight of me standing in the shadow.

"Who the devil are you?" he exclaimed in a shrill and strident voice,
for it acquires that quality when he is angry or alarmed, "and what
are you doing in my room?"

"Steady," said his companion; "your housekeeper told you that some
friend of yours had come to call."

"Oh, yes, so she did, only I can't remember any friend with a face and
beard like a goat. Advance, friend, and all's well."

So I stepped into the shining circle of the electric light and halted

"Who is it? Who is it?" muttered Higgs. "The face is the face of--of--
I have it--of old Adams, only he's been dead these ten years. The
Khalifa got him, they said. Antique shade of the long-lost Adams,
please be so good as to tell me your name, for we waste time over a
useless mystery."

"There is no need, Higgs, since it is in your mouth already. Well, I
should have known you anywhere; but then /your/ hair doesn't go

"Not it; too much colouring matter; direct result of a sanguine
disposition. Well, Adams--for Adams you must be--I am really delighted
to see you, especially as you never answered some questions in my last
letter as to where you got those First Dynasty scarabs, of which the
genuineness, I may tell you, has been disputed by certain envious
beasts. Adams, my dear old fellow, welcome a thousand times"--and he
seized my hands and wrung them, adding, as his eye fell upon a ring I
wore, "Why, what's that? Something quite unusual. But never mind; you
shall tell me after dinner. Let me introduce you to my friend, Captain
Orme, a very decent scholar of Arabic, with a quite elementary
knowledge of Egyptology."

"/Mr./ Orme," interrupted the younger man, bowing to me.

"Oh, well, Mr. or Captain, whichever you like. He means that he is not
in the regular army, although he has been all through the Boer War,
and wounded three times, once straight through the lungs. Here's the
soup. Mrs. Reid, lay another place. I am dreadfully hungry; nothing
gives me such an appetite as unrolling mummies; it involves so much
intellectual wear and tear, in addition to the physical labour. Eat,
man, eat. We will talk afterwards."

So we ate, Higgs largely, for his appetite was always excellent,
perhaps because he was then practically a teetotaller; Mr. Orme very
moderately, and I as becomes a person who has lived for months at a
time on dates--mainly of vegetables, which, with fruits, form my
principal diet--that is, if these are available, for at a pinch I can
exist on anything.

When the meal was finished and our glasses had been filled with port,
Higgs helped himself to water, lit the large meerschaum pipe he always
smokes, and pushed round the tobacco-jar which had once served as a
sepulchural urn for the heart of an old Egyptian.

"Now, Adams," he said when we also had filled our pipes, "tell us what
has brought you back from the Shades. In short, your story, man, your

I drew the ring he had noticed off my hand, a thick band of rather
light-coloured gold of a size such as an ordinary woman might wear
upon her first or second finger, in which was set a splendid slab of
sapphire engraved with curious and archaic characters. Pointing to
these characters, I asked Higgs if he could read them.

"Read them? Of course," he answered, producing a magnifying glass.
"Can't you? No, I remember; you never were good at anything more than
fifty years old. Hullo! this is early Hebrew. Ah! I've got it," and he

"'The gift of Solomon the ruler--no, the Great One--of Israel, Beloved
of Jah, to Maqueda of Sheba-land, Queen, Daughter of Kings, Child of
Wisdom, Beautiful.'

"That's the writing on your ring, Adams--a really magnificent thing.
'Queen of Sheba--Bath-Melachim, Daughter of Kings,' with our old
friend Solomon chucked in. Splendid, quite splendid!"--and he touched
the gold with his tongue, and tested it with his teeth. "Hum--where
did you get this intelligent fraud from, Adams?"

"Oh!" I answered, laughing, "the usual thing, of course. I bought it
from a donkey-boy in Cairo for about thirty shillings."

"Indeed," he replied suspiciously. "I should have thought the stone in
it was worth more than that, although, of course, it may be nothing
but glass. The engraving, too, is first-rate. Adams," he added with
severity, "you are trying to hoax us, but let me tell you what I
thought you knew by this time--that you can't take in Ptolemy Higgs.
This ring is a shameless swindle; but who did the Hebrew on it? He's a
good scholar, anyway."

"Don't know," I answered; "wasn't aware till now that it was Hebrew.
To tell you the truth, I thought it was old Egyptian. All I do know is
that it was given, or rather lent, to me by a lady whose title is
Walda Nagasta, and who is supposed to be a descendant of Solomon and
the Queen of Sheba."

Higgs took up the ring and looked at it again; then, as though in a
fit of abstraction, slipped it into his waistcoat pocket.

"I don't want to be rude, therefore I will not contradict you," he
answered with a kind of groan, "or, indeed, say anything except that
if any one else had spun me that yarn I should have told him he was a
common liar. But, of course, as every schoolboy knows, Walda Nagasta--
that is, Child of Kings in Ethiopic--is much the same as Bath-Melachim
--that is, Daughter of Kings in Hebrew."

Here Captain Orme burst out laughing, and remarked, "It is easy to see
why you are not altogether popular in the antiquarian world, Higgs.
Your methods of controversy are those of a savage with a stone axe."

"If you only open your mouth to show your ignorance, Oliver, you had
better keep it shut. The men who carried stone axes had advanced far
beyond the state of savagery. But I suggest that you had better give
Doctor Adams a chance of telling his story, after which you can

"Perhaps Captain Orme does not wish to be bored with it," I said,
whereon he answered at once:

"On the contrary, I should like to hear it very much--that is, if you
are willing to confide in me as well as in Higgs."

I reflected a moment, since, to tell the truth, for sundry reasons, my
intention had been to trust no one except the Professor, whom I knew
to be as faithful as he is rough. Yet some instinct prompted me to
make an exception in favour of this Captain Orme. I liked the man;
there was something about those brown eyes of his that appealed to me.
Also it struck me as odd that he should happen to be present on this
occasion, for I have always held that there is nothing casual or
accidental in the world; that even the most trivial circumstances are
either ordained, or the result of the workings of some inexorable law
whereof the end is known by whatever power may direct our steps,
though it be not yet declared.

"Certainly I am willing," I answered; "your face and your friendship
with the Professor are passport enough for me. Only I must ask you to
give me your word of honour that without my leave you will repeat
nothing of what I am about to tell you."

"Of course," he answered, whereon Higgs broke in:

"There, that will do; you don't want us both to kiss the Book, do you?
Who sold you that ring, and where have you been for the last dozen
years, and whence do you come now?"

"I have been a prisoner of the Khalifa's among other things. I had
five years of that entertainment of which my back would give some
evidence if I were to strip. I think I am about the only man who never
embraced Islam whom they allowed to live, and that was because I am a
doctor, and, therefore, a useful person. The rest of the time I have
spent wandering about the North African deserts looking for my son,
Roderick. You remember the boy, or should, for you are his godfather,
and I used to send you photographs of him as a little chap."

"Of course, of course," said the Professor in a new tone; "I came
across a Christmas letter from him the other day. But, my dear Adams,
what happened? I never heard."

"He went up the river to shoot crocodiles against my orders, when he
was about twelve years old--not very long after his mother's death,
and some wandering Mahdi tribesmen kidnapped him and sold him as a
slave. I have been looking for him ever since, for the poor boy was
passed on from tribe to tribe, among which his skill as a musician
enabled me to follow him. The Arabs call him the Singer of Egypt,
because of his wonderful voice, and it seems that he has learned to
play upon their native instruments."

"And now where is he?" asked Higgs, as one who feared the answer.

"He is, or was, a favourite slave among a barbarous, half-negroid
people called the Fung, who dwell in the far interior of North Central
Africa. After the fall of the Khalifa I followed him there; it took me
several years. Some Bedouin were making an expedition to trade with
these Fung, and I disguised myself as one of them.

"On a certain night we camped at the foot of a valley outside a great
wall which encloses the holy place where their idol is. I rode up to
this wall and, through the open gateway, heard some one with a
beautiful tenor voice singing in English. What he sang was a hymn that
I had taught my son. It begins:

 'Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.'

"I knew the voice again. I dismounted and slipped through the gateway,
and presently came to an open space, where a young man sat singing
upon a sort of raised bench with lamps on either side of him, and a
large audience in front. I saw his face and, notwithstanding the
turban which he wore and his Eastern robe--yes, and the passage of all
those years--I knew it for that of my son. Some spirit of madness
entered into me, and I called aloud, 'Roderick, Roderick!' and he
started up, staring about him wildly. The audience started up also,
and one of them caught sight of me lurking in the shadow.

"With a howl of rage, for I had desecrated their sanctuary, they
sprang at me. To save my life, coward that I was, I fled back through
the gates. Yes, after all those years of seeking, still I fled rather
than die, and though I was wounded with a spear and stones, managed to
reach and spring upon my horse. Then, as I was headed off from our
camp, I galloped away anywhere, still to save my miserable life from
those savages, so strongly is the instinct of self-preservation
implanted in us. From a distance I looked back and saw by the light of
the fired tents that the Fung were attacking the Arabs with whom I had
travelled, I suppose because they thought them parties to the
sacrilege. Afterwards I heard that they killed them every one, poor
men, but I escaped, who unwittingly had brought their fate upon them.

"On and on I galloped up a steep road. I remember hearing lions
roaring round me in the darkness. I remember one of them springing
upon my horse and the poor beast's scream. Then I remember no more
till I found myself--I believe it was a week or so later--lying on the
verandah of a nice house, and being attended by some good-looking
women of an Abyssinian cast of countenance."

"Sounds rather like one of the lost tribes of Israel," remarked Higgs
sarcastically, puffing at his big meerschaum.

"Yes, something of that sort. The details I will give you later. The
main facts are that these people who picked me up outside their gates
are called Abati, live in a town called Mur, and allege themselves to
be descended from a tribe of Abyssinian Jews who were driven out and
migrated to this place four or five centuries ago. Briefly, they look
something like Jews, practise a very debased form of the Jewish
religion, are civilized and clever after a fashion, but in the last
stage of decadence from interbreeding--about nine thousand men is
their total fighting force, although three or four generations ago
they had twenty thousand--and live in hourly terror of extermination
by the surrounding Fung, who hold them in hereditary hate as the
possessors of the wonderful mountain fortress that once belonged to
their forefathers."

"Gibraltar and Spain over again," suggested Orme.

"Yes, with this difference--that the position is reversed, the Abati
of this Central African Gibraltar are decaying, and the Fung, who
answer to the Spaniards, are vigorous and increasing."

"Well, what happened?" asked the Professor.

"Nothing particular. I tried to persuade these Abati to organize an
expedition to rescue my son, but they laughed in my face. By degrees I
found out that there was only one person among them who was worth
anything at all, and she happened to be their hereditary ruler who
bore the high-sounding titles of Walda Nagasta, or Child of Kings, and
Takla Warda, or Bud of the Rose, a very handsome and spirited young
woman, whose personal name is Maqueda----"

"One of the names of the first known Queens of Sheba," muttered Higgs;
"the other was Belchis."

"Under pretence of attending her medically," I went on, "for otherwise
their wretched etiquette would scarcely have allowed me access to one
so exalted, I talked things over with her. She told me that the idol
of the Fung is fashioned like a huge sphinx, or so I gathered from her
description of the thing, for I have never seen it."

"What!" exclaimed Higgs, jumping up, "a sphinx in North Central
Africa! Well, after all, why not? Some of the earlier Pharaohs are
said to have had dealings with that part of the world, or even to have
migrated from it. I think that the Makreezi repeats the legend. I
suppose that it is ram-headed."

"She told me also," I continued, "that they have a tradition, or
rather a belief, which amounts to an article of faith, that if this
sphinx or god, which, by the way, is lion, not ram-headed, and is
called Harmac----"

"Harmac!" interrupted Higgs again. "That is one of the names of the
sphinx--Harmachis, god of dawn."

"If this god," I repeated, "should be destroyed, the nation of the
Fung, whose forefathers fashioned it as they say, must move away from
that country across the great river which lies to the south. I have
forgotten its name at the moment, but I think it must be a branch of
the Nile.

"I suggested to her that, in the circumstances, her people had better
try to destroy the idol. Maqueda laughed and said it was impossible,
since the thing was the size of a small mountain, adding that the
Abati had long ago lost all courage and enterprise, and were content
to sit in their fertile and mountain-ringed land, feeding themselves
with tales of departed grandeur and struggling for rank and high-
sounding titles, till the day of doom overtook them.

"I inquired whether she were also content, and she replied, 'Certainly
not'; but what could she do to regenerate her people, she who was
nothing but a woman, and the last of an endless line of rulers?

"'Rid me of the Fung,' she added passionately, 'and I will give you
such a reward as you never dreamed. The old cave-city yonder is full
of treasure that was buried with its ancient kings long before we came
to Mur. To us it is useless, since we have none to trade with, but I
have heard that the peoples of the outside world worship gold.'

"'I do not want gold,' I answered; 'I want to rescue my son who is a
prisoner yonder.'

"'Then,' said the Child of Kings, 'you must begin by helping us to
destroy the idol of the Fung. Are there no means by which this can be

"'There are means,' I replied, and I tried to explain to her the
properties of dynamite and of other more powerful explosives.

"'Go to your own land,' she exclaimed eagerly, 'and return with that
stuff and two or three who can manage it, and I swear to them all the
wealth of Mur. Thus only can you win my help to save your son.'"

"Well, what was the end?" asked Captain Orme.

"This: They gave me some gold and an escort with camels which were
literally lowered down a secret path in the mountains so as to avoid
the Fung, who ring them in and of whom they are terribly afraid. With
these people I crossed the desert to Assouan in safety, a journey of
many weeks, where I left them encamped about sixteen days ago, bidding
them await my return. I arrived in England this morning, and as soon
as I could ascertain that you still lived, and your address, from a
book of reference called /Who's Who/, which they gave me in the hotel,
I came on here."

"Why did you come to me? What do you want me to do?" asked the

"I came to you, Higgs, because I know how deeply you are interested in
anything antiquarian, and because I wished to give you the first
opportunity, not only of winning wealth, but also of becoming famous
as the discoverer of the most wonderful relics of antiquity that are
left in the world."

"With a very good chance of getting my throat cut thrown in," grumbled

"As to what I want you to do," I went on, "I want you to find someone
who understands explosives, and will undertake the business of blowing
up the Fung idol."

"Well, that's easy enough, anyhow," said the Professor, pointing to
Captain Orme with the bowl of his pipe, and adding, "he is an engineer
by education, a soldier and a very fair chemist; also he knows Arabic
and was brought up in Egypt as a boy--just the man for the job if he
will go."

I reflected a moment, then, obeying some sort of instinct, looked up
and asked:

"Will you, Captain Orme, if terms can be arranged?"

"Yesterday," he replied, colouring a little, "I should have answered,
'Certainly not.' To-day I answer that I am prepared to consider the
matter--that is, if Higgs will go too, and you can enlighten me on
certain points. But I warn you that I am only an amateur in the three
trades that the Professor has mentioned, though, it is true, one with
some experience."

"Would it be rude to inquire, Captain Orme, why twenty-four hours have
made such a difference in your views and plans?"

"Not rude, only awkward," he replied, colouring again, this time more
deeply. "Still, as it is best to be frank, I will tell you. Yesterday
I believed myself to be the inheritor of a very large fortune from an
uncle whose fatal illness brought me back from South Africa before I
meant to come, and as whose heir I have been brought up. To-day I have
learned for the first time that he married secretly, last year, a
woman much below him in rank, and has left a child, who, of course,
will take all his property, as he died intestate. But that is not all.
Yesterday I believed myself to be engaged to be married; to-day I am
undeceived upon that point also. The lady," he added with some
bitterness, "who was willing to marry Anthony Orme's heir is no longer
willing to marry Oliver Orme, whose total possessions amount to under
£10,000. Well, small blame to her or to her relations, whichever it
may be, especially as I understand that she has a better alliance in
view. Certainly her decision has simplified matters," and he rose and
walked to the other end of the room.

"Shocking business," whispered Higgs; "been infamously treated," and
he proceeded to express his opinion of the lady concerned, of her
relatives, and of the late Anthony Orme, shipowner, in language that,
if printed, would render this history unfit for family reading. The
outspokenness of Professor Higgs is well known in the antiquarian
world, so there is no need for me to enlarge upon it.

"What I do not exactly understand, Adams," he added in a loud voice,
seeing that Orme had turned again, "and what I think we should both
like to know, is /your/ exact object in making these proposals."

"I am afraid I have explained myself badly. I thought I had made it
clear that I have only one object--to attempt the rescue of my son, if
he still lives, as I believe he does. Higgs, put yourself in my
position. Imagine yourself with nothing and no one left to care for
except a single child, and that child stolen away from you by savages.
Imagine yourself, after years of search, hearing his very voice,
seeing his very face, adult now, but the same, the thing you had
dreamed of and desired for years; that for which you would have given
a thousand lives if you could have had time to think. And then the
rush of the howling, fantastic mob, the breakdown of courage, of love,
of everything that is noble under the pressure of primæval instinct,
which has but one song--Save your life. Lastly, imagine this coward
saved, dwelling within a few miles of the son whom he had deserted,
and yet utterly unable to rescue or even to communicate with him
because of the poltroonery of those among whom he had refuged."

"Well," grunted Higgs, "I have imagined all that high-faluting lot.
What of it? If you mean that you are to blame, I don't agree with you.
You wouldn't have helped your son by getting your own throat cut, and
perhaps his also."

"I don't know," I answered. "I have brooded over the thing so long
that it seems to me that I have disgraced myself. Well, there came a
chance, and I took it. This lady, Walda Nagasta, or Maqueda, who, I
think, had also brooded over things, made me an offer--I fancy without
the knowledge or consent of her Council. 'Help me,' she said, 'and I
will help you. Save my people, and I will try to save your son. I can
pay for your services and those of any whom you may bring with you.'

"I answered that it was hopeless, as no one would believe the tale,
whereon she drew from her finger the throne-ring or State signet which
you have in your pocket, Higgs, saying: 'My mothers have worn this
since the days of Maqueda, Queen of Sheba. If there are learned men
among your people they will read her name upon it and know that I
speak no lie. Take it as a token, and take also enough of our gold to
buy the stuffs whereof you speak, which hide fires that can throw
mountains skyward, and the services of skilled and trusty men who are
masters of the stuff, two or three of them only, for more cannot be
transported across the desert, and come back to save your son and me.'
That's all the story, Higgs. Will you take the business on, or shall I
try elsewhere? You must make up your mind, because I have no time to
lose, if I am to get into Mur again before the rains."

"Got any of that gold you spoke of about you?" asked the Professor.

I drew a skin bag from the pocket of my coat, and poured some out upon
the table, which he examined carefully.

"Ring money," he said presently, "might be Anglo-Saxon, might be
anything; date absolutely uncertain, but from its appearance I should
say slightly alloyed with silver; yes, there is a bit which has
oxydized--undoubtedly old, that."

Then he produced the signet from his pocket, and examined the ring and
the stone very carefully through a powerful glass.

"Seems all right," he said, "and although I have been greened in my
time, I don't make many mistakes nowadays. What do you say, Adams?
Must have it back? A sacred trust! Only lent to you! All right, take
it by all means. /I/ don't want the thing. Well, it is a risky job,
and if any one else had proposed it to me, I'd have told him to go to
--Mur. But, Adams, my boy, you saved my life once, and never sent in a
bill, because I was hard up, and I haven't forgotten that. Also things
are pretty hot for me here just now over a certain controversy of
which I suppose you haven't heard in Central Africa. I think I'll go.
What do you say, Oliver?"

"Oh!" said Captain Orme, waking up from a reverie, "if you are
satisfied, I am. It doesn't matter to me where I go."



At this moment a fearful hubbub arose without. The front door slammed,
a cab drove off furiously, a policeman's whistle blew, heavy feet were
heard trampling; then came an invocation of "In the King's name,"
answered by "Yes, and the Queen's, and the rest of the Royal Family's,
and if you want it, take it, you chuckle-headed, flat-footed, pot-
bellied Peelers."

Then followed tumult indescribable as of heavy men and things rolling
down the stairs, with cries of fear and indignation.

"What the dickens is that?" asked Higgs.

"The voice sounded like that of Samuel--I mean Sergeant Quick,"
answered Captain Orme with evident alarm; "what can he be after? Oh, I
know, it is something to do with that infernal mummy you unwrapped
this afternoon, and asked him to bring round after dinner."

Just then the door burst open, and a tall, soldier-like form stalked
in, carrying in his arms a corpse wrapped in a sheet, which he laid
upon the table among the wine glasses.

"I'm sorry, Captain," he said, addressing Orme, "but I've lost the
head of the departed. I think it is at the bottom of the stairs with
the police. Had nothing else to defend myself with, sir, against their
unwarranted attacks, so brought the body to the present and charged,
thinking it very stiff and strong, but regret to say neck snapped, and
that deceased's head is now under arrest."

As Sergeant Quick finished speaking, the door opened again, and
through it appeared two very flurried and dishevelled policemen, one
of whom held, as far as possible from his person, the grizzly head of
a mummy by the long hair which still adhered to the skull.

"What do you mean by breaking into my rooms like this? Where's your
warrant?" asked the indignant Higgs in his high voice.

"There!" answered the first policeman, pointing to the sheet-wrapped
form on the table.

"And here!" added the second, holding up the awful head. "As in duty
bound, we ask explanation from that man of the secret conveyance of a
corpse through the open streets, whereon he assaults us with the same,
for which assault, pending investigation of the corpse, I arrest him.
Now, Guv'nor" (addressing Sergeant Quick), "will you come along with
us quietly, or must we take you?"

The Sergeant, who seemed to be inarticulate with wrath, made a dash
for the shrouded object on the table, with the intention, apparently,
of once more using it as a weapon of offence, and the policemen drew
their batons.

"Stop," said Orme, thrusting himself between the combatants, "are you
all mad? Do you know that this woman died about four thousand years

"Oh, Lord!" said the policeman who held the head, addressing his
companion, "it must be one of them mummies what they dig up in the
British Museum. Seems pretty ancient and spicy, don't it?" and he
sniffed at the head, then set it down upon the table.

Explanations followed, and after the wounded dignity of the two
officers of the Force had been soothed with sundry glasses of port
wine and a written list of the names of all concerned, including that
of the mummy, they departed.

"You take my advice, bobbies," I heard the indignant Sergeant declaim
outside the door, "and don't you believe things is always what they
seem. A party ain't necessarily drunk because he rolls about and falls
down in the street; he may be mad, or 'ungry, or epileptic, and a body
ain't always a body jest because it's dead and cold and stiff. Why,
men, as you've seen, it may be a mummy, which is quite a different
thing. If I was to put on that blue coat of yours, would that make me
a policeman? Good heavens! I should hope not, for the sake of the Army
to which I still belong, being in the Reserve. What you bobbies need
is to study human nature and cultivate observation, which will learn
you the difference between a new-laid corpse and a mummy, and many
other things. Now you lay my words to heart, and you'll both of you
rise to superintendents, instead of running in daily 'drunks' until
you retire on a pension. Good-night."

Peace having been restored, and the headless mummy removed into the
Professor's bedroom, since Captain Orme declared that he could not
talk business in the presence of a body, however ancient, we resumed
our discussion. First of all, at Higgs's suggestion I drew up a brief
memorandum of agreement which set out the objects of the expedition,
and provided for the equal division amongst us of any profit that
might accrue; in the event of the death of one or more of us, the
survivors or survivor to take their or his share.

To this arrangement personally I objected, who desired neither
treasure nor antiquities, but only the rescue of my son. The others
pointed out, however, that, like most people, I might in future want
something to live on, or that if I did not, in the event of his
escape, my boy certainly would; so in the end I gave way.

Then Captain Orme very sensibly asked for a definition of our
respective duties, and it was settled that I was to be guide to the
expedition; Higgs, antiquarian, interpreter, and, on account of his
vast knowledge, general referee; and Captain Orme, engineer and
military commander, with the proviso that, in the event of a
difference of opinion, the dissentient was to loyally accept the
decision of the majority.

This curious document having been copied out fair, I signed and passed
it to the Professor, who hesitated a little, but, after refreshing
himself with a further minute examination of Sheba's ring, signed
also, remarking that he was an infernal fool for his pains, and pushed
the paper across the table to Orme.

"Stop a minute," said the Captain; "I forgot something. I should like
my old servant, Sergeant Quick, to accompany us. He's a very handy man
at a pinch, especially if, as I understand, we are expected to deal
with explosives with which he has had a lot to do in the Engineers and
elsewhere. If you agree I will call him, and ask if he will go. I
expect he's somewhere round."

I nodded, judging from the episode of the mummy and the policeman that
the Sergeant was likely to be a useful man. As I was sitting next to
it, I opened the door for the Captain, whereon the erect shape of
Sergeant Quick, who had clearly been leaning against it, literally
fell into the room, reminding me much of an overset wooden soldier.

"Hullo!" said Orme as, without the slightest change of countenance,
his retainer recovered himself and stood to attention. "What the deuce
are you doing there?"

"Sentry go, Captain. Thought the police might change their minds and
come back. Any orders, Captain?"

"Yes. I am going to North Central Africa. When can you be ready to

"The Brindisi mail leaves to-morrow night, Captain, if you travel by
Egypt, but if you go by Tunis, 7.15 a.m. Saturday is the time from
Charing Cross. Only, as I understand that high explosives and arms
have to be provided, these might take awhile to lay in and pack so as
to deceive customs."

"You understand!" said Orme. "Pray, how do you understand?"

"Doors in these old houses are apt to get away from their frames,
Captain, and the gentleman there"--and he pointed to the Professor--
"has a voice that carries like a dog-whistle. Oh, no offence, sir. A
clear voice is an excellent thing--that is, if the doors fit"--and
although Sergeant Quick's wooden face did not move, I saw his humorous
grey eyes twinkle beneath the bushy eyebrows.

We burst out laughing, including Higgs.

"So you are willing to go?" said Orme. "But I hope you clearly
understand that this is a risky business, and that you may not come

"Spion Kop was a bit risky, Captain, and so was that business in the
donga, where every one was hit except you and me and the sailor man,
but we came back, for all that. Begging your pardon, Captain, there
ain't no such thing as risk. Man comes here when he must, and dies
when he must, and what he does between don't make a ha'porth of

"Hear, hear," I said; "we are much of the same way of thinking."

"There have been several who held those views, sir, since old Solomon
gave the lady that"--and he pointed to Sheba's ring, which was lying
on the table. "But excuse me, Captain; how about local allowances? Not
having been a marrying man myself, I've none dependent upon me, but,
as you know, I've sisters that have, and a soldier's pension goes with
him. Don't think me greedy, Captain," he added hastily, "but, as you
gentlemen understand, black and white at the beginning saves bother at
the end"--and he pointed to the agreement.

"Quite right. What do you want, Sergeant?" asked Orme.

"Nothing beyond my pay, if we get nothing, Captain, but if we get
something, would five per cent. be too much?"

"It might be ten," I suggested. "Sergeant Quick has a life to lose
like the rest of us."

"Thank you kindly, sir," he answered; "but that, in my opinion, would
be too much. Five per cent. was what I suggested."

So it was written down that Sergeant Samuel Quick was to receive five
per cent. of the total profits, if any, provided that he behaved
himself and obeyed orders. Then he also signed the agreement, and was
furnished with a glass of whisky and water to drink to its good

"Now, gentlemen," he said, declining the chair which Higgs offered to
him, apparently because, from long custom, he preferred his wooden-
soldier attitude against the wall, "as a humble five-per-cent. private
in this very adventurous company I'll ask permission to say a word."

Permission was given accordingly, and the Sergeant proceeded to
inquire what weight of rock it was wished to remove.

I told him that I did not know, as I had never seen the Fung idol, but
I understood that its size was enormous, probably as large as St.
Paul's Cathedral.

"Which, if solid, would take some stirring," remarked the Sergeant.
"Dynamite might do it, but it is too bulky to be carried across the
desert on camels in that quantity. Captain, how about them picrates?
You remember those new Boer shells that blew a lot of us to kingdom
come, and poisoned the rest?"

"Yes," answered Orme; "I remember; but now they have stronger stuffs--
azo-imides, I think they call them--terrific new compounds of
nitrogen. We will inquire to-morrow, Sergeant."

"Yes, Captain," he answered; "but the point is, who'll pay? You can't
buy hell-fire in bulk for nothing. I calculate that, allowing for the
purchase of the explosives and, say, fifty military rifles with
ammunition and all other necessaries, not including camels, the outfit
of this expedition can't come to less than £1,500."

"I think I have that amount in gold," I answered, "of which the lady
of the Abati gave me as much as I could carry in comfort."

"If not," said Orme, "although I am a poor man now, I could find £500
or so in a pinch. So don't let us bother about the money. The question
is--Are we all agreed that we will undertake this expedition and see
it through to the end, whatever that may be?"

We answered that we were.

"Then has anybody anything more to say?"

"Yes," I replied; "I forgot to tell you that if we should ever get to
Mur, none of you must make love to the Walda Nagasta. She is a kind of
holy person, who can only marry into her own family, and to do so
might mean that our throats would be cut."

"Do you hear that, Oliver?" said the Professor. "I suppose that the
Doctor's warning is meant for you, as the rest of us are rather past
that kind of thing."

"Indeed," replied the Captain, colouring again after his fashion.
"Well, to tell you the truth, I feel a bit past it myself, and, so far
as I am concerned, I don't think we need take the fascinations of this
black lady into account."

"Don't brag, Captain. Please don't brag," said Sergeant Quick in a
hollow whisper. "Woman is just the one thing about which you can never
be sure. To-day she's poison, and to-morrow honey--God and the climate
alone know why. Please don't brag, or we may live to see you crawling
after this one on your knees, with the gent in the specs behind, and
Samuel Quick, who hates the whole tribe of them, bringing up the rear.
Tempt Providence, if you like, Captain, but don't tempt woman, lest
she should turn round and tempt you, as she has done before to-day."

"Will you be so good as to stop talking nonsense and call a cab," said
Captain Orme coldly. But Higgs began to laugh in his rude fashion, and
I, remembering the appearance of "Bud of the Rose" when she lifted her
veil of ceremony, and the soft earnestness of her voice, fell into
reflection. "Black lady" indeed! What, I wondered, would this young
gentleman think if ever he should live to set his eyes upon her sweet
and comely face?

It seemed to me that Sergeant Quick was not so foolish as his master
chose to imagine. Captain Orme undoubtedly was in every way qualified
to be a partner in our venture; still, I could have wished either that
he had been an older man, or that the lady to whom he was recently
affianced had not chosen this occasion to break her engagement. In
dealing with difficult and dangerous combinations, my experience has
been that it is always well to eliminate the possibility of a love
affair, especially in the East.



Of all our tremendous journey across the desert until we had passed
the forest and reached the plains which surrounded the mountains of
Mur, there are, I think, but few incidents with which the reader need
be troubled. The first of these was at Assouan, where a letter and
various telegrams overtook Captain Orme, which, as by this time we had
become intimate, he showed to me. They informed him that the
clandestine infant whom his uncle left behind him had suddenly
sickened and died of some childish ailment, so that he was once again
heir to the large property which he thought he had lost, since the
widow only took a life interest in some of the personalty. I
congratulated him and said I supposed this meant that we should not
have the pleasure of his company to Mur.

"Why not?" he asked. "I said I was going and I mean to go; indeed, I
signed a document to that effect."

"I daresay," I answered, "but circumstances alter cases. If I might
say so, an adventure that perhaps was good enough for a young and
well-born man of spirit and enterprise without any particular
resources, is no longer good enough for one who has the ball at his
feet. Think what a ball it is to a man of your birth, intelligence,
record, and now, great fortune come to you in youth. Why, with these
advantages there is absolutely nothing that you cannot do in England.
You can go into Parliament and rule the country; if you like you can
become a peer. You can marry any one who isn't of the blood royal; in
short, with uncommonly little effort of your own, your career is made
for you. Don't throw away a silver spoon like that in order, perhaps,
to die of thirst in the desert or be killed in a fight among unknown

"Oh, I don't know," he answered. "I never set heart much on spoons,
silver or other. When I lost this one I didn't cry, and now that I
have found it again I shan't sing. Anyway, I am going on with you, and
you can't prevent me under the agreement. Only as I have got such a
lot to leave, I suppose I had better make a will first and post it
home, which is a bore."

Just then the Professor came in, followed by an Arab thief of a
dealer, with whom he was trying to bargain for some object of
antiquity. When the dealer had been ejected and the position explained
to him, Higgs, who whatever may be his failings in small matters, is
unselfish enough in big ones, said that he agreed with me and thought
that under the circumstances, in his own interest, Orme ought to leave
us and return home.

"You may save your breath, old fellow," answered the Captain, "for
this reason if for no other," and he threw him a letter across the
table, which letter I saw afterwards. To be brief, it was from the
young lady to whom he had been engaged to be married, and who on his
loss of fortune had jilted him. Now she seemed to have changed her
mind again, and, although she did not mention the matter, it is
perhaps not uncharitable to suppose that the news of the death of the
inconvenient child had something to do with her decision.

"Have you answered this?" asked Higgs.

"No," answered Orme, setting his mouth. "I have not answered, and I am
not going to answer it, either in writing or in person. I intend to
start to-morrow for Mur and to travel as far on that road as it
pleases fate to allow, and now I am going to look at the rock
sculptures by the cataract."

"Well, that's flat," said Higgs after he had departed, "and for my
part I am glad of it, for somehow I think he will be a useful man
among those Fung. Also, if he went I expect that the Sergeant would go
too, and where should we be without Quick, I should like to know?"

Afterwards I conversed with the said Quick about this same matter,
repeating to him my opinions, to which the Sergeant listened with the
deference which he was always kind enough to show to me.

"Begging your pardon, sir," he said, when I had finished, "but I think
you are both right and wrong. Everything has two ends, hasn't it? You
say that it would be wicked for the Captain to get himself killed,
there being now so much money for him to live for, seeing that life is
common as dirt while money is precious, rare and hard to come by. It
ain't the kings we admire, it's their crowns; it ain't the
millionaires, it's their millions; but, after all, the millionaires
don't take their millions with them, for Providence, that, like
Nature, hates waste, knows that if they did they'd melt, so one man
dead gives another bread, as the saying goes, or p'raps I should say
gingerbread in such cases.

"Still, on the whole, sir, I admit you are right as to the sinfulness
of wasting luck. But now comes the other end. I know this young lady
what the Captain was engaged to, which he never would have been if he
had taken my advice, since of all the fish-blooded little serpents
that ever I set eyes on she's the serpentest, though pretty, I allow.
Solomon said in his haste that an honest woman he had not found, but
if he had met the Honourable Miss--well, never mind her name--he'd
have said it at his leisure, and gone on saying it. Now, no one should
never take back a servant what has given notice and then says he's
sorry, for if he does the sorrow will be on the other side before it's
all done; and much less should he take back a /fiancée/ (Quick said a
'finance'), on the whole, he'd better drown himself--I tried it once,
and I know. So that's the tail of the business.

"But," he went on, "it has a couple of fins as well, like that eel
beast I caught in the Nile. One of them is that the Captain promised
and vowed to go through with this expedition, and if a man's got to
die, he'd better die honest without breaking his word. And the other
is what I said to you in London when I signed on, that he won't die a
minute before his time, and nothing won't happen to him, but what's
bound to happen, and therefore it ain't a ha'porth of use bothering
about anything, and that's where the East's well ahead of the West.

"And now, sir, I'll go and look after the camels and those half-bred
Jew boys what you call Abati, but I call rotten sneaks, for if they
get their thieving fingers into those canisters of picric salts,
thinking they're jam, as I found them trying to do yesterday,
something may happen in Egypt that'll make the Pharaohs turn in their
graves and the Ten Plagues look silly."

So, having finished his oration, Quick went, and in due course we
started for Mur.

The second incident that is perhaps worth recording was an adventure
that happened to us when we had completed about two of our four
months' journey.

After weeks of weary desert travel--if I remember right, it was
exactly a fortnight after the dog Pharaoh, of which I shall soon have
plenty to say, had come into Orme's possession--we reached an oasis
called Zeu, where I had halted upon my road down to Egypt. In this
oasis, which, although not large in extent, possesses springs of
beautiful water and groves of date-trees, we were, as it chanced, very
welcome, since when I was there before, I had been fortunate enough to
cure its sheik of an attack of ophthalmia and to doctor several of his
people for various ailments with good results. So, although I was
burning to get forward, I agreed with the others that it would be wise
to accede to the request of the leader of our caravan, a clever and
resourceful, but to my mind untrustworthy Abati of the name of
Shadrach, and camp in Zeu for a week or so to rest and feed our
camels, which had wasted almost to nothing on the scant herbage of the

This Shadrach, I may add here, whom his companions, for some reason
unknown to me at that time, called the Cat, was remarkable for a
triple line of scars upon his face, which, he informed me, had been
set there by the claws of a lion. Now the great enemies of this people
of Zeu were lions, which at certain seasons of the year, I suppose
when food grew scarce, descended from the slopes of a range of hills
that stretched east and west at a distance of about fifty miles north
of the oasis, and, crossing the intervening desert, killed many of the
Zeu sheep, camels, and other cattle, and often enough any of the tribe
whom they could catch. As these poor Zeus practically possessed no
firearms, they were at the mercy of the lions, which grew
correspondingly bold. Indeed, their only resource was to kraal their
animals within stone walls at night and take refuge in their huts,
which they seldom left between sunset and dawn, except to replenish
the fires that they lit to scare any beast of prey which might be
prowling through the town.

Though the lion season was now in full swing, as it happened, for the
first five days of our stay at Zeu we saw none of these great cats,
although in the darkness we heard them roaring in the distance. On the
sixth night, however, we were awakened by a sound of wailing, which
came from the village about a quarter of a mile away, and when we went
out at dawn to see what was the matter, were met by a melancholy
procession advancing from its walls. At the head of it marched the
grey-haired old chief, followed by a number of screaming women, who in
their excitement, or perhaps as a sign of mourning, had omitted to
make their toilette, and by four men, who carried something horrid on
a wickerwork door.

Soon we learned what had happened. It seemed that hungry lions, two or
three of them, had broken through the palm-leaf roof of the hut of one
of the sheik's wives, she whose remains were stretched upon the door,
and, in addition to killing her, had actually carried off his son. Now
he came to implore us white men who had guns to revenge him on the
lions, which otherwise, having once tasted human flesh, would destroy
many more of his people.

Through an interpreter who knew Arabic, for not even Higgs could
understand the peculiar Zeu dialect, he explained in excited and
incoherent words that the beasts lay up among the sand-hills not very
far away, where some thick reeds grew around a little spring of water.
Would we not come out and kill them and earn the blessing of the Zeus?

Now I said nothing, for the simple reason that, having such big
matters on hand, although I was always fond of sport, I did not wish
any of us to be led off after these lions. There is a time to hunt and
a time to cease from hunting, and it seemed to me, except for the
purposes of food, that this journey of ours was the latter. However,
as I expected, Oliver Orme literally leaped at the idea. So did Higgs,
who of late had been practising with a rifle and began to fancy
himself a shot. He exclaimed loudly that nothing would give him
greater pleasure, especially as he was sure that lions were in fact
cowardly and overrated beasts.

From that moment I foreboded disaster in my heart. Still, I said I
would come too, partly because I had not shot a lion for many a day
and had a score to settle with those beasts which, it may be
remembered, nearly killed me on the Mountain of Mur, and partly
because, knowing the desert and also the Zeu people much better than
either the Professor or Orme, I thought that I might possibly be of

So we fetched our rifles and cartridges, to which by an afterthought
we added two large water-bottles, and ate a hearty breakfast. As we
were preparing to start, Shadrach, the leader of the Abati camel-
drivers, that man with the scarred face who was nicknamed the Cat,
came up to me and asked me whither we were going. I told him, whereon
he said:

"What have you to do with these savages and their troubles, lords? If
a few of them are killed it is no matter, but as you should know, O
Doctor, if you wish to hunt lions there are plenty in that land
whither you travel, seeing that the lion is the fetish of the Fung and
therefore never killed. But the desert about Zeu is dangerous and harm
may come to you."

"Then accompany us," broke in the Professor, between whom and Shadrach
there was no love lost, 'for, of course, with you we should be quite

"Not so," he replied, "I and my people rest; only madmen would go to
hunt worthless wild beasts when they might rest. Have we not enough of
the desert and its dangers as it is? If you knew all that I do of
lions you would leave them alone."

"Of the desert we have plenty also, but of shooting very little,"
remarked the Captain, who talked Arabic well. "Lie in your beds; we go
to kill the beasts that harass the poor people who have treated us so

"So be it," said Shadrach with a smile that struck me as malicious. "A
lion made this"--pointing to the dreadful threefold scar upon his
face. "May the God of Israel protect you from lions. Remember, lords,
that, the camels being fresh again, we march the day after to-morrow,
should the weather hold, for if the wind blows on yonder sand-hills,
no man may live among them;" and, putting up his hand, he studied the
sky carefully from beneath its shadow, then, with a grunt, turned and
vanished behind a hut.

All this while Sergeant Quick was engaged at a little distance in
washing up the tin breakfast things, to all appearance quite
unconscious of what was going on. Orme called him, whereupon he
advanced and stood to attention. I remember thinking how curious he
looked in those surroundings--his tall, bony frame clothed in semi-
military garments, his wooden face perfectly shaved, his iron-grey
hair neatly parted and plastered down upon his head with pomade or
some equivalent after the old private soldier fashion, and his sharp
ferret-like grey eyes taking in everything.

"Are you coming with us, Sergeant?" asked Orme.

"Not unless ordered so to do, Captain. I like a bit of hunting well
enough, but, with all three officers away, some one should mount guard
over the stores and transport, so I think the dog Pharaoh and I had
best stop behind."

"Perhaps you are right, Sergeant, only tie Pharaoh up, or he'll follow
me. Well, what do you want to say? Out with it."

"Only this, Captain. Although I have served in three campaigns among
these here Arabians (to Quick, all African natives north of the
Equator were Arabians, and all south of it, niggers), I can't say I
talk their lingo well. Still, I made out that the fellow they call Cat
don't like this trip of yours, and, begging your pardon, Captain,
whatever else Cat may be, he ain't no fool."

"Can't help it, Sergeant. For one thing, it would never do to give in
to his fancies now."

"That's true, Captain. When once it's hoist, right or wrong, keep the
flag flying, and no doubt you'll come back safe and sound if you're
meant to."

Then, having relieved his mind, the Sergeant ran his eye over our
equipment to see that nothing had been forgotten, rapidly assured
himself that the rifles were in working order, reported all well, and
returned to his dishes. Little did any of us guess under what
circumstances we should next meet with him.

After leaving the town and marching for a mile or so along the oasis,
accompanied by a mob of the Zeus armed with spears and bows, we were
led by the bereaved chief, who also acted as tracker, out into the
surrounding sands. The desert here, although I remembered it well
enough, was different from any that we had yet encountered upon this
journey, being composed of huge and abrupt sand-hills, some of which
were quite three hundred feet high, separated from each other by deep,
wind-cut valleys.

For a distance, while they were within reach of the moist air of the
oasis, these sand-mountains produced vegetation of various sorts.
Presently, however, we passed out into the wilderness proper, and for
a while climbed up and down the steep, shifting slopes, till from the
crest of one of them the chief pointed out what in South Africa is
called a pan, or /vlei/, covered with green reeds, and explained by
signs that in these lay the lions. Descending a steep declivity, we
posted ourselves, I at the top, and Higgs and Orme a little way down
either side of this /vlei/. This done, we dispatched the Zeus to beat
it out towards us, for although the reeds grew thick along the course
of the underground water, it was but a narrow place, and not more than
a quarter of a mile in length.

Scarcely had the beaters entered the tall reeds, evidently with
trepidation, for a good many of them held back from the adventure,
when a sound of loud wailing informed us that something had happened.
A minute or two later we saw two of them bearing away what appeared to
be the mangled remains of the chief's son who had been carried off on
the previous night.

Just then, too, we saw something else, for half-way down the marsh a
great male lion broke cover, and began to steal off toward the sand-
hills. It was about two hundred yards from Higgs, who chanced to be
nearest to it, and, therefore, as any big-game hunter will know, for
practical purposes, far out of shot. But the Professor, who was quite
unaccustomed to this, or, indeed, any kind of sport, and, like all
beginners, wildly anxious for blood, lifted his rifle and fired, as he
might have done at a rabbit. By some marvellous accident the aim was
good, and the bullet from the express, striking the lion fair behind
the shoulder, passed through its heart, and knocked it over dead as a

"By Jingo! Did you see that?" screamed Higgs in his delight. Then,
without even stopping to reload the empty barrel, he set off at the
top of his speed toward the prostrate beast, followed by myself and by
Orme, as fast as our astonishment would allow.

Running along the edge of the marsh, Higgs had covered about a hundred
yards of the distance, when suddenly, charging straight at him out of
the tall reeds, appeared a second lion, or rather lioness. Higgs
wheeled round, and wildly fired the left barrel of his rifle without
touching the infuriated brute. Next instant, to our horror, we saw him
upon his back, with the lioness standing over him, lashing her tail,
and growling.

We shouted as we ran, and so did the Zeus, although they made no
attempt at rescue, with the result that the lioness, instead of
tearing Higgs to pieces, turned her head confusedly first to one side
and then to the other. By now I, who had a long start of Orme, was
quite close, say within thirty yards, though fire I dared not as yet,
fearing lest, should I do so, I might kill my friend. At this moment
the lioness, recovering her nerves, squatted down on the prostrate
Higgs, and though he hit at her with his fists, dropped her muzzle,
evidently with the intention of biting him through the head.

Now I felt that if I hesitated any more, all would be finished. The
lioness was much longer than Higgs--a short, stout man--and her hind
quarters projected beyond his feet. At these I aimed rapidly, and,
pressing the trigger, next second heard the bullet clap upon the great
beast's hide. Up she sprang with a roar, one hind leg dangling, and
after a moment's hesitation, fled toward the sand-hill.

Now Orme, who was behind me, fired also, knocking up the dust beneath
the lioness's belly, but although he had more cartridges in his rifle,
which was a repeater, before either he or I could get another chance,
it vanished behind a mound. Leaving it to go where it would, we ran on
towards Higgs, expecting to find him either dead or badly mauled, but,
to our amazement and delight, up jumped the Professor, his blue
spectacles still on his nose, and, loading his rifle as he went,
charged away after the wounded lioness.

"Come back," shouted the Captain as he followed.

"Not for Joe!" yelled Higgs in his high voice. "If you fellows think
that I'm going to let a great cat sit on my stomach for nothing, you
are jolly well mistaken."

At the top of the first rise the long-legged Orme caught him, but
persuade him to return was more than he, or I when I arrived, could
do. Beyond a scratch on his nose, which had stung him and covered him
with blood, we found that he was quite uninjured, except in temper and
dignity. But in vain did we beg him to be content with his luck and
the honours he had won.

"Why?" he answered, "Adams wounded the beast, and I'd rather kill two
lions than one; also I have a score to square. But if you fellows are
afraid, you go home."

Well, I confess I felt inclined to accept the invitation, but Orme,
who was nettled, replied:

"Come, come; that settles the question, doesn't it? You must be shaken
by your fall, or you would not talk like that, Higgs. Look, here runs
the spoor--see the blood? Well, let's go steady and keep our wind. We
may come on her anywhere, but don't you try any more long distance
shots. You won't kill another lion at two hundred and fifty yards."

"All right," said Higgs, "don't be offended. I didn't mean anything,
except that I am going to teach that beast the difference between a
white man and a Zeu."

Then we began our march, following the blood tracks up and down the
steep sand-slopes. When we had been at it for about half-an-hour our
spirits were cheered by catching sight of the lioness on a ridge five
hundred yards away. Just then, too, some of the Zeus overtook us and
joined the hunt, though without zeal.

Meanwhile, as the day grew, the heat increased until it was so intense
that the hot air danced above the sand slopes like billions of midges,
and this although the sun was not visible, being hidden by a sort of
mist. A strange silence, unusual even in the desert, pervaded the
earth and sky; we could hear the grains of sand trickling from the
ridges. The Zeus, who accompanied us, grew uneasy, and pointed upward
with their spears, then behind toward the oasis of which we had long
lost sight. Finally, when we were not looking, they disappeared.

Now I would have followed them, guessing that they had some good
reason for this sudden departure. But Higgs refused to come, and Orme,
in whom his foolish taunt seemed still to rankle, only shrugged his
shoulders and said nothing.

"Let the black curs go," exclaimed the Professor as he polished his
blue spectacles and mopped his face. "They are a white-livered lot of
sneaks. Look! There she is, creeping off to the left. If we run round
that sand-hill we shall meet her."

So we ran round the sand-hill, but we did not meet her, although after
long hunting we struck the blood spoor afresh, and followed it for
several miles, first in this direction, and then in that, until Orme
and I wondered at Higgs's obstinacy and endurance. At length, when
even he was beginning to despair, we put up the lioness in a hollow,
and fired several shots at her as she hobbled over the opposing slope,
one of which hit her, for she rolled over, then picked herself up
again, roaring. As a matter of fact, it came from the Captain's rifle,
but Higgs, who, like many an inexperienced person was a jealous
sportsman, declared that it was his and we did not think it worth
while to contradict him.

On we toiled, and, just beyond the ridge, walked straight into the
lioness, sitting up like a great dog, so injured that she could do
nothing but snarl hideously and paw at the air.

"Now it is my turn, old lady," ejaculated Higgs, and straightway
missed her clean from a distance of five yards. A second shot was more
successful, and she rolled over, dead.

"Come on," said the exultant Professor, "and we'll skin her. She sat
on me, and I mean to sit on her for many a day."

So we began the job, although I, who had large experience of this
desert, and did not like the appearance of the weather, wished to
leave the beast where it lay and get back to the oasis. It proved
long, for I was the only one of us who had any practical knowledge of
flaying animals, and in that heat extremely unpleasant.

At length it was done, and, having doubled the hide over a rifle for
two of us to carry in turns, we refreshed ourselves from the water-
bottles (I even caught the Professor washing the blood off his face
and hands with some of the precious fluid). Then we started for the
oasis, only to discover, though we were all sure that we knew the way,
that not one of us had a slightest idea of its real direction. In the
hurry of our departure we had forgotten to bring a compass, and the
sun, that would have been our guide in ordinary circumstances, and to
which we always trusted in the open desert, was hidden by the curious
haze that has been described.

So, sensibly enough, we determined to return to the sand crest where
we had killed the lioness, and then trace our own footprints backward.
This seemed simple enough, for there, within half-a-mile, rose the
identical ridge.

We reached it, grumbling, for the lion-skin was heavy, only to
discover that it was a totally different ridge. Now, after reflection
and argument, we saw our exact mistake, and made for what was
obviously the real ridge--with the same result.

We were lost in the desert!



"The fact is," said Higgs presently, speaking with the air of an
oracle, "the fact is that all these accursed sand-hills are as like
each other as mummy beads on the same necklace, and therefore it is
very difficult to know them apart. Give me that water-bottle, Adams; I
am as dry as a lime-kiln."

"No," I said shortly; "you may be drier before the end."

"What do you mean? Oh! I see; but that's nonsense; those Zeus will
hunt us up, or, at the worst, we have only to wait till the sun gets

As he spoke, suddenly the air became filled with a curious singing
sound impossible to describe, caused as I knew, who had often heard it
before, by millions and millions of particles of sand being rubbed
together. We turned to see whence it came, and perceived, far away,
rushing towards us with extraordinary swiftness, a huge and dense
cloud preceded by isolated columns and funnels of similar clouds.

"A sand-storm," said Higgs, his florid face paling a little. "Bad luck
for us! That's what comes of getting out of bed the wrong side first
this morning. No, it's your fault, Adams; you helped me to salt last
night, in spite of my remonstrances" (the Professor has sundry little
superstitions of this sort, particularly absurd in so learned a man).
"Well, what shall we do? Get under the lee of the hill until it blows

"Don't suppose it will blow over. Can't see anything to do except say
our prayers," remarked Orme with sweet resignation. Oliver is, I
think, the coolest hand in an emergency of any one I ever met, except,
perhaps, Sergeant Quick, a man, of course, nearly old enough to be his
father. "The game seems to be pretty well up," he added. "Well, you
have killed two lions, Higgs, and that is something."

"Oh, hang it! You can die if you like, Oliver. The world won't miss
you; but think of its loss if anything happened to /me/. I don't
intend to be wiped out by a beastly sand-storm. I intend to live to
write a book on Mur," and Higgs shook his fist at the advancing clouds
with an air that was really noble. It reminded me of Ajax defying the

Meanwhile I had been reflecting.

"Listen," I said. "Our only chance is to stop where we are, for if we
move we shall certainly be buried alive. Look; there is something
solid to lie on," and I pointed to a ridge of rock, a kind of core of
congealed sand, from which the surface had been swept by gales. "Down
with you, quick," I went on, "and let's draw that lion-skin over our
heads. It may help to keep the dust from choking us. Hurry, men; it's

Coming, it was indeed, with a mighty, wailing roar. Scarcely had we
got ourselves into position, our backs to the blast and our mouths and
noses buried after the fashion of camels in a similar predicament, the
lion-skin covering our heads and bodies to the middle, with the paws
tucked securely beneath us to prevent it from being blown away, when
the storm leaped upon us furiously, bringing darkness in its train.
There we lay for hour after hour, unable to see, unable to talk
because of the roaring noise about us, and only from time to time
lifting ourselves a little upon our hands and knees to disturb the
weight of sand that accumulated on our bodies, lest it should encase
us in a living tomb.

Dreadful were the miseries we suffered--the misery of the heat beneath
the stinking pelt of the lion, the misery of the dust-laden air that
choked us almost to suffocation, the misery of thirst, for we could
not get at our scanty supply of water to drink. But worst of all
perhaps, was the pain caused by the continual friction of the sharp
sand driven along at hurricane speed, which, incredible as it may
seem, finally wore holes in our thin clothing and filed our skins to

"No wonder the Egyptian monuments get such a beautiful shine on them,"
I heard poor Higgs muttering in my ear again and again, for he was
growing light-headed; "no wonder, no wonder! My shin-bones will be
very useful to polish Quick's tall riding-boots. Oh! curse the lions.
Why did you help me to salt, you old ass; why did you help me to salt?
It's pickling me behind."

Then he became quite incoherent, and only groaned from time to time.

Perhaps, however, this suffering did us a service, since otherwise
exhaustion, thirst, and dust might have overwhelmed our senses, and
caused us to fall into a sleep from which we never should have
awakened. Yet at the time we were not grateful to it, for at last the
agony became almost unbearable. Indeed, Orme told me afterwards that
the last thing he could remember was a quaint fancy that he had made a
colossal fortune by selling the secret of a new torture to the Chinese
--that of hot sand driven on to the victim by a continuous blast of
hot air.

After a while we lost count of time, nor was it until later that we
learned that the storm endured for full twenty hours, during the
latter part of which, notwithstanding our manifold sufferings, we must
have become more or less insensible. At any rate, at one moment I
remembered the awful roar and the stinging of the sand whips, followed
by a kind of vision of the face of my son--that beloved, long-lost son
whom I had sought for so many years, and for whose sake I endured all
these things. Then, without any interval, as it were, I felt my limbs
being scorched as though by hot irons or through a burning-glass, and
with a fearful effort staggered up to find that the storm had passed,
and that the furious sun was blistering my excoriated skin. Rubbing
the caked dirt from my eyes, I looked down to see two mounds like
those of graves, out of which projected legs that had been white. Just
then one pair of legs, the longer pair, stirred, the sand heaved up
convulsively, and, uttering wandering words in a choky voice, there
arose the figure of Oliver Orme.

For a moment we stood and stared at each other, and strange spectacles
we were.

"Is he dead?" muttered Orme, pointing to the still buried Higgs.

"Fear so," I answered, "but we'll look;" and painfully we began to
disinter him.

When we came to it beneath the lion-skin, the Professor's face was
black and hideous to see, but, to our relief, we perceived that he was
not dead, for he moved his hand and moaned. Orme looked at me.

"Water would save him," I said.

Then came the anxious moment. One of our water-bottles was emptied
before the storm began, but the other, a large, patent flask covered
with felt, and having a screw vulcanite top, should still contain a
good quantity, perhaps three quarts--that is, if the fluid had not
evaporated in the dreadful heat. If this had happened, it meant that
Higgs would die, and unless help came, that soon we should follow him.
Orme unscrewed the flask, for my hands refused that office, and used
his teeth to draw the cork, which, providentially enough the
thoughtful Quick had set in the neck beneath the screw. Some of the
water, which, although it was quite hot, had /not/ evaporated, thank
God! flew against his parched lips, and I saw him bite them till the
blood came in the fierceness of the temptation to assuage his raging
thirst. But he resisted it like the man he is, and, without drinking a
drop, handed me the bottle, saying simply:

"You are the oldest; take care of this, Adams."

Now it was my turn to be tempted, but I, too, overcame, and, sitting
down, laid Higgs's head upon my knee; then, drop by drop, let a little
of the water trickle between his swollen lips.

The effect was magical, for in less than a minute the Professor sat
up, grasped at the flask with both hands, and strove to tear it away.

"You cruel brute! You cruel selfish brute!" he moaned as I wrenched it
from him.

"Look here, Higgs," I answered thickly; "Orme and I want water badly
enough, and we have had none. But you might take it all if it would
save you, only it wouldn't. We are lost in the desert, and must be
sparing. If you drank everything now, in a few hours you would be
thirsty again and die."

He thought awhile, then looked up and said:

"Beg pardon--I understand. I'm the selfish brute. But there's a good
lot of water there; let's each have a drink; we can't move unless we

So we drank, measuring out the water in a little india-rubber cup
which we had with us. It held about as much as a port wine glass, and
each of us drank, or rather slowly sipped, three cupfuls; we who felt
as though we could have swallowed a gallon apiece, and asked for more.
Small as was the allowance, it worked wonders in us; we were men

We stood up and looked about us, but the great storm had changed
everything. Where there had been sand-hills a hundred feet high, now
were plains and valleys; where there had been valleys appeared sand-
hills. Only the high ridge upon which we had lain was as before,
because it stood above the others and had a core of rock. We tried to
discover the direction of the oasis by the position of the sun, only
to be baffled, since our two watches had run down, and we did not know
the time of day or where the sun ought to be in the heavens. Also, in
that howling wilderness there was nothing to show us the points of the

Higgs, whose obstinacy remained unimpaired, whatever may have happened
to the rest of his vital forces, had one view of the matter, and Orme
another diametrically opposed to it. They even argued as to whether
the oasis lay to our right or to our left, for their poor heads were
so confused that they were scarcely capable of accurate thought or
observation. Meanwhile I sat down upon the sand and considered.
Through the haze I could see the points of what I thought must be the
hills whence the Zeus declared that the lions came, although of
course, for aught I knew, they might be other hills.

"Listen," I said; "if lions live upon those hills, there must be water
there. Let us try to reach them; perhaps we shall see the oasis as we

Then began our dreadful march. The lion-skin that had saved our lives,
and was now baked hard as a board, we left behind, but the rifles we
took. All day long we dragged ourselves up and down steep sand-slopes,
pausing now again to drink a sip of water, and hoping always that from
the top of the next slope we should see a rescue party headed by
Quick, or perhaps the oasis itself. Indeed, once we did see it, green
and shining, not more than three miles away, but when we got to the
head of the hill beyond which it should lie we found that the vision
was only a mirage, and our hearts nearly broke with disappointment.
Oh! to men dying of thirst, that mirage was indeed a cruel mockery.

At length night approached, and the mountains were yet a long way off.
We could march no more, and sank down exhausted, lying on our faces,
because our backs were so cut by the driving sand and blistered by the
sun that we could not sit. By now almost all our water was gone.
Suddenly Higgs nudged us and pointed upwards. Following the line of
his hand, we saw, not thirty yards away and showing clear against the
sky, a file of antelopes trekking along the sand-ridge, doubtless on a
night journey from one pasturage to another.

"You fellows shoot," he muttered; "I might miss and frighten them
away," for in his distress poor Higgs was growing modest.

Slowly Orme and I drew ourselves to our knees, cocking our rifles. By
this time all the buck save one had passed; there were but six of
them, and this one marched along about twenty yards behind the others.
Orme pulled the trigger, but his rifle would not go off because, as he
discovered afterwards, some sand had worked into the mechanism of the

Meanwhile I had also covered the buck, but the sunset dazzled my
weakened eyes, and my arms were feeble; also my terrible anxiety for
success, since I knew that on this shot hung our lives, unnerved me.
But it must be now or never; in three more paces the beast would be
down the dip.

I fired, and knowing that I had missed, turned sick and faint. The
antelope bounded forward a few yards right to the edge of the dip;
then, never having heard such a sound before, and being overcome by
some fatal curiosity, stopped and turned around, staring at the
direction whence it had come.

Despairingly I fired again, almost without taking aim, and this time
the bullet went in beneath the throat, and, raking the animal, dropped
it dead as a stone. We scrambled to it, and presently were engaged in
an awful meal of which we never afterwards liked to think. Happily for
us that antelope must have drunk water not long before.

Our hunger and thirst assuaged after this horrible fashion, we slept
awhile by the carcase, then arose extraordinarily refreshed, and,
having cut off some hunks of meat to carry with us, started on again.
By the position of the stars, we now knew that the oasis must lie
somewhere to the east of us; but as between us and it there appeared
to be nothing but these eternal sand-hills stretching away for many
miles, and as in front of us toward the range the character of the
desert seemed to be changing, we thought it safer, if the word safety
can be used in such a connection, to continue to head for that range.
All the remainder of this night we marched, and, as we had no fuel
wherewith to cook it, at dawn ate some of the raw meat, which we
washed down with the last drops of our water.

Now we were out of the sand-hills, and had entered on a great pebbly
plain that lay between us and the foot of the mountains. These looked
quiet close, but in fact were still far off. Feebly and ever more
feebly we staggered on, meeting no one and finding no water, though
here and there we came across little bushes, of which we chewed the
stringy and aromatic leaves that contained some moisture, but drew up
our mouths and throats like alum.

Higgs, who was the softest of us, gave out the first, though to the
last he struggled forward with surprising pluck, even after he had
been obliged to throw away his rifle, because he could no longer carry
it, though this we did not notice at the time. When he could not
support himself upon his feet, Orme took him by one arm, and I by the
other, and helped him on, much as I have seen two elephants do by a
wounded companion of the herd.

Half-an-hour or so later my strength failed me also. Although advanced
in years, I am tough and accustomed to the desert and hardships; who
would not be who had been a slave to the Khalifa? But now I could do
no more, and halting, begged the others to go on and leave me. Orme's
only answer was to proffer me his left arm. I took it, for life is
sweet to us all, especially when one has something to live for--a
desire to fulfil as I had, though to tell the truth, even at the time
I felt ashamed of myself.

Thus, then, we proceeded awhile, resembling a sober man attempting to
lead two drunken friends out of reach of that stern policeman, Death.
Orme's strength must be wonderful; or was it his great spirit and his
tender pity for our helplessness which enabled him to endure beneath
this double burden.

Suddenly he fell down as though he had been shot, and lay there
senseless. The Professor, however, retained some portion of his mind,
although it wandered. He became light-headed, and rambled on about our
madness in having undertaken such a journey, "just to pot a couple of
beastly lions," and although I did not answer them, I agreed heartily
with his remarks. Then he seemed to imagine that I was a clergyman,
and kneeling on the sand, he made a lengthy confession of his sins
which, so far as I gathered, though I did not pay much attention to
them, for I was thinking of my own, appeared chiefly to consist of the
unlawful acquisition of certain objects of antiquity, or of having
overmatched others in the purchase  of such objects.

To pacify him, for I feared lest he should go raving mad, I pronounced
some religious absolution, whereon poor Higgs rolled over and lay
still by Orme. Yes; he, the friend whom I had always loved, for his
very failings were endearing, was dead or at the point of death, like
the gallant young man at his side, and I myself was dying. Tremors
shook my limbs; horrible waves of blackness seemed to well up from my
vitals, through my breast to my brain, and thence to evaporate in
queer, jagged lines and patches, which I realized, but could not
actually see. Gay memories of my far-off childhood arose in me,
particularly those of a Christmas party where I had met a little girl
dressed like an elf, a little girl with blue eyes whom I had loved
dearly for quite a fortnight, to be beaten down, stamped out,
swallowed by that vision of the imminent shadow which awaits all
mankind, the black womb of a re-birth, if re-birth there be.

What could I do? I thought of lighting a fire; at any rate it would
serve to scare the lions and other wild beasts which else might prey
upon us before we were quite dead. It would be dreadful to lie
helpless but sentient, and feel their rending fangs. But I had no
strength to collect the material. To do so at best must have meant a
long walk, for even here it was not plentiful. I had a few cartridges
left--three, to be accurate--in my repeating rifle; the rest I had
thrown away to be rid of their weight. I determined to fire them,
since, in my state I thought they could no longer serve either to win
food or for the purposes of defence, although, as it happened, in this
I was wrong. It was possible that, even in that endless desert, some
one might hear the shots, and if not--well, good-night.

So I sat up and fired the first cartridge, wondering in a childish
fashion where the bullet would fall. Then I went to sleep for awhile.
The howling of a hyena woke me up, and, on glancing around, I saw the
beast's flaming eyes quite close to me. I aimed and shot at it, and
heard a yell of pain. That hyena, I reflected, would want no more food
at present.

The silence of the desert overwhelmed me; it was so terrible that I
almost wished the hyena back for company. Holding the rifle above my
head, I fired the third cartridge. Then I took the hand of Higgs in my
own, for, after all, it was a link--the last link with humanity and
the world--and lay down in the company of death that seemed to fall
upon me in black and smothering veils.

I woke up and became aware that some one was pouring water down my
throat. Heaven! I thought to myself, for at that time heaven and water
were synonymous in my mind. I drank a good deal of it, not all I
wanted by any means, but as much as the pourer would allow, then
raised myself upon my hands and looked. The starlight was
extraordinarily clear in that pure desert atmosphere, and by it I saw
the face of Sergeant Quick bending over me. Also, I saw Orme sitting
up, staring about him stupidly, while a great yellow dog, with a head
like a mastiff, licked his hand. I knew the dog at once; it was that
which Orme had bought from some wandering natives, and named Pharaoh
because he ruled over all other dogs. Moreover, I knew the two camels
that stood near by. So I was still on earth--unless, indeed we had all
moved on a step.

"How did you find us, Sergeant?" I asked feebly.

"Didn't find you, Doctor," answered Quick, "dog Pharaoh found you. In
a business like this a dog is more useful than man, for he can smell
what one can't see. Now, if you feel better, Doctor, please look at
Mr. Higgs, for I fear he's gone."

I looked, and, although I did not say so, was of the same opinion. His
jaw had fallen, and he lay limp and senseless; his eyes I could not
see, because of the black spectacles.

"Water," I said, and Quick poured some into his mouth, where it

Still he did not stir, so I opened his garments and felt his heart. At
first I could detect nothing; then there was the slightest possible

"There's hope," I said in answer to the questioning looks. "You don't
happen to have any brandy, do you?" I added.

"Never travelled without it yet, Doctor," replied Quick indignantly,
producing a metal flask.

"Give him some," I said, and the Sergeant obeyed with liberality and
almost instantaneous effect, for Higgs sat up gasping and coughing.

"Brandy; filthy stuff; teetotaller! Cursed trick! Never forgive you.
Water, water," he spluttered in a thick, low voice.

We gave it to him, and he drank copiously, until we would let him have
no more indeed. Then, by degrees, his senses came back to him. He
thrust up his black spectacles which he had worn all this while, and
stared at the Sergeant with his sharp eyes.

"I understand," he said. "So we are not dead, after all, which perhaps
is a pity after getting through the beastly preliminaries. What has

"Don't quite know," answered Orme; "ask Quick."

But the Sergeant was already engaged in lighting a little fire and
setting a camp-kettle to boil, into which he poured a tin of beef
extract that he had brought with other eatables from our stores on the
chance that he might find us. In fifteen minutes we were drinking
soup, for I forbade anything more solid as yet, and, oh! what a
blessed meal was that. When it was finished, Quick fetched some
blankets from the camels, which he threw over us.

"Lie down and sleep, gentlemen," he said; "Pharaoh and I will watch."

The last thing I remember was seeing the Sergeant, in his own fashion
an extremely religious man, and not ashamed of it, kneeling upon the
sand and apparently saying his prayers. As he explained afterwards, of
course, as a fatalist, he knew well that whatever must happen would
happen, but still he considered it right and proper to return thanks
to the Power which had arranged that on this occasion the happenings
should be good, and not ill, a sentiment with which every one of us
agreed. Opposite to him, with one of his faithful eyes fixed on Orme,
sat Pharaoh in grave contemplation. Doubtless, being an Eastern dog,
he understood the meaning of public prayer; or perhaps he thought that
he should receive some share of gratitude and thanks.

When we awoke the sun was already high, and to show us that we had
dreamed no dream, there was Quick frying tinned bacon over the fire,
while Pharaoh sat still and watched him--or the bacon.

"Look," said Orme to me, pointing to the mountains, "they are still
miles away. It was madness to think that we could reach them."

I nodded, then turned to stare at Higgs, who was just waking up, for,
indeed, he was a sight to see. His fiery red hair was full of sand,
his nether garments were gone, apparently at some stage in our march
he had dispensed with the remains of them because they chafed his sore
limbs, and his fair skin, not excluding that of his face, was a mass
of blisters, raised by the sun. In fact he was so disfigured that his
worst enemy would not have known him. He yawned, stretched himself,
always a good sign in man or beast, and asked for a bath.

"I am afraid you will have to wash yourself in sand here, sir, like
them filthy Arabians," said Quick, saluting. "No water to spare for
baths in this dry country. But I've got a tube of hazeline, also a
hair-brush and a looking-glass," he added, producing these articles.

"Quite so, Sergeant," said Higgs, as he took them; "it's sacrilege to
think of using water to wash. I intend never to waste it in that way
again." Then he looked at himself in the glass, and let it fall upon
the sand, ejaculating, "Oh! good Lord, is that me?"

"Please be careful, sir," said the Sergeant sternly; "you told me the
other day that it's unlucky to break a looking-glass; also I have no

"Take it away," said the Professor; "I don't want it any more, and,
Doctor, come and oil my face, there's a good fellow; yes, and the rest
of me also, if there is enough hazeline."

So we treated each other with the ointment, which at first made us
smart fearfully, and then, very gingerly sat down to breakfast.

"Now, Sergeant," said Orme, as he finished his fifth pannikin of tea,
"tell us your story."

"There isn't much of a story, Captain. Those Zeu fellows came back
without you, and, not knowing the lingo, I could make nothing of their
tale. Well, I soon made Shadrach and Co. understand that, death-wind
or no death-wind--that's what they call it--they must come with me to
look for you, and at last we started, although they said that I was
mad, as you were dead already. Indeed, it wasn't until I asked that
fellow Shadrach if he wanted to be dead too"--and the Sergeant tapped
his revolver grimly--"that he would let any one go.

"As it proved, he was right, for we couldn't find you, and after
awhile the camels refused to face the storm any longer; also one of
the Abati drivers was lost, and hasn't been heard of since. It was all
the rest of us could do to get back to the oasis alive, nor would
Shadrach go out again even after the storm had blown itself away. It
was no use arguing with the pig, so, as I did not want his blood upon
my hands, I took two camels and started with the dog Pharaoh for

"Now this was my thought, although I could not explain it to the Abati
crowd, that if you lived at all, you would almost certainly head for
the hills as I knew you had no compass, and you would not be able to
see anything else. So I rode along the plain which stretches between
the desert and the mountains, keeping on the edge of the sand-hills. I
rode all day, but when night came I halted, since I could see no more.
There I sat in that great place, thinking, and after an hour or two I
observed Pharaoh prick his ears and look toward the west. So I also
started toward the west, and presently I thought that I saw one faint
streak of light which seemed to go upward, and therefore couldn't come
from a falling star, but might have come from a rifle fired toward the

"I listened, but no sound reached me, only presently, some seconds
afterwards, the dog again pricked his ears as though /he/ heard
something. That settled me, and I mounted and rode forward through the
night toward the place where I thought I had seen the flash. For two
hours I rode, firing my revolver from time to time; then as no answer
came, gave it up as a bad job, and stopped. But Pharaoh there wouldn't
stop. He began to whine and sniff and run forward, and at last bolted
into the darkness, out of which presently I heard him barking some
hundreds of yards away, to call me, I suppose. So I followed and found
you three gentlemen, dead, as I thought at first. That's all the
story, Captain."

"One with a good end, anyway, Sergeant. We owe our lives to you."

"Beg your pardon, Captain," answered Quick modestly; "not to me at
all, but to Providence first that arranged everything, before we were
born perhaps, and next to Pharaoh. He's a wise dog, Pharaoh, though
fierce with some, and you did a good deal when you bought him for a
bottle of whisky and a sixpenny pocket-knife."

It was dawn on the following morning before we sighted the oasis,
whither we could travel but slowly, since, owing to the lack of
camels, two of us must walk. Of these two, as may be guessed, the
Sergeant was always one and his master the other, for of all the men I
ever knew I think that in such matters Orme is the most unselfish.
Nothing would induce him to mount one of the camels, even for half-an-
hour, so that when I walked, the brute went riderless. On the other
hand, once he was on, notwithstanding the agonies he suffered from his
soreness, nothing would induce Higgs to get off.

"Here I am and here I stop," he said several times, in English,
French, and sundry Oriental languages. "I've tramped it enough to last
me the rest of my life."

Both of us were dozing upon our saddles when suddenly I heard the
Sergeant calling to the camels to halt and asked what was the matter.

"Looks like Arabians, Doctor," he said, pointing to a cloud of dust
advancing toward us.

"Well, if so," I answered, "our best chance is to show no fear and go
on. I don't think they will harm us."

So, having made ready such weapons as we had, we advanced, Orme and
the Sergeant walking between the two camels, until presently we
encountered the other caravan, and, to our astonishment, saw none
other than Shadrach riding at the head of it, mounted on my dromedary,
which his own mistress, the Lady of the Abati, had given to me. We
came face to face, and halted, staring at each other.

"By the beard of Aaron! is it you, lords?" he asked. "We thought you
were dead."

"By the hair of Moses! so I gather," I answered angrily, "seeing that
you are going off with all our belongings," and I pointed to the
baggage camels laden with goods.

Then followed explanations and voluble apologies, which Higgs for one
accepted with a very bad grace. Indeed, as he can talk Arabic and its
dialects perfectly, he made use of that tongue to pour upon the heads
of Shadrach and his companions a stream of Eastern invective that must
have astonished them, ably seconded as it was by Sergeant Quick in

Orme listened for some time, then said:

"That'll do, old fellow; if you go on, you will get up a row, and,
Sergeant, be good enough to hold your tongue. We have met them, so
there is no harm done. Now, friend Shadrach, turn back with us to the
oasis. We are going to rest there for some days."

Shadrach looked sulky, and said something about our turning and going
on with /them/, whereon I produced the ancient ring, Sheba's ring,
which I had brought as a token from Mur. This I held before his eyes,

"Disobey, and there will be an account to settle when you come into
the presence of her who sent you forth, for even if we four should
die"--and I looked at him meaningly--"think not that you will be able
to hide this matter; there are too many witnesses."

Then, without more words, he saluted the sacred ring, and we all went
back to Zeu.



Another six weeks or so had gone by, and at length the character of
the country began to change. At last we were passing out of the
endless desert over which we had travelled for so many hundreds of
miles; at least a thousand, according to our observations and
reckonings, which I checked by those that I had taken upon my eastward
journey. Our march, after the great adventure at the oasis, was
singularly devoid of startling events. Indeed, it had been awful in
its monotony, and yet, oddly enough, not without a certain charm--at
any rate for Higgs and Orme, to whom the experience was new.

Day by day to travel on across an endless sea of sand so remote, so
unvisited that for whole weeks no man, not even a wandering Bedouin of
the desert, crossed our path. Day by day to see the great red sun rise
out of the eastern sands, and, its journey finished, sink into the
western sands. Night by night to watch the moon, the same moon on
which were fixed the million eyes of cities, turning those sands to a
silver sea, or, in that pure air, to observe the constellations by
which we steered our path making their majestic march through space.
And yet to know that this vast region, now so utterly lonesome and
desolate, had once been familiar to the feet of long-forgotten men who
had trod the sands we walked, and dug the wells at which we drank.

Armies had marched across these deserts, also, and perished there. For
once we came to a place where a recent fearful gale had almost denuded
the underlying rock, and there found the skeletons of thousands upon
thousands of soldiers, with those of their beasts of burden, and among
them heads of arrows, sword-blades, fragments of armour and of painted
wooden shields.

Here a whole host had died; perhaps Alexander sent it forth, or
perhaps some far earlier monarch whose name has ceased to echo on the
earth. At least they had died, for there we saw the memorial of that
buried enterprise. There lay the kings, the captains, the soldiers,
and the concubines, for I found the female bones heaped apart, some
with the long hair still upon the skulls, showing where the poor,
affrighted women had hived together in the last catastrophe of
slaughter or of famine, thirst, and driven sand. Oh, if only those
bones could speak, what a tale was theirs to tell!

There had been cities in this desert, too, where once were oases, now
overwhelmed, except perhaps for a sand-choked spring. Twice we came
upon the foundations of such places, old walls of clay or stone, stark
skeletons of ancient homes that the shifting sands had disinterred,
which once had been the theatre of human hopes and fears, where once
men had been born, loved, and died, where once maidens had been fair,
and good and evil wrestled, and little children played. Some Job may
have dwelt here and written his immortal plaint, or some king of
Sodom, and suffered the uttermost calamity. The world is very old; all
we Westerns learned from the contemplation of these wrecks of men and
of their works was just that the world is very old.

One evening against the clear sky there appeared the dim outline of
towering cliffs, shaped like a horseshoe. They were the Mountains of
Mur many miles away, but still the Mountains of Mur, sighted at last.
Next morning we began to descend through wooded land toward a wide
river that is, I believe, a tributary of the Nile, though upon this
point I have no certain information. Three days later we reached the
banks of this river, following some old road, and faring sumptuously
all the way, since here there was much game and grass in plenty for
the camels that, after their long abstinence, ate until we thought
that they would burst. Evidently we had not arrived an hour too soon,
for now the Mountains of Mur were hid by clouds, and we could see that
it was raining upon the plains which lay between us and them. The wet
season was setting in, and, had we been a single week later, it might
have been impossible for us to cross the river, which would then have
been in flood. As it was, we passed it without difficulty by the
ancient ford, the water never rising above the knees of our camels.

Upon its further bank we took counsel, for now we had entered the
territory of the Fung, and were face to face with the real dangers of
our journey. Fifty miles or so away rose the fortress of Mur, but, as
I explained to my companions, the question was how to pass those fifty
miles in safety. Shadrach was called to our conference, and at my
request set out the facts.

Yonder, he said, rose the impregnable mountain home of the Abati, but
all the vast plain included in the loop of the river which he called
Ebur, was the home of the savage Fung race, whose warriors could be
counted by the ten thousand, and whose principal city, Harmac, was
built opposite to the stone effigy of their idol, that was also called

"Harmac--that is Harmachis, god of dawn. Your Fung had something to do
with the old Egyptians, or both of them came from a common stock,"
interrupted Higgs triumphantly.

"I daresay, old fellow," answered Orme; "I think you told us that
before in London; but we will go into the archæology afterwards if we
survive to do so. Let Shadrach get on with his tale."

This city, which had quite fifty thousand inhabitants, continued
Shadrach, commanded the mouth of the pass or cleft by which we must
approach Mur, having probably been first built there for that very

Orme asked if there was no other way into the stronghold, which, he
understood, the embassy had left by being let down a precipice.
Shadrach answered that this was true, but that although the camels and
their loads had been let down that precipitous place, owing to the
formation of its overhanging rocks, it would be perfectly impossible
to haul them up it with any tackle that the Abati possessed.

He asked again if there was not a way round, if that circle of
mountains had no back door. Shadrach replied that there was such a
back door facing to the north some eight days' journey away. Only at
this season of the year it could not be reached, since beyond the
Mountains of Mur in that direction was a great lake, out of which
flowed the river Ebur in two arms that enclosed the whole plain of
Fung. By now this lake would be full, swollen with rains that fell on
the hills of Northern Africa, and the space between it and the Mur
range nothing but an impassable swamp.

Being still unsatisfied, Orme inquired whether, if we abandoned the
camels, we could not then climb the precipice down which the embassy
had descended. To this the answer, which I corroborated, was that if
our approach were known and help given to us from above, it might be
possible, provided that we threw away the loads.

"Seeing what these loads are, and the purpose for which we have
brought them so far, that is out of the question," said Orme.
"Therefore, tell us at once, Shadrach, how we are to win through the
Fung to Mur."

"In one way only, O son of Orme, should it be the will of God that we
do so at all; by keeping ourselves hidden during the daytime and
marching at night. According to their custom at this season,
to-morrow, after sunset, the Fung hold their great spring feast in the
city of Harmac, and at dawn go up to make sacrifice to their idol. But
after sunset they eat and drink and are merry, and then it is their
habit to withdraw their guards, that they may take part in the
festival. For this reason I have timed our march that we should arrive
on the night of this feast, which I know by the age of the moon, when,
in the darkness, with God's help, perchance we may slip past Harmac,
and at the first light find ourselves in the mouth of the road that
runs up to Mur. Moreover, I will give warning to my people, the Abati,
that we are coming, so that they may be at hand to help us if there is

"How?" asked Orme.

"By firing the reeds"--and he pointed to the dense masses of dead
vegetation about--"as I arranged that I would do before we left Mur
many months ago. The Fung, if they see it, will think only that it is
the work of some wandering fisherman."

Orme shrugged his shoulders, saying:

"Well, friend Shadrach, you know the place and these people, and I do
not, so we must do what you tell us. But I say at once that if, as I
understand, yonder Fung will kill us if they can, to me your plan
seems very dangerous."

"It is dangerous," he answered, adding with a sneer, "but I thought
that you men of England were not cowards."

"Cowards! you son of a dog!" broke in Higgs in his high voice. "How
dare you talk to us like that? You see this man here"--and he pointed
to Sergeant Quick, who, tall and upright, stood watching this scene
grimly, and understanding most of what passed--"well, he is the lowest
among us--a servant only" (here the Sergeant saluted), "but I tell you
that there is more courage in his little finger than in your whole
body, or in that of all the Abati people, so far as I can make out."

Here the Sergeant saluted again, murmuring beneath his breath, "I hope
so, sir. Being a Christian, I hope so, but till it comes to the
sticking-point, one can never be sure."

"You speak big words, O Higgs," answered Shadrach insolently, for, as
I think I have said, he hated the Professor, who smelt the rogue in
him, and scourged him continually with his sharp tongue, "but if the
Fung get hold of you, then we shall learn the truth."

"Shall I punch his head, sir?" queried Quick in a meditative voice.

"Be quiet, please," interrupted Orme. "We have troubles enough before
us, without making more. It will be time to settle our quarrels when
we have got through the Fung."

Then he turned to Shadrach and said:

"Friend, this is no time for angry words. You are the guide of this
party; lead us as you will, remembering only that if it comes to war,
I, by the wish of my companions, am Captain. Also, there is another
thing which you should not forget--namely, that in the end you must
make answer to your own ruler, she who, I understand from the doctor
here, is called Walda Nagasta, the Child of Kings. Now, no more words;
we march as you wish and where you wish. On your head be it!"

The Abati heard and bowed sullenly. Then, with a look of hate at
Higgs, he turned and went about his business.

"Much better to have let me punch his head," soliloquized Quick. "It
would have done him a world of good, and perhaps saved many troubles,
for, to tell the truth, I don't trust that quarter-bred Hebrew."

Then he departed to see to the camels and the guns while the rest of
us went to our tents to get such sleep as the mosquitoes would allow.
In my own case it was not much, since the fear of evil to come weighed
upon me. Although I knew the enormous difficulty of entering the
mountain stronghold of Mur by any other way, such as that by which I
had quitted it, burdened as we were with our long train of camels
laden with rifles, ammunition, and explosives, I dreaded the results
of an attempt to pass through the Fung savages.

Moreover, it occurred to me that Shadrach had insisted upon this route
from a kind of jealous obstinacy, and to be in opposition to us
Englishmen, whom he hated in his heart, or perhaps for some dark and
secret reason. Still, the fact remained that we were in his power,
since owing to the circumstances in which I had entered and left the
place, it was impossible for me to act as guide to the party. If I
attempted to do so, no doubt he and the Abati with him would desert,
leaving the camels and their loads upon our hands. Why should they
not, seeing that they would be quite safe in concluding that we should
never have an opportunity of laying our side of the case before their

Just as the sun was setting, Quick came to call me, saying that the
camels were being loaded up.

"I don't much like the look of things, Doctor," he said as he helped
me to pack my few belongings, "for the fact is I can't trust that
Shadrach man. His pals call him 'Cat,' a good name for him, I think.
Also, he is showing his claws just now, the truth being that he hates
the lot of us, and would like to get back into Purr or Mur, or
whatever the name of the place is, having lost us on the road. You
should have seen the way he looked at the Professor just now. Oh! I
wish the Captain had let me punch his head. I'm sure it would have
cleared the air a lot."

As it chanced, Shadrach was destined to get his head "punched" after
all, but by another hand. It happened thus. The reeds were fired, as
Shadrach had declared it was necessary to do, in order that the Abati
watchmen on the distant mountains might see and report the signal,
although in the light of subsequent events I am by no means certain
that this warning was not meant for other eyes as well. Then, as
arranged, we started out, leaving them burning in a great sheet of
flame behind us, and all that night marched by the shine of the stars
along some broken-down and undoubtedly ancient road.

At the first sign of dawn we left this road and camped amid the
overgrown ruins of a deserted town that had been built almost beneath
the precipitous cliffs of Mur, fortunately without having met any one
or being challenged. I took the first watch, while the others turned
in to sleep after we had all breakfasted off cold meats, for here we
dared not light a fire. As the sun grew high, dispelling the mists, I
saw that we were entering upon a thickly-populated country which was
no stranger to civilization of a sort. Below us, not more than fifteen
or sixteen miles away, and clearly visible through my field-glasses,
lay the great town of Harmac, which, during my previous visit to this
land, I had never seen, as I passed it in the night.

It was a city of the West Central African type, with open market-
places and wide streets, containing thousands of white, flat-roofed
houses, the most important of which were surrounded by gardens. Round
it ran a high and thick wall, built, apparently, of sun-burnt brick,
and in front of the gateways, of which I could see two, stood square
towers whence these might be protected. All about this city the flat
and fertile land was under cultivation, for the season being that of
early spring, already the maize and other crops showed green upon the

Beyond this belt of plough-lands, with the aid of the field-glasses, I
could make out great herds of grazing cattle and horses, mixed with
wild game, a fact that assured me of the truth of what I had heard
during my brief visit to Mur, that the Fung had few or no firearms,
since otherwise the buck and quagga would have kept at a distance. Far
off, too, and even on the horizon, I saw what appeared to be other
towns and villages. Evidently this was a very numerous people, and one
which could not justly be described as savage. No wonder that the
little Abati tribe feared them so intensely, notwithstanding the
mighty precipices by which they were protected from their hate.

About eleven o'clock Orme came on watch, and I turned in, having
nothing to report. Soon I was fast asleep, notwithstanding the
anxieties that, had I been less weary, might well have kept me
wakeful. For these were many. On the coming night we must slip through
the Fung, and before midday on the morrow we should either have
entered Mur, or failed to have entered Mur, which meant--death, or,
what was worse, captivity among barbarians, and subsequent execution,
preceded probably by torture of one sort or another.

Of course, however, we might come thither without accident, travelling
with good guides on a dark night, for, after all, the place was big,
and the road lonely and little used, so that unless we met a watch,
which, we were told, would not be there, our little caravan had a good
chance to pass unobserved. Shadrach seemed to think that we should do
so, but the worst of it was that, like Quick, I did not trust
Shadrach. Even Maqueda, the Lady of the Abati, she whom they called
Child of Kings, had her doubts about him, or so it had seemed to me.

At any rate, she had told me before I left Mur that she chose him for
this mission because he was bold and cunning, one of the very few of
her people also who, in his youth, had crossed the desert and,
therefore, knew the road. "Yet, Physician," she added meaningly,
"watch him, for is he not named 'Cat'? Yes, watch him, for did I not
hold his wife and children hostages, and were I not sure that he
desires to win the great reward in land which I have promised to him,
I would not trust you to this man's keeping."

Well, after many experiences in his company, my opinion coincided with
Maqueda's, and so did that of Quick, no mean judge of men.

"Look at him, Doctor," he said when he came to tell me that I could
turn in, for whether it were his watch or not, the Sergeant never
seemed to be off duty. "Look, at him," and he pointed to Shadrach, who
was seated under the shade of a tree, talking earnestly in whispers
with two of his subordinates with a very curious and unpleasing smile
upon his face. "If God Almighty ever made a scamp, he's squatting
yonder. My belief is that he wanted to be rid of us all at Zeu, so
that he might steal our goods, and I hope he won't play the same trick
again to-night. Even the dog can't abide him."

Before I could answer, I had proof of this last statement, for the
great yellow hound, Pharaoh, that had found us in the desert, hearing
our voices, emerged from some corner where it was hidden, and advanced
toward us, wagging its tail. As it passed Shadrach, it stopped and
growled, the hair rising on its back, whereon he hurled a stone at it
and hit its leg. Next instant Pharaoh, a beast of enormous power, was
on the top of him, and really, I thought, about to tear out his

Well, we got him off before any harm was done, but Shadrach's face,
lined with its livid scars, was a thing to remember. Between rage and
fear, it looked like that of a devil.

To return. After this business I went to sleep, wondering if it were
my last rest upon the earth, and whether, having endured so much for
his sake, it would or would not be my fortune to see the face of my
son again, if, indeed, he still lived, yonder not a score of miles
away--or anywhere.

Toward evening I was awakened by a fearful hubbub, in which I
distinguished the shrill voice of Higgs ejaculating language which I
will not repeat, the baying of Pharaoh, and the smothered groans and
curses of an Abati. Running from the little tent, I saw a curious
sight, that of the Professor with Shadrach's head under his left arm,
in chancery, as we used to call it at school, while with his right he
punched the said Shadrach's nose and countenance generally with all
his strength, which, I may add, is considerable. Close by, holding
Pharaoh by the collar, which we had manufactured for him out of the
skin of a camel that had died, stood Sergeant Quick, a look of grim
amusement on his wooden face, while around, gesticulating after their
Eastern fashion, and uttering guttural sounds of wrath, were several
of the Abati drivers. Orme was absent, being, in fact, asleep at the

"What are you doing, Higgs?" I shouted.

"Can't--you--see," he spluttered, accompanying each word with a blow
on the unfortunate Shadrach's prominent nose. "I am punching this
fellow's beastly head. Ah! you'd bite, would you? Then take that, and
that and--that. Lord, how hard his teeth are. Well, I think he has had
enough," and suddenly he released the Abati, who, a gory and most
unpleasant spectacle, fell to the ground and lay there panting. His
companions, seeing their chief's melancholy plight, advanced upon the
Professor in a threatening fashion; indeed, one of them drew a knife.

"Put up that thing, sonny," said the Sergeant, "or by heaven, I'll
loose the dog upon you. Got your revolver handy, Doctor?"

Evidently, if the man did not understand Quick's words, their purport
was clear to him, for he sheathed his knife and fell back with the
others. Shadrach, too, rose from the ground and went with them. At a
distance of a few yards, however, he turned, and, glaring at Higgs out
of his swollen eyes, said:

"Be sure, accursed Gentile, that I will remember and repay."

At this moment, too, Orme arrived upon the scene, yawning.

"What the deuce is the matter?" he asked.

"I'd give five bob for a pint of iced stone ginger," replied Higgs
inconsequently. Then he drank off a pannikin of warmish, muddy-
coloured water which Quick gave to him, and handed it back, saying:

"Thanks, Sergeant; that's better than nothing, and cold drink is
always dangerous if you are hot. What's the matter? Oh! not much.
Shadrach tried to poison Pharaoh; that's all. I was watching him out
of the corner of my eye, and saw him go to the strychnine tin, roll a
bit of meat in it which he had first wetted, and throw it to the poor
beast. I got hold of it in time, and chucked it over that wall, where
you will find it if you care to look. I asked Shadrach why he had done
such a thing. He answered, 'To keep the dog quiet while we are passing
through the Fung,' adding that anyhow it was a savage beast and best
out of the way, as it had tried to bite him that morning. Then I lost
my temper and went for the blackguard, and although I gave up boxing
twenty years ago, very soon had the best of it, for, as you may have
observed, no Oriental can fight with his fists. That's all. Give me
another cup of water, Sergeant."

"I hope it may be," answered Orme, shrugging his shoulders. "To tell
the truth, old fellow, it would have been wiser to defer blacking
Shadrach's eyes till we were safe in Mur. But it's no use talking now,
and I daresay I should have done the same myself if I had seen him try
to poison Pharaoh," and he patted the head of the great dog, of which
we were all exceedingly fond, although in reality it only cared for
Orme, merely tolerating the rest of us.

"Doctor," he added, "perhaps you would try to patch up our guide's
nose and soothe his feelings. You know him better than we do. Give him
a rifle. No, don't do that, or he might shoot some one in the back--by
accident done on purpose. Promise him a rifle when we get into Mur; I
know he wants one badly, because I caught him trying to steal a
carbine from the case. Promise him anything so long as you can square
it up."

So I went, taking a bottle of arnica and some court plaster with me,
to find Shadrach surrounded by sympathizers and weeping with rage over
the insult, which, he said, had been offered to his ancient and
distinguished race in his own unworthy person. I did my best for him
physically and mentally, pointing out, as I dabbed the arnica on his
sadly disfigured countenance, that he had brought the trouble on
himself, seeing that he had really no business to poison Pharaoh
because he had tried to bite him. He answered that his reason for
wishing to kill the dog was quite different, and repeated at great
length what he had told the Professor--namely, that it might betray us
while we were passing through the Fung. Also he went on so venomously
about revenge that I thought it time to put a stop to the thing.

"See here, Shadrach," I said, "unless you unsay those words and make
peace at once, you shall be bound and tried. Perhaps we shall have a
better chance of passing safely through the Fung if we leave you dead
behind us than if you accompany us as a living enemy."

On hearing this, he changed his note altogether, saying that he saw he
had been wrong. Moreover, so soon as his injuries were dressed, he
sought out Higgs, whose hand he kissed with many apologies, vowing
that he had forgotten everything and that his heart toward him was
like that of a twin brother.

"Very good, friend," answered Higgs, who never bore malice, "only
don't try to poison Pharaoh again, and, for my part, I'll promise not
to remember this matter when we get to Mur."

"Quite a converted character, ain't he, Doctor?" sarcastically
remarked Quick, who had been watching this edifying scene. "Nasty
Eastern temper all gone; no Hebrew talk of eye for eye or tooth for
tooth, but kisses the fist that smote him in the best Christian
spirit. All the same, I wouldn't trust the swine further than I could
kick him, especially in the dark, which," he added meaningly, "is what
it will be to-night."

I made no answer to the Sergeant, for although I agreed with him,
there was nothing to be done, and talking about a bad business would
only make it worse.

By now the afternoon drew towards night--a very stormy night, to judge
from the gathering clouds and rising wind. We were to start a little
after sundown, that is, within an hour, and, having made ready my own
baggage and assisted Higgs with his, we went to look for Orme and
Quick, whom we found very busy in one of the rooms of an unroofed
house. To all appearance they were engaged, Quick in sorting pound
tins of tobacco or baking-powder, and Orme in testing an electric
battery and carefully examining coils of insulated wire.

"What's your game?" asked the Professor.

"Better than yours, old boy, when Satan taught your idle hands to
punch Shadrach's head. But perhaps you had better put that pipe out.
These azo-imide compounds are said to burn rather more safely than
coal. Still, one never knows; the climate or the journey may have
changed their constitution."

Higgs retreated hurriedly, to a distance of fifty yards indeed, whence
he returned, having knocked out his pipe and even left his matches on
a stone.

"Don't waste time in asking questions," said Orme as the Professor
approached with caution. "I'll explain. We are going on a queer
journey to-night--four white men with about a dozen half-bred mongrel
scamps of doubtful loyalty, so you see Quick and I thought it as well
to have some of this stuff handy. Probably it will never be wanted,
and if wanted we shall have no time to use it; still, who knows?
There, that will do. Ten canisters; enough to blow up half the Fung if
they will kindly sit on them. You take five, Quick, a battery and
three hundred yards of wire, and I'll take five, a battery, and three
hundred yards of wire. Your detonators are all fixed, aren't they?
Well, so are mine," and without more words he proceeded to stow away
his share of the apparatus in the poacher pockets of his coat and
elsewhere, while Quick did likewise with what remained. Then the case
that they had opened was fastened up again and removed to be laden on
a camel.



As finally arranged this was the order of our march: First went an
Abati guide who was said to be conversant with every inch of the way.
Then came Orme and Sergeant Quick, conducting the camels that were
loaded with the explosives. I followed in order to keep an eye upon
these precious beasts and those in charge of them. Next marched some
more camels, carrying our baggage, provisions, and sundries, and
finally in the rear were the Professor and Shadrach with two Abati.

Shadrach, I should explain, had selected this situation for the
reason, as he said, that if he went first, after what had passed, any
mistake or untoward occurrence might be set down to his malice,
whereas, if he were behind, he could not be thus slandered. On hearing
this, Higgs, who is a generous soul, insisted upon showing his
confidence in the virtue of Shadrach by accompanying him as a
rearguard. So violently did he insist, and so flattered did Shadrach
seem to be by this mark of faith, that Orme, who, I should say, if I
have not already done so, was in sole command of the party now that
hostilities were in the air, consented to the plan, if with evident

As I know, his own view was that it would be best for us four
Englishmen to remain together, although, if we did so, whatever
position we chose, it would be impossible for us in that darkness to
keep touch with the line of camels and their loads, which were almost
as important to us as our lives. At least, having made up our minds to
deliver them in Mur, we thought that they were important, perhaps
because it is the fashion of the Anglo-Saxon race to put even a self-
created idea of duty before personal safety or convenience.

Rightly or wrongly, so things were settled, for in such troublous
conditions one can only do what seems best at the moment. Criticism
subsequent to the event is always easy, as many an unlucky commander
has found out when the issue went awry, but in emergency one must
decide on something.

The sun set, the darkness fell, and it began to rain and blow. We
started quite unobserved, so far as we could tell, and, travelling
downward from the overgrown, ruined town, gained the old road, and in
complete silence, for the feet of camels make no noise, passed along
it toward the lights of Harmac, which now and again, when the storm-
clouds lifted, we saw glimmering in front of us and somewhat to our

In all my long wanderings I cannot remember a more exciting or a more
disagreeable journey. The blackness, relieved only from time to time
by distant lightnings, was that of the plagues of Egypt; the driving
rain worked through the openings of our camel-hair cloaks and the
waterproofs we wore underneath them, and wet us through. The cold,
damp wind chilled us to the bone, enervated as we were with the heat
of the desert. But these discomforts, and they were serious enough, we
forgot in the tremendous issue of the enterprise. Should we win
through to Mur? Or, as a crown to our many labours and sufferings,
should we perish presently on the road? That was the question; as I
can assure the reader, one that we found very urgent and interesting.

Three hours had gone by. Now we were opposite to the lights of Harmac,
also to other lights that shone up a valley in the mountain to our
right. As yet everything was well; for this we knew by the words
whispered up and down the line.

Then of a sudden, in front of us a light flashed, although as yet it
was a long way off. Next came another whispered message of "Halt!" So
we halted, and presently one of the front guides crept back, informing
us that a body of Fung cavalry had appeared upon the road ahead. We
took counsel. Shadrach arrived from the rear, and said that if we
waited awhile they might go away, as he thought that their presence
must be accidental and connected with the great festival. He implored
us to be quite silent. Accordingly, not knowing what to do, we waited.

Now I think I have forgotten to say that the dog Pharaoh, to prevent
accidents, occupied a big basket; this basket, in which he often rode
when tired, being fixed upon one side of Orme's camel. Here he lay
peaceably enough until, in an unlucky moment, Shadrach left me to go
forward to talk to the Captain, whereon, smelling his enemy, Pharaoh
burst out into furious baying. After that everything was confusion.
Shadrach darted back toward the rear. The light ahead began to move
quickly, advancing toward us. The front camels left the road, as I
presume, following their leader according to the custom of these
beasts when marching in line.

Presently, I know not how, Orme, Quick, and myself found ourselves
together in the darkness; at the time we thought Higgs was with us
also, but in this we were mistaken. We heard shoutings and strange
voices speaking a language that we could not understand. By the sudden
glare of a flash of lightning, for the thunderstorm was now travelling
over us, we saw several things. One of these was the Professor's
riding-dromedary, which could not be mistaken because of its pure
white colour and queer method of holding its head to one side, passing
within ten yards, between us and the road, having a man upon its back
who evidently was not the Professor. Then it was that we discovered
his absence and feared the worst.

"A Fung has got his camel," I said.

"No," answered Quick; "Shadrach has got it. I saw his ugly mug against
the light."

Another vision was that of what appeared to be our baggage camels
moving swiftly away from us, but off the road which was occupied by a
body of horsemen in white robes. Orme issued a brief order to the
effect that we were to follow the camels with which the Professor
might be. We started to obey, but before we had covered twenty yards
of the cornfield or whatever it was in which we were standing, heard
voices ahead that were not those of Abati. Evidently the flash which
showed the Fung to us had done them a like service, and they were now
advancing to kill or capture us.

There was only one thing to do--turn and fly--and this we did, heading
whither we knew not, but managing to keep touch of each other.

About a quarter of an hour later, just as we were entering a grove of
palms or other trees which hid everything in front of us, the
lightning blazed again, though much more faintly, for by this time the
storm had passed over the Mountains of Mur, leaving heavy rain behind
it. By the flash I, who was riding last and, as it chanced, looking
back over my shoulder, saw that the Fung horsemen were not fifty yards
behind, and hunting for us everywhere, their line being extended over
a long front. I was, however, sure that they had not yet caught sight
of us in the dense shadow of the trees.

"Get on," I said to the others; "they will be here presently," and
heard Quick add:

"Give your camel his head, Captain; he can see in the dark, and
perhaps will take us back to the road."

Orme acted on this suggestion, which, as the blackness round us was
pitchy, seemed a good one. At any rate it answered, for off we went at
a fair pace, the three camels marching in line, first over soft ground
and afterwards on a road. Presently I thought that the rain had
stopped, since for a few seconds none fell on us, but concluded from
the echo of the camels' feet and its recommencement that we had passed
under some archway. On we went, and at length even through the gloom
and rain I saw objects that looked like houses, though if so there
were no lights in them, perhaps because the night drew toward morning.
A dreadful idea struck me: we might be in Harmac! I passed it up for
what it was worth.

"Very likely," whispered Orme back. "Perhaps these camels were bred
here, and are looking for their stables. Well, there is only one thing
to do--go on."

So we went on for a long while, only interfered with by the occasional
attentions of some barking dog. Luckily of these Pharaoh, in his
basket, took no heed, probably because it was his habit if another dog
barked at him to pretend complete indifference until it came so near
that he could spring and fight, or kill it. At length we appeared to
pass under another archway, after which, a hundred and fifty yards or
so further on, the camels came to a sudden stop. Quick dismounted, and
presently I heard him say:

"Doors. Can feel the brasswork on them. Tower above, I think, and wall
on either side. Seem to be in a trap. Best stop here till light comes.
Nothing else to be done."

Accordingly, we stopped, and, having tied the camels to each other to
prevent their straying, took shelter from the rain under the tower or
whatever it might be. To pass away the time and keep life in us, for
we were almost frozen with the wet and cold, we ate some tinned food
and biscuits that we carried in our saddle-bags, and drank a dram of
brandy from Quick's flask. This warmed us a little, though I do not
think that a bottleful would have raised our spirits. Higgs, whom we
all loved, was gone, dead, probably, by that time; the Abati had lost
or deserted us, and we three white men appeared to have wandered into
a savage stronghold, where, as soon as we were seen, we should be
trapped like birds in a net, and butchered at our captor's will.
Certainly the position was not cheerful.

Overwhelmed with physical and mental misery, I began to doze; Orme
grew silent, and the Sergeant, having remarked that there was no need
to bother, since what must be must be, consoled himself in a corner by
humming over and over again the verse of the hymn which begins:

 "There is a blessed home beyond this land of woe,
  Where trials never come nor tears of sorrow flow."

Fortunately for us, shortly before dawn the "tears of sorrow" as
represented by the rain ceased to flow. The sky cleared, showing the
stars; suddenly the vault of heaven was suffused with a wonderful and
pearly light, although on the earth the mist remained so thick that we
could see nothing. Then above this sea of mist rose the great ball of
the sun, but still we could see nothing that was more than a few yards
away from us.

 "There is a blessed home beyond this land of woe"

droned Quick beneath his breath for about the fiftieth time, since,
apparently, he knew no other hymn which he considered suitable to our
circumstances, then ejaculated suddenly:

"Hullo! here's a stair. With your leave I'll go up it, Captain," and
he did.

A minute later we heard his voice calling us softly:

"Come here, gentlemen," he said, "and see something worth looking at."

So we scrambled up the steps, and, as I rather expected, found
ourselves upon the top of one of two towers set above an archway,
which towers were part of a great protective work outside the southern
gates of a city that could be none other than Harmac. Soaring above
the mist rose the mighty cliffs of Mur that, almost exactly opposite
to us, were pierced by a deep valley.

Into this valley the sunlight poured, revealing a wondrous and awe-
inspiring object of which the base was surrounded by billowy vapours,
a huge, couchant animal fashioned of black stone, with a head carved
to the likeness of that of a lion, and crowned with the /uraeus/, the
asp-crested symbol of majesty in old Egypt. How big the creature might
be it was impossible to say at that distance, for we were quite a mile
away from it; but it was evident that no other monolithic monument
that we had ever seen or heard of could approach its colossal

Compared to this tremendous effigy indeed, the boasted Sphinx of Gizeh
seemed but a toy. It was no less than a small mountain of rock shaped
by the genius and patient labour of some departed race of men to the
form of a lion-headed monster. Its majesty and awfulness set thus
above the rolling mists in the red light of the morning, reflected on
it from the towering precipices beyond, were literally indescribable;
even in our miserable state, they oppressed and overcame us, so that
for awhile we were silent. Then we spoke, each after his own manner:

"The idol of the Fung!" said I. "No wonder that savages should take it
for a god."

"The greatest monolith in all the world," muttered Orme, "and Higgs is
dead. Oh! if only he had lived to see it, he would have gone happy. I
wish it had been I who was taken; I wish it had been I!" and he wrung
his hands, for it is the nature of Oliver Orme always to think of
others before himself.

"That's what we have come to blow up," soliloquized Quick. "Well,
those 'azure stinging-bees,' or whatever they call the stuff (he meant
azo-imides) are pretty active, but it will take a lot of stirring if
ever we get there. Seems a pity, too, for the old pussy is handsome in
his way."

"Come down," said Orme. "We must find out where we are; perhaps we can
escape in the mist."

"One moment," I answered. "Do you see that?" and I pointed to a
needle-like rock that pierced the fog about a mile to the south of the
idol valley, and say two miles from where we were. "That's the White
Rock; it isn't white really, but the vultures roost on it and make it
look so. I have never seen it before, for I passed it in the night,
but I know that it marks the beginning of the cleft which runs up to
Mur; you remember, Shadrach told us so. Well, if we can get to that
White Rock we have a chance of life."

Orme studied it hurriedly and repeated, "Come down; we may be seen up

We descended and began our investigations in feverish haste. This was
the sum of them: In the arch under the tower were set two great doors
covered with plates of copper or bronze beaten into curious shapes to
represent animals and men, and apparently very ancient. These huge
doors had grilles in them through which their defenders could peep out
or shoot arrows. What seemed more important to us, however, was that
they lacked locks, being secured only by thick bronze bolts and bars
such as we could undo.

"Let's clear out before the mist lifts," said Orme. "With luck we may
get to the pass."

We assented, and I ran to the camels that lay resting just outside the
arch. Before I reached them, however, Quick called me back.

"Look through there, Doctor," he said, pointing to one of the peep-

I did so, and in the dense mist saw a body of horsemen advancing
toward the door.

They must have seen us on the top of the wall. "Fools that we were to
go there!" exclaimed Orme.

Next instant he started back, not a second too soon, for through the
hole where his face had been, flashed a spear which struck the ground
beyond the archway. Also we heard other spears rattle upon the bronze
plates of the doors.

"No luck!" said Orme; "that's all up, they mean to break in. Now I
think we had better play a bold game. Got your rifles, Sergeant and
Doctor? Yes? Then choose your loopholes, aim, and empty the magazines
into them. Don't waste a shot. For heaven's sake don't waste a shot.
Now--one--two--three, fire!"

Fire we did into the dense mass of men who had dismounted and were
running up to the doors to burst them open. At that distance we could
scarcely miss and the magazines of the repeating rifles held five
shots apiece. As the smoke cleared away I counted quite half-a-dozen
Fung down, while some others were staggering off, wounded. Also
several of the men and horses beyond were struck by the bullets which
had passed through the bodies of the fallen.

The effect of this murderous discharge was instantaneous and
remarkable. Brave though the Fung might be, they were quite
unaccustomed to magazine rifles. Living as they did perfectly isolated
and surrounded by a great river, even if they had heard of such things
and occasionally seen an old gaspipe musket that reached them in the
course of trade, of modern guns and their terrible power they knew
nothing. Small blame to them, therefore, if their courage evaporated
in face of a form of sudden death which to them must have been almost
magical. At any rate they fled incontinently, leaving their dead and
wounded on the ground.

Now again we thought of flight, which perhaps would have proved our
wisest course, but hesitated because we could not believe that the
Fung had left the road clear, or done more than retreat a little to
wait for us. While we lost time thus the mist thinned a great deal, so
much indeed that we could see our exact position. In front of us,
towards the city side, lay a wide open space, whereof the walls ended
against those of Harmac itself, to which they formed a kind of
vestibule or antechamber set there to protect this gateway of the town
through which we had ridden in the darkness, not knowing whither we

"Those inner doors are open," said Orme, nodding his head toward the
great portals upon the farther side of the square. "Let's go see if we
can shut them. Otherwise we shan't hold this place long."

So we ran across to the further doors that were similar to those
through which we had just fired, only larger, and as we met nobody to
interfere with our efforts, found that the united strength of the
three of us was just, only just, sufficient to turn first one and then
the other of them upon its hinges and work the various bolts and bars
into their respective places. Two men could never have done the job,
but being three and fairly desperate we managed it. Then we retreated
to our archway and, as nothing happened, took the opportunity to eat
and drink a few mouthfuls, Quick remarking sagely that we might as
well die upon full as upon empty stomachs.

When we had crossed the square the fog was thinning rapidly, but as
the sun rose, sucking the vapours from the rain-soaked earth, it
thickened again for awhile.

"Sergeant," said Orme presently, "these black men are bound to attack
us soon. Now is the time to lay a mine while they can't see what we
are after."

"I was just thinking the same thing, Captain; the sooner the better,"
replied Quick. "Perhaps the Doctor will keep a watch here over the
camels, and if he sees any one stick up his head above the wall, he
might bid him good-morning. We know he is a nice shot, is the Doctor,"
and he tapped my rifle.

I nodded and the two of them set out laden with wires and the packages
that looked like tobacco tins, heading for a stone erection in the
centre of the square which resembled an altar, but was, I believe, a
rostrum whence the native auctioneers sold slaves and other
merchandise. What they did there exactly, I am sure I do not know;
indeed, I was too much occupied in keeping a watch upon the walls
whereof I could clearly see the crest above the mist, to pay much
attention to their proceedings.

Presently my vigilance was rewarded, for over the great gateway
opposite, at a distance of about a hundred and fifty paces from me,
appeared some kind of a chieftain clad in white robes and wearing a
very fine turban or coloured head-dress, who paraded up and down,
waving a spear defiantly and uttering loud shouts.

This man I covered very carefully, lying down to do so. As Quick had
said, I am a good rifle shot, having practised that art for many
years; still, one may always miss, which, although I bore no personal
grudge against the poor fellow in the fine head-dress, on this
occasion I did not wish to do. The sudden and mysterious death of that
savage would, I felt sure, produce a great effect among his people.

At length he stopped exactly over the door and began to execute a kind
of war-dance, turning his head from time to time to yell out something
to others on the farther side of the wall. This was my opportunity. I
covered him with as much care as though I were shooting at a target,
with one bull's eye to win. Aiming a little low in case the rifle
should throw high, very gently I pressed the trigger. The cartridge
exploded, the bullet went on its way, and the man on the wall stopped
dancing and shouting and stood quite still. Clearly he had heard the
shot or felt the wind of the ball, but was untouched.

I worked the lever jerking out the empty case, preparatory to firing
again, but on looking up saw that there was no need, for the Fung
captain was spinning round on his heels like a top. Three or four
times he whirled thus with incredible rapidity, then suddenly threw
his arms wide, and dived headlong from the wall like a bather from a
plank, but backward, and was soon no more. Only from the farther side
of those gates arose a wail of wrath and consternation.

After this no other Fung appeared upon the wall, so I turned my
attention to the spy-hole in the doors behind me, and seeing some
horsemen moving about at a distance of four or five hundred yards on a
rocky ridge where the mist did not lie, I opened fire on them and at
the second shot was fortunate enough to knock a man out of the saddle.
One of those with him, who must have been a brave fellow, instantly
jumped down, threw him, dead or living, over the horse, leaped up
behind him, and galloped away accompanied by the others, pursued by
some probably ineffective bullets that I sent after them.

Now the road to the Pass of Mur seemed to be clear, and I regretted
that Orme and Quick were not with me to attempt escape. Indeed, I
meditated fetching or calling them, when suddenly I saw them
returning, burying a wire or wires in the sand as they came, and at
the same time heard a noise of thunderous blows of which I could not
mistake the meaning. Evidently the Fung were breaking down the farther
bronze doors with some kind of battering-ram. I ran out to meet them
and told my news.

"Well done," said Orme in a quiet voice. "Now, Sergeant, just join up
those wires to the battery, and be careful to screw them in tight. You
have tested it, haven't you? Doctor, be good enough to unbar the
gates. No, you can't do that alone; I'll help you presently. Look to
the camels and tighten the girths. These Fung will have the doors down
in a minute, and then there will be no time to lose."

"What are you going to do?" I asked as I obeyed.

"Show them some fireworks, I hope. Bring the camels into the archway
so that they can't foul the wire with their feet. So--stand still, you
grumbling brutes! Now for these bolts. Heavens! how stiff they are. I
wonder why the Fung don't grease them. One door will do--never mind
the other."

Labouring furiously we got it undone and ajar. So far as we could see
there was no one in sight beyond. Scared by our bullets or for other
reasons of their own, the guard there appeared to have moved away.

"Shall we take the risk and ride for it?" I suggested.

"No," answered Orme. "If we do, even supposing there are no Fung
waiting beyond the rise, those inside the town will soon catch us on
their swift horses. We must scare them before we bolt, and then those
that are left of them may let us alone. Now listen to me. When I give
the word, you two take the camels outside and make them kneel about
fifty yards away, not nearer, for I don't know the effective range of
these new explosives; it may be greater than I think. I shall wait
until the Fung are well over the mine and then fire it, after which I
hope to join you. If I don't, ride as hard as you can go to that White
Rock, and if you reach Mur give my compliments to the Child of Kings,
or whatever she is called, and say that although I have been prevented
from waiting upon her, Sergeant Quick understands as much about
picrates as I do. Also get Shadrach tried and hanged if he is guilty
of Higgs's death. Poor old Higgs! how he would have enjoyed this."

"Beg your pardon, Captain," said Quick, "but I'll stay with you. The
doctor can see to the baggage animals."

"Will you be good enough to obey orders and fall to the rear when you
are told, Sergeant? Now, no words. It is necessary for the purposes of
this expedition that one of us two should try to keep a whole skin."

"Then, sir," pleaded Quick, "mayn't I take charge of the battery?"

"No," he answered sternly. "Ah! the doors are down at last," and he
pointed to a horde of Fung, mounted and on foot, who poured through
the gateway where they had stood, shouting after their fashion, and
went on: "Now then, pick out the captains and pepper away. I want to
keep them back a bit, so that they come on in a crowd, not scattered."

We took up our repeating rifles and did as Orme told us, and so dense
was the mass of humanity opposite that if we missed one man, we hit
another, killing or wounding a number of them. The result of the loss
of several of their leaders, to say nothing of meaner folk, was just
what Orme had foreseen. The Fung soldiers, instead of rushing on
independently, spread to right and left, until the whole farther side
of the square filled up with thousands of them, a veritable sea of
men, at which we pelted bullets as boys hurl stones at a wave.

At length the pressure of those behind thrust onward those in front,
and the whole fierce, tumultuous mob began to flow forward across the
square, a multitude bent on the destruction of three white men, armed
with these new and terrible weapons. It was a very strange and
thrilling sight; never have I seen its like.

"Now," said Orme, "stop firing and do as I bid you. Kneel the camels
fifty yards outside the wall, not less, and wait till you know the
end. If we shouldn't meet again, well, good-bye and good luck."

So we went, Quick literally weeping with shame and rage.

"Good Lord!" he exclaimed, "good Lord! to think that, after four
campaigns, Samuel Quick, Sergeant of Engineers, with five medals,
should live to be sent off with the baggage like a pot-bellied
bandmaster, leaving his captain to fight about three thousand niggers
single-handed. Doctor, if he don't come out, you do the best you can
for yourself, for I'm going back to stop with him, that's all. There,
that's fifty paces; down you go, you ugly beasts," and he bumped his
camel viciously on the head with the butt of his rifle.

From where we had halted we could only see through the archway into
the space beyond. By now the square looked like a great Sunday meeting
in Hyde Park, being filled up with men of whom the first rows were
already past the altar-like rostrum in its centre.

"Why don't he loose off them stinging-bees?" muttered Quick. "Oh! I
see his little game. Look," and he pointed to the figure of Orme, who
had crept behind the unopened half of the door on our side of it and
was looking intently round its edge, holding the battery in his right
hand. "He wants to let them get nearer so as to make a bigger bag.

I heard no more of Quick's remarks, for suddenly something like an
earthquake took place, and the whole sky seemed to turn to one great
flame. I saw a length of the wall of the square rush outward and
upward. I saw the shut half of the bronze-plated door skipping and
hopping playfully toward us, and in front of it the figure of a man.
Then it began to rain all sorts of things.

For instance, stones, none of which hit us, luckily, and other more
unpleasant objects. It is a strange experience to be knocked backward
by a dead fist separated from its parent body, yet on this occasion
this actually happened to me, and, what is more, the fist had a spear
in it. The camels tried to rise and bolt, but they are phlegmatic
brutes, and, as ours were tired as well, we succeeded in quieting

Whilst we were thus occupied somewhat automatically, for the shock had
dazed us, the figure that had been propelled before the dancing door
arrived, reeling in a drunken fashion, and through the dust and
falling /débris/ we knew it for that of Oliver Orme. His face was
blackened, his clothes were torn half off him, and blood from a scalp
wound ran down his brown hair. But in his right hand he still held the
little electric battery, and I knew at once that he had no limbs

"Very successful mine," he said thickly. "Boer melinite shells aren't
in it with this new compound. Come on before the enemy recover from
the shock," and he flung himself upon his camel.

In another minute we had started at a trot toward the White Rock,
whilst from the city of Harmac behind us rose a wail of fear and
misery. We gained the top of the rise on which I had shot the
horseman, and, as I expected, found that the Fung had posted a strong
guard in the dip beyond, out of reach of our bullets, in order to cut
us off, should we attempt to escape. Now, terrified by what had
happened, to them a supernatural catastrophe, they were escaping
themselves, for we perceived them galloping off to the left and right
as fast as their horses would carry them.

So for awhile we went on unmolested, though not very quickly, because
of Orme's condition. When we had covered about half the distance
between us and the White Rock, I looked round and became aware that we
were being pursued by a body of cavalry about a hundred strong, which
I supposed had emerged from some other gate of the city.

"Flog the animals," I shouted to Quick, "or they will catch us after

He did so, and we advanced at a shambling gallop, the horsemen gaining
on us every moment. Now I thought that all was over, especially when
of a sudden from behind the White Rock emerged a second squad of

"Cut off!" I exclaimed.

"Suppose so, sir," answered Quick, "but these seem a different crowd."

I scanned them and saw that he was right. They were a very different
crowd, for in front of them floated the Abati banner, which I could
not mistake, having studied it when I was a guest of the tribe: a
curious, triangular, green flag covered with golden Hebrew characters,
surrounding the figure of Solomon seated on a throne. Moreover,
immediately behind the banner in the midst of a bodyguard rode a
delicately shaped woman clothed in pure white. It was the Child of
Kings herself!

Two more minutes and we were among them. I halted my camel and looked
round to see that the Fung cavalry were retreating. After the events
of that morning clearly they had no stomach left for a fight with a
superior force.

The lady in white rode up to us.

"Greetings, friend," she exclaimed to me, for she knew me again at
once. "Now, who is captain among you?"

I pointed to the shattered Orme, who sat swaying on his camel with
eyes half closed.

"Noble sir," she said, addressing him, "if you can, tell me what has
happened. I am Maqueda of the Abati, she who is named Child of Kings.
Look at the symbol on my brow, and you will see that I speak truth,"
and, throwing back her veil, she revealed the coronet of gold that
showed her rank.



At the sound of this soft voice (the extreme softness of Maqueda's
voice was always one of her greatest charms), Orme opened his eyes and
stared at her.

"Very queer dream," I heard him mutter. "Must be something in the
Mohammedan business after all. Extremely beautiful woman, and that
gold thing looks well on her dark hair."

"What does the lord your companion say?" asked Maqueda of me.

Having first explained that he was suffering from shock, I translated
word for word, whereon Maqueda blushed to her lovely violet eyes and
let fall her veil in a great hurry. In the confusion which ensued, I
heard Quick saying to his master:

"No, no, sir; this one ain't no houri. She's a flesh and blood queen,
and the pleasantest to look at I ever clapped eyes on, though a
benighted African Jew. Wake up, Captain, wake up; you are out of that
hell-fire now. It's got the Fung, not you."

The word Fung seemed to rouse Orme.

"Yes," he said; "I understand. The vapour of the stuff poisoned me,
but it is passing now. Adams, ask that lady how many men she's got
with her. What does she say? About five hundred? Well, then, let her
attack Harmac at once. The outer and inner gates are down; the Fung
think they have raised the devil and will run. She can inflict a
defeat on them from which they will not recover for years, only it
must be done at once, before they get their nerve again, for, after
all, they are more frightened than hurt."

Maqueda listened to this advice intently.

"It is to my liking; it is very good," she said in her quaint archaic
Arabic when I had finished translating. "But I must consult my
Council. Where is my uncle, the prince Joshua?"

"Here, Lady," answered a voice from the press behind, out of which
presently emerged, mounted on a white horse, a stout man, well
advanced in middle age, with a swarthy complexion and remarkably
round, prominent eyes. He was clad in the usual Eastern robes, richly
worked, over which he wore a shirt of chain-mail, and on his head a
helmet, with mail flaps, an attire that gave the general effect of an
obese Crusader of the early Norman period without his cross.

"Is that Joshua?" said Orme, who was wandering a little again. "Rummy-
looking cock, isn't he? Sergeant, tell Joshua that the walls of
Jericho are down, so there'll be no need to blow his own trumpet. I'm
sure from the look of him that he's a perfect devil with a trumpet."

"What does your companion say?" asked Maqueda again.

I translated the middle part of Orme's remarks, but neither the
commencement nor the end, but even these amused her very much, for she
burst out laughing, and said, pointing to Harmac, over which still
hung a cloud of dust:

"Yes, yes, Joshua, my uncle, the walls of Jericho are down, and the
question is, will you not take your opportunity? So in an hour or two
we shall be dead, or if God goes with us, perhaps free from the menace
of the Fung for years."

The prince Joshua stared at her with his great, prominent eyes, then
answered in a thick, gobbling voice:

"Are you mad, Child of Kings? Of us Abati here there are but five
hundred men, and of the Fung yonder tens of thousands. If we attacked,
they would eat us up. Can five hundred men stand against tens of

"It seems that three stood against them this morning, and worked some
damage, my uncle, but it is true those three are of a different race
from the Abati," she added with bitter sarcasm. Then she turned to
those behind her and cried: "Who of my captains and Council will
accompany me, if I who am but a woman dare to advance on Harmac?"

Now here and there a voice cried, "I will," or some gorgeously dressed
person stepped forward in a hesitating way, and that was all.

"You see, men of the West!" said Maqueda after a little pause,
addressing us three. "I thank you for the great deeds that you have
done and for your counsel. But I cannot take it because my people are
not--warlike," and she covered her face with her hands.

Now there arose a great tumult among her followers, who all began to
talk at once. Joshua in particular drew a large sword and waved it,
shouting out a recital of the desperate actions of his youth and the
names of Fung chieftains whom he alleged he had killed in single

"Told you that fat cur was a first-class trumpeter," said Orme
languidly, while the Sergeant ejaculated in tones of deep disgust:

"Good Lord! what a set. Why, Doctor, they ain't fit to savage a
referee in a London football ground. Pharaoh there in his basket
(where he was barking loudly) would make the whole lot run, and if he
was out--oh my! Now, then, you porpoise"--this he addressed to Joshua,
who was flourishing his sword unpleasantly near--"put your pasteboard
up, won't you, or I'll knock your fat head off," whereon the Prince,
who, if he did not understand Quick's words, at any rate caught their
meaning wonderfully well, did as he was told, and fell back.

Just then, indeed, there was a general movement up the pass, in the
wide mouth of which all this scene took place, for suddenly three Fung
chieftains appeared galloping toward us, one of whom was veiled with a
napkin in which were cut eyeholes. So universal was this retreat, in
fact, that we three on our camels, and the Child of Kings on her
beautiful mare, found ourselves left alone.

"An embassy," said Maqueda, scanning the advancing horsemen, who
carried with them a white flag tied to the blade of a spear.
"Physician, will you and your friends come with me and speak to these
messengers?" And without even waiting for an answer, she rode forward
fifty yards or so on to the plain, and there reined up and halted till
we could bring our camels round and join her. As we did so, the three
Fung, splendid-looking, black-faced fellows, arrived at a furious
gallop, their lances pointed at us.

"Stand still, friends," said Maqueda; "they mean no harm."

As the words passed her lips, the Fung pulled the horses to their
haunches, Arab-fashion, lifted spears and saluted. Then their leader--
not the veiled man, but another--spoke in a dialect that I, who had
spent so many years among the savages of the desert, understood well
enough, especially as the base of it was Arabic.

"O, Walda Nagasta, Daughter of Solomon," he said, "we are the tongues
of our Sultan Barung, Son of Barung for a hundred generations, and we
speak his words to the brave white men who are your guests. Thus says
Barung. Like the Fat One whom I have already captured, you white men
are heroes. Three of you alone, you held the gate against my army.
With the weapons of the white man you killed us from afar, here one
and there one. Then, at last, with a great magic of thunder and
lightning and earthquake, you sent us by scores into the bosom of our
god, and shook down our walls about our ears and out of that hell you
escaped yourselves.

"Now, O white men, this is the offer of Barung to you: Leave the curs
of the Abati, the baboons who gibber and deck themselves out, the
rock-rabbits who seek safety in the cliffs, and come to him. He will
give you not only life, but all your heart's desire--lands and wives
and horses; great shall you be in his councils and happy shall you
live. Moreover, for your sakes he will try to spare your brother, the
Fat One, whose eyes look out of black windows, who blows fire from his
mouth, and reviles his enemies as never man did before. Yes, although
the priests have doomed him to sacrifice at the next feast of Harmac,
he will try to spare him, which, perhaps, he can do by making him,
like the Singer of Egypt, also a priest of Harmac, and thus dedicate
forever to the god with whom, indeed, he says he had been familiar for
thousands of years. This is our message, O white men."

Now, when I had translated the substance of this oration to Orme and
Quick, for, as I saw by the quiver that passed through her at the Fung
insults upon her tribe, Maqueda understood it, their tongues not
differing greatly, Orme who, for the time at any rate, was almost
himself again, said:

"Tell these fellows to say to their Sultan that he is a good old boy,
and that we thank him very much; also that we are sorry to have been
obliged to kill so many of them in a way that he must have thought
unsportsmanlike, but we had to do it, as we are sure he will
understand, in order to save our skins. Tell him also that, speaking
personally, having sampled the Abati yonder and on our journey, I
should like to accept his invitation. But although, as yet, we have
found no men among them, only, as he says, baboons, rock-rabbits, and
boasters without a fight in them, we have"--and here he bowed his
bleeding head to Maqueda--"found a woman with a great heart. Of her
salt we have eaten, or are about to eat; to serve her we have come
from far upon her camels, and, unless she should be pleased to
accompany us, we cannot desert her."

All of this I rendered faithfully, while every one, and especially
Maqueda, listened with much attention. When they had considered our
words, the spokesman of the messengers replied to the effect that the
motives of our decision were of a nature that commanded their entire
respect and sympathy, especially as their people quite concurred in
our estimate of the character of the Abati ruler, Child of Kings. This
being so, they would amend their proposition, knowing the mind of
their Sultan, and having, indeed, plenipotentiary powers.

"Lady of Mur," he went on, addressing Maqueda directly, "fair daughter
of the great god Harmac and a mortal queen, what we have offered to
the white lords, your guests, we offer to you also. Barung, our
Sultan, shall make you his head wife; or, if that does not please you,
you shall wed whom you will"--and, perhaps by accident, the envoy's
roving eyes rested for a moment upon Oliver Orme.

"Leave, then, your rock-rabbits, who dare not quit their cliffs when
but three messengers wait without with sticks," and he glanced at the
spear in his hand, "and come to dwell among men. Listen, high Lady; we
know your case. You do your best in a hopeless task. Had it not been
for you and your courage, Mur would have been ours three years ago,
and it was ours before your tribe wandered thither. But while you can
find but a hundred brave warriors to help you, you think the place
impregnable, and you have perhaps that number, though we know they are
not here; they guard the gates above. Yes, with a few of your
Mountaineers whose hearts are as those of their forefathers were, so
far as you have defied all the power of the Fung, and when you saw
that the end drew near, using your woman's wit, you sent for the white
men to come with their magic, promising to pay them with the gold
which you have in such plenty in the tombs of our old kings and in the
rocks of the mountains."

"Who told you that, O Tongue of Barung?" asked Maqueda in a low voice,
speaking for the first time. "The man of the West whom you took
prisoner--he whom you call Fat One?"

"No, no, O Walda Nagasta, the lord Black Windows has told us nothing
as yet, except sundry things about the history of our god, with whom,
as we said, he seems to be familiar, and to whom, therefore, we vowed
him at once. But there are others who tell us things, for in times of
truce our peoples trade together a little, and cowards are often
spies. For instance, we knew that these white men were coming last
night, though it is true that we did not know of their fire magic,
for, had we done so, we should not have let the camels slip through,
since there may be more of it on them----"

"For your comfort, learn that there is--much more," I interrupted.

"Ah!" replied the Tongue, shaking his head sadly, "and yet we suffered
Cat, whom you call Shadrach, to make off with that of your fat
brother; yes, and even gave it to him after his own beast had been
lamed by accident. Well, it is our bad luck, and without doubt Harmac
is angry with us to-day. But your answer, O Walda Nagasta, your
answer, O Rose of Mur?"

"What can it be, O Voices of Barung the Sultan?" replied Maqueda. "You
know that by my blood and by my oath of office I am sworn to protect
Mur to the last."

"And so you shall," pleaded the Tongue, "for when we have cleaned it
of baboons and rock-rabbits, which, if you were among us, we soon
should do, and thus fulfilled our oath to regain our ancient secret
City of the Rocks, we will set you there once more as its Lady, under
Barung, and give you a multitude of subjects of whom you may be

"It may not be, O Tongue, for they would be worshippers of Harmac, and
between Jehovah, whom I serve, and Harmac there is war," she answered
with spirit.

"Yes, sweet-smelling Bud of the Rose, there is war, and let it be
admitted that the first battle has gone against Harmac, thanks to the
magic of the white men. Yet yonder he sits in his glory as the
spirits, his servants, fashioned him in the beginning," and he pointed
with his spear toward the valley of the idol. "You know our prophecy--
that until Harmac rises from his seat and flies away, for where he
goes, the Fung must follow--till then, I say, we shall hold the plains
and the city of his name--that is, for ever."

"For ever is a long word, O Mouth of Barung." Then she paused a
little, and added slowly, "Did not certain of the gates of Harmac fly
far this morning? Now what if your god should follow his gates and
those worshippers who went with them, and be seen no more? Or what if
the earth should open and swallow him, so that he goes down to hell,
whither you cannot follow? Or what if the mountains should fall
together and bury him from your sight eternally. Or what if the
lightnings should leap out and shatter him to dust?"

At these ominous words the envoys shivered, and it seemed to me that
their faces for a moment turned grey.

"Then, O Child of Kings," answered the spokesman solemnly, "the Fung
will acknowledge that your god is greater than our god, and that our
glory is departed."

Thus he spoke and was silent, turning his eyes toward the third
messenger, he who wore a cloth or napkin upon his head that was
pierced with eyeholes and hung down to the breast. With a quick
motion, the man dragged off this veil and threw it to the ground,
revealing a very noble countenance, not black like that of his
followers, but copper-coloured. He was about fifty years of age, with
deep-set flashing eyes, hooked nose, and a flowing, grizzled beard.
The collar of gold about his neck showed that his rank was high, but
when we noticed a second ornament of gold, also upon his brow, we knew
that it must be supreme. For this ornament was nothing less than the
symbol of royalty, once worn by the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt, the
double snakes of the /uraeus/ bending forward as though to strike,
which, as we had seen, rose also from the brow of the lion-headed
sphinx of Harmac.

As he uncovered, his two companions leapt to the ground and prostrated
themselves before him, crying, "Barung! Barung!" while all three of us
Englishmen saluted, involuntarily, I think, and even the Child of
Kings bowed.

The Sultan acknowledged our greetings by raising his spear. Then he
spoke in a grave measured voice:

"O Walda Nagasta, and you, white men, sons of great fathers, I have
listened to the talk between you and my servants; I confirm their
words and I add to them. I am sorry that my generals tried to kill you
last night. I was making prayer to my god, or it should not have
happened. I have been well repaid for that deed, since an army should
not make war upon four men, even though by their secret power four men
can defeat an army. I beseech you, and you also, Rose of Mur, to
accept my proffered friendship, since otherwise, ere long, you will
soon be dead, and your wisdom will perish with you for I am weary of
this little war against a handful whom we despise.

"O Walda Nagasta, you have breathed threats against the Majesty of
Harmac, but he is too strong for you, nor may the might that can turn
a few bricks to dust and shatter the bones of men prevail against him
who is shaped from the heart of a mountain and holds the spirit of
eternity. So at least I think: but even if it is decreed otherwise,
what will that avail you? If it should please the god to leave us
because of your arts, the Fung will still remain to avenge him ere
they follow. Then I swear to you by my majesty and by the bones of my
ancestors who sit in the caves of Mur, that I will spare but one of
the Abati Jews, yourself, O Child of Kings, because of your great
heart, and the three white men, your guests, should they survive the
battle, because of their courage and their wisdom. As for their
brother, Black Windows, whom I have captured, he must be sacrificed,
since I have sworn it, unless you yield, when I will plead for his
life to the god, with what result I cannot tell. Yield, then, and I
will not even slay the Abati; they shall live on and serve the Fung as
slaves and minister to the glory of Harmac."

"It may not be, it may not be!" Maqueda answered, striking the pommel
of her saddle with her small hand. "Shall Jehovah whom Solomon, my
father, worshipped, Jehovah of all the generations, do homage to an
idol shaped by the hands He made? My people are worn out; they have
forgot their faith and gone astray, as did Israel in the desert. I
know it. It may even happen that the time has come for them to perish,
who are no longer warriors, as of old. Well, if so, let them die free,
and not as slaves. At least I, in whom their best blood runs, do not
seek your mercy, O Barung. I'll be no plaything in your house, who, at
the worst, can always die, having done my duty to my God and those who
bred me. Thus I answer you as the Child of many Kings. Yet as a
woman," she added in a gentler voice, "I thank you for your courtesy.
When I am slain, Barung, if I am fated to be slain, think kindly of
me, as one who did her best against mighty odds," and her voice broke.

"That I shall always do," he answered gravely. "Is it ended?"

"Not quite," she answered. "These Western lords, I give them to you; I
absolve them from their promise. Why should they perish in a lost
cause? If they take their wisdom to you to use against me, you have
vowed them their lives, and, perhaps, that of their brother, your
captive. There is a slave of yours also--you spoke of him, or your
servant did--Singer of Egypt is his name. One of them knew him as a
child; perchance you will not refuse him to that man."

She paused, but Barung made no answer.

"Go, my friends," she went on, turning toward us. "I thank you for
your long journey on my behalf and the blow you have struck for me,
and in payment I will send you a gift of gold; the Sultan will see it
safe into your hands. I thank you. I wish I could have known more of
you, but mayhap we shall meet again in war. Farewell."

She ceased, and I could see that she was watching us intently through
her thin veil. The Sultan also watched us, stroking his long beard, a
look of speculation in his eyes, for evidently this play interested
him and he wondered how it would end.

"This won't do," said Orme, when he understood the thing. "Higgs would
never forgive us if we ate dirt just on the off-chance of saving him
from sacrifice. He's too straight-minded on big things. But, of
course, Doctor," he added jerkily, "you have interests of your own and
must decide for yourself. I think I can speak for the Sergeant."

"I have decided," I answered. "I hope that my son would never forgive
me either; but if it is otherwise, why, so it must be. Also Barung has
made no promises about him."

"Tell him, then," said Orme. "My head aches infernally, and I want to
go to bed, above ground or under it."

So I told him, although, to speak the truth, I felt like a man with a
knife in his heart, for it was bitter to come so near to the desire of
years, to the love of life, and then to lose all hope just because of
duty to the head woman of a pack of effete curs to whom one had
chanced to make a promise in order to gain this very end. If we could
have surrendered with honour, at least I should have seen my son, whom
now I might never see again.

One thing, however, I added on the spur of the moment--namely, a
request that the Sultan would tell the Professor every word that had
passed, in order that whatever happened to him he might know the exact

"My Harmac," said Barung when he had heard, "how disappointed should I
have been with you if you had answered otherwise when a woman showed
you the way. I have heard of you English before--Arabs and traders
brought me tales of you. For instance, there was one who died
defending a city against a worshipper of the Prophet who called
himself a prophet, down yonder at Khartoum on the Nile--a great death,
they told me, a great death, which your people avenged afterwards.

"Well I did not quite believe the story, and I wished to judge of it
by you. I have judged, white lords, I have judged, and I am sure that
your fat brother, Black Windows, will be proud of you even in the
lion's jaws. Fear not; he shall hear every word. The Singer of Egypt,
who, it appears, can talk his tongue, shall tell the tale to him, and
make a song of it to be sung over your honourable graves. And now
farewell; may it be my lot to cross swords with one of you before all
is done. That shall not be yet, for you need rest, especially yonder
tall son of a god who is wounded," and he pointed to Orme. "Child of
Kings with a heart of kings, permit me to kiss your hand and to lead
you back to your people, that I would were more worthy of you. Ah!
yes, I would that /we/ were your people."

Maqueda stretched out her hand, and, taking it, the Sultan barely
touched her fingers with his lips. Then, still holding them, he rode
with her toward the pass.

As we approached its mouth, where the Abati were crowded together,
watching our conference, I heard them murmur, "The Sultan, the Sultan
himself!" and saw the prince Joshua mutter some eager words to the
officers about him.

"Look out, Doctor," said Quick into my ear. "Unless I'm mistook, that
porpoise is going to play some game."

Hardly were the words out of his mouth when, uttering the most valiant
shouts and with swords drawn, Joshua and a body of his companions
galloped up and surrounded our little group.

"Now yield, Barung," bellowed Joshua; "yield or die!"

The Sultan stared at him in astonishment, then answered:

"If I had any weapon (he had thrown down his lance when he took
Maqueda by the hand), certainly one of us should die, O Hog in man's

Then he turned to Maqueda and added, "Child of Kings, I knew these
people of yours to be cowardly and treacherous, but is it thus that
you suffer them to deal with envoys under a flag of peace?"

"Not so, not so," she cried. "My uncle Joshua, you disgrace me; you
make our people a shame, a hissing, and a reproach. Stand back; let
the Sultan of the Fung go free."

But they would not; the prize was too great to be readily disgorged.

We looked at each other. "Not at all the game," said Orme. "If they
collar him, we shall be tarred with their extremely dirty brush. Shove
your camel in front, Sergeant, and if that beggar Joshua tries any
tricks, put a bullet through him."

Quick did not need to be told twice. Banging his dromedary's ribs with
the butt end of his rifle, he drove it straight on to Joshua,

"Out of the light, porpoise!" with the result that the Prince's horse
took fright, and reared up so high that its rider slid off over its
tail to find himself seated on the ground, a sorry spectacle in his
gorgeous robes and armour.

Taking advantage of the confusion which ensued, we surrounded the
Sultan and escorted him out of the throng back to his two companions,
who, seeing that there was something amiss, were galloping toward us.

"I am your debtor," said Barung, "but, O White Men, make me more so.
Return, I pray you, to that hog in armour, and say that Barung, Sultan
of the Fung, understands from his conduct that he desires to challenge
him to single combat, and that, seeing he is fully armed, the Sultan,
although he wears no mail, awaits him here and now."

So I went at once with the message. But Joshua was far too clever to
be drawn into any such dangerous adventure.

Nothing, he said, would have given him greater joy than to hack the
head from the shoulders of this dog of a Gentile sheik. But,
unhappily, owing to the conduct of one of us foreigners, he had been
thrown from his horse, and hurt his back, so that he could scarcely
stand, much less fight a duel.

So I returned with my answer, whereat Barung smiled and said nothing.
Only, taking from his neck a gold chain which he wore, he proffered it
to Quick, who, as he said, had induced the prince Joshua to show his
horsemanship if not his courage. Then he bowed to us, one by one, and
before the Abati could make up their mind whether to follow him or
not, galloped off swiftly with his companions toward Harmac.

Such was our introduction to Barung, Sultan of the Fung, a barbarian
with many good points, among them courage, generosity, and
appreciation of those qualities even in a foe, characteristics that
may have been intensified by the blood of his mother, who, I am told,
was an Arab of high lineage captured by the Fung in war and given as a
wife to the father of Barung.



Our ride from the plains up the pass that led to the high tableland of
Mur was long and, in its way, wonderful enough. I doubt whether in the
whole world there exists another home of men more marvellously
defended by nature. Apparently the road by which we climbed was cut in
the first instance, not by human hands, but by the action of primæval
floods, pouring, perhaps, from the huge lake which doubtless once
covered the whole area within the circle of the mountains, although
to-day it is but a moderate-sized sheet of water, about twenty miles
long by ten in breadth. However this may be, the old inhabitants had
worked on it, the marks of their tools may still be seen upon the

For the first mile or two the road is broad and the ascent so gentle
that my horse was able to gallop up it on that dreadful night when,
after seeing my son's face, accident, or rather Providence, enabled me
to escape the Fung. But from the spot where the lions pulled the poor
beast down, its character changes. In places it is so narrow that
travellers must advance in single file between walls of rock hundreds
of feet high, where the sky above looks like a blue ribbon, and even
at midday the path below is plunged in gloom. At other spots the slope
is so precipitous that beasts of burden can scarcely keep their
foothold; indeed, we were soon obliged to transfer ourselves from the
camels to horses accustomed to the rocks. At others, again, it
follows the brink of a yawning precipice, an ugly place to ride or
turn rectangular corners, which half-a-dozen men could hold against an
army, and twice it passes through tunnels, though whether these are
natural I do not know.

Besides all these obstacles to an invader there were strong gates at
intervals, with towers near by where guards were stationed night and
day, and fosses or dry moats in front of them which could only be
crossed by means of drawbridges. So the reader will easily understand
how it came about that, whatever the cowardice of the Abati, though
they strove for generations, the Fung had as yet never been able to
recapture the ancient stronghold, which, or so it is said, in the
beginning these Abati won from them by means of an Oriental trick.

Here I should add that, although there are two other roads to the
plains--that by which, in order to outflank the Fung, the camels were
let down when I started on my embassy to Egypt, and that to the north
where the great swamps lie--these are both of them equally, if not
more, impassable, at any rate to an enemy attacking from below.

A strange cavalcade we must have seemed as we crawled up this terrific
approach. First went a body of the Abati notables on horseback,
forming a long line of colour and glittering steel, who chattered as
they rode, for they seemed to have no idea of discipline. Next came a
company of horsemen armed with spears, or rather two companies in the
centre of which rode the Child of Kings, some of her courtiers and
chief officers, and ourselves, perhaps, as Quick suggested, because
infantry in the event of surprise would find it less easy to run away
than those who were mounted upon horses. Last of all rode more
cavalry, the duty of whose rear files it was to turn from time to
time, and, after inspection, to shout out that we were not pursued.

It cannot be said that we who occupied the centre of the advance were
a cheerful band. Orme, although so far he had borne up, was evidently
very ill from the shock of the explosion, so much so that men had to
be set on each side of him to see that he did not fall from the
saddle. Also he was deeply depressed by the fact that honour had
forced us to abandon Higgs to what seemed a certain and probably a
cruel death; and if he felt thus, what was my own case, who left not
only my friend, but also my son, in the hands of savage heathens?

Maqueda's face was not visible because of the thin spangled veil that
she wore, but there was something about her attitude suggestive of
shame and of despair. The droop of the head and even her back showed
this, as I, who rode a little behind and on side of her, could see. I
think, too, that she was anxious about Orme, for she turned toward him
several times as though studying his condition. Also I am sure that
she was indignant with Joshua and others of her officers, for when
they spoke to her she would not answer or take the slightest notice of
them beyond straightening herself in the saddle. As for the Prince
himself, his temper seemed to be much ruffled, although apparently he
had overcome the hurt to his back which prevented him from accepting
the Sultan's challenge, for at a difficult spot in the road he
dismounted and ran along actively enough. At any rate, when his
subordinates addressed him he only answered them with muttered oaths,
and his attitude towards us Englishmen, especially Quick, was not
amiable. Indeed, if looks could have killed us I am sure that we
should all have been dead before ever we reached the Gate of Mur.

This so-called gate was the upper mouth of the pass whence first we
saw, lying beneath us, the vast, mountain-ringed plain beyond. It was
a beautiful sight in the sunshine. Almost at our feet, half-hidden in
palms and other trees, lay the flat-roofed town itself, a place of
considerable extent, as every house of any consequence seemed to be
set in a garden, since here there was no need for cramping walls and
defensive works. Beyond it to the northward, farther than the eye
could reach, stretching down a gentle slope to the far-off shores of
the great lake of glistening water, were cultivated fields, and
amongst them villas and, here and there, hamlets.

Whatever might be the faults of the Abati, evidently they were skilled
husbandsmen, such as their reputed forefathers, the old inhabitants of
Judæa, must have been before them, for of that strain presumably some
trace was still present in their veins. However far he may have
drifted from such pursuits, originally the Jew was a tiller of the
soil, and here, where many of his other characteristics had evaporated
under pressure of circumstances--notably the fierce courage that Titus
knew--this taste remained to him, if only by tradition.

Indeed, having no other outlet for their energies and none with whom
to trade, the interests of the Abati were centred in the land. For and
by the land they lived and died, and, since the amount available was
limited by the mountain wall, he who had most land was great amongst
them, he who had little land was small, he who had no land was
practically a slave. Their law was in its essentials a law of the
land; their ambitions, their crimes, everything to do with them, were
concerned with the land, upon the produce of which they existed and
grew rich, some of them, by means of a system of barter. They had no
coinage, their money being measures of corn or other produce, horses,
camels, acres of their equivalent of soil, and so forth.

And yet, oddly enough, their country is the richest in gold and other
metals that I have ever heard of even in Africa--so rich that,
according to Higgs, the old Egyptians drew bullion from it to the
value of millions of pounds every year. This, indeed, I can well
believe, for I have seen the ancient mines which were worked, for the
most part as open quarries, still showing plenty of visible gold on
the face of the slopes. Yet to these alleged Jews this gold was of no
account. Imagine it; as Quick said, such a topsy-turvy state of things
was enough to make a mere Christian feel cold down the back and go to
bed thinking that the world must be coming to an end.

To return, the prince Joshua, who appeared to be generalissimo of the
army, in what was evidently a set phrase, exhorted the guards at the
last gates to be brave and, if need were, deal with the heathen as
some one or other dealt with Og, King of Bashan, and other unlucky
persons of a different faith. In reply he received their earnest
congratulations upon his escape from the frightful dangers of our

These formalities concluded, casting off the iron discipline of war,
we descended a joyous mob, or rather the Abati did, to partake of the
delights of peace. Really, conquerors returning from some desperate
adventure could not have been more warmly greeted. As we entered the
suburbs of the town, women, some of them very handsome, ran out and
embraced their lords or lovers, holding up babies for them to kiss,
and a little farther on children appeared, throwing roses and
pomegranate flowers before their triumphant feet. And all this because
these gallant men had ridden to the bottom of a pass and back again!

"Heavens! Doctor," exclaimed the sardonic Quick, after taking note of
these demonstrations, "Heavens! what a hero I feel myself to be. And
to think that when I got back from the war with them Boers, after
being left for dead on Spion Kop with a bullet through my lung and
mentioned in a dispatch--yes, I, Sergeant Quick, mentioned in a
dispatch by the biggest ass of a general as ever I clapped eyes on,
for a job that I won't detail, no one in my native village ever took
no note of me, although I had written to the parish clerk, who happens
to be my brother-in-law, and told him the train I was coming by. I
tell you, Doctor, no one so much as stood me a pint of beer, let alone
wine," and he pointed to a lady who was proffering that beverage to
some one whom she admired.

"And as for chucking their arms round my neck and kissing me," and he
indicated another episode, "all my old mother said--she was alive then
--was that she 'hoped I'd done fooling about furrin' parts as I called
soldiering, and come home to live respectable, better late than
never.' Well, Doctor, circumstances alter cases, or blood and climate
do, which is the same thing, and I didn't miss what I never expected,
why should I when others like the Captain there, who had done so much
more, fared worse? But, Lord! these Abati are a sickening lot, and I
wish we were clear of them. Old Barung's the boy for me."

Passing down the main street of this charming town of Mur, accompanied
by these joyous demonstrators, we came at last to its central square,
a large, open space where, in the moist and genial climate, for the
high surrounding mountains attracted plentiful showers of rain, trees
and flowers grew luxuriantly. At the head of this square stood a long,
low building with white-washed walls and gilded domes, backed by the
towering cliff, but at a little distance from it, and surrounded by
double walls with a moat of water between them, dug for purposes of

This was the palace, which on my previous visit I had only entered
once or twice when I was received by the Child of Kings in formal
audience. Round the rest of this square, each placed in its own
garden, were the houses of the great nobles and officials, and at its
western end, among other public buildings, a synagogue or temple which
looked like a model of that built by Solomon in Jerusalem, from the
description of which it had indeed been copied, though, of course,
upon a small scale.

At the gate of the palace we halted, and Joshua, riding up, asked
Maqueda sulkily whether he should conduct "the Gentiles," for that was
his polite description of us, to the lodging for pilgrims in the
western town.

"No, my uncle," answered Maqueda; "these foreign lords will be housed
in the guest-wing of the palace."

"In the guest-wing of the palace? It is not usual," gobbled Joshua,
swelling himself out like a great turkey cock. "Remember, O niece,
that you are still unmarried. I do not yet dwell in the palace to
protect you."

"So I found out in the plain yonder," she replied; "still, I managed
to protect myself. Now, I pray you, no words. I think it necessary
that these my guests should be where their goods already are, in the
safest place in Mur. You, my uncle, as you told us, are badly hurt, by
which accident you were prevented from accepting the challenge of the
Sultan of the Fung. Go, then, and rest; I will send the court
physician to you at once. Good-night, my uncle; when you are recovered
we will meet again, for we have much that we must discuss. Nay, nay,
you are most kind, but I will not detain you another minute. Seek your
bed, my uncle, and forget not to thank God for your escape from many

At this polite mockery Joshua turned perfectly pale with rage, like
the turkey cock when his wattles fade from scarlet into white. Before
he could make any answer, however, Maqueda had vanished under the
archway, so his only resource was to curse us, and especially Quick,
who had caused him to fall from his horse. Unfortunately the Sergeant
understood quite enough Arabic to be aware of the tenor of his
remarks, which he resented and returned:

"Shut it, Porpoise," he said, "and keep your eyes where Nature put
'em, or they'll fall out."

"What says the Gentile?" spluttered Joshua, whereon Orme, waking up
from one of his fits of lethargy, replied in Arabic:

"He says that he prays you, O Prince of princes, to close your noble
mouth and to keep your high-bred eyes within their sockets lest you
should lose them"; at which words those who were listening broke into
a fit of laughter, for one redeeming characteristic among the Abati
was that they had a sense of humour.

After this I do not quite know what happened for Orme showed signs of
fainting, and I had to attend to him. When I looked round again the
gates were shut and we were being conducted toward the guest-wing of
the palace by a number of gaily dressed attendants.

They took us to our rooms--cool, lofty chambers ornamented with glazed
tiles of quaint colour and beautiful design, and furnished somewhat
scantily with articles made of rich-hued woods. This guest-wing of the
palace, where these rooms were situated, formed, we noted, a separate
house, having its own gateway, but, so far as we could see, no passage
or other connection joining it to the main building. In front of it
was a small garden, and at its back a courtyard with buildings, in
which we were informed our camels had been stabled. At the time we
noted no more, for night was falling, and, even if it had not been, we
were too worn out to make researches.

Moreover, Orme was now desperately ill--so ill that he could scarcely
walk leaning even on our shoulders. Still, he would not be satisfied
till he was sure that our stores were safe, and, before he could be
persuaded to lie down, insisted upon being supported to a vault with
copper-bound doors, which the officers opened, revealing the packages
that had been taken from the camels.

"Count them, Sergeant," he said, and Quick obeyed by the light of a
lamp that the officer held at the open door. "All correct, sir," he
said, "so far as I can make out."

"Very good, Sergeant. Lock the door and take the keys."

Again he obeyed, and, when the officer demurred to their surrender,
turned on him so fiercely that the man thought better of it and
departed with a shrug of his shoulders, as I supposed to make report
to his superiors.

Then at length we got Orme to bed, and, as he complained of
intolerable pains in his head and would take nothing but some milk and
water, having first ascertained that he had no serious physical
injuries that I could discover, I administered to him a strong
sleeping-draught from my little travelling medicine case. To our great
relief this took effect upon him in about twenty minutes, causing him
to sink into a stupor from which he did not awake for many hours.

Quick and I washed ourselves, ate some food that was brought to us,
and then took turns to watch Orme throughout the night. When I was at
my post about six o'clock on the following morning he woke up and
asked for drink, which I gave to him. After swallowing it he began to
wander in his mind, and, on taking his temperature, I found that he
had over five degrees of fever. The end of it was that he went off to
sleep again, only waking up from time to time and asking for more

Twice during the night and early morning Maqueda sent to inquire as to
his condition, and, apparently not satisfied with the replies, about
ten in the forenoon arrived herself, accompanied by two waiting-ladies
and a long-bearded old gentleman who, I understood, was the court

"May I see him?" she asked anxiously.

I answered yes, if she and those with her were quite quiet. Then I led
them into the darkened room where Quick stood like a statue at the
head of the bed, only acknowledging her presence with a silent salute.
She gazed at Oliver's flushed face and the forehead blackened where
the gases from the explosion had struck him, and as she gazed I saw
her beautiful violet eyes fill with tears. Then abruptly she turned
and left the sick-chamber. Outside its doors she waved back her
attendants imperiously and asked me in a whisper:

"Will he live?"

"I do not know," I answered, for I thought it best that she should
learn the truth. "If he is only suffering from shock, fatigue, and
fever, I think so, but if the explosion or the blow on his head where
it cut has fractured the skull, then----"

"Save him," she muttered. "I will give you all I--nay, pardon me; what
need is there to tempt you, his friend, with reward? Only save him,
save him."

"I will do what I can, Lady, but the issue is in other hands than
mine," I answered, and just then her attendants came up and put an end
to the conversation.

To this day the memory of that old rabbi, the court physician, affects
me like a nightmare, for of all the medical fools that ever I met he
was by far the most pre-eminent. All about the place he followed me
suggesting remedies that would have been absurd even in the Middle
Ages. The least harmful of them, I remember, was that poor Orme's head
should be plastered with a compound of butter and the bones of a
still-born child, and that he should be given some filthy compound to
drink which had been specially blessed by the priests. Others there
were also that would certainly have killed him in half-an-hour.

Well, I got rid of him at last for the time, and returned to my vigil.
It was melancholy work, since no skill that I had could tell me
whether my patient would live or die. Nowadays the young men might
know, or say that they did, but it must be remembered that, as a
doctor, I am entirely superannuated. How could it be otherwise, seeing
that I have passed the best of my life in the desert without any
opportunity of keeping up with the times.

Three days went by in this fashion, and very anxious days they were.
For my part, although I said nothing of it to any one, I believed that
there was some injury to the patient's skull and that he would die, or
at best be paralyzed. Quick, however, had a different opinion. He said
that he had seen two men in this state before from the concussion
caused by the bursting of large shells near to them, and that they
both recovered although one of them became an idiot.

But it was Maqueda who first gave me any definite hope. On the third
evening she came and sat by Orme for awhile, her attendants standing
at a little distance. When she left him there was a new look upon her
face--a very joyful look--which caused me to ask her what had

"Oh! he will live," she answered.

I inquired what made her think so.

"This," she replied, blushing. "Suddenly he looked up and in my own
tongue asked me of what colour were my eyes. I answered that it
depended upon the light in which they might be seen.

"'Not at all,' he said. 'They are always /vi-o-let/, whether the
curtain is drawn or no.' Now, physician Adams, tell me what is this
colour /vi-o-let/?"

"That of a little wild flower which grows in the West in the spring, O
Maqueda--a very beautiful and sweet-scented flower which is dark blue
like your eyes."

"Indeed, Physician," she said. "Well, I do not know this flower, but
what of that? Your friend will live and be sane. A dying man does not
trouble about the colour of a lady's eyes, and one who is mad does not
give that colour right."

"Are you glad, O Child of Kings?" I asked.

"Of course," she answered, "seeing that I am told that this captain
alone can handle the firestuffs which you have brought with you, and,
therefore, that it is necessary to me that he should not die."

"I understand," I replied. "Let us pray that we may keep him alive.
But there are many kinds of firestuffs, O Maqueda, and of one of them
which chances to give out violet flames I am not sure that my friend
is master. Yet in this country it may be the most dangerous of all."

Now when she heard these words the Child of Kings looked me up and
down angrily. Then suddenly she laughed a little in a kind of silent
way that is peculiar to her, and, without saying anything, beckoned to
her ladies and left the place.

"Very variegated thing, woman, sir," remarked Quick, who was watching.
(I think he meant to say "variable.") "This one, for instance, comes
up that passage like a tired horse--shuffle, shuffle, shuffle--for I
could hear the heels of her slippers on the floor. But now she goes
out like a buck seeking its mate--head in air and hoof lifted. How do
you explain it, Doctor?"

"You had better ask the lady herself, Quick. Did the Captain take that
soup she brought him?"

"Every drop, sir, and tried to kiss her hand afterward, being still
dazed, poor man, poor man! I saw him do it, knowing no better. He'll
be sorry enough when he comes to himself."

"No doubt, Sergeant. But meanwhile let us be glad that both their
spirits seem to have improved, and if she brings any more soup when I
am not there, I should let him have it. It is always well to humour
invalids and women."

"Yes, Doctor; but," he added, with a sudden fall of face, "invalids
recover sometimes, and then how about the women."

"Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof," I answered; "you had
better go out for exercise; it is my watch." But to myself I thought
that Fate was already throwing its ominous shadow before, and that it
lay deep in Maqueda's violet eyes.

Well, to cut a long story short, this was the turning-point of Orme's
illness, and from that day he recovered rapidly, for, as it proved,
there was no secret injury to the skull, and he was suffering from
nothing except shock and fever. During his convalescence the Child of
Kings came to see him several times, or to be accurate, if my memory
serves me right, every afternoon. Of course, her visits were those of
ceremony--that is to say, she was always accompanied by several of her
ladies, that thorn in my flesh, the old doctor, and one or two
secretaries and officers-in-waiting.

But as Oliver was now moved by day into a huge reception room, and
these people of the court were expected to stop at one end of it while
she conversed with him at the other, to all intents and purposes, save
for the presence of myself and Quick, her calls were of a private
nature. Nor were we always present, since, now that my patient was out
of danger the Sergeant and I went out riding a good deal--
investigating Mur and its surroundings.

It may be asked what they talked about on these occasions. I can only
answer that, so far as I heard, the general subject was the politics
of Mur and its perpetual war with the Fung. Still, there must have
been other topics which I did not hear, since incidently I discovered
that Orme was acquainted with many of Maqueda's private affairs
whereof he could only have learned from her lips.

Thus when I ventured to remark that perhaps it was not altogether wise
for a young man in his position to become so intimate with the
hereditary ruler of an exclusive tribe like the Abati, he replied
cheerfully that this did not in the least matter, as, of course,
according to their ancient laws, she could only marry with one of her
own family, a fact which made all complications impossible. I inquired
which of her cousins, of whom I knew she had several, was the happy
man. He replied:

"None of them. As a matter of fact, I believe that she is officially
affianced to that fat uncle of hers, the fellow who blows his own
trumpet so much, but I needn't add that this is only a form to which
she submits in order to keep the others off."

"Ah!" I said. "I wonder if Prince Joshua thinks it only a form?"

"Don't know what he thinks, and don't care," he replied, yawning; "I
only know that things stand as I say, and that the porpoise-man has as
much chance of becoming the husband of Maqueda as you have of marrying
the Empress of China. And now, to drop this matrimonial conversation
and come to something more important, have you heard anything about
Higgs and your son?"

"You are more in the way of learning state secrets than I am, Orme," I
answered sarcastically, being rather irritated at the course of events
and his foolishness. "What have you heard?"

"This, old fellow. I can't say how she knows it, but Maqueda says that
they are both in good health and well treated. Only our friend Barung
sticks to his word and proposes to sacrifice poor old Higgs on this
day fortnight. Now, of course, that must be prevented somehow, and
prevented it shall be if it costs me my life. Don't you suppose that I
have been thinking about myself all the time, for it isn't so, only
the trouble is that I can't find any plan of rescue which will hold

"Then what's to be done, Orme? I haven't spoken much of the matter
before for fear of upsetting you when you were still weak, but now
that you are all right again we must come to some decision."

"I know, I know," he answered earnestly; "and I tell you this, that
rather than let Higgs die alone there, I will give myself up to
Barung, and, if I can't save him, suffer with him, or for him if I
can. Listen: there is to be a great council held by the Child of Kings
on the day after to-morrow which we must attend, for it has only been
postponed until I was well enough. At this council that rogue Shadrach
is to be put upon his trial, and will, I believe, be condemned to
death. Also we are formally to return Sheba's ring which Maqueda lent
to you to be used in proof of her story. Well, we may learn something
then, or at any rate must make up our minds to definite action. And
now I am to have my first ride, am I not? Come on, Pharaoh," he added
to the dog, which had stuck at his bedside all through his illness so
closely that it was difficult to entice him away even to eat; "we are
going for a ride, Pharaoh; do you hear that, you faithful beast?"



Two or three days after this conversation, I forget exactly which it
was, Maqueda held her council in the great hall of the palace. When we
entered the place in charge of a guard, as though we were prisoners,
we found some hundreds of Abati gathered there who were seated in
orderly rows upon benches. At the farther end, in an apse-shaped
space, sat the Child of Kings herself on a gilded or perhaps a golden
chair of which the arms terminated in lions' heads. She was dressed in
a robe of glittering silver, and wore a ceremonial veil embroidered
with stars, also of silver, and above it, set upon her dark hair, a
little circlet of gold, in which shone a single gem that looked like a
ruby. Thus attired, although her stature is small, her appearance was
very dignified and beautiful, especially as the gossamer veil added
mystery to her face.

Behind the throne stood soldiers armed with spears and swords, and at
its sides and in front of it were gathered her court to the number of
a hundred or more, including her waiting-ladies, who in two companies
were arranged to the right and left. Each member of this court was
gorgeously dressed according to his profession.

There were the generals and captains with Prince Joshua at the head of
them in their Norman-like chain armour. There were judges in black
robes and priests in gorgeous garments; there were territorial lords,
of whose attire I remember only that they wore high boots, and men who
were called Market-masters, whose business it was to regulate the rate
of exchange of products, and with them the representatives of other

In short, here was collected all the aristocracy of the little
population of the town and territory of Mur, every one of whom, as we
found afterwards, possessed some high-sounding title answering to
those of our dukes and lords and Right Honourables, and knights, to
say nothing of the Princes of the Blood, of whom Joshua was the first.

Really, although it looked so fine and gay, the spectacle was, in a
sense, piteous, being evidently but a poor mockery and survival of the
pageantry of a people that had once been great. The vast hall in which
they were assembled showed this, since, although the occasion was one
that excited public interest, it was after all but a quarter filled by
those who had a right to be present.

With much dignity and to the sound of music we were marched up the
broad nave, if I may describe it thus, for the building, with its apse
and supporting cedar columns, bore some resemblance to a cathedral,
till we reached the open space in front of the throne, where our
guards prostrated themselves in their Eastern fashion, and we saluted
its occupant in our own. Then, chairs having been given to us, after a
pause a trumpet blew, and from a side chamber was produced our late
guide, Shadrach, heavily manacled and looking extremely frightened.

The trial that followed I need not describe at length. It took a long
while, and the three of us were called upon to give evidence as to the
quarrel between our companion, the Professor, and the prisoner about
the dog Pharaoh and other matters. The testimony, however, that
proclaimed the guilt of Shadrach was that of his companion guides,
who, it appeared, had been threatened with floggings unless they told
the truth.

These men swore, one after the other, that the abandonment of Higgs
had been a preconceived plan. Several of them added that Shadrach was
in traitorous communication with the Fung, whom he had warned of our
advent by firing the reeds, and had even contrived to arrange that we
were to be taken while he and the other Abati, with the camels laden
with our rifles and goods which they hoped to steal, passed through in

In defence Shadrach boldly denied the whole story, and especially that
he had pushed the Gentile, Higgs, off his dromedary, as was alleged,
and mounted it himself because his own beast had broken down or been

However, his lies availed him little, since, after consultation with
the Child of Kings, presently one of the black-robed judges condemned
him to suffer death in a very cruel fashion which was reserved for
traitors. Further, his possessions were to be forfeited to the State,
and his wife and children and household to become public slaves, which
meant that the males would be condemned to serve as soldiers, and the
females allotted to certain officials in the order of their rank.

Several of those who had conspired with him to betray us to the Fung
were also deprived of their possessions and condemned to the army,
which was their form of penal servitude.

Thus amidst a mighty wailing of those concerned and of their friends
and relatives ended this remarkable trial, of which I give some
account because it throws light upon the social conditions of Abati.
What hope is there for a people when its criminals are sent, not to
jail, but to serve as soldiers, and their womenfolk however innocent,
are doomed to become the slaves of the judges or whoever these may
appoint. Be it added, however, that in this instance Shadrach and his
friends deserved all they got, since, even allowing for a certain
amount of false evidence, undoubtedly, for the purposes of robbery and
private hate, they did betray those whom their ruler had sent them to
guide and protect.

When this trial was finished and Shadrach had been removed, howling
for mercy and attempting to kiss our feet like the cur he was, the
audience who had collected to hear it and to see us, the Gentile
strangers, dispersed, and the members of the Privy Council, if I may
call it so, were summoned by name to attend to their duties. When all
had gathered, we three were requested to advance and take seats which
had been placed for us among the councillors.

Then came a pause, and, as I had been instructed that I should do, I
advanced and laid Sheba's ring upon a cushion held by one of the court
officers, who carried it to Maqueda.

"Child of Kings," I said, "take back this ancient token which you lent
to me to be a proof of your good faith and mine. Know that by means of
it I persuaded our brother who is captive, a man learned in all that
has to do with the past, to undertake this mission, and through him
the Captain Orme who stands before you, and his servant, the soldier."

She took it and, after examination, showed it to several of the
priests, by whom it was identified.

"Though I parted from it with fear and doubt, the holy ring has served
its purpose well," she said, "and I thank you, Physician, for
returning it to my people and to me in safety."

Then she replaced it on the finger from which it had been withdrawn
when she gave it to me many months before.

There, then, that matter ended.

Now an officer cried:

"Walda Nagasta speaks!" whereon every one repeated, "Walda Nagasta
speaks," and was silent.

Then Maqueda began to address us in her soft and pleasant voice.

"Strangers from the Western country called England," she said, "be
pleased to hear me. You know our case with the Fung--that they
surround us and would destroy us. You know that in our extremity I
took advantage of the wandering hither of one of you a year ago to beg
him to go to his own land and there obtain firestuffs and those who
understand them, with which to destroy the great and ancient idol of
the Fung. For that people declare that if this idol is destroyed they
will leave the land they dwell in for another, such being their
ancient prophecy."

"Pardon, O Child of Kings," interrupted Orme, "but you will remember
that only the other day Barung, Sultan of the Fung, said that in this
event his nation would still live on to avenge their god, Harmac. Also
he said that of all the Abati he would leave you alive alone."

Now at these ill-omened words a shiver and a murmur went through the
Council. But Maqueda only shrugged her shoulders, causing the silver
trimmings on her dress to tinkle.

"I have told you the ancient prophecy," she answered, "and for the
rest words are not deeds. If the foul fiend, Harmac, goes I think that
the Fung will follow him. Otherwise, why do they make sacrifice to
Earthquake as the evil god they have to fear? And when some five
centuries ago, such an earthquake shook down part of the secret city
in the bowels of the mountains that I will show to you afterwards, why
did they fly from Mur and take up their abode in the plain, as they
said, to protect the god?"

"I do not know," answered Oliver. "If our brother were here, he whom
the Fung have captured, he might know, being learned in the ways of
idol-worshipping, savage peoples."

"Alas! O Son of Orme," she said, "thanks to that traitor whom but now
we have condemned, he is not here and, perhaps, could tell us nothing
if he were. At least, the saying runs as I have spoken it, and for
many generations, because of it, we Abati have desired to destroy the
idol of the Fung to which so many of us have been offered in sacrifice
through the jaws of their sacred lions. Now I ask," and she leaned
forward, looking at Oliver, "will you do this for me?"

"Speak of the reward, my niece," broke in Joshua in his thick voice
when he saw that we hesitated what to answer, "I have heard that these
Western Gentiles are a very greedy people, who live and die for the
gold which we despise."

"Ask him, Captain," exclaimed Quick, "if they despise land also, since
yesterday afternoon I saw one of them try to cut the throat of another
over a piece not bigger than a large dog-kennel."

"Yes," I added, for I confess that Joshua's remarks nettled me, "and
ask him whether the Jews did not despoil the Egyptians of their
ornaments of gold in the old days, and whether Solomon, whom he claims
as a forefather, did not trade in gold to Ophir, and lastly whether he
knows that most of his kindred in other lands make a very god of

So Orme, as our spokesman, put these questions with great gusto to
Joshua, whom he disliked intensely, whereat some of the Council, those
who were not of the party of the Prince, smiled or even laughed, and
the silvery ornaments upon Maqueda's dress began to shake again as
though she also were laughing behind her veil. Still, she did not seem
to think it wise to allow Joshua to answer--if he could--but did so
herself, saying:

"The truth is, O my friends, that here we set small store by gold
because, being shut in and unable to trade, it is of no use to us save
as an ornament. Were it otherwise, doubtless we should value it as
much as the rest of the world, Jew or Gentile, and shall do so when we
are freed from our foes who hem us in. Therefore, my uncle is wrong to
claim as a virtue that which is only a necessity, especially when, as
your servant says," and she pointed to the Sergeant, "our people make
land their gold and will spend their lives in gaining more of it, even
when they have enough."

"Then do the Gentiles seek no reward for their services?" sneered

"By no means, Prince," answered Oliver, "we are soldiers of fortune,
since otherwise why should we have come here to fight your quarrel
(laying an unpleasant emphasis on the "your") "against a chief who, if
half savage, to us seems to have some merits, those of honour and
courage, for instance? If we risk our lives and do our work, we are
not too proud to take whatever we can earn. Why should we be, seeing
that some of us need wealth, and that our brother, who is as good as
dead yonder, owing to the treachery of those who were sent to guard
him, has relatives in England who are poor and should be compensated
for his loss?"

"Why, indeed?" ejaculated Maqueda. "Listen, now, my friends. In my own
name and in that of the Abati people I promised to you as many camel-
loads of this gold as you can carry away from Mur, and before the day
is done I will show it to you if you dare follow me to where it lies

"First the work, then the pay," said Oliver. "Now tell us, Child of
Kings, what is that work?"

"This, O Son of Orme. You must swear--if this is not against your
consciences as Christians--that for the space of one year from to-day
you will serve me and fight for me and be subject to my laws, striving
all the while to destroy the idol Harmac by your Western skill and
weapons, after which you shall be free to go whither you will with
your reward."

"And if we swear, Lady," asked Oliver after reflection, "tell us what
rank shall we hold in your service?"

"You shall be my chief captain for this enterprise, O Son of Orme, and
those with you shall serve under you in such positions as you may

At these words a murmur of dissatisfaction arose from the mail-clad
generals in the Council.

"Are we then, to obey this stranger, O Child of Kings?" queried Joshua
as their spokesman.

"Aye, my uncle, so far as this great enterprise is concerned, as I
have said. Can you handle the firestuffs of which they alone have the
secret? Could any three of you have held the gate of Harmac against
the armies of the Fung and sent it flying skyward?"

She paused and waited in the midst of a sullen silence.

"You do not answer because you cannot," continued Maqueda. "Then for
this purpose be content to serve awhile under the command of those who
have the skill and power which you lack."

Still there was no answer.

"Lady," said Orme in this ominous quiet, "you are so good as to make
me a general among your soldiers, but will they obey me? And who are
your soldiers? Does every man of the Abati bear arms?"

"Alas! no," she replied, fixing upon this latter question perhaps
because she could not answer the first. "Alas! no. In the old days it
was otherwise, when my great ancestresses ruled, and then we did not
fear the Fung. But now the people will not serve as soldiers. They say
it takes them from their trades and the games they love; they say they
cannot give the time in youth; they say that it degrades a man to obey
the orders of those set over him; they say that war is barbarous and
should be abolished, and all the while the brave Fung wait without to
massacre our men and make our women slaves. Only the very poor and the
desperate, and those who have offended against the laws will serve in
my army, except it be as officers. Oh! and therefore are the Abati
doomed," and, throwing back her veil, suddenly, she burst into tears
before us all.

I do not know that I ever remember seeing a sight more pathetic in its
way than that of this beautiful and high-spirited young woman weeping
in the presence of her Council over the utter degeneracy of the race
she was called upon to rule. Being old and accustomed to these Eastern
expressions of emotion, I remained silent, however; but Oliver was so
deeply affected that I feared lest he should do something foolish. He
went red, he went white, and was rising from his seat to go to her,
had I not caught him by the arm and pulled him back. As for Quick, he
turned his eyes to the ceiling, as though engaged in prayer, and I
heard him muttering:

"The Lord help the poor thing, the Lord help her; the one pearl in the
snout of all these gilded swine! Well, I understand I am a bit of a
general now, and if I don't make 'em sit up for her sake my name ain't
Samuel Quick."

Meanwhile there was much consternation and indignant murmuring amongst
the Court, which felt that reflections had been thrown upon it
collectively and individually. At such a crisis, as usual, Prince
Joshua took the lead. Rising from his seat, he knelt, not without
difficulty, before the throne, and said:

"O Child of Kings, why do you distress us with such words? Have you
not the God of Solomon to protect you?"

"God protects those who protect themselves," sobbed Maqueda.

"And have you not many brave officers?"

"What are officers without an army?"

"And have you not me, your uncle, your affianced, your lover?" and he
laid his hand where he conceived his heart to be, and stared up at her
with his rolling, fish-like eyes. "Had it not been for the
interference of these Gentiles, in whom you seem to put such trust,"
he went on, "should I not have taken Barung captive the other day, and
left the Fung without a head?"

"And the Abati without such shreds of honour as still belong to them,
my uncle."

"Let us be wed, O Bud of the Rose, O Flower of Mur, and soon I will
free you from the Fung. We are helpless because we are separate, but
together we shall triumph. Say, O Maqueda, when shall we be wed?"

"When the idol Harmac is utterly destroyed, and the Fung have departed
for ever, my uncle," she answered impatiently. "But is this a time to
talk of marriage? I declare the Council closed. Let the priests bring
the rolls that these strangers from the West may take the oath, and
then pardon me if I leave you."

Now from behind the throne there appeared a gorgeous gentleman arrayed
in a head-dress that reminded me faintly of a bishop's mitre, and
wearing over his robes a breastplate of precious stones roughly
polished, which was half hidden by a very long white beard.

This person, who it seemed was the high priest, carried in his hand a
double roll of parchment written over with characters which we
afterwards discovered were bastard Hebrew, very ancient and only
decipherable by three or four of the Abati, if indeed any of them
could really read it. At least it was said to be the roll of the law
brought by their forefathers centuries ago from Abyssinia, together
with Sheba's ring and a few other relics, among them the cradle (a
palpable forgery), in which the child of Solomon and Maqueda, or
Belchis, the first known Queen of Sheba, was traditionally reported to
have been rocked. This roll of the law, which for generations had been
used at all important ceremonies among the Abati, such as the
swearing-in of their queens and chief officers, was now tendered to us
to hold and kiss while we took the oath of obedience and allegiance in
the names of Jehovah and of Solomon (a strange mixture, it struck us),
solemnly vowing to perform those things which I have already set out.

"This seems a pretty wide promise," said Oliver, after it had been
read to us and translated by me to Quick. "Do you think that we ought
to take it on?"

I answered "Yes," that was from my point of view, since otherwise I
saw no chance of achieving the object that had caused me to enter upon
this adventure. Then, being especially requested to do so, the
Sergeant, after reflecting awhile, gave his considered opinion.

"Sir," he said to Orme, "we are three white men here consorting with a
mob of quarter-bred African Jews and one real lady. It seems to me
that we had best swear anything they want us to, trusting to the lady
to see us through the mess, since otherwise we shall be mere
filibusters in the country without official rank, and liable therefore
to be shot on sight by the enemy, or any mutineers who get the upper
hand here. Also, we have the Professor and the Doctor's son to think
of. Therefore I say: Swear to anything in reason, reserving allegiance
to the Crown of Great Britain, and trust to luck. You see, Captain, we
are in their power anyway, and this oath may help, but can't hurt us,
while to refuse it must give offence to all these skunks, and perhaps
to the lady also, which is of more consequence."

"I think you are probably right, Sergeant," said Orme. "Anyway, in for
a penny, in for a pound."

Then he turned to Maqueda, who had been watching this conference in an
unknown tongue with some anxiety, or so it seemed to me, and added in
Arabic: "O Child of Kings, we will take your oath, although it is
wide, trusting to your honour to protect us from any pitfalls which it
may cover, for we would ask you to remember that we are strangers in
your land who do not understand its laws and customs. Only we
stipulate that we retain our allegiance to our own ruler far away,
remaining the subjects of that monarch with all rights thereto
appertaining. Also, we stipulate that before we enter on our duties,
or at any rate during those duties, we shall be at full liberty to
attempt the rescue of our friend and companion, now a prisoner in the
hands of the Fung, and of the son of one of us who is believed to be a
slave to them, and that we shall have all the assistance which you can
give us in this matter. Moreover, we demand that if we should be tried
for any offence under this oath, you to whom we swear allegiance shall
be our judge alone, none others intermeddling in the trial. If you
accept these terms we will swear the oath; otherwise we swear nothing,
but will act as occasion may arise."

Now we were requested to stand back while the Child of Kings consulted
with her advisers, which she did for a considerable time, since
evidently the questions raised involved differences of opinion. In the
end, however, she and those who supported her seemed to overrule the
objectors, and we were called up and told that our terms had been
accepted and engrossed upon the form of the oath, and that everything
there included would be faithfully observed by the Ruler and Council
of the Abati.

So we signed and swore, kissing the book, or rather the roll, in the
civilized fashion. Afterwards, very tired, for all this business had
been anxious, we were conducted back to our own quarters to lunch, or
rather to dine, for the Abati ate their heaviest meal at midday,
taking a siesta after it according to the common Eastern custom.

About four o'clock of that afternoon I was awakened from my nap by the
growls of Pharaoh, and looked up to see a man crouching against the
door, evidently in fear of the dog's fangs. He proved to be a
messenger from Maqueda, sent to ask us if we cared to accompany her to
a place that we had never seen. Of course we answered "Yes," and were
at once led by the messenger to a disused and dusty hall at the back
of the palace, where presently Maqueda and three of her ladies joined
us, and with them a number of men who carried lighted lamps, gourds of
oil, and bundles of torches.

"Doubtless, friends," said Maqueda, who was unveiled and appeared to
have quite recovered from our outburst of the morning, "you have seen
many wonderful places in this Africa and other lands, but now I am
about to show you one that, I think, is stranger than them all."

Following her, we came to a door at the end of the hall which the men
unbolted and shut again behind us, and thence passed into a long
passage cut in the rock, that sloped continuously downwards and at
length led through another doorway to the vastest cave that we had
ever heard of or seen. So vast was it, indeed, that the feeble light
of our lamps did not suffice to reach the roof, and only dimly showed
to right and left the outlines of what appeared to be shattered
buildings of rock.

"Behold the cave city of Mur," said Maqueda, waving the lamp she held.
"Here it was that the ancients whom we believe to have been the
forefathers of the Fung, had their secret stronghold. These walls were
those of their granaries, temples, and places of ceremonial, but, as I
have told you, centuries ago an earthquake shattered them, leaving
them as they are now. Also, it broke down much of the cave itself,
causing the roof to fall, so that there are many parts where it is not
safe to enter. Come now and see what is left."

We followed her into the depth of the wonderful place, our lanterns
and torches making little stars of light in that great blackness. We
saw the ruins of granaries still filled with the dust of what I
suppose had once been corn, and came at length to a huge, roofless
building of which the area was strewn with shattered columns, and
among them overgrown statues, covered so thick by dust that we could
only discover that most of them seemed to be shaped like sphinxes.

"If only Higgs were here," said Oliver with a sigh, and passed on to
Maqueda, who was calling him to look at something else.

Leaving the temple in which it was unsafe to walk, she led us to where
a strong spring, the water supply of the place, bubbled up into a rock
basin, and overflowing thence through prepared openings, ran away we
knew not whither.

"Look, this fountain is very ancient," said Maqueda, pointing to the
lip of the basin that was worn away to the depth of several inches
where those who drew water had for many generations rested their hands
upon the hard rock.

"How did they light so vast a cavern?" asked Oliver.

"We do not know," she answered, "since lamps would scarcely have
served them. It is a secret of the past which none of the Abati have
cared to recover, and another is how the air is always kept fresh so
deep in the bowels of the mountain. We cannot even say whether this
place is natural, as I think, or hollowed out by men."

"Both, I expect," I answered. "But tell me, Lady, do the Abati make
any use of this great cave?"

"Some corn is still stored here in pits in case of siege," she
replied, adding sadly, "but it is not enough to be of real service,
since almost all of it comes from the estates of the Child of Kings.
In vain have I prayed the people to contribute, if only a hundredth
part of their harvest, but they will not. Each says that he would give
if his neighbour gave, and so none give. And yet a day may come when a
store of corn alone would stand between them and death by hunger--if
the Fung held the valley, for instance," and she turned impatiently
and walked forward to show us the stables where the ancients kept
their horses and the marks of their chariot wheels in the stone floor.

"Nice people, the Abati, sir," said Quick to me. "If it weren't for
the women and children, and, above all, for this little lady, whom I
am beginning to worship like my master, as in duty bound, I'd like to
see them do a bit of hungering."

"There is one more place to show you," said Maqueda, when we had
inspected the stables and argued as to what possible causes could have
induced the ancients to keep horses underground, "which perhaps you
will think worth a visit, since it holds the treasures that are, or
shall be, yours. Come!"

We started forward again along various passages, the last of which
suddenly widened into a broad and steep incline of rock, which we
followed for quite fifty paces till it ended in what seemed to be a
blank wall. Here Maqueda bade her ladies and attendants halt, which
indeed they seemed very anxious to do, though at the moment we did not
know why. Then she went to one end of the wall where it joined that of
the passage, and, showing us some loose stones, asked me to pull them
out, which I did, not without difficulty. When an aperture had been
made large enough for a man to creep through, she turned to her people
and said:

"You, I know, believe this place to be haunted, nor would the bravest
of you enter it save by express command. But I and these strangers
have no such fears. Therefore give us a gourd of oil and some torches
and bide where you are till we return, setting a lamp in the hole in
the wall to guide us in case our own should become extinguished. No,
do not reason but obey. There is no danger, for though hot, the air
within is pure, as I know who have breathed it more than once."

Then she gave her hand to Oliver, and with his assistance crept
through the hole. We followed, to find ourselves in another cavern,
where, as she had said, the temperature was much hotter than that

"What is this place?" asked Orme in a low voice, for its aspect seemed
to awe him.

"The tomb of the old kings of Mur," she replied. "Presently you shall
see," and once more she took his hand, for the slope was sharp and

On we went, always descending, for perhaps four hundred yards, our
footfalls echoing loudly in the intense silence, and our lamps, round
which the bats circled in hundreds, making four stars of light in the
utter blackness, till at length the passage widened out into what
appeared to be a vast circular arena, with a lofty dome-like roof of
rock. Maqueda turned to the right, and, halting before some objects
that glimmered whitely, held up her light, saying, "Look!"

This was what we saw: A great stone chair and, piled upon its seat and
upon its base, human bones. Amongst these was a skull, and on it,
grotesquely tilted, a crown of gold, while other ornaments--sceptres,
rings, necklaces, weapons and armour--were mingled with the bones. Nor
was this all, for in a wide circle round the chair were other
skeletons, fifty or more of them, and amongst them the ornaments that
their owners had worn.

Also, in front of each stood a tray of some metal, which we afterwards
discovered to be silver or copper, and heaped upon it every kind of
valuable, such as golden cups and vases, toilet utensils, necklaces,
pectorals, bracelets, leglets, earrings and beads that seemed to be
cut from precious stones, piles of ring money, and a hundred other
things such as have been prized by mankind since the beginning of

"You understand," said Maqueda, as we stared, open-mouthed at this
awful and marvellous sight, "he in the chair was the king. Those about
him were his officers, guards, and women. When he was buried they
brought his household here, bearing his wealth, sat them down about
him, and killed them. Blow away the dust, and you will see that the
rock beneath is still stained with their blood; also, there are the
sword-marks on their skulls, and neckbones."

Quick, who was of an inquiring mind, stepped forward and verified
these statements.

"Golly!" he said, throwing down the skull of a man over whom the tired
executioners had evidently bungled badly, "I'm glad I didn't serve the
old kings of Mur. But the same game goes on in a small way to-day in
Africa, for when I was campaigning on the West Coast I came across it
not a fortnight old, only there they had buried the poor beggars

"Perhaps," said Maqueda, when the Sergeant's remarks had been
translated to her. "Yet I do not think the custom is one that my
people would love," and she laughed a little, then added, "forward,
friends, there are many more of these kings and oil does not burn for

So we moved on, and at a distance of some twenty paces found another
chair with scattered bones on and about the seat, lying where each had
fallen as the dead man decayed. Round it were the skeletons of the
unfortunates who had been doomed to accompany him upon his last
journey, every one of them behind his tray of golden objects, or of
simple treasure. In front of this king's chair also were the bones of
a dog with a jewelled collar.

Again we proceeded to a third mortuary, if it may so be called, and
here Maqueda pointed out the skeleton of a man, in front of which
stood a tray piled up with what evidently had been the medicine
bottles of the period and among them a number of rude surgical

"Say, O Physician Adams," she remarked with a smile, "would you have
wished to be court doctor to the kings of Mur, if indeed that was then
their city's name?"

"No, Lady," I answered; "but I do wish to examine his instruments if I
have your leave," and while she hurried forward I stooped down and
filled my pockets. Here I may remark, that upon subsequent inspection
I found among these instruments, manufactured I know not what number
of thousands of years ago--for on that point controversy rages among
the learned--many that with modifications are still in use to-day.

Of that strange and dreadful sepulchre there is little more to tell.
From monarch to monarch we marched on till at length we grew weary of
staring at bones and gold. Even Quick grew weary, who had passed his
early youth in assisting his father, the parish sexton, and therefore,
like myself, regarded these relics with professional interest, though
of a different degree. At any rate, he remarked that this family vault
was uncommonly hot, and perhaps, if it pleased her Majesty, as he
called Maqueda, we might take the rest of the deceased gentlemen as
read, like a recruit's attestation questions.

But just then we came to No. 25, according to my counting, and were
obliged to stop to wonder, for clearly this king had been the greatest
of them all, since round him lay about two or three times the average
number of dead, and an enormous quantity of wealth, some of it in the
form of little statues of men and women, or perhaps of gods. Yet,
oddly enough, he was hunchback with a huge skull, almost a monstrosity
indeed. Perhaps his mind partook of the abnormal qualities of his
body, since no less than eleven little children had been sacrificed at
his obsequies, two of whom, judging from their crooked bones, must
have been his own.

One wonders what chanced in Mur and the surrounding territories which
then acknowledged its sway when King Hunchback ruled. Alas! history
writes no record.



"Here we begin to turn, for this cave is a great circle," said Maqueda
over her shoulder.

But Oliver, whom she addressed, had left her side and was engaged in
taking observations behind the hunchback's funeral chair with an
instrument which he had produced from his pocket.

She followed him and asked curiously what this thing might be, and why
he made use of it here.

"We call it a compass," he answered, "and it tells me that beyond us
lies the east, where the sun rises; also it shows at what height we
stand above the sea, that great water which you have never seen, O
Child of Kings. Say now, if we could walk through this rock, what
should we find out yonder?"

"The lion-headed idol of the Fung, I have been told," she answered.
"That which you saw before you blew up the gate of the city Harmac.
But how far off it may be I do not know, for I cannot see through
stone. Friend Adams, help me to refill the lamps, for they burn low,
and all these dead would be ill company in the dark. So at least my
people think, since there is not one of them that dares to enter this
place. When first we found it only a few years ago and saw the company
it held, they fled, and left me to search it alone. Look, yonder are
my footsteps in the dust."

So I refilled the shallow hand-lamps, and while I did so Orme took
some hasty observations of which he jotted down the results in his

"What have you learned?" she asked, when at last he rejoined us
somewhat unwillingly, for she had been calling to him to come.

"Not so much as I should have done if you could have given me more
time," he replied, adding in explanation, "Lady, I was brought up as
an engineer, that is, one who executes works, and to do so takes
measurements and makes calculations. For instance, those dead men who
hollowed or dressed these caves must have been engineers and no mean

"We have such among us now," she said. "They raise dams and make
drains and houses, though not so good as those which were built of
old. But again I ask--what have you learned, O wise Engineer?"

"Only that here we stand not so very far above the city Harmac, of
which I chanced to take the level, and that behind yonder chair there
was, I think, once a passage which has been built up. But be pleased
to say nothing of the matter, Lady, and to ask me no more questions at
present, as I cannot answer them with certainty."

"I see that you are discreet as well as wise," she replied with some
sarcasm. "Well, since I may not be trusted with your counsel, keep it
to yourself."

Oliver bowed and obeyed this curt instruction.

Then we began our return journey, passing many more groups of
skeletons which now we scarcely troubled to look at, perhaps because
the heavy air filled with dust that once had been the flesh of men,
was telling on our energies. Only I noticed, or rather the observant
Quick called my attention to the fact, that as we went the kings in
their chairs were surrounded by fewer and fewer attendants and women,
and that the offerings placed at their feet were of an ever-lessening
value. Indeed, after we had passed another five or six of them, their
murdered retinues dwindled to a few female skeletons, doubtless those
of favourite wives who had been singled out for this particular

At length there were none at all, the poor monarchs, who now were
crowded close together, being left to explore the shades alone,
adorned merely with their own jewellery and regalia. Ultimately even
these were replaced by funeral gold-foil ornaments, and the trays of
treasure by earthenware jars which appeared to have contained nothing
but food and wine, and added to these a few spears and other weapons.
The last of the occupied chairs, for there were empty ones beyond,
contained bones which, from their slenderness and the small size of
the bracelets among them, I saw at once had belonged to a woman who
had been sent to the grave without companions or any offerings at all.

"Doubtless," said Maqueda, when I pointed this out to her, "at that
time the ancients had grown weak and poor, since after so many kings
they permitted a woman to rule over them and had no wealth to waste
upon her burial. That may have been after the earthquake, when only a
few people were left in Mur before the Abati took possession of it."

"Where, then, are those of your own house buried?" asked Oliver,
staring at the empty chairs.

"Oh! not in this place," she answered; "I have told you it was
discovered but a few years ago. We rest in tombs outside, and for my
part I will sleep in the simple earth, so that I may live on in grass
and flowers, if in no other way. But enough of death and doom. Soon,
who can tell how soon? we shall be as these are," and she shuddered.
"Meanwhile, we breathe, so let us make the best of breath. You have
seen your fee, say, does it content you?"

"What fee?" he asked. "Death, the reward of Life? How can I tell until
I have passed its gate?"

Here this philosophical discussion was interrupted by the sudden
decease of Quick's lamp.

"Thought there was something wrong with the blooming thing," said the
Sergeant, "but couldn't turn it up, as it hasn't got a screw, without
which these old-fashioned colza oils never were no good. Hullo!
Doctor, there goes yours," and as he spoke, go it did.

"The wicks!" exclaimed Maqueda, "we forgot to bring new wicks, and
without them of what use is oil? Come, be swift; we are still far from
the mouth of this cave, where none except the high priests will dare
to seek us," and, taking Oliver by the hand, she began to run, leaving
us two to follow as best we could.

"Steady, Doctor," said Quick, "steady. In the presence of disaster
comrades should always stick together, as it says in the Red-book
presented by the crown to warrant officers, but paid for out of their
deferred allowance. Take my arm, Doctor. Ah! I thought so, the more
haste the less speed. Look there," and he pointed to the flying shapes
ahead, now a long way off, and with only one lamp between them.

Next instant Maqueda turned round holding up this remaining lamp and
called to us. I saw the faint light gleam upon her beautiful face and
glitter down the silver ornaments of her dress. Very wild and strange
she looked in that huge vault, seen thus for a single moment, then
seen no more, for presently where the flame had been was but a red
spark, and then nothing at all.

"Stop still till we come back to you," cried Oliver, "and shout at

"Yes, sir," said Quick, and instantly let off a fearful yell, which
echoed backward and forward across the vault till I was quite

"All right, coming," answered Oliver, and his voice sounded so far to
the left that Quick thought it wise to yell again.

To cut a long story short, we next heard him on our right and then
behind us.

"Can't trust sounds here, sir, echoes are too uncertain," said the
Sergeant; "but come on, I think I've placed them now," and calling to
/them/ not to move, we headed in what we were sure was the right

The end of that adventure was that presently I tripped up over a
skeleton and found myself lying half stunned amidst trays of treasure,
affectionately clasping a skull under the impression that it was
Quick's boot.

He hauled me up again somehow, and, as we did not know what to do, we
sat down amidst the dead and listened. By now the others were
apparently so far off that the sound of Oliver's calling only reached
us in faint, mysterious notes that came from we knew not whence.

"As, like idiots, we started in such a hurry that we forgot to bring
any matches with us, there is nothing to be done, except wait," I
said. "No doubt in due course those Abati will get over their fear of
ghosts and come to look for us."

"Wish I could do the same, sir. I didn't mind those deaders in the
light, but the dark's a different matter. Can't you hear them rattling
their shanks and talking all round us?"

"Certainly I do hear something," I answered, "but I think it must be
the echo of our own voices."

"Well, let us hold our jaw, sir, and perhaps they will hold theirs,
for this kind of conversation ain't nice."

So we were silent, but the strange murmuring still went on, coming
apparently from the wall of the cave behind us, and it occurred to me
that I had once heard something like it before, though at the time I
could not think where. Afterwards I remembered that it was when, as a
boy, I had been taken to see the Whispering Gallery in St. Paul's
Cathedral in London.

Half-an-hour or so went by in this fashion, and still there were no
signs of the Abati or of our missing pair. Quick began to fumble among
his clothes. I asked him what he was doing.

"Can't help thinking I've got a wax match somewhere, Doctor. I
remember feeling it in one of the pockets of this coat on the day
before we left London, and thinking afterwards it wasn't safe to have
had it packed in a box marked 'Hold.' Now if only I could find that
match, we have got plenty of torches, for I've stuck to my bundle all
through, although I never thought of them when the lamps were going

Having small belief in the Sergeant's match, I made no answer, and the
search went on till presently I heard him ejaculate:

"By Jingo, here it is, in the lining. Yes, and the head feels all
right. Now, Doctor, hold two of the torches toward me; make ready,
present, fire!" and he struck the match and applied it to the heads of
the resinous torches.

Instantly these blazed up, giving an intense light in that awful
darkness. By this light, for one moment only, we saw a strange, and
not unattractive spectacle. I think I forgot to say that in the centre
of this vault stood a kind of altar, which until that moment, indeed,
I had not seen. This altar, which, doubtless, had been used for
ceremonial purposes at the funerals of the ancient Kings, consisted of
a plain block of basalt stone, whereon was cut the symbol of a human
eye, the stone being approached by steps and supported upon carved and
crouching sphinxes.

On the lowest of these steps, near enough to enable us to see them
quite clearly, were seated Oliver Orme and Maqueda, Child of Kings.
They were seated very close together; indeed, if I must tell the
truth, Oliver's arm was about Maqueda's waist, her head rested upon
his shoulder, and apparently he was engaged in kissing her upon the

"Right about face," hissed the Sergeant, in a tone of command, "and
mark time!"

So we right-abouted for a decent period, then, coughing loudly--
because of the irritant smoke of the torches--advanced to cross the
cavern, and by accident stumbled upon our lost companions. I confess
that I had nothing to say, but Quick rose to the occasion nobly.

"Glad to see you, Captain," he said to Oliver. "Was getting very
anxious about you, sir, until by good luck I found a match in the
lining of my coat. If the Professor had been here he'd have had
plenty, which is an argument in favour of continuous smoking, even
when ladies are present. Ah! no wonder her Majesty is faint in this
hot place, poor young thing. It's lucky you didn't leave hold of her,
sir. Do you think you could manage to support her, sir, as we ought to
be moving. Can't offer to do so myself, as I have lamed my foot with
the tooth of a dead king, also my arms are full of torches. But if you
prefer the Doctor--what do you say, sir? That you /can/ manage? There
is such an echo in this vault that it is difficult to hear--very well,
let us go on, for these torches won't last for ever, and you wouldn't
like us to have to spend a whole night here with the lady in such a
delicate condition, would you, especially as those nasty-tempered
Abati might say that you had done it on purpose? Take her Majesty's
arm, Doctor, and let us trek. I'll go ahead with the torches."

To all this artless harangue Oliver answered not a single word, but
glared at us suspiciously over the shape of Maqueda, who apparently
had fainted. Only when I ventured to offer her some professional
assistance she recovered, and said that she could get on quite well
alone, which meant upon Orme's arm.

Well, the end of it was that she got on, and so did we, for the
torches lasted until we reached the narrow, sloping passage, and,
rounding the corner, saw the lantern burning in the hole in the wall,
after which, of course, things were easy.

"Doctor," said Oliver to me in a voice of studied nonchalance that
night, as we were preparing to turn in, "did you notice anything in
the Vault of Kings this afternoon?"

"Oh, yes," I answered, "lots! Of course, myself, I am not given to
archæology, like poor Higgs, but the sight struck me as absolutely
unique. If I were inclined to moralize, for instance, what a contrast
between those dead rulers and their young and beautiful successor,
full of life and love"--here he looked at me sharply--"love of her
people, such as I have no doubt in their day----"

"Oh, shut it, Adams! I don't want a philosophical lecture with
historical comparisons. Did you notice anything except bones and gold
when that unutterable ass, Quick, suddenly turned on the lights--I
mean struck the match which unfortunately he had with him."

Now I gave it up and faced the situation.

"Well, if you want the truth," I said, "not /very/ much myself, for my
sight isn't as good as it used to be. But the Sergeant, who has
extraordinarily sharp eyes, thought that he saw you kissing Maqueda, a
supposition that your relative attitudes seemed to confirm, which
explains, moreover, some of the curious sounds we heard before he lit
the torches. That's why he asked me to turn my back. But, of course,
we may have been mistaken. Do I understand you to say that the
Sergeant was mistaken?"

Oliver consigned the Sergeant's eyes to an ultimate fate worse than
that which befell those of Peeping Tom; then, in a burst of candour,
for subterfuge never was his forte, owned up:

"You made no mistake," he said, "we love each other, and it came out
suddenly in the dark. I suppose that the unusual surroundings acted on
our nerves."

"From a moral point of view I am glad that you love each other," I
remarked, "since embraces that are merely nervous cannot be commended.
But from every other, in our circumstances the resulting situation
strikes me as a little short of awful, although Quick, a most
observant man, warned me to expect it from the first."

"Curse Quick," said Oliver again, with the utmost energy. "I'll give
him a month's notice this very night."

"Don't," I said, "for then you'll oblige him to take service with
Barung, where he would be most dangerous. Look here, Orme, to drop
chaff, this is a pretty mess."

"Why? What's wrong about it, Doctor?" he asked indignantly. "Of
course, she's a Jew of some diluted sort or other, and I'm a
Christian; but those things adapt themselves. Of course, too, she's my
superior, but after all hers is a strictly local rank, and in Europe
we should be on much the same footing. As for her being an Eastern,
what does that matter? Surely it is not an objection which should have
weight with /you/. And for the rest, did you ever see her equal?"

"Never, never, /never/!" I answered with enthusiasm. "The young lady
to whom any gentleman has just engaged himself is always absolutely
unequalled, and, let me admit at once that this is perhaps the most
original and charming that I have ever met in all Central Africa.
Only, whatever may be the case with you, I don't know whether this
fact will console me and Quick when our throats are being cut. Look
here, Orme," I added, "didn't I tell you long ago that the one thing
you must /not/ do was to make love to the Child of Kings?"

"Did you? Really, I forget; you told me such a lot of things, Doctor,"
he answered coolly enough, only unfortunately the colour that rose in
his cheeks betrayed his lips.

At this moment, Quick, who had entered the room unobserved, gave a dry
cough, and remarked:

"Don't blame the Captain, Doctor, because he don't remember. There's
nothing like shock from an explosion for upsetting the memory. I've
seen that often in the Boer war, when, after a big shell had gone off
somewhere near them, the very bravest soldiers would clean forget that
it was their duty to stand still and not run like rabbits; indeed, it
happened to me myself."

I laughed, and Oliver said something which I could not hear, but Quick
went on imperturbably:

"Still, truth is truth, and if the Captain has forgotten, the more
reason that we should remind him. That evening at the Professor's
house in London you did warn him, sir, and he answered that you
needn't bother your head about the fascinations of a nigger woman----"

"Nigger woman," broke out Oliver; "I never used such words; I never
even thought them, and you are an impertinent fellow to put them into
my mouth. Nigger woman! Good heavens! It's desecration."

"Very sorry, Captain, now I come to think of it, I believe you said
black woman, speaking in your haste. Yes and I begged you not to brag,
seeing that if you did we might live to see you crawling after her,
with myself, Samuel Quick bringing up the rear. Well, there it is we
are, and the worst of it is that I can't blame you, being as
anticipated in the prophecy--for that's what it was though I didn't
know it myself at the time--exactly in the same state myself, though,
of course, at a distance, bringing up the rear respectfully, as said."

"You don't mean that you are in love with the Child of Kings?" said
Oliver, staring at the Sergeant's grim and battered figure.

"Begging your pardon, Captain, that is exactly what I do mean. If a
cat may look at a queen, why mayn't a man love her? Howsoever, my kind
of love ain't likely to interfere with yours. My kind means sentry-go
and perhaps a knife in my gizzard; yours--well, we saw what yours
means this afternoon, though what it will all lead to we didn't see.
Still, Captain, speaking as one who hasn't been keen on the sex
heretofore, I say--sail in, since it's worth it, even if you've got to
sink afterwards, for this lady, although she is half a Jew, and I
never could abide Jews, is the sweetest and the loveliest and the best
and the bravest little woman that ever walked God's earth."

At this point Oliver seized his hand and shook it warmly, and I may
mention that I think some report of Quick's summary of her character
must have reached Maqueda's ears. At any rate, thenceforward until the
end she always treated the old fellow with what the French call the
"most distinguished consideration."

But, as I was not in love, no one shook my hand, so, leaving the other
two to discuss the virtues and graces of the Child of Kings, I went
off to bed filled with the gloomiest forbodings. What a fool I had
been not to insist that whatever expert accompanied Higgs should be a
married man. And yet, now when I came to think of it, that might not
have bettered matters, and perhaps would only have added to the
transaction a degree of moral turpitude which at present was lacking,
since even married men are sometimes weak.

The truth was that Maqueda's attractions were extraordinarily great.
To her remarkable beauty she added a wonderful charm of manner and
force of mind. Also her situation must touch the heart and pity of any
man, so helpless was she in the midst of all her hollow grandeur, so
lonely amongst a nation of curs whom she strove in vain to save, and
should she escape destruction with them, doomed to so sad and
repulsive a fate, namely to become the wife of a fat poltroon who was
her own uncle. Well, we know to what emotion pity is akin, and the
catastrophe had occurred a little sooner than I had expected, that was

Doubtless to her, in comparison with the men to whom she was
accustomed and allowed by etiquette to take as her associates, this
brave and handsome young Englishman, who had come into her care sick
and shattered after the doing of a great deed, must have seemed a
veritable fairy prince. And she had helped to nurse him, and he had
shown himself grateful for her kindness and condescension, and--the
rest followed, as surely as the day follows the night.

But how would it end? Sooner or later the secret must come out, for
already the Abati nobles, if I may call them so for want of a better
name, and especially Joshua, were bitterly jealous of the favour their
lady showed to the foreigner, and watched them both. Then what--what
would happen? Under the Abati law it was death for any one outside of
the permitted degree of relationship to tamper with the affections of
the Child of Kings. Nor was this wonderful, since that person held her
seat in virtue of her supposed direct descent from Solomon and the
first Maqueda, Queen of Sheba, and therefore the introduction of any
alien blood could not be tolerated.

Moreover, Orme, having sworn an oath of allegiance, had become subject
to those laws. Lastly, I could not in the least hope from the
character of the pair concerned that this was but a passing

Oh! without a doubt these two had signed their own death-warrant
yonder in the Cave of Death, and incidentally ours also. This must be
the end of our adventure and my long search for the son whom I had



Our breakfast on the following morning was a somewhat gloomy meal. By
common consent no allusion was made to the events of the previous day,
or to our conversation at bedtime.

Indeed, there was no talk at all to speak of, since, not knowing what
else to do, I thought I could best show my attitude of mind by
preserving a severe silence, while Quick seemed to be absorbed in
philosophical reflections, and Orme looked rather excited and
dishevelled, as though he had been writing poetry, as I daresay was
the case. In the midst of this dreary meal a messenger arrived, who
announced that the Walda Nagasta would be pleased to see us all within

Fearing lest Orme should say something foolish, I answered briefly
that we would wait upon her, and the man went, leaving us wondering
what had happened to cause her to desire our presence.

At the appointed time we were shown into the small audience room, and,
as we passed its door, I ventured to whisper to Oliver:

"For your own sake and hers, as well as that of the rest of us, I
implore you to be careful. Your face is watched as well as your

"All right, old fellow," he answered, colouring a little. "You may
trust me."

"I wish I could," I muttered.

Then we were shown in ceremoniously, and made our bows to Maqueda, who
was seated, surrounded by some of the judges and officers, among them,
Prince Joshua, and talking to two rough-looking men clad in ordinary
brown robes. She greeted us, and after the exchange of the usual
compliments, said:

"Friends, I have summoned you for this reason. This morning when the
traitor Shadrach was being led out to execution at the hands of these
men, the officers of the law, he begged for a delay. When asked why,
as his petition for reprieve had been refused, he said that if his
life was spared he could show how your companion, he whom they call
Black Windows, may be rescued from the Fung."

"How?" asked Orme and I in one breath.

"I do not know," she answered, "but wisely they spared the man. Let
him be brought in."

A door opened, and Shadrach entered, his hands bound behind his back
and shackles on his feet. He was a very fearful and much chastened
Shadrach, for his eyes rolled and his teeth chattered with terror, as,
having prostrated himself to the Walda Nagasta, he wriggled round and
tried to kiss Orme's boot. The guards pulled him to his feet again,
and Maqueda said:

"What have you to tell us, traitor, before you die?"

"The thing is secret, O Bud of the Rose. Must I speak before so many?"

"Nay," she answered, and ordered most of those present to leave the
room, including the executioners and soldiers.

"The man is desperate, and there will be none left to guard him," said
Joshua nervously.

"I'll do that, your Highness," answered Quick in his bad Arabic, and
stepping up behind Shadrach he added in English, "Now then, Pussy, you
behave, or it will be the worse for you."

When all had gone again Shadrach was commanded to speak and say how he
could save the Englishman whom he had betrayed into the hands of the

"Thus, Child of Kings," he answered, "Black Windows, as we know, is
imprisoned in the body of the great idol."

"How do you know it, man?"

"O Lady, I do know it, and also the Sultan said so, did he not? Well,
I can show a secret road to that idol whence he may be reached and
rescued. In my boyhood I, who am called Cat, because I can climb so
well, found that road, and when the Fung took me afterward and threw
me to the lions, where I got these scars upon my face, by it I
escaped. Spare me, and I will show it to you."

"It is not enough to show the road," said Maqueda. "Dog, you must save
the foreign lord whom you betrayed. If you do not save him you die. Do
you understand?"

"That is a hard saying, Lady," answered the man. "Am I God that I
should promise to save this stranger who perchance is already dead?
Yet I will do my best, knowing that if I fail you will kill me, and
that if I succeed I shall be spared. At any rate, I will show you the
road to where he is or was imprisoned, although I warn you that it is
a rough one."

"Where you can travel we can follow," said Maqueda. "Tell us now what
we must do."

So he told her, and when he had done the Prince Joshua intervened,
saying that it was not fitting that the Child of Kings in her own
sacred person should undertake such a dangerous journey. She listened
to his remonstrances and thanked him for his care of her.

"Still I am going," she said, "not for the sake of the stranger who is
called Black Windows, but because, if there is a secret way out of Mur
I think it well that I should know that way. Yet I agree with you, my
uncle, that on such a journey I ought not to be unprotected, and
therefore I pray that you will be ready to start with us at noon,
since I am sure that then we shall all be safe."

Now Joshua began to make excuses, but she would not listen to them.

"No, no," she said, "you are too honest. The honour of the Abati is
involved in this manner, since, alas! it was an Abati that betrayed
Black Windows, and an Abati--namely, yourself--must save him. You have
often told me, my uncle, how clever you are at climbing rocks, and now
you shall make proof of your skill and courage before these
foreigners. It is a command, speak no more," and she rose, to show
that the audience was finished.

That same afternoon Shadrach, by mountain paths that were known to
him, led a little company of people to the crest of the western
precipice of Mur. Fifteen hundred feet or more beneath us lay the
great plains upon which, some miles away, could be seen the city of
Harmac. But the idol in the valley we could not see, because here the
precipice bent over and hid it from our sight.

"What now, fellow," said Maqueda, who was clad in the rough sheepskin
of a peasant woman, which somehow looked charming upon her. "Here is
the cliff, there lies the plain; I see no road between the two, and my
wise uncle, the prince, tells me that he never heard of one."

"Lady," answered the man, "now I take command, and you must follow me.
But first let us see that nobody and nothing are lacking."

Then he went round the company and numbered them. In all we were
sixteen; Maqueda and Joshua, we three Englishmen, armed with repeating
rifles and revolvers, our guide Shadrach, and some picked Mountaineers
chosen for their skill and courage. For even in Mur there were brave
men left, especially among the shepherds and huntsmen, whose homes
were on the cliffs. These sturdy guides were laden with ropes, lamps,
and long, slender ladders that could be strapped together.

When everything had been checked and all the ladders and straps
tested, Shadrach went to a clump of bushes which grew feebly on the
wind-swept crest of the precipice. In the midst of these he found and
removed a large flat stone, revealing what evidently had been the head
of a stair, although now its steps were much worn and crumbled by the
water that in the wet season followed this natural drain to the depths

"This is that road the ancients made for purposes of their own,"
explained Shadrach, "which, as I have said, I chanced to discover when
I was a boy. But let none follow it who are afraid, for it is steep
and rough."

Now Joshua, who was already weary with his long ride and walk up to
the crest of the precipice, implored Maqueda almost passionately to
abandon the idea of entering this horrid hole, while Oliver backed up
his entreaties with few words but many appealing glances, for on this
point, though for different reasons, the prince and he were at one.

But she would not listen.

"My uncle," she said, "with you, the experienced mountaineer, why
should I be afraid? If the Doctor here, who is old enough to be the
father of either of us" (so far as Joshua was concerned this remark
lacked truth), "is willing to go, surely I can go also? Moreover, if I
remained behind, you would wish to stay to guard me, and never should
I forgive myself if I deprived you of such a great adventure. Also,
like you, I love climbing. Come, let us waste no more time."

So we were roped up. First went Shadrach, with Quick next to him, a
position which the Sergeant insisted upon occupying as his custodian,
and several of the Mountaineers, carrying ladders, lamps, oil, food
and other things. Then in a second gang came two more of these men,
Oliver, Maqueda, myself, and next to me, Joshua. The remaining
mountaineers brought up the rear, carrying spare stores, ladders, and
so forth. When all was ready the lamps were lit, and we started upon a
very strange journey.

For the first two hundred feet or so the stairs, though worn and
almost perpendicular, for the place was like the shaft of a mine, were
not difficult to descend, to any of us except Joshua, whom I heard
puffing and groaning behind me. Then came a gallery running eastward
at a steep slope for perhaps fifty paces, and at the end of it a
second shaft of about the same depth as the first, but with the stairs
much more worn, apparently by the washing of water, of which a good
deal trickled out of the sides of the shaft. Another difficulty was
that the air rushing up from below made it hard to keep the lamps

Toward the bottom of this section there was scarcely any stair left,
and the climbing became very dangerous. Here, indeed, Joshua slipped,
and with a wail of terror slid down the shaft and landed with his legs
across my back in such a fashion that had I not happened to have good
hand and foot hold at the time, he would have propelled me on to
Maqueda, and we must have all rolled down headlong, probably to our

As it was, this fat and terrified fellow cast his arms about my neck,
to which he clung, nearly choking me, until, just when I was about to
faint beneath his weight and pressure, the Mountaineers in the third
party arrived and dragged him off. When they had got him in charge,
for I refused to move another step while he was immediately behind me,
we descended by a ladder which the first party had set up, to the
second level, where began another long, eastward sloping passage that
ended at the mouth of a third pit.

Here arose the great question as to what was to be done with the
Prince Joshua, who vowed that he could go no farther, and demanded
loudly to be taken back to the top of the cliff, although Shadrach
assured him that thenceforward the road was much easier. At length we
were obliged to refer the matter to Maqueda, who settled it in very
few words.

"My uncle," she said, "you tell us that you cannot come on, and it is
certain that we cannot spare the time and men to send you back.
Therefore, it seems that you must stop where you are until we return,
and if we should not return, make the best of your own way up the
shaft. Farewell, my uncle, this place is safe and comfortable, and if
you are wise you will rest awhile."

"Heartless woman!" gobbled Joshua, who was shaking like a jelly with
fear and rage. "Would you leave your affianced lord and lover alone in
this haunted hole while you scramble down rocks like a wild cat with
strangers? If I must stay, do you stay with me?"

"Certainly not," replied Maqueda with decision. "Shall it be said that
the Child of Kings is afraid to go where her guests can travel?"

Well, the end of it was that Joshua came on in the centre of the third
body of Mountaineers, who were practically obliged to carry him.

Shadrach was right, since for some reason or other the stairs
thenceforward remained more perfect. Only they seemed almost endless,
and before we reached our goal I calculated that we must have
descended quite twelve hundred feet into the bowels of the rock. At
length, when I was almost tired out and Maqueda was so breathless that
she was obliged to lean on Oliver, dragging me behind her like a dog
on a string, of a sudden we saw a glimmer of daylight that crept into
the tunnel through a small hole. By the mouth of yet another pit or
shaft, we found Shadrach and the others waiting for us. Saluting, he
said that we must unrope, leave our lamps behind, and follow him.
Oliver asked him whither this last shaft led.

"To a still lower level, lord," he answered, "but one which you will
scarcely care to explore, since it ends in the great pit where the
Fung keep their sacred lions."

"Indeed," said Oliver, much interested for reasons of his own, and he
glanced at Quick, who nodded his head and whistled.

Then we all followed Shadrach to find ourselves presently upon a
plateau about the size of a racquet court which, either by nature or
by the hand of man, had been recessed into the face of that gigantic
cliff. Going to the edge of this plateau, whereon grew many tree-ferns
and some thick green bushes that would have made us invisible from
below even had there been any one to see us, we saw that the sheer
precipice ran down beneath for several hundred feet. Of these yawning
depths, however, we did not at the moment make out much, partly
because they were plunged in shadow and partly for another reason.

Rising out of the gulf below was what we took at first to be a rounded
hill of black rock, oblong in shape, from which projected a gigantic
shaft of stone ending in a kind of fretted bush that alone was of the
size of a cottage. The point of this bush-like rock was exactly
opposite the little plateau on to which we had emerged and distant
from it not more than thirty, or at most, forty feet.

"What is that?" asked Maqueda, of Shadrach, pointing in front of her,
as she handed back to one of the Mountaineers a cup from which she had
been drinking water.

"That, O Walda Nagasta," he answered, "is nothing else than the back
of the mighty idol of the Fung, which is shaped like a lion. The great
shaft of rock with the bush at the end of it is the tail of the lion.
Doubtless this platform on which we stand is a place whence the old
priests, when they owned Mur as well as the land of the Fung, used to
hide themselves to watch whatever it was they wanted to see. Look,"
and he pointed to certain grooves in the face of the rock, "I think
that here there was once a bridge which could be let down at will on
to the tail of the lion-god, though long ago it has rotted away. Yet
ere now I have travelled this road without it."

We stared at him astonished, and in the silence that followed I heard
Maqueda whisper to Oliver:

"Perhaps that is how he whom we call Cat escaped from the Fung; or
perhaps that is how he communicates with them as a spy."

"Or perhaps he is a liar, my Lady," interrupted Quick, who had also
overheard their talk, a solution which, I confess, commended itself to

"Why have you brought us here?" asked Maqueda presently.

"Did I not tell you in Mur, Lady--to rescue Black Windows? Listen,
now, it is the custom of the Fung to allow those who are imprisoned
within the idol to walk unguarded upon its back at dawn and sunset. At
least, this is their custom with Black Windows--ask me not how I know
it; this is truth, I swear it on my life, which is at stake. Now this
is my plan. We have with us a ladder which will reach from where we
stand to the tail of the idol. Should the foreign lord appear upon the
back of the god, which, if he still lives, as I believe he does, he is
almost sure to do at sundown, as a man who dwells in the dark all day
will love the light and air when he can get them, then some of us must
cross and bring him back with us. Perhaps it had best be you, my lord
Orme, since if I went alone, or even with these men, after what is
past Black Windows might not altogether trust me."

"Fool," broke in Maqueda, "how can a man do such a thing?"

"O Lady, it is not so difficult as it looks. A few steps across the
gulf, and then a hundred feet or so along the tail of the lion which
is flat on the top and so broad that one may run down it if careful to
follow the curves, that is on a still day--nothing more. But, of
course, if the Lord Orme is afraid, which I did not think who have
heard so much of his courage----" and the rogue shrugged his shoulders
and paused.

"Afraid, fellow," said Oliver, "well, I am not ashamed to be afraid of
such a journey. Yet if there is need I will make it, though not before
I see my brother alone yonder on the rock, since all this may be but a
trick of yours to deliver me to the Fung, among whom I know that you
have friends."

"It is madness; you shall not go," said Maqueda. "You will fall and be
dashed to pieces. I say that you shall not go."

"Why should he not go, my niece?" interrupted Joshua. "Shadrach is
right; we have heard much of the courage of this Gentile. Now let us
see him do something."

She turned on the Prince like a tiger.

"Very good, my uncle, then you shall go with him. Surely one of the
ancient blood of the Abati will not shirk from what a 'Gentile'

On hearing this Joshua relapsed into silence, and I have no clear
memory of what he did or said in connection with the rest of that
thrilling scene.

Now followed a pause in the midst of which Oliver sat down and began
to take off his boots.

"Why do you undress yourself, friend?" asked Maqueda nervously.

"Because, Lady," he answered, "if I have to walk yonder road it is
safer to do so in my stockings. Have no fear," he added gently, "from
boyhood I have been accustomed to such feats, and when I served in my
country's army it was my pleasure to give instruction in them,
although it is true that this one surpasses all that ever I

"Still I do fear," she said.

Meanwhile Quick had sat down and begun to take off /his/ boots.

"What are you doing, Sergeant?" I asked.

"Getting ready to accompany the Captain upon forlorn hope, Doctor."

"Nonsense," I said, "you are too old for the game, Sergeant. If any
one goes, I should, seeing that I believe my son is over there, but I
can't try it, as I know my head would give out, and I should fall in a
second, which would only upset everybody."

"Of course," broke in Oliver, who had overheard us, "I'm in command
here, and my orders are that neither of you shall come. Remember,
Sergeant, that if anything happens to me it is your business to take
over the stores and use them if necessary, which you alone can do. Now
go and see to the preparations, and find out the plan of campaign, for
I want to rest and keep quiet. I daresay the whole thing is humbug,
and we shall see nothing of the Professor; still, one may as well be

So Quick and I went to superintend the lashing of two of the light
ladders together and the securing of some planks which we had brought
with us upon the top of the rungs, so as to make these ladders easy to
walk on. I asked who would be of the party besides Shadrach and Orme,
and was told no one, as all were afraid. Ultimately, however, a man
named Japhet, one of the Mountaineers, volunteered upon being promised
a grant of land from the Child of Kings herself, which grant she
proclaimed before them all was to be given to his relatives in the
event of his death.

At length everything was ready, and there came another spell of
silence, for the nerves of all of us were so strained that we did not
seem able to talk. It was broken by a sound of sudden and terrible
roaring that arose from the gulf beneath.

"It is the hour of the feeding of the sacred lions which the Fung keep
in the pit about the base of the idol," explained Shadrach. Then he
added, "Unless he should be rescued, I believe that Black Windows will
be given to the lions to-night, which is that of full moon and a
festival of Harmac, though maybe he will be kept till the next full
moon when all the Fung come up to worship."

This information did not tend to raise anyone's spirits, although
Quick, who always tried to be cheerful, remarked that it was probably

The shadows began to gather in the Valley of Harmac, whereby we knew
that the sun was setting behind the mountains. Indeed, had it not been
for a clear and curious glow reflected from the eastern sky, the gulf
would have plunged us in gloom. Presently, far away upon a rise of
rock which we knew must be the sphinx head of the huge idol, a little
figure appeared outlined against the sky, and there began to sing. The
moment that I heard the distant voice I went near to fainting, and
indeed should have fallen had not Quick caught me.

"What is it, Adams?" asked Oliver, looking up from where he and
Maqueda sat whispering to each other while the fat Joshua glowered at
them in the background. "Has Higgs appeared?"

"No," I answered, "but, thank God, my son still lives. That is his
voice. Oh! if you can, save him, too."

Now there was much suppressed excitement, and some one thrust a pair
of field-glasses into my hand, but either they were wrongly set or the
state of my nerves would not allow me to see through them. So Quick
took them and reported.

"Tall, slim figure wearing a white robe, but at the distance in this
light can't make out the face. One might hail him, perhaps, only it
would give us away. Ah! the hymn is done and he's gone; seemed to jump
into a hole in the rock, which shows that he's all right, anyway, or
he couldn't jump. So cheer up, Doctor, for you have much to be
thankful for."

"Yes," I repeated after him, "much to be thankful for, but still I
would that I had more after all these years to search. To think that I
should be so close to him and he know nothing of it."

After the ceasing of the song and the departure of my son, there
appeared upon the back of the idol three Fung warriors, fine fellows
clad in long robes and armed with spears, and behind them a trumpeter
who carried a horn or hollowed elephant's tusk. These men marched up
and down the length of the platform from the rise of the neck to the
root of the tail, apparently to make an inspection. Having found
nothing, for, of course, they could not see us hidden behind the
bushes on our little plateau, of which no doubt they did not even know
the existence, and much less that it was connected with the mountain
plain of Mur, the trumpeter blew a shrill blast upon his horn, and
before the echoes of it had died away, vanished with his companions.

"Sunset tour of inspection. Seen the same kind of thing as at Gib.,"
said the Sergeant. "Oh! by Jingo! Pussy isn't lying after all--there
he is," and he pointed to a figure that rose suddenly out of the black
stone of the idol's back just as the guards had done.

It was Higgs, Higgs without a doubt; Higgs wearing his battered sun-
helmet and his dark spectacles; Higgs smoking his big meerschaum pipe,
and engaged in making notes in a pocket-book as calmly as though he
sat before a new object in the British Museum.

I gasped with astonishment, for somehow I had never expected that we
should really see him, but Orme, rising very quietly from his seat
beside Maqueda, only said:

"Yes, that's the old fellow right enough. Well, now for it. You,
Shadrach, run out your ladder and cross first that I may be sure you
play no trick."

"Nay," broke in Maqueda, "this dog shall not go, for never would he
return from his friends the Fung. Man," she said, addressing Japhet,
the Mountaineer to whom she had promised land, "go you over first and
hold the end of the ladder while this lord crosses. If he returns safe
your reward is doubled."

Japhet saluted, the ladder was run out and its end set upon the
roughnesses in the rock that represented the hair of the sphinx's
tail. The Mountaineer paused a moment with hands and face uplifted;
evidently he was praying. Then bidding his companions hold the hither
end of the ladder, and having first tested it with his foot and found
that it hung firm, calmly he walked across, being a brave fellow, and
presently was seen seated on the opposing mass of rock.

Now came Oliver's turn. He nodded to Maqueda, who went white as a
sheet, muttering some words to her that did not reach me. Then he
turned and shook my hand.

"If you can, save my son also," I whispered.

"I'll do my best if I can get hold of him," he answered. "Sergeant, if
anything happens to me you know your duty."

"I'll try and follow your example, Captain, under all circumstances,
though that will be hard," replied Quick in a rather shaky voice.

Oliver stepped out on the ladder. I reckoned that twelve or fourteen
short paces would take him across, and the first half of these he
accomplished with quiet certainty. When he was in the exact middle of
the passage, however, the end of one of the uprights of the ladder at
the farther side slipped a little, notwithstanding the efforts of
Japhet to keep it straight, with the result that the plank bound on
the rungs lost its level, sinking an inch or so to the right, and
nearly causing Oliver to fall from it into the gulf. He wavered like a
wind-shaken reed, attempted to step forward, hesitated, stopped, and
slowly sank on to his hands and knees.

"/Ah/!" panted Maqueda.

"The Gentile has lost his head," began Joshua in a voice full of the
triumph that he could not hide. "He--will----"

Joshua got no further, for Quick, turning, threatened him savagely
with his fist, saying in English:

"Stow your jaw if you don't want to follow him, you swine," whereon
Joshua, who understood the gesture, if not the words, relapsed into

Now the Mountaineer on the farther side spoke, saying:

"Have no fear, the ladder is safe."

For a moment Oliver remained in his crouching posture on the board,
which was all that separated him from an awful death in the gulf
beneath. Next, while we watched, agonized, he rose to his feet again,
and with perfect calmness walked across to its other end.

"Well done our side!" said Quick, addressing Joshua, "why don't your
Royal Highness cheer? No, you leave that knife alone, or presently
there'll be a hog the less in this world," and stooping down he
relieved the Prince of the weapon which he was fingering with his
round eyes fixed upon the Sergeant.

Maqueda, who had noted all, now interfered.

"My uncle," she said, "brave men are risking their lives yonder while
we sit in safety. Be silent and cease from quarrelling, I pray you."

Next moment we had forgotten all about Joshua, being utterly absorbed
in watching the drama in progress upon the farther side of the gulf.
After a slight pause to recover his nerve or breath, Orme rose, and
preceded by Japhet, climbed up the bush-like rock till he reached the
shaft of the sphinx's tail. Here he turned and waved his hand to us,
then following the Mountaineer, walked, apparently with the utmost
confidence, along the curves of the tail to where it sprang from the
body of the idol. At this spot there was a little difficulty in
climbing over the smooth slope of rock on to the broad terrace-like
back. Soon, however, they surmounted it, and vanishing for a few
seconds into the hollow of the loins, which, of course, was a good
many feet deep, re-appeared moving toward the shoulders. Between these
we could see Higgs standing with his back toward us, utterly
unconscious of all that was passing behind him.

Passing Japhet, Oliver walked up to the Professor and touched him on
the arm. Higgs turned, stared at the pair for a moment, and then, in
his astonishment, or so we guessed, sat down plump upon the rock. They
pulled him to his feet, Orme pointing to the cliff behind, and
evidently explaining the situation and what must be done. Then
followed a short and animated talk. Through the glasses we could even
see Higgs shaking his head. He told them something, they came to a
determination, for now he turned, stepped forward a pace or two, and
vanished, as I learnt afterwards, to fetch my son, without whom he
would not try to escape.

A while went by; it seemed an age, but really was under a minute. We
heard the sound of shouts. Higgs's white helmet reappeared, and then
his body, with two Fung guards clinging on to him. He yelled out in
English and the words reached us faintly:

"Save yourself! I'll hold these devils. Run, you infernal fool, run!"

Oliver hesitated, although the Mountaineer was pulling at him, till
the heads of more Fung appeared. Then, with a gesture of despair, he
turned and fled. First ran Oliver, then Japhet, whom he had outpaced,
and after them came a number of priests or guards, waving knives,
while in the background Higgs rolled on the rock with his captors.

The rest was very short. Orme slid down the rump of the idol on to the
tail, followed by the Mountaineer, and after them in single file came
three Fung, who apparently thought no more of the perilous nature of
their foothold than do the sheiks of the Egyptian pyramids when they
swarm about those monuments like lizards. Nor, for the matter of that,
did Oliver or Japhet, who doubled down the tail as though it were a
race track. Oliver swung himself on to the ladder, and in a second was
half across it, we holding its other end, when suddenly he heard his
companion cry out. A Fung had got hold of Japhet by the leg and he lay
face downward on the board.

Oliver halted and slowly turned round, drawing his revolver as he did
so. Then he aimed and fired, and the Fung, leaving go of Japhet's leg,
threw up his arms and plunged headlong into the gulf beneath. The next
thing I remember is that they were both among us, and somebody
shouted, "Pull in the ladder."

"No," said Quick, "wait a bit."

Vaguely I wondered why, till I perceived that three of those
courageous Fung were following across it, resting their hands upon
each other's shoulders, while their companions cheered them.

"Now, pull, brothers, pull!" shouted the Sergeant, and pull we did.
Poor Fung! they deserved a better fate.

"Always inflict loss upon the enemy when you get a chance," remarked
the Sergeant, as he opened fire with his repeating rifle upon other
Fung who by now were clustering upon the back of the idol. This
position, however, they soon abandoned as untenable, except one or two
of them who remained there, dead or wounded.

A silence followed, in the midst of which I heard Quick saying to
Joshua in his very worst Arabic:

"Now does your Royal Highness think that we Gentiles are cowards,
although it is true those Fung are as good men as we any day?"

Joshua declined argument, and I turned to watch Oliver, who had
covered his face with his hands, and seemed to be weeping.

"What is it, O friend, what is it?" I heard Maqueda say in her gentle
voice--a voice full of tears, tears of gratitude I think. "You have
done a great deed; you have returned safe; all is well."

"Nay," he answered, forgetting her titles in his distress, "all is
ill. I have failed, and to-night they throw my brother to the lions.
He told me so."

Maqueda, finding no answer, stretched out her hand to the Mountaineer,
his companion in adventure, who kissed it.

"Japhet," she said, "I am proud of you; your reward is fourfold, and
henceforth you are a captain of my Mountaineers."

"Tell us what happened," I said to Oliver.

"This," he answered: "I remembered about your son, and so did Higgs.
In fact, he spoke of him first--they seem to have become friends. He
said he would not escape without him, and could fetch him in a moment,
as he was only just below. Well, he went to do so, and must have found
the guard instead, who, I suppose, had heard us talking. You know as
much about the rest as I do. To-night, when the full moon is two hours
high, there is to be a ceremony of sacrifice, and poor Higgs will be
let down into the den of lions. He was writing his will in a note-book
when we saw him, as Barung had promised to send it to us."

"Doctor," said the Sergeant, in a confidential voice, when he had
digested this information, "would you translate for me a bit, as I
want to have a talk with Cat there, and my Arabic don't run to it?"

I nodded, and we went to that corner of the plateau where Shadrach
stood apart, watching and listening.

"Now, Cat," said the Sergeant (I give his remarks in his own language,
leaving out my rendering) "just listen to me, and understand that if
you tell lies or play games either you or I don't reach the top of
this cliff again alive. Do you catch on?"

Shadrach replied that he caught on.

"Very well. You've told us that once you were a prisoner among the
Fung and thrown to these holy lions, but got out. Now just explain
what happened."

"This, O Quick. After ceremonies that do not matter, I was let down in
the food-basket into the feeding-den, and thrown out of the basket
like any other meat. Then the gates were lifted up by the chains, and
the lions came in to devour me according to their custom."

"And what happened next, Shadrach?"

"What happened? Why, of course I hid myself in the shadow as much as
possible, right against the walls of the precipice, until a satan of a
she-lion snuffled me out and gave a stroke at me. Look, here are the
marks of her claws," and he pointed to the scars upon his face. "Those
claws stung like scorpions; they made me mad. The terror which I had
lost when I saw their yellow eyes came back to me. I rushed at the
precipice as a cat that is hunted by a dog rushes at a wall. I clung
to its smooth side with my nails, with my toes, with my teeth. A lion
leaped up and tore the flesh of my leg, here, here," and he showed the
marks, which we could scarcely see in that dim light. "He ran back for
another spring. Above me I saw a tiny ledge, big enough for a hawk to
sit on--no more. I jumped, I caught it, drawing up my legs so that the
lion missed me. I made the effort a man makes once in his life.
Somehow I dragged myself to that ledge; I rested one thigh upon it and
pressed against the rock to steady myself. Then the rock gave, and I
tumbled backward into the bottom of a tunnel. Afterwards I escaped to
the top of the cliff in the dark, O God of Israel! in the dark,
smelling my way, climbing like a baboon, risking death a thousand
times. It took me two whole days and nights, and the last of those
nights I knew not what I did. Yet I found my way, and that is why my
people name me Cat."

"I understand," said Quick in a new and more respectful voice, "and
however big a rascal you may be, you've got pluck. Now, say,
remembering what I told you," and he tapped the handle of his
revolver, "is that feeding-den where it used to be?"

"I believe so, O Quick; why should it be changed? The victims are let
down from the belly of the god, just there between his thighs where
are doors. The feeding-place lies in a hollow of the cliff; this
platform on which we stand is over it. None saw my escape, therefore
none searched for the means of it, since they thought that the lions
had devoured me, as they have devoured thousands. No one enters there,
only when the beasts have fed full they draw back to their sleeping-
dens, and those who watch above let down the bars. Listen," and as he
spoke we heard a crash and a rattle far below. "They fall now, the
lions having eaten. When Black Windows and perhaps others are thrown
to them, by and by, they will be drawn up again."

"Is that hole in the rock still there, Shadrach?"

"Without doubt, though I have not been down to look."

"Then, my boy, you are going now," remarked Quick grimly.



We returned to the others and told them everything that we had learned
from Shadrach.

"What's your plan, Sergeant?" asked Oliver when he had heard. "Tell
me, for I have none; my head is muddled."

"This, Captain, for what it is worth; that I should go down through
the hole that Cat here speaks of, and get into the den. Then when they
let down the Professor, if they do, and pull up the gates, that I
should keep back the lions with my rifle while he bolts to the ladder
which is ready for him, and I follow if I can."

"Capital," said Orme, "but you can't go alone. I'll come too."

"And I also," I said.

"What schemes do you make?" asked Maqueda eagerly, for, of course, she
could not understand our talk.

We explained.

"What, my friend," she said to Oliver reproachfully, "would you risk
your life again to-night? Surely it is tempting the goodness of God."

"It would be tempting the goodness of God much more if I left my
friend to be eaten by lions, Lady," he answered.

Then followed much discussions. In the end it was agreed that we
should descend to the level of the den, if this were possible; that
Oliver and Quick should go down into the den with Japhet, who
instantly volunteered to accompany them, and that I, with some of the
Mountaineers, should stop in the mouth of the hole as a reserve to
cover their retreat from the lions. I pleaded to be allowed to take a
more active part, but of this they would not hear, saying with some
truth, that I was by far the best shot of the three, and could do much
more to help them from above, if, as was hoped, the moon should shine

But I knew they really meant that I was too old to be of service in
such an adventure as this. Also they desired to keep me out of risk.

Then came the question as to who should descend the last tunnel to the
place of operations. Oliver wished Maqueda to return to the top of the
cliff and wait there, but she said at once that she could not think of
attempting the ascent without our aid; also that she was determined to
see the end of the matter. Even Joshua would not go; I think, that
being an unpopular character among them, he distrusted the
Mountaineers, whose duty it would have been to escort him.

It was suggested that he should remain where he was until we returned,
if we did return, but this idea commended itself to him still less
than the other. Indeed he pointed out with much truth what we had
overlooked, namely, that now the Fung knew of the passage and were
quite capable of playing our own game, that is, of throwing a bridge
across from the sphinx's tail and attempting the storm of Mur.

"And then what should I do if they found me here alone?" he added

Maqueda answered that she was sure she did not know, but that
meanwhile it might be wise to block the mouth of the tunnel by which
we had reached the plateau in such a fashion that it could not easily
be forced.

"Yes," answered Oliver, "and if we ever get out of this, to blow the
shaft in and make sure that it cannot be used."

"That shaft might be useful, Captain," said Quick doubtfully.

"There is a better way, Sergeant, if we want to mine under the sphinx;
I mean through the Tomb of Kings. I took the levels roughly, and the
end of it can't be far off. Anyhow, this shaft is of no more use to us
now that the Fung have found it out."

Then we set to work to fill in the mouth of the passage with such
loose stones as we could find. It was a difficult business, but in the
end the Mountaineers made a very fair job of it under our direction,
piling the rocks in such a fashion that they could scarcely be cleared
away in any short time without the aid of explosives.

While this work was going on, Japhet, Shadrach, and the Sergeant in
charge of him, undertook to explore the last shaft which led down to
the level of the den. To our relief, just as we had finished building
up the hole, they returned with the news that now after they had
removed a fallen stone or two it was quite practicable with the aid of
ropes and ladders.

So, in the same order as before, we commenced its passage, and in
about half-an-hour, for it was under three hundred feet in depth,
arrived safely at the foot. Here we found a bat-haunted place like a
room that evidently had been hollowed out by man. As Shadrach had
said, at its eastern extremity was a large, oblong boulder, so
balanced that if even one person pushed on either of its ends it swung
around, leaving on each side a passage large enough to allow a man to
walk through in a crouching attitude.

Very silently we propped open this primæval door and looked out. Now
the full moon was up, and her brilliant light had begun to flood the
gulf. By it we saw a dense shadow, that reached from the ground to
three hundred feet or so above us. This we knew to be that thrown by
the flanks of the gigantic sphinx which projected beyond the mountain
of stone whereon it rested, those flanks whence, according to
Shadrach, Higgs would be lowered in a food-basket. In this shadow and
on either side of it, covering a space of quite a hundred yards
square, lay the feeding-den, whence arose a sickly and horrible odour
such as is common to any place frequented by cats, mingled with the
more pungent smell of decaying flesh.

This darksome den was surrounded on three sides by precipices, and on
the fourth, that toward the east, enclosed by a wall or barrier of
rock pierced with several gates made of bars of metal, or so we judged
by the light that flowed through them.

From beyond this eastern wall came dreadful sounds of roars, snarls,
and whimperings. Evidently there the sacred lions had their home.

Only one more thing need be mentioned. On the rock floor almost
immediately beneath us lay remains which, from their torn clothes and
hair, we knew must be human. As somebody explained, I think it was
Shadrach, they were those of the man whom Orme had shot upon the tail
of the sphinx, and of his companions who had been tilted off the

For awhile we gazed at this horrible hole in silence. Then Oliver took
out his watch, which was a repeater, and struck it.

"Higgs told me," he said, "that he was to be thrown to the lions two
hours after moonrise, which is within fifteen minutes or so. Sergeant,
I think we had better be getting ready."

"Yes, Captain," answered Quick; "but everything is quite ready,
including those brutes, to judge by the noise they make, excepting
perhaps Samuel Quick, who never felt less ready for anything in his
life. Now then, Pussy, run out that ladder. Here's your rifle,
Captain, and six reload clips of cartridges, five hollow-nosed bullets
in each. You'll never want more than that, and it's no use carrying
extra weight. In your right-hand pocket, Captain, don't forget. I've
the same in mine. Doctor, here's a pile for you; laid upon that stone.
If you lie there, you'll have a good light and rest for your elbow,
and at this range ought to make very pretty shooting, even in the
moonlight. Best keep your pistol on the safe, Captain; at least, I'm
doing so, as we might get a fall, and these new-fangled weapons are
very hair-triggered. Here's Japhet ready, too, so give us your
marching orders, sir, and we will go to business; the Doctor will
translate to Japhet."

"We descend the ladder," said Orme, "and advance about fifty paces
into the shadow, where we can see without being seen; where also,
according to Shadrach, the food-basket is let down. There we shall
stand and await the arrival of this basket. If it contains the
Professor, he whom the Fung and the Abati know as Black Windows,
Japhet, you are to seize him and lead, or if necessary carry, him to
the ladder, up which some of the mountaineers must be ready to help
him. Your duty, Sergeant, and mine, also that of the Doctor firing
from above, will be to keep off the lions as best we can, should any
lions appear, retreating as we fire. If the brutes get one of us he
must be left, since it is foolish that both lives should be sacrificed
needlessly. For the rest, you, Sergeant, and you, Japhet, must be
guided by circumstances and act upon your own discretion. Do not wait
for special orders from me which I may not be able to give. Now, come
on. If we do not return, Adams, you will see the Child of Kings safely
up the shafts and conduct her to Mur. Good-bye, Lady."

"Good-bye," answered Maqueda in a brave voice; I could not see her
face in the darkness. "Presently, I am sure, you will return with your

Just then Joshua broke in:

"I will not be outdone in courage by these Gentiles," he said.
"Lacking their terrible weapons, I cannot advance into the den, but I
will descend and guard the foot of the ladder."

"Very well, sir," answered Orme in an astonished voice, "glad to have
your company, I am sure. Only remember that you must be quick in going
up it again, since hungry lions are active, and let all take notice
that we are not responsible for anything that may happen to you."

"Surely you had better stop where you are, my uncle," remarked

"To be mocked by you for ever after, my niece. No, I go to face the
lions," and very slowly he crept through the hole and began to descend
the ladder. Indeed, when Quick followed after an interval he found him
only half-way down, and had to hurry his movements by accidentally
treading on his fingers.

A minute or two later, peeping over the edge, I saw that they were all
in the den, that is, except Joshua, who had reascended the ladder to
the height of about six feet, and stood on it face outward, holding to
the rock on either side with his hands as though he had been
crucified. Fearing lest he should be seen there, even in the shadow, I
suggested to Maqueda that she should order him either to go down, or
to return, which she did vigorously, but without effect. So in the end
we left him alone.

Meanwhile the three had vanished into the shadow of the sphinx, and we
could see nothing of them. The great round moon rose higher and
higher, flooding the rest of the charnel-house with light, and, save
for an occasional roar or whimper from the lions beyond the wall, the
silence was intense. Now I could make out the metal gates in this
wall, and even dark and stealthy forms which passed and repassed
beyond their bars. Then I made out something else also, the figures of
men gathering on the top of the wall, though whence they came I knew
not. By degrees their number increased till there were hundreds of
them, for the wall was broad as a roadway.

Evidently these were spectators, come to witness the ceremony of

"Prince," I whispered to Joshua, "you must get down off the ladder or
you will betray us all. Nay, it is too late to come up here again, for
already the moonlight strikes just above your head. Go down, or we
will cast the ladder loose and let you fall."

So he went down and hid himself among some ferns and bushes where we
saw no more of him for a while, and, to tell the truth, forgot his

Far, far above us, from the back of the idol I suppose, came a faint
sound of solemn chanting. It sank, and we heard shouts. Then suddenly
it swelled again. Now Maqueda, who knelt near me, touched my arm and
pointed to the shadow which gradually was becoming infiltrated with
the moonlight flowing into it from either side. I looked, and high in
the air, perhaps two hundred feet from the ground, saw something dark
descending slowly. Doubtless it was the basket containing Higgs, and
whether by coincidence or no, at this moment the lions on the farther
side of the wall burst into peal upon peal of terrific roaring.
Perhaps their sentries watching at the gate saw or smelt the familiar
basket, and communicated the intelligence to their fellows.

Slowly, slowly it descended, till it was within a few feet of the
ground, when it began to sway backward and forward like a pendulum, at
each swing covering a wider arc. Presently, when it hung over the edge
of the shadow that was nearest to us, it was let down with a run and
overset, and out of it, looking very small in those vast surroundings
and that mysterious light, rolled the figure of a man. Although at
that distance we could see little of him, accident assured us of his
identity, for as he rolled the hat he wore fell from him, and I knew
it at once for Higgs's sun-helmet. He rose from the ground, limped
very slowly and painfully after the helmet, picked it up, and
proceeded to use it to dust his knees. At this moment there was a
clanking sound.

"Oh! they lift the gates!" murmured Maqueda.

Then followed more sounds, this time of wild beasts raging for their
prey, and of other human beasts shrieking with excitement on the wall
above. The Professor turned and saw. For a moment he seemed about to
run, then changed his mind, clapped the helmet on his head, folded his
arms and stood still, reminding me in some curious way, perhaps,
because of the shortness of his thick figure, of a picture I had seen
of the great Napoleon contemplating a disaster.

To describe what followed is extremely difficult, for we watched not
one but several simultaneous scenes. For instance, there were the
lions, which did not behave as might have been expected. I thought
that they would rush through the doors and bound upon the victim, but
whether it was because they had already been fed that afternoon or
because they thought that a single human being was not worth the
trouble, they acted differently.

Through the open gates they came, in two indolent yellow lines, male
lions, female lions, half-grown lions, cub lions that cuffed each
other in play, in all perhaps fifty or sixty of them. Of these only
two or three looked towards the Professor, for none of them ran or
galloped, while the rest spread over the den, some of them vanishing
into the shadow at the edge of the surrounding cliff where the
moonlight could not reach.

Here one of them, at any rate, must have travelled fast enough, for it
seemed only a few seconds later that we heard a terrific yell beneath
us, and craning over the rock I saw the Prince Joshua running up the
ladder more swiftly than ever did any London lamplighter when I was a

But quickly as he came, the long, thin, sinuous thing beneath came
quicker. It reared itself on its hind legs, it stretched up a great
paw--I can see the gleaming claws in it now--and struck or hooked at
poor Joshua. The paw caught him in the small of the back, and seemed
to pin him against the ladder. Then it was drawn slowly downward, and
heaven! how Joshua howled. Up came the other paw to repeat the
operation, when, stretching myself outward and downward, with an Abati
holding me by the ankles, I managed to shoot the beast through the
head so that it fell all of a heap, taking with it a large portion of
Joshua's nether garments.

A few seconds later he was among us, and tumbled groaning into a
corner, where he lay in charge of some of the mountaineers, for I had
no time to attend to him just then.

When the smoke cleared at length, I saw that Japhet had reached Higgs,
and was gesticulating to him to run, while two lions, a male and a
female, stood at a little distance, regarding the pair in an
interested fashion. Higgs, after some brief words of explanation,
pointed to his knee. Evidently he was lamed and could not run. Japhet,
rising to the occasion, pointed to his back, and bent down. Higgs
flung himself upon it, and was hitched up like a sack of flour. The
pair began to advance toward the ladder, Japhet carrying Higgs as one
schoolboy carries another.

The lion sat down like a great dog, watching this strange proceeding
with mild interest, but the lioness, filled with feminine curiosity,
followed sniffing at Higgs, who looked over his shoulder. Taking off
his battered helmet, he threw it at the beast, hitting her on the
head. She growled, then seized the helmet, playing with it for a
moment as a kitten does with a ball of wool, and next instant, finding
it unsatisfying, uttered a short and savage roar, ran forward, and
crouched to spring, lashing her tail. I could not fire, because a
bullet that would hit her must first pass through Japhet and Higgs.

But, just when I thought that the end had come, a rifle went off in
the shadow and she rolled over, kicking and biting the rock. Thereon
the indolent male lion seemed to awake, and sprang, not at the men,
but at the wounded lioness, and a hellish fight ensued, of which the
details and end were lost in a mist of dust and flying hair.

The crowd upon the wall, becoming alive to the real situation, began
to scream in indignant excitement which quickly communicated itself to
the less savage beasts. These set up a terrible roaring, and ran
about, keeping for the most part to the shadows, while Japhet and his
burden made slow but steady progress toward the ladder.

Then from the gloom beneath the hind-quarters of the sphinx rose a
sound of rapid firing, and presently Orme and Quick emerged into the
moonlight, followed by a number of angry lions that advanced in short
rushes. Evidently the pair had kept their heads, and were acting on a

One of them emptied his rifle at the pursuing beasts, while the other
ran back a few paces, thrusting in a fresh clip of cartridges as he
went. Then he began to fire, and his companion in turn retreated
behind him. In this way they knocked over a number of lions, for the
range was too short for them to miss often, and the expanding bullets
did their work very well, paralyzing even when they did not kill. I
also opened fire over their heads, and, although in that uncertain
light the majority of my shots did no damage, the others disposed of
several animals which I saw were becoming dangerous.

So things went on until all four, that is, Japhet with Higgs upon his
back, and Orme and Quick, were within twenty paces of the ladder,
although separated from each other by perhaps half the length of a
cricket pitch. We thought that they were safe, and shouted in our joy,
while the hundreds of spectators on the wall who fortunately dared not
descend into the den because of the lions, which are undiscriminating
beasts, yelled with rage at the imminent rescue of the sacrifice.

Then of a sudden the position changed. From every quarter fresh lions
seemed to arrive, ringing the men round and clearly bent on slaughter,
although the shouting and the sound of firearms, which they had never
heard before, frightened them and made them cautious.

A half-grown cub rushed in and knocked over Japhet and Higgs. I fired
and hit it in the flank. It bit savagely at its wound, then sprang on
to the prostrate pair, and stood over them growling, but in such pain
that it forgot to kill them. The ring of beasts closed in--we could
see their yellow eyes glowing in the gloom. Orme and Quick might have
got through by the help of their rifles, but they could not leave the
others. The dreadful climax seemed at hand.

"Follow me," said Maqueda, who all this while had watched panting at
my side, and rose to run to the ladder. I thrust her back.

"Nay," I shouted. "Follow me, Abati! Shall a woman lead you?"

Of how I descended that ladder I have no recollection, nor do I in the
least know how the Mountaineers came after me, but I think that the
most of them rolled and scrambled down the thirty feet of rock. At
least, to their honour be it said, they did come, yelling like demons
and waving long knives in their hands.

The effect of our sudden arrival from above was extraordinary. Scared
by the rush and the noise, the lions gave way, then bolted in every
direction, the wounded cub, which could not, or would not move, being
stabbed to death where it stood over Higgs and Japhet.

Five minutes more and all of us were safe in the mouth of the tunnel.

That was how we rescued Higgs from the den of the sacred lions which
guarded the idol of the Fung.



A more weary and dishevelled set of people than that which about the
hour of dawn finally emerged from the mouth of the ancient shaft on to
the cliffs of Mur it has seldom been my lot to behold. Yet with a
single exception the party was a happy one, for we had come triumphant
through great dangers, and actually effected our object--the rescue of
Higgs, which, under the circumstances most people would have thought
impossible. Yes, there he was in the flesh before us, having injured
his knee and lost his hat, but otherwise quite sound save for a few
trifling scratches inflicted by the cub, and still wearing what the
natives called his "black windows."

Even the Prince Joshua was happy, though wrapped in a piece of coarse
sacking because the lion had taken most of his posterior clothing, and
terribly sore from the deep cuts left by the claws.

Had he not dared the dangers of the den, and thus proved himself a
hero whose fame would last for generations? Had I not assured him that
his honourable wounds, though painful (as a matter of fact, after they
had set, they kept him stiff as a mummy for some days, so that unless
he stood upon his feet, he had to be carried, or lie rigid on his
face) would probably not prove fatal? And had he not actually survived
to reach the upper air again, which was more than he ever expected to
do? No wonder that he was happy.

I alone could not share in the general joy, since, although my friend
was restored to me, my son still remained a prisoner among the Fung.
Yet even in this matter things might have been worse, since I learned
that he was well treated, and in no danger. But of that I will write

Never shall I forget the scene after the arrival of Higgs in our hole,
when the swinging boulder had been closed and made secure and the
lamps lighted. There he sat on the floor, his red hair glowing like a
torch, his clothes torn and bloody, his beard ragged and stretching in
a Newgate frill to his ears. Indeed, his whole appearance, accentuated
by the blue spectacles with wire gauze side-pieces, was more
disreputable than words can tell; moreover, he smelt horribly of lion.
He put his hand into his pocket, and produced his big pipe, which had
remained unbroken in its case.

"Some tobacco, please," he said. (Those were his first words to us!)
"I have finished mine, saved up the last to smoke just before they put
me into that stinking basket."

I gave him some, and as he lit his pipe the light of the match fell
upon the face of Maqueda, who was staring at him with amused

"What an uncommonly pretty woman," he said. "What's she doing down
here, and who is she?"

I told him, whereon he rose, or rather tried to, felt for his hat,
which, of course, had gone, with the idea of taking it off, and
instantly addressed her in his beautiful and fluent Arabic, saying how
glad he was to have this unexpected honour, and so forth.

She congratulated him on his escape, whereon his face grew serious.

"Yes, a nasty business," he said, "as yet I can hardly remember
whether my name is Daniel, or Ptolemy Higgs." Then he turned to us and
added, "Look here, you fellows, if I don't thank you it isn't because
I am not grateful, but because I can't. The truth is, I'm a bit dazed.
Your son is all right, Adams; he's a good fellow, and we grew great
friends. Safe? Oh! yes, he's safe as a church! Old Barung, he's the
Sultan, and another good fellow, although he did throw me to the lions
--because the priests made him--is very fond of him, and is going to
marry him to his daughter."

At this moment the men announced that everything was ready for our
ascent, and when I had attended to Joshua with a heart made thankful
by Higgs's news, we began that toilsome business, and, as I have
already said, at length accomplished it safely. But even then our
labours were not ended, since it was necessary to fill up the mouth of
the shaft so as to make it impossible that it should be used by the
Fung, who now knew of its existence.

Nor was this a business that could be delayed, for as we passed the
plateau whence Oliver and Japhet had crossed to the sphinx, we heard
the voices of men on the farther side of the rough wall that we had
built there. Evidently the priests, or idol guards, infuriated by the
rescue of their victim, had already managed to bridge the gulf and
were contemplating assault, a knowledge which caused us to hurry our
movements considerably. If they had got through before we passed them,
our fate would have been terrible, since at the best we must have
slowly starved in the pit below.

Indeed, as soon as we reached the top and had blocked it temporarily,
Quick, weary as he was, was sent off on horseback, accompanied by
Maqueda, Shadrach, now under the terms of his contract once more a
free man, and two Mountaineers, to gallop to the palace of Mur, and
fetch a supply of explosives. The rest of us, for Higgs declined to
leave, and we had no means of carrying Joshua, remained watching the
place, or rather the Abati watched while we slept with our rifles in
our hands. Before noon Quick returned, accompanied by many men with
litters and all things needful.

Then we pulled out the stones, and Oliver, Japhet, and some others
descended to the first level and arranged blasting charges. Awhile
after he reappeared with his companions, looking somewhat pale and
anxious, and shouted to us to get back. Following our retreat to a
certain distance, unwinding a wire as he came, presently he stopped
and pressed the button of a battery which he held in his hand. There
was a muffled explosion and a tremor of the soil like to that of an
earthquake, while from the mouth of the shaft stones leapt into the

It was over, and all that could be noted was a sinkage in the ground
where the ancient pit had been.

"I am sorry for them," said Oliver presently, "but it had to be done."

"Sorry for whom?" I asked.

"For those Fung priests or soldiers. The levels below are full of
them, dead or alive. They were pouring up at our heels. Well, no one
will travel that road again."

Later, in the guest house at Mur, Higgs told us his story. After his
betrayal by Shadrach, which, it appeared, was meant to include us all,
for the Professor overheard the hurried talk between him and a Fung
captain, he was seized and imprisoned in the body of the great sphinx,
where many chambers and dungeons had been hollowed out by the primæval
race that fashioned it. Here Barung the Sultan visited him and
informed him of his meeting with the rest of us, to whom apparently he
had taken a great liking, and also that we had refused to purchase a
chance of his release at the price of being false to our trust.

"You know," said Higgs, "that when first I heard this I was very angry
with you, and thought you a set of beasts. But on considering things I
saw the other side of it, and that you were right, although I never
could come to fancy the idea of being sacrificed to a sphinx by being
chucked like a piece of horse-flesh to a lot of holy lions. However,
Barung, an excellent fellow in his way, assured me that there was no
road out of the matter without giving grave offence to the priests,
who are very powerful among the Fung, and bringing a fearful curse on
the nation.

"Meanwhile, he made me as comfortable as he could. For instance, I was
allowed to walk upon the back of the idol, to associate with the
priests, a suspicious and most exclusive set, and to study their
entire religious system, from which I have no doubt that of Egypt was
derived. Indeed, I have made a great discovery which, if ever we get
out of this, will carry my name down to all generations. The
forefathers of these Fung were undoubtedly also the forefathers of the
pre-dynastic Egyptians, as is shown by the similarity of their customs
and spiritual theories. Further, intercourse was kept up between the
Fung, who then had their headquarters here in Mur, and the Egyptians
in the time of the ancient empire, till the Twentieth Dynasty, indeed,
if not later. My friends, in the dungeons in which I was confined
there is an inscription, or, rather, a /graffite/, made by a prisoner
extradited to Mur by Rameses II., after twenty years' residence in
Egypt, which was written by him on the night before he was thrown to
the sacred lions, that even in those days were an established
institution. And I have got a copy of that inscription in my pocket-
book. I tell you," he added in a scream of triumph, "I've got a
certified copy of that inscription, thanks to Shadrach, on whose dirty
head be blessings!"

I congratulated him heartily upon this triumph, and before he
proceeded to give us further archæological details, asked him for some
information about my boy.

"Oh," said Higgs, "he is a very nice young man and extremely good
looking. Indeed, I am quite proud to have such a godson. He was much
interested to hear that you were hunting for him after so many years,
quite touched indeed. He still talks English, though with a Fung
accent, and, of course, would like to escape. Meanwhile, he is having
a very good time, being chief singer to the god, for his voice is
really beautiful, an office which carries with it all sorts of
privileges. I told you, didn't I, that he is to be married to Barung's
only legitimate daughter on the night of the next full moon but one.
The ceremony is to take place in Harmac City, and will be the greatest
of its sort for generations, a feast of the entire people in short. I
should very much like to be present at it, but being an intelligent
young man he has promised to keep notes of everything, which I hope
may become available in due course."

"And is he attached to this savage lady?" I asked dismayed.

"Attached? Oh, dear no, I think he said he had never seen her, and
only knew that she was rather plain and reported to possess a haughty
temper. He is a philosophical young man, however, as might be expected
from one who has undergone so many vicissitudes, and, therefore, takes
things as they come, thanking heaven that they are no worse. You see,
as the husband of the Sultan's daughter, unless the pair quarrel very
violently, he will be safe from the lions, and he could never quite
say as much before. But we didn't go into these domestic matters very
deeply as there were so many more important things to interest us
both. He wanted to know all about you and our plans, and naturally I
wanted to know all about the Fung and the ritual and traditions
connected with the worship of Harmac, so that we were never dull for a
single moment. In fact, I wish that we could have had longer together,
for we became excellent friends. But whatever happens, I think that I
have collected the cream of his information," and he tapped a fat
note-book in his hands, adding:

"What an awful thing it would have been if a lion had eaten this. For
myself it did not matter; there may be many better Egyptologists, but
I doubt if any one of them will again have such opportunities of
original research. However, I took every possible precaution to save
my notes by leaving a copy of the most important of them written with
native ink upon sheepskin in charge of your son. Indeed, I meant to
leave the originals also, but fortunately forgot in the excitement of
my very hurried departure."

I agreed with him that his chances had been unique and that he was a
most lucky archæologist, and presently he went on puffing at his pipe.

"Of course, when Oliver turned up in that unexpected fashion on the
back of the idol, remembering your wishes and natural desire to
recover your son, I did my best to rescue him also. But he wasn't in
the room beneath, where I thought I should find him. The priests were
there instead, and they had heard us talking above, and you know the
rest. Well, as it happens, it didn't matter, though that descent into
the den of lions--there were two or three hundred feet of it, and the
rope seemed worn uncommonly thin with use--was a trying business to
the nerves."

"What did you think about all the time?" asked Oliver curiously.

"Think about? I didn't think much, was in too great a fright. I just
wondered whether St. Paul had the same sensations when he was let down
in a basket; wondered what the early Christian martyrs felt like in
the arena; wondered whether Barung, with whom my parting was quite
affectionate, would come in the morning and look for me as Darius did
for Daniel and how much he would find if he did; hoped that my specs
would give one of those brutes appendicitis, and so forth. My word! it
was sickening, especially that kind of school-treat swing and bump at
the end. I never could bear swinging. Still, it was all for the best,
as I shouldn't have gone a yard along that sphinx's tail without
tumbling off, tight-rope walking not being in my line; and I'll tell
you what, you are just the best three fellows in the whole world.
Don't you think I forget that because I haven't said much. And now
let's have your yarn, for I want to hear how things stand, which I
never expected to do this side of Judgment-day."

So we told him all, while he listened open-mouthed. When we came to
the description of the Tomb of the Kings his excitement could scarcely
be restrained.

"You haven't touched them," he almost screamed; "don't say you have
been vandals enough to touch them, for every article must be
catalogued /in situ/ and drawings must be made. If possible, specimen
groups with their surrounding offerings should be moved so that they
can be set up again in museums. Why, there's six months' work before
me, at least. And to think that if it hadn't been for you, by now I
should be in process of digestion by a lion, a stinking, mangy, sacred

Next morning I was awakened by Higgs limping into my room in some
weird sleeping-suit that he had contrived with the help of Quick.

"I say, old fellow," he said, "tell me some more about that girl,
Walda Nagasta. What a sweet face she's got, and what pluck! Of course,
such things ain't in my line, never looked at a woman these twenty
years past, hard enough to remember her next morning, but, by Jingo!
the eyes of that one made me feel quite queer here," and he hit the
sleeping-suit somewhere in the middle, "though perhaps it was only
because she was such a contrast to the lions."

"Ptolemy," I answered in a solemn voice, "let me tell you that she is
more dangerous to meddle with than any lion, and what's more, if you
don't want to further complicate matters with a flaming row, you had
better keep to your old habits and leave her eyes alone. I mean that
Oliver is in love with her."

"Of course he is. I never expected anything else, but what's that got
to do with it? Why shouldn't I be in love with her too? Though I
admit," he added sadly, contemplating his rotund form, "the chances
are in his favour, especially as he's got the start."

"They are, Ptolemy, for she's in love with him," and I told him what
we had seen in the Tomb of Kings.

First he roared with laughter, then on second thoughts grew
exceedingly indignant.

"I call it scandalous of Oliver, compromising us all in this way--the
lucky dog! These selfish, amorous adventures will let us in for no end
of trouble. It is even probably, Adams, that you and I may come to a
miserable end, solely because of this young man's erotic tendencies.
Just fancy neglecting business in order to run after a pretty, round-
faced Jewess, that is if she /is/ a Jewess, which I doubt, as the
blood must have got considerably mixed by now, and the first Queen of
Sheba, if she ever existed, was an Ethiopian. As a friend almost old
enough to be his father, I shall speak to him very seriously."

"All right," I called after him as he hobbled off to take his bath,
"only if you are wise, you won't speak to Maqueda, for she might
misinterpret your motives if you go on staring at her as you did

That morning I was summoned to see the Prince Joshua and dress his
wounds, which, although not of a serious nature, were very painful.
The moment that I entered the man's presence I noticed a change in his
face. Like the rest of us I had always set this fellow down as a mere
poltroon and windbag, a blower of his own trumpet, as Oliver had
called him. Now I got an insight into his real nature which showed me
that although he might be these things and worse, he was also a very
determined and dangerous person, animated by ambitions which he meant
to satisfy at all hazards.

When I had done what I could for him and told him that in my opinion
he had no ill results to fear from his hurts, since the thick clothes
he was wearing at the time had probably cleaned the lion's paws of any
poison that might have been on them, he said,

"Physician, I desire private words with you."

I bowed, and he went on:

"The Child of Kings, hereditary ruler of this land, somewhat against
the advice of her Council, has thought fit to employ you and your
Gentile companions in order that by your skill and certain arts of
which you are masters you may damage its ancient enemies, the Fung,
and in reward has promised to pay you well should you succeed in your
endeavours. Now, I wish you to understand that though you think
yourselves great men, and may for aught I know be great in your own
country, here you are but servants like any other mercenaries whom it
may please us to hire."

His tone was so offensive that, though it might have been wiser to
keep silent, I could not help interrupting him.

"You use hard words, Prince," I said; "let me then explain what is the
real pay for which we work and undergo some risks. Mine is the hope of
recovering a son who is the slave of your enemies. That of the Captain
Orme is the quest of adventure and war, since being a rich man in his
own country he needs no further wealth. That of him whom you call
Black Windows, but whose name is Higgs, is the pure love of learning.
In England and throughout the West he is noted for his knowledge of
dead peoples, their languages, and customs, and it is to study these
that he has undertaken so terrible a journey. As for Quick, he is
Orme's man, who has known him from childhood, an old soldier who has
served with him in war and comes hither to be with the master whom he

"Ah!" said Joshua, "a servant, a person of no degree, who yet dares to
threaten me, the premier prince of the Abati, to my face."

"In the presence of death all men are equal, Prince. You acted in a
fashion that might have brought his lord, who was daring a desperate
deed, to a hideous doom."

"And what do I care about his lord's desperate deeds, Physician? I see
that you set store by such things, and think those who accomplish them
great and wonderful. Well, we do not. There is no savage among the
barbarous Fung would not do all that your Orme does, and more, just
because he is a savage. We who are civilized, we who are cultivated,
we who are wise, know better. Our lives were given us to enjoy, not to
throw away or to lose at the sword's point, and, therefore, no doubt,
you would call us cowards."

"Yet, Prince, those who bear that title of coward which you hold one
of honour, are apt to perish 'at the sword's point.' The Fung wait
without your gates, O Prince."

"And therefore, O Gentile, we hire you to fight the Fung. Still, I
bear no grudge against your servant, Quick, who is himself but a
white-skinned Fung, for he acted according to his nature, and I
forgive him; only in the future let him beware! And now--for a greater
matter. The Child of Kings is beautiful, she is young and high
spirited; a new face from another land may perchance touch her fancy.
But," he added meaningly, "let the owner of that face remember who she
is and what he is; let him remember that for any outside the circle of
the ancient blood to lift his eyes to the daughter of Solomon is to
earn death, death slow and cruel for himself and all who aid and abet
him. Let him remember, lastly, that this high-born lady to whom he, an
unknown and vagrant Gentile, dares to talk as equal to equal, has from
childhood been my affianced, who will shortly be my wife, although it
may please her to seem to flout me after the fashion of maidens, and
that we Abati are jealous of the honour of our women. Do you

"Yes, Prince," I answered, for by now my temper was roused. "But I
would have you understand something also--that we are men of a high
race whose arm stretches over half the world, and that we differ from
the little tribe of the Abati, whose fame is not known to us, in this
--that we are jealous of our own honour, and do not need to hire
strangers to fight the foes we fear to face. Next time I come to
attend to your wounds, O Prince, I trust that they will be in front,
and not behind. One word more, if you will be advised by me you will
not threaten that Captain whom you call a Gentile and a mercenary,
lest you should learn that it is not always well to be a coward, of
blood however ancient."

Then, in a towering rage, I left him, feeling that I had made a
thorough fool of myself. But the truth was that I could not sit still
and hear men such as my companions, to say nothing of myself, spoken
of thus by a bloated cur, who called himself a prince and boasted of
his own poltroonery. He glowered at me as I went, and the men of his
party who hung about the end of the great room and in his courts,
glowered at me also. Clearly he was a very dangerous cur, and I almost
wished that instead of threatening to slap his face down in the
tunnel, Quick had broken his neck and made an end of him.

So did the others when I told them the story, although I think it
opened their eyes, and especially those of Oliver, to the grave and
growing dangers of the situation. Afterward he informed me that he had
spoken of the matter with Maqueda, and that she was much frightened
for our sakes, and somewhat for her own. Joshua, she said, was a man
capable of any crime, who had at his back the great majority of the
Abati; a jealous, mean and intolerant race who made up in cunning for
what they lacked in courage.

Yet, as I saw well, the peril of their situation did nothing to
separate this pair or to lessen their love. Indeed, rather did it seem
to bind them closer together, and to make them more completely one. In
short, the tragedy took its appointed course, whilst we stood by and
watched it helplessly.

On the afternoon of my angry interview with Joshua we were summoned to
a meeting of the Council, whither we went, not without some
trepidation, expecting trouble. Trouble there was, but of a different
sort to that which we feared. Scarcely had we entered the great room
where the Child of Kings was seated in her chair of state surrounded
by all the pomp and ceremony of her mimic court, when the big doors at
the end of it were opened, and through them marched three gray-bearded
men in white robes whom we saw at once were heralds or ambassadors
from the Fung. These men bowed to the veiled Maqueda and, turning
toward where we stood in a little group apart, bowed to us also.

But of Joshua, who was there supported by two servants, for he could
not yet stand alone, and the other notables and priests of the Abati,
they took not the slightest heed.

"Speak," said Maqueda.

"Lady," answered the spokesman of the embassy, "we are sent by our
Sultan, Barung, son of Barung, Ruler of the Fung nation. These are the
words of Barung: O Walda Nagasta! 'By the hands and the wit of the
white lords whom you have called to your aid, you have of late done
much evil to the god Harmac and to me his servant. You have destroyed
one of the gates of my city, and with it many of my people. You have
rescued a prisoner out of my hands, robbing Harmac of his sacrifice
and thereby bringing his wrath upon us. You have slain sundry of the
sacred beasts that are the mouth of sacrifice, you have killed certain
of the priests and guards of Harmac in a hole of the rocks. Moreover
my spies tell me that you plan further ills against the god and
against me. Now I send to tell you that for these and other offences I
will make an end of the people of the Abati, whom hitherto I have
spared. In a little while I marry my daughter to the white man, that
priest of Harmac who is called Singer of Egypt, and who is said to be
the son of the physician in your service, but after I have celebrated
this feast and my people have finished the hoeing of their crops, I
take up the sword in earnest, nor will I lay it down again until the
Abati are no more.

"'Learn that last night after the holy beasts had been slain and the
sacrifice snatched away, the god Harmac spoke to his priests in
prophecy. And this was his prophecy; that before the gathering in of
the harvest his /head/ should sleep above the plain of Mur. We know
not the interpretation of the saying, but this I know, that before the
gathering of the harvest I, or those who rule after me, will lie down
to sleep within my city of Mur.'

"'Now, choose--surrender forthwith and, save for the dog, Joshua, who
the other day tried to entrap me against the custom of peoples, and
ten others whom I shall name, I will spare the lives of all of you,
though Joshua and these ten I will hang, since they are not worthy to
die by the sword. Or resist, and by Harmac himself I swear that every
man among the Abati shall die save the white lords whom I honour
because they are brave, and that servant of yours who stood with them
last night in the den of lions, and that every woman shall be made a
slave, save you, O Walda Nagasta, because of your great heart. Your
answer, O Lady of the Abati!'"

Now Maqueda looked around the faces of her Council, and saw fear
written upon them all. Indeed, as we noted, many of them shook in
their terror.

"My answer will be short, ambassadors of Barung," she replied, "still,
I am but one woman, and it is fitting that those who represent the
people should speak for the people. My uncle, Joshua, you are the
first of my Council, what have you to say? Are you willing to give up
your life with ten others whose names I do not know, that there may be
peace between us and the Fung?"

"What?" answered Joshua, with a splutter of rage, "do I live to hear a
Walda Nagasta suggest that the first prince of the land, her uncle and
affianced husband, should be surrendered to our hereditary foes to be
hanged like a worn-out hound, and do you, O unknown ten, who doubtless
stand in this chamber, live to hear it also?"

"My uncle, you do not. I asked if such was your wish, that is all."

"Then I answer that it is not my wish, nor the wish of the ten, nor
the wish of the Abati. Nay, we will fight the Fung and destroy them,
and of their beast-headed idol Harmac we will make blocks to build our
synagogues and stones to pave our roads. Do you hear, savages of
Fung?" and assisted by his two servants he hobbled towards them,
grinning in their faces.

The envoys looked him up and down with their quiet eyes. "We hear and
we are very glad to hear," their spokesman answered, "since we Fung
love to settle our quarrels with the sword and not by treaty. But to
you, Joshua, we say: Make haste to die before we enter Mur, since the
rope is not the only means of death whereof we know."

Very solemnly the three ambassadors saluted, first the Child of Kings
and next ourselves, then turned to go.

"Kill them!" shouted Joshua, "they have threatened and insulted me,
the Prince!"

But no one lifted a hand against the men, who passed safely out of the
palace to the square, where an escort waited with their horses.



When the ambassadors had gone, at first there was silence, a very
heavy silence, since even the frivolous Abati felt that the hour was
big with fate. Of a sudden, however, the members of the Council began
to chatter like so many monkeys, each talking without listening to
what his neighbour said, till at length a gorgeously dressed person, I
understood that he was a priest, stepped forward, and shouted down the

Then he spoke in an excited and venomous fashion. He pointed out that
we Gentiles had brought all this trouble upon Mur, since before we
came the Abati, although threatened, had lived in peace and glory--he
actually used the word glory!--for generations. But now we had stung
the Fung, as a hornet stings a bull, and made them mad, so that they
wished to toss the Abati. He proposed, therefore, that we should at
once be ejected from Mur.

At this point I saw Joshua whisper into the ear of a man, who called

"No, no, for then they would go to their friend, Barung, a savage like
themselves, and having learned our secrets, would doubtless use them
against us. I say that they must be killed instantly," and he drew a
sword, and waved it.

Quick walked up to the fellow and clapped a pistol to his head.

"Drop that sword," he said, "or /you/'ll never hear the end of the
story," and he obeyed, whereupon Quick came back.

Now Maqueda began to speak, quietly enough, although I could see that
she was quaking with passion.

"These men are our guests," she said, "come hither to serve us. Do you
desire to murder our guests? Moreover, of what use would that be? One
thing alone can save us, the destruction of the god of the Fung,
since, according to the ancient saying of that people, when the idol
is destroyed the Fung will leave their city of Harmac. Moreover, as to
this new prophecy of the priests of the idol, that before the
gathering in of the harvest his head shall sleep above the plain of
Mur, how can that happen if it is destroyed, unless indeed it means
that Harmac shall sleep in the heavens. Therefore what have you to
fear from threats built upon that which cannot happen?

"But can /you/ destroy this false god Harmac, or dare /you/ fight the
Fung? You know that it is not so, for had it been so what need was
there for me to send for these Westerns? And if you murder them, will
Barung thereby be appeased? Nay, I tell you that being a brave and
honourable man, although our enemy, he will become ten times more
wroth with you than he was before, and exact a vengeance even more
terrible. I tell you also, that then you must find another Walda
Nagasta to rule over you, since I, Maqueda, will do so no more."

"That is impossible," said some one, "you are the last woman of the
true blood."

"Then you can choose one of blood that is not true, or elect a king,
as the Jews elected Saul, for if my guests are butchered I shall die
of very shame."

These words of hers seemed to cow the Council, one of whom asked what
would she have them do?

"Do?" she replied, throwing back her veil, "why, be men, raise an army
of every male who can carry a sword; help the foreigners, and they
will lead you to victory. People of the Abati, would you be
slaughtered, would you see your women slaves, and your ancient name
blotted out from the list of peoples?"

Now some of them cried, "No."

"Then save yourselves. You are still many, the strangers here have
skill in war, they can lead if you will follow. Be brave a while, and
I swear to you that by harvest the Abati shall sit in the city of
Harmac and not the Fung in Mur. I have spoken, now do what you will,"
and rising from her chair of state Maqueda left the chamber, motioning
to us to do likewise.

The end of all this business was that a peace was made between us and
the Council of the Abati. After their pompous, pedantic fashion they
swore solemnly on the roll of the Law that they would aid us in every
way to overcome the Fung, and even obey such military orders as we
might give them, subject to the confirmation of these orders by a
small council of their generals. In short, being very frightened, for
a time they forgot their hatred of us foreigners.

So a scheme of operations was agreed upon, and some law passed by the
Council, the only governing body among the Abati, for they possessed
no representative institutions, under which law a kind of conscription
was established for a while. Let me say at once that it met with the
most intense opposition. The Abati were agriculturalists who loathed
military service. From their childhood they had heard of the imminence
of invasion, but no actual invasion had ever yet taken place. The Fung
were always without, and they were always within, an inland isle, the
wall of rock that they thought impassable being their sea which
protected them from danger.

They had no experience of slaughter and rapine, their imaginations
were not sufficiently strong to enable them to understand what these
things meant; they were lost in the pettiness of daily life and its
pressing local interests. Their homes in flames, they themselves
massacred, their women and children dragged off to be the slaves of
the victors, a poor remnant left to die of starvation among the wasted
fields or to become wild men of the rocks! All these things they
looked upon as a mere tale, a romance such as their local poets
repeated in the evenings of a wet season, dim and far-off events which
might have happened to the Canaanites and Jebusites and Amalekites in
the ancient days whereof the book of their Law told them, but which
could never happen to /them/, the comfortable Abati. In that book the
Israelites always conquered in the end, although the Philistines,
alias Fung, sat at their gates. For it will be remembered that it
includes no account of the final fall of Jerusalem and awful
destruction of its citizens, of which they had little if any

So it came about that our recruiting parties, perhaps press gangs
would be a better term, were not well received. I know it, for this
branch of the business was handed over to me, of course as adviser to
the Abati captains, and on several occasions, when riding round the
villages on the shores of their beautiful lake, we were met by showers
of stones, and were even the object of active attacks which had to be
put down with bloodshed. Still, an army of five or six thousand men
was got together somehow, and formed into camps, whence desertions
were incessant, once or twice accompanied by the murder of officers.

"It's 'opeless, downright 'opeless, Doctor," said Quick to me,
dropping his h's, as he sometimes did in the excitement of the moment.
"What can one do with a crowd of pigs, everyone of them bent on
bolting to his own sty, or anywhere except toward the enemy? The
sooner the Fung get them the better for all concerned, say I, and if
it wasn't for our Lady yonder" (Quick always called Maqueda after "our
Lady," after it had been impressed upon him that "her Majesty" was an
incorrect title), my advice to the Captain and you gentlemen would be:
Get out of this infernal hole as quick as your legs can carry you, and
let's do a bit of hunting on the way home, leaving the Abati to settle
their own affairs."

"You forget, Sergeant, that I have a reason for staying in this part
of the world, and so perhaps have the others. For instance, the
Professor is very fond of those old skeletons down in the cave," and I

"Yes, Doctor, and the Captain is very fond of something much better
than a skeleton, and so are we all. Well, we've got to see it through,
but somehow I don't think that every one of us will have that luck,
though it's true that when a man has lived fairly straight according
to his lights a few years more or less don't matter much one way or
the other. After all, except you gentlemen, who is there that will
miss Samuel Quick?"

Then without waiting for an answer, drawing himself up straight as a
ramrod he marched off to assist some popinjays of Abati officers, whom
he hated and who hated him, to instil the elements of drill into a
newly raised company, leaving me to wonder what fears or premonitions
filled his honest soul.

But this was not Quick's principal work, since for at least six hours
of every day he was engaged in helping Oliver in our great enterprise
of driving a tunnel from the end of the Tomb of Kings deep into the
solid rock that formed the base of the mighty idol of the Fung. The
task was stupendous, and would indeed have been impossible had not
Orme's conjecture that some passage had once run from the extremity of
the cave toward the idol proved to be perfectly accurate. Such a
passage indeed was found walled up at the back of the chair containing
the bones of the hunchbacked king. It descended very sharply for a
distance of several hundred yards, after which for another hundred
yards or more its walls and roof were so riven and shaky that, for
fear of accidents, we found it necessary to timber them as we went.

At last we came to a place where they had fallen in altogether, shaken
down, I presume, by the great earthquake which had destroyed so much
of the ancient cave-city. At this spot, if Oliver's instruments and
calculations could be trusted, we were within about two hundred feet
of the floor of the den of lions, to which it seemed probable that the
passage once led, and of course the question arose as to what should
be done.

A Council was held to discuss this problem, at which Maqueda and a few
of the Abati notables were present. To these Oliver explained that
even if that were possible it would be useless to clear out the old
passage and at the end find ourselves once more in the den of lions.

"What, then, is your plan?" asked Maqueda.

"Lady," he answered, "I, your servant, am instructed to attempt to
destroy the idol Harmac, by means of the explosives which we have
brought with us from England. First, I would ask you if you still
cling to that design?"

"Why should it be abandoned?" inquired Maqueda. "What have you against

"Two things, Lady. As an act of war the deed seems useless, since
supposing that the sphinx is shattered and a certain number of priests
and guards are destroyed, how will that advance your cause? Secondly,
such destruction will be very difficult, if it can be done at all. The
stuff we have with us, it is true, is of fearful strength, yet who can
be sure that there is enough of it to move this mountain of hard rock,
of which I cannot calculate the weight, not having the measurements or
any knowledge of the size of the cavities within its bulk. Lastly, if
the attempt is to be made, a tunnel must be hollowed of not less than
three hundred feet in length, first downward and then upward into the
very base of the idol, and if this is to be done within six weeks,
that is, by the night of the marriage of the daughter of Barung, the
work will be very hard, if indeed it can be completed at all, although
hundreds of men labour day and night."

Now Maqueda thought a while, then looked up and said:

"Friend, you are brave and skilful, tell us all your mind. If you sat
in my place, what would you do?"

"Lady, I would lead out every able-bodied man and attack the city of
the Fung, say, on the night of the great festival when they are off
their guard. I would blow in the gates of the city of Harmac, and
storm it and drive away the Fung, and afterwards take possession of
the idol, and if it is thought necessary, destroy it piecemeal from

Now Maqueda consulted with her councillors, who appeared to be much
disturbed at this suggestion, and finally called us back and gave us
her decision.

"These lords of the Council," she said, speaking with a ring of
contempt in her voice, "declare that your plan is mad, and that they
will never sanction it because the Abati could not be persuaded to
undertake so dangerous an enterprise as an attack upon the city of
Harmac, which would end, they think, in all of them being killed. They
point out, O Orme, that the prophecy is that the Fung will leave the
plain of Harmac when their god is destroyed and not before, and that
therefore it must be destroyed. They say, further, O Orme, that for a
year you and your companions are the sworn servants of the Abati, and
that it is your business to receive orders, not to give them, also
that the condition upon which you earn your pay is that you destroy
the idol of the Fung. This is the decision of the Council, spoken by
the mouth of the prince Joshua, who command further that you shall at
once set about the business to execute which you and your companions
are present here in Mur."

"Is that /your/ command also, O Child of Kings?" answered Oliver,

"Since I also think that the Abati can never be forced to attack the
city of the Fung, it is, O Orme, though the words in which it is
couched are not my words."

"Very well, O Child of Kings, I will do my best. Only blame us not if
the end of this matter is other than these advisers of yours expect.
Prophecies are two-edged swords to play with, and I do not believe
that a race of fighting men like the Fung will fly and leave you
triumphant just because a stone image is shattered, if that can be
done in the time and with the means which we possess. Meanwhile, I ask
that you should give me two hundred and fifty picked men of the
Mountaineers, not of the townspeople, under the captaincy of Japhet,
who must choose them, to assist us in our work."

"It shall be done," she answered, and we made our bows and went. As we
passed through the Council we heard Joshua say in a loud voice meant
for us to hear:

"Thanks be to God, these hired Gentiles have been taught their place
at last."

Oliver turned on him so fiercely that he recoiled, thinking that he
was about to strike him.

"Be careful, Prince Joshua," he said, "that before this business is
finished you are not taught yours, which I think may be lowly," and he
looked meaningly at the ground.

So the labour began, and it was heavy indeed as well as dangerous.
Fortunately, in addition to the picrate compounds that Quick called
"azure stinging bees," we had brought with us a few cases of dynamite,
of which we now made use for blasting purposes. A hole was drilled in
the face of the tunnel, and the charge inserted. Then all retreated
back into the Tomb of Kings till the cartridge had exploded, and the
smoke cleared off, which took a long while, when our people advanced
with iron bars and baskets, and cleared away the débris, after which
the process must be repeated.

Oh! the heat of that narrow hole deep in the bowels of the rock, and
the reek of the stagnant air which sometimes was so bad that the
lights would scarcely burn. Indeed, after a hundred feet had been
completed, we thought that it would be impossible to proceed, since
two men died of asphyxiation and the others, although they were good
fellows enough, refused to return into the tunnel. At length, however,
Orme and Japhet persuaded some of the best of them to do so, and
shortly after this the atmosphere improved very much, I suppose
because we cut some cranny or shaft which communicated with the open

There were other dangers also, notably of the collapse of the whole
roof where the rock was rotten, as we found it to be in places. Then
it proved very hard to deal with the water, for once or twice we
struck small springs impregnated with copper or some other mineral
that blistered the feet and skin, since every drop of this acid water
had to be carried out in wooden pails. That difficulty we overcame at
last by sinking a narrow well down to the level of the ancient tunnel
of which I have spoken as having been shaken in by the earthquake.

Thus we, or rather Oliver and Quick with the Mountaineers, toiled on.
Higgs did his best, but after a while proved quite unable to bear the
heat, which became too much for so stout a man. The end of it was that
he devoted himself to the superintendence of the removal of the
rubbish into the Tomb of Kings, the care of the stores and so forth.
At least that was supposed to be his business, but really he employed
most of his time in drawing and cataloguing the objects of antiquity
and the groups of bones that were buried there, and in exploring the
remains of the underground city. In truth, this task of destruction
was most repellent to the poor Professor.

"To think," he said to us, "to think that I, who all my life have
preached the iniquity of not conserving every relic of the past,
should now be employed in attempting to obliterate the most wonderful
object ever fashioned by the ancients! It is enough to make a Vandal
weep, and I pray heaven that you may not succeed in your infamous
design. What does it matter if the Abati are wiped out, as lots of
better people have been before them? What does it matter if we
accompany them to oblivion so long as that noble sphinx is preserved
to be the wonder of future generations? Well, thank goodness, at any
rate I have seen it, which is more, probably, than any of you will
ever do. There, another brute is dumping his rubbish over the skull of
No. 14!"

Thus we laboured continually, each at his different task, for the work
in the mine never stopped, Oliver being in charge during the day and
Quick at night for a whole week, since on each Sunday they changed
with their gangs, Quick taking the day shift and Oliver the night, or
/vice versa/. Sometimes Maqueda came down the cave to inspect
progress, always, I noticed, at those hours when Oliver happened to be
off duty. Then on this pretext or on that they would wander away
together to visit I know not what in the recesses of the underground
city, or elsewhere. In vain did I warn them that their every step was
dogged, and that their every word and action were noted by spies who
crept after them continually, since twice I caught one of these gentry
in the act. They were infatuated, and would not listen.

At this time Oliver only left the underground city twice or thrice a
week to breathe the fresh air for an hour or two. In truth, he had no
leisure. For this same reason he fitted himself up a bed in what had
been a priest's chamber, or a sanctuary in the old temple, and slept
there, generally with no other guard but the great dog, Pharaoh, his
constant companion even in the recesses of the mine.

It was curious to see how this faithful beast accustomed itself to the
darkness, and made its other senses, especially that of smell, serve
the purpose of eyes as do the blind. By degrees, too, it learned all
the details of the operations; thus, when the cartridge was in place
for firing, it would rise and begin to walk out of the tunnel even
before the men in charge.

One night the tragedy that I feared very nearly happened, and indeed
must have happened had it not been for this same hound, Pharaoh. About
six o'clock in the evening Oliver came off duty after an eight-hour
shift in the tunnel, leaving Higgs in command for a little while until
it was time for Quick to take charge. I had been at work outside all
day in connection with the new conscript army, a regiment of which was
in revolt, because the men, most of whom were what we should call
small-holders, declared that they wanted to go home to weed their
crops. Indeed, it had proved necessary for the Child of Kings herself
to be summoned to plead with them and condemn some of the ringleaders
to punishment.

When at length this business was over we left together, and the poor
lady, exasperated almost to madness, sharply refusing the escort of
any of her people, requested me to accompany her to the mine.

At the mouth of the tunnel she met Oliver, as probably she had
arranged to do, and after he had reported progress to her, wandered
away with him as usual, each of them carrying a lamp, into some recess
of the buried city. I followed them at a distance, not from curiosity,
or because I wished to see more of the wonders of that city whereof I
was heartily sick, but because I suspected that they were being spied

The pair vanished round a corner that I knew ended in a /cul-de-sac/,
so extinguishing my lamp, I sat down on a fallen column and waited
till I should see their light reappear, when I proposed to effect my
retreat. Whilst I sat thus, thinking on many things and, to tell the
truth, very depressed in mind, I heard a sound as of some one moving
and instantly struck a match. The light of it fell full upon the face
of a man whom I recognized at once as a body-servant of the prince
Joshua, though whether he was passing me toward the pair or returning
from their direction I could not be sure.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"What is that to you, Physician?" he answered.

Then the match burnt out, and before I could light another he had
vanished, like a snake into a stone wall.

My first impulse was to warn Maqueda and Oliver that they were being
watched, but reflecting that the business was awkward, and that the
spy would doubtless have given over his task for this day, I left it
alone, and went down to the Tomb of the Kings to help Higgs. Just
afterwards Quick came on duty, long before his time, the fact being
that he had no confidence in the Professor as a director of mining
operations. When he appeared Higgs and I retreated from that close and
filthy tunnel, and, by way of recreation, put in an hour or so at the
cataloguing and archæological research in which his soul delighted.

"If only we could get all this lot out of Mur," he said, with a sweep
of his hand, "we should be the most famous men in Europe for at least
three days, and rich into the bargain."

"Ptolemy," I answered, "we shall be fortunate if we get ourselves
alive out of Mur, let alone these bones and ancient treasures," and I
told him what I had seen that evening.

His fat and kindly face grew anxious.

"Ah!" he said. "Well, I don't blame him; should probably do the same
myself if I got the chance, and so would you--if you were twenty years
younger. No, I don't blame him, or her either, for the fact is that
although their race, education, and circumstances are so different,
they are one of Nature's pairs, and while they are alive nothing will
keep them apart. You might as well expect a magnet and a bit of iron
to remain separate on a sheet of notepaper. Moreover, they give
themselves away, as people in that state always do. The pursuit of
archæology has its dangers, but it is a jolly sight safer than that of
woman, though it did land me in a den of lions. What's going to
happen, old fellow?"

"Can't say, but I think it very probable that Oliver will be murdered,
and that we shall follow the same road, or, if we are lucky, be only
bundled out of Mur. Well, it's time for dinner; if I get a chance I
will give them a hint."

So we made our way to the old temple in the great cave, where we kept
our stores and Oliver had his headquarters. Here we found him waiting
for us and our meal ready, for food was always brought to us by the
palace servants. When we had eaten and these men had cleared away, we
lit our pipes and fed the dog Pharaoh upon the scraps that had been
reserved for him. Then I told Oliver about the spy whom I had caught
tracking him and Maqueda.

"Well, what of it?" he said, colouring in his tell-tale fashion; "she
only took me to see what she believed to be an ancient inscription on
a column in that northern aisle."

"Then she'd have done better to take me, my boy," said Higgs. "What
was the character like?"

"Don't know," he answered guiltily. "She could not find it again."

An awkward silence followed, which I broke.

"Oliver," I said, "I don't think you ought to go on sleeping here
alone. You have too many enemies in this place."

"Rubbish," he answered, "though it's true Pharaoh seemed uneasy last
night, and that once I woke up and thought I heard footsteps in the
court outside. I set them down to ghosts, in which I have almost come
to believe in this haunted place, and went to sleep again."

"Ghosts be blowed!" said Higgs vulgarly, "if there were such things I
have slept with too many mummies not to see them. That confounded
Joshua is the wizard who raises your ghosts. Look here, old boy," he
added, "let me camp with you to-night, since Quick must be in the
tunnel, and Adams has to sleep outside in case he is wanted on the
army business."

"Not a bit of it," he answered; "you know you are too asthmatical to
get a wink in this atmosphere. I won't hear of such a thing."

"Then come and sleep with us in the guest-house."

"Can't be done; the Sergeant has got a very nasty job down there about
one o'clock, and I promised to be handy in case he calls me up," and
he pointed to the portable field telephone that fortunately we had
brought with us from England, which was fixed closed by, adding, "if
only that silly thing had another few hundred yards of wire, I'd come;
but, you see, it hasn't and I must be in touch with the work."

At this moment the bell tinkled, and Orme made a jump for the receiver
through which for the next five minutes he was engaged in giving rapid
and to us quite unintelligible directions.

"There you are," he said, when he had replaced the mouthpiece on its
hook, "if I hadn't been here they would probably have had the roof of
the tunnel down and killed some people. No, no; I can't leave that
receiver unless I go back to the mine, which I am too tired to do.
However, don't you fret. With a pistol, a telephone, and Pharaoh I'm
safe enough. And now, good night; you fellows had better be getting
home as I must be up early to-morrow and want to sleep while I can."

On the following morning about five o'clock Higgs and I were awakened
by some one knocking at our door. I rose and opened it, whereon in
walked Quick, a grim and grimy figure, for, as his soaked clothes and
soiled face told us, he had but just left his work in the mine.

"Captain wants to see you as soon as possible, gentlemen," he said.

"What's the matter, Sergeant?" asked Higgs, as we got into our

"You'll see for yourself presently, Professor," was the laconic reply,
nor could we get anything more out of him.

Five minutes later we were advancing at a run through the dense
darkness of the underground city, each of us carrying a lamp. I
reached the ruins of the old temple first, for Quick seemed very tired
and lagged behind, and in that atmosphere Higgs was scant of breath
and could not travel fast. At the doorway of the place where he slept
stood the tall form of Oliver holding a lamp aloft. Evidently he was
waiting for us. By his side sat the big yellow dog, Pharaoh, that,
when he smelt us, gambolled forward, wagging his tail in greeting.

"Come here," said Orme, in a low and solemn voice, "I have something
to show you," and he led the way into the priest's chamber, or
sanctuary, whatever it may have been, where he slept upon a rough,
native-made bedstead. At the doorway he halted, lowered the lamp he
held, and pointed to something dark on the floor to the right of his
bedstead, saying, "Look!"

There lay a dead man, and by his side a great knife that evidently had
fallen from his hand. At the first glance we recognised the face
which, by the way, was singularly peaceful, as though it were that of
one plunged in deep sleep. This seemed odd, since the throat below was
literally torn out.

"Shadrach!" we said, with one voice.

Shadrach it was; Shadrach, our former guide, who had betrayed us;
Shadrach who, to save his own life, had shown us how to rescue Higgs,
and for that service been pardoned, as I think I mentioned. Shadrach
and no other!

"Pussy seems to have been on the prowl and to have met a dog,"
remarked Quick.

"Do you understand what has happened?" asked Oliver, in a dry, hard
voice. "Perhaps I had better explain before anything is moved.
Shadrach must have crept in here last night--I don't know at what
time, for I slept through it all--for purposes of his own. But he
forgot his old enemy Pharaoh, and Pharaoh killed him. See his throat?
When Pharaoh bites he doesn't growl, and, of course, Shadrach could
say nothing, or, as he had dropped his knife, for the matter of that,
do anything either. When I was woke up about an hour ago by the
telephone bell the dog was fast asleep, for he is accustomed to that
bell, with his head resting upon the body of Shadrach. Now why did
Shadrach come into my room at night with a drawn knife in his hand?"

"Doesn't seem a difficult question to answer," replied Higgs, in the
high voice which was common to him when excited. "He came here to
murder you, and Pharaoh was too quick for him, that's all. That dog
was the cheapest purchase you ever made, friend Oliver."

"Yes," answered Orme, "he came here to murder me--you were right about
the risk, after all--but what I wonder is, who sent him?"

"And so you may go on wondering for the rest of your life, Captain,"
exclaimed Quick. "Still, I think we might guess if we tried."

Then news of what had happened was sent to the palace, and within
little over an hour Maqueda arrived, accompanied by Joshua and several
other members of her Council. When she saw and understood everything
she was horrified, and sternly asked Joshua what he knew of this
business. Of course, he proved to be completely innocent, and had not
the slightest idea of who had set the murderer on to work this deed of
darkness. Nor had anybody else, the general suggestion being that
Shadrach had attempted it out of revenge, and met with the due reward
of his crime.

Only that day poor Pharaoh was poisoned. Well, he had done his work,
and his memory is blessed.



From this time forward all of us, and especially Oliver, were guarded
night and day by picked men who it was believed could not be
corrupted. As a consequence, the Tsar of Russia scarcely leads a life
more irksome than ours became at Mur. Of privacy there was none left
to us, since sentries and detectives lurked at every corner, while
tasters were obliged to eat of each dish and drink from each cup
before it touched our lips, lest our fate should be that of Pharaoh,
whose loss we mourned as much as though the poor dog had been some
beloved human being.

Most of all was it irksome, I think, to Oliver and Maqueda, whose
opportunities of meeting were much curtailed by the exigencies of this
rigid espionage. Who can murmur sweet nothings to his adored when two
soldiers armed to the teeth have been instructed never to let him out
of their sight? Particularly is this so if the adored happens to be
the ruler of those soldiers to whom the person guarded has no right to
be making himself agreeable. For when off duty even the most faithful
guardians are apt to talk. Of course, the result was that the pair
took risks which did not escape observation. Indeed, their intimate
relations became a matter of gossip throughout the land.

Still, annoying as they might be, these precautions succeeded, for
none of us were poisoned or got our throats cut, although we were
constantly the victims of mysterious accidents. Thus, a heavy rock
rolled down upon us when we sat together one evening upon the hill-
side, and a flight of arrows passed between us while we were riding
along the edge of a thicket, by one of which Higgs's horse was killed.
Only when the mountain and the thicket were searched no one could be
found. Moreover, a great plot against us was discovered in which some
of the lords and priests were implicated, but such was the state of
feeling in the country that, beyond warning them privately that their
machinations were known, Maqueda did not dare to take proceedings
against these men.

A little later on things mended so far as we were concerned, for the
following reason: One day two shepherds arrived at the palace with
some of their companions, saying that they had news to communicate. On
being questioned, these peasants averred that while they were herding
their goats upon the western cliffs many miles away, suddenly on the
top of the hills appeared a body of fifteen Fung, who bound and
blindfolded them, telling them in mocking language to take a message
to the Council and to the white men.

This was the message: That they had better make haste to destroy the
god Harmac, since otherwise his head would move to Mur according to
the prophecy, and that when it did so, the Fung would follow as they
knew how to do. Then they set the two men on a rock where they could
be seen, and on the following morning were in fact found by some of
their fellows, those who accompanied them to the Court and
corroborated this story.

Of course the matter was duly investigated, but as I know, for I went
with the search party, when we got to the place no trace of the Fung
could be found, except one of their spears, of which the handle had
been driven into the earth and the blade pointed toward Mur, evidently
in threat or defiance. No other token of them remained, for, as it
happened, a heavy rain had fallen and obliterated their footprints,
which in any case must have been faint on this rocky ground.

Notwithstanding the most diligent search by skilled men, their mode of
approach and retreat remained a mystery, as, indeed, it does to this
day. The only places where it was supposed to be possible to scale the
precipice of Mur were watched continually, so that they could have
climbed up by none of these. The inference was, therefore, that the
Fung had discovered some unknown path, and, if fifteen men could climb
that path, why not fifteen thousand!

Only, where was this path? In vain were great rewards in land and
honours offered to him who should discover it, for although such
discoveries were continually reported, on investigation these were
found to be inventions or mares' nests. Nothing but a bird could have
travelled by such roads.

Then at last we saw the Abati thoroughly frightened, for, with
additions, the story soon passed from mouth to mouth till the whole
people talked of nothing else. It was as though we English learned
that a huge foreign army had suddenly landed on our shores and, having
cut the wires and seized the railways, was marching upon London. The
effect of such tidings upon a nation that always believed invasion to
be impossible may easily be imagined, only I hope that we should take
them better than did the Abati.

Their swagger, their self-confidence, their talk about the "rocky
walls of Mur," evaporated in an hour. Now it was only of the
disciplined and terrible regiments of the Fung, among whom every man
was trained to war, and of what would happen to them, the civilized
and domesticated Abati, a peace-loving people who rightly enough, as
they declared, had refused all martial burdens, should these regiments
suddenly appear in their midst. They cried out that they were
betrayed--they clamoured for the blood of certain of the Councillors.
That carpet knight, Joshua, lost popularity for a while, while
Maqueda, who was known always to have been in favour of conscription
and perfect readiness to repel attack, gained what he had lost.

Leaving their farms, they crowded together into the towns and
villages, where they made what in South Africa are called laagers.
Religion, which practically had been dead among them, for they
retained but few traces of the Jewish faith if, indeed, they had ever
really practised it, became the craze of the hour. Priests were at a
premium; sheep and cattle were sacrificed; it was even said that,
after the fashion of their foes the Fung, some human beings shared the
same fate. At any rate the Almighty was importuned hourly to destroy
the hated Fung and to protect His people--the Abati--from the results
of their own base selfishness and cowardly neglect.

Well, the world has seen such exhibitions before to-day, and will
doubtless see more of them in the instance of greater peoples who
allow luxury and pleasure-seeking to sap their strength and manhood.

The upshot of it all was that the Abati became obsessed with the
saying of the Fung scouts to the shepherds, which, after all, was but
a repetition of that of their envoys delivered to the Council a little
while before: that they should hasten to destroy the idol Harmac, lest
he should move himself to Mur. How an idol of such proportions, or
even its head, could move at all they did not stop to inquire. It was
obvious to them, however, that if he was destroyed there would be
nothing to move and, further, that we Gentiles were the only persons
who could possibly effect such destruction. So we also became popular
for a little while. Everybody was pleasant and flattered us--
everybody, even Joshua, bowed when we approached, and took a most
lively interest in the progress of our work, which many deputations
and prominent individuals urged us to expedite.

Better still, the untoward accidents such as those I have mentioned,
ceased. Our dogs, for we had obtained some others, were no longer
poisoned; rocks that appeared fixed did not fall; no arrows whistled
among us when we went out riding. We even found it safe occasionally
to dispense with our guards, since it was every one's interest to keep
us alive--for the present. Still, I for one was not deceived for a
single moment, and in season and out of season warned the others that
the wind would soon blow again from a less favourable quarter.

We worked, we worked, we worked! Heaven alone knows how we did work.
Think of the task, which, after all, was only one of several. A tunnel
must be bored, for I forget how far, through virgin rock, with the
help of inadequate tools and unskilled labour, and this tunnel must be
finished by a certain date. A hundred unexpected difficulties arose,
and one by one were conquered. Great dangers must be run, and were
avoided, while the responsibility of this tremendous engineering feat
lay upon the shoulders of a single individual, Oliver Orme, who,
although he had been educated as an engineer, had no great practical
experience of such enterprises.

Truly the occasion makes the man, for Orme rose to it in a way that I
can only call heroic. When he was not actually in the tunnel he was
labouring at his calculations, of which many must be made, or taking
levels with such instruments as he had. For if there proved to be the
slightest error all this toil would be in vain, and result only in the
blowing of a useless hole through a mass of rock. Then there was a
great question as to the effect which would be produced by the amount
of explosive at his disposal, since terrible as might be the force of
the stuff, unless it were scientifically placed and distributed it
would assuredly fail to accomplish the desired end.

At last, after superhuman efforts, the mine was finished. Our stock of
concentrated explosive, about four full camel loads of it, was set in
as many separate chambers, each of them just large enough to receive
the charge, hollowed in the primæval rock from which the idol had been

These chambers were about twenty feet from each other, although if
there had been time to prolong the tunnel, the distance should have
been at least forty in order to give the stuff a wider range of
action. According to Oliver's mathematical reckoning, they were cut in
the exact centre of the base of the idol, and about thirty feet below
the actual body of the crouching sphinx. As a matter of fact this
reckoning was wrong in several particulars, the charges having been
set farther toward the east or head of the sphinx and higher up in the
base than he supposed. When it is remembered that he had found no
opportunity of measuring the monument which practically we had only
seen once from behind under conditions not favourable to accuracy in
such respects, or of knowing its actual length and depth, these
trifling errors were not remarkable.

What was remarkable is that his general plan of operations, founded
upon a mere hypothetical estimate, should have proved as accurate as
it did.

At length all was prepared, and the deadly cast-iron flasks had been
packed in sand, together with dynamite cartridges, the necessary
detonators, electric wires, and so forth, an anxious and indeed awful
task executed entirely in that stifling atmosphere by the hands of
Orme and Quick. Then began another labour, that of the filling in of
the tunnels. This, it seems, was necessary, or so I understood, lest
the expanding gases, following the line of least resistance, should
blow back, as it were, through the vent-hole. What made that task the
more difficult was the need of cutting a little channel in the rock to
contain the wires, and thereby lessen the risk of the fracture of
these wires in the course of the building-up process. Of course, if by
any accident this should happen, the circuit would be severed, and no
explosion would follow when the electric battery was set to work.

The arrangement was that the mine should be fired on the night of that
full moon on which we had been told, and spies confirmed the
information, the feast of the marriage of Barung's daughter to my son
would be celebrated in the city of Harmac. This date was fixed because
the Sultan had announced that so soon as that festivity, which
coincided with the conclusion of the harvest, was ended, he meant to
deliver his attack on Mur.

Also, we were anxious that it should be adhered to for another reason,
since we knew that on this day but a small number of priests and
guards would be left in charge of the idol, and my son could not be
among them. Now, whatever may have been the views of the Abati, we as
Christians who bore them no malice did not at all desire to destroy an
enormous number of innocent Fung, as might have happened if we had
fired our mine when the people were gathered to sacrifice to their

The fatal day arrived at last. All was completed, save for the
blocking of the passage, which still went on, or, rather, was being
reinforced by the piling up of loose rocks against its mouth, at which
a hundred or so men laboured incessantly. The firing wires had been
led into that little chamber in the old temple where the dog Pharaoh
tore out the throat of Shadrach, and no inch of them was left
unguarded for fear of accident or treachery.

The electric batteries--two of them, in case one should fail--had been
tested but not connected with the wires. There they stood upon the
floor, looking innocent enough, and we four sat round them like
wizards round their magic pot, who await the working of some spell. We
were not cheerful; who could be under so intense a strain? Orme,
indeed, who had grown pale and thin with continuous labour of mind and
body, seemed quite worn out. He could not eat nor smoke, and with
difficulty I persuaded him to drink some of the native wine. He would
not even go to look at the completion of the work or to test the

"You can see to it," he said; "I have done all I can. Now things must
take their chance."

After our midday meal he lay down and slept quite soundly for several
hours. About four o'clock those who were labouring at the piling up of
débris over the mouth of the tunnel completed their task, and, in
charge of Quick, were marched out of the underground city.

Then Higgs and I took lamps and went along the length of the wires,
which lay in a little trench covered over with dust, removing the dust
and inspecting them at intervals. Discovering nothing amiss, we
returned to the old temple, and at its doorway met the mountaineer,
Japhet, who throughout all these proceedings had been our prop and
stay. Indeed, without his help and that of his authority over the
Abati the mine could never have been completed, at any rate within the

The light of the lamp showed that his face was very anxious.

"What is the matter?" I asked.

"O Physician," he answered, "I have words for the ear of the Captain
Orme. Be pleased to lead me to him."

We explained that he slept and could not be disturbed, but Japhet only
answered as before, adding:

"Come you with me, my words are for your ears as well as his."

So we went into the little room and awoke Oliver, who sprang up in a
great fright, thinking that something untoward had happened at the

"What's wrong?" he asked of Japhet. "Have the Fung cut the wires?"

"Nay, O Orme, a worse thing; I have discovered that the Prince Joshua
has laid a plot to steal away 'Her-whose-name-is-high.'"

"What do you mean? Set out all the story, Japhet," said Oliver.

"It is short, lord. I have some friends, one of whom--he is of my own
blood, but ask me not his name--is in the service of the Prince. We
drank a cup of wine together, which I needed, and I suppose it loosed
his tongue. At any rate, he told me, and I believed him. This is the
story. For his own sake and that of the people the Prince desires that
you should destroy the idol of Fung, and therefore he has kept his
hands off you of late. Yet should you succeed, he does not know what
may happen. He fears lest the Abati in their gratitude should set you
up as great men."

"Then he is an ass!" interrupted Quick; "for the Abati have no

"He fears," went on Japhet, "other things also. For instance, that the
Child of Kings may express that gratitude by a mark of her signal
favour toward one of you," and he stared at Orme, who turned his head
aside. "Now, the Prince is affianced to this great lady, whom he
desires to wed for two reasons: First, because this marriage will make
him the chief man amongst the Abati, and, secondly, because of late he
has come to think that he loves her whom he is afraid that he may
lose. So he has set a snare."

"What snare?" asked one of us, for Japhet paused.

"I don't know," answered Japhet, "and I do not think that my friend
knew either, or, if he did, he would not tell me. But I understand the
plot is that the Child of Kings is to be carried off to the Prince
Joshua's castle at the other end of the lake, six hours' ride away,
and there be forced to marry him at once."

"Indeed," said Orme, "and when is all this to happen?"

"I don't know, lord. I know nothing except what my friend told me,
which I thought it right to communicate to you instantly. I asked him
the time, however, and he said that he believed the date was fixed for
one night after next Sabbath."

"Next Sabbath is five days hence, so that this matter does not seem to
be very pressing," remarked Oliver with a sigh of relief. "Are you
sure that you can trust your friend, Japhet?"

"No, lord, I am not sure, especially as I have always known him to be
a liar. Still, I thought that I ought to tell you."

"Very kind of you, Japhet, but I wish that you had let me have my
sleep out first. Now go down the line and see that all is right, then
return and report."

Japhet saluted in his native fashion and went.

"What do you think of this story?" asked Oliver, as soon as he was out
of hearing.

"All bosh," answered Higgs; "the place is full of talk and rumours,
and this is one of them."

He paused and looked at me.

"Oh!" I said, "I agree with Higgs. If Japhet's friend had really
anything to tell he would have told it in more detail. I daresay there
are a good many things Joshua would like to do, but I expect he will
stop there, at any rate, for the present. If you take my advice you
will say nothing of the matter, especially to Maqueda."

"Then we are all agreed. But what are you thinking of, Sergeant?"
asked Oliver, addressing Quick, who stood in a corner of the room,
lost apparently in contemplation of the floor.

"I, Captain," he replied, coming to attention. "Well, begging their
pardon, I was thinking that I don't hold with these gentlemen, except
in so far that I should say nothing of this job to our Lady, who has
plenty to bother her just now, and won't need to be frightened as
well. Still, there may be something in it, for though that Japhet is
stupid, he's honest, and honest men sometimes get hold of the right
end of the stick. At least, he believes there is something, and that's
what weighs with me."

"Well, if that's your opinion, what's best to be done Sergeant? I
agree that the Child of Kings should not be told, and I shan't leave
this place till after ten o'clock to-night at the earliest, if we
stick to our plans, as we had better do, for all that stuff in the
tunnel wants a little time to settle, and for other reasons. What are
you drawing there?" and he pointed to the floor, in the dust of which
Quick was tracing something with his finger.

"A plan of our Lady's private rooms, Captain. She told you she was
going to rest at sundown, didn't she, or earlier, for she was up most
of last night, and wanted to get a few hours' sleep before--something
happens. Well, her bed-chamber is there, isn't it? and another before
it, in which her maids sleep, and nothing behind except a high wall
and a ditch which cannot be climbed."

"That's quite true," interrupted Higgs. "I got leave to make a plan of
the palace, only there is a passage six feet wide and twenty long
leading from the guard chamber to the ladies' anteroom."

"Just so, Professor, and that passage has a turn in it, if I remember
right, so that two well-armed men could hold it against quite a lot.
Supposing now that you and I, Professor, should go and take a nap in
that guard-room, which will be empty, for the watch is set at the
palace gate. We shan't be wanted here, since if the Captain can't
touch off that mine, no one can, with the Doctor to help him just in
case anything goes wrong, and Japhet guarding the line. I daresay
there's nothing in this yarn, but who knows? There might be, and then
we should blame ourselves. What do you say, Professor?"

"I? Oh, I'll do anything you wish, though I should rather have liked
to climb the cliff and watch what happens."

"You'd see nothing, Higgs," interrupted Oliver, "except perhaps the
reflection of a flash in the sky; so, if you don't mind, I wish you
would go with the Sergeant. Somehow, although I am quite certain that
we ought not to alarm Maqueda, I am not easy about her, and if you two
fellows were there, I should know she was all right, and it would be a
weight off my mind."

"That settles it," said Higgs; "we'll be off presently. Look here,
give us that portable telephone, which is of no use anywhere else now.
The wire will reach to the palace, and if the machine works all right
we can talk to you and tell each other how things are going on."

Ten minutes later they had made their preparations. Quick stepped up
to Oliver and stood at attention, saying:

"Ready to march. Any more orders, Captain?"

"I think not, Sergeant," he answered, lifting his eyes from the little
batteries that he was watching as though they were live things. "You
know the arrangements. At ten o'clock--that is about two hours hence--
I touch this switch. Whatever happens it must not be done before, for
fear lest the Doctor's son should not have left the idol, to say
nothing of all the other poor beggars. The spies say that the marriage
feast will not be celebrated until at least three hours after

"And that's what I heard when I was a prisoner," interrupted Higgs.

"I daresay," answered Orme; "but it is always well to allow a margin
in case the procession should be delayed, or something. So until ten
o'clock I've got to stop where I am, and you may be sure, Doctor, that
under no circumstances shall I fire the mine before that hour, as
indeed you will be here to see. After that I can't say what will
happen, but if we don't appear, you two had better come to look for us
--in case of accidents, you know. Do your best at your end according
to circumstances; the Doctor and I will do our best at ours. I think
that is all, Sergeant. Report yourselves by the telephone if the wire
is long enough and it will work, which I daresay it won't, and,
anyway, look out for us about half-past ten. Good-bye!"

"Good-bye, Captain," answered Quick, then stretched out his hand,
shook that of Orme, and without another word took his lamp and left
the chamber.

An impulse prompted me to follow him, leaving Orme and Higgs
discussing something before they parted. When he had walked about
fifty yards in the awful silence of that vast underground town, of
which the ruined tenements yawned on either side of us, the Sergeant
stopped and said suddenly:

"You don't believe in presentiments, do you, Doctor?"

"Not a bit," I answered.

"Glad of it, Doctor. Still, I have got a bad one now, and it is that I
shan't see the Captain or you any more."

"Then that's a poor look-out for us, Quick."

"No, Doctor, for me. I think you are both all right, and the
Professor, too. It's my name they are calling up aloft, or so it seems
to me. Well, I don't care much, for, though no saint, I have tried to
do my duty, and if it is done, it's done. If it's written, it's got to
come to pass, hasn't it? For everything is written down for us long
before we begin, or so I've always thought. Still, I'll grieve to part
from the Captain, seeing that I nursed him as a child, and I'd have
liked to know him well out of this hole, and safely married to that
sweet lady first, though I don't doubt that it will be so."

"Nonsense, Sergeant," I said sharply; "you are not yourself; all this
work and anxiety has got on your nerves."

"As it well might, Doctor, not but I daresay that's true. Anyhow, if
the other is the true thing, and you should all see old England again
with some of the stuff in that dead-house, I've got three nieces
living down at home whom you might remember. Don't say nothing of what
I told you to the Captain till this night's game is played, seeing
that it might upset him, and he'll need to keep cool up to ten
o'clock, and afterwards too, perhaps. Only if we shouldn't meet again,
say that Samuel Quick sent him his duty and God's blessing. And the
same on yourself, Doctor, and your son, too. And now here comes the
Professor, so good-bye."

A minute later they had left me, and I stood watching them until the
two stars of light from their lanterns vanished into the blackness.



Slowly and in very bad spirits I retraced my steps to the old temple,
following the line of the telephone wire which Higgs and Quick had
unreeled as they went. In the Sergeant's prognostications of evil I
had no particular belief, as they seemed to me to be born of the
circumstances which surrounded us, and in different ways affected all
our minds, even that of the buoyant Higgs.

To take my own case, for instance. Here I was about to assist in an
act which for aught I knew might involve the destruction of my only
son. It was true we believed that this was the night of his marriage
at the town of Harmac, some miles away, and that the tale of our spies
supported this information. But how could we be sure that the date, or
the place of the ceremony, had not been changed at the last moment?
Supposing, for instance, that it was held, not in the town, as
arranged, but in the courts of the idol, and that the fearful
activities of the fiery agent which we were about to wake to life
should sweep the celebrants into nothingness.

The thought made me turn cold, and yet the deed must be done; Roderick
must take his chance. And if all were well, and he escaped that
danger, were there not worse behind? Think of him, a Christian man,
the husband of a savage woman who worshipped a stone image with a
lion's head, bound to her and her tribe, a state prisoner, trebly
guarded, whom, so far as I could see, there would be no hope of
rescuing. It was awful. Then there were other complications. If the
plan succeeded and the idol was destroyed, my own belief was that the
Fung must thereby be exasperated. Evidently they knew some road into
this stronghold. It would be used. They would pour their thousands up
it, a general massacre would follow, of which, justly, we should be
the first victims.

I reached the chamber where Oliver sat brooding alone, for Japhet was
patrolling the line.

"I am not happy about Maqueda, Doctor," he said to me. "I am afraid
there is something in that story. She wanted to be with us; indeed,
she begged to be allowed to come almost with tears. But I wouldn't
have it, since accidents may always happen; the vibration might shake
in the roof or something; in fact, I don't think you should be here.
Why don't you go away and leave me?"

I answered that nothing would induce me to do so, for such a job
should not be left to one man.

"No, you're right," he said; "I might faint or lose my head or
anything. I wish now that we had arranged to send the spark from the
palace, which perhaps we might have done by joining the telephone wire
on to the others. But, to tell you the truth, I'm afraid of the
batteries. The cells are new but very weak, for time and the climate
have affected them, and I thought it possible the extra difference
might make the difference and that they would fail to work. That's why
I fixed this as the firing point. Hullo, there's the bell. What have
they got to say?"

I snatched the receiver, and presently heard the cheerful voice of
Higgs announcing that they had arrived safely in the little anteroom
to Maqueda's private apartments.

"The palace seems very empty," he added; "we only met one sentry, for
I think that everybody else, except Maqueda and a few of her ladies,
have cleared out, being afraid lest rocks should fall on them when the
explosion occurs."

"Did the man say so?" I asked of Higgs.

"Yes, something of that sort; also he wanted to forbid us to come
here, saying that it was against the Prince Joshua's orders that we
Gentiles should approach the private apartments of the Child of Kings.
Well, we soon settled that, and he bolted. Where to? Oh! I don't know;
to report, he said."

"How's Quick?" I asked.

"Much the same as usual. In fact, he is saying his prayers in the
corner, looking like a melancholy brigand with rifles, revolvers, and
knives stuck all over him. I wish he wouldn't say his prayers," added
Higgs, and his voice reached me in an indignant squeak; "it makes me
feel uncomfortable, as though I ought to join him. But not having been
brought up a Dissenter or a Moslem, I can't pray in public as he does.
Hullo! Wait a minute, will you?"

Then followed a longish pause, and after it Higgs's voice again.

"It's all right," it said. "Only one of Maqueda's ladies who had heard
us and come to see who we were. When she learns I expect she will join
us here, as the girl says she's nervous and can't sleep."

Higgs proved right in his anticipations, for in about ten minutes we
were rung up again, this time by Maqueda herself, whereon I handed the
receiver to Oliver and retired to the other end of the room.

Nor, to tell the truth, was I sorry for the interruption, since it
cheered up Oliver and helped to pass the time.

The next thing worth telling that happened was that, an hour or more
later, Japhet arrived, looking very frightened. We asked him our usual
question: if anything was wrong with the wires. With a groan he
answered "No," the wires seemed all right, but he had met a ghost.

"What ghost, you donkey?" I said.

"The ghost of one of the dead kings, O Physician, yonder in the burial
cave. It was he with the bent bones who sits in the farthest chair.
Only he had put some flesh on his bones, and I tell you he looked
fearful, a very fierce man, or rather ghost."

"Indeed, and did he say anything to you, Japhet?"

"Oh! yes, plenty, O Physician, only I could not understand it all,
because his language was somewhat different to mine, and he spat out
his words as a green log spits out sparks. I think that he asked me,
however, how my miserable people dared to destroy his god, Harmac. I
answered that I was only a servant and did not know, adding that he
should put his questions to you."

"And what did he say to that, Japhet?"

"I think he said that Harmac would come to Mur and settle his account
with the Abati, and that the foreign men would be wise to fly fast and
far. That's all I understood; ask me no more, who would not return
into that cave to be made a prince."

"He's got hold of what Barung's envoys told us," said Oliver,
indifferently, "and no wonder, this place is enough to make anybody
see ghosts. I'll repeat it to Maqueda; it will amuse her."

"I wouldn't if I were you," I answered, "for it isn't exactly a
cheerful yarn, and perhaps she's afraid of ghosts too. Also," and I
pointed to the watch that lay on the table beside the batteries, "it
is five minutes to ten."

Oh! that last five minutes! It seemed as many centuries. Like stone
statues we sat, each of us lost in his own thoughts, though for my
part the power of clear thinking appeared to have left me. Visions of
a sort flowed over my mind without sinking into it, as water flows
over marble. All I could do was fix my eyes on the face of that watch,
of which in the flickering lamp-light the second-hand seemed to my
excited fancy to grow enormous and jump from one side of the room to
the other.

Orme began to count aloud. "One, two, three, four, five--/now/!" and
almost simultaneously he touched the knob first of one battery and
next of the other. Before his finger pressed the left-hand knob I felt
the solid rock beneath us surge--no other word conveys its movement.
Then the great stone cross-piece, weighing several tons, that was set
as a transom above the tall door of our room, dislodged itself, and
fell quite gently into the doorway, which it completely blocked.

Other rocks fell also at a distance, making a great noise, and somehow
I found myself on the ground, my stool had slid away from me. Next
followed a muffled, awful roar, and with it came a blast of wind
blowing where wind never blew before since the beginning of the world,
that with a terrible wailing howled itself to silence in the thousand
recesses of the cave city. As it passed our lamps went out. Lastly,
quite a minute later I should think, there was a thud, as though
something of enormous weight had fallen on the surface of the earth
far above us.

Then all was as it had been; all was darkness and utter quietude.

"Well, that's over," said Oliver, in a strained voice which sounded
very small and far away through that thick darkness; "all over for
good or ill. I needn't have been anxious; the first battery was strong
enough, for I felt the mine spring as I touched the second. I wonder,"
he went on, as though speaking to himself, "what amount of damage
nearly a ton and a half of that awful azo-imide compound has done to
the old sphinx. According to my calculations it ought to have been
enough to break the thing up, if we could have spread the charge more.
But, as it is, I am by no means certain. It may only have driven a
hole in its bulk, especially if there were hollows through which the
gases could run. Well, with luck, we may know more about it later.
Strike a match, Adams, and light those lamps. Why, what's that?

As he spoke, from somewhere came a series of tiny noises, that, though
they were so faint and small, suggested rifles fired at a great
distance. Crack, crack, crack! went the infinitesimal noises.

I groped about, and finding the receiver of the field telephone, set
it to my ear. In an instant all grew plain to me. Guns were being
fired near the other end of the wire, and the transmitter was sending
us the sound of them. Very faintly but with distinctness I could hear
Higgs's high voice saying, "Look out, Sergeant, there's another rush
coming!" and Quick answering, "Shoot low, Professor; for the Lord's
sake shoot low. You are empty, sir. Load up, load up! Here's a clip of
cartridges. Don't fire too fast. Ah! that devil got me, but I've got
him; he'll never throw another spear."

"They are being attacked!" I exclaimed. "Quick is wounded. Now Maqueda
is talking to you. She says, 'Oliver, come! Joshua's men assail me.
Oliver, come!'"

Then followed a great sound of shouting answered by more shots, and
just as Orme snatched the receiver from my hand the wire went dead. In
vain he called down it in an agonized voice. As well might he have
addressed the planet Saturn.

"The wire's cut," he exclaimed, dashing down the receiver and seizing
the lantern which Japhet had just succeeded in re-lighting; "come on,
there's murder being done," and he sprang to the doorway, only to
stagger back again from the great stone with which it was blocked.

"Good God!" he screamed, "we're shut in. How can we get out? How can
we get out?" and he began to run round and round the room, and even to
spring at the walls like a frightened cat. Thrice he sprang, striving
to climb to the coping, for the place had no roof, each time falling
back, since it was too high for him to grasp. I caught him round the
middle, and held him by main force, although he struck at me.

"Be quiet," I said; "do you want to kill yourself? You will be no good
dead or maimed. Let me think."

Meanwhile Japhet was acting on his own account, for he, too, had heard
the tiny, ominous sounds given out by the telephone and guessed their
purport. First he ran to the massive transom that blocked the doorway
and pushed. It was useless; not even an elephant could have stirred
it. Then he stepped back, examining it carefully.

"I think it can be climbed, Physician," he said. "Help me now," and he
motioned to me to take one end of the heavy table on which the
batteries stood. We dragged it to the doorway, and, seeing his
purpose, Oliver jumped on to it with him. Then at Japhet's direction,
while I supported the table to prevent its oversetting, Orme rested
his forehead against the stone, making what schoolboy's call "a back,"
up which the mountaineer climbed actively until he stood upon his
shoulders, and by stretching himself was able to grasp the end of the
fallen transom. Next, while I held up the lamp to give him light, he
gripped the roughnesses of the hewn stone with his toes, and in a few
moments was upon the coping of the wall, twenty feet or more above the
floor line.

The rest was comparatively easy, for taking off his linen robe, Japhet
knotted it once or twice, and let it down to us. By the help of this
improvised rope, with Orme supporting me beneath, I, too, was dragged
up to the coping of the wall. Then both of us pulled up Oliver, who,
without a word, swung himself over the wall, hanging to Japhet's arms,
and loosing his hold, dropped to the ground on the farther side. Next
came my turn. It was a long fall, and had not Oliver caught me I think
that I should have hurt myself. As it was, the breath was shaken out
of me. Lastly, Japhet swung himself down, landing lightly as a cat.
The lamps he had already dropped to us, and in another minute they
were all lighted, and we were speeding down the great cavern.

"Be careful," I cried; "there may be fallen rocks about."

As it happened I was right, for at that moment Oliver struck his legs
against one of them and fell, cutting himself a good deal. In a moment
he was up again, but after this our progress grew slow, for hundreds
of tons of stone had been shaken from the roof and blocked the path.
Also, whole buildings of the ancient and underground city had been
thrown down, although these were mostly blown inward by the rush of
air. At length we came to the end of the cave, and halted dismayed,
for here, where the blast of the explosion had been brought to a full
stop, the place seemed to be crowded with rocks which it had rolled
before it.

"My God! I believe we are shut in," exclaimed Oliver in despair.

But Japhet, lantern in hand, was already leaping from block to block,
and presently, from the top of the débris, called to us to come to

"I think there is a road left, though a bad one, lords," he said, and
pointed to a jagged, well-like hole blown out, as I believe, by the
recoil of the blast. With difficulty and danger, for many of the piled
up stones were loose, we climbed down this place, and at its bottom
squeezed ourselves through a narrow aperture on to the floor of the
cave, praying that the huge door which led to the passage beyond might
not be jammed, since if it were, as we knew well, our small strength
would not avail to move it. Happily, this fear at least proved
groundless, since it opened outward, and the force of the compressed
air had torn it from its massive stone hinges and thrown it shattered
to the ground.

We scrambled over it, and advanced down the passage, our revolvers in
our hands. We reached the audience hall, which was empty and in
darkness. We turned to the left, crossing various chambers, and in the
last of them, through which one of the gates of the palace could be
approached, met with the first signs of the tragedy, for there were
bloodstains on the floor.

Orme pointed to them as he hurried on, and suddenly a man leapt out of
the darkness as a buck leaps from a bush, and ran past us, holding his
hands to his side, where evidently he had some grievous hurt. Now we
entered the corridor leading to the private apartments of the Child of
Kings, and found ourselves walking on the bodies of dead and dying
men. One of the former I observed, as one does notice little things at
such a moment, held in his hand the broken wire of the field
telephone. I presume that he had snatched and severed it in his death
pang at the moment when communication ceased between us and the

We rushed into the little antechamber, in which lights were burning,
and there saw a sight that I for one never shall forget.

In the foreground lay more dead men, all of them wearing the livery of
Prince Joshua. Beyond was Sergeant Quick, seated on a chair. He seemed
to be literally hacked to pieces. An arrow that no one had attempted
to remove was fast in his shoulder; his head, which Maqueda was
sponging with wet cloths--well, I will not describe his wounds.

Leaning against the wall near by stood Higgs, also bleeding, and
apparently quite exhausted. Behind, besides Maqueda herself, were two
or three of her ladies, wringing their hands and weeping. In face of
this terrible spectacle we came to a sudden halt. No word was spoken
of by any one, for the power of speech had left us.

The dying Quick opened his eyes, lifted his hand, upon which there was
a ghastly sword-cut, to his forehead, as though to shade them from the
light--ah! how well I recall that pathetic motion--and from beneath
this screen stared at us a while. Then he rose from the chair, touched
his throat to show that he could not speak, as I suppose, saluted
Orme, turned and pointed to Maqueda, and with a triumphant smile sank
down and--died.

Such was the noble end of Sergeant Quick.

To describe what followed is not easy, for the scene was confused.
Also shock and sorrow have blurred its recollection in my mind. I
remember Maqueda and Orme falling into each other's arms before
everybody. I remember her drawing herself up in that imperial way of
hers, and saying, as she pointed to the body of Quick:

"There lies one who has shown us how to die. This countryman of yours
was a hero, O Oliver, and you should hold his memory in honour, since
he saved me from worse than death."

"What's the story?" asked Orme of Higgs.

"A simple one enough," he answered. "We got here all right, as we told
you over the wire. Then Maqueda talked to you for a long while until
you rang off, saying you wanted to speak to Japhet. After that, at ten
o'clock precisely, we heard the thud of the explosion. Next, as we
were preparing to go out to see what had happened, Joshua arrived
alone, announced that the idol Harmac had been destroyed, and demanded
that the Child of Kings, 'for State reasons,' should accompany him to
his own castle. She declined and, as he insisted, I took it upon
myself to kick him out of the place. He retired, and we saw no more of
him, but a few minutes later there came a shower of arrows down the
passage, and after them a rush of men, who called, 'Death to the
Gentiles. Rescue the Rose.'

"So we began to shoot and knocked over a lot of them, but Quick got
that arrow through his shoulder. Three times they came on like that,
and three times we drove them back. At last our cartridges ran low,
and we only had our revolvers left, which we emptied into them. They
hung a moment, but moved forward again, and all seemed up.

"Then Quick went mad. He snatched the sword of a dead Abati and ran at
them roaring like a bull. They hacked and cut at him, but the end of
it was that he drove them right out of the passage, while I followed,
firing past him.

"Well, those who were left of the blackguards bolted, and when they
had gone the Sergeant tumbled down. The women and I carried him back
here, but he never said another word, and at last you turned up. Now
he's gone, God rest him, for if ever there was a hero in this world he
was christened Samuel Quick!" and, turning aside, the Professor pushed
up the blue spectacles he always wore on to his forehead, and wiped
his eyes with the back of his hand.

With grief more bitter than I can describe we lifted up the body of
the gallant Quick and, bearing it into Maqueda's private apartment,
placed it on her own bed, for she insisted that the man who had died
to protect her should be laid nowhere else. It was strange to see the
grim old soldier, whose face, now that I had washed his wounds, looked
calm and even beautiful, laid out to sleep his last sleep upon the
couch of the Child of Kings. That bed, I remember, was a rich and
splendid thing, made of some black wood inlaid with scrolls of gold,
and having hung about it curtains of white net embroidered with golden
stars, such as Maqueda wore upon her official veil.

There upon the scented pillows and silken coverlet we set our burden
down, the work-worn hands clasped upon the breast in an attitude of
prayer, and one by one bid our farewell to this faithful and upright
man, whose face, as it chanced, we were never to see again, except in
the glass of memory. Well, he had died as he had lived and would have
wished to die--doing his duty and in war. And so we left him. Peace be
to his honoured spirit!

In the blood-stained ante-room, while I dressed and stitched up the
Professor's wounds, a sword-cut on the head, an arrow-graze along the
face, and a spear-prick in the thigh, none of them happily at all deep
or dangerous, we held a brief council.

"Friends," said Maqueda, who was leaning on her lover's arm, "it is
not safe that we should stop here. My uncle's plot has failed for the
moment, but it was only a small and secret thing. I think that soon he
will return again with a thousand at his back, and then----"

"What is in your mind?" asked Oliver. "To fly from Mur?"

"How can we fly," she answered, "when the pass is guarded by Joshua's
men, and the Fung wait for us without? The Abati hate you, my friends,
and now that you have done your work I think that they will kill you
if they can, whom they bore with only till it was done. Alas! alas!
that I should have brought you to this false and ungrateful country,"
and she began to weep, while we stared at each other, helpless.

Then Japhet, who all this while had been crouched on the floor,
rocking himself too and fro and mourning in his Eastern fashion for
Quick, whom he had loved, rose, and, coming to the Child of Kings,
prostrated himself before her.

"O Walda Nagasta," he said, "hear the words of your servant. Only
three miles away, near to the mouth of the pass, are encamped five
hundred men of my own people, the Mountaineers, who hate Prince Joshua
and his following. Fly to them, O Walda Nagasta, for they will cleave
to you and listen to me whom you have made a chief among them.
Afterwards you can act as may seem wisest."

Maqueda looked at Oliver questioningly.

"I think that is good advice," he said. "At any rate, we can't be
worse off among the Mountaineers than we are in this undefended place.
Tell your women to bring cloaks that we can throw over our heads, and
let us go."

Five minutes later, a forlorn group filled with fears, we had stolen
over the dead and dying in the passage, and made our way to the side
gate of the palace that we found open, and over the bridge that
spanned the moat beyond, which was down. Doubtless Joshua's ruffians
had used it in their approach and retreat. Disguised in the long
cloaks with monk-like hoods that the Abati wore at night or when the
weather was cold and wet, we hurried across the great square. Here,
since we could not escape them, we mingled with the crowd that was
gathered at its farther end, all of them--men, women and children--
chattering like monkeys in the tree-tops, and pointing to the cliff at
the back of the palace, beneath which, it will be remembered, lay the
underground city.

A band of soldiers rode by, thrusting their way through the people,
and in order to avoid them we thought it wise to take refuge in the
shadow of a walk of green-leaved trees which grew close at hand, for
we feared lest they might recognize Oliver by his height. Here we
turned and looked up at the cliff, to discover what it was at which
every one was staring. At that moment the full moon, which had been
obscured by a cloud, broke out, and we saw a spectacle that under the
circumstances was nothing less than terrifying.

The cliff behind the palace rose to a height of about a hundred and
fifty feet, and, as it chanced, just there a portion of it jutted out
in an oblong shape, which the Abati called the Lion Rock, although
personally, heretofore, I had never been able to see in it any great
resemblance to a lion. Now, however, it was different, for on the very
extremity of this rock, staring down at Mur, sat the head and neck of
the huge lion-faced idol of the Fung. Indeed, in that light, with the
promontory stretching away behind it, it looked as though it were the
idol itself, moved from the valley upon the farther side of the
precipice to the top of the cliff above.

"Oh! oh! oh!" groaned Japhet, "the prophecy is fulfilled--the head of
Harmac has come to sleep at Mur."

"You mean that we have sent him there," whispered Higgs. "Don't be
frightened, man; can't you understand that the power of our medicine
has blown the head off the sphinx high into the air, and landed it
where it sits now?"

"Yes," I put in, "and what we felt in the cave was the shock of its

"I don't care what brought him," replied Japhet, who seemed quite
unstrung by all that he had gone through. "All I know is that the
prophecy is fulfilled, and Harmac has come to Mur, and where Harmac
goes the Fung follow."

"So much the better," said the irreverent Higgs. "I may be able to
sketch and measure him now."

But I saw that Maqueda was trembling, for she, too, thought this
occurrence a very bad omen, and even Oliver remained silent, perhaps
because he feared its effect upon the Abati.

Nor was this wonderful since, from the talk around us, clearly that
effect was great. Evidently the people were terrified, like Japhet. We
could hear them foreboding ill, and cursing us Gentiles as wizards,
who had not destroyed the idol of the Fung as we promised, but had
only caused him to fly to Mur.

Here I may mention that as a matter of fact they were right. As we
discovered afterwards, the whole force of the explosion, instead of
shattering the vast bulk of the stone image, had rushed up through the
hollow chambers in its interior until it struck against the solid
head. Lifting this as though it were a toy, the expanding gas had
hurled that mighty mass an unknown distance into the air, to light
upon the crest of the cliffs of Mur, where probably it will remain

"Well," I said, when we had stared a little while at this
extraordinary phenomenon, "thank God it did not travel farther, and
fall upon the palace."

"Oh! had it done so," whispered Maqueda in a tearful voice, "I think
you might have thanked God indeed, for then at least I should be free
from all my troubles. Come, friends, let us be going before we are



Our road toward the pass ran through the camping ground of the newly
created Abati army, and what we saw on our journey thither told us
more vividly than any words or reports could do, how utter was the
demoralization of that people. Where should have been sentries were no
sentries; where should have been soldiers were groups of officers
talking with women; where should have been officers were camp
followers drinking.

Through this confusion and excitement we made our way unobserved, or,
at any rate, unquestioned, till at length we came to the regiment of
the Mountaineers, who, for the most part, were goatherds, poor people
who lived upon the slopes of the precipices that enclosed the land of
Mur. These folk, having little to do with their more prosperous
brethren of the plain, were hardy and primitive of nature, and
therefore retained some of the primeval virtues of mankind, such as
courage and loyalty.

It was for the first of these reasons, and, indeed, for the second
also, that they had been posted by Joshua at the mouth of the pass,
which he knew well they alone could be trusted to defend in the event
of serious attack. Moreover, it was desirable, from his point of view,
to keep them out of the way while he developed his plans against the
person of the Child of Kings, for whom these simple-minded men had a
hereditary and almost a superstitious reverence.

As soon as we were within the lines of these Mountaineers we found the
difference between them and the rest of the Abati. The other regiments
we had passed unchallenged, but here we were instantly stopped by a
picket. Japhet whispered something into the ear of its officer that
caused him to stare hard at us. Then this officer saluted the veiled
figure of the Child of Kings and led us to where the commander of the
band and his subordinates were seated near a fire sitting together. At
some sign or word that did not reach us the commander, an old fellow
with a long grey beard, rose and said:

"Your pardon, but be pleased to show your faces."

Maqueda threw back her hood and turned so that the light of the moon
fell full upon her, whereon the old man dropped to his knee, saying:

"Your commands, O Walda Nagasta."

"Summon your regiment and I will give them," she answered, and seated
herself on a bench by the fire, we three and Japhet standing behind

The commander issued orders to his captains, and presently the
Mountaineers formed up on three sides of a square above us, to the
number of a little over five hundred men. When all were gathered
Maqueda mounted the bench upon which she had been sitting, threw back
her hood so that every one could see her face in the light of the
fire, and addressed them:

"Men of the mountain-side, this night just after the idol of the Fung
had been destroyed, the Prince Joshua, my uncle, came to me demanding
my surrender to him, whether to kill me or to imprison me in his
castle beyond the end of the lake, for reasons of State as he said, or
for other vile purposes, I do not know."

At these words a murmur rose from the audience.

"Wait," said Maqueda, holding up her hand, "there is worse to come. I
told my uncle, Prince Joshua, that he was a traitor and had best be
gone. He went, threatening me and, when I do not know, withdrew the
guards that should be stationed at my palace gates. Now, some rumour
of my danger had reached the foreigners in my service, and two of
them, he who is called Black Windows, whom we rescued from the Fung,
and the soldier named Quick, came to watch over me, while the Lord
Orme and the Doctor Adams stayed in the cave to send out that spark of
fire which should destroy the idol. Nor did they come back without
need, for presently arrived a band of Prince Joshua's men to take me.

"Then Black Windows and the soldier his companion fought a good fight,
they two holding the narrow passage against many, and slaying a number
of them with their terrible weapons. The end of it was, men of the
mountains, that the warrior Quick, charging down the passage, drove
away those servants of Joshua who remained alive. But in so doing he
was wounded to the death. Yes, that brave man lies dead, having given
his life to save the Child of Kings from the hands of her own people.
Black Windows also was wounded--see the bandages about his head. Then
came the Lord Orme and the Doctor Adams, and with them your brother
Japhet, who had barely escaped with their lives from the cave city,
and knowing that I was no longer safe in the palace, where even my
sleeping-room has been drenched with blood, with them I have fled to
you for succour. Will you not protect me, O men of the mountain-side?"

"Yes, yes," they answered with a great shout. "Command we obey. What
shall we do, O Child of Kings?"

Now Maqueda called the officers of the regiment apart and consulted
with them, asking their opinions, one by one. Some of them were in
favour of finding out where Joshua might be, and attacking him at
once. "Crush the snake's head and its tail will soon cease wriggling!"
these said, and I confess this was a view that in many ways commended
itself to us.

But Maqueda would have none of it.

"What!" she exclaimed, "shall I begin a civil war among my people when
for aught I know the enemy is at our gates?" adding aside to us,
"also, how can these few hundred men, brave though they be, hope to
stand against the thousands under the command of Joshua?"

"What, then, would you do?" asked Orme.

"Return to the palace with these Mountaineers, O Oliver, and by help
of that garrison, hold it against all enemies."

"Very well," he replied. "To those who are quite lost one road is as
good as another; they must trust to the stars to guide them."

"Quite so," echoed Higgs; "and the sooner we go the better, for my leg
hurts, and I want a sleep."

So Maqueda gave her commands to the officers, by whom they were
conveyed to the regiment, which received them with a shout, and
instantly began to strike its camp.

Then it was, coming hot-foot after so much sorrow, loss and doubt,
that there followed the happiest event of all my life. Utterly tired
out and very despondent, I was seated on an arrow-chest awaiting the
order to march, idly watching Oliver and Maqueda talking with great
earnestness at a little distance, and in the intervals trying to
prevent poor Higgs at my side from falling asleep. While I was thus
engaged, suddenly I heard a disturbance, and by the bright moonlight
caught sight of a man being led into the camp in charge of a guard of
Abati soldiers, whom from their dress I knew to belong to a company
that just then was employed in watching the lower gates of the pass.

I took no particular heed of the incident, thinking only that they
might have captured some spy, till a murmur of astonishment, and the
general stir, warned me that something unusual had occurred. So I rose
from my box and strolled towards the man, who now was hidden from me
by a group of Mountaineers. As I advanced this group opened, the men
who composed it bowing to me with a kind of wondering respect that
impressed me, I did not know why.

Then for the first time I saw the prisoner. He was a tall, athletic
young man, dressed in festal robes with a heavy gold chain about his
neck, and I wondered vaguely what such a person should be doing here
in this time of national commotion. He turned his head so that the
moonlight showed his dark eyes, his somewhat oval-shaped face ending
in a peaked black beard, and his finely cut features. In an instant I
knew him.

/It was my son Roderick!/

Next moment, for the first time for very many years, he was in my

The first thing that I remember saying to him was a typically Anglo-
Saxon remark, for however much we live in the East or elsewhere, we
never really shake off our native conventions, and habits of speech.
It was, "How are you, my boy, and how on earth did you come here?" to
which he answered, slowly, it is true, and speaking with a foreign

"All right, thank you, father. I ran upon my legs."

By this time Higgs hobbled up, and was greeting my son warmly, for, of
course, they were old friends.

"Thought you were to be married to-night, Roderick?" he said.

"Yes, yes," he answered, "I am half married according to Fung custom,
which counts not to my soul. Look, this is the dress of marriage," and
he pointed to his fine embroidered robe and rich ornaments.

"Then, where's your wife?" asked Higgs.

"I do not know and I do not care," he answered, "for I did not like
that wife. Also it is all nothing as I am not quite married to her.
Fung marriage between big people takes two days to finish, and if not
finished does not matter. So she marry some one else if she like, and
I too."

"What happened then?" I asked.

"Oh, this, father. When we had eaten the marriage feast, but before we
past before priest, suddenly we hear a thunder and see a pillar of
fire shoot up into sky, and sitting on top of it head of Harmac, which
vanish into heaven and stop there. Then everybody jump up and say:

"'Magic of white man! Magic of white man! White man kill the god who
sit there from beginning of world, now day of Fung finished according
to prophecy. Run away, people of Fung, run away!'

"Barung the Sultan tear his clothes too, and say--'Run away, Fung,'
and my half-wife, she tear /her/ clothes and say nothing, but run like
antelope. So they all run toward east, where great river is, and leave
me alone. Then I get up and run too--toward west, for I know from
Black Windows," and he pointed to Higgs, "when we shut up together in
belly of god before he let down to lions, what all this game mean, and
therefore not frightened. Well, I run, meeting no one in night, till I
come to pass, run up it, and find guards, to whom I tell story, so
they not kill me, but let me through, and at last I come here, quite
safe, without Fung wife, thank God, and that end of tale."

"I am afraid you are wrong there, my boy," I said, "out of the frying-
pan into the fire, that's all."

"Out of frying-pan into fire," he repeated. "Not understand; father
must remember I only little fellow when Khalifa's people take me, and
since then speak no English till I meet Black Windows. Only he give me
Bible-book that he have in pocket when he go down to be eat by lions."
(Here Higgs blushed, for no one ever suspected him, a severe critic of
all religions, of carrying a Bible in his pocket, and muttered
something about "ancient customs of the Hebrews.")

"Well," went on Roderick, "read that book ever since, and, as you see,
all my English come back."

"The question is," said Higgs, evidently in haste to talk of something
else, "will the Fung come back?"

"Oh! Black Windows, don't know, can't say. Think not. Their prophecy
was that Harmac move to Mur, but when they see his head jump into sky
and stop there, they run every man toward the sunrise, and I think go
on running."

"But Harmac has come to Mur, Roderick," I said; "at least his head has
fallen on to the cliff that overlooks the city."

"Oh! my father," he answered, "then that make great difference. When
Fung find out that head of Harmac has come here, no doubt they come
after him, for head his most holy bit, especially as they want hang
all the Abati whom they not like."

"Well, let's hope that they don't find out anything about it," I
replied, to change the subject. Then taking Roderick by the hand I led
him to where Maqueda stood a yard or two apart, listening to our talk,
but, of course, understanding very little of it, and introduced him to
her, explaining in a few words the wonderful thing that had happened.
She welcomed him very kindly, and congratulated me upon my son's
escape. Meanwhile, Roderick had been staring at her with evident
admiration. Now he turned to us and said in his quaint broken English:

"Walda Nagasta most lovely woman! No wonder King Solomon love her
mother. If Barung's daughter, my wife, had been like her, think I run
through great river into rising sun with Fung."

Oliver instantly translated this remark, which made us all laugh,
including Maqueda herself, and very grateful we were to find the
opportunity for a little innocent merriment upon that tragic night.

By this time the regiment was ready to start, and had formed up into
companies. Before the march actually began, however, the officer of
the Abati patrol, in whose charge Roderick had been brought to us,
demanded his surrender that he might deliver his prisoner to the
Commander-in-Chief, Prince Joshua. Of course, this was refused,
whereon the man asked roughly:

"By whose order?"

As it happened, Maqueda, of whose presence he was not aware, heard
him, and acting on some impulse, came forward, and unveiled.

"By mine," she said. "Know that the Child of Kings rules the Abati,
not the Prince Joshua, and that prisoners taken by her soldiers are
hers, not his. Be gone back to your post!"

The captain stared, saluted, and went with his companions, not to the
pass, indeed, as he had been ordered, but to Joshua. To him he
reported the arrival of the Gentile's son, and the news he brought
that the nation of the Fung, dismayed by the destruction of their god,
were in full flight from the plains of Harmac, purposing to cross the
great river and to return no more.

This glad tidings spread like wildfire; so fast, indeed, that almost
before we had begun our march, we heard the shouts of exultation with
which it was received by the terrified mob gathered in the great
square. The cloud of terror was suddenly lifted from them. They went
mad in their delight; they lit bonfires, they drank, they feasted,
they embraced each other and boasted of their bravery that had caused
the mighty nation of the Fung to flee away for ever.

Meanwhile, our advance had begun, nor in the midst of the general
jubilation was any particular notice taken of us till we were in the
middle of the square of Mur and within half a mile of the palace, when
we saw by the moonlight that a large body of troops, two or three
thousand of them, were drawn up in front of us, apparently to bar our
way. Still we went on till a number of officers rode up, and
addressing the commander of the regiment of Mountaineers, demanded to
know why he had left his post, and whither he went.

"I go whither I am ordered," he answered, "for there is one here
greater than I."

"If you mean the Gentile Orme and his fellows, the command of the
Prince Joshua is that you hand them over to us that they may make
report to him of their doings this night."

"And the command of the Child of Kings is," replied the captain of the
Mountaineers, "that I take them with her back to the palace."

"It has no weight," said the spokesman insolently, "not being endorsed
by the Council. Surrender the Gentiles, hand over to us the person of
the Child of Kings of whom you have taken possession, and return to
your post till the pleasure of the Prince Joshua be known."

Then the wrath of Maqueda blazed up.

"Seize those men!" she said, and it was done instantly. "Now, cut the
head from him who dared to demand the surrender of my person and of my
officers, and give it to his companions to take back to the Prince
Joshua as my answer to his message."

The man heard, and being a coward like all the Abati, flung himself
upon his face before Maqueda, trying to kiss her robe and pleading for

"Dog!" she answered, "you were one of those who this very night dared
to attack my chamber. Oh! lie not, I knew your voice and heard your
fellow-traitors call you by your name. Away with him!"

We tried to interfere, but she would not listen, even to Orme.

"Would you plead for your brother's murderer?" she asked, alluding to
Quick. "I have spoken!"

So they dragged him off behind us, and presently we saw a melancholy
procession returning whence they came, carrying something on a shield.
It reached the opposing ranks, whence there arose a murmur of wrath
and fear.

"March on!" said Maqueda, "and gain the palace."

So the regiment formed into a square, and, setting Maqueda and
ourselves in the centre of it, advanced again.

Then the fight began. Great numbers of the Abati surrounded us and, as
they did not dare to make a direct attack, commenced shooting arrows,
which killed and wounded a number of men. But the Highlanders also
were archers, and carried stronger bows. The square was halted, the
first ranks kneeling and the second standing behind them. Then, at a
given word, the stiff bows which these hardy people used against the
lion and the buffalo upon their hills were drawn to the ear and loosed
again and again with terrible effect.

On that open place it was almost impossible to miss the mobs of the
Abati who, having no experience of war, were fighting without order.
Nor could the light mail they wore withstand the rush of the heavy
barbed arrows which pierced them through and through. In two minutes
they began to give, in three they were flying back to their main body,
those who were left of them, a huddled rout of men and horses. So the
French must have fled before the terrible longbows of the English at
Crécy and Poitiers, for, in fact, we were taking part in just such a
mediæval battle.

Oliver, who was watching intently, went to Japhet and whispered
something in his ear. He nodded and ran to seek the commander of the
regiment. Presently the result of that whisper became apparent, for
the sides of the hollow square wheeled outward and the rear moved up
to strengthen the centre.

Now the Mountaineers were ranged in a double or triple line, behind
which were only about a dozen soldiers, who marched round Maqueda,
holding their shields aloft in order to protect her from stray arrows.
With these, too, came our four selves, a number of camp-followers and
others, carrying on their shields those of the regiment who were too
badly wounded to walk.

Leaving the dead where they lay, we began to advance, pouring in
volleys of arrows as we went. Twice the Abati tried to charge us, and
twice those dreadful arrows drove them back. Then at the word of
command, the Highlanders slung their bows upon their backs, drew their
short swords, and in their turn charged.

Five minutes afterwards everything was over. Joshua's soldiers threw
down their arms, and ran or galloped to right and left, save a number
of them who fled through the gates of the palace, which they had
opened, and across the drawbridge into the courtyards within. After
them, or, rather, mixed up with them, followed the Mountaineers,
killing all whom they could find, for they were out of hand and would
not listen to the commands of Maqueda and their officers, that they
should show mercy.

So, just as the dawn broke this strange moonlit battle ended, a small
affair, it is true, for there were only five hundred men engaged upon
our side and three or four thousand on the other, yet one that cost a
great number of lives and was the beginning of all the ruin that

Well, we were safe for a while, since it was certain, after the lesson
which he had just learned, that Joshua would not attempt to storm the
double walls and fosse of the palace without long preparation. Yet
even now a new trouble awaited us, for by some means, we never
discovered how, that wing of the palace in which Maqueda's private
rooms were situated suddenly burst into flames.

Personally, I believe that the fire arose through the fact that a lamp
had been left burning near the bed of the Child of Kings upon which
was laid the body of Sergeant Quick. Perhaps a wounded man hidden
there overturned the lamp; perhaps the draught blowing through the
open doors brought the gold-spangled curtains into contact with the

At any rate, the wood-panelled chambers took fire, and had it not
happened that the set of the wind was favourable, the whole palace
might have been consumed. As it was, we succeeded in confining the
conflagration to this particular part of it, which within two hours
had burnt out, leaving nothing standing but the stark, stone walls.

Such was the funeral pyre of Sergeant Quick, a noble one, I thought to
myself, as I watched it burn.

When the fire was so well under control, for we had pulled down the
connecting passage where Higgs and Quick fought their great fight,
that there was no longer any danger of its spreading, and the watches
had been set, at length we got some rest.

Maqueda and two or three of her ladies, one of them, I remember, her
old nurse who had brought her up, for her mother died at her birth,
took possession of some empty rooms, of which there were many in the
palace, while we lay, or rather fell, down in the guest-chambers,
where we had always slept, and never opened our eyes again until the

I remember that I woke thinking that I was the victim of some
wonderful dream of mingled joy and tragedy. Oliver and Higgs were
sleeping like logs, but my son Roderick, still dressed in his bridal
robes, had risen and sat by my bed staring at me, a puzzled look upon
his handsome face.

"So you are here," I said, taking his hand. "I thought I dreamed."

"No, Father," he answered in his odd English, "no dream; all true.
This is a strange world, Father. Look at me! For how many years--
twelve--fourteen, slave of savage peoples for whom I sing, priest of
Fung idol, always near death but never die. Then Sultan Barung take
fancy to me, say I come of white blood and must be his daughter's
husband. Then your brother Higgs made prisoner with me and tell me
that you hunt me all these years. Then Higgs thrown to lions and you
save him. Then yesterday I married to Sultan's daughter, whom I never
see before but twice at fast of idol. Then Harmac's head fly off to
heaven, and all Fung people run away, and I run too, and find you.
Then battle, and many killed, and arrow scratch my neck but not hurt
me," and he pointed to a graze just over his jugular vein, "and now we
together. Oh! Father, very strange world! I think there God somewhere
who look after us!"

"I think so, too, my boy," I answered, "and I hope that He will
continue to do so, for I tell you we are in a worse place than ever
you were among the Fung."

"Oh, don't mind that, Father," he answered gaily, for Roderick is a
cheerful soul. "As Fung say, there no house without door, although
plenty people made blind and can't see it. But we not blind, or we
dead long ago. Find door by and by, but here come man to talk to you."

The man proved to be Japhet, who had been sent by the Child of Kings
to summon us, as she had news to tell. So I woke the others, and after
I had dressed the Professor's flesh wounds, which were stiff and sore,
we joined her where she sat in the gateway tower of the inner wall.
She greeted us rather sadly, asked Oliver how he had slept and Higgs
if his cuts hurt him. Then she turned to my son, and congratulated him
upon his wonderful escape and upon having found a father if he had
lost a wife.

"Truly," she added, "you are a fortunate man to be so well loved, O
son of Adams. To how many sons are given fathers who for fourteen long
years, abandoning all else, would search for them in peril of their
lives, enduring slavery and blows and starvation and the desert's heat
and cold for the sake of a long-lost face? Such faithfulness is that
of my forefather David for his brother Jonathan, and such love it is
that passes the love of women. See that you pay it back to him, and
to his memory until the last hour of your life, child of Adams."

"I will, indeed, I will, O Walda Nagasta," answered Roderick, and
throwing his arms about my neck he embraced me before them all. It is
not too much to say that this kiss of filial devotion more than repaid
me for all I had undergone for his beloved sake. For now I knew that I
had not toiled and suffered for one of no worth, as is so often the
lot of true hearts in this bitter world.

Just then some of Maqueda's ladies brought food, and at her bidding we

"Be sparing," she said with a melancholy little laugh, "for I know not
how long our store will last. Listen! I have received a last offer
from my uncle Joshua. An arrow brought it--not a man; I think that no
man would come lest his fate should be that of the traitor of
yesterday," and she produced a slip of parchment that had been tied to
the shaft of an arrow and, unfolding it, read as follows--

 "O Walda Nagasta, deliver up to death the Gentiles who have
  bewitched you and led you to shed the blood of so many of your
  people, and with them the officers of the Mountaineers, and the
  rest shall be spared. You also I will forgive and make my wife.
  Resist, and all who cling to you shall be put to the sword, and to
  yourself I promise nothing.

 "Written by order of the Council,

"Joshua, Prince of the Abati."

"What answer shall I send?" she asked, looking at us curiously.

"Upon my word," replied Orme, shrugging his shoulders, "if it were not
for those faithful officers I am not sure but that you would be wise
to accept the terms. We are cooped up here, but a few surrounded by
thousands, who, if they dare not assault, still can starve us out, as
this place is not victualled for a siege."

"You forget one of those terms, O Oliver!" she said slowly, pointing
with her finger to the passage in the letter which stated that Joshua
would make her his wife, "Now do you still counsel surrender?"

"How can I?" he answered, flushing, and was silent.

"Well, it does not matter what you counsel," she went on with a smile,
"seeing that I have already sent my answer, also by arrow. See, here
is a copy of it," and she read--

 "To my rebellious People of the Abati:

 "Surrender to me Joshua, my uncle, and the members of the Council
  who have lifted sword against me, to be dealt with according to
  the ancient law, and the rest of you shall go unharmed. Refuse,
  and I swear to you that before the night of the new moon has
  passed there shall be such woe in Mur as fell upon the city of
  David when the barbarian standards were set upon her walls. Such
  is the counsel that has come to me, the Child of Solomon, in the
  watches of the night, and I tell you that it is true. Do what you
  will, people of the Abati, or what you must, since your fate and
  ours are written. But be sure that in me and the Western lords
  lies your only hope.

"Walda Nagasta."

"What do you mean, O Maqueda," I asked, "about the counsel that came
to you in the watches of the night?"

"What I say, O Adams," she answered calmly. "After we parted at dawn I
slept heavily, and in my sleep a dark and royal woman stood before me
whom I knew to be my great ancestress, the beloved of Solomon. She
looked on me sadly, yet as I thought with love. Then she drew back, as
it were, a curtain of thick cloud that hid the future and revealed to
me the young moon riding the sky and beneath it Mur, a blackened ruin,
her streets filled with dead. Yes, and she showed to me other things,
though I may not tell them, which also shall come to pass, then held
her hands over me as if in blessing, and was gone."

"Old Hebrew prophet business! Very interesting," I heard Higgs mutter
below his breath, while in my own heart I set the dream down to
excitement and want of food. In fact, only two of us were impressed,
my son very much, and Oliver a little, perhaps because everything
Maqueda said was gospel to him.

"Doubtless all will come to pass as you say, Walda Nagasta," said
Roderick with conviction. "The day of the Abati is finished."

"Why do you say that, Son?" I asked.

"Because, Father, among the Fung people from a child I have two
offices, that of Singer to the God and that of Reader of Dreams. Oh!
do not laugh. I can tell you many that have come true as I read them;
thus the dream of Barung which I read to mean that the head of Harmac
would come to Mur, and see, there it sit," and turning, he pointed
through the doorway of the tower to the grim lion-head of the idol
crouched upon the top of the precipice, watching Mur as a beast of
prey watches the victim upon which it is about to spring. "I know when
dreams true and when dreams false; it my gift, like my voice. I know
that this dream true, that all," and as he ceased speaking I saw his
eyes catch Maqueda's, and a very curious glance pass between them.

As for Orme, he only said:

"You Easterns are strange people, and if you believe a thing, Maqueda,
there may be something in it. But you understand that this message of
yours means war to the last, a very unequal war," and he looked at the
hordes of the Abati gathering on the great square.

"Yes," she answered quietly, "I understand, but however sore our
straits, and however strange may seem the things that happen, have no
fear of the end of that war, O my friends."



Orme was right. Maqueda's defiance did mean war, "an unequal war."
This was our position. We were shut up in a long range of buildings,
of which one end had been burned, that on account of their moat and
double wall, if defended with any vigour, could only be stormed by an
enemy of great courage and determination, prepared to face a heavy
sacrifice of life. This was a circumstance in our favour, since the
Abati were not courageous, and very much disliked the idea of being
killed, or even injured.

But here our advantage ended. Deducting those whom we had lost on the
previous night, the garrison only amounted to something over four
hundred men, of whom about fifty were wounded, some of them
dangerously. Moreover, ammunition was short, for they had shot away
most of their arrows in the battle of the square, and we had no means
of obtaining more. But, worst of all, the palace was not provisioned
for a siege, and the mountaineers had with them only three days'
rations of sun-dried beef or goat's flesh, and a hard kind of biscuit
made of Indian corn mixed with barley meal. Thus, as we saw from the
beginning, unless we could manage to secure more food our case must
soon grow hopeless.

There remained yet another danger. Although the palace itself was
stone-built, its gilded domes and ornamental turrets were of timber,
and therefore liable to be fired, as indeed had already happened. The
roof also was of ancient cedar beams, thinly covered with concrete,
while the interior containing an enormous quantity of panels, or
rather boarding, cut from some resinous wood.

The Abati, on the other hand, were amply supplied with every kind of
store and weapon, and could bring a great force to blockade us, though
that force was composed of a timid and undisciplined rabble.

Well, we made the best preparations that we could, although of these I
did not see much, since all that day my time was occupied in attending
to the wounded with the help of my son and a few rough orderlies,
whose experience in doctoring had for the most part been confined to
cattle. A pitiful business it proved without the aid of anæsthetics or
a proper supply of bandages and other appliances. Although my medicine
chest had been furnished upon a liberal scale, it proved totally
inadequate to the casualties of battle. Still I did my best and saved
some lives, though many cases developed gangrene and slipped through
my fingers.

Meanwhile Higgs, who worked nobly, notwithstanding his flesh wounds,
which pained him considerably, and Orme were also doing their best
with the assistance of Japhet and the other officers of the highland
regiment. The palace was thoroughly examined, and all weak places in
its defences were made good. The available force was divided into
watches and stationed to the best advantage. A number of men were set
to work to manufacture arrow shafts from cedar beams, of which there
were plenty in the wooden stables and outhouses that lay at the back
of the main building, and to point and wing the same from a supply of
iron barbs and feathers which fortunately was discovered in one of the
guard-houses. A few horses that remained in a shed were killed and
salted down for food, and so forth.

Also every possible preparation was made to repel attempts to storm,
paving stones being piled up to throw upon the heads of assailants and
fires lighted on the walls to heat pitch and oil and water for the
same purpose.

But, to our disappointment, no direct assault was delivered, such
desperate methods not commending themselves to the Abati. Their plan
of attack was to take cover wherever they could, especially among the
trees of the garden beyond the gates, and thence shoot arrows at any
one who appeared upon the walls, or even fire them in volleys at the
clouds, as the Normans did at Hastings, so that they might fall upon
the heads of persons in the courtyards. Although these cautious
tactics cost us several men, they had the advantage of furnishing us
with a supply of ammunition which we sorely needed. All the spent
arrows were carefully collected and made use of against the enemy, at
whom we shot whenever opportunity offered. We did them but little
damage, however, since they were extremely careful not to expose

In this fashion three dreary days went past, unrelieved by any
incident except a feint, for it was scarcely more, which the Abati
made upon the second night, apparently with the object of forcing the
great gates under cover of a rainstorm. The advance was discovered at
once, and repelled by two or three volleys of arrows and some rifle
shots. Of these rifles, indeed, whereof we possessed about a score,
the Abati were terribly afraid. Picking out some of the most
intelligent soldiers we taught them how to handle our spare guns, and
though, of course, their shooting was extremely erratic, the result of
it, backed up by our own more accurate marksmanship, was to force the
enemy to take cover. Indeed, after one or two experiences of the
effect of bullets, not a man would show himself in the open within
five hundred yards until night had fallen.

On the third afternoon we held a council to determine what must be
done, since for the last twenty-four hours it had been obvious that
things could not continue as they were. To begin with, we had only
sufficient food left to keep our force from starvation for two more
days. Also the spirits of our soldiers, brave men enough when actual
fighting was concerned, were beginning to flag in this atmosphere of
inaction. Gathered into groups, they talked of their wives and
children, and of what would happen to them at the hands of Joshua;
also of their cattle and crops, saying that doubtless these were being
ravaged and their houses burned. In vain did Maqueda promise them
five-fold their loss when the war was ended, for evidently in their
hearts they thought it could only end one way. Moreover, as they
pointed out, she could not give them back their children if these were

At this melancholy council every possible plan was discussed, to find
that these resolved themselves into two alternatives--to surrender, or
to take the bull by the horns, sally out of the palace at night and
attack Joshua. On the face of it, this latter scheme had the
appearance of suicide, but, in fact, it was not so desperate as it
seemed. The Abati being such cowards it was quite probable that they
would run in their thousands before the onset of a few hundred
determined men, and that, if once victory declared itself for the
Child of Kings, the bulk of her subjects would return to their
allegiance. So we settled on it in preference to surrender, which we
knew meant death to ourselves, and for Maqueda a choice between that
last grim solution of her troubles and a forced marriage.

But there were others to be convinced, namely, the Mountaineers.
Japhet, who had been present at the council, was sent to summon all of
them except those actually on guard, and when they were assembled in
the large inner court Maqueda went out and addressed them.

I do not remember the exact words of her speech, and I made no note of
them, but it was extremely beautiful and touching. She pointed out her
plight, and that we could halt no longer between two opinions, who
must either fight or yield. For herself she said she did not care,
since, although she was young and their ruler, she set no store upon
her life, and would give it up gladly rather than be driven into a
marriage which she considered shameful, and forced to pass beneath the
yoke of traitors.

But for us foreigners she did care. We had come to her country at her
invitation, we had served her nobly, one of us had given his life to
protect her person, and now, in violation of her safeguard and that of
the Council, we were threatened with a dreadful death. Were they, her
subjects, so lacking in honour and hospitality that they would suffer
such a thing with no blow struck to save us?

Now the majority of them shouted "No," but some were silent, and one
old captain advanced, saluted, and spoke.

"Child of Kings," he said, "let us search out the truth of this
matter. Is it not because of your love of the foreign soldier, Orme,
that all this trouble has arisen? Is not that love unlawful according
to our law, and are you not solemnly affianced to the Prince Joshua?"

Maqueda considered awhile before she replied, and said slowly:

"Friend, my heart is my own, therefore upon this point answer your
question for yourself. As regards my uncle Joshua, if there existed
any abiding contract between us it was broken when a few nights ago he
sent his servants armed to attack and drag me off I know not whither.
Would you have me marry a traitor and a coward? I have spoken."

"No," again shouted the majority of the soldiers.

Then in the silence that followed the old captain replied, with a
canniness that was almost Scotch:

"On the point raised by you, O Child of Kings, I give no opinion,
since you, being but a woman, if a high-born one, would not listen to
me if I did, but will doubtless follow that heart of yours of which
you speak to whatever end is appointed. Settle the matter with your
betrothed Joshua as you will. But we also have a matter to settle with
Joshua, who is a toad with a long tongue that if he seems slow yet
never misses his fly. We took up your cause, and have killed a great
number of his people, as he has killed some of ours. This he will not
forget. Therefore it seems to me that it will be wise that we should
make what we can of the nest that we have built, since it is better to
die in battle than on the gallows. For this reason, then, since we can
stay here no longer, for my part I am willing to go out and fight for
you this night, although Joshua's people being so many and ours so
few, I shall think myself fortunate if I live to see another sun."

This hard and reasoned speech seemed to appeal to the dissentients,
with the result that they withdrew their opposition, and it was agreed
that we should attempt to break our way through the besieging army
about one hour before the dawn, when they would be heavily asleep and
most liable to panic.

Yet, as it chanced, that sortie was destined never to take place,
which perhaps was fortunate for us, since I am convinced that it would
have ended in failure. It is true that we might have forced our way
through Joshua's army, but afterwards those of us who remained alive
would have been surrounded, starved out, and, when our strength and
ammunition were exhausted taken prisoners or cut down.

However that may be, events shaped a different course for us, perhaps
because the Abati got wind of our intention and had no stomach for a
pitched battle with desperate men. As it happened, this night from
sunset on to moonrise was one of a darkness so remarkable that it was
impossible to see anything even a foot away, also a wind blowing from
the east made sounds very inaudible. Only a few of our men were on
guard, since it was necessary that they should be rested till it was
time for them to prepare for their great effort. Also, we had little
fear of any direct attack.

About eight o'clock, however, my son Roderick, one of the watch
stationed in the gateway towers, who was gifted with very quick ears,
reported that he thought he heard people moving on the farther side of
the massive wooden doors beyond the moat. Accordingly some of us went
to listen, but could distinguish nothing, and concluded therefore that
he was mistaken. So we retired to our posts and waited patiently for
the moon to rise. But as it chanced no moon rose, or rather we could
not see her, because the sky was completely covered by thick banks of
thunder-clouds presaging the break-up of a period of great heat.
These, as the wind had now died down, remained quite stationary upon
the face of the sky, blotting out all light.

Perhaps another hour had passed when, chancing to look behind me, I
saw what I thought was a meteor falling from the crest of the cliff
against which the palace was built, that cliff whither the head of the
idol Harmac had been carried by the force of the explosion.

"Look at that shooting star," I said to Oliver, who was at my side.

"It is not a shooting star, it is fire," he replied in a startled
voice, and, as he spoke, other streaks of light, scores of them, began
to rain down from the brow of the cliff and land upon the wooden
buildings to the rear of the palace that were dry as tinder with the
drought, and, what was worse, upon the gilded timber domes of the

"Don't you understand the game?" he went on. "They have tied
firebrands to arrows and spears to burn us out. Sound the alarm. Sound
the alarm!"

It was done, and presently the great range of buildings began to hum
like a hive of bees. The soldiers still half asleep, rushed hither and
thither shouting. The officers also, developing the characteristic
excitement of the Abati race in this hour of panic, yelled and
screamed at them, beating them with their fists and swords till some
kind of control was established.

Then attempts were made to extinguish the flames, which by this time
had got hold in half-a-dozen places. From the beginning the effort was
absolutely hopeless. It is true that there was plenty of water in the
moat, which was fed by a perennial stream that flowed down the face of
the precipice behind; but pumping engines of any sort were quite
unknown to the Abati, who, if a building took fire, just let it burn,
contenting themselves with safeguarding those in its neighbourhood.
Moreover, even in the palace, such articles as pails, jugs, or other
vessels were comparatively few and far between.

Those that we could find, however, were filled with water and passed
by lines of men to the places in most danger--that is, practically
everywhere--while other men tried to cut off the advance of the flames
by pulling down portions of the building.

But as fast as one fire was extinguished others broke out, for the
rain of burning darts and of lighted pots or lamps filled with oil
descended continuously from the cliff above. A strange and terrible
sight it was to see them flashing down through the darkness, like the
fiery darts that shall destroy the wicked in the day of Armageddon.

Still, we toiled on despairingly. On the roof we four white men, and
some soldiers under the command of Japhet, were pouring water on to
several of the gilded domes, which now were well alight. Close by,
wrapped in a dark cloak, and attended by some of her ladies, stood
Maqueda. She was quite calm, although sundry burning arrows and
spears, falling with great force from the cliff above, struck the flat
roofs close to where she stood.

Her ladies, however, were not calm. They wept and wrung their hands,
while one of them went into violent hysterics in her very natural
terror. Maqueda turned and bade them descend to the courtyard of the
gateway, where she said she would join them presently. They rushed
off, rejoicing to escape the sight of those burning arrows, one of
which had just pierced a man and set his clothes and hair on fire,
causing him to leap from the roof in his madness.

At Oliver's request I ran to the Child of Kings to lead her to some
safer place, if it could be found. But she would not stir.

"Let me be, O Adams," she said. "If I am to die, I will die here. But
I do not think that is fated," and with her foot she kicked aside a
burning spear that had struck the cement roof, and, rebounding, fallen
quite close to her. "If my people will not fight," she went on, with
bitter sarcasm, "at least they understand the other arts of war, for
this trick of theirs is clever. They are cruel also. Listen to them
mocking us in the square. They ask whether we will roast alive or come
out and have our throats cut. Oh!" she went on, clenching her hands,
"oh! that I should have been born the head of such an accursed race.
Let Sheol take them all, for in the day of their tribulation no finger
will I lift to save them."

She was silent for a moment, and down below, near the gateway, I heard
some brute screaming, "Pretty pigeons! Pretty pigeons, are your
feathers singeing? Come then into our pie, pretty pigeons, pretty
pigeons!" followed by shouts of ribald laughter.

But it chanced it was this hound himself who went into the "pie."
Presently, when the flames were brighter, I saw him, in the midst of a
crowd of his admirers, singing his foul song, another verse of it
about Maqueda, which I will not repeat, and by good fortune managed to
put a bullet through his head. It was not a bad shot considering the
light and circumstances, and the only one I fired that night. I trust
also that it will be the last I shall ever fire at any human being.

Just as I was about to leave Maqueda and return with her message to
Orme, to the effect that she would not move, the final catastrophe
occurred. Amongst the stables was a large shed filled with dry fodder
for the palace horses and camels. Suddenly this burst into a mass of
flame that spread in all directions. Then came the last, hideous
panic. From every part of the palace, the Mountaineers, men and
officers together, rushed down to the gateway. In a minute, with the
single exception of Japhet, we four and Maqueda were left alone upon
the roof, where we stood overwhelmed, not knowing what to do. We heard
the drawbridge fall; we heard the great doors burst upon beneath the
pressure of a mob of men; we heard a coarse voice--I thought it was
that of Joshua--yell:

"Kill whom you will, my children, but death to him who harms the Child
of Kings. She is my spoil!"

Then followed terrible sights and sounds. The cunning Abati had
stretched ropes outside the doors; it was the noise they made at this
work which had reached Roderick's ears earlier during the darkness.
The terrified soldiers, flying from the fire, stumbled and fell over
these ropes, nor could they rise again because of those who pressed
behind. What happened to them all I am sure I do not know, but
doubtless many were crushed to death and many more killed by Joshua's
men. I trust, however, that some of them escaped, since, compared to
the rest of the Abati, they were as lions are to cats, although, like
all their race, they lacked the stamina to fight an uphill game.

It was at the commencement of this terrific scene that I shot the
foul-mouthed singer.

"You shouldn't have done that, old fellow," screamed Higgs in his high
voice, striving to make himself heard above the tumult, "as it will
show those swine where we are."

"I don't think they will look for us here, anyway," I answered.

Then we watched awhile in silence.

"Come," said Orme at length, taking Maqueda by the hand.

"Where are you going, O Oliver?" she asked, hanging back. "Sooner will
I burn than yield to Joshua."

"I am going to the cave city," he answered; "we have nowhere else to
go, and little time to lose. Four men with rifles can hold that place
against a thousand. Come."

"I obey," she answered, bowing her head.

We went down the stairway that led from the roof on which the
inhabitants of the palace were accustomed to spend much of their day,
and even to sleep in hot weather, as is common in the East. Another
minute and we should have been too late. The fire from one of the
domes had spread to the upper story, and was already appearing in
little tongues of flame mingled with jets of black smoke through
cracks in the crumbling partition wall.

As a matter of fact this wall fell in just as my son Roderick, the
last of us, was passing down the stairs. With the curiosity of youth
he had lingered for a few moments to watch the sad scene below, a
delay which nearly cost him his life.

On the ground floor we found ourselves out of immediate danger, since
the fire was attacking this part of the palace from above and burning
downward. We had even time to go to our respective sleeping-places and
collect such of our possessions and valuables as we were able to
carry. Fortunately, among other things, these included all our note-
books, which to-day are of priceless value. Laden with these articles,
we met again in the audience hall, which, although it was very hot,
seemed as it had always been, a huge, empty place, whereof the roof,
painted with stars, was supported upon thick cedar columns, each of
them hewn from a single tree.

Passing down that splendid apartment, which an hour later had ceased
to exist, lamps in hand, for these we had found time to fetch and
light, we reached the mouth of the passage that led to the underground
city without meeting a single human being.

Had the Abati been a different race they could perfectly well have
dashed in and made us prisoners, for the drawbridge was still intact.
But their cowardice was our salvation, for they feared lest they
should be trapped by the fire. So I think at least, but justice
compels me to add that, on the spur of the moment, they may have found
it impossible to clear the gateways of the mass of fallen or dead
soldiers over which it would have been difficult to climb.

Such, at any rate, was the explanation that we heard afterwards.

We reached the mouth of the vast cave in perfect safety, and clambered
through the little orifice which was left between the rocks rolled
thither by the force of the explosion, or shaken down from the roof.
This hole, for it was nothing more, we proceeded to stop with a few
stones in such a fashion that it could not be forced without much toil
and considerable noise, only leaving one little tortuous channel
through which, if necessary, a man could creep.

The labour of rock-carrying, in which even Maqueda shared, occupied
our minds for awhile, and induced a kind of fictitious cheerfulness.
But when it was done, and the chilly silence of that enormous cave, so
striking in comparison with the roar of the flames and the hideous
human tumult which we had left without, fell upon us like sudden cold
and blinding night upon a wanderer in windy, sunlit mountains, all our
excitement perished. In a flash, we understood our terrible position,
we who had but escaped from the red fire to perish slowly in the black

Still we strove to keep our spirits as best we could. Leaving Higgs to
watch the blocked passage, a somewhat superfluous task, since the fire
without was our best watchman, the rest of us threaded our way up the
cave, following the telephone wire which poor Quick had laid on the
night of the blowing-up of the god Harmac, till we came to what had
been our headquarters during the digging of the mine. Into the room
which was Oliver's, whence we had escaped with so much difficulty
after that event, we could not enter because of the transom that
blocked the doorway. Still, there were plenty of others at hand in the
old temple, although they were foul with the refuse of the bats that
wheeled about us in thousands, for these creatures evidently had some
unknown access to the open air. One of these rooms had served as our
store-chamber, and after a few rough preparations we assigned it to

"Friends," she said, as she surveyed its darksome entrance, "it looks
like the door of a tomb. Well, in the tomb there is rest, and rest I
must have. Leave me to sleep, who, were it not for you, O Oliver,
would pray that I might never wake again.

"Man," she added passionately, before us all, for now in face of the
last peril every false shame and wish to conceal the truth had left
her; "man, why were you born to bring woe upon my head and joy to my
heart? Well, well, the joy outweighs the woe, and even if the angel
who led you hither is named Azrael, still I shall bless him who has
revealed to me my soul. Yet for you I weep, and if only your life
could be spared to fulfil itself in happiness in the land that bore
you, oh! for you I would gladly die."

Now Oliver, who seemed deeply moved, stepped to her and began to
whisper into her ear, evidently making some proposal of which I think
I can guess the nature. She listened to him, smiling sadly, and made a
motion with her hand as though to thrust him away.

"Not so," she said, "it is nobly offered, but did I accept, through
whatever universes I may wander, those who came after me would know me
by my trail of blood, the blood of him who loved me. Perhaps, too, by
that crime I should be separated from you for ever. Moreover, I tell
you that though all seems black as this thick darkness, I believe that
things will yet end well for you and me--in this world or another."

Then she was gone, leaving Orme staring after her like a man in a

"I daresay they will," remarked Higgs /sotto voce/ to me, "and that's
first-rate so far as they are concerned. But what I should jolly well
like to know is how they are going to end for /us/ who haven't got a
charming lady to see us across the Styx."

"You needn't puzzle your brain over that," I answered gloomily, "for I
think there will soon be a few more skeletons in this beastly cave,
that's all. Don't you see that those Abati will believe we are burned
in the palace?"



I was right. The Abati did think that we had been burned. It never
occurred to them that we might have escaped to the underground city.
So at least I judged from the fact that they made no attempt to seek
us there until they learned the truth in the fashion that I am about
to describe. If anything, this safety from our enemies added to the
trials of those hideous days and nights. Had there been assaults to
repel and the excitement of striving against overwhelming odds, at any
rate we should have found occupation for our minds and remaining

But there were none. By turns we listened at the mouth of the passage
for the echo of footsteps that never came. Nothing came to break a
silence so intense that at last our ears, craving for sound, magnified
the soft flitter of the bats into a noise as of eagle's wings, till at
last we spoke in whispers, because the full voice of man seemed to
affront the solemn quietude, seemed intolerable to our nerves.

Yet for the first day or two we found occupation of a sort. Of course
our first need was to secure a supply of food, of which we had only a
little originally laid up for our use in the chambers of the old
temple, tinned meats that we had brought from London and so forth, now
nearly all consumed. We remembered that Maqueda had told us of corn
from her estates which was stored annually in pits to provide against
the possibility of a siege of Mur, and asked her where it was.

She led us to a place where round stone covers with rings attached to
them were let into the floor of the cave, not unlike those which stop
the coal-shoots in a town pavement, only larger. With great difficulty
we prised one of these up; to me it did not seem to have been moved
since the ancient kings ruled in Mur and, after leaving it open for a
long while for the air within to purify, lowered Roderick by a rope we
had to report its contents. Next moment we heard him saying: "Want to
come up, please. This place is not pleasant."

We pulled him out and asked what he had found.

"Nothing good to eat," he answered, "only plenty of dead bones and one
rat that ran up my leg."

We tried the next two pits with the same result--they were full of
human bones. Then we cross-examined Maqueda, who, after reflection,
informed us that she now remembered that about five generations before
a great plague had fallen on Mur, which reduced its population by one-
half. She had heard, also, that those stricken with the plague were
driven into the underground city in order that they might not infect
the others, and supposed that the bones we saw were their remains.
This information caused us to close up those pits again in a great
hurry, though really it did not matter whether we caught the plague or

Still, as she was sure that corn was buried somewhere, we went to
another group of pits in a distant chamber, and opened the first one.
This time our search was rewarded, to the extent that we found at the
bottom of it some mouldering dust that years ago had been grain. The
other pits, two of which had been sealed up within three years as the
date upon the wax showed, were quite empty.

Then Maqueda understood what had happened.

"Surely the Abati are a people of rogues," she said. "See now, the
officers appointed to store away my corn which I gave them have stolen
it! Oh! may they live to lack bread even more bitterly than we do to-

We went back to our sleeping-place in silence. Well might we be
silent, for of food we had only enough left for a single scanty meal.
Water there was in plenty, but no food. When we had recovered a little
from our horrible disappointment we consulted together.

"If we could get through the mine tunnel," said Oliver, "we might
escape into the den of lions, which were probably all destroyed by the
explosion, and so out into the open country."

"The Fung would take us there," suggested Higgs.

"No, no," broke in Roderick, "Fung all gone, or if they do, anything
better than this black hole, yes, even my wife."

"Let us look," I said, and we started.

When we reached the passage that led from the city to the Tomb of
Kings, it was to find that the wall at the end of it had been blown
bodily back into the parent cave, leaving an opening through which we
could walk side by side. Of course the contents of the tomb itself
were scattered. In all directions lay bones, objects of gold and other
metals, or overturned thrones. The roof and walls alone remained as
they had been.

"What vandalism!" exclaimed Higgs, indignant even in his misery. "Why
wouldn't you let me move the things when I wanted to, Orme?"

"Because they would have thought that we were stealing them, old
fellow. Also those Mountaineers were superstitious, and I did not want
them to desert. But what does it matter, anyway? If you had, they
would have been burned in the palace."

By this time we had reached that end of the vast tomb where the
hunchbacked king used to sit, and saw at once that our quest was vain.
The tunnel which we had dug beyond was utterly choked with masses of
fallen rock that we could never hope to move, even with the aid of
explosives, of which we had none left.

So we returned, our last hope gone.

Also another trouble stared us in the face; our supply of the crude
mineral oil which the Abati used for lighting purposes was beginning
to run low. Measurement of what remained of the store laid up for our
use while the mine was being made, revealed the fact that there was
only enough left to supply four lamps for about three days and nights:
one for Maqueda, one for ourselves, one for the watchman near the
tunnel mouth, and one for general purposes.

This general-purpose lamp, as a matter of fact, was mostly made use of
by Higgs. Truly, he furnished a striking instance of the ruling
passion strong in death. All through those days of starvation and
utter misery, until he grew too weak and the oil gave out, he trudged
backward and forward between the old temple and the Tomb of Kings
carrying a large basket on his arm. Going out with this basket empty,
he would bring it back filled with gold cups and other precious
objects that he had collected from among the bones and scattered
rubbish in the Tomb. These objects he laboriously catalogued in his
pocket-book at night, and afterwards packed away in empty cases that
had contained our supplies of explosive and other goods, carefully
nailing them down when filled.

"What on earth are you doing that for, Higgs?" I asked petulantly, as
he finished off another case, I think it was his twentieth.

"I don't know, Doctor," he answered in a thin voice, for like the rest
of us he was growing feeble on a water-diet. "I suppose it amuses me
to think how jolly it would be to open all these boxes in my rooms in
London after a first-rate dinner of fried sole and steak cut thick,"
and he smacked his poor, hungry lips. "Yes, yes," he went on, "to take
them out one by one and show them to ---- and ----," and he mentioned
by name officials of sundry great museums with whom he was at war,
"and see them tear their hair with rage and jealousy, while they
wondered in their hearts if they could not manage to seize the lot for
the Crown as treasure-trove, or do me out of them somehow," and he
laughed a little in his old, pleasant fashion.

"Of course I never shall," he added sadly, "but perhaps one day some
other fellow will find them here and get them to Europe, and if he is
a decent chap, publish my notes and descriptions, of which I have put
a duplicate in each box, and so make my name immortal. Well, I'm off
again. There are four more cases to fill before the oil gives out, and
I must get that great gold head into one of them, though it is an
awful job to carry it far at a time. Doctor, what disease is it that
makes your legs suddenly give way beneath you, so that you find
yourself sitting in a heap on the floor without knowing how you came
there? You don't know? Well, no more do I, but I've got it bad. I tell
you I'm downright sore behind from continual and unexpected contact
with the rock."

Poor old Higgs! I did not like to tell him that his disease was

Well, he went on with his fetching and carrying and cataloguing and
packing. I remember that the last load he brought in was the golden
head he had spoken of, the wonderful likeness of some prehistoric king
which has since excited so much interest throughout the world. The
thing being too heavy for him to carry in his weakened state, for it
is much over life-size, he was obliged to roll it before him, which
accounts for the present somewhat damaged condition of the nose and
semi-Egyptian diadem.

Never shall I forget the sight of the Professor as he appeared out of
the darkness, shuffling along upon his knees where his garments were
worn into holes, and by the feeble light of the lamp that he moved
from time to time, painfully pushing the great yellow object forward,
only a foot or two at each push.

"Here it is at last," he gasped triumphantly, whilst we watched him
with indifferent eyes. "Japhet, help me to wrap it up in the mat and
lift it into the box. No, no, you donkey--face upward--so. Never mind
the corners, I'll fill them with ring-money and other trifles," and
out of his wide pockets he emptied a golden shower, amongst which he
sifted handfuls of dust from the floor and anything else he could find
to serve as packing, finally covering all with a goat's-hair blanket
which he took from his bed.

Then very slowly he found the lid of the box and nailed it down,
resting between every few strokes of the hammer whilst we watched him
in our intent, but idle, fashion, wondering at the strange form of his

At length the last nail was driven, and seated on the box he put his
hand into an inner pocket to find his note-book, then incontinently
fainted. I struggled to my feet and sprinkled water over his face till
he revived and rolled on to the floor, where presently he sank into
sleep or torpor. As he did so the first lamp gave out.

"Light it, Japhet," said Maqueda, "it is dark in this place."

"O Child of Kings," answered the man, "I would obey if I could, but
there is no more oil."

Half-an-hour later the second lamp went out. By the light that
remained we made such arrangements as we could, knowing that soon
darkness would be on us. They were few and simple: the fetching of a
jar or two of water, the placing of arms and ammunition to our hands,
and the spreading out of some blankets on which to lie down side by
side upon what I for one believed would be our bed of death.

While we were thus engaged, Japhet crawled into our circle from the
outer gloom. Suddenly I saw his haggard face appear, looking like that
of a spirit rising from the grave.

"My lamp is burned out," he moaned; "it began to fail whilst I was on
watch at the tunnel mouth, and before I was half-way here it died
altogether. Had it not been for the wire of the 'thing-that-speaks'
which guided me, I could never have reached you. I should have been
lost in the darkness of the city and perished alone among the ghosts."

"Well, you are here now," said Oliver. "Have you anything to report?"

"Nothing, lord, or at least very little. I moved some of the small
rocks that we piled up, and crept down the hole till I came to a place
where the blessed light of day fell upon me, only one little ray of
it, but still the light of day. I think that something has fallen upon
the tunnel and broken it, perhaps one of the outer walls of the
palace. At least I looked through a crack and saw everywhere ruins--
ruins that still smoke. From among them I heard the voices of men
shouting to each other.

"One of them called to his companion that it was strange, if the
Gentiles and the Child of Kings had perished in the fire, that they
had not found their bones which would be known by the guns they
carried. His friend answered that it was strange indeed, but being
magicians, perhaps they had hidden away somewhere. For his part he
hoped so, as then sooner or later they would be found and put to death
slowly, as they deserved, who had led astray the Child of Kings and
brought so many of the heaven-descended Abati to their death. Then
fearing lest they should find and kill me, for they drew near as I
could tell by their voices, I crept back again, and that is all my

We said nothing; there seemed to be nothing to say, but sat in our sad
circle and watched the dying lamp. When it began to flicker, leaping
up and down like a thing alive, a sudden panic seized poor Japhet.

"O Walda Nagasta," he cried, throwing himself at her feet, "you have
called me a brave man, but I am only brave where the sun and the stars
shine. Here in the dark amongst so many angry spirits, and with hunger
gnawing at my bowels, I am a great coward; Joshua himself is not such
a coward as I. Let us go out into the light while there is yet time.
Let us give ourselves up to the Prince. Perhaps he will be merciful
and spare our lives, or at least he will spare yours, and if we die,
it will be with the sun shining on us."

But Maqueda only shook her head, whereon he turned to Orme and went

"Lord, would you have the blood of the Child of Kings upon your hands?
Is it thus that you repay her for her love? Lead her forth. No harm
will come to her who otherwise must perish here in misery."

"You hear what the man says, Maqueda?" said Orme heavily. "There is
some truth in it. It really does not matter to us whether we die in
the power of the Abati or here of starvation; in fact, I think that we
should prefer the former end, and doubtless no hand will be laid on
you. Will you go?"

"Nay," she answered passionately. "A hand would be laid on me, the
hand of Joshua, and rather than that he should touch me I will die a
hundred deaths. Let fate take its course, for as I have told you, I
believe that then it will open to us some gate we cannot see. And if I
believe in vain, why there is another gate which we can pass together,
O Oliver, and beyond that gate lies peace. Bid the man be silent, or
drive him away. Let him trouble me no more."

The lamp flame sank low. It flickered, once, twice, thrice, each time
showing the pale, drawn faces of us six seated about it, like wizards
making an incantation, like corpses in a tomb.

Then it went out.

How long were we in that place after this? At least three whole days
and nights, I believe, if not more, but of course we soon lost all
count of time. At first we suffered agonies from famine, which we
strove in vain to assuage with great draughts of water. No doubt these
kept us alive, but even Higgs, who it may be remembered was a
teetotaller, afterwards confessed to me that he has loathed the sight
and taste of water ever since. Indeed he now drinks beer and wine like
other people. It was torture; we could have eaten anything. In fact
the Professor did manage to catch and eat a bat that got entangled in
his red hair. He offered me a bite of it, I remember, and was most
grateful when I declined.

The worst of it was also that we had a little food, a few hard ship's
biscuits, which we had saved up for a purpose, namely, to feed
Maqueda. This was how we managed it. At certain intervals I would
announce that it was time to eat, and hand Maqueda her biscuit. Then
we would all pretend to eat also, saying how much we felt refreshed by
the food and how we longed for more, smacking our lips and biting on a
piece of wood so that she could not help hearing us.

This piteous farce went on for forty-eight hours or more until at last
the wretched Japhet, who was quite demoralized and in no mood for
acting, betrayed us, exactly how I cannot remember. After this Maqueda
would touch nothing more, which did not greatly matter as there was
only one biscuit left. I offered it to her, whereon she thanked me and
all of us for our courtesy toward a woman, took the biscuit, and gave
it to Japhet, who ate it like a wolf.

It was some time after this incident that we discovered Japhet to be
missing; at least we could no longer touch him, nor did he answer when
we called. Therefore, we concluded that he had crept away to die and,
I am sorry to say, thought little more about it for, after all, what
he suffered, or had suffered, we suffered also.

I recall that before we were overtaken by the last sleep, a strange
fit came upon us. Our pangs passed away, much as the pain does when
mortification follows a wound, and with them that horrible craving for
nutriment. We grew cheerful and talked a great deal. Thus Roderick
gave me the entire history of the Fung people and of his life among
them and other savage tribes. Further, he explained every secret
detail of their idol worship to Higgs, who was enormously interested,
and tried to make some notes by the aid of our few remaining matches.
When even that subject was exhausted, he sang to us in his beautiful
voice--English hymns and Arab songs. Oliver and Maqueda also chatted
together quite gaily, for I heard them laughing, and gathered that he
was engaged in trying to teach her English.

The last thing that I recollect is the scene as it was revealed by the
momentary light of one of the last matches. Maqueda sat by Oliver. His
arm was about her waist, her head rested upon his shoulder, her long
hair flowed loose, her large and tender eyes stared from her white,
wan face up toward his face, which was almost that of a mummy.

Then on the other side stood my son, supporting himself against the
wall of the room, and beyond him Higgs, a shadow of his former self,
feebly waving a pencil in the air and trying, apparently, to write a
note upon his Panama straw hat, which he held in his left hand, as I
suppose, imagining it to be his pocket-book. The incongruity of that
sun-hat in a place where no sun had ever come made me laugh, and as
the match went out I regretted that I had forgotten to look at his
face to ascertain whether he was still wearing his smoked spectacles.

"What is the use of a straw hat and smoked spectacles in kingdom-
come?" I kept repeating to myself, while Roderick, whose arm I knew
was about me, seemed to answer:

"The Fung wizards say that the sphinx Harmac once wore a hat, but, my
father, I do not know if he had spectacles."

Then a sensation as of being whirled round and round in some vast
machine, down the sloping sides of which I sank at last into a vortex
of utter blackness, whereof I knew the name was death.

Dimly, very dimly, I became aware that I was being carried. I heard
voices in my ears, but what they said I could not understand. Then a
feeling of light struck upon my eyeballs which gave me great pain.
Agony ran all through me as it does through the limbs of one who is
being brought back from death by drowning. After this something warm
was poured down my throat, and I went to sleep.

When I awoke again it was to find myself in a large room that I did
not know. I was lying on a bed, and by the light of sunrise which
streamed through the window-places I saw the three others, my son
Roderick, Orme and Higgs lying on the other beds, but they were still

Abati servants entered the room bringing food, a kind of rough soup
with pieces of meat in it of which they gave me a portion in a wooden
bowl that I devoured greedily. Also they shook my companions until
they awoke and almost automatically ate up the contents of similar
bowls, after which they went to sleep again, as I did, thanking heaven
that we were all still alive.

Every few hours I had a vision of these men entering with the bowls of
soup or porridge, until at last life and reason came back to me in
earnest, and I saw Higgs sitting up on the bed opposite and staring at

"I say, old fellow," he said, "are we alive, or is this Hades?"

"Can't be Hades," I answered, "because there are Abati here."

"Quite right," he replied. "If the Abati go anywhere, it's to hell,
where they haven't whitewashed walls and four-post beds. Oliver, wake
up. We are out of that cave, anyway."

Orme raised himself on his hand and stared at us.

"Where's Maqueda?" he asked, a question to which of course, we could
give no answer, till presently Roderick woke also and said:

"I remember something. They carried us all out of the cave; Japhet was
with them. They took the Child of Kings one way and us another, that
is all I know."

Shortly afterwards the Abati servants arrived, bearing food more solid
than the soup, and with them came one of their doctors, not that old
idiot of a court physician, who examined us, and announced that we
should all recover, a fact which we knew already. We asked many
questions of him and the servants, but could get no answer, for
evidently they were sworn to silence. However, we persuaded them to
bring us water to wash in. It came, and with it a polished piece of
metal, such as the Abati use for a looking-glass, in which we saw our
faces, the terrible, wasted faces of those who have gone within a
hair's breadth of death by starvation in the dark.

Yet although our gaolers would say nothing, something in their aspect
told us that we were in sore peril of our lives. They looked at us
hungrily, as a terrier looks at rats in a wire cage of which the door
will presently be opened. Moreover, Roderick, who, as I think I have
said, has very quick ears, overheard one of the attendants whisper to

"When does our service on these hounds of Gentiles come to an end?" to
which his fellow answered, "The Council has not yet decided, but I
think to-morrow or the next day, if they are strong enough. It will be
a great show."

Also that evening, about sunset, we heard a mob shouting outside the
barrack in which we were imprisoned, for that was its real use, "Give
us the Gentiles! Give us the Gentiles! We are tired of waiting," until
at length some soldiers drove them away.

Well, we talked the thing over, only to conclude that there was
nothing to be done. We had no friend in the place except Maqueda, and
she, it appeared, was a prisoner like ourselves, and therefore could
not communicate with us. Nor could we see the slightest possibility of

"Out of the frying-pan into the fire," remarked Higgs gloomily. "I
wish now that they had let us die in the cave. It would have been
better than being baited to death by a mob of Abati."

"Yes," answered Oliver with a sigh, for he was thinking of Maqueda,
"but that's why they saved us, the vindictive beasts, to kill us for
what they are pleased to call high treason."

"High treason!" exclaimed Higgs. "I hope to goodness their punishment
for the offence is not that of mediæval England; hanging is bad enough
--but the rest----!"

"I don't think the Abati study European history," I broke in; "but it
is no use disguising from you that they have methods of their own.
Look here, friends," I added, "I have kept something about me in case
the worst should come to the worst," and I produced a little bottle
containing a particularly swift and deadly poison done up into
tabloids, and gave one to each of them. "My advice is," I added, "that
if you see we are going to be exposed to torture or to any dreadful
form of death, you should take one of these, as I mean to do, and
cheat the Abati of their vengeance."

"That is all very fine," said the Professor as he pocketed his
tabloid, "but I never could swallow a pill without water at the best
of times, and I don't believe those beasts will give one any. Well, I
suppose I must suck it, that's all. Oh! if only the luck would turn,
if only the luck would turn!"

Three more days went by without any sign of Higgs's aspiration being
fulfilled. On the contrary, except in one respect, the luck remained
steadily against us. The exception was that we got plenty to eat and
consequently regained our normal state of health and strength more
rapidly than might have been expected. With us it was literally a case
of "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die."

Only somehow I don't think that any of us really believed that we
should die, though whether this was because we had all, except poor
Quick, survived so much, or from a sneaking faith in Maqueda's
optimistic dreams, I cannot say. At any rate we ate our food with
appetite, took exercise in an inner yard of the prison, and strove to
grow as strong as we could, feeling that soon we might need all our
powers. Oliver was the most miserable among us, not for his own sake,
but because, poor fellow, he was haunted with fears as to Maqueda and
her fate, although of these he said little or nothing to us. On the
other hand, my son Roderick was by far the most cheerful. He had lived
for so many years upon the brink of death that this familiar gulf
seemed to have no terrors for him.

"All come right somehow, my father," he said airily. "Who can know
what happen? Perhaps Child of King drag us out of mud-hole, for after
all she was very strong cow, or what you call it, heifer, and I think
toss Joshua if he drive her into corner. Or perhaps other thing

"What other thing, Roderick?" I asked.

"Oh! don't know, can't say, but I think Fung thing. Believe we not
done with Fung yet, believe they not run far. Believe they take
thought for morrow and come back again. Only," he added sadly, "hope
my wife not come back, for that old girl too full of lofty temper for
me. Still, cheer up, not dead yet by long day's march, and meanwhile
food good and this very jolly rest after beastly underground city. Now
I tell Professor some more stories about Fung religion, den of lions,
and so forth."

On the morning after this conversation a crisis came. Just as we had
finished breakfast the doors of our chamber were thrown open and in
marched a number of soldiers wearing Joshua's badge. They were headed
by an officer of his household, who commanded us to rise and follow

"Where to?" asked Orme.

"To take your trial before the Child of Kings and her Council,
Gentile, upon the charge of having murdered certain of her subjects,"
answered the officer sternly.

"That's all right," said Higgs with a sigh of relief. "If Maqueda is
chairman of the Bench we are pretty certain of an acquittal, for
Orme's sake if not for our own."

"Don't you be too sure of that," I whispered into his ear. "The
circumstances are peculiar, and women have been known to change their

"Adams," he replied, glaring at me through his smoked spectacles, "If
you talk like that we shall quarrel. Maqueda change her mind indeed!
Why, it is an insult to suggest such a thing, and if you take my
advice you won't let Oliver hear you. Don't you remember, man, that
she's in love with him?"

"Oh, yes," I answered, "but I remember also that Prince Joshua is in
love with her, and that she is his prisoner."



They set us in a line, four ragged-looking fellows, all of us with
beards of various degrees of growth, that is, all the other three, for
mine had been an established fact for years, and everything having
been taken away from us, we possessed neither razor nor scissors.

In the courtyard of our barrack we were met by a company of soldiers,
who encircled us about with a triple line of men, as we thought to
prevent any attempt of escape. So soon as we passed the gates I found,
however, that this was done for a different reason, namely, to protect
us from the fury of the populace. All the way from the barrack to the
courthouse, whither we were being taken now that the palace was
burned, the people were gathered in hundreds, literally howling for
our blood. It was a strange, and, in a way, a dreadful sight to see
even the brightly dressed women and children shaking their fists and
spitting at us with faces distorted by hate.

"Why they love you so little, father, when you do so much for them?"
asked Roderick, shrugging his shoulders and dodging a stone that
nearly hit him on the head.

"For two reasons," I answered. "Because their Lady loves one of us too
much, and because through us many of their people have lost their
lives. Also they hate strangers, and are by nature cruel, like most
cowards, and now that they have no more fear of the Fung, they think
it will be safe to kill us."

"Ah!" said Roderick; "yet Harmac has come to Mur," and he pointed to
the great head of the idol seated on the cliff, "and I think where
Harmac goes, Fung follow, and if so they make them pay plenty for my
life, for I great man among Fung; Fung myself husband of Sultan's
daughter. These fools, like children, because they see no Fung, think
there are no Fung. Well, in one year, or perhaps one month, they

"I daresay, my boy," I answered, "but I am afraid that won't help us."

By now we were approaching the court-house where the Abati priests and
learned men tried civil and some criminal cases. Through a mob of
nobles and soldiers who mocked us as we went, we were hustled into the
large hall of judgment that was already full to overflowing.

Up the centre of it we marched to a clear space reserved for the
parties to a cause, or prisoners and their advocates, beyond which,
against the wall, were seats for the judges. These were five members
of the Council, one of whom was Joshua, while in the centre as
President of the Court, and wearing her veil and beautiful robes of
ceremony, sat Maqueda herself.

"Thank God, she's safe!" muttered Oliver with a gasp of relief.

"Yes," answered Higgs, "but what's she doing there? She ought to be in
the dock, too, not on the Bench."

We reached the open space, and were thrust by soldiers armed with
swords to where we must stand, and although each of us bowed to her, I
observed that Maqueda took not the slightest notice of our
salutations. She only turned her head and said something to Joshua on
her right, which caused him to laugh.

Then with startling suddenness the case began. A kind of public
prosecutor stood forward and droned out the charge against us. It was
that we, who were in the employ of the Abati, had traitorously taken
advantage of our position as mercenary captains to stir up a civil
war, in which many people had lost their lives, and some been actually
murdered by ourselves and our companion who was dead. Moreover, that
we had caused their palace to be burned and, greatest crime of all,
had seized the sacred person of the Walda Nagasta, Rose of Mur, and
dragged her away into the recesses of the underground city, whence she
was only rescued by the chance of an accomplice of ours, one Japhet,
betraying our hiding-place.

This was the charge which, it will be noted, contained no allusion
whatever to the love entanglement between Maqueda and Oliver. When it
was finished the prosecutor asked us what we pleaded, whereon Oliver
answered as our spokesman that it was true there had been fighting and
men killed, also that we had been driven into the cave, but as to all
the rest the Child of Kings knew the truth, and must speak for us as
she wished.

Now the audience began to shout, "They plead guilty! Give them to
death!" and so forth, while the judges rising from their seats,
gathered round Maqueda and consulted her.

"By heaven! I believe she is going to give us away!" exclaimed Higgs,
whereon Oliver turned on him fiercely and bade him hold his tongue,

"If you were anywhere else you should answer for that slander!"

At length the consultation was finished; the judges resumed their
seats, and Maqueda held up her hand. Thereon an intense silence fell
upon the place. Then she began to speak in a cold, constrained voice:

"Gentiles," she said, addressing us, "you have pleaded guilty to the
stirring up of civil war in Mur, and to the slaying of numbers of its
people, facts of which there is no need for evidence, since many
widows and fatherless children can testify to them to-day. Moreover,
you did, as alleged by my officer, commit the crime of bearing off my
person into the cave and keeping me there by force to be a hostage for
your safety."

We heard and gasped, Higgs ejaculating, "Good gracious, what a lie!"
But none of the rest of us said anything.

"For these offences," went on Maqueda, "you are all of you justly
worthy of a cruel death." Then she paused and added, "Yet, as I have
the power to do, I remit the sentence. I decree that this day you and
all the goods that remain to you which have been found in the cave
city, and elsewhere, together with camels for yourselves and your
baggage, shall be driven from Mur, and that if any one of you returns
hither, he shall without further trial be handed over to the
executioners. This I do because at the beginning of your service a
certain bargain was made with you, and although you have sinned so
deeply I will not suffer that the glorious honour of the Abati people
shall be tarnished even by the breath of suspicion. Get you gone,
Wanderers, and let us see your faces no more for ever!"

Now the mob gathered in the hall shouted in exultation, though I heard
some crying out, "No, kill them! Kill them!"

When the tumult had died down Maqueda spoke again saying:

"O noble and generous Abati, you approve of this deed of mercy; you
who would not be held merciless in far lands, O Abati, where, although
you may not have heard of them, there are, I believe, other peoples
who think themselves as great as you. You would not have it whispered,
I say, that we who are the best of the world, we, the children of
Solomon, have dealt harshly even with stray dogs that have wandered to
our gates? Moreover, we called these dogs to hunt a certain beast for
us, the lion-headed beast called Fung, and, to be just to them, they
hunted well. Therefore spare them the noose, though they may have
deserved it, and let them run hence with their bone, say you, the bone
which they think that they have earned. What does a bone more or less
matter to the rich Abati, if only their holy ground is not defiled
with the blood of Gentile dogs?"

"Nothing at all! Nothing at all!" they shouted. "Tie it to their tails
and let them go!"

"It shall be done, O my people! And now that we have finished with
these dogs, I have another word to say to you. You may have thought or
heard that I was too fond of them, and especially of one of them," and
she glanced toward Oliver. "Well, there are certain dogs who will not
work unless you pat them on the head. Therefore I patted this one on
the head, since, after all, he is a clever dog who knows things that
we do not know; for instance, how to destroy the idol of the Fung. O
great Abati, can any of you really have believed that I, of the
ancient race of Solomon and Sheba, I, the Child of Kings, purposed to
give my noble hand to a vagrant Gentile come hither for hire? Can you
really have believed that I, the solemnly betrothed to yonder Prince
of Princes, Joshua, my uncle, would for a moment even in my heart have
preferred to him such a man as that?" And once again she looked at
Oliver, who made a wild motion, as though he were about to speak. But
before he could so much as open his lips Maqueda went on:

"Well, if you believed, not guessing all the while I was working for
the safety of my people, soon shall you be undeceived, since to-morrow
night I invite you to the great ceremony of my nuptials, when,
according to the ancient custom, I break the glass with him whom on
the following night I take to be my husband," and rising, she bowed
thrice to the audience, then stretched out her hand to Joshua.

He, too, rose, puffing himself out like a great turkey-cock, and,
taking her hand, kissed it, gobbling some words which we did not

Wild cheering followed, and in the momentary silence which followed
Oliver spoke.

"Lady," he said, in a cold and bitter voice, "we 'Gentiles' have heard
your words. We thank you for your kind acknowledgment of our services,
namely, the destruction of the idol of the Fung at the cost of some
risk and labour to ourselves. We thank you also for your generosity in
allowing us, as the reward of that service, to depart from Mur, with
insult and hard words, and such goods as remain to us, instead of
consigning us to death by torture, as you and your Council have the
power to do. It is indeed a proof of your generosity, and of that of
the Abati people which we shall always remember and repeat in our own
land, should we live to reach it. Also, we trust that it will come to
the ears of the savage Fung, so that at length they may understand
that true nobility and greatness lie not in brutal deeds of arms, but
in the hearts of men. But now, Walda Nagasta, I have a last request to
make of you, namely, that I may see your face once more to be sure
that it is you who have spoken to us, and not another beneath your
veil, and that if this be so, I may carry away with me a faithful
picture of one so true to her country and noble to her guests as you
have shown yourself this day."

She listened, then very slowly lifted her veil, revealing such a
countenance as I had never seen before. It was Maqueda without a
doubt, but Maqueda changed. Her face was pale, which was only to be
expected after all she had gone through; her eyes glowed in it like
coals, her lips were set. But it was her expression, at once defiant
and agonized, which impressed me so much that I never shall forget it.
I confess I could not read it in the least, but it left upon my mind
the belief that she was a false woman, and yet ashamed of her own
falsity. There was the greatest triumph of her art, that in those
terrible circumstances she should still have succeeded in conveying to
me, and to the hundreds of others who watched, this conviction of her
own turpitude.

For a moment her eyes met those of Orme, but although he searched them
with pleading and despair in his glance, I could trace in hers no
relenting sign, but only challenge not unmixed with mockery. Then with
a short, hard laugh she let fall her veil again and turned to talk
with Joshua. Oliver stood silent a little while, long enough for Higgs
to whisper to me:

"I say, isn't this downright awful? I'd rather be back in the den of
lions than live to see it."

As he spoke I saw Oliver put his hand to where his revolver usually
hung, but, of course, it had been taken from him. Next he began to
search in his pocket, and finding that tabloid of poison which I had
given him, lifted it toward his mouth. But just as it touched his
lips, my son, who was next to him, saw also. With a quick motion he
struck it from his fingers, and ground it to powder on the floor
beneath his heel.

Oliver raised his arm as though to hit him, then without a sound fell
senseless. Evidently Maqueda noted all this also, for I saw a kind of
quiver go through her, and her hands gripped the arms of her chair
till the knuckles showed white beneath the skin. But she only said:

"This Gentile has fainted because he is disappointed with his reward.
Take him hence and let his companion, the Doctor Adams, attend to him.
When he is recovered, conduct them all from Mur as I have decreed. See
that they go unharmed, taking with them plenty of food lest it be said
that we only spared their lives here in order that they might starve
without our gates."

Then waving her hand to show that the matter was done with, she rose
and, followed by the judges and officers, left the court by some door
behind them.

While she spoke a strong body of guards had surrounded us, some of
whom came forward and lifted the senseless Oliver on to a stretcher.
They carried him down the court, the rest of us following.

"Look," jeered the Abati as he passed, "look at the Gentile pig who
thought to wear the Bud of the Rose upon his bosom. He has got the
thorn now, not the rose. Is the swine dead, think you?"

Thus they mocked him and us.

We reached our prison in safety, and there I set to work to revive
Oliver, a task in which I succeeded at length. When he had come to
himself again he drank a cup of water, and said quite quietly:

"You fellows have seen all, so there is no need for talk and
explanations. One thing I beg of you, if you are any friends of mine,
and it is that you will not reproach or even speak of Maqueda to me.
Doubtless she had reasons for what she did; moreover, her bringing up
has not been the same as ours, and her code is different. Do not let
us judge her. I have been a great fool, that is all, and now I am
paying for my folly, or, rather, I have paid. Come, let us have some
dinner, for we don't know when we shall get another meal."

We listened to this speech in silence, only I saw Roderick turn aside
to hide a smile and wondered why he smiled.

Scarcely had we finished eating, or pretending to eat, when an officer
entered the room and informed us roughly that it was time for us to be
going. As he did so some attendants who had followed him threw us
bundles of clothes, and with them four very beautiful camel-hair
cloaks to protect us from the cold. With some of these garments we
replaced our rags, for they were little more, tying them and the rest
of the outfit up into bundles.

Then, clothed as Abati of the upper class, we were taken to the gates
of the barrack, where we found a long train of riding camels waiting
for us. The moment that I saw these beasts I knew that they were the
best in the whole land, and of very great value. Indeed, that to which
Oliver was conducted was Maqueda's own favourite dromedary, which upon
state occasions she sometimes rode instead of a horse. He recognized
it at once, poor fellow, and coloured to the eyes at this unexpected
mark of kindness, the only one she had vouchsafed to him.

"Come, Gentiles," said the officer, "and take count of your goods,
that you may not say that we have stolen anything from you. Here are
your firearms and all the ammunition that is left. These will be given
to you at the foot of the pass, but not before, lest you should do
more murder on the road. On those camels are fastened the boxes in
which you brought up the magic fire. We found them in your quarters in
the cave city, ready packed, but what they contain we neither know nor
care. Full or empty, take them, they are yours. Those," and he pointed
to two other beasts, "are laden with your pay, which the Child of
Kings sends to you, requesting that you will not count it till you
reach Egypt or your own land, since she wishes no quarrelling with you
as to the amount. The rest carry food for you to eat; also, there are
two spare beasts. Now, mount and begone."

So we climbed into the embroidered saddles of the kneeling
dromedaries, and a few minutes later were riding through Mur toward
the pass, accompanied by our guard and hooting mobs that once or twice
became threatening, but were driven off by the soldiers.

"I say, Doctor," said Higgs to me excitedly, "do you know that we have
got all the best of the treasure of the Tomb of Kings in those five-
and-twenty crates? I have thought since that I was crazy when I packed
them, picking out the most valuable and rare articles with such care,
and filling in the cracks with ring money and small curiosities, but
now I see it was the inspiration of genius. My subliminal self knew
what was going to happen, and was on the job, that's all. Oh, if only
we can get it safe away, I shall not have played Daniel and been
nearly starved to death for nothing. Why, I'd go through it all again
for that golden head alone. Shove on, shove on, before they change
their minds; it seems too good to be true."

Just then a rotten egg thrown by some sweet Abati youth landed full on
the bridge of his nose, and dispersing itself into his mouth and over
his smoked spectacles, cut short the Professor's eloquence, or rather
changed its tenor. So absurd was the sight that in spite of myself I
burst out laughing, and with that laugh felt my heart grow lighter, as
though our clouds of trouble were lifting at length.

At the mouth of the pass we found Joshua himself waiting for us, clad
in all his finery and chain armour, and looking more like a porpoise
on horseback than he had ever done.

"Farewell, Gentiles," he said, bowing to us in mockery, "we wish you a
quick journey to Sheol, or wherever such swine as you may go. Listen,
you Orme. I have a message for you from the Walda Nagasta. It is that
she is sorry she could not ask you to stop for her nuptial feast,
which she would have done had she not been sure that, if you stayed,
the people would have cut your throat, and she did not wish the holy
soil of Mur to be defiled with your dog's blood. Also she bids me say
that she hopes that your stay here will have taught you a lesson, and
that in future you will not believe that every woman who makes use of
you for her own ends is therefore a victim of your charms. To-morrow
night and the night after, I pray you think of our happiness and drink
a cup of wine to the Walda Nagasta and her husband. Come, will you not
wish me joy, O Gentile?"

Orme turned white as a sheet and gazed at him steadily. Then a strange
look came into his grey eyes, almost a look of inspiration.

"Prince Joshua," he said in a very quiet voice, "who knows what may
happen before the sun rises thrice on Mur? All things that begin well
do not end well, as I have learned, and as you also may live to learn.
At least, soon or late, your day of reckoning must come, and you, too,
may be betrayed as I have been. Rather should you ask me to forgive
your soul the insults that in your hour of triumph you have not been
ashamed to heap upon one who is powerless to avenge them," and he
urged his camel past him.

As we followed I saw Joshua's face turn as pale as Oliver's had done,
and his great round eyes protrude themselves like those of a fish.

"What does he mean?" said the prince to his companions. "Pray God he
is not a prophet of evil. Even now I have a mind--no, let him go. To
break my marriage vow might bring bad luck upon me. Let him go!" and
he glared after Oliver with fear and hared written on his coarse

That was the last we ever saw of Joshua, uncle of Maqueda, and first
prince among the Abati.

Down the pass we went and through the various gates of the
fortifications, which were thrown open as we came and closed behind
us. We did not linger on that journey. Why should we when our guards
were anxious to be rid of us and we of them? Indeed, so soon as the
last gate was behind us, either from fear of the Fung or because they
were in a hurry to return to share in the festivities of the
approaching marriage, suddenly the Abati wheeled round, bade us
farewell with a parting curse, and left us to our own devices.

So, having roped the camels into a long line, we went on alone, truly
thankful to be rid of them, and praying, every one of us, that never
in this world or the next might we see the face or hear the voice of
another Abati.

We emerged on to the plain at the spot where months before we had held
our conference with Barung, Sultan of the Fung, and where poor Quick
had forced his camel on to Joshua's horse and dismounted that hero.
Here we paused awhile to arrange our little caravan and arm ourselves
with the rifles, revolvers, and cartridges which until now we had not
been allowed to touch.

There were but four of us to manage the long train of camels, so we
were obliged to separate. Higgs and I went ahead, since I was best
acquainted with the desert and the road, Oliver took the central
station, and Roderick brought up the rear, because he was very keen of
sight and hearing and from his long familiarity with them, knew how to
drive camels that showed signs of obstinacy or a wish to turn.

On our right lay the great city of Harmac. We noted that it seemed to
be quite deserted. There, rebuilt now, frowned the gateway through
which we had escaped from the Fung after we had blown so many of them
to pieces, but beneath it none passed in or out. The town was empty,
and although they were dead ripe the rich crops had not yet been
reaped. Apparently the Fung people had now left the land.

Now we were opposite to the valley of Harmac, and saw that the huge
sphinx still sat there as it had done for unknown thousands of years.
Only its head was gone, for that had "moved to Mur," and in its neck
and shoulders appeared great clefts, caused by the terrific force of
the explosion. Moreover, no sound came from the enclosures where the
sacred lions used to be. Doubtless every one of them was dead.

"Don't you think," suggested Higgs, whose archæological zeal was
rekindling fast, "that we might spare half-an-hour to go up the valley
and have a look at Harmac from the outside? Of course, both Roderick
and I are thoroughly acquainted with his inside, and the den of lions,
and so forth, but I would give a great deal just to study the rest of
him and take a few measurements. You know one must camp somewhere, and
if we can't find the camera, at dawn one might make a sketch."

"Are you mad?" I asked by way of answer, and Higgs collapsed, but to
this hour he has never forgiven me.

We looked our last upon Harmac, the god whose glory we had destroyed,
and went on swiftly till darkness overtook us almost opposite to that
ruined village where Shadrach had tried to poison the hound Pharaoh,
which afterwards tore out his throat. Here we unloaded the camels, no
light task, and camped, for near this spot there was water and a patch
of maize on which the beasts could feed.

Before the light quite faded Roderick rode forward for a little way to
reconnoitre, and presently returned announcing shortly that he had
seen no one. So we ate of the food with which the Abati had provided
us, not without fear lest it should be poisoned, and then held a
council of war.

The question was whether we should take the old road toward Egypt, or
now that the swamps were dry, strike up northward by the other route
of which Shadrach had told us. According to the map this should be
shorter, and Higgs advocated it strongly, as I discovered afterwards
because he thought there might be more archæological remains in that

I, on the other hand, was in favour of following the road we knew,
which, although long and very wearisome, was comparatively safe, as in
that vast desert there were few people to attack us, while Oliver, our
captain, listened to all we had to say, and reserved his opinion.

Presently, however, the question was settled for us by Roderick, who
remarked that if we travelled to the north we should probably fall in
with the Fung. I asked what he meant, and he replied that when he made
his reconnaissance an hour or so before, although it was true that he
had seen no one, not a thousand yards from where we sat he had come
across the track of a great army. This army, from various indications,
he felt sure was that of Barung, which had passed there within twelve

"Perhaps my wife with them, so I no want to go that way, father," he
added with sincere simplicity.

"Where could they be travelling?" I asked.

"Don't know," he answered, "but think they go round to attack Mur from
other side, or perhaps to find new land to north."

"We will stick to the old road," said Oliver briefly. "Like Roderick I
have had enough of all the inhabitants of this country. Now let us
rest awhile; we need it."

About two o'clock we were up again and before it was dawn on the
following morning we had loaded our camels and were on the road. By
the first faint light we saw that what Roderick had told us was true.
We were crossing the track of an army of many thousand men who had
passed there recently with laden camels and horses. Moreover, those
men were Fung, for we picked up some articles that could have belonged
to no other people, such as a head-dress that had been lost or thrown
away, and an arrow that had fallen from a quiver.

However, we saw nothing of them, and, travelling fast, to our great
relief by midday reached the river Ebur, which we crossed without
difficulty, for it was now low. That night we camped in the forest-
lands beyond, having all the afternoon marched up the rising ground at
the foot of which ran the river.

Toward dawn Higgs, whose turn it was to watch the camels, came and
woke me.

"Sorry to disturb you, old fellow," he said, "but there is a most
curious sky effect behind us which I thought you might like to see."

I rose and looked. In the clear, starlight night I could just discern
the mighty outline of the mountains of Mur. Above them the firmament
was suffused with a strange red glow. I formed my own conclusion at
once, but only said:

"Let us go to tell Orme," and led the way to where he had lain down
under a tree.

He was not sleeping; indeed, I do not think he had closed his eyes all
night, the night of Maqueda's marriage. On the contrary, he was
standing on a little knoll staring at the distant mountains and the
glow above them.

"Mur is on fire," he said solemnly. "Oh, my God, Mur is on fire!" and
turning he walked away.

Just then Roderick joined us.

"Fung got into Mur," he said, "and now cut throat of all Abati. We
well out of that, but pig Joshua have very warm wedding feast, because
Barung hate Joshua who try to catch him not fairly, which he never
forget; often talk of it."

"Poor Maqueda!" I said to Higgs, "what will happen to her?"

"I don't know," he answered, "but although once, like everybody else,
I adored that girl, really as a matter of justice she deserves all she
gets, the false-hearted little wretch. Still it is true," he added,
relenting, "she gave us very good camels, to say nothing of their

But I only repeated, "Poor Maqueda!"

That day we made but a short journey, since we wished to rest
ourselves and fill the camels before plunging into the wilderness, and
feeling sure that we should not be pursued, had no cause to hurry. At
night we camped in a little hollow by a stream that ran at the foot of
a rise. As dawn broke we were awakened by the voice of Roderick, who
was on watch, calling to us in tones of alarm to get up, as we were
followed. We sprang to our feet, seizing our rifles.

"Where are they?" I asked.

"There, there," he said, pointing toward the rise behind us.

We ran round some intervening bushes and looked, to see upon its crest
a solitary figure seated on a very tired horse, for it panted and its
head drooped. This figure, which was entirely hidden in a long cloak
with a hood, appeared to be watching our camp just as a spy might do.
Higgs lifted his rifle and fired at it, but Oliver, who was standing
by him, knocked the barrel up so that the bullet went high, saying:

"Don't be a fool. If it is only one man there's no need to shoot him,
and if there are more you will bring them on to us."

Then the figure urged the weary horse and advanced slowly, and I
noticed that it was very small. "A boy," I thought to myself, "who is
bringing some message."

The rider reached us, and slipping from the horse, stood still.

"Who are you?" asked Oliver, scanning the cloaked form.

"One who brings a token to you, lord," was the answer, spoken in a low
and muffled voice. "Here it is," and a hand, a very delicate hand, was
stretched out, holding between the fingers a ring.

I knew it at once; it was Sheba's ring which Maqueda had lent to me in
proof of her good faith when I journeyed for help to England. This
ring, it will be remembered, we returned to her with much ceremony at
our first public audience. Oliver grew pale at the sight of it.

"How did you come by this?" he asked hoarsely. "Is she who alone may
wear it dead?"

"Yes, yes," answered the voice, a feigned voice as I thought. "The
Child of Kings whom you knew is dead, and having no more need for this
ancient symbol of her power, she bequeathed it to you whom she
remembered kindly at the last."

Oliver covered his face with his hands and turned away.

"But," went on the speaker slowly, "the woman Maqueda whom once it is
said you loved----"

He dropped his hands and stared.

"----the woman Maqueda whom once it is said you--loved--still lives."

Then the hood slipped back, and in the glow of the rising sun we saw
the face beneath.

It was that of Maqueda herself!

A silence followed that in its way was almost awful.

"My Lord Oliver," asked Maqueda presently, "do you accept my offering
of Queen Sheba's ring?"


  Once called Walda Nagasta and Takla Warda, that is, Child of Kings
  and Bud of the Rose, once also by birth Ruler of the Abati people,
  the Sons of Solomon and Sheba.

I, Maqueda, write this by the command of Oliver, my lord, who desires
that I should set out certain things in my own words.

Truly all men are fools, and the greatest of them is Oliver, my lord,
though perhaps he is almost equalled by the learned man whom the Abati
called Black Windows, and by the doctor, Son of Adam. Only he who is
named Roderick, child of Adam, is somewhat less blind, because having
been brought up among the Fung and other people of the desert, he has
gathered a little wisdom. This I know because he has told me that he
alone saw through my plan to save all their lives, but said nothing of
it because he desired to escape from Mur, where certain death waited
on him and his companions. Perhaps, however, he lies to please me.

Now, for the truth of the matter, which not being skilled in writing I
will tell briefly.

I was carried out of the cave city with my lord and the others,
starving, starving, too weak to kill myself, which otherwise I would
have done rather than fall into the hands of my accursed uncle,
Joshua. Yet I was stronger than the rest, because as I have learned,
they tricked me about those biscuits, pretending to eat when they were
not eating, for which never will I forgive them. It was Japhet, a
gallant man on one side, but a coward on the other like the rest of
the Abati, who betrayed us, driven thereto by emptiness within, which,
after all, is an ill enemy to fight. He went out and told Joshua where
we lay hid, and then, of course, they came.

Well, they took away my lord and the others, and me too they bore to
another place and fed me till my strength returned, and oh! how good
was that honey which first I ate, for I could touch nothing else. When
I was strong again came Prince Joshua to me and said, "Now I have you
in my net; now you are mine."

Then I answered Joshua, "Fool, your net is of air; I will fly through

"How?" he asked. "By death," I answered, "of which a hundred means lie
to my hand. You have robbed me of one, but what does that matter when
so many remain? I will go where you and your love cannot pursue me."

"Very well, Child of Kings," he said, "but how about that tall Gentile
who has caught your eyes, and his companions? They, too, have
recovered, and they shall die every one of them after a certain
fashion (which, I Maqueda, will not set down, since there are some
things that ought not to be written). If you die, they die; as I told
you, they die as a wolf dies that is caught by the shepherds; they die
as a baboon dies that is caught by the husbandman."

Now I looked this way and that, and found that there was no escape. So
I made a bargain.

"Joshua," I said, "let these men go and I swear upon the name of our
mother, she of Sheba, that I will marry you. Keep them and kill them,
and you will have none of me."

Well, in the end, because he desired me and the power that went with
me, he consented.

Then I played my part. My lord and his companions were brought before
me, and in presence of all the people I mocked them; I spat in their
faces, and oh! fools, fools, fools, they believed me! I lifted my
veil, and showed them my eyes, and they believed also what they seemed
to see in my eyes, forgetting that I am a woman who can play a part at
need. Yes, they forgot that there were others to deceive as well, all
the Abati people, who, if they thought I tricked them, would have torn
the foreigners limb from limb. That was my bitterest morsel, that I
should have succeeded in making even my own lord believe that of all
the wicked women that ever trod this world, I was the most vile. Yet I
did so, and he cannot deny it, for often we have talked of this thing
till he will hear of it no more.

Well, they went with all that I could give them, though I knew well
that my lord cared nothing, for what I could give, nor the doctor,
Child of Adam, either, who cared only for his son that God had
restored to him. Only Black Windows cared, not because he loves
wealth, but because he worships all that is old and ugly, for of such
things he fashions up his god.

They went, for their going was reported to me, and I, I entered into
hell because I knew that my lord thought me false, and that he would
never learn the truth, namely, that what I did I did to save his life,
until at length he came to his own country, if ever he came there, and
opened the chests of treasure, if ever he opened them, which perhaps
he would not care to do. And all that while he would believe me the
wife of Joshua, and--oh! I cannot write of it. And I, I should be
dead; I, I could not tell him the truth until he joined me in that
land of death, if there men and women can talk together any more.

For this and no other was the road that I had planned to walk. When he
and his companions had gone so far that they could not be followed,
then I would tell Joshua and the Abati all the truth in such language
as should never be forgotten for generations, and kill myself before
their eyes, so that Joshua might lack a wife and the Abati a Child of

I sat through the Feast of Preparation and smiled and smiled. It
passed and the next day passed, and came the night of the Feast of
Marriage. The glass was broken, the ceremony was fulfilled. Joshua
rose up to pledge me before all the priests, lords, and headmen. He
devoured me with his hateful eyes, me, who was already his. But I, I
handled the knife in my robe, wishing, such was the rage in my heart,
that I could kill him also.

Then God spoke, and the dream that I had dreamed came true. Far away
there rose a single cry, and after it other cries, and the sounds of
shouting and of marching feet. Far away tongues of fire leapt into the
air, and each man asked his neighbour, "What is this?" Then from all
the thousands of the feasting people rose one giant scream, and that
scream said, "Fung! Fung! The Fung are on us! Fly, fly, fly!"

"Come," shouted Joshua, seizing me by the arm, but I drew my dagger on
him and he let go. Then he fled with the other lords, and I remained
in my high seat beneath the golden canopy alone.

The people fled past me without fighting; they fled into the cave
city, they fled to the rocks; they hid themselves among the
precipices, and after them came the Fung, slaying and burning, till
all Mur went up in flames. And I, I sat and watched, waiting till it
was time for me to die also.

At last, I know not how long afterwards, appeared before me Barung, a
red sword in his hand, which he lifted to me in salute.

"Greeting, Child of Kings," he said. "You see Harmac is come to sleep
at Mur."

"Yes," I answered, "Harmac is come to sleep at Mur, and many of those
who dwelt there sleep with him. What of it? Say, Barung, will you kill
me, or shall I kill myself?"

"Neither, Child of Kings," he answered in his high fashion. "Did I not
make you a promise yonder in the Pass of Mur, when I spoke with you
and the Western men, and does a Fung Sultan break his word? I have
taken back the city that was ours, as I swore to do, and purified it
with fire," and he pointed to the raging flames. "Now I will rebuild
it, and you shall rule under me."

"Not so," I answered; "but in place of that promise I ask of you three

"Name them," said Barung.

"They are these: First, that you give me a good horse and five days'
food, and let me go where I will. Secondly, that if he still lives you
advance one Japhet, a certain Mountaineer who befriended me and
brought others to do likewise, to a place of honour under you.
Thirdly, that you spare the rest of the Abati people."

"You shall go whither you desire, and I think I know where you will
go," answered Barung. "Certain spies of mine last night saw four white
men riding on fine camels towards Egypt, and reported it to me as I
led my army to the secret pass that Harmac showed me, which you Abati
could never find. But I said, 'Let them go; it is right that brave men
who have been the mock of the Abati should be allowed their freedom.'
Yes, I said this, although one of them was my daughter's husband, or
near to it. But she will have no more of him who fled to his father
rather than with her, so it was best that he should go also, since, if
I brought him back it must be to his death."

"Yes," I answered boldly, "I go after the Western men; I who have done
with these Abati. I wish to see new lands."

"And find an old love who thinks ill of you just now," he said,
stroking his beard. "Well, no wonder, for here has been a marriage
feast. Say, what were you about to do, O Child of Kings? Take the fat
Joshua to your breast?"

"Nay, Barung, I was about to take /this/ husband to my breast," and I
showed him the knife that was hidden in my marriage robe.

"No," he said, smiling, "I think the knife was for Joshua first.
Still, you are a brave woman who could save the life of him you love
at the cost of your own. Yet, bethink you, Child of Kings, for many a
generation your mothers have been queens, and under me you may still
remain a queen. How will one whose blood has ruled so long endure to
serve a Western man in a strange land?"

"That is what I go to find out, Barung, and if I cannot endure, then I
shall come back again, though not to rule the Abati, of whom I wash my
hands for ever. Yet, Barung, my heart tells me I shall endure."

"The Child of Kings has spoken," he said, bowing to me. "My best horse
awaits her, and five of my bravest guards shall ride with her to keep
her safe till she sights the camp of the Western men. I say happy is
he of them who was born to wear the sweet-scented Bud of the Rose upon
his bosom. For the rest, the man Japhet is in my hands. He yielded
himself to me who would not fight for his own people because of what
they had done to his friends, the white men. Lastly, already I have
given orders that the slaying should cease, since I need the Abati to
be my slaves, they who are cowards, but cunning in many arts. Only one
more man shall die," he added sternly, "and that is Joshua, who would
have taken me by a trick in the mouth of the pass. So plead not for
him, for by the head of Harmac it is in vain."

Now hearing this I did not plead, fearing lest I should anger Barung,
and but waste my breath.

At daybreak I started on the horse, having with me the five Fung
captains. As we crossed the marketplace I met those that remained
alive of the Abati, being driven in hordes like beasts, to hear their
doom. Among them was Prince Joshua, my uncle, whom a man led by a rope
about his neck, while another man thrust him forward from behind,
since Joshua knew that he went to his death and the road was one which
he did not wish to travel. He saw me, and cast himself down upon the
ground, crying to me to save him. I told him that I could not, though
it is the truth, I swear it before God, that, notwithstanding all the
evil he had worked toward me, toward Oliver my lord, and his
companions, bringing to his end that gallant man who died to protect
me, I would still have saved him if I could. But I could not, for
although I tried once more, Barung would not listen. So I answered:

"Plead, O Joshua, with him who has the power in Mur to-day, for I have
none. You have fashioned your own fate, and must travel the road you

"What road do you ride, mounted on a horse of the plains, Maqueda? Oh!
what need is there for me to ask? You go to see that accursed Gentile
whom I would I had killed by inches, as I would that I could kill

Then calling me by evil names, Joshua sprang at me as though to strike
me down, but he who held the rope about his neck jerked him backward,
so that he fell and I saw his face no more.

But oh! it was sad, that journey across the great square, for the
captive Abati by hundreds--men, women, and children together--with
tears and lamentations cried to me to preserve them from death or
slavery at the hands of the Fung. But I answered:

"Your sins against me and the brave foreign men who fought so well for
you I forgive, but search your hearts, O Abati, and say if you can
forgive yourselves? If you had listened to me and to those whom I
called in to help us, you might have beaten back the Fung, and
remained free for ever. But you were cowards; you would not learn to
bear arms like men, you would not even watch your mountain walls, and
soon or late the people who refuse to be ready to fight must fall and
become the servants of those who are ready."

And now, my Oliver, I have no more to write, save that I am glad to
have endured so many things, and thereby win the joy that is mine
to-day. Not yet have I, Maqueda, wished to reign again in Mur, who
have found another throne.