“I will take it.” He forced himself to decision again; had he hesitated he knew he would have gone elsewhere. The price also—less than four dollars gold—attracted him, and he could doubtless buy some furniture in the town. Moreover, experienced missionaries who had talked before the board had always emphasized the value of living among the natives.
“B’en,” said the negress. She rose and emptied the remains from her plate into a tin pail, sponging the plate with a piece of bread.
“I have a trunk on the steamer,” said Simpson. “The boy—can he——”
“He will go with you,” the negress interrupted.
The cripple slid from his chair, scraped his plate and Simpson’s, put on his battered straw hat, and shambled into the yard. Simpson followed.
He turned at the gate and looked back. The child had toddled to the door and was standing there, holding on to the door-post. Inside, the shadow of the woman flickered across the close bars of bamboo.
Bunsen was standing on the jetty when they reached it talking excitedly with a tall bowed man of fifty or so whose complexion showed the stippled pallor of long residence in the tropics.
“Here he is now!” Bunsen exclaimed as Simpson approached. “I was just getting anxious about you. Stopped at the hotel—you hadn’t been there, they said. Port au Prince is a bad place to get lost in. Oh—this gentleman is our consul. Mr. Witherbee—Mr. Simpson.”
Simpson shook hands. Witherbee’s face was just a pair of dull eyes behind a ragged moustache, but there was unusual vigour in his grip.
“I’ll see a lot of you, if you stay long,” he said. He looked at Simpson more closely. “At least, I hope so. But where have you been? I was getting as anxious as Mr. Bunsen—afraid you’d been sacrificed to the snake or something.”
Simpson raised a clerical hand, protesting. His amazing morning swept before his mind like a moving-picture film; there were so many things he could not explain even to himself, much less to these two Gentiles.
“I found lodgings,” he said.
“Lodgings?” Witherbee and Bunsen chorused the word. “Where, for heaven’s sake?”
“I don’t know the name of the street,” Simpson admitted. “I don’t even know the name of my hostess. That”—indicating the cripple—“is her son.”
“Good God!” Witherbee exclaimed. “Madame Picard! The mamaloi!”
“The—the what?” But Simpson had heard well enough.
“The mamaloi—the mamaloi—high priestess of voodoo.”
“Her house is fairly clean,” Simpson said. He was hardly aware of his own inconsequence. It was his instinct to defend any one who was attacked on moral grounds, whether they deserved the attack or not.
“Ye-es,” Witherbee drawled. “I dare say it is. It’s her company that’s unsavoury. Especially for a parson. Eh? What’s the matter now?”