“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 fall.”
“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 forever.
“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 discovered.”
I FIND MY SON
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.