With much dignity and to the sound of music we were marched up the broad nave, if I may describe it thus, for the building, with its apse and supporting cedar columns, bore some resemblance to a cathedral, till we reached the open space in front of the throne, where our guards prostrated themselves in their Eastern fashion, and we saluted its occupant in our own. Then, chairs having been given to us, after a pause a trumpet blew, and from a side chamber was produced our late guide, Shadrach, heavily manacled and looking extremely frightened.
The trial that followed I need not describe at length. It took a long while, and the three of us were called upon to give evidence as to the quarrel between our companion, the Professor, and the prisoner about the dog Pharaoh and other matters. The testimony, however, that proclaimed the guilt of Shadrach was that of his companion guides, who, it appeared, had been threatened with floggings unless they told the truth.
These men swore, one after the other, that the abandonment of Higgs had been a preconceived plan. Several of them added that Shadrach was in traitorous communication with the Fung, whom he had warned of our advent by firing the reeds, and had even contrived to arrange that we were to be taken while he and the other Abati, with the camels laden with our rifles and goods which they hoped to steal, passed through in safety.
In defence Shadrach boldly denied the whole story, and especially that he had pushed the Gentile, Higgs, off his dromedary, as was alleged, and mounted it himself because his own beast had broken down or been injured.
However, his lies availed him little, since, after consultation with the Child of Kings, presently one of the black-robed judges condemned him to suffer death in a very cruel fashion which was reserved for traitors. Further, his possessions were to be forfeited to the State, and his wife and children and household to become public slaves, which meant that the males would be condemned to serve as soldiers, and the females allotted to certain officials in the order of their rank.
Several of those who had conspired with him to betray us to the Fung were also deprived of their possessions and condemned to the army, which was their form of penal servitude.
Thus amidst a mighty wailing of those concerned and of their friends and relatives ended this remarkable trial, of which I give some account because it throws light upon the social conditions of Abati. What hope is there for a people when its criminals are sent, not to jail, but to serve as soldiers, and their womenfolk however innocent, are doomed to become the slaves of the judges or whoever these may appoint. Be it added, however, that in this instance Shadrach and his friends deserved all they got, since, even allowing for a certain amount of false evidence, undoubtedly, for the purposes of robbery and private hate, they did betray those whom their ruler had sent them to guide and protect.