“Yet you shall live to hunger for it,” answered Owen. And the wizard went away angered but wondering.
Now, day by day for something over a month Owen preached the Gospel before the king, his councillors, and hundreds of the head men of the nation. They listened to him attentively, debating the new doctrine point by point; for although they might be savages, these people were very keen-witted and subtle. Very patiently did Owen sow, and at length to his infinite joy he also gathered in his first-fruit. One night as he sat in his hut labouring as usual at the work of translation, wherein he was assisted by John whom he had taught to read and write, the Prince Nodwengo entered and greeted him. For a while he sat silent watching the white man at his task, then he said:—
“Messenger, I have a boon to ask of you. Can you teach me to understand those signs which you set upon the paper, and to make them also as does John your servant?”
“Certainly,” answered Owen; “if you will come to me at noon to-morrow, we will begin.”
The prince thanked him, but he did not go away. Indeed, from his manner Owen guessed that he had something more upon his mind. At length it came out.
“Messenger,” he said, “you have told us of baptism whereby we are admitted into the army of your King; say, have you the power of this rite?”
“And is your servant here baptised?”
“Then if he who is a common man can be baptised, why may not I who am a prince?”
“In baptism,” answered Owen, “there is no distinction between the highest and the lowest; but if you believe, then the door is open and through it you can join the company of Heaven.”
“Messenger, I do believe,” answered the prince humbly.
Then Owen was very joyful, and that same night, with John for a witness, he baptised the prince, giving him the new name of Constantine, after the first Christian emperor.
On the following day Nodwengo, in the presence of Owen, who on this point would suffer no concealment, announced to the king that he had become a Christian. Umsuka heard, and for a while sat silent. Then he said in a troubled voice:—
“Truly, Messenger, in the words of that Book from which you read to us, I fear that you have come hither to bring, ‘not peace but a sword.’ Now when the witch-doctors and the priests of fire learn this, that he whom I have chosen to succeed me has become the servant of another faith, they will stir up the soldiers and there will be civil war. I pray you, therefore, keep the matter secret, at any rate for a while, seeing that the lives of many are at stake.”
“In this, my father,” answered the prince, “I must do as the Messenger bids me; but if you desire it, take from me the right of succession and call back my brother from the northern mountains.”