“That very satisfactory,” said Jeekie, rising from his knees, his face wreathed in smiles, for he knew well that a decree of the Asika could not be broken. Then he began to explain to the priestess that it was not fear of losing his own life that had moved him, but the certainty that this occurrence would disagree morally with Little Bonsa, whose entire confidence he possessed.
Taking no notice of his words, with a slight reverence to the fetish, she passed on, beckoning to Alan. As he went by the two prostrate priests whose lives he had saved, lifted their heads a little and looked at him with heartfelt gratitude in their eyes; indeed one of them kissed the place where his foot had trodden. Jeekie, following, gave him a kick to intimate that he was taking a liberty, but at the same time stooped down and asked the man his name. It occurred to him that these rescued priests might some day be useful.
Alan followed her through a kind of swing door which opened into another of the endless halls, but when he looked for her there she was nowhere to be seen. A priest who was waiting beyond the door bowed and informed him that the Asika had gone to her own place, and would see him that evening. Then bowing again he led them back by various passages to the room where they had slept.
“Jeekie,” said Alan after their food had been brought to them, this time, he observed, by men, for it was now past midday, “you were born in Asiki-land; tell me the truth of this business. What does that woman mean when she talks about her spirit having been here from the beginning.”
“She mean, Major, that every time she die her soul go into someone else, whom priests find out by marks. Also Asika always die young, they never let her become old woman, but how she die and where they bury her, no one know ’cept priests. Sometimes she have girl child who become Asika after her, but if they have boy child, they kill him. I think this Asika daughter of her who make love to your reverend uncle. All that story ’bout her mother not being married, lies, and all her story lies too, she often marry.”
“But how about the spirit coming back, Jeekie?”
“’Spect that lie too, Major, though she think it solemn fact. Priests teach her all those old things. Still,” he added doubtfully, “Asika great medicine-woman and know a lot we don’t know, can’t say how. Very awkward customer, Major.”
“Quite so, Jeekie, I agree with you. But to come to the point, what is her game with me?”
“Oh! Major,” he answered with a grin, “that simple enough. She tired of black man, want change, mean to marry you according to law, that is when Mungana dies, and he die jolly quick now. She mustn’t kill him, but polish him off all the same, stick him to sleep with those dead uns, till he go like drunk man and see things and drown himself. Then she marry you. But till he dead, you all right, she only talk and make eyes, ’cause of Asiki law, not ’cause she want to stop there.”