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.”