“Let the Shadows come forward,” the chief said, looking up with an air of dignity.
A good-looking young man, and the girl who said her name was Mali, stepped forth from the crowd, and fell on their knees before him.
The chief laid his hand on the young man’s shoulder and raised him up. “The Shadow of the King of the Rain,” he cried, turning him three times round. “Follow him in all his incomings and his outgoings, and serve him faithfully! Taboo! Taboo! Pass within the sacred circle!”
He clapped his hands. The young man crossed the line with a sort of reverent reluctance, and took his place within the ring, close up to Felix.
The chief laid his hand on Mali’s shoulder. “The Shadow of the Queen of the Clouds,” he said, turning her three times round. “Follow her in all her incomings and outgoings, and serve her faithfully. Taboo! Taboo! Pass within the sacred circle!”
Then he waved both hands to Felix. “Go where you will now,” he said. “Your Shadow will follow you. You are free as the rain that drops where it will. You are as free as the clouds that roam through heaven. No man will hinder you.”
And in a moment the spearmen dropped their spears in concert, the crowd fell back, and the villagers dispersed as if by magic, to their own houses.
But Felix and Muriel were left alone beside their huts, guarded only in silence by their two mystic Shadows.
First days in Boupari.
Throughout that day the natives brought them, from time to time, numerous presents of yam, bananas, and bread-fruit, neatly arranged in little palm-leaf baskets. A few of them brought eggs as well, and one offering even included a live chicken. But the people who brought them, and who were mostly young girls just entering upon womanhood, did not venture to cross the white line of coral-sand that surrounded the huts; they laid down their presents, with many salaams, on the ground outside, and then waited with a half-startled, half-reverent air for one or other of the two Shadows to come out and fetch them. As soon as the baskets were carried well within the marked line, the young girls exhibited every sign of pleasure, and calling aloud, “Korong! Korong!”—that mysterious Polynesian word of whose import Felix was ignorant—they retired once more by tortuous paths through the surrounding jungle.
“Why do they bring us presents?” Felix asked at last of his Shadow, after this curious pantomime had been performed some three or four times. “Are they always going to keep us in such plenty?”
The Shadow looked back at him with an air of considerable surprise. “They bring presents, of course,” he said, in his own tongue, “because they are badly in want of rain. We have had much drought of late in Boupari; we need water from heaven. The banana-bushes wither; the flowers on the bread-fruit tree do not swell to breadfruit; the yams are thirsty. Therefore the fathers send their daughters with presents, maidens of the villages, all marriageable girls, to ask for rainfall. But they will always provide for you, and also for the Queen, however you behave; for you are both Korong. Tu-Kila-Kila has said so, and Heaven has accepted you.”