In another minute we had started at a trot toward the White Rock, whilst from the city of Harmac behind us rose a wail of fear and misery. We gained the top of the rise on which I had shot the horseman, and, as I expected, found that the Fung had posted a strong guard in the dip beyond, out of reach of our bullets, in order to cut us off, should we attempt to escape. Now, terrified by what had happened, to them a supernatural catastrophe, they were escaping themselves, for we perceived them galloping off to the left and right as fast as their horses would carry them.
So for awhile we went on unmolested, though not very quickly, because of Orme’s condition. When we had covered about half the distance between us and the White Rock, I looked round and became aware that we were being pursued by a body of cavalry about a hundred strong, which I supposed had emerged from some other gate of the city.
“Flog the animals,” I shouted to Quick, “or they will catch us after all.”
He did so, and we advanced at a shambling gallop, the horsemen gaining on us every moment. Now I thought that all was over, especially when of a sudden from behind the White Rock emerged a second squad of horsemen.
“Cut off!” I exclaimed.
“Suppose so, sir,” answered Quick, “but these seem a different crowd.”
I scanned them and saw that he was right. They were a very different crowd, for in front of them floated the Abati banner, which I could not mistake, having studied it when I was a guest of the tribe: a curious, triangular, green flag covered with golden Hebrew characters, surrounding the figure of Solomon seated on a throne. Moreover, immediately behind the banner in the midst of a bodyguard rode a delicately shaped woman clothed in pure white. It was the Child of Kings herself!
Two more minutes and we were among them. I halted my camel and looked round to see that the Fung cavalry were retreating. After the events of that morning clearly they had no stomach left for a fight with a superior force.
The lady in white rode up to us.
“Greetings, friend,” she exclaimed to me, for she knew me again at once. “Now, who is captain among you?”
I pointed to the shattered Orme, who sat swaying on his camel with eyes half closed.
“Noble sir,” she said, addressing him, “if you can, tell me what has happened. I am Maqueda of the Abati, she who is named Child of Kings. Look at the symbol on my brow, and you will see that I speak truth,” and, throwing back her veil, she revealed the coronet of gold that showed her rank.
At the sound of this soft voice (the extreme softness of Maqueda’s voice was always one of her greatest charms), Orme opened his eyes and stared at her.
“Very queer dream,” I heard him mutter. “Must be something in the Mohammedan business after all. Extremely beautiful woman, and that gold thing looks well on her dark hair.”