For two seconds he hesitated. It was hateful even to temporize with so hideous a proposition. But for Muriel’s sake, for her dear life’s sake, he must meet these savages with guile for guile. “If it be, indeed, the custom of Boupari,” he answered back, with pale and trembling lips, “and if I, one man, am powerless to prevent it, I will give your message, myself, to the Queen of the Clouds, and you may send, as you say, your wedding decorations. But come what will—mark this—you shall not see her yourself to-day. You shall not speak to her. There I draw a line—so, with my stick in the dust, if you try to advance one step beyond, I stab you to the heart. Wait till to-morrow to take your prey. Give me one more night. Great god as you are, if you are wise, you will not drive an angry man to utter desperation.”
Tu-Kila-Kila looked with a suspicious side glance at the gleaming steel blade Felix still fingered tremulously. Though Boupari was one of those rare and isolated small islands unvisited as yet by European trade, he had, nevertheless, heard enough of the sailing gods to know that their skill was deep and their weapons very dangerous. It would be foolish to provoke this man to wrath too soon. To-morrow, when taboo was removed, and all was free license, he would come when he willed and take his bride, backed up by the full force of his assembled people. Meanwhile, why provoke a brother god too far? After all, in a little more than a week from now the pale-faced Korong would be eaten and digested!
“Very well,” he said, sulkily, but still with the sullen light of revenge gleaming bright in his eye. “Take my message to the queen. You may be my herald. Tell her what honor is in store for her—to be first the wife and then the meat of Tu-Kila-Kila! She is a very fair woman. I like her well. I have longed for her for months. Tomorrow, at the early dawn, by the break of day, I will come with all my people and take her home by main force to me.”
He looked at Felix and scowled, an angry scowl of revenge. Then, as he turned and walked away, under cover of the great umbrella, with its dangling pendants on either side, the temple attendants clapped their hands in unison. Fire and Water marched slow and held the umbrella over him. As he disappeared in the distance, and the sound of his tom-toms grew dim on the hills, Toko, the Shadow, who had lain flat, trembling, on his face in the hut while the god was speaking, came out and looked anxiously and fearfully after him.
“The time is ripe,” he said, in a very low voice to Felix. “A Korong may strike. All the people of Boupari murmur among themselves. They say this fellow has held the spirit of Tu-Kila-Kila within himself too long. He waxes insolent. They think it is high time the great God of Heaven should find before long some other fleshly tabernacle.”