It would be impossible that he should keep from Noma anything that he did or did not do; it would be still more impossible that she should conceal from him even such imaginings and things as it is common for women to hold secret. Her very bitterness, which it had been policy for her to cloak or soften, would gush from her lips at the sight of him; nor, in the depth of his rage and torment, could he, on the other hand, control the ill-timed utterance of his continual and overmastering passion. It came to this, then: he must go forward, and against his better judgment, because he was afraid to go back, for the whip of a woman’s tongue drove him on remorselessly. It was better that the Messenger should die, and the land run red with blood, than that he should be forced to endure this scourge.
So with a sigh Hokosa sank back to the ground and watched while Owen ate three of the poisoned fruits. After a pause, he took a fourth and bit into it, but not seeming to find it to his taste, he threw it to a child that was waiting by the verandah for any scraps which might be left over from his meal. The child caught it, and devoured it eagerly.
Then, smiling at the little boy’s delight, the Messenger called to Hokosa to come up and speak with him.
NOMA COMES TO HAFELA
Hokosa advanced to the verandah and bowed to the white man with grave dignity.
“Be seated,” said Owen. “Will you not eat? though I have nothing to offer you but these,” and he pushed the basket of fruits towards him, adding, “The best of them, I fear, are already gone.”
“I thank you, no, Messenger; such fruits are not always wholesome at this season of the year. I have known them to breed dysentery.”
“Indeed,” said Owen. “If so, I trust that I may escape. I have suffered from that sickness, and I think that another bout of it would kill me. In future I will avoid them. But what do you seek with me, Hokosa? Enter and tell me,” and he led the way into a little sitting-room.
“Messenger,” said the wizard, with deep humility, “I am a proud man; I have been a great man, and it is no light thing to me to humble myself before the face of my conqueror. Yet I am come to this. To-day when I was in audience with the king, craving a small boon of his graciousness, he spoke to me sharp and bitter words. He told me that he had been minded to put me on trial for my life because of various misdoings which are alleged against me in the past, but that you had pleaded for me and that for this cause he spared me. I come to thank you for your gentleness, Messenger, for I think that had I been in your place I should have whispered otherwise in the ear of the king.”