The mist cleared away, rolling up like a curtain and revealing on the shore a number of men and women clad in white robes, who were martialled in ranks there, chanting and staring out at the dim waters of the lagoon. Yonder upon the waters, driven forward by the gentle breeze, floated a canoe and lo! in the prow of that canoe sat a white man and on his head the god which they had lost a whole generation gone. On the head of a white man it had departed; on the head of a white man it returned. They saw and fell upon their knees.
“Blow, Major, blow!” whispered Jeekie, and Alan blew a feeble note through the whistle in the mouth of the mask. It was enough, they knew it. They sprang into the water and dragged the canoe to land. They set Alan on the shore and worshipped him. They haled up a lad as though for sacrifice, for a priest flourished a great knife above his head, but Jeekie said something that caused them to let him go. Alan thought it was to the effect that Little Bonsa had changed her habits across the Black Water, and wanted no blood, only food. Then he remembered no more; again the darkness fell upon him.
When consciousness returned to Alan, the first thing of which he became dimly aware was the slow, swaying motion of a litter. He raised himself, for he was lying at full length, and in so doing felt that there was something over his face.
“That confounded Little Bonsa,” he thought. “Am I expected to spend the rest of my life with it on my head like the man in the iron mask?”
Then he put up his hand and felt the thing, to find that it was not Little Bonsa, but something made apparently of thin, fine linen, fitted to the shape of his face, for there was a nose on it, and eyeholes through which he could see, yes, and a mouth whereof the lips by some ingenious contrivance could be moved up and down.
“Little Bonsa’s undress uniform, I expect,” he muttered, and tried to drag it off. This, however, proved to be impossible, for it was fitted tightly to his head and laced or fastened at the back of his neck so securely that he could not undo it. Being still weak, soon he gave up the attempt and began to look about him.
He was in a litter, a very fine litter hung round with beautifully woven and coloured grass mats, inside of which were a kind of couch and cushions of soft wool or hair, so arranged that he could either sit up or lie down. He peeped between two of these mats and saw that they were travelling in a mountainous country over a well-beaten road or trail, and that his litter was borne upon the shoulders of a double line of white-robed men, while all around him marched numbers of other men. They seemed to be soldiers, for they were arranged in companies and carried large spears and shields. Also some of them wore torques and bracelets of yellow metal that might be either