THE TRIAL AND AFTER
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 learn.”
“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.