We gazed with wonderment and then, wearied out, scrambled back through the ruins, which, by the way, were of a different stone from the lava of the mountain, to the mouth of the great cave.
The Dwellers in the Tomb
By now it was drawing towards sunset, so we made such preparations as we could for the night. One of these was to collect dry driftwood, of which an abundance lay upon the shore, to serve us for firing, though unfortunately we had nothing that we could cook for our meal.
While we were thus engaged we saw a canoe approaching the table-rock and perceived that in it were the chief Marama and a priest. After hovering about for a while they paddled the canoe near enough to allow of conversation which, taking no notice of their presence, we left it to them to begin.
“O, Friend-from-the-Sea,” called Marama, addressing myself, “we come to pray you and the Great Healer to return to us to be our guests as before. The people are covered with darkness because of the loss of your wisdom, and the sick cry aloud for the Healer; indeed two of those whom he has cut with knives are dying.”
“And what of the Bellower?” I asked, indicating Bastin.
“We should like to see him back also, Friend-from-the-Sea, that we may sacrifice and eat him, who destroyed our god with fire and caused the Healer to kill his priest.”
“That is most unjust,” exclaimed Bastin. “I deeply regret the blood that was shed on the occasion, unnecessarily as I think.”
“Then go and atone for it with your own,” said Bickley, “and everybody will be pleased.”
Waving to them to be silent, I said:
“Are you mad, Marama, that you should ask us to return to sojourn among people who tried to kill us, merely because the Bellower caused fire to burn an image of wood and its head to fly from its shoulders, just to show you that it had no power to hold itself together, although you call it a god? Not so, we wash our hands of you; we leave you to go your own way while we go ours, till perchance in a day to come, after many misfortunes have overtaken you, you creep about our feet and with prayers and offerings beg us to return.”
I paused to observe the effect of my words. It was excellent, for both Marama and the priest wrung their hands and groaned. Then I went on:
“Meanwhile we have something to tell you. We have entered the cave where you said no man might set a foot, and have seen him who sits within, the true god.” (Here Bastin tried to interrupt, but was suppressed by Bickley.)
They looked at each other in a frightened way and groaned more loudly than before.
“He sends you a message, which, as he told us of your approach, we came to the shore to deliver to you.”
“How can you say that?” began Bastin, but was again violently suppressed by Bickley.