“What does the lord your companion say?” asked Maqueda of me.
Having first explained that he was suffering from shock, I translated word for word, whereon Maqueda blushed to her lovely violet eyes and let fall her veil in a great hurry. In the confusion which ensued, I heard Quick saying to his master:
“No, no, sir; this one ain’t no houri. She’s a flesh and blood queen, and the pleasantest to look at I ever clapped eyes on, though a benighted African Jew. Wake up, Captain, wake up; you are out of that hell-fire now. It’s got the Fung, not you.”
The word Fung seemed to rouse Orme.
“Yes,” he said; “I understand. The vapour of the stuff poisoned me, but it is passing now. Adams, ask that lady how many men she’s got with her. What does she say? About five hundred? Well, then, let her attack Harmac at once. The outer and inner gates are down; the Fung think they have raised the devil and will run. She can inflict a defeat on them from which they will not recover for years, only it must be done at once, before they get their nerve again, for, after all, they are more frightened than hurt.”
Maqueda listened to this advice intently.
“It is to my liking; it is very good,” she said in her quaint archaic Arabic when I had finished translating. “But I must consult my Council. Where is my uncle, the prince Joshua?”
“Here, Lady,” answered a voice from the press behind, out of which presently emerged, mounted on a white horse, a stout man, well advanced in middle age, with a swarthy complexion and remarkably round, prominent eyes. He was clad in the usual Eastern robes, richly worked, over which he wore a shirt of chain-mail, and on his head a helmet, with mail flaps, an attire that gave the general effect of an obese Crusader of the early Norman period without his cross.
“Is that Joshua?” said Orme, who was wandering a little again. “Rummy-looking cock, isn’t he? Sergeant, tell Joshua that the walls of Jericho are down, so there’ll be no need to blow his own trumpet. I’m sure from the look of him that he’s a perfect devil with a trumpet.”
“What does your companion say?” asked Maqueda again.
I translated the middle part of Orme’s remarks, but neither the commencement nor the end, but even these amused her very much, for she burst out laughing, and said, pointing to Harmac, over which still hung a cloud of dust:
“Yes, yes, Joshua, my uncle, the walls of Jericho are down, and the question is, will you not take your opportunity? So in an hour or two we shall be dead, or if God goes with us, perhaps free from the menace of the Fung for years.”
The prince Joshua stared at her with his great, prominent eyes, then answered in a thick, gobbling voice:
“Are you mad, Child of Kings? Of us Abati here there are but five hundred men, and of the Fung yonder tens of thousands. If we attacked, they would eat us up. Can five hundred men stand against tens of thousands?”