“You understand,” said Maqueda, as we stared, open-mouthed at this awful and marvellous sight, “he in the chair was the king. Those about him were his officers, guards, and women. When he was buried they brought his household here, bearing his wealth, sat them down about him, and killed them. Blow away the dust, and you will see that the rock beneath is still stained with their blood; also, there are the sword-marks on their skulls, and neckbones.”
Quick, who was of an inquiring mind, stepped forward and verified these statements.
“Golly!” he said, throwing down the skull of a man over whom the tired executioners had evidently bungled badly, “I’m glad I didn’t serve the old kings of Mur. But the same game goes on in a small way to-day in Africa, for when I was campaigning on the West Coast I came across it not a fortnight old, only there they had buried the poor beggars living.”
“Perhaps,” said Maqueda, when the Sergeant’s remarks had been translated to her. “Yet I do not think the custom is one that my people would love,” and she laughed a little, then added, “forward, friends, there are many more of these kings and oil does not burn for ever.”
So we moved on, and at a distance of some twenty paces found another chair with scattered bones on and about the seat, lying where each had fallen as the dead man decayed. Round it were the skeletons of the unfortunates who had been doomed to accompany him upon his last journey, every one of them behind his tray of golden objects, or of simple treasure. In front of this king’s chair also were the bones of a dog with a jewelled collar.
Again we proceeded to a third mortuary, if it may so be called, and here Maqueda pointed out the skeleton of a man, in front of which stood a tray piled up with what evidently had been the medicine bottles of the period and among them a number of rude surgical instruments.
“Say, O Physician Adams,” she remarked with a smile, “would you have wished to be court doctor to the kings of Mur, if indeed that was then their city’s name?”
“No, Lady,” I answered; “but I do wish to examine his instruments if I have your leave,” and while she hurried forward I stooped down and filled my pockets. Here I may remark, that upon subsequent inspection I found among these instruments, manufactured I know not what number of thousands of years ago—for on that point controversy rages among the learned—many that with modifications are still in use to-day.
Of that strange and dreadful sepulchre there is little more to tell. From monarch to monarch we marched on till at length we grew weary of staring at bones and gold. Even Quick grew weary, who had passed his early youth in assisting his father, the parish sexton, and therefore, like myself, regarded these relics with professional interest, though of a different degree. At any rate, he remarked that this family vault was uncommonly hot, and perhaps, if it pleased her Majesty, as he called Maqueda, we might take the rest of the deceased gentlemen as read, like a recruit’s attestation questions.