“Come on,” said Alan, taking up the box containing Little Bonsa, which he did not dare to leave behind, “and let us get into the air.”
So they went down the passage and at the end of it through gates of copper or gold, they knew not which, that had evidently been left open for them, into the garden. It was a large place, a good many acres in extent indeed, and kept with some care, for there were paths in it and flowers that seemed to have been planted. Also here grew certain of the mighty cedar trees that they had seen from far off, beneath those spreading boughs twilight reigned, while beyond, not more than half a mile away, the splendid river-fall thundered down the precipice. For the rest they could find no exit to that garden which on one side was enclosed by a sheer cliff of living rock, and on the others with steep stone walls beyond which ran a torrent, and by the buildings of the Gold House itself.
For a while they walked up and down the rough paths, till at last Jeekie, wearying of this occupation, remarked:
“Melancholy hole this, Major. Remind me of Westminster Abbey in London fog, where your uncle of blessed mem’ry often take me pray and look at fusty tomb of king. S’pose we go back Gold House and see what happen. Anything better than stand about under cursed old cedar tree.”
“All right,” said Alan, who through the eyeholes of his mask had been studying the walls to seek a spot in them that could be climbed if necessary, and found none.
So they returned to the room, which had been swept and garnished in their absence. No sooner had they entered it than the door opened and through it came long lines of Asiki priests, each of whom staggered beneath the weight of a hide bag that he bore upon his shoulder, which bags they piled up about the stone altar. Then, as though at some signal, each priest opened the mouth of his bag and Alan saw that they wee filled with gold, gold in dust, gold in nuggets, gold in vessels perfect or broken; more gold than Alan had ever seen before.
“Why do they bring all this stuff here?” he asked, and Jeekie translated his question.
“It is an offering to the lord of Little Bonsa,” answered the head priest, bowing, “a gift from the Asika. The heaven-born white man sent word by his Ogula messengers that he desired gold. Here is the gold that he desired.”
Alan stared at the treasure, which after all was what he had come to seek. If only he had it safe in England, he would be a rich man and his troubles ended. But how could he get it to England? Here it was worthless as mud.
“I thank the Asika,” he said. “I ask for porters to bear her gift back to my own country, since it is too heavy for me and my servant to carry alone.”
At these words the priest smiled a little, then said that the Asika desired to see the white lord and to receive from him Little Bonsa in return for the gold, and that he could proffer his request to her.