But just then we came to No. 25, according to my counting, and were obliged to stop to wonder, for clearly this king had been the greatest of them all, since round him lay about two or three times the average number of dead, and an enormous quantity of wealth, some of it in the form of little statues of men and women, or perhaps of gods. Yet, oddly enough, he was hunchback with a huge skull, almost a monstrosity indeed. Perhaps his mind partook of the abnormal qualities of his body, since no less than eleven little children had been sacrificed at his obsequies, two of whom, judging from their crooked bones, must have been his own.
One wonders what chanced in Mur and the surrounding territories which then acknowledged its sway when King Hunchback ruled. Alas! history writes no record.
QUICK LIGHTS A MATCH
“Here we begin to turn, for this cave is a great circle,” said Maqueda over her shoulder.
But Oliver, whom she addressed, had left her side and was engaged in taking observations behind the hunchback’s funeral chair with an instrument which he had produced from his pocket.
She followed him and asked curiously what this thing might be, and why he made use of it here.
“We call it a compass,” he answered, “and it tells me that beyond us lies the east, where the sun rises; also it shows at what height we stand above the sea, that great water which you have never seen, O Child of Kings. Say now, if we could walk through this rock, what should we find out yonder?”
“The lion-headed idol of the Fung, I have been told,” she answered. “That which you saw before you blew up the gate of the city Harmac. But how far off it may be I do not know, for I cannot see through stone. Friend Adams, help me to refill the lamps, for they burn low, and all these dead would be ill company in the dark. So at least my people think, since there is not one of them that dares to enter this place. When first we found it only a few years ago and saw the company it held, they fled, and left me to search it alone. Look, yonder are my footsteps in the dust.”
So I refilled the shallow hand-lamps, and while I did so Orme took some hasty observations of which he jotted down the results in his pocket-book.
“What have you learned?” she asked, when at last he rejoined us somewhat unwillingly, for she had been calling to him to come.
“Not so much as I should have done if you could have given me more time,” he replied, adding in explanation, “Lady, I was brought up as an engineer, that is, one who executes works, and to do so takes measurements and makes calculations. For instance, those dead men who hollowed or dressed these caves must have been engineers and no mean ones.”
“We have such among us now,” she said. “They raise dams and make drains and houses, though not so good as those which were built of old. But again I ask—what have you learned, O wise Engineer?”