“That befell you which befalls all fools who put their trust in words alone. What will you pay me, woman, if I give you the medicine which you seek?”
“Alas, master, I am poor. I have nothing to offer you, for when I would not stay in my husband’s kraal to be a servant to his new wife, he took the cow and the five goats that belonged to me, as, I being childless, according to our ancient law he had the right to do.”
“You are bold who come to ask a doctor to minister to you, bearing no fee in your hand,” said Hokosa. “Yet, because I have pity on you, I will be content with very little. Give me that basket of fruit, for my wife has been sick and loves its taste.”
“I cannot do that, Master,” answered the woman, “for it is sent by my hand as a present to the Messenger, and he knows this and will eat of it after he has made prayer to-day. Did I not give it to him, it would be discovered that I had left it here with you.”
“Then begone without your medicine,” said Hokosa, “for I need such fruit.”
The woman rose and said, looking at him wistfully:—
“Master, if you will be satisfied with other fruits of this same sort, I know where I can get them for you.”
“When will you get them?”
“Now, within an hour. And till I return I will leave these in pledge with you; but these and no other I must give to the Messenger, for he has already seen them and might discover the difference; also I have promised so to do.”
“As you will,” said Hokosa. “If you are with the fruit within an hour, the medicine will be ready for you, a medicine that shall not fail.”
THE EATING OF THE FRUIT
The woman slipped away secretly. When she had gone Hokosa bade his wife bring the basket of fruit into the hut.
“It is best that the butcher should kill the ox himself,” she answered meaningly.
He carried in the basket and set it on the floor.
“Why do you speak thus, Noma?” he asked.
“Because I will have no hand in the matter, Hokosa. I have been the tool of a wizard, and won little joy therefrom. The tool of a murderer I will not be!”
“If I kill, it is for the sake of both of us,” he said passionately.
“It may be so, Hokosa, or for the sake of the people, or for the sake of Heaven above—I do not know and do not care; but I say, do your own killing, for I am sure that even less luck will hang to it than hangs to your witchcraft.”
“Of all women you are the most perverse!” he said, stamping his foot upon the ground.
“Thus you may say again before everything is done, husband; but if it be so, why do you love me and tie me to you with your wizardry? Cut the knot, and let me go my way while you go yours.”
“Woman, I cannot; but still I bid you beware, for, strive as you will, my path must be your path. Moreover, till I free you, you cannot lift voice or hand against me.”