“Friends, I have summoned you for this reason. This morning when the traitor Shadrach was being led out to execution at the hands of these men, the officers of the law, he begged for a delay. When asked why, as his petition for reprieve had been refused, he said that if his life was spared he could show how your companion, he whom they call Black Windows, may be rescued from the Fung.”
“How?” asked Orme and I in one breath.
“I do not know,” she answered, “but wisely they spared the man. Let him be brought in.”
A door opened, and Shadrach entered, his hands bound behind his back and shackles on his feet. He was a very fearful and much chastened Shadrach, for his eyes rolled and his teeth chattered with terror, as, having prostrated himself to the Walda Nagasta, he wriggled round and tried to kiss Orme’s boot. The guards pulled him to his feet again, and Maqueda said:
“What have you to tell us, traitor, before you die?”
“The thing is secret, O Bud of the Rose. Must I speak before so many?”
“Nay,” she answered, and ordered most of those present to leave the room, including the executioners and soldiers.
“The man is desperate, and there will be none left to guard him,” said Joshua nervously.
“I’ll do that, your Highness,” answered Quick in his bad Arabic, and stepping up behind Shadrach he added in English, “Now then, Pussy, you behave, or it will be the worse for you.”
When all had gone again Shadrach was commanded to speak and say how he could save the Englishman whom he had betrayed into the hands of the Fung.
“Thus, Child of Kings,” he answered, “Black Windows, as we know, is imprisoned in the body of the great idol.”
“How do you know it, man?”
“O Lady, I do know it, and also the Sultan said so, did he not? Well, I can show a secret road to that idol whence he may be reached and rescued. In my boyhood I, who am called Cat, because I can climb so well, found that road, and when the Fung took me afterward and threw me to the lions, where I got these scars upon my face, by it I escaped. Spare me, and I will show it to you.”
“It is not enough to show the road,” said Maqueda. “Dog, you must save the foreign lord whom you betrayed. If you do not save him you die. Do you understand?”
“That is a hard saying, Lady,” answered the man. “Am I God that I should promise to save this stranger who perchance is already dead? Yet I will do my best, knowing that if I fail you will kill me, and that if I succeed I shall be spared. At any rate, I will show you the road to where he is or was imprisoned, although I warn you that it is a rough one.”
“Where you can travel we can follow,” said Maqueda. “Tell us now what we must do.”
So he told her, and when he had done the Prince Joshua intervened, saying that it was not fitting that the Child of Kings in her own sacred person should undertake such a dangerous journey. She listened to his remonstrances and thanked him for his care of her.