Agno, who had just arrived, stood beside him as he bent over Jerry and examined him with his fingers. Nor did Jerry offer to snarl or bite, although the blind man’s hands came within reach of his teeth more than once. For Jerry sensed no enmity in the fingers that passed so softly over him. Next, Nalasu felt over the pig, and several times, as if calculating, alternated between Jerry and the pig.
Nalasu stood up and voiced judgment:
“The pig is as small as the dog. They are of a size, but the pig has more meat on it for the eating. Take the pig and I shall take the dog.”
“Nay,” said Agno. “The white master’s dog has broken the taboo. It must be eaten. Take any other dog and leave the pig. Take a big dog.”
“I will have the white master’s dog,” Nalasu persisted. “Only the white master’s dog and no other.”
The matter was at a deadlock when Bashti chanced upon the scene and stood listening.
“Take the dog, Nalasu,” he said finally. “It is a good pig, and I shall myself eat it.”
“But he has broken the taboo, your great taboo of the laying-yard, and must go to the eating,” Agno interposed quickly.
Too quickly, Bashti thought, while a vague suspicion arose in his mind of he knew not what.
“The taboo must be paid in blood and cooking,” Agno continued.
“Very well,” said Bashti. “I shall eat the small pig. Let its throat be cut and its body know the fire.”
“I but speak the law of the taboo. Life must pay for the breaking.”
“There is another law,” Bashti grinned. “Long has it been since ever Somo built these walls that life may buy life.”
“But of life of man and life of woman,” Agno qualified.
“I know the law,” Bashti held steadily on. “Somo made the law. Never has it been said that animal life may not buy animal life.”
“It has never been practised,” was the devil devil doctor’s fling.
“And for reason enough,” the old chief retorted. “Never before has a man been fool enough to give a pig for a dog. It is a young pig, and it is fat and tender. Take the dog, Nalasu. Take the dog now.”
But the devil devil doctor was not satisfied.
“As you said, O Bashti, in your very great wisdom, he is the seed dog of strength and courage. Let him be slain. When he comes from the fire, his body shall be divided into many small pieces so that every man may eat of him and thereby get his portion of strength and courage. Better is it for Somo that its men be strong and brave rather than its dogs.”