The words of all were uttered in the Murhapa tongue, so that the listeners could form no idea of their meaning. Had they been able to do so, it is safe to say that they would have been in anything but a comfortable frame of mind.
THE SHADOW OF DANGER.
A few minutes later, Ziffak came through the door of the king’s residence and greeted the explorers.
His dusky countenance showed unmistakable traces of emotion, but like a true warrior, he knew how to govern his feelings. When he spoke, there was no agitation perceptible in his voice.
He motioned to his friends to enter the adjoining hut, where Bippo and Pedros had been left. The Professor showing a natural timidity, he stepped forward and led the way.
Immediately, the party found themselves within a structure, which while no larger than the others, still, in view of the royal prerogatives of the occupant perhaps, possessed more conveniences. The lower apartment, or rather floor, was separated into three divisions, the front being that in which the cooking was done, while serving also for a sitting and general reception room.
The mother of Ziffak and King Haffgo was a tall, muscular widow of threescore and ten, much wrinkled, but strong and active on her feet. Her countenance was darker if possible than that of the head chieftain, making it the more wonderful that Haffgo should be the reverse in that respect of both.
The royal mother paid little heed to her visitors, probably believing they were able to take care of themselves without help from her. Indeed, shortly after the white men entered, she took her departure, and was not seen again until dark, when she came in to help provide them with their evening meal.
Bippo and Pedros finding themselves safe at last were doing what they could to make up for the sleepless nights and hard labor they had undergone on their way thither. They were stretched upon some skins in one corner, sleeping heavily and refreshingly.
Ziffak sat on the floor with the whites. It was apparent from his manner that he was on the point of making a communication of importance, but he seemed to change his mind suddenly, and, for a time, spoke upon matters of such trivial account that his listeners were surprised.
The next astonishing thing which he did was to declare that the stories he gave to Ashman the night before, when made a prisoner by him were fables. There was no enchanted lake in the neighborhood, and his account of the burning mountain was a myth, as were his yarns about the diamonds obtained from the same mountain.
The Professor nodded his head, laughed and said he was glad to be told that; for, while he wished to believe their good friend, when he was in earnest, he found it hard to swallow those marvellous narratives which exceeded anything that had ever come to their ears.