“I crave his life, father,” said the Prince Nodwengo; “he is my friend.”
“A prince should not choose cowards for his friends,” replied the king; “let him be killed, I say.”
Then Owen, who had been watching and listening, his heart sick with horror, stood forward and said:—
“King, in the name of Him I serve, I conjure you to spare this man and those others that are hurt, who have done no crime except to be driven back by soldiers stronger than themselves.”
“Messenger,” answered the king, “I bear with you because you are ignorant. Know that, according to our customs, this crime is the greatest of crimes, for here we show no mercy to the conquered.”
“Yet you should do so,” said Owen, “seeing that you also must ere long be conquered by death, and then how can you expect mercy who have shown none?”
“Let him be killed!” said the king.
“King!” cried Owen once more, “do this deed, and I tell you that before the sun is down great evil will overtake you.”
“Do you threaten me, Messenger? Well, we will see. Let him be killed, I say.”
Then the man was led away; but, before he went he found time to thank Owen and Nodwengo the prince, and to call down good fortune upon them.
THE DRINKING OF THE CUP
Now the king’s word was done, the anger went out of his eyes, and once more his countenance grew weary. A command was issued, and, with the most perfect order, moving like one man, the regiments changed their array, forming up battalion upon battalion in face of the king, that they might give him the royal salute so soon as he had drunk the cup of the first-fruits.
A herald stood forward and cried:—
“Hearken, you Sons of Fire! Hearken, you Children of Umsuka, Shaker of the Earth! Have any of you a boon to ask of the king?”
Men stood forward, and having saluted, one by one asked this thing or that. The king heard their requests, and as he nodded or turned his head away, so they were granted or refused.
When all had done, the Prince Hafela came forward, lifted his spear, and cried:—
“A boon, King!”
“What is it?” asked his father, eyeing him curiously.
“A small matter, King,” he replied. “A while ago I named a certain woman, Noma, the ward of Hokosa the wizard, and she was sealed to me to fill the place of my first wife, the queen that is to be. She passed into the House of the Royal Women, and, by your command, King, it was fixed that I should marry her according to our customs to-morrow, after the feast of the first-fruits is ended. King, my heart is changed towards that woman; I no longer desire to take her to wife, and I pray that you will order that she shall now be handed back to Hokosa her guardian.”
“You blow hot and cold with the same mouth, Hafela,” said Umsuka, “and in love or war I do not like such men. What have you to say to this demand, Hokosa?”