No breakfast was brought to us that morning, probably for the reason that there was none to bring. This did not matter, however, seeing that plenty of food accumulated from supper and other meals stood in a corner of the house practically untouched. So we ate what we could and then paid our usual visit to the hut in which the camelmen had been confined. I say had been, for now it was quite empty, the last poor fellow having vanished away like his companions.
The sight of this vacuum filled me with a kind of fury.
“They have all been murdered!” I said to Marut.
“No,” he replied with gentle accuracy. “They have been sacrificed to Jana. What we have seen on the market-place at night was the rite of their sacrifice. Now it will be our turn, Lord Macumazana.”
“Well,” I exclaimed, “I hope these devils are satisfied with Jana’s answer to their accursed offerings, and if they try their fiendish pranks on us——”
“Doubtless there will be another answer. But, Lord, the question is, will that help us?”
Dumb with impotent rage I returned to the house, where presently the remains of the reed gate opened. Through it appeared Simba the King, the diviner with the injured foot walking upon crutches, and others of whom the most were more or less wounded, presumably by the hailstones. Then it was that in my wrath I put off the pretence of not understanding their language and went for them before they could utter a single word.
“Where are our servants, you murderers?” I asked, shaking my fist at them. “Have you sacrificed them to your devil-god? If so, behold the fruits of sacrifice!” and I swept my arm towards the country beyond. “Where are your crops?” I went on. “Tell me on what you will live this winter?” (At these words they quailed. In their imagination already they saw famine stalking towards them.) “Why do you keep us here? Is it that you wait for a worse thing to befall you? Why do you visit us here now?” and I paused, gasping with indignation.
“We came to look whether you had brought back to life that doctor whom you killed with your magic, white man,” answered the king heavily.
I stepped to the corner of the court-yard and, drawing aside a mat that I had thrown there, showed them what lay beneath.
“Look then,” I said, “and be sure that if you do not let us go, as yonder thing is, so shall all of you be before another moon has been born and died. Such is the life we shall give to evil men like you.”
Now they grew positively terrified.
“Lord,” said Simba, for the first time addressing me by a title of respect, “your magic is too strong for us. Great misfortune has fallen upon our land. Hundreds of people are dead, killed by the ice-stones that you have called down. Our harvest is ruined, and there is but little corn left in the storepits now when we looked to gather the new grain. Messengers come in from the outlying land telling us that nearly all the sheep and goats and very many of the cattle are slain. Soon we shall starve.”