Truly all men are fools, and the greatest of them is Oliver, my lord, though perhaps he is almost equalled by the learned man whom the Abati called Black Windows, and by the doctor, Son of Adam. Only he who is named Roderick, child of Adam, is somewhat less blind, because having been brought up among the Fung and other people of the desert, he has gathered a little wisdom. This I know because he has told me that he alone saw through my plan to save all their lives, but said nothing of it because he desired to escape from Mur, where certain death waited on him and his companions. Perhaps, however, he lies to please me.
Now, for the truth of the matter, which not being skilled in writing I will tell briefly.
I was carried out of the cave city with my lord and the others, starving, starving, too weak to kill myself, which otherwise I would have done rather than fall into the hands of my accursed uncle, Joshua. Yet I was stronger than the rest, because as I have learned, they tricked me about those biscuits, pretending to eat when they were not eating, for which never will I forgive them. It was Japhet, a gallant man on one side, but a coward on the other like the rest of the Abati, who betrayed us, driven thereto by emptiness within, which, after all, is an ill enemy to fight. He went out and told Joshua where we lay hid, and then, of course, they came.
Well, they took away my lord and the others, and me too they bore to another place and fed me till my strength returned, and oh! how good was that honey which first I ate, for I could touch nothing else. When I was strong again came Prince Joshua to me and said, “Now I have you in my net; now you are mine.”
Then I answered Joshua, “Fool, your net is of air; I will fly through it.”
“How?” he asked. “By death,” I answered, “of which a hundred means lie to my hand. You have robbed me of one, but what does that matter when so many remain? I will go where you and your love cannot pursue me.”
“Very well, Child of Kings,” he said, “but how about that tall Gentile who has caught your eyes, and his companions? They, too, have recovered, and they shall die every one of them after a certain fashion (which, I Maqueda, will not set down, since there are some things that ought not to be written). If you die, they die; as I told you, they die as a wolf dies that is caught by the shepherds; they die as a baboon dies that is caught by the husbandman.”
Now I looked this way and that, and found that there was no escape. So I made a bargain.
“Joshua,” I said, “let these men go and I swear upon the name of our mother, she of Sheba, that I will marry you. Keep them and kill them, and you will have none of me.”
Well, in the end, because he desired me and the power that went with me, he consented.