“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 loads.”
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.