“I can hardly bear to tell the rest of it, Mr. Owen. They gave my poor friend ten minutes to ‘talk to his Spirit,’ then they speared him before my face. After it was over, Hokosa spoke to me, saying:—
“’Go back, White Man, to those who sent you, and tell them the words of the Sons of Fire: That they have listened to the message of peace, and though they are a people of warriors, yet they thank them for that message, for in itself it sounds good and beautiful in their ears, if it be true. Tell them that having proved you liars, they dealt with you as all honest men seek that liars should be dealt with. Tell them that they desire to hear more of this matter, and if one can be sent to them who has no false tongue; who in all things fulfills the promises of his lips, that they will hearken to him and treat him well, but that for such as you they keep a spear.’”
“And who went after you got back?” asked Owen, who was listening with the deepest interest.
“Who went? Do you suppose that there are many mad clergymen in Africa, Mr. Owen? Nobody went.”
“And yet,” said Owen, speaking more to himself than to his guest, “the man Hokosa was right, and the Christian who of a truth believes the promises of our religion should trust to them and go.”
“Then perhaps you would like to undertake the mission, Mr. Owen,” said the Deputation briskly; for the reflection stung him, unintentional as it was.
“That is a new idea,” he said. “And now perhaps you wish to go to bed; it is past eleven o’clock.”
Thomas Owen went to his room, but not to bed. Taking a Bible from the table, he consulted reference after reference.
“The promise is clear,” he said aloud presently, as he shut the book; “clear and often repeated. There is no escape from it, and no possibility of a double meaning. If it is not true, then it would seem that nothing is true, and that every Christian in the world is tricked and deluded. But if it is true, why do we never hear of miracles? The answer is easy: Because we have not faith enough to work them. The Apostles worked miracles; for they had seen, therefore their faith was perfect. Since their day nobody’s faith has been quite perfect; at least I think not. The physical part of our nature prevents it. Or perhaps the miracles still happen, but they are spiritual miracles.”
Then he sat down by the open window, and gazing at the dreamy beauty of the summer night, he thought, for his soul was troubled. Once before it had been troubled thus; that was nine years ago, for now he was but little over thirty. Then a call had come to him, a voice had seemed to speak to his ears bidding him to lay down great possessions to follow whither Heaven should lead him. Thomas Owen had obeyed the voice; though, owing to circumstances which need not be detailed, to do so he was obliged to renounce his succession to a very large estate, and to content himself with a younger son’s portion of thirty thousand pounds and the reversion to the living which he had now held for some five years.