“I have chosen,” said Owen. “I will meet Hokosa and his company on the Place of fire whenever he may appoint, but for the others I cannot say.”
“We will come with you,” said Nodwengo and John, with one voice; “where you go, Messenger, we will surely follow.”
THE SECOND TRIAL BY FIRE
When this momentous discussion was finished, as usual Owen preached before the king, expounding the Scriptures and taking for his subject the duty of faith. As he went back to his hut he saw that the snake which John had killed had been set upon a pole in that part of the Great Place which served as a market, and that hundreds of natives were gathered beneath it gesticulating and talking excitedly.
“See the work of Hokosa,” he thought to himself. “Moses set up a serpent to save the people; yonder wizard sets up one to destroy them.”
That evening Owen had no heart for his labours, for his mind was heavy at the prospect of the trial which lay before him. Not that he cared for his own life, for of this he scarcely thought; it was the prospects of his cause which troubled him. It seemed much to expect that Heaven again should throw over him the mantle of its especial protection, and yet if it did not do so there was an end of his mission among the People of Fire. Well, he did not seek this trial—he would have avoided it if he could, but it had been thrust upon him, and he was forced to choose between it and the abandonment of the work which he had undertaken with such high hopes and pushed so far toward success. He did not choose the path, it had been pointed out to him to walk upon; and if it ended in a precipice, at least he would have done his best.
As he thought thus John entered the hut, panting.
“What is the matter?” Owen asked.
“Father, the people saw and pursued me because of the death of that accursed snake. Had I not run fast and escaped them, I think they would have killed me.”
“At least you have escaped, John; so be comforted and return thanks.”
“Father,” said the man presently, “I know that you are great, and can do many wonderful things, but have you in truth power over lightning?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because a great tempest is brewing, and if you have not we shall certainly be killed when we stand yonder on the Place of Fire.”
“John,” he said, “I cannot speak to the lightning in a voice which it can hear. I cannot say to it ‘go yonder,’ or ‘come hither,’ but He Who made it can do so. Why do you tempt me with your doubts? Have I not told you the story of Elijah the prophet and the priests of Baal? Did Elijah’s Master forsake him, and shall He forsake us? Also this is certain, that all the medicine of Hokosa and his wizards will not turn a lightning flash by the breadth of a single hair. God alone can turn it, and for the sake of His cause among these people I believe that He will do so.”