Felix clapped his hand to her mouth in wild haste, and silenced her. He knew the worst now. He had divined the truth. But Muriel, at least, must be spared that knowledge.
SOWING THE WIND.
Vaguely and indefinitely one terrible truth had been forced by slow degrees upon Felix’s mind; whatever else Korong meant, it implied at least some fearful doom in store, sooner or later, for the persons who bore it. How awful that doom might be, he could hardly imagine; but he must devote himself henceforth to the task of discovering what its nature was, and, if possible, of averting it.
Yet how to reconcile this impending terror with the other obvious facts of the situation? the fact that they were considered divine beings and treated like gods; and the fact that the whole population seemed really to regard them with a devotion and kindliness closely bordering on religious reverence? If Korongs were gods, why should the people want to kill them? If they meant to kill them, why pay them meanwhile such respect and affection?
One point at least was now, however, quite clear to Felix. While the natives, especially the women, displayed toward both of them in their personal aspect a sort of regretful sympathy, he could not help noticing at the same time that the men, at any rate, regarded them also largely in an impersonal light, as a sort of generalized abstraction of the powers of nature—an embodied form of the rain and the weather. The islanders were anxious to keep their white guests well supplied, well fed, and in perfect health, not so much for the strangers’ sakes as for their own advantage; they evidently considered that if anything went wrong with either of their two new gods, corresponding misfortunes might happen to their crops and the produce of their bread-fruit groves. Some mysterious sympathy was held to subsist between the persons of the castaways and the state of the weather. The natives effusively thanked them after welcome rain, and looked askance at them, scowling, after long dry spells. It was for this, no doubt, that they took such pains to provide them with attentive Shadows, and to gird round their movements with taboos of excessive stringency. Nothing that the new-comers said or did was indifferent, it seemed, to the welfare of the community; plenty and prosperity depended upon the passing state of Muriel’s health, and famine or drought might be brought about at any moment by the slightest imprudence in Felix’s diet.
How stringent these taboos really were Felix learned by slow degrees alone to realize. From the very beginning he had observed, to be sure, that they might only eat and drink the food provided for them; that they were supplied with a clean and fresh-built hut, as well as with brand-new cocoanut cups, spoons, and platters; that no litter of any sort was allowed to accumulate near their enclosure; and that their Shadows