One evening against the clear sky there appeared the dim outline of towering cliffs, shaped like a horseshoe. They were the Mountains of Mur many miles away, but still the Mountains of Mur, sighted at last. Next morning we began to descend through wooded land toward a wide river that is, I believe, a tributary of the Nile, though upon this point I have no certain information. Three days later we reached the banks of this river, following some old road, and faring sumptuously all the way, since here there was much game and grass in plenty for the camels that, after their long abstinence, ate until we thought that they would burst. Evidently we had not arrived an hour too soon, for now the Mountains of Mur were hid by clouds, and we could see that it was raining upon the plains which lay between us and them. The wet season was setting in, and, had we been a single week later, it might have been impossible for us to cross the river, which would then have been in flood. As it was, we passed it without difficulty by the ancient ford, the water never rising above the knees of our camels.
Upon its further bank we took counsel, for now we had entered the territory of the Fung, and were face to face with the real dangers of our journey. Fifty miles or so away rose the fortress of Mur, but, as I explained to my companions, the question was how to pass those fifty miles in safety. Shadrach was called to our conference, and at my request set out the facts.
Yonder, he said, rose the impregnable mountain home of the Abati, but all the vast plain included in the loop of the river which he called Ebur, was the home of the savage Fung race, whose warriors could be counted by the ten thousand, and whose principal city, Harmac, was built opposite to the stone effigy of their idol, that was also called Harmac——
“Harmac—that is Harmachis, god of dawn. Your Fung had something to do with the old Egyptians, or both of them came from a common stock,” interrupted Higgs triumphantly.
“I daresay, old fellow,” answered Orme; “I think you told us that before in London; but we will go into the archaeology afterwards if we survive to do so. Let Shadrach get on with his tale.”
This city, which had quite fifty thousand inhabitants, continued Shadrach, commanded the mouth of the pass or cleft by which we must approach Mur, having probably been first built there for that very purpose.
Orme asked if there was no other way into the stronghold, which, he understood, the embassy had left by being let down a precipice. Shadrach answered that this was true, but that although the camels and their loads had been let down that precipitous place, owing to the formation of its overhanging rocks, it would be perfectly impossible to haul them up it with any tackle that the Abati possessed.